Daily Reflection April 20th, 2020

Daily Reflection April 20th, 2020



St. Anastasius of Sinai teaches: “Every Christian is given an angel from God to guard him all his life (unless, through evil deeds, he drives him away). But as smoke drives away bees and an evil smell drives away doves, so is the guardian angel of our life driven away by our sins: drunkenness, adultery, anger and so forth. The angel of every faithful man leads him to every good deed, while the demons labor to scandalize the faithful ones and deprive them of the Kingdom of Heaven.” That the angels are close to men and that they take care of men is attested to by the whole of Holy Scripture, but especially by the New Testament. Besides this, there exist in the Orthodox Church numerous testimonies of saintly men and women who witness to that which St. Anastasius asserts, that is, that each one of us is accompanied in this world by a gentle and mighty messenger of God, a soldier of the King of Heaven, an angel of light. Who, except an insane person, drives a good friend away from himself? In truth, only the insane and the extremely ignorant drive away their best friends, their guardian angels, by their sins. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.

These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”
​Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

​And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
(Acts 1:12-17, 21-26, Bright Monday)

Fr John’s Reflection

Beginning with the Feast of Feasts, the Holy Pascha, the Church reads through the whole Paschal season from the Books of the Acts of the Apostles. This takes us through the history of the Church as it existed, then expanded, immediately after the Resurrection. The book almost overloads our minds with the amazing feats of mission and Church growth that is recounted. This is during the days when Christians were suspect and persecuted. Despite that impediment, the book is full of stories about preaching and miracles followed by mass conversions. The Grace poured out on the Church and the Apostles was powerful indeed.

The “apostolic” nature of the Church is marked by two things: the apostolic mission of those first days (“apostle” means “one who is sent”). The Church was evangelical from the dawn of time, but particularly after the Descent of the Holy Spirit. But the second thing is given to us in the reading today: the Church always has apostles. The apostles themselves laid hands on men and the orders of Holy Priesthood were established. Those orders exist down to this day through the laying on of hands. But the story of Matthias is one for every Christian, not just those ordained to holy orders. It is not the exclusive domain of deacons, priests and bishops to be missionaries. As Judas betrayed not only Christ, but his apostleship, the apostles saw the need to replace him and make “their number whole” again.

Every generation down to this day does the same thing in the life of the Church. You and I are each called to be apostles — to “make the number whole” in the life of the Church. We are sent through baptism and chrismation into the world to take the message of Jesus Christ to those who would hear. Some, like ordained priests, do it literally by preaching that message. But most do it by witnessing to Jesus Christ by the way we live. We are faced with two challenges today: First, the annual challenge of living out Lent when it is no longer Lent. After seven weeks of fasting and prayer, in what state do we find our spiritual lives? Have we prayed more? Have we fed the interior life more than our exterior life? Are we quieter? More faithful? More loving and forgiving? Every year we struggle those weeks only to oftentimes find ourselves right back where we started when Pascha comes.

But the second challenge is unique to us this year. In what state will we find ourselves when we are liberated from the quarantine and house arrest? Most of us are past bored, past the “liberation” of not having to dress to go to work, etc. But how many of us used the extra time to add prayer, stillness, good reading, Scriptural reading, etc.? Did anyone convert the time usually spent in commuting into something holy? Our challenge will ultimately be what kind of life are we going to lead when we have the chance to “go back to normal?” Are we going to lose our apostleship like Judas, or be elected to make “the number whole” again like Matthias? Nobody likes the state of things now. But it is not just the external state of things that we should be frustrated with — it is also the internal state of things. May we all be Matthias! Christ is Risen!