Daily Reflection for September 11, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  SEPTEMBER 11  •  Venerable Theodora of Alexandria


One must not hinder anyone on the path of perfect devotion and service to God. Many saintly women who wanted to flee from marriage and devote themselves to God were pursued and hindered in this by their husbands. These women were usually victorious in the end, remaining steadfast in their intention, and often awakened the consciences of their husbands by their example, and directed them on the path of salvation. St. Theodora, dressed in men’s clothing, had to carefully hide from her husband, and she retreated to a men’s monastery. However, there were prudent husbands who approved their wives’ intentions, permitting their withdrawal from the world to devote their lives completely to God. King Frederick was betrothed to a Czech maiden, Agnes. But she never agreed to enter into marriage, and broke her betrothal, fleeing to a monastery. Then the prudent king said: “Had she left me for a mortal man, I would have sought revenge; but I must not find myself insulted that she chose the Heavenly King in place of me.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

O Lord, who shall dwell in Your tabernacle? Who shall live in your holy mountain? He who walks blamelessly, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart, who does not deceive with his tongue, neither does evil to his neighbor; and does not find fault with those nearest him.
           He disdains those who do evil in his presence, but he holds in honor those who fear the Lord; he swears an oath to his neighbor and does not set it aside. He does not lend money at interest, and he does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be shaken.
(Psalm 14)

Psalm 14 is used by the Church on the Feast of the Transfiguration. It “translates,” if you will, the process of living the transfigured life, which is the ultimate goal of every Christian. St. Jerome speaks of the mobility of the tabernacle (a tent which Moses built with the instructions from the Lord and traveled with the Israelites) as the Church. We live the life of the Church in this world, and we (and it) are “mobile,” ever-growing and transforming our lives through repentance and the effort at righteousness. He then speaks of the holy mountain as the Kingdom of God, which is immovable and permanent. The spiritual life of a Christian journeys through the life of the world in the Church and ends as a citizen of the Kingdom. At least that is the hope. This psalm is a small list of how to make that journey.

We are to “walk blamelessly,” “work righteousness,” “speak truth,” “do no evil to my neighbor,” and “find no fault in those near.” Easy, right? But there’s more: “disdain those who do evil,” “honor those who fear the Lord,” “do not break your oath,” “do not lend at interest (i.e., expecting something in return),” and “take no bribes.” One common denominator in this list is “the neighbor.” Quite like the preaching of our Lord, the psalmist finds much of holy living is defined by how we treat our neighbor. If we focus on the externals of Church life but cannot stand our neighbor, we have not even begun to live the transfigured life. One does not have to be a “theologian” in order to figure out how to live. The lists (and there are more than this psalm) are often quite simple. We don’t have to walk on water, heal the sick, or raise the dead. We just have to be honest, forthright, loving and forgiving. And we have to see our neighbor (the Lord would say especially the “least” of our neighbors) as ourselves and as Him.

When we do that, we “shall never be shaken.” That’s the transfigured life. The tabernacle will take us to the holy mountain.