Daily Reflection for September 2, 2020

Martyr Mamas of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and his parents Theodotus and Rufina


The life of the Orthodox Church provides us with numerous examples of how Almighty God manifests His power through small and lifeless things-especially those things that serve as signs of the Incarnation, life and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such things include the Cross, icons of the Theotokos and the saints, holy water, oil, myrrh, and so forth. For example, a miracle was wrought through an icon of the Holy Mother of God in the year 1748, in the home of a boyar named Khitrov, near the Russian city of Kaluga. Two of the boyar’s servants, rummaging in Khitrov’s attic one day, came upon a rolled-up piece of cloth that depicted the beautiful image of a woman’s face. The image emanated holiness and piety. One of the servants was humble and modest, while the other was vain and talkative. The former, looking at the image on the cloth, called it “The Abbess.” Evdokia-the vain and talkative one, whose name we know-did not honor this name, but coarsely mocked her humble companion. To give even more force to her vulgarity, she spat on the painting. At that instant Evdokia fell to the ground, writhing with her whole body, blind and dumb, and began foaming at the mouth. That night the Theotokos appeared to the parents of the unfortunate girl, and told them what had happened to their daughter. She told them to get a priest and have him pray before the image that had been found and sprinkle the girl with holy water, and then she would be healed. When this was done, Evdokia was healed, and from then on she amended her disposition and was more modest. Thus was a miracle-working icon of the Holy Theotokos discovered. This icon was taken to a church in Kaluga, where it can be found today, still working miracles. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

In the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day, all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and floodgates of heaven were opened. Then it rained on the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and his wife, his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives entered the ark. Also, all the wild animals after their kind, all cattle after their kind, every creeping thing moving upon the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, entered the ark with Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God commanded him. Then the Lord God shut him in the ark. (Genesis 7:11-16)

The story of Noah’s Ark is one of the most famous stories in all of Scripture. We know the details around the actual sailing of the ark: the relatively young world had descended into madness and darkness, sin abounded everywhere, and God had decided to “pull the plug.” But the righteousness of Noah led him to preserve His creation, even as He blotted out the darkness. So off they went — Noah and his family, and all the animals two by two (male and female) — so creation could be “restarted” after the flood. We even know that a rainbow is the sign of the promise that God made to never allow such a thing again. The whole story cannot be historically proven. Indeed, it is hard to fathom a craft large enough to house two of every creature on earth for approximately seven weeks through the storms and the drying out process. Whether historical or allegorical, the story is important.

Every aspect of the story corresponds to the Church. The forty days and forty nights represent completeness, and we use that example to build our fasts as a time we “do battle” through storms. Even the Lord fasted for forty days. The world is full of madness and darkness, sin abounds everywhere, promiscuity and the rejection and distortion of God’s creation is applauded and defended. So God calls anyone seeking Him to take refuge from the storm in the ark of salvation — the Church. The tale reveals much about this ark, the Church. It is built at God’s command, using God’s instructions. He calls us, male and female, because that is how He created the world, male and female together is the image and likeness of God, and how the world is designed to continue. We are to marry, procreate and bring our offspring into the ark. But one line jumped out at me for the first time as I read it today. “Then the Lord God shut him in the ark.” Noah didn’t close the doors — God did. It’s an interesting image. Noah was building the ark, people probably noticed, he told them what he was doing and why, and they all went back to their lives indifferent to the story or to God and His grace. So He shut the door. It is an image of the final Judgment. The Church is our chance to board the ark, to take refuge from the storms of the world, and to repent and be saved before the Judge shuts the doors.

There’s a great cartoon (I think it was The Far Side), with two dinosaurs munching on plants and then looking up at the ark as it sailed away. One dinosaur looks at the other and says, “Oh, shoot, was that today?” The Ark is in our midst. Today. Don’t miss it.