Daily Reflection for June 19, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JUNE 19  •  Holy Apostle Jude

The monks once inquired of Paisius the Great: “Father, speak to us a word of salvation and how, according to God, we should live?” The elder replied to them: “Go and keep the commandments of God and preserve the traditions of the Fathers.” The tradition of the Fathers is the experience of the saints in the spiritual field, the enormous experience of nearly two-thousand years, the experience of many hundreds and thousands of holy men and women. What a very rich depository of wisdom! What kind of an immense mass of proofs of every truth of Holy Scripture! All of that wealth, all of that wisdom, all of those proofs, all of this experience the Protestants have rejected! O madness inexpressible! O, the poverty of beggars! (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
           But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
           Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.
            Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
(Jude 1:1-13)

The Church remembers the Holy Apostle Jude on June 19. At Vespers, the whole of his epistle is read (it is only 25 verses). In his epistle, he calls the faithful to be diligent in fighting against a serious problem “creeping” into the Church. Ungodly men, marked for condemnation by their behavior, bringing lewdness with them and denying the Lord. In noting the special relationship between God and His people, “destroying those who did not believe.” Listing Sodom and Gomorrah and cities like them for sexual immorality and “strange flesh,” they suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. They defile the flesh, reject authority and speak evil of dignitaries. They corrupt themselves. Yet, they act in the life of the Church as if their behavior does not matter. The description by the Apostle of these is quite graphic and chilling. They are “clouds without water, blown around by wind,” “late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots,” raging waves of the sea, foaming up in their own shame,” and “wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” What a picture he paints!

But we know that in every warning in Scripture about those against whom we need to guard, is a warning about our own souls. We are not just to “guard the Church,” but also must guard our own souls. Pride and self-righteousness can convince us in “today’s day and age,” that morality is fluid, subject to what is acceptable and popular to our culture. So we see rampant sexual misbehavior, lewdness that passes for humor, thinking that as long as someone believes “in God,” that they are the same as those to whom God has given His word and Church, and self-appointed “experts” who do not submit to authority or dignitaries in the Church whom God Himself has appointed. We see this all in the Church. When we pollute the Church with those behaviors and attitudes, we become waterless clouds, trees without fruit (which will be burned), raging seas foaming up in our own shame (even when we don’t know we should be ashamed), and worst of all, wandering stars, created to share the Light, but for whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever.

More and more, I am convinced that before we pray and fast, before we give alms, before we forgive and before we “do Christian things,” we must first take stock of our own souls and determine whether something has indeed “creeped in” and is leading us in a direction not given by the Lord. Guard your souls and so guard the Church. The Apostle Jude is clear — we have been warned.