12 Nov – Memorial of Saint Josaphat, Bishop, Martyr
Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
The OXYGEN team
His father was a municipal counselor, and his mother known for her piety. Raised in the Orthodox Ruthenian Church which, on 23 November 1595 in the Union of Brest, united with the Church of Rome. Trained as a merchant‘s apprentice at Vilna, Lithuania, he was offered partnership in the business, and marriage to his partner’s daughter; feeling the call to religious life, he declined both. Monk in the Ukrainian Order of Saint Basil (Basilians) in Vilna at age 20 in 1604, taking the name Brother Josaphat. Deacon. Ordained a Byzantine rite priest in 1609.
Josaphat’s superior, Samuel, never accepted unity with Rome, and looked for a way to fight against Roman Catholicism and the Uniats, the name given those who brought about and accepted the union of the Churches. Learning of Samuel’s work, and fearing the physical and spiritual damage it could cause, Josaphat brought it to the attention of his superiors. The archbishop of Kiev, Ukraine, removed Samuel from his post, replacing him with Josaphat.
He became a famous preacher. Worked to bring unity among the faithful, and bring strayed Christians back to the Church. Bishop of Vitebsk, Belarus. Most religious, fearing interference with the natively developed liturgy and customs, did not want union with Rome. Bishop Josaphat believed unity to be in the best interests of the Church, and by teaching, clerical reform, and personal example Josaphat won the greater part of the Orthodox in Lithuania to the union. Never completely suitable to either side, Roman authorities sometimes raised objection to Josaphat’s Orthodox actions. Consecrated as Archbishop of Polotsk, Lithuania in 1617.
While Josaphat attended the Diet of Warsaw in 1620, a dissident group, supported by Cossacks, set up an anti-Uniat bishops for each Uniat one, spread the accusation that Josaphat had “gone Latin,” and that his followers would be forced to do the same, and placed a usurper on the archbishop‘s chair. Despite warnings, John went to Vitebsk, a hotbed of trouble, to try to correct the misunderstandings, and settle disturbances. The army remained loyal to the king, who remained loyal to the Union, and so the army tried to protect Josaphat and his clergy.
Late in 1623 an anti-Uniat priest named Elias shouted insults at Josaphat from his own courtyard, and tried to force his way into the residence. When he was removed, a mob assembled and forced his release. Mob mentality took over, and they invaded the residence. Josaphat tried to insure the safety of his servants before fleeing himself, but did not get out in time, and was martyred by the mob. His death was a shock to both sides of the dispute, brought some sanity and a cooling off period to both sides of the conflict.
– The Patron Saint Index
God made man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.
But the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
They shall judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
I watched a play this week, Arthur Miller’s ‘Crucible’. While the play’s central plot is the trial of women suspected of performing witchcraft in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts, it is the sub-plot that for me, was the most gripping – a heartbreaking love story of a husband and wife. The main character John Proctor, has an illicit affair with a maid, a single transgression for which his wife Elizabeth, holds him to until the end of the play, when her forgiveness as he heads to the gallows. A line in the play encapsulates their dismal marriage – John Proctor, when prodded by his wife, exclaims in frustration, “You forget nothing, and you forgive nothing. Learn charity, woman! I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven months since she is gone. I have not moved from there to there without thinking to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches around your heart. I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judged for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house”.
Yesterday we read about forgiveness after a partner has been unfaithful. But what happens when forgiveness is not forthcoming? Paranoia secretes its bitter pearl around a single grain of truth, wrapping hard layers around the heart, leaving a marriage cold and loveless. The wronged laud their virtue and indulge their anger, building an impregnable fortress around themselves. The wrongful spend the rest of their lives in regret, tiptoeing through the prison that becomes their marriage. Anger, bitterness, resentment and regret – to what end? And how much is enough? The Lord says, “Vengeance and recompense is mine… the Lord will give justice to His people” (Deut 32:35, Deut 32:36, Heb 10:30). But the woman scorned does not know reason; or if she does, she wants nothing to do with it. Hers is the right to be angry! She twists words, reads cruel meanings into actions, to feed her vengeful anger. Hurt is layered upon hurt, injury layered upon injury. What a waste of a marriage! What a waste of a life!
“The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them… Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself” (Wisdom 3:1, 3:5-6). Infidelity is a cruel evil, few fully recover from the torment. For healing to happen, it takes love from both sides. We take each other, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. We may sometimes feel our spouses are undeserving of us and all the good we do for them. But is it really our place to judge? Are we so virtuous, so blameless in the first place? If they stray, is a little of the fault not ours for being rigid, selfish, cold and distracted? We are unprofitable servants if all we have done is what we were obliged to do. God wants us to go the distance, just as Jesus did for us. We reflect His love most when we find it in our hearts to offer our forgiveness and our forgetting, precisely when we feel that our spouses are least deserving of it. “… The one who is in Christ is a new creature. For him, the old things have passed away; a new world has come. All this is the work of God who in Christ, reconciled us to Himself and entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. Because in Christ, God reconciled the world with Himself, no longer taking into account their trespasses and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:17-19).
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all marriages that are trying to heal from the torment of infidelity. We pray that God touch their hearts, that they find it in themselves to love, cherish, forgive and forget.
Thanksgiving: I give thanks for my parents, my inspiration for what it means to be strong. Thank you for holding your marriage together despite all the times you were angry, resentful and bitter about each other.