Daily Reflection for August 27, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 27  •  Venerable Poemen (Pimen) the Great


One who crawls up a steep mountain and scrapes with both hands and feet to take one step forward, not thinking to look back, such were the great Orthodox ascetics in the difficult climb to the Kingdom of God. Their labor and their detachment is indeed for amazement. St. Pimen did not want to see his mother when she came to visit him. A prince wanted to see Pimen but he refused. Then the prince thought of a cunning way, to force the elder to meet with him; he arrested the son of Pimen’s sister and said to her that he would release her son only if Pimen himself comes to speak with him. The sister went into the wilderness and, knocking at the door, begged her brother to come out and save her son. But Pimen did not come out. Then sister began to scold and curse him. Hearing of this, the prince ordered that a letter be written to Pimen saying that if he, Pimen, would at least put in writing, (since he did not do so orally) implore the prince to release his nephew, the prince would do so. Pimen replied: “O mighty prince, command to probe well the guilt of the young man and if the guilt is such that he deserves death, let him die, so that by temporal punishment, he will escape the torments in eternity but if the guilt does not merit the penalty of death then castigate him according to the law and then release him.” Reading this just and impartial judgment, the prince was greatly astonished, released the youth and his respect for Pimen increased two-fold. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

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.”
            Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1)

Continuing the second epistle to the Corinthians from yesterday, the covenantal relationship of God to His people is affirmed by St. Paul in these words. We are the temple of the living God, the temple is the dwelling place of God, therefore, God is alive in us. He quotes the Lord in the Old Testament (the only scriptures at that time), who calls His people to be separate, to “come out from among them (idols),” and He will receive us as sons and daughters. This “separateness” is one of those proofs of a Christian. We are called as His people to be in the world, but not of the world. We are sojourners in a strange land that is not our home. Our true home is prepared in the heavens for those who believe in and follow Him.

Therefore, Paul says, knowing that our Lord has promised all these things, we are to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” and be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This does not just mean recognition of filth and holiness, nor lip service to repentance and change. It means a deep reckoning within our very hearts to conquer sin and passion, knowing that we live in a fallen world, literally infused with sin. Darkness becomes so ingrained in us that we sometimes can’t see the light and we fall into sin even against our will and desire. Our cleansing begins with a deep sorrow for the distance we see between us and God, and perfecting holiness begins by doing battle with those sins and passions. The struggle for holiness is a genuine, willful avoidance of situations that lead us to sin. Prayer, fasting and confession of our sins is the way we pick up the weapons of war. Can we do it ourselves? Of course not. That’s why the Church has been given to us. Through the sacraments, the communion of love in the community, and the Word, the Holy Spirit becomes alive within us and breaks down that darkness which leads to sin. It all begins with the acceptance and understanding that we are God’s children — His sons and daughters — and His temple. Who among us would defile a child or the temple of God? Then why do we defile ourselves?