Daily Message: Being Realistic About Life

St Anthimus of Chios

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only God and Our Only True Savior,
Christ is in our midst! He was and is and ever shall be.  Ο Χριστός έν τώ μέσω ημών.  Και ήν και έστι και έσται.

Forgive, O Lord, those who hate us and treat us unjustly. Do good to those who do good. Grant our brethren and families their requests which are for salvation and eternal life. Visit those who are ill and grant them healing. Watch over those at sea and accompany those who travel. Be an ally to our armed forces and to those in authority. Grant remission of sins to those who serve us and are kind to us. Be merciful according to Your great mercy to those who have asked us to pray for them, unworthy though we be. Remember, O Lord, our fathers and brethren who have fallen asleep before us and grant them rest where the light of Your countenance shines. Remember, O Lord, those who are in captivity and deliver them from every distress. Remember, O Lord, those who bring offerings and do good in Your holy Churches and grant them their requests which are for salvation and eternal life. Remember us, Your sinful and unworthy servants, O Lord, and enlighten our minds with the light of Your knowledge, guiding us along the way of Your Commandments, by the intercessions of Your immaculate Mother, our Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and of all Your Saints. For You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.

On February 15th 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, and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyr Major of Gaza; Synaxis of Saint John the Theologian; Holy Apostle Onesimos; Saint Efsevios of Asicha in Syria; Saint Paphnutius of the Kiev Caves; Saint Dalmatus of Siberia.

THE HOLY APOSTLE ONESIMUS: One of the 70 (secret Apostles), he was a slave of Philemon, a rich and distinguished citizen of Colossae in Phrygia. He offended his master in some way and fled to Rome, where he heard the Gospel from the Apostle Paul and was baptized. By this time, Saint Paul had brought Philemon also to the true Faith, and he reconciled the two of them, Philemon and Onesimus, master and slave, writing a special epistle to Philemon--one of the most moving writings to be found in the New Testament: "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds... Perhaps he departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him forever, not now as a servant, but above a servant; a brother beloved." Deeply moved by this letter, Philemon received Onesimus as a brother indeed and gave him his freedom. Saint Onesimus was later made bishop and received the see of Ephesus after the death of the Apostle Timothy. This is recorded in the epistles of Saint Ignatius the God-Bearer. At the time of the persecution under Trajan, St. Onesimus, by then an old man, was arrested and taken to Rome. There he testified before the judge Tertylus, was imprisoned and finally slain. A wealthy woman took his body, placed it in a silver coffin and buried it, in the year 109 A.D.
+ By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 John 3:21-24, 4:1-11
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 14:43-72,15:1

"When the soul leaves the body, the enemy advances to attack it, fiercely reviling it and accusing it of its sins in a harsh and terrifying manner. The devout soul, however, even though in the past it has often been wounded by sin, is still not frightened by the enemy's attacks and threats. Strengthened by the Lord, winged by joy, filled with courage by the holy Angels that guided it, and encircled and protected by the light of faith, it answers the enemy with great boldness: 'Fugitive from heaven, wicked slave, what have I to do with thee? Thou has no authority over me; Christ the Son of God has authority over me and over all things." (Saint Theognostos of Alexandria)

"A monk once said to Abba (father) Philemon; I am very conscious of how my mind constantly wonders all over the place, drifting after things that are no good for it. What can I do, father, to be delivered? And he hesitated for a little while and then replied: "This is a remnant of the obsessions your external life inflicts on you. It still troubles you because you have not yet reached the heights of perfect longing for God. The longing for the experience of God has not yet fallen on you like fire." (Philokalia. Abba Philemon. The Discourse.)

by Saint John Climacus

So far, we have examined the following rungs: Renunciation, Detachment, Exile, Obedience, Repentance, and Remembrance of Death. Now we are ready to look at the seventh: mourning. Saint John describes it this way:

"Mourning which is according to God is a melancholy of the soul, a disposition of an anguished heart that passionately seeks what it thirsts for, and when it fails to attain it, pursues it diligently and follows behind it lamenting bitterly."

As a step on the Ladder of Divine Ascent, mourning yields abundant results:

"Those who make some progress in blessed mourning are usually temperate and untalkative. Those who have succeeded in making real progress do not become angry and do not bear grudges. As for the perfect--these are humble, they long for dishonor, they look out for involuntary sufferings, they do not condemn sinners and they are inordinately compassionate."

What exactly does Saint John mean by mourning, and how can we begin to mourn? Obviously he means something different from simply mourning over our sin, because he has already listed the step of repentance. To mourn in this context is not to repent, although repentance is part of the mourning process.

To mourn is to embrace a sober view of life which takes into account the reality of human suffering (all a result of sin, which is how repentance and mourning are related), the shortness of human life (which is why remembrance of death leads to mourning), and the exactitude of divine judgment. It is to see ourselves as finite creatures who are caught up in a large web of sickening violence, exploitation, and abuse. It is to see the entirety of humanity as tragically deceived by the devil. It is to weep over the state of mankind and our involvement in and contribution to that tragedy.

To mourn is to echo the words of the Jews living in a foreign land who were asked to sing songs of joy:

"How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth". (Psalm 137:6)

To mourn is to abandon a pleasure-oriented way of life. To mourn is to stop living for fun. To mourn is to realize that my life is intertwined with all of humanity, and that I cannot live in isolation from the suffering masses. Listen to Saint John's advice:

"Think of your lying in bed as an image of the lying in your grave; then you will not sleep so much. When you eat at table, remember the food of worms; then you will not live so highly. When you drink water, remember the thirst of the flames; then you will certainly do violence to your nature... Let the thought of eternal fire lie down with you in the evening and get up with you in the morning. Then indolence will never overwhelm you when it is time to sing the psalms."

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George