How to Prepare for a Salvific Confession (Part II)

(3) Shame and fear will come up--let them! That is why this Sacrament (Mystery) was created, to bring shame and fear upon us--and the more shame and fear, the more it will save us. Desire this Sacrament, desire great shame and great trembling. If someone wants to be healed, does he not know how painful the treatment is? He knows, but resolving to be healed, he also determines to endure the attendant pain in the hope of recovering. And you, when you were tormented by the feelings of regret that came upon you and you rushed to come closer to God, did you not say: "I am ready to endure anything, only have mercy on me and forgive me!" Well, now it is happening according your wish.

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Be Always With Me and in Me (Part III)

When during prayer you doubt in the possibility of the fulfillment of any of your petitions, then remember that to God it is possible to give you all things, excepting direct evil, which is only proper to the Devil--that the word itself, or your petition itself concerning anything, is already a sure guarantee on your part that its fulfillment is possible; for if you can only think of something, either possible or impossible to the Lord, to Whom the thought is already deed, if He pleases to fulfill it.

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Saturday of Souls (Part III)

 Prophet Zachariah

Prophet Zachariah

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.  Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE SATURDAY OF SOULS (Part III)
By Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos

[Synaxarion for the Sunday Before Meatfare]

We should know that at present, that is, prior to the General Resurrection, the souls of the Righteous exist in certain specially designated places, and those of sinners in another region, the former rejoicing in their hope, but the latter grieving in expectation of the terrors that await them, since the Saints have not yet received the promise of good things, as the Divine Apostle says, "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:40).  It should also be known that not all who have fallen over precipices, or been burnt by fire, or drowned in the sea, or died from deadly poisons, cold, or hunger, suffer these things at God's behest.  These are the judgments of God, some of which happen by His good pleasure, but other by His permission, and yet others for the purpose of instructing threatening, or chastising other people.  In His foreknowledge, God sees and knows all things, and all things happen by His will, as the Holy Gospel says about sparrows (Saint Matthew 10:29-31; St. Luke 12:6-7).  However, He does not determine that things should happen in this or that way, for example, that one man should drown and another die by natural causes, or that one man should die in old age and another in infancy, but He decreed once and for all that there should be a general lifespan for humanity and so many different kinds of death.  During this lifespan, various kinds of deaths are brought upon mankind, but God does not determine them from the very beginning, although He does have knowledge of them.  In relation to the life of each human being, the will of God adumbrates both the time and the manner of his death.  Although Saint Basil the Great talks about a predetermination of life, he is alluding to the verse:  "Earth art thou, and to earth thou return" (Genesis 3:20).  For the holy Apostle writes to the Corinthians:  "Because ye partake unworthily, many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (I Corinthians 11:30); the Prophet-King David says:  "Take me not away in the midst of my days" (Psalm 101:25), and: "Thou hast made my days as a handbreadth" (Psalm 38:5); the Prophet Moses says:  "Honor thy father, that thou mayest have length of days" (Exodus 20:12); and the Prophet-King Solomon says: "lest thou shouldest die before thy time" (Ecclesiastes 7:18).  In the Book of Job, God says to Eliphaz:  "I would have destroyed you, were it not for My servant Job" (cf. Job 42:8).

Hence, it is evident that there is no predetermined limit of life.  If someone says that there is such a limit, please understand that this limit is the will of God; for He adds years to one man's life as He wills, but reduces them in the case of another, dispensing all things according to what is profitable for us; and, when God wills, He arranges both the manner and the time of death.  Therefore, the limit of each man's life is, as Saint Athanasius the Great says, the will and counsel of God. Saint Basil the Great says that deaths are brought upon us when the limits of life are fulfilled, but by "limits of life" he means the Will of God.  For, if there is a limit to life, why do we beseech God and call upon physicians, and pray for our children, that they might live?  We should also know that when baptized infants die, they enjoy the Paradise of delight, whereas those not illumined by baptism and those born of pagans go neither to Paradise nor to Gehenna.  When the soul departs form the body, it has no concern for the things of this world, but only for the things of the Heavenly Realm.

We celebrate Memorial services on the third day, because on that day a man changes his aspect, on the ninth day, because at that time his whole body decays, with only the heart remaining, and on the fortieth day, because on that day even his heart perishes.

Appoint a place in the tabernacles of Thy Righteous for the souls of those who have departed before us, O Christ our Master, and have mercy on us, for Thou alone art immortal. Amen.

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Apolytikion (Dismissals) Hymn.  Plagal of the Fourth Tone

Only Creator Who out of the depths of wisdom lovingly govern all things and upon all bestow what is accordingly best for them, give rest to the souls of Your servants, for they have placed their hope in You, Our Author and Maker and God.

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Kontakion Hymn.  Plagal of the Fourth Tone

Giver rest, O Christ among the Saints to the souls of Your servants, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no grieving,

but life everlasting.

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"Glory be To GOD For All Things!"-- Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,

The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George

The Holy Feast Day of the Holy and Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates (Commander)

theodore10.jpg

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.  Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

ON FEBRUARY 8th OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE FEAST OF THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR THEODORE THE STRATELATES (COMMANDER) AND THE HOLY PROPHET ZACHARIAS (ZECHARIAH)

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The holy Martyr Theodore was from Euchaita of Galatia and dwelt in Heraclea of Pontus.  He was renowned commander in the military, and the report came to the pagan Roman Emperor Licinius that he was a Christian and abominated the idols.  Licinius, therefore, sent certain men to him from Nicomedia, to honor him and ask him to appear before him.  Through them, however, Saint Theodore sent back a message that it was necessary for various reasons, that Licinius come to Heraclea.  Licinius, seeing in this a hope of turning Saint Theodore away from Christ, did as was asked of him.

When the pagan Emperor came to Heraclea, Saint Theodore met him with honor, and the Emperor, in turn, gave Theodore his hand, believing that through him he would be able to draw the Christians to the worship of his pagan idols.  Seated upon his throne in the midst of the people, he publicly bade Theodore offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, those of gold and silver, that he might take them home and himself attend upon them that evening, promising that the following day he would honor them in public.  The Roman Emperor, filled with joy at these tidings, gave the command that Theodore's request is fulfilled.

When the Saint had taken the idols home, he broke them in pieces and distributed the gold and silver to the poor by night.  The next day a centurion named Maxentius told Licinius that he had seen a pauper pass by carrying the head of the pagan goddess Artemis.  Saint Theodore, far from repenting of this, confessed Christ boldly.  Licinius, in an uncontainable fury, had the Saint put to many tortures, then crucified him.  While upon the cross, the holy Martyr was further tortured: his privy parts were cut off, he was shot with arrows, his eyes were put out, and he was left on the cross to die.  The next day Licinius sent men to take his corpse and cast it into the sea, but they found the Saint alive and perfectly whole.  Through this, many believed in Christ.  Seeing his own men turning to Christ, and the city in an uproar, Licinius had Saint Theodore beheaded, about the year 320 AD.  The Saint's holy relics were returned to his ancestral home on June 8th, which is also the feast of the Holy and Great Martyr Theodoros.

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THE HOLY PROPHET ZACHARIAS (ZECHARIAH)

He was the son of Barachias and a contemporary of the Holy Prophet Aggeus (+ December 16th).  In the days of the Babylonian captivity, he prophesied, as it says in the book of Ezra, "to the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem" (Ezra 5:1); he aided Zorobabel in the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.  In the book of Ezra he is called "Zacharias the son of Addo (or Iddo)" but in his own prophetic book, he is called more fully "Zacharias, the son of Barachias, the son of Addo the Prophet" (Zach. 1:1).  When the captive returned from Babylon, he came to dwell in Jerusalem in his old age.  His book of prophecy is divided into fourteen (14) Chapters and has the eleventh place among the books of the Minor Prophets; his name means "Yah is renowned."  Sozomen the historian reports that under Emperor Honorius, Zacharias' holy relics were found in Eleftheropolis of Palestine.  The Prophet appeared in a dream to a certain Calemerus, telling him where he would find his tomb.  His holy body was found to be incorrupt.  (Eccl. Hist., Book IX, 17).   (Source: The Horologion)

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry)

The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George

Saturday of Souls (Part II)

 Venerable Luke of Hellas

Venerable Luke of Hellas

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.  Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

SATURDAY OF SOULS (Part II)

What the Church does on behalf of souls benefits them, is clear from many sources, but especially from an incident in the life of Saint Makarios, who was in the habit of praying for the departed and had besought God to reveal to him whether any benefit was conferred on them thereby.  Finding the desiccated skull of an impious pagan on the road that he was traversing, he asked whether the souls in Hades experience any consolation.  The skull replied: "We receive great respite, Father, when you pray to God for the departed."  Saint Gregory the Dialogist even saved the Emperor Trajan through prayer, though he was told by God never again to make entreaty for one who was impious.  In addition to this, through the prayers of the Saints and holy Confessors, the Empress Theodora snatched the God-hating Theophilos from torments and saved him, as we know from ecclesiastical (Church) History.  Saint Gregory the Theologian, in his funeral oration for his brother Caesarios, states that supplications for the departed are beneficial for them.  In one of his homilies on the Epistle (Letter) to the Philippians, the great Saint John Chrysostom says:  "Let us think of some way to benefit the departed; let us give them whatever assistance we can, by which I mean almsgiving (charity) and offerings to the Church on their behalf; for this affords them great profit, gain, and benefit.  Indeed, not in vain or haphazardly have these practices been prescribed; it has been handed down to the Church of God by His all-wise Disciples, that the Priest should commemorate the faithful departed at the dread Mysteries."  Elsewhere, he says:  "In your will, inscribe the Master as fellow-heir along with your children and kinsfolk; let your papyrus contain the name of the Judge, and let it not fail to mention the poor, and I will stand surety for you."  Saint Athanasios the Great says:  "Even if one who has died in the True faith has vanished into thin air, call upon Christ God, and do not avoid lighting oil lamps, and candles at his grave; for these things are acceptable to God and bring great recompense."  Observe these things, therefore, whether the deceased was a sinner, so that you might obtain for him/her forgiveness of his/her sins, or a righteous man, so that you might gain additional rewards.  If perhaps he is a stranger and without means, and thus has no one to take care of him in this situation, yet God, in His Righteousness and Love for mankind, will provide for him on account of his penury in proportion to the mercy that He sees on our part.  Besides, he who makes an offering on behalf of such individuals partakes of the reward, since he has shown concern for the salvation of his neighbor, just as someone who anoints another person with perfume makes himself fragrant first.  In fact, those who do not fulfill what is commanded and enjoined in such situations will assuredly bring judgment upon themselves.

Until the Second Coming of Christ, whatever is done on behalf of the departed brings benefit to them, as the Divine Fathers affirm, and, in particular, to those who did even some small account of good when they were numbered among the living.  Although Holy Scripture says certain things--and rightly so--for the chastening of the many, yet God's Love for mankind prevails for the most part.  We should know that in the next world all will recognize each other, both those whom they know and those whom they have never seen, as the Saint John Chrysostom says, proving this from the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  They will not, however, be recognized in bodily form, for everyone will be the same age, and their physical characteristics will be absent, but only the clairvoyant eye of the soul, as Saint Gregory the Theologian says in his funeral oration for Caesarios:  "Then shall I see Caesarios...brilliant, glorious...such as in my dreams I have often beheld you, dearest of brothers."  Saint Athanasius the Great, in his oration on the departed, says:  "Even before the General Resurrection, it is given to the Saints to know each other and to make glad with one another, whereas sinners are deprived of this; and to the Holy Martyrs it is given to see what we do and to visit us in our needs.  At the General Resurrection, all will recognize each other and the secrets of all will be made manifest."

(To be continued)

Please note:  All the above confirms what I have taught you all these years about the significance of remembering your loved ones in the Divine Liturgy and  Memorial Services conducted throughout the year.  Everything is explained in the Monthly Bulletin of the church.  Don't be remiss or negligent when it comes to your duty to express your love for your departed relatives and friends by turning to the Almighty God to show them His loving-mercy and forgiveness.  "For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:19).

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),

The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George

The Church: The Bride of the Lamb (Christ) [Part II]

Orthodoxy refuses to concur with a conception of the Church that has become increasingly common in the West (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) since the Reformation--and that is the tendency to strictly demarcate the Heavenly and Earthly Church (Church Triumphant and Church Militant) into separate entities. In such a view if we may generalize and caricature a little, the 'invisible' Church is thought of as the glorious, and glorified, communion of Saints--all that Christ intended His Church to be, while the 'visible' earthly Church staggers on through history, mired in compromise, scandals and corruption constantly requiring some beneficent reformer, or other new committee of action, to rescue it from its present generational decadence, so as to reform it once again, and polish up the battered paintwork so that, at least, it might not scandalize the world.

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