Divine Delight

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#31 of a Series on Psalm 50

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

There’s a vibrant biblical theme that is often ignored if we have a juridical view of the righteousness of God, the Law, and sin.  That theme is delight!  How odd that this highly personal, emotional term would be used to describe Almighty God!  God delights, takes pleasure, treasures in personalized way, in response to human actions.  This sentiment is not reserved to the thought and experience of the prophet David.  The prophet Zephaniah says this,

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. “  Zeph. 3:17

Zephaniah’s verse express powerful sentiments like ‘rejoice’, ‘gladness’, ‘(peaceful) quiet’, ‘exult’, ‘loud singing!’ In a similar spirit, David’s words explain to us what brings delight to God, or maybe more accurately, what doesn’t bring delight – namely a mere external obedience to some command or precept.  While at first this might seem strange, that God is not pleased with the sacrifices He commands (!) as we observed in the previous reflection, but rather in something else – in the broken spirit, the broken contrite heart.  This He will not despise.  The broken heart will be the acceptable sacrifice to God – if it is offered to Him in humility.

A broken heart is not sufficient in itself to please God.  Does God delight in our brokenness in and of itself?  I think not. God’s will is not that people be broken.  Sin breaks people’s spirits and destroys their souls.  But, within the soul is the capacity of the will toward contrition, which is a  sorrow that saves the soul. 

St. Paul, as a wise pastor, knew that the believers in the Corinthian community had fallen into sin and they needed correction which he delivered forcefully in his first epistle to them.  He also knew that that correction would bring sorrow to them – but didn’t let the emotion of fear proceeding from correction keep him from speaking what was necessary to them.  

As I’ve reflected about this, I’ve come to believe this is a rare commodity today – to entrust the Truth to people and not be afraid that the emotional climate would sweep them to despair.  It was a sign not only of his love for them (to speak the truth and nothing less) but also his trust of them, and trust in God.  It was a verbal therapy that they needed desperately – correction.  With no correction, there is no understanding of the truth, no repentance (and sorrow) and no improvement. 

 In his second letter to the Corinthians (2Cor.7:8ff) he follows up saying this,

For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.

As we’ve mentioned before, sorrow itself does not save.  Judas was torn with sorrow but his sorrow did not lead him back to the Lord.  Contrition is when sorrow is mixed with faith that God loves us. The Corinthians were moved to that saving sorrow that led to repentance. The truth, however, can also lead to the sorrow of despair – like that of Judas, from which there is no recovery.

Are you sorry for your sins?

On occasion, while making a Confession, the priest will ask me, “Are you sorry for your sins?”  I remember how striking those words were, and have been when asked.  When we say our prayer of Contrition (in our UOC usage), we say, “For these, and for all the other sins I have committed….I am heartily sorry…”   But these words can be empty – easily spoken with NO real sorrow. It can just be words, a formula, a ritual. This sorrow is necessary for the Confession to be acceptable to God, as a sacrifice.

Confession as Life Improvement

There is a second aspect of the sorrow of the Confession – it must mean a change in life orientation[i], back from the brink of egotistical living, to obedience to God and following His way.  Traditionally, this was described as a firm purpose of amendment – an act of will and the engagement of the person in actions that reflect a new, holy and different way of life.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of confession being just a counseling session – akin to talking to a life coach about ways to improve one’s life.  A coaching or counseling relationship can be very helpful in identifying patterns of thinking and behaviors that are self-destructive or limiting in many aspects of one’s personal life.  This self-improvement focus isn’t bad in and of itself, except that the focus often only remains on the self – it’s all about me.  Most such sessions don’t have a place for dealing with deep, soul-level sorrow when these patterns are identified as sinful, and an offense to God, and are ways of living that are not pleasing to Him.  In fact, some secular counseling considers the idea of sorrow as negative, unhelpful, self-destructive and to be avoided. 

The Christian way of authentic repentance through Confession of sins centers on three fundamental elements or movements, the awareness of one’s sins as offense to God and others, sorrow for one’s sins in the heart leading to Confession, and the willingness to take action to restore justice toward others and amend one’s life.   This threefold action becomes an act of sacrifice – and God-oriented – which is pleasing to Him as the scriptures.

We’ll have more to say about the actions that proceed from repentance in future reflections. Ω

_______________


[i] While it’s common in some circles to ridicule self-improvement books popular in our culture, especially those that speak to improving relationships or management skills, I often find a wonderful kernel of truth in a number of such books and when oriented toward a fuller set of principles that govern our (Orthodox) Christian way, can be of great help.  There’s a reason why they are found in best-seller lists, because they can be simple, well written, thought-provoking and practical. If you’re interestedin finding which ones have been helpful to ………………………

The Acceptable Sacrifice

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The following clump of thoughts expressed in the concluding verses returns us to the spiritual notion of stewardship as sacred offering[i], that is a favorite of mine.  The proposition is this – that when we have been blessed by God, we rightly carry out some type of offering to Him, expressing the inner spiritual drive of our hearts to thank Him as the Giver of this blessing.  The previous verse, speaking the words of praise to God, represent such a sacrifice.  In these verses however, the prophet David identifies a more concrete expression of sacred offering, based in the Jewish commands of the Law, which prescribed all manner of offerings of materials (e.g. grain) and animals (lambs, doves) that were part of the way of worship of God.  Today, these Jewish practices are often ignored or infrequently studied, and we rarely consider them in a Christian, contemporary perspective, except in a purely symbolic manner.

Yet much of the entirety of the Leviticus is concerned with this, the Law’s command to make specific religious offerings – the myriad types of offerings, the manner and preparation, their content, the priestly role in offering, the efficacy, etc.  This, like much of the Law itself, is easily cast aside as simply unnecessary Jewish religiosity which is excised from the Christian message.  However, the Christian Church was deeply concerned with the entirety of the Old Testament scripture as a means of understanding who Christ is, how we come to Christ and live as Christians.  Just as Jesus said that He came not “to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it” (Mt. 5:17), so we could say the same things of the religious practices of Judaism. Christ came not to abolish the sacred offerings, but to fulfill them, and in Himself, His life, His ministry and the work of His Church, implement a new way of sacred offerings that would fulfill what the God had intended for mankind.  Rightly carried forth, these bring us into a special communion with God.

Offerings – Sacred and Not-So-Sacred

It is unmistakable that the scriptures speak directly about sacred offering to God as a most fundamental and blessed way to express our thanksgiving and praise to God.  From the earliest verses of Genesis, we see the offering of Abel (good) and Cain (not so good), the offering of Noah after the flood, the tithe offering of Abraham, and his sacrificial offering of his son in obedience to God and countless others.  These were all long before the Law, but we see something internal motivating these patriarchs to make an offering to God as an external religious sign.[ii] They are efficacious – they bring communion with God as they are described by the Lord as ‘sweet-smelling.’

From the beginning though, we see two things going on.  First, because every human lives in a fallen world and state, with fallen intentions and understanding, there’s a tendency and temptation to misdirect and misuse fundamentally good human drives.  We can make an offering – but is it sacred?  Does it render God’s holiness somehow present?  Is God pleased with our offering? 

We see in the offering of Cain[iii] (see Gen. 4) from the very beginning that our offering can be somehow less than it’s supposed to be, or tainted, or even offensive to God. His offering of grain is contrasted with that of his brother Abel, whose lamb offering is described as “the fat portion” of “firstborn” of his flock.  This ‘finest’ portion of Abel’s offering is contrasted to what St. John Chrysostom describes as the ‘careless’ offering of Cain.  We know that Cain’s offering does not find favor with God (it’s not his best) and Cain’s anger further drives him from God and his brother.  Ultimately his anger leads him to murder his brother – in utter contempt of God’s sovereignty over life, and His goodness.  The matter of the worthiness of our offerings is no small matter!

You’ll find similar sentiments about the unworthiness of the offerings of God’s people under the Hebrew covenant. For example, while the firstborn, unblemished lamb is the required, acceptable offering to God, there developed a spiritual practice of offering something less (the second-rate blemished animal) which was scorned by God.  The prophet Malachi expressed it this way,

When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.

The prophet identifies the dishonest practice of the Levitical priests offering to God the blemished, unworthy animals, then challenges them, ‘Would you dare offer them to an earthly authority?  Yet you offer such to Almighty God!’ Elsewhere in the scripture (e.g. Is. 1:11), the offerings were contrasted to the internal spiritual orientation of the people, who would disconnect their pious external religious practice from a sinful interior disposition.  This is akin to giving a gift to someone you despise, while pretending to honor them.  It is hypocrisy.  It was this sort of hypocrisy, expressed in the New Testament by Jesus who while acknowledging that the Pharisees offered tithes on the smallest and most insignificant items religiously, they lacked the proper, essential, internal disposition of humility before God.

Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.  (Lk. 11:42)

David’s Understanding – The Offering Must be Worthy

David’s language in this verse of Psalm 50 clearly expresses the right understanding and practice  – when he acknowledges that God would not be pleased in his offering to Him, regardless of how seemingly perfect it was in an external sense.  That’s because, as the rest of the psalm has shown us, his inner guilt tainted everything he might have thought to do before God that might be in accordance to His will.  His sin with Bathsheba was a stumbling block which tainted his ability to be human[iv] – to offer a sacred and worthy sacrifice to God in Thanksgiving.  

So, David wants to make such an offering but he cannot because of his sin.  He knows that even the ‘sin offerings’ prescribed by the Old Testament will be of no avail.  He knows that this is a matter of the heart.  Hence,  his first offering is his prayer of repentance, to free him from his guilt so that he make an offering pleasing to God.

He goes further, however, saying that God would not ‘take pleasure in whole-burnt offerings’.  This may sound strange – is this not the very command of God Himself?  It is here we catch a messianic glimpse from the Prophet who shows us that while God has given the Law and the manner of external sacred offerings to be fulfilled in obedience, these in themselves, do not accrue holiness to those who so offer. The tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews has an excellent expose’ on this topic.  It is not the action itself which has value (at all really), but only when that action is coupled to a soul who’s intention is pure, obedient and singularly devoted to God.  It would take a special sacrificial offering, by a special, pure unblemished lamb – not of the flock of sheep, but the Lamb of God from the human flock of God. This Lamb, whose body was given to mankind by God (Heb 10:5) , through the Incarnation, which would be sacrificed in purity and obedience on the Cross.

Against Idolatry

This understanding reveals how idolatry is utterly ungodly and the very enemy of all spirituality in relationship to the living God.  Idolatry is an action of the human soul to pre-emptively create a manner of worship with no reference to God’s sovereignty and Lordship.  The acceptable worship to God is that which He has set forth (in Christ). As false worship[v] idolatry  is harmful because it creates as sense of justification (‘I did it for You Lord’) with neither  humility nor obedience.  This religious self-direction of the will – creating things according to our will and human desires – bears no relationship to humbling ourselves before God and His sovereign design as revelation.

So this bears the questions – What is my sacrifice to God?  Is it pleasing to Him or unworthy and careless?  How much do I really care?  Is it tainted with hypocrisy?  What does God say about my offering?

The contrast with idolatry helps us here.  Basically, an idol is something that competes with the true God – in our minds, and in our lives.  When Jesus says, ‘Where your treasure is, there is your heart,’ (see Mt. ) He does so in the context of the teaching on our ever-present, life-destroying temptation toward the love of money and its twin sister, materialism.

Arguably, our entanglement with the idolatry of our age in American materialism is the cause of much of our grief and sinfulness before God.  As I write this, and we are approaching Great Lent, we can realize how almsgiving can be a spiritual salve by breaking these entanglements by willingly letting go of our wealth in the love and service of others (alms).  In so offering alms we are making a spiritual offering to God and suddenly, after perhaps a moment of grief from our loss of the materiality, there is a spiritual coupling in love, with God and with those who we are trying to serve – IF the offering is authentic, and made humbly with no ‘strings’ (=idolatry). 

Our material offerings to the Church are symbolic in this way.  David’s first offering is his penitential death to himself in the heart, eventually expressed through the words of Psalm 50. After his repentance and thereafter, he would be source of great spiritual generosity in love of God and the Hebrew people.  One example was his outpouring of wealth offered as the funds for the later building of the Temple by his son Solomon.  This offering could be made because his repentance paved the way for his restoration with God, so that made with an upright heart, his offering would be acceptable.  These offerings, made in this way, brought great joy to him, to his family and the entire nation.  See (1Chron.29- emphasis added)

in my devotion to the house of my God I have offered from my own property, gold and silver, which I give for the house of my God, over and above that which I prepared for the holy dwelling place: three thousand talentsof gold of the gold of Ophir and seven thousand talents] of refined silver for overlaying the walls of the houseof gold for the things of gold and of silver for the things of silver, even for all the handiwork of the craftsmen. Now, who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?”

 Then the leaders of the fathers’ houses, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the captains of thousands and hundreds, and the officials of the king’s workers offered willingly.

David’s offering was acceptable to the Lord – but only after His repentance.  Our annual spiritual journey through Lent and daily journey in repentance motivates us in our hearts to make a holy sacrifice, acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. Ω


[i] For my thoughts in depth on the matter see by book, The First and Finest, Orthodox Christian Stewardship as Sacred Offering, https://www.amazon.com/First-Finest-Orthodox-Christian-Stewardship/dp/1491821361

[ii] The external action-sign of something internal expressed religiously and inspired and blessed by God is the essence of the sacramental nature of worship in Orthodox Christian worship (and related to that of Roman Catholicism).  This is what a sacrament is about.

[iii] I hadn’t noticed this before, but in the verses that proceed, Cain is the ‘firstborn’ son of Adam and Eve.  Younger brother Abel came later. Birth order (despite the emphasis on firstborn in Judaism) was not the primary consideration here.

[iv] For a discussion of this, see Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s book, For the Life of the World (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press), on the notion of man as ‘priest’.

[v] While God’s judgment of idolators is clear in the scriptures, it may have often arose out of an ignorance that was not necessarily willful. The matters of conscience regarding such are utterly God’s.  But many pagan Greeks and Romans repented from their idolatry and turned to Christ unto salvation of their souls.

Out of the Mouth, Part 2

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#30 of a Series on Psalm 50 

 The Fruits of Repentance – Words of Truth, Singing Praises of God

The thoughts formed in the mind expressing the depths of the human soul seek to find an outlet.  God has fashioned a tool[i]  for such expression – the Mouth.  From the first moments of our life in the world at birth, this expression tool engages  – a LOUD scream.  The mouth effectively captures attention (ask Mom!), being immediately impactful, and capable of expressing both concepts and especially (!) emotions. 

Literature and now electronic media are visible forms of what our mouths express (and vice versa), but there is something more powerful and personal[ii] about saying something – we own it.  Our mouths serve as the trumpet of the soul, especially in the glory of beautifully sung music, but in conjunction with the tongue can also express the most gross and vile evil emanating from a darkened soul.  The mouth and voice are serve are also key utilities.  Once the issues of language are overcome, human communication works transactions (bid-offer-confirm-sell), but so much more in terms of human expression – affirmation, consolation, communion of spirit and love. 

The Mouth Opens in Worship

As the passageway to the soul, the mouth is essential for human expression in the worship of God. As discussed in the previous reflection, the mouth and lips of the repentant will inevitably find an expression.  In the heart, when the chains of sin are broken, this is experienced initially as relief, ‘unbelief[iii]’, and thanksgiving.  David’s Psalm 50 is a hymn of thanksgiving – which permeates his words, even those spoken in sorrow.

The bible speaks a LOT about the mouth, and its companion, the tongue, and their profound ability to take that which inside us and externalize it.  Hence tragic when a person is mute or a child is severely autistic, where they cannot form some types of expression through words that others can understand. One can only feel the enormous struggle and tension within, trying to bring forth those words that will allow one’s personhood to be heard by others and affirmed as people. It’s in this spirit that the wonderful story of Jesus, opening the ears and mouth of the deaf and mute man, by saying the word, ‘Ephphatha’ – ‘be opened.’ (Mk.7:31ff)  The opening of the mouth lays open the human soul.

And what proceeds from the mouth is what in is in the heart. (Lk. 6:45).  The mouth serves as the passageway for the listeners of the world to our interior life.

Pretty Dangerous huh? 

After the Fall in the Garden, we hear from Adam in his own words. What is curious though is that what we hear is more or less true, but more profoundly, evil.  When asked by God how he came to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Genesis says, ‘The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”  (Gen. 3:12)  So these words are factually true.  But listening to them, I hear Adam dodging responsibility in his weakened, sinful mindset.  He blames the woman for supplying him the source of his sin.  But look further and perhaps we even see him blaming God, for giving the woman (whom God gave him) who in the end, he blames for his disobedience! And God gave him the ‘opportunity’ to fail.  It’s really God’s fault!

What is perhaps more sinister is that the accusation is duplicitous.  Adam is just ‘stating the facts’ but lurking in his heart are the fruits of his sin and the inability to deal with it, because he has not repented.  In repentance we learn to listen to our own words, and hear how well we’ve learned to lie to ourselves, and accuse others, even as we seemingly speak ‘the truth.’  Of course, while God knows Adam’s heart, Adam himself does not, nor does he accept it or look at his inner darkness.  We should realize that perceptive people can do the same thing – being able to see through us (Mom?) when we veil with a verbal smoke screen of facts when confronted with our own shortcomings. In this scenario, we are really just trying to both insulate ourselves, and misdirect a conversation, to maintain self-justification of ourselves and shortcomings.

So, we see here how, like everything in human life, the mouth and tongue can be used simply and beautifully, or in a twisted and deceptive way.  This is part of our fallen way of living and communicating – some of it is learned behavior.

An Opening?

So the Lord will open my lips, and out will come praise? Perhaps the praise should proceed only when we’ve learned to be silent?

I recall as young college student that I was struggling in a computer class and needed a good grade to pass a course and knew I had ‘blown the final.’  I was distraught for several days.  Eventually the mimeographed grade sheet came in the mail with the grade scores and I dreaded opening it.  When I saw the fuzzy letter on the page I looked at it again, and said,

“God damn!”

It turns out the inevitable D grade (or worse) came out as a ‘B’ on the gradesheet.  I couldn’t believe it – the grading computation device must have made a mistake! But then again, I wasn’t going to argue…

But then I heard my own words and was ashamed.  I had used the Lord’s name in exactly the opposite way that I should have.  I had been coming to believe more personally in Jesus Christ as my Lord, yet these were the words that mirrored my heart?  I realized I lacked the inner vocabulary of thanksgiving and praise of God as the basic orientation in my heart. 

I’ve struggled with this from time to time, and only in grace finding appropriate words on similar occasions.  Over the decades, I’ve come to see in myself and others a pattern of inner fear and frustration, leading to anger which then colors everything that one says.  I think my experience reflected the culture of our times and since.  In those days, harsh work places like the steel mill were places where men spoke in coarse language and using it seemed, for boys, a sort of badge of honor and manly thing.[iv] Girls were more refined – cleaner and kinder language was expected of them, which is why when such language came from the mouth of a girl they were doubly punished for it.[v]   Language with sexual content, was banned as unworthy of common societal use because speaking so would lead to a degradation of society. (Check) 

Now today we live in a very different world when what used to be called the ‘F-bomb’ now is no longer even a dud firecracker.  Even if it was once effective as the ultimate attention-getting word in the English language, the continued coarsening of language, culture and the human soul leaves us unable to communicate even with stunning language, effectively leaving people dumb (in its original meaning ) This is especially true in some subcultures where the victims of poverty[vi], social decline, broken family life and the loss of spiritual orientation lead to a deep frustration because words can no longer describe the inner plight.  Acting out becomes necessary.  Our words have failed us.

Repentance and the Word

The Good News is that Jesus, who is the Word of God, can restore the inner turmoil wherein we find ourselves psychologically trapped and renew not only our hearts, but also our mouths.  The Christian Way is one of self-control  – “Let your words be few.” (Eccl. 5:2) and as the Apostle Peter taught, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (1Pt3:10) 

One of the most effective remedies that Christian discipleship brings is the reading of Holy Scriptures.  Scripture is Holy. The reading of scripture not only leads to an understanding of God, but the good, holy and life-giving words of God become the language of the mind and heart and mouth. In the Book of Samuel, there is something marvelous about the image of the prayer of Hannah,[vii] from her heart, but silently yet moving her lips. This is why monks are so encouraged to read the psalms and why it’s such a full part of their daily life and worship. Their constant repetition of the psalms leads to an internalization of their meaning, so the monk (or lay Christian) fashions her own words in the same spirit and ‘language’[viii] of the scriptures. This is also why the holy Fathers teachings were laced with truth, because they imaged scripture.

In Christian conversion the inner process of repentance frees the heart and the tongue as well of spiritual death and corruption.  This is strengthened by self- control and in that extraordinary pursuit of holiness in monasticism, we learn of the beauty of silence – which is an inner quieting of both mouth and soul.  From that place the words that are spoken can be fashioned in a noetic/spiritually thoughtful way – and expressed through praise of God and love of Him, and love of neighbor.  Foul language becomes bitterly distasteful again.

As the children of God, the Christians who are being restored in grace will imitate the innocent words of praise of the Hebrew children at the entry of Christ into Jerusalem, ‘Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’  The Evangelist Matthew quotes the words of David the Psalmist, ‘Out of the mouths of children, you have fashioned praise.’  (Ps. 8:2, Mt. 21:16)

Words of Worship?

As I write, this we areapproaching Great Lent,[ix] and recently heard in Church the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Lk. 18:9-14).  Here we see the profound contrast of the thoughts expressed in words between the humbled Publican and bombastic Pharisee.  It displays the inner heart of repentance contrasted to  the proud heart of vainglory. Curiously, as with Adam, the Pharisee’s display occurs in ‘presence of God’, as he, like Adam, addresses God directly. The Pharisee’s words, beginning, “I thank you God…”  and the rest of his words of self-praise are foolishness.[x]

To come to a place where we can use the right words of praise (literally in Greek – ‘ortho-doxa’), we must first come to a place where are hearts are right with Him through penance, and where, from a grounding in a still heart, the words of the Spirit become our words.   No longer is it, ‘God damn!’  But ‘Praise and thanks be to you, Lord and Father.’   Only God can heal us to do so and the penitent Publican, like David, can show us what we must do.  And through our words we will bless and not curse others.

When this process is at work we can worship authentically with ‘all our voice, with all our heart’ and make the ‘offering of peace, the sacrifice of praise.’[xi]  Ω

__________________________


[i] As mentioned heretofore, the Apostle James describes this as a dangerous tool.  (James 3)

[ii] We read David’s words in Psalm 50 as scripture, but their very nature is more like something spoken.

[iii] By unbelief here, I mean ‘unbelievable’ or wonderful or beyond imagination.  It is a joyful unbelief, that upon reflection becomes true belief – that God has intervened in my world and delivered me from my sin through His forgiveness.

[iv] Except for the fact that my father rarely used profanity save in the worst of times.

[v] This might have been a good thing – a higher standard to live up to often elevates and orientates the soul to higher things.  It is no wonder more girls became the women of faith that anchored most Christian communities in the 1960s and since.

[vi] The use of foul language is not unique to the impoverished. In fact, in the spiritual poverty of the rich, the breakdown of culture and language in recent years has been stunning.

[vii] 1Sam1:13  The goodness of the heart reaches the lips.  In time the tongue will engage as well.

[viii] By language here I don’t mean Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, etc. but the underlying word meanings and orientation of the soul that express the biblical words in any and every language.  To do so is to ‘speak scripture’ in a true way.  The words of Scripture are expressed externally, and hopefully, in truth and the right spirit. Said, often enough, word images of scripture even become colloquialisms in society. Note that it’s also possible to ‘speak scripture’ but use it like the Pharisee – for self-praise or to impress people with one’s knowledge of the scripture or personal faith.

[ix] In the Orthodox Church, Great Lent is preceded by four Sundays when the themes of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are introduced through four thematic Sunday:  The Publican and the Pharisee, The Prodigal Son, The Last Judgment, The Expulsion from Paradise.

[x] St. Andrew Crete in the Great Canon identifies these words as ‘foolishness’.

[xi] From the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.