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 TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
by Antiochus, Monk of Pandektos
And grant to us, Master, as we depart for sleep, rest of body and soul, and preserve us from the gloomy slumber of sin, and from every dark and nocturnal pleasure. Arrest the drives of passion, extinguish the burning arrows of the Evil One which insidiously fly in our direction; suppress the rebellions of our flesh, and calm our every earthly and material thought. And grant to us, O God, alert mind, prudent thinking, sober heart, light sleep free of any satanic fantasy. Awaken us at the time of prayer rooted in Your commandments and having unbroken within us the remembrance of Your ordinances. Grant that we may sing Your glory through the night by praising and blessing and glorifying Your Most Honorable and Majestic Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
On March 26th 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: Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel; Sts. Kodratos, Theodosius, Manuel, and 40 other holy Martyrs; St. Stephen the Confessor; 26 holy Martyrs of Gotthia; St. Basil the Younger; St. Efsevios, Bishop of Kival; St. Pullius the Reader; St. Irenaeus, bishop of Sirmium, Serbia; St. Malchos of Chalcis in Syria; St. Montanus the priest, and his presbytera Maxima; St. Eftychius of Alexandria; St. Bathusius and Bercus, presbyters; St. Braulion of Saragossa in Iberia; holy Martyr Abippas.
THE HOLY ARCHANGEL GABRIEL. The Herald of the Incarnation of the Son of God, he is one of the Seven Great Angels who stand before the Throne of God. He revealed to Zacharias the birth of the Forerunner and Baptist, and said of himself: "I am Gabriel that stand in the presence of God" (St. Luke 1:19). His name, Gabriel, signifies "man of God". Speaking about the Annunciation, the holy Fathers comment that an Angel with such a name was sent to signify who He was, and of what nature He was, who would be born of the Most Pure Virgin. He would be the Man of God, the Man-God, the strong and Mighty God. Others have found that it was this same name Gabriel who announced the conception of the Virgin Mary to Joachim and Anna, and that it was he who taught Moses in the wilderness to write the Book of Genesis. The holy Fathers considered that Gabriel belongs to the foremost and highest order of the heavenly powers, the Seraphim, since the Seraphim stand closest to God. And so he is one of the Seven Seraphim closest to God. The names of these Seven Archangels are: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selathiel, Jegudiel and Barachiel. Some would add Jeremiel to this number. Each has his own particular service, but all are equal in honor. Why did God not sent Michael? For the reason that Michael's service is the suppression of the enemies of God's truth, while Gabriel's is the annunciation of the salvation of the human race.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Old Testament: Isaiah 37:33-38:6
Old Testament: Genesis 13:12-18
Old Testament: Proverbs 14:27-15:4
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Patience is a heavenly gift, a gift from the Heavenly Father...With patience, and love for your fellow men, you become a victor in life's continual trials". (St. Raphael of Lesvos)
Geronda [Elder] Ephraim the Philotheitis On Trials and Temptations: [Geronda Ephraim is at the Holy Monastery of St. Anthony's in Florance, Arizona]
Geronda says, "God allows temptations so that they might rouse us to remember Him. When we call upon Him, He acts as though He does not hear us so that we multiply our supplications and cry out His Holy Name, in fear of the various passions. Then, through pain of the entreaties, our heart is sanctified, and through experience we learn the weakness of our lame nature. And thus we realize in practice that without God's help we are not able to do anything.
This deep experience is acquired with the blood of the heart and remains indelible; it becomes a foundation for the remainder of one's life. The grace of God leaves and comes again, but experience never leaves, because it has been branded within the heart. And no matter how much Satan praises the heart, it points to what is indelibly written within its depths, that without God it is impossible to do anything.
If there were no temptations, pride and other passions would have turned us into other Lucifers. But our Good Father, God, allows afflictions to come upon us so that we may be guarded by humility, which will lighten the burden of our sins.
When we are still in our youth, we must be tempted, for youth is easily derailed. In time the war will cease and the desired peace will come. Just have courage and patience. Do not despair, no matter how much the passions may fight you. God loves one who is fought against and fights back. Be brave, and pray also for me, the indolent, the unclean, the unworthy, the abomination!"
[Taken from the book: Counsels from the Holy Mountain by Elder Ephraim]
The Loneliness of Christ and our Loneliness
By: Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev
During the last days of His earthly life Jesus Christ was left alone to face those who hated Him, endure sufferings and death. He drank to the bottom the cup of suffering that was prepared for Him and underwent the most horrible thing that a person could experience: a profound loneliness and feeling of being abandoned by God.
He was alone in Gethsemane, for His disciples were fast asleep. He was alone at the court of the high priests, alone during His interrogation by Herod, alone at the tribunal of Pilate, for His disciples had fled. He was alone when He went to Golgotha, and a passer-by, and not His beloved disciple, helped Him to carry His cross. He was alone on the Cross and died alone, having been abandoned by all.
While on the Cross Jesus cried to His Father: "My God, My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (St. Matthew 27:46). The pain of all mankind and every person was contained in this cry, the pain of everybody who feels alone and abandoned by God.
It is painful to be abandoned by one's friends and close ones, but there is something still more horrible -- when it seems that God has left you, when an insurmountable wall has been raised between you and God and He neither hears, nor sees, nor notices you.
If you suffer from loneliness, remember how lonely the Savior was during the last days of His life.
If your close ones or those under your care have turned away from you, if you have been slandered undeservedly, if people call you a heretic and destroyer of traditions, if they bear false witness against you and say that you deserve to die, remember that the Lord Himself underwent all these.
If people condemn you and blaspheme, smite you in the face and spit on you, nail you to the cross and give you bile instead of water, pray for them, for "they know not what they are doing."
In fear and trembling, bowing before the holy tomb of Jesus in silence and reverence, let us thank the Lord for He was alone so that we might not be alone, He was abandoned so that we might not be abandoned, He suffered insults and mockery, slander and humiliation, suffering and death, so that in the midst of any suffering we might feel that we are not alone, that the Savior Himself "is with us unto the end of the ages".
by Geronda Paisios of Mount Athos
A soul that is still moved by the charm of the material world reveals that the vain world still lives within. This is why it is drawn toward creation and not the Creator, to clay and not God. It is of no significance if this clay is clean and not a swamp of sins because man is related to the Spirit of God and through his spirit he unites with God through prayer.
Prayer during the night is much more beneficial than prayer during the day, just as night-time rain is more favourable to plants than rain during the day.
Pure prayer is greatly aided by withdrawal from the worldly bustle and large crowds of people. (If possible, it is even better to be completely alone.) When one feels alone, the soul moves about comfortably, the heart erupts with reverence before God and gradually its hard shell bursts and is removed. Thereafter, our heart is moved not only when we think of God, but also even when we hear or see His name written down. The heart leaps and kisses it with great devotion. The same happens, of course, with the name of Christ or the Panagia. Our soul is then internally sweetened.
Patristic study helps a great deal, for the Holy Fathers interpret the Gospel (Ευαγγέλιο) with their evangelical (ευαγγελική) life. Likewise, the examination of our self with regard to our sinfulness, our ingratitude, and the many benevolent acts of God is also helpful. All of this naturally brings humility and then, necessarily, the Grace of God. Spiritual study warms up the soul and with philotimo, moves it to prayer and struggle. The study of our self conveys humility and the need for prayer and God's mercy. For this reason before we begin to count our Komboskinia [prayer ropes] (how many times we repeat the Jesus Prayer), it is good first to count our numerous sins and the many benevolent acts of god.
At the hour of prayer, when our mind diverts to filthy things, or if they descend on us unwillingly, we must not start an argumentative war with the enemy. For, even if all of the world's lawyers were to gather together, they would not be able to prevail upon one single little demon through argumentation, since only with contempt can someone drive away the demons and their blasphemous words. (Of course, the enemy will bark for a time and only then run off.) Man should not be upset about the blasphemies of the devil but only about his personal sins, and to hope in God's boundless mercy; for where hope in God is absent, the devil's tail is present.
When man struggles with hope, however, divine consolation comes and the soul intensely feels the caress of God's love. Then, the heart is attracted by God and the komboskini is treated with joy due to divine fervour. In the beginning, of course, one needs to have persistence with philotimo and discernment until the spiritual oil is defrosted, in order for our soul to ignite and pray unceasingly.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God