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 ΗΝΚ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A THIRD PRAYER BEFORE HOLY COMMUNION
O Lord Jesus Christ, my God, absolve, remit, have mercy and forgive the errors, faults and transgressions which I, Your sinful, unprofitable, and unworthy servant, have committed from my youth up to this present day and hour, whether in knowledge or in ignorance, in words or deeds, thoughts or reflections, pursuits and in all my senses. By the intercession of the All-Pure and Ever-Virgin Mary, Your Mother, who conceived you without seed, my only hope who puts not to shame, my protection and salvation, count me worthy without condemnation to partake of Your immaculate, immortal and Life-Giving dread mysteries, unto remission of sins, and unto life everlasting; unto sanctification and illumination, strength and healing, health of soul and body; unto the erasing and utter destruction of my evil reasonings, thoughts, and predispositions, and of nightly fantasies of the dark and evil spirits. For Yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, and the honor, and the worship, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On December 4th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Barbara the holy and Great Martyr; Saint John of Damascus; Saint Juliana of Heliopolis; Saint Alexander Hotovitzky of Russia, Missionary of America.
SAINT BARBARA THE HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR. This famous follower of Christ was betrothed to Him from her early years. Her father, Dioscorus, was a pagan in the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and was famed for his wealth and standing. Dioscorus shut up his only daughter, who was both intelligent and beautiful, in a high tower, surrounded her with all possible comforts, gave her a host of attendants, set up idols for worship and built her a bathroom with two windows. As she gazed through the windows of the tower upon the earth below and the starry sky above, Saint Barbara's mind was opened by the grace of God, and she came to know Him as the One, True God and Creator, although she had no human teacher to bring her to the knowledge of Him. Once, when her father was away from the city, she came out of the tower and, by God's providence, met some Christians who told her about the true Christian faith. Saint Barbara's heart was set on fire with love for Christ. She had a third window cut in the bathroom as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, and traced a Cross with her finger on one wall of it, which etched itself deep in the stone as if cut by a chisel. A spring of water gushed forth from the bathroom floor from her footprint, and it later gave healing from sickness to many. When her father Dioscorus found out about his daughter's faith, he beat her harshly and drove her from the tower, chasing after her to kill her, but a cliff opened and hid Saint Barbara from her irate father. When she appeared again, Dioscorus took her to Marcian, the governor of the city, who handed her over for torture. The innocent Saint Barbara was stripped and beaten until her entire body was covered in bloody wounds, but the Lord Himself appeared to her in the prison with many Angels, and healed her. A certain woman, Juliana, beheld this and conceived a desire for martyrdom herself. Both of them were fearfully tortured and taken around the city to be mocked, then their breasts were cut off and much blood flowed from them. They were finally led out to the place of execution, and Saint Juliana was slain by soldiers while Saint Barbara was killed by her own father. On the same day, lightning struck Dioscorus's house, killing both him and Marcian. Saint Barbara suffered in the year of our Lord 306 A.D., and her wonderworking holy relics are preserved in Kiev. Greatly glorified in the Kingdom of Christ, she has appeared many times down to our own days, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of the Most Holy Mother of God (Theotokos).
SAINT JOHN DAMASCENOS (DAMASCENE). He was first a minister of Caliph Abdul-Malek, and then became a monk in the monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified. For his ardent advocacy of the veneration of icons while still a courtier during the reign of the iconoclast Emperor Leo the Isaurian, he was slandered by the Emperor to the Caliph, who had his right hand cut off. Saint John fell down in prayer before the holy icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, and his hand was re-joined to his arm and miraculously healed. When he beheld this wonder, the Caliph repented, but Saint John no longer desired to remain at court as a nobleman, but to withdraw to a monastery. There, he was from the beginning a model of humility and obedience, and of all the works of asceticism prescribed for monks. He wrote the hymns for the Parting of the Soul from the Body, put together the Octoechos, the Irmologion, the Menologion and the Paschal Canon, and wrote many theological works of an inspired profundity. A great monk, hymnographer and theologian, and a great warrior for the truth of Christ, Saint Damascenos is counted among the great Fathers of the Church. He entered peacefully into rest in about 749 A.D., being seventy-five years old.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Great 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: Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-5
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 5:24-34
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND SANCTIFICATION
"Let us, therefore, do everything we can to avoid scandalizing our neighbor; for a life which, though it be exceedingly upright, causes scandal to others, has lost everything. But how is it possible for an upright life to give scandal? When it's keeping company with those who are not upright invests it with an evil reputation. For when, trusting in ourselves, we consort with wicked persons, even if we ourselves are not harmed, we scandalize others". [Saint John Chrysostom]
ON THE FOUR TYPES OF COMMUNION WITH GOD IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
by Saint Cleopa of Romania [source: On the Christian Mysteries]
Our union and communion with God in general terms come about in two ways: through the mystical communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord and through spiritual communion. The second way is likewise divided, into three ways. Thus, in the present talk I will speak to you about the ways by which we can commune with and be united to God, presenting testimony from the Holy Scriptures and teachings of the Holy Fathers.
- He is united to Christ by grace, as is said in the passage: "He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him" (St. John 6:56).
- He participates in eternal life, as it is written: "Whoso eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, hath eternal life" (St. John 6:54).
- He will be raised on the Day of Judgment, as it is written: "And I will raise him up at the last day" (St. John 6:54).
- Christ creates a place of habitation within our hearts, as is written in the passages: "That Christ may dwell I your hearts by faith" (Ephesians 3:17), and "at that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in me, and I in you" (St. John 14:20), and others.
- Whoever communes Christ has Him living within him: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20), and "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you" (Galatians 4:19).
- He progresses and increases in spiritual works, according to the passage: "that we…speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:14-15).
- He is cleansed of sins, is sanctified, enlightened, and granted eternal life (cf. the Prayer before Holy Communion of our holy Father John of Damascus).
- The sanctification of body and soul is effected, fantasies are expelled, he is cleansed of the passions, and has boldness before God and enlightenment and support for the increase of the virtues and perfection (cf. the sixth Prayer before Holy Communion, of our holy Father Basil the Great).
- Spiritual joy is brought about, as well as health of body and soul, according to our holy Father Cyril of Alexandria.
These and many more are the fruits that the believer acquires who communes frequently and with good preparation of the Divine Eucharist. He who does not draw near to this Mysterion will never be able to make progress in the working out of the virtues, since he does not remain in Christ, and with Christ in him, as the Lord Himself has said: "For without me you can do nothing" (Saint John 15:4).
- The second way of communion and union with Christ is the prayer of Jesus, during which the intellect is plunged into the heart and there says unceasingly "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me, the sinner."
- Prayer which takes place with the intellect in the heart has great significance, for it unites our soul with Jesus Christ and through Him with the Father, for the only road which leads to union with the Father is Christ, as He Himself has said: "No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" (St. John 14:6).
- The prayer of the heart offers the Holy Spirit the possibility of inhabiting and working within our heart, and the possibility of our being united with Him. This union through unceasing prayer is similar to that of the bride who greatly loves the Bridegroom, Christ, and never wants to part from Him.
- The third way of communion with God our Creator takes place though the keeping of His Commandments and the acquisition of the virtues.
- This way of dwelling with Jesus is shown in the Holy Scriptures, when He Himself says: "If a man loves Me, he will keep My Words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (St. John 14:23), and "If you keep My Commandments, you shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father's Commandments, and abide in his love" (St. John 15:10).
- Our holy Father Dionysios the Areopagite says that our likeness and union with God is accomplished only by the practice of the divine Commandments (cf. Discourse on Salvific Knowledge).
- Our holy Father Maximos the Confessor says the following concerning our union with God: "The Word of [our] God and Father is found mystically in each of His Commandments, such that he who accepts the Word of God accepts God."
- Our holy Father Gregory Palamas, when speaking of the theosis (deification) of man through the practice of the Commandments of God, says the following: "The Commandments of God contain not only the knowledge, but also theosis (deification).
- The fourth way of communion with Christ takes place through the hearing of the word of God.
- The New Testament addresses this thus: "Many of them which heard the Word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand" (Acts 4:4).
- The Apostle Paul says that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).
- If the Body and the Blood of the Lord is true food and drink, then the word of the Lord accepted by the faith becomes for men the "well of water springing up into everlasting life" (St. John 4:14) and "that bread which came down from Heaven" (St. John 6:58)--according to Saint John of Damascus it is called the manna of incorruption, the mystical manna.
The holy Apostle Paul accepted the Word of God by hearing when he was called by the divine light and voice from heaven on the road to Damascus. The Samaritan woman received the Word of God through hearing, while still other Samaritans believed and were baptized through the preaching of the Apostle Philip (Acts 8:5,6, and 12), and received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).
Fathers and brethren, I have brought before you some of the most important testimonies from Holy Scripture and the holy Fathers, which assist you on your journey to an uninterrupted union with the Bridegroom, Christ. The Church is the special, most holy place in which is realized our many-sided communion with Christ. Therein, all of our faithful, approaching the divine services with piety and faith, dwell in a mystical atmosphere and communion by the intellect, heart, prayer and participation in the Divine Communion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Above all, the liturgical sacrifice is the perfect expression of our union with our Lord.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God