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Daily Devotion for July 28, 2012
Scenes from the life of Abraham, an ancient mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy, c. 550 A.D.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
This extraordinary Romanian Orthodox song, "O, Maicuta sfanta" (Oh Holy Mother) is performed by Teodora Tuca. I'm sorry I can't translate the beautiful lyrics. The refrain translates something like, "Do not leave, Mother, To perish on the way, For we are your sons and tears."
Prayer of Thanks for God's Creation
O Lord God of Israel and God of the nations, you are the only God in heaven above or the earth below. I walk before you with all my heart. I bless your name in the morning when I rise and in the evening when I sleep, and all the day when your creation fills my eye. Bless me to remember you this day. When I see and hear the thousand miracles of your creation, let me see them anew, recalling that you have made them, and no other; that I may live in your presence among the common miracles I take for granted. Through Christ I pray,
A Prayer of St. Basil the Great
I bless you, O God most high and Lord of mercies, who forever works great and mysterious deeds for me, glorious, wonderful, and numberless; who provides me with sleep as a rest from my infirmities and as a repose for my body tired by labor. I thank you that you have not destroyed me in my transgressions, but in your love toward mankind you have raised me up, as I lay in despair, that I may glorify your majesty.
I entreat your infinite goodness, enlighten the eyes of my understanding and raise up my mind from the heavy sleep of indolence; open my mouth and fill it with your praise, that I may unceasingly sing and confess you, who is God glorified in all and by all, the eternal Father, the only-begotten Son, and the all-holy and good and life-giving Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
Oh Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you"; I pray that I and your whole church, the body of all faithful people, will know your peace, and live in harmony and unity, one with another, in accordance with your wishes. This I pray to you, who lives and reigns forever.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
1 Corinthians 4:1-7
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court.
In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
Notes on the Scripture
Christianity has a very unusual attitude towards psychology. Our minds constantly compare our actions to our long- and short-term goals, and it metes out rewards and punishment. It actually releases chemicals (such as dopamine) that make us feel better if a goal is met or exceeded; and if we fall short, we get a negative signal. This can be just a little reminder that we want to do better at something tomorrow, or a crushing lifelong guilt if we have done something monstrous to our deep morality, such as killing someone.
But our brain will also modify our goals and standards, and other people — society — influences this process.
Paul, like many driven people of great accomplishments, actually changes the way his brain operates, and he implicitly suggests that we do the same. He sets a standard that lies at the basis of Christian thought, i.e., that we be faithful "servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God."
But Paul will not accept the judgment of human courts (which, heaven knows, he got more than his share of). He will not even judge himself. The reason? His reward is certain. Judgment no longer belongs to men, even judgment of oneself, but to God, and the time for making such judgment has not come.
And so, pride in our accomplishments — one of the rewards our brain gives us — diminishes, just as shame in what we might have thought to be failure diminishes. For we have been given a gift that makes our constant evaluation of ourselves and others unnecessary and wrong. We have the promise of perfection, through our faith in Christ and His promise of total redemption if we live in that faith.
So finally, Paul poses a conundrum. If we have received this gift, we will feel no need to be prideful about it. Our gift, by its nature, takes away any need or desire for pride. And thus, how could anybody boast about the gift of redemption; for one of the attributes of redemption is that we no longer boast?