Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Incarnate Lord, the Only True God and the Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΓΕΝΝΑΤΑΙ! ΔΟΧΑΣΑΤΕ!
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 this 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 28th 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: The Twenty Thousand Holy Martyrs at Nicomedia; Saint Simon the Myrrh-flowing of Mt. Athos; Saint Domna and St. Secundas of Nicomedia; Saint Vavylas of Tarsus; Saint Ignatius, monk of Lomsk; Saint Cornelius, monk of Krypets Monastery in Pskov; Russian New holy Martyr Nikodim (1918).
THE TWENTY THOUSAND HOLY MARTYRS AT NICOMEDIA. In the year 302 A.D. the pagan Roman Emperor Maximian Hercules was in the town of Nicomedia. When he realized the enormous number of Christians in that town, he devised a means to convert them all to idol worship or murder them all at one time. His troops surrounded the church and a group was sent in just after midnight when the service of the Nativity of Christ had begun. He demanded that they sacrifice to idols or die. A deacon inspired the congregation not to deny Christ but to remember the three holy children in the flames in Babylon and Christ's sacrifice on the altar. The clergy baptized and chrismated the catechumens. The church was set ablaze and burned for five days. The smoke from the flames was fragrant, a holy light surrounded the church, and the 20,000 children and parents died.
+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: Hebrews 11:8-16
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 12:1-12
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND SANCTIFICATION
"Let us love God with all our soul, with all our heart, and with all our strength, and may our works keep in step. That is, our works should be a reflection of our love towards Him. And when our works are wrought lawfully, God will repay us with divine love in our souls. He who has found love partakes of Christ every day, and thus he becomes immortal. "If anyone eats of this bread, which I shall give, he will live forever," says the Holy Gospel. [Geronda [Elder] Ephraim of St. Anthony Monastery, Arizona]
SAYINGS OF THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH
by Monk John Vranos
Love for God and One's Neighbor
Love (agape) is the queen of virtues. One who strives after love will be enriched with an incomparable treasure. More than anything else, we must love God. Let us love all men without exception as we love ourselves.
Many think they have love, but how can this be confirmed! By your works and your conduct, O man, it will be made obvious. If being injured and slandered you don't hold hostility within you against those who offend you; if you cannot endure seeing a poor man, but give him the most choice of your goods; if you deny yourself various necessities so as to be able to give them to one in need, then, in truth, you have love for your neighbor.
If you desire to glorify God by praying or giving thanks to Him for the good things He has given you, and this time of prayer is for you not an obligation and duty, but rather a deep yearning of your heart; and if you grieve over your sins and struggle to correct your behavior, then take courage--truly you love God.
If we don't love our fellow men, then it is impossible that we love God. Impossible. Many there are who run to churches, travel to the Holy Land, and make many prayers, but at the same time have quarrels with their neighbors, and years have passed since they have said "good day" to them, or they are embittered against them for various causes. Or they deal unjustly with others and are a heavy burden to their fellow men. Let us not deceive ourselves, however, Saint John the Evangelist writes: "If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates his fellow man, his love for God is even a lie. Because inasmuch as he does not love .his fellow man, who is an icon of God, even seeing him daily, how is it possible for him to love God, whom he had never seen?"
Saint John Kolovos writes: "Our neighbor is the key to the Kingdom of Heaven."
Love of God is the second step; on the first, the lower one, is the love of one's neighbor. No one is able to achieve love of God if he doesn't gain love for this neighbor first of all. A certain Saint writes: "The key that opens the door to the kingdom of God is your neighbor."
Obedience: An Abandonment of Discernment in a Wealth of Discernment:
Obedience is an indispensable condition of salvation. For monks it comprises the "backbone" of all spiritual life. Even the Angels live in obedience. They are obedient to the Archangels, and these again are obedient to higher Angelic orders.
Obedience in a monk gives birth to many good things. He submits whatever matter occupies him to his spiritual guide, and so gains "freedom from cares," the indispensable prerequisite of spiritual progress. In other words, it is necessary for our mind to be free from burdensome cares and anxieties, so that it can discern the will of God. This is what we mean when we say "freedom from cares." He who does not receive counsel from his spiritual guide, but tries to manage his own affairs, God abandons as one who is proud, having no humility, and thus he goes astray. Besides this, his mind is distracted and has not time to pray peacefully and without distracting cares. These various cares are fetters which will not allow our prayers to ascend to God. For this reason also obedience is placed as the foundation upon which the whole edifice of the virtues of the soul is built.
"Obedience is an abandonment of discernment in a wealth of discernment," writes Saint John Climacus. In other words, he who leaves his affairs to the discretion of his elder and obeys his commands, is actually wealthy in wisdom. This is very discerning behavior on the part of the disciple.
The Five Signs of Genuine Obedience
In order that one who practices obedience may know if his obedience is genuine and pure, the Saints make note in their writings of the following signs of true obedience:
1. Faith in one's spiritual guide, one's elder (Geronda). The disciple must have perfect trust in his elder as in Christ. Let there not remain in his heart any doubt or hesitation about whether what the elder says is right or not, unless it contradicts the Holy Scriptures.
2. Truth. He should speak the truth in everything without twisting things, and let him not make up stories to tell the elder so as to hide something in his thoughts. It is necessary to tell the facts exactly as they are, in all truth.
3. He should cut off his will, and not deviate from his elder in his intent. He should offer up his own desires, inclinations, inspirations, and talents as a sacrifice, and should do everything in accordance with the opinion of his elder. The disciple should not have an opinion about anything. The elder will judge how their affairs must be conducted. The disciple should mortify his own judgment, and follow the judgments of his elder.
4. He should neither quarrel nor contradict at all, but should have reverence for his elder.
5. He should clearly confess his thoughts to the elder, for it is a joy to the evil demons when the disciple hides even one thought.
These five mighty weapons are indispensable for the disciple. He must always follow his conscience and carefully examine it in regard to these commands.
If the disciple passes his days without being false in his obedience, then let him rejoice, because his elder will answer for him on the Day of Judgment.
[Please note]: Although the five signs of obedience are directed to monks and nuns they also apply to all the faithful who have a Father Confessor and who guides them spiritually and assumes all the responsibility before God for their salvation.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God