Marriage Imagery: Adam, Christ and the Church

AdamEveForest“If we turn to the second creation account, in the second chapter of Genesis, we can now see new depth in its narrative. Taken from the side of the man is the woman, who is led to the man as his bride, with these words:

For this reason shall a man leave his father and mother and join himself to his wife’ (Gen. 2:24).

Intriguingly, these words have scarcely, if ever, been practiced in human history: in most cultures, from the earliest times into modern times, it is the bride who is brought into the husband’s home and family, and bears his name.

Not surprisingly, then, this passage was taken by the Apostle Paul as referring to Christ and the Church, the Son who leaves his Father’s side in heaven to join his spouse (Eph. 5:31-2). Tertullian develops this insight, saying: ‘As Adam was a figure of Christ, Adam’s sleep provided a shadow of the death of Christ, who was to sleep a mortal slumber, that from the wound inflicted on his side might be figured the true Mother of the living, the Church.’  The Church which came from the side of the crucified Christ – pouring out as the blood and water when he pierced (cf. Jn 19:34)  – is foreshadowed by the formation of Eve from the side of Adam when he was asleep, the sleep which foreshadowed Christ’s own sleep in death.” (John Behr, Becoming Human, pp 86-87)

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Today I did learn again that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I read a line from the Desert Fathers in which  Abba Poemen, making a reference to Matthew 15:27, says:

“Do we not see the Savior granted repose to the Canaanite woman who acknowledged her name?”   (GIVE ME A WORD, p 239)

So I began to wonder exactly how did this woman acknowledge her name was “dog”?

Looking at Matthew 15:21-28, the pericope in which we find the encounter of Christ with the Canaanite woman, I realized for the first time today the homonym word play in the Greek text.

The Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus seeking a healing miracle for her daughter and He says to her in response, seemingly refusing her request,  that  it is not right to give the children’s food to the dogs.   In the Greek text, you hear a homonym: the Xananaia woman and the kunariois/dogs.   The Latin cognate, caninus, also works as a homonym  in this case. .  So perhaps Jews found it a humorous homonym when they used either Greek or Latin referring to the Canaanites whom they despised.  In using Greek and Latin the Jews could easily make Canaanite sound like the Greek or Latin word for dogs.

Admittedly I usually just read the texts in English or use an interlinear text, so am not strictly paying attention to the Greek.   Today, however the homonym because obvious to me for the first time.   I will say that even in the commentaries I’ve read they usually only argue as to whether Jesus was being outright offensive in calling the woman a dog, or if he is using some more endearing term like ‘little dog’  or puppy. I don’t ever remember anyone commenting on the homonym nature of Canaanite and kunaria or caninus.

Additionally the woman prostrates herself before Jesus.   The Greek verb is prosekunei. It’s etymology implies that she behaves like a dog crouching  at the feet of her master.   She physically shows she accepts from the mouth of Jesus the label of being a dog.  She is humbling herself, or even humiliating herself before Christ.  She as a mom will do what it takes to get mercy from the master for her daughter.  She lived in a world in which masters and servants were very distinct classes and the subservient knew how to behave in the presence of the superior masters.  [In the Orthodox Church, we do  for a proskenesis, full prostration during the services of Great Lent – we bow completely getting down on our knees, elbows and touching our head to the ground.  This in the Greek implies we are imitating a dog.]

In the woman’s answer, that even the dogs (kunaria) eat the crumbs from their masters’ table, she is acknowledging that the Jews are her or her people’s (the Canaanites’) masters. She understands the insult, but in accepting the homonyn she wisely banters with Christ when she says, “even dogs aren’t stupid, they know a good thing when they see it. ”  Dogs don’t bite the hand that feeds them.

Though all of this may have been obvious to all who read this Gospel passage in Greek, it was news to me.

So,  maybe it is true that all dogs go to heaven?

A Cause Worthy of a Blessing

According to Wikipedia, “Covenant House is the largest privately funded agency in the Americas providing shelter, food, immediate crisis care, and an array of other services to homeless and runaway youth.”    Covenant House says many of these girls and boys were victims of sex trafficking and subjected to abuse.

They have started a petition campaign to get to stop helping child sex traffickers.  According to the Covenant House Webpage:

The Village Voice–operated website is doing the unthinkable—they are earning money from photo advertisements posted by pimps and traffickers that sell underage girls for sex.

Despite the cash it brings them, claims they have no responsibility for the ad content or the horrors these victims experience when they are sold for sex.

You can sign the Covenant House petition at Help Stop Child Sex Trafficking.

2014 Voter Lookup

While I admit I really dislike negative campaigning, robocalls, and campaign advertising, I do make the effort to vote each election.   We have an ability to influence the politicians in our country and if more of us would get out and vote we could even offset the effect that big money has on the elections.

Respecting the Lord at the Liturgy

St. Paul in his epistles to the various parish communities that he worked with frequently deals with practical community issues.    Obviously even in the very first local churches and from the very beginning of Christianity,  Christian leaders had to deal with the age old problem that people will be people.  So in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34  St. Paul takes to task the parish at Corinth for their misbehavior during their Eucharistic celebration.  St. Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians:

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.  For, in the first place, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it,  for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.  When you meet together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk.  What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—  if any one is hungry, let him eat at home—lest you come together to be condemned. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

Fr. Paul Tarazi commenting on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 writes:

Even more serious is the misconduct during the Lord’s supper, an occasion for which the Corinthians gather to become one Messianic community in practice as well as in belief. Notice Paul’s use of the expressions ‘come together as a church; (synerkhomai en ekklesia; v.18) and ‘come together in one place’ (or ‘for the same purpose’; synerkhomai epi to avto; v. 20) as well as the repeated occurrence of ‘come together’ (synerkhomai; vv. 17, 33, 34). The believers are not themselves ipso facto ‘the church’ but are called to gather as one. And it is always the Lord who defines that gathering: the calling (kerysso) is through his word and the matter at hand is his supper (vv.20), which is not a potluck dinner (vv. 21-22)!

[…]  Therefore (v.27), let us watch our conduct at the Lord’s suppers. These gatherings are a test (vv. 28-29) as to whether we realize that the Lord seated at the head of the table is none other than the one coming to judge us. They are opportunities for us (v. 31) to be judged by him and chastened (v. 30) for the purpose of instruction (paidevometha, v.32a), lest at his coming we be judged worthy of condemnation (v. 32b). Therefore, let us behave at these suppers in accordance with the host’s will, that we love our neighbor (v. 33); if we fail to do that we shall indeed be condemned (v. 34)!”   (The New Testament Introduction: Paul and Mark, pp 68-69)

Autumn Excellence

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,


whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”(Philippians 4:8)

“To be concerned with the nature of created things has a very purifying effect.

It frees us from passionate-attachment to them and from delusion about them;

and it is the surest of means for raising our soul to the Source of all.

For all beauty, miracle, magnificence reflects

what is supremely beautiful, miraculous and magnificent –

reflects, rather, the Source that is above beauty, miracle and magnificence.”  (St Theodoros the Great Ascetic – d, 848AD, The Philokalia, Kindle Loc. 11636-42)

You can find all of my photos at Fr. Ted’s Flickr Page.

You  can find links to all such photoblogs at My Photoblogs.

Being and Becoming Human (PDF)

Recently I completed a blog series taking a look at what it is to be human and what it takes to become human. The first blog in that series is Being and Becoming Human.  Not only are humans, according to Genesis 1 created in God’s image and likeness, we also find that humanity finds its fulfillment when God becomes incarnate as Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the God-man in whose image we humans were created and who Himself shows us that becoming human means being united with God.

That blog series is now available in one document at Being and Becoming Human (PDF).

You can find links to all my blog series as PDFs at Fr. Ted’s Blog Series.

God Became Human, So That We Might Become God

This is the 30th and final blog in this series which began with the blog Being and Becoming Human. The previous blog is God Became Human.  Humanity begins from God, and according to the Orthodox understanding of salvation, our ultimate end is in God.  Humans are created in God’s image, which makes it possible for the Word of God to become human (incarnation), which leads to humans being able to become divine (theosis).   This is God’s narrative for humanity as recorded in the Scriptures and as taught by the Church.

“… those beautiful words of St Athanasius of Alexandria (+373): ‘God became “sacrophore”—bearer of our flesh—so that mankind might become “pneumatophore—bearer of the Holy Spirit.’”  (Michael Quenot, THE ICON, p 55)

God created the universe, the beginning of space and time, which through science is detected as the Big Bang.  Humans are brought into being in this already existing universe.  Still, theologically speaking, human origins are in God.   Christianity proclaims that the unfolding of history, as linear as it may be leads humanity back to God.  The whole purpose of history is to move us to union with our Creator, to make it possible for us “to become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).    The Word calls humanity into existence and the Word becomes flesh to ensure that humanity shares in the divine life.  This is our history, our narrative, our story.

“… for [St.] Irenaeus, the divine economy is directed towards the becoming truly human of both God and human beings, first realized ‘in the last times’ in Jesus Christ, and to be fully realized for the adopted sons of god in the eschaton.  . . . It is a movement from animation to vivification: as Adam was animated by the breath of life, so the resurrected Christ is vivified by the life-creating Spirit.”   (John Behr, ASCETICISM AND ANTHROPOLOGY IN IRENAEUS AND CLEMENT, p 86)

Fr. Behr’s piquant phrase, “the becoming truly human of both God and human beings…”, is both delightful and challenging.   Our understanding of Scripture and history is that God intended for humans to be fully united to divinity.  We were created for this purpose.  God’s plan for our salvation is God’s effort to make it possible for us to be united to divinity despite our falling away from holiness, the very hallmark of God’s being.

“Perhaps the most striking aspect of Irenaeus’s theology is the intimate link between theology proper and anthropology: the truth of man is revealed in the Incarnation, which at the same time is the primary, if not the sole, revelation of God.  Adam was created as the type of the One to come, and the manifestations of God in the Old Testament were always prophetic revelations of the incarnate Son.  Adam was animated by the breath of life, which prefigured the future vivification of the sons of God by the Spirit…”   (John Behr, ASCETICISM AND ANTHROPOLOGY IN IRENAEUS AND CLEMENT, p 209)

We humans were created not only so that the Persons of the Holy Trinity could share their love with us but so that God’s self-revelation could be possible.  In Christ not only God’s plan but God Himself is revealed to us.  To be fully and truly human is to reveal God!

Christmas, the feast of the incarnation is also a feast celebrating humanity.  The Nativity of Christ is fully about what it is to be human.

 “Furthermore, the Incarnation is considered as part of the original creative plan, and not simply as a response to the human fall.  In this regard, it is perceived not only as a revelation of God to humanity but primarily as a revelation to us of the true nature of humanity and the world itself.”  (John Chryssavgis, BEYOND THE SHATTERED IMAGE, p 55)

How completely intertwined is humanity with divinity!   Our true existence is inseparable from God.

“’For the glory of God is a living man, and the life of man consists in beholding God: for if the manifestation of God affords life to all living upon earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word give life to those who see God.’ (Irenaeus)”  (John Behr, ASCETICISM AND ANTHROPOLOGY IN IRENAEUS AND CLEMENT, p 109)

In creating beings with whom the Persons of the Trinity could share their love and life, the triune God reveals truth about divinity.   Christ says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…”  (John 14:6).  The person of Christ, incarnate as a human being reveals the truth concerning God, God’s humility and God’s love.

“’The work of God is the fashioning of man’ …: this is the basic structure of Irenaeus’s thought.  It determines his theology at all levels: God has revealed himself, uniquely, as man . . . to become truly human is to become that as which God has revealed himself.”  (John Behr, ASCETICISM AND ANTHROPOLOGY IN IRENAEUS AND CLEMENT, p 116)

Humanity in itself, in the fact that we exist at all, is a revelation of God.  We reveal God in our very being, not only in what we do.

“The only thing God requires of us is that we do not sin. But this is achieved, not by acting according to the law, but by carefully guarding the divine image in us and our supernal dignity. When we thus live in our natural state, wearing the resplendent robe of the Spirit, we dwell in God and God dwells in us. Then we are called gods by adoption and sons of God, sealed by the light of the knowledge of God (cf. Ps. 4:6. LXX).”   (St Symeon the New Theologian, THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 35314-18)

God became human, so that humans might become God.   In this phrase is held the meaning of what it is to be human.   To understand humanity we must understand the incarnate God.

 “Orthodoxy is Orthodoxy through the God-man.  And we Orthodox, by confessing the God-man, indirectly confess the Christ-image of man, the divine origin of man, the divine exaltation of man, and thus also the divine value and sacredness of the human personality.

In fact, the struggle for the God-man is the struggle for man.  Not the humanists, but the people of the Orthodox faith and life of the God-man are struggling for true man, man in the image of God and the image of Christ.”  (St. Nikolai VelimirovichTHE STRUGGLE FOR FAITH,  p 102)

God created us humans to be the mediator between the rest of creation and divinity.  God created us to be a microcosm of the entire universe.  Humanity will never be fully understood if we reduce human beings to genetics, chemistry or physics.  Even though each of these sciences offers us truth about being human, none can fully reveal the nature of humanity, created in God’s image and capable of full union with God.

“Of course, it is impossible for us, of ourselves, to contain in our heart the whole universe.  But the Maker of all that exists Himself appeared in our form of being and effectively demonstrated that our nature was conceived not only with the ability to embrace the created cosmos but also to assume the plentitude of Divine Life.  Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5) but with Him and in Him everything becomes attainable…”  (Archimandrite Sophrony, ON PRAYER, p 76)

Possessing Wealth: The Richness of God

“The Lord has love for all men but His love is greater for the one who seeks Him. ‘I love them that love me;’ says the Lord, ‘and those that seek me shall find grace.’ And with grace life is good, and the soul rejoices and says, ‘MY Lord, I am YOUR servant.’ In these words there is great joy: if the Lord is ours, then all things are ours. That is how rich we are!”   St. Silouan the Athonite, p 367)

Choosing Heaven or Choosing Hell

The Lord’s Parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31):

Icon of Lazarus in Abraham’s Bosom

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with  Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos comments:

Icon: Lazarus and the Rich Man

“Jesus’ first great lesson is about wealth, poverty and human relationships. Did wealth send the rich man to hell? No. Did poverty send Lazarus to heaven? No. It was their relationship to each other and to God. Neither wealth nor poverty of themselves can send one to heaven or hell. Rather the decisive matter is how one lives in wealth or poverty, and how one goes about gaining wealth or protecting oneself against losing it. The rich man would not have gone to hell if love had filled his heart for God and his fellow man. He would have known the biblical teaching that the world and everything in it is the Lord’s and we are – whatever our possessions and talents – stewards of God’s gifts. But he lived only for himself in uncaring self-sufficiency. He was separated from the poor man at his doorstep and when he died he discovered that he was also eternally separated from God. Lazarus would not have gone to heaven if his heart had been filled with hate for the uncaring rich man, with resentment about his condition against God and with other evils because ‘the pure in heart…shall see God (Mt. 5:8).’ Deprivations and suffering often remind us of our need for God and lead us closer to Him, but the same circumstances can make us complain, angry, greedy – separating us from God. It has been said: ‘affliction can teach a man to pray, but it can also teach him to curse!’ God’s love was in Lazarus’ heart who endured his afflictions with humility and trust in God (‘Lazarus’ means ‘God is my helper’). He suffered in the image of Christ who became poor for us and died on the Cross without ceasing to love us. Only love, not need and distress, leads to heaven.”   (A Year of the Lord: Fall, pp 106-107)