Daily Reflection for August 20, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 20  •  Holy Prophet Samuel


Repent before death closes the door of your life and opens the door of judgement. Repent before death, and, because you do not know the hour of death, repent today, even now, and cease to repeat your sin. Thus, St. Ephraim the Syrian prays:
            Before the wheel of time stops in my life, have mercy on me;
            Before the wind of death blows–and diseases, the heralds of death, appear in my body–have mercy on me;
            Before the majestic sun in the heights becomes darkened for me, have mercy on me; and may Your light shine for me from on high, and
                     disperse the dreadful darkness of my mind;
            Before the earth returns to earth and decays, and before the destruction of all the features of its beauty, have mercy;
            Before my sins deceive me at the Judgment, and shame me before the Judge, have mercy, O Lord, full of gentleness;
            Before the hosts come forth, preceding the Son of the King–to assemble our miserable race before the throne of the Judge–have mercy;
            Before the voice of the trumpet sounds before Your coming–spare Your servants and have mercy, O our Lord Jesus;
            Before You lock Your door before me, O Son of God, and before I become food for the unquenchable fires of Gehenna, have mercy on me.
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Who ascends into heaven and descends? Who gathers the winds in His bosom? Who wraps up the water in a garment? Who rules over all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is the name of His children, that you might acknowledge it? All the words of God are tried in fire, and He defends those who fear Him. Do not add to His words, that He might not reprove you, and you become a liar.
            Two things I ask from You: do not take away grace from me before I die; make a vain word and a lie be far from me; but give me neither riches nor poverty, and appoint what is necessary and sufficient for me; lest being full, I become a liar and say, “Who sees me?” Or being poor, I steal, and swear by the name of God.
(Proverbs 30:4-9)

Proverbs has always been seen as one of the “wisdom” books of the Old Testament. Together with the Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Sirach, practical spiritual and moral advice is the aim of the authors. This little passage that comes near the end of the book can be seen in two parts. The first paragraph glorifies and, if you will, identifies the Lord to the reader with a series of rhetorical questions: Who ascends, Who gathers, Who wraps up, Who rules, and What is His name? The answer to all those questions, of course, is Christ the Lord. He is glorified in the mighty works listed. Heaven, the winds, the water, the ends of the earth— all are commanded by Him. But the last question, “what is the name of His children,” is us: Christians. All His words are tried in fire, and we are not to “add to them.” Written almost 3,000 years ago, the words echo today. We are constantly tempted to add to the words of the Lord and define our own “truth.” But these added words are also tried by fire, and will be burned up.

The second paragraph is so very poignant. The author asks two things of the Lord: first, that He not take away His grace before the writer dies. The one who seeks Wisdom, and hence the Kingdom of Heaven, can achieve nothing without the Grace of God. We struggle to hold onto and maintain the power of that Grace in our lives before we die. Second, that “neither riches nor poverty” be given by Him. The prayer is for just what is sufficient. Riches and poverty both have their pitfalls and temptations. The wise man seeks just what is needed and nothing more, and is thankful for that. How very clear a warning those words sound in our society and culture today when everything is not enough. Proverbs of wisdom indeed!