Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
"The quality and the grace of prayer, which is done, as it should, with fervent love and desire for God, has so much great power, that it unites human beings with their Creator and raises their mind to be inseparably bonded with Him. The energy of such prayer, moreover, can hold the world together and keep it from being annihilated by the many sins done each day." [Saint Sophronios]
A PRAYER FOR DAILY PERSONAL SUPPORT
(Saint Paisios the Great)
Lord Jesus Christ my God, today grant me a good day without sin and vain distractions. Lord, do not abandon me. Lord, do not turn away from me. Lord, extend to me a hand of assistance. Lord, support me in the fear of You. Let his fear of You but also Your love be implanted deeply into my heart. Lord, grant compunction and humility to my heart. Lord, grant me constant tears and contrition and the remembrance of death. Lord, deliver me from every temptation of the spirit and of the body. Lord, uproot from me negligence, laziness, sorrow, forgetfulness, insensitivity, callousness and the surrender to captivity of my mind. Lord, as You know and as You want, have mercy on me and forgive all of my transgressions. Lord, having attained peace through a good repentance and a ready and full confession. I hope that You will permit my lamentable soul, in due time, to make its exodus from this body in pure and perfect faith. Amen.
On December 19th 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: Saint Boniface of Rome; Saint Boniface, Bishop of Florance; Saint Gregory, Archbishop of Zafar; Saints Elias, Ares, and Probos in Cilicia; Saint Polyeuctos at Caesarea; Saint George and Savvas of Khakhuli; Saint Timothy the Deacon; Saint Eftyches and Saint Thessaloniki, and 200 men and 70 women holy martyrs; Saint Elias of Murom; Saint Tryphon; Righteous Aglais of Rome.
THE HOLY MARTYR BONIFACE. Martyrdom for Christ makes sinners into Saints. This is shown by the example of Saint Boniface. He was at first servant to a wealthy and dissolute woman, Aglais, in Rome, and had unclean and unlawful relations with her. They were both pagans. Aglais evinced the desire to have the holy relics of some Martyr in her house as an amulet against evil, so she sent her servant to Asia to find and buy for her what she desired. Saint Boniface took some slaves with him and a fair amount of money and, at the moment of parting, said to Aglais: 'If I can't find any martyrs and if they bring you back my body, martyred for Christ, will you receive it with honor?' Aglais laughed, and called him a drunken old sinner, and so they parted. Coming to the city of Tarsus, Boniface saw many Christians undergoing torture: some were having their legs cut off, some their hands, other their eyes but out, yet other were dying on the gallows and so forth. Boniface's heart was changed, and he repented of his sinful life with tears. He called out among the Christian martyrs: 'I too am a Christian!' The judge took him for interrogation and ordered that he be harshly flogged, then that boiling lead be poured into his mouth and, as this did him no harm, that he be beheaded. The slaves then took his body back to Rome. An Angel of God appeared to Aglais and said: 'Take him who was at one time your servant, but is now our brother and fellow-servant; he is the guardian of your soul and the protector of your life.' Saint Aglais went in wonder to meet them, took Saint Boniface's body, built a church for his holy relics and placed them there. She then repented, gave away all her goods to the poor and withdrew from the world, living a further fifteen years in bitter penitence. Saint Boniface suffered in the year 290 A.D.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 5:11-14, 6:1-8
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 10:11-16
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND EDIFICATION
"He who sees God will never be satisfied. For the more one sees God, the more the desire increases to gaze upon Him." [Saint Gregory of Nyssa]
HOW THE ENEMY (SATAN) DIVERTS A MAN FROM RIGHTEOUS DEEDS AND SPOILS THEM
The wiles of the enemy disorganize the whole righteous life of a man. If a man resists them and follows the right path unswervingly, the enemy devises other wiles and other stumbling blocks. In this case, he does not work against the man's life as a whole, but acts sporadically against every particular undertaking a good Christian sets out to do in accordance with God's will.
From the moment we open our eyes in the morning after sleep to the moment we close them again for the night we are surrounded by a succession of activities, which follow one another and leave no moment empty, provided always we keep attention in ourselves and are not sick with laziness and negligence. Moreover not only the practice of lifting the heart to God in prayer, not only the obligations of dealings with others in truth and love, not only the efforts to achieve a right equilibrium between body and soul in works and self-mortification, but even everyday affairs with laymen must all be directed towards achieving salvation, and practiced with strict attention, watchfulness and diligence. God helps those who show their zeal to do all things rightly, by sending them His Grace and by granting them the protection of Angels and the prayers of Saints. But the enemy never sleeps. In everything we do he strives to disrupt the smooth course of our efforts and to lead us astray from right to wrong actions. He either hastens to stop us undertaking them, or, when they are begun, attempts to interfere with their progress; if he has failed in this, he strives to make their results worthless; or, having once more suffered defeat plots to deprive them of all value in the eyes of God, by inciting vanity and conceit.
Saint John of the Ladder speaks thus about it: 'In all the efforts by which we try to please God, the demons dig three pits for us--first, they try to obstruct our good undertaking; second, if they have suffered defeat in this first attempt, they try to make our work not according to God; when these thieves are unsuccessful in this scheme too, then they steal noiselessly to the soul and flatter us by suggesting that we please God in everything we do. The first temptation is opposed by fervent zeal and memory of death; the second--by obedience and belittling oneself; the third--by always reproaching oneself. "It was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God." When divine fire enters our sanctuary, evil habits no longer have power over us for "our God is a consuming fire", consuming every uprising and movement of lust, every evil habit and all hardness and darkness, whether inner or outer, see or thought."
No pen can describe all that this means. Keep attention in yourself and keep only one standard in your mind--to please God in everything, both great and small. Then life itself will teach you to discern you to discern clearly and see through the wiles of the enemy (Satan).
A person who has experienced teachers, spiritual Fathers and advisers to talk with and who obeys their instructions with humble submission, is easily delivered from all such temptations. But if for some reason a person is deprived of this blessing, let him keep attention in himself and learn to discriminate strictly between good and evil according to Christian principles, on which the lives of us all should be based. If circumstances, which seem to us to impede our freedom in doing good, are not the result of our will, but are sent by God, accept them submissively and listen to no suggestion, which make you depart from this submissiveness. When God sends such circumstances, He expects nothing more from you than that you should conduct yourself and act as the occasion demands, within the possibilities it offers. Whether you are sick or poor, endure it. God demands of you nothing but to endure. Enduring with a good heart, you will be constantly occupied in good.
When the deceitful devil sees that we are advancing rightly on the path of virtue, with lively eagerness, and in good order, in spite of his attempts to lead us astray by his obvious enticements to evil, then he transforms himself into an angel of light and, now by seemingly good thoughts, now by texts from the Holy Scriptures, now by examples of the Saints, he urges us to understand excessive and untimely efforts for spiritual perfection, in order to cast us down into the abyss at the moment when we imagine we stand on the summit. What numbers of souls have perished in this snare of the enemy, for, carried away by the ardor of foolish zeal and in their self-mortification exceeding the measure of their own strength, they perished in ascetic feats of their own invention and became the laughing stock of evil demons!
Self-love and high opinion of ourselves give birth in us to yet another evil which does us grievous harm; namely, severe judgment and condemnation of our neighbors, when we regard them as nothing, despise them and, if an occasion offers, humiliate them. This evil habit or vice, being born of pride, feeds and grows on pride; and in turn feeds pride and makes it grow. For every time we pass judgment our pride takes a step forward, through the accompanying effect of self-importance and self-gratification.
So stand always on guard in fear and trembling, fearing more for yourself than for your neighbor, and every rejoicing for his sake is the action and fruit of the Holy Spirit in you, whereas every bad word and scornful condemnation comes from your evil nature and suggestions of the devil. Therefore, when you are tempted by some wrong action of your brothers or sister, do not let you eyes sleep until you have driven this temptation from your heart and wholly made peace with your brothers or sister.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God