As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"Communion" by George Herbert

Not in rich furniture, or fine array,
Nor in a wedge of gold,
Thou, who from me wast sold,
To me dost now thy self convey;
For so thou should'st without me still have been,
Leaving within me sin:

But by the way of nourishment and strength
Thou creep'st into my breast;
Making thy way my rest,
And thy small quantities my length;
Which spread their forces into every part,
Meeting sin's force and art.

Yet can these not get over to my soul,
Leaping the wall that parts
Our souls, and fleshly hearts;
But as th'outworks, they may control
My rebel-flesh, and carrying thy name,
Affright both sin and shame.

Only thy grace, which with these elements comes,
Knoweth the ready way,
And hath the privy key,
Op'ning the soul's most subtle rooms;
While those to spirits refin'd, at door attend
Dispatches from their friend.

Give me my captive soul, or take
My body also thither,
Another lift like this will make
Them both to be together.

Before that sin turn'd flesh into stone,
And all our lump to leaven,
A fervent sigh might well have blown
Our innocent earth to heaven.

For sure when Adam did not know
To sin, or sin to smother;
He might to heav'n from Paradise go,
As from one room t'another.

Thou hast restor'd to us this ease
By this thy heav'nly blood;
Which I can go to, when I please,
And leave th'earth to their food.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Prayer to St. Jude" by Kathleen Norris

O, great Saint Jude
Whose traitor-sounding name
By man's perceptions crude
Confused is with the obloquy and blame
Of him who to our gain and his disaster
Betrayed so kind a Master;
We, seeing more clear, concede thee what was thine;
The glory of a place beside that board
Whereon, awaiting their predestined hour
Of bowing to all-Good, all-Love, all-Power,
Lay bread and wine
Before that Host adored
Through whom our hope and our salvation came;
Thy kinsman, and our Lord.

O, thou, the sad day done,
Taking the homeward road
To thine obscure abode
In the long shadows of the setting sun,
To meet the frightened crowd
Sobbing aloud,
With thine Aunt Mary silent in their midst,
Leaning upon
The faithful arm of John;
Saint Jude, who didst
Join them in unbelief
And utter agony of grief,
And in a voice of pain and terror cried:
"Saw'st thou--and thou--
Saws't thou indeed my Cousin crucified?"
O, by the memory of that hour of birth
Wherein Heaven's door opened to us of earth,
Befriend--befriend us now!

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"Easter Wings" by George Herbert

Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With Thee
O let me rise,
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day Thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne;
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With Thee
Let me combine,
And feel this day Thy victorie;
For, if I imp my wing on Thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me

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Monday, April 16, 2007

"Easter Vow" by Lauchlan MacLean Watt

I bind my heart, this tide, to the Galilean's side,
To the wounds of Calvary, to the Christ who died for me.

I bind my soul this day to the brother far away
And the brother near at hand, in this town and in this land.

I bind my heart in thrall to God, the Lord of all.--
To God, the poor man's friend, and the Christ whom He did send.

I bind myself to peace, to make strife and envy cease.
God, knit Thou sure the cord of my thralldom to my Lord!


Monday, April 09, 2007

The Harrowing of Hell

The typical Eastern Orthodox icon of the Resurrection of Jesus shows Jesus standing on the broken and flattened gates of Hell (also called the Doors of Death, which have fallen to form the pattern of a cross), holding the hands of Adam and Eve and pulling them up out of Hell, and surrounded by various righteous figures from the Old Testament (Abraham, David, etc.); the bottom of the icon shows Hell as a place of darkness and death, often with various bones strewn about, and one figure still tied up in chains who is generally identified as Death or the Devil.

John Chrysostom's homily also addresses the Harrowing of Hell, and is typically read as the chief homily at Pascha, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of Easter. In the Orthodox liturgical practice, the chief "liturgical color" goes from purple on Good Friday to white on Holy Saturday in celebration of the harrowing of Hell then taking place, and in anticipation of Christ's imminent resurrection.

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Judas and I

Gregory of Nyssa on Judas :

Why, indeed, should I speak at all
of that affectionate disposition of our fathers towards each other?
No wonder that, being all naturally equal,
they wished for no advantage over one another,
but thought to exceed each other only in humility.
But my mind was penetrated most of all with this thought;
that the Lord of all creation, the Only-begotten Son,
Who was in the bosom of the Father,
Who was in the beginning,
Who was in the form of God,
Who upholds all things by the word of His power,
humbled Himself not only in this respect,
that in the flesh He sojourned amongst men,
but also that He welcomed even Judas His own betrayer,
when he drew near to kiss Him, on His blessed lips;
and that when He had entered into the house of Simon the leper He, as loving all men,
upbraided his host, that He had not been kissed by him:
whereas I was not reckoned by him as equal even to that leper;
and yet what was I, and what was he?
I cannot discover any difference between us.
If one looks at it from the mundane point of view,
where was the height from which he had descended,
where was the dust in which I lay?
If, indeed, one must regard things of this fleshly life,
thus much perhaps it will hurt no one's feelings to assert that,
looking at our lineage, whether as noble or as free,
our position was about on a par;
though, if one looked in either for the true freedom and nobility, i.e. that of the soul,
each of us will be found equally a bondsman of Sin;
each equally needs One Who will take away his sins;
it was Another Who ransomed us both from Death and Sin with His own blood,
Who redeemed us, and yet showed no contempt of those whom He has redeemed,
calling them though He does from deadness to life,
and healing every infirmity of their souls and bodies.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sin Line

This was written in response to a post by the Anglican Philosopher regarding Sin Lines:

I was raised on a sin line mentality. Often, pastors (especially youth pastors) would portray the line in a comic manner leaning over the line in order to breath in as much of the sin on the other side as possible and (oops!) stumbling into sin. They would also speak of "black and white" regarding sin. There is no gray, just white and then black.

I think it is exactly that kind of phariseeism (sp?) that prompted Jesus to say that the one who hates in his heart has murdered and the one who lusts in his heart has fornicated. He tells us to be perfect as His Father is perfect. Anything less than perfection is sin. In that sense, EVERYTHING is gray! This more corresponds to the Orthodox definition of sin as "missing the mark." The straight and narrow isn't about belief, but about obedience.

I've recently heard another concept which rings true as well. All sin is in the heart. Sin is not something you do, it is a condition of impurity. SInful actions are merely symptoms of the disease. In the West we focus on minimizing symptoms rather than curing the disease. So it is with sin. As long as we're not presenting, all is well. But the fornicator and adulterer has merely acted on the sin which is in his heart. Which is in my heart. Until that sin is eradicated, I am no more holy than they.

The Paschal Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom

Latin English
Christus resurrexit a mortuis,
Morte mortem calcavit,
Et entibus in sepulchris
Vitam donavit.

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!

O Mary! I am the Gardener truly,
I am the One, Who established Paradise.
I am the One Who was killed,
I am the One Who entered the grave.
Touch Me not, for I have not ascended to the Father.
That I have gloriously arisen from that grave,
Give thou this good news to the disciples.

- Mary Magdalene was called Apostle to the Apostles

If any man be devout and loveth God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast! If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have laboured long in fasting, let him how receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, will accept the last even as the first. He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour. And He showeth mercy upon the last, and careth for the first; and to the one He giveth, and upon the other He bestoweth gifts. And He both accepteth the deeds, and welcometh the intention, and honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord; receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival! You sober and you heedless, honour the day! Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away. Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal Kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.

For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.


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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Saturday Icon and Prayer

The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said:
God blessed the seventh day.
This is the blessed Sabbath.
This is the day of rest,
on which the only-begotten Son of God
rested from all His works.
He kept the Sabbath in the flesh,
through the dispensation of death.
But on this day, He returned again
through the resurrection.
He has granted us eternal life,
for He alone is good, the Lover of man.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Prayers and Poems for Good Friday

Orthodox Icon of the Crucifixion

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the tree.
Today He who holds the whole creation in His hand is born of a virgin.
The King of angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He whose essence none can touch
is bound in swaddling-clothes as a mortal man.

WHEN Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do,"
And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.
- G.A. Studdert

The sun and moon represent law and gospel, sin and grace
and the eclipse that occurred at Christ's death.

DEAR Lord, I hold my hand to take
Thy Body, broken here for me,
Accept the Sacrifice I make,
My body, broken, there, for Thee.

His was my body, born of me,
Born of my bitter travail pain,
And it lies broken on the field,
Swept by the wind and the rain.

by G.A. Studdert; painting is Crucifixion by Dali, based on a drawing by San Juan de la Cruz

by Giotto

When Thou, the Redeemer of all,
hast been laid for all in the new tomb,
Hades, the respecter of none, saw Thee and crouched in fear.
The bars broke, the gates were shattered,
the graves were opened, the dead arose.
Then Adam, thankfully rejoicing, cried out to Thee:
Glory to Thy condescension, O Merciful Master.

How, O Life, canst Thou die? Or abide in a grave.
For Thou dost destroy the kingdom of death, O Lord,
and Thou raisest up the dead of Hades realm.

In a grave they laid Thee, O my Life and my Christ.
Yet behold now, by Thy death, death is stricken down,
and Thou pourest forth life's streams for all the world.

O, how full that joy was! O, how great that delight!
Wherewith Thou didst fill all them that were held by Hades,
when Thou shonest forth Thy light in those dark depths.

- Orthodox Prayers for Holy Week

Surely a Mother understands Thy thorn-crowned head,
The mystery of Thy pierced hands--the Broken Bread.
- G.A. Studdert

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