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 ΚΑ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
LACK OF CONCERN FOR ETERNAL BLISS
Woe is me! What comforts and delights are prepared for us; but there is no one who has labored for salvation, no one who desires such things. Instead we prefer that which is present, temporary and impermanent. We never eve bring these eternal delights to mind. What blindness! What diabolical deceit!
Woe is me! What torments are prepared for the punishment of sinners like me who live carelessly? There is no one among us who fears and trembles. With empty words we honor that which we are taught. We take pleasure in the passions of the flesh, for we are bound by them as with iron chains, and there is no one who fights against them; but rather, we who are bound rejoice...
Come, let us bend our hearts to contrition, and we will weep before the Lord day and night. Come, let us remember that hour and how inevitable it is, and contritely will be shed tears. Come, let us recall those inexpressible, indescribable delights, and make our heart contrite. Come, let us recall the terrible and awesome throne and the shame which awaits us when we stand before it--and we will lament for ourselves.
Come, let us remember how the righteous will shine like the sun and the sinners will be like the soot on burnt pots; and, having made our hearts contrite, let us be zealous in good works.
Come, let us confirm ourselves in the fear of God, that we might be made worthy of eternal bliss.
Come, let us fall down before God in contrition and simplicity of heart, for He is good and kindhearted and save those who repent. Let us beg Him to bring us into His Kingdom of ineffable bliss that has no end.
[A Spiritual Psalter or Reflection on God by Saint Ephraim the Syrian]
On June 16th 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 Tychon the Wonder-worker, Bishop of Cyprus; Saint Eftropios of Constantinople, St. Mark the Just of Apollonia; Five holy Martyrs of Nicomedia; Forty holy Martyrs of Rome.
SAINT TIKHON, BISHOP OF AMATHUS. A wonder-worker, St. Tikhon was chosen unanimously as bishop on the death of blessed Mnemonius, and consecrated by the renowned Epiphanius for the diocese of Amathus. The purity of his life and his zealous adherence to Orthodoxy recommended him for this rank. There were still pagans in Cyprus at that time, and St. Tikhon undertook with apostolic zeal to turn the unbelievers into believers, and he had great success in this. After lengthy toil in the Lord's vineyard, he entered into the eternity of the blessed in about 425 A.D. He is named a wonder-worker because of the many miracles that he performed during his lifetime. His father was a baker, and whenever his father left him alone in the shop, he would distribute the bread to the poor without payment. His father reproached him once for doing this, so he prayed to God and their storehouse became so full of grain that they could open the door only with difficulty. Another time he planted a dry slip from a vine and the vine grew green and bore fruit in its season.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Wonder-Workers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 3:19-24
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 7:1-8
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Always entreat the Creator to forgive you. He knows all the hidden deeds and thoughts which people do not confess, perhaps from shame, from lack of strength to tell the truth". [Saint Raphael of Lesvos]
DEATH AND THE FUTURE LIFE
According to Dr. Constantine Kavarnos points out in his excellent summation of this topic:
"The Orthodox Church has a full and very precise teaching on the questions of the constitution of man, the nature of the soul, the relationship between the body and the soul, the nature of death, Paradise and Hell, and the general destiny of man. This teaching is contained in the writings of the God-bearing Fathers and Teachers of the Church--most notably in the writings of the ascetics and mystics-- in the lives of the Saints, and in the Church's Hymnography and Iconography" (The Future Life According to Orthodox Teaching).
Death is without doubt the most perplexing subject known to man. The wisest of the secular sages throughout the centuries of human existence have not been able to unravel, or fully reveal the cause and ultimate meaning of, this dilemma. Even less have they been able to help man to deal with it properly. "Only the Christian Faith, which holds fast to the word of the Resurrection, offers a certain, a secure and a sure hope for victory over death. And this hope is a gift of God".
We live in a society that worships the body and material possessions (vanity, hedonism, and materialism) and cares next to nothing for the soul. Suicide is near its all time high--especially among teenagers--because of the tremendous despair that is generated when a soul made in the image of God is confronted with the meaninglessness and fragmentation of life without God in the modern world. The Orthodox Church has an answer to all of these problems, and offers sure hope for those who are at the end of their rope and may be ready to take their own life. As our Lord once said, "for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (St. Matthew 16:26).
We also live in a world in which most people have very confused and false understanding of the future life. From the popularity of "near-death experiences", to the typical Hollywood portrayal of bliss among the grave regardless of how one lived their life, most people embrace a mish-mash of notions about what is in store for them when their soul parts from their body. These false views of the future life serve to encourage man in his pride, vanity, and carelessness. Ideas have consequences, and these ideas have led innumerable souls to eternal peril.
For the Orthodox Christian, however, a proper understanding of the future life is essential to living in a God-pleasing, joyous and fulfilled manner on earth. Orthodox understand that hell is a choice; that a person's view of the future determines how he or she lives in the present; and that, as Saint Isaac the Syrian once said: "This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits." Meditation upon one's own death and the Judgment that awaits him is not something that promotes morbid introspection, but rather the true repentance that leads to the fullness of life and joy in Christ.
Only the Christian Faith, which holds fast to the word of the Resurrection, offers a certain, a secure and a sure hope for victory over death. And this hope is a gift from God. Dealing with us in a pedagogical manner, God did not give us the Resurrection from the beginning. Instead, He gave us hope for a resurrection. When God said to Adam and Eve were, henceforth, to eat their bread in the sweat of their brow, He added: "Till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken" (Genesis 3:19). This word of the Creator is commented upon by Saint John Chrysostom in the following manner: "What a decision! What fear! Filled with love for man! What a decision filled with hope of revocation." They had not yet been exiled from Paradise and God was recalling His creatures. He had not yet banished man from Paradise and was now already recalling him. God was already receiving man again to be near Him. God did not say "till you disappear, till you become weakened and decomposed into nothingness", but rather, He said, "Till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken", so that you may have in your mind as granted the "hope of resurrection." I send you there (to the ground) from where I have taken you. For, as when I created you I took you from there, so also am I able to take you again. For "dust are thou, and unto dust shall thou return" (Genesis 3:19). Your body is dust and after your physical death it will again become dust. You will not disappear; you will return to be dissolved into dust. The term apeleuse (return), notes the Holy Father, is interpreted by some, as "epaneleuse" which means "to return again", intimating resurrection.
The resurrection of the dead is guaranteed by the Resurrection of our Lord on the third day after His death on the Cross, for He is "the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (I Cor. 15:20). His glorious Resurrection is the "betrothal" for the resurrection of our own bodies. Already a prototype of this was seen in the Old Testament with the example of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale but preserved alive and whole until he was spew out after three days. Also, the Lord had assured the Jews of His Resurrection. He said to them: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up". He did not mean the temple of Solomon, but the All-Holy Temple of His All-Pure Body. His disciples were fully convinced of this when indeed Christ was resurrected from the dead (St. John 2:19-22).
The resurrection of the dead will take place because nothing is impossible for the Omnipotent wisdom of the Creator and the Omniscient power of God. "With God all things are possible", as He Himself assured us (St. Mark 10:27). Divine Omnipotence can do all things. Those who do not believe, let them learn actually "what the Almighty cannot do--He cannot lie".
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God