Protection of the Birthgiver of God
The event which our blessed Church calls to mind in this celebration today is not nearly as unique or particular or amazing as so many would like to think. Actually it has been quite commonplace down the years if we look through eyes of faith. From the very beginning, our Creator God has insisted as He did with Moses, who like any ordinary human being would express doubt about encountering the great power of Pharaoh on behalf of the people of God. To have been burdened with the leadership of a "stiff-necked" people whose failure to believe and obey God resulted in delaying their entrance into the Promised Land as they endured wandering about the desert for forty years.
Unlike any other man, Moses encountered both the power and love of God in equal measure to such a notable degree that his face shone in reflection of the protective grace of the Eternal Father. He spoke with God directly, face to face. Because of his experience of facing seemingly insurmountable odds while the Chosen People were among the Egyptians, He became timid when dispatched to be mouthpiece of the Creator. He innocently questions God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? And why should the elders of Israel listen to me? Besides, I never have been a good speaker. 0 Lord, send someone else to do it." As always, instead of giving into Moses' fearful whining, our God tells him to throw his staff on the ground and at once it turned into a snake so real that he ran from it. "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail," is what God advised. Fearing God more than he feared the snake, Moses grabbed it by the tail, and it turned back into a staff. Then God relented to use his weakness and told Moses; "Your brother Aaron can speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your own mouth and as if your God told him. Take this staff into your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it."
Moses finally recognized faith in God is paramount. Whatever his own limitations and fears, those of God were unheard of. God could do whatever He thought of as when He created the world and man in the first instance, as when He called Abraham in faith response to be witness along with the people of his presence in the world. Moses finally learned God is allpowerful and recognized he must let God be God.
Next in salvation history we encounter Joshua, the aide to Moses and his successor, a military commander and statesman. His remarkable military successes were achieved as a result of his attitude of total trust and obedience in God who made them all possible. His great sorrow was that the Israelites failed to believe his good report of the Promised Land and that he and they were consequently prevented from entering it for forty years, that is until the disbelievers died because they were not worthy to enter into the faith conviction to which they were solemnly called.
His triumph is that he finally led the Israelites to victory in Canaan, thus establishing them in the Lord God's promises to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was given various signs of God's faithfulness and care, but the people refused to recognize them, bullied as they were by their own limitations. such. They were afraid of their own shadows. God expected and demanded total subjection of their will to his. He wanted them to be forever faithful, or as is said in Latin, the United States Marine Corps slogan, "Semper Fidelis."
Example upon example is told us in Old Testament Scripture of God's expectation from his people. If they were to follow him, they were to trust him. He would battle for them. And they would simple be witnesses to his strength and awesome glory.
Young David is affronted by the pagan Goliath who insults the integrity of faith in God and takes up his simple sling shot and pounds the oversized behemoth fool in the head for speaking so rashly.
Repeated over and again are instances when the Lord is asking for a genuine faith response and the people fail to provide it. How many times have the Babylonians and Persians and other enemies of the People of God permitted to teach superficial, watered-down faith possessors and exhibitors a real life lesson? Our God even calls the pagans Nebuchadnezzar and Darius the Persian his "friend" because they responded to his inspiration to punish hypocritical faith and drag off classless Jews into captivity!
But people of no faith could not be convinced. And so it happens in today's feast. The imperial city of Constantinople is besieged by Muslim hordes. It is the not the first time. Prior to this, however, there was enough faith in the hearts and souls of the city, enough fear of God to pray away and earn the blessing of a loving and merciful God.
In the last instance, in the present instance, the Birthgiver of God appears over the city to protect it with her mantle. The intercessions of believers are successful. Heaven sends a august and pre-eminent sign in the person of the Mother of God and the enemy is overcome and is routed.
But times have a way of changing and in another few years the scene will be repeated and Constantinople will fall because, like the favored people of the Old Testament and since the city's citizens are more preoccupied with themselves than their relationship with God, their spiritual strength is tapped. They have nothing to give but their bodies and armor. The city is permitted to fall, to its own disdain and its churches and sacred places of which they were so proud is ravaged and literally destroyed.
We note the status of Constantinople, the "mother of all cities" affixed with a new name and ungodly identity today. We still bow our heads in shame because our ancestors degenerated into disbelief.
The lesson we are called upon to espouse is that with our God all things are possible. Even in the worst of times, the grace of God enshrouds us and strengthens and affirms us if we only have the soulful insight to recognize and utilize it.
The years old truism of our people, 'Bez Boha, ani do poroha," "Without God, you cannot even reach the door lentil," is simply true and richly significant.
As citizens of the modem era, we like to think we have by ourselves accomplished and attained and achieved so much that we do not need help from a distant heaven. An equally important adage is vital for consideration here. "He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it."
Salvation history teaches us we must not only be dependent on the freely proffered grace of God, but live that dependence. It once gave expression to the appearance of the Birthgiver over civilizations' greatest city and it can happen again if we match God's love and blessing with our unlimited faith response, if we trust him in all things, particularly in over coming enemies of the body and the soul.
Believers in Christ are baptized to experience miracles in their lives. The influence of the secularized world to which we ourselves contribute, has taught us otherwise, so we continue to suffer at our own hands. Let us look seriously today at the varied examples our God has provided for Christian living. They are altogether possible in our midst. But it is only we, along with the strength of our God, who can bring it about once again.
Will the lesson and graceful blessing of this feast ever teach us its proper lesson?