War, Famine, Disease, Death, and Hades

The Apocalypse of St. John contains countless evocative images and creatures demonic and bestial.  One group of figures who have become well-known even outside of religious circles, entering into popular culture in a variety of ways, are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as described in the sixth chapter of Revelation.  This chapter is structured around one of several cyclical depictions within the text of Christ, here the Lamb, executing judgment to retake the creation and reestablish justice.  In St. John’s vision of the divine throne, Christ has taken the scroll which is the title of ownership for the whole creation, being the only one found worthy to do so.  This scroll is sealed with seven seals (Rev 5:1, 5-7). …

Pentecost and the Sun of Justice

Within the liturgical traditions surrounding Pentecost are nested brief references to Christ as the “Sun of Justice” or “Sun of Righteousness.”  These references, while easily glossed over, are not mere analogies nor are they inserted purely for their evocative, poetic value.  It is an image of Christ which comes from the prophet Malachi and it is brought to mind within the liturgics of Pentecost in order to, along with a number of other liturgical references to the Hebrew Scriptures, carry and convey a particular vision of what was happening in Jerusalem spiritually on the day of Pentecost in addition to that which was taking place on the visible, historical level as recounted in the second chapter of the Acts of…

Father of the Fatherless and Protector of Widows

The task of a judge in rendering judgment or judging, whether in a court context or the context of the book of Judges, is to establish or restore justice. Therefore, when Yahweh condemns the leadership of Israel and Judah, a chief charge is that they have judged unjustly (e.g., Is 10:1). To judge unjustly is to show favoritism, to create laws that are oppressive and do harm, or to ignore injustice rather than righting it. Yahweh, in the Old Testament, contrasts himself to this kind of judge, human judges with whom humans have had experiences. Yahweh does not respect persons and will accept no bribe (Deut 10:17). It is because of His own character and their responsibility to bring about…

Divine Justice

Concepts of justice in the contemporary world are varied. Likely the most prominent usage of the term is related to criminal justice. In the United States, the Department of Justice is considered to be the preeminent law enforcement authority in the land. This understanding of justice is focused on the punishment of criminals in proportion to their crimes. When an offender receives their due punishment, justice has been done. If a guilty person goes free or an innocent one is punished, this is injustice in the truest sense. In its ideal form, justice, as expressed in common statuary, ought to be blind. It ought not to take into account a person’s relative wealth, rank, or station in life. It ought…

Jephthah’s Daughter

The book of Judges is often seen to be problematic as a whole. Certainly, many elements of it need to be deeply couched in euphemism or omitted entirely if its narratives are going to be discussed in an all-ages environment. While large death tolls are described throughout, the descriptions of this violence become increasingly graphic as the book progresses. By the final chapters, the book has descended headlong into the madness of rape, dismemberment, murder, and civil war. Most works of fiction in various media that contain these same elements would be subject to criticism from the perspective of Christian morality. Yet, the book of Judges is a part of the Holy Scriptures. Understanding the book of Judges as a…

How Did the Apostles Receive Those Baptized Outside of the Church?

One issue of more than occasional discussion and tension within the Orthodox Church is the way in which persons are received into the church who have been baptized, whether as infants or adults, in some context or polity other than the Orthodox Church herself.  This debate tends to take place regarding whether in certain cases, certain persons so baptized ought to be received through chrismation.  Those supporting this approach reference its long history of usage and application in the Orthodox Church under a variety of circumstances in receiving persons from a variety of different backgrounds.  Opponents of this practice generally argue that not baptizing such a person within the Orthodox Church is tantamount to lending some sort of recognition of…

Through the Sea of Reeds

One of the most dramatic episodes in the entirety of the Hebrew scriptures is the crossing of the Red Sea.  Shortly after the first Passover, the first Pascha, the people of nascent Israel escaped the wrath of Pharaoh and his armies through the separated waters of the sea.  After the Israelites had passed through on the dry ground, the waters closed to cover and destroy the Egyptian charioteers.  This scene has been dramatized in films both live-action and animated.  It has been depicted in a variety of ways artistically beyond its traditional iconography.  The song of victory sung by the Israelites, recorded in Exodus 15, is the first Ode of the Canon, traditionally sung in the context of matins and…

After the Order of Melchizedek

In understanding the portrait of the Messiah presented in the Hebrew Scriptures as understood in the first century, the time of the apostles, Psalm 110/109 looms large.  This Psalm is, in fact, the most cited Old Testament text in the New Testament.  It encapsulates themes and images found predominately in the Torah and developed within the prophets to give a picture of the Christ, the Anointed One, who will come into the world and what it is which he will accomplish.  The core thesis of Christianity, and of all of the New Testament documents, is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Holy One of God.  It, therefore, makes perfect sense that applying the imagery of this Psalm to…

The Messiah

Even a passing familiarity with a Christian reading of the Old Testament reveals a series of prophetic elements that, from that Christian reading, point to fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.  These prophetic elements, however, often seem disparate and scattered.  There are prophecies of the defeat of death, the downfall of the devil, the restoration of the nations, the overcoming of sin, a prophet like Moses, God’s arising to judge the earth, and countless others of more or less detail.  By the time period reflected by the Gospels and other New Testament writings, however, all of these promises seem to have coalesced around the person of the coming Messiah or Christ.  Christ’s identity as the Messiah is the explicit…

Who is “the Weaker Brother”?

In chapter 8 of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul begins a discussion that will go on for several chapters regarding food offered to idols.  The eating of this food was the means by which worshippers participated in the sacrifices offered to those pagan gods.  Through these chapters, St. Paul gives a variety of reasons why all of the members of the Christian community at Corinth must abide by the commandments against such participation as re-affirmed at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.  In the opening chapter of this discussion, chapter 8, St. Paul makes a distinction between stronger and weaker brethren.  This distinction understood rather casually, is employed all too frequently in both popular and pastoral…