Reflection for November 6, 2020

REFLECTION  •  NOVEMBER 6  •  St. Paul the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople


If God can bring forth water from a rock as a comfort to men, He is also able to send down fire from the heavens as a punishment. The fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is a classic example of God’s punishment upon incorrigible sinners. That God can repeat this punishment was demonstrated over Constantinople in the year 472, during the time of Emperor Leo the Great and Patriarch Gennadius. At noon on November 6 of that year, the sky became overcast with thick, dark clouds, causing darkness on the land. These clouds turned red as fire, then became dark, and alternated their appearance continuously. This phenomenon over Constantinople lasted for a full forty days. The frightened people turned to repentance and prayer. With the emperor and patriarch, they walked in procession through the streets from church to church and prayed to God with tears and lamentation. On the final day hot black ash fell like rain from evening until midnight, then stopped. The following day dawned clear and bright, but the sooty ash lay on the ground to a depth of nine inches. With great effort, the people cleaned their houses and streets of this sooty ash, but the crops in the field were utterly destroyed. All who had understanding, understood that this was God’s punishment, and that it was God’s gentle punishment because the people hastened to repent before Him. Had it not been for this profound repentance for their great and accumulated sins, who knows what would have happened to Constantinople in those days? But the timely repentance of sinners, and the prayers of the Most-holy Theotokos, as well as the prayers of the countless saints and martyrs of Constantinople, greatly lessened the punishment.(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:2-5)

I love the Providence of God. First of all, I thought November 4 was going to be the day we were all released from the prison of Politics 2020tm. Ha! I finally turned off the television, or at least the news (thank goodness there was a football game last night!) because I just can’t take anymore. No matter who one might support, most can agree that 1) we are sick of it all, and 2) charges and countercharges only lead to the most base of temptations: judgment and condemnation of maybe one side, maybe the other, maybe everyone (a pox on them all!). Then, when I have had enough, and am quite comfortable in my condemnations, the Church brings us the words of our Lord today from the Gospel of St. Luke. They powerfully sink into our souls if we let them. It’s almost as if He is speaking to me about my struggles the past few days.

First of all, we have been inundated with whispers and rumors of nefarious deeds trying to “steal this” or “steal that.” I have no idea about any of those charges. But I hear what Jesus says to me today: “there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known” and “what you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light.” He isn’t speaking about the election (although some might like Him to be doing just that); He is speaking about everything that we think, mull over, reflect upon, mutter in anger, and spew forth — just in the darkness of our minds. It doesn’t even have to come out of our mouths; He hears and He knows. Most of us complain, judge, condemn, and gossip about others (currently number one on the hit parade: politicians) never to their faces, but perhaps to others near us, or even inside the recesses of our minds and souls, worst of all on social media. The “light” that will illuminate all that darkness is Him at the Judgment Seat. I am guilty of some of that darkness in the past few days, and paranoia and despair about the future is just a few thoughts away if I wander enough. God help us to move away from these days and those thoughts!

But then, the Lord reminds us of a very important fact. We must never fear those who “kill the body.” That can take many forms. It can be a virus (some have overwhelming, paralyzing fear of COVID), or someone literally taking our lives (still rare, but perhaps becoming less rare). Much of the controversy over the past few months, and much of the animus directed at various politicians and leaders on both sides right now (and for some, even our bishops), is a spiritual overreaction to the possibility of death. The Lord reminds us not to fear that. He has overcome it. But the death-dealing poison of societal trends, immoral, unethical, and downright evil can perhaps not kill our bodies, but definitely kills our immortal souls if we are open to the poison. That is what or who the Lord says to fear. Governments come, and governments go. Only the Church and the Kingdom of Heaven are forever. There’s a lot of fear and anxiety floating around these days. We must make sure we fear the right thing.


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