Daily Devotional for October 8-14
Luke 7:11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.
16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” 17 And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.
Orthodox Sunday Bible Notes: This is one of three resurrections performed by our Lord as recorded in the Gospels (see also 8: 41– 56; Jn 11: 1– 44). They confirm the promise given to the prophet Ezekiel that God will one day open the graves and raise all the dead (Ezk 37: 1– 14). Many people have exercised authority over the living; only the Son of God “has power over both the living and the dead” (funeral service). While Christ has power through His word alone (Jn 11: 43), here He also touched the coffin to show that His very body is life-giving. This event also prefigures Christ’s own Resurrection. As Mary would weep for Jesus at the Cross, yet her tears would be turned to joy by the Resurrection, here a widow’s only son is raised from the dead, putting an end to her weeping.
This week features excerpts from St. Nikolai’s ‘Prologue’
Brethren, when the world pursues us with its temptations— the temptation of external beauty, the temptation of riches, the temptation of pleasure, the temptation of transient glory— with what shall we resist and by what shall we be victorious, if not by this Faith? In truth, we prevail by nothing except by this invincible Faith, which knows of something greater than all the wealth of this world. When all the temptations of this world reveal the opposite side of their faces— when beauty turns into ugliness, health into sickness, riches into poverty, glory into dishonor, authority into humiliation, and all-blossoming physical life into filth and stench— by what shall we overcome this grief, this decay, this filth and stench, and preserve ourselves from despair, if not by this Faith? In truth, by nothing except this invincible Faith, which teaches us eternal and unchangeable values in the Kingdom of Christ. When death shows its destructive power over our neighbors, over our relatives and our families, over our flowers, over our crops, over the works of our hands, and when it turns its irresistible teeth even upon us— by what shall we conquer the fear of death, and by what shall we unlock the doors of life, stronger than death, if not by this Faith? In truth, by nothing except this invincible Faith, which knows about the resurrection and life without death.
Nothing crushes human pride as does habitual obedience toward elders. In ancient Sparta, obedience was considered a great virtue. It is said that a Spartan soldier, who was rushing into battle armed with a sword, caught up with his enemy. At the precise moment when the Spartan was about to slay him, the trumpet sounded to end the fighting, and he replaced his sword in the sheath. When someone who saw this asked him, “Why did you not slay the enemy?” he replied, “It is better to obey the commander than to slay the enemy.” Christian obedience differs from this Spartan obedience in that it is voluntary and has as its goal the salvation of the soul, i.e., it is not for the preservation of an earthly kingdom but rather for obtaining the Heavenly Kingdom. St. John the Dwarf began his ascetic life with a certain elder of Thebes. In order to teach his disciple obedience, the elder planted a withered tree in the ground and ordered his disciple to water it daily. For three years, and without murmuring, John watered this withered tree until it finally turned green and brought forth fruit. This is the fruit of unmurmuring obedience. The Crucified Lord Himself became obedient unto death
St. Anthony teaches: “Learn to love humility, for it will cover all your sins. All sins are repulsive before God, but the most repulsive of all is pride of the heart. Do not consider yourself learned and wise; otherwise, all your effort will be destroyed, and your boat will reach the harbor empty. If you have great authority, do not threaten anyone with death. Know that, according to nature, you too are susceptible to death, and that every soul sheds its body as its final garment.” In Byzantium there existed an unusual and instructive custom during the crowning of the emperors in the Church of the Divine Wisdom [Hagia Sophia]. The custom was that, when the patriarch placed the crown on the emperor’s head, he also handed him a silk purse filled with earth from a grave, so that even the emperor would recall death, avoid all pride and become humble.
All worldly wisdom which is guided only by the physical senses, without regard for the Holy Spirit, is foolishness before God and before God’s angels. Such a wisdom does not perceive either the spirit or the purpose of this world; rather, it knows this world only as ashes from without and ashes from within— as ashes which the wind of chance piles up and strews at one moment this way, and at another moment that way. All the wisdom of man, directed only by the senses and by physical conceptions and fantasies, is foolishness before God and the angels and saints of God, for it does not know man as man, that is, as a spiritual being related to God; rather, it knows man only as a body from without and as a body from within— as a body according to form and as a body according to essence. It is the same as if a monkey, looking at an iron locomotive, described it and said: “This is iron on the outside and iron on the inside— iron which heats it and iron which operates it, iron which gives it direction and iron which stops it!” Brethren, who is able to be filled with the wisdom of God except he who first empties himself of the foolishness of the world? With God’s help, each one of us can do this. However, in response to our desires and to our efforts, God’s help infallibly comes to meet us— for God alone is Goodness, Wisdom and Holiness.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning (Luke 12: 35). This is the commandment of Him Who knows the weaknesses of our being, and Who desires our good more than our father and mother do. This is the commandment of our man-loving Lord. When man is ungirded, does not his entire body droop? When he girds himself, does not his entire body become as erect as a candle? As a candle stands, so must our soul stand, erect before God. How will our souls stand erect before God if unrestrained physical earthly passions and lusts weigh them down? Behold, in the loins is the nest of the main physical passions. To gird one’s loins means to tighten oneself with restraint and not to give in to passions at will. But to gird one’s physical loins is not the goal, but the means that we utilize to easily gird our mind, our heart and our will. Physical restraint is the primary school of our Christian character; after it comes a higher school, in which we learn restraint of the mind, restraint of the heart and restraint of the will. If we gird our mind, then lustful thoughts will be unable to find a place in its narrowness. If we gird our heart, then lustful desires will be unable to find a place in it. If we gird our will, then the evil, beastly and demonic desires will be unable to find a place in it. Brethren, only by a narrow path can one enter into the Kingdom of God. Only in the narrowness of the mind, the heart and the will, can the candles of the virtues be lighted, the flames of which rise toward God. By the image of the lighted candles, we should understand Christian virtues.
Since the beginning of the world and time, no one who was ever born has dared to speak these words. There have been men, and there are men, who say: “I bring light!” But only one dared to say: “I am the Light!” Only the Lord Jesus could have spoken those words boldly and convincingly. His short life on earth and His long history of nearly two thousand years have completely justified these words. He is the Light of truth, righteousness and life. He is the Light of truth, because He revealed in Himself the truth of the true nature of God and the true nature of man, the relationship of man to man, and the relationship of man toward God. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His words will not pass away; for heaven and earth both came into existence by His word, and His word is from Him and with Him always, and will not pass away. He is the Light of righteousness, because He revealed the might of righteousness and the weakness of unrighteousness. He revealed this in the brightest light— by what He said, by what He did, and by what He experienced— and overcame the unrighteous ones. He has revealed it through His Church over the course of twenty centuries— through His numerous righteous saints and martyrs, for righteousness’ sake. Righteousness is of God, and in the long line of history, it can never be defeated. Unrighteousness is of helpless beings. Unrighteousness quickly rushes out to the rampart with its triumphant banner, but at the same time, it is quickly thrown into the grave. He is the Light of life. His words illuminate life. His works illuminate life. His victory illuminates life. Especially His Resurrection, as the most luminous sun, illuminates life by its bright light and disperses death as a weak shadow.