Daily Reflection for July 31, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JULY 31  •  Righteous Eudocimus of Cappadocia


Ascetics in the wilderness labor to sever their will and to live according to the will of God. Some erroneously think that the hermit lives completely in isolation. Not one hermit thinks thusly. He lives in the company of God, angels of God and the departed saints who have found repose in the Lord. Wherever the mind of man is, there also is the life of the man. The mind of the hermit is among the greatest, the most pure and in the most numerous company in which one man can possibly be. One time, Abba Mark remarked to St. Arsenius the hermit: “For what reason do you flee from our company and of conversation with us?” Arsenius replied: “God knows that I love you all but I cannot be both, together with God and with man. In heaven, thousands and thousands of thousands have but one will and, with men, there are many and various wills. That is why I cannot leave God and be with men.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
            But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
(2 Peter 1:2-9)

After a few words of greeting, St. Peter immediately addresses a very large issue in the early Church. The Church had been infiltrated by a number of gnostic heretics who were teaching that faith saves by itself, apart from any action or work. They also denied that there would be a Second Coming and that morality was irrelevant to salvation. He writes then about deification. “Deification” means to “be like God.” Not only are the gnostics wrong, but the Apostle makes clear that by knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, His divine power is given to each of us. The calling of knowing Him is to “be partakers of the divine nature,” by escaping the actions in this world that corrupt through lust. This very same gnostic heresy is exactly what the Church still faces today. People deny that we can participate in the divine nature, and the corrupt action that we see all around us, even from self-professed Christians (even “Orthodox” Christians!) is evidence of it. Very few live as if “becoming like God” is the only goal of the Christian life, and why Christ gave us the Church.

Peter then teaches that to this realization that we can truly participate in the divine nature, we must become holy like the Lord through a series of steps (i.e., actions, works) that ultimately are the path to deification. Faith to virtue to knowledge to self-control to perseverance to godliness to brotherly kindness to, finally, love. Virtually everyone today would say that to be a Christian you must begin with love. Peter demonstrates that true love cannot be attained unless we move through those steps from faith to love. Once we attain the heights of love that reflects Love, we will be “neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We will do the works of God Himself through His Spirit and holiness. But if we lack these things (i.e., faith, virtue, etc.), we are shortsighted to, ultimately, spiritual blindness. Deification (also called theosis) is the foundational meaning and goal of the coming of Christ in the Church. The Fathers teach very simply, He came and became one of us, so that we might become one with and like Him. Gnostics still abound today, in society and in the Church. I must move from faith to love to truly know Him. When I truly know Him, I will truly become like Him — I will be deified.