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.
To the Theotokos:
Most glorious, Ever-Virgin, Blessed Theotokos, Present our prayer to your Son and our God, And pray for us that He may save our souls.
To the Holy Trinity:
My hope is the Father, My refuge is the Son, My shelter is the Holy Spirit, O Holy Trinity, glory be to You.
To the Theotokos:
My every hope, I place upon you, O Mother of God, Keep me safe under your protection.
+ + +
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.
Lord, forgive those who hate us and are unjust to us; Do good to those who are good to us. To our brothers and sisters and members of our family Grant their petitions that are unto salvation and life-eternal; Visit those who are sick and grant healing to them; Accompany and protect those who travel by land, sea and air; Stand by as an ally to our faithful rulers; To those who have asked us to pray for them, unworthy though we be, Grant them forgiveness and mercy according to Your great mercy. Remember, Lord, all of our predeceased -Fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters-And grant them a blessed repose where the Light of Your countenance shines. Remember, Lord, our brothers in captivity And deliver them from every difficult circumstance. Remember, Lord, those who labor and do good works In Your holy Churches; Grant to them their petitions which are unto salvation and eternal life. Remember, Lord, also us, Your humble, sinful and unworthy servants, Enlighten our mind with the Light of Your Knowledge And guide us on the way of Your Commandments, Through the intercessions of Your All-Pure Mother And of all Your Saints; For You are Blessed unto all the ages of ages. Amen.
On June 18th 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 Leontios, Hypatios and Theodoulos the holy Martyrs of Syria.
THE HOLY MARTYR LEONTIUS. A Roman military commander in Tripoli in Phoenicia in the reign of the Emperor Vespasian, he was born in Yelada, 'of great physical stature, powerful, strong and bold in battle'. The imperial governor, Hadrian, sent a military detachment to seize Leontius, Hadrian being a fierce adversary and persecutor of Christians. The commander of the detachment, Hypatius, fell ill on the way with a grave fever and the unit had therefore to slow its pace. One night an Angel of the Lord appeared to Hypatius and said to him: 'If you desire to be healed, you and your soldiers must cry to heaven three times: "O God, of Leontius, help me!" '. Hypatius told his companions about this vision, and they all shouted together as the Angel had instructed him, and Hypatius was immediately healed. This miracle amazed them all, and especially a certain Theodulos. Then Hypatius and Theodulos went on ahead of the other soldiers to find St. Leontius. Saint Leontius received them courteously and offered them refreshment. When he had expounded his faith in Christ, their hearts began to burn with love towards the Lord, and a bright cloud descended upon Hypatius and Theodulos, shedding dew over them. In this way the Holy Spirit of God Himself baptized these two converted souls while Saint Leontius spoke the words: "In the Name of the All-Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit." The evil Hadrian discovered that Hypatius and Theodulos had become Christians and ordered that they be beaten without mercy and then behead with an axe. In this manner St. Leontiu's spiritual children died. Then Hadrian ordered a most cruel torture for St. Leontius, but St. Leontius remained unwavering in his faith. His entire body was covered with wounds, but he prayed to God unceasingly to remain with him. In the midst of these most vicious torments, an Angel of the Lord appeared to comfort and encourage him. At last they threw the holy martyr onto the ground and flogged him until he gave his soul to God. St. Leontiu's sufferings were witnessed by a certain Notarius, who recorded all that he saw on tablets and placed them in the martyr's grave. Saint Leontius suffered with honor in the year of our Lord 73 A.D.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 7:1-14
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 9:36-38; 10:1-8
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
The Worthless Gifts of the Deceived
Geronda (Elder), why is it that people often resort to deceivers to solve their problems?
-Because the devil has worthless gifts to offer and people can acquire them cheaply. What is asked of them doesn't carry a cost, and they can remain comfortable in their passions. Instead of repenting for the sins they commit as human beings, and instead of going to a Spiritual Father to confess, they find some deceived individuals-that is, the devil himself-and ask him to solve their problems. But when they suffer even more, they can't understand that the devil has control over them". [Geronda Paisios of Mount Athos]
THE NEPTIC AND HESYCHASTIC CHARACTER OF ORTHODOX ATHONITE MONASTICISM
By Archimandrite Georgios Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios
As an institution of the Church, Agion Oros (Holy Mountain) finds itself in unbroken dogmatic and spiritual union with the Church. This union assures and guards its neptic and hesychastic character, and it allows it to offer to God's people the fruits of neptic and hesychastic life. Orthodox monasticism, in its entirety, as carrier of the Apostolic and Patristic Tradition of the Church, is neptic and hesychastic. It does not aim towards the external reform of the word, as is the case of Western (Latin) monastic orders, but it targets its transformation by means of repentance, cleansing from the passions and theosis (deification). Furthermore, nepsis and hysychia constitute the essential point of life in accordance with the Gospel. According to the Holy Fathers, nepsis is the vigilance of the nous and watchfulness at the gates of the heart, so that every thought that moves in it can be controlled. The neptic work is practiced in various ways, but in all its forms it presumes renunciation of the world, obedience and hesychia. Hesychia is distancing oneself from worldly distractions, while sacred hesychia of the heart is rejection of thoughts which are not according to God.
The roots of neptic life and of hesychia in accordance with God are found in the Old Testament. The Prophet Moses received experience and knowledge of God on Mount Horeb, when faced by the strange sight of the blazing bush, which did not burn, he was initiated into rejecting every worldly belief, reflected in the removal of his sandals, and to contemplate in reflection and riddle the mystery of the Divine Incarnation. According to the Holy Fathers, this experience of Moses presumed a moving away from the noise and distractions of the world. Prophet Elijah also received experience of God, while in the desert of Mount Horeb and by praying in the hesychastic way of the noetic prayer of the heart. The light breeze, which the Prophet felt after the strong wind, the temblor and fire, were, says the psalms, that knowledge of God presumes the ceasing of dispersal in worldly occupations: "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 45:11). The rest of the Prophets and the Just of the Old Testament also received experience of the Grace of God after neptic work.
Principally, however, the hesychastic way of life is presented in the New Testament as the most suitable for one to arrive at knowledge and experience of God. The Just Forerunner wandered alone in the desert of Jordan from childhood, in extreme stillness, praying solely to God. There, in silence, he received the information that the One who will come to be baptized in the Jordan, and on whom he will see "the Spirit descending and resting," is the anticipated Messiah" (St. John 1:32-34).
Lord Jesus Christ lived in silence for thirty years, while during the three years of His public activity He frequently retreated to the desert for prayer. According to Saint Nikodemos the Athonite, the entire Gospel and Apostolic teachings, aim towards the purification of the interior man from the passions, and for preparation, so that the perfect grace of the Holy Baptism can again enlighten the whole man. With His Divine Transfiguration, the Lord showed the way to true knowledge of God and the manner of contemplation of the uncreated light of His Person. It starts with the rejection of the low and earthly by the actual practice, continues with the elevation through the divine virtues to the purification of the spiritual senses and concludes by means of deifying illumination. Finding himself in this divine state, man is enabled to contemplate the ineffable beauty of God.
The lady Theotokos gave us the perfect example of hesychastic life and neptic work, according to Saint Gregory Palamas. In the Holy of Holies, in Solomon's temple, she carried out the practice of the virtues and unceasing noetic prayer for twelve years, and through them she was able to unite her entire being with the grace of the Holy Spirit: "Having then rejected these, the earthly relations, from the beginning of her life" (writes Saint Gregory and Saint Nikodemos the Athonite gives us in translation) "the Virgin left the people...Separated from every material bond, she rejected every relationship, she arose above every kind of love, including that of her own body, and thus she united her nous with itself, by means of a spirit and by attention, and with divine and eternal prayer…And thus, she constructed a new stratum in the Heavens, in other words the noetic (if I may call it so) stillness, in which having attached her nous, she rises above all creatures, and sees the glory of God more perfectly than Moses, and contemplates divine grace, which is not comprehensible through the senses."
The Holy Apostles worked exclusively in the world and in the midst of distractions, noise and danger, but deep inside they remained hesychasts and workers of nepsis and prayer. Their Apostolic work was not a social reform program, but the rebirth of souls through Christ. The Apostolic Fathers, and afterward the entire subsequent Church lived in the same neptic environment. Saint Gregory the Theologian speaks about the practical virtues as cleansing, because they prepare the soul to receive Christ in the heart, and stillness as deifying, because it raises the nous to God. The divine father desires stillness, and he is distressed when they deprive him of it and they compel him to assume shepherding of the Church. "For what reason are you slow as far as my speaking is concerned, friends and brothers, even though you are quick to upset, and even to take me away from the stillness of my refuge, which I above all preferred, both as associate and as mother of divine elation, and deifying, and which I preferred and embraced, and promoted my whole life?"
Saint Basil the Great also, thanks to the neptic work that he practiced in the desert, and hesychia (stillness), was enabled to contemplate the Divine and Ineffable Light. About this Saint Gregory of Nyssa, his brother, writes: "Moses left Egypt after the death of the Egyptian, and in the following period he spent time in solitude. He move away from the noises of the city and its material offerings, and finally ended up contemplating God with love. He was illuminated by divine light by the bush. We have something relative to this apparition, and about this matter we must say that even though it was night, light shone on him while he was praying at the house; and the light was immaterial, illuminating the building by means of divine power, without being dependent on any substance".
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God