Sunday, June 29, 2014

Byzantine: 3rd Sunday after Pentecost/Feast of the Holy Pre-Eminent Apostles Peter and Paul (6/29/14)

Apology


I was running low on time as I finished it, so I ran it through a quick (but not necesssarily exhaustive) heresy check and published it. Hope everything's okay in it.

Notes for Reading/Hearing

First off, the wall calendar prescribes two readings from the Apostol: one for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost and one for Ss. Peter and Paul. However, it only prescribes one reading, the one for the 3rd Sunday. Why? I honestly don't know. It might be a pastoral recommendation, or it might be that they ran out of space, or who knows? But I dug out the 2014 Typicon (Pittsburgh: Byzantine Seminary Press? 2013) and it prescribed both Gospel readings, so I'll say something on both readings. This is in conformity with the ancient Byzantine "Principle of Elongation," which basically states: "If a service only need be a certain length, but it could be even longer, let's do the longer version!"*

I really recommend reading all the readings beforehand. Otherwise, it could get confusing. Only the first of the two readings is announced, so it will end up sounding like:
This is the end of the first reading, but you don't know it because I'm not using the concluding chant. This is the beginning of the second reading, but you don't know it because it wasn't announced.
Confusing, right? So, know where one reading leaves off and another begins. Also, the 2 Corinthians reading begins with the second sentence of the verse.

Apostol: Romans 5:1-10; 2 Corinthians 11:21-12:9

Gospel: Matthew 6:22-34; Matthew 16:13-19**

Apostoly

It is interesting that the two readings from the Apostol coincide so perfectly. In the reading from Romans, we have pointed out for us in broad strokes the value of suffering and God's love for us. Then, in the 2 Corinthians reading we have the many sufferings of St. Paul depicted in more detail.

St. Paul says some mighty interesting things about suffering in the Romans reading, namely that it ultimately produces hope. But come on, what's that all about? And what right does this guy have to tell me about getting hope out of suffering? Well, let's take a look at his credentials.

First off, St. Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So there. Instant infallibility. Bam. But, it's not like he was lacking credibility on the not-divinely-inspired level either.

Lest we think that St. Paul is just saying some fluffy nonsense without ever having actually experienced any of it, we can read today's passage from 2 Corinthians and see just how much suffering he endured, both mental and physical, to say nothing of the "thorn in the flesh" with which he was afflicted (by the way, I'm totally open to the Spongebob interpretation of this passage). I doubt that many of us have been stoned or even shipwrecked once, much less going through both. And lest we think St. Paul only suffered in body, he adds his "anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I (St. Paul) am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?" (2 Cor 11:28). Just the mental exhaustion involved from his mental and physical sufferings seems like it would be enough to break most others.

However, in the case of Ss. Peter and Paul, they weren't broken. Rather, they continued on, and the Lord "preferred their sufferings and death above any sacrifice" (Kontakion of Ss. Peter and Paul). I see no reason to think that He will not prefer ours as well.

Gospels

The Gospel readings for today are almost exactly ten chapters apart. The first is from the Sermon on the Mount. In it, the main theme is trusting in God. The Apostles left the tools of their trade with which they made a living last week; now we are called to leave behind anything else which promises life, but which can never make good on that promise, and to cling to God.

To really leave all behind for the sake of Christ, we need a strong faith. Today we celebrate St. Peter, who was "truly revealed as the rock of faith and a trustee of the keys of grace" because of his confession of faith (Sessional Hymn 1 of Ss. Peter and Paul), as well as St. Paul, "the preacher of the faith and teacher of the universe" (Aposticha Doxastikon of Ss. Peter and Paul). They left all for the sake of Christ and endured great sufferings for His sake. So, we can look to them as examples and fervent intercessors when we undergo the same. 

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*Note: This is not really a principle. It is an attempt at a joke by the author.

**Note: This is the reading for Ss. Peter and Paul prescribed for the Ruthenian usage. Other Byzantine Churches may differ (I'm looking at you, Melkites).

Scripture quotations are from the RSV-2CE.

Liturgical quotations are mainly from the propers available on the MCI website, and the kontakion was from The Divine Liturgies of Our Holy Fathers John Chrysostom and Basil the Great (Pittsburgh: Byzantine Seminary Press? 2006).

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