December 5 – Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week after Pentecost (12th of Luke) Luke 21:12-19
To Overcome Persecution: Luke 21:12-19, especially vs. 19: “By your patience possess your souls.” This
portion of Saint Luke’s Gospel covers a period of the Lord’s ministry just prior to His Passion. At this time Christ
seeks to prepare the Church for the persecutions that will afflict His followers (vs. 12). He foretells oppression,
arrest, abuse, jail, trial, and betrayal by family and friends – even torture and death (vss. 16-17). His goal here is
to help us triumph in the midst of our trials. He solemnly promises to help His faithful witnesses and martyrs –
and that promise never fails.
Twenty centuries of Christian history confirm every word of these important teachings of the Lord. Even
if we do not experience the raging torrents of the oppression He describes, let us realize that persecution is never
the exception but rather the norm of discipleship. It sweeps down upon many of our brethren around the world,
for the tides of intolerance and opposition to the Gospel often rise to flood stage. We would do well to pay
attention to the Lord, learning how to possess our souls even in the more serene eddies of life through disciplined
patience and practice.
How do we possess our souls by patience? Surely, first of all, we must recognize the unruly nature of the
soul. Only if we are watchful can we understand the depth of the struggle required to change the soul’s nature.
Saint John Climacus compares the soul to a greedy kitchen dog running from one garbage can to the next. If we
make even a moderate attempt at unceasing prayer, we discover at once that we are indeed dull of hearing, babes
who need milk rather than solid spiritual food, “unskilled in the word of righteousness,” and too often dabbling
in vain discussions of “the elementary principles” of Christian faith (see Heb 5:11-6:1).
How then do we break the tyranny of the passions? According to Saint Maximos the Confessor, such
freedom comes only from the Holy Spirit. We must love and practice self-control by “first curbing passions of
the soul and . . . second, those of the body” (Philokalia vol. 2, p. 59). Our desires must be surrendered one by one
until we reach what the Fathers call dispassion. We steadily subdue the passions with the help of the life-giving
Spirit, receiving in return the peace of soul that equips us for those seasons when we shall be asked to witness –
when persecution of the faith will require a stand. The Lord gives us words and wisdom that no adversary can
contradict or silence (Lk 21:13-15).
Dispassion is a blessed state that enables the Christian to face even betrayal by his own family and dearest
friends. Dispassion is the impregnable redoubt from which God’s love sallies forth. That love may embrace hatred
and overcome it, or it may be crowned with the victor’s wreath reserved for the Church’s blessed martyrs and
honored confessors. Dispassion affords that grace from God whereby “not a hair of your head shall be lost” (vs.
Once we understand that the true battle lies within us, then even if a time comes when we are abused and
killed, nothing will be lost. Let us receive these precious truths from the passionless One. He brings “many sons
to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb 2:10) “that through death He
might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (vs. 14).
Christ sends each of us the Holy Spirit to help us gain this passionlessness and possess our souls. We have
the resources of His kingdom. Let us begin! Christ is among us!
“Deliver me from them that persecute me, O Lord, for they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of
prison, that I may confess Thy Name.” – Psalm 141:9-10