Daily Reflection May 15th, 2020

Daily Reflection May 15th, 2020

MAY 15 St. Pachomius the Great


When a tyrant commits violence against the righteous out of greed, then the violence brings about loss and gain; that is, a loss to the tyrant and a gain to the one who suffered violence. Boris Godunov murdered Dimitri, the eight-year-old crown prince, to gain control of the throne without competition. The imperial days of Boris ended quickly, and the tyrant was given over to corruption and condemnation, but Dimitri was proclaimed a saint. After lying in the grave for fifteen years, the body of Dimitri was exhumed and found to be incorrupt and miracle-working. Forty-five miraculous healings occurred over his body. Who, therefore, receives the injury, and who receives the benefit from tyranny? If the tyrant knew that by his tyranny he would help his opponent to be included among the saints and that he would prepare defeat and damnation for himself, he would desist from his plan of violence. But twisted thinking is the forerunner and companion of tyranny. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

Arrogance is hateful before God and man, and wrongdoing is offensive to both. Dominion is transferred from nation to nation because of wrongdoing, insolence, and wealth. How can he who is earth and ashes be arrogant? Because even while living, his insides are decaying. A physician scoffs at a long illness, and a king today will also die tomorrow. When a man dies, he will inherit retiles, wild animals, and worms. The beginning of a man’s arrogance is to depart from the Lord, for his heart withdraws from the One who created him. For the beginning of arrogance is sin, and he who takes hold of it will pour out an abomination. Therefore the Lord will bring them extraordinary distress and completely destroy them. The Lord pulls down the thrones of rulers and seats the gentle in their place. The Lord plucks out the roots of nations and plants the humble in their place. The Lord overthrows the lands of the nations and destroys them to the foundations of the earth. He removes some of them and destroys them, and puts an end to their memory on the earth. Arrogance was not created by mankind, nor fierce anger by the offspring of women. (Wisdom of Sirach 10:7-18)

Of all the wisdom books of the Old Testament, I think I love the Wisdom of Sirach the most. It is full of wisdom that is both deep and practical, and relates the godliness of true wisdom in relation to our lives in this world. The passage above was part of my daily discipline today. It is interesting that the reflection of St. Nikolai for May 15 “just happens” to be about tyranny. Tyranny is a child of arrogance. In speaking of arrogance above, we can begin by remembering the words of the Lord in His Beatitudes: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” It is not hyperbole to say that arrogance is exalted as a virtue and meekness ridiculed as a weakness in today’s world. But arrogance is a prideful sin that does not allow one to see others as created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus ben Sirach, the author of the book, asks graphic questions: How can anyone who is earth and ashes be arrogant? How can anyone who is in a state of constant decay from the inside out be arrogant? Physicians scoff and kings rule, but both die. Where is the justification for arrogance? A Christian approach to meekness, in opposition to arrogance, is to begin with a daily remembrance of judgment and death. The beginning of arrogance is “to depart from the Lord.” Perhaps we could rather say the beginning of arrogance is to “stop remembering the Lord.” If we remembered the Lord always and contemplated death and the inevitability of the grave daily, we would beg God for humility and meekness. We would barely be able to raise our eyes to Him in prayer, much like the Publican. There would be no room for arrogance.

But in our current state of affairs, ben Sirach also reminds us of the historical fact that entire nations crumble into the ashbin of history because of arrogance and a failure to remember and serve God instead of serving their power and arrogance. Could we be eyewitnesses to God’s judgment today? Could a Christian not argue that our world today — soaked in blood, aborting millions of children, living in filthy promiscuity, denying the natural state of male and female and marriage, living for wealth and ignoring the impoverished, among many other sins — is not only arrogant, but the arrogance is born in our forgetting God? When we face a crisis like our current one, we are so confident and trusting in science and medicine to lead us back to “normalcy.” God forbid! Instead, perhaps we should repent of our sins and arrogance and beg God’s mercy. In finding humility and meekness, we will find God. In wallowing in our arrogance and pride, we find only corruption and death. And that is true of both individuals and nations. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Christ is Risen!