Daily Reflection April 10th, 2020

Daily Reflection April 10th, 2020

PROLOGUE FROM OCHRID • APRIL 10, Martyrs Terence, Pompeius, Africanus, Maximus, Zeno, Alexander, Theodore, Macarius, and 33 others beheaded at Carthage

“When a man detaches his mind from earth and opens it toward God with the desire to please Him, then God reveals His will in various ways. St. Peter of Damascus writes: “If a man has a full intention to please God, then God teaches him His will either through thoughts, through some other person, or through Holy Scripture.” Such a man becomes attentive and keen, and awaits God’s promptings from within and from without. For him, chance ceases to exist. The whole world becomes as a ten-stringed harp, which does not give out a single sound without the finger of God.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)

Fr. John’s Reflection:

O divine might of Your power, O Savior! Your voice has shattered the gates of hell and the jaws of death. By the same might, free me from evil passions, as You delivered Lazarus, Your friend, from four days in the tomb. (Kanon of Lazarus Saturday, Ode 5)

Fr John’s Reflection

Today is the last day of Great Lent. The forty days are over. Now we enter into the mystery of Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday and Passion Week, culminating in our celebration of the Lord’s resurrection on Pascha. These days are “beyond” Great Lent. Following the joy of this weekend, we are called to continue, even intensify, to the best of our abilities, our fasting efforts through next week. But the days to come are different. We certainly know one way they are different this year, in that most of us are confined to our homes for the most part. The vast majority of Orthodox Christians around the world will be praying the services with the parishes by live-streaming — a “virtual” celebration, if you will. While no one is expected to think that live-streaming replaces the actual community of the Church, it is a true blessing that we can still pray together and witness the services (even if abbreviated) and truncated as the schedule is this year. So, the days to come are going to be unlike any that most of us have ever experienced. On the other hand, the coming days are going to be exactly like some have always experienced — many in the military, those who by circumstance do not live near a church, others in situations we can’t even imagine. So we get to share in those seemingly “lonely” experiences that others have in the lives regularly. May we remember these days as the years move on!

But the days are also different in a way that is different in every year. Beginning with the celebration of Lazarus Saturday, we as individuals are kind of “set aside.” Our focus and vision are no longer on ourselves, though our fasting continues. Rather, the final confrontation between Christ and death, Christ and the world, Christ and the rulers, has begun and demands our attention. This confrontation is cosmic and yet has very personal connotations for each and every one of us. As the ode from the kanon above reveals, the voice alone of Christ has the power to shatter the gates of hell and the jaws of death. With His voice, the cosmic and eternal reality is that death has been put on notice. In Lazarus, we see Christ begin the destruction of death, to be fulfilled in His resurrection and by that resurrection, calling all of us to life eternal.

But the Church teaches us also in the ode of a very personal aspect to this confrontation. By the same might, the same word, the same power that shatters the gates of hell and the jaws of death, we pray that He “free me from evil passions.” The confrontation between Christ and death is not merely an historical remembrance, nor a quiet reflection on what He did to bring “us” back to heaven. Rather, the confrontation is an image of the confrontation that must take place between Christ and me. My passions have to die in order for me to rise with Him on Pascha. But those passions cannot die by my effort alone. It will take the power of His word to accomplish it. As Christ raised His friend Lazarus from the corruption of four days in the grave by His word, so may He raise me from the corruption of sin and death that passions bring to my very being. Only He can accomplish this. Glory to God!