Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, Our God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
A PRAYER TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
O Master and Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who are longsuffering towards our faults and has brought us even unto this present hour, in which, hanging upon the Life-Giving Cross, Thou has opened unto the good thief the way into Paradise, and destroyed death by death: be merciful to us, Thy sinful and unworthy servants, for we have sinned and transgressed, and we are not worthy to lift up our eyes and look at the height of heaven, since we have forsaken the path of Thy Righteousness and have walked according to the desires of our own hearts. But we pray Thee of Thy boundless goodness, spare us, O Lord, according to the abundance of Thy mercy, and save us for Thy Holy Name's sake, for our days have been consumed in vanity. Pluck us from the hand of the adversary, forgive us our sins, and kill our fleshly lust, that putting off the old man, we may put on the new, and may live for Thee, our Master and Protector; that so, following Thine ordinances, we may attain to eternal rest, in the place where all the joyful dwell. For Thou, O Christ our God, are indeed the True joy and gladness of those that love Thee, and to Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father Who is without beginning, and Thy Most Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
On May 14th 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 Martyr Isidore; Our Holy Father Serapion the Sindonite.
THE HOLY MARTYR ISIDORE. In the reign of the Emperor Decius, this St. Isidore was taken by force by soldiers from the island of Chios. He had held the Christian faith from his youth, and had spent his life in fasting, prayer and good works. So when, in the army, he declared himself to be a Christian, the commander took him to task for it, and urged him to deny Christ and offer sacrifice to idols. The Saint replied: "Even if you kill my body, you have no power over my soul. I have the true and loving God, Jesus Christ, who lives in me and will be with me at my death; and I am in Him and shall remain in Him, and will not cease to confess His holy name while the spirit is in my body." The commander ordered that they first beat him with iron flails and then cut out his tongue. But, even without his tongue, Saint Isidore was able to speak, and confessed the Name of Christ by the Spirit of God. Meanwhile the punishment of God struck the commander, and he suddenly became mute. The mute commander finally gave the signal to behead Saint Isidore. Saint Isidore rejoiced at this sentence and, praising God, went out to the scaffold, where his head was cut off in the year 251 A.D. His friend, Ammon, buried his holy body and after that himself suffered and received the wreath of martyrdom.
+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:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 12:12-17
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 8:42-51
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Many parents teach their children the arts that serve the temporal life and spend no small sum on it, but they neglect the Christian teaching and are remiss in teaching their children to live as Christians. Such parents who beget their children unto the temporal, close the door to the eternal [Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk ]
SPIRITUAL WISDOM FROM THE PHILOKALIA
THE TWO KINDS OF FAITH
Saint Paul said that faith was the basis of all actions that conform to God's will, and that we have received it through holy Baptism by the grace of Christ and not through works (Col. 1:23; Romans 11:6). According to Saint Isaac, this is the first kind of faith, and it engenders the fear that is inherent in it. Such fear leads us to keep the Commandments and patiently to endure trials and temptations, as Saint Maximos has explained. Then, after we have begun to act in this contemplation, to which the Lord was referring when He said, "If you have faith as a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you" (St. Matthew 17:20). Thus there is, first, the ordinary faith of all Orthodox Christians, that is to say, correct doctrinal belief concerning God and His creation, both visible and invisible, as the Holy Catholic Church, by God's grace, has received it; and there is, second, the faith of contemplation or spiritual knowledge, which is not in any way opposed to the first kind of faith, on the contrary, the first gives birth to the second, while the second strengthens the first.
We acquire the first kind of faith through hearing about it, inheriting it from devout parents and teachers of the Orthodox Faith; but the second is engendered in us by our true belief and by our fear of the Lord in whom we have come to believe. For because of this fear we have chosen to keep the Commandments and so have resolved to practice the virtues that pertain to the body-stillness, fasting, moderate vigils, psalmody, prayer, spiritual reading, and the questioning of those with experience about all our thoughts, words, or undertakings. We practice these virtues so that the body may be purified of the worst passion -gluttony, unchastity, and superfluous possessions -and so that we may be content with that we have, as the Apostle puts it (Hebrews 13:5).
It is in this way that a man finds the strength to devote himself undistractedly to God. He learns from the Holy Scriptures and from people of experience about divine doctrines and commandments, and he begins to reject the rest of the eight leading passions. Perceiving the punishments that threaten man, he is not merely afraid of God: he fears Him as God, the words of Saint Neilos. As a consequence of this fear he begins to keep the commandments with true knowledge of why he does so. And the more he endures voluntary death for the sake of each commandment, the more he enters into greater knowledge and contemplates what is taking place in himself through the grace of Christ. As a result he comes to believe that the Orthodox Faith is truly glorious, and he begins to long to do God's will. He no longer has any doubts about God's help, but "casts his burden upon the Lord" (Psalm 55:22). As Saint Basil the Great says, he who wishes to acquire the higher kind of faith should not worry about his own life or death; even if faced by a wild beast or attacked by demons or evil men, he should not be at all afraid, since he knows that they are all the creatures of a single Creator and are co-servants with him, and would have no power against him if God did not allow it. He should fear God alone, for He alone has power.
This is made clear by the Lord Himself when He says: "I will warn you whom to fear', continuing: "Fear Him who has the power to cast both body and soul into hell"; and in order to confirm his words, He says: "Yes, I will tell you, fear Him" (St. Luke 12:5). He has good reason to say this; for if someone else apart from God had power, we ought to fear him; but since God alone is the Creator and Master of things above and things below, who can do anything without Him? If someone says that there are creatures that possess free will, I too agree that Angels and men, as well as the demons, do indeed possess it. But the Angelic orders and good men cannot bear to inflict any harm at all on one of their fellow-servants, even though he is very evil, instead, they feel compassion for him and entreat God on his behalf, as Saint Athanasius the Great says. As for evil men and their teachers in evil, the demons, they would certainly like to harm others, but are utterly unable to do so, unless the person in question has himself caused God to abandon him through his own sinful actions.
The trials and temptations of righteous and holy men take place with God's consent and contribute both to the perfecting of their souls and to the shaming of their enemies, the demons. Thus when the person who carries out Christ's commandments becomes aware of these things, he does not believe simply that Christ is God and that He has the power, for even the demons realize this because of His actions and they shudder (St. James 2:19). On the contrary, he believes that all things are possible for Christ, that His every will is good, and that without Him nothing good can happen. It is for this reason that such a person does not want to do anything contrary to the divine will, even if it is a question of saving his life, though of course, it is impossible to save one's life unless one does perform God's will, for this Divine Will is eternal life (St. John 12:50), the greatest of blessings, even if the effort needed to attain it appears to some to be arduous.
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God