Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
PRAYER TO CHRIST OUR GOD
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Shepherd and Lamb,You offered Your life on the Cross to take away the sins of the world. You granted forgiveness to Peter and to the harlot who turned to You in tears. You forgave the debts of the two debtors and also said, "him who comes to me I will not cast out." Lord, receive me, a sinner, and hear my prayer of repentance.
[Confess to the Lord your specific sins.]
I acknowledge my sins and transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your Grace, to turn away from my sins and to amend my life according to Your teachings. Help me to walk in the way of the righteous and to offer praise to Your Glorious Name now and forever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On April 25th 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 Stephen, bishop of Antioch; St. Macedonios, Patriarch of Constantinople; St. Aninanus, second bishop of Alexandria; Saint Sylvester of Obnora; Holy Martyr Nike; Eight martyred anchorites; Saint Mark the Holy Apostle and Evangelist.
SAINT MARK THE HOLY APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST. St. Mark worked closely with the Apostle Peter. In fact, Saint Peter called him "my son" after the spirit. The house of Mary, St. Mark's mother, was turned into a headquarters for the new faith. This house is thought to be the upper room spoken of after the Ascension, the place where the Holy Apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the room for the Mystical Supper. Saint Peter appointed St. Mark as bishop, and he was assigned to Egypt, where he found idol-worship and divination. He fought this with his intense preaching and miracles, and won many converts in Alexandria as well as enemies. He recorded his own account of the life of Jesus to perpetuate His teaching. Saint Mark also spread Christianity to Lybia and Pentapolis. He composed the Divine Liturgy that was used by Saints James, Basil and John Chrysostom to create their liturgies. Finally, back in Alexandria, he was dragged through the streets and martyred. The Christians there buried him, and his holy relics have healed many.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs and Evangelists, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS FOR THIS DAY ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Peter 5:6-14
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:16-21
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"When you read the Gospels, Christ speaks to you; when you pray, you are speaking to Him... The Bible should be read not just for analysis, but as an immediate dialogue with the Living Word (Logos) Himself - to feed our love for Christ, to kindle our hearts with prayer and to provide us with guidance in our personal life." [Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk]
THE SOUL'S YEARNING FOR GOD
by Archimandrite Sophrony
[WISDOM FROM MOUNT ATHOS]
My soul years after the Lord.
How could I not seek Thee? For Thou first didst seek me. Thou gavest me to delight in Thy Holy Spirit, and my soul rejoices that Thou art my God and my Lord.
In the first year of my life in the monastery my soul apprehended God in the Holy Spirit.
The Lord loves us greatly: this I know by the Holy Spirit Whom the Lord gave me in His singular mercy.
I am an old man, preparing for death, and I write of truth for the sake of the people.
The Spirit of Christ Whom I had of the Lord desires the salvation of all, that all should know God.
The Lord gave the thief paradise; thus will He give paradise to every sinner. I with my sins am odious and unclean but I turned to God for forgiveness, and He granted me not forgiveness alone but the Holy Spirit, and in the Holy Spirit I knew God.
Do you see God's love for us? And who shall describe His mercy?
O my brethren, on my knees I beg you to believe in God--believe that there is a Holy Spirit Who bears witness to Him in every church, and in my soul.
The Holy Spirit is love; and the souls of all the holy who dwell in heaven overflow with this love (agape). And on earth this same Holy Spirit is in the souls of those who love God.
All Heaven beholds the earth in the Holy Spirit, and hears our prayers and carries them to God.
My soul knows that the Lord is merciful, but His mercy passes portrayal. He is exceedingly meek and lowly, and when the soul perceives Him she is all transformed into love towards God and her neighbour, and becomes meek and lowly herself. But if a man loses grace, he will weep like Adam driven from paradise. Adam wept and the whole desert heard his sobbing; his tears were bitter with affliction and he wept them for many years.
In such wise the soul who has known and lost the grace of God yearns for God and cries:
'My soul yearns after God, and I seek Him in tears.'
The grace of God gives strength to love the Beloved; and the soul is drawn to pray unceasingly and cannot even for a moment forget the Lord.
My soul languishes on earth and longs for the things of heaven.
The Lord came down to earth to raise us to where He Himself dwells with His Most Holy Mother, Who served Him on earth for the sake of our salvation, and with all the Disciples and followers of the Lord.
The Lord calls us thither, in spite of our sins.
There shall we behold the Holy Apostles in glory for their preaching of the Gospel; there shall we see saintly monks who wrestled in fasting to humble their souls; there those who assumed folly for Christ's sake are glorified because they overcame the world. There all those who have conquered themselves will be glorified, and all those who prayed for the world and bore the burden of the whole world's sorrows because theirs was the love of Christ, and love cannot suffer a single soul to perish.
It is there that the soul would take up her abode; but nothing unclean shall enter where those who come in arrive by way of great tribulations and chastening of spirit and many tears; and only children, who have not lost the grace of holy baptism, enter therein without affliction, and there in the Holy Spirit they know the Lord.
My soul yearns after God and prays day and night, for the Name of the Lord is sweet and dear to the prayerful soul, and warms the soul to love God.
We live a long time on this earth and we love the beauty of the earth: the sky and the sun, gardens, sea and river, forest and meadow, music too, and all the beauties of the world. But when the soul comes to know our Lord Jesus Christ she has not further desire for the things of the earth.
Wondrous are the works of the Lord: out of the dust of the ground He created man, and gave this creature of dust to know Him in the Holy Spirit, so that man says, "My Lord and my God", and these words he utters from the fullness of faith and love.
What more could the soul seek on earth?
Here is a great miracle: the soul knows her Creator and His love.
When the soul sees the Lord, how meek and humble He is, then she herself is thoroughly humbled, and desires nothing so much as the humility of Christ. And however long the soul may live on earth, she will always desire and seek this humility which passes comprehension, which she cannot forget.
If the Lord has left us ignorant of the ordering of many things in this world, then it means it is not necessary for us to know: we cannot compass all creation with our minds.
But the Creator Himself of heaven and earth and every created thing gives us to know Him in the Holy Spirit. In the same Holy Spirit we know the Mother of God, the Angels and Saints, and our spirit burns with love for them.
But he who will not love his enemies cannot come to know the Lord and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us to love our enemies, so that the soul pities them as if they were her own children.
There are people who desire the destruction, the torment in hell-fire, of their enemies, or of the enemies of the Church. They think like that because they have not learnt from the Holy Spirit the love of God, for He who has learnt the love of God will shed tears for the whole world.
It is given to our Orthodox Church through the Holy Spirit to understand the mysteries of God, and she is strong in the holiness of her thought and in her patience.
The Orthodox soul is taught by grace to hold fast to the Lord and His most Holy Mother, and our spirit rejoices in the contemplation of God whom we know.
But we can only know God by the Holy Spirit, and the proud man who aspires to know the Creator with his intelligence is blind and stupid.
With our minds we cannot come to know even how the sun was made; and if we beg God to tell us how He made the sun, the answer rings clear in our soul. 'Humble thyself and thou shalt know not only the sun but the Creator of the sun."
But when the soul comes to know the Lord for very joy she forgets the sun and every created thing, and abandons all anxiety for earthly knowledge.
The Lord loves us without end, and gives us the grace of the Holy Spirit, and comforts us. It is not the Lord's desire that the soul should be despondent and in doubt concerning her salvation. Believe and be sure that we continue in suffering only until we have humbled ourselves; but so soon as we humble ourselves there is an end to affliction, for the Spirit of God discloses to the soul, because of her humility, that she is saved.
O brethren, I beg and pray you in the Name of God's compassion, believe in the Gospels and in the witness of the Holy Church, and you will, while still here on earth, savour the blessedness of paradise. For the Kingdom of God is within us; with the love of God the soul knows paradise.
My soul yearns after God and I seek Him in tears. O merciful Lord, Thou seest my decline and my distress. I humbly entreat Thy mercy: poor upon my sinful self the grace of Thy Holy Spirit. O Lord, grant me Thy spirit of humility that I lose not Thy grace again and weep not for it as Adam wept for paradise and for God.
With sincere agape In Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God