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.
As we prepare to enter the holy period of Great
Lent we are to have the following in mind:
A PRAYER FOR CONFESSION - SAINT JOHN OF KRONSTADT
I, a sinful soul, confess to our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, all of my evil acts which I have done, said or thought from baptism even unto this present day. I have not kept the vows of my baptism, but have made myself unwanted before the face of God. I have sinned before the Lord by lack of faith and by doubts concerning the Orthodox Faith and the Holy Church; by ungratefulness for all of God's great and unceasing gifts; His long-suffering and His Providence for me, a sinner; by lack of love for the Lord, as well as fear, through not fulfilling the Holy Commandments of God and the canons and rules of the Church. I have not preserved a love for God and for my neighbor nor have I made enough efforts, because of laziness and lack of care, to learn the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Holy Fathers. I have sinned: by not praying in the morning and in the evening and in the course of the day; by not attending the services or by coming to Church only half-heartedly, lazily and carelessly; by conversing during the services, by not paying attention, letting my mind wonder and by departure from the Church before the dismissal and blessing. I have sinned by judging members of the clergy. I have sinned by not respecting the Feasts, breaking the Fasts, and by immoderation in food and drink. I have sinned by self-importance, disobedience, willfulness, self-righteousness, and the seeking of approval and praise. I have sinned by unbelief, lack of faith, doubts, despair, despondency, abusive thoughts, blasphemy and swearing. I have sinned by pride, a high opinion of myself, narcissism, vanity, conceit, envy, love of praise, love of honors, and by putting on airs. I have sinned: by judging, malicious gossip, anger, remembering of offenses done to me, hatred and returning evil for evil; by slander, reproaches, lies, slyness, deception and hypocrisy; by prejudices, stubbornness, and an unwillingness to give way to my neighbor; by gloating, spitefulness, taunting, insults and mocking; by gossip, by speaking too much and by empty speech. I have sinned by unnecessary and excessive laughter, by reviling and dwelling upon my previous sins, by arrogant behavior, insolence and lack of respect. I have sinned by not keeping my physical and spiritual passions in check, by my enjoyment of impure thoughts, licentiousness and unchastity in thoughts, words and deeds. I have sinned by lack of endurance towards my illnesses and sorrows, a devotion to the comforts of life and by being too attached to my parents, children, relatives and friends. I have sinned by hardening my heart, having a weak will and by not forcing myself to do good. I have sinned by miserliness, a love of money, the acquisition of unnecessary things and immoderate attachment to things. I have sinned by self-justification, a disregard for the admonitions of my conscience and failing to confess my sins through negligence or false pride. I have sinned many times by my Confession: belittling, justifying and keeping silent about sins. I have sinned against the Most-holy and Life-creating Mysteries of the Body and Blood of our Lord by coming to Holy Communion without humility or the fear of God. I have sinned in deed, word and thought, knowingly and unknowingly, willingly and unwillingly, thoughtfully and thoughtlessly, and it is impossible to enumerate all of my sins because of their multitude. But I truly repent of these and all others not mentioned by me because of my forgetfulness and I ask that they be forgiven through the abundance of the Mercy of God.
On February 21st 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: Righteous Holy Father Timothy of Symvola; Saint Efstathius the Confessor, Patriarch of Antioch the Great; Saint George, Bishop of Amastris; Saint John Scholasticus, Patriarch of Constantinople; Saint Zacharias, Patriarch of Jerusalem. On this day we celebrate the Synaxis of the Cucuzeles holy Icon of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary.
SAINT ZACHARIAS, PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM: The Persian King Chozroes attacked Jerusalem, ransacking the city, in the time of the Great Emperor Heraclius, in 614 A.D. He took the Precious and Holy Cross off to Persia and enslaved an enormous number of Christians, including Patriarch Zacharias. The Jews supported him in his wickedness towards the Christians. It is recorded, among further malice on the part of the Jews, that they bought 90,000 Christian slaves from Chozroes and killed them all. The aged Patriarch spent fourteen years in slavery. Many marvels were wrought in Persia by the Precious and Holy Cross, and the Persians exclaimed: 'The Christian God has come to Persia!' The Byzantine Emperor Heraclius later compelled King Chozroes to return the Precious and Holy Cross of Christ to Jerusalem, together with the Patriarch and the remaining slaves. The Emperor himself carried the Holy Cross into the City on his back. Saint Zacharias spent his remaining days in peace, and went to the Lord in 632 A.D. Patriarch Modestos succeeded the Patriarchal throne, and after him came Saint Sophronios.
OUR HOLY FATHER TIMOTHEOS: A hermit in a place called Symvola on Asiatic Olympus, St. Timothy (theos) entered a monastery very young and spent his earthly life in fasting, prayer, vigils and unceasing toil right up to a great age. He remained pure and chaste throughout his life. God gives power over evil spirits to the pure and chaste, and this gift He gave to Saint Timotheos. Through careful watching over his soul, St. Timothy built within himself a glorious abode for the Holy Spirit. This holy man entered into rest in 795 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: St. Jude 1:1-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 22:39-42, 45-71; 23:1 ["And coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, 'Pray that you may never enter into temptation…' When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, 'Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.' St. Luke 22:39-46]
Please note: The gospel message indicates the importance that Jesus places on prayer and why. One cannot confess to be a Christian and not have a prayer life. Our Lord Himself is our most excellent example of Prayer. If He thought it necessary to pray why don't we?
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"When as a man you have sinned in anything, repent over it before God. If you are reproached by anyone, without any contradiction beg forgiveness with a bow, saying: I beg forgiveness, I have sinned, I am guilty; for it is good, teaches Abba Dorotheos, in answer to any word which we may hear, to say: forgive me." (+Abbot Nazarius)
FAITH, TRUTH AND TEMPERANCE
by Father Christopher Salamy
"These three things God requires of all the baptized: right faith in the heart, truth on the tongue, temperance in the body." --St. Gregory the Theologian
We are all striving to be good people, to truly live as God's children, but there are challenges that accompany our lives. How do I overcome them? What do I need to do? How should I live my life as a child of God? What is required from me?
With these three attributes, Saint Gregory answers the most important question which answers all the other questions: "What does it mean to truly be an Orthodox Christian?"
- The first of Saint Gregory's requirements is "right faith in the heart."
Saint Gregory lived in the 4th century and was instrumental in establishing the Trinitarian faith we now call The Orthodox Faith. His writings formulated much of what we now believe and he fought for that truth until his life's end. To have "right faith in the heart" means to hold steadfastly to the beliefs of the Gospel of Christ and to the dogmas of our Church and not simply to ascribe to what seems trendy or convenient at the time. Most importantly, that means that we believe in One God Who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It also means that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ Who lived among us and died on the Cross and was raised on the third day for our salvation. From these two essential beliefs all of the other teachings of the Orthodox Faith come. We must live our lives according to those beliefs which are taught in the life of the Church. It is not possible to fully know the Church's teachings if we are not totally involved in her life. That means we must always be present in her worship, her education, her service and her fellowship To live our lives as children of God means that we live a life that is guided and instructed by the Holy Church.
- Saint Gregory's Second requirement is "truth on the tongue."
We all know what it means to be honest but are often confronted with situations that make it hard to tell the truth. But we can never waiver with words that come from our mouths and the actions that we take. A person is only as good as his word and if his word is not truthful, then neither is he a truthful person. You cannot "feel" like an honest person while speaking untruthful words. The two cannot coexist! Sometimes, however, this not as easy as it seems. Always being truthful also means that we take responsibility when we make a mistake. If someone confronts you about an inappropriate word or action, we must quickly admit to it, and take the steps to seek forgiveness, rectify the sin and move forward as a better person. Think of our country's first President and the difficult--but honorable --story of how he admitted to chopping down the cherry tree. He probably took some heat from his parents for it, but he will always be remembered in history as a truthful man!
- Saint Gregory's last requirement is "temperance in the body."
Temperance is defined as: moderation or self restraint in action, statement, etc., self control. We must not let the temptations of the world overpower us. We take our strength from God Himself Who is more powerful than anything we may encounter. Exercising self-control means having control over our bodies, our minds, and our tongues. Guard what goes in to our bodies so we can guard what comes out of our bodies. Practically, that implies not overeating, hence the Church's discipline of fasting. It means not craving money and material things at the expense of what's right, hence the Church's discipline of tithing. It means not talking excessively about non-essential and worldly things, revealed b y the Lord and His Saints whose mouths are always closed in their holy icons. And it means controlling the things we think about, i.e., not filling our souls with garbage but rather with the divine teachings of the Holy Gospel.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God