Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Orthodox Prayer in the Orthodox Way of Life

Orthodox Prayer - video

In the Orthodox Life daily prayer is essential. Through prayer we come closer to God and develop a personal relationship out of love. Through prayer we can overcome the separation we feel from God. In the video is shown how to begin an Orthodox Daily prayer life. It also includes the basics of these of the Jesus Prayer as part of a daily prayer rule. It is part of our Series on the Orthodox Way of Life.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Passions and Asceticism in the Orthodox Way of Life

An introduction to the Orthodox Way of Life. The video discusses the spiritual struggle we face and the role of our passions. How we must cooperate with divine Grace to overcome our passions that lead us to sinful actions. Provides the basis for understanding the basis of the ascetic practices prescribed by the Orthodox Church for our purification and journey to Theosis.

Salvation - Redemption: Union with God

New video from our adult Catechism series

A review of the Orthodox doctrine on salvation, what it means to be saved. It shows how this is not a passive declaration of faith but involves a living faith. Our love and faith are linked with divine Grace, Synergia. We are all saved by a general salvation, the Incarnation, Teachings, Crucifixion, Resurrection..., but we must cooperate with God to attain our personal salvation, becoming like Christ uniting our will with His divine will.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Psalm 116 (117) with Commentaries of Church Fathers

PSALM  116 (117)

1 Alleluia. Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; Praise Him, all you peoples, 

2 For His mercy rules over us; And the truth of the Lord endures forever.

TEHILLIM: The Psalm contains magnificent praise to God. David describes why it is proper for him to love God in light of all the miracles He performed for him. Dvid does not know how to repay God, declaring ir impossible to repay all that God has done for  him.
David recited this psalm in connection with the troubles he endured as he fled from one place to another in fear of Saul and of those who plotted against him. When God saved David from all of them, he recited this psalm.

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;

REARDON: why do the nations (ethnoi) and the peoples praise the Lord? “For His mercy (eleos) is confirmed upon us, and the truth of the Lord abides forever.” When St. Paul quotes the first half of our psalm in Romans 15: 11, it is in support of his large argument “that the Gentiles (ethnoi) might glorify God for His mercy (eleos)” (15: 9).
The word “nations” in this psalm does not mean the modern “countries” as political units. In the psalm’s context, indeed, the term has no political meaning at all, even though ethnic divisions are very often embodied in political structures. Standing as a synonymous parallel to “peoples,” the word “nations” in this psalm has a general reference to those various distinctions among human beings that are determined by geography, language, specific histories, and other cultural patterns. The sense is conveyed by Daniel’s exhortation that “all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him” (Dan. 7: 14).
THEODORET: He summons all to a dance at the same time: he provided the occasions of salvation for all the nations, not Greeks only and Romans, but for all savages, employing the sacred apostles as ministers of benefaction. “Go, make disciples of all the nations,” he said, “baptizing them in the name of die Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I commanded you.” In obedience to tills law they traversed all land and sea, one bringing Indians to Christ, one Egyptians, one Ethiopians. Blessed Paul teaches concisely to how many nations he offered the divine message, “so that from Jerusalem as far round as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ.” It was not, in fact, by following the direct route but by encompassing the nations situated in the middle that he offered the saving teachings: “Thus I make it my ambition not to preach the Gospel where the name of Christ has already been heard, lest I build on someone else’s foundation; rather, as it is written, Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard shall understand.” Later, of course, he set foot on Italy and reached Spain, and brought benefit to the islands situated in the ocean. In fact, in his letter to the Romans he said, “I hope to visit you on my travels to Spain, and to be sent on to there by you if first I have enjoyed your company for a little  while"; and writing to the remarkable Titus he says, “I left you behind in Crete for the reason that you should appoint elders town by town, as I directed you.” Thus the excellent John rid Asia of its former godlessness; thus the divinely inspired Andrew illuminated Greece with the rays of the knowledge of God; thus the divine Philip rebutted the error of both Phrygias; thus the mighty Peter traveled from Jerusalem as far as the city of Rome, offering the rays of truth to all; thus they all traversed the whole world, dispersed the gloom of ignorance, and gave a glimpse of the Sun of Righteousness. The inspired word was, therefore, right to urge all the nations to offer the hymn to God, since they all enjoyed salvation.

Praise Him, all you peoples,

THEODORET: In former times Jews were scattered to the ends of the whole world, taught to worship the one God. So since they no longer occupied only Palestine, and did not continue to form one people under one king, but were scattered among the nations and obeyed their rulers while maintaining their own lifestyle and observing the direction of the Law, he was right to speak of them not as a people but as peoples. In fact, most of them accepted the divine message: in Jerusalem three thousand and five thousand were caught by the fishermen on a single occasion; and later there were large numbers beyond counting, the divine James said; and in Syria, Cilicia, Lycaonia, Pisidia, Asia [Minor], and Painphylia,* and in all the other nations the apostles offered the divine message to Jews first. Some believed and enjoyed the truth, while others contradicted the beneficial teachings. The inspired word, then, is right to urge even them to sing the praises of the benefactor, calling them peoples.

For His mercy rules over us;

THEODORET: it was by applying mercy alone that he achieved our salvation. Thus blessed Paul also says, “When the goodness and the loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not through the righteous deeds we had done but in his great mercy, through washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out on us in rich measure"; and again, “By grace you have been saved through faith: and this is not from you, but a gift of God”; and elsewhere, “The saying is sure, and worthy of complete acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first but I received mercy." God proved his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. So the inspired word was right to say his merry to us has been deepened.

And the truth of the Lord endures forever.

THEODORET: for he bestowed the salvation, which he promised through the holy authors. Blessed Paul also says as much in beginning his letter to the Romans, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ called to be an apostle, set apart for God's Gospel, which he promised beforehand through his inspired authors in the holy Scriptures"; and again, "I say that Jesus Christ became a minister of the circumcision on behalf of God’s truth for the confirmation of the promises to the ancestors and lor the nations to glorify God for his mercy.” Since, therefore, the God of all fulfilled the promises, bestowed the salvation he promised, and opened the fountains of mercy to all, we who have come forward from the Jews and you who have come to faith from the nations, blend together in harmonious singing and thus repay the benefactor.

Psalm 129 (130) with Commentaries of Church Fathers

PSALM 129 (130)

1 An ode of ascents. Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; 

2 O Lord, hear my voice; Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplication. 

3 If You, O Lord, should mark transgression, O Lord, who would stand? 

4 For there is forgiveness with You. 

5 Because of Your law, O Lord, I waited for You; My soul waited for Your word. 

6 My soul hopes in the Lord, From the morning watch until night; From the morning watch until night, Let Israel hope in the Lord. 

7 For with the Lord there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption; 

8 And He shall redeem Israel From all his transgressions.

REARDON: Throughout Christian history, Psalm 129 (Hebrew 130) has been one of the psalms most frequently prayed. Indeed, this psalm having long been designated for daily recitation in both the East and the West, there are undoubtedly thousands of Christians even now who know it by heart.
And as the day ends, most of us are aware of various ways in which, during the course of it, we have failed of the grace of God, perhaps permitting some root of bitterness to spring up and trouble us, whereby many are defiled (Heb. 12: 15). We end our day, therefore, by remembering God’s mercy: “If You, O Lord, should count our sins, O Lord, who could stand it? But with You there is appeasement. For Your name’s sake have I waited for You, O Lord. My soul has waited on Your word.”
And what is this “word” from God for which we wait at the end of the day? Is it, perhaps, “Today you will be with Me in paradise”? Surely the thief hanging on the Lord’s right hand was waiting for such a word, knowing that if the Lord should count our sins, who could stand it? Some mysterious movement of grace in his soul, however, prompted him to hope that with the Lord there is appeasement.
TEHILLIM: The Psalmist prays  for an end of his being in exile.

An ode of ascents.

1. Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;

THEODORET: “Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord”, that is to say, From the very bottom of my heart I pour out the supplication. The divine Scripture condemns those who employ only their lips: at one place the prophet Jeremiah says to the God of all, “You are near to their mouth, but far from their innards”; at another place God himself through the prophet Isaiah condemns Jews in the words, This people honors me with their lips, but the heart is far from me."
CHRYSOSTOM: What is the meaning of “Out of the depths”? He did not simply say, "Out of my mouth;" he did not simply say, "With my tongue;" his mind was wandering when the words came out, you see. Instead, from the depths of my heart, with great zeal and enthusiasm, from the very bottom of my mind. Such, you see, are the souls of the distressed: they stir up their very heart in its entirety, calling on God with deep compunction - which is precisely the reason they are heard. Prayers like this, in fact, have immense force, not being overturned or undermined, even should the devil attack with great impetus.
People who pray like this, you see, even before they receive what they request, reap fine benefits from their prayer, repressing all their passions, assuaging anger, repelling envy, quelling desire, extinguishing the lust for things of this life, reducing the soul to complete tranquility, and finally raising it to heaven itself. In other words, just as rain falling on tough terrain, or fire on steel, softens it, so prayer of this kind softens and bedews the toughness of the mind in its passions more thoroughly than fire and more effectively than rain. The soul, after all, is tender and pliable; but as often occurs with the waters of the Ister that become solidified with ice, our soul too has the experience of becoming hardened and petrified with sin and deep indifference. So we have need of great ardor so as to soften the hardness. Now, this in particular is what prayer achieves. When, therefore, we practice prayer, do not look only to get what you ask but also to make the soul better from prayer itself; this is the function of prayer, after all. The person praying in this way rises above earthly concerns, gives wings to the mind, makes the brain lighter, falls victim to none of the passions.  
“Out of the depths I cried to you, O Lord”: he makes two points here, Out of the depths, and crying, implying by crying not just the tone of voice but the disposition of attitude. O Lord, hearken to my voice: we learn two things from this, that it is not possible simply to attain what comes from God if what comes from us is not to the fore—hence he first said Out of the depths I cried, and only then hearken; secondly, that fervent prayer accompanied by the tears of compunction has great power to influence God to accede to our requests. Like someone who has achieved something wonderful and made a contribution of one's own, he added, “Lord, hearken to my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the sound of my supplication”: he calls the faculty of hearing ears, and says again sound, referring not to the pitch of the breath, nor to the cry, but to the intensity of disposition.

2. O Lord, hear my voice; Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.

THEODORET: He knows God is bodiless, despite using human expressions: he uses terms for the sense of hearing and sight. Our eyes, of course, have the power of sight, and our ears have been equipped with the sense of hearing. What God hears with, on the contrary, he also sees with, and what he sees with he also hears with.
AUGUSTINE:  "Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice". Jonas cried from the deep; from the whale's belly. He was not only beneath the waves, but also in the entrails of the beast; nevertheless, those waves and that body prevented not his prayer from reaching God, and the beast's belly could not contain the voice of his prayer. It penetrated all things, it burst through all things, it reached the ears of God: if indeed we ought to say that, bursting through all things, it reached the ears of God, since the ears of God were in the heart of him who prayed. For where hath not he God present, whose voice is faithful? Nevertheless, we also ought to understand from what deep we cry unto the Lord. For this mortal life is our deep. Whoever hath understood himself to be in the deep, crieth out, groaneth, sigheth, until he be delivered from the deep, and come unto Him who sitteth above all the deeps.

3. If You, O Lord, should mark transgression, O Lord, who would stand?

CHRYSOSTOM: in case anyone were to say, "I am a sinner, I am full of sins beyond counting, I cannot approach and pray and call on God," he strips away this pretext by saying, If you were to take note of crimes, Lord, Lord, who would stand? Who here means "no one," you see. It is impossible, after all, it is impossible for anyone to render a meticulous account of one's affairs and ever attain mercy and lovingkindness. We say this, not to drive souls to indifference, but to comfort those who have fallen into despair.  
AUGUSTINE: he hath disclosed from what deep he cried out. For he crieth beneath the weights and billows of his iniquities .... He said not, I may not abide it: but, "who may abide it?" For he saw that nigh the whole of human life on every side was ever bayed at by its sins, that all consciences were accused by their thoughts, that a clean heart trusting in its own righteousness could not be found.

4. For there is forgiveness with You.

CHRYSOSTOM: It is not in our good deeds but in your goodness that the possibility lies of escaping punishment; in other words, avoidance of judgement rests with your lovingkindness. If we were not to benefit from it, our efforts would not suffice for snatching us from the wrath to come. This he indicated also through the inspired author, saying, "I am the one who blots out your crimes,"that is, it comes from my goodness, my lovingkindness. Thus, in other words, your efforts would not ever suffice for freedom from retribution were not the workings of my lovingkindness also brought to bear. And again "I support you."   
AUGUSTINE: And what is this propitiation, except sacrifice? And what is sacrifice, save that which hath been offered for us? The pouring forth of innocent blood blotted out all the sins of the guilty: so great a price paid down redeemed all captives from the hand of the enemy who captured them. "With Thee," then, "there is propitiation." For if there were not mercy with Thee, if Thou chosest to be Judge only, and didst refuse to be merciful, Thou wouldest mark all our iniquities, and search after them. Who could abide this? Who could stand before Thee, and say, I am innocent? Who could stand in Thy judgment?

5. Because of Your law, O Lord, I waited for You; My soul waited for Your word.

THEODORET: he means. Aware of this your goodness (you employed mercy like some law), I do not renounce firm hope as I await [1901] the promise of good things. He called the good promise here word; loving-kindness, however, he promised to the repentant.

6. My soul hopes in the Lord, 
CHRYSOSTOM: on account of your lovingkindness, on account of your Law I looked forward to salvation; for if I were to consider my own capabilities, I would long ago have despaired, I would long ago have given up. As it is, however, I attend to your Law and your word, and so have sound hope. Which word? That of lovingkindness. He is the one, you see, who says, "As heaven is far above earth, so are my plans above your plan and my ways above your ways;"and again, "According to the height of heaven above earth the Lord confirmed his mercy on those who fear him;" and again, "As far as the east is from the west he removed our transgressions from us."That is to say, I did not only save the virtuous, but I also spared sinners, and amidst your sins I gave evidence of my own support and care.

6. From the morning watch until night; From the morning watch until night, Let Israel hope in the Lord.

CHRYSOSTOM: nothing is so efficacious for salvation as watching constantly and depending on that hope, even should countless problems beset us to drive us to despair. This is an impenetrable wall, this is unassailable security, this an impregnable tower. Even should circumstances betoken death, danger and ruin, therefore, do not stop hoping in God and expecting his salvation: everything is easy and simple for him, and he will be able to find a means where none exists. Accordingly, do not expect to enjoy help only when things go swimmingly; rather, at that time most of all when there is storm and tempest, and the risk of ultimate disaster hangs over you - then it is in particular that God gives greater evidence of his power. This, then, is what he means: at all times you must hope in the Lord, all your days, all your life.

7. For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption;
8. And He shall redeem Israel from all his transgressions.

THEODORET: The verse directs its prophecy to the Lord: he is the Lamb of God in person, who takes away the sin of the world. This was also the way the divine Gabriel spoke to the holy Virgin: “You will have a son, and you will give him the name Jesus, because he is the one who will save his people from their sins.”
CHRYSOSTOM: What is the meaning of Because with the Lord there is mercy? A font and treasure of lovingkindess is to be found there, he is saying, flowing constantly. Now, where there is mercy there is also redemption - and not only redemption but also complete redemption, a limitless ocean of lovingkindness. Even if we are given up as lost because of our sins, therefore, we should not lose heart or despair: where there is mercy and lovingkindness, accounting for sin is not taken scrupulously, the judge overlooking much because of his great mercy and his propensity to lovingkindness. God is like this, you see, inclined and favorable to showing constant mercy and giving pardon. He will redeem Israel from all its transgressions. If he is like this, then, and the magnitude of his lovingkindness is everywhere poured out, it is obvious that he will also save his people and free them not only from punishment but also from their sins.

Mindful of this, therefore, let us continue to implore and entreat him, and never desist, whether we receive what we ask or not. After all, if it is in his power to give, and in his power when to give, he also knows precisely the right time. Consequently, let us continue beseeching, imploring, having confidence in his mercy and lovingkindness, and let us never despair of our salvation but contribute what is ours, and what is his will follow in its fulness, since mercy on his part is beyond telling and lovingkindness without limit. 

Psalm 141 (142) with commentary

Psalm 141 (142)

1 Understanding; by David, when he was in the cave; a prayer. 

2 I cried to the Lord with my voice, With my voice I prayed to the Lord. 

3 I shall pour out my supplication before Him; I shall declare my affliction in His presence. 

4 When my spirit fainted within me, Then You knew my paths; For on the way I was going, they hid a trap for me. 

5 I looked on my right, and saw There was no one who knew me; Refuge failed me, And there was no one who cared for my soul. 

6 I cried to You, O Lord; I said, “You are my hope, My portion in the land of the living. 

7 Attend to my supplication, For I was humbled exceedingly; Deliver me from my persecutors, For they are stronger than I. 

8 Bring my soul out of prison To give thanks to Your name, O Lord; The righteous shall wait for me, until You reward me.”

THEODORET: The psalm’s theme is clear. Pursued by Saul, the divine David took refuge in the cave and hid himself in its interior.1 Then, perceiving Saul brought down into it, he banished fear from his mind, called for the divine assistance, and attained it. 
REARDON: Psalm 141 is a prayer of desolation and loneliness:
Samuel 22 tells of his seeking refuge from Saul in “the cave of Adullam,” and two chapters later there is a dramatic description of David’s concealment from Saul in a cave near Engedi by the Dead Sea.
When we think of those unjustly accused who may have prayed this psalm, various characters come to mind from the Book of Daniel, such as Susannah, the three youths in the furnace, and the Prophet himself. And if this psalm is a fitting supplication for those in prison, then the Prophet Micaiah and John the Baptist are to be counted among those who may have prayed it. Likewise the Apostles Peter, Paul (“ in prisons more frequently”), and John. But most of all, and adding superabundant dignity to the rest, there is Christ our Lord, the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, abandoned by His closest friends, betrayed by one of them and denied in public by another, but finding His sole refuge in the Father.
TEHILLIM: David composed this awesome and wonders psalm while biding for Saul in a cave, at which time he had cut off the corner of Saul’s garment (to prove that he was able to kill him but did not do so).  He declared, “Where can I turn, and where can I run? I have no recourse but to cry out to you.”

Understanding; by David, when he was in the cave; a prayer.

1. I cried to the Lord with my voice, With my voice I prayed to the Lord.

CHRYSOSTOM: everywhere he makes this beginning and here uses voice twice. It is not without is to teach us two things, both the vigor of his enthusiasm and alertness of his mind, and in addition that the voice is his.

2. I shall pour out my supplication before Him;

THEODORET: I shall declare my affliction in His presence. From this it is clear that he calls his earnestness of mind cry: how could this man in hiding and anxious to escape notice use his voice to cry out? So he means, In all earnestness I implored God.
I made the trouble clear to him, he is saying, and earnestly offered the petition about it; he indicated by pour out the force of the request.
CHRYSOSTOM: Do you see a spirit freed of earthly concerns? He neither had recourse to human beings, nor looked for assistance from them but for invincible help and grace from above. Wishing to make clear the intensity of his mind and fervor buried within him he said, “l pour out” in great abundance. From this we learn that tribulations also make no slight contribution to sound values. This is the fruit of tribulation, after all. It has in fact two advantages: one, in making us more zealous and attentive; the other, in proving no insignificant reason to be heard... And everywhere in Scripture we shall find that those bearing tribulations with gratitude not only expiate many of their sins but also obtain thereby no little confidence in God’s presence.

3. When my spirit fainted within me, then You knew my paths; For on the way I was going, they hid a trap for me.

CHRYSOSTOM: When faint hearted people in particular give up and many utter defamatory words, then the psalmist most of all employs good sense, having tribulations  as a teacher. So when you see someone despairing as a result of tribulation, or uttering some harsh word, hold not the tribulation responsible but the faintheartedness of the speaker—its natural with tribulation to have the opposite effect—attention, a contrite mind, an alert attitude, depth of piety. Hence Paul also said, “Tribulation produces endurance and endurance character.” And, “Lest I’ve carried away with the magnitude of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given me, as a messenger of Satan, to punish me. Three times I besought the Lord about it, and he said to me, My grace is enough for you: my power is brought to completion in weakness. When I am weak, you see, then I am strong.”

4. I looked on my right, and saw there was no one who knew me; Refuge failed me, and there was no one who cared for my soul.

THEODORET: I espied no helper in any direction, he is saying, calling action of the better disposed the right. Flight is no longer available to me, and there is no one looking after my soul: I have fallen into nets from which there is no escape, I find no means of flight nor one to assist me. 
CHRYSOSTOM: Here he shows the extent of the disaster...and what was worse , that not only were any allies or assistants not at hand, but they did not even recognize him. This is the extent of isolation, the height of alienation... This brought him no harm and instead it gave even greater benefit bringing him into relationship with God. So, when you see evils on the increase, do not lose heart, but be more on the alert: this is the reason God allows them to arise, to shake you from your becomes more zealous in prayer, more active in alms giving, in scorn for the belly, and every vice becomes more easily overcome, banished by tribulation.
In addition he shows not only that traps lay in the way, nor was there  anyone to help or to recognize him, but there was no way out left him... he was cut off in the midst of evils... so what does he do? Does he disparaged of his salvation? No,

5. I cried to You, O Lord; I said, “You are my hope, my portion in the land of the living.

CHRYSOSTOM: Not being disparaged he takes refuge in God. Note the alertness of spirit. Far from problems overwhelming him, they instead gave him wings, and being in difficulties he knew the invincible hand and all powerful force... He said You are my help: all human means have proved futile and the storm so far exceeds all assistance to be beyond all measures for surviving shipwreck. Yet even if this is beyond Hope in human estimation, and we are sinking, nevertheless everything is easy for You; hence let us hope and not grow faint. My inheritance, “ My portion of the living”, my treasure, my wealth—you are everything in yourself. Here he calls his own country the land of the living... and often calls the Babylonian captivity Hades and death.

7. Bring my soul out of prison to give thanks to Your name, O Lord; The righteous shall wait for me, until You reward me.”

CHRYSOSTOM:What he means is free me from troubles: by “prison” he hints at the excess of calamities. ...neither did tribulation make him lose heart but rather led him to supplication and prayer, nor did ease render him supine but led him also at that time to thanksgiving (to confess thy name).
“The righteous shall wait for me, until You reward me.” This will be of benefit even to the righteous: they will rejoice, be glad, jump for joy, to see my freedom from trouble. The righteous souls grieve with those who are abused and do not envy those who prosper, and on the other hand they rejoice and share the happiness and satisfaction of those shown favor. As Paul says, “ Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”
Let us bear the troubles besetting us with thanks, so that even they may become easier, and we may attain the future goods. May it be the good fortune of us all to be granted this, thanks to the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power, for the ages of ages.

THEODORET: the enemies have become stronger than I, but through your aid I shall escape their clutches. Bring my soul out of prison so that I may confess to your name. Aquila, on the other hand, put it this way, “Bring my soul out of confinement,” in other words, it was as if he was held in a kind of enclosure and cell, with the enemies camped at the door of the cave. Yet he promises to repay the favors with hymns, once he attains salvation. Righteous people will wait for me until you give me recompense. Symmachus, on the other hand, put it this way, “The righteous will crown your name when you act in my favor”: they will take the favor done to me as a pledge of salvation in their regard, and praise you as the just Judge.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer (8): Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

This is a petition to not be overcome when we are faced with temptations. James told us that God does not temp us (James 1:13). Saint Paul tells us to not allow us to be tried by the devil  “beyond our capacity, but with the trial also provide a way out, so that we may be able to endure.” (1Cor 10:13)

We are asking Him to free us from our attachments of this world. Free us from our passions and desires,  Saint John tells us “the whole world is in the power of the Evil One" (I jn 5:19). We need to be led by God to move away from everything that causes us difficulty in doing only His will.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa puts it this way,
But let us stand and say to God: "Lead us not into temptation," that is, into the evils of daily life, but deliver us from the Evil One" who possesses power over this world. May we then be delivered from the evil one by the grace of Christ, to whom belongs the power and the glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Psalm 140 (141) with Commentaries by Church Fathers

PSALM 140 (141)

1 A psalm by David.
O Lord, I have cried to You; hear me; 
Give heed to the voice of my supplication when I cry to You. 

2 Let my prayer be set forth before You as incense, 
The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. 

3 Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, 
A door of enclosure about my lips. 

4 Incline not my heart to evil words, 
To make excuses in sins With men who work lawlessness; 
And I will not join with their choice ones. 

5 The righteous man shall correct me 
With mercy, and he shall reprove me; 
But let not the oil of the sinner anoint my head, 
For my prayer shall be intense in the presence of their pleasures. 

6 Their judges are swallowed up by the rock; 
They shall hear my words, for they are pleasant. 

7 As a clod of ground is dashed to pieces on the earth, 
So our bones were scattered beside the grave. 

8 For my eyes, O Lord, O Lord, are toward You; 
In You I hope; take not my soul away. 

9 Keep me from the snares they set for me, 
And from the stumbling blocks of those who work lawlessness. 

10 Sinners shall fall into their own net; 
I am alone, until I escape.

OSB: Psalm of evening Incense. Incense is the visible sign of prayers of all God’s people. Incense has been used in the church from its beginning.
CHRYSOSTOM: I believe it was not without purpose that this psalm was prescribed for daily recital, nor on account of recital of the one verse, “lifting up of my hands in evening sacrifice”. For other psalms contain this sentiment... they prescribed its recital as a kind of saving medicine and cleansing of sins so that what ever stain we incur throughout the day—abroad, at home, wherever we pass the time—we might on coming to the evening expunge through this spiritual air. It is, you see, a medicine that removes all these stains.
TEHILLIM: This Psalm teaches an important lesson: We should pray for Divine assistance that our mouths not speak what is not in our hearts. The gatekeeper only allows the gate to be opened for a good purpose: Let it be the same with our lips.

A psalm by David.
1. O Lord, I have cried to You; hear me; Give heed to the voice of my supplication when I cry to You.

CHRYSOSTOM: Why does the psalmist say, “I cry to you?” He refers here to a cry from within, which the ardent heart produced, and the contrite attitude... In other words, just as one who shouts exhausts all energy, so too the one shouting in the heart gathers together all powers of thought. God therefore looks for such a cry that brings together the movements of the heart, and allows no distraction or interruption on the part of the singer. Not only does He look for such a cry, but also the directing of prayer to Him: there are many standing for prayer who do not raise their shouting to God but, while their lips shout to God and bandy about God’s name, the mind of none of them is attuned to the words. Such a one does not cry, even if shouting loudly; nor does such a one pray to God, even if seeming to pray to Him.
He asks to be heard not from vehemence of his prayer but even from the offering of such a prayer as to be worthy of those unsleeping eyes. Now what kind of prayer is that? Your praying not against your enemies, nor for wealth and material advantage, nor for influence and reputation, nor for anything passing, but for those unending and immortal  things. Seek the kingdom of God,” Scripture says, remember, “and all things will be give to you.” in “my crying out to You,” do you see how He wishes us to call out with zeal, with enthusiasm?...remember the devil lies in waiting...he is anxious to drive us into indifference and incline our thinking so as to make us give up prayer without result.... Aware of this we should throw up against his our zeal and never pray against our enemies but imitate the Apostles. They suffered countless calamities...Surely they did not say, “Squash them”, or “kill them”... Do you see prayer characterized by sound values, demanding no punishment of enemies despite such calamities?

2. Let my prayer be set forth before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

CHRYSOSTOM: Scripture says, “I wish men to pray in every place, raising holy hands without argument or controversy.
What is the inspired author wanting to teach us in speaking about an evening sacrifice? In olden Times there were two altars, one made of bronze, the other of gold: the former was public and accessible, available for the victims of the whole assembly, other removed in the inner sanctum and behind the veil... in the outside altar each evening a lamb was offered and burnt. It was called the evening sacrifice, and twice a day the altar had to be lit in the temple, besides other victims offered by the people.This was an obligation for the priests so that in the event of no one offered yet, in house and automatically morning and evening a lamb would be sacrificed and burnt. This had been legislated by God indicating through this happening that there was need to worship Him constantly, at the beginning and the end of the day. ...the kind of offering was sometimes acceptable, sometimes unacceptable, depending on the disposition of the offers in terms of virtue or vice, whereas what was offered not for the sins of others but was a requirement of law and a ritual of worship was acceptable in every case.
The psalmist therefore asks for his prayer to become like that sacrifice defiled by no blemish of the offer, like pure and holy incense. He is asking us to offer prayers that are pure and fragrant ... the incense even if itself is fine and sweet smelling, but gives particular evidence of its fragrance at the time when it is mixed with fire, So to is prayer fine of itself but becomes finer and more sweet smelling when offered with ardor and a glowing spirit, when the soul become a censer and lights a burning fire. The incense should not be added unless the  brazier had been previously lit....Do likewise with your own mind: first light it with enthusiasm and then offer your prayer.
TEHILLIM-Chasidut: This verse links incense with afternoon prayer suggesting some commonality.
Two of the daily services performed in the Temple were the sheep offering and the burning of the incense. Whereas the animal was sacrificed on the “outer altar,” which stood in the Temple’s courtyard, the incense was burned on the “inner altar” located in the “Holy,” and area of greater sanctity than the courtyard.
The outer altar represents our “external heart,” the part of us where emotions are born of intellect. Intellectual appreciation of God’s limited by what the mind can comprehend, which is  distilled version of God’s glory. It therefore produces only an “external love” foe Him.
The “inner heart”, however, is where our innate love of God resides. This attraction to the Divine is not the result of logical analysis. It is the reflex of a soul bound inextricably with God.
CHRYSOSTOM: What is meaning of lifting of hands? Since they administer to many wicked actions, such as beatings, murders, robberies, fraud, for that very reason we are bidden to lift them up so that the ministry of prayer may prove a containment of these very vices and freedom from evil.
You are not offering a censer on an altar of bronze or even gold, but on one more precious than that, in a spiritual you God has His dwelling, you are member and body of Christ.
JOHN CASSIAN: We can understand in a still more spiritual sense that the true evening sacrifice is what was given by the Lord our Savior in the evening to the apostles at the Supper, when he instituted the holy mysteries of the church, and what he himself, on the following day at the end of the ages, offered up to the Father by the lifting up of his hands for the salvation of the whole world. The spreading forth of his hands on the Cross is quite correctly called a “lifting up.” For when we were all lying in Hades, he raised us to heaven, according to the word of his own promise, when he says: “When I have been lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”16 INSTITUTES 3.3.17 
REARDON: First, the Old Testament’s “evening sacrifice” was a type of and preparation for that true oblation rendered at the evening of the world, when the Lamb of God, nailed to the Cross, lifted His hands to the Father in sacrificial prayer for the salvation of mankind. This was the true lifting up of the hands, the definitive evening sacrifice offered on Golgotha, by which God marked His seal on human destiny. Whenever, then, we Christians raise our hands in prayer, as St. Paul tells us to do (cf. 1 Tim. 2: 8), it is to symbolize that our prayer, our entire relationship to God, is founded in the power of the Cross.
The rising incense smoke as symbolic of prayer is most vividly portrayed in the vision of the heavenly throne room in Revelation: “Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand” (8: 3, 4).
TEHILLIM-Chasidut: Let us now examine the difference between food and fragrance. The soul, a spiritual entity, is responsible for giving life to the corporal body. God connects soul and body, bridging the gap between spirit and matter. By ingesting food, we attain the God-given connection, keeping body and soul together. Fragrant substances, such as smelling salts, have the power to revive the body-soul connection that has grown so weak, to the point where the person has fainted.
Food then, corresponds to the life-force of the soul that is manifest in the body, whereas fragrance is a channel to a deeper part of the soul.
In terms of the difference between food (sacrifices) and fragrance (incense) of the Temple, sacrifices relate to Godly energy that communicates with the world; incense relates to the transcendent Essence of God.
The animal sacrifice represents our appreciation for God’s life-giving energy. It is therefore offered on the outer altar, or the external heart, where our limited, logic based relationship with God occurs. Incense however, represents our thirst for God’s Essence. It is therefore offered on thinner altar, the space where the soul’s essence communes with the Essence of God.

3. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, A door of enclosure about my lips.

CHRYSOSTOM: a lose tongue is the cause of countless evils… Just as there is no benefit in house, city walls, doors, gates unless guards are placed, who also know when to open and when to close, so too, neither tongue nor mouth is of any avail unless reason is entrusted with the task of closing and opening with precision and understanding, in the knowledge of what must be put out and what kept in… Let us guard our mouth constantly, set reason on it to close it, not for it to be constantly closed but for it to open appropriately in season: there are times when silence is of more value than speech, as likewise speech more than silence… Paul also said, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so as to know how to answer each and every one. (Col 4:6). … Consider that this is the manner by which we converse with Good, by which we offer praise… This is the reason Christ said, “Every idle word that people speak they will give an account of” (Mt 12:36); and Paul, “Let no foul speech issue from your mouth.” (Eph 4:29)
There are many ways to destruction through the mouth, such as when someone is obscene, ribald, vainglorious, boastful, like the pharisee, who because he had no door on his mouth, gave vent to everything inside the course of few words…
If on the other hand you want to hear of some people perishing through inappropriate silence, I shall show you. “If you have not warned the people,” Scripture says, remember, “while they will die in their sin, their blood I shall require at your hand.” (Cf Ez 3:20) 
Another, because no distinction was made, and what was entrusted to him was prostituted: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, no cast your pearls before swine.” (Mt 7.6)… 
Paul said, Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Rom 12.15): if you are capable of nothing else, he says, make this slight contribution to the grief-stricken, grieve with them…. Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be consoled.” 
Hence the psalmist says, “Set a guard on my mouth, Lord, and a door—saying not simply a door, but adding, ”for encircling” so as to encircle and secure everything.
THEODORET: The Creators gave two walls to the tongue, one of teeth and the other of lips, to check its irrational impulses. Nevertheless, the inspired author begs to enjoy other guards as well, afraid lest he utter something improper while lamenting his lot. In fact history witnesses to the fact that even when pursued by Saul he could not bring himself to say anything blasphemous at all; instead, when when they were trying to kill [Saul], [ David] referred to him as the Lord’s anointed, and in addressing him he called himself his servant, and the one who reported his death, bragging he had done it, he dispatched in the words, “Your blood be on your head for claiming to have done away with the Lord’s anointed.
AUGUSTINE: Surely, it is a slight matter to restrain the mouth of the body lest something that is not expedient come forth from it through the sound of the voice. Within is the mouth of the heart where he who said those words and directed us to say them desired that a guard and gate of continence be set for him by God. There are many things that we do not speak from the mouth of the body but shout from the heart. Yet, no word of any thing proceeds from the mouth of that body in whose heart there is silence. Thus, whatever does not emanate from there does not sound outside, but what does emanate from there, if it is evil—even though it does not move the tongue—defiles the soul. Continence, therefore, must be placed there where the conscience, even of those who are outwardly silent, speaks.

4. Incline not my heart to evil words, to make excuses in sins with men who work lawlessness; And I will not join with their choice ones.

AUGUSTINE: This inclination of the heart, what is it if not consent? For, he has not yet spoken who has not yet consented by an inclination of the heart to the onrushing suggestions in his heart of any act whatsoever. If, however, he consented, he has already spoken in his heart even though he has not made a sound with his mouth. Even though he has not done the deed with his hand or any other part of his body, he has committed it because he has determined in his mind to do it, and he is guilty of the act, by the laws of God even though it remains concealed from the sight of people—the word being spoken in the heart though no act be committed in the body. ON CONTINENCE 1.2–2.3.
THEODORET: He begs that not only his tongue be guarded but also the very movements of the mind least any other thought beyond the divine laws be found in them. Blessed David could reason this way: Saul is foe and enemy, longing for my execution, so it is not unjust to do away with such a man, the Law being clear on this. Those who commit lawlessness do this, he is saying, but let me have no association with them, even if they have the utmost fortune; he uses “choice ones” at this point of wicked people who enjoy success.
JEROME: “Let not my heart incline to evil words, to make excuses in sins.” O unhappy race of human beings! We seek excuse for sin by saying, “Nature got the better of me,” and all the while it has been in our power to sin or not to sin. We are always justifying ourselves and saying, I did not want to sin, but lust overwhelmed me; that woman came to me; she made the advances; she touched me; she said this or that to me; she called me; and while we ought to be doing penance and crying, “Lord, I have sinned,” we excuse ourselves instead, and yoke sins to sin. We all have the same kind of body, but with our own particular difficulties. “God is not a respecter of persons.” Would you know that we have the same bodies as the saints? Paul the apostle says, “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and making me prisoner to the law of sin that is in my members”; and again, “But I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps after preaching to others I myself should be rejected.” Later, he says, “Unhappy man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” We all have our own struggles, therefore, and it is in proportion to his struggles that each one receives his reward. HOMILIES ON THE PSALMS 51.
CHRYSOSTOM: Why does he put things is reverse order, coming to the heart after first speaking of the mouth? He does not do it idly or to no purpose: as in the case of prisoners wanting to excape, those responsible for them make it their first task to secure the doors of the prison, everyone devoting themselves to this, and with the task complete the rest is easily done, so too does the psalmist do here, and it is as if through his exhortation he is saying, Let the doors be closed, and the evil thoughts will be quickly sudued. Hence he does not allow us at the beginning to venture forth, and pulls up the evil root in the words, “Do not turn my heart to words of wickedness. Not that God turns—perish the thought; rather, what means is something like this: Do not allow it to be turned, do not allow it to be diverted to evil thoughts. The spring of virtue and of vice rises from there you see, from the heart.
What are words of wickedness? Many and varied: those that each plots, traduce God, repel virtue, pursue vice, words cheerfully listened to incorrupt teachings and careless living and the like proceed from deep wickedness.
“Pleading please of sin”. This is particular is the path to ruin, wither when the sinful soul dismisses fear and concocts some pretexts for indifference, or when in the case of someone committing adultery another person wishes to eliminate compunction by saying, Surely you are not responsible? Lust is responsible. Evil through sinning is, denying it after sinning makes it worse; it is a particular weapon of the devil. It happened also with the first human beings: Adm and Eve…..When you are anxious to look for excuses that do not exist, and to rid your soul of fear, you make it more inclined to be addicted to the same sins again and irk God further.
“Why people wh commit lawlessness”. He added this to show that offering excuses, being shameless is characteristic of those people in particular.That is the reason David also proposes this constantly as a model of virture, shunning such gatherings.
“I shall not  join with their chosen ones”.  Here he gives the apostolic advice, that their luxuries and parties are to be shunned, where the practice of sin is especially on the increase, whee inaction waxes strong…

5. The righteous man shall correct me
With mercy, and he shall reprove me;

JEROME: When a person is advanced in years, you must not be too ready to believe evil of him; his past life is itself a defense, and so also is his rank as an elder. Still, since we are but human and sometimes in spite of the ripeness of our years fall into the sins of youth, if I do wrong and you wish to correct me, accuse me openly of my fault: do not backbite me secretly. “Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness, and let him reprove me; but let not the oil of the sinner enrich my head.” For what does the apostle say? “Whom the Lord loves, he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.” By the mouth of Isaiah the Lord speaks thus: “O my people, they who call you happy cause you to err and destroy the way of your paths.” How do you help me by telling my misdeeds to others? You may, without my knowing of it, wound some one else by the narration of my sins or rather of those which you slanderously attribute to me; and while you are eager to spread the news in all quarters, you may pretend to confide in each individual as though you had spoken to no one else. Such a course has for its object not my correction but the indulgence of your own failing. The Lord commands that those who sin against us are to be arraigned privately or else in the presence of a witness and that if they refuse to hear reason the matter is to be laid before the church, and those who persist in their wickedness are to be regarded as heathens and publicans. LETTER 125.19.

But let not the oil of the sinner anoint my head,
For my prayer shall be intense in the presence of their pleasures.

THEODORET: the grievous things that come to me from the hands of righteousness people for the sake of correction and benefit, he is saying, are preferable to the pleasant things offered by sinners, even if these provide me with. An enjoyable life, like oil making the head glisten; I prefer to be corrected by the righteous than fawned on by the sinful.I am so far from envying their prosperity that I pray they be changed so as to undergo a conversion of their defects once their success is reversed.
CHRYSOSTOM: This is no slight form of virtue, not avoiding censure or recriminations leveled by the righteous. Now what he means is something like this: I would never participate in the gatherings of those making free with people's welfare, he is saying, whereas rigorous and moral people I would prefer, those who censure, who bring failings into the open, who criticize. This is in fact particular mark of mercy and loving kindness, healing wounds…. Consider how apostolic advice reflects this, “Convince, rebuke, encourage.”(2 Tim 4:2) That is what the censure by holy people, too, is like; that is also what a surgeon does; they not only cut but stick as well. Hence Christ also , to guarantee that censure is acceptable, does not allow the criticism to be publicized and the outset, saying, “Go make your accusation when the two of you are alone.”… The person delivering the censure needs to give careful thought so that the censure prove acceptable, and the one applying the remedy has need of great sensitivity…
“May the oil of a sinner not anoint my head” The latter person does not seek the benefit fo the listener but their own appearing pleasant, friendly; the former by contrast looks to the advantage of the other before their own; and so they differ from one another in this respect. But if the wicked are to be avoided when showing mercy, when should they be welcomed? Never: even if the provide money, even if they promise luxuries and honors, reject and shun them, whereas even if the righteous mock you, even if they threaten you, seek them out—they are your friends.
“Because even my prayer is still on their goodwill”. …here he shows that they must not only trust in prayer, losing heart and going to sleep, but make their own contribution. …Not only shall I shun their noxious charm, he is saying, and not choose their censure, but I shall take my stand against their desires; I desist their desires—which is what “on their good wall” means. 

6. Their judges are swallowed up by the rock;
They shall hear my words, for they are pleasant.

CHRYSOSTOM: Here he shows the vulnerability of sin and the problems of vice. Then, he is saying, the influential, the shakers and the movers, all perish. He did not say Perish, but “were swallowed up” indicating that it happens to the extent that no trace of them remains, which is also what he said about the ungodly
JEROME: “Their judges driven against the rock were swallowed up,” just as another passage in Scripture says: “Happy the one who shall seize and smash your little ones against the rock!” “But the rock was Christ.” “The little ones” are trifling thoughts before they grow into ones of serious consequences. Even heretics, although they seem to despise the simplicity of the church, as compared with Aristotle and Plato; when they turn to the Scriptures, are swallowed up immediately by the Rock, that is, by Christ, and are converted to him. HOMILIES ON THE PSALMS 51
THEODORET: Within a short time, he is saying, they will be no more, and those clinging to the pinnacle of influence will be like drowning people of influence clinging to the tips of water submerged by water—in other words, they will be consigned to oblivion. Learning by experience of my words, they will also feel their sweetness and benefit.

7. As a clod of ground is dashed to pieces on the earth,
So our bones were scattered beside the grave.

CHRYSOSTOM: ….Despite our suffering extreme hardship, being all scattered and ruined like soil that is harrowed, plagued and dug, and arriving at the very gates of death, yet in spite of this condition we would prefer instruction and correction from the righteous to mercy from sinners. What ever happened, after all, we depended on hope in you, and would never be dissuaded from looking to you. Hence he added as well the word that follow.

8. For my eyes, O Lord, O Lord, are toward You;
In You I hope; take not my soul away.

CHRYSOSTOM: Even if countless troubles beset us—wars, battles, deaths, gates of Hades—we do not let go of the holy anchor; instead, we cling to the hope of your assistance, and abandoning weapons and strategies we look to freedom fro that source, your grace.
THEODORET: Far from trusting in any human thing, I await your help and ask that my soul not be deprived of it.

9. Keep me from the snares they set for me,
And from the stumbling blocks of those who work lawlessness.

CHRYSOSTOM: Here he is not referring simply to schemes but to hidden traps of the kind not easy to guard against and detect; hence they require in particular even grace from on high. For this reason he brings his theme to a close with a prayer, concluding with it as he had opened it, showing that on the one hand what is his to offer is this—hope in God, always looking to God, shunning their gatherings, hating they evil desire—and on the other hand what comes from God—help, assistance, rendering him proof against wiles difficult to detect. This is what virtue consists of, in fact: both application of our zeal and support from God’s assistance.

10. Sinners shall fall into their own net; I am alone, until I escape.

CHRYSOSTOM: Whose net will they fall into? God’s very own. That is to say, they will be snared, they will be caught: the righteous, to the point of correction and awakening their sound values; sinners, suffering incurable ailments as they are, to the point of punishment, a retribution.
“I am on my own until I pass on (escape)”. …. This is security, this protection, this growth in virtue: shunning the wicked, being self-collected and disciplined for the whole of life, and dwelling by oneself away from those who corrupt. Isolation does not constitute being alone, note, but an attitude of sound values. In this way people who live in the middle of cities, with their tumult and business, can be on their own by shunning the corrupt gatherings and devote themselves to the assemblies of the righteous—this is the safe way.
Consequently, let the person who is capable of correcting others associate with the likely to accept the treatment, and make them better,; let the one who is laxer, on the other hand, shun the wicked so as not to contract harm from them. In this way they will also live the present life safely and gain the future of good things.
THEODORET: That is God’s net: those who set traps for others will be caught up in divine retribution like a kind of divine netting, will have to bear whatever they commit, and will suffer what they inflict on others. He says that he shall remain separated from them until I reach the end of my life.