Year 2 - Week 13 (November 28 - December 4)

Day 1 (Monday)

Genesis 11:27 - 32; 12:1-9

Two weeks ago we read the story of the Tower of Babel, and we saw how all the nations came into being when the languages were divided and all of them were exiled from the presence of God. We discussed how with this, the whole world was falling once more into rebellion against God, and all the nations were corrupt. We also read through the genealogy of the descendants of Shem, until we reached Terah, the father of Abram and his brothers. We are moving directly to this story because this is what God did next after Babel, as He began to prepare the way for all the nations to be brought back to Him, as we see happen on the day of Pentecost. We aren’t going to read the full story of Abram this year, but will see him introduced here, and see what promises God makes to him as He calls him to leave his homeland and follow God instead.

Descendants of Terah

27 Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. 28 Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chal′deans. 29 And Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.

31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.

The Call of Abram

12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.”

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out what God asks Abram to do, to leave his homeland and even to leave his father’s house, to follow where God leads and to trust Him; he should also point out what God promises to Abram, that if Abram leaves the nation of his birth behind, God will make his descendants into a great nation, a new nation, and that ALL the nations of the world will be blessed through him. This promise is enacted with the covenant at Mt. Sinai that God makes with the children of Israel, and fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Who enters into the Creation through the Theotokos, the descendant of Abraham, and who saves all of humankind, calling us to restored communion with God, and to everlasting life, so that indeed, all of us are blessed through Abraham.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Hymns from the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple (November 21)

Every year on November 21st, we celebrate the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. The story of this feast is that when the Virgin Mary was three years old, her parents dedicated her to serve in the Temple. When she was brought to the Temple, the Priest Zacharias (the father of St. John the Baptist) greeted her, but she walked straight into the Temple by herself, and went straight into the Holy Place, and beyond the curtain into the Holy of Holies, which is where the Ark of the Covenant had used to be, until it was lost. The Holy of Holies had therefore been empty for hundreds of years, since the Temple was rebuilt, and along with its absence, the people of God understood that God’s Presence had never returned to the Temple. With the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, the Fathers of the Church understand the true Ark of the Lord’s Presence, which the lost Ark had only prefigured, to have finally arrived to take her place in the Temple. The following hymns reflect on this.

3rd Hymn of the Kekragaria

You are she of whom the Prophets preached, * the Apostles' glory, and the martyrs' pride and joy. * You are the renewal of all us who were born on earth, * O Virgin Mother of God, for we have been reconciled to God through you. * And therefore we honor your procession into the Temple of God the Lord. * And together with the Angel, we cry out in psalms, Rejoice, * to you, all-holy Lady, * at whose intercession we are saved.

4th Hymn of the Kekragaria

Now the holy and blameless girl * to the Holy of Holies is * by the Holy Spirit brought in to be at home. * A holy Angel provides her food. * And she is indeed a most * holy temple of our God, * who is Holy and who has made the entire world * to be holy, by making her His dwelling, and who deified the fallen * nature of mortal humanity.

Hymn from Ode 2 of Canon 1 of the Feast

The transgression came upon mankind of old from Eve, ⁄ and now from Eve's stock our restoration and incorruption blossoms: ⁄ the Theotokos who is brought today into the house of God.

Hymn from Ode 2 of Canon 2 of the Feast

The prophets proclaimed you in ages past, speaking of you as the ark of holiness, the golden censer, the candlestick and table: as we sing your praises as the Tabernacle that held God.

Hymn from Ode 8, Canon 2 of the Feast

The saints David and Jesse exult today and Judah is filled with pride. For from their root a branch has sprung: the pure Virgin from whom the pre-eternal God is to be born.

Glory Hymn from Ode 8, Canon 2 of the Feast

Let Holy, Holy, Holy! be sung to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Indivisible Unity, one Godhead holding creation in the palm of His hand throughout all ages.

Both Now Hymn from Ode 8, Canon 2 of the Feast

He Who is without beginning now begins to be: according to His good pleasure the Word is born in the flesh from a Virgin Maid, both God and mortal man, and in His extreme compassion He refashions us who had fallen.

Hymn from the Praises of the Feast

The Theotokos was shown forth unto the world in truth * to be the noble offspring of a most holy promise, * superior to all things. As she is led * reverently into the house of God, * the pious prayer of her parents she now fulfills; * and by the Holy Spirit she is preserved.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out, in the same way that the Fathers of the Church see the Tower of Babel and the Feast of Pentecost as two ends of the same story, they see the promise to Abraham that we read on Day 1 as the beginning of a promise and process that reaches its fulfillment with the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary. Abraham is promised that he will have many descendants, and that all the nations of the world will be blessed because of his descendants. This is talking, of course, about Jesus Christ Himself, Who has saved us from sin and death and leads us into everlasting life; but the Mother of God is the daughter of Abraham through whom this is accomplished. When the hymns today talk about the prophecies, about Eve and David and Jesse and Judah, they are simply listing the many ancestors of the Virgin Mary who had been promised that God would be faithful, and pointing out that she is the one in whom God fulfills all those promises.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 3 (Friday)

Mark 4:35-41

Our last reading from the Gospel of Mark, two weeks ago, included several brief parables following the Parable of the Sower from three weeks ago. We may remember that Jesus was preaching those parables on the seashore, and was even preaching from a boat a little off shore. We continue here with what happened that evening, after Jesus had finished preaching, as He leaves the crowd behind and crosses the sea with his disciples.

Jesus Stills a Storm

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out two things that we should pay attention to here, besides the simple facts of the story, that Jesus calms the sea during the storm. First, the way in which the Lord calms the storm is one of the clearest revelations of the Divinity of Jesus that we have, next to His healing of the sick and casting out of demons. The answer to the disciples’ question at the end is clearly “only the Most High God has authority even over the wind and the sea.” The second point is in anticipation of next week’s reading: crossing the sea here was Jesus’ sole idea. Unless He wanted to show them His authority over the sea, He has something to do on the other side of the sea. We should be attentive to that as we wait for next week.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?