Daily Reflection for August 5, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 5  •  Holy Martyr Eusignius of Antioch


This is how Valerian begins the biography of his companion, St. Pontius: “Who can believe, if God does not grant it? Who can lead a life of asceticism, if the Lord does not help? Who can receive the wreath of martyrdom, if Christ does not give it?” God can do all and God wills all that is for the salvation of men, if only men pray to Him. By prayer, St. Nonna converted her husband Gregory and her son, Gregory the Theologian, to Christianity. By prayer, Monica brought Augustine back from a wayward life to the path of good works and faith. By prayer, St. Basil converted his teacher Evulios. By prayer, King Hezekiah prolonged his life for fifteen years. By prayer, St. Simeon the Stylite turned back the Persians and Scythians that they not attack the land of Greece with an army already prepared. Furthermore, all the stars in the heavens will be more readily counted then all the miracles worked on earth by prayer. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
           Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
            Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
            When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
            And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
            Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-14:4)

Today the Church reads the famous thirteenth chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians — the “love” chapter. Even people who don’t read scripture know at least some of these words as they appear on posters, memes, greeting cards, etc. The selection above is expanded from the lectionary reading today, adding the first four verses of chapter thirteen. There is no need to catalogue the qualities of love St. Paul describes. The qualities speak for themselves. But in the selection above, there are major lessons that the Apostles wants to make very clear to his readers:

  1. The wondrous works that can be done by individuals — speaking in tongues, prophecy, knowledge of the mysteries of God, faith deep enough to move mountains, giving all that one has to the poor, even martyrdom — mean nothing if one doesn’t have love.
  2. The qualities of love are eternal. They will not fail. Other qualities will fail. Tongues will be stilled, prophecies and knowledge will both only be partial. Love is complete and never exhausted.
  3. It is childish to hope for, and even to expect, such works as tongues, knowledge and prophecy. We are to put away childish things and seek the one thing necessary: love. If God is love (as St. John reminds us), then to acquire love is to acquire God Himself. All else that is necessary comes from Him in the journey to salvation and in His providence.
  4. Finally, we must abide faith and hope, but St. Paul tells us to pursue With that comes spiritual gifts such as knowledge and prophecy. Tongues might be impressive, but it means only speaking with God. Prophecy is to be more desired, because the prophet is speaking for God. But the caveat is always this: whatever we exercise as spiritual gifts must be exercised for the edification of the Church.

Each of us has expectations about the Christian life. Each of us has expectations about the rewards we are to receive in this world and the next when we strive to be faithful. Each of us can be convinced (even easily) that, one, we can do wondrous things and those things will lead us to God, and two, that love isn’t always necessary. Sometimes we feel completely justified in anger, judgment, vengeance, gossip, etc. When we are convinced of either of those things, we are lost. St. Paul tells us that love is above all. St. John tell us that “God is love.” Why would we think that anything in our lives is godly if it doesn’t begin with love — even miracles? I know why we think that — we lean on greeting cards, posters and cheesy movies more than the Apostle. Shame on us.