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The Original Orthodox Study Bible: A Review

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  • Christopher Orr
    *learning to unread, and to be re-written: Bl. Theophylact and the recapitulation of the mind vis-à-vis Holy Scripture. * ** *by The Ochlophobist* I was
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 5, 2007
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      *learning to unread, and to be re-written: Bl. Theophylact and the
      recapitulation of the mind vis-�-vis Holy Scripture. *
      *by The Ochlophobist*

      I was pleased to see several persons recommend *The Explanation by Blessed
      * in a recent thread<http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2007/10/30/reading-the-fathers/>dealing
      with "essential" patristic reading over at Fr.
      Stephen Freeman's blog <http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/>. One of the
      recommenders, the always brilliant writer who frequents the Ortho-web under
      the name Death Bredon, made the apt point that "Theophylact's Commentaries
      are perhaps the original Orthodox Study Bible, if not the ultimate." Indeed.

      Those who have been graced to read Bl. Theophylact's
      * in English are in debt to Fr. Christopher Stade, the translator of *The
      Explanation*, and the editor of Chrysostom
      which publishes the 4 volumes, one for each of the Gospels. Each volume is
      available in hardcover and softcover. Fr. Christopher is also the priest who
      (with the dedicated help of his parish) put on the excellent Chrysostom
      Celebration which I have recently written

      Bl. Theophylact was an eleventh century Byzantine of renowned erudition.
      Born on the island of Euboia, he would serve at Agia Sophia under the
      patriarch, become a noted preacher and rhetoritician, and even tutor the
      son-in-law of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus. In 1090 or so Bl. Theophylact
      became the Archbishop of Bulgaria, diligently serving the Church in Ochrid
      until his death a score of years later. It was during his time as Archbishop
      that Bl. Theophylact wrote his *Explanation*.

      Fr. Christopher in his Introduction to the series (found in the Matthew
      volume) provides an excellent summary of what Bl. Theophylact attempts in
      this work:

      The contents of Bl. Theophylact's *Explanation* are based entirely on the
      works of the great Fathers of the early Church, and above all, St. John
      Chrysostom. Bl. Theophylact employs to perfection the commentary form
      introduced by St. Photius the Great known as "links" or "series" (in Greek,
      *seirai*, in Latin, *catenae*). The inspiration behind this form of
      commentary is the Orthodox desire, and indeed, commandment, to guard and
      transmit to future generations the living apostolic tradition of the early
      Church. Therefore, later commentators and Fathers such as St. Photius and
      Bl. Theophylact, for each passage of Scripture under consideration, would
      gather together the explanations and interpretations of the early Fathers.
      The result is not simply the interpretation of one person, but an expression
      of the consensus of the mind of the Church, in short, what the Church has
      believed and taught "at all times and in all places."

      But Bl. Theophylact's *Explanation* does not at all read like a list of
      quotations. What is truly remarkable is that, although the work is wholly
      derivative from the tradition of the fathers, in it the reader hears but a
      single voice speaking clearly as a teacher to a disciple.

      My own formation in the reading of Scripture was a mix of Evangelical and
      liberal Protestant interpretive methods, which I would later come to
      recognize as strikingly similar. I went through something of an intellectual
      crisis in my twenties caused by the influence of various post-structuralist
      forms of criticism and my own horror that what they described as the
      normative relationship of a person to a text was exactly what I saw in both
      conservative and liberal readings of the Bible. If that was indeed the case,
      what relationship could scripture have to the truth? N.T. Wright helped me
      gain something of a confidence in Scripture again, but I think that I would
      still live with a fear in the back of my mind that there was a
      deconstructing strong man ready to jump out and undo Wright's interpretive
      method, if Wright were my source for biblical interpretation. And, in fact,
      this fear would have been a rational one, as all Protestant interpretive
      methods lead to their own dismantling eventually. We have seen this play out
      again and again. Even in conservative circles there is always some new
      historical "knowledge," some new textual analytical method, some new nuance
      or caveat, that will undermine how we get to point *x* even if we continue
      to hold that it must always be point *x* that we get to.

      Fortunately, I began to listen to homilies given by a master Orthodox
      homilist, a priest whose understanding of the scriptures carried a
      profundity that, in a sense, deconstructed my modern agendist sensibilities
      with regard to scripture. Fr. Jonathan opened up a whole new intellectual
      world to me, though I did not know it at the time. But the intellectual
      world he opened up was one which, as it were, brought me back to a world
      that was not all intellect. He taught one a way to live with words that was
      cruciform - obedient suffering for the sake of persons -- and recapitulative
      - not mere assent of abstract propositions or vague themes but the
      re-wording of my life in accordance with the *Logos*, writing my life over
      with the Name of Christ. So many times I would walk away from a sermon of
      Fr. Jonathan's and think "of course, how could I not have known this, why
      didn't anyone ever tell me?" My wife and I would sometimes be quite
      frustrated to learn things which upon learning them seemed essential to
      understanding Christ and the Gospel and which we had not been taught in
      years of Bible college and at a graduate school of theology. With Fr.
      Jonathan, the Scriptures corresponded to real human life and real human
      lives. He always seemed, without effort, to express the seamless garment of
      the Church's understanding of the holy fathers' understanding of the
      Apostles' understanding of Christ's understanding of the OT. I remember once
      Fr. Jonathan praying for my wife and I, then inquirers, to have discernment.
      We were in the basement of Holy Trinity Church on a cold Minnesota winter's
      night. As he prayed he made mention of several OT figures, mentioned how a
      certain aspect of their lives iconed Christ, and prayed that this icon would
      be written in our own lives. I thought after he finished praying, this is
      the bosom of Abraham, having that man pray for you. My wife was in tears. I
      don't think we said anything to each other on the ride home, having
      encountered a holiness the likes of which we were not prepared for (though
      that holiness, thanks be to God, was preparing us).

      It is frequently noted that there is a limited amount of Orthodox "biblical
      studies" material to be found. One has to be careful in saying this because
      anyone who reads the fathers knows that there is more Orthodox reading
      material on the Bible than one could possibly read in one lifetime. But
      there are few easily accessible, comprehensive with regard to a given book
      of the Bible (or the Gospels as a whole, etc.), scriptural commentaries that
      take us passage by passage through scripture and say, explicitly, "this is
      how the Church interprets this passage." Some find the desire for such works
      off-putting, as they are uncomfortable with anyone speaking with such
      authority. Others are perhaps a wee bit too trigger happy in their longing
      for such works, we do need to keep in mind the great degree of wisdom and
      prayerfulness required in order to rightly interpret scripture with the
      Church in the fashion so described. But, Orthodox know that this is
      precisely the duty of the bishops to teach us the meaning of the Holy
      Scriptures, as Christ taught the Apostles who taught the bishops who teach

      Bl. Theophylact is an Archbishop who engaged in such a work in a manner both
      catholic (as Orthodox understand catholicity) and rhetorically precise. His
      commentaries have been read, widely, by Orthodox (among them Byzantines,
      Serbs, Bulgarians, Rus, and Greeks) for nearly a millennium, during which
      time the Church has received and appropriated Bl. Theophylact's work as
      speaking the mind of the fathers with regard to the Scriptural texts. Now,
      thanks to the labors of Fr. Christopher Stade, the English speaking Orthodox
      world can also partake of this work, one which should inform our patristic
      nomenclature and intuition, as it has done so for many other Orthodox

      Bl. Theophylact's style is very straightforward, and Fr. Christopher's
      translation facilitates this well. The books are eminently readable. The
      prose is very smooth, so much so that you almost don't notice it. It avoids
      the agendism of those "contemporary translations" paraded about today, but
      at the same time it avoids the unfortunate linguistic false pieties which
      much more often than not don't work (I speak here of those who attempt to
      employ King's English when translating hagiographic and patristic texts, and
      just don't pull it off, leaving a rhetorical affectation which has nothing
      to do with the text at hand). Some of you will be pleased to learn that Fr.
      Christopher uses Sir
      quoting the
      *LXX*, *The Psalter According to the
      * for quoting the Psalms, and the KJV, "modified in a few places to reflect
      patristic Orthodox interpretation and usuage, and to avoid a few Elizabethan
      expressions which are at the greatest risk of being unintelligible to the
      contemporary reader." As far as I can tell with regard to Fr. Christopher's
      modifications of the KJV, they are not really noticeable, and certainly not
      distracting, to the Orthodox eye.

      Bl. Theophylact's method is to take a short passage (one to five verses)
      and, well, explain them, as the title suggests. This explanation is not raw
      didacticism or threaded proof texting or critical text analysis of the sort
      that you are used to if your background is similar to mine. Instead Bl.
      Theophylact takes the given words or actions of Jesus (and the other persons
      in the Gospel texts), and explains them in the sense that some holy one
      versed in Orthodox iconography explains to you the meaning of images within
      an icon. And this seems exactly right, as the actions and words of Jesus are
      iconic, not subject to the "natural" determinisms of the postlapsarian
      universe (hence the impotence of modern critical methods in finally
      understanding Christ), but rather actions and words which in all instances
      are the bringing about of the Kingdom, the showing of the Father, via Christ
      the perfect image of the Father, to mankind. It seems to me that Bl.
      Theophylact takes each action and word found in the Gospels and tells us how
      in this action and this word Christ is the icon of the Kingdom, the icon of
      God's will for man.

      We should note here that this particular type of work can be quite
      matter-of-fact, to the point in some places of being dry. For one thing,
      when one is considering such small portions of scripture at a time, there is
      often only but the obvious sense of the Scripture at hand. Bl. Theophylact
      states as much in these instances, and does so in a plain manner. There does
      not seem to be any attempt to excite or impress with sophisticated nuance.
      This can be very difficult for the modern, intellectual mind. We constantly
      want a new argument, or something which uncovers that not previously seen,
      or (if we are post-structuralists) an interpretive method open to endless
      numbers of meanings (so much so that there is no summative meaning, and thus
      our thirst for nihilism is pandered to). Bl. Theophylact does not play those
      games. His books are for mothers who worry about the salvation of their
      children, for the elderly who need to focus their repentance in the few
      years that remain, for young priests who need a sober and prudent formation
      in the understanding of the Gospels, and for intellectuals who need to be
      reminded not to love the spices more than the meat of the lamb. It is easy
      for someone like myself to especially love those Orthodox writings by
      contemporary Orthodox intellectuals who take a portion of Scripture and
      explain all sorts of historical, textual, linguistic, theological, and
      liturgical nuances. This is how the text was read was in this place at this
      time; this is the history of the text in Latin, Greek, Syriac; this is what
      this father and that father had to say concerning it; this is where it is
      quoted in the liturgy; this is its place in the theological debate and
      discussion, and so on and so forth. Such work is important, and when done
      well [read: Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon], very much edifying and beneficial.
      But, if you will allow your Ochlophobist to suggest something, there is a
      basic disposition before Scripture that is prior to all that. It is that of
      a child asking a father "what does this mean?" So often we moderns living in
      technocracies with the ubiquitous and constant presence of mass information
      want our minds, and our emotions, to be titillated. We Christians frequently
      come to Scripture and her interpreters with such lusts. I am more culpable
      than anyone else in this regard so please do not read this as a
      condemnation. **Bl. Theophylact, as* *a good Archbishop, is not in the
      business of titillation, he is about the business of telling Orthodox what
      they must do to be saved. Imagine going to a Holy Elder on Mt. Athos and
      asking him to explain to you the Gospel of St. John, verse by verse. In the
      miraculous event that you found such a father what do you think the
      experience would be like? Would every word he had to say blow your socks
      off? Would every word carry something utterly new and exciting? If such is
      the case you must be suffering from short term memory loss. No, there would
      be a mixture of sublime profundity and quotidian obviousness, of the
      infinity of God's mercy, and the very ordinary ways in which He saves us.
      You would find, if you were so blessed my dear reader, in the teaching of
      your holy father, the cadence of grace and truth. There are the mountains
      and the valleys (or hills and hallows as one ochlophobist might say), the
      highs and lows, the breadths and the narrownesses, but before all that, in
      fact in a sense even transcending all that, there is the holy smallness of
      this step, and then the next step, and the next, and the next, and the next,
      you fall down, you get up, and the next step, and the next, and the next.
      You will, if I may so be bold as to say such a thing being nothing more than
      the pettiest of sinners, be saved, finally, in your steps and not in your
      topography. God's saving movements are too still and too quiet to be found
      in ever broad terrains. God does not save you in your next horizon, He saves
      you in that place you are setting your foot. This has been the hardest
      teaching of Orthodoxy for me to accept, and I still kick against the goads.
      Bl. Theophylact's teaching of Scripture is the teaching of the cadence of
      graceful steps. He holds the hands of his spiritual children, and teaches
      them how to get the feel of the legs underneath them. His commentaries are
      meant to be bathed in, their genius is their wholeness, the consistent
      movement of grace whether ordinary or life-shattering; this is Baptism by
      immersion, and not by sprinkling.

      If you are going to purchase one volume of Bl. Theophylact's commentaries I
      would start with *The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to
      *, as the Gospel of the Theologian perhaps requires the most help in
      reading, and, we might surmise, grants the most mature of riches (I am
      speaking here to those who are already Orthodox, or catechumen under the
      care of a spiritual father). I will quote three catenae of Bl. Theophylact's
      *Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to John* which I believe are
      representative of his work.

      The first deals with the account of the woman at the well:

      Chapter Four: *28-30. The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way
      into the city, and saith to them men, Come, see a man, who told me all
      things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the
      city, and came unto Him.* The Lord's words kindled such zeal in her heart
      that she *left her water pot*, straightway choosing Christ's water over that
      of Jacob's well. Ordained to the rank of apostle by the faith taking hold of
      her heart, she teaches an entire city and draws it to Christ. *Come see a
      man*, she says, *who told me all things that I ever did*. Her soul aflame
      with divine fire, she disregards all earthly consequences, even shame and
      dishonor. Behold, she is not afraid to declare her sins: *See a man who told
      me all things that ever I did*. She could have spoken more guardedly, by
      saying, for instance, "Behold a prophet." Instead she disregards her own
      reputation and thinks only to proclaim the truth. Nevertheless, she does not
      state categorically, "This is the Christ," but rather, *Is not this
      [perhaps] the Christ?* making the truth easier for the others to accept and
      encouraging them to reach the same conclusion themselves. If she had
      insisted, "This is the Christ," they may have scoffer at her and rejected
      her proclamation out of hand as merely the opinion of a fallen woman.

      Now there are some who understand the five husbands of the woman to
      represent the five books of Moses, the only part of the Old Testament that
      she, as a Samaritan, accepted. They also interpret Christ's words, *He whom
      thou now hast*, to mean "The word which you have now received from Me *is
      not thy husband*," that is, "You have not yet been yoked to My teaching."
      The Samaritan woman may also be understood as a type of human nature, which
      formerly dwelt on a mountain, symbolizing the human mind originally filled
      with grace. Before he sinned, Adam was adorned with every divine gift, and
      was even a prophet. When he was raised from sleep he spoke prophetically of
      the fashioning of the woman and the husband's relationship to her: *This is
      now bone of my bones* [Gen. 2:23] and *Therefore shall a man leave his
      father and his mother*... [Gen.3:1]. Our nature, then was on this mountain;
      the human mind was exalted. But when it rebelled against God and
      transgressed, it was led away captive; and the devil, who had taken us
      prisoner, also took our nature's holy offspring, by which I mean all divine
      thoughts, and led them away to Babylon, that is, he subjected them to the
      confusion of this world. In their place the devil planted barbarous
      thoughts. These in turn were assailed by lions (symbolizing the noble
      thoughts which should exercise dominion over us) until these vile thoughts
      accepted divine truth. But they did not accept truth in its entirety, for
      the evil which had once settled on the mountain of our lofty mind was not
      altogether transformed into good: having accepted the law of Moses, it
      remained under the curse. Therefore Jesus journeyed to us, that is, He took
      many paths and employed many stratagems to bring us salvation - sometimes
      issuing threats and warnings, sometimes striking us with calamities,
      sometimes showering us with blessings, sometimes promising us good things to
      come. When He had grown weary from His journey and employing all the methods
      devised for our correction, He found the final means for our salvation;
      being well-pleased, He sat down and rested. What was the final method? The
      font of Baptism, by which He brought salvation to our nature, as He did to
      the Samaritan woman. This spring may rightly be called the well of Jacob,
      that is, the well of him who seized the heel of his brother Esau and
      supplanted him. For in the font of Baptism, where the Lord crushed the head
      of the dragon and gave him as food to the Ethiopian people, a man can trip
      up and vanquish the devil [see Ps. 73:15]. By the dragon, understand the
      devil, who is the food and joy of those whose souls are black and have no
      share in the divine light. Five "husbands" have been yoked to our nature,
      namely, the various laws which God gave her: to Adam in paradise, to Noah,
      to Abraham, to Moses, and lastly, to the prophets. For Noah received a
      commandment after the flood, and Abraham received the law of circumcision
      [see Gen. (;1-17; 17:1-4]. After our nature was wedded to these five laws,
      she took to herself a sixth, who was not her husband and whom she had not
      yet wedded - the law of the New Testament. But, by a different
      interpretation, one might also understand this sixth, which was not our
      nature's husband; instead, she joined herself to it as an adulteress.
      Therefore the prophet cries, *She hath committed adultery with wood*, and *They
      have fornicated under every tree* [Jer. 3:6,9], referring to the pagan
      carvings and trees which Judah and Israel worshipped. Man has fallen
      headlong to such depths of senselessness as to worship lovely trees like the
      cypress and the plane simply because they are beautiful. Therefore, when our
      nature loved and embraced this sixth law and succumbed to idolatry as an
      adulterer, the Lord came and delivered us. This is why He says, *he whom
      thou now hast*; for by the time of Christ's appearing the wisest even of the
      Jews had been tainted by paganism. Thus the Pharisees believed in fate and
      practiced astrology. The Samaritan woman also represents every soul which,
      being yoked irrationally to the five senses, afterwards falls into the
      fornication of heresy, erring grievously in doctrine. On such a soul Jesus
      bestows blessings, whether through Baptism or through the font of tears.
      Tears may likewise be called *Jacob's well*, for they spring from a mind in
      which repentance has supplanted wickedness. From this water of repentance
      the mind drinks, together with *his children* (his thoughts) *and his cattle
      * (the powers of the soul, such as anger and desire, not endowed with
      reason). For tears bring refreshment to the soul, its thoughts, and its

      The second selection I have chosen is from the end of chapter twelve of
      John, that great chapter in which we see both Greek and Jew responding to
      Christ, and in which He says in the middle of a chapter in which He speaks
      rather directly of His death, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will
      draw all men unto me." Here Christ speaks of His relationship to the Father:

      Chapter Twelve: *48-50.** **He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My
      words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same
      shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of Myself; but the
      Father Who sent Me, He have Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I
      should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting:
      whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I
      speak.*"I judge no one," Jesus explains, "but there is
      *one that judgeth* the man who refuses to believe." We sometimes put it
      similarly when we are about to discipline an unruly child: "You had your
      instructions and chose to ignore them. Nobody forced you to do so. You are a
      wilful child: your own disobedience punishes you, not I." "Not I," the Lord
      is saying, "*but the word that I have spoken*... *shall judge* you. And why
      did these people not believe? Am I God's adversary? Do I crave glory for
      Myself? But how can that be, when *I have not spoken of Myself*? Everything
      I have said is from my Father. I have proclaimed nothing of My own. *But the
      Father Who sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I
      should speak*."

      What profound humility there is in these words! Only a person completely
      lacking in judgment would say here, "How was it, Lord, that before the
      Father sent You and gave You this commandment, You did not know what to
      teach? How was it You knew nothing about this commandment of *life
      everlasting*, nor about eternal life itself? If all this were true, how
      could You say earlier, *I am ... the life* [Jn. 11:25; 14:6]?" Let us be
      astute and avoid absurd interpretations of Scripture. We should realize that
      the Lord is condescending to the weak understanding of His listeners. His
      main purpose is to make it clear that He thinks and speaks nothing that is
      opposed to the Father. "Like an envoy who speaks strictly in accordance with
      his instructions, so I think and teach nothing other than what the Father
      has decreed." And He continues, "*Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the
      Father said unto Me, so I speak*. I teach nothing except what the Father has
      instructed Me; so what excuse can these unbelievers possibly have?"
      Doubtless, they will be condemned for refusing to believe the Father.
      Therefore, O right-believing Orthodox Christian, understand that Christ's
      humble words about the commandment He has received - if we interpret them
      wisely - do not demean the Savior's divinity. The Word [*Logos*], that is,
      the Son, reveals everything that is in the Mind [*Nous*], that is, the
      Father. The Son declares that He has received a commandment as to what He
      should say and speak. Our own word [logos] does the same, provided we speak
      truthfully: it declares what our mind commands us to say. For our word and
      mind are of one essence, as are the Son and the Father.

      Consider at last this passage from the explanation of St. John chapter
      fifteen, which speaks of relationships concerning love, obedience, and

      Chapter Fifteen: *9-10. As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you:
      abide ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love;
      even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.* Urging
      the disciples to be of good courage, Christ says, "I have loved you as the
      Father has loved Me." Then He warns them about a common human weakness:
      laziness. "Having learned that I love you, you must not relax. Whether or
      not you *abide... in My love* depends on your own effort. You must strive to
      love Me continually." Then He teaches them how to do this: by keeping His
      commandments. Constantly stressing this theme, the Lord emphasizes that they
      will be safe only by leading a pure life. Then He adds, *Even as I have kept
      My Father's commandments, and abide in His love*. Understand that this
      statement is a condescension to the weakness of His listeners. It is absurd
      to imagine that the lawgiver of the universe is Himself subject to any law,
      and that without His Father's commandments He cannot conduct His own affairs
      properly. The Lord is only speaking thus to console the disciples. When He
      told them first, "I love you," and then "You will suffer tribulations," the
      disciples might very well have been dismayed, thinking His love did them no
      good. So He reassures them: "Do not be distressed. The Father loves Me, yet
      He hands Me over to My enemies to suffer for the sake of the whole world.
      The fact that He allows me to suffer does not mean that His love for Me is
      any less. Neither does the fact that you will suffer tribulations mean that
      My love for you is any less."

      It is a difficult, even violent work, to be lifted from the confusion of
      this world to which we are subjected by our embrace of the evil one's lies,
      and instead of this to interpret wisely the icon of the Son's divinity, thus
      avoiding the absurdities which so often leave us with bereft minds, finally
      acknowledging that His love is most fully revealed to us in His obedient
      suffering, and that this is the pattern of all truth. This pattern is that
      pattern that Bl. Theophylact, the holy Archbishop whose spiritual children
      now number as the sand of the sea, seeks to inculcate in his readers. The
      revered Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, whose books *On the Prayer of
      * and *The Arena<http://www.amazon.com/Arena-Offering-Contemporary-Monasticism/dp/B000PBPK72/ref=sr_1_5/103-9399908-7258213?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1194132461&sr=1-5>
      * have blessed many Orthodox, had this to say of this work:

      While reading the evangelists, the novice should also read The Herald [as
      the Explanation is called in the Russian translation], that is the
      explanation of the Gospel by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria.
      The reading of The Herald is indispensable. It is an aid to the right
      understanding of the Gospel and consequently to the most exact practice of
      it. Moreover, the rules of the Church require that Scripture should be
      understood as the holy Fathers explain it, and not at all arbitrarily. By
      being guided in our understanding of the Gospel by the explanation of the
      holy Fathers, we keep the tradition of the Holy Church.

      I suppose that many American Orthodox would rightly be considered novices
      with regard to having an Orthodox intuition of the meaning of the
      Scriptures; such is certainly the case with your Ochlophobist. As you can
      see from the quotations above, a reasonably literate Orthodox junior high
      age reader could follow Bl. Theophylact's prose. It is not difficult to
      read, though it requires attention. It is an invaluable help in the
      development of the right intuition with regard to the Scriptures, which is
      to say the development of an ear which hears with right understanding (and
      can sense that something is "off" upon hearing wrong understandings) and
      allows the cadence of right understanding to develop into the rhythm of
      right practice.

      In the first quote of Bl Theophylact above, we read, "The Samaritan woman
      also represents every soul which, being yoked irrationally to the five
      senses, afterwards falls into the fornication of heresy, erring grievously
      in doctrine." Many of you come from theological backgrounds similar to my
      own, which employ some sort of natural theology when seeking to understand
      the Scriptures, dogma, worship, and the other essential components of the
      Christian faith. Thus we are used to "being yoked irrationally to the five
      senses" by way of the social sciences, flashy commercialisms, mass
      emotionalisms, some historical or textual critical method, or various sorts
      of empiricisms (popular or academic), these being the lenses through we
      "discern" God's revelation to us. Thus we knew "the fornication of heresy,
      erring grievously in doctrine." Bl. Theophylact's work helps us to chasten
      our minds again, unreading the old irrationalities and learning to re-write
      proper patterns of discernment in our minds.

      I highly recommend Bl. Theophylact's Explanations. These are reference books
      which should be in every Orthodox home. If your parish bookstore does not
      have copies available, please ask that they be made available there. The
      format Bl. Theophylact uses works perfectly if you simply want to look up
      the Gospel reading for the day and find a straightforward, easily accessible
      patristic reflection on it. It is also one of the very best ways to read
      through a Gospel book being guided by the mind of the Church. In doing so,
      you will be formed by the words of a saint who has formed Orthodox thinking
      on the Scriptures for almost a thousand years, passing on to these many
      generations basic patristic exegesis. If you have older children you might
      find this work very suitable for family devotional reading. I know that Bl.
      Theophylact will be required reading in my household. If you are of limited
      means, or if you would like to try one volume before committing to all four,
      then as I stated, I would start with the Explanation of The Holy Gospel
      According to John. If you are like me, there are certain books which become
      almost like friends over time, and as Orthodox we know that we can indeed
      develop a real friendship with the holy writers of the texts of our
      Tradition. This is one of those works which will make you such a friend.
      Holy Blessed Theophylact, pray to God for us.

      From Chapter Ten, the Explanation of verses 22-26, which describes the
      winter feast of the dedication in Jerusalem, when Jesus was questioned in
      Solomon's porch in the temple:

      �.Although in the present life you are buffeted by wintry storms stirred up
      by evil spirits, use this season to renew continually the temple of your
      soul and to make ascents in your heart [see Ps. 83:6]. As your co-worker,
      Christ will be present with you *in Solomon's porch*. He will shelter you
      with His protection and give you peace from the passions, for He is your *
      Solomon*, which means "peacemaker." As the Prophet David says, he who abides
      in the shelter of Christ the peacemaker has the Lord as his co-worker in
      renewing his soul [see Ps. 90:1]. If this work takes place in *winter*,
      meaning in this life, then spring is the age to come, when everything dead
      and deadened springs to life. Then it will be too late to undertake the
      labor of renewing one's soul. The time for that is now.


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