As a thief in the night

34th Week of the Epistles – Wednesday

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Today’s reading from the book of the Apostolos is II Peter 3: 1 – 18.   

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,  Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.  Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 

St. Peter quotes those who scoff at the prospect of the Lord’s Second Coming as saying,
“Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”    This attitude, that “all things continue as they were,” has acquired a label in modern times, thanks to evolutionary geologists like Charles Lyell.  It is called “uniformitarianism.”   Uniformitarianism is not a proven fact; it is a cosmological assumption that affects epistemology.   That is, it is an assumption about the universe that affects what we claim to be able to know about it.  This assumption says that all the natural processes we know today have always been the same going back indefinitely in time and always will be the same going forward in time.  They never have been and never will be different.  Everyone observes, however, that the natural processes we see today could never produce what we see around us.  “Not a problem,” say the Uniformitarians.  “You see, the changes are moving ever so slowly, and so we cannot see them, but the changes really, really are taking place; you simply have to believe in them.”   Of course this incomprehensibly slow slowness necessitates an incomprehensibly ancient age for the known world,  an age so great as to be unreal and meaningless  to a normal human mind not warped by the contemporary educational system.   And it is not empirically demonstrable: it is, rather, a mystical dogma for professors with PhDs who don’t want to lose their tenure or their funding or their friends.    The fact that it is also manifestly ridiculous does not occur to them.  

The creation of the universe is so great a miracle that only God could work it, and it is so great a mystery that, apart from revelation, only God would know what happened.   God, however, did reveal it to us, through the Prophet Moses, in the Book of Genesis, which is, in fact, real history about real events and real people, whether our modernist theologians like it or not.     Most of them, one fears,  are going to go on not liking it till they die, because of the vanity of their minds and their preference for honor from men over honor from God.  Afterwards, however, they will no doubt be apprised of their mistake.    

The same modernist theologians usually – and logically – also find it distasteful to believe in the literal Second Coming of Christ.   If they are Orthodox (in name), they know that they cannot get away with denying it altogether.  They are simply allergic to it: they prefer not to talk about the Second Coming and the Dread Judgment, or to paint them in such vague and mystifying images as to castrate the stark immediacy and fearfulness of the thing, to rob it of any power to motivate the actions of men.  St. Theophan the Recluse, in his comments on today’s reading, calls our attention to the ultimate consequences of this queer and fastidious hesitation, this embarrassed reticence:

The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night (II Pet. 3:10). A thief in the night sneaks up when he is not expected. So will the day of the Lord also come when it is not expected. But when He that cometh is not expected, no preparations are made for meeting Him. Lest we allow such negligence, the Lord commanded: Watch: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come (Matt. 24:42). Meanwhile, what are we doing? Are we watching? Are we waiting? We must confess that we are not. Some at least await death, but scarcely anyone awaits the day of the Lord. And it is as if they are right. Our fathers and forefathers waited, but the day did not come. Since we do not see anything, why should we think that it will come in our days? Thus, we do not think; and do not wait. It will not be a wonder, if with such a disposition as ours, the day of the Lord falls upon us like a thief. We shall be like the inhabitants of a city which the head of the province promised to visit in the near future. They waited for him an hour, waited another, waited a day and then said, “I suppose he’s not coming,” and went home. But as soon as they departed and gave themselves over to sleep—he appeared. It will be the same with us—whether we are waiting or not, the day of the Lord will come, and it will come without warning. For the Lord said: Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away (Mark 13:31). But is it not better to wait, lest we be caught by surprise? For we will not get off without paying. Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 40-41

 “…we will not get off without paying.”   Let us pray the price now, not then.   Now, in this life, the Lord’s yoke is easy and His burden is light.  The yoke for our wills is to obey God’s holy commandments. The yoke for our minds is to believe God’s revelation about the world and everything in it, as taught by Scripture and Tradition. To believe, no less than to obey, is required for those who wish to be saved.   Let us humble ourselves and simply believe.

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.  

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