Daily Reflection for July 14, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JULY 14  •  Apostle Aquila of the Seventy


Christians must arm themselves against the abominations of this world. They must be armed against every attack and against all temptations, so that every evil rebounds from them. Armor is not made in a day, nor in two days but is diligently and laboriously wielded by long-lasting exercise. Of what value is all our virtue if we succumb to the first abomination? Speaking of this, Saint Gregory of Nyssa cites an example with a monkey in Alexandria. He says: “An animal trainer in Alexandria taught a monkey to skillfully impersonate a female dancer on stage. The spectators at the theatre praised the monkey who was dressed as a female dancer and danced to the beat of the music. But while the viewers were occupied observing such a novel spectacle, a comedian wanted to show everyone that a monkey is nothing more than a monkey. While they all shouted and applauded at the skill of the monkey, the comedian tossed sweets on the stage, sweets that monkeys particularly like. As soon as the monkey saw the sweets, he forgot the dance, the applause, the expensive clothing and jumped with his paws for the sweets but as his dress interfered, he began to tear it apart with his nails attempting to remove it. Instead of praise and amazement, laughter commenced among the viewers.” For through the torn mask of the “dancer,” a monkey was revealed.  (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“If Israel returns to Me,” says the Lord, “he shall return. If he puts away abominations from his mouth, and fears My presence, and swears that the Lord lives with truth, judgment, and righteousness, then the Gentiles shall bless in Him, and in Him they shall praise God in Jerusalem.” For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and those dwelling in Jerusalem: “Plow for yourselves the untilled fields, and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to God, all you men of Judah and those dwelling in the Jerusalem, and circumcise the hardness of your heart, lest My anger come forth like fire and burn; and there shall be no one who quenches it, because of the presence of your evil practices.” (Jeremiah 4:1-4)

These verses from the Prophet Jeremiah end the list of “charges” against Israel at the beginning of his ministry, and he then moves into the consequences of the apostasies and abominations that will end with the exile of Israel to Babylon. In reading all the prophets, one must be mindful of reading with the eyes of Christ and the Church. No prophecy about Israel is just about Israel. Every prophecy is also about the Church and even each of us individuals and our respective covenantal relationships with the Lord. There are two elements in this prophecy to reflect on today. There is a connection (for Israel, the Church and me) between putting away abominations with corresponding recognition of the truth, judgment and righteousness of God and the circumcision of the self to God. This sign of the covenant between God and Israel was also a sign of the subjection of the person to God. Abominations seem to abound in creation. Certainly, they do today. Not more than ever before (sin is sin, after all), but certainly more militantly than before. The circumcision of the self is the putting away of all those abominations. And St. Paul talks about this circumcision for us in the Church:

“In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:11-12)

Baptism — dying and rising with Christ — is our circumcision. And that leads to the second element in the prophecy. When the People of God, originally Israel, circumcise the hardness of their hearts, everyone is invited (i.e., the Gentiles shall bless in Him, and in Him they shall praise God in Jerusalem). The Gentiles are all those who hear the word of God and keep it, not just Jews. The Jerusalem in the prophecy is the Church. Jeremiah was sent by God to try to rouse the people of Israel before it was too late. Abominations were the order of the day. Apostasy was the way of life. They didn’t listen and went into exile. The Church tries to rouse us, and calls us to put away our own abominations. But we have to recognize them as abominations before we can put them away. That recognition leads to repentance, and repentance leads to life.