“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2).”
While sitting in Victoria, B.C’s, Murchie’s sidewalk cafe, back in June of 2013, with my friend Archpriest Basil Rhodes, we noticed a homeless man stop behind me. The man was staring at our food, so Father Basil asked him if he was hungry. He answered with an enthusiastic “yes”, and when Father asked what he’d like to eat, he said “eggs and sausages”. Father Basil told him they didn’t have such a breakfast here, but gave him five dollars to buy it somewhere else.
The whole time this conversation was taking place with this homeless man, another man, around thirty years of age, was standing nearby, listening to every word. As the homeless man walked away, the younger man walked up and confronted us with the question, “how could you give money to a junky? You are not doing him any good by giving him money. Aren’t you men of God?”
I responded by saying that it was not our place to judge anyone, to which he replied, in a confrontational manner, “he’s just going to buy drugs with that money. You don’t seem to be very intuitive”. I told him I’d worked with the homeless before, and that the man was hungry and deserving of our charity. The man said “cheers” and dismissively walked away.
A woman seated at a nearby table called over with the words, “good response”. She then came over to our table, knelt down beside me, and with tears in her eyes, identified herself as a social worker, and told us she’d been going through a particularly difficult time, and that the interaction she’d just witnessed had helped her immensely.
I then told this woman the story of the time I was walking with an elderly bishop of the Russian Church, and how I had spotted a filthy homeless man walking towards us. This man’s hair was disheveled, filthy with years of dirt, and was wearing torn clothing. He had no soles on his shoes, so with each step we could see the bottom of his feet. Instinctively, I took the elbow of the bishop, and attempted to get him to cross in the middle of the street. The bishop asked why, and I said, “Look at the crazy man coming towards us”. The bishop told me we were not crossing, but would continue.
When directly in front of the man, the bishop stopped, reached out, taking the man’s filthy right hand into his own, and placed a twenty dollar bill into the man’s hand, covering the bill with the man’s left hand. At that moment the man looked up into our eyes, saying nothing. But looking back were the bluest, clearest eyes I had ever seen. They were not the eyes of a homeless man, nor the eyes of a deranged man, eyes filled with wisdom and holiness.
As we walked away, I remarked about the man’s eyes, to which the bishop responded by saying, “We just encountered an angel unaware, and we were being tested,” recalling the words of Scripture, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
After the social worker left, a man seated at a nearby table remarked, “that was the most remarkable story I’ve ever heard, and you made my wife cry”. This other couple had witnessed the whole of these encounters.
A moment later, the young man who’d judged us so harshly after the original encounter, returned. He came up, asked forgiveness for having judged us. He said he’d followed the homeless man, and witnessed him buying yogurt and fruit with the money we’d given him. I stood up, gave the young man a hug, and we all parted ways.
With love in Christ,
Wednesday August 5, 2015 / July 23, 2015
10th Week after Pentecost. Tone eight.
Fast. Food with Oil
“Pochaev” (1675) Icon of the Mother of God.
Martyrs Trophimus, Theophilus, and 13 others in Lycia (305).
St. Theodore of Sanaskar (Glorification 2001).
New Hieromartyr Michael priest and Martyr Andrew (1938).
Hieromartyr Apollinaris, bishop of Ravenna (75).
Icons of the Most Holy Theotokos “The Joy of All Who Sorrow” (with coins) in St. Petersburg (1888).
Righteous Anna (Hannah), mother of the Prophet Samuel.
Translation of the Relics of St. Herman (Germanus), Archbishop of Kazan.
250 martyrs killed by Bulgarians (802-811) (Greek).
Eight Martyrs of Carthage (Greek).
St. Anna of Leucadia (919) (Greek).
New Hieromartyr Nectarius (Trezvinsky), bishop of Yaransk.
Repose of St. John Cassian the Roman, abbot, of Marseilles (435).
The Daily Scripture Readings
1 Corinthians 16:4-12
4 But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.
5 Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). 6 And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits.
8 But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. 9 For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
10 And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. 11 Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren.
12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time.
The Parable of the Two Sons
28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said to Him, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.
12 thoughts on “Angels Unawares”
“Bluest, clearest eyes I had ever seen.” Once upon a time back in Montreal I was between classes, and walking the downtown core. Homelessness was a big problem back then, a lot of such unfortunates. Some were downright rude and borderline abusive; never tried to confront them, just stayed away. Then, once, saw a man and his dog just sitting there, holding on to each other as if that’s all they had (probably so). Not begging or asking for nothing, an empty hat before him. Complete calm and humility surrounded him, and I was moved in a way I hadn’t been before, compelled from within to give. After I dropped down whatever I had, he looked up with the bluest, clearest eyes I had ever seen, thanked me profusely and kindly, and again engaged in silence, as if retreating from this world. Although I walked those streets many times, I never saw him again. This was at least 20 years ago, never forgot him.
Thank you for this post, I would add that not only do we sometimes have angels in our presence unaware of that fact but in so many ways we have the enemy in our presence influencing us to turn away from Christ’s message and hardening our hearts to charity for our fellow man by filtering our vision to see only the corrupt and negative.
I love your post podcast and all your teachings My priest Father David aprov es of me listening to you. But not all so I dont get confused
Best article ever on homelessness. God bless you abundantly for your kindness and love.
What a wonderful story!
Dear Father Tryphon, what a beautiful set of intertwined stories! They brought tears to my eyes also. Thank you for sharing them with us. How non-judgemental we must be! I wish I could’ve seen those bright blue eyes… Tamara
Thank you Father
Brought a tear to my eyes too.
Reminded me also of where our heart should be .
I have, several times, seen men begging in the streets, walked past them maybe 100 feet and turned to go back to them, or circled around the block in the car, only to find that they had completely vanished in the time it took me to decide to give them something. I always take it as a reminder from God to be ready to be generous at all times, and I always assume I have seen a servant of God at work.
I love you Abbott Tryphon – you are a man of God and you share His blessings with me and all those around you. You refresh my soul. Thank you for using the gifts He endowed you with so well. May God continue to bless you abundantly.
Hi Abbott Tryphon – after reading of your encounter and the others’ experiences, I felt that I had to add my encounter to the fold. I was in Detroit, driving on a freeway service drive, stopped for the red light and there was a man sitting off the side of the curb. The very first thing I noticed was this man’s incredibly bright blue eyes and the warm, kind face he possessed. I gave him money, we talked for a few minutes (even after the light had changed) and I wished him luck and may God bless him. I have never forgotten that encounter, nor this man’s eyes, and I believe he was an angel, and after reading the others’ comments and experiences, I pray that we never forget how that could have been any one of us on that curb, depending on the kindness of strangers. Thank you for inspiring us all Abbot, God Bless You.
The whole world is crying for love – even we cry out for it! I think that the best gift the Church and we as Christians, can give to people like those in your story is abundant grace – even IF the man went and bought substance other than food. We are called to love LAVISHLY! When we as Christians cannot extend grace to those in need, what hope will they EVER have of finding God in this confused and broken world. God loves us lavishly and undeservedly, and we often squander what He bestows on us, so we are also called to love those who may seem undeserving! I appreciate this story particularly, as it is a topic very near and dear to my heart. But I have to tell you – ALL your posts bless me! And I pray God will bless YOU in return. Thanks.
I was once walking with a bishop down an alley, and we saw a man sleeping on the sidewalk. We crossed to the other side, and I told the bishop, “If a dog comes and licks him, we have to repent.”
And he answered: “Only if the dog’s name is Moreover.”
“Moreover the dog licked his wounds,” from Lazarus and the rich man.