Year 2 - Week 34 (May 1-7, 2022)
Year 2 - Week 36 (May 15-21, 2022)

Year 2 - Week 35 (May 8-14, 2022)

Day 1 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 20

We have been reading the book of Exodus since the beginning of the new year, and have just seen the children of Israel reach the Red Sea. We know that the Lord, Yahweh our God, brought them safely through the sea, delivering them from slavery and from death, and leading them out into the wilderness to become His particular priestly people, His instrument to call all the nations back to Himself. We know that He had promised to grant their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the land of Canaan in which they had lived as strangers and wanderers, but had sent their descendants, the Israelites, into Egypt to wait, because, as He said to Abram in Genesis 15 “the iniquity of the Amorites [the inhabitants of Canaan] was not yet complete.” As we leave Pascha behind, we are going to continue the story skipped forward 40 years, to the point at which the Israelites go and take possession of their promised inheritance, as described in the book of Joshua. Before we do that, we will see what God says to them about how they are to make war, in the previous book, Deuteronomy.

Rules of Warfare

20 When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots, an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. 2 Before you engage in battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the troops, 3 and shall say to them: “Hear, O Israel! Today you are drawing near to do battle against your enemies. Do not lose heart, or be afraid, or panic, or be in dread of them; 4 for it is the Lord your God who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory.”

5 Then the officials shall address the troops, saying, “Has anyone built a new house but not dedicated it? He should go back to his house, or he might die in the battle and another dedicate it. 6 Has anyone planted a vineyard but not yet enjoyed its fruit? He should go back to his house, or he might die in the battle and another be first to enjoy its fruit. 7 Has anyone become engaged to a woman but not yet married her? He should go back to his house, or he might die in the battle and another marry her.” 8 The officials shall continue to address the troops, saying, “Is anyone afraid or disheartened? He should go back to his house, or he might cause the heart of his comrades to melt like his own.” 9 When the officials have finished addressing the troops, then the commanders shall take charge of them.

10 When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. 11 If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you at forced labor. 12 If it does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; 13 and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. 14 You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you. 15 Thus you shall treat all the towns that are very far from you, which are not towns of the nations here.

16 But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. 17 You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, 18 so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God.

19 If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you? 20 You may destroy only the trees that you know do not produce food; you may cut them down for use in building siegeworks against the town that makes war with you, until it falls.

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 point of the first section, in which it sets out all the different people who are NOT to go to war, is to make sure the children of Israel understand that they are going to be victorious not because of their own strength or any numerical advantage, but because the Lord is granting them victory. It is a matter of trust and faithfulness. As for the rules about war; it is very important that we see that they are not simply permitted to make war against or to destroy completely any nation or people. They are sent to completely destroy only specific nations, whose iniquity and evil has become unendurable, and to inherit their land. We should also note that it is not impossible for even people from these nations to repent; we are going to see a number of instances in which they DO precisely that, and come to be counted among the nation of Israel.)

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)

First Apology of Justin Martyr - Chapters 1-3

We have finished reading the first sermon of St. Theophan the Recluse on the path of prayer. For the summer, we will spend our time with a very different text, the first apology of St. Justin the Philosopher and Martyr to the Emperors Antoninus Pius & Marcus Aurelius.

St. Justin was born in Palestine about the year 100, and grew up a pagan, dedicated to the philosophical schools of the Greeks. At a certain point, however, he became a Christian, and spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching the Gospel. Around the year 150, as the Christians were being persecuted by the Roman Empire, he wrote an “apology” for the Christian Faith to the emperors, urging them to cease the persecutions. This was, to be clear, not the “saying sorry” sort of apology, but rather a defence of what the Christians believed and did, and an argument that it was, in fact, a fulfillment of everything that the best and most enlightened of the philosophers of Greece and Rome had been teaching.

This is a very different sort of text than we have read before. For one thing, it is VERY old, almost 1900 years old, and reflects a very different world. But for all that, it shows us what a Christian of the second generation of the Church had to say about His Faith, and is not nearly as far removed from our own experience as we might expect.

Chapter 1

TO THE EMPEROR Titus Aelius Adrianus Antoninus Pius Augustus Caesar; to his son Verissimus the philosopher; to Lucius the philosopher, by birth son of Caesar and by adoption son of Pius, an admirer of learning; to the sacred Senate and to the whole Roman people; in behalf of those men of every race who are unjustly hated and mistreated: I, one of them, Justin, the son of Priscus and grandson of Bacchius, of the city of Flavia Neapolis in Syria-Palestine, do present this address and petition.

Chapter 2

Common sense dictates that they who are truly pious men and philosophers should honor and cherish only what is true, and refuse to follow the beliefs of their forefathers, if these beliefs be worthless. For, sound reason not only demands that we do not heed those who did or taught anything wrong, but it requires that the lover of truth must choose, in every way possible, to do and say what is right, even when threatened with death, rather than save his own life. You hear yourselves everywhere called pious men and philosophers, guardians of justice and lovers of learning: whether you really deserve this reputation will now become evident.

Indeed, we have come not to flatter you with our writings or to curry your favor with this discourse, but to ask that, after an accurate and thorough examination, you hand down a decision that will not be influenced by prejudice or by the desire to please superstitious men; a decision that will not be the result of an irrational impulse or of an evil rumor long persistent, lest it become a judgment against yourselves. As far as we [Christians] are concerned, we believe that no evil can befall us unless we be convicted as criminals or be proved to be sinful persons. You, indeed, may be able to kill us, but you cannot harm us.

Chapter 3

Lest anyone consider this an absurd and rash statement, we demand that the accusations against them [the Christians] be probed, and, if these be shown to be true, they be punished, as any guilty persons should be. If, however, no one has any way of proving these accusations, sane reason does not allow that you, because of a mischievous rumor, do an injustice to innocent men; [in this case] you rather do an injustice to yourselves when you choose to impose punishment not by fair judgment but by passion.

Every reasonable person will agree that the only proper and just proposition is this: let the subjects render a blameless account of their life and doctrine; likewise, let the rulers pass judgment, not through force and tyranny, but in accordance with piety and philosophy. In this way both rulers and subjects would fare well. In fact, one of the ancients has somewhere stated: ‘Unless the rulers and their subjects become philosophers, it is impossible for states to become happy.’ It is our duty, therefore, to give everyone a chance of investigating our life and doctrines, lest we should pay the penalty for what they commit in their blindness, they who persist in being ignorant of our ways. As for you, sound reason makes it your duty to prove yourselves good judges after you hear [our defense]. Hereafter, you will be without excuse before God, if you know the truth, yet do not act in accordance with justice.

Thomas B. Falls with Justin Martyr, The First Apology, The Second Apology, Dialogue with Trypho, Exhortation to the Greeks, Discourse to the Greeks, The Monarchy or The Rule of God, vol. 6, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1948), 33–35.

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 fearlessness of St. Justin. He is demanding that the emperors be just, and arguing with every tool in his toolbox that they should stop persecuting the Christians. But he also insists that ultimately, it is not the Christians who are harmed by the persecutions, but the emperors themselves, if they persist in being unjust and opposing the truth. But as for the Christians, as he says: “You can kill us, but you cannot harm 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 10:1-16

Before we began our final preparation for Holy Week, we had just finished reading Mark 9, in which Jesus was Transfigured, and was on His way toward Jerusalem, teaching His disciples and preparing them for His betrayal, passion, death, and resurrection as they went. During the final weeks of Great Lent, we skipped ahead, and read St. Mark’s account of the Lord’s Passion. For the next few weeks, we will complete the Gospel of Mark, going back to read the chapters we skipped, starting with Mark chapter 10.

Teaching about Divorce

10 He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.

2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Jesus Blesses Little Children

13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

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 Jesus, in teaching as He does about divorce and about children, is doing two things simultaneously. On the surface level, He is upending the society, in requiring His disciples to respect and value women and children as highly as themselves, the men of the society. At a deeper level, He is teaching them how He Himself cares for His Bride, the nation of Israel, Who had gone so far astray, and yet He had not abandoned her, but had come Himself to save her and fulfil her purpose, even though He would be fully within His “rights” to divorce her. In the Church, we see the restoration of Israel, purified and sanctified. And at the same time, He has made us, who are children, foolish and wayward, His favored ones, and calls us to do the same.)

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?

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