Dear Family in God,
Here is what is immediately upcoming:
7/17 – Saturday 5:00 PM Evening Vigil
7/18 – Sunday 9:40 AM Hours & Divine Liturgy - the 4th Sunday after Pentecost - The Royal Martyrs of Russia, the Nun Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Barbara and those with them - Our parish spiritual mentor from the beginning, Archimandrite John Townsend will be with us this weekend, as will our friend and and helper Zosimas Sidway - A Moleben (prayer service) will be held for the Holy Apostles after Liturgy
Remembering All the Saints
On becoming Orthodox, I was struck by the degree of devotion, not only to saints who lived in the time of Christ and in succeeding times up to now, but to all the saints in the Old Testament time from the very beginning of humanity. In the lead up to the Nativity, the two preceding Sundays are devoted to the direct earthly ancestors and all the holy ones among God’s chosen people of Israel prior to Christ’s coming. Individual commemorations of Patriarchs, Prophets and other ancestors appear throughout the year. At every evening vigil, the psalms and Old Testament odes hold the ancient holy witness up before us: In the 1st ode we hear of Moses and the people’s joy at the crossing of the Red Sea, in ode 3 we hear of Hannah’s thanksgiving for the coming of Prophet Samuel, in ode 6 we hear of Jonah’s deliverance from the whale, in the 7th and 8th odes we hear of the deliverance of Ananias, Azarias and Misael from the fiery furnace and the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar. The Orthodox Church is not at all cut off from the ancient inheritance of Israel. We incorporate it fully. Why should this not be so, since we are the new Israel?
Our study of Fr. Stephen de Young’s book, “The Religion of the Apostles,” ably led in the catechetical talents of Fr. Deacon Christopher, calls us to notice our inheritance from worship among the Jews in the 2nd temple period. This period encompasses the building of the 2nd temple after the return from the Babylonian captivity through the time of Alexander the Great and his followers, through the time of the Maccabees, and into the Roman era. In the centuries following the destruction of the 2nd temple and the elimination of Judea as an independent state, the Rabbinical school, negatively reacting to Christianity, created the impression of an older Judaism much more absolutely monotheistic than was present in the time of Christ and prior to Him. All the hints of a wider understanding of God’s manifestation among His people hinted at in the Old Testament are ignored in the post-Judaic Rabbinical image. The Gospel accounts and the Acts of the Apostles reveal much of this diversity, the Pharisees and Sadducees for example. Our tradition preserves the older, more diverse actuality.
One of the destructive elements in whittling down the 2nd temple inheritance was the elimination from the Rabbinical Biblical canon of works written in Greek, with perhaps Hebrew antecedents, composed in most cases by Jewish authors not necessarily conversant with ancient Hebrew, as was neither most of the Jewish community except those most educated. These books came to be called “Apocrypha” (meaning “hidden”) and included by St. Jerome in the distinct collection so named by him. part of the reason for the Rabbinical excision was the Christian use of them. The Church never excised these books from the Bible. In fact, in St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation they kept their place within the various classifications of historical, prophetical or wisdom literature. Their content is distributed, for instance, in the above mentioned Biblical odes used every day in church. An adverse side effect of the so-called Reformation was that the reformers did not in fact rediscover the early Church at all, but placed in its stead the anti-Christian Rabbinical notions of what ancient Judaism was, thus creating an artificial divergence from the Church’s actual history.
One of these so called “Apocryphal” books that stands out for its high level of inspiration is “The Wisdom of Sirach” or “Ecclesiasticus.” Several chapters are devoted to a synoptic remembrance of all the major Old Testament figures. This section is prefaced by the opening verses of chapter 44. Since many of us may not have a copy, they are appended here as beautiful in themselves and indicative of the degree of devotion to Saints in the pre-Christian period. The Church has simply taken up all these and added to them. All Saints Sunday’s epistle from the Letter to the Hebrews gives a similar appreciation.
Ecclus. 44:1 -14
Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning.
Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies: Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions: Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing: Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations: All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times. There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported.
And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them. But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten. With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant. Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes. Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.
If we do not happen to have in our possession copies of the Bible complete with the Apocrypha, it is highly recommended that we obtain such a volume so that our spiritual foundation may be more firmly established through our literary heritage. We are called upon to rejoice in what we have been given in all its glory and entirety.
With love in our triumphant Lord and Savior,