Daily Reflection for August 26, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 26  •  Martyrs Adrian and Natalia and 23 companions, at Nicomedia


Occasionally one hears an ungodly word even among Christians: here, even God cannot help! There is no danger in which God cannot help nor are there any enemies who could conquer by their own power without God’s permission. Do not ask how God will destroy the powerful army of our enemies that is easier for God then it is for you to inhale or exhale air. Read how God, by one apparition, terrified the Syrian army, so the army dispersed and Israel was saved: “For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel has hired against us the king of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to come upon us” (2 Kings 7:6). Read how Jerusalem was saved from the powerful army of Babylon without any effort of King Hezekiah except his cry and prayer before God: “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred four-score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses” (2 Kings 19:35). But God did not perform such miracles only in ancient times but He performs them every time when the faithful pray to Him. Thus, in the year 1395 A.D., the Tartar King Tamburlaine [Tamerlane] surrounded Moscow with his countless soldiers. The Russians brought the miracle-working icon of the Most-holy Theotokos from the town of Vladimir to Moscow and all the people with tears began to pray to the Most-holy Pure One. Suddenly, for no visible reason, the army of Tartars began to withdraw hurriedly and to flee. What happened? Tamburlaine had a vision in a dream: clouds of saints moving beneath the heavens and in their midst, the Holy Birth-giver of God as Queen and, further still, countless hosts of angels. The Theotokos sharply threatened Tamburlaine and ordered him to leave immediately from the land of the Russians and the saints waved their staffs at the emperor. Terrified by this dream, Tamburlaine as soon as it dawned, ordered a retreat and flight. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
            And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
(2 Corinthians 6:14-16)

The word “yoke” is defined as “a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.” St. Paul uses this image to talk about the relationship between believers and unbelievers. He tells believers not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers. His words are sharp — being yoked with unbelievers is “fellowship of righteousness with lawlessness”, and “communion of light with darkness.” Does all of this mean that I can’t say hi to my atheist neighbor, or worse yet, my crazy aunt? That question needs to be answered with a question: are you “yoked” to your neighbor or your aunt? The Apostle is warning the Corinthians not about casual relationships and friendships with people, even relatives, but rather to the bending to idols and false religions. We might think that this was a problem for the first century Corinthians, and not for us, but idolatry and false religions abound in 21st century America. A believer needs to stand firm in faith and be yoked not to unbelievers and worldly trends, fashions, and idols such as money, power, glory, possessions, fleshly passions, etc. We (Orthodox believers) have no fellowship with “lawlessness.” The light of our belief has no communion with the darkness of heresy and immorality. Do you realize that there are Orthodox people who have no problem with abortion, sexual relations outside of marriage, homosexuality, gender confusion, greed, hatred for various groups (including unbelievers), etc. and are more than willing to say, “we all believe in the same God”? That is different than a slip in sin. It is being yoked to darkness. I can’t list every idol and lawlessness here. To what are we yoked?

This is a problem why? Because we are the temple of God. We are the temple as members of the Body of Christ, and we are the temple individually as baptized, chrismated members of that body. What is the temple? The temple is the dwelling place of God. If God dwells in me, how can I unite myself to idols and all manner of lawlessness? If God dwells in me, how can I not glorify Him in my body, instead of uniting it with various forms of the passions? If God dwells in me, how can I subscribe to or be careless about teachings that deny Him or re-define Him to the point that He is unrecognizable? He does “walk among us,” and He is our God and we are His people. He is who we are to be yoked to, pulling the cart of the Church through the darkness of the world. Sometimes animals strain against the yoke. So do we.