Daily Reflection for August 13, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 12  •  Holy Martyr Hippolytus of Rome with his companions


“Give thanks to the Lord but do not forget His great men, the poor and the needy, for they can accomplish much with God the Lord.” These are the words of the illustrious Russian ascetic of the nineteenth century, Father Nazariah, the abbot of Valaamo [Valaam] Monastery. He spoke these words to the wife of a high-ranking official in Petrograd [St. Petersburg] who fell into disfavor with the Tsar because of certain serious accusations. The accused official became ill from worry and lay in bed. Hearing that Father Nazariah arrived in Petrograd, the wife of this official hurriedly sought him out and related the misfortune which had befallen them and implored him to pray to the Lord for her husband. “Do you have any copper or silver coins in change?” Father Nazariah asked her. The woman brought the coins and gave them to him. And so, Father Nazariah left. The same evening Nazariah again returned and gladdened the wife with this news: “Glory to God, all those close to the Tsar [God, the King] have promised to pray for you.” Naturally, the wife thought of Tsar Alexander Pavlovitch and his courtiers, while the spiritual father was thinking about the beggars on the streets to whom he had distributed the coins and sent them to pray to God for the husband of this woman. And suredly the news arrived that the emperor ordered that the matter concerning this official be taken up again and reviewed. And, it was just what the official wanted. When the woman began to thank Father Nazariah, he said: “Give thanks to the Lord but do not forget His great men, the poor and the needy, for they can accomplish much with God the Lord.”  (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
            ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
            “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
(Revelation 3:14-22)

As we approach the end of the Church Year, my personal reading schedule approaches the end of the Scriptures. We very rarely read the Book of Revelation personally, and the Church never reads from it liturgically. There are many reasons, including the difficulty of much of the allegory used by St. John. But the third chapter, which concludes the narrative of the “seven letters sent to the seven churches,” has allegory that is quite easy to understand because the letters still speak to us, and the Church, today. The seventh, and last, letter is addressed to the church in Laodicea, which was the largest and richest of the seven churches addressed. That wealth and comfort made the people “lukewarm,” neither cold nor hot. God will not abide that, so He will vomit them out of His mouth. Quite graphic and descriptive, no? He notes the reality: they say they are rich, comfortable and have need of nothing. But they are actually wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. Can’t those same condemnations be pronounced against us? Isn’t the comfort and security of this world so great for most of us that we are tempted to be lukewarm? Doesn’t that “lukewarmness” manifest most greatly in our relationship with Christ and His Church? Aren’t we tempted to think that we “need” nothing, not even God? We are the church in Laodicea. He reminds them (and us) that he rebukes and chastens those whom He loves. We are to don gold and white garments (which we did in baptism), and have our eyes treated with salve (anointed with chrism) so that we may once again see, for we are blind. Be zealous and repent, He tells them (us).

But the Lord who chastens also gives such a wonderful example of His love. He stands at our door and knocks. He doesn’t command that we go to His door. He comes to ours. One of my favorite quotes (author unknown, although I believe C.S. Lewis was the one who introduced it to me) is that “God is a gentleman, He always knocks and never enters unless you allow Him.” In the passage above, He tells us what awaits those who open the door when He knocks. He will come in and dine. What a lovely image of hope. The Lord keeps knocking at the door of my heart, and if I just open it and stop being lukewarm, He will have dinner with me. If this is not an image of a “hot” Church life, nothing is. A cold heart is stiff and dead. A warm heart is beating and pumps life through a body. We are hot about so many things in our world and in our lives. We are lukewarm far too often about God, trying to “fit Him into” a spot in our ever so busy, ever so important lives. Me? I love family dinners, so I’m going to keep trying to open the door when I hear the knock.