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December 5, 2021

Year 2 - Week 14 (December 5 - 11)

Day 1 (Monday)

Genesis 12:10-20

Last time, we saw Abram leave his father’s house and go where God called him, and arrive in the land of Canaan, which God promised to give to his descendants. He was moving from north to south through the land, together with his wife and nephew and those with him, but as we will see, there will be a famine, a severe food shortage, and this will result in Abram going somewhere that God did NOT command him to go.

Abram and Sarai in Egypt

10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.”

14 When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.

17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” 20 And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had.

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 that this story of Abram contains a foreshadowing of the time that his descendants, the Israelites, will spend in Egypt, including the famine as the reason they went there, the fact that the Egyptians wanted to take the Hebrew women as their own and kill all the males, God delivers both the women and the men by means of plagues, and in the end they leave with great possessions from Egypt. This should also be understood as showing an early fulfillment of the tension set up with Ham and Noah, and Noah’s prophecy about how Ham’s descendants would try to dominate Shem’s descendants, but it wouldn’t work. We should also note that Abram’s attempt to take care of himself results in problems; he followed God’s instructions to go into Canaan, but then doubted and went astray into Egypt, where problems resulted, until God brought him out again and back to the Promised Land.)

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)

St. Paisios about Water

This is a story told by St. Paisios, who was a much beloved elder in the mid-to-late 20th century. He fell asleep in the Lord in 1994, and was canonized as a saint in 2015. This is a simple story, but it conveys an essential observation about human nature, and how we relate to God.

St. Paisios about Water and Gratitude

Elsewhere he said:

"In Sinai, there in the Hermitage of Saint Episteme where I lived, the water was minimal. A drop ran from a rock into a cave, about twenty meters away from the hermitage. I had made a cistern and I was collecting three kilos of water twenty-four hours a day.

When I went to get water, I put the can to fill and said the Salutations to the Panagia. I just wet my forehead a little with my hand, because that helped me - a doctor told me to do it - I took some water to drink, and I collected a little in a tin for the birds and mice of the hermitage. This water was also for washing clothes, etc. What joy, what gratitude I felt for this little water I had! Doxology, because I had water!

When I came to Mount Athos and stayed for a while in the Skete of Iveron, because the place is sunny there, it had a lot of water. It had an overflowing cistern and water was running outside. Oh, I washed both my legs and my head…, but I had forgotten.

In Sinai my eyes were watering with gratitude for the little water, while in the Skete I had forgotten because of the abundance of water. So then I went and stayed about eighty meters away and I had a small cistern. How we get lost, how we forget with abundance!

https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2021/11/saint-paisios-and-hermitage-of-saints.html?m=1


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 that St. Paisios, who was very pious and always praying, is still observing that his own response to plenty, to having enough water that he didn’t need to worry about it, was to take it for granted, and the result was that he had less occasion to pray, to give thanks to God, to draw near to the Lord in thanksgiving. His solution, to move further away from the water, to make sure that he didn’t drift farther away from God due to the ease of life that came from easy water, is one that we should all remember. Both the principle of the thing, that comfort is NOT good for us spiritually, and the method, to deprive ourselves of easy comforts for the sake of prayer, are worth attending to and internalizing, and even worth putting into practice. This is, in fact, exactly what we are doing when we fast, and as we prepare enter upon the final two weeks of the Nativity Fast before Christmas, it is good to be reminded of the purpose of our fasting.)

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 5:1-20

Last time, we saw Jesus and His disciples start across the sea, and encounter a severe storm, which the Lord calmed with a word. We noted, however, last week, that it was at Jesus’ urging that they had started across the sea in the first place, and that, unless His entire purpose for this was to show His authority over the wind and the sea, that there might have been another purpose for the voyage, and we should pay attention to see where they ended up after the storm was calmed. Today we will see where Jesus was going.

Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac

5 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; 4 for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.

5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; 7 and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”

10 He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; 12 and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. 17 Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood.

18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should note that Jesus encounters the demon-possessed man AS SOON AS He steps off the boat. Everything about how St. Mark talks about this makes clear that driving these demons out of this man was the sole purpose for Jesus’ voyage across the sea here. As we have noted before, this is one of the primary things that Jesus is doing; He is seeking out places where demons are dominating and oppressing and enslaving human beings, and is abolishing their power and freeing His people. We should see in this a clear connection to His death and descent into Hades, where He abolishes the authority that the Devil had over those who were dead, and delivers them from that oppression and leads them, and all of humankind, into freedom and new life.)

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?