Daily Reflection for August 4, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 4  •  Holy Seven Sleepers of Ephesus


“Ask and it shall be given to you,” said the Lord (St. Matthew 7:7). As parents give to their children all that the children ask and all that is for their benefit, so does God, the Lover of Mankind, give to men all that men ask of God and what serves to their salvation. As a monk on Mt. Athos, Cosmas asked two things of God: to preach the Gospel to the people and to suffer as a martyr for the Faith. For an Athonite monk, who is bound by vows to his monastery, these two desires seem unattainable and unrealistic. But to God, everything is possible. God perfectly fulfilled both desires of Cosmas. The joy of Cosmas was indescribable when he received the blessing of the patriarch that he could leave Mt. Athos and go among the people to preach the Good News. Cosmas had one more similar moment of joy and, that was when the servants of the Turkish Pasha informed him that, according to the command of the Pasha, he must die. Full of joy, the saint sank to his knees, gave thanks to God that He fulfilled even this desire and gave up his body to death and his soul to the Living God. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Who has gone up into heaven and taken hold of her, and brought her down from the clouds? Who has crossed the sea and found her, and brought her back for pure gold? No one knows her way, nor does anyone ponder her path. But the One who knows all things knows her; He has found her by His understanding — He who formed the earth for all time, who filled it with four-footed creatures; the One who sends forth the light and it goes out; the One who calls to it, and it obeys with fear. The stars shone in their watches and rejoiced. He called them and they said, “Here we are!” They shone with gladness for Him who made them. This is our God; no other shall be compared to Him. He found the whole way of knowledge and gave it to Jacob His servant and to Israel His beloved. Afterwards, He was seen upon the earth and lived among men.
            She is the book of the commandments of God and the law that endures forever. All those who keep her will live, but those forsaking her will die. Return, O Jacob, and take hold of her. Walk toward the radiance of the presence of her light. Do not give your glory to another or the things that are of advantage to you to a foreign nation.
(Baruch 3:29-4:3)

Baruch spoke earlier in chapter three about Israel forsaking the “fountain of wisdom,” leading to their exile. He continues, but in a much different tone, with the beautifully poetic and prophetic description of Wisdom, language reminiscent of Proverbs. Wisdom is the Lord and the majesty of His power and creation are on display. Only One — the Lord — reigns over all creation. He formed the earth. He filled it with four-footed creatures. He sends out the light, and when He calls it, it obeys with fear. He calls to the stars themselves and they answer “Here we are!” then shine with gladness. Only He gives knowledge, and it only to Jacob His servant and Israel His beloved. This joyful, poetic tone hints at the return from exile. True life is found in that Wisdom which is the book of the commandments of God and His law. Death is in forsaking her (an experience they already know in exile). If Jacob (Israel) returns and walks toward the Light, they will have life. Finally, they are exhorted not to give these things to a “foreign nation.” In other words, the Wisdom which is the Lord must be held close and followed. Anyone following her (Wisdom) will return and live. Anyone forsaking her will stay in exile and die. We know that the exile applies to us today as we live not in our true home (the Kingdom), but in a strange and profane place (physically and spiritually).

There is also a very important sentence pointing to Christ and the Church. After saying that God shall give “the whole way of knowledge” to Jacob and Israel, Baruch says that “He was seen upon the earth and lived among men.” This prophecy is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Church. “Jacob” and “Israel” are the Church, and you and I have been given the way of knowledge through Him, we have been called to keep the commandments of God, to walk toward the “radiance of the presence of her light,” and to not give our glory to another or to a “foreign nation.” The Lord incarnate made it possible for all of this to be not a futile gesture, but a true vocation. If we take the time to ponder the majesty of creation and its Author, and how that Author has prepared a place for us inconceivably more beautiful than creation, we would seek Wisdom, give up anything to acquire her, and never betray her to the foreign nation in which we live.

(In English, the word wisdom is grammatically neuter, but not so in Hebrew. The Hebrew word is chokmoth, and it is grammatically feminine. In Hebrew, it would have been natural to speak of wisdom as a “she.”)