St Theodore of Sykeon: Dark nights of the soul

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. My beloved, today we celebrate the feast day of Saint Theodore from Sykeon, Bishop of Anastasiopolis, in the 6th century.

Saint Theodore, through a pious and disciplined life, was blessed by God with great works, bringing miracles of healing and exorcism to communities. Because of his deep faith, even his enemies could not prevail against him. When his enemies tried to poison him, our beloved Theotokos, Mother of God, gave Saint Theodore 3 small grains to eat and he was unharmed. And when Saint Theodore celebrated the Eucharist, his godliness was evident that the grace of the Holy Spirit appeared as a radiant purple light over the Holy Gifts. Saint Theodore, miracle worker and pious servant of our Lord, pray for us.

As we reflect on the blessings and gifts of our Lord on Saint Theodore, who led a pious and disciplined life, let us remember that our Lord is always wanting especially to bless us with a spiritual relationship with Him. That is foremost on His mind. Let us contemplate on our loving Father in Heaven, who would be always so close to us, in our many journeys often made desolate by our own sins and stubbornness.

As we read in Acts 8:6-39, we find a joyous assurance that our physical and mental states are never obstacles to our salvation, or in our relationship with God. As seen by the Ethiopian eunuch who desired God, all God really wanted from us is a clear and simple faith, and a heart that leans to Him for all things and events in life. The Ethiopian eunuch, even though he was a powerful man, showed true spiritual humility by asking Saint Philip to teach him, recognizing that Scriptural truth can be found within the Church and its apostolic tradition.

Likewise, in John 6:40-44, we find our Lord Jesus Christ reminding us of Him being the bread of heaven, and that only by partaking in the Eucharist, receiving the Holy Gifts of the Body and Blood of our Christ, do we find true salvation. All too often, some people do not realize, that the Divine Mysteries of our Lord, such as receiving the Body and Blood of Christ through the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, cannot be interpreted literally or physically, but to be appreciated and loved through faith, prayer, and discernment.

As we read in Sirach 3:24-29, the wisdom is easy to find. In these verses, we find the Scripture calling us not to fall to arrogance, for it is the root of evil. We find the call having a compassionate heart through charitable acts for the sake of others. We see the need to be a good listener in the steps towards God. And most of all, we see the need for a gentle heart, rather than a hard heart, for a gentle heart will be light and free from emotional and spiritual pains. Let us always pray for our Lord to open our hearts, and erase the marks of hardness and evil, and return us ever closer to the heart that our God intended us to be – the gentle heart.

As we reflect on the LXX Psalm 65:8-13, let us remember that our God is worthy for us gentiles to praise and bless. Let us pray to Him always, for our soul to be steady. As we walk through many dark journeys in our lives, let us remember our God does not want us to suffer, but rather, through the refining fire, we are elevated and made purer during the dark nights of the soul, much as Saint John of the Cross contemplated. Let us always remember our God, who through the dark nights of our soul, will always be waiting for us, ever present, ever loving, just a breath away, if only we would drop our pretensions and fears like shackles and chains to the floor, and embrace Him as a prodigal son would hug his father. Let us be free from our chains, let us embrace our Father in heaven, who waits, and yearns for us.

Let us close with a thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Readings today:
Sirach 3:24-29
Psalm 65:8-13 (Greek LXX)
St John 6:40-44
Acts 8:26-39