Today is the feast-day of St. Moses, who had led a life of crime and violence before renouncing the sword and entering a monastery in the Egyptian wilderness. Thinking about his story and his example makes me wonder- how do we renounce the violence and injustice in our lives? Sure, I might not be going around beating people up and stealing their money literally, but what am I doing- or not doing- that perpetuates violence, whether it is through my unforgiveness, or resentment, or my lack of concern and love. That, and how much are we culpable for participating in the unjust structures we live in? The other night I was re-reading the book of Revelations, as part of a class assignment actually, and in doing so I was struck by how incredibly political the book is. God judges the systems and ways of the world- a world that is bloated with injustice, with greed and consumption, not just of goods and capital, but of humans. The saints are called out of that system, out of that world- they refuse to participate in it, and for that they suffer. Those who refuse the mark of the beast- participation in the evil and injustice of the world- suffer for it.
I thought while reading, how do we refuse that injustice, how do we refuse to take the mark of the beast, as it were, while living lives in the world? How do we reject the callous and bloodthirsty ways of the world- what is the correct path? Does the fact that I pay taxes, for example, make me complicit in the wars and intrigues of the government I thereby support? What I am going to tell Christ when He asks about the homeless living a mile from my house, the panhandlers I meet on the sidewalks and do my best to get away from? Sorry, Lord, they were the wrong sort of poor? I’m sorry, God, I disagreed intellectually with the evil I ignored/was complicit in. Will that cut it? For St. Moses, living a life of Christ’s peace in the world was, in some ways, very straightforward- he put down the sword, literally. In a less obvious way, he taught and modeled forgiveness, the root of the peace of Christ. There is a story in which a brother is brought before the community for judgment; St. Moses comes to the church carrying a jar of water with holes in it. The brothers ask about it, and he replies, my sins are like water- they run out behind me and I cannot number them. How am I to judge my brother here then?
He lived the life of Christ’s peace and forgiveness, of his rejection of the methods and systems of the world. He, like Christ, died- not just the death to the flesh, to the ways of the world, but literally. What are we called to? What am I called to in this place I live, in this city, now, to live in a concrete, painful if need be, the life of Christ, the Prince of Peace, in a world of war and hate and violence? That is the struggle- and it is the most important thing, to live-in-Christ, here, now. St. Moses, pray for us who live in a world of drawn swords and angry hearts- pray that we would be blessed with the wisdom and the peace of Christ, our God.
Troparion (Tone 1)
You made the wilderness your dwelling, O our Father Moses, the Bearer of God; you became an angel in the flesh and a wonderworker. Through fasts, vigils, and prayers, you obtained from God special graces to heal the sick and sanctify the souls of those who come to you with trust. Glory to the one who gave you strength! Glory to the one who crowned you! Glory to the one who, through your intercession, grants healing to all!