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 εν τώ μέσω ημών. Και ήν και έστι και έσται.
THE OFFERTORY PRAYER FROM THE DIVINE LITURGY OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT
PRIEST: (In a low voice as the Liturgy is being chanted) O Lord our God, You created us and brought us into this present life. You have shown us ways to salvation and given us a revelation into heavenly mysteries, ordaining us to this ministry by the grace of Your Holy Spirit. See fit, O Lord, to accept us as servants of Your New Covenant, ministers of Your Sacred Mysteries. In the great of Your love accept us as we approach Your holy altar, so that we may be rendered worthy to offer You this spiritual and bloodless sacrifice, for our sins and for the failings of the people.
Having received it at Your holy and spiritual altar above the heavens as a fragrant scent, will You in turn send down on us the grace of Your Holy Spirit. Look upon us, consider our sacrifice, and accept it as You accepted the gifts of Abel, the offerings of Noah, and Aaron, the peace offerings of Samuel. As You accepted this true worship from Your holy Apostles, likewise, in Your Goodness, Lord, accept these gifts from our sinful hands; so that, having been judged worthy to serve blamelessly at Your holy altar, we may obtain the reward of the faithful and prudent stewards on the fearful day of Your just judgment.
Priest: Through the mercies of Your Only-begotten Son, with Whom You are Blessed, together with Your All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On March 13th 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 Christina of Persia; Translation of the holy relics of St. Nicephoros of Constantinople; St. Pouplios, Bishop of Athens; Sabinus of Egypt; St. Avivos of Hermoupolis; St. Alexaner of Macedonia; Saints Africanus, Publius, and Terence of Carthage; St. Aninas of the Euphrates.
SAINT NICEPHOROS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE (758-829 A.D.). He governed the holy Church with wisdom and zeal as the greatest arch-pastor of Constantinople. When Leo the Armenian made his stand against holy icons, he opposed the Emperor; first counseling him and then denouncing him. For this the accursed Emperor exiled him to the island of Prochonis. There was a monastery on that island, which St. Nicephoros himself had built in honor of Saint Theodore. And this confessor of the Orthodox Christian faith spent thirteen years there, then died and went to the Lord in 827 A.D. Then all the iconoclast Emperors perished, and Michael, with his mother Theodora, came to the imperial throne in 842 A.D., and Methodios became the Patriarch. Then, in 846 A.D. the holy relics of Saint Nicephoros were translated from Prochonnesus to Constantinople and placed first in the Church of Agia Sophia, from which he had been driven in his lifetime, and then in the church of the Holy Apostles. The main commemoration of this great hierarch is on June 2nd, but on March 13th is commemorated the finding and translation of his uncorrupt holy relics. Saint Nicephoros was driven from Constantinople on March 13th, and on March 13th, nineteen years later, his holy relics were brought back to his patriarchal seat.
THE HOLY MARTYR CHRISTINA OF PERSIA. Saint Christina was harshly tortured in Persia in the 4th century for her unfaltering confession of the Christian faith. The torturers whipped her so terribly that she died from exhaustion. Her soul parted from her martyred body and went to dwell in the eternal joy of Christ her King and Lord.
+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:
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Happy indeed is that soul and truly to be admired which in its love of doing good fears not the failing of the means, and has no distrust that God will give him money still to spend, from Whom he had what he spent in the past. But because few possess this greatness of heart, and yet it is truly a pious thing for each one not to forsake the care of his own, we, without prejudice to the more perfect sort, lay down for you this general rule and exhort you to perform God's bidding according to the measure of your ability. For cheerfulness becomes the benevolent man, who should so manage his liberality that while the poor rejoice over the help supplied, home needs may not suffer. 'And He who ministers seed to the sower, shall provide bread to be eaten and multiply your seed and increase the fruits of your righteousness' (2 Cor. 9:10). [St. Leo the Great]
CONCERNING MAN'S PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH A PERSONAL GOD
by Saint Silouan the Athonite
The Lord said to Pontius Pilate, 'I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth', to which Pilate replied skeptically, 'What is truth?' and convinced that there could be no answer the query, did not look for one, even from Christ, but went out to the Jews.
Pilate was right. There is no answer to the question what is truth?, if we have in mind the ultimate truth at the root of the whole existence of the world. But Pilate, meaning Primal or Axiomatic Truth, had phrased his question as it should have been phrased -- if he had asked who is truth? he would have received the answer that, a little while previously, Christ, foreseeing Pilate's query, gave at the Mystical Supper to His beloved disciples, and through them to the whole world: 'I am the truth'.
Science and philosophy set themselves the question, what is truth?, whereas Christian religious perception always considers truth as 'Who'.
Scientists and philosophers not infrequently look upon Christians as unsound day-dreamers, whereas they themselves stand on firm ground and so label themselves positivists. In a curious way they do not realize all the negativeness of truth as what. They do not understand that authentic truth, absolute truth, can be only 'who' never 'what,' since truth is not some abstract formula, some abstract idea, but life itself.
In fact, what could be more abstract, more negative than truth as what? And we notice this tremendous paradox throughout the history of the human race, starting with Adam's fall. Enchanted by his reasoning mind, man lives, intoxicated as it were, so that not only 'positive' science and philosophy, like Pilate, pose the question, "what is truth?' but even in the religious life of mankind we find the same great delusion, with people continually seeking truth as "what'.
Truth as 'who' is never arrived at through reason. God as 'Who' can be known only through communion in being--that is, only by the Holy Spirit. Staretz (Elder) Silouan constantly emphasized this.
The Lord Himself spoke of it thus:
"If a man love me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him...The Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things."
Orthodox ascetic experience rejects the course of abstract contemplation. Whoever restricts his thinking about God to abstract contemplation of Good, Beauty, Eternity, Love and so only, is on the wrong road. The one who only strips himself of all empirical forms and conceptions has also not found the True Path.
Orthodox contemplation of God is not abstract contemplation of good, love and the like. Nor is it a simple withdrawal of the mind from all empirical forms and conceptions. True contemplation is given by God through His coming into the soul. The souls then contemplates God and beholds that He loves, that He is good, magnificent, eternal, sees Him celestial, ineffable. But in the abstract nothing can be contemplated.
Imagination plays no part in true spiritual life, which is wholly concrete and positive. Genuine concourse with God is to be sought solely through personal prayer to the Personal God. Real spiritual Christian experience is communion with God absolutely free, and so does not depend only on man's efforts and will, as is possible in non-Christian (pantheistic) experience.
Christ's manifestation to St. Silouan was a personal encounter by virtue of which his approach to God acquired a deeply personal character. In prayer he conversed with God face to face. The feeling of God being Personal delivers prayer from the imagination and abstract argument, transporting everything into an invisible core of lively inward communion. Concentrated within, prayer ceases to be 'a cry into space', and the mind becomes all attention and listening. Calling upon the Divine Name -- Father, Lord and other appellations - St. Silouan continued up in a state about which 'it is not lawful for a man to speak'. But whoever has himself experienced the presence of the living God will understand.
A remarkable ascetic in Saint Panteleimon's noticed this in Staretz Silouan and was awed and at a loss but only spoke of it after the Staretz' demise.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God