11 November OS 2017 – Friday of the 8th Week of St. Luke; Holy Martyrs Menas, Vincent, Victor, and Stephanida; S. Theodore Studite; Righteous King Stephen of Decani
The reading from the Holy Gospel today is Luke 13: 31-35
At that time, the same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
The Pharisees imagined they could frighten the God-Man with the threat of Herod’s evil intentions, but they were mistaken. He announces calmly that He knows that He will be killed, and that it will happen in Jerusalem, the city that always murdered the prophets. He also announces that, until this happens, He will continue to “walk,” that is, to carry out His mission of teaching, preaching, healing, casting out devils, and raising the dead – His mission to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. He is in complete control of the situation, and He is going to His voluntary Passion to fulfill the will of the Father, to fulfill God’s providential plan for our salvation from before the ages.
Today we may feel that matters are out of our control, involving both the Church’s situation and society in general, in many ways that affect our lives directly. This chaos, however, is limited and temporary – a trial we must pass through, our Golgotha. We must “set our face towards Jerusalem” as the Lord did (And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem – Luke 9:51) – we must voluntarily join ourselves to Him in His Passion. And, as we resolve to endure whatever the Lord allows for our salvation, we must resolve with equal determination to go about our mission as well, to do the Lord’s work, the Church’s mission.
How does one acquire courage to carry on when the outlook is grim? Here are three considerations:
Perspective – From God’s point of view – sub specie aeternitatis (from the perspective of eternity) – the entire history of this whole world, much less one’s lifetime, is the blink of an eye. He is the King of the Ages, the Sovereign of History. All is unfolding according to His plan for our salvation, which He desires infinitely more than we do. We have only to do our part in history; we have no responsibility for controlling history. He will arrange everything for our true good.
Consolation in Prayer – When external circumstances are at their worst is precisely the time when consolation in prayer is greatest, if we are faithful to prayer and wholeheartedly resolve to grow closer to God in our trials. Many Orthodox Christians who suffered in the communist hell of the 20th century testified that ultimately their time in prison, living in the utmost humiliation and deprivation, became the happiest time of their lives, precisely because it was at this time that they experienced what prayer really is and what a human being is really made for – most intimate union with the Lord, Who becomes everything to us when we have lost everything else. We cannot conceive of the unspeakable consolation such people experienced…but we may have the opportunity to do so in future. Let us begin now to deepen our life of prayer! The next time we are anxious over the future course of events, let us turn to a favorite book on prayer and spiritual life that has motivated us in the past, rather than to this or that website to read the latest spin on the absurd epiphenomena of man’s vain strivings.
Love for Others – Typically fear for the future is mixed with self-pity. Let us forget ourselves and act determinedly each day for the true good of those for whom we are in varying degrees responsible. A man becomes a good soldier only when he counts his own life as nothing, when he thinks himself already a dead man. Let us be good soldiers in the Church Militant, counting our lives as nothing, determined to lay down our lives for our friends, in order to practice that love than which there is no greater. With this option clearly open to us, how can we say that our lives are out of control?
The duty is ours; the consequences are God’s. Let us set our faces serenely to go to Jerusalem, and on the way, each day, seek simply to know and to do His will.