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March 6, 2022

Year 2 - Week 27 (March 6 - 12, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Exodus 10:21-29 (Darkness)

Last time we saw the 8th plague come upon Egypt, when Pharaoh still refused to let the people of Israel go. It came as a plague of locusts that covered the land and consumed everything green that was left. For the first time, Pharaoh confessed that he had sinned, and asked Moses to pray to the Lord for mercy for him and his people. Yet again, however, once Yahweh took the locusts away, Pharaoh refused to let the people go. We can see this process is winding down towards the end that God fortold to Moses.

The Ninth Plague: Darkness

21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was dense darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. 23 People could not see one another, and for three days they could not move from where they were; but all the Israelites had light where they lived.

24 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses, and said, “Go, worship the Lord. Only your flocks and your herds shall remain behind. Even your children may go with you.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings to sacrifice to the Lord our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must choose some of them for the worship of the Lord our God, and we will not know what to use to worship the Lord until we arrive there.”

27 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was unwilling to let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me! Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” 29 Moses said, “Just as you say! I will never see your face again.”

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, even though, Pharaoh has begun to humble himself somewhat, he has only done so when forced to, and is struggling to hold on to some sort of consolation prize at every stage. Unfortunately for him, this is not repentance, but only a grudging capitulation. He remains a false god and oppressor to the Israelites and to all his people; therefore, Yahweh will overthrow and humiliate his power, and the power of the gods he serves, and from him he claims to have his power. The darkening of the sun, the chief of the Egyptian gods and the one Pharaoh claims to represent, is precisely this, a destruction and humiliation of the power of these false gods. The final plague, then, will strike both for justice, as a recompense for the slaughter of the Hebrew children, and as a blow against the dynasty of the Pharaoh, and his claim to immortality in his heir.)

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)

Saint Theophan the Recluse - The Path of Prayer - Sermon 1 - A Personal Rule of Prayer

Last time St. Theophan explained how the prayers we have received from the saints and Fathers of the Church, which we use in our personal prayers, are used because they teach our mind and heart and being in what sort of spirit, with what sort of feeling, we should approach God, and in saying their prayers, and forming ourselves around them by paying careful and diligent attention, we begin to partake in the same feeling as they express in their prayers. This time, he will give some practical guidelines for how to approach prayer, and what this careful and diligent attention looks like.

A Personal Rule of Prayer - 3

To transform the way we say our prayers into a real education in prayer, they must be said in such a way that both heart and mind absorb their content. In order that you may achieve this, I will give you three simple instructions:

First, do not start to pray without at least some brief preparation;
Second, do not perform your prayer carelessly, but do so with attention and feeling;
Third, do not return to your usual occupations immediately you have finished praying.

Although prayer is a habitual action for us, it needs preparation. For anyone who knows how to read and write, what is more usual than reading and writing? Yet if we sit down to read or write, we do not do so suddenly. First we get ourselves into the mood for what we are going to do. This kind of preparation is all the more necessary before we start to pray, particularly if immediately beforehand we were occupied with something very different from prayer.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should urge and guide a discussion about what preparation for prayer might look like, and what one might do after finishing praying, but before returning to normal life. A number of good suggestions might come up from the group, but one simple approach is simply to stand in silence, collecting one’s mental attention within one’s self, before and after praying. Doing so even for a few seconds, or perhaps a minute or two, can entirely transform our experience and practice of prayer.)

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 9:14-29

Last time we saw Jesus reveal His Divinity to Peter, James, and John up on the mountain, and continue to foretell His suffering, death, and resurrection; we also saw the disciples continue not to understand. This time they will return to the other disciples, who have been approached by a father who is seeking healing for his son. Since Jesus has JUST revealed His Divinity, we know what He can do and is likely going to do, but the disciples and the crowd remain confused and ignorant.

The Healing of a Boy with a Spirit

14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. 16 He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

17 Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.”

19 He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” 26 After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. 28 When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”

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 healing should only be expected, since we know that Jesus is God. More than this, it’s important to remember that the word that is here translated “believes” when Jesus says “all things can be done for the one who believes” is better translated as “trusts” or “is faithful.” In short, Jesus is inviting this father to put his trust in Jesus, and to be faithful to Him, not urging him to mental acrobatics of “believing,” as though He were some sort of Tinker Bell. The father’s response “I believe/trust/am faithful, but help my lack of trust/faithlessness” is a good prayer for all of us. Finally, we see here the Lord talk about the value of fasting; some demons, some temptations, some diseases of the soul require fasting for us to be freed from them.)

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?