Daily Reflection for September 21, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  SEPTEMBER 21  •  Apostle Quadratus of the Seventy


If only we begin with the firm intention to live according to God’s law, we need not be afraid of any assaults by unreasonable men. For he who truly begins to live according to God’s law finds that all things done to him by men happen for his benefit, and to the glory of God. One especially need not fear being compelled to move from a place that he loves to a place that he doesn’t care for. Instead of empty fear and fruitless lamentation, it is better to seek out God’s intention for us. What harm did the evil actions of Joseph’s brothers do to him? Did not his involuntary departure to Egypt glorify him, save his brothers from famine, and create the necessary conditions for all the wondrous things God worked through Moses in Egypt and in the wilderness? The pagans and heretics often drove Orthodox Christians into barbarian regions. What did they accomplish by that? Did they destroy Orthodoxy? No-rather, they strengthened it even more in the souls of the persecuted, and spread it among the barbarian peoples. The evil heretic Lucius exiled the glorious Macarius, with several Tabennisiot ascetics, from Egypt to a barbarian island, where the entire population worshiped idols. But by the teachings and example of these holy men, the entire populace of the island was soon baptized. That island was later renamed the “Island of Repentance.”  (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

(A psalm by David; on the first day of the week.)

The earth is the Lord’s and its fulness, the world and all who dwell therein. For He founded it upon the seas and prepared it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend to the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in His holy place? He who has innocent hands and a pure heart; he who does not lift up his soul to vanity; he who does not swear deceitfully to his neighbor. He shall receive blessing from the Lord and mercy from the God of His salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
            Lift up the gates, O you rulers, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall enter. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord powerful in battle. Lift up the gates, O you rulers, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall enter. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory. (Psalm 23 LXX)

What an amazing and glorious praise of the Lord and His resurrection (i.e., the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, the Day of Resurrection)! The resurrected Lord is the author of creation and everything in it belongs to Him. “The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory” is the only conclusion one can come to when reading the previous exaltations. The first paragraph describes the One who ascends to the mountain of the Lord: innocent hands, a pure heart, no vanity, does not swear deceitfully. The only-begotten Son of the Father is the only one completely innocent, etc. He has ascended to the mountain of the Lord (resurrected). Then the second paragraph prepares creation for the entrance of the King of Glory.

Each “paragraph” (not really paragraphs, because the psalm is written lyrically) has a special place in the life of the Church. There is a theme of stewardship in the beginning of the psalm, for a Christian steward begins his vision with the understanding that everything belongs to the Lord. We are caretakers of His creation. But the very first lines of the psalm are the very last lines prayed over the relics of someone being buried. The priest takes a handful of dirt, sprinkles it over the casket and says, “The earth is the Lord’s and its fulness, and all who dwell therein.” It reminds us that we are but dust, and when we die, we are returned to our Creator. For we belong to Him.

The second “paragraph” is used in the liturgical life of the Church. The words are used at the Consecration of a Church, when the bishop processes around the temple with the relics that are to be placed in the altar. He comes before the closed doors of the temple and proclaims those words, ending with “The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory!” And we enter. For it is the Lord Himself that enters the church and makes it a living paradise for us. The second use is in some traditions on Pascha night. At the end of the procession and the beginning of Matins before the closed doors of the temple, the celebrant utters the same words, for the night without end has inaugurated for us the Kingdom within those doors. What a magnificent psalm!