Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God and Only True Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
O Lord, Who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? And who shall dwell in Thy holy mountain? He that walketh blameless and worketh righteousness, speaking truth in his heart, Who hath not spoken deceitfully with his tongue, neither hath done evil to his neighbor, nor taken up a reproach against those near him. In his sight he that worketh evil is set at nought, but he glorifieth them that fear the Lord. He giveth oath to his neighbor, and forsweareth not. He hath not lent his money on usury, and hath not received bribes, against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be shaken.
On May 21st 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: Saints Constantine and Helen, Equal-to-the-Apostles.
SAINTS CONSTANTINE AND HELEN. Saint Constantine's parents were the Emperor Constantius Chlorus and the Empress Helena. Chlorus had further children by another wife, but by Helena he had only the one, Constantine. Constantine fought two great battles when he came to the throne: one against Maxentius, a tyrant in Rome, and the other against Licinius not far from Byzantium. At the battle against Maxentius, when Constantine was in great anxiety and uncertainty about his chances of success, a shining Cross, surrounded by stars, appeared to him in the sky in full daylight. On the Cross were written the words: "In this sign, conquer!"or "En touto nika!" The wondering Emperor ordered that a great cross be put together, like the one that had appeared, and be carried before the army. By the power of the Cross, he gained a glorious victory over enemies greatly superior in number. Maxentius drowned himself in the Tiber. Immediately after this, St. Constantine issued the famous Edict of Milan, in 313 A.D., to put an end to the persecution of Christians. Conquering Byzantium, he built a beautiful capital city on the Bosporus, which from that time was named Constantinople.
At this time, Constantine fell ill with leprosy. The pagan priests and doctors advised him to bathe in the blood of slaughtered children, which he refused to do. Then the Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to him and told him to seek out a bishop, Sylvester, who would heal him of the disease. The bishop instructed him in the Christian faith and baptized him, and the leprosy vanished from the Emperor's body.
When there was discord in the Church about the troublesome heretic Arius, the Emperor summoned the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, in 325 A.D. where the heresy was condemned and Orthodoxy confirmed.
Saint Helena, the Emperor's devout mother, was very zealous for the Christian faith. She visited Jerusalem and found the Precious and Holy Cross of the Lord, and built the Church of the Resurrection over Golgotha and many other churches in the Holy Land. His holy woman went to the Lord in 327 A.D., at the age of eighty. The Emperor Constantine outlived his mother by ten years and entered into rest at the age of about sixty in 337 A.D. in the city of Nicomedia. His body was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints an Holy Emperors, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY' SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 26:1, 12-20
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 10:1-9
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"The devil demonstrates simultaneously his weakness and his wickedness. He is unable to harm anyone who does not harm himself. In fact, anyone who denies heaven and chooses the earth is, at it were, rushing towards a precipice, even though running of his own accord. The devil, however, starts working as soon as he sees someone living up to faith's commitments, someone who has a reputation for virtue, who does good works. He tries to worm vanity into him, to make it possible for him to be puffed up with pride, become presumptuous, lose trust in prayer and not attribute to God the good that he does but to take all the credit himself." [Saint Ambrose of Milan]
THE LIFE OF SAINT NIKON AND THE MIRACLES ATTRIBUTED TO HIM
by Denis F. Sullivan
[source: The Life of St. Nikon]
All the splendor of man is like the blossom of grass. For the grass departs and the blossom dies, but the word of the Lord remains forever." He spoke to himself and considered then these and other things further, censuring things perishing and earthly and those foolishly gaping after them. And he judged a clear [ease] of voluntary slavery having the scales completely turned down to things below and being overcome by possession of these. Immediately, as if stung by a gad fly, as the saying goes, considering all things secondary to the objective before him, he said farewell to all things transitory and foolish. And raising up his eyes to heaven and spreading out his hands, he makes a prayer as premium to that holy journey. He spoke thus: "Lord Jesus Christ, my God, the True Light, Who never left your Father's bosom and came down from heaven for our salvation, help me your unworthy servant, guide me to the straight road that I may journey to the city of your dwelling. For you are, Lord, the cause of all good, and you want everyone to be saved and to come to full knowledge of the truth. And so do not abandon me, because I trust in you alone, my God and Savior, and I praise, glorify and extol you forever. Amen."
The blessed one prayed thus and immediately went as an exile as quickly as he could, taking nothing with him except himself. He journeyed on foot through untrodden ways and waterless places which were very rough and difficult to pass. He made his dear and ancestral land and his motherland and the very love of his parents things quite unloved. For he was eager through being completely without property to build for himself an unencumbered life of virtue. And so having journeyed for many days in strange and unknown places, he came to Pontos and approached the mountain which is on the frontiers of Pontos and Paphlagonia. Here is situated the monastery called Chryse Petra. The name comes from some ancient tradition, either because of the harshness of the place and its lack of water and as if it were gilded from the violence of the sunshine. Or, if it is necessary to speak the truth, because it rendered the souls trained in it truly golden and God-like. And when the young man gazed from afar at this hermitage, he rejoiced exceedingly in it and was extremely glad in his spirit. And then giving himself to prayer again, looking to the heaven he said: "Lord, Jesus Christ, God, you of old ordered the Patriarch Abraham to depart from his land and family and father's home and to go there where Your will had approved; you guided me in my unworthiness by the foresight of Your matchless power to come safely to this place. So You Yourself make my future easy and above all reveal my situation to the abbot fo this monastery and through him reveal to me the path of salvation. For in this I, Your servant, will know that you want me, and that you are with me, blessed Lord, to eternity. Amen."
He prayed thus, and the Lord Who always aids the good brought his prayers to reality. For the divine and bloodless Sacrifice was being celebrated at that hour in the monastery. The Egoumenos happened to be within the divine church and he knew from God the facts about the great one--for even before this that God-bearing old man was distinguished for his prophetic gift. He ran from the monastery and as a result caused the remaining worshipers to be amazed as the unusual and uncustomary conduct which they saw in their own shepherd and leader. When the old man had gone forward a little and met the young man, he embraced him about the neck. And like a loving father, he welcomed him, calling him by the name Niketas, truly a victor. And with every word he spoke to him, the Egoumenos (Abbot), moved by the divine Spirit, asserted that Niketas will not stray at all from his hope and expectation to God. For the old man knew through the Spirit what sort of light would soon be shown to the world by him. For this reason, therefore, he judged all canonical examination superfluous, and considered it secondary. The God-bearing man clipped the hair on Niketas' head to the skin and gave him the monk's garb. He put about him the symbols of the road leading to the Life and admits him to that fairest gathering of brothers as one already living in the fashion of monks and choosing to live this way. Then he turns over to him the servicing of all kinds of needs. And he gladly yielded to the injunction and willingly undertook the service. And so it remained to see this newly selected and truly battle-worthy young soldier working quite vigorously and being like steel, in immense discipline. He carried both wood and water, and sometimes also served the smoked meat of the brotherhood and toiled in all the remaining services and pure tasks and functions of the holy monastery. He emulated that wondrous humility of the Master (Christ) Who did not wish to be served, but to serve. And so the illustrious man hated-idleness as the cause of many evils, and there was no form of service which he himself was not eager to undertake personally...he endured without nourishment, without food, rejecting every form of food so that he remembered nourishment once at the beginning of the week. This was something slight and containing nothing at all of those things which are able to please. For having made all-out war on everything pleasing to the stomach, he eagerly welcomed continuous toils and want and any of the other things that seemed to cause pain to the flesh...
And so the illustrious man prevailed for two full years fighting thus against the laws of nature through the law of the spirit and toiling in this activity or, to say more, in a greater than human state. And he brought all eagerness day by day to move forward and to seize on greater contests and to keep himself completely from concern for the body and to imitate the angelic life beyond the body. He guarded himself against neither the winter's old, nor summer's heat nor any other sort of evil.
For the soul, once overcome by the love of the Lord, always desires to revel in pains and to flourish amid difficulties and to flee release as a harsh punishment. And in addition to his other zealous pursuits of God he employed such plainness and thrift in clothing that he wore only musty and squalid and torn rags in which he quite rejoiced and delighted. For he sought the world within which is invisible no less than lovers of the cosmos seek the external world.
So the illustrious man endured for three full years amid measureless austerity and temptations of unclean spirits. And he grew exhausted in his body, laboring, and toiling in superhuman endeavors. His body was so wasted away and fatigued from toil that he differed not from a shadow. But the disposition of his soul was always noble and patient, and like an Olympian in a contest, a wrestling match. And the moment called him to leave the uninhabited [region] and go into the world to preach and to add other greater labors to his labors.
So he prayed and begged God to give him strength and courage against the evil spirits. And a vision from God appeared and assured the just man that his prayer had been heard. And then the great man heard those words which the long-suffering Job of old, after the beating and those many and innumerable struggles, heard from the mouth of God: "Don not think that I have dealt with you other than that you may be seen a just man. For there is no need to crown the man who has not contested as he should. And for this reason, I, being present, was not allowing your soul to be smitten, which was their whole concern. And I did allow them to bring all the other things upon you. Moreover, I will not allow you to be comfortless in the things you endured, but your weary body will be strengthened. For the future you will be a cause of fear to them, and not approachable; goaded by your censure alone they will go wherever you wish." And so the great man was cheered by this good promise from God and strengthened in his body even more than gymnasts are by food. He was raised up by his firm hope and immediately set off on his preaching, with grace accompanying and guiding him. He pursued thereafter the evil spirits courageously and nobly, chastising them even like some wild animals of the reed.
And so having travelled through many places in the Eastern regions, and having loudly preached his message of repentance and brought numberless people to the harbor of salvation through repentance and change for the better, he recognized that it was necessary for him to sail to the island of Crete, for the Divine Will called him to this. [to be continued]
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God