Tuesday, August 21, 2018

About the Celestial Hierarchies and the Heavenly Council

according to the Orthodox Sacred Tradition

Why did I write this post? I had recently discovered another of the multitude of poisonous ways the formation by our modern culture seeks to divorce or tear us from the reality of God's established hierarchies. This has to do with how truth is revealed to us and our participation in the natural order of the cosmos created by God. I would feel safe to guess that most Christians out there have an understanding of heaven that is us singing on clouds to God with cute angels or something hardly much better than that. When we look at the Church Fathers, we see that heaven is a realm that man is tasked to unite to the earth through his heart (i.e. bringing together or symbolizing the expanses of meaning to material). This opens up the idea of heaven as more than just some happy place, but rather (as the Fathers show) is the expression of the Lord's revelation, the manifesting of truth, the expression of the providence of God, the understanding of the divine will for all aspects of creation, and the source of all things intelligible in Creation. The Scriptures and the other parts of Orthodox Tradition are clear that God uses creation itself to accomplish the course of history (from world history to our own history). This is the role of the Angels.

UPDATE (9/1/2018):
I added information on how the celestial hierarchies relate to the heavenly council we see mentioned a few times in the Bible and is clear in the Hebrew use of the word elohim.

  •      SERAPHIM (Hebrew original: “flaming/burning/fiery ones”)
  •      CHERUBIM (Hebrew original: uncertain derivation)
  •      THRONES (Greek: θρόνοι / Latin: thronus)

  •      DOMINIONS or LORDSHIPS (Greek: κυριότης / Latin: dominatio)
  •      VIRTUES or STRONGHOLDS (Greek: δύναμις / Latin: virtus)
  •      POWERS or AUTHORITIES (Greek: ἐξουσίαι / Latin: potestas)

  •      PRINCIPALITIES or PRINCEDOMS/RULERS (Greek: ἀρχή / Latin: principatus)
  •      ARCHANGELS (ἀρχάγγελος, Greek original: “chief messenger” / Latin: archangelus)
  •      ANGELS (ἄγγελος, Greek original: “messenger” / Latin: angelus)

“…in every respect like, to the first Beings, who are established after the Godhead, who gave them Being, and who are marshaled, as it were, in Its very vestibule, who surpass every unseen and seen created power… always unmoved; and again, as "contemplative," not contemplators of intellectual symbols as sensible, nor as being led to the Divine Being by the varied texture of holy representations written for meditation, but as being filled with all kinds of immaterial knowledge of higher light, and satiated, as permissible, with the beautifying and original beauty of super-essential and thrice manifested contemplation, and thus, being deemed worthy of the Communion with Jesus, they do not stamp pictorially the deifying similitude in divinely-formed images, but, as being really near to Him, in first participation of the knowledge of His deifying illuminations; nay more, that the imitation of God is given to them in the highest possible degree, and they participate, so far as is allowable to them, in His deifying and philanthropic virtues, in the power of a first manifestation; and, likewise as "perfected," not as being illuminated with an analytic science of sacred variety, but as being filled with a first and pre-eminent deification, as beseems the most exalted science of the works of God, possible in Angels” (St. Dionysios the Areopagite).

The Fathers seem to suggest that this hierarchy of the heavenly spirits are responsible and bringers of purification, illumination, and deification/perfection. This hierarchy does not directly interact with mankind; nor do they have any indirect influence on mankind except for what they communicate to the second hierarchy.

“Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire” (Psalms 103:4).

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:1-3 KJV).

The rank of the Seraphim are closest to the throne of God. They are fiery since they rank so high and close to God that the grace is so great it can only be described as lightning or fire. According to St. Dionysios the Areopagite: “The appellation of Seraphim plainly teaches their ever moving around things Divine, and constancy, and warmth, and keenness, and the seething of that persistent, indomitable, and inflexible perpetual motion, and the vigorous assimilation and elevation of the subordinate, as giving new life and rekindling them to the same heat; and purifying through fire and burnt-offering, and the light-like and light-shedding characteristic which can never be concealed or consumed, and remains always the same, which destroys and dispels every kind of obscure darkness.”

“And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above. And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies. And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings. And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings” (Ezekiel 1:4-25 KJV).

The rank of the Cherubim are second in proximity to God and brighter than all other ranks below them. Through the Cherubim, does God make His wisdom available to men. They pour out God’s wisdom to the rest of creation. They make wise and illumine the noetic eyes of those who ascend to look on God. St. Dionysios writes concerning them, “the appellation of the Cherubim denotes their knowledge and their vision of God, and their readiness to receive the highest gift of light, and their power of contemplating the super-Divine comeliness in its first revealed power, and their being filled anew with the impartation which makes wise, and their ungrudging communication to those next to them, by the stream of the given wisdom. The appellation of the most exalted and pre-eminent.” The historic understanding of the Hebrew word given to them as their name is “fullness” or “plentitude” of knowledge. This is due to their possession, more than any other creature of the knowledge of God (considering that the Seraphim transcend knowledge).

“And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices... The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:4-5a, 10-11 KJV).

“Thou hast sat upon a throne, O Thou that judgest righteousness” (Psalm 9:4).

The rank of Thrones are third in proximity to God and the last ranking of the first heavenly choir. St. Maximos the Confessor mentions them when he writes that God sits on an intellectual (i.e. noetic) thrones. St. Basil the Great explains they are God-bearing but not by essence, by grace (or energy) which is done in an inexplicable manner. From the thrones does God distribute justice to the cosmos. St. Dionysios the Areopagite writes concerning them, “The appellation of the most exalted and pre-eminent Thrones denotes their manifest exaltation above every groveling inferiority, and their super-mundane tendency towards higher things; and their unswerving separation from all remoteness; and their invariable and firmly-fixed settlement around the veritable Highest, with the whole force of their powers; and their receptivity of the supremely Divine approach, in the absence of all passion and earthly tendency, and their bearing God; and the ardent expansion of themselves for the Divine receptions.” The Thrones is by whom the lower ranks receive the revelation of God.

“For each appellation of the Beings above us manifests their God-imitating characteristics of the Divine Likeness... The middle Order of the Heavenly Minds... is purified and illuminated and perfected in the manner described, by the Divine illuminations vouchsafed to it at second hand, through the first Hierarchical Order, and passing through this middle as a secondary manifestation. No doubt, as regards that message, which is said to pass through one angel to another, we may take it as a symbol of a perfecting completed from afar, and obscured by reason of its passage to the second rank” (St. Dionysios the Areopagite).

The second hierarchy of heavenly spirits seem responsible to use the energy of God to govern creation according to the will of God. Creation is subject to the natural order of God’s providence which occurs and is maintained through the work of this second hierarchy. This middle hierarchy has no direct contact with mankind but indirectly relates to them by ordering the good things which influence us and protecting against the evil things which seek to act upon us.

“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21 KJV).

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16 KJV).

The rank of Dominions regulate the energy and knowledge of God to the ranks of Angels below them which reveal the commands of God to govern Creation. St. Dimitry of Rostov writes of them saying, “[Dominions] send down power for prudent governing and wise management to authorities on the earth set up by God. Further they teach how to control the senses, how to subdue in oneself dissolute desires and passions, how to enslave the flesh to the spirit, and how to rule over one’s will and be above all temptations.” St. Dionysios the Areopagite speaks of them by saying, “I think, then, that the explanatory name of the Holy Lordships denotes a certain unslavish elevation, free from all groveling subservience, as becomes the free, not submitting itself in any way whatever to one of the tyrannical dissimilarities, as a cruel Lordship; superior to every kind of cringing slavery, indomitable to every subservience, and elevated above every dissimilarity, ever aspiring to  the true Lordship, and source of Lordship; and molding, as an image of goodness, itself, and those after it, to its Lordly bearing, as attainable, turning itself wholly to none of the things that vainly seem, but to the Lordly Being, and ever sharing in the Lordly Likeness of God, to its utmost ability.”

“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21 KJV).

“Who [Jesus Christ] is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers [KJV mistranslation] being made subject unto him” (I Peter 3:22 KJV).

The Virtues are the middle rank in the second hierarchy. By the word virtue, we mean the old English meaning of “strength” (which is how the Greek word dynamis is translated today). They execute the orders given to the Dominions and control the bodies (particularly the heavenly bodies), the seasons, and the elements of Creation. They provide divine energy to man in the form of strength to struggle with our cross in godly manner. St. Dimitry of Rosotv writes on them: “[Virtues are] filled with divine strength, quickly fulfill the will of the All-High and Omnipotent Lord, strong and powerful. They both work very great miracles and send down the grace of miracle-working to God’s saints, who are worthy of such grace, in order that these may work miracles, such as heal every sickness and foretell the future. The holy virtues also help people laboring and those overburdened by the bearing of an obedience placed on them by someone – by which their names ‘virtues’ is explained – and they bear the infirmities of the weak. They also strengthen every man in patience, so that he does not faint away in affliction but rather bears all misfortune with a strong spirit, courageously, and with humility, giving thanks for everything to God, arranging all for our benefit.” St. Dionysios considers “the appellation of the Holy Powers [to] denote a certain courageous and unflinching virility, for all those Godlike energies within them----not feebly weak for the reception of any of the Divine illuminations vouchsafed to it----vigorously conducted to the Divine imitation, not forsaking the Godlike movement through its own unmanliness, but unflinchingly looking to the super-essential and powerful-making power, and becoming a powerful image of this, as far as is attainable, and powerfully turned to this, as Source of Power, and issuing forth to those next in degree, in gift of Power, and in likeness to God.”

“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21 KJV).

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16 KJV).

“Who [Jesus Christ] is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities [KJV mistranslation] and powers being made subject unto him” (I Peter 3:22 KJV).

St. Dimitry of Rostov describes the Powers as having “power over the devil, in order to restrain the power of the demons, to repulse the temptations brought upon people by them, and to prevent the demons from harming anyone to the degree that they would wish. The powers strengthen the good ascetics in spiritual struggles and labors, protecting them so that they may not be deprived of the spiritual kingdom. They help those wrestling with passions and vices to cast out evil thoughts and slanders of the enemy and to conquer the devil.” Not only are the Powers the defenders of men from evil spirits, but due of man’s weakness they also tasked to protect of the whole cosmos against demons. The fallen angels would wreck chaos and destruction from the sin man brings upon all of God’s creation were they not kept in check by God’s providence through the work of His choir of Powers. Therefore, the Powers are responsible for protecting God’s providence from those wills not aligned to it. St. Dionysios the Areopagite further explains them by explaining that “the appellation of the Holy Authorities, of the same rank as the Divine Lordships and Powers, (denotes) the beautiful and unconfused good order, with regard to the Divine receptions, and the discipline of the super-mundane and intellectual authority, not using the authoritative powers imperiously for base purposes, but conducted indomitably, with good order, towards Divine things, and conducting those after it benignly, and assimilated, as far as permissible, to the Authoritative Source of authority, and making this visible, as is possible to Angels, in the well-ordered ranks of the authoritative power within it.”

“the revealing order of the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, presides, through each other, over the Hierarchies amongst men, in order that the elevation, and conversion, and communion, and union with God may be in due order; and, further, also that the procession from God vouchsafed benignly to all the Hierarchies, and passing to all in common, may be also with most sacred regularity” (St. Dionysios the Areopagite).

This is the hierarchy of angels which are the messengers (by one way or another) of God. They are the guides and guardians of men. These have a direct connection with the affairs of mankind and the needs of men. To understand how this hierarchy interacts with man, we need to understand the truth about mankind and dismantle the lies of the so-called “Enlightenment.” Man exists in hierarchies. He is part of the hierarchy of his family and receives his identity from his father. He exists in a community who receives identity from the principles which move it. He exists in the world and receives his ideas from these angelic principalities (which can be aligned and pointing to the Supreme Principle, i.e. God, or corrupt by the fallen angelic principalities which tears the hierarchy apart creating conflict). So, this third angelic hierarchy might rule over cities. They might reveal virtue. These ranks of angels are those aspects of a man or a community’s awareness that leads them to God. However, in a fallen world and due to the War that took place in heaven (Lucifer’s rebellion), the dark spirits influence cities towards its destruction. They prompt towards passion and vice (this is why Orthodox Tradition speaks of the demon of pride, or lust, etc.). They also lead a man or community away from God by the participants willful following. Moving down the ranks of this hierarchy we see a particularization of these things. Principalities are more universally shared, i.e. kingship, or humility, or temperance perhaps. Archangels are charged with particular groups of people, nations, etc. (e.g. the Archangel Michael is guard over Israel). Angels are sent to particular individuals (most popular example is the guardian angel).

“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21 KJV).

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16 KJV).

The rank of Principalities are charged with the direct care of the more universal guardianship and guidance of men. St. Dimitry of Rostov explains the rank of Principalities by explaining that they “are named thus because they have command over the lower angels, directing them to the fulfilment of divine orders. The management of the universe and the keeping of all the kingdoms and princedoms, of lands and all peoples, races and nations, is also entrusted to them since each kingdom, race and people have for themselves a special deeper and manager from the heavenly order called the principalities, for all their country. Further, the service of this angelic order (according to the explanation of St Gregory the Dialogist) consists in teaching the people to requite each person in authority according to his calling. Finally, the angels of this order raise worthy people to various honorable offices and direct them so that they take power not for the sake of their own gain and benefit, nor for the sake of love of honor and vain renown, but for the sake of honor from God, for the sake of spreading and augmenting of His holy glory, and for the sake of the benefit of their neighbors – as serving the general needs of all their subordinates.” St. Dionysios the Areopagite explains the Principalities as those who “manifests their princely and leading function, after the Divine example, with order religious and most befitting the Princely, and their being wholly turned to the super-princely Prince, and leading others in princely fashion, and being moulded, as far as possible, to that prince-making Princedom Itself, and to manifest its superessential princely order, by the regularity of the princely powers.” The Principalities are sometimes divided by their function. Some are tasked to administer; others to assist. We can place to origin of “germinal ideas” with the rank of the Principalities. Interestingly, the Greek word for this rank (ἀρχή) is the same word used by St. Maximos the Confessor to describe the “beginning” of the logoi. This suggests that the meaning behind creation that man observes is revealed to one in a state of illumination by the ranks of the Principalities.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (I Thessalonians 4:16 KJV).

The rank of the Archangels are proclaimers of the Gospel. St. Dimitry of Rostov summarizes the Fathers teaching concerning the Archangels when he writes that they “are called the great heralds of good news, announcing the great and most glorious. Their service (as the great Dionysios the Aeropagite says) consists in revealing prophecies, knowledge, and understanding of God’s will which they receive from the higher orders of angels and announce to the lower order, i.e. the angels, and through them, to men. St. Gregory the Dialogist says that the archangels strengthen people in the holy faith, enlightening their mind with the light of knowledge of the holy Gospel and revealing the mysteries of devout faith.” St. Dionysios the Areopagite explains the role the Archangels serve as the middle of this third hierarchy. “Archangels occupies the middle position in the Hierarchy between the extremes, for it belongs alike to the most holy Principalities and to the holy Angels; to the Principalities because it is turned in a princely fashion to the super-essential Princedom, and is molded to It as far as attainable, and unites the Angels after the fashion of its own well-regulated and marshaled and invisible leadings; and it belongs to the Angels, because it is of the messenger Order, receiving hierarchically the Divine illuminations from  the first powers, and announcing the same to the Angels in a godly manner, and, through Angels, manifesting to us, in proportion to the religious aptitude of each of the godly persons illuminated.”

At least seven Archangels are popularly known in Holy Tradition (in my own arrogant opinion, I suspect there are more, but seven seems to be the traditional favorite number). They are commemorated on November 8. Quotes taken from the OCA explanation for this feast: the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and other Bodiless Powers. “On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service.”
  • MICHAEL (Who Is Like God?). Chief among the heavenly host. He cast Lucifer from heaven and mocked him while doing so by asking “Who is like God?” “We invoke Saint Michael for protection from invasion by enemies and from civil war, and for the defeat of adversaries on the field of battle. He conquers all spiritual enemies.” In his icon, “Michael tramples the devil underfoot, and in his left hand holds a green date-tree branch, and in his right hand a spear with a white banner on which is outlined a scarlet cross, or sometimes a fiery sword.” The Book of Enoch mentions him as being "set over the best parts of mankind and over chaos" (1 Enoch 20:5; 40:4, 9); i.e. he is guardian of Israel against the powers of evil which seek to corrupt Israel.
  • GABRIEL (The Man of God or the Strength/Power of God). The Angel of the Annunciation and guardian/guide of the Theotokos. He is the “herald and servitor of Divine omnipotence (Dan 8:16, Luke 1:26). He announces the mysteries of God.” In his icon, “Gabriel with a branch from Paradise, presented by him to the Most Holy Virgin, or with a shining lantern in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper in his left.”
  • RAPHAEL (The Healing of God). The one who bears our prayers to the Lord. He is the “the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16; 12:15) and "over the spirits of men" (1 Enoch 20:3; 40:5, 9). In his icon, “Raphael holds a vessel with healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias, carrying a fish for healing (Tobit 5-8).”
  • URIEL (The Fire/Light of God). The interpreter of prophecies. He is considered as the “enlightener (3 Esdras 5:20). We pray for him to enlighten those with darkened minds.” I Enoch says he "is over the world and over Tartarus" (1 Enoch 20:2). In his icon, “Uriel in his raised right hand holds a naked sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand ‘a fiery flame.’”
  • BARACHIEL (The Benediction or Blessings of God). He is the “distributor of the blessings of God for good deeds, entreats the mercy of God for people.” In his icon, he “is shown with a white rose on his breast.”
  • SALATHIEL or SELAPHIEL (The Command, Communicant, or Prayer of God). Command and prayer represent the two forms, or types, of communication: the first one being descendant and the second ascendant. He is the force for “impelling to prayer (3 Esdras 5:16). He prays to God for mankind.” In his icon, he is “in a prayerful posture, gazing downwards, hands folded on the chest.”
  • JEHUDIEL (The Glory, Laudation or Praise of God). He encourages “exertion for the glory of the Lord and interceding for the reward of efforts.” In his icon, he “holds a golden crown in his right hand, in his left, a whip of three red (or black) thongs.”

“And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Christ’s prophecy of the end times, Matthew 24:31 KJV).

This lowest rank of angels is specifically the heavenly beings charged to go from heaven to announce things to men. St. Dionysios the Areopagite explains, “For the Angels... complete the whole series of Heavenly Minds, as being the last Order of the Heavenly Beings who possess the Angelic characteristic; yea, rather, they are more properly named Angels by us than those of higher degree, because their Hierarchy is occupied with the more manifest, and is more particularly concerned with the things of the world.” Guardian angels are those of this rank assigned at birth or baptism to a particular human being for their protection from evil and for their encouragement to do good. As St. Dimitry of Rostov details further, “The Angels are the lowest of all the orders in the heavenly hierarchy and the closest to man. They announce the lesser mysteries and intentions of God and teach people to live virtuously and righteously before God. They are appointed to guard each of us who believe: they sustain virtuous people from fallen, and never leave us though we have sinned, but are always ready to help us, if only we ourselves want it.”

Given all these things, we see how the Ascension of our Lord is the most awesome event to ever occur in Heaven. Human flesh is brought to the throne of God! The flesh of the Lord now gives man access to all the ranks of and deeper into the Mysteries of God beyond even the Seraphim. This is also why the angels are in constant amazement at the Theotokos. To be “more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim” is no small praise. She exceeds the glory of the angels who are so infused with the grace of God that it is indescribable.

ELOHIM (Hebrew original: god, but in the sense of our word “spirit”; i.e. it can be used as “Spirit” to refer properly to God or “spirit” to refer to one of the heavenly hosts. Context and the singular/plural usage indicate this.)

“God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods” (Psalm 82:1 KJV).

“And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him” (Psalm 89:5-7 KJV).

“They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not” (Deuteronomy 32:17 KJV).

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD… Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown… Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said… Where wast thou…When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; 38:1, 4a, 7 KJV).

“And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee” (I Kings 22:19-23 KJV).

“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:1-6 KJV).

See also Daniel 4; Daniel 7; Daniel 10; and I Samuel 28:13 KJV

Therefore, the celestial hierarchies do not only distribute the energy of God to the cosmos but they also serve the will of God into the world’s affairs. The energy of God and will of God are sometimes used synonymously by the Fathers. God decrees His will from the Highest of Heaven and the heavenly council execute it through their own hierarchies.

The Scriptures make it evident, however, that the heavenly council is more than the celestial hierarchies. It includes them, the demons, and even the souls of men. Our saints now are at work in the heavenly council (in our Tradition we find countless stories of them assisting the faithful in salvation, strengthening, rescuing, etc.).

I suspect this is primarily done through the use of virtue or vice by the Principalities who then use the archangels and angels who are obedient to manifest that decision to those whom they are assigned on earth. For example, a city begins to manifest a certain virtue (or conversely a sin). That Principality (or conversely fallen Principality) assigned to that city calls on the angel (conversely demon) corresponding to that virtue (conversely passion) to bring such a change to that city. The lowest rank of angels (conversely demons) who are assigned to the individuals in that city and making up the reality and ethos of that city are then strongly prompted in that direction. With the example of King Ahab, the spirit of lying (named Diablos), I suspect told the demons under his charge (whose work is obedience to him for the increase of the sin of lying in the world) to go to each prophet and tell them the lie. This harmonizes the hierarchy we clearly see in our Tradition concerning the spirit realm and their participation in the heavenly council. I admit, this is speculation on my part. However, I can come to no other conclusion than this but admit some details may not be exact.

A note on the text in Job. Obviously, God knows where Satan is, since God is omniscient. This exchange seems to force Satan to confess his banishment as an articulated reminder for himself and/or the heavenly council. We also learn that God still uses these fallen spirits in the execution of His will on the earth, but their abode is closer to the earthly realm than to the heavenly realm.

This curiously also points to the creation of the Nephilim. This is described in the Book of Enoch in some more detail and fits with this traditional Hebrew worldview which the Hebrews and earliest Christians had as a formative text for their worldview (it is quoted by Jude and many early Church Fathers). The ancient texts and traditional worldview forces one to believe that when Genesis 6 tells of the "daughters of men," it means the daughters of Adam and that when the text also tells of the "sons of god (elohim)," it means spirits or those false gods who had fallen from their previous brilliance. This can prompt a lengthy discussion but it is sufficient to say that such an interpretation is not uncommon and makes consistent the Scriptural passages on the elohim which were quoted above. The mechanics of this of course are not clear, but I can think of two possibilities. One, looking at the coupling in the way ancient societies viewed marriage, i.e. as a type of covenant; therefore, an arrangement was made (which the Book of Enoch details). The second possibility, I dare not share because if it were the case, it becomes very clear why such writings and events were obscured by the Church (and rightly so in Her wisdom and discernment).

A Sermon of Pope St. Gregory the Great. September 29th -- St. Michael the Archangel:
“It must be realized that ‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. For the holy spirits of the heavenly homeland are always spirits, but they cannot always be called Angels; they are Angels only when they are announcing something... Those who announce less important things are called Angels, and those who announce the highest things are called Archangels.”

“The 35th Canon of the Council of Laodicea [accepted in Nicaea at the Seventh Ecumenical Council] condemned and denounced as heretical the worship of angels as gods and rulers of the world, but affirmed their proper veneration” (OCA). This canon reads, “Christians must not forsake the Church of God, and go away and invoke angels and gather assemblies, which things are forbidden. If, therefore, any one shall be found engaged in this covert idolatry, let him be anathema; for he has forsaken our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and has gone over to idolatry.”

CAPUT X from St. Dionysios the Areopagite’s Celestial Hierarchies:
“Section I: ...the most reverend Order of the Minds around God, ministered by the perfecting illumination through its immediate elevation to it, is purified, and illuminated, and perfected by a gift of light from the Godhead, more hidden and more manifest—more hidden, indeed, as being more intelligible, and more simplifying, and more unifying; more manifest, as being a first gift and a first manifestation, and more complete, and more affused to it as transparent. And from this (Order) again, in due degree, the second, and from the second, the third, and from the third, our Hierarchy, is reverently conducted to the super-original Origin and End of all good order, according to the self-same law of well-ordered regularity, in Divine harmony and proportion.

“Section II: Now all Angels are interpreters of those above them, the most reverend, indeed, of God, Who moves them, and the rest, in due degree, of those who have been moved by God. For to such and extent has the superessential harmony of all things provided for the religious order and the regulated conduct of each of the rational and intellectual beings, that each rank of the Hierarchies, has been placed in sacred order, and we observe every Hierarchy distributed into first, and middle, and last Powers. But to speak accurately, He distinguished each Division itself, by the same Divine harmonies; wherefore the theologians say that the most Divine Seraphim cry one to another, indicating distinctly, as I think by this, that the first impart their knowledge of divine things to the second.

“Section III: ...each heavenly and human mind has within itself its own special first, and middle, and last ranks, and powers, manifested severally in due degree, for the aforesaid particular mystical meanings of the Hierarchical illuminations, according to which, each one participates, so far as is lawful and attainable to him, in the most spotless purification, the most copious light, the pre-eminent perfection. For there is nothing that is self-perfect, or absolutely without need of perfecting, except the really Self-perfect and preeminently Perfect.”

Understanding this as the reality of creation's structure makes the notion of “just me and Jesus” totally impossible. To ignore these things makes the “just me and Jesus” adherent in a sorrier condition than an idolater. How? The idolater at least was consciously aware of his idolatry. If he were a soldier and possessed by the passion of violence, he would pray to the god (demon) of war to satisfy him. He embraced this as his religion and knowing this could repent of it (as we see in the lives of many saints). However, the “just me and Jesus” ignores this hierarchical manifestation of the grace and will of God, leaving his own selfish energy and willfulness to fill the vacuum. He then interprets the Scripture and his tradition through that lifestyle or rather consciousness in understanding or praying to God. We cannot separate ourselves from those forces which have formed or possessed (be they good or evil) our souls. These forces are exactly that which is the “plank” or “splinter” for the “eye” of our soul which will clarify or obscure any words concerning the revelation of God. Therefore, Jesus becomes totally arbitrary according to our own vision. This is one of the many meanings behind the vision of Jacob’s ladder; the angels mediate the works of God between those in heaven and those on earth.

The mystics of the Church becoming purified, illumined, and perfected often describe meeting God and experiencing Him as escorted by the celestial hierarchies (this is even in the Divine Liturgy: “That we may receive the King of All, invisibly escorted by angelic hosts. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.”). The Doxastikon hymn after the Vespers Aposticha to St. Maximos the Confessor states he "ascended the orders of the angels." If we wish to participate in Orthodoxy's mystical life (and we should since it is exactly out salvation), then it helps to know how to interact with heaven. Angels are how man is lead to God; they distribute His divine energy to us and the cosmos in good order. By studying each of the Angelic ranks and what our Tradition knows of them, we begin to retrain our understanding towards the Orthodox phronima concerning how we truly participate in God's creation. Humility is needed to abandon those idols we place in our hearts and obscure our vision of God. This allows for us to see the path of our salvation. If we embrace humility then the angels are pleased to come and show us those heavenly gifts in store for us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

History as part of Cosmic Symbology

One argument I have began to see more often by the rationally depraved New Atheists is that Christian history is so absurd that it must be false. Since they are products of history (despite their objection to the possibility) and since they accept their history of materialism, nominalism, and oftentimes British empiricism (basically occultism) this claim of theirs is of no real surprise.

However, they live in a bubble or echo chamber of their isolated worldview that relies on pop science (which most genuine scientists find frustrating to no end), propaganda which is considered history by the oligarchic institutions of politics, media, and education (which lusts for power and control of others), and a corrupted mind (thanks to all of the above). In this tiny universe, they always are confounded which expresses itself as envy most times or misdirected hatred (which should be reserved for the Devil and his machinations). They embrace such evil and so this is why they are miserable and bitter creatures.

Anyway, inside this bubble they still cannot escape the natural order of things, they just tightly close their eyes to it. When they cannot escape this natural order, they wish or work to pervert it in their lives or surroundings. The natural order of things has patterns. It started with God's creation of the cosmos. In man's life, this natural order began when God formed Adam from the dusts of the earth and breathed in him His breath of heaven. As Adam grew in number (that is as the human race began to multiply) we see these pattern emerge on a social scale, then historical scale. When one sees the Lord's guiding principles at work and man as the meeting place of these, the world is full of wonder and enchantment. When we exist geographically, chronologically, and intellectually removed from the Incarnation (or rather closer to the end of the world) such crazy ideas such as history has no cosmological symbolism at work have emerged. To believe in such a silly proposition or atheistic view of our own history brings a distance between the love and meaning that can fill our life. This love and meaning is the center of our life and when those move to the edges of chaos by such neglect they become monsters, as we can see due to the havoc they wreck on society.

Some might excuse patterns in history as pulling relevant examples to prove the point. However, below are extremely significant examples. Yet the criticism might still stand. Part of cosmic symbolism takes into account how our memory and attention works. Symbolism is a language of our consciousness which is why so many patterns span geography and history. This pattern is a common one to which mankind cannot resist an attachment. That phenomenon in itself validates the point that the traditional worldview seeks to make.

An example will be put forth that history has cosmic symbology at work. The evidence is overwhelming and constant when one reads the Scripture. The fullness of history being told in the Bible. However, for those who do not listen to evidence from the Bible, you still cannot escape this reality. The example given is significant political changes in history. Most all seriously major historical change begins with crossing water. The materialist mind will think, "Water? What does water have to do with political change?" The traditional mind will think, "Water. Of course we see water present at times of great change." The simple explanation is water is a symbol of chaos. Political changes are a collapse of old order the the rising of new order. During this transition from one order to another order is a time of chaos, so water is very often present. I willl end this brief post by showing how you already know this to be true by a diversity of historical examples.

Image result for Crossing the Rubicon (Adolphe Yvon)

Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon. So infamous in the transition of the Republic to the Imperium that it has become a common cliche in our vernacular, "crossing the Rubicon."

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Battle of Changping. Not only in Rome, but even in the Far East (China) the age of small kingdoms and republics transitioned to a unified imperium when the Qin overthrew the Zhou. This began the legacy of China that we come to know and is speculated even that our word "China" comes from the "Qin" legacy. 

Image result for Battle of Milvian Bridge (Giulio Romano)

Battle of Milvian Bridge. Probably the most significant event in world history, especially Western history, is the downfall of paganism at the sheer might of Christian truth. This crucial turning point is when a Roman Emperor's love of good met with God's revelation to him that Christianity was the highest good for the world and his empire. Of course, I refer to Emperor Constantine the Great.

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One that has personal significance for me (since my ancestors made up the most significant army present) is the Battle of Bannockburn. Even on the northern island of Brittania, on the outskirts in time and space of a once large and powerful empire, one culture sought for independence from an invading culture. This turning point and lasting victory came when Robert the Bruce repelled Edward the II armies across a swamp and river.

And every American has seen this...
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Even as recent as American history, you see this symbolism at work. The turning of the American Revolution occurred at the crossing of the Delaware River. And who could possibly deny the huge change that America has brought upon the whole world? Without the success of this exact historic episode, the army would have died in the middle of winter and there would be no America... it all started to come about with the crossing of a river.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Concerning "Internet Orthodoxy"

All I have to say on this is simple...

99% of Orthodox Christians online do not know what they are talking about and certainly do not know their faith... Therefore...


  • Get off the Internet (this is kind of an ironic post, I know).
  • Go to Liturgy and commune with preparation by confession and asceticism (especially fasting).
  • Find the Saints living today closest to you.
  • Read the Fathers and Lives of Saints.
  • Stay off the Internet, build your life of prayer, and learn silence (hesychia).
OrthodoxInfo.com - This website is one of a few that is solid in presenting the Faith. For those who cannot help but browse the internet, you can read everything here. This is reliable material.

And that's all I have to say for now.

Friday, April 20, 2018

On the Essential Identity of Ecumenism and Phyletism (Fr. Peter Heers)

Reposted from here.

As Fr. Seraphim Rose once wrote, the difference between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy is most apparent in that the Orthodox Church (in Her Saints) is able to discern the spirits. Moreover, discernment of the methods of the fallen spirits is a requirement in the formation of Christology and Ecclesiology. As the Evangelist John writes, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

Insomuch, therefore, as one is purified from the passions and illumined by the Spirit of God, so much is his spiritual vision open and discernment acquired. This gift of discernment, the greatest of the virtues, presupposes initiation into the death, resurrection and life in Christ which is lived within His Body, the Church. That few Orthodox Christians possess a good measure of this gift is a testament to the inroads of the spirit of anti-Christ, which, by another name, is secularism. The end of the worldly spirit is the denial of the theanthropic nature of the Christ and His Body, “the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” before the ascent of the man of iniquity, the Antichrist. This temptation is coming upon the world primarily through the spread of the ecclesiological heresy known as ecumenism.

Ecumenism and Secularism
Ecumenism as an ecclesiological heresy and denial of the Truth of the Body of Christ, and as a methodological distortion of The Way of Christ, has been born and bred within a secularized “Christianity.” As we said, secularism is first and foremost the spirit of antichrist, which is “already in the world,” namely, “every spirit which confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” This refers not only to that “Christianity” which expressly denies the divinity of our Lord, the various contemporary “Arianisms,” but every spirit which denies that the Jesus Christ is come – that is, has come and remains – in the flesh, in His Body, the One Church.

Ecumenism as a unification movement ironically seeks to overcome the scandal of division by denying the “scandal of the particular” – the Incarnation. Instead of crucifying their intellect on the cross of this scandal – that Christ entered and continues within history in a particular time and place, being mysteriologically-incarnationally ‘here’ and not ‘there’ – the uninitiated and rationalist followers of Jesus seek a theanthropic Body in their image: “divided in time,” in search of a fullness which they imply exists only on the heavenly plane. They see the Church as divided on the historical plane, as limited by the heavy hand of history. They see as Church identifiers not primarily the exclusive marks of oneness, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity taken together, but rather the externals which “already unite,” such as the water of baptism (whether sprinkled, poured or immersed), the rites of the Liturgy, the belief in Christ’s divinity or the common text of Holy Scripture. It matters little that such externals, and indeed much more, were possessed by ancient heretics such as the Monophysites or Iconoclasts and were never seen as sufficient to produce any sort of “partial communion” or “already existing unity.” Neither does it seem to faze them that “the demons believe and tremble” and thus “unity in belief in Christ’s divinity” would necessarily include the demons.

This new ecclesiology, this new vision of the Church, or, rather, of Christ Himself as Head and Body, might be characterized as ecclesiological Nestorianism, in which the Church is divided into two separate beings: on the one hand the Church in heaven, outside of time, alone true and whole, and on the other hand, the Church, or rather “churches,” on earth, in time, deficient and relative, lost in history’s shadows, seeking to draw near to one another and to that transcendent perfection, as much as is possible in the weakness of the impermanent human will.

They apparently don’t realize, however, that in denying the manifest Oneness of Christ in a particular time and place on earth, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, they are also denying He is come in the flesh. They seek to forge a Church from disparate elements or recognize an already existing but “divided” Church in place of the One Church, a body in place of the God-man’s Body which is come, and in this reveal they are of the spirit of antichrist (lit. that which is put in place of Christ).

Phyletism and Secularism
Strangely, what is often seen as opposed to ecumenism, or even the heresy ecumenism is meant to correct, Phyletism, is a kindred spirit with ecumenism and born and bred within the same spiritual milieu: secularism.

As with the heresy of ecumenism, the phyletist sees the Church as limited by and within history, as identified not firstly or as much by the exclusive marks of oneness, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity as by one’s ethnic identity and its past. The aim of the Church here is not the salvation of all men from sin and death but the salvation of their ethnic identity and nation. With phyletism, as with ecumenism, the hierarchy is lost, discernment misplaced or non-existent, as to what is first and what follows in terms of our identity, with the secondary and tertiary taking the lead.

Phyletism was the necessary precursor to ecumenism, the pendulum swung to the right so that momentum could be built up for the great swing to the left and the ensuing apostasy. It was necessary also that a straw man be created in place of Patristic Orthodox ecclesiology so that legitimate opposition to the new ecclesiology could be easily marginalized and lumped together with the various “isms” on the right. Ecumenism is supposed to come as a corrective to phyletism, but paradoxically it can be, and often is, reconciled “peacefully” with phyletism.

For example, when one views his church as essentially identified with his tribe he readily accepts that his neighbor’s tribe must also have a national church (to the worldly minded it matters not whether it is “fully” orthodox or “partially” heterodox). Only in this context can one make sense of such phenomena in the West as the immigrant who sees no problem with his own children going to the local heterodox community since they have “become Americans” and go to the “American church.” Only when one understands that the phyletists identify the Theanthropic Body of Christ with theirlanguage and their culture can he begin to grasp why they prefer to lose their very own children and let their parish die with them, rather than change one iota of these transitory aspects (Matt. 24:35).

Ecumenism and Phyletism: Two Sides of the Same Coin of Secularism
Far from being enemies or correctives of each other, ecumenism and phyletism are rather two sides of the same coin of secularism. Both deny the catholicity of the One Church and both seek to recognize in its place a “divided” Church, whether it be along ethnic or denominational lines. Both reduce the Church to the sociological and historical level, placing it at the service of the fallen world as opposed to the service of man’s salvation from, and the overcoming of, the world, according to the words of the Lord: “[B]e of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

The greatest proof, however, that ecumenism and phyletism are possessed of the “spirit of antichrist” lies in their fruits. They work against the salvation of the world because they make the Church into the world, “thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Mat. 5:13). On the one hand, whether through tribalism or relativism, they deny the divine-humanity of the One Church, Her otherworldliness, Her power of the Cross (asceticism) which, if She “be lifted up” by it, draws all men toward Christ (Jn. 12:32). On the other hand, lacking the “magnet” of holiness and the theanthropic virtues, these two children of secularism deny to the heterodox the salvific “pricking” of the soul, what the Holy Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos called the “good uneasiness.” Speaking much of love, each in their own way (for nation or world), both are revealed as bereft of love for his neighbor’s salvation, for both leave him in his delusion and error, the one by erecting an ethnic roadblock, the other by denying him the narrow path.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Week Seven of Lenten Readings in the Wisdom of Sirach

Readings for Week Seven. PDF found here.


1 He brought from him a man of mercy
Who found favor in the eyes of all flesh,
Beloved by God and man,
Moses, whose remembrance is blessed.
2 He made him equal in glory to the saints
And magnified him in the fears of his enemies.
3 With his words he caused signs to cease,
And the Lord honored him in the presence of kings.
He gave him commands for His people
And showed him His glory.
4 He sanctified him because of his faithfulness and gentleness
And chose him out of all flesh.
5 He caused him to hear His voice,
Then led him into the darkness
And gave him the commandments face to face:
The law of life and knowledge,
To teach Jacob His covenant
And His judgments to Israel.
6 He exalted Aaron, a holy man like himself,
His brother from the tribe of Levi.
7 He established an everlasting covenant with him
And gave him the priesthood of the people.
He blessed him with orderly behavior
And covered him with an adornment of glory.
8 He clothed him with the consummation of boasting
And confirmed him with instruments of strength:
The linen breeches, the long robe, and the ephod.
9 And He encircled him with tassels,
With many golden bells all around,
To sound their ring at his steps,
Making their ringing sound
As he walked in the temple,
A reminder for the children of his people.
10 With a holy garment, with gold and hyacinth
And purple cloth with embroidered work,
With the oracle of judgment, the Urim and Thummim,
With woven scarlet by the work of an artisan,
11 With entwined scarlet, the work of a skilled craftsman,
With precious stones engraved like a seal
In a setting of gold, in a cut stone, a jeweler's work,
With a memorial in engraved letters,
According to the number of the tribes of Israel.
12 He set a golden crown over the priestly turban,
A figure of the holy seal, a distinction of honor,
The work of an expert,
Things desirable to the eyes, richly adorned!
13 There was never so much beauty before his time.
No outsider was ever clothed in these garments,
Only his sons and his offspring perpetually.
14 His sacrifices shall be a whole burnt offering
Perpetually, twice every day.
15 Moses ordained him and anointed him with holy oil.
It was an eternal covenant for him
And for his seed forever,
To minister to the Lord and serve as priest;
To bless His people in His name.
16 He chose him from all the living
To offer sacrifices to the Lord,
Incense and sweet-smelling offerings as a remembrance
To make atonement for Your people.
17 He gave him authority with His commandments
In covenants of judgments,
To teach Jacob the testimonies
And to enlighten Israel in His law.
18 Outsiders conspired against him
And were jealous of him in the desert,
The men who gathered with Dothan and Abiram,
And even the company of Korah with anger and wrath.
19 The Lord saw and was not pleased,
And they were brought to an end by the anger of His wrath.
He performed wonders against them
To consume them in His flaming fire.
20 He also brought Aaron glory
And gave him an inheritance.
He divided the firstfruits for him;
He prepared bread in abundance from the firstfruits.
21 For they will eat the sacrifices to the Lord,
Which He gave to him and to his seed.
22 But in the land of the people
He will have no inheritance,
And there is no portion for him among the people;
For the Lord Himself is his portion and his inheritance.
23 Then Phineas the son of Eleazar is the third in glory,
When he showed zeal in the fear of the Lord;
And he stood fast when the people turned away,
By the goodness of the eagerness of his soul,
And he made atonement for Israel.
24 Therefore He established a covenant of peace with him,
To be in charge of the sanctuary
And leader of his people,
That the priesthood might be with him and his seed forever.
25 A covenant was also established with David,
The son of Jesse from the tribe of Judah.
The heritage of the king is from son to son only,
And the heritage of Aaron is for his seed.
26 May He give you wisdom in your heart
To judge His people in righteousness,
That their good things might not disappear,
And their glory throughout their generations.

·         1 – 5: Moses (cf. the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy): One cannot mention the honored men of Israel without mentioning the Prophet and God-seer Moses. His life gained the love (agape) of both God and men (v. 1), even magnificence among enemies (v. 2), and honor among kings (v. 3). Sirach contemplates the great mystical experiences Moses had which resulted in the Law, for the “life and knowledge” of Israel. St. Gregory of Nyssa writes admirably of Moses in the book on Moses’ life by explaining, “He shone with glory. And although lifted up through such lofty experiences, he is still unsatisfied in his desire for more. He still thirsts for that with which he constantly filled himself to capacity, and he asks to attain as if he had never partaken, beseeching God to appear to him, not according to his capacity to partake, but according to God’s true being. Such an experience seems to me to belong to the soul which loves what is beautiful. Hope always draws the soul from the beauty which is seen to what is beyond, always kindles the desire for the hidden through what is constantly perceived. Therefore, the ardent lover of beauty, although receiving what is always visible as an image of what he desires, yet longs to be filled with the very stamp of the archetype.”
·         6 – 22: Aaron (cf. Exodus 1 – Numbers 20): Interestingly, Sirach devotes many more words in praise of Aaron compared to Moses. This does not take away from Moses, rather Sirach sees much symbolism through his office of High Priest. God gave Aaron the grace of “orderly behavior” and He used the Law and priesthood to take the chaos of the corrupted fallen world and erect order out of it and teaching men to rise to the dignity of being like God. How was Aaron adorned in glory (v. 7)? We might understand that He united Himself to God so that the uncreated light encompassed his humanity; this is true. But following Sirach’s theme, he answers this question by a symbolic understanding of the priestly garments which manifest the principles of receiving the energy of God. Sirach goes into detail of this. Sirach even explains some of the symbolism in these verses. The special beauty of the priesthood was to bring Israel’s minds to ascend to God. That is how the beauty of something is confirmed, by bringing one to contemplation of God. Sirach also mentions the responsibility of the priests. First, v. 15 tells us the Aaronic priests “bless people in His name” which is work continued through the major orders in today’s Church. To “bless people in His name” means the grace of God was given to the people to find and understand God which should lead to communion with Him. The priests offer sacrifices, to be masters of the commandments and use them to judge, teach, and enlighten Israel. Sirach also mentions the rebellion against Aaron by Korah. “And they were brought to an end by the anger of His wrath” (v. 19). Their destruction was simply a result of their rebellion against the formation of an order to correct mankind’s corrupted world. This was a world-saving work God was starting and the earth was glad. For them to try to destroy it ended in the earth swallowing them. Sirach concludes Aaron’s praises by stating that the priests’ inheritance is not like the inheritance of other men. The encouragement is that the priests’ inheritance is greater than all others. “For the Lord Himself is his portion and his inheritance” (v. 22).
·         23 – 26: Phineas (cf. Number 25:1-13): This grandson of Aaron (or “third in glory”) is known for his great and righteous zeal. His zeal was righteous because it was not out of passion but rather “the fear of the Lord” (v. 23). The Lord even stated that His wrath was stopped by the zeal of Phineas (cf. Numbers 25:10-13). The result of Phineas zeal was a covenant with the Lord to take charge of God’s holy things. Sirach states this is a greater covenant than with David the King since kingship can only pass to one son. In the case of Phineas the Priest, the blessing of his covenant can pass to all his sons. V. 26 is a prayer for the priests which Sirach inserts after praising Phineas.


1 Mighty in battle was Joshua the son of Nun
And successor to Moses in prophecies.
He became, in accordance with his name,
A great savior of God's chosen ones,
To punish the enemies who rose up against them
That he might give Israel its inheritance.
2 How glorious he was when he lifted up his hands
And stretched out his sword against the cities.
3 Who stood so firm before him?
For he led the wars for the Lord.
4 Was not the sun held back by his hand,
And one day become as two?
5 He called upon the Most High, the Lord,
When enemies oppressed him from all sides.
Then the great Lord answered him
With hailstones of mighty power.
6 He shattered that nation with war,
And at the descent of Beth Horon
He destroyed his opponents,
So the nations might know his full armor,
That he fought his battle in the sight of the Lord.
7 For indeed he followed behind the Lord.
Even in the days of Moses he showed mercy,
He and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh:
They withstood the assembly
To prevent the people from sinning
And to stop their evil murmuring.
8 Indeed, these two alone were preserved
From the six hundred thousand on foot,
To lead them into an inheritance,
Into a land flowing with milk and honey.
9 The Lord gave Caleb strength
And remained with him until old age;
For he went up to the hill country,
And his seed took it as an inheritance,
10 So all the children of Israel
Might know that it is good to follow the Lord.
11 The judges also, each by his name,
Those whose heart did not fall into idolatry,
And whoever did not turn away from the Lord—
May their memory be blessed!
12 May their bones revive from their place,
And may the name of those honored live again in their sons!
13 The prophet of the Lord, Samuel, beloved by his Lord,
Established a kingdom and anointed rulers for his people.
14 He judged the assembly by the law of the Lord,
And the Lord watched over Jacob.
15 By his faithfulness he proved to be a true prophet,
And by his words he was known to be faithful in vision.
16 Thus he called upon the Lord, the Mighty One,
When enemies troubled him on every side,
And when he offered a young lamb.
17 Then the Lord thundered from heaven
And with a great sound made His voice heard.
18 He destroyed the leaders of the Tyrians
And all the rulers of the Philistines.
19 And before the time of his sleep in perpetuity,
Samuel called men to witness
Before the Lord and His anointed:
“I have not taken any man's possessions,
Even to my sandals.”
Indeed, no man brought any charges against him.
20 Even after he fell asleep, he prophesied
And showed the king his end,
And raised up his voice out of the earth
With a prophecy to wipe away the lawlessness of the people.

·         1 – 10: Joshua and Caleb (cf. Number 13-14; the book of Joshua): The name “Joshua” means “savior.” In the Septuagint, he is called “Jesus” since that is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name “Joshua.” Names should not be arbitrary. In Joshua’s case, his name was not arbitrary, he fulfilled his name’s calling and Sirach mentions this (cf. v. 1). The ultimate savior, Jesus Christ, had Joshua as His namesake. Just as Joshua led the Israelite forces against the enemies of God’s people, led them into the Promised Land, then conquered it for Israel, in fulfillment of the type and shadow, the Lord conquered the devil and powers of darkness and opened Paradise to all men. The punishment which the Lord brought upon Israel’s enemies in Canaan was due to their gross and perverse wickedness and the disdain of His ways. They engaged in heinous acts extremely difficult for us to imagine. Sirach mentions the miracle of the sun standing still in the sky (cf. Joshua 10:12-14). Joshua and Caleb did a great act by resisting the assembly that was heading into sin when they would not trust God against the armies of Canaan. We are reminded that due to their faith in God, despite Israel’s despair, they were preserved and saw their inheritance in the Promised Land. They are an example to us “that it is good to follow the Lord.” St. Basil comments on some of Joshua’s strict (and some erroneously criticize as harsh) expectations of Israel in regards to their conquest of the Promised Land. “In the Old Testament, I read of the frightful end of Achar (cf. Joshua 7.19-26) and the account of the man who gathered wood on the Sabbath day (Numbers 15.32-36). Neither of these men was guilty of any other offense against God nor had they wronged a man in any way, small or great; but the one, merely for his first gathering of wood paid the inescapable penalty and did not have an opportunity to make amends, for, by the command of God, he was forthwith stoned by all his people. The other, only because he had pilfered some part of the sacrificial offerings, even though these had not yet been brought into the synagogue nor had been received by those who perform this function, was the cause not only of his own destruction but of that also of his wife and children and of his house and personal possessions besides. Moreover, the evil consequences of his sin would presently have spread like fire over his nation and this, too, although the people did not know what had occurred and had not excused the sinner unless his people, sensing the anger of God from the destruction of the men who were slain, had promptly been struck with fear, and unless Joshua, son of Nun, sprinkling himself with dust, had prostrated himself together with the ancients, and unless the culprit, discovered thus by lot, had paid the penalty mentioned above.” These acts which offend many modern and materialist sensibilities miss the value of that which God was working to accomplish; i.e. to begin to have men bring God’s divine energy into the world so that through men He might redeem this corrupted world.
·         11, 12: Judges (cf. the book of Judges): Sirach then praises every Judge which was faithful to God. We honor their memory. V. 12, Sirach prays for the day of their resurrection. This is one of the examples in the Old Testament of a prophesy concerning the general resurrection.
·         13 – 20: Samuel (cf. I Kingdoms 1-25:1): The judgement of Samuel was according to the Law and watched over Israel. Sirach praises him for his faith in God which was evident to all of Israel, both righteous and wicked. Samuel was often speaking with the Lord and the Lord to Samuel, to make His will known to His people. He was so blameless that no one could bring “any charges against him.” Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) gives a phenomenal account of the Prophet Samuel’s life. He writes on Samuel’s dispassion: “He was a dispassionate man, the man of God, who always acted according to the will of God and not according to his own will. From his earliest childhood until his death his conduct was admirable.” The Metropolitan also summarizes his virtues. “The first [virtue] is his purity. His birth was the fruit of his mother Hannah’s prayer; he was sanctified from his mother’s womb; and he was dedicated to God from his childhood. By reason of his great purity he was granted the experience of revelation. The second virtue is obedience. On no occasion did he disobey God. He always did God’s will. In fact, according to St. Maximos the Confessor, the name ‘Samuel’ means obedience. With great faith in God he went on difficult missions, to reprimand and to anoint. He never refused to do what God wanted. The third virtue is forbearance. In spite of the people’s objections and reactions, the Prophet Samuel continuously forgave them. This was the fruit of his dispassion. And we have seen that he acted dispassionately in everything he did. His fourth great virtue was his love for the people. This love was also expressed through grief. He prayed for the people and he mourned Saul’s fall. Love is always the transcendence of selfishness; it is deliverance from self-love. The Prophet Samuel was really a man of God, but also a man of the people. Someone who is a man of God first is a real man of the people.”


1 Then after this Nathan rose up
To prophesy in the days of David.
2 As the fat was divided from the peace offering,
So David was separated from the sons of Israel.
3 He played with lions as with young goats,
And with bears as with lambs of sheep.
4 Did he not slay a giant in his youth,
And remove the disgrace from the people
When he took in his hand a stone for a sling
And struck down the arrogance of Goliath?
5 For he called upon the Lord Most High,
And strength was given to his right hand
To defeat the mighty man in battle,
To exalt the power of his people.
6 So for his tens of thousands they glorified him
And praised him for the blessings of the Lord
when they brought him a diadem of glory.
7 For he destroyed his enemies all around,
Reduced to nothing his enemies the Philistines,
And crushed their power to this very day.
8 In his every work, he gave thanks with a word of praise
To the Holy One, the Most High;
And he sang a hymn with all his heart
And loved his Maker.
9 He placed psalm-singers before the altar
To make sweet melody with their voices.
10 He gave dignity to the feasts
And set in order the appointed times throughout the year
For them to praise His holy name,
And for the sanctuary to resound from early morning.
11 The Lord took away his sins,
Exalted his power forever,
And gave him a covenant of kings
And a throne of glory in Israel.
12 After him there arose his wise son,
Who lodged in a broad space because of him.
13 For Solomon reigned in days of peace,
To whom God gave rest on every side
That he might establish a house for His name
And prepare a sanctuary to last forever.
14 How wise you were in your youth,
And filled with understanding like a river.
15 Your soul covered the earth,
And you were filled with the parables of riddles.
16 Your name was known to islands far away,
And you were loved for your peace
17 And for your songs, proverbs, and parables;
Nations marveled at you because of your interpretations.
18 In the name of the Lord God,
Who is called the God of Israel,
You collected gold like tin
And multiplied silver like lead.
19 But you lay down beside women
And were enslaved by your body.
20 You brought disgrace on your honor
And defiled your seed
So as to bring wrath upon your children;
And they were pierced by your lack of good sense.
21 Thus one kingdom became two,
For out of Ephraim there began a disobedient kingdom.
22 But the Lord did not abandon His mercy
Nor corrupt any of His words.
Neither did He wipe away the descendants of His chosen one,
Nor did He remove the seed of the one who loved Him.
He gave a remnant to Jacob,
And to David a root from his stock.
23 When Solomon rested with his fathers,
He left behind him one of his sons,
Lacking in good sense and understanding,
Rehoboam, who turned away the people by his counsel.
24 There was also Jeroboam, the son of Nebat,
Who caused Israel to sin
And led Ephraim on the road to sin.
Then their sins were multiplied exceedingly
So as to remove them from their land.
25 They sought every wickedness
Until punishment came upon them.

·         1 – 11: Nathan and David (cf. I Kingdoms 16 – III Kingdoms 2:10): Sirach mentions Nathan before he mentions David. This may be due to the Israelites general principle of looking to their prophets for model living rather than their kings. However, King David is known as a “man after God’s own heart” (I Kingdoms 13:13 LXX). In the peace offerings, the fat was dedicated to the Lord, “separated” from the rest of the animal. So too was David was dedicated to rule God’s people from all men in Israel. Sirach goes through David’s life. Goliath had “arrogance” but the Lord used the small David and a small stone to destroy His arrogance. Sirach also praises his love of rejoicing in the Creator. He also instituted liturgical practices. David’s sins are clearly documented, but Sirach reiterates the message of the Scriptures that the Lord took them away from him. David is a model for repentance and indeed the psalm of repentance which we continually pray was written by Him. In the Fathers, David is remembered and honored for being the ancestor of God rather than a great king of Israel. St. Gregory Palamas comments on this and one of his psalm verses by remarking: “David, who is a forefather of God on account of Him who has now been born of his line, hymns God somewhere, “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments” (Psalm 118:73). What does this mean? That only the Creator can grant true understanding. Anyone who has been vouchsafed understanding and grasped the honour which our nature received from God through being formed by His hands in His own image, will run towards Him, having come to a realization of His love for mankind, and will obey Him and learn His commandments. But how much more so if he comprehends, as far as is possible, this great mystery of our re-creation and restoration. God formed human nature out of the earth with His own hand and breathed His own life into man (cf. Genesis 2.7; 1 Thessalonians 5.23), whereas everything else He brought into being by His word alone. He then allowed man to be governed by his own thoughts and follow his own initiative, because he was a rational creature with a sovereign will.”
·         12 – 25: Solomon (cf. III Kingdoms 1-11): The opening vv. of 12, 13 build off King David. King David was not permitted to build God’s temple due to the blood shed from David’s hands. However, David made the peace time possible for the building of the temple and began preparations for its construction (cf. I Chronicles 22:5-11). Sirach then praises Solomon for his fame and the world’s marvel at his parables, riddles, peace, songs, proverbs, interpretations. Sirach also praised the wealth he amassed but for the Lord, rather than himself. St. Gregory Palamas calls Solomon “wiser than all who preceded him: ‘a sensation intellectual and divine.’” But Sirach then goes on to state that Solomon’s carnal passions towards women enslaved him to his body. Despite his wisdom from God, he did not use “good sense.” Solomon rejected the grace of God in Himself, and by extension Israel to raise Israel to exhibiting a godlier way of life on the earth. In the end, this rejection introduced much idolatry in Israel and brought about the destruction of the kingdom and peace. His son, Rehoboam suffered from foolishness. Despite this, Sirach tells us of the great mercy and long-suffering of God. He did not forsake His covenant.


1 Then Elijah the prophet rose up like fire,
And his word burned like a lamp.
2 He brought a famine upon them,
And in his zeal he reduced them in number.
3 By the word of the Lord he shut up heaven,
And also three times he brought down fire.
4 So by your wonders you were honored, O Elijah,
And who can boast like you?
5 You raised the dead from death
And from Hades by the word of the Most High.
6 You brought down kings to destruction,
And from their bed, those who had been honored.
7 You heard rebuke at Sinai,
And at Horeb the judgments of punishment.
8 You anointed kings for retribution
And prophets to serve after you.
9 You were taken up in a fiery whirlwind,
In a chariot of flaming horses.
10 It is written that you will come at the proper time with rebukes
To calm the wrath of God before it breaks forth in fury,
To turn the heart of the father to the son,
And to restore the tribes of Jacob.
11 Blessed are those who saw you
And who fell asleep with love,
For indeed we will surely live.
12 Elijah was covered by the whirlwind,
And Elisha was filled with his spirit.
And in his day she trembled before no ruler,
And no one oppressed him.
13 No word could overcome him,
And after death his body prophesied.
14 As in his life he did wonders,
So even in death his works were amazing.
15 For all these things the people did not repent,
Nor they did turn away from their sins
Until their land was plundered;
Then they were scattered over all the earth.
16 But a people few in number were left
And a ruler in the house of David.
Some of them did what was virtuous,
But some multiplied sins.
17 Hezekiah fortified his city
And brought water into its midst.
He dug through the hard rock with iron
And constructed cisterns for the water.
18 In his days, Sennacherib came up
And sent out the Rabshakeh, and he retreated.
Then he lifted up his hand against Zion
And boasted in his arrogance.
19 So their hearts and hands were shaken,
And they suffered pain like women giving birth.
20 Then they called upon the merciful Lord,
Stretching out their hands toward Him.
Thus the Holy One quickly heard them from heaven
And rescued them by the hand of Isaiah.
21 He struck the camp of the Assyrians,
And his angel destroyed them.
22 For Hezekiah did what was pleasing to the Lord
And grew strong in the ways of David his father,
Which Isaiah the prophet commanded,
The one great and faithful in his vision.
23 In his days the sun moved backward
And lengthened the life of the king.
24 With a great spirit he saw the last things
And encouraged those who mourned in Zion.
25 He showed what was to come to the end of time,
And the hidden things before they came to pass.

·         1 – 11: Elijah (cf. III Kingdoms 17 – IV Kingdoms 2:15): The life of the prophet Elijah is truly one full of “wonder.” His life was so awesome, in his own way, that Sirach asks, “who can boast like you?” V. 1 gives the very teaching which has been stressed before; i.e. the grace of God can be “fire” or light (“like a lamp”). This is the same energy from God, but it is received as fire or light depending on the orientation of our life towards God. Sirach touches on some of the more profound parts of Elijah’s life then ends by stating the Elijah will come again to “calm the wrath of God”, “turn the heart[s]” of men, and “restore” the tribes. As Orthodox Christians, we understand this to mean the ministry of St. John the Forerunner but also the time of the Antichrist. Finally, Sirach blesses those whom Elijah blessed and prophesies of the resurrection. St. John Chrysostom provides his listeners with some meditation on the Prophet Elijah’s life when he says, “O brethren, that we may know that God loved Saint Elijah, and gave him the great honour to take him up to heaven in chariots of fire, he is now in the body in heaven, and is the champion of the whole race of men. Let us then make him our champion, and let us forsake the evil desires of this vain life, fornication, impurity, uncleanness, thefts, hatred, slander, false swearing, and the like, which things God and Saint Elijah hate. And let us do those works which God and Saint Elijah love, which are these: first of all----prayer, without which no one shall see God, for by the prayer which supported him Saint Elijah was able to ascend in the chariots of fire until they took him up to heaven to God. Let us, therefore, beloved, keep our souls and our bodies pure from every spot and impurity at which God mocks, and let there be love in us towards each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Let us be humble and charitable, for pride and the love for money are the root of all evil. Let us keep the judgment of upright faith which is alone our hope for cleansing our souls, our bodies, and our feelings. Let us each endeavour to fulfil the holy ministration that we may partake of the holy mystery of the body and precious blood of our God. Let us give alms to the poor today, each one according to his ability, in the name of God and of Saint Elijah, that we may make ourselves worthy of the blessing which Saint Elijah spake to the widow of Sarepta, who gave her offering of flour and a little oil willingly, on account of which she obtained a great and imperishable blessing, and that Saint Elijah may be gracious unto us, and that we may find grace and freedom of speech before the terrible throne of our Lord and God our Saviour Jesus Christ…”
·         12 – 16: Elisha (cf. III Kingdoms 19:19 - IV Kingdoms 13:21): Elisha was the successor to Elijah. Sometimes, when Elijah is compared to John the Forerunner and Baptist, Elisha is compared to our Lord Jesus Christ. Elisha received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and his mantle. Elisha’s body prophesied the resurrection through his own relics by the rising of a dead man that was laid over him. The significant portion of the Lord’s message for repentance to Israel, occurred through Elisha. Due to their stubborn wickedness, the Lord dispersed them from their homeland.
·         17 – 25: Hezekiah and Isaiah (cf. IV Kingdoms 18-20; II Chronicles 29-32; the book of Isaiah): King Hezekiah is a remarkable example of relying on God for our many trials. He is an example for our trust in God against great and powerful evil in our enemies. He successfully roused God’s people to repentance. Sirach tells us that Hezekiah followed the good ways of his forefather, David. Isaiah’s uniqueness among the prophets was his exactitude concerning the Christ and the dawn of His Church. Sirach praises these aspects of Isaiah’s prophesies through his own understanding which was beginning to reveal Christ’s coming.


In observance of Orthros for Holy Friday and the Twelve Gospel Readings, nothing is assigned for today.


1 The remembrance of Josiah is like the composition of incense
Prepared by the work of the perfumer.
In every mouth it is sweet like honey
And like the music at a banquet with wine.
2 He led in the conversion of the people,
And he removed the abominations of lawlessness.
3 He directed his heart to the Lord,
And in days of lawlessness he strengthened godliness.
4 Except for David, Hezekiah, and Josiah,
All offended continually,
For they forsook the law of the Most High.
The kings of Judah failed,
5 For they gave their power to others
And their glory to a foreign nation.
6 They set fire to the chosen city of the sanctuary
And desolated her streets
7 According to the word of Jeremiah;
For they did him evil,
He who was sanctified as a prophet while still inside his mother,
To root out, to afflict, and to destroy,
And likewise to build and to plant.
8 Ezekiel himself saw a vision of glory,
Which the Lord showed him on a chariot of cherubim.
9 For He remembered his enemies with a thunderstorm
And did good to those who directed their ways aright.
10 May He indeed revive the bones
Of the twelve prophets from their place.
For they encouraged the people of Jacob
And redeemed them with steadfast hope.
11 How shall we magnify Zerubbabel?
He was surely like a seal upon the right hand,
12 And so was Jeshua the son of Jozadak,
Who in their days built the house
And raised up a holy temple to the Lord,
One prepared unto eternal glory.
13 There is the lasting memory of Nehemiah,
Who raised for us the walls that had fallen;
And he established gates and locks
And raised again our home sites.
14 No one like Enoch was created upon the earth,
For he himself was taken up from the earth.
15 Neither has a man like Joseph been born,
The leader of his brothers and the support of his people;
And they watched over his bones.
16 Shem and Seth were honored among men,
And Adam over every living thing in creation.

·         1 – 7: Josiah and Jeremiah (cf. IV Kingdoms 22:1-23:30; the book of Jeremiah; the book of Lamentation; the Epistle of Jeremiah; the book of Baruch; II Maccabees 2:1-18): Due to the miserable condition of Judah by the beginning of Josiah’s reign, Sirach praises him for the joy we have when we admire his effort for the “conversion” of the kingdom back to God. He countered and replaced “lawlessness” with “godliness.” Sirach mentions that Josiah is one of the few righteous kings Israel and Judah ever had (David and Hezekiah being the other two). With these other kings, we begin to see the beginning of a relationship between the Jews and the pagan nations of Egypt and Babylonia which still affects modern Judaism. Jeremiah is nicknamed the “Weeping Prophet” due to the difficult prophesies he had to give concerning Judah and the mistreatment he received at the hands of his own people. Sirach also references Jeremiah 1:5 which says, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5 KJV).
·         8 – 10: Ezekiel and the Twelve Prophets: Sirach does an interesting and characteristic thing here. He mentions the sufferings of Jeremiah during the time when Israel had political freedom but were under the tyranny of false gods, passions, and wickedness. With Ezekiel, the kingdom and political freedom were gone but he received “a vision of glory” with “a chariot of cherubim.” Not only is the time of each two prophets in contrast but so is the work and messages of their prophesies. Sirach again prays for resurrection, here specifically of the twelve prophets due to their encouragement, redemptive work, and instilling in God’s people “steadfast hope.” The twelve prophets refer to these twelve: Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (sometimes called the “Minor” Prophets). Each has a book associated with him in the Old Testament. St. Nikolai Velimirovich writes on the similarity of Ezekiel and Jeremiah’s ministry in his Prologue: “Living in captivity, Ezekiel prophesied for twenty-seven years. He was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremiah. As Jeremiah taught and prophesied in Jerusalem, so Ezekiel taught and prophesied in Babylon. Jeremiah’s prophecies were known in Babylon, as were Ezekiel’s in Jerusalem. Both these holy men were in agreement in their prophecy, and they were both ill-treated and tormented by the faithless Jewish people.”
·         11 – 13: Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah (cf. the books of I Ezra; II Ezra; Nehemiah): Sirach then brings to our attention the men who rebuilt Jerusalem and restored the Jews to their homeland. Due to these great and praiseworthy men’s love for God and strong will to house the energy of God on earth, they built the temple again, so that the Lord would dwell among His people again. One should not be confused and think the temple is eternal and everlasting, but rather the energy or “glory” of God is eternal.
·         14 – 16: Others: Sirach curiously mentions Enoch again, then mentions the great honor God had given to Joseph the Patriarch, to Shem, and Seth. They were honored because in Seth and Shem’s case they were chosen to bring God’s salvation into the world that would reunite God and Creation and reverse the corruption of the Fall. Joseph is honored since he saved his family and was an instrument to God that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s covenant not perish in the famine. He ends this praise of honored men with Adam, second to last. Adam was honored because of all the new-formed Creation, God had put him over all living things so that he might participate as the instrument of God to bring divine energy into the world and thereby unite heaven and earth through his own soul and body.


1 There was Simon, the high priest and son of Onias,
Who repaired the house during his life
And strengthened the temple in his days.
2 He also laid the foundation of the double high wall,
The fortified wall surrounding the temple.
3 In his days the cistern for the waters was dug,
A reservoir like a sea in circumference.
4 He was concerned about how to save his people from ruin,
And he strengthened the city to withstand siege.
5 So was he honored when the people gathered round
As he came out from behind the veil!
6 Like the morning star in the midst of the clouds,
Like the moon when it is full;
7 Like the sun shining upon the temple of the Most High,
And like the rainbow shining in clouds of glory;
8 Like the bloom of the rose in the days of firstfruits,
Like lilies by a spring of water,
Like a sprig of frankincense in the summer;
9 Like fire and incense in the censer,
Like a solid gold vessel decorated with every precious stone;
10 Like an olive tree sprouting fresh fruit,
And like a cypress tree rising into the clouds.
11 When he took up a robe of honor
And was clothed with the perfection of boasting
In his ascent to the holy altar,
He glorified the court of the sanctuary.
12 When he received the portion from the hands of the priests
While standing by the hearth of the altar,
A crown of brethren surrounding him,
He was like a sapling of cedar in Lebanon;
And they encircled him like the trunks of palm trees,
13 All the sons of Aaron in their glory,
And the offering to the Lord in their hands
Before all the assembly of Israel.
14 Finishing the services at the altars
And arranging the offering to the Most High, the Almighty,
15 He stretched out his hand to the cup
And poured a libation of the blood of the grapes.
He poured it out on the foundation of the altar,
A fragrant scent to the King of all, the Most High.
16 Then the sons of Aaron cried out,
Sounding out the trumpets of hammered work,
A great noise to be heard
As a remembrance before the Most High.
17 Then all the people hastened in common
And fell with their faces on the ground
To worship their Lord, the Almighty God, the Most High.
18 The singers also praised Him with their voices,
And their song was sweetened with a variety of sounds.
19 The people also prayed to the Lord Most High,
In prayer before the Merciful One,
Until the order of the Lord was ended
And they finished His liturgy.
20 Then going down he lifted up his hands
Over the entire assembly of the children of Israel,
And to boast in His name.
21 Then they bowed down in worship a second time
To receive the blessing from the Most High.
22 And now bless the God of all,
Who does great things in every way,
Who exalts our days from our birth
And deals with us according to His mercy.
23 May He give us gladness of heart,
And may there be peace in our days,
In Israel as in the days of old.
24 May He entrust with us His mercy,
And let Him redeem us in our days.
25 With two nations my soul is angered,
And the third is not a nation:
26 Those who reside on the mountain of Samaria and the Philistines,
And the foolish people who dwell in Shechem.
27 Jesus, son of Sirach, son of Eleazar the Jerusalemite,
Who poured wisdom forth in this book,
I inscribed instruction in understanding and knowledge.
28 Blessed is he who will conduct himself by these,
For by putting these things in his heart
He will be made wise.
29 For if he does these things,
He will grow strong in all things,
For the light of the Lord is his path.

·         The bulk of this chapter concerns Simon son of Onias, High Priest. After vv. 1 – 4, Sirach recollects the day of atonement as performed by Simon son of Onias.
·         1 – 4: From the Orthodox Study Bible: “Simon II was high priest in about 220–196 BC and would have been known to Ben Sirach… Simon supervised major renovations to the temple and the increase in height of the security wall surrounding it. Other important projects, such as building a huge water cistern and strengthening the city of Jerusalem against siege, were the products of his leadership.”
·         From vv. 5 – 21, we read Sirach’s account of the High Priest Simon celebrating the Day of Atonement. The detailed and vivid account causes most to assume that Sirach had at least witnessed this and may have been an acquittance with the High Priest Simon.
·         5 – 10: This first part of the liturgical celebration of the Day of Atonement is a procession. The High Priest comes out of the temple and the people follow him around and into the Temple. From this practice comes our processions as done in the Orthodox Church. Sirach brings up a plethora of nature’s beautiful things that catch our senses when they are occurring. V. 9 uses the simile of fine craftmanship. We stop and appreciate the beauty in God’s Creation. Sirach tells us that in this manner Simon the High Priest appeared to Israel when beginning the day of atonement.
·         11: The high priest’s ascent to the altar was the second liturgical action on the Day of Atonement. He was clothed to display in symbols his role of high priest and mediator between God and God’s people. In the person of Christ, He is the offeror and offering. He appears in the presence of the Father, as God but also as a man! He bridges that separation that had been caused by doing all things necessary for us to be reunited to God and participate in Him as the source of divine energy.
·         12, 13: The next liturgical action was “receiving the portion” of the sacrifice. This was the High Priest, surrounded by the other priests with the Hebrews attentive to God’s atoning work for them.
·         14 – 21: These verses detail the last actions that occur for the “liturgy” of the atonement. We learn from these verses that Simon had strong liturgical organizational skills and brought beauty to God’s temple. He effectively roused the people in worship of the Lord.
·         22 – 24: Sirach now concludes this large portion of his book concerning the praise of honored men. These verses are a benediction. Sirach is speaking to those who have heard the commandments of God and receive them into their life. He stated in Chapter II, v. 9 that if we fear the Lord, then we hope for his “mercy” and “gladness.” Just finishing a reflection on atonement, he invites the reader to participate in the redemption that is offered to us. Sirach sees our participation as a shadow of these liturgical acts when God works through the sacrifice and scapegoat used on the day of atonement. However, we Christians understand that Christ (as the Logos) is both the sin offering that was killed and the scapegoat that went into the wilderness. The sin offering participated in death, and so did the Lord, but He showed Himself greater than death and annihilated the ways of the corrupt and fallen age to usher in a new age where He is Lord and Master over sin and death. He is also the scapegoat since He had all the sins of the world laid on Him and He banished them from our lives. St. Gregory Palamas points directly to this in his homily for Holy Saturday, he teaches, “the Lord patiently endured for our sake a death He was not obliged to undergo, to redeem us, who were obliged to suffer death, from servitude to the devil and death, by which I mean death both of the soul and of the body, temporary and eternal. Since He gave His blood, which was sinless and therefore guiltless, as a ransom for us who were liable to punishment because of our sins, He redeemed us from our guilt. He forgave us our sins, tore up the record of them on the Cross and delivered us from the Devil's tyranny.”
·         25 – 29: The grandson of Jesus ben Sirach adds his own commentary here. He mentions the labor of his grandfather to pour out wisdom into this book so others can put it into their heart and “be made wise”. The grandson promises strength and the light of the Lord to those who follow the instruction found in the book. This is the divine energy of God. By following the commandments and the wise path which leads us to their accomplishment, our souls are able to receive grace to make an abode for the Wisdom of God.


1 I will give thanks to You, O Lord and King,
And I will praise You as my God and Savior.
I give thanks to Your name.
2 For You have been my protector and helper,
And You redeemed my body from destruction
And from the snare of a slanderous tongue,
From the lips of those who work falsehood.
And before all those who stood by, You were a helper,
And You redeemed me,
3 According to Your great mercy and Your name,
From being devoured as one prepared for food
At the hands of those who sought my soul;
From many afflictions that I endured,
4 From suffocation by an encircling fire,
And from the midst of a fire I did not start;
5 From the depths of the belly of Hades
And from the tongue of the unclean and the word of a liar—
6 The slander of an unrighteous tongue before the king.
My soul drew near unto death,
And my life was near Hades below.
7 They surrounded me on all sides,
And there was no one to help me.
I looked for the help of men, but there was none.
8 Then I remembered Your mercy, O Lord,
And Your work which is from of old,
For You lift up those who wait upon You,
And You save them from the hand of their enemies.
9 I sent up my supplication from the earth
And prayed about the instability caused by death.
10 I called upon the Lord, the Father of my Lord,
That He might not forsake me in the days of affliction,
When I am helpless against the arrogant.
I will praise Your name continually,
And I will sing a hymn with thanksgiving.
11 My prayer was heard,
For You saved me from destruction
And rescued me from a time of evil.
12 Therefore I will thank and praise You,
And I will bless the name of the Lord.
13 While I was still young, before I went on my travels,
I sought wisdom openly in my prayer.
14 Before the temple I prayed about her,
And I will search for her to the end of my life.
15 From blossoms to ripening grapes,
My heart rejoiced in her.
My foot embarked on her righteous path,
And from my youth I hunted for her.
16 I inclined my ear a little and received her.
I found much instruction for myself.
17 There was progress for me in her.
To Him who gives me wisdom, I will give glory.
18 For I purposed to practice wisdom;
And I was zealous for the good
And was not put to shame.
19 My soul strove earnestly for her,
And I examined myself closely in my performance of the law.
I stretched out my hands to the heights
And mourned my ignorance of her.
20 I directed my soul to her,
And in purification I found her.
I acquired a heart for her from the beginning;
Therefore, I was not forsaken.
21 My heart was stirred to search for her,
And therefore I gained a good possession.
22 The Lord gave me a tongue as my reward,
And I will praise Him with it.
23 Draw near to me, untaught ones,
And lodge in my school.
24 Why do you say that you are lacking in these things,
Yet you let your souls thirst exceedingly?
25 I opened my mouth and said,
“Gain wisdom for yourselves without money.
26 Place your neck under her yoke,
And let your soul receive her instruction.
She is near that you might find her.
27 See with your own eyes that I labored little,
But found much rest for myself.
28 Partake of instruction with a great amount of silver,
And gain much gold with it.
29 May your soul be gladdened by His mercy,
And may you not be put to shame when you praise Him!
30 Do your work before the appointed time,
And He will give you your reward in His appointed time.”

·         Sirach ends his book on a poetic note with two psalms. One, of thanks (vv. 1 – 12); a second on love for Wisdom (vv. 13 – 30).
·         1: This verse is the opening doxology. As explained before, to know one’s name is to have something revealed about them. When Sirach gives thanks to God’s name, He is thanking Him for His revelation about Himself. St. Dionysius the Areopagite writes a treatise “On Divine Names.” He analyzes the place God’s names have in the Christian life. We must remember that the words of divine revelation do not exist simply for their own sake but to lead us to a transcendent life beyond language, words, and symbols, which is where God dwells. St. Dionysius writes, “the superessential Deity is shown to be without Name, and above Name.” A little later he writes, “The theologians, having knowledge of this, celebrate It, both without Name and from every Name. Without name, as when they say that the Godhead Itself, in one of those mystical apparitions of the symbolical Divine manifestation, rebuked him who said, ‘What is thy name?’ and as leading him away from all knowledge of the Divine Name, said this, ‘and why dost thou ask my Name?’ and this (Name) ‘is wonderful,’ And is not this in reality the wonderful Name, that which is above every Name–the Nameless–that fixed above every name which is named, whether in this age or in that which is to come? Also, as ‘many named,’ as when they again introduce It as saying, ‘I am He, Who is–the Life–the Light–the God–the Truth.’ And when the wise of God themselves celebrate Him, as Author of all things, under many Names, from all created things–as Good–as Beautiful–as Wise–as Beloved–as God of gods–as Lord of lords–as Holy of Holies–as Eternal–as Being–as Author of Ages–as Provider of Life–as Wisdom–as Mind–as Word–as Knowing–as preeminently possessing all the treasures of all knowledge–as Power–as Powerful–as King of kings–as Ancient of days–as never growing old–and Unchangeable–as Preservation–-as Righteousness–as Sanctification – as Redemption–as surpassing all things in greatness–and as in a gentle breeze.–Yea, they also say that He is in minds, and in souls, and in bodies, and in heaven and in earth, and at once, the same in the same–in the world–around the world–above the world–supercelestial, superessential, sun, star–fire–water–spirit–dew–cloud–self-hewn stone and rock–all things existing–and not one of things existing.” For Sirach and the ancient Hebrew, these kinds of revelations are what provoke thankfulness among His people.
·         2 – 7: Sirach is not only thanking God for revelation, but also for His work in the world, His people, and his own life. Some suggest that at one point in Sirach’s life someone lied concerning him before the king and this nearly led to his death. This would seem to be the case from these verses. However, the Lord spared Sirach from slander and death. He thanks God’s energy acting in the world through His “mercy” and His own experience of the wonderful “name[s]” of God which reveals that He saves the innocent from destruction.
·         8 – 12: After explaining his torment, Sirach explains his reaction. This is the key in the Christian life: our reaction. Our existence is difficult, the world is hard, and situations are unfair. We cannot control all the relentless suffering in our world. Trials and tribulations will come upon us despite any preventative measures. Life is a struggle, that is simply how it is. But our reaction will bring us to either heroically rise above it or to fall and live in constant misery. Sirach shows us the heroic approach which transforms our humanity as ones who can grow and become strong in the grace of God. We remember the “mercy” of God which pours out of His divine energy. His divine energy in the world brings everything in the world to Himself and the greatest peace, goodness, and beauty. This is the “work” of God. By patient endurance, we “wait” on the Lord and He “saves” us from our enemies. In Sirach’s case this was in his lifetime, but for some it is only after their death, God knows. Sirach’s response is prayer. This is all we can do for things outside of our control: pray. But we should pray in Orthodox manner. We supplicate him for mercy and this might bring God’s intervening miracles or it might bring strength to endure to a seemingly tragic end. V. 10 mentions the “Lord” which is the Wisdom and Logos of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Who is now incarnate as Jesus Christ. The “Father of my Lord” then is God the Father, the Unoriginate One. Clearly this is a prophetic utterance and revelation of God as multi-personal to Sirach (not uncommon in the Old Testament, but fully revealed and confirmed by the incarnation of the Son of God). This is one of the handful of verses in the Old Testament that anticipates the doctrine of the Trinity. Even though “helpless” Sirach praises the wonders of God and sings songs of thankfulness to Him. V. 12 closely mirrors v. 1.
·         13 – 15: Sirach reveals his spiritual sensitivity and concern for the things of God by telling us he has searched for wisdom since he was young. Some are born with this sensitivity to follow God, others are not. We should pray for those who do have this sensitivity that they pursue it and embrace it for the betterment of those around them. In that way, those that might not have such a disposition will have help in their struggle to pursue God.
·         16, 17: We see the result of Sirach’s search and it is one of success. He persevered and discovered wisdom. From wisdom came “much instruction” which allowed for him to “progress” in Wisdom. For the wisdom he receives, he states he “will give glory” or the energies of his soul in sacrifice to Wisdom, i.e. God. In this chapter, we again see Sirach personifying Wisdom as feminine, which is common in the Wisdom literature. Refer to the notes in Chapter XXIV for understanding this.
·         18 – 21: After stating he sought wisdom and then found it, Sirach tells us how he accomplished this. He made it his life’s purpose to “practice wisdom”, he was “zealous for the good” and was not shameful in evil things and did not allow shame in good things. Sirach was “earnest” and “examined” himself “closely in the performance of the law.” The Fathers stress this point often. This is why we have Confession in the Church. St. Gregory the Theologian tells us, “An important medicine for evil is confession.” Our life’s work must realize the great importance of conforming our life exactly to the commandments of the Lord. Sirach was deep in mourning that his life was not guided by wisdom; but as he “directed” his soul towards the wisdom which he did acquire, he achieved purification. This purification makes the soul ready for an encounter with Wisdom. This is an important key in Christian life, purifying our hearts, which is accomplished with our will opening up to the energy of God by obedience to the commandments. This requires great effort and our perverse times relentlessly fight against such a noble pursuit. St. Symeon the New Theologian could have said this in our own time: “In times past, when heresies prevailed, many chose death through martyrdom and various tortures. Now, when we through the grace of Christ live in a time of profound and perfect peace, we learn for sure that cross and death consist in nothing else than the complete mortification of self-will. He who pursues his own will, however slightly, will never be able to observe the precepts of Christ the Savior.”
·         22 – 30: Having stated his search for wisdom, his successful discovery of wisdom, and how Sirach discovered wisdom, he now proceeds to tell us what Wisdom gave him. God “gave” Sirach “a tongue” for his “reward.” This profound biography thus justifies the writing of this book and justifies his call to all who seek wisdom to follow Sirach’s “instruction.” Sirach tells us that Wisdom (therefore Christ, as we Christians understand) is close to us and a “little” labor will bring rest and wisdom which has its own riches. Sirach ends by praying for us, that our “souls be gladdened by His mercy” and that we “not be put to shame” when we offer our doxologies to God. He finally encourages us to get to “work” so that God may greatly “reward” us.


·         Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM (SAAS). Copyright © 2008.
·         All notes are commentary based on the Holy Fathers and any individual comments I have explicitly stated as my own. Any benefit gained by these notes is due to God, Who is wonderous in His Saints; while, any harm inflicted is due to my own sins, forgive me. In what follows is the bulk of references from the Fathers used to compile the notes for these readings.
·         Saint Kosmas Aitolos
o   Sayings, #96
·         St. Ambrose of Milan
o   Duties of Clergy, Book I, Chapter 7
·         St. Anthony the Great
o   Philokalia, “On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: One Hundred and Seventy Texts,” #1,
·         Blessed Augustine of Hippo
o   Sermon 33 on the New Testament
·         St. Porphyrios (Bairaktaris) of Kafsokalivia
o   Wounded By Love, p. 198
·         Sts. Barsanuphius and John
o   (Concerning Sickness)
·         St. Basil the Great
o   Grube, What the Church Fathers say about… “Why God Allows Evil & Suffering”
o   Judgment of God, Preface
o   Homily 9, 5
·         St. Ignatius Brianchaninov
o   The Arena, Chapter 1
·         St. Clement of Alexandria
o   The Instructor
·         St. Cyril of Alexandria
o   Commentary on Luke, Sermon LXXXIX.
·         St. Diadochos of Photiki
o   Philokalia, “On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination”
·         St. Dionysios the Areopagite
o   On Divine Names
·         St. Ephraim the Syrian
o   Hymn of Paradise VI, 14.
·         St. Paisios (Eznepidis) of Mount Athos.
o   Spiritual Counsels II: Spiritual Awakening
·         St. Gregory the Dialogist
o   Book of Pastoral Rule, Chapter 7
·         St. Gregory of Nyssa
o   The Great Catechism
o   The Mystery of Death
o   The Life of Moses, Book II
·         St. Gregory Palamas
o   Homily on the Holy Nativity
o   The Triads
o   Homily for Holy Saturday
·         St. Gregory of Sinai
o   Philokalia, “Texts on Commandments and Dogmas” #115
·         St. Gregory the Theologian
o   Second Theological Oration, 4
o   Oration on His Father's Silence, #17
·         Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios
o   Empirical Dogmatics, Vol. 2 (with Fr. John Romanides)
o   Orthodox Spirituality, Chapter 5: Praxis and Theoria
o   The Science of Spiritual Medicine, pgs. 125 - 126
o   The Seer, pg. 216, 290.
·         St. Hilary of Poitiers
o   Treatise on the Psalms, Psalm 127:1-3
·         St. Isaac the Syrian
o   Ascetical Homilies
o   The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life
·         St. John Cassian
o   Conferences II, 2
o   Institutes VII, 24
·         St. John Chrysostom
o   Homily 8, On Repentance and Almsgiving
o   Commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon, Fragment
o   Homily on St. Matthew, XIII, 8
o   Homily on St. Matthew, XV, 10
o   Homily on St. Matthew, LI, 6
o   Homily 25 on Romans 14
o   Homily 2 on Philippians i, v. 19
o   Homily 30 on Hebrews
o   On the Providence of God, Chapter 8
o   Homily 38 on St. John
o   An Encomium on Elijah the Tishbite (E. A. Wallis Budge, M.A.), 404-405
·         St. John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent
o   Step 3: 27
o   Step 4: 61
o   Step 10: 1, 4, 5, 7
o   Step 11: 2, 3
o   Step 12: 3, 7, 10
o   Step 14: 5, 10, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 30
o   Step 17: 13
o   Step 28: 17, 19
·         St. John of Damascus (Translated by Constantine Cavarnos)
o   Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 94, col. 1268 a-b.
·         St. John of Kronstadt
o   My Life in Christ
·         Elder Joseph the Hesychast
o   An Expression of Monastic Experience
·         St. Justin the Philosopher and Martyr
o   I Apologia 10:2
·         St. Maximos the Confessor
o   First Century on Love #24, 81-82
o   Second Century on Love #7
o   Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice, Fourth Century #34, 46-47
o   Ad Thalassium 22
o   Ambiguum 7, 41
·         St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite
o   Exomologetarion
·         St. Nikolai Velimirovich
o   On Giving Alms With Humility: The Example of St. Theophanes the Confessor.
o   Prayers By the Lake, Volume 5.
o   Prologue of Ohrid
o   The Universe as Symbols and Signs
·         St. Seraphim of Sarov
o   Conversation with Motovilov
·         Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov
o   St. Silouan the Athonite
·         Alexander Solzhenitsyn
o   Gulag Archipelago, Part I
·         St. Symeon the New Theologian
o   The Discourses, XX. “The Ideal Spiritual Guide”, 1
·         Tertullian
o   On the Apparel of Women, Book I, Chapter 1.
·         Benedicta Ward
o   Sayings of the Desert Fathers
·         Father Zacharias Zacharou
o   The Hidden Man of the Heart, pg.1
·         St. Theophan Zatvornik, The Recluse
o   The Path to Salvation: A Manual of Spiritual Transformation
·         The Lenten Triodion
·         Menaion (Holy Transfiguration Monastery)



Glory to God for all things!