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.
FROM THE LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS
The First Prayer of the Faithful
O God, great and praised, through the Life-Giving death of Your Christ, You have borne us from corruption to immortality. Liberate all our senses from killing passion, setting over them as a benevolent sovereign our inner reason. Let the eye be averted from every evil sight, and the ear be deaf to idle talk. May the tongue be purged of unseemly speech. Purify these lips that praise You, Lord. Make our hands abstain from wicked deeds, doing only such things as are pleasing to You, thus sealing with Your grace all our members, and our mind.
For all glory, honor and worship are Your due: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On March 2nd 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: St. Hesychios the Senator; St. Quintus, wonder-worker of Phyrgia; St. Efthalia of Sicily; St. Thedotos, Bishop of Cyrenia; St. Troadios of Neocaesarea; St. Joachim (Papoulakis) of Vatopedi, Mt, Athos; Holy Martyrs Nestor and Trivimos; Holy Martyrs Andronikos and Athanasia; St. Nicholas Planas of Athens; St. Sabbatius of Tver; Four-hundred forty holy Martyrs slain by the Lombards; St. Barsanuphius and Savvas, Abbots of Tver; St. Theodore Sladich of Komogovina (1788); St. Ephrosynos of Tver.
+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 3:1-14
Old Testament: Genesis 2:20-3:20
Old Testament: Proverbs 3:19-34
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits." Saint Isaac the Syrian
RECEIVING THE ANTIDOTE TO DEATH
THE HOLY AND DIVINE EUCHARIST
Saint John Cassian writes: "We must not remove ourselves from Communion of the Lord on the grounds that we recognize ourselves to be sinners. Rather, we should come to It more and more often, thirsting after the healing of the soul and cleansing of the spirit, but with such humility of soul and faith that considering ourselves unworthy of receiving such grace, we might yearn for greater treatment of our wounds. With the humility of heart with which we believe and confess that we can never worthily come into contact with the Holy Mysteries, we may receive them on every Sunday unto healing of our illnesses, lest, by exalting ourselves through a vain confident heart, we believe that after the lapse of a year we are worthy of receiving It."
Saint John Chrysostom writes: "As it is not to be imagined that the fornicator and the blasphemer can partake of the sacred Table, so it is impossible that he who has an enemy, and bears malice, can enjoy the Holy Communion...
I forewarn, and testify, and proclaim this with a voice that all may hear! Let no one who has an enemy draw near the sacred Table or receive the Lord's Body! Let no one who draws near have an enemy! Do you have an enemy? Do not draw near! Do you wish to draw near? Be reconciled, and then draw near, and touch the Holy Gifts" (Homily 20)."Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (St. Matthew 5:23-24). We are commanded to have only one enemy, the devil. With him never be reconciled! But with a brother, never be at enmity in thy heart.. Praying against one's personal enemies is a transgression of law.
Our Savior Himself said, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst...if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh" (St. John 6:35,51). At the Mystical Supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My Body". And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (St. Matthew 26:26-28; St. Mark 14:12-16; St. Luke 22:7-13; 1 Cor. 11:23-30).
The institution of the Holy Eucharist by our Lord is the means whereby we become united with Christ and with each other as the Body of Christ, the Church. As Saint Paul says, "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him Who is the Head--Christ--from which the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:14-16). By receiving Holy Communion we become members of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Saint Paul also writes: "For we, though many, are one bread and one body, for we all partake of that one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17). At the Holy Eucharist, there is a real participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. Just as Christ's human body is united to Him, so we are we united to Him. As many grains become one loaf, those who take this communion become one in Christ.
One cannot be an Orthodox Christian and either reject or ignore the Holy Eucharist. By not participating in the Holy Eucharist one separates himself/herself from the Body of Christ. In other words he/she is no longer a member of the Church! The unity of all Christian believers in the Holy Eucharist is strongly stressed by the Holy Fathers of the Church. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, in his Letter to the Ephesians reminds them that all of you to the last, without exception, through God's grace are united in common faith and in Jesus Christ...so obey the bishop and presbyters in complete harmony, breaking one bread, this remedy for immortality. Moreover, the Eucharist is not only a testament of the internal or external unity of the Church, but is also the means for strengthening this unity. Therefore, Saint Ignatius stresses more frequent Communion: "Try to gather more often for the Eucharist and glorification of God. For if you gather together often, the forces of Satan are overthrown, and his destructive deeds are wrecked by your single-hearted faith".
The union of believers with Christ in the Eucharist is also stressed by Saint Cyprian of Carthage who, speaking of the mixing of water and wine in the cup, give an extended meaning to this mixing: The people are designated by water, the Blood of Christ by wine. Mixing water and wine in the Cup shows the people's union with Christ, the believers' union with Him in Whom they believe. Water and wine after mixing in the Lord's Cup are so inseparably and closely united that they cannot be separated one from another. In just this way nothing can separate from Christ the Church, that is, the faithful that make up the Church, firmly and unshakably abiding in faith and joined by eternal, indivisible love." (Letter to Cacaelius).
This is reaffirmed in the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great when, after the blessing of the Holy Gifts, we pray that the Heavenly Father unite us all, as many as are partakers in the one bread and one cup, with one another in communion with the Holy Spirit. Thus we can say that whereas entrance into the Church begins with Holy Baptism, its fulfillment lies in the Holy Eucharist.
Orthodox Christian Theology sees the Holy Eucharist as a sacrifice and this is affirmed in the words of the priest, when he says, during the Eucharistic Canon, "Thine own of Thine Own we offer to Thee, in all (time) and for all (kindness to us)." Also while kneeling the priest prays on behalf of all, "That to those who partake thereof, they may be unto cleansing of soul, unto the remission of sins, unto the communion of thy Holy Spirit, unto the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven, unto boldness toward Thee, and not unto judgment or unto condemnation" (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).
The Sacrifice offered at the Eucharist is Christ Himself, but He Who brings the Sacrifice is also Christ. Christ is, at one and the same time, High Priest and Sacrifice. In the prayer before the Great Entrance, the priest prays: "For Thou art the Offerer and the Offered, the Receiver and the Received, O Christ Our God..." This Eucharist is offered to God the Holy Trinity, and so if we ask the threefold question, What is offered? By Whom is it offered? To Whom is it offered? We say in answer, Christ. In addition, the Sacrifice is offered on behalf of all and for all, for it is a Sacrifice of redemption which is brought for the living and the dead.
According to Saint Nicholas Cabasilas, the Church's understanding of the Holy Eucharist is, as follows: In the first place, the sacrifice is not only an enactment or a symbol, but a real sacrifice. In the second, that which is sacrificed is not bread, but the very Body of Christ In the third place, the Lamb of God was immolated only once and for all times. Saint John of Damascus states, "if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it is through the Holy Spirit...We know nothing more than this, that the Word of God is true, active and omnipotent, but in the manner of operation unsearchable." (On the Orthodox Faith, IV. 13).
Concerning the Holy Communion itself, in the Orthodox Church both laity and clergy always receive Communion of both the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ our Lord. It is extremely important that we respect the Sacrament and to prepare to receive it with a clean heart. As a Theologian of the Church has well put it, "You know that those who invite the Emperor to their house, first clean their home. So you, if you want to bring God into your bodily home for the illumination of your life, must first sanctify your body by fasting" (Gennadius, Hundred Chapters).
Please note: The Holy Eucharist is a matter of salvation and therefore necessary for every Orthodox Christian to receive It as often as possible. Holy and Great Lent makes it possible for us to do just that. However, there are some who refuse to participate and I am not quite certain if it is a matter of understanding, or a matter of faith. Unless one does not believe that the Holy Eucharist is indeed the Body and Blood of Christ. Orthodoxy is not a "cafeteria" style Church. One cannot be selective or choose whether to receive or not to receive the Sacraments. It is not forced on any one who denies that it is the very Body and Blood of Christ, however, one who believes to be an Orthodox Christian cannot abstain from it and still consider himself/herself as a member of the Church. Our Holy Church from the institution of the Mystical Supper by Our Lord has been and always will be a Eucharistic community. Our purpose of attending the Divine Liturgy is not to observe an ancient Christian ritual, to sing hymns, to listen to a sermon but to be partakers of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Our Lord says, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me" (St. John 15:1-4). By receiving the Holy Eucharist we "abide in Him". "As for all of us, partaking of the one Bread and Cup, unite us to one another in the communion of the one Holy Spirit, and let none of us partake for judgment or condemnation of the Sacred Body and Blood of Your Christ, but rather that we might know mercy and grace, together with all the Saints who through the ages have pleased You well" (Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great). The Holy Eucharist is salvation and to deny it one denies salvation!
"WITH FEAR OF GOD, WITH FAITH AND LOVE DRAW NEAR".
"Of Thy Mystic Supper receive me today, O Son of God, as a partaker; for I will not speak of the Mystery to Thine enemies; I will not kiss Thee as did Judas; but as the thief, I will confess Thee: Lord, remember me in Thy Kingdom."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God