Daily Reflection May 21st, 2020

Daily Reflection May 21st, 2020

MAY 21 Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine and his mother, Helen


We see that vice is something shameful and sinful, in that it always hides and always takes upon itself the appearance of good works. St. John Chrysostom beautifully says: “Vice does not have its own particular face, but borrows the face of good works.” This is why the Savior said: They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15). Call a liar a liar, a thief a thief, a murderer a murderer, an adulterer an adulterer, a slanderer a slanderer, and you will infuriate them. But if you want to call a man honest, honorable, unselfish, truthful, just, conscientious, you will make him light up with joy and please him. Again, I quote Chrysostom: “Good works are something natural in man, while vice is something unnatural and false.” If a man is caught in a vice, he quickly justifies his vice by some good works; he clothes it in the garment of good works. Indeed, vice does not possess its own particular face. The same is true of the devil, the father of vice!(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; and he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts…”But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.” (3 Kings 8:20-21, 25-28)
Today is the feast day of Saints Constantine and Helen. Constantine was the emperor who ended the persecution of Christians in 313. His mother, Helen, discovered the Cross of our Lord in Jerusalem and had built the Church of the Resurrection on Golgotha. The passage above is selected for Vespers of the feast. This is a portion of the dedication prayer of Solomon after the completion of the temple in Jerusalem. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful prayers written in all of scripture. The eloquence and majesty of the prayer alone is enough for admiration, but the prayer speaks of everything the temple is supposed to be. We can certainly apply it to our temple today. The New Israel’s temple (the church building) is the fulfillment and completion of the temple built for the Old Israel, because it is the Body of Christ. The temple is now a living Temple.

But what is the temple? It is the “container of the uncontainable God.” Imagine the question of Solomon: But will God indeed dwell on earth? It is very hard to imagine. Yet not only does He dwell on earth, but in the temple, which is built to house Him! Solomon implores God in the prayer all of us should have for our own temple. May His eyes always be open, night and day, toward the temple we have built. May His name be always there. When we pray toward or in the temple, may He hear our prayers. And when He hears our prayers, may He forgive. The temple has always been seen as a sanctuary for humans — a refuge in God from the hardness of this world — but it has been given by God Himself to be His own sanctuary, a living dwelling place for the living God. We must remember, however, that God has also made each of us into living temples. We pray that the uncontainable God also be contained in the temple of our being. I love this prayer, I pray this prayer, and I hope this prayer is a reality for the temple we build as the church, and for the temple which God has built, which temple I am. Christ is Risen!