The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night
Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-8
Nov 6/ 19 2009 24th Thursday after Pentecost
The Apostle exhorts regarding the judgment, a theme that is mentioned every day in Orthodox services, and refers to darkness as sin and being in the light as the calling of all Christians.
2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night
This must be important, because the church talks about it every week (Tuesday matins has a canon of repentance that mentions the judgment many times) and during the whole of Great Lent. Monastics, who are our model, consider it critical that we consider the judgment every day, and even every moment.
The “day of the Lord” means the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the final judgment. “As a thief in the night” means that it will come upon the unwatchful as a thief at night, who is concealed and not noticed by his victims until their goods have been plundered.
Here, “night” does not mean when the sun has gone down and there is darkness, but rather, moral depravity, which causes foolishness and stupidity, and makes a person unable to see the truth of things.
A “thief in the day’ would be easily discovered; therefore the Apostle to the Gentiles then tells his flock that:
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
The careful reader of scripture immediately asks the question of himself, how is it that a man can be a “child of the day” and not in darkness. This does not just happen by fiat from God, as if we have some sort of birthright, like a “trust fund” baby.
We are children of God, and children emulate their parents. If God is light, then we must be light, that is, follow the commandments. Becoming morally good in all things leads to superior intelligence, and the ability to see and understand the truth in all things, as the light of morality illumines our way. Those in the dark are not living moral lives. Their darkness is sin. Sin always darkens and causes confusion. Virtue, that is, light, always leads to understanding.
We are in-between creatures, with light and darkness within us. This is why we have confusion, uncertainty, lack of understanding. We gain understanding as we gain perfection. Make no mistake about it, Christianity is the pursuit of perfection. It is not a code of ethics, or a system.
The Apostle then shows how completely being a “child of the light” is associated with moral perfection, when he exhorts his flock:
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
Here, “sleep” does not mean physical repose, but rather describes the activity of the mind. If the mind is not focused on God, and the doing of the commandments and the attainment of perfection, then it is asleep, whether we are lying on our bed or in the midst of the activities of life. The fight to the death (either the death of sin, or our death from sin) is fought in the mind, as all sin originates in the mind.
The Apostle then describes all sin, and reminds his flock that it occurs in the night (whenever a person is not walking in the light of the knowledge of God and His commandments):
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night
Sleep occurs in the mind, and is an example of all sins of the mind and the general state of vice that leads to all sins; some sins also are executed with the body also, such as drunkenness. St John Chrysostom teaches that drunkenness:
“Is not that from wine only, but that also which comes of all vices. For riches and the desire of wealth is a drunkenness of the soul, and so carnal lust; and every sin you can name is a drunkenness of the soul.” 
Finally, the Apostle uses similar imagery as he uses in his letter to the Ephesians when he exhorts:
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
The head, where the brain and physical mind resides (the spiritual mind is in the soul), is protected by a helmet. It is protected by the “hope of salvation”, which means that we ever keep before ourselves, in every action, decision, priority and interest the fervent desire for our salvation, which we will attain, with Gods help and our firm desire.
If we always have this hope before us, how could we ever sin? We sin when it is no longer uppermost in or mind, when the mind sleeps, and is in darkness. The mind with the “hope of salvation” is always in the light.
A breastplate protects from blows of an enemy. If it is of “faith and love” then we must expect that in keeping the faith and loving God and our neighbor, we will receive blows. The immature Christian expects that if he does good, he will be treated well, but the perfect does good only because it is good, expecting nothing in return – to be in the light of Christ is enough.
When we read the Apostle’s words we must surely feel our distinct inadequacy. These are heavenly tings he is speaking of, and we are still earthly. Let us not despair – our hope of salvation is surely not in vain. May God help us in all things.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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Here is more that St John says about “sleep”, from this homily: “On what account then has he called vice sleep? Because in the first place the vicious man is inactive with respect to virtue: again, because he sees everything as a vision, he views nothing in its true light, but is full of dreams, and oftentimes of unreasonable actions: and if he sees anything good, he has no firmness, no fixedness. Such is the present life. It is full of dreams, and of phantasy. Riches are a dream, and glory, and everything of that sort. He who sleeps sees not things that are and have a real subsistence, but things that are not he fancies as things that are. Such is vice, and the life that is passed in vice. It sees not things that are, that is, spiritual, heavenly, abiding things, but things that are fleeting and fly away, and that soon recede from us.”