Daily Reflection June 6th, 2020

Daily Reflection June 6th, 2020

JUNE 6 Venerable Bissarion, Wonderworker of Egypt

Malicious joy is a sordid garment which our spirit sometimes dons with great satisfaction. The very moment that you rejoice in the sinful fall of your brother you have also fallen to the joy of the devil who, with one hook, snared two fish. Brotherhood, according to the flesh, is a great bond but brotherhood, according to the spirit, is even greater. When you are grieved by the sin of a brother according to the flesh, why then would not the sin of a brother according to the spirit grieve you? When you conceal the sin of a brother according to the flesh why do you, with malevolent joy proclaim the sin of your brother according to the spirit? Who are your brothers according to the spirit? All Christians – all those who communicate with you from the one and the same Chalice, the one and the same life. O, how great were the saints in their brotherly love! O, how far away from them was malevolent joy! The following is said about St. Bessarion: on one occasion all the monks were gathered in church for prayer. The abbot approached a monk who had committed a sin and ordered him to leave the church. The monk started to leave and Bessarion followed him saying: “And I, also, am the same kind of sinner!”(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:47-57)
The day before Pentecost is a “Memorial Saturday” in the Orthodox Church. On this day, we especially remember our loved ones who have gone to rest before us. Usually, the Church prescribes a reading from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 for this day. But on the day before Pentecost, there is a “variant” that can be used which we quote above. 1 Corinthians 15 is one of the texts that the Church points to when we want to explain death and resurrection. I always “hear” Handel’s Messiah when I read that the trumpet shall sound! Paul contrasts the man of dust with the heavenly Man. He says that we shall bear the image of both. We are dust now and shall die and go back to dust, but the trumpet will sound, and we will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye. To what? From corruption to incorruption; from mortal to immortal. Then we shall see that death is swallowed up in victory. The end of this passage is echoed by St. John Chrysostom in his Paschal Homily. We all know the words. All of this is a mystery, but Paul reveals the mystery to us. We all await the sound of the trumpet and will come forth and know that the victory is Christ’s.

All of this is providential for reflection on this day not just because it is a Memorial Saturday, but because today is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944. It is hard for us to imagine what that moment must have been like, for most knew that they were about to pass from corruption to incorruption. They were about to hear the trumpet. And they went anyway. I heard an interview with a survivor who said there were 34 men on his boat and only 7 made it to the beach. Eighteen- and nineteen-year olds were thrown into the crucible that was the landing that day. Did they know the words of St. Paul? Did they know that when they fell, they would fall into the arms of a loving God? Did they know that the victory was already won for eternity? I don’t know. I hope so. But I know that those young men were part of a generation that fought, sacrificed, bled, and died to save the world. And save the world they did. Their example to us some 76 years later poses questions. What have we done with the legacy they handed us? Do we live as if we are about to pass from corruption to incorruption? Do we listen for the sound of the trumpet? Are we courageous enough to live lives that already shine, if only dimly, with the incorruption that we are called to here and now in the life of the Church?

Those heroes launched themselves into the very jaws of hell in order to proclaim that it would not stand. I pray that I’m courageous enough to, in safety and security, launch myself into all my temptations and tribulations and proclaim that they will not stand. Memory Eternal to those heroes and God strengthen all of us in the battles that we are called to wage.