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.
THE SEVENTH PRAYER OF VESPERS
O Great and Exalted God, The Only One Who is immortal and dwells in unapproachable Light; Who has created the whole universe in wisdom; Who has separated the light from darkness, And has set the sun to rule over the day And the moon and the stars tor rule over the night; You have made us sinners worthy once again At this hour to stand in Your presence And to offer to You our evening prayer of praise. Direct our prayer, O Loving Lord, like incense before You, And accept it as a sweet-smelling fragrance. Grant that this present evening and the approaching night Will be peaceful for us. Vest us with the weapons of light. Deliver us from nocturnal fears And from everything that lurks against us by night. Grant us sleep, given for the renewal of our weakness, That is free from every diabolical fantasy. Yes, Lord of all, the Provider of good things, Grant that even as we rest upon our beds, We may remember Your Name through the night. Enlighten by meditation upon Your Commandments, May we in time arise in gladness of heart To glorify Your Goodness, Offering petitions and supplications to You For our own sins and for all the people, Who expect Your visitation in mercy and compassion, Through the intercessions of the Holy Theotokos. For You are a Good and Loving God And to You we give glory, To the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Now and forever and to the ages. Amen.
On December 13th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessions, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Lucia the holy Martyr of Syracuse; Saints Efstratios, Afxentios, Evgenios, Mardarios, and Orestes at Sevaste; Saint Arsenios of Larros; Righteous Ares; Saint Odilia, virgin of Alsace; Saint Innocent, Bishop of Cherson; Saint Mardarius, recluse of the Kiev Caves; Commemoration of the miracle by the holy five Martyrs.
GABRIEL, ARCHBISHOP OF SERBIA, NEW MARTYR IN PRUSA. From 17th century Serbia, Saint Gabriel once found himself in the position of not being able to pay the debts of his Diocese. He traveled to several cities to seek alms, but when he returned, he discovered that a man by the name of Maximus had usurped his throne as Archbishop. Maximus went to the political authorities there and accused St. Gabriel of conspiracy. Saint Gabriel was arrested, and the vizier learned the truth. However, instead of releasing him, he said that St. Gabriel must die since he was accused of treason, but he would be spared if he renounced the Christian faith. Saint Gabriel said that he understood that he might die unjustly, but that it would be impossible for him to forsake his faith while still being in his right mind, and he was prepared to undergo torment and die one hundred deaths. He underwent tortures with joy since he was permitted to suffer for Jesus Christ. Finally, they hanged the resolute Saint Gabriel.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Titus 1:5-14
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 9:10-15
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND SANCTIFICATION
"The evil spirits are always wanting to interfere with whatever we are doing for our salvation. Alas, we who are lukewarm usually say to ourselves, 'Wait, I have not yet done this, I have not yet tried that...I will repent later. After I have done all these things I will repent, God, and I will walk the straight path, wandering neither to the right nor to the left." This is exactly what the spirits of evil want us to do; they want us to put off our salvation until tomorrow, or the day after, and so on and so forth, until the end of our life. But the Holy Fathers say, 'Go with the Lord, go today, follow Him!" [Geronda [Elder] Thaddeus of Vitovnica].
ADVICE ON SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES WITH TEMPTATIONS AND SORROWS
by Saint Isaac the Syrian
Just as the eyebrows approach each other, so are the temptations close to men. It was the economy of God to be so, with wisdom that we may receive benefit: namely, through knocking persistently, because of the sorrows, on the door of God's mercy and to enter your mind, due to the fear of grievous events, the seed of mercy of God, so that you may approach Him with supplications and your heart be sanctified through the continuous remembrance of Him. And while you ask Him, He will listen.
The person walking the road of God must thank Him for all the sorrows that he faces, and to accuse and dishonor his negligent self, and know that the Lord Who loves and looks after him, would not have allowed the grievous things to happen to wake his mind up, if he had somehow not been negligent. God may have allowed some sorrow because man has become proud and consequently he should understand and let him not become disturbed but find the cause within himself, so that the affliction may not double up, namely suffer and not wish to be treated. "In God Who is the source of justice there is no injustice." May we not think otherwise.
Do not avoid the sorrows, because being helped by them you learn the truth and love of God well. And do not fear the temptations (negative experiences) for through them you discover treasures. Pray that you may not enter into spiritual temptations, while for the bodily ones, prepare to face them with all your strength, for without them you cannot approach God. Through them comes the divine rest. Whoever avoids the bodily temptations avoids virtue.
Without temptations the Providence of God for man does not manifest itself, and it is impossible without them to receive the boldness in God and learn the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and moreover, it will not be possible to anchor the divine love in your soul. Before the arrival of temptations, man prays to God as a stranger. From the moment however, he enters into temptations for the love of God and does not change opinion, let's say, he has God duty bound towards him and God considers him a genuine friend. For he fought and conquered the enemy, to fulfill the will of God.
God does not grant any big grace without a big temptation preceding it, for according to the severity of the temptations the graces were ordained by the wisdom of God, which however men normally do not understand. By the measure of the great sorrows that the Providence of God sends you, you understand the great value that His magnanimity grants you. For according to the sorrow you experience is the consolation you will receive.
If you ask me what is the reason for all these, I will answer you: your negligence, or you did not bother to find the cure. The cure of all of them is one, and with it man's soul finds immediately the consolation it longs for. But what is the cure? "It is the humility of the heart." Without it, it is impossible to destroy the fence of temptations, in the contrary in fact you will discover that the temptations become stronger and weaken you...
According to the level of humility, God gives you the strength to endure calamities. And according to the measure of your patience, the weight of your sorrows becomes light and so you are consoled. And as you are consoled so does your love for God increases. And as much as you love God that much greater joy the Holy Spirit bestows on you. Our compassionate God wishing to bring the temptations of His children to a good end, does not take but instead gives them the strength to endure. "All these gifts (consolation, love, joy) the strugglers acquire as fruit of their patience" for their souls to arrive at perfection. I wish our Christ and God to make us worthy through His grace to endure the bitterness of temptations for His love and with gratitude of our heart. Amen.
The Saints show their love for God indeed, by their suffering in his Name when for example He sends them sorrows without distancing from them, for He loves them. Through this suffering love their heart obtains boldness, so that they may approach Him freely and with conviction that their supplications will be heard and realized. The power of prayer that has boldness is great. That is why He allows His Saints to experience every sorrow and acquire experience and be assured of His help and how much He provides and cares for them. This way they acquire wisdom and good sense from temptations, that they may not become negligent, that they may not lack spiritual asceticism on both good and bad, and thus receive through their trials, the knowledge of all things they would need. For otherwise they will be swept away by ignorance and will become the mockery of demons. For if they exercised only in the good things and had no experience of struggles with the evil, they would have gone to war totally unprepared...
Man cannot taste and value the good, if previously he did not experience the bitterness of the temptations...
Men come to the true knowledge, when God deprives them of His power and makes them to co-experience the human weakness and the difficulty that temptations cause, the cunningness of the enemy, and what adversary they have to fight and how much they have advanced and progressed in virtue and that without the power of God they are weak towards any passion. God does this, that they may receive from all these negative experiences, true humility and to approach close to Him and wait for His certain help and to pray with patience.
The strugglers therefore, are tempted that they may increase their spiritual wealth, the negligent though to protect themselves from whatever hurts them, the slumberous that they may be awakened, the distant ones that they may approach God and the friends of God that they may enter His Holy
Abode with boldness.
The sorrows and dangers kill sensuality, while good times and indifference feed it. For this both God and the holy Angels are joyful in our sorrows, while the devil and his accomplices are joyful when we are lazy and have good time.
Leave your cares to God and in all you difficulties judge yourself, for you, yourself is the cause for all...
All the sad occasions and sorrows will torment us doubly if we have no patience For with patience man turns away the bitterness of afflictions, while timidity gives birth to the despair of hell. Patience is the mother of consolation; it is spiritual power that is born of a broad hear. It is difficult for man to find this power during sorrows, if he does not have the Divine Grace, which he acquires through persistent prayers and with tears.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God