Daily Reflection for August 7, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 7  •  Martyr Dometius of Persia, and two disciples


Neither concern yourself about the righteous nor envy the sinner. Remember always that the Lord Christ, by His resurrection, conquered a shameful death and that Herod, Judas, Nero, Julian the Apostate, Valerian, Leo the Armenian and other opponents of Christ, by a shameful death mortalized forever their temporary successes and victories. Envious ones slandered St. Narcissus the Patriarch for violating his chastity. The innocent Narcissus withdrew into the wilderness and spent many years in silence and patiently waited for God to do His will. Three patriarchs followed him [on the patriarchal throne] and only then did men come forward and clearly prove his innocence. Then everyone forced him to return from the wilderness to his throne. Thus, God justifies the righteous. The bloody Emperor Valerian, with satanic passion, murdered Christians throughout the entire world [Roman Empire]. How did he end up? In battle with the Persians, he was defeated and enslaved by King Sapor. Sapor did not desire to kill him immediately but used him as a mounting block whenever he wanted to mount a horse. Every day, King Sapor’s servants brought Valerian along with a horse and Sapor enjoyed placing his foot on the neck of the Roman Emperor in order to make it easier for him to mount the horse. He who sows an evil seed reaps an evil harvest. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
            If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
           For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints….Let all things be done decently and in order.
(1 Corinthians 14:26-33, 40)

If memory serves (and that is iffy), the very first time I heard the words “Let all things be done decently and in order,” was in liturgical theology class led by Fr. Alexander Schmemann. A very concise, very pointed and very clear instruction by the Apostle became a guiding light to me in serving the Divine Services of the Church. Today’s lectionary selection from 1 Corinthians concludes Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts. There are many things that people can bring to God in the Church: a psalm (song), a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation. The gifts are all judged in one light, however; all must be offered for the edification of the Church. Tongues are useless without an interpreter to teach the hearers. Prophecy is judged by the Prophets. Ultimately, chaos is to be avoided at all costs because God is not the “author of confusion, but of peace.”

What we bring to God in the Church is our worship. The worship that we offer must be theoprepic — appropriate to God. We use language that is lofty and poetic. We use sound and movement to make alive the presence of the saints and angels. We use incense that is pleasing to the nostrils and rises in a visible icon of prayer ascending to God. We vest ourselves in glorious vestments of color to show the majesty of God. All of that is theoprepic. We can’t imagine a priest serving the Divine Liturgy in blue jeans and tee shirt, while leading the congregation in the beautiful “Our Dad” prayer.

The altar servers with whom I have been privileged to share the altar over these many years can attest to my borderline OCD about worship and the sanctuary. I can live with two inch stacks of papers on my desk. I can live with a little dust around the house. I can live with some clothes just dropped on the floor. But I will not live with communion cloths out of place on the altar or not in line with each other. I will not live with the processional fans not facing exactly forward. I will not live with services unprepared or chaotic. My house is ultimately not that important. But God’s House and the worship offered in that house is vitally, and eternally, important. All things must be done decently and in order. That is not Fr. John’s commandment, it is St. Paul’s — but Fr. John enthusiastically enforces it. I hope Fr. Alexander has taken note.