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 ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; Fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, And stand up for my help. Also draw out the spear, And stop those who pursue me. Say to my soul, 'I am your salvation...' (vs. 1-3)
They reward me evil for good, To the sorrow of my soul. But as for me, when they were sick,
My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting... (vs. 12-13)
On November 24th 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, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in the Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome; Holy Martyr Peter, Bishop of Alexandria; Saint Hermogenes, Bishop of Agrigentum; Saint Gregory of Golden Rock; Saint Alexander at Corinth; Saint Theodore of Antioch; Saint Mastridia of Alexandria; Saint Mercurius, Bishop of Smolensk; Saint Luke of the Kiev Caves; Saint Simon of Soiga Monastery; holy Martyr Chrysogonos; Righteous Malchus; holy Martyr Philoumenos and Saint Christopher; holy Martyrs Prokopios and Christopher; Righteous Carion; holy Martyr Evgene.
HOLY MARTYR PETER, BISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA. Saint Peter was the Patriarch of Alexandria for twelve years at the beginning of the 4th century. He wrote fourteen Canons of Instruction, which are still important today, for the disenchanted Christians of his day He taught at the school of the famous Christian teacher Origen. The pagan Roman emperor Maximian branded Saint Peter as an enemy of the state and had him imprisoned in Alexandria. While in prison, Arius (a heretic), whom Saint Peter had excommunicated, sent word that he had repented of his mistaken view of Jesus. Saint Peter had a vision of Jesus, Who appeared as a twelve-year old Child, resplendent with Light. Jesus' robe was torn from top to bottom and he held it together. Saint Peter asked Jesus who had done this, and he said that the madman Arius had and that St. Peter should refuse Arius his request, which he did. He also anathematized Arius not only in this world but the next. The Christians of Alexandria gathered at the prison gates to support the innocent Peter. The emperor threatened to kill them unless they all returned to their homes. Saint Peter had the warden break a hole in the wall so that he could be taken to the area of execution and so save his people. He prayed at the grave of the Holy Apostle Mark, the first Patriarch of Alexandria, and then was beheaded.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Philippians 3:20-21, 4:1-3
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:19-21
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND EDIFICATION
"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone sad? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone tempted by evil passion?--since the tempter is always at work--let him endure patiently as he listens to the one who says, "'If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them,' said the Lord." [Saint Theodore the Studite]
FASTING ACCORDING TO THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH AND THE HOLY TRADITION
"When the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons, and as harvesters sharpen our sickles, and as sailors order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires, and as travelers set out on the journey towards heaven. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven, rugged and narrow as it is. Lay hold of it, and journey on." [Saint John Chrysostom]
"The Savior began the work of our salvation with fasting. In the same way, all those who follow in the footsteps of the Savior build on this foundation the beginning of their endeavor, since fasting is a weapon established by God. Who will escape blame if he neglects this? If the Lawgiver Himself fasts, how can any of those who have to obey the law be exempt from fasting? This is why the human race knew no victory before fasting, and the devil was never defeated by our nature as it is: but this weapon has indeed deprived the devil of strength from the outset. Our Lord was the Leader and the first example of this victory, in order to place the first crown of victory on the head of our nature. As soon as the devil sees someone possessed of this weapon, fear straightway falls on this adversary and tormentor of ours, who remembers and thinks of his defeat by the Savior in the wilderness; his strength is at once destroyed and the sight of the weapon given us by our Supreme Leader burns him up. A man armed with weapons of fasting is always afire with zeal. He who remains therein, keeps his minds steadfast and ready to meet and repel all violent passions." [Saint Isaac the Syrian]
"Do you fast? Then feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, do not forget the imprisoned, have pity on the tortured, comfort those who grieve and who weep, be merciful, humble, kind, calm, patient, sympathetic, forgiving, reverent, truthful and pious, so that God might accept your fasting and mighty plentifully grant you the fruits of repentance. Fasting of the body is food for the soul." [Saint Basil the Great]
"Prayer, fasting, vigils, and all other Christian practice, however good they are in themselves, do not constitute the goal of our Christian life, although they serve as a necessary means to its attainment. The true goal of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. Fasting, vigils, prayers, alms-giving and all good deeds done for the sake of Christ are but means for the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. But note, my son, that only a good deed done for the sake of Christ brings us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. All that is done, if it is not for Christ's sake, although it may be good, brings us no reward in the life to come, nor does it give us God's grace in the present life." [Saint Seraphim of Sarov]
"Fasting is a medicine. But like all medicines, though it be very profitable to the person who knows how to use it, it frequently becomes useless (and even harmful) in the hands of him who is unskillful in its use. For the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices, since he who limits his fasting only to abstinence from meats is one who especially disparages fasting. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see an enemy, be reconciled with him. If you see a friend gaining honor, do not be jealous of him. And let not only the mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all members of your bodies."
"As a flame on fire in dry wood, so too is a body with a full belly." [Saints Barsanuphius and John]
"Do not neglect the Forty Days; it consists an imitation of Christ's way of life." [Saint Anthony the Great]
"The holy fasters did not approach strict fasting suddenly, but little by little they became capable of being satisfied by the most meagre food. Despite all this they did not know weakness, but were always hale and ready for action. Among them sickness was rare, and their life was extraordinarily lengthy." [Saint Ignatius the God-bearer]
"When man partakes of the glory of God, he does not partake of it in the spirit only, but physically also in a complete sense. When one praises God, he does not praise Him only in the Spirit, but with physical voice also in chant and prayer. When one worships God, he does not worship him noetically only but physically also the body participating by standing in prayer, by making prostrations and using the fingers and hand to seal itself with the sign of the Cross. When one communicates God, he does not communicate in spirit only but eats the very Body and drinks the very Blood of the Lord unto healing of soul and body. Thus one praises God and is united with God not in part, but completely as one whole soul and body. When one labors in virtue, one labors not only noetically but physically also, even unto blood, in order not to deny our Savior. Our Holy Martyrs did not witness just by words and thought, resisting evil in their hearts and minds, but gave their bodies up to torments and their heels to be cut off, that they might remain with our Savior. Thus, since we are not just spirits, but 'wear flesh and live in the world', we cannot possibly fast spiritually and not fast physically also. There is a unity and interaction between the body and soul. They cannot be separated while we are still in the body. In the Ladder of Divine Ascent, Saint John writes, 'Satiety of food is the father of fornication, an empty stomach is the mother of purity.' He who always keeps his stomach full and he who fasts know the strength of this saying." [A Monk of the Orthodox Church]
According to Saint Gregory the Sinaite there are three degrees in eating: temperance, sufficiency and satiety Temperance is when someone wants to eat some more food but abstain, rising from the table still somewhat hungry. Sufficiency is when someone eats what is needed and sufficient for normal nourishment. Satiety is when someone eats more than enough and is more than satisfied. Now if you cannot keep the first two degrees and you proceed to the third, then, at least, do not become a glutton, remembering the words of the Lord: 'Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger' (St. Luke 6:25). Remember also that rich man who ate in this present life sumptuously every day, but who was deprived of the desired bosom of Abraham in the next life, simply because of this sumptuous eating. Remember how he longed to refresh his tongue with a drop of water.
"Bodily purity is primarily attained through fasting, and through bodily purity comes spiritual purity. Abstinence from food, according to the words of that son of grace, Saint Ephraim the Syrian, means: 'Not to desire or demand much food, either sweet or costly; to eat nothing outside the stated times; not to give oneself over to gratification of the appetite; not to stir up hunger in oneself by looking at good food, and not to desire one or another sort of food'. [Saint Nikolai Velimirovich]
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God