Wednesday, August 08, 2007

08/08/08 Wed in the week of the 10th Sun after Pentecost

Wednesday, August 8, 2007 Dormition Fast Venerable Gregory
of Sinai (Mt. Athos)
Kellia: 1 Maccabees 3:1-24 Epistle: 2 Corinthians 3:4-11
Gospel: St. Matthew 23:29-39

The Hasidim V ~ Heavenly Strength: 1 Maccabees 3:1-24 LXX, especially
vs. 19: "For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of an
host; but strength cometh from heaven." The portrait of Judas Maccabeus
as a warrior putting on his breastplate, girding on his armor of war,
and waging battles by a sword (vs. 3), as well as the descriptions of
his two, opening guerilla campaigns against the Seleucid forces (vss.
10-12,13-24), shows why today's reading begins with a poetic tribute to
this soldier of God (vss. 3-9). His triumphs illustrate the truth that
the People of God receive a heavenly strength unimaginable in worldly

St. Nikolai of Zica wondered at the strength of another small band:
"twelve men of simple birth and trade, having no....earthly glory or
might [who left] their homes and kinsfolk and set out over the whole
world...this is something completely new, and...cannot be explained by
anything other than by God's help, God's collaboration, and God's grace"
- heavenly strength.

Judas Maccabeus understood and accepted that he was a warrior of the
Lord, fighting in the Lord's strength for the Israel of God (vss. 1,2).
May this reading remind every one of us that we, too, are warriors
depending on the Lord. Like the Maccabees we must not surrender to the
prevalent delusion that Christians are simply members of a society
organized to enjoy occasional pleasant fellowship, lovely prayers, and
beautiful worship - incidentals in the battles of life. Not at all!
Let us use these weapons as warriors under steady attack from Satan and
his foul spirits who in pride and arrogance would enslave us (vss.
14,20). These enemies are more intent than the Seleucids to kill us by
error, guile, idolatry, concupiscence, deceit, and uncleanness.

The Apostles and the Holy Fathers so often refer to our situation as
wrestling not "against flesh and blood...[but] against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against
spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). No
less a warrior than St. John Chrysostom begs us to remember Christ's
warning concerning our tribulation so that we "not grow careless or
over-confident, but...struggle on out of fear. For a person derives no
benefit from the other virtues, even though he dwells in heaven, if he
is in the grip of the presumption that led to the fall of the devil,
Adam, and many others."

Like Judas Maccabeus, let us be watchful and alert for the predictable
sorties of our mortal enemy. Notice that it is said of Judas that when
he learned of the pending attack of Apollonius: "he went forth to meet
him, and so he smote him, and slew him" (1 Mac. 3:11). He expected
attack. He was watching for it. He did not wait passively for the
enemy to find him, but immediately went on the offensive as he became
aware of an advance toward him. Satan is always probing, dropping
thoughts, sending his demons to worry, mock, and arouse our sinful
passions. Let us develop the watchfulness of soldiers, keeping our
perimeter posted and alert. When the first hint of the enemy comes, let
us go out and defeat him in heavenly strength.

If we are deluded like the Seleucid governor, Seron, and believe that in
the spiritual life we will receive "a name and honor in the kingdom; for
[we] will go fight" (vs. 14), then know that we have entered into
madness. Judas Maccabeus, soldier of the living God that he was,
realized that "It is easy for many to be hemmed in by few, for in the
sight of Heaven there is no difference between saving by many or by few"
(vs. 18). Beloved, truly, as another great soldier of the Lord said,
"By Thee shall I be delivered from a host of robbers, and by my God
shall I leap over a wall" (Ps. 17:29 LXX). Victory is with the Lord
alone Who gives heavenly strength.

I will love Thee, O Lord my strength; the Lord is my foundation, and my
refuge, and my deliverer. My God is my helper, and I will hope in Him,
my defender. (Ps. 17:1,2 LXX)



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