Friday, August 8, 2014

The Third and Fourth Commandments of the Law of God

The Third Commandment of the Law of God: 
“Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain”

The third commandment forbids us to pronounce the name of God in vain, without due reverence. One uses the name of God in vain when one pronounces it in empty conversation, in jest and in sport. Forbidding the use of God’s name thoughtlessly or disrespectfully, this commandment forbids the sins, which come from thoughtlessness and irreverence in regard to God. Among such sins are:

  • Swearing — thoughtless, habitual oaths in casual conversation; 
  • Blasphemy — audacious words against God; 
  • Sacrilege — when people scoff or jest at sacred things; Breaking promises given to God; 
  • Perjury (oath breaking); Making false oaths by the name of God. 

The name of God must be pronounced with awe and reverence, in prayer, in studies about God, and in lawful vows and oaths.
Reverent, lawful vows are not forbidden by this commandment. God Himself used an oath about which the Apostle Paul reminisces in his epistle to the Hebrews: For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath (Heb. 6:16-17).

The Fourth Commandment of the Law of God: 
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 
Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work, 
but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.”

The fourth commandment of the Lord God directs that six days be spent in labor and devoted to duties such as one’s vocation, but that the seventh day be devoted to the service of God, for holy work and acts pleasing to God. Holy works and acts pleasing to God are understood to be: work for the salvation of one’s soul, prayer both in church and at home, study of the commandments of God, enlightenment of the mind and heart by wholesome learning, reading of the Holy Scriptures and other spiritually helpful books, pious conversation, helping the poor, visiting the sick and prisoners, comforting the grieving, and other good deeds.
In the Old Testament, the Sabbath (which in Hebrew means rest, peace) is celebrated on the seventh day of the week, Saturday, in remembrance of God’s creation of the world (on the seventh day God rested from acts of creation). In the New Testament, at the time of the Apostles, it began to be celebrated on the first day of the week, Sunday, in remembrance of the resurrection of Christ.
In the category of the seventh day, it is necessary to include not only the day of the Resurrection, but also other feast days and fasts established by the Church. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath also included other feasts: Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Tabernacles, etc.
The most important Christian feast day is called "The Feast of Feasts" and "The Triumph of Triumphs," the Bright Resurrection of Christ, called Holy Pascha (Easter), which occurs on the first Sunday after the spring full moon, after the Jewish Passover, in the period between March 22 and April 25.

Then follow the twelve great feasts established to honor our Lord Jesus Christ and His Mother, the Holy Virgin Mary:
1. The Nativity of the Theotokos September 8
2. The Entry into the Temple of the Theotokos, November 21
3. The Annunciation of the Most-holy Virgin Mary, March 25
4. The Nativity of Christ, December 25
5. The Entry of the Lord, February 2
6. The Theophany (or Epiphany), January 6
7. The Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, August 6
8. The Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)
  9. The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ
10. Pentecost, or Trinity Sunday
11. Elevation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, September 14
12 The Dormition of the Mother of God, August 15

Of the remaining feast days, some of the most important are:
The Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ, January 1
The Protection of the Mother of God, October 1
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, June 24
The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, August 29
The feast of the Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, June 29
The Apostle John the Theologian, May 8 and September 26
The feasts of St. Nicholas May 9 and December 6

Fasts established by the Church are:
1. The Great Fast, before Pascha: The Fast lasts for seven weeks: six weeks are the fast itself and the seventh week is Holy Week — in remembrance of the suffering of Christ the Savior.
2. Nativity Fast, before the feast day of Nativity, the birth of Christ: It begins on November 14, the day after commemorating the Apostle Philip and is therefore sometimes called the fast of St. Philip. The fast lasts for forty days.
3. Dormition Fast, before the feast day of the Dormition of the Mother of God: It lasts for two weeks, from August 1 until August 14.
4. The Apostles’ Fast, before the feast day of the Apostles Peter and Paul: It begins one week after Trinity Sunday (Pentecost) and continues until the 29th of June. Its length is determined by whether Pascha is early or late. The longest it can be is six weeks, and the shortest is a week and one day.

One day fasts:
1. Nativity Eve — the day before the Birth of Christ, 24th of December. An especially strict fast during the Nativity Fast. Customarily, one does not eat until the appearance of the first star, and then only strict lenten food, no meat, fish or dairy products.
2. The Eve of the Theophany — the day before the Baptism of the Lord, January 6
3. The day of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, August 29
4. The day of the Elevation of the Cross of the Lord, in commemoration of the finding of the Cross of the Lord, September 14
5. Wednesdays and Fridays of every week. Wednesday — in remembrance of the betrayal of the Savior by Judas. Friday — in remembrance of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.

There is no fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays in the following weeks:

  • Bright Week, the week of Pascha; 
  • in the interval between Christmas and Theophany; 
  • in the week of the Holy Trinity (after Pentecost), 
  • in the week of the Publican and the Pharisee (before the Great Fast); 
  • and in Cheese-fare week immediately preceding the Great Fast, when dairy products, but not meat, are allowed.

At the time of the fasts, it is especially necessary to resolve to cleanse oneself of all bad habits and passions such as anger, envy, lust and enmity. One must refrain from a dissipating, carefree life, from games, from shows and spectacles, from dancing. One must not read books, which give rise to impure thoughts and desires in the soul. One must not eat meat or dairy products, since according to the experience of the Saints these foods strengthen our passions and make it more difficult to pray, but only permitted fasting foods such as vegetables, and when permitted, fish, and only making use of these foods in moderation. During a fast of many days, one should have confession and receive Holy Communion. Those who break the fourth commandment are those who are lazy on the first six days, doing no work, as well as those who work on a holy day. No less guilty are those who may cease worldly pursuits and work, but who spend the time in amusements and games, who indulge in pleasure and drunkenness, not thinking about serving God. Especially sinful is indulging in distractions the evening before a feast day, when we should be at the Vigil, and in the morning, after the Liturgy.
“Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain”

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