[Note: The prisoners (in the Texas state prison system) that I see weekly are reading the Gospels together. I have asked them to comment upon what they read, or ask questions, and I promised to send them simple commentaries. These small offerings, which are usually part of a letter sent to them, are not meant to be a scholarly exegesis, or comprehensive. We must read the Gospels daily, and simply, and be like Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, desiring to be taught something edifying for our soul. If a person does not feel something stirring in their soul when they read the Gospels, they are missing the illumination God desires to give them. Everyone is invited to send their feelings about the Gospels to me. Perhaps we can educate each other in some way.
Priest Seraphim Holland firstname.lastname@example.org]
Aug 1/14 2014. Holy seven Maccabean martyrs, their mother Solomonia and their teacher Eleazar (+ 166 b.c.), beginning of the Dormition fast.
I am making good on my promise, and you must also make good on yours! I do not know much, but I love the Gospel, so lets mostly talk about that. Read Matthew, and comment on it as you are moved to. Almost everything about the Gospel moves me to comment, because I am a pastor, and want people to love the Gospel, and the person about whom the Gospel is about, Jesus Christ.
I have written about and preached about Matthew chapter 1 many times, but I will try not to "cheat" and just speak from my heart, right now, because I want you to speak from your heart. I have actually written a LOT of stuff about chapter 1, but all I write right now is from the heart and not looking at my previous work. Read the Gospels, and beg the Lord to enlighten you! They tell us what life really is, and what it is not. Nothing else ever written is so real, accurate, and true. The Gospels teach us how to BE, how to think.
What strikes me the most about Matthew chapter 1 is the great care God has taken for our salvation, and how much He loves us, and that nothing can frustrate God's love for us. There is no human foible or sin that can keep Him from loving us and enlightening us with light. The genealogy proves this. This is in many ways, a rouge's gallery, and through it all, God prepared the world for the incarnation of His only begotten son, so that the human race could be healed and perfected.
By the way this is the reason for the incarnation. In many "Bible Churches" there is the unfortunate idea that Jesus Christ became man in order to be slain as an offering to His father, to pay the infinite penalty for sin that an infinite and angry God would require. This is not so! Jesus became man to save us from our sins, because of love. Forgiveness from sins is useless to a man if he does not also change to no longer be a sinner, because sin, even forgiven sin, hurts and fractures the soul. I have a favorite saying: "sin makes you stupid". It makes a man unable to see God and understand him, and according the gospel, salvation is to know God ("and this is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. - John 17:3)
The genealogy has a pagan prostitute (Rahab), a woman who pretended to be a prostitute and had sex with her father in law (Tamar with Judah), a man who committed adultery, then murder (David), a man who worshipped idols and had many strange women (Solomon), and a man so frightened that he was willing to give his wife over to evil men, pretending she was his sister (Abraham), a trickster and liar (Jacob). It is as if every human sin was "covered" by Jesus' ancestors, so that He would cleanse mankind from all sins.
When I read the genealogy, I think of my life and the terrible mistakes I have made and will make. Some are sins, some are because of my weakness and ignorance, and
yet, the genealogy promises me that my sins and weaknesses cannot frustrate God, or keep him from his desire for me, that the good work which has been done in me will "(be performed) until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:16, paraphrased).
This is VERY GOOD to know. I depend on it every day. I have learned that I do not need to be competent to be saved, or have good memory, or self-control or wisdom. All these things God gives to the man who cares and desires. I can do that. I can and do desire to be perfected, and to love God above all things. I desire to put off all sin and know only Christ Jesus. That is enough. He will guide me, and help me.
The other think that amazes me about the first chapter of Matthew is how God cooperated with man to save the world. Mary had to say "yes" for Jesus to be born. We must say "yes" when God calls our name, and like Samuel, we must say "Here am I'. It is an enormous privilege to be a Christian, and take part in God's ministry to man. It is an enormous privilege for a man and woman to CREATE life, and be "gods" as the scripture says (Psa 82:6 "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you children of the Most High."). Glory be to God that we, although poor, and sinful, can participate in God's love and spread it to others throughout the world.
Another mystery of the first chapter is that throughout all of human history, and our own individual lives, God works, silently and unseen. the genealogy formed over hundreds of years, and those who were forming it did not completely or even, sometimes, partially understand the significance of their actions and their very lives. This gives me great comfort, because I am too weak in the eyes to see how God's will is shaping my life, and causing all to "work to the good" (Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.)
It is truly a privilege to be a Christian, and to for the God Who created the universe to cooperate with my poor sinful soul and help it to spread His love in the world.
Today is the beginning of the Dormition fast. This is a two week period when we fast from certain foods to honor Mary, the Mother of God, and ask her to pray to her son for us. It is appropriate on this day to read the mysterious account of her great work - to be a virgin who said yes to God, and became the means by which God became man. the fast ends with the feast of the Dormition - the repose of Mary, and her Son and her God taking her soul to be with Him always in heaven.
God bless you.
Who does not desire happiness; who is not searching for it? Who is not ready to sacrifice everything for it? And we sinners, lovers of sin, why do we love sin? Because in it we hope to find happiness! And although deceived, and instead of happiness find anguish and torment, we keep wallowing in it, for who knows, one day we might be happy? And so we go on and on, as if expecting figs from a thistle plant. Every human wants and seeks happiness. It is the moving force of all human deeds and undertakings, great and small. But not all understand where it is to be found and how to get to it. And once they find out, not all are disposed to act as needed in order to reach blessedness. This is something that defies explanation. A person here endures obvious deception and even a degree of violence, and keeps on going, paying no mind. - St Theophan the Recluse, Commentary on Psalm 118 , verse 1, page 10
Matthew Chapter 1, KJV
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Mat 1:1)
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; (Mat 1:2)
And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; (Mat 1:3)
And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; (Mat 1:4)
And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; (Mat 1:5)
And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; (Mat 1:6)
And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; (Mat 1:7)
And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; (Mat 1:8)
And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; (Mat 1:9)
And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; (Mat 1:10)
And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: (Mat 1:11)
And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; (Mat 1:12)
And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; (Mat 1:13)
And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; (Mat 1:14)
And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; (Mat 1:15)
And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Mat 1:16)
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations. (Mat 1:17)
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. (Mat 1:18)
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. (Mat 1:19)
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. (Mat 1:20)
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Mat 1:21)
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, (Mat 1:22)
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Mat 1:23)
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: (Mat 1:24)
And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. (Mat 1:25)
Priest Seraphim Holland 2014 St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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