Tuesday, February 20, 2018: Saint Parthenius, Bishop of Lampsacus on the Hellespont (4th C); Venerable Luke of Hellas († c. 946); 1,003 Martyrs of Nicomedia († 303); Venerable Aprion, Bishop of Cyprus; Venerable Peter of Monovatia; Venerable Mastridia of Jerusalem
New Hieromartyr Priest Alexander († 1938); New Hieromartyr Priest Alexis († 1942)
Sixth Hour: Isaiah 1:19-2:3
Vespers: Genesis 1:14-23
Vespers: Proverbs 1:20-33
To grow in holiness, I need to be on guard against fantasies. It is all too easy to get lost in my own imagination about God, my neighbor or myself. When this happens, when I give myself over to wishful thinking or dark ruminations, I become like the once “faithful city” we hear about today in Isaiah.
Instead of being able to enjoy the spiritual–and yes, material–blessings that God promises the “willing and obedient,” my life becomes “dross.” The joys of life–marriage, family, work, and friendship, but also prayer, reflection and quiet contemplation–all of these lose their flavor. They become like “wine mixed with water,” diluted and eventually corrupted.
Isaiah is clear how this happens; it comes about because I refuse to “defend the fatherless” and am indifferent to “the widow’s cause.” Instead of the concrete work of caring for those around me who are vulnerable, I seek a false refuge in abstraction.
Nevertheless, God doesn’t abandon me to my sinfulness, He doesn’t leave me in the isolation and loneliness tow which my fantasies enslave me. Rather, He seeks me out, He leads me back to “the faithful city” the Church which He has established.
Though humanity is created in a Garden, we are destined for a City. The wild places of creation are in the Scriptures the place of demons. God doesn’t simply create but, as we read in Genesis, He orders. There is a definite shape to Creation and each creature has its own place.
The tragedy of sin isn’t just that I rebel against this order. I don’t just say “No!” to the divinely established order but go on and attempt re-order creation according to my own ideas.
This is why “Wisdom cries aloud in the street.” It is in “the markets” that “she raises her voice.” Wisdom cries out “on the top of the walls” that guard the city and makes herself known “at the entrance of the city gates.”
Salvation is not found in the barren places of creation untouched by human hands or in mental abstractions. Salvation is found in the midst of the human community–in the city–and in the marketplace–in the daily exchanges that make up not only trade and commerce but also marriage and family life, friendships and the workplace.
To grow in holiness, to become who God has created me to be I first must be faithful to the various human communities within which I find myself. It is here that I first hear Wisdom’s voice. But while all of these are good none are sufficient in themselves.
All of these human communities–and the virtues they foster–point beyond themselves to the Church even as the Church points us beyond herself to the Kingdom of God.