Daily Devotional for June 19-25
*Readings from St Nikolai’s Prologue of Ohrid this week…
It sometimes appears to man that the way of the godless is right, for he sees that the godless man obtains riches and succeeds. Oh, if it were only given to him to see the end of that path! He would be horrified and would never tread on that path.
If the end of a path is destruction, can it be the right way? Therefore, O man, do not say that a way is right if you do not see its end. You ask: how can I, a weak and shortsighted man, perceive the end of a long path? In two ways: by reading Holy Scripture within the experience of the Orthodox Church, and by observing the end of the path of life of those around you and who die before you. However, the first way is the more reliable one, and if you adhere to it, know that you will not stumble into the night of eternal death. Only that path is right which is shown by God as right. All other ways that appear right to your mind, but which do not coincide with the way of God, are wrong and deadly. Behold, even the beasts have their paths, but would you travel those paths if they seemed right to you? Do not go, for in the end you will fall into the hungry jaws of the beasts. And the path shown by God, even if it appears wrong to you, is right—therefore travel by it. The path of God occasionally seems wrong to us because of our sins. If we were without sin and if our minds were not distorted by sin, it would not be possible for us, even for a moment, to conceive that another path is right except God’s path.
Prayer: O Lord, deprive me not of Thy heavenly good things.
O Lord, deliver me from the eternal torments. (St John Chrysostom hourly prayers)
The all-wise St. John Chrysostom said: “A place will not save us if we do not carry out the will of God.” There is a tale of a certain monk who lived in a monastery where five brethren loved him and one brother offended him. Because of this one brother who offended him, he moved to another monastery. However, in this monastery eight of the brethren loved him and two of the brethren offended him. He then fled to a third monastery. But here, seven of the brethren loved him and five of the brethren offended him. He set out for a fourth monastery, but along the way he thought: “How long will I flee from place to place? I will never find peace in the whole world. It would be better for me to become patient.” He pulled out a piece of paper and wrote in bold letters: “I will endure all for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” When he entered the fourth monastery, here only one loved him and the others offended him. But he patiently began to endure the offenses. As soon as someone offended him, he would take out that piece of paper and read: “I will endure all for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” So with patience he succeeded and all came to love him, and he remained in that monastery until his death.
Prayer: O Lord, if I have sinned in mind or thought, in word or deed, forgive me.
O Lord, deliver me from all ignorance, forgetfulness, faint-heartedness, and stony insensibility.
Here the word is about true glory and not false glory, about glory that is eternal and not about glory that dies. Glory that is of man is glory that dies, but glory that is of God is eternal. Those whom men glorify are not glorified, and those whom God glorifies are glorified. Our Lord said to the Jewish scribes: How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only? (John 5:44). See how our Lord makes a distinction between the glory from men and the glory from God? And about Himself, He said: I receive not honor from men.
He who seeks glory from men travels the path of pride, and he who seeks glory from God travels the path of humility. No one is glorified by God without humility. The saints of God were the most humble servants of God. The Most-holy Theotokos was adorned with overwhelming humility. Her being chosen as the Mother of God is attributed to her great humility: For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden (Luke 1:48). But the humblest of the humble was our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Setter of the contest. During His earthly life humility always preceded glory. Brethren, it must also be that way in our life if we desire true glory. For if humility does not precede glory, glory will never come.
Prayer: O Lord, deliver me from every temptation.
O Lord, enlighten my heart which evil desire hath darkened.
It is not always easy to conquer the spirit of vanity and conceit in oneself. Only the great spiritual directors have succeeded in this, with God’s grace above all, with constant vigilance over their souls, and with very delicate spiritual sensitivities and distinctions. Abba Nisteroes was
once walking with one of his brethren. Suddenly they spotted a serpent on the road. The brother quickly moved aside, and the great Nisteroes fled after him. “Are you also afraid, father?” the monk asked Nisteroes. The elder replied: “No, my son, I am not afraid, but I had to flee—otherwise I would not have escaped the spirit of vanity.” That is: “Had I remained in place, you would have been amazed at me, and from that I would have become vain!”
Prayer: O Lord, as a man I have sinned, but do Thou, as the compassionate God, have mercy on me, seeing the infirmity of my soul.
O Lord, send Thy grace to my help, that I may glorify Thy holy name.
If you are wealthy, in what are you wealthy, if not in the property of God? The things which constitute your wealth—whose are they, if not God’s? Therefore, if you take pride in what you possess, you are taking pride in the property of another; you are taking pride in that which is loaned to you by God. Why do you then mock the poor man, who has less of someone else’s property in his hands? Why do you mock him if he has borrowed less from God than you? If he has taken less, he owes less; and you who have taken more owe more. Not only should you not mock the poor man but you should admire him. Behold, he struggles on the battlefield of this world with much less means than you. Both of you are soldiers, but you fight as a soldier abundantly equipped with all that is necessary, and he fights naked and hungry. If both of you succumb and surrender to the enemy, he will be judged more leniently than you. However, if you are both victorious, he will receive a greater reward than you, and his victory will be more celebrated than yours. He who mocks the naked and hungry soldier mocks his king. He who mocks the poor defames his Creator. If you know that the poor man’s Creator is your Creator, the one and the same, you will not mock him. If you know that the poor man stands in the same military regiment as you, you will cover him, feed him, and bring him closer to yourself.
Prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, write me Thy servant in the Book of Life, and grant me a good end.
O Lord my God, even though I have done nothing good in Thy sight, yet grant me by Thy grace to make a good beginning.
In enumerating the miracles of the Christian Faith, we must never forget the countless and great miracles of change of heart and disposition in people truly converted to the Faith. How many are the raging criminals that this Faith has tamed! How many bloodthirsty robbers has the Faith transformed into innocent lambs! How many debauched ones has the Faith turned into chaste ones! How many persecutors has the Faith turned into defenders of the Faith! How many selfish, avaricious men has the Faith taught compassion! How many fearful ones has the Faith directed on the road to extreme self-sacrifice! Metropolitan Philaret writes thus about Russian Prince Vladimir: “A lover of all pleasures who could not have loved them more, the pagan Vladimir became in Christianity a model of chaste married life. He dismissed all his wives and concubines and lived with one wife, the devout Anna. An evil, vindictive and bloodthirsty fratricide in paganism, Vladimir was in Christianity the most compassionate friend of the poor. The poor always had access to him, and he distributed both money and food with a generous hand.” More than that: “The sick are unable to come to my palace,” he said, and he commanded that meat, fish, bread, kvass and honey be carted about the streets. The Gospel words Blessed are the merciful (Matthew 5:7) penetrated into the depth of his heart and became his rule of life.
Prayer: O Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Thy grace.
O Lord of heaven and earth, remember me Thy sinful servant, shameful and unclean, in Thy kingdom. Amen.
Did not our Lord Himself confirm this when He said that men will give an answer for every idle word before the Dread Judgment? Didn’t He explicitly say: By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned (Matthew 12:37)? Whoever is justified will receive life. Whoever is condemned will receive death. Therefore, do you see how life and death are in the power of the tongue? The Apostle James says: If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body (James 3:2). The unexplored mystery of words is truly great, and the influence of words cannot be measured or estimated. Today the words of men can be carried by artificial instruments from one end of our planet to the other. A word spoken by a tongue in America can be heard by an ear in Europe. Is not this an image of the All-hearing God? O my brethren, we cannot whisper anything to the earth that the heavens will not hear. Our every word comes before the assembly of the angels of God. Hades receives our every evil word and retains it as a guarantee of our eternal death, and Paradise receives every good word and retains it as a guarantee of our eternal life. Truly, the Old Testament sage speaks wisely and reminds us opportunely with the words: Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
Prayer: O Lord, accept me in penitence.
O Lord, forsake me not.