Daily Reflection June 2nd, 2020

Daily Reflection June 2nd, 2020

JUNE 2 St. Nicephorus the Confessor

The veneration of icons is an integral part of Orthodoxy, from which it cannot be separated. That the veneration of icons appears to some people the same as idolatry is no proof against icons. To the Jews it seemed that Christ worked miracles by the power of Satan and not God, and to the Romans it seemed that Christian martyrs were ordinary sorcerers and magicians. Saint Nicephorus said to Leo the Armenian, the iconoclastic emperor: “An icon is a divine thing, but not to be worshipped.” Then he explained how God commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass and to raise it in the wilderness, even though just before this He had commanded: Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image (Exodus 20:4). The latter He commanded in order to save the chosen people from the idolatry of the Egyptians, and He commanded the former that He, the One and Most High God, might manifest His power through a visible thing. In the same manner He manifests His power through icons. This is His holy will and our aid for salvation. If icons are things of little significance or even idolatry, why would many of the holiest and most spiritual men and women in the history of the Church have suffered to the death for icons?
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

Do not be ashamed of the following things, and do not let partiality lead you to sin: of the Law and covenant of the Most High, and of a judgment to acquit an ungodly man; of keeping accounts with a partner or traveling companion, and of dividing an inheritance among friends; of accurate scales and balances, and the acquisition of much or little; of profit from business with merchants, and of much discipline of children, and of making the sides of an evil servant bleed. Where there is an evil wife, a seal is good; and where there are many hands, lock things up. Whatever you deliver, do it by number or weight; and put in writing everything you give or receive. Do not be ashamed of the instructing of the unwise and foolish, or of the extremely old man who passes judgment on the young; then you will be truly instructed and approved before all men. (Wisdom of Sirach 42:1-8)

Yesterday, we reflected on the topic of shame and modesty as presented in the Wisdom of Sirach. Today, in a passage directly following yesterday’s, Ben Sirach swings the pendulum to the other side of the discussion. What are some of the things about which we should not be ashamed? Again, as is his custom, the writing is simple and direct. He warns of partiality — when we try to discern what is shameful, we must also try to be objective. First, we should never be ashamed of the Law and the covenant of the Most High. We know that this writing is the Old Testament. Nonetheless, it applies to us, as the Lord Jesus Christ has fulfilled the Law and His covenant with us is sealed in the life of the Church. Jesus said, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) This is fundamentally the genesis of all behavior. Do we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and strive to follow His commandments? Or are we ashamed of Him and shrink from the challenges presented by our culture, our society and even our friends and family?

All the other things listed by Ben Sirach are basic, fundamental, holy behaviors. Keeping accounts with friends and traveling companions (“going Dutch”), not cheating in business, keeping our children in line by parenting in a godly manner, locking things up to keep temptation to others at a minimum, giving and keeping records and receipts, instructing the unwise and foolish, even correcting the “old man” who picks on the young. All of this seems to be simple, and it is. That does not mean that it is easy. Human beings since the Fall have struggled to not only remain faithful, but to not be ashamed to be godly. It is so easy in this world to take the easy way out in confrontations of moral, ethical, and even theological content and then convince ourselves that “I’m not that bad.” We deal with shame and the lack of shame all the time. We should make sure that we really measure our judgments with the right measuring stick. He never said, “I am the Measuring Stick,” but truly Jesus Christ is that measurement. May we each measure up to our calling. Let us be ashamed of the things that are truly shameful, and not ashamed of the things that are truly of His words.