Thursday, June 3, 2010

ROMANS: An Orthodox Bible Study

Dear Parish Faithful,

Our annual Spring/Summer Bible Study will begin next Wednesday evening. We will begin with Vespers at 7:00 p.m. and the Study will follow at around 7:45 p.m. As announced, we will read, study and discuss the Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Romans.

This is St. Paul's longest, most challenging, and yet probably the richest of his epistles in terms of over-all content - theological, spiritual, and pastoral. This Epistle has shaped Protestantism more than any other New Testament book; but based upon a particular - if not peculiar - reading going back to Luther and Calvin. As Orthodox, we find this reading very one-sided and, at times, even misguided. The Church Fathers, beginning with St. John Chrysostom, read this Epistle differently. We will definitely address some of these issues involved in the interpretation of Romans. (Though, we will most certainly not complete the entire Epistle in one summer).

I will try and avoid the usual "exhortation" that amounts to an attempt to "talk" parishioners into attending the Bible Study. Whatever those attempts sound like on paper, they are not that effective in the long run. Parishioners are either interested or not interested in the Bible Study (does that mean the Bible itself?). Those who are interested find a way of attending, even if not that convenient; and those who are uninterested, find an excuse not to attend, no matter how weak that excuse may actually be. Somewhere in between, of course, are those parishioners who would like to attend the Bible Study, but cannot for legitimate reasons that can include unavoidable schedule conflicts to domestic responsibilities. Of course, others do not even think about it, indicating how remote and "off the radar screen" the very idea of a Bible Study is.

Therefore I would simply ask everyone to at least reflect for a moment:

+ How do I view and understand the Bible?

+ Have can I cultivated a "relationship" with the Holy Scriptures?

+ Do I read the Bible with any regularity?

+ How am I able to guard against a mere "personal interpretation" of what I read?

+ Have I ever discussed the content of the Bible with others in a group setting and with a leader/facilitator?

+ If not the parish Bible Study, then what kind of regularly-scheduled event would
I commit to during the summer months?

+ Why do I venerate St. Paul as a great saint?

+ Have I ever read his Epistle to the Romans?

+ Do I understand the Epistle readings on any given Sunday morning at the Liturgy?

+ If not, what can I do to help myself understand the Epistles better?

It is my humble opinion that most of those questions can be answered in a very positive way within the context of our Spring/Summer Bible Study.

If you take a look at the church calender, you will notice that we stopped reading from the BOOK OF ACTS on the Sunday of Pentecost. And since May 25, the readings on the calendar are appointed from the EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS. We will continue to read from this lengthy epistle until June 28, the eve of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. I will either directly speak of Romans in some of the upcoming homilies, or try and incorporate some of those readings in the homilies as the next few weeks unfold.

To summarize: The Spring/Summer Bible Study will begin next Wednesday evening, June 9 - the Lord willing. (For more information, go to our parish website...)

Fr. Steven

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