The Threshold to Holy Week: The Raising of Lazarus (Saturday, April 24)

The word for today is “sign.” Today the Orthodox stand at the doorway to Holy Week.  At this threshold is the story of the raising of Lazarus John 11:1-45.  Most of us have gone through so many observances of Christ’s passion that the events of this week might have lost their edge.  However, if we take a second look at the story of Lazarus, we will learn to participate in the events as if we were there following the Lord to His Cross and the the appearance as the Risen Christ for the first time.  At every step, the Lord speaks and acts in surprising ways.  The Scriptures foretold everything that was to occur.  And yet, from our point of…

Called to Be the Voice of the Voiceless (Fri, April 23)

The word of the day is “speechless.”  Can those who have no voice get justice?  If they cannot speak, they cannot be heard.  Therefore, if their cause is to be considered, then someone must speak for them.  In keeping with this thought, in our reading of Proverbs 31:8-31, the sage writes, “Open your mouth for the speechless… Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (NKJV vs. 31:8).  Today we learn that the Almighty expects us to defend those whose cause would otherwise be unnoticed or even purposely overlooked. The sage of Proverbs writes, “The righteous considers the cause of the poor, But the wicked does not understand such knowledge” (NKJV Proverbs 29:7).  The…

The Poisonous Passion of Envy (Thurs. April 22)

The word of the day is “envy.”  The first death of a human being happened because of murder when Cain killed his brother Able.  Why did Cain do such an awful thing?  Because of envy.  In our reading of Proverbs 23:15-24:5, the wise sage of Proverbs writes, “Do not let your heart envy sinners but be zealous for fear of the Lord all the day (NKJV vs. 7).  The sage cautions us about envy not only because it is a passion, that is, an unholy desire.  But the sage warns us to guard against it because of its result. Today we learn that when envy is fully mature, it bears the fruit of hatred. Envy grows from seemingly mild and…

Overcoming Temptation: We Wage the Battle but God Gives the Victory (Wed. April 21)

The word of the day is “horse.”  What strength can we rely on when we are face temptation?  In our reading of Proverbs 21:23-22:4, the wise sage of Proverbs writes, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the Lord” (NKJV vs. 31).  If temptation engages us in a battle, we might depend on our strength as ancient peoples counted on their chariots.  However, the sage states that rescue from our foes is in the hands of God, not warhorses.  Today we highlight the importance of trusting the Lord and not our own devices. The ancient Israelites did not have horses or chariots until the reign of Solomon.  Therefore, for the Chosen People, the warhorse was a source of terror…

Righteousness and Justice Are Better Than Sacrifice (Tues. April 20)

The word of the day is “better.” Our secular society tucks religion away in a separate compartment. Our citizens can worship as they choose. But their faith is not supposed to have any bearing outside the sphere of their private “spirituality.” But in our reading of Proverbs 21:3-21, the wise sage writes, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (NKJV vs. 3).  To apply this proverb to our time, let’s suppose that righteousness and justice are matters that apply to our life in society. And let’s consider that sacrifices have to do with religious practices. If that is the case, then righteousness and justice are matters of public concern. They apply to our life…

Keeping Our Souls by Keeping the Commandments (April 19)

The word of the day is “keep.”  It is possible to lose one’s soul.  The Lord said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul (NKJV Mark 8:36)?  But how does one keep the soul safe from loss?  In our reading of Proverbs 19:16-25, the wise sage says, “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die” (NKJV vs. 16).  Today we will consider  how we might “keep” our soul instead of losing it. The Hebrew Term for Soul The Hebrew term for “soul” is derived from the thought of the animation of creatures that live and breathe.  As a result,…

Redemption by the Blood of Christ (Sun. April 18)

The word of the day is “cleanse.” In these times, we think of disease in medical terms.  We speak in terms of infections, cancers, and disorders of the heart and other organs.  But when we speak of sin, we use words like transgressions, shortcomings, disobedience and “missing the mark.” However, the Orthodox Church tends to talk about sin as a disease that needs healing and the corruption that needs cleansing.  The Cleansing of Conscience The Orthodox approach to sin and redemption is in keeping with our reading of Hebrews 9:11-14.  In that view, the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice is purification.  The apostle writes, “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean,…

The Contents of the Ark: Tangible Mementos of God’s Grace (Sat. April 17)

The word of the day is “Ark.”  Many families pass down certain articles of past generations to their heirs. We may keep a family Bible, a porcelain figure, a picture or photo album, a uniform, a set of letters or even a handwritten recipe.  These things are a physical connection to the past.  By treasuring them, we call to mind the memory of our ancestors. Material Reminders of God’s Grace In our reading of Hebrews 9:1-7 (first reading), the apostle writes of physical artifacts that were kept in the most sacred place in the Temple.  He writes of the Holy of Holies and says that it had “the golden censer and the Ark of the Covenant… in which were the…

Lift Up Your Heart: Attaining a Cheerful Spirit (Fri. April 16)

The word for today is “cheerful.”  As the present crisis continues, many people are frustrated and depressed.  Yet even amidst this pervasive dreariness of heart, there are some who raise our spirits.  These persons are bright lights in the darkness.  Of them, the wise sage of Proverbs writes in today’s readings of Proverbs 17:17-18:5, “A merry heart does good, like medicine” (NKJV vs. 17:22). Today we learn that we, the faithful, are called to “lift up our hearts” so that our cheerfulness can be medicine for others in a gloomy world. Nowadays, the word “merry” is associated with Christmas and its festivities.  However, the word in the Hebrew Bible means to be glad, joyful, and rejoicing (Strong’s Hebrew #8056, 284).…

How to Defeat the Mighty Power of Anger (Thurs. April 15)

The word of the day is “anger.”  One of the traits of maturity is self-mastery.  And one of the greatest tests of self-mastery is the ability to control one’s temper.  In our reading of Proverbs 16:17-17:17, the wise sage of Proverbs writes, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city (NKJV vs. 16:32).  Anger is like a powerful army that storms a city and conquers it.  Accordingly, it takes an almost superhuman strength to resist its attacks.  Today we explore what it takes to defeat the might of anger in our soul. The Loss of Control More than any of the vices, anger exposes the loss of control…