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 FOR THE ACCEPTANCE OF GOD’S WILL
O LORD, I know not what to ask of Thee. Thou alone knowest what are my true needs. Thou lovest me more than I myself know how to love. Help me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on Thee. My heart is open to Thee. Visit and help me, for Thy great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence Thy Holy Will and Thine inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to Thee. I put all my trust in Thee. I have no other desire than to fulfill Thy Will. Teach me how to pray. Pray Thou Thyself in me. Amen.
– Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow
On February 8th 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 the Commander and Great Holy Martyr; Holy Prophet Zacharias; Saints Nicephoros and Stephanos the Holy Martyrs.
THE HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR THEODORE STRATELATES (COMMANDER): There are martyrdoms that are more than costly. The costliness of a martyrdom depends on the greatness of the good things of this world that a Christian gives up, receiving suffering in its place; and it depends also on the greatness of the suffering which he endures for the sake of Christ. Saint Theodore, a Roman Commander in the army of the pagan Roman Emperor Licinius and governor of the city of Heraclea, scorned his youth, his good looks, his military status and the good will of the Emperor, and in place of all this received terrible tortures for the sake of Christ. Firstly Theodore was flogged, receiving 600 lashes on the back and 500 on the stomach; then he was crucified and pierced through with arrows. Finally he was slain with the sword. Why all this? Because Saint Theodore loved Christ more than anything else in the world. He scorned the foolish idol-worship of the superstitious Emperor, shattered the silver and gold idols, giving the pieces to the poor, brought many to the Christian faith and urged the Emperor himself to reject idolatry and believe in the One God. During the whole of his torture, Saint Theodore repeated unceasingly: ‘Glory to Thee, my God, glory to Thee!’ He suffered on February 8th, 319 AD, at three o’clock in the afternoon, and entered into the Kingdom of Christ. He is regarded as the protector of soldiers, who turn to him for help. His miracle-working holy relics were taken from Euchaita to Constantinople and buried in the Church at Vlachernae.
THE HOLY PROPHET ZECAHRIA: The eleventh of the Minor Prophets, he worked together with the Prophet Haggai to persuade Prince Zerubbabel to restore the Temple in the Jerusalem. He prophesied the solemn entry of Christ into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of an ass and Judas’s betrayal for thirty pieces of silver: “They weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” and the forsaking of Christ by His Apostles at the time of His Passion: “Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered.” He entered into rest in the second year of the reign of Darius Hystapes, in about 520 BC.
SAINT SAVA THE SECOND, ARCHBISHOP OF SERBIA: He was the son of King Stephen the First-Crowned and nephew of Saint Sava the First. Before becoming a monk, he was called Predislav. Following the example of his great uncle, he became a monk and gave himself zealously to the ascetic life. Chosen to be Archbishop of Serbia after Saint Arsenius, and taking the name Sava II, he governed the Church with great devotion and love. He entered into rest in 1268 AD, and his holy relics lie in the Monastery at Pe’e.
For your consideration:
Saint Seraphim of Sarov writes on despair: “AS the Lord works for our salvation, so the devil, that killer of men, works to lead man into despair.” And Saint Antiochus teaches that, when despair descends upon us, we must not surrender to it but, strengthened and protected by our Holy Faith, say resolutely to the wicked spirit: “What hast thou to do with us, thou who hast fallen away from God, thou fugitive from heaven and slave of wickedness? Thou darest in no wise do us harm, for Christ the Son of God has dominion over us and over all. But thou, O thou murderer, get thee away from us! Strengthened by His precious Cross, we trample upon thy serpent head!”
+ 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: Ephesians 2:4-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:16-22
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
“Prayer is the beginning of every good thing, and the mediator of salvation and eternal life...” Saint John Chrysostom
ORTHODOX FAITH AND LIFE
by Bishop Athanasius Yevtich
“Form the Image of Thy Christ in him who is about to be born again through my humility. Build him on the foundation of Thine Apostles and Prophets. Cast him not down, but plant him as “a plant of truth” in Thy Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”. [Holy Baptismal Prayer]
In essence, what is Christianity other than the Lord Christ? Christ, in fact, both signifies and is the Logos (Word) and the Son of God, Who took on flesh and became Man. It is well known that the name of Christ (Messiah, Anointed One) stems from the actual Incarnation of the Son and the Logos of God, that is, from the union of god and man, the union of the divine and the human in His person. God and man were united once and for all in Christ and, consequently, man was “anointed” (κεχρισμένος) with God, that is, man’s nature was anointed with the Divine nature. This is why God’s Logos, Who took on flesh and became Man, is called the “Christ” that is, God and man at the same time – the God-man, Θεάνθρωπος.
This basic and essential fact of our Christian Faith must be emphasized from the very beginning of our discourse on Orthodox Faith and life, alternatively on Orthodox dogma and ethics. This is important because many contemporary people, Christians among them, often make one of two very ancient errors. They either consider Christ as God, forgetting that God became one of us, i.e., a man of flesh and blood, or, vice versa, they consider Christ as a great, wise and good “man”, forgetting that Christ, at the same time, is the TRUE GOD, BECAUSE HE WAS AND REMAINED GOD AFTER HIS INCARNATION. This unity of the God-man Christ, i.e., this fact that Christ is both God and man at the same time, that He is the complete, perfect and true God, as well as the complete, perfect and true man, represents the singular event and truth of our Christian Faith and life. Without this particular and ultimate Christian truth, the truth about Christ as God-Man, which is offered to and accepted by man only through and with faith, there can be no Christianity or Christians, no Christian faith or ethics, no Christian dogma or life. The Christian ‘testimony’ (‘μαρτυρία’ or ‘martyria’) of Christ as the one personal (hypostatic) God and man represents the basic and most important testimony of the Holy Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors and of all the Saints (cf. Acts 1:8. 4:33; 1 John 1:2; 4:14; Rev. 1:2, 9:9, 20:4). The same applies to the testimony of the Church in the world, the Church’s preaching of the Gospel, the Church’s catholic and ecumenical faith. This is why the Gospels of the Church, which the Holy Apostles recorded as eyewitnesses, and sealing his testimony with their martyric blood, is none other than the TESTIMONY to the Son of God Who took flesh, that is, became man, and Who was crucified and resurrected for our sake, Who remains with us every day as God-man, even unto the end of time (cf. John 1:2-14; Matt. 16:16, 28:16-20; I Cor. 1:23-24, 15:1-24, 15:1-20; I John 1:1-3). This also constitutes the content of all the holy dogmas, confessed and sealed at the Ecumenical Councils of the Church (see the Nicene Creed and the Council of Chalcedon).
However, in order for us not to commit another dangerous error, which would take us outside of the revelation of the Christian truth, which means outside of Christ, it becomes necessary to emphasize another illustration in our faith in Christ the God-man. Namely, it is well known that our Christian being, life, ethics, begin at the time of our baptism in Christ, in His death and Resurrection (cf. Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3-6). It is when we are baptized in Christ, in God and in Man, and when we put on Christ and become partakers and members of His death as God-man, and of His Resurrection as God-man, that we become conforming (similar) and kindred to Him (σύμφυτοι, σύμμορφοι), according to the words of the holy Apostle Paul which are contained in the Church prayers read during holy Baptism. Therefore, at the time of the baptism of a person in the Orthodox Church, the priest pronounces mystically the name of the Holy and Life-giving Trinity over him: “The servant of God is baptized in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Immediately following the baptism, the newly baptized is anointed with the “anointing of the Holy Spirit”. This mystical act of the Church signifies that Christ, in Whom we are baptized, is united inseparably with the Holy Trinity-with the Father and the Holy Spirit. For this reason both our faith and our baptism in Christ as God-man is also our faith and baptism in the Holy Trinity at the same time – the one and only God. Christ is “one of the holy trinity”...
Therefore, if we separate Christ from the Church, or the Church from Christ, we commit a very grave mistake, i.e., we fall into one of the greatest heresies: we undo the incarnation of Christ, the incarnate Son and Logos of God, and drive Him out of His body. This means that we expel Him from man and the world. If we do away with the incarnation and the God-man Christ, how can we then be Christians and how can we speak about “Christianity”?
From what we have said thus far, it becomes obvious that Christ the God-man is clearly the essential mystery of Orthodoxy. Christ is the true and perfect God, inseparably united with the Holy Trinity and the true and perfect man, inseparably united with mankind, with all people who make up His body – the Church. This truth, this human and divine fact, embodies the entire dogma (and the dogmatics) of our evangelical Orthodox faith, and of our Christian evangelical life and ethics (Orthodox ethics) as taught by the Apostles and the Church Fathers.
With such a position on Faith, the Orthodox Church Tradition faithfully follows the Apostle Paul who explicitly preaches and emphasizes the Faith, the right and living Faith, the “belief of the truth” (II Thess. 2:13), which is the origin and the principle of our Christian being. “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our being (αρχή της υποστάσεως) firmly unto the end” (Heb. 3:14). In his interpretation of the Apostle Paul, Saint John Chrysostom says the following here: “And what is the beginning of our being (αρχή της υποστάσεως)? It is the faith through which we have become (Christians), have been born and, so to speak, have been essentially joined to Christ.” Faith then, is the beginning and the foundation of our Christian being (St. John Chrysostom’s expression υπέστημεν points out that we have, in fact, received our authentic hypostasis, our being, τό κατά Χριστόν υποστήναι, according to the words of Saint Nicholas Cabasilas) through which we have become, through which faith we have been born, and through which we have become “consubstantial” with Christ.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George