Daily Reflection June 4th, 2020

Daily Reflection June 4th, 2020

JUNE 4 St. Metrophanes, first Patriarch of Constantinople

It is a horrible thing to kill a man. There are no words to describe the horror which lays hold of the murderer. While a man is preparing to kill another man, he thinks that killing a man is the same as killing an ox. When he carries out his preconceived crime, then, all at once, he realizes that he has declared war on heaven and earth, and that he has become exiled and cut off from both heaven and earth. The victim does not give him peace either day or night. A known criminal came to Zosimus on Sinai and begged him to tonsure him a monk. Zosimus clothed him in the monastic habit and sent him to the Monastery of the Venerable Dorotheus near Gaza, to lead a life of asceticism in the Cenobium. After nine years the tonsured criminal returned to St. Zosimus, returned his monastic habit, and sought his secular clothes. To the question as to why he was doing this, the criminal replied that for nine years he had fervently prayed to God, fasted, kept vigil, and fulfilled all acts of obedience, and that he felt many of his sins had been forgiven, but that one of his sins tormented him continually. He had once killed an innocent child, and that child was appearing to him day and night and asking him: “Why did you kill me?” Because of this he had decided to leave and to turn himself in to the authorities, that they might execute him and thus repay blood for blood. Dressing in his former clothes, he went to the town of Diospolis, where he acknowledged his crime and was beheaded. Thus, by his blood, he washed away his bloody sin.(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore, He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:8-16)

Yesterday, we read from St. Paul the following: “…we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind and doctrine.” (Eph. 4:14). It was his call to the faithful to be mature believers, able to discern truth and holiness. Not childish in simply wanting what we want. Discernment is an attribute of Christian maturity. But today, just a few verses later, Paul tells us to “walk as children of light.” There is no contradiction here. Light and darkness are used by Paul to illustrate for us the difference between that Christian maturity and childishness. Everything is a choice: we can walk as children of light, which Paul takes to mean being good, righteous, and holding onto truth; or, we can have fellowship with works of darkness. Fellowship with one or the other it will be. But it is clear that not only are we not to have fellowship with darkness, but we are to expose it. Shine a light on it. Darkness and the works of darkness are like mold of the soul. The only way to get rid of mold is to rip out what protects it and expose it to light and air. Paul does not necessarily mean we need to go up to our neighbors and point out their sins, but rather to look deep within the recesses of our own hearts and souls and opening that up to Light. No matter the righteousness of my walk, I still have mold to one degree or another in my soul.

But all of this is Paul’s allusion to repentance. That is the ripping away of the protection of the mold. That can be difficult and painful, so I must really want to expose it and clean it up. Contrition is where the demolition of the mold in my soul begins. Once begun, darkness and mold start to dissipate and Light begins to reign. “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light,” (5:14) is an ancient baptismal hymn sung in the early Church. Baptism is illumination — shining light into darkness. Walking in that light is walking in our baptisms. Repentance is manifest in a Christian before baptism, before receiving the Eucharist, and by sacramental confession of sins. It is the fruit of contrition. Walking in our baptism means walking wisely, circumspectly, and redeeming the time. To say the days are evil is just a reminder that the demons never rest. How we use the time given to us by God, how we “redeem” that time, is measured by our repentance, which leads to circumspection and wisdom, or, in other words, light.