Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 
PERHAPS IT WAS AN ATHLETIC ENTHUSIAST who deleted from our liturgical books the verse which introduces today’s passage from the First Epistle to Timothy. It reads as follows: “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8) This is the “faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance” to which St Paul refers in verse 9, the first one we hear today.

St Paul is here setting the priorities which a presbyter, such as Timothy, should embrace. Put your efforts into spiritual athletics rather than physical, as spiritual effort will build you up in the next life as well as in this one.

Timothy, a “Young Elder”?

The Acts of the Apostles and some of the epistles of St Paul tell us a bit about Timothy. He was born in Asia Minor to a Greek father and a Jewish mother who had accepted Christ. Timothy was raised as a Christian by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois and, as St Paul reminds him, “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15).

As a young man, Timothy became a helper to St Paul in his travels and eventually joined him in his missionary journeys. St Paul ultimately left him in Ephesus as the leader of his Christian community there. The epistles which St Paul wrote to Timothy were sent to him in Ephesus.

St Paul mentions Timothy’s ordination twice in this correspondence in seemingly contradictory ways. In Second Timothy St Paul writes, “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying-on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6,7).

In the previous epistle, however, Paul had written, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you” (1 Timothy 4:1). In both texts St Paul speaks of the lying-on of hands, the most ancient term for what we call ordination. Was St Timothy ordained twice?

We know that, in the first century Church, a variety of terms was used to describe ecclesiastical orders. In some places, the presbyters were the council assisting the bishop (overseer); in other places the terms bishop and presbyter (and others) were used interchangeably. There is no documentation to shed light on what the practice was in Ephesus at the time St Paul wrote this epistle. It is possible, therefore, that St Paul had ordained Timothy as a presbyter, and that the presbyterate in Ephesus had ordained him as their bishop. It is also possible that there was one laying-on of hands by Paul, assisted by the presbyterate.

When Christianity was recognized as the official religion of the Roman Empire, Church offices and the terms used to describe them became more standardized. This is why St John Chrysostom (+397) could observe, “He speaks not here of Presbyters, but of Bishops. For Presbyters cannot be supposed to have ordained a Bishop” (Homily on 1 Tim).

Timothy had been a co-worker of St Paul for some fifteen years before this epistle was written. Why, then, does St Paul tell Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12)? He may have been referring to Timothy’s place as head of the Christian community: Timothy was young as a bishop rather than a young person.

St Paul’s Advice

Thus in v. 12, Timothy is told to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” The way you speak and how you live your life away from the church are always under scrutiny and surely impact the way your message is heard.

St Paul identifies three areas of life which should characterize Timothy’s relationship with his people: love, faithfulness and purity. Throughout most of Church history, a bishop was considered “wedded” to his flock and was not expected to move from one eparchy to another. In many places, the same was true for priests in parish churches. The virtues, on which St Paul focuses here, are essential for any such long-term bonds. They are the qualities required in any marriage, and point to the family-like quality of a worshipping community.

In the next verse, St Paul identifies some activities particularly connected with the pastoral ministry expected of Timothy: “Till I come, give attention, to reading, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). How were these activities performed in the first-century Church?

Today we consider Reading to be a private activity for individuals. This has not always been so. Before the mass production of texts became possible in the fifteenth century, public reading of important documents and religious texts was the only way most people had access to them. The reading of the Scriptures in the Liturgy is perhaps the last survival of what was much more common practice.

The reading St Paul is discussing here, then, is the public reading of Scripture. In current Byzantine practice, the entire New Testament (except for the Book of Revelation) is read publicly at the daily Divine Liturgy each year. During the Great Fast, the Old Testament books of Isaiah, Genesis and Proverbs are read at the daily offices.

The term Exhortation in our English translation of the Scripture is a rendering of the Greek word paraklesei. We find the same word in the term for the Holy Spirit, Paraclete (the Consoler or Comforter), and in the Service of Paraklisis (Consolation), with which we may be familiar. Here it refers to the bishop’s duty to support believers in their struggles to live the Christian life, including those who have fallen.

The third-century Syrian text, the Teaching of the Apostles, holds up Christ’s way of exhorting His hearers as the model for the bishop to follow: “For as a wise and compassionate physician He was healing all, and especially those who were gone astray in their sins; for “those who are whole have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). You, O bishop, have become the physician of the Church as well; do not, therefore, withhold the cure whereby you may heal those who are sick with sins, but by all means cure and heal, and restore them sound to the Church” (2:20).

The third activity St Paul mentions here is Teaching (in Greek, didaskaleia), meaning specifically instruction in the true doctrine of the Gospel in an age of competing teachers and sects. In 2 Timothy 4:15, St Paul describes this activity as “rightly handling the word of truth,” a phrase which has been incorporated into our Divine Liturgy.

One early witness to the importance of Bible Teaching is the early third-century Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, describing the Roman practice of the day.”The faithful, as soon as they have wakened and gotten up, before they undertake any tasks, shall wash their hands and then pray to God, and then hasten to their work. If there is any instruction in the word of God that day, everyone ought to attend willingly, recollecting that he will hear God speaking through the teacher…any godly man ought to count it a great loss if he does not attend the place of instruction, especially if he can read.”
 
PHYSICAL FITNESS IS BIG BUSINESS TODAY. People run to gyms and exercise programs, or they just run. St. Paul sees the value of keeping one’s body in shape, but puts it in a perspective of his own. “Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise for the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

We may readily grasp that spiritual exercise may bear fruit in the life to come, but what promise does it have “for the life that now is”?

A great part of spiritual training is concerned with the control of the passions. We strive to free ourselves from the compulsion to pursue pleasure so that we can pursue a relationship with the living God. If we follow this training, the result in our life now is that we are no longer driven to acquire or possess. We are content.

When a person is beset by greed he is never satisfied with what he has. There is always more, there is always something better to be acquired. While he seems content with his latest acquisition it is only for a moment, because nothing he has truly satisfies. The same is true of people governed by gluttony, lust, popular acclaim or pride. They never have enough.

A person who has learned to control the passions, on the other hand, is content knowing that all he is and all he has is the gift of God. He has learned that material wealth, physical pleasure, or the good opinion of others are all passing and insignificant when compared with the possibility of knowing and serving God. He is happy to devote energy and resources to others as much as possible because he controls them; they do not control him. Controlling the passions makes us free here and now.

Someone who undertakes spiritual discipline devotes himself to developing spiritual strengths or virtues just as an athlete strengthens physical muscles. These strengths, or virtues, enable spiritual athletes to remain faithful in the face of persecution or hardship. How could the martyrs and confessors have endured the torments they suffered without the fortitude which spiritual discipline produces? How could people like Father Damien in a leper colony, Mother Teresa on the streets of Calcutta, or Dorothy Day in the tenements of New York have served day after day in such atrocious conditions without the patience and dedication of a spiritual athlete? Without the endurance which spiritual discipline produces believers would quickly fall away from their commitment and collapse on the sidelines. Spiritual discipline develops the endurance to live for God in the here and now.

Another aspect of spiritual discipline is concerned with fidelity to prayer. Many people pray – or say prayers – from a sense of duty. Praying, they feel, is something we “ought to do.” A person of prayer is rather one who senses an authentic relationship with God and who prays out of love rather than a sense of obligation. Such a person reaps the fruits of a commitment to prayer in this life, becoming someone who experiences the presence of God in his life on earth.

The presence of God may be experienced in many ways. There are saints who have experienced God directly in visions or in charismatic gifts. But the presence of God may also be experienced in consolations or in the assurance of blessing from God without any exterior manifestation. In either case to experience the presence of God in one’s “life that now is” is clear evidence of the truth of St. Paul’s statement: godliness profits a person in this life as well as in the life to come.

Repentance: Warm-up to the Spiritual Life

We have all seen runners stretching their leg muscles before beginning a run. Their stretches are a warm-up in anticipation of the effort ahead. Similarly there is a warm up necessary at the start of a spiritual effort. Repentance is the necessary prerequisite to any effective spiritual effort, whether it is the encounter with Christ in the Liturgy or any of the mysteries, the Great Fast, or any spiritual work which we pray may be fruitful. Ignoring our personal spiritual state before undertaking any of these practices borders on presumption. Even world-class athletes, whether physical or spiritual, always begin each contest at the beginning, with a warm-up.

The Gospel story of Zacchaeus’ conversion (Luke 19:1-10) offers some valuable insights into repentance. His spiritual journey begins with an encounter with Christ. At first Zacchaeus is moved by a kind of curiosity to climb the tree and see who this Jesus is. Then Christ calls him personally and they go off to Zacchaeus’ house. True repentance always involves both our work and the Lord’s. If He calls and we are not even curious, nothing will happen. If we seek Him in an inappropriate way – such as only coming to Him when we want something – He may remain silent.

Zacchaeus’ repentance is not mere sentiment; it has concrete exterior manifestations. One is the desire to repair any wrongs he may have done to others. “…if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore it fourfold” (v. 8). We cannot move ahead unless we correct what we can of our past sins. When material things are at the heart of our sin it is relatively easy to make restitution. But how does anyone restore a broken relationship, heal a damaged childhood or re-establish another’s reputation which we have smeared? The one we have harmed may demand something from us or our spiritual guide may offer alternative acts of reparation. But something concrete must be done.

Zacchaeus does not only look back, he also looks ahead. “I give half of my goods to the poor…” (v.8) Zacchaeus actually does something to fulfill the Lord’s precept to love in a concrete way. This dynamic was explained most clearly by St Diadochos, the fifth-century Bishop of Photiki in northern Greece: “When a man begins to perceive the love of God in all its richness, he begins also to love his neighbor with spiritual percep-tion. This is the love of which all the Scriptures speak.” (On Spiritual Knowledge and Discernment, 15).

In the Church calendar the story of Zacchaeus is read as a “herald of the Triodion,” before we open that guide to repentance and the Great Fast. As we recall the movements of Zacchaeus’ repentance we should be led to ask ourselves about the quality of our love for God. To what concrete action are we being led to perform during the coming Fast? What tangible form will love take in our lives as we look to the celebration of Pascha? And what past offenses to others which have yet to be righted hang over us and taint our intentions for this season? Like Zacchaeus we are called to begin our spiritual exercise with the “warm-up” of repentance in deed as well as in thought.

On this day, before the beginning of the Lenten Triodion, we commemorate the repentance of the tax-collector, the Holy Apostle Zacchaeus, who desired to behold Christ.

The Holy Fathers placed today's comme-moration here to prepare us, little by little, for dawning season of the Great Fast. Knowing that we are basically slow to exhibit a desire for repentance, the Holy Fathers, by Zacchaeus' example, teach us in these preliminary weeks the need to recog-nize our sins and our need to turn away from them. From the Synxarion
 
PHYSICAL FITNESS IS BIG BUSINESS today. People run to gyms and exercise programs, or they just run. St. Paul sees the value of keeping one’s body in shape, but puts it in a perspective of his own. “Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise for the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

We may readily grasp that spiritual exercise may bear fruit in the life to come, but what promise does it have “for the life that now is”?

A great part of spiritual training is concerned with the control of the passions. We strive to free ourselves from the compulsion to pursue pleasure so that we can pursue a relationship with the living God. If we follow this training, the result in our life now is that we are no longer driven to acquire or possess. We are content.

When a person is beset by greed he is never satisfied with what he has. There is always more, there is always something better to be acquired. While he seems content with his latest acquisition it is only for a moment, because nothing he has truly satisfies. The same is true of people governed by gluttony, lust, popular acclaim or pride. They never have enough.

A person who has learned to control the passions, on the other hand, is content knowing that all he is and all he has is the gift of God. He has learned that material wealth, physical pleasure, or the good opinion of others are all passing and insignificant when compared with the possibility of knowing and serving God. He is happy to devote energy and resources to others as much as possible because he controls them; they do not control him. Controlling the passions makes us free here and now.

Someone who undertakes spiritual discipline devotes himself to developing spiritual strengths or virtues just as an athlete strengthens physical muscles. These strengths, or virtues, enable spiritual athletes to remain faithful in the face of persecution or hardship. How could the martyrs and confessors have endured the torments they suffered without the fortitude spiritual discipline produces? How could people like Father Damien in a leper colony, Mother Teresa on the streets of Calcutta, or Dorothy Day in the tenements of New York have served day after day in such atrocious conditions without the patience and dedication of a spiritual athlete? Without the endurance which spiritual discipline produces believers would quickly fall away from their commitment and collapse on the sidelines. Spiritual discipline develops the endurance to live for God in the here and now.

Another aspect of spiritual discipline is concerned with fidelity to prayer. Many people pray – or say prayers – from a sense of duty. Praying, they feel, is something we “ought to do.” A person of prayer is rather one who senses an authentic relationship with God and who prays out of love rather than a sense of obligation. Such a person reaps the fruits of a commitment to prayer in this life, becoming someone who experiences the presence of God in his life on earth.

The presence of God may be experienced in many ways. There are saints who have experienced God directly in visions or in charismatic gifts. But the presence of God may also be experienced in consolations or in the assurance of blessing from God without any exterior manifestation. In either case to experience the presence of God in one’s “life that now is” is clear evidence of the truth of St. Paul’s statement: godliness profits a person in this life as well as in the life to come.

Repentance: Warm-up to the Spiritual Life

We have all seen runners stretching their leg muscles before beginning a run. Their stretches are a warm-up in anticipation of the effort ahead. Similarly there is a warm up necessary at the start of a spiritual effort. Repentance is the necessary prerequisite to any effective spiritual effort, whether it is the encounter with Christ in the Liturgy or any of the mysteries, the Great Fast, or any spiritual work which we pray may be fruitful. Ignoring our personal spiritual state before undertaking any of these practices borders on presumption. Even world-class athletes, whether physical or spiritual, always begin each contest at the beginning, with a warm-up.

The Gospel story of Zacchaeus’ conversion (Luke 19:1-10) offers some valuable insights into repentance. His spiritual journey begins with an encounter with Christ. At first

Zacchaeus is moved by a kind of curiosity to climb the tree and see who this Jesus is. Then Christ calls him personally and they go off to Zacchaeus’ house. True repentance always involves both our work and the Lord’s. If He calls and we are not even curious nothing will happen. If we seek Him in an inappropriate way – such as only coming to Him when we want something – He may remain silent.

Zacchaeus’ repentance is not mere sentiment; it has concrete exterior manifestations. One is the desire to repair any wrongs he may have done to others. “…if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore it fourfold” (v. 8). We cannot move ahead unless we correct what we can of our past sins. When material things are at the heart of our sin it is relatively easy to make restitution. But how does anyone restore a broken relationship, heal a damaged childhood or re-establish another’s reputation which we have smeared? The one we have harmed may demand something from us or our spiritual guide may offer alternative acts of reparation. But something concrete must be done.

Zacchaeus does not only look back, he also looks ahead. “I give half of my goods to the poor…” (v.8) Zacchaeus actually does something to fulfill the Lord’s precept to love in a concrete way. This dynamic was explained most clearly by St Diadochos, the fifth-century Bishop of Photiki in northern Greece: “When a man begins to perceive the love of God in all its richness, he begins also to love his neighbor with spiritual perception. This is the love of which all the scriptures speak.” (On Spiritual Knowledge and Discernment, 15).

In the Church calendar the story of Zacchaeus is read as the “herald of the Triodion,” the last Sunday before we open that guide to repentance and the Great Fast. As we recall the movements of Zacchaeus’ repentance we should be led to ask ourselves about the quality of our love for God. To what concrete action are we being led to perform during the coming Fast? What tangible form will love take in our lives as we look to the celebration of Pascha? And what past offenses to others which have yet to be righted hang over us and taint our intentions for this season? Like Zacchaeus we are called to begin our spiritual exercise with the “warm-up” of repentance in deed as well as in thought.

On this day, the Sunday before the beginning of the Lenten Triodion, we commemorate the repentance of the tax-collector, the Holy Apostle Zacchaeus, who desired to behold Christ.

The Holy Fathers placed today's commemoration here to prepare us, little by little, for dawning season of the Great Fast. Knowing that we are basically slow to exhibit a desire for repentance, the Holy Fathers, by Zacchaeus' example, teach us in these preliminary weeks the need to recognize our sins and our need to turn away from them. From the Synxarion
 
PERHAPS IT WAS AN ATHLETIC ENTHUSIAST who deleted from our liturgical books the verse which introduces today’s passage from the First Epistle to Timothy. It reads as follows: “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Tm 4:8). This is the “faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance” to which St Paul refers in verse 9, the first one we hear today. St Paul is here setting the priorities which a presbyter, such as Timothy, should embrace. Put your efforts in spiritual athletism rather than physical, as spiritual effort will build you up in the next life as well as in this one.

Timothy a “Young Elder”?

The Acts of the Apostles and some of the epistles of St Paul tell us a bit about Timothy. He was born in Asia Minor to a Greek father and a Jewish mother who had accepted Christ. Timothy was raised as a Christian by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois and, as St Paul reminds him, “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation” (2 Tm 3:15). As a young man Timothy became a helper to St Paul in his travels and eventually joined him in his missionary journeys. St Paul ultimately left him in Ephesus as the leader of his Christian community there. The epistles St Paul wrote to Timothy were sent to him in Ephesus. St Paul mentions Timothy’s ordination twice in this correspondence in seemingly contradictory ways. In Second Timothy St Paul writes, “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Tm 1:6, 7). In the previous epistle, however, Paul had written, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you” (1 Tm 4:14). In both texts St Paul speaks of the laying-on of hands, the most ancient term for what we call ordination. Was St Timothy ordained twice? We know that in the first century Church a variety of terms was used to describe ecclesiastical orders. In some places the presbyters were the council assisting the bishop (overseer); in other places the terms bishop and presbyter (and others) were used interchangeably. There is no documentation to shed light on what the practice was in Ephesus at the time St Paul wrote this epistle. It is possible, therefore, that St Paul had ordained Timothy as a presbyter and that the presbyterate in Ephesus later ordained him as their bishop. It is also possible that there was one laying-on of hands by Paul assisted by the presbyterate. When Christianity was recognized as the official religion of the Roman Empire, Church terms became standardized. This is why St John Chrysostom (+397) could observe, “He speaks not here of Presbyters, but of Bishops. For Presbyters cannot be supposed to have ordained a Bishop” (Homily on 1 Tim). Timothy had been a co-worker of St Paul for some fifteen years before this epistle was written. Why, then, does St Paul tell Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth” (1 Tm 4:12)? He may have been referring to his place as head of the Christian community: Timothy was a “young bishop,” rather than a young person.

St Paul’s Advice

At first glance St Paul seems to be counseling Timothy on two levels: his personal spiritual life and his ministry. In reality, they are one, as any church leader, worker or even member ministers first of all through example. Thus in v. 12 Timothy is told to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” The way you speak and how you live your life away from the church are always under scrutiny and surely impact the way your message is heard. St Paul identifies three areas of life which should characterize Timothy’s relationship with his people: love, faithfulness and purity. Throughout most of Church history a bishop was considered “wedded” to his flock and was not expected to move from one eparchy to another. In many places the same was true for priests in parish churches. The virtues on which St Paul focuses here are essential for any such long-term bonds. They are the qualities required in any marriage, and point to the family-like quality of a worshipping community. In the next verse St Paul identifies some activities particularly connected with the pastoral ministry expected of Timothy: “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tm 4:13). How were these activities performed in the first-century Church? Today we consider Reading to be a private activity for individuals. This has not always been so. Before the mass production of texts became possible in the fifteenth century public reading of important documents and religious texts was the only way most people had access to them. The reading of the Scriptures in the Liturgy is perhaps the last survival of what was a much more common practice. The reading St Paul is discussing here, then, is the public reading of Scripture. In current Byzantine practice the entire New Testament (except for the Book of Revelation) is read publicly at the daily Divine Liturgy each year. During the Great Fast the Old Testament books of Isaiah, Genesis and Proverbs are read at the daily offices. The Exhortation in our English translation of the Scripture is a rendering of the Greek word paraklesei. We find the same word in the term for the Holy Spirit, Paraclete (the Consoler or Comforter), and the Service of Paraklisis (Consolation) with which we may be familiar. Here it refers to the bishop’s duty to support believers in their struggles to live the Christian life, including those who have fallen. The third-century Syrian text, the Teaching of the Apostles, holds up Christ’s way of exhorting His hearers as the model for the bishop to follow: “For as a wise and compassionate physician He was healing all, and especially those who were gone astray in their sins; for ‘those who are whole have no need of a physician, but those who are sick’ (Mt 9.12). You, O bishop, have become the physician of the Church as well: do not therefore withhold the cure whereby you may heal those who are sick with sins, but by all means cure and heal, and restore them sound to the Church” (2.20). The third activity St Paul mentions here is Teaching (in Greek, didaskaleia), meaning specifically instruction in the true doctrine of the Gospel in an age of competing teachers and sects. In 2 Tm 4:15 St Paul describes this activity as “rightly handling the word of truth,” a phrase which has been incorporated into our Divine Liturgy. One early witness to the importance of Bible teaching is the early third-century Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, describing the Roman practice of the day. “The faithful, as soon as they have awakened and gotten up, before they undertake any tasks, shall wash their hands and then pray to God and then hasten to their work. If there is any instruction in the Word of God that day, everyone ought to attend willingly, recollecting that he will hear God speaking through the teacher… any godly man ought to count it a great loss if he does not attend the place of instruction, especially if he can read.” (32 Pentecost, 15 St Luke)

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