Daily Reflection for July 27, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JULY 27  •  Holy Greatmartyr and Healer Panteleimon


If you give alms to the poor, know that as much as you do good works for your fellow man so much you do for yourself and even more for yourself. St. Anthony says: “Both life and death comes to us from our fellow man.” St. Peter Damaskin writes: “As the poor should give thanks to God and love the rich who do them good, so even more should the rich should give thanks to God and to love the poor because they are saved by the Providence of God both now and in the future ages [life to come] because of their alms [Charity]. For without the poor, they not only cannot gain salvation of their souls but they cannot avoid the temptations of wealth.” Alms which are given out of vanity or with disdain do not benefit anything. In earlier times, the wealthy ones brought gold to the hermits and begged them to accept it. It is a rare occurrence that the hermits gladly accepted alms and, when they did accept it, they accepted it out of compassion toward the wealthy ones giving it. The most destitute of men received alms out of compassion! (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is also contained in the Scripture,

Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believe on Him will by no means be put to shame. (Isaiah 28:16)

Therefore to you who believe, He is precious, but to those who are disobedient,

“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” (Psalm 118:22) “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” (Isaiah 8:14)

They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
            But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
(1 Peter 2:4-10)

The first letter of the Holy Apostle Peter lays out the Orthodox doctrine of the “royal priesthood,” of which we are all members through Baptism. He first teaches that we come to Christ, the “living stone,” although He was rejected by men. He points to the prophets: Isaiah (and the Psalmist) calling Him the chief cornerstone Who will be a cause for stumbling and offense. The first Israel was disobedient, rejecting the cornerstone and stumbling over Him. Peter equates us (the New Israel) to living stones, and a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, His special people called out of darkness. We living stones will be the Church, who have obtained mercy through Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone.

A “priest” is the one who offers the sacrifice on behalf of the people. A “king” not only rules over people, but has a specific calling to protect and preserve his people. In Peter’s theology of the “royal priesthood of all believers,” each of us enters that priesthood the moment we are baptized. We are royal in that priesthood because each of us has a calling to preserve and protect not only the Church, but each other. Our prayers, our fellowship, our rejoicing and mourning with each other, our community, all are part of this royal calling. We serve each other in our kingship. A true king cannot be anonymous or callous about the one standing next to him. We are priests because we are called in baptism to offer sacrifice. Not only sacrifice, but a living sacrifice. There is only one Sacrifice — Jesus Christ on the Cross. But we become a living sacrifice in baptism by dying to our old selves and rising to a new life in Him when we offer ourselves just as He offered Himself. We pray, we fast, we give alms, we love, we repent, we practice ascetical efforts. We die to the world and rise to Christ, becoming through our own sacrifice one with Him. The Lord was a perfect King because He is the perfect subject. He was the prefect Priest because He is the perfect sacrifice. My royal priesthood is becoming subject to Him and a sacrifice in Him. The stones are living stones, the sacrifice a living sacrifice. Our calling to be royal priests is a high calling indeed.