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.
O Lord and Master of my life, do not give me the spirit of sloth, 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 transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed are You unto ages of ages. Amen. (prostration)
On March 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: Saint Thomas, Patiarch of Constantinople; Saints Philemon and Domninus of Rome; Saint Cyril, Bishop of Catania; Saint Lupicinus of Gaul; Saint Iakovos the Younger; Saint Michael of Muroudis (1544); Holy Hieromartyr Theodore of Russia; Saint Seraphim of Vyritsa; Saint Serapion of Sidon.
SAINT THOMAS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE. He lived in the reigns of the Emperor Maurice and Phocas, and in the time of the Patriarchs John the Faster and Cyriac. Singled-out by Saint John for his great devotion and zeal, he was made patriarchal vicar by that Saint, and after the death of Cyriac, was chosen as Patriarch. In his time an unusual event occurred: once when there was a procession with crosses carried, they began to sway and to hit against each other. The people marveled at this; and when the Patriarch heard it attested, he asked Theodore the Sykeote, a famous ascetic and seer, to explain what it forebode. Theodore prayed to God and revealed to the Patriarch that it indicated a great misfortune that would come on the Church and on the Greek state through internal religious and political discord. Christians would fight and would exterminate each other. And all this came quickly to pass. Saint Thomas begged Theodore to pray to God for him, that God would take him before this happened. 'Do you command me to come to you, or shall we meet in the other world before God?' So wrote Theodore to the Patriarch, indicating by this that both he and the Patriarch would die soon. And that same day the Patriarch fell ill and died, and Saint Theodore died very soon after. Saint Thomas died and went to the Lord in 610 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:
Old Testament: Isaiah 26:21-27:9
Old Testament: Genesis 9:18-10:1
Old Testament: Proverbs 12:23-13:9
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Joy comes from one's relationship and union with God. Mankind has been created to be joyful, not sad. When you enjoy the wrong things, you will inevitably pay back for all this pleasure you have had. But God's joy demands no repayment. For instance I, who own nothing in this world, cannot pay for the happiness I have. I am not the only one proclaiming this truth. My brother monks, who also have nothing else besides God, are filled with joy. I have emptied myself for Christ's sake. I have nothing but my Lord - and joy. Poverty is beautiful for it sets you free. One should empty himself to make room for Christ to enter his heart. When the Lord is with me, there is my happiness also. In each ascetic cave you will find spiritual joy." (-from An Athonite Gerontikon)
Rejoice and be glad.
"Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…"(Saint Matthew 5:11) Joy is an essential element of the spiritual life, and is one of the "fruits of the Holy Spirit." (Galatians 5:22). There is no genuine spirituality without joy. From the first pages of the Gospel, until the very end, the Apostles of Christ, with Mary His mother and all the Christians, are continually rejoicing in the salvation which Jesus has given.
"By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (St. John 15:8-11) ...your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you...ask and you will receive that your joy may be full" (St. John 16:22-24).
Christian joy is not earthly happiness, pleasure or fun. It is the "joy in believing." (Romans 15:13). It is the joy of knowing the freedom of truth in the love of God (Cf. St. John 8:32). It is the joy of being made worthy to "share in Christ's sufferings." (1 Peter 4:13).
"By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may rebound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen Him, you love Him, though you do not now see Him you believe in Him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy" (1 Peter 1:3-8).
Spiritual joy goes together with spiritual suffering. It is wrong to think that joy comes only at the end when the suffering is over. Joy in Christ goes together with suffering in Christ. They co-exist and are dependent on each other for their power and strength. As blessed mourning over sin is the mourning that comes with joy of salvation, so suffering in the flesh, in this world, is consonant with - and in a real sense is even caused by - the unspeakable joy of salvation. Thus Saint James can say that Christians should "count it all joy" when they "meet various trials," knowing that the "full effect" of their steadfast faith is that they may be "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (Saint James 1:2-3). And this is the firm conviction of Saint Paul as well.
"...We rejoice in our hope of sharing the Glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope-does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:2-5).
It is the spiritual joy of Christians, the joy of the martyrs, which more than anything else is the invincible witness to the truth of the Christian faith and the genuineness of the Christian spiritual life. [Source: Orthodox Church in America]
Please note: Living in pluralistic society with various Christian traditions, confessions and practices some Orthodox Christians are influenced by what they see on the air i.e., TV or the Internet. Many are confused by what they think they see and wish to imitate them i.e., they see dancing, singing, swaying, raising their hands in the air, falling into ecstasy, etc. etc. They seem to be happy and rejoice on what they hear and see. It is probably true that they indeed find some kind of happiness and joy on what they believe. But this is not the understanding that we as Orthodox Christians have on what constitutes "true spiritual joy." I believe that what is true Spiritual Joy is explained on the article above. It has nothing to do with emotions, instant gratification, sentimentalism, or "fun". True Christian Spiritual Joy is everlasting and it dwells within the Christian believer throughout his/her life and it never ceases and it never expires. One needs to study the virtuous and holy lives of the holy Fathers, Martyrs, Ascetics etc. to truly witness the authentic spiritual joy of the Christian faith.
The Divine Liturgy is a Divine Celebration filled with heavenly joy. Every Sunday throughout the year is A Day of Great Joy and the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We call Sunday the "little Pascha". After we receive the Holy Eucharist and we are united to Christ and to one another we celebrate and we exclaim with joy "Είδομεν το φώς τό αληθινόν..." "We have seen the true light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith by worshipping the undivided Trinity, for this has saved us." As a Christian Church we do not depend on theatrics.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God