8 December OS 2017 – Nativity Fast; Thursday the Twelfth Week of St. Luke; S. Patapios of Thebes
Today’s Gospel reading for the daily cycle is Luke 21: 28-33 –
The Lord said to his disciples, Look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
As 2018 approaches, it would be fair to say that great numbers of people – at least those not completely oblivious through substance abuse or the other forms of manufactured delusion provided so generously today to those who wish to be deluded – face the future with dread. The familiar world of yesterday – even the world of ten years ago, much less 25 or 50 or 100 years ago – has disappeared through an engineered cataclysm, an Antichrist revolution in morals, family life, and social structure so systemic and ubiquitous as to make even comprehending it, much less fighting it, seem impossible. Surely, one thinks, the chastisement of God must be around the corner: He has already passed sentence on man, and we are just waiting to learn what form the punishment will take – World War III? Famine? Plague? Anarchy and chaos followed by the police state with its concentration camps, torture, and genocide? Who knows?
In the midst of these justifiable apocalyptic fears, the Lord tells us today not to fear but to have hope: “Look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” He has just completed His great discourse about the end of the world, relating the terrors that will precede His Second Coming, but at the end He assures the disciples that all of these things, no matter how terrible, will, like everything in this life, pass away. Indeed, heaven and earth – the entire visible cosmos – will pass away. His words, however, will never pass away. Those who cling to His words, who make Him the foundation of their life and do not leave the house built on this foundation – the Life in Christ – will not perish: “In your patience possess ye your souls (Luke 21:19).”
In the passage immediately following today’s reading, the Lord instructs the disciples how to keep their faith and hope alive in the midst of apocalyptic trials:
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. – Luke 21: 34-36
Therefore, to survive spiritually, to be still on Christ’s side when He returns and not on the other side, we must take heed to ourselves, which consists of a temperate and moral life characterized by watching and praying always. Without a continual, conscious spiritual life according to the Church’s teaching, we will not survive spiritually: we will fall.
We see people falling all around us, including “practicing Christians” of various kinds – sadly, not excluding Orthodox people – they throw in the towel and adopt the latest delusion, the latest false teaching, the latest moral “Get Out of Jail Free card” from the teachers of the demonic New Order, some moral or intellectual or religious poison they would not have dreamed of swallowing even a year ago. All is well: there is a big party going on and they do not want to be left out. But they are sheep being fattened for the slaughter. And any day, any time, something inside us could snap, and we could become one of them. Our vigilance must be ceaseless, while our reliance on God must be total.
The means to this ceaseless vigilance are well within our grasp, and they are so well known to us that we take them for granted and fail to use them: daily prayer at set times, the constant struggle for the Jesus Prayer, frequent confession, frequent Holy Communion, spiritual reading, constant examination of conscience and daily inner repentance, and all of the instruments of the spiritual life according to the tradition of the Orthodox Church. This “normal life” of Orthodoxy that has been going on all along has actually always been an apocalyptic life, an eschatological life, a life oriented to the End of the World; we just did not notice. The times we are living through now and will be living through in the near future are what we have been chanting about and praying about and preparing for all along, if only we had known it. We have been practicing for the Final Contest. Now, it seems, these practice sessions may be nearly over, and the contest in the arena is about to begin. How will we play our part?
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. – Matthew 7: 22-27