20 July OS 2018 – Thursday of the Tenth Week of St. Matthew; S. Elias, Prophet
In the daily Gospel reading for the Tenth Thursday of St. Matthew, we see the chief priests and Pharisees refusing to repent and, instead, hardening their hearts against the Lord:
The Lord said to the Jews which came to Him: Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. – St. Matthew 21: 43-46
St. Theophan the Recluse remarks that the opposition to the Gospel is always irrational:
The chief priests and Pharisees perceived that the Lord was telling parables on their account, that He was opening their eyes so that they would see the truth. But what did they do with this? They thought about how to kill the Lord. If their common sense had not been distorted by their prejudice, then even if they could not believe, as the clarity of the instruction required, they would at least have carefully considered the truth of the Savior’s words. Their prejudice pushed them onto a crooked path, and they then proved to be God-killers. It has always been this way, and it is this way now. The Germans [i.e., the liberal Scripture scholars in the German universities], and our people who have become Germanized in their mentality, immediately cry out whenever they come across a miracle in the Gospels, “Not true, not true; this did not happen and could not happen, this needs to be crossed out.” Is not this the same as killing? Look through all the books of these clever men – in none of them will you find any indication as to why they think this way. Not one of them can say anything against what the Gospel truth proves, and not one cares to comprehend the arguments which sober-minded people use to convict their falseness; they only continue insisting that [what is written] could not be, and that is why they do not believe the Gospels. And you cannot do anything with them – they are ready to defy God Himself. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 164-165
St. Theophan likens the blindness of the modern skeptic to the blindness of the Pharisees, and, indeed, it is the same, arising from the same cause: pride and hardness of heart. The materialist outlook, which the humanists and liberals call “rational,” is profoundly irrational, because it cannot explain the existence of mind itself, of knowledge itself. A person would only adopt such a philosophy from the primordial Luciferian urge to pretend to be god in spite of all evidence to the contrary. The offspring of the liberals, the nihilists, are at least honest to this extent: they not only admit but revel in their irrationality, and they not only admit but revel in the fact that the only possible outcome of their philosophy is total destruction.
All of us, living as we are in an “unbelieving and perverse generation,” suffer temptations to doubt, at least now and then. We have available to us recent works of apologetic to help us overcome this on the intellectual level. But, more essentially, we must immerse ourselves in the Orthodox worldview by constant reading of Scripture, the Lives of the Saints, and other authentic Orthodox sources; by prayer; by standing with attention in as many divine services at the parish church as possible; and, as the keystone of this structure of life, frequent confession as part of preparation for and reception of Holy Communion, which is the most powerful means of grace-filled enlightenment after our Baptism. Our minds have to swim, as it were, in the Orthodox spiritual and mental universe, because being convinced at one point by an intellectual argument does not give us sufficient strength to stay convinced if we pay more attention to things that are not true than to things that are. Our minds are naturally attracted to what they are exposed to, and our hearts follow our minds. This is simply the way God made us.
Such an immersion in Orthodox sources rewards us immediately with clarity of the mind and lightening of the heart. In contrast to the heavy burden of worldly thoughts and worldly subject matter, God’s truth is the light burden that gives rest to our souls. In contrast to the mental hell of this world’s confusion, God’s truth is Paradise before Paradise.
The next time, then, you are burdened by the world and its “news,” instead of doing something useless and destructive (like surfing to the next news website in order to become more confused, helpless, and angry), open the Holy Gospel, stand in your icon corner, and start reading aloud. Read the Life of a saint or a book about prayer that has helped you in the past. Grab your prayer rope, take a walk, and glorify God for His beautiful creation. We have an entire spiritual universe open to us, wider than the heavens, which no one else has. We need to show our gratitude by choosing to live in it.