Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ!
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
PRAYER DURING THE DAY
[Before the Beginning of Any Work]
O Lord Jesus Christ, Only-begotten Son of Thine Unoriginate Father, Thou hast said with Thy most pure lips: "For without Me , ye can do nothing." My Lord, O Lord, in faith having embraced Thy words, I fall down before Thy goodness; help me, a sinner, to complete through Thee Thyself this work which I am about to begin, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[After the Completion of Any Work]
Glory to Thee, O Lord, Glory to Thee. Thou art the fullness of all good things, O my Christ; fill my soul with joy and gladness, and save me, for Thou alone art plenteous in mercy. Amen.
On April 28th 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: Holy Nine Martyrs of Cyzicus - Theognes, Rufus, Antipater, Theostichus, Arftemas, Magnus, Theodotus, Thavmasios, and Philemon; Saint Memnon the Wonderworker; Commemoration of the miracle at Carthage; Saint Olympia, Abbes (Gerondissa) of Mitylene.
MEMNON THE WONDERWORKER. From his youth in the 2nd century, Saint Memnon sought to purify himself by prayer and fasting. The Holy Spirit came to dwell within him, and he was granted the gift of healing sickness and working many miracles. He often appeared during great storms at sea to save the boats in distress. Saint Memnon died peacefully.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 5:21-32
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 6:14-27
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"All things are achieved through prayer, silence and love. Have you understood the effects of prayer? Love in prayer, love in Christ. That is what is truly beneficial. As long as you love your children with human love - which is often pathological - the more they will be mixed up, and the more their behavior will be negative. But when the love between you and towards your children is holy and Christian love, they you will have no problem. The sanctity of the parents saves the children. For this to come about, divine grace must act on the souls of the parents. No one can be sanctified on his own. The same divine grace will then illuminate warm and animate the souls for the children. [Geronda Porphyrios the Kapsokalivite]
THE UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT
[Apokalypse, chapters 21 and 22]
There are numerous testimonies in Sacred Scripture of the actuality and indisputability of the future Universal Judgment: John 5:22, 27-29; Matt. 16:27; 7:21-23; 11:22, 24; 12:36, 41-42; 13:37-43; 19:28-30; 25:31-46; Acts 17:31; Jude, vv. 14-15; II Cor. 5:10; Romans 2:5-7; 14:10; I Cor. 4:5; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:24-25; II Thes. 1:6-10; II Timothy 4:1; Apoc. 20:11-15. Of these testimonies the most complete picture of this Last Judgment by the Savior is given in St. Matthew 25:31-46 ("When the Son of Man shall come in His glory..."). In accordance with this picture we may draw conclusions regarding the characteristics of the Judgment. It will be:
Universal, that is, extending to all men living and dead, good and evil, and according to the indications given in the word of God, even to the fallen angels themselves (II Peter 2:4; Jude, v. 6);
Solemn and open, for the Judge will appear in all His Glory with all His Holy Angels before the face of the whole world;
Strict and terrible, performed in all the justice of God--it will be "a day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Romans 2:5),
Final and definitive, determining for all eternity the fate of each one who is judged. The result of the Judgment will be eternal reward--blessedness for the righteous and torment for the evil who are condemned.
Depicting the brightest and most joyful features the eternal life of the righteous after the Universal Judgment, the word of God speaks with the same positiveness and certainty concerning the eternal torment of evil men. "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire", the Son of Man will say on the day of Judgment; "and these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal" (St. Matthew 25:41, 46). This condition of torment is presented in Sacred Scripture as a place of torment, and it is called Gehenna. (The image of the fiery Gehenna is taken from the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem, where at one time executions were performed, and likewise every kind of unclean thing was dumped, as a result of which a fire was constantly burning there to guard against infection.) The images of the "worm that dieth not" and the "fire that is not quenched" are evidently symbolical and indicate the severity of the torments. Saint John Damascene remarks: "Sinners will be given over to everlasting fire, which will not be a material fire such as we are accustomed to, but a fire such as God might know."
"I know," writes Saint John Chrysostom, "that many are terrified only of Gehenna; but I think the deprivation of that glory (of the Kingdom of God) is a torment more cruel than Gehenna" (Homily 23 on Matthew). "This deprivation of good things," he reflects in a different place, "will cause such torment, such sorrow and oppression, that even if no punishment awaited those who win here, it in itself (this deprivation) could torment and disturb our souls more powerfully than the torments of Gehenna…Many foolish people desire only to be delivered from Gehenna; but I consider much more tormenting than Gehenna the punishment of not being in that glory. And I think that he who is deprived of it should weep not so much over the torments of Gehenna as over being deprived of the good things of Heaven, for this alone is the cruelest of all punishments" (Homily 1, to Theodore).
Saint Gregory the Theologian teaches: "Acknowledge the resurrection, the Judgment, and the awarding of the righteous by the Judgment of God. And this awarding for those who have been purified in heart will be light, that is, God visible and known according to the degree of one's purity, which we also call the Kingdom of Heaven. But for those who are blinded in mind, that is, for those who have become estranged from God, according to the degree of their present nearsightedness, there will be darkness" (Homily 40. On Holy Baptism).
The Church, basing itself on the word of God, acknowledged the torments of Gehenna to be eternal and unending, and therefore it was condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council the false teaching of the Origenists that the demons and impious people would suffer in hell only for a certain definite time, and then would be restored to their original condition of innocence (apokatastasis in Greek). The condemnation at the Universal Judgment is called in the Apocalypse of Saint John the Theologian the "second death" (Apoc 20:14).
It is not for us to define the boundaries between the unutterable mercy of God and His justice or righteousness. We know that the Lord "Will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4); but man is capable, through his own evil will, of rejecting the mercy of God and the means of salvation. Saint John Chrysostom, interpreting the depiction of the Last Judgment, remarks: "When He (the Lord) spoke about the Kingdom, after saying, "Come, ye blessed of My Fathers, inherit the Kingdom, He added: which is prepared for the devil and his angels" (St. Matthew 25:41). For I have prepared for you a Kingdom, but the fire I have prepared not for you but for the devil and his angels. But sine you have cast your own selves into the fire, therefore accuse yourself for this" (Homily 70 on Matthew).
The very concept of "anger" in relation to God is conditional and anthropomorphic, as we learn from the teaching of Saint Anthony the Great, who says "God is good, dispassionate and immutable"."...God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure... He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good through resembling God, are united to Him, but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are separated from Him. By living in holiness, we cleave to God, but by becoming wicked we make him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our sins that prevent God from shining within us, and expose us to the demons who punish us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him change, but that through our actions and our turning to God we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God's goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind" (Philokalia, vol. 1, p.352).
Worthy of attention is the simple comment in this regard of Saint Theophan the Recluse: "The righteous will go into eternal life, but the satanized sinners into eternal torment, in communion with demons." Will these torments end? If satanism and becoming like Satan should end, then the torments also can end. But is there an end to satanism and becoming like Satan? We will behold and see this then. But until then we shall believe that just as eternal life will have no end, so also the eternal torment that threatens sinners will have no end.
The writings of the holy Christian ascetics indicate that the higher one's moral awareness is raised, the more acute becomes the feeling of moral responsibility, the fear of offending God, and the awareness of the unavoidability of punishment for deviating from the commandment of God. But to just the same degree does hope in God's mercy grow. To hope in it and ask for it from the Lord is for each of us a duty and a consolation.
Saint John Damascene writes: "One should note that the fall of the Angels is just what death is to men. For, just as there is no repentance for men after death, so there is none for angels after their fall".
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God