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May 1, 2022

Year 2 - Week 34 (May 1-7, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Psalm 22 - My God, my God, Why Have You Forsaken Me

In our Old Testament readings up to this point, we have been reading about the Lord’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt, and we have seen how this first Pascha/Passover is a precursor and foreshadowing of the Great and Holy Pascha that we celebrate as Christians, in the Lord’s deliverance of all of us from slavery to sin and to death, through His own death and resurrection. As we conclude our reflection on this, we will skip forward in the Old Testament to the book of Psalms, and specifically to the Psalm that our Lord quoted while He was on the Cross. This is Psalm 22 in most western Bibles, but in the Greek Old Testament, it is counted as Psalm 21.

Psalm 22 (21) - To the Leader...A Psalm of David

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

6 But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
They pierced my hands and feet;
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.

29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (Leader should note that the Lord is quoting from this Psalm when He is on the Cross. The Psalm itself serves as combination of prayer, prophecy, and an argument with one’s self. The Psalmist begins expressing how he feels, that God has forsaken him, but then corrects himself, noting that God saved His people before. He then tries again, suggesting that the problem is with himself, that he is “a worm.” But he corrects himself once more, noting that God has protected him thus far. Finally, in the fifth stanza, he begins to pray well, asking for help and describing his difficult situation. At this point, moving into the 6th and 7th stanza, he moves into prophecy, speaking not only of his own suffering, but of the suffering that the Lord endures when He unites Himself with us in our brokenness. And then, in stanzas 8 through 11, he continues in prophecy, foretelling what comes after the Lord’s uniting of Himself with us in death, that in the great assembly of the righteous, even in death, even in Hades, he would proclaim the name of the Lord, Who delivers His people even from death, and draws all the nations in all time to Himself. Thus the Lord, in praying this Psalm, at the very moment that He fulfills what the Psalmist prophesies, both prays it truly, as He is bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows, and prays it as a password, as a counter sign, as an assurance that the prayer has been heard, and He Himself, at that very moment, is the answer to the prayer that is prophesied within the Psalm itself.)

2) What do we learn about God in this reading?

3) What do we learn about human beings in this reading?

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 instructed us in how to leave prayer behind, by not immediately returning to what we had been doing before, but to take some time in silent reflection to meditate on what we have said in prayer, and what sort of life, what way of being, these prayers ask for ourselves and commit ourselves to. This time he will conclude this sermon with some final assurances and encouragements.

A Personal Rule of Prayer - 10

If you will be obedient to these few rules, you will soon see the fruits of this effort. Whoever fulfills these rules, even if they have not been given this instruction, will also taste this fruit.

Every repetition of prayer done in this way will leave a mark of prayer on the soul. Uninterrupted practice in the order described will make it take root in the soul, and patience in this practice will establish a prayerful spirit. May the Lord grant you this by the prayers of His most pure mother!

****
Here I have given to you the first elementary method of training the spirit in prayer in accordance with the aims of spoken prayer said at home in the morning and the evening - and in church.

But this is not all. Tomorrow I will tell you of another method.

Amen.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should take this opportunity to guide the group in a recap of the method of prayer that St. Theophany has provided these last several weeks: to prepare ourselves for prayer, to be attentive in prayer, and to not hurry to leave prayer behind. The Leader should emphasize that this is an approach that should only be followed strictly in our morning & evening rule of prayer, and yet note that insights and habits from this rule of prayer will inform and permeate all other prayer, whether throughout the course of the day or in the services of the Church. It is also good to note that there are three other sermons in the book from which this one was taken; we will not read them at this point, but anyone who is interested can seek out the book and read them. Fr. Anthony can provide assistance in finding the book.)

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 16:9-20

Last time we read the account of the women who came to the Empty Tomb and found that Jesus was not there. This is also the reading that we hear immediately after receiving the Light at midnight on Pascha, and immediately before we begin to sing “Christ is Risen.” What follows is the end of the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

9 [[Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

Jesus Appears to Two Disciples

12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

Jesus Commissions the Disciples

14 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The Ascension of Jesus

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.]

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 summary of what happened after the Lord’s Resurrection continues to emphasize that the disciples did not understand what was happening; it is perhaps worth highlighting this, as we work to adjust our lives back to “normalcy” after the intensity of Great Lent and Holy Week. We have walked with the Lord and His disciples through His Passion and Resurrection, and have understood much…but yet we still struggle to walk always in the light and the love of the Risen Lord. It should be encouraging to us that the Lord does not reject His disciples when they struggle to understand and fail to believe; may He be patient with us also, and guide us into the way of 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?