Christ the Savior-Holy Spirit Orthodox Church
Archpriest Steven C. Kostoff
4285 Ashland Ave, Cincinnati OH 45212 - (513) 351-0907

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Reflections on Session 3

June 22, 2017

 

Dear Bible Study Participants,


"Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." (JN. 14:1)


I believe we had yet another stimulating session yesterday evening as we read and discussed the extraordinary text of JN. 14. With this chapter we have now entered deeply into the unfathomable depths of Christ's Farewell Discourse. At 14:6, we heard one of the great "I AM" statements from Christ:  "I am the Way (odos), the Truth (aleithia), and the Life (zoe)." In a prayerful way, St. Ambrose reveals the quality of this self-disclosure by Christ:



"Lord Jesus, we do follow you, but we can come only at your bidding. No on can make the ascent without you, for you are our way, our truth, our life and strength, our confidence, our reward. Be the way that receives us, the truth that strengthens us, the life that invigorates us." Death as a Good, 12.55.



Following those words, Christ added: "No one comes to the Father, but by me."  Many of the Church Fathers have offered insightful commentary on these strong words of Christ. One example from among many is found in St. Hilary of Poiters:



"Except through him there is no approach to the Father. But there is also no approach to him unless the Father draws us. Understanding him to be the Son of God, we recognize in him the true nature of the Father. And so, when we learn to know the Son, God the Father calls us. When we believe the Son, God the Father receives us. For our recognition and knowledge of the Father is in the Son who shows us in himself God the Father. The Father draws us by his fatherly love, if we are devout, into a mutual bond with his Son." (On the Trinity, 11.33)



Later in the Discourse, Jesus offered powerful words of reassurance to his disciples, and to us, through them:  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you" (JN. 14:27).  I read a passage from the contemporary biblical scholar, Brendan Byrne, yesterday evening, that I would like to share again for its fine insight into the huge difference between the "peace" that comes from Christ, and the "peace" that the world gives:



"This is a peace that the world is utterly incapable of giving. Worldly authority can from time to time bring about an absence of hostilities between human beings and human societies; it cannot erode the fundamental insecurity and anxiety at the root of human existence. The peace Jesus is leaving with the disciples extends God's grace and love deep into the human heart. That is why, in the face of his departure, he can repeat the injunction with which he began: 'Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid'. (JN. 14:1)"



At our next session, we will read and study Ch. 15, considered to be at the heart of the Farewell Discourse. As I said yesterday evening, I am still not sure if we will meet next week or in two weeks. That depends on how we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul next week. I will keep everyone informed.

Either way, looking forward to our next meeting and discussion. This is one of the major highlights of my week!

Fr. Steven

 

Study Questions for Session 3

June 21, 2017

 

Dear Parish Faithful,


For the Bible Study this evening: Com' on down! You will like it - guaranteed!


We will read and discuss JN. 14. Here are the sections of the chapter with a few questions to think about:


Many "Rooms/Mansions (14:1-3)

   + What are these "room/mansions" mentioned by Jesus? Why or how are there so many?

Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:4-7)

   + In today's world how can we explain the words of Christ:  "No one comes to the Father, but by me?"

Knowing the Father (14:8-11)

   + What does Jesus mean when he says, "He who has seen me has seen the Father?"
   + What is meant by the words of Jesus, "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves?"

Greater Works (14:12-14)

   + How can a disciple possibly do "greater works" than Christ himself?

Another Paraklete (14:15-17)

   + Who is this other Paraclete and what is the role of this other Paraklete?
   + How else can we translate Paraklete?

Not Orphans (14:18-24)

   + How does Jesus reassure his disciples that they will not be/remain as orphans?

Living Within the Divine Communion (14:25-31)

   + In JN. 10:30, Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." Yet, in 14:28, he says that "the Father is greater than I." How can we reconcile this seeming contradiction and maintain a consistent understanding of the Person of Jesus Christ?

 

Reflections and Notes from Session 2

June 15, 2017

 

Dear Students of the Scriptures,


A very lively, stimulating and enjoyable discussion yesterday evening over JN. 13!  And, I hope ultimately, fruitful in that we come a bit more closer to the mystery of Christ. Also, another very large group that was quite encouraging.

I read a passage from the renowned biblical scholar Raymond Brown who wrote concerning the Farewell Discourse of JN. 13:31-17:26:



"The Last Discourse is best understood when it is the subject of prayerful meditation and that scientific analysis does not really do justice to this work of genius."



That being the case, I would strongly recommend that you find the time to read through the entire discourse carefully and prayerfully at once, just as we hear it on Thursday evening of Holy Week. For these words of Christ are directed to us as the contemporary generation of Christians who claim to be His disciples. Then, we will break it down (beginning with Ch. 14 next Wednesday), perhaps not with "scientific analysis," but according to our own more modest attempt to properly interpret and understand some of the great depth of this discourse, for as R. Brown also wrote: "The one who speaks here speaks as no man has spoken."

We discussed the possible reasons why the command to love was a "new commandment" since it already existed in the Old Testament. And the key in this new commandment was "to love one another even as I have loved you" (13:34).  St. Cyril of Alexandria offers the following:



"The law of Moses mandated the necessity of loving our brothers as ourselves, yet our Lord Jesus Christ loved us far more than he loved himself. Otherwise, he would have never descended to our humiliation from his original exaltation in the form of God and on an equality with God the Father, nor would he have undergone for our sakes the exceptional bitterness of his death in the flesh, nor have submitted to beatings, to shame, to derision, and all his other sufferings too numerous to mention. Being rich, he would never have become poor if he had not loved us far more than he loved himself. It was indeed something new for love to go as far as that! Christ commands us to love as he did, putting neither reputation, wealth or anything else before love of our brothers and sisters. If need be, we even need to be prepared to face death for our neighbor's salvation as our Savior's blessed disciples did, as well as those who followed in their footsteps. To them the salvation of others mattered more than their own lives, and they were ready to do anything or to suffer anything to save souls that were perishing." (Commentary on the Gospel of John 9)



And St. John Chrysostom wrote the following:



"Passing over miracles that they were to perform, he makes love the distinguishing mark of his followers.... Miracles do not attract unbelievers as much as the way you live your life. And nothing brings about a proper life as much as love." (Homilies on the Gospel of John 72.5)



When you read JN. 14 for next week, be mindful for what is called the "triadic section" of the Discourse.  Here Jesus speaks of the abiding presence - what we may call the mystical presence - of the Spirit (v. 15-17); the Son (v. 18-22); and the Father (v. 23-24). The entire Last Discourse is profoundly trinitarian, and this section makes that very clear in a deeply moving manner.

Looking forward to our discussion next Wednesday!

Fr. Steven

 

Study Notes for Session 2

June 13, 2017

 

Dear Students of the Scriptures,

For those who plan on attending the Bible Study on Wednesday: We will read Ch. 13 of The Gospel According to St. John. Here are some titles for the various sections of Ch. 13, together with a few questions:

 

Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet (13:1-5)

  • What is the setting of the Supper?  Is this a Passover meal?  What are some possible reasons as to why the Eucharist is not mentioned in this entire section?
  • How does the divine and the human interact in this event of the foot washing?
  • Can we read this as the possible "priestly ordination" of the apostles? (See Ex. 40:12, 30-32; Lev. 8:6)

 

The Dialogue With Peter (vv 6-11)

  • Is there a reference to Baptism in this passage?
  • What is the connection between the footwashing and the Cross in the words of Jesus to Peter?

 

The Footwashing as an Example of Love (vv 12-20)

  • How is the foot washing an example (hypodeigma) to be followed?
  • What does it imply for Christian service within the world?

 

Jesus Foretells His Betrayal (21-30)

  • What is the source of Judas' betrayal?
  • How does this passage relate to 13:12-20?

 

The New Commandment (31-35)

  • How can we "unpack" v. 31-32?
  • Why is v. 31 considered the actual beginning of the "Farewell Discourse?"
  • How has our failure to "love one another" undermined our Christian witness to the world?

 

Jesus Foretells Peter's Denial (36-38)

  • What was Peter's mistake in this passage?

 

Bible Study Notes for Session I

June 6, 2017

 

Dear Parish Faithful,

For those planning on coming to the Bible Study on Wednesday or eventually planning on joining us: We will actually begin with JN. 12:20 and continue through the remainder of JN. 12.

We can divide this section of Ch. 12 in the following manner, with a question or two to think about from each subdivision:

Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus (12:20-26)

  • Who are the Greeks mentioned in this passage?
  • What does there seeking after Jesus mean within the unfolding of His ministry (the divine economy)?

Jesus Speaks of His Death (12:27-36)

  • What does Jesus mean when He says, "Father, glorify your name?"
  • What does it mean that "the Son of Man must be lifted up?"

The Unbelief of the People (12:37-43)

  • How can we explain the difficult words of the Prophet Isaiah quoted by Christ?
  • What does it mean for us to love the praise of men more than the praise of God?

Summary of Jesus' Teaching (12:44-50)

  • What does Jesus mean by the words "he who sees me sees him who sent me?"
  • How are we judged by Christ "on the last day?"

 

Looking forward to the start of this summer's Bible Study?

Fr. Steven

 

Join us for our Summer Bible Study!

 

2017 SUMMER BIBLE STUDY

The Gospel according to Saint John, Chapters 12-21

'Now is the Son of Man glorified...' ~ JN 13:31

 

Dear Parish Faithful,

"Christ has Ascended in Glory!"

Attached is the flier promoting the upcoming Summer Bible Study, beginning on Wednesday, June 7.  Sounds very exciting to me as we will continue and complete what we began last summer - a study of the Gospel According to St. John.  We will take a careful look at  all of those lengthy discourses that we hear each year during Holy Week; and then the Passion and Resurrection narratives (JN. 12-21).

I always have full confidence that all those who have been to a Bible Study will return. In addition, it would be great to see some "new faces." As my mother used to tell me: "Try it, you might like it."
 
I am further confident that not only will you like it - but you will learn a great deal in the process and get to know fellow parishioners and guests on a deeper level.
 
Fr. Steven

 

2017 Summer Bible Study Flier (PDF)

 

 

 

An Introduction to the Gospel according to John

Icon of St John the Theologian (Russian, 18th c.)
Icon of St John the Theologian (Russian, 18th c.)
Icon of St John the Theologian (Russian, 18th c.)

 

The Gospel according to St John

by Fr Thomas Hopko

 

The gospel of Saint John is very different from the synoptic gospels. It is undoubtedly the latest written, being the work of the beloved disciple and apostle of the Lord at the end of his life near the close of the first century. In most Orthodox versions of the Bible, this gospel is printed before the others as it is the one which is first read in the Church’s lectionary beginning at the divine Liturgy on Easter night.

 

The gospel of Saint John begins with its famous prologue which identifies Jesus of Nazareth with the divine Word of God of the Old Testament, the Word of God Who was ‘in the beginning with God,’ Who ‘is God,’ the One through Whom ‘all things were made’ (1.1–3). This Word of God ‘became flesh,’ and as Jesus, the Son of God, He makes God known to men and grants to all who believe in Him the power of partaking of His own fulness of grace and truth and of becoming themselves ‘children of God’ (1.14ff).

 

From the first pages of this gospel, following the prologue, in the account of Jesus’ baptism and His calling of the apostles, Jesus is presented as God’s only begotten Son, the Messiah and the Lord. Throughout the gospel, He is identified as well, in various ways, with the God of the Old Testament, receiving the dd vine name of I AM together with the Yahweh of Moses and the prophets and psalms.

 

The gospel of Saint John, following the prologue, may be divided into two main parts. The first part is the so-called book of ‘signs’ [which we studied in our 2016 Summer Bible Study], the record of a number of Jesus’ miracles with detailed ‘commentary’ about their significance in signifying Him as Messiah and Lord (2–11). Because the “signs” all have a deeply spiritual and sacramental significance for believers in Christ, with almost all of them dealing with water, wine, bread, light, the salvation of the nations, the separation from the synagogue, the forgiveness of sins, the healing of infirmities and the resurrection of the dead, it is sometimes thought that the gospel of Saint John was expressly written as a ‘theological gospel’ for those who were newly initiated into the life of the Church through the sacramental mysteries of baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the eucharist. In any case, because of the contents of the book of ‘signs,’ as well as the long discourses of Christ about His relationship to God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the members of His faithful flock, in the latter part of the gospel, the apostle and evangelist John has traditionally been honored in the Church with the title of The Theologian.

 

The latter half of Saint John’s gospel concerns the passion of Christ and its meaning for the world (11–21). Here most explicitly, in long discourses coming from the mouth of the Lord Himself, the doctrines of Christ’s person and work are most deeply explained. As we have just mentioned, here Christ relates Himself to God the Father, to the Holy Spirit and to His community of believers in clear and certain terms. He is one with God, Who as Father is greater than He, Whose words He speaks, Whose works He accomplishes and Whose will He performs. And through the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father to bear witness to Him in the world, He remains abiding forever in those who are His through their faith and co-service of God.

 

From ‘The Orthodox Faith’, by Fr Thomas Hopko

Online Version at OCA.org

 


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