Fr. David's Lenten Reflections Day 7
Day 7: Hebrews 11:32-40 (second part of the Sunday epistle reading)
This is the 7th day of our Lenten journey, the Sunday of Orthodoxy. God bless you as you travel the path to the Cross and to our Lord’s resurrection. Let’s look at the second part of today’s Sunday epistle reading, Hebrews 11:32-40.
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets - who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated— of whom the world was not worthy - wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
When we adorn our church with icons, brothers and sisters, we desire to bring to mind the lives of those who have gone before us, that we might emulate their love for God and their lives of faith. In today’s reading from the epistle to the Hebrews, we hear several different characteristics of the faithful who lived in the time of the Old Testament.
First, they were faithful. They lived every moment of their lives in accord with the will of God as they understood it, and their faith manifested itself in great acts of courage. They conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, and received promises. They did not question the place of God in their lives because they could see Him in everything with the eyes of faith.
Second, they were courageous in the face of persecution. We live in a time when many Orthodox Christians like to say that they have a quiet, personal, hidden faith. Many don’t want others to know that they believe in God or trust in God. This attitude has been sanctified by some church leaders, who teach that we should maintain a low profile in our pluralistic society. But more and more, the faith we hold stands as a stark contrast to the attitudes of many around us, and hiding our light under a bushel is becoming impossible. The generations of faithful who are depicted on the icons in our church were prepared to accept whatever persecution they encountered, more than prepared, they were happy to experience persecution. They stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, and won strength out of weakness.
And finally, they saw the big picture. God revealed His will, not only for them and their generation, but for all human history. So with us. We know how the story goes, and we know the end. Jesus Christ is alive and active among us right now, today, and He builds His eternal Kingdom with those who love Him and maintain a strong faith.
God bless us as we begin the second week of the Great Fast. Lord, give us the faith of the ones whose icons surround us as we worship You!