Daily Reflection for August 11, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 11  •  Holy Martyr and Archdeacon Euplus of Catania


If a man sets off on the path of righteousness let him walk only by the path of righteousness with both feet and let him not step with one foot on the righteous path and, with the other foot on the unrighteous path. For God said through the prophet about the righteous who commit unrighteousness: “All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he has trespassed and in his sins that he has sinned, in them shall he die” (Ezekiel 18:24). The Wallachian Prince Radul was a just man and performed many good deeds. He brought St. Niphon out of bondage in Jedrene and made him the Archbishop of Bucharest. But suddenly, Radul committed a dreadful transgression: he gave his sister to be the wife of the corrupt Prince Bogdan of Moldavia while Bogdan’s wife was still living. Radul did not heed the protests of Niphon. Niphon prophesied an evil end for Radul, publicly excommunicating him from the Church and departed from Wallachia. Shortly thereafter, there was a drought and a great famine in Wallachia and Radul fell into an incurable illness and his entire body was covered with sores. And because of the stench, no one was able to approach him. When Radul was buried, his grave shook for three days, as once did the grave of Empress Eudoxia, the persecutor of St. John Chrysostom. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
            Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain – perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.
            …The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” (Gen 2:7) The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
           However, the spiritual is not the first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
(1 Corinthians 15:31-38, 42-49)

There is an old Christian saying that, “if you die before you die, then you won’t die when you die.” The meaning, of course, is that we all die in Christ through baptism, and rise to a new life in Him in the Church. In his continuing discourse on resurrection, Paul affirms that “I die daily.” The reality of resurrection who is Jesus Christ does not mean “no death.” We sing that He has “trampled down death by death.” Yet all of us will still have a final mortal breath. The change is that by giving ourselves to Him and dying daily by rising with Him and fighting the passions, our sins and temptations, and being filled with His Spirit, we make that final mortal moment into our own “pascha,” passing over from this life to the next. That’s what “dying before you die” means.

Paul, though, also begins to describe what this resurrection will look like — we are sown like a seed a “natural” body (i.e., we will die, go into the ground, and disintegrate) but then raised a “spiritual” body. The blossom cannot come forth unless the seed be planted in the ground. What a word to hear during the days of Transfiguration. He does not mean what we might describe as a “ghost,” and certainly not “getting our angel wings.” The Lord gave a hint in shining with the divine light on the mountain of what our “spiritual body” will be like. Paul contrasts it: incorrupt instead of corrupt; glorious instead of dishonored; powerful instead of weak. And once again, hope, as he reminds us that just as we bear the image of the man of dust (indeed, we are all dust), we also shall bear the image of the heavenly Man. We are born with the image of the first Adam, but die in baptism and raised with the image of the Second Adam. Indeed, the one who dies before he dies will not die when he dies. Perhaps a different way of saying it is, “He who lives in the other world before he is in the other world, will find that other world waiting for him.” Blessedly, He gives us a taste of that in the Church.