Reflection for November 10, 2020

REFLECTION  •  NOVEMBER 10 • Apostles of the Seventy: Erastus, Olympas, Herodion, Sosipater, Quartus, and Tertius


The all-wondrous paths of God’s providence were shown in an exceptional and wondrous event in the monastery of Dochiarou at the time of the Blessed Neophytus, the nephew of St. Euthymius. When, after the death of Euthymius, Neophytus began to build a new and larger church to St. Nicholas the miracle-worker, his resources ran out and he to prayed to God for help and God helped him in a miraculous manner. Toward the monastery of Dochiarou lay a peninsula called Longos or Sika. On this peninsula, Neophytus had a small metoh [small parcel of land belonging to the monastery] near which there was a statue of a man made of stone. On this statue, the following words were inscribed: “He who strikes me on the head will find much gold.” Many had struck the statue on the head but did not find anything. Neophytus sent Basil, the monastery’s novice, on an errand. One day, Basil stood before the statue and wondered about the mystery of this inscription. At that moment, the sun came out and the statue threw its shadow toward the west. Basil took a stone and struck the head of the shadow and began to dig there and found a kettle full of gold coins. He immediately ran and told the Abbot Neophytus. The abbot ordered three honorable monks to go with Basil in the monastery’s boat and bring back the gold. Thus, these monks set off, loaded the gold into the boat and started off for the return trip. However, while they were on the sea, the devil put the thought in their heads to pocket the gold for themselves. Those three honorable monks, deluded by the devil, bound Basil with a rope, tied a rock around his neck and tossed him into the sea. When Basil fell to the bottom of the sea, the Archangels Michael and Gabriel suddenly appeared as two resplendent youths, took him and translated him to the church at Dochiarou and placed him before the Royal Doors of the locked church. The next day when the monks entered the church, they found Basil lying bound before the sanctuary. The abbot questioned him and learned of the miraculous event that happened to him. Then, the other three monks arrived, who seeing Basil alive, were as though struck by thunder. The abbot punished them severely, took the gold and completed the church. He dedicated it, not to St. Nicholas, but rather to the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel. That is why Euthymius’ old church at Dochiarou is called St. Nicholas and the new, however, is called the Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“…the word is very near you, in your mouth, in your heart, and in your hands, that you may do it. See, I set before you today life and death, good and evil. If you hear the commandments of the Lord your God I command you today, to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His ordinances and judgments, then you shall live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you go to inherit. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but go astray and worship different gods and serve them, I announce to you today, you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land the Lord your God is giving you, into which you are crossing over the Jordan to inherit. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you: I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live and love the Lord your God, obey His voice, and cling to Him. For this is your life and your length of days, that you may dwell in the land the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:14-20)

These are some of the final words spoken by Moses to Israel as they get ready to cross over the River Jordan to the Promised Land. The Lord told him that his death was near and that he was not to cross over with them. In a type of “last will and testament,” he gives them powerful and poetic instructions about the commandments of God as they prepare to receive their inheritance and he prepares to die. Those instructions must be read by us today as our words, our commandments, for we are the New Israel, and each of us has crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land of the Church through the waters of baptism.

The “word” that he said was very near them is the attainment of righteousness. Then he essentially sets before them (us) two “ifs” — on the one hand, if we hear the commandments, if we love the Lord our God, if we walk in His ways, if we keep His ordinances and judgments, we will live and multiply. These are eternally good words for us to hear today in the life of the Church. On the other hand, if our hearts turn away and we do not hear, if we go astray and worship and serve different gods, we shall perish and will not prolong our days in the “land the Lord has given us.” These are also eternally good words for us to hear, for the essential temptation each human faces is to worship different gods. We may “dwell” in the Promised Land for a while, but when idols take up residence in our hearts, we forfeit the right God gave each of us to dwell in the inheritance He planned for us. Our “dwelling” becomes a simple taking up of space. How awful to think of anyone just somehow being in the Church but not being in the Church!

Finally, Moses calls “heaven and earth” as witnesses to his words: those words set before us life and death, blessing and cursing. He begs us to “choose life.” These words, “choose life,” are a popular political slogan, but the words of Moses are no slogan. They are deadly serious. Our “life and our length of days” — the plan God wishes for each and every one of us — is that we dwell in the land He swore to our fathers, in the holiness of the Church. As with most things concerning our salvation, we are free to make our choice. We can follow Moses’ injunction to “choose life.” Or not.

It is worth a moment to read St. John Chrysostom’s words on “the word is near you.”

“What does the phrase mean, ‘The word is near you?’ It means, “It is easy.” For in your heart and on your tongue is your salvation. There is no long journey to go on, no seas to sail over, no mountains to climb, to get saved. But if you have such a heart, you may even be saved while you sit at home. For ‘in your mouth and heart’ is the source of salvation. On another score, Paul also makes the word of faith easy, and says, ‘God raised Him from the dead.’ For just reflect upon the worthiness of the Worker, and you will no longer see and difficulty in the thing.” (Quoted in the Orthodox Study Bible)


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