So Close You Can Taste It

Third Friday in Great Lent

Kathisma 9 (Psalms 64-69)

“We shall be filled with the good things of Thy house; holy is Thy temple, wonderful in righteousness… Thou shalt bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness, and Thy plains shall be filled with fatness.” (Psalm 64)

This Psalm might look at first glance like any other Psalm that praises the Lord for His goodness in the face of some bounty or at receiving good things from His hand. Look at the superscription and you’ll see what makes this one special: this Psalm was inspired by one of the worst events in the history of God’s People: the deportation into Babylon.

God’s People had been unfaithful, and as a result He sent the Babylonian Empire to conquer them. The Babylonians destroyed the Temple, forced God’s People to leave their homeland, and even forbade the use of their language. This was probably the harshest discipline God ever visited upon His People.

That is what makes this Psalm so amazing: in the midst of a present that is about as bad as it gets, the Psalmist looks forward to a time of future blessing. It is a gracious gift from the Lord that enables one of His people to see beyond his present situation and participate by faith in a promised time of future bounty. This is “anticipation.”

“We also ought to know first our captivity, then our deliverance: we ought to know the Babylon wherein we are captives, and the Jerusalem for which we long to return with sighing,” writes St. Augustine. This is an important part of our Lenten practice. We remember that this is not our home, that we are pilgrims and sojourners, that with holy Abraham we long for “a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is the Lord.” (Hebrews 11:10)

Great Lent is a time to experience, by faith, an anticipatory fulfillment of God’s promises of future bounty. Even while we eat simple fare, we anticipate the Day of the Lord, when He will bless the land with fatness. In the midst of this pilgrim life of captivity, the Lord Jesus brings us the fullness of His Kingdom, a Kingdom that is both now and not yet.

You may look at circumstances and feel like you’re on the verge of losing everything, just like the circumstances that inspired this Psalm. But faith enables you to sing this Psalm before its time – to rejoice in a bounty that seems so far away and yet so close you can taste it. This is what we participate in mysteriously every Sunday (Day of the Lord) in the Liturgy: freedom and bounty invading and conquering captivity and suffering.

Mighty Deeds

Third Wednesday in Great Lent

Kathisma 8 (Psalms 55-63)

“In God we shall work mighty deeds, and He will bring to naught them that afflict us.” (Psalm 59)

The People of God had been on the retreat. It was you versus the world, and the world was winning. God had cast you off. He had destroyed you. He had been angry and filled with wrath, but He also had pity on you. The Psalm says that God had “shown His people hard things, and made them to drink the wine of contrition.”

But now things are about to start turning around. Why? Look at those words above: pity, contrition. The Lord had been driving His people to contrition, that is, to sorrow over their sins. That is usually where things start turning around.

This is one of the reasons we discipline ourselves during Great Lent. It isn’t as a way of enduring hard things, but rather so that this pivotal point where things turn around becomes clearer to us. That is what the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord is. It is the most radical pivot imaginable, where all the hard things that have ever come upon Mankind suddenly start to turn around.

Great Lent is a season of preparation. It is a time for us to prepare for Pascha, for the sudden shift from losing to winning, from dying to living, from defeat to victory. The Psalmist commemorates that sudden change in the life of God’s People – the change from living in defeat to suddenly turning and conquering their enemies, razing their cities, and emerging the victors! That is what we experience in our death and resurrection in Christ in Holy Baptism, and Great Lent is a time of preparation for Holy Baptism.

For those of us who are not catechumens, but are already baptized, what is the purpose of such preparation? Look at the Psalm. “Wilt Thou not, O God, go forth with our forces?” The answer from the superscription of this Psalm is, “Yes.” We prepare for war – a war we cannot lose, because God Himself is in our midst.

“In God we shall work mighty deeds!” writes the Psalmist. Prepare for that. Prepare to work mighty deeds. Whether catechumen or baptized faithful, the Church is arrayed for war. Our enemies are sin, the devils, and even Death. Their defeat is a foregone conclusion, but by every evidence, the enemies of God’s People are still at large, still exercising their power. The time of retreat is over. It is time to go on the offensive! “In God we shall work mighty deeds, and He will bring to naught them that afflict us!”

Taking Sides

Third Tuesday in Great Lent

Kathisma 7 (Psalms 46-54)

“Thou hast loved evil more than goodness, unrighteousness more than to speak righteousness. Thou has loved all the words of engulfing ruin, and a deceitful tongue.” (Psalm 51)

Like so many of the Psalms inspired by events in David’s life, this one also has a story behind it. King Saul was jealous of David and his relationship with David had become poisoned. He wanted to kill David, but Saul’s son, Jonathan, was David’s best friend. Jonathan warned David one night that his father, King Saul, meant to kill David.

In a rush, David fled from King Saul. He went to the priest, Abiathar, and asked for supplies. Abiathar thought it was awfully suspicious that David would be so desperate, but David told him that he was on an urgent mission and needed food and a sword. Abiathar gave David the shewbread from before the Lord (which only the priests were to eat) and the sword of Goliath, whom David had slain.

This story may be familiar to you, but a lesser known person was also present: Doek the Idumean. Doek was an humble servant of King Saul, a keeper of sheep, but he witnessed David’s encounter with Abiathar. When King Saul was angry that David had escaped him, Doek stepped forward and tattled. He thought King Saul would reward him for his information, so he betrayed David and the priest.

King Saul called Abiathar and many other priests to himself, and there he commanded the soldiers to slay them for taking sides with David. The soldiers refused because they feared God and didn’t want to kill His priests, but Doek saw more opportunity here. He slew them all.

That is what this Psalm is about: Doek used his mouth to do evil. He used words to condemn men to death. He didn’t tell any lies, but he did speak about things he had no business speaking about. Why? Because he thought it would get him ahead. Doek is a classic back-stabber. He “loved the words of engulfing ruin.” He enjoyed doing damage with his words. Doek did it because he thought it would bring him earthly benefits. Doek thought that King Saul’s pleasure was worth more than God’s pleasure.

Silence is an important discipline. It isn’t only lying that we have to avoid. Doek spoke the truth, but the truth he spoke was ruinous. Even though he spoke the truth, it caused a lot of damage, and all because he didn’t mind his own business. He spoke a destructive truth in search of personal reward. A righteous man will laugh at such a person and say: “this is the man who strengthened himself in vanity.”

Fall and Rise

Third Monday in Great Lent

Kathisma 7 (Psalms 46-54)

“It is for this reason that we often read and chant this Psalm in the Church: that they that have not fallen might take heed, lest they fall, and that they that have fallen might take heed, that they may rise.” - St. Augustine of Hippo on Psalm 50

What is the value of Psalm 50? It is easily the most recognizable Psalm of repentance. We say or hear the words frequently enough. St. Augustine of Hippo says that there are two good reasons to saturate our lives with this Psalm.

The Psalm was written, as the superscription says, to express David’s repentance when the prophet Nathan was sent to him. David, you see, had been a very bad boy, indeed. He had seen a woman bathing who was not his wife, and he had desired her. She was the wife of one of his generals. David went to her, and soon she was with child. David tried to cover up his sin by tricking her husband into taking a vacation from war. He figured that if she and her husband lay together early enough, nobody might be able to do the math. When that didn’t work, he arranged for her husband to be killed in battle, then he married her.

Well, God wasn’t very happy with David. He sent the prophet Nathan to confront David. Now here is the watershed moment that St. Augustine speaks about: what do you do when you are confronted with your sin? David had already tried covering it up. Now it was out in the open. He could have been angry and defensive and had the prophet killed (he wouldn’t have been the first to kill the messenger). Instead, David admitted his sin. He wept bitterly and acknowledged that God was right to judge him.

That is why St. Augustine says we use this Psalm so much. It teaches us the proper response of one of God’s people when He catches us in our sin. We acknowledge our sin, confess it before the Lord, and declare Him just and right in His condemnation. We throw ourselves on His mercy and, though there may be consequences, we move forward with Him in a continuing relationship. That’s what David did. The baby born of his sinful union died. That was a consequence, and it hurt David deeply, but God had not abandoned David. He had not taken from David his Holy Spirit (as He had with Saul before David). Life would go on. Having fallen, David rose again.

In temptation, you may also meditate on this Psalm. Hear the anguish in the words and think of the consequences, and “take heed, lest you fall.”

Koliva

Achording to the article on OrthodoxWiki.com;

Kollyva (Greek: Κολλυβα, (kólliva); Serbian: кољиво, (koljivo); Romanian: colivă ; Bulgarian: коливо, (kolivo); Ukrainian and Russian: Kutya (or Kutia)) is an offering of boiled wheat that is blessed liturgically in connection with the Memorial KolivaServices in Church for the benefit of one’s departed, thereby offering unto God, as it were, a sacrifice of propitiation (atonement) for the dead person, and in honor of the Sovereign Lord over life and death.[1]

The Kollyva are symbolic of the resurrection of the dead on the day of the Second Coming of the Lord. St. Paul said, “what you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (I Corinthians 15:36), and St. John, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

Thus, as the wheat is buried in the soil and disintegrates without really dying but is later regenerated into a new plant that bears much more fruit than itself, so the Christian’s body will be raised again from the very corruptible matter from which it is now made; however, it will be raised not in its previous fleshy substance but in an incorruptible essence which “will clad the mortal body with an immortal garment”, in the words of St. Paul (I Corinthians 15:53).

The Kollyva then, symbolize the Apostolically rooted hope in the resurrection of the dead as the only eventuality that gives meaning and attains the longed perfection on the part of the individual who takes his life to be a divinely ordained meaningful living forever.[2]

The 16th century Archbishop Gabriel of Philadelphia[note 6] wrote that the Kollyva are symbols of the general resurrection, and the several ingredients added to the wheat signify so many different virtues.[3]


Recipe from Kh Marilyn

4 cups dry wheat berries

  • Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add berries, stir. Turn off heat and let sit for one hour.
  • Turn heat to medium and cook for about one hour. Do not over cook where the berries split. Make sure there is plenty of water and berries do not become mushy.
  • Drain in cold water. Pat dry between paper towels. May be refrigerated until needed.

Add:
1 tbs parsley
2 cups chopped walnuts or slivered almonds
2 cups raisins and/or cranberries
1 package Graham Crackers crushed (plain or cinnamon). If using plain Graham Crackers add a few shakes of cinnamon.

  • Drizzle with honey. Just enough to barely be sticky, yet still crumbly.
    Place in dish to be used.
  • Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and use plastic wrap to smooth until totally covered.
  • Put a cross on top with whole almonds or slivered almonds, or cinnamon.
  • Be creative.

For more pictures of Koliva try here…