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.
A PRAYER FOR THE INTEGRITY OF OUR HEART
by Saint Cyprian
Holy, Holy, Holy of Holies, Father of fathers, O God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God of the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Martyrs, God of the virgins, of those who live with integrity, and of those who believe in Your Son, O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We pray to You and beseech You, the Only-begotten Son begotten of the Father before all ages, and in time mystically Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Virgin Mary. We beseech You to grant us an increase of fervor in our desire for a holy life and integrity of heart, so that, being renewed in the Baptism of salvation, our hearts may be free from sin and remain pure. We ask for an Orthodox faith, a pure spirit, an enlightened piety and steadfast love. Help us to grow in spirit and to progress in the life of Your Holy Church.
We bend the knees and bow the head before You, Lord, for before You the Angels and Archangels, the multitude of Martyrs, the chorus of Apostles and Prophets stand in awe and find spiritual delight. Every tongue in heaven and on earth confesses You and all of creation praises and glorifies You. Even the least of the created beings are sensitive to You. You alone exist eternally without a beginning. Without You and apart from You nothing can exist.
We beseech You, Lord God Almighty, Who are not visible except in the Son, to Whom the Angels and Archangels are obedient. Lord and Father, we seek from You that spirit of integrity, purity and wholeness; we seek sincere piety, and a conscience that is clear, innocent, pure, holy and steadfastly founded upon the rock of faith and avowedly against the deceptions of the world. Grant us a heart, O Lord, that is well armed against the machinations of temptation and the sinful desires of the flesh. Help us, O Lord, not to fall victim to the mortal entrapments of the fearful enemy, and thus empower us to keep the seal of our eternal intact.
Expel far from us every corruption of this age and all the deceptions of temptation. As you helped Tobias and countless others, come in the same way and help us. You were mercifully helpful to the three youths in the fiery furnace and to Daniel in the den of the lions. We beseech You to be merciful to us in like manner. You raised the dead, gave light to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, movement to the paralyzed, health to the sick. Do something similar with us Your humble and unworthy servants. Help us, Lord, as You helped Your Apostles in their imprisonment, Paul in his afflictions, Peter on the waves.
You, O Lord, Who are seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, turn Your gaze toward us, free us from the possibility of an eternal death, and grant us that all important integrity and purity of the heart that is so essential for our salvation in the Church and in You, Who are One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Blessed and Glorified now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
On December 14th 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 Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saints Thyrsos, Lefkios, Kallinikos, Philemon, Apollonios, Arrianos and other companion holy Martyrs; Saint Folciunus, bishop of Tervas.
HOLY MARTYRS THYRSOS, LEFKIOS, AND KALLINIKOS AT APOLONIA. When the magistrate Cumbricius, the next in line to become emperor, was murdering Christians, Saint Lefkios, A Christian, confronted him, asking why the magistrate made war on his own soul. He reasoned with the magistrate in hope of ending the persecutions. Instead, a joyful Lefkios was beaten and beheaded for not embracing the idols and not disavowing Jesus Christ. Thyrsos, who was not baptized, also went to Cumbricius to rebuke him. He was also beaten and imprisoned, but he was healed by divine grace. In addition, his cell door miraculously opened, and he walked past the guards. He went to the bishop to be baptized and then returned to prison. He was again tortured, and by his prayers, pagan idols collapsed. This converted Kallinikos, a priest of the idols, and they were both sentenced to die. Saint Kallinikos was beheaded. An attempt was made to saw Saint Thyrsos in half; but when this failed, he gave thanks to God and gave up his spirit. A church was built for his holy relics in Constantinople.
+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: Titus 1:15-16, 2:1-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 9:33-41
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND SANCTIFICATION
"That great man Moses, when fasting, conversed with God, and received the Law. Great and holy Elijah, when fasting, was thought worthy of divine visions, and at last was taken up like Him Who ascended into heaven. And Daniel, when fasting, although a very young man, was entrusted with the mystery, and he alone understood the secret thing of the king..." [Saint Athanasios of Alexandria]
THOUGHTS OF EACH DAY OF THE YEAR
by Saint Theophan the Recluse
SUNDAY OF THE HOLY FOREFATHERS
[The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers commemorates the righteous ones of the Old Testament]
Col. 3:4-11; St. Luke 14:16-24
The Holy Forefathers--what truly great people If one were to generalize the thought which defines their greatness, only those who fulfill God's will for the human race--a positive will--are truly great, for there is much that happens only by God's allowance. There are also powerful figures who act apart from God's will and even against it. These too can seem great--not in and of themselves, but only because of the great opposition put forth by God's Providence to efface the evil caused by them. We know God's direct will concerning eternal salvation, but God's plans concerning the temporal sojourn of people on the earth are hidden from us. That is why it is difficult for us to determine who is acting more rightly, more precisely according to God's will. One can only acknowledge one negative criterion as true: He who acts against what God has determined for the eternal salvation of people cannot be considered great, no matter how ostentatious his deeds, for it is evident that he is going against the obvious will of God. Although this will does not concern temporal, but rather eternal things, it is doubtless that one will of God cannot contradict the other.
Heb. 11:17-23, 27-31; St. Mark 9:42-10:1
"Every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" (St. Mark 9:49).
Before this the Lord said that one must be prepared for all sorts of sacrifices and deeds of self-denial, so as to stand only on the good path. Though these sacrifices are precious to us, like our own eye, or indispensable, like our right hand, we must offer them without a moment's hesitation. For if you begrudge offering such a sacrifice, and are led away because of this from the right path to the wrong, you will be forced to suffer eternally in the future life. So, offer painful and sorrowful sacrifice here to escape torments there. Without purification by fire here one cannot be saved from the eternal fire. Everyone desiring to be saved must be salted with fire, and pass through purification by fire. All of us, according to the law of creation, must offer ourselves in sacrifice to God; but every one of us is impure. This means we must purify ourselves, so that a sacrifice pleasing to God can be made from us. But if you start to purify yourself, to tear passions from your soul, it will be painful, like being burned with fire. This operation of inner self-purification is like the operation of fire purifying metal. Metal is without feeling, If you were to give it feeling, it would feel the purifying and the burning simultaneously. The same thing occurs in a person who purifies himself. Undergoing this operation, he is as if totally burned through by fire. The purifying fire passes through all his members the way salt penetrates a body which is being preserved. And only he who subjects himself to this operation is a truly God-pleasing sacrifice. That is why it is necessary for everyone to be salted with fire, as in the Old Testament, where every sacrifice was salted before being offered as w hole-burnt offering.
THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST
Glory to Thee, O Lord! Once again we greet the awaited bright days of Christ's Nativity. Let us be glad and rejoice. In order to raise our festivities to a higher level in these days, the Holy Church has intentionally instituted a fast before them--a certain amount of constraint, so that as we enter the festive period we might feel as though we were coming out into freedom. Nevertheless, the Church in no way desires that we give ourselves over to mere sensual delights and fleshly pleasures. Since the Church has from olden times called these days "holy days", they require that our very rejoicing on these days be holy, as they are holy. So that those who rejoice might not forget themselves, the Church has placed a short hymn upon our lips to glorify the newborn Christ, by which the flesh is settled down and the soul is uplifted, showing the proper occupations for these days: "Christ is born, give ye glory,: and the rest. Glorify Christ; glorify Him, so that by this doxology your heart and soul might delight, and thereby silence any urge for various other deeds and occupations that might promise some kind of pleasure. Glorify Christ: this does not mean that you have to compose lengthy songs of praise to Christ--no. But if when contemplating or hearing about the birth of Christ the Savior, you involuntary cry out from the depths of your soul, "Glory to Thee, O Lord, that Christ is born!"--this is sufficient. This will be a quiet hymn of the heart, which will nevertheless pass through to heaven and enter in to God Himself. Repeat a little more clearly to yourself what the Lord has wrought for us, and you will see how natural this exclamation now is. So that this might be easier for us, we shall compare it to the following incident:
A king promises freedom to a man who is imprisoned in a dungeon and bound with fetters. The prisoner waits a day, then another, then months, and years. He sees no fulfillment of the promise, but does not lose hope, and believes in the king's words. Finally, he sees signs that it is coming soon. His attention increases--he hears a noise; someone is approaching with cheerful words. Now the locks fall and the liberator enters. "Glory to Thee, O Lord!" the prisoner involuntarily cries, "The end of my imprisonment has arrived, and soon I will see God's Light!"
Or another incident: A sick man is covered with wounds and paralyzed in all his members. He has tried all medicines and has changed doctors many times. His endurance is exhausted, and he is ready to give himself over to despair. He is told, "There is one more very skilled doctor, who heals everyone from those very illnesses that you have. We have asked him to come, and he has promised to do so." The patient believes them, hope springs up in him, and he waits for the promised one...One hour passes, then another, and anxiety again begins to torment his soul. Finally, at evening, someone arrives... The door opens, and the desired visitor enters... "Glory to Thee, O Lord!" the sick man shouts.
Here is another example: A thundercloud hangs over the face of the earth, and it is covered with darkness. Thunder shakes the foundations of the mountains and lightening tears the sky from one end to the other. All are in fear, as if the end of the world had come. When the thunder passes and the sky clears, everyone breathes freely, saying, "Glory to Thee, O Lord!"
Bring these examples closer to yourself and you will see our whole history in them. The threatening clouds of God's wrath were over us. The Lord--the Peacemaker--has come, and has dispersed the cloud. We were covered with the wounds of sins and passions; the Healer of souls has come and healed us.We were bound by the fetters of slavery; the Liberator has come and released our fetters. Bring all of these examples closer to your heart and take them in with your senses, and you will not be able to refrain from exclaiming, "Glory to Thee, O Lord, that Christ is born!"
I will not try to convey this joy to you with my words; it is inexpressible by any words. The work that was accomplished by the Lord Who is born touches each one of us. Those who enter into communion with Him receive from Him freedom, healing, and peace; they possess all of this and taste of its sweetness. There is no reason to say, "Rejoice!" to those who experience this within themselves, for they cannot help but rejoice. But to those who do not experience it, why say, "Rejoice"? They cannot rejoice. No matter how much you say, "Rejoice at your deliverance," to one bound hand and foot, he will not rejoice. Whence can the joy of healing come to one who is covered with the wounds of sin? How can one who is threatened by the thunder of God's wrath breathe freely? You can only say to him, "Go to the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger, and seek deliverance by Him from all the evils that encompass you, for this Infant is Christ, the Savior of the world."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God