« September 26, 2021 | Main | October 10, 2021 »

October 3, 2021

Year 2 - Week 5 (October 3 - 9)

Day 1 (Monday)

Genesis 5:1-5, 21-32; 6:1-8

Last week we read about the first four days of the Creation. We know, of course, that on the sixth day, God made humanity. We know that the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and fell into sin; they rebelled against God through the temptation of a fallen angel, so they had to leave the garden of the presence of God and go into exile, out into the world. We know that their oldest son Cain was wicked, and killed his brother Abel, who was righteous, and we know that God punished Cain by cursing him from the ground, and sending him away as a fugitive and wanderer on the earth.

Cain then went away to a different place and built a city and established a civilization of his own, as though he was trying to prove God wrong. We see in Genesis 4:17-26 that this was an ugly civilization, full of violence and boasting and power struggles between people, in which men had more than one wife and considering their wives to be their property. The civilization advanced, and was making things out of metal, and making music, and domesticating animals, but using all that advancement for evil.

Meanwhile, Adam and Eve then had another son, named Seth, who they prayed and hoped would be the one through whom salvation would come to them. We’ll pick up the story there, in Genesis 5, and see how things develop. We won’t read the whole chapter (which is just a list of generations), but we’ll touch on the important points.

Adam’s Descendants to Noah and His Sons

5 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.

Seth had a son named Enosh, who had a son named Kenan, who had a son named Mahalalel, who had a son named Jared, who had a son named Enoch.

21 When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methu′selah. 22 Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methu′selah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

25 When Methu′selah had lived a hundred and eighty-seven years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 Methu′selah lived after the birth of Lamech seven hundred and eighty-two years, and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methu′selah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died.

28 When Lamech had lived a hundred and eighty-two years, he became the father of a son, 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after the birth of Noah five hundred and ninety-five years, and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years; and he died.

32 After Noah was five hundred years old, Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

The Wickedness of Mankind

6 When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.

5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (Leader should point out the contrast between the righteous descendants of Adam, and the wickedness happening with the rest of the world. Especially, if no one else notices, the leader should point out Enoch, who doesn’t die, but is taken directly to heaven; in many ways, we can understand Enoch to be the first Saint, the first righteous human being included in the Divine Council of the Lord, together with the faithful angels. What happens to him is similar to what we see with Moses, and Elijah, and eventually with Panagia. Elijah, like Enoch, is caught up to heaven without dying, while Moses and Panagia both die before being caught up into the presence of the Lord. Finally, for older classes, it would be good to discuss the connection that we see here for the first time in the Bible, between the envy and evil of fallen angels, and human sexual sin and depravity. This is a very large part of the reason that the Church is so insistent on sexual morality.)

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?

Note: for more discussion of Enoch's situation, interested readers can look here, at the Whole Counsel of God blog.

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Excerpt from a Homily Explaining that God is Not the Cause of Evil

In both our Day 1 and Day 3 readings this week, we are talking about demons, fallen angels, those who are in rebellion against God, and their connection to human sin and the brokenness of the world. In the Bible, however, while we often see angels and demons talked about, we never get a clear explanation of how they came to be evil. Today, then, we will read a passage from a sermon of St. Basil the Great, talking about how the devil came to be evil.

For What Reason is the Devil Evil?

[Now we come to] the question about the devil. From where does the devil come, if evils are not from God? What then shall we say? That the same argument that was offered regarding wickedness in the human being also helps us in this inquiry.

But for what reason is the human being evil? Because of his freedom of choice. For what reason is the devil evil? For the same reason; the devil possesses a life endowed with self-determination, and the authority rests in himself either to remain with God or to become estranged (to separate himself, to “become a stranger”) from the good.

Gabriel is an angel, and he stood by God continually. Satan is an angel, and he fell away from his proper place entirely. The free choice of the one kept him in things above, and the self-determination of the other threw him down. For the one (Gabriel) could have become an enemy, and the other (Satan) need not have fallen, but the Gabriel was preserved by his insatiable love of God, while his withdrawal from God showed Satan as worthless.

Evil consists in estrangement (separation) from God. With a small turning of the eye, we are either facing the sun or facing the shadow of our own body. Thus one who looks upward easily finds illumination, but for one who turns toward the shadow, darkening is inevitable. Thus the devil is wicked because he possesses wickedness by free choice, not through a natural opposition to the good.

Why does he fight against us? Because, being a receptacle of all evils, he also accepted the disease of malice and envied our honor. For he could not bear our life free from pain in paradise. With tricks and contrivances he thoroughly deceived the human being, and, misusing the desire the human being had for likeness to God to deceive him, [Satan] showed him the tree and promised that through eating it he would be made like God.

‘For if you eat,’ he said, ‘you will be like gods, knowing good and evil’ (Gen. 3:5). Accordingly, he was not fashioned as our enemy, but out of jealousy he stood against us in enmity. For seeing himself thrown down from among the angels, he could not bear to see the earthly one lifted through progress to the rank of the angels.

(On the Human Condition, St. Basil the Great, p. 75-76, SVS Press 2005).

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 the two main points: first, that Satan, and all the demons, were not created evil, but chose to become evil in rebellion against God. God made them free, as He made us free, so that they, and we, could love God in truth and freedom. But the demons chose to rebel instead. Second, St. Basil explains WHY the demons rebelled, that it was out of jealousy of human beings. They were created very great, but when they saw that God intended for us human beings, created much lower, even with physical bodies, to be raised up to the heights, so much that God Himself would become a human being, they rebelled against us, deciding to destroy what God intended to be greater than them. The Saints are the examples that show their failure…this is why it is so important that we call the Virgin Mary “more honorable than the cherubim and more glorious than the seraphim.”)

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 1:16-34

Last time we saw St. Mark introduce Jesus as the Son of God and the prophesied Messiah, and we saw Jesus begin to preach that the time was fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God was near, and that everyone should repent and trust in the Gospel. We talked a little bit about how the Gospel is a proclamation of victory and authority, that Jesus is proclaiming that the rule of sin and death, which the demons had brought about in the world through their temptation of human beings to sin, and their ongoing deception and domination of humanity in the many false religions of the pagan world, is over. So let’s see what Jesus does first!

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

The Man with an Unclean Spirit

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

A Preaching Tour in Galilee

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

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 the basic points of what Jesus does. First, He calls some disciples, beginning with the four He calls here, but ultimately He will have twelve disciples, the same number as the tribes of Israel. This is on purpose; Jesus is rebuilding the priestly people of Israel, as He did the first time at Mt. Sinai, in order to call the nations of the world back to Himself. Then, He preaches with authority, and as soon as He preaches, a demon who is possessing a man accosts Him; but the Lord casts the demon out, and frees the man from its control. Then He does the same thing for many other people at Simon Peter’s home, and then takes His new disciples to visit the neighboring towns, preaching and casting out demons everywhere He goes. In short; God has come to earth, and is setting everything in order, driving out the imposter powers who had enslaved His people. This is what the Gospel proclaims, and this is what Jesus is doing.)

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?

image from www.choramuseum.com