Daily Reflection for July 25, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JULY 25  •  Dormition of the Righteous Anna, mother of the Most-holy Theotokos


“As virginity is better than marriage, so the first marriage is better than the second.” Thus, St. John Chrysostom wrote to the young widow of Tarasius, a deceased nobleman of Constantinople, counseling her not to enter into marriage for the second time. The Church blesses first marriages with joy but the second marriage with sorrow. Eupraxia the elder, the mother of St. Eupraxia and relative of Emperor Theodosius the Great, remained a young widow following the death of her husband Antigonus, with whom she lived in physical contact for only two years and three months, and further lived one more year as brother and sister by mutual pledge. The emperor and empress counseled her to enter into marriage with another nobleman. She would not hear of it, but took her child Eupraxia and together they fled to Egypt. What can we say about St. Olympias and St. Eupraxia the younger? As with St. Macrina, not only was she also betrothed as a virgin but when her betrothed died, she considered herself a widow and would not even in her thoughts consider entering into marriage. What purity of heart! What fidelity to one’s betrothed! What fear of God! What obvious faith in the future life in which the betrothed maiden hopes to see her betrothed.
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?”

            But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

            Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:1-10)

“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” With these words, St. James puts more meat on the bones of “faith and works.” Before he asks that rhetorical question, the saint catalogues the misguided desires of a worldly person. Lust, murder, covetousness, fighting, war, desire for “more,” asking only for those things that feed our pleasures. Remember, though, that James is not trying to evangelize peoples who have not heard of Christ. He is talking to the Church. Those things were (are) present in the Church! Our Lord reminded all of us that we are “not of the world.” (cf. John 17:14-15) We popularly remember that Christians are to be “in the world but not of the world.” But James testifies in his writing that worldly seductions are alive and well in the Church. Strife, dissension, and “war” exist in the life of the Church as the demons try to tear it down. But we know that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” the Church. A Christian, as we have seen throughout the Epistle of St. James, tries to marry faith and works.

So, after the blistering catalogue of ungodly works that do not match with the faith that we are supposed to have, James reminds us to “submit to God.” In a most positive vein, he promises that the devil will flee, but God will draw near if we resist the first and approach the Second. But then we must remember that our faith, if honest and true, will lead us to repentance. Cleansing of hands, purifying of hearts, lamentation, mourning and weeping, and humility are outward signs of inward change. Faith come alive is manifested in turning away from division and seeking the unity of love and faith that can only exist in Christ and the Church. Just before the Creed in the Liturgy, we say, “…that with one mind we may confess…” Then James says the Lord will lift us up, and the works that proceed from that faith and repentance will be worthy of acceptance. May it be so!