Daily Reflection for July 8, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JULY 8  •  Holy Greatmartyr Procopius of Caesarea in Palestine

St. Anthony teaches: “Be fearful that you do not become famous because of some work that you do. If they begin to praise you because of your work, do not rejoice in that and do not find satisfaction in that but keep your works in secret as much as you can and do not allow anyone to speak about them.” How much more peace and joy would there be among men on earth if a part of mankind would take these holy words to heart! Even though St. Theophilus lived as a simple monk secluded on Holy Mt. Athos, he was famous in all the patriarchates of the east, as much for his learning as for his good works and ascetical life of mortification. It happened at one time that Theoleptus, the Patriarch of Constantinople, visited Thessalonica. At that time, the arch-episcopal throne of Thessalonica was vacant. The Christians of Thessalonica unanimously implored the patriarch to appoint Theophilus as their archbishop. The patriarch, a compatriot and friend of Theophilus, wrote a personal letter to him in which he invited him to accept the arch-episcopal throne. Fearing the glory of men and not being able to refuse the patriarch, Theophilus immediately received the “great angelic habit” [The Great Schema] and informed the patriarch of this adding: “If God be willing, we will see each other in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Such were the spiritual giants, whom the Church calls saints, afraid of vanity and the glory of mankind. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)

It is said that “nature abhors a vacuum.” When there is a vacuum, something will always fill it. A vacuum cleaner works on the principle that with suction, a vacuum is created, and dirt will fill the void, being swept up into the canister. In leadership and organizational principles, weak leadership creates a vacuum, which inevitably is filled by someone not necessarily fit, or worse, a better fit than the leader, creating divisions and chaos. Jesus speaks the words above after chastising the scribes and Pharisees who “wanted a sign.” He tells them that they have plenty of signs, and He is the best one of all. “Those who have eyes to see, let them see.”

But then He uses the example of an unclean spirit being sent out of man, wandering around and finding no rest. The spirit returns with seven worse spirits, making the last state of the man worse than before the spirit left the first time. And He says that will be so for “this wicked generation.” We are really good at taking things away in our spiritual lives (or at least preaching about taking things away). We fast twice a week regularly, have longer fasting periods four times a year, eat and drink nothing to prepare for Holy Communion, are told to take time away from our lives and “pray,” are told to be quiet and meditate to truly “see God.” But the problem is that oftentimes we take things away but leave the empty space, and something worse than what is normally there fills it. How often do we keep the “rules” of a fast, but get cranky, or dream of the food we have denied ourselves? How often do we set aside time to meditate or pray and end up daydreaming or thinking about dinner? How often do we deny ourselves food and drink to get ready for the Eucharist, but watch some salacious show or read awful things in a book? When we create a space in our lives, intentionally or unintentionally, we have to fill it with God. If we are hungry fasting, strive to hunger for God and His righteousness. If we make an effort to be quiet, turn the thoughts to God, trying again and again if necessary. You get the point. A vacuum is always filled, even spiritually. Don’t make a vacuum until you have something good to fill it.