Daily Reflection May 19th, 2020

Daily Reflection May 19th, 2020

MAY 19 Hieromartyr Patrick, Bishop of Prussa, and his companions


The great hierarchs, the pillars of the Orthodox Church, knew how to blend meekness and firmness in their character: meekness toward the righteous ones and penitents, and firmness toward unrepentant criminals. One Sunday, following the Divine Liturgy, Tsar Ivan the Terrible approached Metropolitan Philip to receive his blessing. The metropolitan pretended not to see the tsar and gazed at the icon of the Savior. The tsar’s adjutant approached the metropolitan and said to him: “Your Eminence, the Ruler is before you, bless him.” The metropolitan looked at the tsar and said: “O Tsar, fear the judgment of God. Here, we offer up the Bloodless Sacrifice to God, and outside the sanctuary the blood of Christians is being spilled. How many innocent people suffer? You are exalted on the throne, but nevertheless you are a man.” The enraged tsar told the metropolitan to keep silent, but the metropolitan said to him: “Where is my faith, if I remain silent?” When the tsar began to threaten the metropolitan, the latter quietly replied: “I am a visitor and guest on earth and am ready to suffer for the truth!” After some time, the cruel tsar had the metropolitan suffocated, but he could not suffocate the saint.(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

The Lord created man from the earth and returned him to it again. He gave them a certain number of days and an appointed time, and He gave them authority over it. He clothed them in strength like His own and made them in His image, He put the fear of man upon all flesh and gave him dominion over wild animals and birds. He gave mankind the ability to deliberate, and a tongue, eyes and ears, and a heart to think with. He filled them with the skill of comprehension and showed them good and evil. He set His eye upon their hearts to show them the majesty of His works. They will praise His holy name so as to fully describe the majesty of His works. (Wisdom of Sirach 17:1-8)

In many ways, today’s passage from the Wisdom of Sirach is a continuation and even a conclusion to the passage from chapter 15 yesterday. In much more eloquent language, ben Sirach reminds us of the gifts that free will gave us through God. But a couple more things can be added to our thoughts about free will looking at today’s passage. First, we are reminded of the “dust” that we are. We must be mindful that we are created literally out of nothing, and we will return again to nothing. He has given each of us a certain length of time in which to work out our salvation, and we “have authority over it,” meaning we choose how to use the limited time we have. And yet, in His image are we created, and He instilled the “fear of man” upon all flesh. The dominion we are to have is not tyranny over or abuse of creation and creatures (not to mention each other), but a reign like the King of Peace, Whose image we are.

He lists all the gifts God has given us: deliberation, tongues, eyes and ears, and not a mind, but a heart to think with! We can comprehend and have seen good and evil. With a good exercise of the gift of free will, He will show us in our hearts the majesty of His works. Freely, those who love God will to praise His holy name and describe the majesty of His works. Think about the incredible gifts God has given to the creatures molded by the Potter out of dust, think about how the Potter longs for the hearts of His creatures to “see” Him in truth. And yet, He loves us so much that He would never dream of depriving us of the ability to “see” what we want, instead of the beautiful, divine reality that actually has been given to us. Every time we deliberate something, when we wag our tongues, when we gaze upon or hear things, when we “look” with our hearts, be reminded that all of those faculties have been given to us by God. But each of us alone has the ability to choose what to do with those gifts. And our choices will always be honored. May we choose wisely. Christ is Risen!