Daily Message: Our Spiritual Journey to Holy Pascha

St. John Cassian the Confessor

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 έστι.


We chant the following Troparion with its verses in: Tone Plagal II

Faithful: Lord of the Powers, be with us; for other helper have we not, in tribulations but you. Lord of the Powers, have mercy on us.
Κύριε τών Δυνάμεων, μεθ΄ ημών γενού, άλλον γάρ εκτός σου βοηθόν,
εν θλίψεσιν ούκ έχομεν.  Κύριε τών Δυνάμεων, ελέησον ημάς.

Verse: Praise God in all His Holies; praise Him in the firmament of His Might.

Lord of the Powers, be with us...

Verse: Praise Him in His sovereign Powers; praise Him in the multitude of His Greatness.

Lord of the Powers, be with us...

Verse: Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with psaltery and harp.

Lord of the Powers, be with us...

Verse: Praise Him with drums and dancing; praise Him with string instruments and organ.

Lord of the Powers, be with us...

Praise Him with sweet-sounding cymbals; praise Him with cymbals of joy. Let every breath praise the Lord.

Lord of the Powers, be with us...

The 1st chorus: Praise God in His Holies.

The 2nd chorus: Praise Him in the firmament of His Might.

Lord of the Powers, be with us, for other helper have we not, in tribulations but you. Lord of the Powers, have mercy on us.

Priest: Offers the following prayer of Saint Basil the Great: Lord, Lord, Who have delivered us from every arrow that flies by day, deliver us from anything that lurks about in darkness. Accept the lifting of our hands as an evening sacrifice. Make us worthy to traverse the time of night blamelessly, untouched by evil, and redeem us from every disturbance and fear caused by the devil. Grant contrition to our souls and concern to our minds about the accounting at your awesome and just judgment. Nail down our bodies with your fear, and deaden our earthly members, so that even in the quiet of our slumber we may be enlightened by the contemplation of Your ordinances. Keep away from us every indecent fantasy and harmful desire. Awaken us in the time of prayer rooted in the faith, and thriving in Your instructions; through the Good will and  Goodness of Your Only-begotten Son, with Whom You are Blessed, together with Your All-Holy and Good and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

On February 29th 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 John Cassian the Confessor.

+ By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Confessors, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Orthros (Matins) Old Testament: Isaiah 2:3-11
Esperinos (Vespers) Old Testament 1: Genesis 1:24-2:3
Esperinos (Vespers) Old Testament 2: Proverbs 2:1-22

Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete III.
Wednesday Evening at 6:30 p.m. Presanctified Liturgy
Evening Lenten Supper following the Liturgy

by Reverend Father John Mack

The third step on our ascent to God is labeled by Saint John Climacus as exile. He defines it n this way:

"Exile is a separation from everything, in order that one may hold on totally to God...An exile is a fugitive, running from all relationships with his own relatives and with strangers."

These words, which are indeed strong, are not only for monastics. It would certainly make our lives in the world a lot easier if we could simply dismiss this as advice only for monks and nuns. But it also would make our lives more empty of God! Saint John Climacus' words remind us of Saint Peter's description of every Christian:

"Beloved, I beg you" as sojourners and pilgrims, "abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" 1 Peter 2:11.

And they also seem mild compared to the instruction of our Lord: "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (St. Matthew 10:37, 38).

Family relationships are good things, ordained and established by God. So too are our friendships and the deep love which comes from them. Marriage is an honorable estate, ordained and sanctified by God. However, even good things can get in the way of our ascent to God. The great danger is that we will allow our relationships to keep us from pursuing God.

This is most obviously true about relationships with people who are not pursuing God at all. Saint Paul reminds us:

"Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits'". (1 Cor. 15:33).

It is better to remain alone than to be attached intimately to and with someone who does not share our desire for God or our understanding of the Orthodox Faith. To follow hard after God means that we must often endure the offenses and insults of those around us who do not understand our desire to find God and to experience Him in our lives. To practice exile means that we choose God rather than them. We are encouraged by the example of Moses:

"By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin". (Hebrews 11:24,25)

As Christians we do not belong to this world; Jesus reminds us that we are "not of this world" (St. John 15:19). In the world, yes; but of it, never! Therefore, we will often feel like strangers, those who do not fit into the rhythms and patterns of this world. This is exile--to accept and rejoice in the loneliness of the Christian's life in the world.

Of course, it becomes much more difficult to discern how the virtue of exile applies to our relationships with fellow Orthodox Christians. These relationships are good, and our tradition insists that they must not be neglected in the formation of our own spiritual lives. We need each other; together we find salvation.

However, there is a danger even in good relationships. These relationships can sometimes take the place of God in our lives. We can begin to look to people (even good people) to be God for us. We can substitute relationships with spiritual people for a relationship with God. Exile reminds us of this danger.

Especially during Holy Lent, when we are encouraged to practice silence and solitude, it is good to reorient ourselves toward God alone. Not that we stop pursuing our healthy and positive relationships, but rather that we determine in our hearts and minds that these relationships are important to us, not because of how they make us feel, but rather because of how they help us pursue God. As Saint John Climacus writes:

"Let your father be the one who is able and willing to labor with you in bearing the burden of your sins, and your mother the compunction that is strong enough to wash away your filth. Let your brother be your companion and rival in the race that leads to heaven, and may the constant thought of death be your spouse. Let your longed-for-offspring be the moanings of your heart. May your body be your slave, and your friends the holy powers who help you in the hour of dying if they become your friends."


"O Man-Befriending Master, Lord Jesus my God, let not these Holy Gifts be unto me for judgment through mine unworthiness, but for the purification and sanctification of both soul and body, and as an earnest of the life and the Kingdom to come. For it is good for me to cleave unto God and to place in the Lord the hope of my salvation".

"Of Thy Mystic Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant..."

All these Prayers confess: On the one hand, the firm faith and fiery love towards our Lord Jesus Christ and on the other, our weak and sinful state, which makes us, tremble with fear before the Holy Cup. In addition, these prayers confess the fact that the devil tempts us with awful and unclean thoughts, so that he make take away the sense of peacefulness within our souls, bring us into despair and finally make us feel estranged with Holy Communion.

As a Spiritual father, I assure you that the devil numerous times creates problems to several souls by generating such thoughts that ultimately deprive them of Holy Communion. That is to say, their inner self is tormented with shameful, filthy and blasphemous thoughts. Furthermore, although the soul is in all aspects prepared by having already obtained the Spiritual father's consent, nevertheless, as soon as they proceed to receive Holy Communion, they are flooded with these unclean thoughts, they get agitated and eventually, they do not draw near. As if this is not enough, if someone does not confess these thoughts as soon as possible, meaning what happens when he enters the Church, for instance, the filthy, dirty, shameful, and blasphemous thoughts he is tormented by, and especially, when this situation occurs during the moment when he draws near to receive Holy Communion, they may drive him crazy. If a great deal of time has gone by before these thoughts are confessed, it is very difficult for the soul to believe and be reinforced so as to be able to despise them in order to draw near the immaculate Gifts without fear! Therefore, be prudent!

When devilish thoughts attack us like birds of prey, just because they want to tear us to pieces with either doubts, or shamefulness and blasphemy... They are mere attacks, to which we should pay no attention. These demonic thoughts ought to be ignored and immediate obedience should be made to the Church, which through the Confessor tells us: "Draw near for Holy Communion".

God is an ocean of love and mercy and His tender-mercies are infinite. If we are weak, He is Almighty. He is Strong in forgiving, strong in loving, for He is love! Our feelings are somewhat strange during these moments. No matter how much we have prepared ourselves, we are sinful, wretched, deplorable and unworthy. How are we to lift up our eyes and contemplate Christ's Divine Bridal Chamber? (By Bridal chamber, we mean the Holy Cup).

If we do not commune on our own, we shall be violating God's commandment that says, "Take, eat…Drink ye all of it…" (St. Matthew 26:26-27) "He that eateth My flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him" (St. John 6:56 and 54).

Every Divine Liturgy confesses the Resurrection. With Holy Communion, we sense that the Resurrection is being ministered inside our whole being, Christ our master is resurrected within us, brightly clothed and shining brilliantly. [ Protopresbyter Stephanos K. Anagnostopoulos ]

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

+Father George