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 ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
FROM THE BLESSING OF WATERS AT EPIPHANY
"...Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my youth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
'For you shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off.'
On June 12th 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 Onouphrios the Great and Petros of Athos.
OUR HOLY FATHER ONOUPHRIOS THE GREAT. This holy ascetic had been living a whole sixty years in the desert when the monk Paphnutius visited him. His hair and beard reached down to the ground, and long hair, as white as snow, had brown all over his body during his years of nakedness. His appearance was cadaverous, unearthly and awe-inspiring. Seeing Paphnutius, he called him by name and then recounted to him his life in the desert. His guardian Angel had appeared to him and taken him to that place. He had for a long time only eaten earth, which it was hard to find in the desert, and, after that, when he had survived an intensive struggle with diabolical temptations and when his heart had become utterly established in love for God, an Angel had brought him bread to eat. And besides that, through God's gracious providence, a palm tree grew up at one side of his cell, that gave good dates, and a spring of water began to flow there. 'But especially,' said St. Onuphrius, 'my food and drink are the sweet words of God.' To hermit answered that the Angel of God brought him Holy Communion every Saturday. On the next day, the old man told St. Paphnutius that it was the day of his departure from this world; then he knelt down, prayed to God and gave his spirit into God's hands. Then St. Paphnutius saw a heavenly light that illumined the body of the departed Saint, and heard a choir of the Angelic Hosts. He buried St. Onuphrius's body with honor and returned to his own monastery, there as a living witness to narrate to the brethren, for their edification, the wonderful life of the man of God and the greatness of God's providence towards those who give themselves wholly to His service. Saint Onuphrius died in the year of our Lord 400 A.D.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 4:4-12
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 7:15-21
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things" (Romans 2:1-2).
"THE WAY" [An Introduction to the Orthodox Faith]
by Protopresbyter Fr. George D. Metallinos Professor Emeritus of the Athens University
"FROM THE WATER AND SPIRIT"-(The Theology of the Holy Baptism)
The major interpreter of the Divine Liturgy, Saint John Kavasilas (14th century) links the existence of the Church to Her sacraments. "The Church is denoted (revealed) by the sacraments" he underlines, implying chiefly with this the par excellence sacrament of the Church: the Divine Eucharist. There can be no ecclesiastic reality without sacraments (Mysteria); in other words, possibilities for partaking of uncreated Divine Grace and at the same time, the means for experiencing its Spiritual character. The Church is demarcated, revealed, manifested and realized in her sacraments and more especially, in the Divine Eucharist. According to the same theologian: "This is the road that the Lord carved out when coming to us, and this is the gate that He opened when entering the world, which when returning to the Father, He did not wish to close, but by Him and through it, does he contact the people […] for these are the things by which we live in Him, and move, and are…" (Acts 17:28).
The Church "exists and is continually shaped in the Mysteria (Sacraments) and through the sacraments." Her boundaries are designated, at local levels, only in compliance with the sacramental life of the ecclesiastic body. "The living outside the sacramental life are outside the Christ." Outside of this way of existence, Satan his powers dominate." (Fr. John Romanides, Professor of Dogmatics).
Each Mysterion (Sacrament) is a possibility for becoming incorporated into the ecclesiastic body; into the divine-human reality of the Church, and for the transformation of the "contra-natural" way of our fallen existence to the "natural" life and existence that renders Man receptive of Divine Grace. It is within the Sacraments that the nature of the faithful is "made new,' it is renovated and deified (theosis). Besides, according to Saint Makarios, "it is for this reason that our Lord came, so the He might change the nature of and renovate and reconstruct this living being, which was destroyed by passions on account of the fall […] and He came to forge into new people. once and for all, all those who believe in Him."
The first Mysterion (Sacrament) in this process of rebirth, but also the beginning and the prerequisite of all the others, is the Holy Baptism, "the first of His gifts." The theology of the Baptism is extensively expounded by the holy Fathers of the Church, from the so-called Apostolic ones to the Major Fathers of the 4th and 5th centuries, and pursuant to them, up to "Saint Nicholas Kavasilas and Saint Simeon of Thessaloniki (+1429). This teaching was summarized by Saint Basil the Great, who defined the two basic purposes and the dynamics of the baptism: (a) to abolish "the body of sin, so that it may never again bear fruits of death" and (b) provide for the baptized to "live in the spirit and bear fruits in sanctification" (Galatians 5:22).This is the spiritual birth or rebirth of man, which takes place, according to the word f Christ to Nicodemus, "by water and the Spirit" (St. John 3:5).
Baptism, with the grace provided by the Holy Spirit, sets in motion the Christian's entire spirit course towards salvation. The supernatural results of the baptism are pointed out by Saint Gregory of Nyssa: "Baptism, therefore, is the cleaning of sins, the remission of delinquencies, the cause of renovation and rebirth; 'rebirth' must be understood as a meaning that is seen noetically, and not by the eyes.
The Christ-centered character of baptism is therefore very obvious. This is pointed out by Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki: "The Logos (word) of God firstly acted philanthropically within Himself (=implying the Sacraments), so that, by being the commencement of all good things, all of us might receive from Him as though from a spring of His. For this is also why He was incarnated; so that we might join ourselves to Him and be sanctified by Him, because He is the Logos of God who created us from the beginning, He once again shall re-create us, with the condescension of the Father and the collaboration of the Holy Spirit"
To confine ourselves to Baptism, we should point out that in the New Testament, this Mysterion (Sacrament) is linked to sacrifice and martyrdom (St. Mark 10:39; St. Luke 12:50), but also to death (Romans 6:4; Cols. 2:12). As proved by the "exorcisms" that are nowadays attached to the Sacrament of Baptism, the stage of "catechesis" constituted the "initiation" of the new Christian into the spiritual labor that will free him from "the snare of Satan, through the cleansing of his heart from every selfishness and egocentricity that obscures the mind and distorts the candidate's perception regarding the true union in the Church. Besides, the preparatory stage for baptism is referred to as a "rite" (μυσταγωγία), which means a gradual initiation into the Mysteries of the Church.
Precedent to the baptism service benedictions are the: "Canons of the Holy Apostles and Divine Father" who, in response to heretic provocations, determined the true baptism of the Church (the triple immersion and emersion) and its ecclesiological prerequisites, rejecting all the heretic cacodoxies that had been linked to it. Orthodoxy, wherever it may exist, reverently persists in the immersion of a person; in other words, the true and literal baptism (Greek: vaptizo=to plunge). The contemporary baptismal font, which is the continuation of the ancient baptistery, functions as the "womb" of re-creation: "…just as the womb is to the embryo, so the water is to the faithful: he is shaped and fashioned within the water…" (Saint John Chrysostom). "The triple immersion into and emersion from the water of the baptism is not a tutorial model or an allegory; it is a perceptible experience of an actual even. With baptism, the human existence ceases to be the result of a biological necessity. Contrary to natural birth, which comprises a biological unit that is subject to natural data, baptism erects the existence, into a freedom from natural necessity into a personal otherness which exists only as an ecclesiological hypostasis of communion and a loving association."
ON INFANT BAPTISM
Infant baptism-which was already known in the ancient Church (see for example I Corinthians 1:16)-prevailed because the infant is open to grace, but also for a most powerful anthropological reason: the absolute need for infant baptism springs from the fact that "children are born under the power of the devil on account of the powerlessness of nature, of body and soul, which are governed by death and deterioration that are inherited from their parents, and also because of their union with fallen creation and everything dependent on it." Needless to say, of course, that respect for the spirit of the Church demands that infant baptism apply in cases of pious parents and godparents, who keep alive their association with the ecclesiastic body, just as no-one dares to baptize children of non-Christians, since they will not have the opportunity for Christian upbringing.
Christianity means a way of life different to the worldly one (St. John 17:39-19). "Faithful" means to be crucified "along with one's passions and desires" and have become "of Christ" (Galatians 5:24). He lives "in the Spirit" and therefore "is aligned (behaves accordingly) to the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25). The "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25) is the Spirit's presence being revealed in the heart that has been cleansed of its passion. Catharsis is what one strives from in his spiritual struggle, so that man may remain open to Divine Grace.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God