May 27 – June 3, 2022

Friday, May 27

Ephesians 2.11-18: For Paul the universal reconciliation of all things in Christ is not a theory about history. He sees it being visibly worked out already in the actual events of history. The first fruits of this universal reconciliation can already be observed in the founding of the Church, because the Church herself is founded on a specific act of divine reconciliation—namely, the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles in one community. This unexpected and improbable reconciliation, which was already being enacted in Paul’s own lifetime, was the beginning of a more universal, even cosmic reconciliation of all things in Christ. Therefore, correctly to understand God’s final purpose in history, the key is to grasp this reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in the one body of the Church. We may remark on three aspects of this reconciliation.

The source of this reconciliation is the Cross, where the death of God’s Son neutralized the difference between Gentile and Jew. Christ Himself, after all, “is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the Cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”

This Law, given on Mount Sinai, was what separated Jew and Gentile, but in His death on the Cross “abolished” that wall of separation. By reconciling all men equally to God on the Cross, Christ reconciled them to one another. So, says, Paul, “through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”

Ezekiel 42: This chapter of Ezekiel elaborately describes the temple area enclosed by a wall that made “a separation between the holy and the common” (42:20). In Holy Scripture there is a strong sense of sacred space, a consecrated area devoted solely to sacred worship. Indeed, the Greek verb meaning to “divide” (temno) provides the root of our word “temple,” designating a special space set apart or “divided” for sacred worship. (The same verbal root gives us such English words as “time” and “temporal.” Just as space is “divided,” so is time.)

The original type of such space was the area adjacent to the Burning Bush, which Moses could not enter without removing his shoes. (Observe that in Ezekiel 42:14, the priests were required to change their clothing when they entered or left the temple. Secular clothing was inappropriate within the sacred space, and liturgical clothing was inappropriate outside of it.)

When Moses later received the Law, all of Mount Sinai became sacred space, off-limits except to those designated to approach the Divine Presence. In varying gradations, all the space of the temple was consecrated and, therefore, off-limits except to those designated for entrance. Most sacred of all was the Holy of Holies, which only the high priest could enter, nor could even he enter it except on the holiest day of the year (the divided and thereby consecrated “time”), which was the Day of the Atonement.

Here on earth, all consecrations of space are reflections of heaven itself, that tabernacle not made with hands, where our own Forerunner and High Priest has entered once and for all, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Saturday, May 28

John 14.25-31: When the Holy Spirit comes, says our Lord, he will work chiefly on the memory of the Church: “But?the Counselor (Parakletos), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will?send in My name,?he will teach you all things and remind you (hypomnesei humas) of all things that I said to you.” To be reminded means to have our minds renewed; this is what the Holy Spirit constantly does to mind of the Church.

An early expression of this remembrance was the composition of the gospels themselves. Almost in passing, some Christians commented on this feature early in the second century. In our first extant reference to the gospels, Papias of Hierapolis observed that the Evangelist Mark, “having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatever he remembered of the things said or done by?Christ.” A few years later Justin Martyr described the gospels as memoirs composed by the Apostles.

A memoir is the thoughtful wisdom of maturity. If a memoirist is worth reading, it is usually the case that his understanding of the remembered truth has been deepened and enhanced during the subsequent passage of time and through the repetition of riper and wiser recollections. The memoirist not only remembers; he has already remembered many times. Indeed, he remembers his memories. All this we have in the gospels, inspired by this same Holy Spirit.

Ezekiel 43: God’s glory, which Ezekiel had seen depart eastward from the temple in 11:23, now returns from the same direction. This glory of God, witness by the prophet, was revealed in a great luminosity, in reference to which we are surely correct in thinking of the bright cloud of fire that led Israel through the Red Sea and the Sinai desert. This same divine luminosity adorned the face of Christ our Lord at His Transfiguration and is an image of divine revelation itself (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6).

When the divine glory returns to the temple, it is accompanied, Ezekiel tells us, by all the mystic images that he originally saw at the time of his calling, at the beginning of this book. In verse 10 he is commissioned to write a description of all that he sees, and there immediately follows an account of the altar (verses 13-17) and its construction and consecration (verses 18-27).

One is particularly struck by the detail that this new altar must be ascended by stairs, a feature expressly prohibited in Exodus 20:25-26.

Sunday, May 29

Acts 1.15-26: Just as Zachariah is designated by lot to offer the incense at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, Matthias is chosen by lot to be numbered among the Apostles at the beginning of Acts (1:24–26). This juxtaposition was detected by St. Ambrose, who thus commented on the choice of Zacharias

by speaking of the choice of Matthias: “So the lot fell on the apostle

Matthias, lest the choice of an apostle should seem to diverge from the

command of the Old Law.”

Before their casting of lots, the brethren narrowed their selection to a choice between two men with identical qualifications. Matthias and Joseph Barsabbas both met the technical requirements for being numbered with the original Apostles (1:21–23).

God’s preference of Matthias, nonetheless, implied no censure of the other man. Joseph Barsabbas was not chosen for that particular apostolate, but there was no implied criticism of him. All through Holy Scripture, indeed, God continually chooses some individuals over others with a view to the divine purposes in history. While each of those choices necessarily implies a rejection of sorts, such rejections are not necessarily condemnations nor repudiations.

Ezekiel 44: The first three verses of this chapter testify to the special holiness of the temple’s east gate, consecrated by the entrance of God’s glory through it. This gate must remain sealed forever. Because God Himself has used this gate, the prophet is told, no one else may do so. Even the prince, who may approach the gate from the vestibule to the west of it, may not pass through the gate itself, though he is permitted to eat certain consecrated foods while within the gateway.

This account of the consecration of the temple’s eastern gate, by reason of God’s having entered it, is read at Vespers on most feast days of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Eastern Orthodox Church, which interprets the text as an image prophetic of Mary’s perpetual virginity. According to this interpretation, her very body, because God’s Word used it as His entrance into this world by means of the Incarnation, was consecrated in an exclusive way; if this was the case with respect to the divine cloud of God’s glory in the Old Testament, how much more with respect to God’s definitive entry into human life by Incarnation. After His passage through it, the door of His entrance, because it was definitively consecrated, must remain forever shut. (Mary’s perpetual virginity, unquestioned for centuries and considered defined dogma by most Christians throughout the world, was consistently defended by the Protestant Reformers. The sustained denial of it is not a product of Protestantism, but of modern secularism that has no sense of physical consecration.)

The rest of this chapter deals with the consecration of the priests and Levites. Himself a member of the priestly family, Ezekiel habitually shows special concern for the distinction between holy and profane, as we see here in verses 17-27.

Monday, May 30

John 15.1-8: The organic source of the Christian life is to “abide” in Christ, to be attached to Christ as a branch is attached to the vine stock and draws its life from the vine stock. This living attachment to Christ comes through faith and love.

In this image of the vine and its branches, John’s teaching closely resembles that of the Apostle Paul, who writes of Christians as the “members” of Christ’s own body. To be “in Christ” is an idea found two hundred and sixteen times in the Pauline corpus.

In both John and Paul, being “in Christ” is not just a subjective experience; it is closely related to the Sacraments. In John, for instance, Jesus declares, “he that eats my flesh and drinks my blood?abides in me, and I in him.?As the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on me will live because of me” (6.56-57).

Ezekiel 45: The first eight verses of this chapter treat of particular dispositions of real estate in Jerusalem: for the holy place, for the priests and Levites, and for the people and the prince. The disposition of the land is arranged in relation to the temple, with the property of the priests around it, and the real estate of the prince and the citizens out beyond that of the priests. The arrangement of the land in and around Jerusalem thus reflects the structure of society, with God at the center, then His ministers, and then the civic order.

The thought of Ezekiel envisions, then, the restoration of theocracy. His vision is entirely ideal, because even from the perspectives of demography and topography, Ezekiel’s purely symmetric arrangement would be impossible to implement on actual real estate on earth. Nonetheless, this same passion for precision must be applied to proper measurements and currency (verses 10-12), and to appropriate offerings to be brought for the various public sacrifices (verses 13-25). In offering these gifts, the people shall act through their prince (verses 16-17).

Tuesday, May 31

Ephesians 4.1-16: This text speaks of the unity of the Church by a sevenfold use of the word “one”:

(1) one body and

(2) one Spirit, just as you were called in

(3) one hope of your calling;

(4) one Lord,

(5) one faith,

(6) one baptism;

(7) one God and Father of all.

This combination of the word “one” with the number “seven” is significant, because in the Bible “seven” is the number of fullness and perfection. This text points, then, to the perfection of unity that must obtain in the Church of Jesus Christ. This is what Paul refers to here as “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

This perfection of unity, “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” is a gift of God, but the full context of the reference shows that considerable human effort is required for its maintenance. Thus St. Paul describes Christians as “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Ezekiel 46: In this chapter the interest goes from sacred space to sacred time. The west gate of the temple’s inner court, the gate facing east, is to remain closed on ordinary workdays, but the Sabbath and the monthly feast day (“the new moon”) are to be marked by the gate’s opening (verse 1).

The civil authority (“the prince”) will regularly consecrate the life of the nation by appearing reverently at that gate on those appointed days to present a special sacrifice (verses 2,8). The gate will also be opened for the prince whenever devotion prompts him to make an additional offering (verse 12). The prince shall also see to it that regular offerings are made, twice daily, at morning and at evening.

The prayers designated for those two times of daily sacrifice became a standard component of Jewish piety and eventually passed into Christian discipline as the “canonical hours” of Matins and Vespers; this explains the language about sacrifice found in the traditional texts of those two daily services of prayer.

Verse 18 indicates a return to the ancient Mosaic mandate keeping inherited real estate within family ownership (cf. Leviticus 25:10-17).

Wednesday, June 1

John 16.1-16: Once again the Holy Spirit is called a “counselor” (parakletos. In the present text, this term, “counselor,” is understood in a forensic sense; in the courtroom the counselor is someone who pleads in defense of the accused person.

This is the sense of the word in the present context. The Holy Spirit, when he comes to the Church, provides the testimony of the accused. John’s thought here puts the reader in mind of a dominical logion in the Synoptic Gospels: “And when they arrest you and hand you over, be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13.11; cf Matthew 10.19; Luke 12.11).

Indeed, the Holy Spirit will go further. This divine Parakletos will turn the tables on the accusers themselves; “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

Ezekiel 47: A secret spring, flowing from the holy place, sends fresh waters eastward, and Ezekiel is taken outside to see the growing stream. Since the eastern gate of the temple is forever locked and the southern gate lies in the area of the flooding water, he exits the temple by the north gate. The river deepens as it goes along through the Judean desert until it reaches the Dead Sea (verse 8). This stagnant pool is refreshed by the new living water flowing from the temple, so that fish can live in it and trees grow on its banks.

This is the living water of which Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman in John 4. This is the stream of Genesis 2:10-14 and Revelation 22:1-2. It is the living water of Pentecost. This living stream, flowing from God’s glory in the temple, is the life-giving water of Baptism.

The rest of this chapter (verses 13-23) contains a detailed geographical outline of the Promised Land, which prepares for the distribution among the twelve tribes in the next chapter.

One observes in this section (verse 22) an attitude toward non-Israelites far more positive than the attitude in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which narrate Israel’s actual return to the Promised Land.

Thursday, June 2

Ephesians 4.25—5.7: As we prepare for the coming of the Parakletos, the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul warns us that this divine gift may be wasted; he cautions us not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

The seal signifies God’s ongoing protection of those who belong to Him. This is the meaning it has several times in the Book of Revelation. It corresponds to the sprinkling of the blood of the lamb on the lintels and doorposts of Israel, their protection from the avenging angel who pays a midnight visit to the households of Egypt.

This seal of the Holy Spirit is not magic. Like any seal, it can be violated. This is the burden of Paul’s warning.

Ezekiel 48: This highly schematic distribution of the Holy Land (into long narrow strips running east/west) is marked by several features: First, it is based on the disposition of the temple and adjoining areas as described in Chapter 45. Second, it is completely theoretical, inasmuch as the majority of the twelve tribes of Israel no longer existed as such; most of the ten tribes deported by the Assyrians in 722 had long been assimilated into the peoples of Mesopotamia. Third, the division of the land differs very significantly from the ancient division from the time of Joshua. If the tribes of Gad and Zebulon had somehow managed to return, they would have been very surprised to find themselves living in the Negev Desert (verses 26-27) instead of the fertile fields of Galilee!

In short, there are considerable difficulties attendant on interpreting this chapter of Ezekiel as a literal description of Israel’s return to the Holy Land in 538. Like the mystical waters of the previous chapter, this geographical disposition should be interpreted in the light of New Testament ecclesiology, the twelve tribes representing the whole people of God, which is the Church of Jesus Christ.

These twelve tribes will each be honored with a gate entering the new Jerusalem (48:30-35; cf. Revelation 21:12). Instead of Yerushalaim (Jerusalem), the city will be called Adonaishammah (“the Lord is there”). This is a prophecy of God’s New Testament Church, on which the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost.

Friday, June 3

Ephesians 5.8-21: The life in Christ is both fruitful and wise.

With respect to being “fruitful,” a few days ago we read, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).

Bearing fruit is important because some Christians imagine that they will be judged by their roots, not by their fruits. To Christians such as these we say, with John the Baptist, “bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt 2:9).

What shall we say to those who imagine that God will judge them by their roots? We will say, again with John the Baptist, “even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt 3:10).

These are the fruits that come from union with Christ. This is the union of which Jesus says,

The present text partially describes this fruit: “for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” A more ample list is available in Galatians 5: “the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Second, the life in Christ is wise. That is to say, it is a life characterized by discernment. Paul writes in this text, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,”

The Apostle here contrasts the wise man with the fool, a contrast elaborated at great length in the Wisdom books of the Bible. In the Book of Proverbs the wise man is described as circumspect, honest, industrious, obedient, vigilant, cautious, and self-controlled. He is contrasted with the fool, who is described as mentally lazy, dishonest, slothful, rebellious, imprudent, and undisciplined. These are the qualities that Paul mentions in the present text as “the unfruitful works of darkness.”

Wisdom is a quality of the mind and heart. It is the highest form of understanding. That is to say, wisdom is a quality of the mind, that which the Greeks called the nous and the Latins called the intellectus. Wisdom is a high quality of thought, and those who avoid thinking will never become wise. God is to be loved “with the whole mind.” There is no fruitful life in Christ without the use of the mind. Therefore Paul says in the present text, “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. . . do not be unwise but understand.”