November 19, 2014

Holy Prophet Obadiah as a Model for our Lives

Prophet Obadiah (Feast Day - November 19)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Prophet Obadiah or Abdia, whose name means "servant of the Lord", came from Shechem and lived in the second half of the 6th century B.C. He is one of the Twelve Minor Prophets, whose book is the smallest in the Old Testament containing only 21 verses.

Among the prophecies contained in this book is the enemy behavior of the Edomites against the Jews during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, as well as after. "The Prophet announces that he awaits the same fate for Edom as the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, because they collaborated with the Babylonians, committed looting and showed malice." He then "comforts his defeated and hopeless countrymen, heralding the exemplary punishment of Edom and announcing the restoration of Jerusalem." When addressing the Edomite people he said the following remarkable things:

"See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down," declares the Lord.

This will take place

"Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever."

And he adds:

"In that day," declares the Lord, "will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, those of understanding in the mountains of Esau?"

The Prophet Obadiah reposed in peace and was buried in the tomb of his fathers.

His life and disposition gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

Pride, according to the teachings of our Church, as expressed by the Holy Fathers, is the greatest sin, it is a real hell. It is the cause of all evil. This is what demolished the angelic order of Lucifer that led his angelic order from beings of light to beings of darkness, from angels to demons. It leads people to eternal perdition, though we have been formed to rejoice for eternity in the "worldly and otherworldly" goods of the Lord.

Saint John the Sinaite, the author of the Ladder, says among other things: "Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. It is the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of barrenness. It is a flight from God's help, the precursor of madness, the cause of downfall. It is the cause of satanic possession, the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy. It is the fortress of demons, the guardian of sins, the source of hardheartedness. It is the denial of compassion, a bitter Pharisee, a cruel judge. It is the foe of God. It is the root of blasphemy."

Conversely, humility changes the heart of man into a true paradise and makes him truly rejoice in life. Humility is the source of all good things and the mother of all virtues. Saint Silouan the Athonite said: "Humility is the light by which we can see God as Light, as we chant in the hymn, 'in Your Light we shall see Light'." He also said: "The humble soul has enormous rest, while the proud are supported only by themselves, since the proud do not know the love of God and are far from Him."

Like the trees are recognized as good or not by their fruits, it is exactly the same with people. As to who they are in reality, irrespective of their external appearance, they are recognized by how they conduct themselves and this is what reveals their inner world. For example, when they are gentle, peaceful, have a courageous spirit, and are full of love for God and others, this means they are humble. Conversely, when they are timid, given to anger, and seek to make their opinion known, this shows they have pride. Saint John the Sinaite says the following: "Anger shows a man full of pride." He also says: "A proud soul is a slave of cowardice; it vainly trusts in itself, and is afraid of any sound or shadow of creatures." And elsewhere: "He whose will and desire in conversation is to establish his own opinion, even though what he says is true, should recognize that he is sick with the devil’s disease [pride]. And if he behaves like this only in conversation with his equals, then perhaps the rebuke of his superiors may heal him. But if he acts in this way even with those who are greater and wiser than he, then his malady is humanly incurable."

The humble man does not criticize or condemn anyone except themselves. He sees only his own sins and considers himself worse than all men, even than all of irrational creation. He considers himself worthy of hell, but does not despair. He places his hope in God and continuously seeks His mercy. Conversely, the proud deal with others, accusing them, criticizing them, condemning them, scorning them, while they always justify themselves and release themselves from any liability.

The humble man is straight and honest and loves the truth, while the proud are flatterers and servants of wickedness. Saint John the Sinaite urges us to guard ourselves from flatterers and flattery. Of course, as is well known, flattery usually surrounds those who have any kind of power, office, material wealth, etc. But we must all be careful, first by not becoming flatterers, and second by protecting ourselves from flattery, because "he who flatters is a servant of demons, a guide towards pride, a terminator of devotion, an annihilator of good works, a seducer away from the correct path."

Love prayer, but when you pray for others and God listens, do not become arrogant, says Saint John the Sinaite, because it was their faith that caused the action of your prayer being heard.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Προφήτης Ὀβδιοῦ ἤ Ἀβδιοῦ", October 2013. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.