by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, January 1986
I am frequently asked, “Why?” Why does the Church believe in the intercession of Saints? Why does the Church have confession? Why this and why that. Of course, while we always try to provide reasonable and intelligent answers, I am impressed by the need of certain individuals to know everything by their tendency toward a Roman jurisprudence mentality that needs to put every theological concept into a capsule, identify it and put neat little tags on it so that whenever they needed an explanation they could go right to the proper file box, take it out and use it as desired.
Such a concept is foreign to those of us of the East. We who come from the Holy Lands on which Christ set foot, have a concept of mysticism that is foreign to the Occident. It has never been necessary for us to reduce God to our size and it has never been necessary for us to reduce Truth to the level of our own intellectual capacity to understand. This is not a new concept (lest anyone believe that it is, so I would like my message to be essentially a meditation on the passage of Ecclesiastes 1:4-9).
A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm (forever). The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind then turns to the north, it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea all the rivers go and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No man can say that eyes have nor had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Pick anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new.’ Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.
What The Teacher is saying in the book of Ecclesiastes is that a great deal of life and a great deal of our struggling, of our reaching, is really vanity. When we strive to know too much we fail to admit that no man can know everything, and while it is necessary for us to seek after wisdom and knowledge, it is also necessary to stand humbly before our God and to understand the limitations of our own intellectual capacity to understand. No man can know everything.
There is also a time for us to come to understanding of certain things. Things that we understand today were mysteries to us yesterday. And today, the things which mystify us will be revealed to us tomorrow. As we mature, as we exercise our intellectual and emotional capacities to understand, that which is shaded is thrust out into the light. Who among you cannot say that today you are more mature, more intellectual, and understand more than you did yesterday, or last year or ten years ago? We would be a sorry mess if that were not true, or if we only reached a certain level of maturity and just stopped growing.
Therefore, while we seek after truth and while we search for answers we must be careful to realize that “there is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven.”
A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted. A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building. A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing. A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them up; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing. A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for keeping, a time for casting out. A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time for stillness, a time for speaking out. A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a time for peace. Everything has a time. And that which we do not understand today at this time we will understand better tomorrow, in God’s time. (Chapter 3)
The book of Ecclesiastes is filled with wise sayings which are attributed to Solomon, Son of David, who is here called “The Teacher”; some of them are this: “He who loves money never has enough money, He who loves wealth, never has enough profit.” I would paraphrase that and say “He who loves knowledge knows that he never learns enough.”
“Do not be wicked to excess and do not be a fool, do not be seemingly overly virtuous nor play too much the sage.” “Cast your bread on the water; at long last you will find it again. Share with seven, yet with eight, for you never know what disaster may occur on the earth.”
Finally, The Teacher says, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” “The words of sages are like goads, like pegs driven deep; a shepherd uses these for the good of his flocks. One last thing, my children, be warned that writing books with all of its knowledge involves endless hard work and that much study wearies the body. To sum up the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, since this is the whole duty of man. For God will call all hidden deeds, good or bad to judgment.”
Translation of the Relics of St. John Chrysostom - January 27
Grace like a flame shining forth from thy mouth has illumined the universe, and disclosed to the world treasures of poverty and shown us the height of humility. And as by thine own words thou teachest us, Father John Chrysostom, so intercede with the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls.
Kontakion of St. John Chrysostom, Tone 1
The Church rejoices at the recovery of thy holy relics. She kept them hidden, like most precious gold, and by thine intercessions she unceasingly grants healing to those who praise thee, O John Chrysostom.