Daily Reflection for August 19, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 19  •  Martyr Andrew Stratelates and those with him in Cilicia


When an unexpected misfortune happens to us who are innocent, we should not immediately grieve, but rather we should try to see God’s providence in the situation. Through that misfortune, God is preparing something new and beneficial for us. One day, unexpected news came to Blessed Theophanes, the Abbot of Dochiariou, that the Turks had seized his sister’s son, had forced him to embrace Islam and had taken him to Constantinople. Theophanes went immediately to Constantinople, and with the help of God he succeeded in finding his nephew. He conveyed him out of Constantinople in great secrecy and brought him to his monastery on Mt. Athos. There he received his nephew into the Christian Faith again, then tonsured him a monk. However, the brethren began to complain against their abbot and his nephew for fear of the Turks, for they were afraid that the Turks would find out and destroy the monastery. Not knowing what to do, St. Theophanes took his nephew away–not only from Dochiariou, but also from the Holy Mountain itself, and came to Berea. The later activities of Theophanes in Berea (and later, in Naousa) proved how much that misfortune was beneficial to the Church. That which Theophanes could never achieve on the Holy Mountain, he achieved in these other places to which he had fled because of that misfortune: he founded two new monasteries, where, in time, many monks were saved, and where countless men found comfort for themselves. Also, his holy relics became a source of healing for the strengthening of faith among many unbelievers and those of little faith. Thus, God wisely directs the destiny of men through unexpected misfortunes which, in the moment, may only seem to be the end of everything. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
            But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.
(2 Corinthians 3:4-11)

Immediately following the revelation that believers are “epistles” of Christ (see 8/18 reflection), written not with ink, but with the Spirit, and not on tablets of stone, but tablets of flesh, which is the heart, Paul speaks of ministry. First, he admits that anyone who is a minister of the gospel is not so through his own power or goodness, but the “sufficiency is from God,” and the ministry of the new covenant is not of the letter, but of the Spirit. After Christ, the ministry before Him (i.e., the Law), although glorious, was revealed as a ministry of death, because men could not keep the Law. They always fell short. The veil over the face of Moses after he received the tablets was necessary because men could not behold the glory of the Lord. That veil prefigured the veil of the Temple, which was indicative of the separation of men from God. All before Christ ends in condemnation and death, despite glory. After Christ, the glory of the ministry of the Spirit in the life of the Church not only brings life, but surpasses the glory of the Law. The “veil” was torn in two at the crucifixion, symbolizing the end of the separation of God from His creation. We have been given access to the inner chamber of the Kingdom through the Lord.

This does not mean that we have no need of “law.” The Old Testamental law has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ and we have been liberated from it. But a new law was given by Him, that “you love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” We are still bound to law — but a law that is the Word of God made flesh. All ministry in the Church is given by the Spirit, and the law made alive in the Spirit in the Church is love. And St. John tells us that “God is love.” What passed away was the Law and its glory, what remains is the Way, the Truth, and the Life — who surpasses everything before Him in glory. He is alive in the Church and present in His ministers, and the glory which He gives us in the life of the Church is not something that needs a veil, but merely eyes that see.