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 PENITENTIAL PRAYER OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
O Lord, and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk (prostration).
But given rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant (prostration).
Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother, for Thou art Blessed from ages of ages. Amen (prostration).
On April 4th 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 George, Righteous of Maleon; Saint Plato the Studite; Saint Nicetas the Hieromartyr, Struggler of Serres, Greece (1808); Saint Zosimas the Righteous.
OUR HOLY FATHER ZOSSIMAS. A monk of the Jordan community in the reign of the Emperor Theodosius the Younger, he found Saint Mary of Egypt, gave her Holy Communion and buried her. He entered into rest in the Lord, at the age of 100, in the 6th century.
OUR HOLY FATHER, THE HOLY MARTYR NICETAS. He was a Slav from Albania. As a monk of the Holy Mountain, he went to Serres, where he disputed with the Mullahs about the Faith. Being unable to overcome him by reason, the Muslim Turks put him to torture, under which Saint Nicetas died and gave his soul to God in 1808.
+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 58:1-11
Esperinos (Vespers) Old Testament 1: Genesis 43:26-31; 45:1-16
Esperinos (Vespers) Old Testament 2: Proverbs 21:23-22:4
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"The tears which flow during the time of prayer are a sign of the mercy of God, which the soul has been made worthy to receive through its repentance. The tears are also an assurance that the prayer of the soul has been received by God, and that it has begun to enter into the valley of purity through its very tears of compunction" (Saint Isaac the Syrian).
CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES OF THE SAVIOR, WHO FULFILLS THE HEART'S DESIRES
[source: Christology by St. Nektarion of Pentapolis]
The identifying characteristics of the Savior are so many in multitude and such in quality that they not only reveal the Savior to them possessing a mind and heart, but they also amaze and astonish them, and persuade and attract them to Him. From the inception of the world, no descendant of Adam ever possessed such traits, because they are divine markers that bear the seal of the divine nature.
We recognize the Son of God from the following:
- From His Divine appearance: "Comely art Thou in beauty more than the sons of men" (Psalm 44:2).
- From the words: "Grace hath been poured forth on Thy lips" (Psalm 44:2). "Never did man speak like this man!" (St. John 7:46).
- From His works: "The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the Gospel preached to them" (St. Matthew 11:5).
- From the fulfillment of the prophecies and the precise outcome of the predictions, which conform to the events that took place in the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is impossible for all the characteristics of the awaited Savior to have united spontaneously in the Person of Jesus Christ, or for accidental coincidence to have brought about the fulfillment and completion of such numerous and various prophecies. The convergence of such varying, magnificent, and completely pointless coincidences would have been more remarkable than the acceptance that Jesus Christ, in Whose Person all the prophecies were fulfilled, is the awaited Messiah.
- From the wondrous events that took place during His Divine Birth, including:
- the testimony of the multitude of Angels who were praising God and proclaiming: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men" (St. Luke 2:14).
- the testimony of the Archangel who announced the great joy to the shepherds: "For unto you is Born this day...a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord" (St. Luke 2:11).
- the testimony of the shepherds who were abiding in the field and who saw the multitude of Angels.
- the Star that guided the Magi to Bethlehem.
- the worship he received from these same Magi.
- the death of the babes slain in Bethlehem.
- the testimony of Simeon who thanked God because his eyes had seen His salvation, which He had prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel (cf. St. Luke 2:30-32).
6. From the testimonies of the Heavenly Father Who attested twice that Our Lord Jesus Christ is His Beloved Son. First in the Jordan River, when the Holy Spirit also appeared and descended upon Him in the form of a dove; and second, upon Mount Tabor, during His Divine Transfiguration (Metamorphosis), when His face shown like the sun and His garments became white like the light. At that time a voice also came from Heaven saying: "This is My Beloved Son: listen to Him!" (St. Mark 9:7).
7. From His Divine Transfiguration and the appearance of Moses and Elijah; the former as a messenger prior to His Coming, the latter as a witness to His Arrival" (Mal. 4:5).
Jesus presented the two God-bearing Prophets, Moses and Elijah, during this formal moment as witnesses of His Divine Transfiguration and His identity; so that His disciples would be convinced, through the appearance of the God-bearers Moses and Elijah, that He is the God who appeared to these prophets on Mount Sinai and Mount Horeb, the mountain of God; and so they would comprehend that His Crucifixion would be voluntary. The presence of the two Prophets and the three Apostles, during the Transfiguration of the Lord has another mystical significance. During the Transfiguration, the Heralds of the Old Worship meet with the preachers of the New Worship; and the old, withdraw before the new, as the formal transfer is being conducted. The Prophets of the Law were handing their own commandments to the Apostles of Grace. The entire setting expressed the official cessation of the old worship of the Law, and the official beginning of the new worship fo Grace--of worship in spirit and truth.
Concerning the foal and the ass that Christ sat upon, let us hear the Prophet Zechariah exclaiming: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; proclaiming it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold the King is coming to thee, just, and a savior; He is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal" (Zch. 9:9). Now what is more brilliant, that these voices of the Prophets, which prophesy, about Christ so clearly? Let us then also hear about the children who exclaimed Hosanna to Christ, and who apparently also called Christ Lord in Psalm 8: "Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is Thy name in all of the earth! For Thy magnificence is lifted high above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes hast Thou perfected praise" (Psalm 8:1-3).
Concerning the betrayal of Judas, Psalm 40 witnesses: "He who ate of my bread, hath magnified the lifting of heels against me" (Psalm 40:10). Similarly, Psalm 2 inquires regarding the nations' and the Jews' plot against Christ: "Why have the heathen raged, and the peoples meditated empty things? The kings of the earth were aroused, and the rulers were assembled together, (that is Annas and Caiaphas, and the archpriests and the scribes) "against the Lord, and against His Christ" (Psalm 2:1-2).
Concerning the fetters with which they bound Christ, Isaiah the Prophet deplores the Jews saying: "Woe to their soul, for they have devised an evil counsel against themselves, Let us bind the just one" (Isa. 3: 10).
Let us listen also to Psalm 34 concerning them who bore false witness against Christ: "Unjust witnesses rose up against me; things I knew not they asked me. They repaid me with evil things instead of good" (Psalm 34:13). Here the Prophet is referring to the good that Christ did for His people: firstly, their exodus from Egypt and the other innumerable good that He performed for them; afterwards, the healing of the sick people amongst them. Concerning those who whipped and slapped Christ, the Prophet Isaiah, as if speaking on behalf of Christ relates: "I gave my back to scourges, and my cheeks to blows; and I turned not away my face from the shame of spitting" (Isa. 50:6). Similarly, the Prophet David on behalf of Christ declares in Psalm 37: "For I am ready for scourges, and my sorrow is continually before me" (Psalm 37:17).
Concerning the selling of Christ, the Prophet Jeremiah discloses: "And the Lord said unto me, 'Cast it unto the potter' --a goodly price that I was prized at by them. And I took the thirty pieces of sliver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord" (Zch. 11:13; St. Matt. 27:9). Similarly, as if speaking on behalf of Christ: "So they weighted for my price thirty pieces of silver" (Zch. 11:12).
That Christ bore the principle of our salvation, that is the Venerable Cross, on His own Shoulders, and that He was elevated upon it, the Prophet Isaiah prophesying through the Holy Spirit declared: "For a Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, Whose government is upon His shoulder" (Isa. 9:6); that is, the Life-Giving Cross.
Concerning the Crown of Thorns it is written in the book of Songs: "Go forth, ye daughters of Zion, and behold...the crown wherewith his mother crowned him" (Sol. 3:11); that is, the synagogue of the Jews, for this is understood to be the Mother of Christ, according to the flesh. "In the day of his espousals, and the day of the gladness of his heart" (Sol. 3:11); it is clear that the day of Christ's Passion was His day of jubilation, on account of our salvation. As if certain types of thorns, such were the sins of the world, which, having come, Christ erased: Christ, the Lamb of God, the One who lifts the sin of the world. Just as sin entered through the fruit of the tree, similarly, redemption entered through the wood of the Cross. This is way Christ's Passion took place in a garden, because Adam transgressed in Paradise. This is why Paradise opens for the thief through the Cross, and this is why Christ is crucified during the sixth hour--just as Adam was exiled in the afternoon. He tastes gall in order to remedy the sweetness of Adam's bitter pleasure. He is slapped in order to grant me freedom. He is spat upon in order to endow us with the breath of the Holy Spirit. He is whipped in order to scatter the burden of sin upon our back. He is stripped naked on the Cross in order to cover my shame. He is put to death so that He may give me life. He is condemned so that He may release me from the curse. He is struck on the head with a reed in order to crush the serpent's head. His side is pierced with a spear in order to heal the one who was created from Adam's side, extinguish the flaming sword that turns against us, and open the road to Paradise.
Recounting that Christ would be crucified in the middle of the earth, it is written in Psalm 73: "But God is our King before the ages, He hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth" (Psalm 73:13). And that Christ would be crucified along with thieves, Isaiah attests: "and he was numbered among the transgressors" (Isa. 53:12).
Regarding the nails and the partitioning of his clothes, Psalm 21 describes the following: "They have pierced my hands and my feet. They have numbered all my bones... They have parted my garments amongst themselves, and for my vesture have they cast lots" (Psalm 21:16-18).
Concerning the darkness, the same Prophet Zechariah proclaims the following: "And it shall come to pass in that day that there shall be no light, and there shall be for one day cold and frost, and that day shall be known to the Lord, and it shall not be day nor night: but towards evening it shall be light" (Zch. 14:6-7).
Verifying that Christ would be offered vinegar and gall to drink, let us listen to Psalm 68: "And they gave me gall for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalm 68:26).
Concerning the spear, the Prophet Zechariah laments on behalf of Christ: "and they shall look upon Me, Whom they have pierced" (Zch. 12:10). Concerning the water gushing from His holy side, the same Prophet affirms: "And in that day living water shall come forth out of Jerusalem" (Zch. 14:8).
[to be continued]
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God