Daily Reflection June 5th, 2020

Daily Reflection June 5th, 2020

JUNE 5 Hieromartyr Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyre

Do not ever violate the fast on Wednesday and Friday. This fast is commanded by the Church and is well founded. If you have ever in your life violated this fast, pray to God that He forgive you, and sin no more. Pious men do not consider themselves exempt from this fast when traveling, or even in sickness. St. Pachomius met some men carrying a corpse and he saw two angels in the funeral procession. He prayed to God to reveal to him the mystery of the presence of the angels at the burial of this man. What good did this man do that the holy angels of God accompanied him in procession to the grave? According to God’s providence, both angels approached Pachomius and explained this to him: “One of us is the angel of Wednesday and the other is the angel of Friday. Seeing how this man always, even until death, fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays, we are honorably accompanying his body. As he kept the fast until death, so are we glorifying him.”(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints — and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

I love St. Paul. His writing to the churches is full of imagery that is crisp, vibrant and easy to understand. This passage from the last chapter of his letter to the Ephesians is a good example. The imagery of armor and the battle against the “rulers of the darkness of this age and spiritual hosts of wickedness” is stark and reveals a deep truth about spiritual life. That truth is that spiritual life is a life and death, hand to hand, combat with forces not of this world. Attacks are real, but so is our defense. When we talk about “demons,” we oftentimes glamorize the conversation. Perhaps demons are used for horrible sins, like murder and adultery, but we usually do not give them the credit, and more importantly, the attention that they need. The attacks are often — even always — subtle: a little greed here, a little lie there, maybe a casual glance at someone kindles a little fire that should not be stoked, etc. Before you know it, we are immersed in a pit of darkness and evil. The most subtle temptation and attack, of course, is to be convinced that those “little things” are not that bad. So, we must always remember that we are in a daily battle for the salvation of our souls. And the demons want my soul just as badly as God does.

But Paul then tells us to defend ourselves with the armor of God. Armor is an interesting image, because it is effective, but also requires real effort to put on. Knights of old had to have dressers help them put on the armor. Once on, it took practice to develop enough skill for the armor to be used, much less truly effective. It is the same with us. We need to want to dress, the Church helps dress us with prayer, the Word, and sacraments, we must practice in the armor, and then do battle. But the weapons are formidable indeed. The belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace (interesting to do battle with the gospel of peace), the shield of faith to cast aside the slings and arrows of the evil one, the helmet of salvation given by Christ, and, most importantly, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. How wonderful that we are exhorted by Saint Paul on this weekend of Pentecost to wield the Sword of the Spirit. All of the weapons are given by God and the Church not only to protect us, but to allow us to go on offense. Spiritual life is not passive, just “protecting” ourselves. It is active, taking the attack to the Enemy. Having clothed ourselves with the armor of God to protect us, we ask God to fill us with the Pentecost Fire of the Spirit on this holy weekend in order to go forth boldly into the war that is spiritual life.