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March 27, 2022

Year 2 - Week 30 (March 27 - April 2, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Exodus 12:29-51 (Death of Firstborn, Exodus, Passover)

Last time we saw Yahweh give extremely precise instructions to the people of Israel regarding how they were to celebrate the Passover, and how their obedience would establish a distinction between them and the Egyptians, making everyone who took part in the Passover a member of God’s people of Israel, a partaker in His covenant. This time, we will finally see the tenth plague, the justice of Yahweh upon Pharaoh and all those who held to Pharaoh despite the warnings of Moses and the nine plagues that had preceded it, as demonstrations of the power of Yahweh and the vanity of the gods of Egypt. In this final plague, those gods, from Pharaoh to the many demon gods he served, are overthrown and made a mockery, and justice is given for the 400 years of slavery in which Israel had served, and most especially for the slaughter of the infant children of Israel by Pharaoh.

The Tenth Plague: Death of the Firstborn

29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, and said, “Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone. And bring a blessing on me too!”

The Exodus: From Rameses to Succoth

33 The Egyptians urged the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The Israelites had done as Moses told them; they had asked the Egyptians for jewelry of silver and gold, and for clothing, 36 and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And so they plundered the Egyptians.

37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A mixed crowd also went up with them, and livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds. 39 They baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt; it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

40 The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred thirty years. 41 At the end of four hundred thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42 That was for the Lord a night of vigil, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. That same night is a vigil to be kept for the Lord by all the Israelites throughout their generations.

Directions for the Passover

43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: This is the ordinance for the passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but any slave who has been purchased may eat of it after he has been circumcised; 45 no bound or hired servant may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the animal outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 The whole congregation of Israel shall celebrate it. 48 If an alien who resides with you wants to celebrate the passover to the Lord, all his males shall be circumcised; then he may draw near to celebrate it; he shall be regarded as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it; 49 there shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.

50 All the Israelites did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 That very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, company by company.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (There are many things that the Leader can point out here, but perhaps the most surprising element is that, although verse 43 says that no foreigner is permitted to take part in the Passover…but then verse 48 gives clear instructions for how a foreigner, someone who is not a descendant of Abraham, is to become a part of Israel, but undergoing circumcision and then taking part in the Passover. This is an essential thing for us to undestand, that Yahweh was indeed inviting all nations to become a part of Israel, but that in order to do so, they needed to become part of the covenant He had established with Abraham through circumcision, and then to take part in the Passover, which makes Israel His particular people. We see this continue in the Church, with the process of catechesis, which begins with exorcisms, continuing with Baptism, and concluding with Chrismation, with these three actions corresponding with circumcision, with the Passover, and with the covenant at Mt. Sinai which is commemorated at the Jewish feast of Pentecost.)

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 suggestions for how to remain attentive in prayer, namely, that we should pay attention to understand what the words of our prayer mean, and then work hard to participate in that meaning, to “feel” their meaning. This time, he will give some specific examples of what this might look like.

A Personal Rule of Prayer - 6

For example, when you recite: “and cleanse us from all impurities,” experience with feeling your own impurity, desire to become pure, and pray to God in hope for it.

When you receive: “and forgive us our trespasses,” etc, first forgive everyone inwardly, and then, from a heart that has forgiven everyone for every single thing, beg the Lord to give us forgiveness.

When you recite: “Your will be done,” submit your destiny to the Lord, and without questioning, state that you are prepared to accept willingly everything the Lord will send you.

If you work in this way at every line of your prayers, you will have said them in the correct manner.

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 sort of attention is not something that we can expect ourselves to do automatically, but is a matter of effort and persistence. It will take more time as we begin, but is something that we can expect to get better at, if not in a linear way; it is also something that we should expect to sometimes come more easily, and sometimes require more effort. It is helpful, nonetheless, to understand what it is that we should be working to accomplish when we pray.)

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 14:32-72 (Gethsemane, Betrayal & Arrest, Trial Before the High Priest, Peter's Denial

Last time, we saw Jesus and the Disciples go to celebrate the Passover, after Judas Iscariot decided to betray him. At the Passover meal, Jesus instituted the Eucharist, breaking the bread and blessing the wine, and giving them to the Disciples as His own Body and Blood. He then predicted to them that they would all betray him, even Peter, who insisted that he would never do so, and would die first; Jesus told him that that very night, before the rooster crowed twice, Peter would deny Him three times. In this week’s reading, we will see Jesus lead His Disciples out to Gethsemane, where what He foretold will happen just as He said.

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”

37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41 He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

43 Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him.

46 Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47 But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48 Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 All of them deserted him and fled. 51 A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

Jesus before the Council

53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. 54 Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56 For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree.

57 Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 But even on this point their testimony did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” 61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 Jesus said, “I am; and

‘you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power,’
and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’”

63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? 64 You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. 65 Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.

Peter Denies Jesus

66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. 69 And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” 72 At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

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 most important passages here, which show that Jesus was not taken unawares or unwilling, are found in verses 41-42, where He tells the Disciples that the time has come, and His betrayer is there, so they need to go and meet him, and in verse 62, where He affirms to the high priest that He is indeed the Messiah, and further connects that to the prophecy about the Son of Man from the Prophet Daniel, which is clearly shown in Daniel to be God Himself. So He makes clear that He is both Messiah and God, and that He is accepting this betrayal and humiliation and death willingly. With that understood, we can comprehend that His prayer at the beginning of this selection, asking that “this cup” pass from Him, is not a sign of unwillingness to undergo the Passion, since even there, He submits His will to the Father’s, but is rather a revelation of the reality of His human nature, that in His humanity He does not wish to die, even as it is indeed precisely what He came to do in His Divinity. This revelation of the mystery of the Incarnation is essential; we cannot explain it, but we must confess it, as those Apostles who saw and heard what the Lord said and did bore witness, that Jesus Christ is God become Man, for the sake of us and our salvation.)

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?