Daily Devotion for February 11-17
Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy[c] angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer Him,[d] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
From St. Nikolai’s Prologue
Those who do everything for us according to our will are neither our good teachers nor our good friends. St. John Moschus writes about a prominent woman of a senatorial family who visited the Holy Land. Arriving in Caesarea, she decided to remain there and turned to the bishop with this request: “Give me a maiden to teach me the fear of God.” The bishop introduced her to a humble virgin. After a period of time, the bishop met that woman and asked her: “How is the virgin to whom I introduced you?” “She is good,” replied the woman, “but she is of little benefit to my soul, because she is humble and allows me to do my own will. I need her to reproach me and not allow me to do whatever I want.” The bishop then gave her another girl, of a very coarse character, who began to rebuke the woman, calling her a senseless rich woman and the like. After some time, the bishop again asked the woman: “And that maiden, how does she conduct herself with you?” “She truly benefits my soul,” replied the senator’s wife. And so she became very meek.
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name (Luke 24: 47). This is the final instruction of the Savior to the holy apostles. In these words, as in a nutshell, is contained the Gospel of reconciliation between God and men. What does God seek from men and what does God give them? He seeks repentance, and He grants forgiveness of sins. He seeks little, but He gives all. Let men only repent for sins committed and cease sinning, and men will receive all from God— all, not only all that their hearts could desire, but even more, much more. In truth, everything is promised to the righteous. The righteous will be the inheritors of the Kingdom of God, they will be the sons of God, and they will be the children of light, the children of immortality, companions of the angels, brothers of Christ. The righteous will have an abundance of life, peace, wisdom, power and joy. The righteous will have all, for all has been promised to them. Let men only repent, and they will receive all. Let the beggar only cleanse himself, bathe himself and clothe himself in purity before the doors of the royal court, and he will be immediately ushered into the royal court. There he will be met and embraced by the King, and he will have all. He will live with the King and sit at the royal table; he will have all, all, all!
A Christian is similar to a betrothed maiden. As a betrothed maiden continually thinks about her betrothed, so the Christian continually thinks about Christ. Even if the betrothed is far away beyond ten hills, it is all the same: the maiden behaves as though he is constantly by her and with her. She thinks about him, sings to him, talks about him, dreams about him and prepares gifts for him. A Christian behaves in the same way toward Christ. As the betrothed maiden knows that she first must leave and distance herself from the home where she was born to meet and totally unite with her betrothed, so the Christian knows that he cannot totally unite with Christ until death separates him from the body, that is, from the material home in which his soul resides and has grown from birth.
For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested (Mark 4: 22). All the secret works of man will be revealed one day. None of man’s works can be hidden. The Jews thought that they could conceal from God the slaying of so many prophets, and that their bloody, villainous deed against Christ could be hidden from God and man. However, that which they thought to hide has become a daily and nightly tale, told both in the heavens and on earth for thousands of years. Judas thought to hide the traitorous agreement he had made against his Lord, but the Lord discerned this agreement and declared it to his face. Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22: 48). The Lord also discerned the hearts of the Pharisees and read their evil thoughts. Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? (Matthew 9: 4). What works, what things, what events in this world can be hidden from Him Who sees and reveals even the most secret thoughts in the hearts of men? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested. Because of this we need to fear, and because of this we need to rejoice. To fear— for all of our secret evil deeds, evil desires and evil thoughts will be brought out into the open. To rejoice— for all the good that we have performed, desired or thought in secret will be brought out into the open. If it is not brought out into the open before men, it will be brought out before the heavenly angels. The greater the fear for sinners, the greater the joy for the righteous.
St. John Chrysostom writes the following against those who create a disturbance in church and depart therefrom before the completion of the divine services: “Some do not approach Holy Communion with trembling but with commotion, shoving one another, burning with anger, hollering, scolding, pushing their neighbor and being full of disturbance. I have often spoken about this, and will not cease to speak. Do you not see what good order prevails at the pagan Olympic games, when the Master of Ceremonies passes through the arena with a wreath on his head, dressed in a lengthy garment, holding a staff in his hand, and the Crier declares that there be silence and order? Is it not obscene that there, where the devil reigns, there is such silence, and here, where Christ invites us to Himself, there is such an uproar? Silence in the arena, and an uproar in the church! Calm on the sea, and a tempest in the harbor! When you are invited to a meal, you must not leave before the others, even if you have finished before them. Yet here, while the awesome Mysteries of Christ are being celebrated, while the priestly functions still continue, you leave in the middle and exit? How can this be forgiven? How can this be justified? Judas, after receiving Communion at the Last Supper that final night, departed quickly while the others remained at the table. Behold, whose example do they follow who hurry to depart before the final blessing?”
But rather give alms [tithes/gifts of charity] of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you (Luke 11: 41). External cleanliness becomes a man. But that is a lesser cleanliness. Internal cleanliness is incomparably more important than external cleanliness. That is a greater cleanliness. A dish can be used only if it is washed and clean on the inside, even though the outside is dark and sooty. If a glass is dirty on the inside, its external cleanliness will never attract anyone to drink from it. If a bowl is dark and ashy on the inside, who will dare to eat from it? In the world there are many more teachers and examples of external cleanliness than there are of internal cleanliness. For it is easier to teach and demonstrate external cleanliness than internal. Behold, brethren, how the Teacher and Model of great cleanliness sets this great cleanliness in dependence on internal almsgiving. Almsgiving that is performed from the heart purifies a man’s heart. Almsgiving that is performed from the soul cleanses a man’s soul. Almsgiving that is performed from the entire mind cleanses a man’s mind. In a word, internal almsgiving cleanses the entire man. If almsgiving is only from the hand, it does not cleanse the hand, much less the heart, soul and mind. Almsgiving from the hand is indispensable, but it cleanses the giver only when the heart moves the hand to almsgiving. Besides almsgiving from the hand, there exist other types of almsgiving. Prayer for people is internal almsgiving, as is sorrow for human pain and rejoicing for the joy of others. This is almsgiving which proceeds from the heart and creates cleanliness in the heart, soul and mind.