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March 20, 2022

Year 2 - Week 29 (March 20-26, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Exodus 12:1-28 (Passover Instituted)

Last time we saw the warning of the final plague, the death of the firstborn, given to Pharaoh, and Moses left his presence for the last time. This time, God will give instructions to the people for how they are to celebrate the Passover, which becomes the foundation and formation of the Lord’s People as they leave slavery and enter into the Yahweh’s purpose for them.

The First Passover Instituted

12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.

6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7 They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.

11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a solemn assembly, and on the seventh day a solemn assembly; no work shall be done on those days; only what everyone must eat, that alone may be prepared by you.

17 You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your companies out of the land of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance. 18 In the first month, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day, you shall eat unleavened bread. 19 For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether an alien or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread.

21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down.

24 You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. 25 When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this observance?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed down and worshiped.

28 The Israelites went and did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (There are many things to note in this passage. Primary among them, I think, is this: the entire purpose of the ten plagues has been to warn, and ultimately, to judge Egypt, but the broader purpose is for the children of Israel to be freed from slavery. Up to this point, they have simply been protected from the plagues that the Egyptians experienced. Here, however, God gives to THEM a specific instruction, that they must obey in order to be delivered. This moment, then, establishes anew who is and is not a part of the Lord’s people; those who obey, who take part in the Passover, are the nation of Israel from this time forward. They are not saved on the basis of their blood or ancestry, but on the basis of their obedience. Beyond that, we can see many things that we recognize; Holy Week is mirrored here, with two great assemblies at the beginning and at the end. We should also note that everything about the celebration of the Passover is one-time-only. There are no leftovers; everything is done in readiness to depart, for in eating the Lord’s Passover, the children of Israel, and we ourselves, become strangers to the kingdoms of this world, wanderers on the earth, following a higher calling, becoming citizens rather of the kingdom of God. We are not to settle down permanently, for our dwelling place is with the Lord.)

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 gave some practical guidance for how we should prepare ourselves to pray, with some time of silence beforehand to allow us to inhabit the relationship with the Lord to which we are called, to remember who we are, and Who He is. This time, he will give some advice in how to go about our prayers attentively.

A Personal Rule of Prayer - 5

Once you have established your inner state in this way, stand before the icon and, prostrate yourself a few times. Then begin the recital of the customary prayers. (For instance, you could begin: “Glory to you, our God, glory to You! Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things…”)

Repeat this without haste, so that you enter into every word, and so bring the meaning of each word down into your heart … and accompany this by bowing. This is the whole work of prayer. It is fruitful and it is pleasing to God.

Simply enter into every word, then bring the meaning of each word down into your heart. That is, understand what you say, and then become aware of what you have understood. No further rules are necessary. These two, understanding and feeling - if they are properly carried out - ornament every offering of prayer with the highest quality, and this makes it fruitful and effective.

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 work of attentive prayer will be very slow to begin with, and will never be rushed…but that it does not always require careful effort to understand and participate in the meaning of our words. Sometimes we do this naturally, in all kinds of conversations and circumstances, in moments of fear or grief or joy or love or anger; the goal is for this to become more natural for us in prayer, so that we may be truly present with the Lord, Who is always present with us.

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 14:1-31

Last time we read from Mark 9, as Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death and resurrection, and instructing them what it truly meant to follow Him, that they should not seek to gain power or prestige, but to serve all. In Mark 10, He continues on His way toward Jerusalem, and in Mark 11, He arrives and enters the city. We will read this passage on Palm Sunday. The next two chapters, Mark 12 & 13, show Him preaching in the Temple, and then in Mark 14 the Pharisees plot to kill Him, and matters proceed toward His betrayal. We are skipping ahead to that point, so that we can read the final chapters prior to the Lord’s Death and Resurrection in these weeks as we approach Holy Week and Pascha.

The Plot to Kill Jesus

14 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; 2 for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

The Anointing at Bethany

3 While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4 But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.

6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

The Passover with the Disciples

12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Peter’s Denial Foretold

26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,

‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’

28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” 30 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same.

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 the anointing of Jesus that begins this text shows us once again that He knows what is coming, that He is choosing to suffer and die, that this is His plan. When we talk about the Lord being betrayed, we aren’t saying that someone fooled Him or tricked Him or trapped Him, and He would have escaped if He could; we are rather saying that someone who was close to Him turned on Him. Besides this, of course, we have the opportunity to see what the celebration of the Passover, which we saw instituted in the Day 1 reading, looked like several centuries later. Finally, the Lord, in breaking the bread and pouring the wine, naming them His Body and Blood, makes the connection for us between the Passover Lamb in Exodus, and Himself, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world. He Himself is our Pascha, our Passover, our deliverance from slavery and from death. But there are many other things we can note here.)

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?