CHRIST THE GOOD SHEPHERD

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.

CHRIST THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Psalm 22 [23]

THE LORD is my shepherd I
shall not want.
He makes me lie down in
green pastures;
He leads me beside the
still waters.
He restores my soul,.."

In the Gospel of Saint John 10:11-16)

THE LORD SAID: "I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD and I know My sheep and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so, I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock, and ONE SHEPHERD."

The 23rd Psalm is one of 150 psalms taken from the Book of PSALMS. The psalms are the hymnbook of Israel, and now of the Christian Church. The Book of Psalms is used in the Orthodox Church in the daily cycle of prayers, i.e., morning prayers, evening prayers, and the prayers of the hours. Also, weekly at Orthros (matins) and Esperinos (Vespers) divine services. Furthermore, in the observance of the Church year, the liturgical tradition selects particular psalms or verses for special feasts.

The holy psalms are not only religious literature but especially help make more steadfast the faith of the Orthodox Christian believer who uses them for his or her edification and inspiration.

Psalm 22 [23] relates clearly that our Beloved Lord and Creator is the Almighty and the Shepherd and loving Father. It reveals a personal connection, a personal relationship felt within the heart of the believer.

The devoted people at the era of David the King, the occupation of a shepherd was commonplace, felt that the life of the shepherd was a common human experience. One senses the tenderness, trust, and love between the shepherd and the sheep. Prophet Ezekiel described the covenant between God and man, a covenant in the person of a Messiah, saying "I will set over them one shepherd" (Ezekiel 34:23).

"Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I AM THE DOOR. IF ANYONE ENTERS BY ME, HE WILL BE SAVED AND WILL GO IN AND OUT AND FIND PASTURE. The thief does not come except TO STEAL, AND TO KILL, AND TO DESTROY. I have come that THEY MAY HAVE LIFE, AND THAT THEY MAY HAVE IT MORE ABUNDANTLY." (John 10: 7-10),

This Parable of salvation (σωτηρία) uses the symbolism of the shepherd and his flock. Jesus Christ is the Divine Shepherd Who always is guarding the entrance. No one can enter except by way of Him. The "thief" is none other than the evil one the devil whose is aim is to steal, kill and destroy the souls of the gullible, naive, and trusting Christians who are easily deceived by this enemy of man.

Saint John Chrysostom in his commentary writes: "With good cause, he calls the Scriptures ‘A DOOR,’ for they bring us to God, and open to us the knowledge of God… For Scriptures, like some sure door, bars the passage against the heretics …NOT allowing us in, those who are not of the shepherd …When He brings us to the Father, He calls Himself ‘the Door,’ when He takes care of us, ‘the Shepherd’… to show that He will lead ALL MEN TO THE TRUTH …In that same way when He sent the sheep, He sent them, not out of the way of wolves, but ‘in the midst of wolves’ (Matthew 10:16) …The blind man …He ‘led out’ from the midst of the Jews, and the man heard ‘His voice’ and knew; it." (Homily LIX on John IX, 2, 3)

Saint Theophylact writes: "The thief does not enter in ‘BY THE DOOR" — meaning, by the Scriptures — for neither the Scriptures nor the Prophets support his actions. The Scriptures ARE INDEED A DOOR LEADING TO GOD: THEY DENY ENTRY TO WOLVES AND HERETICS; THEY KEEP US SAFE; THEY COMMUNICATE WHATEVER GOOD THING WE MAY DESIRE TO LEARN."

The Shepherd, according to Saint Theophylact, "entereth in by the door of the Scriptures, and "to him the porter openeth." The PORTER refers to Moses, to whom God entrusted His Divine Commandments. Moses OPENED the door for the Lord by prophesying about Him. Christ, Himself declares, "Had ye blessed Moses ye would have believed Me, for He wrote of Me" (John 5:46). The Porter also REPRESENTS THE Holy Spirit, the Spirit of WISDOM, AND UNDERSTANDING. Who likewise opens the doors of Scripture TO REVEAL CHRIST OUR Shepherd [Fulfillling the prophecies of the Old Testament] the Lord ENTERS THE SHEEPFOLD AND ASSUMES CARE OF US; "AND THE SHEEP HEAR HIS VOICE."

I love this sweet Parable of Our Lord. Especially when He speaks about the lost sheep in Matthew 18:12-13. "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doe he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that IS ASTRAY? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, HE REJOICES MOREOVER THAT SHEEP THAN OVER THE NINETY-NINE THAT DID NOT GO ASTRAY."

What is revealed in this Parable are God’s unconditional love and His mercy for each SOUL who goes astray or loses his way. God’s love is infinite for His children and would seek even the "ONE THAT IS STRAYING." I love the holy icons that depict Our Lord Jesus Christ as The Good Shepherd and the lost lamb (soul) around His neck. The holy icon of The Good Shepherd to all Orthodox Christian believers of God’s determination and compassion TO SAVE ALL OF HIS CHILDREN EVEN WHEN THEY GO ASTRAY AND LOSE THEIR WAY.

The Orthodox Priest is not only a litourgos or someone who conducts the religious services and Mysteria of the Church but also a shepherd. A spiritual shepherd who constantly protects, guides, and nourishes the faithful, the sheep, the souls entrusted to his care by our Almighty God. He does it for no other reason than that of agape. The Orthodox Priest is responsible directly and only to Him, Our Savior Jesus Christ, for the souls of his flock. Symbolically, it is believed, the tassels or fringe at the bottom of his Stole or Epitrachelion, signifies, first, the yoke or burden of his Priestly Office as a shepherd and, second, the grace of the Holy Spirit which flows down upon the officiating Priest. While putting the Stole on recites these sublime words: "Blessed is God, Who pours His Grace upon His priests; it is as ointment on the head, that ran down to the beard, even the beard of Aaron; that rand down to THE FRINGE of his clothing" (Psalm 133:2).

(To be continued)

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostom

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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