St. Irenaeus Ministries
Scripture Studies brought to you by the St. Irenaeus Center.
St. Irenaeus Ministries - a center of orthodox Catholic mission and renewal in Rochester, NY

What was New Testamant Christianity really like? We must look to the Acts of the Apostles, as well as the records of the early Apostolic Fathers. Theirs is a critically important witness to the actual Apostolic Deposit. The foundations of the Apostolic Age were mission and community. The role of the Holy Spirit was evident, as many were drawn to the Church in spite of persecution and no material gain. These believers were literally "incorporated into Christ", to use their own language. Though the faith of the early believers was intensely personal, it was not individualistic. 

The central thrust of the Church was not to gather a few people together and meet privately. It was to go out. For this reason, Christianity was a threat to the structure and balance of the worldly powers in the first centuries AD. 

Heresy and disunity were the greatest internal threats to the Early Church. Wholeness was very much connected with holiness. The early apologists saw the Church's unity as a reflection of God's own wholeness. Corresponding to the universal call to holiness was the importance of catholicity - universality and unity. 

Direct download: Early_Church_3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:19pm EST

Luke's Acts of the Apostles is an account of some of the pivotal moments in the Church's earliest history. Historical records give us good reason to believe all of the early apostles, with the exception of John, died a violent martyr's death. They kept the faith unaltered, despite being widely scattered and seperated for years. The churches they founded continued in the Faith, and in some cases continue to this day. This is the amazing testament of the first century of Christianity. These early churches were not wholly independent congregations. The historical record shows that the early Church was indeed a catholic (universal) Church held by moral authority and a desire for unity.

Jerusalem and Rome appear as the two central cities for the early Church. Great trials and tribulations faced Christians in both cities including Nero's attempt to blame the great fire of Rome on the Christians. In spite of the difficulties, Christianity continued to spread. Early pastoral letters of Ignatius and Polycarp provide additional extra-Biblical evidence for the early Church's unity and fidelity. 

Direct download: Early_Church_2.mp3
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This series provides a survey of early Church history beginning with the Acts of the Apostles and ending around the year 600 with the rise of Islam. The early, undivided Church was a remarkable period in Church history full of lessons for Christians today. We see in this period an organic development of doctrine and practice. The Church withstood both internal and external pressures, and provided a great witness to the pagan world.


Acts of the Apostles is an account of the earliest chapter in the history of the Church, though it is much more than a mere history book. Luke's account contains applications for all people, in all cultures, and in all ages. At the center of everything is the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church on Her mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Direct download: Early_Church_1.mp3
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The Mission of the Church - The Joy of the Gospel/Conclusion

Francis congratulates those already working for the good of the Church, while warning about the specific temptations that face those within the institutional church. An inordinate emphasis on the individual has been a detriment to the mission of the Church, leading to inflated egos and "spiritual worldliness". Francis' exhortation gives Christians a wake-up call to take part in the Church's mission. This call to mission was the fundamental focus of Vatican II. It is as timely today as ever. 

Direct download: Mission_of_the_Church_9.mp3
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The Mission of the Church - Continuing the Council's Exhortation

Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium makes alive and practical the lessons of the Second Vatican Council. "With Christ, joy is constantly born anew". The Mission of the Church depends on believing Christians living out the joy of the Gospel in a real and tangible way. This joy is not merely "giddiness"; but rather an enduring certainty that we are infinitely loved. Christians are called each day to renew their encounter with Christ, so that our lives and the lives of others may be changed by God. The problems of our affluent world afford us many excuses to suppress this joy. 

Direct download: Mission_of_the_Church_8.mp3
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The Mission of the Church - Impediments to Mission

Mission is vital to the gospel. Each of the gospels ends with a directive to a mandate to mission. The mission is not based on our abilities but rather on the power of the Holy Spirit that we shine forth. We must respect other religions in that we must respect man in his search for answers and the Holy Spirit who is driving that man. Fatigue, factionalism, de-Christianization, and indifference all make mission more difficult. To combat this, we must be focused on practical witness. We must not, however, ignore real problems in the Church while giving witness.

Direct download: Mission_of_the_Church_7.mp3
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Vatican II directed the Church outward, through Ad Gentes and echoed 25 years later in the encyclical Redemptoris Missio, which describes an intentional trajectory of where the Church believes that Christ wants us to go in mission. Evangelization is the duty of all Christians, and it brings us closer to Christ. There has been, however, a decline in missionary activity in the church.

This mission comes directly from the Trinity, so it is imperative that all Christians share this love, as the love of God is what gives man his dignity. We must allow others to see how our lives have a vertical interaction with the things that are above, not just horizontally with that which is around us, and permit others the free choice that this knowledge allows.

Direct download: Mission_of_the_Church_6.mp3
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The encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi instructs us that the teaching of the Church is unchanged and irreplaceable. The task of evangelizing all people is the essential mission of the Church, but the Church has a need to be evangelized herself. This is the spiritual liberation, not a human liberation, as secular humanists and modern atheists might advocate.

The techniques of evangelization must be relevant to the modern world, and centered in witness, but they cannot be updated in such a way that perverts their ultimate aim or ignores the fact that this gift comes from the Holy Spirit.

Direct download: Mission_of_the_Church_4.mp3
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The Second Vatican Council was the largest council of the Church, beginning under John XXIII in October 1962 and running for four sessions until 1965, ending on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception under Paul VI. It reaffirmed and proclaimed the timeless teaching of the Church, though it did not define much new doctrine, the pastoral thrust was very important. We must follow the instruction of all ecumenical councils, even a council that does not define doctrine. The interpretation of this council can be seen through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which has many references to council documents.

Two foreign words dominated the council, Aggiornamento ("bringing up to date") and Ressourcement ("going back to the sources").  Both complement each other, as without returning to the sources, we cannot be sure what we are bringing up to date, and without bringing the teaching on those sources up to date, we may be stuck in a 16th-century mindset.  Various factions vied for more and less of each at the council, but the reforming element prevailed.

Some of the major theologians who influenced the council were Karl Rahner, Yves Congar, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Küng as well as Karol Wojtyła (later John Paul II). Many of these major reformers formed the board of the journal Concilium, but in 1974, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Joseph Ratzinger (later Benedict XVI), concerned by some of Concilium's editors' desire for more reforms after Vatican II and not through the Church, formed a rival journal, Communio.

This conflict between those who wanted more reform outside the Church
and those who wanted to come to consensus on the council first would
continue for many years.

Direct download: Mission_of_the_Church_3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:11pm EST

This is an exciting time to be Catholic." This episode picks up the rousing theme where the last left it off. Vatican II stressed the Church's need to engage with the modern world. The popes that followed have, with unrelenting urgency, urged every Christian to take up the task of mission. This episode sounds the call anew – in the words of Pope St. John Paul II: "the moment has come to commit all the Church's energies to a new evangelization."

Direct download: Mission_of_the_Church_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:55pm EST

The goal of this series is to equip Catholics to live out the mission of the Church, which is to proclaim Christ to the whole world. We will explore what this means for the faithful laity using the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The documents of the Second Vatican Council will be examined through the hermeneutic of continuity, which was championed by Pope Benedict XVI among others. This council has continued what the Church has always said, but stated with a new vigor and a focus on reaching out to the modern world. Vatican II was a council of reform, not a radical break with the past. The next six sessions will explore several important Papal Encyclicals and other Church documents from Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Francis. These documents will help us grow in faith and learn to share our faith with others. 

Direct download: Mission_of_the_Church_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:14pm EST

The Hebrews consecrate the Tabernacle and all of the preparations are completed one year later, even washing the hands and feet of the priests in the middle of a desert. God has created a people fit for God, and we must strive not to fall back into slavery to sin because of it.

Direct download: Exodus16.mp3
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Exodus repeats much of the information regarding the tabernacle in the final chapters, signaling the restoration of Israel to God's favor.  The Hebrews finish the tabernacle according to God's design.

Direct download: Exodus15.mp3
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After the great sin of the golden calf, Moses asks God to see His glory to know His ways. God shows Moses His reflected glory, but shields him from His face. God writes the tablets again, with no changes, to present to the people as a covenant. God instructs the Hebrews to worship Him alone, for He is a jealous god. This jealousy is a desire for an exclusive relationship, as we can see in James 4:5 and 2 Cor 11:2. God also commands that the Hebrews observe the Sabbath and the harvest feasts.

Moses comes back to the people, but shields his face with a veil to prevent the people from seeing God's glory fade. This veil separates the people from God, but Jesus removes that veil, as Jeremiah 31:31ff prophesies.

Direct download: Exodus14.mp3
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When Moses delays in coming down from Mt. Sinai, the people demand an idol of gods to go before them. Aaron makes a bull out of the people's gold, in the form of some of the Canaanite gods, and declares it to be the god that brought the Hebrews out of Egypt. God proposes to kill the Hebrews and make a great nation out of Moses, but Moses intercedes for the people. God, through Moses, directs the tribe of Levi to slay those notorious in the production of the golden calf, and for that, the tribe of Levi is ordained for service to the Lord. God tells the people that He will not be among them, for they are a stiff-necked people and He would consume them. He orders the people to take off their ornaments and mourn, and God resides in the tent of meeting outside of the camp.

Direct download: Exodus13_2.mp3
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The law defines the high priest's garments, which includes the twelve tribes of Israel for a remembrance to God. The ordination of priests also includes an ablution which relates to baptism, which can be seen also in Heb 6:1f. God also identifies things that are holy and not for outsiders in the ordination process. There is also a description of the incense altar in the tabernacle.

The people would be taxed for the upkeep of the temple, and this was a way to show the participation of the people in atonement for their sins.

Before the close of the revelation at Sinai, God reiterates the importance of keeping the Sabbath.  The tablets are then completed and given to Moses.

Direct download: Exodus13.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:30pm EST

The book of Exodus dedicates significant space to the description of the tabernacle of the Lord. This may be difficult to read through, but it is important to the understanding of the worship of God. The Ark of the Covenant points to Mary (as we can see in Luke 1:35 and in the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, similar to 2 Samuel 6, and Revelation 12), and the holy place of the tabernacle and the holy of holies are but a shadow, or type, of what exists in Heaven. This description is seen as well in the book of Revelation.

The Ark of the Covenant is overlaid in gold and a cover called the Mercy Seat, where God is enthroned, is over it, with two cherubim, angels with wings and human faces. Inside were the tablets of the ten commandments, Aaron's staff, and a jar of mana. These things reflect the Word of God, the priesthood, and the bread that came down from Heaven, respectively.

The table of the bread of the presence is also described, which is a table that contains 12 loaves of bread, offered to God but also shared by men and a symbol of God's covenant with man. Also in the holy place is a lampstand, which has a figure of budding almonds, a sign of life which may also be reflected in Num 17:8, where budding almonds also show favor from God.

The tabernacle was a tent that was constructed to be erected whenever they were in a place and was designed to be movable. The tabernacle tent is a box decorated by rich curtains, divided into a large holy place separated by a veil from a much smaller cube of the holy of holies.

God wishes to dwell with His people, to sanctify the space where His holy place is, God asks us to give freely to worship Him in the way that He commands us, and that this sacrifice should be a worship of some value. This reverence and value increases as the holy things get closer to the Ark of the Covenant. Unholy worship can be punished, as were Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10.

Direct download: Exodus11.mp3
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The laws of God are in many cases very practical and based on the environment that we are in. Strangers should be cared for and not abused by being thrown into the cold without a cloak or placed into debt. The escaped beasts of burden of a stranger should be returned to a stranger's owner as well as it would be for your own. The Hebrews were strangers in Egypt, and they should remember that when dealing with strangers.

Moses returns to the people and recites the law and then writes it down. The ratification of the law is done through blood, as noted by Hebrews 9:18. The people say that they will obey the law and the people feast as part if the ratification.

Direct download: Exodus10.mp3
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Exodus 21-23 forms what is known as the Book of the Covenant. This continues after the Ten Commandments with a discussion of the laws regarding slavery, as the Hebrews were just recently delivered from slavery. Slavery here should not be confused with the racial slavery that was common in Europe later. The laws on slavery describe the practice of this institution as well as the ways in which a slave may be freed.

Those who have committed violent acts may flee to a sanctuary city, but if the act is premeditated, the person will be put to death, even if that person clings to the altar of God.

The law delivered at Sinai also limits the amount of punishment to the extent of the injury, "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth," known as the lex talionis.

Direct download: Exodus9.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:40am EST

Moses' father-in-law Jethro hears that he has led the Israelites to freedom and seeks him out. Moses and Aaron eat a sacrificial meal with Jethro, a Midianite who offers sacrifice. This was before the Law was given. Jethro tells Moses to intercede for the people, to bring their cases to God, and to bring the law to them. Jethro tells Moses to appoint people to oversee the people and to delegate administration to them.

Moses then visits Sinai and receives the law from God. Moses forbids the people from approaching the mountain while he is receiving the law. The Ten Commandments have various divisions in different traditions, though these are not necessarily all commands, as some, such as, ``I am the Lord your God.''

Direct download: Exodus8.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:58am EST

* Taking a short break from the regular Exodus series, this week's podcast is a recent talk on the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit Talk

The Holy Spirit is not a force of God, He is God Himself, and one ofthe three persons of God. The Holy Spirit is referred to as early as Gen 1:2, but is not clearly revealed until Jesus' ministry. It is the Holy Spirit who prompts us to holiness and floods our hearts with love (Rom 5:5) and thus we should cooperate with the Holy Spirit, listen to His promptings, and cultivate the fruits of the Holy Spirit given in Galatians 5. We may cultivate our relationship with Him through prayer and through prayerful study of the scriptures. 

Direct download: Holy_Spirit_Talk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:04am EST

The Hebrews have passed the Red Sea but they need water. When they happen upon a watering place, the water is bitter, and the people murmur. God shows Moses a tree, much as God shows the people the law, and the water becomes sweet. God uses this to test the people to see if they will now walk in His ways.

Later, the people are hungry and murmur again. This time God provides them with mana and quail, but instructs the people to take only what they need for that day because God will provide. Those who stored up more than they needed for that day found that their food spoiled. Paul comments on this in 2 Corinthians 8:14.

The people murmured again desiring water, and Moses, fearing for his life, sought out the Lord, who told Moses to strike a rock with his rod in the presence of the elders, to bring forth water.

The Hebrews encounter the Amalekites, and fight them. Moses raises his hands in persistent prayer and the people help him to hold his hands up. Because of this, the Hebrews win in battle. God promises to blot out the Amalekites, and the people are called to remember this in Deuteronomy 25:17-19. This is further recalled in 1 Sam 15, and in Esther, Haman, the descendant of King Agag of the Amalekites plots against the Jews.

Direct download: Exodus7.mp3
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The Hebrews leave Egypt and the Lord is with them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. After the Hebrews leave Egypt, the Egyptians reflect on the fact that they have lost millions of people from the land, and pursue the Hebrews. They reach a sea, which is translated as the Red Sea in Greek but may have originally been the sea of reeds in Hebrew, and possibly connected to a phrase meaning the sea at the end.

God parts the sea for the Hebrews to show His power, but closes the waters and drowns the Egyptians to save His people.

Direct download: Exodus6.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:51pm EST

God tells Moses that He will bring one final plague. All the firstborn of the land will die. There is no more discussion about Pharaoh letting the Hebrews go. The time for negotiation is over, and now God will let both the Hebrews and the Egyptians recognize that He is God.

The Hebrews will be saved from this plague by taking a lamb, bonding with it for five days, and then sacrificing the lamb as a substitute sacrifice from their firstborn. This is then instituted as an eternal remembrance in the month of Aviv (later known as Nisan). Leavening agents are to be purged at this time, and the idea of leavening as corruption is a common metaphor, which can be seen in 1 Cor 5:6-8.

Those who wish to partake of the Passover tradition are to be circumcised before they can add join in the tradition. This parallels baptism. The firstborn are to be redeemed, and this tradition is cited in Luke 2:23 when Jesus is taken to the temple.

The firstborn of the Egyptians die and the Hebrews are not only allowed to go, but are driven out.

Direct download: Exodus5.mp3
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God continues to send plagues on the Egyptians, sending the plague of pestilence on the livestock, and then boils and hail, warning Pharaoh publicly with the plague of hail to shelter the livestock, but those who did not fear God did not shelter them. After that Moses warns of a plague of locusts which devastate the land, and Pharaoh's advisors tell him to give in, because of all the damage that has been done. Pharaoh offers Moses a compromise but will not let the women or children go. The plague of locusts comes, and after that the plague of darkness.

Through all of this, God is making the Hebrews, who were enslaved, into a mighty nation.

Direct download: Exodus4.mp3
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