Saturday, May 21, 2016

Big Day for the Daily Scriptures!

It has been a long time since we posted here! My apologies! Christ is Risen! I hope to be better about this going forward. I am working on a post regarding some issues happening in American education – both higher education and secondary education. But that one has gotten a bit out of control and needs a serious edit before posting here. I also have a post about xenophobia in the Church that is just about ready to go. Probably we will see that one before we see the education one. I think I will also try to cover my upcoming trip to Russia (5/25/16 – 6/3/16) here as well. But that will depend on connectivity in Russia. Probably that will be a little spotty. We'll see. :)

But today I'd like to focus on the daily scripture readings. You can find those on the annual calendar that we send out to everyone each year (if you need one – or a second one for work or another spot in your home that having a calendar would be convenient – please let me know – we still have some left). You can also find it in our weekly Sunday Reading. Also on our home page. All this publishing of the daily scripture readings might lead you to think that this could be a sort of important thing. If you were thinking that you are right! This is a VERY important thing. We all should be reading the scriptures – especially the Gospel – EVERY DAY! And the best way to do that – to really feel the Church's yearly cycle – is to read the short pieces appointed for each day and found at the resources above.

If you have established this excellent habit of reading the scriptures daily then today when you opened your Bible or clicked on the appropriate link you were blown away – these are two HUGELY important readings. How important? Important enough to include here in their entirety.

Today's Epistle Reading:

In those days, Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. (Acts 8:40-9:19)

Today's Gospel Reading:

The Lord said, I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:48-54)

Since Pascha we have been reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John. I think this is one of the most important times of the year to keep up with these readings. Especially the Acts since this recounts the life of the Church after Christ's Resurrection and Ascension. And today we read of the conversion of Saul. You may have heard of him – he took the name Paul and became the great Apostle to the Gentiles (Gentiles are the vast majority of us, by the way, since very few of us come from the 12 tribes of Israel). Saul, who was such a great persecutor of Christians becomes a great Christian himself. The Lord provides him a path to salvation through service – and this is a path that we all are given. Reading this account of the conversation of the great Apostle involuntarily brings to mind so many other persecutors who later became great saints. Thankfully very few of our readers are actively involved in persecuting the Church, nor do we hope that any will every be. But it is inspiring and instructive to see that God touches Saul and he is changed. We too can be changed by touching God, and this is the topic of the Gospel.

The entire sixth chapter of John is good for us to review regularly. But if we follow the daily readings we will indeed review it  at least a good chunk of it – at this time of year. Here the Lord makes it clear that if we wish to have life (that is, eternal life) we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. This instructive poster may help as we think about this:

Disclaimer: I shamelessly stole this from Face Book. A slightly different Gospel reading yes, but nonetheless helpful here I think. We are not participating in a symbol, in a historical recreation, or in anything other than the spiritual reality of the Lord's Body and Blood – and in today's Gospel reading He makes it clear: WE NEED TO PARTAKE OF HOLY COMMUNION! And not just once in a while – regularly. What “regularly” means for each of us might be a little different, but it sure doesn't mean once a year, or four times a year. More – much more – often. But we also need to prepare ourselves to partake of Holy Communion, and this is why we have created a page on our web site specifically to help with appropriate preparation – please have a look – and please let me know if you have any questions. In fact, posting a question here would be good – that way everyone will learn from the answer!

Fr. Gregory

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