Orthodox Daily Devotional October 14-20
6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert[the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
NOTES ON THE EPISTLE FROM AMBROSIASTER… When he had faith in the law, not knowing that it was not the time for observance of the law, and was intensely striving to resist the gospel of Christ, he thought that he acted by God’s will. God, seeing that his zeal was good, though he lacked knowledge, chose to summon him into his grace. He knew that this man was suitable to preach his gospel to the Gentiles. For if he was so swift and faithful in so poor a cause through boldness of conscience, not through adulation of anyone, how much more constant would he be in preaching the gift of God through the hope of the promised reward?
**More from The Prologue of St. Nikolai
It was St. John who fell as though dead when he saw the Lord Jesus in glory. St. John— the Beloved Disciple of Jesus, the Evangelist, the chaste one, the one who loved the Lord, the zealot for holiness— could neither stand on his feet nor compose himself when he saw his Teacher in His heavenly glory and power! Instead he fell, as though dead. Therefore, how will they who sin against Him, rise up against Him, ridicule His name, despise His love and sacrifice, mock His Cross, trample upon His commandments, persecute His Church, shame His priests, and kill His faithful, endure the presence of the Lord and His eyes like a fiery flame? What will happen to them before the face of the Lord if St. John fell as dead when he caught sight of Him? What will happen to educated men who corrupt others? What will happen to teachers who destroy the Faith in young souls? What will happen to skeptics who through their doubt poison the minds of men? What will happen to thieves and robbers, to the immoral, and to the child-killers? What will happen to the enemies of Christ if the friend of Jesus falls, as though dead, before His indescribable, effulgent glory? Such is the glory, power, authority, beauty, lordship, light and majesty of the Lord Jesus, resurrected and ascended, that His closest companions, who for three years on earth gazed upon His face without fear, now fall as though dead when they see His face in the heavens following His passion, death and victory!
Abba Daniel and Abba Ammoe were traveling. Abba Ammoe said: “Father, when will we arrive at the cell?” (that is, so that they could pray to God). Abba Daniel replied: “And who is taking God away from us now? The same God is in the cell and outside the cell…” By this we are taught unceasing prayer, contemplation of God, and meditation on God’s works in us and around us. The church building facilitates prayer and strengthens it, as also withdrawal and solitude in their way facilitate and strengthen it. He who does not want to pray will not be bound to pray either by a church or a cell. Neither will he who has felt the sweetness of prayer be able to separate his nature or his journeyings from prayer.
By His suffering our Lord eased our suffering. He endured the greatest of pain and emerged as the Victor. That is why He can encourage us in our lesser sufferings. He suffered and endured in righteousness while we suffer and endure in expiating our own sins. This is why He can doubly remind us to endure to the end as He, the Sinless One, endured. Not one of us helped or alleviated His pains and endurance, yet He stands beside each one of us when we suffer and He alleviates our pains and misfortunes. That is why He has the right to tell each one who suffers for His name’s sake: “Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer, for I alone have endured all sufferings and am familiar with them. I was not frightened by a single suffering. I received them upon Myself, and in the end I overcame them all. I did not overcome them by dismissing them or fleeing from them but by receiving them all upon Myself voluntarily and enduring them all to the end. And so you also should accept voluntary suffering, for I see and know how much and how long you can endure. “If your suffering should continue until death itself and if it should be the cause of your death, nevertheless, do not be afraid: I will give thee the crown of life. I will crown you with immortal life, in which I reign eternally with the Father and the Life-giving Spirit.” God did not send you to earth to live comfortably, but rather to prepare you for eternal life. It would be a great tragedy if your Creator were unable to give you a better, longer, and brighter life than that which is on earth, which reeks of decay and death and is shorter than the life of a raven.
Then God said, Let there be light, and there was light (Genesis 1: 3). Until God spoke, there was no light. Nor was there anyone who could know what light was until God spoke and light came into being. In the same manner, when God spoke, water and the dry land, the firmament of the heavens, vegetation, animals and finally man came into existence. Until God spoke, none of this existed, and except for God no one could know that all of this could exist. By the power of His Word, God created all that is created on earth and in the heavens. Whatever God wanted to exist and called into being, that had to be and could not but have been, for the Word of God is irresistible and creative. The creation of the world is a great miracle accomplished by the Word of God. Having created all things, God again, by His Word, established the order of creation and the manner of behavior and relationship of creatures one with another. This order and manner which God established is a great miracle accomplished by God’s Word. There exists an order and manner among created things that is visible and comprehensible for us people; and there also exists an order and manner that is invisible and incomprehensible. According to that invisible and incomprehensible order and manner, which is a mystery hidden in the Holy Trinity, there have occurred and are occurring those manifestations that people call miracles. One such manifestation is the conception of the Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of the All-holy Virgin Mary, who had not known man. This appears like an interruption in the visible and comprehensible order and manner, but it is never an interruption for the invisible and incomprehensible order and manner. This birth is truly a great miracle; perhaps the greatest miracle that was ever revealed to us mortals. The entire created world is a miracle, and all the visible and comprehensible order and manner is a miracle, and altogether these miracles came about by the Word of God. Therefore, much in the same way, the Lord was conceived in the Virgin’s womb. All were brought about by the power and Word of God. That is why the wonderful Gabriel replied to the question of the All-pure one (a question asked by all generations: How shall this be? [Luke 1: 34]): For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Gabriel is the herald of the Incarnation of the Son of God. He is one of the seven archangels who stand before the throne of God. He appeared to Zacharias to announce the birth of the Forerunner. Gabriel said of himself: I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God (Luke 1: 19). His name Gabriel means “man-God.” The Holy Fathers, in speaking of the Annunciation, comment that an archangel with such a name was sent to signify Who He was, and what He would be like, Who would be born of the All-pure one. He would be the God-man, the mighty and powerful God. Some of the Fathers understood that this same Gabriel appeared to Joachim and Anna concerning the birth of the Virgin Mary, and that Gabriel instructed Moses in the wilderness to write the Book of Genesis. The Holy Fathers say that Gabriel belongs to the first and greatest order of heavenly powers, that is, the Seraphim, since the Seraphim stand closest to God. He is, therefore, one of the seven Seraphim closest to God. The names of the seven are Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Salathiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel. To this number some add Jeremiel. Each one has his own particular service and all are equal in honor. Why did God not send Michael? Because Michael’s service is to suppress the enemies of the Faith of God, while Gabriel’s is the mission of announcing the salvation of mankind.
When a miracle occurs, do not be confused by it, but rejoice. God has placed His finger there to reward, or punish, or encourage His faithful, or to lead sinners on the path of salvation. People frequently compare this world to a locomotive. When you see a locomotive or another steam engine, you know that there is an engineer within it. That does not surprise you, does it? If the engineer puts his head out of the cab, waves his hand, extends a rod, waves a handkerchief, tosses out a letter, or makes some other sign, you know that this does not interfere with the operation of the locomotive and does not damage one rivet in it. Why, then, do the faithless say that God with His miracles interferes with the movement of earthly machines? Why? Because they are dim-witted. The faithful rejoice at God’s signs. A child is frightened at a locomotive but rejoices when a man, resembling himself, appears from it. Oh, how dear it is to us when, from this mute universe which hurtles around us, someone resembling us appears and that someone is one who recognizes and loves us! When a miracle occurs, know that He Who resembles us greets us and says: “Do not be afraid, I am behind all of this.” St. Basil the New worked many miracles. Through prayer he healed the sick and discerned the fate of people like an open book. Through His chosen ones, God has always demonstrated His love and power to men in order to firmly establish the faithful in the Faith, and to shame the unfaithful and return them to the Faith.