Daily Reflection for August 21, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 21  •  Holy Apostle Thaddeus of the Seventy


Magnanimous forgiveness of slanderers and prayer for them is a characteristic of Christian saints who do not ascribe all the slanders against themselves to men but rather to demons, the main instigators of every slander as well as every sin in general. St. Abraham of Smolensk was slandered by envious priests to the prince and the bishop as a deceiver, magician and hypocrite. The slanders sought nothing less than to have him burned. The prince and the bishop believed the slanderers and Abraham was banished from Smolensk and was forbidden to exercise his priestly functions. During the entire time of his investigation and trial, Abraham repeated the prayer of St. Stephen, the first martyr: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts of the Apostles 7:60). Later it was established that all of the accusers against Abraham lied and slandered. The infuriated prince wanted to severely punish the slanderers and the bishop wanted to excommunicate them from the Church but the holy Abraham fell on his knees before the bishop and, with tears, begged him to forgive them. Abraham did not want to return to his monastery nor to begin again to exercise his priestly functions until his slanderers were shown mercy and released. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
           Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:13-18)

The Church lectionary today brings us this small passage from St. Paul. It must be said that it is truly very difficult to “see” the things that are unseen. Paul begins this passage with the promise that “he who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus.” He turns our eyes toward the Kingdom of Heaven as the hope and goal of mankind. Then he talks about the “outward and inward man.” These both reside in each and every one of us. The outward man is our physical bodies. They are decaying, perishing, wasting away, and each will end up in the grave. In the grand scheme of creation and history, this is but a “moment,” and the affliction of the outward man is “light.” This can seem dismissive, even cruel, if taken at face value. The disintegration of our bodies through age and/or illness might destroy our outward man, but it builds a “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Face value does not give meaning to Paul’s statement.

This weight of glory is the turning inward of our vision, effort, and desire. That which can be seen (our bodies, our circumstances, life itself, etc.) are temporary, but that which is unseen (our faith, judgment, the Resurrection, etc.) are eternal. Essentially, the Apostle lays out for us the basic challenge for a Christian: do we live for ourselves, do we live for the comfort and ease of life, do we live for youth and good looks, do we live trying to stave off old age, do we live as if death is the end? Or do we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord and heaven, not feeding our bodies and passions as ends in themselves, praying and fasting to tame the outward man in each of us? The irony, of course, is that those who see only the outward man, as well as those who focus on the inward man, still come to the grave. And then, where are we? Paul says “outward and inward man.” When we were baptized, the priest said that the “old man” dies in the waters of baptism, and the “new man” rises with the Lord. The “weight of glory” in the new, inward man awaits each of us. Which “man” is seen by our eyes?