4 November OS 2018 – Saturday of the Seventh Week of St. Luke; St. Ioannikios the Great; Holy Hieromartyrs Nicander and Hermas
In today’s Gospel (Luke 9:1-6), we see the Lord gathering and sending out His Holy Apostles to preach, heal, and cast out demons:
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them. And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere.
St. Theophan the Recluse encourages us by reminding us that this very same apostolic preaching is with us, alive and active, to this very day:
“And He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:2).” Then, it was only throughout Palestine, but later they were sent throughout the whole world. The preaching which was begun then has not ceased to this day. Every day we hear what has been handed down by the Holy Apostles and the Lord Himself as if they were before us, and the power which acted in them acts to this day in the Church of God. The Lord has not deprived any believers of anything: those who are the most recent have everything the first ones had. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 246-247
We all know that this is true, but generally we do not feel it to be true in our daily lives. How do we cure this, how do we once again experience the lively, life-giving joy of Faith we had when we were first converting to the Faith or, in the case of those baptized as infants, when we were first coming to an adult awareness of the power of our Faith and experiencing its power? We know from past experience that if only we can have this lively awareness life is 100% better: no problem seems too great, because we know that the Risen Lord Jesus is walking with us, that the Holy Virgin and our saint and our guardian angel and all the hosts of heaven are with us. Life is bright on the inside even when not on the outside. But we often fail in this awareness and think about life as if our worldly problems were all that there is, and our Faith appears as something abstract.
I would like to suggest three activities to help us receive the grace of a lively awareness and happiness that we, no different from the early Christians, have the power of the Apostolic Faith within us:
- Gratitude: We must frequently, daily, force ourselves to glorify the Lord for all that He has done for us. When feeling far from God, we should get down on our knees before the holy icons and start recounting all that He has done for us, from the Creation of the world through all the history of the Old and New Testaments, the Lives of the Saints, and then our own life and all the good things He has given us, and above all the infinite gift of being in His Holy Church. The fog will lift, and we will “taste and see how good the Lord is.”
- Daily Scripture Reading: All right, I have said this a million times, but it is still true. Read your daily Scriptures! Every day throughout the year Holy Church prescribes two Scripture readings from the New Testament or, during the weekdays of Great Lent, three readings from the Old Testament. Get a calendar with readings listed for every day (hard copy or online), get out your Bible or New Testament (or, if you are really “with it” liturgically, your Apostolos and Evangelion!), and read. Read standing before the icons, read aloud and slowly, and let the divinely inspired words sink into your ears, your mind, and your heart. They are living and active, and they will act! “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).” Day by day, the Holy Apostles will preach once again to us, as they did 2,000 years ago. The same truth and the same power are present.
- Confession and Holy Communion: Usually we do not feel the Lord’s presence because of our sins. It is really that simple. We have the solution: to confess our sins, receive His forgiveness, and partake of His Precious Body and Blood. What could be simpler? What could be better? As they say: “Just do it.”
God is with us.