Daily Reflection for October 1, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  OCTOBER 1  •  Protection of the Most-Holy Theotokos; St. Romanos the Melodist


The Most-holy Theotokos has often appeared to holy men in need: sometimes to encourage them in asceticism, or to heal them from sickness, or to reveal a certain mystery to them. Two similar, wonderful events took place in the Great Lavra on the Holy Mountain. In Great Lent, during the chanting of the Great Akathist, St. John Koukouzelis was tired and sat down, facing the icon of the Theotokos. As he sat, he fell asleep. Just then, the Holy Most-pure One appeared to him in heavenly light and said: “Rejoice, O John! Chant and do not stop chanting, and for this I will not abandon you.” With this, she placed a gold coin in John’s hand. When he awoke from sleep, the gold coin was still in his hand. After this, many wonderful miracles were worked from the icon of the Theotokos, as well as from the gold coin.
            The second incident involved St. Gregory the monk, who, like John Koukouzelis, was a church cantor. Patriarch Kallistos had established that in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, “All Creation Rejoices in Thee” be sung in place of “It Is Truly Meet.” His successor, Patriarch Philotheus, rescinded this, reinstating “It Is Truly Meet” because of its brevity. But then, on the eve of the Theophany, and in the presence of Patriarch Gregory of Alexandria, St. Gregory sang “All Creation Rejoices in Thee” instead. Immediately after this, the Holy Most-pure One appeared to him, and, as she had done to John Koukouzelis, placed a gold coin in his hand. She said: “I am very grateful for your singing in my honor.” Because of this, it was instituted that all Liturgies of St. Basil would thereafter include “All Creation Rejoices in Thee.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Again the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words for yourself, for according to these words I established a covenant with you and with Israel. So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
            Now when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), he did not know the skin of his face was glorified while God talked with him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses and the glorified appearance of the skin of his face, they were afraid to come near him. Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the Lord commanded him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever the Lord commanded him. So the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that it was glorified; and Moses put the veil on his face again until he went in to speak with Him.
(Exodus 34:27-35)

We know how the “first” giving of the Tablets of the Law went. Smashed and ground up by Moses when he saw the apostasy and idolatry, then mixed into the drinking water of Israel. This passage is the second giving of the tablets. Moses goes up once again onto Mount Sinai and speaks with (actually mostly listens to) God and then, after forty days and forty nights in His presence, neither eating nor drinking, Moses comes back down the mountain. There are three things that stand out in the narrative: first, the patience, long-suffering and forgiveness of God. In a human sense, we wouldn’t blame Him if God gave up on Israel when they fell away seemingly a few moments after Moses went up on the mountain the first time. But He didn’t, and (I like to imagine, sighing), He called Moses up again, reminding him to bring two more tablets like the first. God renews His covenant with Israel (and Moses). The Lord does not give up on us, either.

I loved the seeming nonchalance and humility of Moses. Going up on the mountain to talk with God, watching Him write the Ten Commandments with His own finger, and having his own face transfigured with divine light and not even knowing it until he came down and saw the reaction of Aaron and the rest is amazing. What humility. What faith. Being in the presence of God, listening to Him and following His commandments transfigured not only his face, but him. We, in humility, need to stand in the presence of the Lord, listen to Him, and follow His commandments and we will be transfigured.

Finally, the fact that the people turned away in fear when they saw the transfigured Moses is a lesson for us. St. John Chrysostom said that they “could not” look at Moses’ face because they were hard-hearted. The radiance of his face was not only pointing to his own contact with the Lord, but was pointing to the Law in his hands as the way to Jesus Christ. The manifestation of the glory of the Lord in the person of Moses is the same glory that Jesus shone with on Mount Tabor. It is the same glory that shines in numerous saints throughout the ages. And it is the same glory that shines in the life of the Church. The lesson for us today is that we are going to have a reaction when we encounter the holy. Perhaps the reaction depends greatly on the holiness within me.