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April 3, 2022

Year 2 - Week 31 (April 3 - 9, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Exodus 13:1-16 (Unleavened Bread, Consecration of Firstborn)

Last time we saw the death of the Firstborn, and the departure of the Israelites from where they had lived in Egypt, and the instructions for the killing and eating of the Passover. This time, we will see God give a new instruction to Moses about the firstborn of the Israelites, and then Moses will sum up to the people the commandment about the celebration of the Passover for coming generations, and then pass on God’s commandment about the firstborn.

Consecration of the Firstborn

13 The Lord said to Moses: 2 Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine.

The Festival of Unleavened Bread

3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the Lord brought you out from there by strength of hand; no leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5 When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this observance in this month.

6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen in your possession, and no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 It shall serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the Lord may be on your lips; for with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall keep this ordinance at its proper time from year to year.

The Consecration of the Firstborn

11 “When the Lord has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your ancestors, and has given it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your livestock that are males shall be the Lord’s. 13 But every firstborn donkey you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. Every firstborn male among your children you shall redeem.

14 When in the future your child asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall answer, ‘By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from human firstborn to the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every male that first opens the womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall serve as a sign on your hand and as an emblem on your forehead that by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”

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 Yahweh is making clear to the children of Israel that they are His own firstborn, and does so by claiming every firstborn for Himself, and requiring them to redeem them with a sacrifice. The point of this is not to threaten them with death, as the Egyptians experienced, but rather to remind them of WHY this came upon the Egyptians, because Egypt had enslaved and mistreated His own Firstborn Son, the people of Israel, and He had redeemed all Israel from slavery. It is worth noting that “firstborn” signifies a certain legal status; the firstborn was the heir of the father and administered the inheritance to all other children. There is, of course, a prefigurement here of the Lord, the unique Son of God, the Firstborn of all creation (not that He is intrinsically part of the Creation, as He is rather co-eternal with the Father, but rather that He is Himself the one with the authority of the Firstborn, and administers the grace of the Father to all of us who are children by adoption.))

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 provided some examples for how to pray with attention and feeling. This time, he will give some additional suggestions for how to be successful in this effort.

A Personal Rule of Prayer - 7
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To perform this work even more successfully, act in the following way:

1) Have your own rule of prayer, asking the blessing of your spiritual father for this. It should not be a lengthy rule, but one that you can perform without haste in the circumstances of your everyday life.

2 Before you pray, at a time when you have nothing else to do, read the prayers you will use. Make sure you understand and feel every word…so that you know beforehand what should be in your heart at each and every word. It is even better to learn all the prayers by heart. If you work in this way when you are saying your prayers, it will be easier for you to understand and to feel them. One difficulty will still remain: your mind will keep wandering off to attend to other things. What should be done in such a case?

3. It is necessary to make the effort to concentrate the attention, even though you know in advance that the thoughts will wander. When the mind does in fact wander during prayer, recall it again - and do so over and over again. Whenever you have said a prayer while your mind was wandering - and so have said it without feeling or comprehension - never forget to recite again everything that you said in this way.

If the mind wanters many times at the same place, repeat that section again and again. Do this until it is said entirely with feeling and understanding. Once you have overcome this difficulty, it may never repeat itself. If it does, it may not do so to the same extent - so this is the action to take when thoughts wander and you are distracted.

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. Theophan is effectively telling us that we need to study and prepare to pray, and treat it as a skill or task that requires practice and effort. If we can approach prayer with this sort of serious attention, as we would give to any trade or art, we will find that things make much more sense.)

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 15:21-41

Last time we saw Jesus betrayed and brought to trial by the high priests and the elders of the people, and we saw Peter deny the Lord while he was waiting to see what would happen. Having gotten Jesus to “admit” that He claimed to be the Son of God, the high priest will now bring Him to Pilate, seeking the death penalty for Him.

Jesus before Pilate

15 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3 Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified

6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7 Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8 So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9 Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over.

11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided[f] him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In the s

ame way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

The Death of Jesus

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land[h] until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

40 There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

The Burial of Jesus

42 When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

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, when Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” it is essential that we understand that He is quoting Psalm 22 (21 in the Septuagint), which is a prayer for deliverance in the darkest of hours, and a meditation on the salvation of the Lord that comes to us. As with other occasions when the Scripture shows Jesus quoting just the beginning of a text, we should understand that the Lord is referencing not just the first verse, but the entire passage. This Psalm begins by expressing the feeling of David, the Psalmist, that God has forsaken him, but proceeds to reflect on the Lord’s faithfulness to His people across the centuries, and to prophesy precisely the Lord’s Passion and His salvation of the house of Israel, of the poor, and even of the Gentiles. It is highly recommended that families/groups should take the time to read this Psalm as well, in order to understand what Jesus was communicating to anyone paying attention as His death approached. This understanding is profoundly important, because it emphasizes that Jesus was NOT, in fact, forsaken by the Father, but that He come to us in our state of being estranged from God, and united Himself with our brokenness, and is healing us from within.)

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?