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.
BY MY TEARS CLEANSE MY SINS AND GIVE ME STRENGTH, THAT THE ENEMY MIGHT BE ASHAMED
Who will cure my soul if not Thou, O Christ, the Only Physician of souls! Where will I find a remedy for the diseases of my soul, if not with Thee, O Fountain of healing!...Thou Who did cure the ailing woman, cure also my soul from the ruin of sin.
May Thy compassion descend on me and help me to overthrow my enemy. Fortify me who am infirm by the strength of Thine arm, and the Evil One will be ashamed when he sees that I am prepared for battle. Animate me and the Evil One will be humiliated. In shame will he be turned back, and I will glorify Thy Name.
Accept the tears of my wretchedness and blot out the record of my debts, and again will the enemy be ashamed, seeing that Thy loving-kindness has destroyed the fruit of his wicked deeds and that I will not be punished.
May Thy compassion come to mine aid, that I might pass safely through the realm of temptations, and that I might thereafter be close to Thee, with Thee always.
My sinful soul will glorify Thee and Thy Father and the Holy Spirit, for she has wept and been heard, and, washed with tears of repentance, she has been made a temple inhabited by the Divinity Which has created the world.
[A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God by Saint Ephraim the Syrian]
On June 21st 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 Julianos of Tarsus the holy Martyr; St. Terence, Bishop of Iconium; St. Julian of Anazarbos of Cilicia; Saints Anthony, Anastasios, Celcius, Vasilissa, 20 prison guards, and 7 brothers, martyred with St. Julian; Saint Nikitas of Nisyros the Neomartyr (1732).
THE HOLY MARTYR JULIAN OF TARSUS. Of a noble senatorial family, he lived in Tarsus in Cilicia and suffered in the reign of Diocletian. Although only eighteen years old when he was taken for trial for the Faith, Saint Julian was already both educated and resolute in Christian faith and devotion. The imperial governor took him from city to city for a whole year, torturing him all the while and attempting to persuade him to renounce Christ. Julian's mother followed her son at a distance. When the governor seized her and sent her to urge her son to renounce Christ, she spent three days in the prison with him, giving him precisely the opposite advice, teaching him and giving him the strength not to lose heart but to go to his death with courage and gratitude to God. His torturers then sewed St. Julian into a sack of sand with scorpions and snakes and threw him into the sea, and his mother also died under torture. The waves carried his holy body onto the shore, and the faithful took it to Alexandria, where they buried it in 290 A.D. His holy relics were later taken to Antioch. Saint John Chrysostom himself gave a eulogy for the holy martyr Julian: "A holy voice comes forth from the lips of the martyr, and with this voice is poured out a light brighter than the rays of the sun." He said further: "Take whomsoever you will, be he a madman or one possessed, and lead him to the grave of this Saint, to the Martyr's holy relics, and you will see the demon immediately jump out and flee as from blazing fire." It is evident from this homily that many wonders (miracles) must have been wrought at Saint Julian's grave.
+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 8:22-27
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:23-31
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"People cannot shove anyone into hell, unless that person shoves himself. Nor can people hoist anyone up on their shoulders to the Throne of God, unless that person elevates himself" (Saint Nikolai Velimirovich]
THE SACRED ICONS AND THE HOLY CROSS
by Father Anthony Alevizopoulos, PhD. of Theology and PhD. of Philosophy
God is the unique Being, the absolute existence; nothing can be compared with Him and the honor which is due Him, i.e., worship and adoration, is rendered unto none other; neither to some non-existent god nor to some idol.
But God's grace is transmitted in every way in accordance with His will; even through material objects or even through the shadow of holy men, as was the case with the shadow of the Apostles, which is their imprint, a type of image (Acts 5:12-16; 19:11-12).
In the Old Testament some of the objects which transmitted the miraculous grace of God were the bronze snake of Moses, the Ark of Covenant, the sheep-skin coat of the Prophet Elias. Every desecration of the sacred objects was severely punished by God (see Num. 10:15-20; I Kings 5:2-4).
The teaching of the Orthodox Church concerning the holy icons has a Christological foundation. God is by essence unapproachable; He can neither be expressed by words nor depicted. The Son and Word (Logos) of God, however, became man and we beheld His glory (St. John 1:14). Thus we can depict the person of Christ which constitutes the visible sign of the invisible presence of God, an "image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). In the Orthodox Church that which is seen can be depicted; we express the same confession of faith either by written or oral word and even by depiction. The holy Icon of Christ constitutes the confirmation of the Incarnation of the Son and Word of God, which was a totally real, and not a docetic or imaginary, one.
Through the sacred icons we express our internal desire to grow in the love of Christ and the Saints, to attain to the "new creation in Christ" and to become "conformed to His image" (Roman 8:29). Just as the word sanctifies our lips, in a like way the holy icon, which transmits the same meaning as does the word, sanctifies our eyes and our mind.
The holy icons of the Saints refer to "the new man" and are a declaration of our belief in our transformation in Christ and in the incorruption of man and the entire world. The do not refer to the "beauty" of this world, but rather symbolize the beauty and the glory of the "future age". This is why the holy icons lack the dimension of "depth" and are two-dimensional. They proclaim a transfigured world which however we observe "as through a mirror" (I Cor. 13:12). The holy icons give us the feeling that there exists a new world that is being transformed, and they constitute the assurance of our hope, expressed in the words of our Lord: "Behold I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5).
The honor rendered to the holy icons is placed within the framework established by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. According to the Holy Fathers of this Council, the honor shown towards the holy icons refers back to the ancient Church and confirms the belief in the real Incarnation of God the Word. This Council ordains that along with the Holy Cross, icons be made for the Churches, to be placed on the sacred vessels and the vestments of the priests, in the homes and in the roads; holy icons of Christ, the Theotokos and all the Saints. It further underlines:
"For the more frequently they [the sacred icons) are seen, all the more those who see them are moved to remembrance and desire of those depicted; to them [the icons] they render greeting and a veneration of honor, but not true worship, which in accordance with our Faith, is due only unto the Divine Nature…for the honor rendered to the icon is transferred to the prototype, and he who venerates the icon venerates the person depicted thereon."
Orthodox Christians believe that the Holy Cross is their only pride (Gal. 6:14). It is the instrument through which sin, the source of death, was set at naught (Romans 5:12, 8:3). The Cross is thus no longer a symbol of death and of shame (Deut. 21:23), but a source of eternal life. Through the Cross the curse is done away with, conciliation "in Christ" is brought about and "the new man" is created (Ephesians 2:15-16). These truths are expressed in many of the hymns of the Church.
When we speak of the Holy Cross we do not mean only Christ's Crucifixion, but also the wood of the Cross. For this, too, is sanctified by its contact with the Body of Christ, and that is why it, too, is venerated. "The wood of Your Cross do we venerate, O Lover of man, for on it was nailed the Life of all things", states one of the Church's hymns. The sign of the Cross is also "divine and venerable", says Saint Gregory Palamas, for it is "a venerable seal, sanctifying and perfecting all the marvelous and ineffable good things that come from God." It is an image of the crucified Christ and it draws its power and grace from His Passion. This is why the sealing with the sign of the Cross is the external sign of all the Church's Mysteries (Sacraments) through which man's salvation is wrought.
The Cross of Christ expresses the ineffable love of God. A contemporary theologian says that Christ put sin to death without slaying the sinner; He did away with guilt and yet saved the guilty one. This is the great difference between Christ and human justice which crushes guilt by deriding it and disgracing the guilty one. However, Christ did not simply conquer sin but also the consequence of sin which is death, and restored man to his pristine purity. Thus He led man to a surpassing of death, to the life of immortality and incorruption. Thus we do not have here a lifting of some type of Augustinian inherited guilt, nor room for any type of "payment" or ransom"-save only in the patristic sense-and certainly not an Anselmian satisfaction of Divine justice. Rather the weight rests on Christ's love, Who achieved the most extreme limits of sacrifice on behalf of those whom He loves. And it is in precisely this that we see man's infinite value.
Making the sign of the Cross is an early Christian tradition testified to by Saint Justin the Martyr (+150AD) and by Tertullian (+200AD). The latter writes: "We Christians in all our travels and in all our movements about, at every departure and upon every arrival, when we put on our clothes and shoes, in the bath and at the table, when we light our lamp, when we sit or sleep, in all the acts of our every day life in general, we make the sign of the Cross."
This custom, Tertullian concludes, "has its beginnings in the Church's Tradition, it is strengthened through habit and should be preserved in faith."
Orthodox Christians unite the three fingers of their right hand and place them first on their forehead, then on the stomach and finally bring them to their two shoulders from right to left. All of the Church's theology is depicted in the sign of the Cross. By uniting our three fingers we depict and confess our belief in the One Triune God. From the forehead we bring our fingers to the stomach, and by doing so "typify the Son" Who was pre-eternal born of the Father and came down to earth by His birth from the Ever-Virgin Mary. When we place our united fingers on our shoulders we do so to "typify the Holy Spirit", Who is characterized as being the "arm" and the "might" of God. By uniting the remaining two fingers we depict Christ's Incarnation and the inseparable union of the two Natures, through which human nature was cured and exalted to the height of theosis (deification).
We must not make the sign of the Cross in a mechanical way, but conscientiously, with inner participation. We should make the sign of the Cross upon our bodies distinctly and not carelessly, but in accordance with the order of the Church: with our three fingers joined together and as if the Cross itself were touching us. It is understood that the sign of the Cross must be accompanied by analogous faith in that which it depicts and by the unwavering decision to crucify and do away with our sinful selves and our passions; to put on the new man and ever be orientated towards the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ.
Orthodox Christians therefore render respect and honorary veneration to the Holy Cross just as they do to the holy icons, in relation always to the Personage of Christ. This also holds true for the honor rendered to the Saints. This honor is not adoration and worship, but an expression of respect and love towards persons and things which God Himself honored by abundantly bestowing upon them His grace. This veneration would be transformed into worship only in such case where one were to render it by identifying in his conscience that which he venerated with God. No Orthodox Christian, however, ever identifies the Holy Cross, the Sacred Icons or the Saints with God, nor does he differentiate the honor accorded them from their relationship to the person of our Lord.
Please note: As you begin to understand more of our Holy Christian faith and our Holy Tradition you will come to appreciate what we have inherited over the centuries in and through our Holy Orthodox Church. Undoubtedly this applies to the new hagiography added it to our church. I have asked Presbytera Elaine to offer to all of you, our parishioners, a special tour of the church following the Divine Liturgy and explain the various holy icons just as she did during the festival to our visitors.
The Second Phase of Hagiography is now completed and it is awesome and inspiring. And thanks to all of you it is paid in full. We are thankful to God and to the Theotokos and Saint Andrew for their many blessings and guidance. Thank you also to all of you the generous donors and dedicated Orthodox Christians of our beloved parish.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God