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.
A PRAYER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
(Father Constantinos Kallinikos)
O Divine and All-Holy Spirit, twenty centuries ago You descended upon Zion, and the upper room where the disciples had gathered was changed into a church, while the Galileans who were mere fishermen then experienced the great transformation and became Apostles and Evangelists.
Descend also upon us who beseech You in fervent prayer and on bent knees. Come into the midst of our disorderly chaos and transform it into a beautiful order of harmony and beauty. Like a powerful stormy wind, come to uproot our passions and cast them aside. Like a revitalizing river, come to irrigate our moral and spiritual aridity. Like a pleasant dew from heaven, come to renew and refresh our spiritual debility. Like a fire, come to warm and kindle our religious indifference and laxity. Like a fiery tongue, come to speak consolation in us. Like a seal, come to secure and protect the spiritual treasure of our adoption. Like an engagement of commitment, come to bind and betroth our hearts for all time with the Divine Bridegroom. Like a healing oil, come to heal our secret wounds. Like a dove of peace, come to make us into sons and daughters of light and peace. As a Divine Builder, come and transform our souls into dwellings built by God, in which the Triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, may find a worthy temple to dwell now and always. Amen.
On June 15th 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: Amos the holy Prophet; Our Righteous Hieronymus; St. Jerome the Righteous; Saints Achikos, Stephanas and Fortuanatos the Holy Apostles, Augustine the Blessed of Hippo.
OUR HOLY FATHER DOULAS. He lived a holy life in an Egyptian monastery. Some of the brethren living in the monastery falsely accused him of blasphemy out of envy towards him, saying that he had stolen from the church things they had themselves taken. The innocent Doulas was stripped of his habit and handed over to the governor for trial. The prince had him flogged and would have cut off his hands, according to the law for such offences, but Doulas's fellow-monks repented and declared his innocence. He returned to his monastery after twenty years of exile and humiliation, and went to his rest in the Lord on the third day. His body disappeared in a miraculous way.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Fathers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 5:17-21; 6:1-2
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 9:14-17
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"To one who is attentive to his own salvation and is sober, every place is a place for saving the soul. 'It is not the place that saves, but one's way of life and pleasing of God...' I live in the saving harbor of Sarov, but poorly. For it is not the place that saves; Judas was not saved even in the presence of Christ Himself. No matter where you are, you need attentiveness to yourself and sobriety." [Geronda (Elder) Hilarion]
HOW TO DISCERN THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES
by Metropolitan Joseph
The Lord said: "You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you, hypocrites, cannot discern the signs of the times" (St. Matthew 16:2-4)
We are not pessimists, and we are not prophets of doom and gloom. However, we are also not prophets of cheerfulness and positive-thinking. Our Lord instructed us to discern the "signs of the times". Thus, it is always our task to be "critical" of modern society. We cannot be members of a large group of movement, or any fad or mob. The only ultimate allegiance we have, obviously, is the Body of Christ. That allegiance alone determines our philosophy, our outlook and our ethic. It is important to say this outright, because in this moment, we are thinking especially about "our home churches"-our families. Our task is to prepare them for the Orthodox way of life in the Holy Orthodox Church.
Saint and Apostle Paul wrote who should imitate whom in his First Epistle to the Corinthians: "I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me" (4:15-16). And then later on, in the same Epistle, he repeated this principle: "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (11:1).
Indeed, we like to say that our children are the Church today and tomorrow. This is certainly true. They are full members of the Body of Christ that is the Orthodox Church, and we should treat them as such, as holy icons of the Lord.
But we should also make very clear that they are young and inexperienced. They are easily influenced and undeveloped. They are more vulnerable to social trends and cultural change than our mature members are. Because this lack of wisdom, and vulnerability to suggestion, they are often foolish in outlook, thinking and behavior.
Whether we like it or not, we are the ones who must lead our children from this foolishness to wisdom, from childishness to maturity. After all, we are the parents, they are the children. We are the ones who guard and guide. They were not given to us for our sakes. We have been given to the Church, in this generation, for theirs.
Again, I quote the Apostle Paul in this regard. In his Epistle to the Ephesians, Saint Paul described maturity that transcended this foolishness of youth: "When we attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, then we will no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles" (Eph. 4:13-14).
In this passage, the Apostle outlines for us the goal of youth ministry, which is to lead youth to maturity-and he tells us exactly what maturity is. Maturity, St. Paul says, is attaining that single vision of faith, that apostolic unity of theoria (vision), in which the Apostles and all the Saints experienced the same revelation.
Maturity is also the lifelong, existential and mystical relationship with Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It is a relationship which is always characterized by the intersection of the divine and human, and at that intersection, Christ brings the person into participation in the Trinitarian fellowship of love.
Maturity is manhood. It is the time, as Saint Paul wrote, when "childish things are put away" (1 Cor. 13:11). Manhood is the stage of life when thoughts and emotions are under control. It is the point when a person realizes that he is not a victim of past mistakes or tragedies, nor is he a puppet of psychological or biological forces. He is, rather, created in the image of God. He has a royal authority over his soul, and a purifying interaction with the world.
Maturity is communion with Christ, union with the Triune God. It is as Saint Paul says, the "stature of the fullness of Christ." It is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, so that-as Saint Seraphim of Sarov says-thousands will be saved. Maturity is the attainment of sainthood.
I wish to draw your attention to a set of trends that are affecting all of us right now, and will effect especially our families. I am going to spend some time on these trends, mainly because the information is important...but also to underscore how important it is to make sure our thinking about our ministry is fresh, creative and pious.
While these observations are not pessimistic, much of them are negative. I share them with you, because you need to bear these thoughts in mind as we plan for the care of our families and faithful.
Some of these trends are obvious trends, and others require more discernment. The obvious trends are large-scale and historic, and they will impose profound dynamics upon us and our communities.
-Western society continues to become more reliant upon the technology for daily life. The modern culture, in its addiction to false images and entertainment, has become "disengaged" from the original design for human life. As a result, our young person will become "less-connected" with other people and with their natural world. He is becoming, in the terminology of the Holy Fathers, increasingly "insensitive" to the beauties and truth of God's Creation.
-Society continues to push religion-especially the Holy Orthodoxy-out of the public square and into the backstreet alleys. Religious belief has been demoted to the status of "private opinion". Ethics and morality have become matters of personal taste, instead of reflecting the eternal constants of truth and goodness.
-Society continues to ignore the moral witness of the Church, and has adopted only one simple value: the materialistic satisfaction of people who can speak for themselves. This means that society will increase in moral permissiveness. It will be liberation for those who have power and wealth. But those who are poor, or who cannot speak for themselves-they will be the ones who will have laws heaped upon them, and will lose their right even to live.
-Because of the society's rejection of the Divine origin of moral law, and presence of temptations for the arousal of passions are at a degree higher than ever before, including the decadents days of Rome. At the same time, the witness of Christianity has been erased from civil society, and has been demoted to the ranks of mere superstition in the public schools. As a result, immorality has permeated the fundamental levels of youth culture and psychology, as there is little to no authority to check its growth
At this point, we have said enough about trends. Some of us, in the past, have reacted to such a presentation of characters by dismissing this as doom and gloom. Or, they might simply respond by becoming morose and depressed. They might complain that they did not feel "inspired" or "uplifted". This is the second temptation that can distort our planning and our work in our ministry - the temptation of pessimism.
Indeed, we are here for joy and peace, but not for cheerfulness. My intention is to spiritually encourage you to continue our work. Encouragement is all about courage, and courage is what is needed in our ministry to our families and faithful. Because our families and faithful need the joy of the Lord, not self-esteem or positive-thinking.
You see, while you and I might protest at thinking about these challenges, and while some might become pessimistic at these future trends. I am stricken by the painful fact that our families and faithful are already aware of each of these concerns. They are not aware intellectually. They feel existentially the pain of these concerns.
When there is no dining table at home, when there is the feeling of unending appointments of things to do, when there is the wild acts of lust and anger, when there comes the certain knowledge that the American Dream is more dream than reality, when the price tag of materialism comes as an enormous burden of debt, and a constant concern about the interest rates and the stock market - our families and faithful are too anxious to be pessimistic.
It is our task to resist the temptation of pessimism, and to lead them out of the passionate web of deceit that binds them. It is our task to lead them into the maturity of sainthood. It is our task to lead them into beauty and communion. It is our task of our Orthodox ministry to help our families and especially our children become human again, if they have lost their way. And if they haven't yet, our task is to keep them forever in the Orthodox Church, so they might remain human. And that can be done in the Body of Christ.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God