Monday, August 29, 2016

the St John's Gospel method of learning a new language!

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, a most learned man with a remarkable command of languages, recently shared his method for learning different tongues (in an interview* here):

'I studied foreign languages using the Gospel. I always began with the Gospel of John. It is the most convenient Gospel for learning words, they are repeated constantly: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, the same was in the beginning with God.” Experts say that the vocabulary of the Gospel of John is half of that of the other Gospels, although in volume it is no less than the others. This lexical laconicism is connected to the fact that many of the words are repeated.

'Why is it convenient to learn language from the Gospels? Because when you read a familiar text which you know practically off by heart, you don’t have to look up words in the dictionary, you recognize the words. That’s how I learnt Greek. At first I read the Gospel of John, then I read the three other Gospels, then I began to read the Epistles of the apostles, then I began to read the Church Fathers in Greek. Moreover, when I studied Greek, I listened to a tape recording of the Liturgy in Greek. I studied it in the pronunciation which is used by Greeks today.'

Fascinating, don't you think? And, if I may suggest, would it not be a great way to increase biblical literacy if the system were to become more popular?

*(Thanks to Fr Hunwicke for his post here which promoted me to do the googling that led me to this interview.)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

be humble, as the Lord commands

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our Gospel reading today from St Luke, we are presented with a somewhat unedifying scene. He is in the home of a Pharisee and the guests – we do not know whether they are also Pharisees of simply men of rank and importance from the locality – are all jockeying for the best seats, the places of honour … and by doing so they are making it clear to all around them how important they think they are … and that they consider that their importance is something that must be recognised by all around them.

Now, in our own society, we don't do formal dining very often. And when we do, the seating tends to be assigned in advance. So it might be useful to go into more detail as to what it going on in this scene. You may have noticed in some passages from the Gospels that the sacred author mentions that our Lord and his companions are reclining at table. That is because in the Mediterranean world of the time, especially on formal occasions, the guests were place on a series of wide couches, one each on three sides of a low, square table, with the fourth side being left open so that the servants might have space to serve. Each couch would normally have three places. The host sat at the one to the left of the open side; with the place next to him on the couch being reserved for the most honoured guest, and the one next to him for the next most honoured; and so on until all the nine spaces were filled. If there happened to be more people than that number at the party, then they were seated elsewhere … perhaps sitting on cushions on little tables placed nearby.

In the scene St Luke describes, the guests who think themselves most important are vying for the best places. So perhaps the host is not yet present in the room – he may be at the entryway to his home, greeting others who are still arriving. And without him present to say to those who presume they will be at the 'top table' with him 'sit here, brother' and 'no, you must sit there, my friend' they are arguing among themselves … and clearly making something of a spectacle of themselves.

Our Lord uses the occasion to admonish their behaviour, telling them a parable that is based upon the very actions that they themselves are in the process of carrying out. But our Lord, of course, is concerned with the social etiquette of his day. His concern, rather, is the pride these men are displaying and the moral failing it indicates and the spiritual dangers that go along with it. This is why he calls them to behave humbly, with humility.

Because humility is not about being self-effacing or not pushing yourself forward. The humble person, in the Christian sense, is someone who makes a truthful evaluation of themselves, without any falsehoods or deceptions, and acknowledges what they are when compared with God; they recognise how insignificant they are in comparison with their creator, how dependent they are upon him, and their own inclination toward sin. Humility orients the person to the necessity of placing their own will subordinate to that of God's, which leads them to humbly be obedient to his laws – striving to be obedient to them at all times, and being sincerely remorseful when they fail, asking his forgiveness and truly striving to do better in the future.

Pride, on the other hand, leads us to put our will before that of God, causing us to sin. Pride causes us to say that no one can tell us what to do – not even God. And even if we can not bring ourselves to defy God so openly, pride can still lead us to refuse to obey God's law. Consider the references to the moral law that we have today in our reading from the letter to the Hebrews. How many there are today who refuse to follow those precepts, saying that they are outdated, irrelevant, that God does not worry about such things – even though the inspired words of Sacred Scripture flatly contradict their claims.

This is why Christ condemns the pride of the Pharisees that leads them to bicker over seating arrangements. Not because of the societal implications of such pettiness; but because of the spiritual ones. Christ did not come into the world to make us good citizens; he came to make us holy children of God during our time in this world. The person who is holy will naturally behave rightly towards God and neighbour; leading a life that leads to a place at the only banquet that matters – the heavenly and eternal banquet in heaven. And let us pray that all here will take their place at that banquet at the end of their days. Amen. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Examin Sunday 20 Aug 2016

Honour your father and your mother
The first and most obvious meaning of this commandment is of the duty of young children to obey their parents in all that is lawful. This includes the child being obedient to all in authority over them. But this commandment also speaks to parents. They have a duty to not only to care for children's material needs, but to pass on the faith by word and example of life. Just as the first will often require sacrifices, so too will the other. And it speaks to us all: first in the duty of care that we must have towards the elderly and infirm among us, cherishing them and doing all we can do to respect the dignity they are due as children of God; and also, as with children, respecting all lawful authority. That obedience extends to the authority exercised by the Church founded by Christ himself.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

prayer diary Saturday 20 Aug 2016

'You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all you mind. This is the greatest and first command.' 
Matthew 22.37,38

Christ proclaimed this the greatest commandment because it is from this that all the others flow. If you do not love God completely then you can not do his will in other areas.

Friday, August 19, 2016

prayer diary Friday 19 Aug 2016 ( day of discipline and self-denial)

'The greatest among you must become the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.' 
Luke 22.26

Followers of Christ seek no glory for themselves, but desire only to serve others. And the greatest assistance one can render to another is leading them to the path whereby their soul may be saved. In what way do you do others this service? Is the example of your life such that it may lead others to eternal life?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

prayer diary Thursday 18 Aug 2016

'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets and invite everyone you meet to the wedding banquet.' 
Matthew 22.8,9

The parable of the wedding feast is a stark warning to us all. Many who complacently believe their place in heaven is assured have shown themselves not worthy by virtue of how they chose to live. What of you – are you living a life that shows you to be worthy of the invitation you have received?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

prayer diary Wednesday 17 Aug 2016

When those he hired last came, he gave them the usual daily wage; and when the first came, they thought they would receive more.' 
Matthew 20.9

It is never too late to change your ways and enter into the vineyard of the Lord. The reward he offers is the same to all, whenever they come: eternal life.