Daily Reflection for June 27, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JUNE 27  •  St. Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople

There is no one so stupid as he who cannot see his own sins and cannot see the virtues of others. There is no one so enlightened as he who can see and recognize his own sins and the virtues of others. Those who only see the faults of others and criticize them, St. John Chrysostom equates them to flies that fall on the wounds of others, not in order to heal them but rather to gnaw and to poison them more. “God has sent us here for penance,” these are the words of Blessed Theophilus of Kiev (+1853). He who knows and feels that he is here for repentance immerses himself in silence and contemplation about his own sin, which has brought him to repentance. The same Blessed Theophilus further said: “Weep also for the sins of your fellow man; without this not one created human being will be saved.” To weep or to proclaim – how is it written my son? With Blessed Theophilus, it is written: “To weep over one’s own sins but with Satan, to proclaim the sins of others.” About himself, Blessed Theophilus at the point of death left this testament to his brethren: “Remember the odious Theophilus!” This is the testament of the holiest human being in Kiev in the year 1853 A.D.  (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

St. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are considered “pastoral” epistles, meaning they are written in order to instruct the young Timothy and Titus in how to be pastors. But the letters are also full of wisdom and guidance that applies to everyone every day in some way. The passage cited today from my personal reading could have been written today. We live in a world “obsessed with disputes and arguments over words.” Anyone wading into social media for the first time (is there anyone left who hasn’t?) would be horrified, I hope, at the wasteland of disputes and arguments. Even so-called “Orthodox” social media is, at best, sometimes helpful, and at worst, a path to hell. Self-righteousness, judgment, enmity, name-calling and general nastiness reign with a complete and total control on the internet. There is no place for civility, nor for an openmindedness for other opinions.

Instead, what do we see? Paul tells us — envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions and the manipulation of human beings in order to “mold” minds to the “right thought.” This is true for social media and various websites in general, and for Orthodox ones proclaiming themselves as “guides and experts,” sometimes with ordained titles attached to the names. Except for official Church websites, there are only a few “Orthodox” websites to recommend about “Orthodox” thought. The wasteland that is called “Orthodox commentary” is a minefield waiting to destroy the person who steps on it (or, perhaps better said, steps in it). It is very difficult to determine what good and truly Orthodox sites are, so there are two recommendations: one from me and one from St. Paul. The recommendation from me is to ask me for guidance when you aren’t sure about a site. The advice from St. Paul is very clear above: “From such withdraw yourself.” The words are not just addressed to pastors, but to Christians. Let us hear the words.