Daily Reflection for October 5, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  OCTOBER 5  •  Holy Martyr Charitina of Amisus


Whenever men exert great effort in seeking the truth, and prefer nothing else to the truth, God comes to meet them in His gentle way. This is shown to us in the life of St. Dionysius of Alexandria. Even as a young man and a pagan, Dionysius read all the Greek literature, seeking the truth. When he was not satisfied with this, he read everything that came into his hands. And, in accord with God’s providence, he met a poor woman who offered to sell him several hand-copied epistles of the Holy Apostle Paul. Dionysius gladly purchased and read them. They so overcame him that he sought out this woman and asked her if there were more such writings to be had. The woman directed him to a Christian priest who gave him all of Paul’s epistles. Having read all carefully, Dionysius came to believe in Christ, and was baptized without any hesitation.
            Here is another incident: In the town of Arsinoe, the Millenarian heresy had spread. This heresy taught that Christ would soon come, and He would establish an earthly kingdom on earth for a thousand years. At the head of this heresy was a certain Korakion. St. Dionysius went to Arsinoe to change the minds of the millenarians and to prevent the spread of this heresy. At a large gathering of millenarians and true Orthodox, Dionysius debated with Korakion and other leaders of the millenarians. This debate lasted for three whole days. (Such zeal did the ancient Christians show in the examination of the truth!) God blessed their labor and zeal, through the prayers of St. Dionysius. At the end of the debate, Korakion and all the other millenarians rejected their false teaching and accepted the Orthodox teaching of St. Dionysius. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
            “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
(Matthew 22:1-14)

This very famous parable is familiar to most, if not all, of us. We even hear it on a Sunday in the regular reading of the lectionary. If it is important enough to hear not only on a Sunday, but also as one of the daily assigned readings, it must be important enough to reflect on more than once per year! The imagery is clear: the wedding feast is the Church (although one certainly must understand that the Lord was speaking about Israel to His listeners); everyone invited made excuses and went their ways; some even killed the king’s servants who delivered the invitation (“some” are the Israelites). So the invitation was rescinded from those originally invited and given to those “whom they found,” both good and bad. And the wedding feast was filled with guests. There are two underlying realities to this parable that we must ponder, even regularly:

We are the invited to the wedding feast. The Divine Liturgy is the banquet table of the King, and all of us baptized into the Church are invited to come and feast. But just like those in the parable, there are many who reject the invitation, make excuses, even persecute and kill the servants of the King. If we got an invitation to dinner from the president, or some other dignitary, we would consider it an honor and would not think of saying, “That’s ok. I’m good. I have other things to do.” At least once every week, often more, everyone in the Church is invited to the Divine Liturgy. We have a litany of excuses and reasons why we “can’t” come. We are tempted with laziness, with an overburdened calendar, chores, etc. But the fact of the matter is that those are not reasons we “can’t” come — they are reasons we “won’t” come. When we do that, we insult and offend the King. In the parable, He comes and destroys those miserable “murderers.”

The second underlying reality is that although all those found afterwards were invited to the feast, when the King entered, he saw someone without a wedding garment. That person was speechless when asked by the King how he entered that way. So he was cast into “outer darkness.” The sin was that a wedding garment was provided by the host of the feast. The only reason a person would not have a wedding garment on is if they refused the garment. The wedding garment for a Christian is provided also by the Host. When we come to the banquet, we are provided the life of the Church by the Master, the prayer of the Church, the love of the Church, and the community of the Church. Piece by piece, we are clothed in the “robe of righteousness.” But to put on that robe, we must first of all accept the invitation, prepare ourselves with prayer, fasting and repentance, and approach “in the fear of God and with faith and love.” This parable illustrates for us that there is no excuse for refusing an invitation extended by the Master, nor for coming without a wedding garment. Those who do have the outer darkness awaiting. The wedding feast awaits!


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