6 September OS 2015 – Saturday of the Sixteenth Week after Pentecost (Sixteenth Week of Matthew), The Miracle of the Holy Archangel Michael at Chonae
In today’s Gospel, the Lord commands His disciples to be vigilant until His coming:
The Lord said to His disciples: Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Matthew 24: 34-44
We await the coming of Christ in two senses: 1. He will come in glory at a time known to God alone, at the end of the world, to judge the living and the dead at the General Judgment. 2. If we die before His coming, we will face Him at the judgment seat of the Particular Judgment, when all of the deeds of our life will be laid bare, and He will place us in Paradise or Hades to await the General Resurrection and Dread Judgment. This brief life is given us to prepare for these encounters with our Judge. How do we prepare?
St. Theophan the Recluse comments thus:
“Watch, therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come (Matthew 24:42). To be vigilant does not mean to sit with your arms folded, but rather to keep in mind that the Lord will come suddenly, and so to behave and conduct your affairs so as to be ready to meet Him at any instant, not fearing reproach and condemnation. How is one to do this? Very simply. Walk in the commandments without breaking a single one. And if it happens that you break one, immediately cleanse yourself through repentance and by fulfilling what needs to be done. Then everything in you will be clean. Do not leave sin on your soul for even a minute: immediately repent, weep in your heart, and run to your spiritual father to confess and receive absolution, and then get down to business again, in accordance with God’s commandments. If you set out zealously to have your life in good order, it soon will be; just do not remain in a fall for long. In such a case, falls will become ever rarer and will eventually cease completely, with the help of the all-healing grace of God. Then the joyful assurance will dwell in you that you will not meet the Lord unprepared. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 200-201
Here we are, a program for life! In short:
- Obey the commandments.
- If you fall, repent immediately.
- Get back to your spiritual work.
“…run to your spiritual father to confess and receive absolution.” Is this what we do? Or do we store up our sins in a great sack on our backs and trudge from year to year, performing a perfunctory and woefully incomplete confession during Holy Week and maybe before the Nativity or another feast, receiving Holy Communion as if it were a burdensome duty of some kind, and then going back to “business as usual” – not the “business” St. Theophan is speaking of above, the business of a conscious, daily spiritual effort, but the “business” of worldliness?
If one were to ask me why the world has gone so astray, I would answer, “Because Orthodox Christians do not frequently confess and receive Holy Communion.” The Church is the charity of the world, the gate through which the grace of God flows to mankind, the pillar and foundation of the Truth, the place where man meets God, the means God has given for the salvation of man. When the life of the Church in the world is strong, when vast numbers of Orthodox Christians are daily repenting, weeping over their sins, frequently confessing, receiving absolution, receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion – then evil is restrained, rulers and nations repent, thousands or millions of souls are saved. When the life of the Church is weak, then God’s grace, though infinitely abundant and readily available, slows to a trickle in the life of the world, not because God is not all-powerful and all good, but because the men He has chosen out of the world to be His sons refuse to receive what He has to give.
Calculate the number of hours per week you read or watch the news on the Internet or television, seeking to know the latest evils in order to wring your hands and say how bad things are. Organize next week so that you will spend the same number of hours in the combination of the following activities: attending Church services, saying daily prayers at home, doing spiritual reading, examining your conscience and going to confession, and receiving Holy Communion or undertaking the further preparation prescribed by your spiritual father. Then do it. By this, you will go from being a helpless victim (and worse, an addicted voyeur) of the world’s evils, to being a free child of God and, moreover, a spiritual warrior who has now begun to combat the evil rather than be hypnotized by it like the deer in the headlights. As they say, do not be part of the problem, be part of the solution.