The Transfiguration: The Gospel, the Law and the Prophets

 

transfiguration Gospel Law Prophets

by St. Augustine of Hippo

We heard, as the Gospel was read, the story of the great vision in which the Lord showed himself to three disciples, Peter and John and James.

“His face shone like the sun”

– this means the splendor of the Gospel.

“His clothes became as white as snow”

– that is to say, the purification of the Church, about which the Prophet said:

“Though your sins be red like crimson, I will make them white as snow” (Isaiah 1.18 ).

Moses and Elijah were talking with him, for the grace of the Gospel receives the witness of the Law and the Prophets. For Moses, one understoods the Law; for Elijah, the Prophets are meant. Peter suggested that they build three tents, one for Moses and one for Elijah, one for Christ. He liked the solitude of the mountain; he was bored of the tumult of human affairs. But why did he wish to make three tents? Did he not know that the Law, the Prophets and the Gospel come from the same origin? In fact he was corrected by the cloud.

“As he said this a bright cloud overshadowed them.”

So the cloud made one tent, so why would you want three? And a voice from the cloud said,

“This is my beloved Son: heed him” (Mt17.1 to 8).

Elijah speaks, but “listen to him.” Moses speaks, “but listen to him.” Prophets speak, the Law speaks, but “heed him”, the voice of the Law and the tongue of the Prophets. It was he who spoke through them, and then he spoke by himself, when he deigned to be manifested. “Hear him,” listen to him.

When the Gospel spoke, know who was the voice of the cloud; from there, it came to us. We hear him; do what he tells us. Let us hope what he promises.

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The Transfiguration: Gospel Law Prophets

On the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul

peter-preaching

by St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

Today the Holy Church piously remembers the sufferings of the Holy Glorious and All-Praised Apostles Peter and Paul.

St. Peter, the fervent follower of Jesus Christ, for the profound confession of His Divinity:

“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,”

was deemed worthy by the Savior to hear in answer,

“Blessed art thou, Simon … I tell thee, that thou art Peter [Petrus], and on this stone [petra] I build My Church” (Mt.16:16-18).

On “this stone” [petra], is on that which thou sayest:

“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”

it is on this thy confession I build My Church. Wherefore the

“thou art Peter”:

it is from the “stone” [petra] that Peter [Petrus] is, and not from Peter [Petrus] that the “stone” [petra] is, just as the Christian is from Christ, and not Christ from the Christian. Do you want to know, from what sort of “rock” [petra] the Apostle Peter [Petrus] was named? Hear the Apostle Paul:

“Brethren, I do not want ye to be ignorant,” says the Apostle of Christ, “how all our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor.10: 1-4).

Here is the from whence the “Rock” is Peter.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the final days of His earthly life, in the days of His mission to the race of man, chose from among the disciples His twelve Apostles to preach the Word of God. Among them, the Apostle Peter for his fiery ardor was vouchsafed to occupy the first place (Mt.10:2) and to be as it were the representative person for all the Church. Therefore it is said to him, preferentially, after the confession:

“I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in the heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth: shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt.16: 19).

Therefore it was not one man, but rather the One Universal Church, that received these “keys” and the right “to bind and loosen.” And that it was actually the Church that received this right, and not exclusively a single person, turn your attention to another place of the Scriptures, where the same Lord says to all His Apostles,

“Receive ye the Holy Spirit” and further after this, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: and whose soever sins ye retain, are retained” (John 20: 22-23);

or:

“whatsoever ye bind upon the earth, shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosened in heaven” (Mt.18:18).

Thus, it is the Church that binds, the Church that loosens; the Church, built upon the foundational cornerstone, Jesus Christ Himself (Eph 2:20), doth bind and loosen. Let both the binding and the loosening be feared: the loosening, in order not to fall under this again; the binding, in order not to remain forever in this condition. Therefore

“Iniquities ensnare a man, and everyone is bound in the chains of his own sins,” says Wisdom (Prov 5:22);

and except for Holy Church nowhere is it possible to receive the loosening.

After His Resurrection the Lord entrusted the Apostle Peter to shepherd His spiritual flock not because, that among the disciples only Peter alone was pre-deserved to shepherd the flock of Christ, but Christ addresses Himself chiefly to Peter because, that Peter was first among the Apostles and as such the representative of the Church; besides which, having turned in this instance to Peter alone, as to the top Apostle, Christ by this confirms the unity of the Church.

“Simon of John” — says the Lord to Peter — “lovest thou Me?” — and the Apostle answered: “Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee”; and a second time it was thus asked, and a second time he thus answered; being asked a third time, seeing that as it were not believed, he was saddened. But how is it possible for him not to believe That One, Who knew his heart? And wherefore then Peter answered: “Lord, Thou knowest all; Thou knowest that I love Thee.” “And sayeth Jesus to him” all three times “Feed My sheep” (John 20:15-17).

Besides this, the triple appealing of the Savior to Peter and the triple confession of Peter before the Lord had a particular beneficial purpose for the Apostle. That one, to whom was given

“the keys of the kingdom” and the right “to bind and to loose,”

bound himself thrice by fear and cowardice (Mt.26:69-75), and the Lord thrice loosens him by His appeal and in turn by his confession of strong love. And to shepherd literally the flock of Christ was acquired by all the Apostles and their successors.

“Take heed, therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock,”

the Apostle Paul urges church presbyters,

“over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of the God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28);

and the Apostle Peter to the elders:

“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly: not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when is appeared the Prince of pastors, ye will receive unfading crowns of glory” (1 Pet. 5:2-4).

It is remarkable that Christ, having said to Peter:

“Feed My sheep,” did not say: “Feed thy sheep,”

but rather to feed, good servant, the sheep of the Lord.

“Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor.1:13).

“Feed My sheep”. Wherefore “wolfish robbers, wolfish oppressors, deceitful teachers and mercenaries, not being concerned about the flock” (Mt.7:15; Acts 20:29; 2 Pet 2:1; John 10:12),

having plundered a strange flock and making of the spoils as though it be of their own particular gain, they think that they feed their flock. Such are not good pastors, as pastors of the Lord.

“The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11),

entrusted to Him by the chief Shepherd Himself (1 Pet 5:4). And the Apostle Peter, true to his calling, gave his soul for the very flock of Christ, having sealed his apostleship by a martyr’s death, is now glorified throughout all the world.

The Apostle Paul, formerly Saul, was changed from a robbing wolf into a meek lamb. Formerly he was an enemy of the Church, then is manifest as an Apostle. Formerly he stalked it, then preached it. Having received from the high priests the authority at large to throw all Christians in chains for execution, he was already on the way, he breathed out

“threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1),

he thirsted for blood, but

“He that dwells in the Heavens shall laugh him to scorn” (Ps 2:4).

When he,

“having persecuted and vexed” in such manner “the Church of God” (1Cor.15:9; Acts 8:5),

he came near Damascus, and the Lord from Heaven called to him:

“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”

and I am here, and I am there, I am everywhere: here is My head; there is My body. There becomes nothing of a surprise in this; we ourselves are members of the Body of Christ.

“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me; it is hard for thee to kick against the goad” (Acts 9:4-5).

Saul, however,

“trembling and frightened”, cried out: “Who art Thou, Lord?”

The Lord answered him,

“I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest.”

And Saul suddenly undergoes a change:

“What wantest Thou me to do?”

— he cries out. And suddenly for him there is the Voice:

“Arise, and go to the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6).

Here the Lord sends Ananias:

“Arise and go into the street” to a man, “by the name of Saul,” and baptize him, “for this one is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9: 11, 15, 18).

This vessel must be filled with My Grace.

“Ananias, however, answered: Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints in Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Thy Name” (Acts 9:13-14).

But the Lord urgently commands Ananias:

“Search for and fetch him, for this vessel is chosen by Me: for I shall show him what great things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:11, 15-16).

And actually the Lord did show the Apostle Paul what things he had to suffer for His Name. He instructed him the deeds; He did not stop at the chains, the fetters, the prisons and shipwrecks; He Himself felt for him in his sufferings, He Himself guided him towards this day. On a single day the memory of the sufferings of both these Apostles is celebrated, though they suffered on separate days, but by the spirit and the closeness of their suffering they constitute one. Peter went first, and Paul followed soon after him. Formerly called Saul, and then Paul, having transformed his pride into humility. His very name (Paulus), meaning

“small, little, less,”

demonstrates this. What is the Apostle Paul after this? Ask him, and he himself gives answer to this:

“I am,” says he, “the least of the Apostles… but I have labored more abundantly than all of them: yet not I, but the grace of God, which was with me” (1 Cor.15:9-10).

And so, brethren, celebrating now the memory of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, remembering their venerable sufferings, we esteem their true faith and holy life, we esteem the innocence of their sufferings and pure confession. Loving in them the sublime quality and imitating them by great exploits,

“in which to be likened to them” (2 Thess 3: 5-9),

and we shall attain to that eternal bliss which is prepared for all the saints. The path of our life before was more grievous, thornier, harder, but

“we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12: 1),

having passed by along it, made now for us easier, and lighter, and more readily passable. First there passed along it

“the author and finisher of our faith,” our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Heb 12: 2);

His daring Apostles followed after Him; then the martyrs, children, women, virgins and a great multitude of witnesses. Who acted in them and helped them on this path? He Who said,

“Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15: 5).

 

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Can the Dead Repent?

zombie fear

by Fr. John Whiteford

Question: “If someone dies without repentance, is it possible for such a person to repent after death?”

Scripture, as explained by the Fathers of the Church, states that this is not possible.

Psalm 6:5 says:

“For in death there is none that is mindful of Thee, and in hades who will confess Thee?”

Commenting on this passage, St. John Chrysostom says:

“[The Prophet David is] not implying that our existence lasts only as far as this present life: perish the thought! After all, he is aware of the doctrine of the resurrection. Rather, it is that after our departure from here there would be no time for repentance. For the rich man praised God and repented, but in view of its lateness it did him no good [Luke 16:19-31]. The virgins wanted to get some oil, but no one gave any to them [Matthew 25:1-13]. So this is what this mane requests, too, for his sins to be washed away in this life so as to enjoy confidence at the tribunal of the fearsome judge” (St. John Chrysostom: Commentary on the Psalms, vol. I, trans. Robert C. Hill (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998), p. 102).

St. Jerome says:

“While you are still in this world, I beg of you to repent. Confess and give thanks to the Lord, for in this world only is he merciful. Here, he is able to be compassionate to the repentant, but because there he is judge, he is not merciful. Here, he is compassionate kindness; there, he is judge. Here, he reaches out his hand to the falling; there, he presides as judge” (Homily on Psalm 105[106], quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament, Vol. VII, Craig A. Blaising and Carmen S. Hardin, eds. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervasity Press, 2008) p. 51).

St. Gregory the Theologian says:

“… it is better to be punished and cleansed now than to be transmitted to the torment to come, when it is the time of chastisement, not of cleansing.  For as he who remembers God here is conqueror of death (as David has most excellently sung) so the departed have not in the grave confession and restoration; for God has confined life and action to this world, and to the future the scrutiny of what has been done” (On His Father’s Silence, Oration 16:7).

St. Basil the Great says:

“In like manner they which have grieved the Holy Spirit by the wickedness of their ways, or have not wrought for Him that gave to them, shall be deprived of what they have received, their grace being transferred to others; or, according to one of the evangelists, they shall even be wholly cut asunder, —the cutting asunder meaning complete separation from the Spirit.  The body is not divided, part being delivered to chastisement, and part let off; for when a whole has sinned it were like the old fables, and unworthy of a righteous judge, for only the half to suffer chastisement.  Nor is the soul cut in two,—that soul the whole of which possesses the sinful affection throughout, and works the wickedness in co-operation with the body. The cutting asunder, as I have observed, is the eternal separation of the soul from the Spirit.  For now, although the Spirit does not suffer admixture with the unworthy, He nevertheless does seem in a manner to be present with them that have once been sealed, awaiting the salvation which follows on their conversion; but then He will be wholly cut off from the soul that has defiled His grace.  For this reason “In Hades there is none that maketh confession; in death none that remembereth God,” because the help of the Spirit is no longer present” (Treatise on the Holy Spirit, 40).

Blessed Theodoret says:

“For this reason I beg the privilege of enjoying the cure in the present life, since I know that no cure will then be granted those departing this life with wounds, as there is no longer any room for repentance. This was exceptionally sound thinking on the part of the divine David: it is not in death but in life that one recalls God. Likewise, confession and reform do not come to the departed in Hades: God confined life and action to this life; there, however, he conducts an evaluation of performance. And in any case this is proper to to theeighth day, giving no longer opportunity for preparation by good or bad deeds to those who have arrived at it; instead, whatever works you have sown for yourself you will have occasion to reap. For this reason he obliges you to practice repentance here, there being no practice of this kind of effort in Hades. He says, in fact, “Since the opportunity coming to me for repentance was lengthy, I am afraid death may precede your mercy, there being no room for confession there — hence my request for your to be quick with your mercy.” Then he instructs the listener that along with God’s loving-kindness our effort is required, too: whether we plead weakness or confusion or God’s goodness without contributing what is ours, it is of no benefit to us” (Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on the Psalms, 1-72, trans. Robet C. Hill (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2000), p. 75).

St. Augustine says:

“”For in death there is no one that is mindful of Thee.” He knows too that now is the time for turning unto God: for when this life shall have passed away, there remaineth but a retribution of our deserts. “But in hell who shall confess to Thee?” That rich man, of whom the Lord speaks, who saw Lazarus in rest, but bewailed himself in torments, confessed in hell, yea so as to wish even to have his brethren warned, that they might keep themselves from sin, because of the punishment which is not believed to be in hell. Although therefore to no purpose, yet he confessed that those torments had deservedly lighted upon him; since he even wished his brethren to be instructed, lest they should fall into the same” (Commentary on the Psalms 6:6).

Cassiodorus says:

“This may elicit the question, why does he say that in death no-one is mindful of God, whereas then we can be made to tremble more by the imminent anger of God? But when we speak of those unmindful of God, this properly refers to the unfaithful. Isaiah said of them: For those in hell will not praise thee, nor will those who are dead bless thee. When Paul says: In the name of of Jesus let every knee bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, the statement should be taken as referring only to the faithless and obstinate, who deserve to have no trust placed in their confession. So the psalmist rightly hastens to gain acquittal here, since once the sun has set nothing remains except deserved retribution. Who shall confess to thee in hell? We must mentally add “to win pardon.” Compare Solomon’s words on impious men: For they will say among themselves, repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit, and the rest. Then too we know that the rich man who saw Lazarus settled in peace confessed his evil plight, but he was not heard praying for help because it is in this world that confession connotes also obtaining pardon. To help us realize that some distinction is being made in the words of the verse, in death means passing from life, whereas in hellmeans hugging the place where souls are known to endure what they have deserved. There is total denial that a confession can be made in each of these situations” (Cassiodorus:Explanation of the Psalms, Vol. 1, trans. P. G. Walsh, (New York: Paulist Press,1990), p. 94f).

We find a very similar passage in Isaiah 38:18-19, which Cassiodorus references:

“For they that are in the grave shall not praise thee, neither shall the dead bless thee, neither shall they that are in Hades hope for thy mercy. The living shall bless thee, as I also do: for from this day shall I beget children, who shall declare thy righteousness.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria says:

“What is said in the psalm verse contains sentiments similar to this passage, “What value is there in my death if I descend into corruption? Dust will not praise you or proclaim your marvels [Psalm 29[30]:9].” In other words, once dead, and enclosed in the gates of Hades, they will cease giving praise. Nothing further could be added to what has been achieved; instead, they will remain in the condition in which they were left, and will await the time of the general judgment. So he is saying that it is the living, with the power of doing good on receipt of benefits who will bless you, as I do” (Cyril of Alexandria: Commentary on Isaiah, Vol. II, trans. Robert C. Hill (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2008), p. 300).

So here you have all of the Three Great Hierarchs, along with two great Latin Saints, St. Cyril of Alexandria (the preeminent Father of the Third Ecumenical Council), as well as two notable patristic commentators all saying essentially the same thing: the time for repentance is in this life. If you have not repented before death, it will then be too late.

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Fifty Days of Sundays

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

pentecostWhen, at the Council of Nicaea, the Church formally determined that Pascha should always be observed on a Sunday, that determination necesarily affected the final day of Pentecost. Thus, beginning and ending on a Sunday, the whole fifty days of Pentecost began to take on some of characteristics associated with Sunday, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection.

This adjustment involved two disciplines in particular: the fast days and the posture of prayer.

First, because the entire fifty days of the Paschal season was a celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection, Christians began to observe that interval as a non-fasting period. That is to say, from the fourth century on, Christians started to omit the traditional observance of Wednesdays and Fridays as fast days; all fifty days were fast-free. St. Ambrose, in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke, explained,

“During these fifty days the Church knows no fasting, just as on Sunday, because all these days are like Sundays.”

St. Augustine wrote on the point at greater length:

“These fifty days are celebrated according to the manner of the Resurrection of our Lord—as a figure, not of work, but of rest and joy. For this reason we cease to fast, and we stand when we pray, as a sign of the Resurrection, and we sing the Hallelujah, to demonstrate that our future work will consist in the praise of God.”

Second, as this text of Augustine also shows, Christians of the late fourth century began to stand to pray, all through the fifty days of the Paschal season, exactly as on Sundays. St. Basil had made the point earlier, in his treatise On the Holy Spirit:

“We pray standing on the first day of the week, but not all of us know the reason. On the day of the Resurrection we remind ourselves of the grace given to us by standing at prayer, not only because we are risen with Christ and are bound to seek those things which are above, but also because that day seems to us to be, in some way, an icon of the age which we look for.”

Late in the fourth century, a further theme attached itself to the final day of the Paschal season. This theme arose in Christian theology under the influence of a recent development in rabbinic thought. During the fourth century, as the Jerusalem Talmud when reached its final form, the Jews began to observe the Shavuot (the feast of “weeks”; cf. Leviticus 21:15-16, 21) as the day on which Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai, and the rabbis began to refer to that day as Hag Matan Torateinu (“festival of the giving of our Torah”). (In the light of Augustine’s comments quoted above, it is worth mentioning that this Jewish festival was observed exactly as a Sabbath: no work.)

This identification prompted the Church Fathers in the West to develop a correspondence between the gift of the Torah and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This correspondence was justified, they believed, inasmuch as the New Testament provided reason to think of the Holy Spirit as the “new law” of the life in Christ.

Our earliest extant source on this development was St. Augustine of Hippo, who saw significance in the fact that both the Jewish and the Christian festivals of Pentecost fell exactly fifty days after their respective celebrations of Pascha (Hebrew, Pesach). Augustine reasoned: If the Passover was a type of the Resurrection, then the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai was a type of the descent of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, who is the “finger of God,” wrote the original Torah on tables of stone, Augustine observed, but now the same Holy Spirit writes the commandments of God in our hearts. The Holy Spirit becomes the inner Lawgiver of Christians. Augustine depends here on the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews (chapter 8), which quotes, at full length, Jeremiah’s prophecy of the law of God written in the hearts of believers.

Augustine found the relation of this imagery to Pascha hard to miss. He wrote,

“The victim is sacrificed, the Passover is celebrated, and, fifty days later, the Law of fear is given, written by the finger of God. Christ is sacrificed, who was led like a lamb to the slaughter-as Isaiah bore witness-the true Pascha is celebrated, and, fifty days later, the Holy Spirit, the finger of God, is given for the purpose of love.”

After Augustine this line of interpretation became common in the West. In the Middle Ages, still following the lead of Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas further elaborated the understanding of the Holy Spirit as the “new law” of the life in Christ. He wrote,

“The new law is the law of the New Testament. But the law of the New Testament is instilled in our hearts. . . . Now that which is preponderant in the law of the New Testament, and on which all its efficacy is based, is the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is given through faith in Christ. Consequently the new law is chiefly the very grace of the Holy Spirit, which is given to those who believe in Christ” (Summa Theologica II II 106, 1).

Discerning The Biblical Canon

by St. Augustine of Hippo

The most skillful interpreter of the sacred writings, then, will be he who in the first place has read them all and retained them in his knowledge, if not yet with full understanding, still with such knowledge as reading gives, — those of them, at least, that are called canonical. For he will read the others with greater safety when built up in the belief of the truth, so that they will not take first possession of a weak mind, nor, cheating it with dangerous falsehoods and delusions, fill it with prejudices adverse to a sound understanding.

Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles.

Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. If, however, he shall find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is to be looked upon as equal.

Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books: — Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles— these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles.

Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative.

The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows: — Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books.

That of the New Testament, again, is contained within the following: — Four books of the Gospel, according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John; fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul — one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews: two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and one of James; one book of the Acts of the Apostles; and one of the Revelation of John. (On Christian Doctrine Bk. 2.8)

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Sermon On The Ascension

by St. Augustine of Hippo

Our father among the saints, Augustine is one of the great Church Fathers of the fourth century. He was the eldest son of Saint Monica. At the end of his life (426-428) Augustine revisited his previous works in chronological order and suggested what he would have said differently in a work titled the Retractions, which gives us a remarkable picture of the development of a writer and his final thoughts.

The Lord Jesus, the Only begotten of the Father, Co-eternal with His Parent, like Him Invisible, like Him Omnipotent, as God Equal to Him, became Man for us, as you know, and have received, and hold fast in faith; and though He took to Himself a human form, He did not give up the divine.  Omnipotence was veiled; infirmity made manifest.  He was born, as you have come to know, that we might be reborn.  He died, that we might not die for ever.  And straightaway, that is, on the third day, He rose again from the dead; assuring us that we too shall rise on the last day.

Continue reading Sermon On The Ascension

Orthodox Roots of African Americans

By Victor Beshir

“According to revisionist historians and their ilk, Islam was and is the great liberator of Africa, and Christianity was and is the great enslaver. In fact, quite the opposite is the Truth.” – John Sanidopoulos

February is Black History Month. Many organizations celebrate the event, especially universities and other educational institutes. It is a good opportunity to evangelize. Some African Americans are converting from Christianity because of the waged war against Christianity. Some tell African Americans that Christianity is the white man religion who enslaved you. To make them hate Christ they told them that Christ was a European white man and Christianity is a product of the white man. We can tell the truth about these lies by telling the real history. Here is an article that you can use to share in Black History month that reveals some facts:

Everybody knows that African Americans came originally from Africa; however, not many people know what it means to be born and live in Africa at the time of the ancestors of African Americans. To fully understand those ancestors, we need to reveal some historical facts. Influence of the prophets who either stayed or lived in Egypt, Africa, touched the hearts and minds of Africans, such as Abraham, Israel, Jeremiah, Joseph and Moses.

Jesus and his family fled to Egypt, Africa, and lived there for four years. In fact, Jesus was born and raised in the Middle East and not Europe. In addition, all his disciples were from the Middle East, which includes many African countries. St. Mark, the writer of the second Gospel was born in Libya, Africa, and Simon the Cyrenian who bore the Cross for Jesus (Mark 15:21) was from Tunisia, Africa.

In fact, Christian churches started in Africa before a church started in Rome, Europe. In Egypt, the first theological school started in Alexandria, attracting students from all over the world. Theology, biblical studies, and Bible interpretations started in this school. Monasticism started in Egypt. The impact of Africa and Africans on Christianity is so evident.

This history left behind the names of thousands of great Africans theologians, martyrs, monks, saints, and teachers, such as Cyprian, St. Antony, Moses the hermit, Takla Haimanout, Origen, Tertullian the first of Latin theological writers, and Augustine the bishop of Hippo, North Africa.

The Christian faith mingled into every aspect of daily life of Africans. They absorbed the great pure Christian values of respect, love, peace, acceptance, forgiveness, service of the sick and the needy. It is needless to say that the first hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the needy in the world started by those African Christians. The Africans followed the Orthodox churches, enjoying a living faith and worship that were delivered by the apostles of Christ and were handed down from one generation to the next without a change.

Arriving to America, many of the ancestors of African Americans secretly met to pray their Orthodox Christian prayers in so-called “hush harbors”. Their masters prevented them from attending these meetings, fearing that the Christian teaching of equality and freedom of all men could start a revolt among the slaves against them. However, the ancestors continued to meet and to pray. As a result, many ancestors of African Americans were severely tortured, and even some died as martyrs. Silas Ezekiel and Charlotte Martin are among those who were martyred.

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