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 CONTRITE PRAYER
Lord, forgive those who hate us and are unjust to us; Do good to those who are good to us. To our brothers and sisters and members of our family Grant their petitions that are unto salvation and life eternal; Visit those who are sick and grant healing to them; Accompany and protect those who travel by land, sea and air; Stand by as an ally to our faithful rulers; To those who serve us and are merciful to us grant forgiveness of sins; To those who have asked us to pray for them, unworthy though we be, Grant them forgiveness and mercy according to your great mercy. Remember, Lord, all of our predeceased-Fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters--And grant them a blessed repose Where the Light of Your Countenance shines. Remember, Lord, our brothers in captivity And deliver them from every difficult circumstance. Remember, Lord, those who labor and do good works In Your Holy Churches; Grant to them their petitions which are unto salvation and eternal life. Remember, Lord, also us, Your humble, sinful and unworthy servants, Enlighten our mind with the Light of Your Knowledge And guide us on the way of Your Commandments, Through the intercessions of Your All-Pure Mother And of all Your Saints; For You are Blessed unto all the ages of ages. Amen.
On December 17th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honor 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: Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Children-Ananias, Azarias, and Misael; Saint Dionysios of Zakinthos; Saint Daniel the Confessor of Spain and Egypt; Saint Stephen the Confessor; Saints Patermouthios, Kopris, and Alexander of Egypt; Saints Athanasius, Nicholas, and Anthony, founders of the Vatopedi Monastery (Mt. Athos); New holy Martyr Niketas; holy Martyr Iacchus; New holy Martyr Avakum in Belgrade.
THE HOLY PROPHET DANIEL AND THE THREE CHILDREN: ANANIAS, AZARIAS AND MISAEL. All four of them were of the royal tribe of Judah. When Nabuchadnezzar destroyed and plundered Jerusalem, Daniel, as a boy, was taken off into slavery together with Jehoiachin, king of Judah, and many other Israelites. The account of his life, sufferings and prophecies can be found in detail in his book. Utterly given to God, Daniel from his early youth received from God the gift of great discernment. His fame among the Jews in Babylon began when he denounced two lecherous and unrighteous elders, and saved the chaste Susannah from an unjust death. But his fame among the Babylonians stemmed from the day when he solved and interpreted the dream of king Nebuchadnezzar. For this, the king made him a prince at his court. When the king made a golden idol in the Plain of Dura, the Three Children refused to worship it, for which they were cast into the burning fiery furnace. But an Angel of God appeared in the furnace and soothed the flames, so that the Children walked in the furnace untouched by the fire, and sang: "Blessed art Thou, Lord God of our fathers!" The king saw this marvel, and was amazed. He then brought the Children out of the furnace and did them great honor.
In the time of king Belshazzar, when the king was eating and drinking with his guests at a feast out of consecrated vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem, an invisible hand wrote these three words on the wall: "Mene, Tekel, Upharsin". No-one could interpret these words but Daniel. That night, king Belshazzar was killed. Daniel was twice thrown into a den of lions for his faith in the One, Living God, and both times God preserved him alive. Prophet Daniel saw God on His Throne with the Angelic powers, often saw Angels, had insight into the future of certain people, of kingdoms and of the whole human race, and prophesied the time of the coming of the Savoir on earth. According to Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Prophet Daniel and the Three Children lived to great old age in Babylon, and were beheaded with the sword for the true Faith. When Ananias was beheaded, Azarias held out his robe and caught his head, then Misael caught Azarias's head and Daniel Misael's. An Angel of God carried their bodies to Judea, to Mount Gebal, and placed them under a rock. According to tradition, these four men arose at the time of the death of the Lord Jesus and appeared to many, then fell asleep again. Prophet Daniel is counted as one of the four Great Prophets (with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). He lived and prophesied half-way through the thousand years before Christ.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Prophets, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 11:33-40, 12:1-2
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 9:42-50, 10:1
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND SANCTIFICATION
"What are we to do then, my friends? We must bestow our love on our brothers and sisters. We must not allow any malice at all to remain in our hearts. May Almighty God have regard for our love of our neighbor, so that He may pardon our iniquities! Remember what He taught us: forgive, and you will be forgiven. People are in debt to us, and us to them. Let us for them their debts, so that what we owe may be forgiven." [Saint Gregory the Great]
[as edited by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and revised by Saint Theophan the Recluse]
On hope in God alone and on confidence in Him.
Although, it is very important not to rely on our own efforts in his unseen warfare, at the same time, if we merely give up all hope of ourselves and despair of ourselves without having found another support, we are certain to flee immediately from the battlefield or to be overcome and taken prisoner by our enemies. Therefore, together with complete renunciation of ourselves, we should plant in our heart a perfect trust in God and a complete confidence in Him. In other words we should feel with our whole heart that we have no one to rely on except God, and that from Him and Him alone can we expect every kind of good, every manner of help, and victory. Since we are nothing, we can expect nothing from ourselves, except stumbling and falls, which make us relinquish all hope of ourselves. On the other hand, we are certain always to be granted victory by God, if we arm our heart with a living trust in Him and an unshakable certainty that we will receive His help, according to the psalm: 'My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped'.
The following thoughts will help you to be grounded in this hope and, thereby, to receive help:
(a) that we seek help from God, Who is Omnipotent and can do all that He chooses, and therefore can also help us.
(b) that we seek it from God, Who, being Omniscient and Wise, knows all in the most perfect manner, and therefore knows fully what is best for the salvation of each one of us.
(c) that we seek help from God, Who is infinitely Good and Who comes to us with ineffable love, always desirous and ready from hour to hour and from moment to moment to give us all the help we need for complete victory in the spiritual warfare which takes place in us, as soon as we run with firm trust to the protection of His arms.
And how is it possible that our Good Shepherd, Who for three years went in search of sheep that had gone astray, calling so loudly that His throat became parched, and following ways so hard and thorny that He shed all His blood and gave up His life; how is it possible, I repeat, that now, if His sheep follow Him, turn to Him with love and call of His help with hope, He should fail to turn His eyes to the lost sheep, take it into His divine arms and, placing it among the heavenly Angels, make a welcoming feast for its sake? If our God never ceases to search diligently and lovingly for the blind and deaf sinner (like the woman for the piece of silver in the Gospels), how is it possible to suppose that He would abandon him now when, like a lost sheep, he cries out calling for his Shepherd? And who will ever believe that God, Who, according to the Revelation, constantly stands at the door of a man's heart, and knocks, wishing to come in and sup with him (Rev. iii.20), and bestow His gifts upon him, who will believe that his same God should remain deaf and refuse to enter if a man opens to Him the door of his heart, and invites Him in?
(d) And the fourth method of bringing to life a firm trust in God and of attracting His speedy help is to review in our memory all the instances of speedy divine help described in the Scriptures. These instances, which are so numerous, show us clearly that no one, who put his trust in God, was ever confounded and without help. 'Look at the generations of old', says the wise Sirach, 'and see' did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded?' (Ecclesiastes ii.10).
In order to avoid conceit of the heart and act without any self-reliance, led only by your trust in God, take care always to preserve an attitude in which the consciousness and feeling of your weakness always precede in you the contemplation of God's Omnipotence, and let both alike precede your every action.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God