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.
THE PRAYER OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
O Lord and Master of my life, do not give me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk. (Prostration)
But give rather a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Your servant. (Prostration)
Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgression and not to judge my brother, for blessed are You unto age of ages. (Prostration) Amen.
On March 1st 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: Holy Martyr Antonina of Nicaea; St. Evdokia of Heliopolis; Sts. Nestor, Tribimius, Marcellus, and Anthony of Perge; Holy Martyrs Charisios, Nikephoros, and Agapios; St. Agapios of Vatopedi Monastery; St. Domnina the New of Kyros; Holy Martyrs Sylvester and Sophronius; New Holy Martyrs Abbess Antonina of Kizliar (1924 and Hieromartyr Methodius (1920); St. Martyrius of Zelenets; St. Anastasia Andreyevna, fool-for-Christ, Russia.
HOLY MARTYR ANTONINA OF NICAEA: In 4th century Bithynia in Asia Minor, St. Antonina went before the Christian-hating pagan Roman Emperor Maximian and boldly confessed her belief in Jesus Christ. He tortured her and put her in prison. When he realized her firm resolve, he had her suspended and ripped her sides. St. Antonina continually belittled the Greek gods and Maximian for his beliefs. Again, he ordered her stripped and beaten. Angels came to protect her and beat the soldiers before they could remove her clothes. Later, they attempted to burn her but she was protected. Finally, she was sewn into a sack and drowned.
+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:
Old Testament: Isaiah 2:11-21
Old Testament: Genesis 2:4-19
Old Testament: Proverbs 3:1-18
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"If you wish to gain victory over the passions, enter within yourself through prayer and God's help; then descend into the depths of your heart and there track down these three powerful giants---forgetfulness, laziness and ignorance. It is these three who uphold the ranks of our
spiritual adversaries: supported by these three, all the other passions, returning to the heart, act, live, and gain strength in self-indulgent and uninstructed souls. But if by means of great attention and persistence of mind and with help from above, you find those evil giants that are unbeknown to many, you will easily drive them away with the weapons of righteousness-- with the remembrance of what is good, with the eagerness that spurs the soul to salvation, and with knowledge from heaven". (Saint Mark the Ascetic)
40 DAY GREAT FAST
THE HOLY SERVICE OF THE "AKATHIST"
The "Akathist Hymn" is a profound, devotional poem, which sings the praises of the Holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary. While it is a composite work by more than one of our Ecclesiastical Hymnographers as we know it today, it was formally recited, or rather prayed in the year 626 A.D., in the Church of the Theotokos of Vlachernae in Constantinople, on the occasion of the deliverance of the "Queen City" from the siege of the Barbarians.
The "Akathist Hymn" is a very important and indeed an integral part of our religious and ecclesiastical life. It is chanted in all the Orthodox Churches throughout the world, during the first 5 Fridays in Holy Lent, and constitutes a very concrete spiritual preparation for the Holy and Great Week and Paschal Services. When we are present during the first Friday Service, we firmly realize that we commence to ascend the spiritual steps of the lengthy Lenten period, to finally reach the peak with our Lord's Glorious Resurrection.
The "Akathist Hymn" was not strange to the Latin West even though apart from the Orthodox Church. There is a reference that Pope Benedict XIV on May 4, 1746 granted an indulgence of fifty days to the Latin and Eastern Rite Catholics for each recitation of the Akathist Hymn.
In any of our Service Books we can readily see that our glorious and Ever-Virgin Theotokos is at the center of many of our Orthodox Services in which prayers abound for Her interceding to Her Son and our God, for our Salvation. The Virgin Mary is the Most exalted and Most honored person by God. She is the Most revered and Most loved by Orthodox Christians. She is the Unique Personality of the world, because of the unique fact of the Lord's Incarnation. She is the daughter of Grace and the Crystal Vessel of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. To Her we pray as our protecting Mother.
The devotional Hymns to the Ever-Virgin Mary are as ancient as the first Christian Church. The Byzantine Empire from its very inception closely allied itself to the Ever-Virgin Mary the Theotokos and always sought Her protection. This we see from the Prayer Services to the Theotokos in the 5th, through the 8th centuries. The "Akathist Hymn", which has more than one author, existed for the most part even before the established year of 626 A.D. The Kontakion "To the Invincible Champion... we ascribe the victory" was added then, and came to be recognized as the "Akathist Hymn" because of the following miracle attributed to the Theotokos.
While the Christian Emperor of Byzantium Heracleios was on an expedition to fight the aggression of the Persians on their own grounds, there appeared outside the walls of Constantinople barbaric hordes, mostly Avars. The siege lasted for a few months, and it was apparent that the outnumbered troops of the Queen City were reaching desperation.
However as history records, the faith of the Christians worked the impossible. The Venerable Patriarch Sergius with the Clergy and the high Official of Byzantium Vonos, endlessly marched along the great walls of Constantinople with the Holy Icon of the Theotokos in hand, and bolstered the faith of the defenders of freedom. The miracle came very soon. Unexpectedly, as the chronicler narrates, a great storm with huge tidal waves destroyed most of the fleet of the enemy, and full retreat ensued.
The faithful of Constantinople spontaneously filled the Church of the Theotokos at Vlachernae on the Golden Horn, and with the Patriarch Sergius officiating, they prayed all night, singing the praises of the Ever-Virgin Mary without sitting. Hence the title of the Hymn "Akathistos", the Greek word for "not seated".
This is the great Glory of our Holy Orthodox Church! Faith in the Almighty was primary and all-important. Our dependence on God was always beyond question, and from this faith we should strive not to stray. Therefore, Services like the "Akathist Hymn", should be a must, and attended by all. Moreover, this particular Service links us so beautifully with a greater and glorious period of our Christian History; it is also a very live tradition, which has never ceased in the Orthodox Church since the official year of the Hymn, 626 A.D.
Living in these trying times, when we are besieged by many forces of evil, it is my hope that the "Akathist Hymn" as well as our other holy Services may become the bulwark to withstand, and indeed to overcome these forces.
+Father George Papadeas of blessed memory
A TOTAL REDISCOVERY
by Fr. Alexander Schmemann
What w need is, first of all, the real rediscovery in the Church and by her faithful members of the true meaning of the Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of the Church, as that essential act in which she always becomes what she is: the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Sprit, the gift of the new life, the manifestation of the kingdom of God, the knowledge of God and communion with Him. The Church become all this by the "sacrament of the gathering" ---many coming together to constitute the church, by offering as one body united by one faith, one love, one hope, the holy oblation, by offering "with one mouth and one heart" the Eucharist, and by sealing this unity--in Christ with God, and in Christ with one another--in partaking of the Holy gifts.
What we need furthermore is the rediscovery of Holy Communion as the essential food uniting us to Christ, making us partakers of His life, death and resurrection, as the very means of fulfilling ourselves as members of the Church and of our spiritual life and growth.
What we need finally is the rediscovery of the true meaning of preparation as the very focus of our spiritual life, as that spiritual effort which always reveals to us our unworthiness and makes us therefore desire the Sacrament of healing and forgiveness, and which by revealing to us the unfathomable depth of Christ's love for us, makes us love Him and desire to be united with Him.
And if we "rediscover" all this, we shall also discover that in fact the entire life of the Church has always been that preparation: that all her rules--liturgical and spiritual, penitential and disciplinary--have indeed no other reason for existence but to help us in making our own life a constant preparation not only for Holy Communion but ultimately for that for which Holy Communion itself prepares us--the joy and fullness of the "day without evening" of God's Eternal Kingdom..
FOOD FOR THOUGHT...
The ascesis of the Holy Lent is meant to cultivate attitudes and practices that lead to repentance and self-accusation and to root out the prideful thoughts that set us on the slippery slope of self-importance and self-justification. Spiritual health begins only when I admit that I am my own worst enemy. Too many times we blame the world, the culture, and the demons for transgressions that are truly our own doing.
Geronda (Elder) Paisios of Mount Athos tells a story of a novice who lived with his Spiritual Father, and when left alone for a while, he took an egg and placed it on one of those large old-fashioned keys. He then lit a candle below it and started cooking the egg. Suddenly the Geronda (Elder) entered the room. "What are you doing there?" he asked. "Well, Geronda, the tempter led me to cook this egg here," the novice replied". And then a fierce voice was heard, "I know nothing about such cunning art; I just learned it from this novice." Sometimes the devil is actually sleeping but we rouse him into action!
Great Lent is a blessing and God's gift to us. When we recognize and admit our sin, then we are moved to correct what is in our power to correct. We correct ourselves and God comes close to us with His Grace and mercy. For every step that we take to get closer to God, God takes ten steps to get closer to us.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God