Daily Reflection of September 19, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  SEPTEMBER 19  •  Martyrs Trophimus, Sabbatius, and Dorymedon of Synnada


Even the dead sense and know the good deeds that are performed for them. Christians need not have any doubt in this. A good deed spreads through the heavenly world like an electrical current. An imperial clerk, Magistrian, was sent by the emperor on an important errand. Along the way, Magistrian saw a poor dead man, completely naked. He was moved with pity, removed his shirt, dressed the dead man, and buried him honorably. After a while, Magistrian had an unfortunate accident: he fell from his horse and broke his leg, and lay sick in bed for a long time. On one occasion, several doctors gathered around him to take counsel concerning his illness. The doctors agreed that his leg would have to be amputated. That night Magistrian could not sleep, but grieved and wept. At midnight a man suddenly appeared in his room and asked him: “Why are you weeping?” When Magistrian explained his condition, the unknown man then rubbed the infected leg with his hand and the leg was healed. “For God’s sake, tell me-who are you?” asked Magistrian. The unknown man replied: “Look at me, and see, is not this your shirt? I am he whom you saw naked and dead, and whom you dressed in this shirt. And behold, for your good deed God has sent me to heal you. Give thanks to God!” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Now Moses was tending the sheep of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. Then he led them to the back of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he saw the bush burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not consumed.”
           When therefore the Lord saw him turn aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses! Moses!” Then he said, “Here I am.” So He said, “Do not come any closer. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses then hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:1-6)

This passage from the beginning chapters of Exodus is one of the more famous images of the whole of Scripture — the burning bush. There are a number of revelations in these verses. The first revelation is the Angel of the Lord as the Son of God. “Angel” is the messenger from the Father, who expresses the revelation and will of the Father. So we see throughout the Old Testament, and not just in this passage nor only in the incarnation, the appearance of the Son of God to His creation. The second revelation is the incarnation, which is revealed in the Angel appearing in the burning bush, but the bush is not consumed. This is an image of Mary, who is not consumed even though containing the eternal Son of God within her womb. He is revealed to the world through His birth from the Virgin. The third revelation is the command to Moses that he take off his sandals. Not only is that a sign of obedience, humility, and respect for the holy place, but the holy place would not abide anything dead on his feet. Holiness is the presence of life, not death. The final revelation in this passage is that the Angel of the Lord who is revealed in the burning bush is the same God who appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Each revelation asks us a question. Do we see, hear and accept the incarnate Word of God who comes to us through the burning bush of the Church and the chalice, and the revelation of the will of His Father? We are allowed to touch the eternal Son of God, much like Mary held Him within her womb. Do we live lives that will not be consumed by such an audacious action as daring to consume Him? Is the life with which we approach the holiness of God merely “dead sandals” of us walking through life without Him by our sides? Finally, if, as the Lord Himself said, He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — the God of the living and not of the dead —  does He find in me a warm and living soul ready to receive Him or a dead cipher of what was once the image of God, empty and cold to His presence? Moses, in his humility and being awestruck, turned away afraid to look at God. Too often, we are not at all afraid to look at God because we are prideful and arrogant. We should carefully listen to and meditate on the words we hear at every Divine Liturgy: “In the fear of God, and with faith and love, draw near.”