Orthodox Daily Devotional for October 7-13
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.
From St Cyril of Alexandria…
He performs the miracle not only in word, but also touches the bier, to the end that you might know that the sacred body of Christ is powerful to the saving of man. For it is the body of Life and the flesh of the Omnipotent Word, whose power it possesses. For as iron applied to fire does the work of fire, so the flesh, when it is united to the Word, which quickens all things, becomes itself also quickening, and the banisher of death.
**Quote from St Nikolai’s Prologue this week
What kind of sign will the sign of the Son of Man be, which had once been revealed briefly? It is the Cross, brighter than the sun, which manifested itself over Jerusalem before the coming of an early personification of the Antichrist, Julian the Apostate. And, in lieu of any homily concerning this miraculous sign, it is worthwhile to quote here the letter of St. Cyril of Jerusalem written to Emperor Constantius, the son of Constantine the Great and predecessor of Julian the Apostate. A portion of his letter reads: “For in these very days of the Holy Feast of Pentecost, on the seventh of May, about nine o’clock in the morning, a gigantic cross formed of light appeared in the sky above holy Golgotha, stretching out as far as the holy Mount of Olives. It was not seen by just one or two but was most clearly displayed before the whole population of the city. Nor did it, as one might have supposed, pass away quickly like a mirage, but it was visible above the earth for some hours, while it shone with a light greater than the sun’s rays. Surely, it would have been eclipsed by them, had it not exhibited to those who saw it a brilliance more powerful than the sun, so that the whole population of the city made a sudden concerted rush into the church, being seized by fear mingled with joy at the heavenly vision. They poured in, young and old, men and women of every age, even the most secluded virgins, local inhabitants and strangers, Christians and pagans from other lands. All of them with one soul, as if with one mouth, raised a hymn of praise to the Wonderworker, Christ Jesus our Lord, the Only-begotten Son of God, and indeed learned by experience that pious Christian teaching is to be found not in enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (I Corinthians 2: 4), and not only preached by man but also attested to from the heavens by God (Hebrews 2: 3– 4)… We consider it our obligation not to remain silent about this heavenly vision, but to inform Your God-glorified Reverence. Therefore I have hastened to fulfill this intention through this letter.”
God punishes a sinner not because it gives Him gratification to destroy men. If that gave Him gratification, He would not have created man from nothing. He punishes a sinner for more important and constructive reasons, two of which are most apparent to us. First, by punishment, He corrects him and leads him on the true path of salvation, and second, He frightens others from sinning. St. Isaac also thinks this when he says: “A righteous wise man is like unto God— for he punishes a man not to reproach him for his sin but either to correct him or to instill fear in others.” One recalcitrant young man, who ridiculed God and his parents, suddenly went insane. The whole city in which this young man lived saw in this the punishment of God and was filled with the fear of God. The young man was held bound in isolation for three years. His mother wept bitterly and prayed to God for her son. One year, on the Feast of Pentecost, the mother brought him to the Monastery of St. Basil of Ostrog. Following prayers, the insane youth was cured and came to himself. After that he repented and became an exemplary person and a true Christian.
You will hear this kind of justification from many who pursue riches: “When I become rich, I will be able to perform good works!” Do not believe them, for they deceive both you and themselves. St. John Climacus knew in depth the most secret motives of men’s souls when he said: “The beginning of love of money is the pretext of almsgiving and the end of it is hatred of the poor” (Step 16). This is confirmed by all lovers of money, both the very rich and the less rich. The average man says: “If only I had money, I would carry out this and that good work!” Do not believe him. Let him not believe himself. Let him look, as in a mirror, at those who have money and who are not willing to do this or that good work. That is how he would be if he acquired some money. Again, the wise John says: “Do not say that you must collect money for the poor, that through this assistance you might gain the Kingdom. Remember, for two mites the Kingdom was purchased” (Step 16) (cf. Luke 21: 2). Truly, the widow in the Gospel purchased it for two mites, and the rich man, before whose gates Lazarus lay, could not purchase it for all of his countless riches. If you have nothing to give to the poor, pray to God that He will give to them, and by this you have performed almsgiving and purchased the Heavenly Kingdom. When St. Basil the New prophesied to the empress, the wife of Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, that she would first give birth to a daughter and then to a son, the empress offered him much gold. The saint refused it. The empress implored him in the name of the Holy Trinity that he take the gold. Then St. Basil took only three pieces of gold and gave it to his needy servant, Theodora, saying: “We do not need too much of these thorns, for they prick much.”
Even in His pain on the Cross, the Lord Jesus did not condemn sinners but offered up pardon for their sins to His Father, saying: They know not what they do (Luke 23: 34)! Let us not judge anyone so that we will not be judged. For no one is certain that, before his death, he will not commit the same sin by which he condemns his brother. St. Anastasius of Sinai teaches: “Even if you see someone sinning, do not judge him, for you do not know what the end of his life will be like. The thief who was crucified with Christ was a murderer, while Judas was an apostle of Jesus, but the thief entered into the Kingdom, and the apostle went to perdition. Even if you see someone sinning, bear in mind that you do not know his good works. For many have sinned openly and repented in secret; we see their sins, but we do not know their repentance. Therefore, brethren, let us not judge anyone so that we will not be judged.”
That is how John the God-seer saw Jesus after His Resurrection and victory. He saw Him as the Son of Man, clothed in a lengthy garment, girded about with a golden sash, with seven stars in His right hand, and His face shining like the sun at its brightest (cf. Revelation 1: 16). It was with this kind of power and glory that He appeared— He Who on the Cross was not radiant and Who seemed to be the weakest among the sons of men to every passerby. Why was His hair as white as wool and snow? Was not our Lord not yet thirty-four years old when they killed Him? From where, then, comes His white hair? Does not white hair indicate old age? It is true that white hair does indicate old age with mortal man, but with Christ in Glory it indicated more than old age— it indicated eternity. Eternal youthful age! Old age is the past, and youth is the future. At the same time, is He not both? More than all the times past and all times to come, and even beyond time, Christ is eternity beyond time. Why were His eyes like a flame of fire? Because He is the All-seeing. All sorts of things can be hidden from the sun, but of all that is in the heavens, on the earth, or under the earth, nothing can be hidden from His sight. He perceives all the threads of the fabric of nature; He perceives all the atoms in the stones, every drop of water in the sea, every particle of air, and all the thoughts and desires of every created soul. This is the One and the same and no other; He who out of compassion for the human race came to earth, clothed Himself in a mortal and suffering body, was ridiculed, was mocked and was spat upon by sinful men. That is the same One and no other, Who without radiance hung on the Cross between thieves, and as a dead man was buried by Joseph and Nicodemus.
St. Paphnutius prayed to God to reveal whom he (Paphnutius) resembled. He heard a voice which spoke to him: “You are similar to a merchant who seeks goodly pearls; arise and do not be idle!” But why does God not say to every one of us that we are like a merchant who seeks goodly pearls? Because many of us do not seek pearls, but rather bury ourselves under heavy layers of worthless dust. Not everything that the net raises up from the bottom of the sea is a pearl; sometimes it is only mud and sand. The ignorant vie for that mud and sand as though it were a pearl. Only the merchant who recognizes a true pearl casts the net into the sea an untold number of times. He hauls it up, sifts out the mud and sand, until he finds one seed pearl! Why does God compare Paphnutius to a merchant? Because Paphnutius gave away all of his possessions and invested all of his effort and time in order to find that one true seed pearl. That true pearl is a heart cleansed of all passions and evil thoughts and warmed by the flame of love toward God. You too arise, O man, and do not be lazy! Your marketing day is approaching its twilight.