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.
PRAYER OF THE HOURS
O Christ our God, at every season and every hour, in heaven and on earth, You are worshipped and glorified. You are long-suffering, merciful and compassionate, loving the just and showing mercy to the sinner, calling all to salvation through the promise of blessings to come O Lord, in this hour receive our supplications and direct our lives according to Your Commandments. Sanctify our souls, hallow our bodies, correct our thoughts, cleanse our minds. Deliver us from all tribulations, evil and distress. Surround us with Your holy Angels, that guided and guarded by them, we may come to the unity of the faith and to the knowledge of Your unapproachable Glory, for You are Blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
On February 17th 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: Saint Theodore of Tyro; Saint Mariamna, Equal-to-the-Apostles; St. Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow; Saints Marcianos the Emperor and Pulcheria; St. Auxibios of Soli; St. Theodosius the Bulgarian; St. Romanus the Righteous of Bulgaria; St. Theodore the Silent of the Kiev Caves; St. Theosteriktos of Pelecete; Holy New Martyr Theodore of Byzantium; St. Barnabus, Geronda of the Gethsemane Skete; St. Tevdore of Atchara; The Finding of the holy relics of St. Menas the Kallikellados.
THE HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR THEODORE OF TYRO: "Tyro" means 'Recruit'. No sooner had Saint Theodore entered the Marmarite regiment of the army in the town of Amasea than a persecution of Christians broke out under the pagan Roman Emperor Maximian and Maximinus. Saint Theodore did not attempt to conceal that he was a Christian, and was brought to trial and imprisoned in a prison that was then locked and sealed. The wicked judge intended him to die of hunger, but the Lord Christ Himself appeared to St. Theodore in the prison and encouraged His holy Martyr with these words: 'Fear not, Theodore; I am with thee. Take no more earthly food and drink, for thou shall be in the other life, eternal and unending, with Me in Heaven.' Then a multitude of Angels appeared in the prison, and the whole place shone with light. The wardens on duty saw the Angels in white apparel and were filled with fear. Then Saint Theodore was taken out, tortured and condemned to death. He was thrown into fire, and gave his soul to the Most High God. He suffered in 306 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: 2 John 1:1-13
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 15:20 22, 25, 33-41
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION:
"Nothing and no one can snatch out of God's hands a soul dedicated to His service. For God gives to such a soul for the time of its earthly pilgrimage a narrow path paved with diverse sorrows and deprivations, because it is impossible to come to God along a broad way." (Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov)
"When the mind has divested itself of its fallen state and has clothed itself with the state of grace then in the time of prayer it can even see its own inner condition which is something like a sapphire, or the azure blue of the sky. Scripture calls this the dwelling place of God, which the elders saw on Mount Sinai." (Evagrios of Pontus. On Discrimination.)
LETTING THE PAST BE PAST
by Saint John Climacus
In the last chapter we talked about Step Eight (On Meekness) and we saw how dangerous anger is for our spiritual ascent towards God. At the end of this discussion I quoted Saint John's description of the "daughters" of anger. In Step Nine, he takes up one of these daughters: remembrance of wrong He writes:
"Remembrance of wrongs comes as the final point of anger. It is a keeper of sins. It hates a just way of life. It is the ruin of virtues, the poison of the soul, a worm in the mind. It is the shame of prayer, a cutting off of supplication, a turning away from love, a nail piercing the soul."
When we become angry, upset, and bothered by the actions of others, if we embrace that anger and claim it as our own (rather than rejecting it as belonging to the devil), if we take it into our hearts and into our souls and nourish it, feeding it with our memory (which has a tendency to exaggerate what it remembers, tilting it in our favor), we have practiced what Saint John is describing. Remembrance of wrongs is refusal to forgive, it is planning revenge; it is nourishing hurt feelings. It is practicing what is called the "broken record" syndrome: playing the hurts over and over again in our minds.
Saint John Climacus is correct in pointing out that this practice is spiritually (and emotionally) destructive. He writes:
"I have seen hatred shatter a...relationship, and then afterwards remembrance of wrongs stood in the way of restoring the relationship."
When anger is taken into our hearts and fed by our memory, it soon pushes every other thing out of our hearts. You cannot have anger and love in the same heart for long. The nature of anger is that it is always growing. Have you ever noticed that you can't stay angry at just one person? Anger against one person tends to spill over.
Once I have turned the corner and have embarked on my own self-pity party, I soon begin to notice how many people treat me poorly and speak to me rudely. I then begin to add them to my broken record, and my list of offenses grows larger. I become angrier and more bitter. I become more and more self-absorbed. I love less and I am able to receive love less. Ultimately, I become so embittered that I experience no love and I give no love. I am alone in hell! The demons have me just where they want me to be.
How do I escape from this hell? How do I keep from descending into it in the first place? Saint John Climacus has lots of good, practical advice. First, he says it is better not to get angry, not to notice wrongs which have been done against us.
"The man who has put a stop to anger has also wiped out remembrance of wrongs."
Secondly, when we get angry (and which of us is at the place where we do not get angry?), we must immediately reject the feelings of anger and disturbance as being Satan-inspired and spiritually destructive.
"Forgive quickly and you will be abundantly forgiven. To forget wrongs is to prove oneself truly repentant, but to brood on them and at the same time to imagine one is practicing repentance is to act like the man who is convinced he is running when in fact he is fast asleep."
Thirdly, if we find ourselves unable to forgive the person, we must remind ourselves who is the real source of sin and destruction.
"Let your malice and your spite be turned against the devils."
The people who offended us and sin against us are not the real culprits! Satan and his demons are behind every sin and injustice committed in this world. We must pity the one who has been used by Satan, and we must despise Satan. To remember his wrongs is spiritually helpful. To remind ourselves constantly of his ability to deceive is to remind ourselves to stay away from his devices and close to the Holy Church.
Fourthly, if after all of this, we are still unable to rid ourselves of remembrance of wrongs, Saint John advises the following:
"If after great effort you still fail to root out this thorn, go to your enemy and apologize, if only with empty words whose insincerity may shame you. Then as conscience, like a fire, comes to give you pain, you may find that a sincere love of your enemy may come to life."
Hard words! But how much harder is hell! In case you don't see how these words apply to you, consider the following:
"Never imagine that this dark passion is a passion of no importance, for it often reaches out even to spiritual men."
Such is the Ninth step. Let him who has taken it have the courage henceforth to ask Jesus the Savior to free him from his sins.
Please note: There is a Divine Liturgy today at 10:00 A.M. for the holy feast of Saint Theodore of Tyro. This coming Saturday is the 1st Saturday of Souls and following the Divine Liturgy there will be a memorial service of all our departed brothers and sisters in Christ. Make a sincere effort to attend and to bring me the Orthodox Baptismal names of your loves ones and if possible Kollyva (boiled wheat). Let us not neglect or abandon our Holy Orthodox Christian tradition and duty to our beloved members of our family who need our love and prayers.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God