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.
AN EXTEMPORANEOUS PRAYER TO THE IMMANUEL AT CHRISTMAS TIME
Lord, on that holy night of Your Birth, the poor shepherds of Bethlehem "went with haste" when they heard the joyous message of the Angel, and they found You "a Babe lying in a manger" (St. Luke 2:16). Even the wise men from the east, when they saw Your star, started their journey from their far away country and came to worship You. And coming to the cave in Bethlehem, they found You "a child" in the arms of Your All-Holy Mother (St. Matthew 2:11).
How blessed were those simple shepherds and those wise men from the east, who found You, the newly born Christ! We, who live more than two thousand years after Your birth, also desire very much to find You, but we do not succeed in this effort.
You, our True and Living God, live and exist among us. "In You we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). And yet, we, being children of a materialistic and secular society cannot readily discover You. You can see this for Yourself, Lord. We are celebrating Christmas. And during these days we will find many others things very readily. The stores will be filled with Christmas decorations, games, and gifts, foods and pastries. But how very difficult it will be to find You! Because You, O Divine Child of Bethlehem, are not where we often run to find something in order to celebrate Christmas. This is why we do not find You readily, Lord. For what is offered to us by our surroundings and what we find with our senses during these days is not at all You, Whom we so desire to find...
O Most Benevolent and Holy Child of Bethlehem, do You indeed love us so very much? Do You again accept to recline in the poor and humble cold manger of our soul? We are filled with unimaginable awe and compunction by Your infinite and ever abiding condescension. But we are also filled with inexpressible joy. Forgetting our many imperfections and overlooking our impurities, accept us, O Lord, as we come to You. Give us Your Body and Blood of Holy Communion "for the forgiveness of sins and life eternal." And abide with us, Lord, abide with us forever as God and Savior. Now that we have found You, Our Most worshipful One and only Lord and Savior, let us never again lose You and be without You. Always then abide with us, O Lord, for You are indeed the Immanuel, God with us, our Loving Lord and Savior. Amen.
On December 20th 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 Ignatius the God-bearer, bishop of Antioch; Saint Philogonios, Archbishop of Antioch; Saint Daniel II, Archbishop of Serbia; Repose of Saint John of Kronstadt; Saint Ignatius of the Kieve Caves; New holy Martyr John of Thassos (+1652).
THE HIEROMARTYR IGNATIUS THE GOD-BEARER, BISHOP OF ANTIOCH. This holy man was named the 'God-Bearer' because he always carried the name of the Living God in his heart and on his lips. Also, by tradition, he was thus named because he was held in the arms of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. On a day when the Lord was teaching His disciples humility, He took a child and set it among them, saying: "Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven" (St. Matthew 18:4). This child was Ignatius. He was later a disciple of Saint John the Theologian and Evangelist, together with Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna. As bishop in Antioch, he governed the Church of God as a good shepherd, and was the first to introduce antiphonal singing into the Church, in which two choirs altered. This way of singing was revealed to Saint Ignatius from among the Angels in heaven. When the Emperor Trajan passed through Antioch on his way to battle with the Persians, he heard about Ignatius, summoned him and urged him to offer sacrifice to idols, so that he could be made a senator. The Emperor's urgings and threats being in vain, holy Ignatius was put in irons and sent to Rome, escorted by ten bestial soldiers, to be thrown to the wild beats. Saint Ignatius rejoiced to be suffering for his Lord, and prayed to God that the wild beasts should be the tomb for his body, and that none should hinder his death. After a long and difficult journey from Asia through Thrace, Macedonia and Epirus, Saint Ignatius reached Rome, where he was thrown to the lions in the circus. They tore him to pieces and devoured him, leaving only a few of the large bones and his heart. This glorious lover of the Lord Christ suffered in the year 106 A.D. in Rome, in the time of the pagan Roman emperor Trajan. He appeared many times from the other world and worked wonders (miracles), helping to this day all who call on him for help.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 10:32-38
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 9:33-41
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"He who receives Communion is made holy and Divinized in soul and body in the same way that water, set over a fire, becomes boiling...Communion works like years that has been mixed into dough so that it leavens the whole lump;...Just as by melting two candles together you get one piece of wax, so, I think, one who receives the Flesh and Blood of Jesus is fused together with Him by this Communion, and the soul finds that he is in Christ and Christ is in him." [Saint Cyril of Alexandria]
WHAT IS MENTAL OR INNER PRAYER, AND OF WHAT KIND CAN IT BE?
by Theophan the Recluse [source: Unseen Warfare]
Mental or inner prayer is when a person at prayer collects his mind in the heart, and from there sends out his prayer to God, not aloud but in silent words, praising and thanking Him, confessing to Him his sins with contrition and begging for his needs in spiritual and bodily blessings. One should pray not only in words but also in mind, and not only in mind but also in the heart, so that the mind sees and understands clearly what is said in words, and the heart feels what the mind thinks. All this yoked together is real prayer, and if something of this is lacking in prayer, it is either imperfect prayer or not prayer at all.
You are sure to have heard these expressions: prayer with words, prayer with the mind, prayer with the heart, and maybe you have heard explanations of each of them separately. What is the reason for this division of prayer into its component parts? The reason is that owing to our negligence it sometimes happens that the tongue says the holy words of prayer, while the mind wanders away somewhere: or the mind understands the words of prayer, but the heart does not respond to them with feeling. In the first case prayer is merely words, and is not prayer at all; in the second--prayer with words is connected with mental prayer and this imperfect, incomplete prayer. Full and real prayer is when praying words and praying thoughts are combined with praying feelings.
There also exists, through the grace of God, prayer of the heart only, and this is spiritual prayer, which the Holy Spirit moves in the heart; the person who prays is conscious of it, but does not do it; it acts by itself. This prayer belongs to the perfect. The form or prayer accessible to all and demanded of all is the form where mind and feeling are always combined with the words of prayer.
There is yet another form of prayer, which is called standing in the presence of God, when the person who prays is wholly concentrated in his heart and inwardly contemplates God as being present in his heart and inwardly contemplates God as being present to him and within him, corresponding feelings--either of fear of God and the feeling of wonder and awe before His greatness, or of faith and hope, or of love and submission to His will, or of contrition and readiness for any sacrifice. Such a state comes when a person becomes deeply immersed in prayer by word, mind and heart. If a person prays in the right way and for a long time, these states come to him more and more often, and finally this state can become permanent: then it is called walking before God and in constant prayer. This was the state of David, who says of himself: "I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved" (Psalm xvi. 8).
Thus, my brother and sister, if you wish your prayer to bring much fruit, never be content by oral prayer alone, but prayer also with your mind and heart--using your mind to understand and be conscious of all that is said in words, and your heart to feel it all. Above all, pray with your heart. Prayer bursting from the heart is like a streak of lightning, which takes but a moment to cross the Heavens and appear before the throne of the All-merciful God. God hears it and inclines towards this most of all. This was the prayer with which Moses prayed standing before the Red Sea; and immediately he heard God's voice: "Wherefore criest thou unto me?" (Exodus xiv. 15): and God gave him the power to free his people from the danger which threatened them.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God