Once Alienated, Now Reconciled (Wed. Nov. 2)

The word of the day is “alienated.”  In our reading of Colossians 1:18-23, St. Paul proclaims that Christ has “made peace through the blood of His cross” (vs.20). Why did it take the suffering of the Cross for the Father to “reconcile all things to himself”? Why couldn’t some sweet words of His lovingkindness have accomplished it? Why couldn’t our Heavenly Father have declared his unmerited forgiveness of sinners without such the shedding of the Lord’s blood? Theologians have wrestled with these questions throughout the centuries. In our reading, St. Paul refers to the “human condition” to give one answer. He states, “you… were once were alienated and enemies [of God] in your mind by wicked works…” (vs. 21). Paul…

The Ladder of the Knowledge of Christ (Tuesday, November 1)

The word of the day is “knowledge.”  Today we begin reading St. Paul’s letter to the  Colossians.   In this passage of Chapter 1:1-2, 7-9, the Apostle writes that he constantly prays for the congregation at Colossae, near Ephesus. As we open this epistle, we immediately note Paul’s special concern and why he wrote the letter. Paul prays “that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (vs. 9). Paul Confronts False Knowledge St. Paul writes  to refute an early form of the heresy of “Gnosticism.”  He refers to this false teaching in Chapter 2:9; “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit according to the tradition of men…” (vs. 2:9).…

Why We Need to Give (Mon. Oct. 31)

The word of the day is “gift.”  St. Paul closes our reading of the Philippians with our reading of Chapter 4:10-23.  This passage is a thank-you note for the generosity of Paul’s favorite congregation. To conclude his letter, Paul expresses his exuberant gratitude for the gift of monetary support that the Philippians have sent.  Somehow something must have held up that donation’s arrival.  But Paul graciously overlooks the delay.  The Philippians “lacked the opportunity,” he writes (vs. 10).  But now Paul is pleased that their concern for him has blossomed like spring flowers. Accomplishing Everything Through Christ Yet Paul wants his favorite congregation to know that the important thing is not his need.  He knows how to be content, whether…

The Origin and Nature of Holy Tradition (Sun. Oct. 30)

The word of the day is “revelation.”  In today’s reading of Galatians 1:11-19, St. Paul defends His Gospel message, “But I make known to you, brethren that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ (vs. 11-12).  These words refer to the origin of Holy Tradition as The Orthodox Study Bible notes, “Apostolic tradition is grounded in divine revelation from Jesus Christ” (OSB fn. on 1:11,12). But what was the revelation?  It was not a bound book drifting down from heaven or a discourse dictated by an angel.  According to 2 Peter, “we [the apostles] did not follow cunningly…

Our Prayers and God’s Deliverance (Sat. Oct. 29)

The word of the day is “deliverance.”  In our reading of 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, St. Paul writes that God has delivered “us” from some unnamed peril. Some believe that the Apostle refers to the menace of his adversaries in Ephesus (1 Cor. 6:9). But Paul’s story is filled with plots, threats, slanders, imprisonments, beatings, illnesses, and shipwrecks. He was also lost at sea, in frequent danger from robbers, and even stoned (2  Cor. 11:25. But if Paul divulges the sense of danger and distress in this unidentified incident, it is only to emphasize his deliverance. In Dire Straits The word “trouble” is too weak for what Paul endured. At its root, the Greek word for “trouble” is “to be pressured”…

To Know Christ: To Gain Christ (Fri. Oct. 28)

The word of the day is “gain.”  In our reading of Philippians 3:8-19, St. Paul states, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” (3:8). But this lofty statement begins in the middle of the Apostle’s thought. Paul has railed against the Judaizers who are promoting circumcision to bind believers to the Mosaic Law.  Like them, he says he once entrusted his salvation to his circumcision and obedience to the Law of Moses.  He lists his credentials as a “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” a Pharisee who excelled in the…

Worship That Ascends to the Throne of God (Thurs. Oct. 27)

The word of the day is “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, Paul can say without hesitation, “We are the circumcision.”  St. John Chrysostom asks, “Which is superior, the soul or the body? the former.…

Not by Himself Alone: Paul’s Missionary Team (Wed. Oct. 26)

The word of the day is “fellow.”   Much of St. Paul’s writing focuses on theological and moral teachings and their application to his congregations and their members.  In our reading of Philippians 2:24-30, however, St. Paul gives us a glimpse of the practical management of his ministry.  The brief reference to a co-worker from Philippi reveals that Paul did not do his great missionary work alone.  There were numerous colleagues, named and unnamed, who served on Paul’s missionary team. “A Brother, Fellow Worker, and Fellow Soldier” In today’s reading, the Apostle writes that he is sending back a delegate from Philippi.  He writes, “Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier”…

Living Sacrifices (Tues. Oct. 25)

The word of the day is “poured.”  In today’s reading of Philippians 2:17-23, St. Paul returns to the thought of his impending trial.  It is certain that he will have to appear in court.  It is uncertain what the outcome will be.  In the event of his execution, he writes, “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (vs. 17). Like St. Ignatius, Paul compares his potential death to a sacrificial offering.  More exactly, it is a “drink offering,” “a libation.”  In his martyrdom, his blood would be poured out like an offering of wine or other liquid to the…

God Active and Effective in and Through Us (Mon. Oct. 24)

The word for the day is “work.”  In today’s reading of Philippians 2:12-16, St. Paul speaks of active striving.  We know that it takes concerted effort to achieve any worthwhile goal.  But the surprise of this reading is the object of our endeavors.  Paul writes, “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (vs. 12).  What?  Isn’t salvation a “free gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9)?  So is Paul contradicting himself?  What, indeed, is St. Paul saying? The English word “work out” is a good translation of the Greek word that means “to accomplish fully” (Strong’s 2716, 135).  The adverbial phrase “with fear and trembling” adds to the idea of effective action.…