Thursday, March 5, 2020

Idol Smashing Time: Scriptures of Thursday of the First Week

St. Theodore Stratelates Smashing Idols
We should pay attention to the scripture readings that are appointed for each day of the year. In fact, it is a great spiritual undertaking to actually read these readings each day. This helps us to align with the cadence of the Church and helps us to see the importance of the transcendent God in our lives. It is good to come to church on Sunday – this is the most important day of the week: the day of our Lord’s resurrection! But if we only touch the Church on Sunday, God becomes less than central in our lives, and that is not what we are striving for as Orthodox Christians. Other things get put in a higher place than God. And anything that takes a higher place than God in our lives is an idol. Idols aren’t just statues made with men’s hands. In fact, I’m pretty comfortable saying that there is no one in our parish family that would worship an idol made of gold or silver. But many of us worship idols of other sorts – those things that we put in front of God.

This brings us to today’s very interesting readings. These are:

Isaiah 2:11-21
Genesis 2:4-19
Proverbs 3:1-18

Want answers to the questions that often beset you? Read Proverbs. Especially at this time of year. And the Gospel – at all times of year. But the Gospel is only appointed to be read on weekends of Great Lent since that is the only time that we serve the Divine Liturgy proper (the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is a Liturgy of course, but there is no consecration of the gifts – these are consecrated (Pre-sanctified) at the Sunday Liturgy).

We read in today’s reading from Isaiah: “In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats...”

In today’s reading from Genesis we read about the creation of man: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

It is a mistake or just a weird coincidence that on the day we read about the creation of man we also read about the casting away of idols to moles and bats? I just really like the moles and bats thing – not sure why. I suppose it stresses how utterly we are to cast away our idols since who spends time with moles and bats? To answer the first question: no. It is not a coincidence. It is by design. To remind us of our sickness: that we are inclined to put lots of things in front of God. We have the tendency to turn God into our eternally present “buddy” who affirms our decisions – whatever they are – and confirms to us that our thoughts are equal to God’s plan for our salvation. But our thoughts are not the same as God’s – we are not the Creator. We are the creation that NEEDS the Creator – God – in our struggle to return to Him by casting away the idols we put in front of Him. In case we aren’t sure that our thoughts are not equal to God’s wisdom the Lord helps us understand the reality in this passage from Isaiah:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Certainly there are those that will read the lines above and be personally insulted! How can it be that we are not the same as God! Or HIGHER!? If we are honest we sort of live like our thoughts are not just the same as God’s, but higher, since we ignore the parts of the Church’s teachings that we find inconvenient or not in alignment with our “wisdom.” And the rest of us will read that and not react so virulently – but we will kind of think the same thing as those who are so insulted but just be quieter about it.

Thank God He has given us Great Lent! This is our special time of breaking idols. The Holy Church gives us lots of opportunities to be in God’s House, to be exposed to His Grace that is present in a special way in His House, to see in the holy icons those that went before us and broke down their own idols on their journey to the Heavenly Kingdom, and to struggle. To push ourselves. To do a little more than maybe we are comfortable doing to show to ourselves and to God that we want to destroy the idols that we have placed between ourselves and Him.

Great Lent will pass in the blink of an eye. Do not miss this opportunity to smash your idols! Come to the Divine Services! ESPECIALLY the weekday services. Make that special effort. Avoid the Coronavirus but get the Liturgical Flu*. Come more often to God’s House. Put God first. And if you do this – if you make a significant effort in this time of spiritual renewal – you can have great hope that after Pascha you will NOT go back to your idols. To be sure, you will have to struggle
in that regard after Great Lent just as you do during Great Lent. But here, now, during Great Lent, we train. We learn how to break down our idols. And if we learn well now, we will more easily smash them going forward.

May the Lord grant all a spiritually profitable Great Lent and to zealously smash our idols!

Fr. Gregory

*Most of us have sick time at work. We seem to have no trouble using this time for “mental health days”. That is good. Everyone needs a break and to decompress. But we should also use this time for “spiritual health days” and give ourselves the gift of attending the weekday Divine Services from time to time.

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