Acting Like Irrational AnimalsFr. Barnabas Powell
In 1896, the author H.G. Wells wrote a horror story he called “an exercise in youthful blaspheme.” The title of the book was “The Island of Dr. Moreau” and it was a science fiction story about a mad scientist who was creating sentient animals and how the animals became so aware they were saying the humans were more like animals!
The book is a true masterpiece of storytelling and quite revealing on how we humans can degenerate into animals IF we forget Who created us and Why we were created.
And that’s the challenge. Whenever any of the created orders get disordered, they become more like monsters than what they were created to be. Angels fall due to pride and become demons. Humans fall and become so enslaved by their desires they act more like animals. The true reality is when we become more of what we really are and what we are intended to be! And the opposite becomes true when we allow ourselves to degenerate into mere animals when we were meant to ascend into being “like” Christ. No wonder St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” So, the choice is the slavery of mere animals or the glory of ascending to our true purpose!
Look at our Lesson today in Jude 1:1-10:
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For admission has been secretly gained by some who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Master and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now I desire to remind you, though you were once for all fully informed, that the Lord saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these men revile whatever they do not understand, and by those things that they know by instinct as irrational animals, they are destroyed.
There are some very important insights here on how angels and men fall from their created purpose. In fact, if we grasp these insights, we will not only learn how to fast but how to live as Christians our whole lives. Big claim, to be sure, so let’s see if I can pull this off.
Look at how St. Jude describes the fall of angels:
- They “did not keep” their position
- They “left their proper dwelling”
- They “have been kept” in eternal chains!
It seems the fall of angels has everything to do with a self-inflicted wound and all the consequences of their fall are directly related to their own choices! The angels failed to value what they had rather than the temptation of what they “could” have. They departed their privileged place for the siren’s song of delusion. And the end result is, for their own good and for the good of all creation, the Lord of love limited the caustic fallout of their selfishness by imprisoning them in chains to limit the damage of their folly! Amazing love God has even for His “enemies,” don’t you think?
Then Jude says that men, imitating the fallen angels, make the same mistakes! And the proof of their imitation of the wrong example is seen in “dreamings.” Isn’t that powerful? Our fantasy lives reveal our deepest spiritual illnesses! But it’s also seen in men rejecting authority and a tendency to dismiss those who have such authority. In other words, their lack of humility feeds their ruined lives and their descent into animalistic living.
St. Jude uses the powerful story of St. Michael, the Archangel and his dispute with the devil. St. Michael didn’t resort to name-calling or a laundry list of all of Satan’s faults or mistakes. In his humility, St. Michael refused to even denigrate the devil. He simply said, “The Lord rebuke you.” And that was enough for St. Michael to prevail in his dispute and defeat the evil one. When you operate from your intended purpose, you automatically have authority over those gripped by their delusion and fallenness.
On this Cheesefare Tuesday, we remember the life of St. Timothy the Righteous. Little is known about this saint, but it is telling that it is said of him that he “took up the monastic life from his youth, became a vessel of the Holy Spirit, and reposed in deep old age.” Wow, what a testimony. Timothy became who he really was made to be! He became what we all who0 are created in God’s image are meant to be: “a vessel of the Holy Spirit.” When you refuse to descend into a mere animalistic existence, you then ascend to the place created for you and you finally are what you were made to be! But only if you refuse to fall for the lie that you are nothing more than an animal.
Today, do you “revile whatever” you don’t understand? Do you find your life destroyed by following instincts undisciplined by the wisdom of faith? If so, your life is following a very familiar and ancient pattern of destruction. But there’s hope! Turn from this foolish way of life and return to your intended purpose by embracing the way of life that imitates wisdom and not self-destruction. Be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. You did rise up from the East like a most bright star, shining with the splendor of the virtues of your miracles within the hearts of all faithful men, O wonder worker of godly mind, Timothy.
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