Christ and Signs of the Kingdom

The Orthodox Church currently follows a scripture lectionary which repeats every year.  This means for those who attend church only on Sundays, they hear proclaimed in the church only a small portion of the entire New Testament, and that same small portion repeats year after year.   The Roman Catholic Church and numerous Protestant churches now follow a three year repeating cycle which enables members to hear much more of the New Testament proclaimed on Sundays when most people are in church.    Ancient educational ideas believed that repetition was an excellent way to learn.  The word “catechumen” is related to the word “echo” – one who repeats the sound they have heard.  Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos offers us some thoughts on just what we are being given when we hear the same Gospel lessons year after year.

“All the specific acts, teachings and commands of Jesus should be related to His central message about the new presence of the kingdom of God in our lives. His healings and exorcisms are signs of the powers of God’s kingdom against the powers of Satan’s kingdom. Jesus’ parables illustrate various aspects of God’s kingdom, what it is, how it comes in our midst and how people are to receive it and conduct themselves in it. The teachings and commands of Jesus, such as love, serving others, carrying one’s cross and the like, are all principles and truths of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ gifts of forgiveness, healing and new life to us are gifts of God’s kingdom. In prayer and worship, we celebrate and experience the presence of God’s kingdom. When the Divine Liturgy begins, the priest prays: ‘Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and forever!’ The teachings of Christ are meant for those who have repented of their sins, who have accepted by faith to enter into the spiritual sphere of God’s kingdom and practice its principles, and who seek to grow in this new life in union with Christ.” (A Year of the Lord: Vol. 2, Late Fall and Winter, pp 64-65)

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