Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Holy Canons as Guide Posts

Today’s Gospel Reading: Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-5 - At that time, Jesus was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  And the Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?"  And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?"  And he said to them, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath." Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.  And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come here."  And he said to them, "Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?"  But they were silent.  And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch it out," and his hand was restored.
The religious elite were always out to trap Jesus in breaking the Law, but the Author of the Law can never break His own Law. The reason they were not successful was because they never fully understood the Law in the first place. For many of the elite the Law represented chains and oppression rather than freedom and grace.

I often find the same true of Orthodox Christians. The rules of the Church, what we call the Holy Canons, are meant to free us and bestow grace in and through our lives. They are meant to lead us to a Christ-filled life, and away from the fleshly life. Naturally if we prefer the flesh, we will consider the Holy Canons as limiting and oppressive, especially living in a so-called free society. HOWEVER...if we seek the Lord, we will appreciate the Holy Canons as guide posts (a better translation of Canon than rule) in our journey to Christ.

Whether the Holy Canons require fasting or forbid fasting, it is to guide our proper understanding of fasting and the proper place it has in our salvation journey. Whether the Holy Canons forbid or allow Holy Communion, it is to inspire our soul to desire communion with God rather than the world. The religious elite of Jesus’ time could not understand the difference, I pray we are able.

No comments: