Daily Reflection for August 17, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 17  •  Martyr Myron, Presbyter, of Cyzicus


The Lord does not allow His faithful servants to be shamed. It often happened that the martyrs of Christ, ridiculed and mocked before the courts, unexpectedly performed a miracle, which instilled fear in the unbelievers. Either the idols fell or thunder destroyed the temples of the heathen or an unexpected downpour of rain extinguished the fire prepared for their burning or the torturers beat themselves with stones and rods and so forth. Thus, Antipater, the torturer of St. Myron, during the suffering of this man of God suddenly went insane and killed himself. St. Olympius, the icongrapher, was already at the end of his life when he received an order from a man to paint [write] the icon of the Dormition [the Falling Asleep – The Assumption] of the Most-holy Theotokos. As the feast was approaching, this man came several times to see whether the icon was completed. But the icon was not even begun, not even on the eve of the Feast of the Dormition itself when the icon was supposed to have been placed in the church. When this man returned home completely saddened, at once there appeared a young man in Olympius’ cell who immediately sat down and began to write the icon. He worked very quickly and very expertly. When the icon was completed, it shone like the sun. Showing the icon to the astonished Olympius, the young man took the icon and brought it to the church for which it had been ordered. The next day, that man who had ordered the icon went to the church and, to his great surprise, saw the icon in its place. Then that man came to the monastery and, with the abbot, entered Olympius’ cell. “How and who wrote the icon of this man?” asked the abbot. The ailing Olympius replied: “An angel wrote it, and he is now standing here to take me away.” And with that, he gave up the spirit. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Thus says the Lord: “Say to the sons of your people, ‘The righteousness of a righteous man will not deliver him in the day he goes astray. As for the lawlessness of an ungodly man, it will not harm him in the day he turns from his lawlessness, but a righteous man who goes astray cannot save himself.’ When I say regarding the righteous man, this man puts his trust in his righteousness but commits lawlessness, then none of his righteousness will be remembered, for he shall die in the wrongdoing he commits. Again when I say to the ungodly man, ‘You will surely die,’ and he turns from his sin, does judgment and righteousness, restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the ordinances of life without committing wrongdoing, he will surely live. Thus he will not die. None of his sins he committed will be remembered, for he does judgment and righteousness. By doing these things, he shall live.” (Ezekiel 33:12-16)

It is always amazing to me how virtually everything taught by our Lord during His sojourn on this earth is prefigured in the Old Testament, particularly by the prophets. This small passage from the prophecy of Ezekiel speaks about the mystery of forgiveness. The prophet is told by the Lord to say to his people (of Israel) that they are mistaken about righteousness and repentance. Israel had become arrogant and proud in their “chosenness.” They considered themselves righteous. The Lord calls them out. Those who are “righteous” have no defense when they trust in that righteousness as an excuse when they fall into unrighteous deeds (which every human being does) and do not turn from their ways. But the unrighteous, who, when chastened by the Lord (“You will surely die.”) repent, are justified (“None of his sins he committed will be remembered.”).

It sounds just a touch confusing, but in our vernacular today, it is simply the affirmation by the Lord that those who consider themselves “righteous” (and one might argue that if I consider myself that, it is more like self-righteous), generally see no need to repent of misdeeds. But those who recognize the basic fallenness of creation in themselves and then lament in repentance have, by that repentance, been made righteous. A true paradox. It is the Publican and the Pharisee. Isn’t that one of the basic struggles of the Christian life? On the one hand, thinking that I am justified in all my pettiness, my passions, my hardheartedness, my spiritual laziness, because after all, I am a good person, especially in my “chosenness” by belonging to the Church. On the other hand, when we repent, being tempted to think that the Lord probably doesn’t (or worse, can’t) forgive me. But the Lord said none of the sins of those who truly repent will be remembered. The words of the Lord through the prophet, and then later spoken Himself, assure us of a simple reality: true righteousness leads to repentance. True repentance leads to forgiveness. And that forgiveness is Life. Humility also makes us remember that the opposite is true, and is lurking right around the corner, so we must be ever vigilant, ever penitent, and ever trusting in the Lord.