21 December 2018 AD – Nativity Fast; Thursday of the 32nd Week after Pentecost; Holy Martyr Juliana of Nicomedia
In the reading from the Apostolos today, St. James the Just calls us to live a Gospel life, before it is too late:
Brethren: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. – James 4:7-5:9
Here is a comprehensive set of instructions for the evangelical life, the true Orthodox life. We can summarize it in a list of bullet points:
- Submit to God. Tell Him every day that you want His will to be done, but that you know that you often do not see it, or, seeing it, resist it, and you need His grace to discern it and do it, and to accept whatever involuntary crosses come your way.
- Resist the devil. The only people who lose the invisible warfare are those who turn coward and quit. Keep fighting. If you sin every hour, repent every hour, and you will be numbered among the martyrs and saints.
- Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts. Go to confession and cleanly confess all of your outward sins and inner sinful thoughts. Examine your conscience daily, hate your sins, and resolve to fight them.
- Mourn and weep. Ask for a real Orthodox heart, for real sorrow over the sins of the world and one’s own sins. Grieve for sinful mankind, who has rejected God.
- Speak not evil of one another. Cut out gossip. Take the high road of peace of heart which comes from looking up, to God, to resolve your problems with others, and cut out all the analysis, which leads inevitably to condemnation, since everyone does indeed deserve condemnation, including you.
- Humble yourselves. Ask the Lord to make you see how helpless you are and cut out all of your self-satisfaction and arrogance. Train yourself to say always, “If God wills…God willing…if I live until tomorrow…”
- Your gold and silver is cankered. Face it, you’ll never have enough money, but you will always have what you need. Trust in God.
- Be just. You cannot be “spiritual” if you don’t even obey the Ten Commandments.
- Be patient, therefore, brethren until the coming of the Lord. The Lord is coming in your lifetime, no matter what, either in the Second Coming or the hour of your death. Endure, keep the faith; it’s later than you think.
- “…the judge standeth at the door.” Why waste time pondering other people’s relative guilt or innocence? You are about to stand before the Judge. This should concentrate your mind.
What a joy and relief it would be to live like this!