Friday, November 12, 2010

Blessed Are They Who Walk In The Law Of The LORD.

Memorial of Saint Josaphat, bishop and martyr
Reading I
2 John 4-9

Chosen Lady:
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children
walking in the truth
just as we were commanded by the Father.
But now, Lady, I ask you,
not as though I were writing
a new commandment
but the one we have had from the beginning:
let us love one another.

For this is love, that we walk
according to his commandments;
this is the commandment,
as you heard from the beginning,
in which you should walk.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world,
those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ
as coming in the flesh;
such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.
Look to yourselves
that you do not lose what we worked for
but may receive a full recompense.
Anyone who is so “progressive”
as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ
does not have God;
whoever remains in the teaching
has the Father and the Son.
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Psalm 119
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Blessed are they who observe his decrees,
who seek him with all their heart.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
With all my heart I seek you;
let me not stray from your commands.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Within my heart I treasure your promise,
that I may not sin against you.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Be good to your servant, that I may live
and keep your words.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Open my eyes, that I may consider
the wonders of your law.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
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Luke 17:26-37
Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be in the days of the Son of Man;
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage
up to the day that Noah entered the ark,
and the flood came and destroyed them all.
Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot:
they were eating, drinking, buying,
selling, planting, building;
on the day when Lot left Sodom,
fire and brimstone rained from the sky
to destroy them all.
So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
On that day, someone who is on the housetop
and whose belongings are in the house
must not go down to get them,
and likewise one in the field
must not return to what was left behind.
Remember the wife of Lot.
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it,
but whoever loses it will save it.
I tell you, on that night
there will be two people in one bed;
one will be taken, the other left.
And there will be two women grinding meal together;
one will be taken, the other left.”
They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?”
He said to them, “Where the body is,
there also the vultures will gather.”
St. Josaphat

In 1967, newspaper photos of Pope Paul VI embracing Athenagoras I, the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, marked a significant step toward the healing of a division in Christendom that has spanned more than nine centuries.

In 1595, when today’s saint was a boy, the Orthodox bishop of Brest-Litovsk (famous in World War I) in Belarus and five other bishops representing millions of Ruthenians, sought reunion with Rome. John Kunsevich (Josaphat became his name in religious life) was to dedicate his life and die for the same cause. Born in what was then Poland, he went to work in Wilno and was influenced by clergy adhering to the Union of Brest (1596). He became a Basilian monk, then a priest, and soon was well known as a preacher and as an ascetic. 

He became bishop of Vitebsk (now in Russia) at a relatively young age, and faced a difficult situation. Most monks, fearing interference in liturgy and customs, did not want union with Rome. By synods, catechetical instruction, reform of the clergy and personal example, however, Josaphat was successful in winning the greater part of the Orthodox in that area to the union.

But the next year a dissident hierarchy was set up, and his opposite number spread the accusation that Josaphat had "gone Latin" and that all his people would have to do the same. He was not enthusiastically supported by the Latin bishops of Poland.

Despite warnings, he went to Vitebsk, still a hotbed of trouble. Attempts were made to foment trouble and drive him from the diocese: A priest was sent to shout insults to him from his own courtyard. When Josaphat had him removed and shut up in his house, the opposition rang the town hall bell, and a mob assembled. The priest was released, but members of the mob broke into the bishop’s home. He was struck with a halberd, then shot and his body thrown into the river. It was later recovered and is now buried in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He was the first saint of the Eastern Church to be canonized by Rome. 

His death brought a movement toward Catholicism and unity, but the controversy continued, and the dissidents, too, had their martyr. After the partition of Poland, the Russians forced most Ruthenians to join the Russian Orthodox Church.      


The seeds of separation were sown in the fourth century when the Roman Empire was divided into East and West. The actual split came over relatively unimportant customs (unleavened bread, Saturday fasting, celibacy). No doubt the political involvement of religious leaders on both sides was a large factor, and doctrinal disagreement was present. But no reason was enough to justify the present tragic division in Christendom, which is 64 percent Roman Catholic, 13 percent Eastern Churches (mostly Orthodox) and 23 percent Protestant, and this when the 71 percent of the world that is not Christian should be experiencing unity and Christ-like charity from Christians!

Saint of the Day

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

'Remember the wife of Lot'

Our Lord tells us to remember the wife of Lot, but she doesn't even seem to have had a name to be remembered by. Nor can I find any indication of who her parents might have been.

To remember Lot's wife, all I can do is meditate on her disobedience and its consequences. The first thing that occurs to me about her act of disobedience is that it might not even have been willful, but some natural reaction. Nor is looking back in itself bad - we actually have to do it to repent.

In the Bible, Lot's wife seems to embody the natural disobedience of human beings in an even more absolute way than Eve does. But in both cases, small disobediences by a relatively powerless woman have had disproportionate consequences: original sin through Eve and, indirectly through Lot's wife, the enemy nations of Moabites and Ammonites, born of Lot's incest with his daughters.

When I think of Lot's wife in relation to judgement, I realize that I am incapable of judging her. Moreover, the two people in bed and the two women grinding meal are equivalent in my mind - and probably in their own. Only God can judge people's hearts.

How can we even presume to judge the Sodomites? Fifty years ago, many might have done so without a second thought but, by today's standards, the behaviour of these men was perfectly acceptable. In fact, it's hard for us in the 21st century to see how their sexual relationships could possibly have been any worse than those of the family of Lot and Abraham: consanguineous, incestuous, attempting to pimp out virgin daughters, not to mention sexual harassment in the workplace (Hagar's strong case) ... all illegal in our modern societies but perfectly normal in other times and places.

When I remember Lot's wife, I also remember Eve. In both cases, small disobediences by a relatively powerless woman have had grave consequences: original sin and, indirectly though Lot's wife, the enemy nations of Moabites and Ammonites, born of Lot's incest with his daughters.

As a woman, remembering Lot's wife and Eve and the consequences of their disobedience is an awful warning. But for men, perhaps it also shows that it is not enough to speak to God or the angels yourself. You also have to proclaim God's word clearly to those around you. Because neither Adam nor Lot seem to have bothered to explain the 'rules' to their wives. (I point this out in defence of my sisters!)

Other than meditating on Lot's wife's disobedience, we can also visualize her quite clearly as a pillar of salt in a barren landscape. Maybe we go up to her like a flock of curious sheep and taste her salt, remembering her that way too. In these small quantities, salt is good, so just the act of remembering her may help us. A small taste of death and judgement can lead to repentance and so be salutory.