Daily Reflection for September 28, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  SEPTEMBER 28  •  Venerable Chariton the Confessor, Abbot of Palestine


In guiding the dispensation of this world, and especially of His Holy Church, God often makes unexpected moves, and changes the evil destiny of His servants to the good. This occurred many times in the life of St. Chariton. Following cruel tortures, Chariton was thrown into prison and was promised certain death. Then, Emperor Aurelian died unexpectedly, and the new emperor freed the Christian captives. Thus, Chariton escaped death. Then, when he was traveling to Jerusalem, robbers seized him and took him to their cave. They left him there, and went off to rob and plunder, with the intention of killing him when they came back. In this cave there was a wine cask into which a poisonous snake had crawled, drunk of the wine, and vomited its venom into the cask. When the robbers returned, tired and thirsty from the heat, they drank the venomous wine and, one by one, fell dead. And thus, St. Chariton was saved from death by yet another unexpected event. The Lord heaped misfortunes upon His servant, in order that by these misfortunes He would temper and purify him as gold is tempered and purified by fire, and that He might bind him even more securely to Himself. He delivered him from death, because Chariton had yet to establish several monasteries where, by his ascetic example, he would direct many human souls on the path of salvation. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, that they take first fruits from everyone who gives it willingly from the heart. Thus you shall take My first fruits. This is the offering you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet cloth, fine spun linen; and female goats’ hair, ram skins dyed red and skins dyed blue, and incorruptible wood; oil for the light, and incense for anointing oil and for the composition of incense; sardius stones, and stones for the carved work of the breastplate and the full-length robe. Also, you shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will appear among you. According to all I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, so you shall make it.
            Thus you shall make the ark of testimony from incorruptible wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall over lay it with pure gold; inside and out you shall overlay it and shall make on it a wreath of gold all around.
(Exodus 25:1-11)

I have been thinking a lot lately about the exodus of Israel from Egypt. First of all, I am reading the Book of Exodus in my daily discipline. But more than just happenstance of reading, the whole story is such a remarkable icon of God’s love and care for His people and is something we need at this time. We know the story of deliverance from slavery and suffering. We know the Passover is the great Pascha from death to life of the Israelites and a foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Christ. We know the crossing of the Red Sea is a foreshadowing of Baptism. Then we see Israel venture into the wilderness to face not a simple and easy journey to the Promised Land, but a 40-year journey filled with wandering, thirst and hunger. That suffering was accompanied by much grumbling. But come to the Promised Land they eventually did, led by Joshua. The passage quoted above tells of what God commanded not long after they were led out of Egypt: take the free-will first fruit offerings of the people and build the Ark of the Covenant. Better put, led by God out of slavery, they were to build the Church. The ark, a prototype of the Virgin Mary, was eventually filled with Aaron’s rod, a jar of manna and the Tablets of the Law, all to be a continual reminder to Israel of who God was, and what He did for them. The ark was not to be some simple “box” put together. It had specific design and ornamentation, and the gold was to show the majesty and beauty of God.

So why think about that now? It seems to me that life in general is kind of an “exodus.” We are always wandering in the wilderness of this world, seeking God’s guidance and direction. We thirst and hunger, depending on God to provide for us. But a little more specifically, the difficult past few months have been a true wandering. We have gone from a “normal” life into a quarantine, then gradual lessening of that, to a life filled with worry, masks, and “distancing.” It is not human to be masked from everyone, and certainly not human to be told we have a “community” that can’t come together. But the question is the same for us as it was for the Israelites. Do we follow God, trust Him, and go where He leads us? If so, then the instructions are the same as we wander in the wilderness: build the Church. How many of us are looking forward to getting together with family and friends, going out to a restaurant without distancing, breathing uninhibited first? How many of us will give thanks to God for deliverance, and give our first fruit offerings for the glory of His Church second, if at all? The grumbling and lack of faith of the Israelites eventually meant that none of them saw the Promised Land. They all, save Joshua and Caleb, died in the forty years and their descendants entered Canaan. We don’t know why we are wandering in this desert of wilderness at this time; perhaps God wanted us to realize that “normal” wasn’t good for us. Maybe He wanted us to repent of the horrors of our society. But whatever His reasons, we must hold fast to our faith, trust God, and give thanks when we come out on the other side.