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April 10, 2022

Year 2 - Week 32 (April 10-16, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Exodus 13:17-22 (Pillars of Cloud & Fire)

Last time we saw how, in addition to observing the Passover itself, with the eating of the Passover Lamb, the eating of Unleavened Bread for a week, and the commemoration of the Lord’s deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery, God commanded the people that they were to dedicate every firstborn to the Lord, showing that Israel was, as He had said in the beginning, His own Firstborn Son, His particular people called by His Name. This time, we will see the people actually leave Egypt, and how God led them Himself, in Person, out toward the Red Sea, out from death into life.

The Pillars of Cloud and Fire

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, “If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle.

19 And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, “God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here.” 20 They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

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 text says clearly that Yahweh HIMSELF led the people out, veiled in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and that He was always with them. It is also important to note that, as they go toward the Red Sea, they carry with them the bones of Joseph, who had been buried in Egypt 400 years before, but who had trusted that Yahweh would fulfill His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would bring them back out of Egypt. So, trusting, albeit in a veiled way, in the Resurrection, they carry even the dead out of slavery to freedom, out of death into 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?

Day 2 (Wednesday)

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

Last time St. Theophan gave some guidance for how to manage the distraction that inevitably comes in prayer, by repeating the part of the prayer during which attention had wandered until we have kept the attention fully present in our prayer. This time he will address the opposite situation, in which we are so fully present in a portion of our prayer that we do not want to leave that portion behind.

A Personal Rule of Prayer - 8

But it can also happen that some word will so strongly affect the soul that you will not wish to continue speaking the prayers. The tongue may continue to recite, but the mind will run back to the passage which affected it so powerfully.

In this situation:

Stop. Do not continue repeating prayers but stand with your attention on those words which moved you, feeling them. Feed the soul on them, or on the thoughts that arise from them. Do not hurry on from this state, even if you have no time left; it is better to leave your rule of prayer unfinished than to destroy this state of mind. This will sanctify you, and then perhaps it will last all day long, like the presence of the Guardian Angel. When you are saying prayers, this kind of action of grace means that the spirit of prayer itself is beginning to penetrate into you … and it follows that keeping such a state is the most hopeful way to encourage and strengthen the spirit of prayer within us.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should emphasize what St. Theophan says here, that the point of prayer is not, in fact, to finish saying a particular set of words and sentences, but rather to come before the Lord with our full attention, mind, soul, heart, and body. When we find ourselves actually engaged in such a spirit of prayer, we must not destroy that reality merely for the sake of “finishing our prayers.” It is far better to be “in prayer” than to “finish our prayers.”)

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 11:1-33

Last week we read Mark’s account of the Lord’s Crucifixion and Death, concluding the narrative leading up to this that we have been moving through for the past three weeks. This week, however, we will go back in time to Chapter 11, and see Jesus enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as we prepare to celebrate Palm Sunday ourselves.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

11 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’”

4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16 and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”

18 And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19 And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree

20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

Jesus’ Authority Is Questioned

27 Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him 28 and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” 31 They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

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 first of all that the words with which the crowds greet Jesus are explicitly Messianic. Referring to the kingdom of David as they do is stating that Jesus is the long-awaited Davidic King prophesied throughout the Scripture, the Christ/Messiah/Anointed One, not just any king, but THE king who will make everything right. It is also worth noting that Jesus first inspects the Temple on the first day, and then drives out the money-changers on the second day, and then begins to have conflicts with the religious authorities. The encounters with the fig tree that accompany this conflict in the narrative provide a metaphor for us to understand what is happening: the religious authorities themselves are being found fruitless, and are being cut off by the Lord because of their unbelief and faithlessness.)

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?