Daily Reflection for June 12, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JUNE 12  •  Venerable Onuphrius the Great

Great and wonderful is the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Communion. Even the anchorites [recluses] and hermits craved for nothing else as much as to be given the possibility to receive Holy Communion. St. Mary the Egyptian begged St. Zosimas to bring her the Holy Mystery on the Jordan and to communicate her. Returning from visiting St. Onuphrius, Venerable Paphnutius found a humble community of four young ascetics in the desert. When Paphnutius asked them whether and how do you receive Holy Communion, they replied that an angel of God visits them every Saturday and Sunday and administers them Holy Communion. Paphnutius remained until the first following Saturday and was personally convinced. When Saturday dawned, the entire community was filled with an indescribable wonderful fragrance and while they were at prayer, an angel of God in the form of a handsome young man, as bright as lightning, appeared with the All-pure Mysteries. Paphnutius became frightened and out of fear fell to the ground. But they raised him up and brought him to the angel that he, along with them, receive Communion from the hand of the angel. According to his own testimony, St. Onuphrius received Holy Communion from the hand of an angel as did many other anchorites and hermits. Therefore, it is completely erroneous to think that solitaries and hermits did not receive Holy Communion. God Who provided for their bodily nourishment did not leave them without the Life-giving nourishment of the Body and Blood of Christ the Lord. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
       “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” (Matthew 5:33-41)

I sometimes think we overcomplicate the exercise of our faith. We can be overwhelmed with some of the customs and rules of the Church, all of which are very important and even life-giving. However, we often are confronted with very simple words from our Lord about being a Christian. Such is the case in today’s lectionary reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew. These words are teachings that Jesus gave in His Sermon on the Mount. In speaking to the listeners, He first talks about oaths. He says simply and directly, “Don’t swear at all upon anything” — God’s throne, the earth, Jerusalem, your head — anything! Instead, He commands, “let your ‘Yes’ be “Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.'” Anything more than being direct, honest and truthful is from the evil one. We’ve all heard stories (apocryphal, I’m sure) about oaths and pledges being made to God in times of danger or stress. Then God delivers someone from that danger and stress and they are left with a choice: keep their oath to God or renege. Better no oath than an empty one.

Then He addresses revenge. The Old Testamental Law did, indeed, demand an eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth. But Christ came to fulfill and transcend the Law, not to expect those who for generations could not keep the Law to start doing so now. Instead, He calls us to gentleness and peace. He does tell us to “turn the other cheek” and to suffer innocently when the world would not only expect, but possibly demand, vengeance. We can be so skillful at splitting hairs and finding “loopholes” when the simple commandments of our Lord are difficult to follow. But He gave them simply and directly so there would be no mistaking His words or intentions. We may not be slapped on our cheek, sued in a court of law, or be asked to travel a mile with someone today. But all of those things happen figuratively to every one of us, maybe each and every day. How we respond — with innocent longsuffering or with vengeance — says a lot about what type of Christian we truly are. May the King of Peace grant that “peace which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) to each of us.