Worship That Ascends to the Throne of God (Thurs. Oct. 22)

The word of the day “Spirit.”  In our reading of Philippians 3:1-8, St. Paul warns again about the Judaizers who would persuade the Philippians to be circumcised to become true Christians. The Apostle cautions that circumcision is merely an outward sign in the physical body, the “flesh.” What counts is the “circumcision of the heart” as the prophet Jeremiah declared” (Jeremiah 4:4).  To this Word of the prophet, Paul adds, “…and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter” (Romans 2:29).

Worship Inspired and Empowered by the Spirit

If so, then Paul can say without hesitation, “We are the circumcision.”  St. John Chrysostom asks, “Which is superior, the soul or the body?  Evidently the former.  Therefore, that circumcision [of the soul] is also superior, or rather, no longer superior, but this is the only circumcision…” (NfPf1: 13).  The Apostle says that those of this spiritual “circumcision” worship God “by the Spirit,” as the oldest manuscripts put it. That is, the Holy Spirit inspires and empowers their worship and brings it straightaway to the Throne of God.

On the other hand, those who concentrate on the outward act rather than the spiritual meaning of worship have “the form of godliness” but “deny its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). That is, they make an outward show of their piety but inwardly disregard its inner, spiritual activity.  Of this kind of piousness, the Lord said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63). Physical acts of prayer, prostration, fasting, vigil, worship, and even charity alone without a sincere spirit are useless.

For Reflection

James 5:16 draws the contrast to such spiritless worship and prayer: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  Thus, fruitful prayer is not a matter of volume or display of religiosity. ”We don’t have to shout or put on a show of piety to get God’s attention.  The whisper of our hearts reaches the ears of God in an instant.

About Fr. Basil

Now retired, the Very Rev. Archpriest Basil Ross Aden has served as a parish priest, parish pastor, diocesan mission director, writer, and college teacher of New Testament and Religious Studies. He has a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago and has published daily devotional and stewardship materials as well as a college textbook on Religious Studies. He also has published papers and/or lectured on the Orthodox perspective on Luther and the Reformation. religious freedom, current issues of religion and society, and St. John Chrysostom. He is married to Sandra and has two sons and three grandchildren. He is still active as a priest as well as a writer of articles and materials on Orthodoxy and topics of faith and life today.

OCA Scripture Readings

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