Daily Reflection for July 28, 2020

Holy Apostles of the Seventy and Deacons: Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon and Parmenas


Concerning kindness, St. Nilus of Mt. Sinai writes: “My son, always strive to be simple and kind. Do not have one thing in your heart and another thing on your tongue for this is a ruse and a lie. Be truthful and not false for falsehood is of the evil one. Do not return evil for evil but if someone does you evil, forgive him so that God may also forgive you. If you are tormented by the remembrance of evil thoughts, pray to God for that brother [the evil doer] with your entire soul and the remembrance of evil thoughts will flee from you.” It is told how a young man decided to serve a very eccentric old man so that God would forgive him of his sins. He endured twelve years in this most difficult service and presented himself to God. A great spiritual man saw the soul of the young man in Paradise as he was praying to God for the evil old man: “Lord, as You had mercy on me because of him, have mercy on him according to Your great goodness and because of me Your servant.” After forty days this eccentric old man died and, again, that spiritual man saw the soul of that old man reposing in the Kingdom of Heaven. What a most beautiful and miraculous kindness of this patient youth in truth, miraculous! (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
            Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”
            Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
(1 Corinthians 10:1-12)

In this passage from the tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, St. Paul reminds us that simply being in the Church, in and of itself, means nothing. He points to Israel — all of them were under the cloud (the Lord) which led the people by day, all passed through the sea which was parted to preserve them from Pharaoh, and all drank from the Rock in the wilderness when struck by Moses to provide drink for a parched Israel. The Rock was Christ, and He poured Himself out to sustain them. But we know what happened. They wandered for forty years, and the generation that left Egypt died out before they came to the Promised Land. Even Moses did not enter the Promised Land! Paul lists some of their sins: idolatry, sexual immorality, tempting the Lord, and complaining(!). Generation after generation fell the same way. Perhaps our generation should be paying more attention?

This passage has very important lessons for us:

  1. As previously stated, simply belonging to the People of God is no guarantee of anything, especially salvation. The images of baptism (parting the sea, the water pouring from the Rock, etc.) are not just historical facts; they are images. Despite God personally being with His people, they fell into every sin imaginable. So we cannot assume anything. But the Lord provided everything they needed to be saved, just as He does for us, beginning with baptism. One might also argue that those in the Church face a more difficult journey. The demons don’t worry as much about those not trying to live righteously. And to those whom much has been given, much is expected.
  2. All that history, all those tests, happened to them “as examples” for them and for us. God allowed it into their lives to test, then strengthen them. Then it was preserved (written) for our posterity, so that we might look at it and learn. George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
  3. Finally, “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” What an important spiritual truth! Just when we think we have conquered a passion or a sin, it comes roaring back with a vengeance or the demons place a different (often more difficult) passion in front of us. And one of the passions which caused Israel to fall was complaining (how many of us are in trouble?)!! We take heed and humbly thank God when there is a respite in the battle with our passions, while never letting our guard down. “Pride goes before a fall.”