Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΜ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A PRAYER TO THE ALL-HOLY THEOTOKOS
[Saint Gregory of Neocaesaria]
All-Holy Virgin Mother of God, we humans cannot offer to you the hymn and the praise that is appropriate to You, for your proper praise is superior to any human melody. From You God Himself received flesh and was born as a human being. The totality of nature in heaven and on earth offers to You its boundless respect. For You have become an Angelic throne of Cherubim. As a reflection of light, you shine brightly in the imperceptible world and in all the ends of heaven and earth and in the whole universe, where the Unoriginate Father is praised, whose power always overshadowed you; where the Son is worshiped, the Son to Whom you gave birth; where the Holy Spirit is glorified, the Spirit which enacted in you the birth of the Great King. Through you, who are full of grace, the Holy and consubstantial Trinity is revealed in the world to become known by human beings. We pray to you and beseech you, Most Blessed Theotokos, to make us also worthy of your perfect grace that we too many partake of it with You in Christ Jesus, our Lord, in Whom the Glory and the power abides unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On October 23rd Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Apostle James (Iakovos), brother of the Lord [Adelphotheos]; Saint Ignatios, Patriarch of Constantinople; Saint Petronios, disciple of Saint Pachomios the Great; Saint Nicephoros of Constantinople; Saint Theodore the Archbishop of Russia (1937); Saint Makarios the Roman of mesopotamia; Saint Oda of Amay; Righteous James the Wonder-worker of Borovichi.
THE HOLY APOSTLE JAMES, THE BROTHER OF THE LORD. He is called the brother of the Lord because he was the son of righteous Joseph, the betrothed of the Most Holy Mother of God. When Saint Joseph was dying, he shared out his goods among his sons and wanted to leave a share to the Lord Jesus, the Son of the Most Holy and Ever-Virgin Mary, but his sons opposed this, not reckoning Jesus to be a brother of theirs. Saint James, though, loved Jesus greatly and announced that he would include Him in his share, counting himself to be indeed brother to the Lord. Saint James was, from the first, devoted to the Lord Jesus. According to tradition, he went to Egypt with the Most Holy Theotokos and St. Joseph when Herod tried to kill the new-born King. As soon as he heard Christ's teaching, he began to live by it. It is said that during the whole of his life, he ate neither fat nor oil, but lived only on bread and water, and he was chaste to the end of his days. He often kept a vigil of prayer at night. The Lord included him among His Seventy Apostles, appearing to him after His glorious Resurrection, as the Apostle Paul testifies (I Corinthians 15:7). He was the first bishop of Jerusalem and shepherd the faithful for thirty years, and governed the Church of God with zeal. On the Lord's instructions, he composed the first Divine Liturgy, which was far too long for later Christians and was shortened by Saint Basil the Great and Saint John Chrysostom. He brought many Jews and Greeks to the Christian faith, and even unbelieving Jews marveled at his justice, nicknaming him James the Just.
When Ananias became High Priest, he decided, along with other of the Jewish elders, to kill Saint James as a preacher of Christ. One day, at Pascha, when many people were gathered in Jerusalem, the elders told him to climb up onto a roof and speak against Christ. Saint James climbed up there, and began to speak to the people about Christ as the Son of God and the True Messiah, and of His Resurrection and eternal glory in heaven. The infuriated rabbis and elders cast him down from the roof, and he was badly injured though still alive. A man then ran up and gave him such a vicious blow on the head that his brains spilled out. Thus this glorious Apostle and brother of the Lord died a Martyr's death and entered into the Kingdom of his Lord. Saint James was sixty-three years old when he suffered for Christ.
Saint James is the author The General Epistle of James. He identifies himself as "James, a bondservant of God (δούλος Θεού και του Κυρίου ησού Χριστού) and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1:1). Saint James was martyred 62 AD. Some consider Saint James' letter the earliest New Testament book, after the martyrdom of Stefanos (Stephen) and the dispersion of Christians from Jerusalem.
Major Theme: "The harmony of faith and works". The Letter has many direct parallels with the Sermon on the Mount. Saint James does not teach that we are saved by works, but he does teach that a death faith, one without works, does not save. This is an early polemic against invisible religion, or mental faith, wherein salvation by faith does not require visible works; and against antinomianism, the teaching that moral behavior is irrelevant to salvation. Saint James is clear: the human will is not bypassed in salvation; grace does not nullify personal responsibility.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Apostles and Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
HOLY EPISTLE LESSON: Galatians 1:11-19. "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the Revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, Who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His Grace, to His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, not did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again in Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other Apostles except James, the Lord's brother."
HOLY GOSPEL LESSON: Saint Matthew 13:54-58. "When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, 'Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?' So they were offended at Him, but Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house." Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief."
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Visit the sick, console the distressed, and do not make your longing for prayer a pretext for turning away from anyone who asks for your help, for love is greater than prayer." [Saint Symeon the New Theologian].
THE VISION OF GOD
by Vladimir Lossky
Byzantine theologians, especially the theologians of the 14th century, base their doctrine of the vision of God on two series of scriptural texts which seem contradictory and mutually exclusive. Indeed, alongside passages from Holy Scripture in which there can be found a formal negation of any vision of God, Who is invisible, unknowable, inaccessible to created beings,, there are others which encourage us to seek the face of God and promise the vision of God as He is, evidently representing this vision as the ultimate felicity of man.
Among the texts which speak negatively of the vision of God we must cite first of all the passage from Exodus (33:20-3) where God says to Moses: "You cannot see My Face, for man cannot see me and remain alive." God makes His glory pass by while He covers Moses with His hand, and Moses stands in the cleft of rock; when God raises His hand, Moses sees Him from the rear, without having been able to see His face. There are also other passages in the Old Testament (Judges 6:22; 13:22; Isa. 6:5, etc.) which affirm that one cannot see God and remain alive.
The New Testament texts are even more categorical in the negative sense. Thus Saint Paul says (I Tim. 6:16): "God alone possesses immortality (αθανασίαν). He lives in unapproachable (απρόσιτον) light; no man has seen Him or can see Him" (όν είδεν ουδείς ανθρώπων ουδέ ιδείν δύναται). Here the idea of immortality seems to have been attached to that of God's unknowable nature: He is inaccessible to a mortal being. Saint John says (I John 4:12): "no one has ever seen God." (Θεόν ουδείς πώποτε τεθέαται.) "No one has seen the Father, except Him Who is with God" (Παρά τού Θεού); "He has seen the Father". The same idea is expressed in the Synoptic Gospels (St. Matthew 11:27 and St. Luke 10:22): "No one knows (Επιγινώσκει) the Son and Him to whom the Son chooses to reveal (Αποκαλύψαι) Him." While they limit the vision and knowledge of God to the intimate relationship of the Father and the Son Who alone know one another, these texts (from Saint John and the synoptics) also affirm that such knowledge can be conferred on or communicated to created beings by the Will of the Son.
Here we are brought face to face with a series of many texts which affirm the possibility of seeing God. There is not sufficient space to enumerate here all the "theophanies" or appearances of God in the Old Testament. There is the often mentioned appearance of an Angel, a kind of proxy by means of which God assumes the form of a man (Gen. 16:7-14, etc.) Isaiah calls him the "Angel of presence" (63:9).
If in the Old Testament the person of God is often represented by an Angel (Isaiah's 'Angel of presence', who reveals the presence of God), we find just the opposite in the New Testament: it is the Angels of human persons who "always behold the face of their heavenly Father" (St. Matthew 18:10). As the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it (Chaps. I and 2), it is not by Angels but by His son that God speaks now to men. If in the Old Testament men with clean hands and pure hearts are called "the generation of those who seek the face of the God of Jacob" (Ps. 24:4-6), the Gospel asserts that the "pure in heart" will see God (St. Matthew 5:8). In speaking of the elect the Apocalypse (Revelation) says: "and they will see His face and His name will be on their foreheads" (22:4).
According to Saint Theophilos of Antioch, the vision of God is connected with incorruptibility. But here it becomes the source of eternal life and even the source of all existence, since vision means participation. By vision we participate in God, just as we participate in light by seeing it. Now the invisible God is revealed in Christ transfigured by the Light of the Father, the Light in which man receives the incorruptible state of eternal life.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God