Daily Reflection for June 24, 2020


One of the differences between the eloquent philosophy of the Greeks [Hellenes] and the Christian Faith is that the entire Hellenistic philosophy can clearly be expressed with words and comprehended by reading, while the Christian Faith cannot be clearly expressed by words and even less comprehended by reading alone. When you are expounding the Christian Faith, for its understanding and acceptance, both reading and the practice of what is read are necessary. When Patriarch Photius read the words of Mark the Ascetic concerning the spiritual life he noticed a certain unclarity with the author for which he wisely said: “That [unclarity] does not proceed from the obscurity of expression but from that truth which is expressed there; it is better understood by means of practice (rather than by means of words) and that cannot be explained by words only.” And this, the great patriarch adds, “It is not the case with these homilies nor only with these men but rather with all of those who attempted to expound the ascetical rules, passions and instructions, which are better understood from practice alone.”
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
           Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
(Matthew 10:16-22)

Forty-one years ago, on this day, I knelt at the altar and received the Sacrament of the Holy Priesthood from the hands of His Grace, Bishop Boris (Geeza) of blessed memory. It hardly seems possible, but here we are! Next week will be the 12th anniversary of my assignment to St. Paul Church. Anniversaries are cause for celebration, but also have their own poignant aspects. The ticking of the calendar makes one think about aging, mortality and moments wasted and lost. But they also remind us of wisdom, experience and moments of love and community gained. The passage from Matthew prescribed for today (not the feast) on the Church calendar is very appropriate for a reflection on priesthood. But we must remember that “priesthood” is two-fold: the ordained priesthood and the “royal” priesthood of all believers.

Reading Matthew today reminds me of my life as an ordained priest — indeed, the life of any ordained priest. We are sent as sheep in the midst of wolves (sometimes the wolves are in the “world,” sometimes in the Church!), we must be wise as serpents but not harmful to anyone, we must beware of men but not cynical, and we are betrayed and “scourged” publicly but testify to Him. We hope and pray that the Spirit of our Father will speak in us (and that the Spirit of God may be heard by our flocks). The Word of God will cause division and suffering, not because the Word is evil, but because Truth will always separate the wheat and the chaff. All priests experience at some point hate for His sake. But every priest is called to be crucified with Him and endure to the end. And so be saved. But we must also realize that every word also applies to every single Christian, all of whom are called to be “royal” priests, offering the sacrifice of themselves in godly living.

So, for forty-one years I have tried to offer myself as a sacrifice on behalf of all those whom God has placed in my charge. I have also hoped and prayed that all those placed in my charge offer themselves as a sacrifice, so that together, we may stand uncondemned at the Throne of God on the last day. On to forty-two!