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..
THE PRAYER OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
O Lord and Master of my life, do not give me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk. But give rather a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Your servant. 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.
On March 8th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreat the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Theophylaktos the Confessor of Nicomedia; Saint Paul the Confessor of Plusias; Holy Martyr Dion; Venerable Father Dometius; Saints Quintilian and Capatolinus in Nicomedia; Saint Athanasios of Murom; Saint Lazaros of Murom.
SAINT THEOPHYLAKTOS THE CONFESSOR.The iconoclasts, those who favored the removal and destruction of all holy icons, had the Church in disarray for one hundred fifty years. St. Theophylaktos led five other bishops to Leo the Armenian with the intent of showing Leo the error of his ways. When Leo would not be moved by their careful presentation, St. Theophylaktos raised his voice and called Leo the greatest heretic of them all. Further, he prophesied that great destruction would come upon Leo and that no one would deliver him from it. St. Theophylaktos died during his thirty-year exile and his holy relics were returned for burial after the death of Leo.
+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
"When your soul is pricked by compunction and gradually changed, it becomes a fountain flowing with rivers of tears and compunction. If any one of you ever happens to communicate with tears, whether you weep before the Liturgy or in the course of the Divine Liturgy, or at the very time that you receive the Divine Gifts, and does not desire to do this for the rest of his days and nights, it will avail him nothing to have wept merely once. It is not this alone that at once purifies us and makes us worthy; it is daily compunction that does not cease until death." (Saint Symeon the New Theologian)
by Geronda (Elder) Paisios of the Holy Mountain
Providence is the care that comes from God. Everything which is done with God's providence is done in the best possible way, that is, in a godly manner. The fact that God takes care -indeed very good care- of mankind could very well result from the following logical reasoning:
God is kind; therefore, He takes care and looks after Hid children (for the one who doesn't provide care is not kind). It also is in the nature of people, as well as of animals, to look after their children. The person who does not provide care is considered evil. Since God is also Omniscient, He demonstrates His providence for the whole creation in the most perfect way. When we witness and examine the acts of God's providence, we admire His kindness. We must glorify Him and accept all the acts of divine providence without questioning them, even if sometimes they seem unjust or incomprehensible to us.
Father Paisios told me the following story: "Once, I had to leave Mount Athos and I was in need of one thousand drachmas to cover my travelling expenses. I had no money at all. I had instructed the post office to return immediately to the senders whatever checks came through the mail in my name. While I was in this difficult situation, one of the monks brought me an anonymous check of exactly one thousand drachmas along with my mail. The name Pantanassa (The Queen of All, a name attributed to the Virgin Mary) was written as a return address on the envelope. When I understood that this was an indication of God's providence, I began to cry, thanking God and the Virgin Mary.
I have seen many things in my life; it is terrible. If you do not look after yourself, God doesn't even let you think that you might be in need of something. You see, this check had been sent before I realized I needed one thousand drachmas. God, our kind Father, provides whatever we need, before we realize it and ask for His assistance. His providence takes care of everything. However, He must see that we trust Him. At this point, the Geronda (Elder) quoted the words of the Gospel: "Therefore, do not be anxious saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; And your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well" (St. Matthew 6:31-33), "…for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him," (St. Matthew 6:8).
"Our duty and concern must be how to please God and our fellow men; we should not be preoccupied with our needs, as God will take care of them. There is a silent spiritual agreement between God and man. He will look after us, while we will concentrate on how to live according to His Will. "Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
God is so kind that although He created the small fishes for us to eat. He takes care of them in such a wise way, that they can fearlessly grow up. Yet, we are so miserable, that we get distressed and do not trust everything in Him. This is terrible! God looks after the tiniest detail of the smallest of His creatures. How much more He cares for us. His own images, for whom He did everything! Since we are blind, however, we are unable to see His providence which covers every aspect of our life."
"When someone leads a simple life, humbly looks upon himself and feels the need of God's providence, then he put aside all his concerns and worries, and has faith in Him. When God sees that this soul totally depends on Him, and not on itself, he will mercifully protect it; thus, this soul will intensively experience the sense of God's providence and feel contented.
God wants our soul to be simple, without many thoughts and too much knowledge; like an infant that expects everything from its parents. That is why the Lord said: "If you do not become like children you will not be able to enter in the Kingdom of God." We must humbly pray to God and admit our weakness, and this way we will be able to free ourselves from our concerns and worries; just as our shadow closely follows our body, God's mercy will follow our humility and faith."
"When we believe in God and have trust in His fatherly providence and concern, then we do not think of ourselves; instead, we know that God is aware of all our needs and looks after our problems, from the simplest to the most serious one. The only thing we must want is to allow God's love and providence to function in our lives, when He wishes to and in the way He thinks is best for us. When we have this kind of faith and inner disposition, we are able to see God's miracles -God Himself- Who is always close to us under all circumstances. In order to experience this, we must reject any form of worldly assistance or human hope and with a pure heart, unhesitatingly and trustfully devote our mind to God. Then, the grace of Christ will fill our soul at once."
"We must totally rely on God's providence as this is the only way to be relieved of our anxiety and worries. Why should anyone worry, when he feels that God is taking care of everything?
In order to trust divine providence, one must free himself from all his worldly concerns and wait for God to look after him.
Father Paisios told us the following story, wishing to give us an example of the way God looks after His children, while many times we get angry at Him and do not understand His actions.
"An ascetic was praying to God asking Him to reveal why the righteous and pious people are miserable and suffer unjustly, whereas the unrighteous and sinful ones are rich and contented. While he was asking God to reveal to him this mystery, he heard a voice saying to him: 'Do not ask to comprehend what your mind and power of knowledge cannot grasp and do not examine the mysteries of God, as His judgments are like an endless ocean. However, since you wish to know, go out there in the world and watch carefully the people, and you will be able to understand a small part of God's judgment. Then, you will know that God's prudent governing is unexplored and inscrutable. When the ascetic heard all this, he left for the world. After walking for a while, he reached a meadow. There was a fountain nearby and an old tree with a large hollow. He hid inside the hollow, in order to watch the busy street passing by the meadow. After a while, a rich man passed by riding his horse. He stopped by the fountain to drink some water and rest. While he was sitting there, he took a purse out of his pocket containing one hundred golden coins, and started counting them. When he finished counting, he mistakenly left the purse on the grass instead of putting it in his pocket. After he ate, he rested and slept for awhile, and then he took off without realizing that he had left his purse on the grass. After some time, another passer-by appeared. He stopped by the fountain, and when he saw the purse with the golden coins, he took it and left running in the fields. A few minutes later, a third man came along. As he was tired, he too went by the fountain to drink some water and sat to eat a piece of bread. As this poor man was eating, the rich man came back to look for his purse. He had an extremely angry look on his face and went straight to him, shouting in a rage and demanding his purse. The poor man, though, who had no idea about the purse and the golden coins, assured him that he had not seen it. Then, the rich man began beating him up so badly that he finally killed him. He searched through his clothes and found nothing. He left feeling very sad. The ascetic was watching the incident sitting inside the hollow and was astounded. He felt very sad and began to cry, feeling sorry for the unjust death of the poor man and prayed to God: 'Lord, what is the meaning of this will of Yours? Let me know how Your kindness can tolerate such an injustice. Someone lost the coins, another man found them and a third man was unjustly murdered!' As he was praying and crying, an Angel of the Lord appeared and told him: 'Do not feel sorry for the poor man, nor think that this incident is not the will of God. Bear in mind that some things occur, either because God permits them to, or in order to instruct people or because He causes them to happen for our benefit. Now, listen: The man who lost the golden coins is the next door neighbor of the one who found them. He owned a farm worth one hundred golden coins. The rich man, who was an avaricious person, forced him to sell his farm to him for only fifty golden coins. The poor man, feeling helpless, prayed to God to punish his unjust neighbor on his behalf. And God rewarded him in double. The second man, the tired and poor one, who was unjustly killed, had once committed a murder. He had honestly repented and lived the rest of his life according to God's will. He constantly prayed to God to forgive him and said to Him: "God, let me have the same kind of death as the one I gave." Of course, our Lord had forgiven him since the first time he expressed his repentance for his sinful act. However, He was moved by the sensitivity and righteousness of this man, who not only tried to live according to His will, but also wished to pay back for his sinful act. So, God fulfilled his wish and gave him the chance to experience a violent death, -as he himself had ask for- and took him to heaven by His side, granting him a glorious laurel for his deep and responsive repentance! The third man, the avaricious one, who lost the golden coins and committed the murder, had fallen in two sins, avarice and stinginess. God permitted a violent murder to be committed, so that he may experience pain, which in turn, would lead him to repentance. The sin of murder turned out to be the cause for his decision to leave the world and become a monk. So, where and under what circumstances do you see that God was unjust, merciless and cruel? You should not examine God's judgments, as He always makes them correctly and according to the way He knows, whereas you misjudge them and find them unjust. You should also know that many things happen with God's will for reasons we do not know. Therefore, the right thing for us to say is: "Righteous art Thou, O Lord, and right are Thy judgments" (Psalm 118:137).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God