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 Χριστός έν τώ μέσω ημών. Και ήν και έστι και έσται.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men! We praise You! We bless You! We worship You! We glorify You! We give thanks to You for Your Great Glory. O Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty! O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father: You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. You take away the sins of the world: receive our prayer. You sit at the right hand of God the Father have mercy on us. For You alone are Holy, You alone are Lord. You alone, O Jesus Christ, are Most High in the Glory of God the Father. Amen.
Every day will I give thanks to You and praise Your Name forever and ever. Lord, You have been our refuge from generation to generation. I said: Lord, be merciful to me. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You. Lord, I flee to You. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. For with You is the fountain of Life and in Your Light shall we see light. Continue Your mercy to those who know You.
On February 16th 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: The Twelve Holy Martyrs Pamphilos, Valentine, Paul, Elias, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Samuel, Daniel, Porphyrios, Seleucus, Theodulos, Julian in Caesaria of Palestine; St. Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople; Saint Maruthas, Bishop of Martyropolis; St. Macarius, Metropolitan of Moscow; St. Flavian the Hermit; New holy Martyr Romanos of Mt. Athos (1694); New holy Martyrs Elias and Peter of Russia (1931); Persian holy Martyrs under Shapur.
THE TWELVE HOLY MARTYRS WHO SUFFERED IN THE REIGN OF THE PAGAN ROMAN EMPEROR DIOCLETIAN: The first of these, St. Pamphilos, was priest in the church of Caesarea in Palestine; a learned and devout man, he corrected the mistakes of various copies in the text of the New Testament. Saint Pamphilos copied this saving Book and gave it to any who desire it.
The second holy martyr was a deacon, Valentine, old in years and white with wisdom. He was a great expert in the Holy Scriptures, knowing them by heart.
The third holy martyr was Paul, a respected and eminent man, who had on a previous occasion been cast into the fire for the sake of Christ.
With them were five Egyptians, brothers both in blood and soul, who were returning to their native land from serving a sentence in the minds of Cilicia. As they reached the gate of the town of Caesarea they said that they were Christians, and were therefore brought to trial. When asked their names, they replied: 'We have cast away the pagan names given us by our mother, and are called Elias, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Samuel, and Daniel.' When asked where they were from, they replied: 'From Jerusalem that is above.' They were all beheaded, and a young man called Porphyrios, who had search for their bodies to give them burial, suffered soon afterwards. Him they burned.
An officer, Seleucus, who had come up to the martyrs and embraced them before the sword descended on their heads, was also burned, and an old man, Theodulos, a servant of the Roman escort.
Lastly Julian, who had kissed the dead bodies of the holy martyrs and honored them, followed them in death. So they exchanged the small for the great, the tawdry for the precious and death for immortality, and went to the Lord in 308 A.D.
+ 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: 1 John 4:20-21, 5:1-21
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 15:1-15
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Neither should wealth impress you, nor honor, but always walk justly. Eat your bread with your honorable sweat and not through unjust means. The things you gain honorably, do not squander aimlessly. Live honorably and humbly, and as much as possible extend your hands in charity...Knock on the doors of the poor, the sick, the orphans. You should prefer the homes of the afflicted to the homes of the joyous. If you do good works, you will have a great reward from God." (Saint George of Drama)
BENDING WITHOUT BREAKING
by Saint John Climacus
We are ready to turn our attention to Step Eight of the Ladder of heaven. Saint John labels it On Meekness and introduces it this way:
"As the gradual pouring of water on a fire puts out flame completely, so the tears of genuine mourning can extinguish every flame of anger and irascibility."
When we looked at mourning we noted that Saint John is describing a life of sobriety. To mourn is to realize that we are all caught in a large web of sin and deceit; it is to recognize and fully believe that perfection is not possible in this world (even the Saints made mistakes!); it is to pursue only the Kingdom which is to come. Those who have grasped what Saint John is describing can understand why the next step is to put aside anger.
Why do we become angry? Is it not most often because we are pursuing the perfect in this world? Is it not because we are busy building up our own "kingdoms" instead of the Kingdom of God? Is it not because we are concerned about how we appear and are treated in this world, rather than how we will appear and be treated in the world to come? Does not our anger most often have its source in our exalted opinion of the possibilities and capabilities of ourselves and of all those who are around us?
Anger is a terrible passion which drives away from us the spirit of God and allows the demonic spirits to inhabit our souls. Anger, when it is given license in our souls, distorts are perspective, muddles our thinking, confuses our heart, and renders us unable to defend ourselves against the attacks of Satan. Saint John describes it this way:
"Angry people, because of their self-esteem, make a pitiable sight, though they do not realize this themselves. They get angry and then, when thwarted, they become furious."
Meekness is the antidote to anger.
"So, then, anger the oppressor must be restrained by the chains of meekness, beaten by patience, hauled away by blessed love."
Saint John Climacus is very practical in his advice for developing meekness. Meekness is first of all developed by not answered back when we are spoken to in an angry way. Those who are beginning on the road to meekness must take as their first rule: "I will never speak in an angry tone of voice to anyone who speaks in anger to me. I will not answer back in kind." They should then extend this rule to include the following: "I will never allow myself to speak in anger to anyone," period. This is especially true when I give advice or counsel or rebuke to those who are under my authority.
Those who are progressing on the road to meekness must take as their second rule: "I will not allow my mind to think angry thoughts against those who speak in angry words to me. By extension, this means: "I will not allow my mind to think angry thoughts against anyone," period. I will not cherish thoughts of revenge or harbor ill feelings against anyone." Those who have progressed this far are close to perfection: "I will not notice those who offend me."
These have achieved true inner peace. The goal of meekness is not merely to say nothing back, nor is it to think nothing---it is to notice nothing; to be so absent from self-concern and others-concern that the praise and the rebukes of men are not even noticed! Can you even begin to imagine the joy and the inner freedom of those who have attained this position? The tyranny of the opinions of others, the ability of others to control our lives by "making us angry" through their treatment of us, is terrible bondage. To be freed from this is wonderful freedom. The road to this freedom is before us:
"Take [anger] before the tribunal of reason and have it examined in the following terms: 'Wretch, tell us the name of your father, the name of the mother who bore you to bring calamity into the world, the names of your loathsome sons and daughters. Tell us, also, who your enemies are and who has the power to kill you.' And this is how anger replies: "I come from many sources and I have more than one father. My mothers are Vainglory, Avarice, Greed. And Lust too. My father is named Conceit. My daughters have the names of Remembrance of Wrongs, Hate, Hostility, and Self-justification. The enemies who have imprisoned me are the opposite virtues--Freedom from Anger and Lowliness, while Humility lays a trap for me."
On the eighth step the crown is freedom from anger. He who wears it by nature may never come to wear another. But he who has sweated for it and won it has conquered all eight together.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George