Daily Devotional for May 31 – June 5
|At that time: Jesus appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my Name shall
they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them,
and confirming the word with signs following.
We adore Thee O Christ and we bless Thee for by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
Brethren, do you see where evil grows and ripens? Not in the bosom of God, but in the thoughts of men. Evil is sown in the thoughts of men by demonic powers or by the passions of the flesh. Evil grows in the thoughts of men, spreads and multiplies itself, blossoms and bears leaves, and finally shows fruit. God is prompt to warn men to break from their evil thoughts so that evil will not ripen in their souls and bring forth its bitter and deadly fruit. God was prompt to warn Cain, but he did not want to heed the warning and permitted evil thoughts against his brother to bring forth evil fruit: fratricide. What are evil thoughts? All those thoughts that are contrary to the Law of God and the word of God. Evil thoughts are the self-willed law of man, which man prescribes for himself in spite of and contrary to the Law of God. Therefore, if a man has resolutely decided to adhere to the Law of God, then evil thoughts are as weak as shadows, which quickly appear but quickly disappear in the same way. Then a man is lord over his thoughts, for he feels God as the Lord over himself. Then his law is the Law of God, and the evil thoughts of men are nothing. Behold, I will bring evil upon this people, said the Lord. What kind of evil? The fruit of their thoughts. That is: I will permit them only to reap that which they sowed and nurtured, for evil is neither My seed nor My harvest. The evil that I will permit upon lawless men is the fruit of their own thoughts. According to their thoughts, they should have estimated what kind of evil would befall them, just as a sower estimates, according to his seeds, what he will harvest.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord my strength and my redeemer,
Every Christian can accept martyrdom for the Faith for himself, in times of persecution as well as in times of peace. Abba Athanasius says: “Be tortured by your conscience, die to sin, mortify your earthly members, and you will be a martyr in accordance with your wishes. The martyrs fought with emperors and princes; you have the king of sins—the devil and the demonic princes. Before, there were idols, pagan temples, and those who offer sacrifice to the idols. And now, they exist as thoughts in the soul. He who is a slave to debauchery worships the idol of Aphrodite. He who becomes angry and enraged worships the idol of Ares. He who is avaricious and ignores the pain and misery of his neighbor worships the idol Hermes. If you refrain from all of this and preserve yourself from passions, you have overcome idols, you have rejected an evil belief and have become a martyr for the true Faith.” Therefore, a man need not especially yearn for persecution and martyrdom. Everyone in every age can endure martyrdom for the sake of Christ and His Gospel.
O Lord come to my assistance, O Lord make haste to help me.
When man alienates himself from God in his heart he usually trusts in men and in himself, for in whom else can he trust when he has untied his little boat from God’s ship? Since he has already loosed his boat from God’s ship, nothing else remains for him except to trust in his boat or in the boat of his neighbors. A weak trust, but there is none other for him! A lamentable trust over the abyss of destruction, but there is no other! But, O heaven and earth, why did man loose his boat from God’s ship? What happened to man that he flees from his security? What calculation did he make when he decided it would be better for him alone on the tempestuous waves than in God’s house near the hem of His robe! With whom did he make an alliance when he breached his alliance with God? Is it with someone stronger than God? Foolishness, foolishness, foolishness! Cursed is the man who trusts in man. God said this once, and men have repeated this thousands of times. Being disappointed in their trust in men, they have thousands of times cursed those who have trusted in man. God has said only that which men have both experienced too well and confirmed by their experience: Truly, how cursed is the man who trusts in man!
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.
In one of his prayers, St. Ephraim the Syrian turns to God with these words: “Lord, in that awesome and dreadful day Thou wilt say to us sinners: ‘You men know very well what I have endured for you. What have you endured for Me?’ How will I, the wretched, cunning, sinful and foul one, respond to that? The martyrs will then point to their wounds of torture, the severed parts of their bodies and their endurance to the end. The ascetics will point to their ascetic labors, extended fasts, long vigils, almsgiving and tears, and their endurance to the end. And I, the slothful, sinful, and lawless one, to what will I point? Spare me, O Lord! Spare me, O Merciful One! Spare me, O Lover of mankind!”
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with Thy Glory.
The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. Thus the prophet was able to say; and so could the apostles, the martyrs, and every zealot of the word of the Lord and of the Law of the Lord. Not one of them was frightened by reproach or derision, nor was he turned away from witnessing nor led from the road to wayward paths. The entire outside world reproached them and derided them. But the Lord strengthened them and made them inwardly joyful. The Lord overcame the world, and the saints of God overcame those who reproached and derided them.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
(St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer excerpt)
In the Saracen encampment they asked St. Cyril: “How can Christians wage war and at the same time keep Christ’s commandment to pray to God for their enemies?” To this, St. Cyril replied: “If two commandments were written in one law and given to men for fulfilling, which man would be a better follower of the law: the one who fulfilled one commandment or the one who fulfilled both?” The Saracens replied: “Undoubtedly, he who fulfills both commandments.” St. Cyril continued: “Christ our God commands us to pray to God for those who persecute us and
even to do good to them, but He also said to us, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). That is why we bear the insults that our enemies cast at us individually and why we pray to God for them. However, as a society, we defend one another and lay down our lives, so that you would not enslave our brethren, would not enslave their souls with their bodies, and would not destroy them in both body and soul.”
O Come let us worship and fall down before Christ, O Son of God, Who didst rise from the dead, save us who chant unto Thee, Alleluia.