Orthodox Mission – Hyde Park, Chicago

Palm Thursday and Friday– Meditations on Isaiah 65&66

Thus says the Lord: As when a grape is found in the cluster, people will say, Do not destroy it; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for the sake of the one that serves me, for that person’s sake I will not destroy them all. And I will lead out the posterity of Jacob and that of Judah, and they shall inherit my holy mountain: and my chosen ones shall inherit it and my servants shall dwell there. And there shall be in the forest folds of flocks, and the valley of Achor will be a resting for herds for my people, who have sought me. But you that have deserted me, and forget my holy mountain, and prepare a table for the devil, and fill up a drink-offering to Fortune, I will hand you over to the sword, you shall all fall by slaughter: for I called you, and you did not obey; I spoke, and you disobeyed; and you did evil in my sight, and chose the things I did not want. Therefore, thus says the Lord: See, those who serve me shall eat, while you shall go hungry. See, those who serve me shall drink, while you shall go thirsty. See, those who serve me shall rejoice, while you shall be ashamed. See, those who serve me shall exult with joy, while you shall cry because of the pain of your heart, and howl from the affliction of your spirit. For you shall leave behind your name for the satisfaction of my chosen ones, but the Lord shall destroy you, while those who serve me shall be called by a new name, which shall be blessed on the earth; for they shall bless the true God.

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We should seek to be the good grape in the cluster, from which all derive a blessing. To achieve the good fruitfulness and sweetness, we must not be affected by the things which spoil others. How? The undying sweetness that comes when we seek and serve the Lord our God, not fall into the distractions of others passions to tempt us or cause us to fall through condemnation of others. We do not “forget my holy mountain;” we climb constantly toward the presence of the Sun of righteousness that nourishes us a plant of paradise. The other way, the way of decline, is to “prepare a table for the devil.” This means to feed all the bad habits and passions: greed, envy, vanity, pride, disobedience, and desire to consume. We feed the devil, because we are consumed with these habits, we are not truly fed, but left hungry. Serving God is eating the true food, a humanity filled and fed by divine life in Christ, fruitful and satisfied through the drinking in of his light. To be a good grape, to be transformed into wine—to “be called by a new name which shall be blessed on the earth”—because our name will partake of the inebriating richness of God’s life-giving power.

Friday Isaiah 66: 10-24

Exult, Jerusalem, and all you that love her keep a festival in her. Rejoice greatly with her, all who now grieve over her, that you may suck, and be satisfied with the breast of her consolation; that you may drink and delight yourselves from the entrance of her glory. For thus says the Lord: See, I turn towards them like a river of peace, and like an overflowing torrent flooding them with the glory of the nations. Their children will be carried on the shoulders and comforted on the knees. As a mother comforts her child, so I too will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. And you will see, and your heart will rejoice, and your bones will spring up like grass; and the hand of the Lord will be known to those who fear him, and he will threaten the disobedient. For, see, the Lord will come like fire, and his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his vengeance with wrath, and his execration with a flame of fire. For with the fire of the Lord all the earth will be judged, and all flesh with his sword. Many will be slain by the Lord. Those who sanctify and purify themselves for the gardens and the porches, and eat swine’s flesh, and abominations, and mice, will perish together, says the Lord. And I know their works and their thoughts. I am going to assemble all the nations and tongues; and they will come, and they will see my glory. And I will leave signs on them, and I will send out those of them that have been saved to the nations, to Tharsis, and Phoud, and Loud, and Mosoch, and to Thobel, and to Greece, and to the isles far away, to those who have not heard my name, nor seen my glory. And they will declare my glory among the nations, and bring your brethren out of all the nations as a gift for the Lord with horses, and chariots, in covered chariots with mules and canopies, to the holy city Jerusalem, said the Lord, righteous as the children of Israel bring their sacrifices to me with psalms into the house of the Lord. And I will take from them priests and Levites for myself, says the Lord. For as the new heaven and the new earth, which I am making, remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your seed and your name last. And from New Moon to New Moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh will come to worship before me in Jerusalem, said the Lord. And they will go out, and see the corpses of the men who have transgressed against me: for their worm will not die, and their fire will not be quenched ; and they will be a spectacle to all flesh.

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God is calling us to the heavenly homeland, the capitol of the kingdom, Jerusalem. There we will be reborn and rejoice in food that is given with no labor on our part, through the Church our mother. She will feed us with the drink that is made within her body, the depth of theology: the understanding of the union of God and the human race. God himself will feed us and raise us. We will be assembled from all nations, to see the Glory of the Lord entering Jerusalem, seated on the foal of an ass, to be king and reign from the cross. We will bring sacrifices to the capitol of the kingdom of heaven: we will offer ourselves, fatted like the fatted calf, on the milk of theology. He is bringing fire because it is the power that completes the sacrifice, causes it to be consumed. We are either burned in the right place, the place of right offering, or in the wrong place, the place of disobedience and opposition to God’s goodness. If we seek God, come like Abraham the Gentile Aramaean, to the place which God leads us to, we will become sacrifices just as the priests and Levites are a tithe among the tribes of Israel, who have no inheritance but God, and are an offering among the people of God, required to draw close to the mystery of his presence. All Christians are anointed with this priesthood through holy Chrism at baptism. We will endure if we make the offering of ourselves, we will be raised in the “new heaven and new earth;” in that offering we will “see  the Glory” of God, his cross and resurrection and the peace with which he breathes the Holy Spirit upon us.