Daily Reflection for August 28, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 28  •  Venerable Moses the Ethiopian of Scete


A true Christian avoids the praise of men; not only avoids, but has a true fear of it. St. Sava of Pskov left the office of abbot, the monastery and the good brotherhood of the monastery and fled to a desolate place to escape the praise of men, for praise of men robs our heart. A devout prince, upon hearing of the mortification of St. Moses Murin [the Black], went with his retinue into the desert to see him. Informing Moses that the prince was coming to his monastery, Moses quickly ran out and began to flee and to hide somewhere, but he unexpectedly encountered the high-ranking visitors. “Where is the cell of Abba Moses?” the servants of the prince asked not suspecting that this was Moses himself. Moses opened his mouth and said: “What do you want him for? He is an ignorant old man, very untruthful and completely impure in life.” Hearing this, the visitors were astonished and continued on. When they arrived at the cell of Moses, they inquired about the elder and the monks said that he was not there. Then they began to relate what a monk on the road had said about Moses. The monks were saddened and asked them: “How did he look, this old man, who spoke to you mocking words about this holy man?” and when they said that he was very dark in the face, tall and in a miserable garment; the monks cried out loudly: “but that was indeed the Abba Moses!” By this incident, the prince benefited greatly spiritually and rejoicefully returned to his home. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

…the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king said to Daniel, “Your God whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” Then they brought a stone and placed it over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his ring and with the ring of his nobles, so the matter concerning Daniel might not be changed. The king then went to his house and spent the night without his evening meal; for they brought no meats to him, and his sleep departed from him. Now God shut the mouths of the lions, and they did not trouble Daniel.
            Then the king arose early in the morning at daybreak and went in haste to the den of lions. As he approached the den, he cried with a loud voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the mouths of the lions?” Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the mouths of the lions so they did not destroy me, because uprightness was found in me before Him, and I did no wrongdoing in His sight.”
            Then the king rejoiced greatly over him and gave orders to bring Daniel out of the den; and no corruption was found in him, because he believed in his God.
(Daniel 6:17-24)

My personal reading discipline always brings me to the end of the Church Year with the last book of the Old Testament in Daniel. Of course, Daniel in the den of lions is a story about which most people know at least a little. But the story — thrilling and suspenseful — must be seen within the context of the time and the imagery of Jesus Christ. The context illumines the imagery. Daniel was the innocent victim of those who were jealous of him and concerned for their power. They coaxed the king, who loved and respected Daniel, to sign a law which condemned Daniel for his prayer to the living God. The penalty was to be thrown into the den of lions. The king was distraught, but hoped in Daniel’s God. The den was sealed with a stone. Against all odds, the king came very early in the morning calling for Daniel and being rewarded with a very alive Daniel. Daniel was lifted from the den and exalted in the kingdom. His persecutors were thrown with their families into the den and the book says were destroyed “before hitting the floor of the den.” Daniel was a “type” of Christ. Does this context sound like another story? St. Ephraim of Syria is quoted in the Orthodox Study Bible notes as equating Daniel and Lazarus as the same story reflecting resurrection before the Resurrection.

But as always, we can see lessons in this story to apply to ourselves today. Beyond the hope of the resurrection, which should permeate everything we do and believe, we can certainly see two life and faith lessons. First, the den of lions can surely be seen as the corrupt world we live in. All of us have been thrown into that den and whether we truly survive is not measured by the things of this life, but by the things of the next. Temptations, passions, pleasures, possessions, etc., all rip at our flesh and soul and try to devour us. Oftentimes, they are “unfair,” coming at us from the evil desires of others. Certainly, people of faith are under attack from others, including governments. But secondly, the faith of Daniel (and Lazarus) are signs of the power of God in our lives. Under no earthly expectation should a human being be thrown into a den of hungry lions and emerge unscathed. But he did. We might think that we cannot withstand the “lions” of this world, but with faith in the living God, we can safely come out at the call of the King.