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.
AN EXTEMPORANEOUS PRAYER TO GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
(Father Constantinos Kallinikos)
O Divine and All-Holy Spirit, twenty centuries ago You descended upon Zion, and the upper room where the disciples had gathered was changed into a Church, while the Galileans who were mere fishermen then experienced the great transformation and became Apostles and Evangelists.
Descend also upon us who beseech You in fervent prayer and on bent knees. Come into the midst of our disorderly chaos and transform it into a beautiful order of harmony and beauty. Like a powerful stormy wind, come to uproot our passions and cast them aside. Like a revitalizing river, come to irrigate our moral and spiritual aridity. Like a pleasant dew from heaven, come to renew and refresh our spiritual debility. Like a fire, come to warm and kindle our religious indifference and laxity. Like a fiery tongue, come to speak consolation in us. Like a seal, come to secure and protect the spiritual treasure of our adoption. Like an engagement of commitment, come to bind and betroth our hearts for all time with the Divine Bridegroom. Like a healing oil, come to heal our sacred wounds. Like a dove of peace, come to make us into son and daughters of Light and peace. As a Divine Builder, come and transform our souls into dwellings built by God, in which the Triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, may find a worthy temple to dwell now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On March 27th 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 Matrona of Thessaloniki; Saint Paul, Bishop of Corinth.
THE HOLY MARTYR MATRONA. Saint Matrona was an orphan, and a servant in the house of a certain Jew in Thessaloniki. The wife of this Jew constantly derided Matrona for her faith in Christ, and urged her to cast Christ aside and go to the synagogue. But the humble Matrona went about her work conscientiously, not replying to her mistress and secretly praying to Christ our God. On one occasion the Jewess discovered that Matrona had gone to church unbeknown to her, and demanded, in a great rage, to know why she had gone to the church and not the synagogue. "Because God is alive in the Christian Church, but He has departed from the synagogue of the Jews", replied St. Matrona. Enraged by such a courageous answer, the Jewess thrashed her and locked her in a dark chamber, and in addition to that had her bound. But the next day she found her unbound by the power of God and kneeling in prayer, praising God. Then she locked her up again for the second time until she died of hunger. Then that wicked woman took the body of the holy maiden and threw it to the ground from the top of her house. Christians took the body of the holy Martyr and buried it, and the bishop, Alexander, when he had learned of the many miracles worked by the holy Martyr, built a church over her grave. As for the evil Jewess, she soon received her just reward, when, standing on the same spot from which she had thrown St. Matrona's body, she slipped and fell onto the cobbled pavement and was smashed to pieces.
+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:
Orthros (Matins) Old Testament: Isaiah 40:18-31
Esperinos (Vespers) Old Testament 1: Genesis 15:1-15
Esperinos (Vespers) Old Testament 2: Proverbs 15:7-19
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Abba (Father) Isidore said: "Sin alienates us from God and separates us from other people. So we must immediately turn away from sin and pursue virtue, which leads us to God and unites us with each other. Now the definition of virtue and philosophy is: simplicity with prudence."
THE MISSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OUR GOD
by Father Anthony Alevizopoulos, Professor of Theology and Philosophy
The Holy Spirit was not revealed in the same manner in which the Son was revealed; He remains unapproachable to man. He is however recognized in the Divine energies, through the gifts which He bestows upon the faithful. He is "the treasury of good things and the bestower of life", according to the prayer of the Church.
Many texts in our liturgical books ascribe the work of our salvation to the Holy Spirit:
"The Holy Spirit hath ever been and is, and shall be, neither beginning nor ending; but He is ever ranked and numbered together with the Father and the Son, He is Life, and life-creating; Light and light-bestowing; by nature good, and the source of goodness; through Him the Father is known, and the Son is glorified; and thereby all men acknowledge a single sovereignty, single covenant, one adoration of the Holy Trinity."
The Orthodox Church rejects the false doctrine of heretics who maintain that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal power or "state" within us. The Holy Spirit has self-awareness (Acts 10:19-20, 13,2) will (St. John 16:8, Acts 2:4, I Cor. 12:11) and acts as a Person; He is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity (St. Matt. 28:19; St. John 15:26; II Cor. 13:13) and is distinguished from the power of God (II Cor. 6:6-7); Rom. 15:13; I Cor. 1:5).
The Holy Spirit participated in the creation of the world (Genesis 1:2) which was accomplished from the Father, through the Son and "in the Holy Spirit". Then, when man was created the "first putting-on of the Spirit" (Πνευματοφορία) took place (Genesis 1:26-27, 7:7). During the New Creation, the Holy Spirit was restored to man. A beautiful hymn of the Church states:
"In the Holy Spirit is all creation renewed, and doth return to ills pristine state, for He is of equal power with the Father and the Word".
In the restoration and recreation of man, the Holy Spirit is "the active principle":
From the Holy Spirit, through the Son to the Father; this is the road to salvation. There is no other; "no one can say Lord Jesus except in the Holy Spirit" (I Cor, 12:3), no one can recognize Christ as Lord, i.e., to enroll in the Church under one head, Christ, save "in the Holy Spirit" alone, and "no one cometh unto the Father save through Me" (St. John 14:6). No one comes unto the Father save through Jesus Christ!
In order to reach the Father through the Son, we must be "in the Holy Spirit". The Holy Spirit reveals Christ to each and every believer personally and individually (St. John 15:25-26; 16:13-14). He "plants" him through the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body, and man regains that from which he fell, a unity in the one human nature, i.e. to be "one in Christ." This is man's rebirth (St. John 3:5; St. Titus 3:5; Galatians 3:26-28). Through Baptism and Holy Communion the believer becomes "one in body" (σύσσωμος)and "ONE IN BLOOD" (σύναιμος) with Christ and the relationship which exists between Jesus Christ and God the Father is conveyed and given to him through the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is why the Holy Spirit is also called "the Spirit of Christ" and "The Spirit of adoption" (Romans 8:10, 15-16).
Christ kept His promise: during Pentecost He "sent" the Holy Spirit to the disciples in a personal manner:
The Spirit "rested upon each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them ability" (Acts 2:3-4).
Language is a means of communication. At the Tower of Babel, as the result of man's apostasy from God and his autonomy, language became a means of non-communion and non-communication. And now during Pentecost, the restoration of unity, the gathering of scattered children of God "into one" (St. John 11:52) was declared to those outside the circle of the disciples through a sermon preached in the tongue of the Holy Spirit which was comprehensible to all and is an instrument of man's unity (Acts 2:4).
This unity and return of man to the "one nature," to the "one man," i.e. to "one in Christ" does not do away with the special personality of each believer. The Holy Spirit offers His charismata (gifts) to every believer.
"The Holy Spirit provideth all things; He gusheth forth prophecy; He perfecteth the priesthood; He hath taught wisdom to the illiterate. He hath shown forth the fishermen as theologians. He holdeth together the whole institution of the Church. Wherefore, O Comforter, one in essence and throne with the Father and the Son, glory to Thee".
Within the unity of the One Body, each believer continues to be the concrete person that he is; he is not absorbed by the whole. This is why both in divine worship and in the sacramental life each individual is commemorated by name. He received from the Holy Spirit his own gift, and he is called to use it not egotistically, but for the edification of the other members and for the growth of the overall body, together with his own growth "in Christ". The Apostle Paul states: "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To me is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are advocated by one and the same Spirit, who allows to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members are the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…you are the body of Christ and individually are members of it." (I Corinthians 12:7-27).
"Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" Saint Paul asks with emphasis (I Cor. 12:29-30) and shows that the mystery of the human personality is not abrogated through the presence of the Holy Spirit, but that it is broadened, for as a member of the overall body he becomes a partaker of the great mystery of the unity "in Christ".
The Holy Spirit does not act independently of the personality and body of Christ, which is the Church. Concerning the Holy Spirit, Christ assured us that "He [the Paraclete-Comforter] will glorify Me because He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you" (St. John 16:14-15). No one can possess the charismata (gifts) of the Holy Spirit apart from the unity with Jesus Christ, i.e. outside the Church.
Furthermore, the gifts (charismata) of the Holy Spirit do not constrain; they are offered on the basis of the Divine Will (St. John 3:8; I Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:4) and not by human methods. If these gifts were the result of human efforts, they would belong to the "created order" and would not constitute true communion with God. This helps us to understand why the Orthodox Church gives special significance to the teaching concerning "uncreated grace" while at the same time discerning Divine Grace from the Divine Essence.
If grace were created, then it could not lead us to salvation since communion with something which is created cannot lead man to overcome reality and to union with the uncreated God. If again, there is no difference between the essence and the grace of God, then communion with the Divine Essence would do away with man's personality. There is a distinction between God's essence and His grace which is uncreated, (If grace does not have its source outside of the Divine Presence), for this reason in the Orthodox Church bother are preserved: both are true communion with God and the human person.
Divine Grace however is not offered without man's active participation. The holy Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church are not magical acts, they presuppose the participation of each individual believer. The Angel of the Lord announced to the Virgin Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you". But she, however, had to say, "Let it be!" (St. Luke 1:35-38).
The believer receives the gift (charisma) of the Holy Spirit, "the panoply of God" and he is strengthened to begin his spiritual struggle and victoriously resist "the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 16:10-20). Man must, however, want to carry on this struggle. The believer has the feeling that he is not struggling alone, but that he is being "strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of His power."
LET US PRAY TO THE LORD!
Lord, have mercy.
O heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth,Who art everywhere and fillest all things, the treasure of blessings, and Giver of Life, come and abide in us. Cleanse us from all impurity, and of Thy Goodness save our souls. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God