Category Archives: icons

There is no lesson plan for it.

The desire to be beautiful seems to be common to mankind, but the very atmosphere of this age is toxic with something that feeds a disease, making us obsessed with our image. One part of the toxic mix is the overwhelming abundance of pictures of faces and bodies in magazines and on every electronic device, forming a kind of lesson plan on How to Look. I was happy for a respite this morning when I read St. Nikolai’s homily for the day in The Prologue of Ohrid.

HOMILY
on the beauty of Christ above all other beauty
Thou art fairer than the sons of men (Psalm 45:2).
 

Holy Scripture does not ascribe any particular value to physical beauty, and in general to anything transient. That is why everyone who reads Holy Scripture should take care to be sufficiently attentive and wise to transfer the praise of physical beauty to the soul and to spiritual values. Without a doubt, spiritual beauty gives a wondrous attractiveness to the most unattractive body, just as an ugly soul makes even the most attractive body repulsive. The Prophet David, pouring forth good words (Psalm 45:1), says to his King, the Lord Jesus Christ: Thou art fairer than the sons of men. 

The Lord Himself created His bodily cloak as He wanted. Had He wanted to appear in the world as the physically fairest of men, He could have done so. But there is nothing in the Gospel to indicate that He drew followers to Himself or influenced men by His appearance. He Himself said: the flesh profiteth nothing (John 6:63). Therefore, it is clear that David was not speaking of the physical beauty of Christ, but of His spiritual, divine beauty. This is clearly seen in the following words of the Psalmist: Grace is poured forth upon thy lips (Psalm 45:2). So it is that the unsurpassed beauty of the Son of God is not in the form and shape of His lips, but rather in the stream of grace that flows from His mouth. 

Again, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of Christ: He had no form or comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him (Isaiah 53:2-3). Do Isaiah and David agree? Perfectly well. David speaks of Christ’s inward beauty, and Isaiah speaks of Christ’s external abasement. Isaiah said that He would not be seen as a king or a rich man, but as a servant and sufferer.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou art fairer to us than all men and angels: glory to Thine immortal and unending beauty. O gracious Lord, correct the ugliness of our souls, which are disfigured by sin, we pray Thee.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

From the archives

Powers at work.

The Beheading of John the Baptist

From Mark 6:

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Now King Herod heard of Him [Jesus], for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.”
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Others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.”
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But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!”
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For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her.
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Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
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Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not;
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for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.
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Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee.
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And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.”
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He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
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So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!”
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Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
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And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her.
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Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison,
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brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.
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When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.
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Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught.

The Sunshine that ripens all.

PRAYER for DISCERNMENT

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, who didst lead the people of Israel in a land unknown, a land of drought and deep darkness, a land none may pass through or dwell in: do thou, the same Lord, lead me all the days of my life, giving me to discern the times and their signs, and to redeem time’s passage – for the days are evil – guiding me in the way that I should go, that I may ever say: I love thee, O Lord, for thou hast heard the voice of my supplication from my mother’s womb, yea, from all eternity, and thou art the Way and the Truth, and  the Resurrection and the Life, the Sunshine that ripens all who live and repose in thee, the Peace of God, and also our Peace with him: always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

From Orthodox Christian Prayers

Christ Pantocrator, Decani Monastery, Serbia, 14th century.