It occurs to me that it would be useful to map out and explain how I am going to go about writing a series of blog posts on one homily. To begin, let me quote one of the prayers said by the priest during Orthros when the Exapsalmos (the Six Psalms of Matins: 3, 38, 63, 88, 103 and 143) are being read:
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, having raised us up from our beds and brought us together at the hour of prayer, give us grace as we open our lips and accept the best thanks we can offer. And teach us Your statutes, for we know not how to pray fittingly unless You, Lord, through Your Holy Spirit, lead us.
There is no way that I can endeavor to write this blog sans the Holy Spirit. Indeed, I can go further and say that we cannot comprehend the message of the Gospel sans the Holy Spirit. Please note the priest’s prayer before the Gospel reading in the liturgy (and, yes, this is the inspiration for the name of this blog):
Shine within our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that having conquered all sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things that are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory together with Your Father who is without beginning and Your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Thus, whenever I read scripture, I look to those words, phrases, verses or concepts that jump out at me. By “jump out” I mean things that inspire me, bother me, confuse me, anger me or otherwise get my attention in some way or fashion. I acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit in this — He is trying to get my attention. I am supposed to stay with this word, phrase, verse or concept and dig deeper — either for my own salvation or for those around me.
This methodology holds true when reading the Fathers of the Church. These great saints were wrestling with revelation and their words are a participation in the Holy Spirit. Through them and the writings that they have handed down to us, we, too, can see and participate in the work of the Holy Spirit.
I will be working with the annotated Mount Thabor edition of St. Gregory Palamas’ Homily Fifty-Eight on the Saving Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord and God and Savior. It is organized into sixteen numbered paragraphs. I will tackle each paragraph in succession, paying attention to those words, phrases and concepts that jump out — those things that the Holy Spirit is pointing out to me — and I will then proceed to dig deeper.