Reflection for November 3, 2020
REFLECTION • NOVEMBER 3
Martyrs Akepsimas the Bishop, Joseph the Presbyter, and Aithalas the Deacon, of Persia
Among the countless
miracles of St. George, this one is recorded: On the island of Mytilene there
was a church dedicated to St. George the Great-martyr and Trophy-bearer. All
the inhabitants of the island would come to this church on the annual feast of
their patron saint. Knowing of this, the Saracens of Crete once attacked this
island on its feast day, pillaged the island, and enslaved its inhabitants,
taking many of them back to Crete. Among the enslaved was a handsome young man,
whom the pirates gave to their prince. The prince made him his servant. The
young man’s parents were overwhelmed with great sorrow for their son. After a
year had passed and St. George’s day came again, the grieving parents,
following the ancient custom, prepared a table and entertained many guests.
Remembering her son, the poor mother went to the icon of the saint, fell to the
ground and began to pray that he somehow deliver her son from slavery. The
mother then returned to her guests at the table. The host raised a glass and
drank a toast to the honor of St. George. Just then their son appeared among
them, holding a decanter of wine in his hand. In amazement and fear, they asked
him how he had managed to come to them. He replied that as he was about to
serve his master wine in Crete, a knight on horseback appeared before him,
pulled him up onto the horse and carried him instantly to his parents’ home.
All were amazed, and glorified God and His wonderful saint, George the
Commander and Victory-bearer. (St.
Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)
Fr. John’s Reflection
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
“Remember, O Lord, this country and all civil authorities: grant them a secure and lasting peace; speak good things into their hearts concerning your Church and all your people, that we, in their tranquility, may lead a calm and peaceful life in all godliness and sanctity.” (Liturgy of St. Basil)
So we are finally here. Election Day. The whole process feels like it has been going on for years, and the atmosphere in our society certainly seems worthy of inclusion in the list of all the other sufferings of 2020. Last week, our adult class discussed (among others) the passages above from 1 Timothy and the Liturgy of St. Basil. To reflect on that today is not to reflect on “the election,” but rather the principles that the Church has always adhered to in Holy Tradition. What does the Church teach us about government, authority and freedom? A little historical reminder must begin the answer: throughout history many, if not most, governments and those in authority have been the source of suffering and death for many. Imposition of enslavement, self-serving pocketing of graft, and bribery (along with numerous other sins) are commonplace throughout history, even in America. And when we want to be self-righteous and point to other “less enlightened” societies, we are reminded that we willfully and legally slaughter millions of children in the womb in our own day and society. Having said all that, as we gather to vote and find out our government in the next few hours and days, we can say the following about the Church’s beliefs:
- Authority and power come from God. “For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1) Never forget that monarchy was seen as divinely appointed, and kings and queens were anointed to their thrones. He reminds the Romans that government has the power to punish in order to keep us from doing evil. We are left to ponder the question, “what about lousy, or evil, or corrupt authority?” Just like everything else in life, what is given as good by God can be corrupted in a fallen world. Therefore,
- We pray for our civil authorities. St. Paul tells Timothy (and us) above that supplications, prayers, etc., are to be made for all men, but especially kings and those in high positions. Why? Their responsibility is great and their decisions affect millions. Our prayer is that they have mercy, compassion, and wisdom, and by them, we may live quiet and peaceable lives, godly and respectable. In St. Basil’s liturgy, we ask Him to “speak good things into their hearts concerning the Church.” In other words, the government is ordained by God to give peace, order, and protection to society that people may work out salvation. Whether that occurs at any given moment in history is not the point. It is the hope and the prayer of the Church.
- The only government (or kingdom) that will last forever is the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, Christians (and the Church) have always had a healthy respect, yet disregard, for the government imposed at any moment in history. As wonderful as American democracy is (and we are truly blessed to live here), that will fade away also. So, in a very real and deep sense, it doesn’t matter who the government is today or tomorrow after the election. We pray for them all, and hope that God blesses the Church through their protection. It is all fleeting and will fade away.
All of this also applies, of course, to the Church, which is hierarchical in structure. The authority resting in the hierarchs and priests of our Church comes from God. We all should be praying for those whom God has placed over us in the civil government and the Church — that He protect them, give them wisdom and strength, and that through them, we might all find our way to the only eternal Kingdom.
November 29, 2023
November 29, 2023
November 29, 2023