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 ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
FROM THE VESPERS OF PENTECOST
Blessed are You, Master, Almighty Lord, for You light the day with the light of the sun and brighten the night with the rays of fire. You enabled us to pass the span of the day and so come to the beginning of the night. Hear our prayer and that of all Your people, and forgive us all our deliberate and unwitting sins; receive our evening petitions and send upon Your inheritance the abundance of Your mercy and compassion.
Encompass us with Your holy Angels; arm us with the weapons of Your righteousness; fortify us within Your truth; make Your strength our garrison, spare us all adverse circumstances and all assaults of the adversary. Finally, vouchsafe to us this evening, and the impending night, perfect, holy, peaceful, sinless, free of disturbing visions, and all the days of our lives, through the prayers of the Holy Theotokos and of all the Saints who have pleased You through the ages.
On June 11[THE BEGINNING OF THE FAST OF THE HOLY APOSTLES BEGINS TODAY AND ENDS ON JUNE 30TH] 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 Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas; Saint Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople.
HOLY APOSTLE BARTHOLOMEW. He was one of Twelve Apostles. It is generally agreed that St. Bartholomew and Nathaniel are one and the same person. He was a companion of the Apostle Philip and his sister, the virgin Mariamna--and for some time of Saint John the Theologian--- preaching the Gospel in Asia, then in India and finally in Armenia, where he died a martyr. In Hierapolis, the holy Apostles by their prayers killed a great snake which has been kept in a temple and deified by the pagans. In this same town, they restored the sight of one Stachius, who had been blind for forty years. This roused the mob against them, and Philip and Bartholomew were crucified, St. Bartholomew upside down. At this there was an earthquake, in which the evil judges and many of the people perished. Seeing this as a punishment from God, many ran to take the Apostles down from their crosses, but Philip was already dead although St. Bartholomew was still alive. After that, St. Bartholomew went to India, where he preached and translated the Gospel of St. Matthew into the Indian language. After that, he moved to Armenia, where he cured the king's daughter of madness. But the king's envious brother, Astyages, took the Apostle of God and crucified him, then had him flayed and beheaded in the Armenian town of Ourbanopolis. His body was buried by Christians in a leaden coffin.
THE HOLY APOSTLE BARNABAS. One of the Seventy, he was born in Cyprus, of wealthy parents of the tribe of Levi, and studied with Gamaliel together with Saul (St. Paul). He was first named Joseph, but the Apostles called him Barnabas, Son of Consolation, because he had a rare gift for comforting men's souls. After Saul's conversion, St. Barnabas was the first to welcome him among the Apostles. After that, with St. Paul and St. Mark, he preached the Gospel in Antioch and other places. All accounts agree that he was the first to preach in Rome and in Milan. He suffered at the hands of the Jews on the island of Cyprus and was buried by St. Mark the Evangelist at the Western gate of the city of Salamis, holding a copy of the Gospel of St. Matthew which he had transcribed with his own hand.
The holy relics of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Barnabas brought healing and many miracles to many of the Christian believers.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Apostles, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistles Lesson: Acts 11:19-30
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:16-21
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" [St. Matthew 11:28-29]
THE MYSTERION [SACRAMENT] OF HOLY CONFESSION
by Father Anthony Alevizopoulos, PhD. of Theology and PhD. of Philosophy
Holy Confession was a familiar act in the Old Testament (Leviticus 5:5-6; Prov. 28:13). That is why people would come to St. John the Baptist and Forerunner and confess their sins while he would confirm their repentance with baptism (St. Matthew 3:5-6; St. Mark 1:4-5).
This activity was also continued in the Christian Church--"many who believed would come to confess their sins and uncover their deeds" (Acts 19:18) thus being forgiven by the holy Apostles, according to the promise of the Lord: that this authority would be granted to the holy Apostles (St. Matthew 16"19, 18:18). This was fulfilled following the Resurrection of the Christ. Of course, forgiveness was not based on the power of the Apostles but "on the blood" of the Lord (St. John 20:21-23; 1 John 1:7).
The Confessor is used as an instrument, as a servant of Christ and caretaker of the Mysteries (Sacraments) of God (1 Cor. 4:1; Titus 1:7; 1 John 1:9-2:2).
In the early Church, confession was made publicly during the holy assembly of the faithful, where the clergy and the bishop were present, too, who would grant remission of sins. "All who repent, the Lord forgives them if they repent in unity of God and in the presence of a bishop" (Ign. Philad. 8:1). Saint Ignatius says, characteristically, while the "Didache" advises "if you confess your transgressions in the Chruch and you do not approach your prayer with evil conscience, this is the way of life" (Didache 4:14).
Saint Cyprian stresses that the sinner is received back into the ecclesiastical community, namely in the mystery of the Divine Eucharist, 'through the placing on of the hands of the bishop and of the clergy" having previously confessed (Cyprian Epistle 16:2). Holy Communion is not allowed to anyone "if the bishop and the clergy do not place their hand on him beforehand" (Epistle 18:2). The "remission", he says, that was granted "through the clergy" is "pleasing to the Lord" (De lapsis 29).
Origen considers it a natural consequence, "according to the depiction of the One Who gave the Priesthood to the Church, that both the functionaries and the clergy of the Church assume the sins of the people, imitating the Teacher by granting to the people remission of sins (Origen, speech 50,3).
Saint Basil the Great refers to confession in the Apostolic Church (Acts 19:18) and concludes that "it is necessary that we confess our sins to those entrusted with the caretaking of the Mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1) since even the first Christians "were confessing to the Apostles, who also baptized everyone" (Gr. Basil, Rules 288).
Saint John Chrysostom says about priests: "While still inhabiting and walking upon the earth, they have assumed the management of heavenly affairs with authority that God did not give even to the angels or archangels. He did not in fact tell the angels 'Whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in the Heavens…" However, the bond of the priests touches the soul itself and extends to the Heavens, and whatever the priests do down on earth is confirmed by God in the Heavens. The master approves the decision of His servants. He told them, 'Whoever's sins you uphold, they shall be upheld also in Heaven'" (St. John Chrysostom, homily On the Priesthood, 3:5).
The Orthodox Church therefore continues this early Christian tradition of Confession before a Father Confessor.
FROM THE ORTHODOX STUDY BIBLE.
"You did not choose Me," Jesus told the Twelve, "but I chose you and appointed [ordained] you." (St. John 15:16). To these same disciples Jesus promised, "It is not you who speak but the Holy Spirit" (St. Mark 13:11). Whom God calls, He equips. Saint Paul writes to St. Timothy, "Stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6). It is the grace of the Holy Spirit which enables the priest to serve God and the people.
Thus the Church has encouraged her faithful. If you know you have committed a specific sin, do not hide it but confess it before coming to the Holy Eucharist. Saint Paul wrote, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (I Cor. 11:31).
King David learned a lesson regarding his sin which is recorded for our benefit. For about a year, he had hidden his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband (2 Samuel 11:1-12:13). Then, confronted by Nathan the prophet, David repented from his heart and confessed his sin in a psalm which is used for general confession to this day (Psalm 50 ). The joy of salvation was restored to him.
People ask, "Can't I confess to God privately?" Certainly, though there is no clear biblical basis for it. Even general confession occurs in the Church. In His mercy, God provides the Sacrament of Confession (more properly called the Sacrament of Repentance) to give us deliverance from sin and from what psychologists call denial. It is easy to pray in isolation, yet never come clean. It is far more effective to confess aloud to God before a priest, and benefit from his guidance and help.
Thus we come before the holy icon of Christ, to whom we confess, and are guided by the priest, our spiritual father, in a cleansing inventory of our lives. When we tell God all, naming our sins and failures, we hear those glorious words of freedom which announce Christ's promise of forgiveness of all our sins. We resolve to "go and sin no more" (St. John 8:11).
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:8-10).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant