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 SAINTS: A REQUEST FOR INTERCESSION
Fear, O Soul, the judgment and Gehenna, and drive away the heavy sleep of apathy and the terrible slumber of recklessness. The end is near, the judgment is at the door. What will we encounter after we take leave of this life?
Come to my aid, O Saints and righteous ones, who have performed good deeds unto salvation and lament for me as for one deceased, or take pity on me as one who is among the living but half-dead. For I am full of shame and lack boldness because of the sins I have knowingly committed.
Pour out on me your kindness as you would for a prisoner or for one covered with festering sores. Be kind to me, O initiates of the merciful God, our Savior, and pray that He might freely convert me, and that in hour of His coming I might not be found unworthy and not hear the terrible condemnation: get away from Me, O worker of deceit. I tell you that I know you not.
On June 22nd 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 Evsevios, Bishop of Samosata; Saints Zenas and Zeno of Philadelphia in Arabia; Saints Galacteon, Juliana, and Saturninus of Constantinople; Saint Alban , Protomartyr of Britain; Saint Anastasia (Anna) of Serbia; 1,480 holy Martyrs of Samaria; Saint Aaron of Britain.
THE HIEROMARTYR EVSEVIUS (EUSEBIUS), BISHOP OF SAMOSATA. He was a major opponent of Arianism (heresy). When the patriarchal throne of Antioch became vacant, Meletius was elected Patriarch. This Meletius was a shining light in the Church, and deserved the great eulogy given by Saint John Chrysostom at his death. But the Arians soon drove Meletius from Antioch. When Constantius, Constantine's evil son, died, he was followed by Julian the Apostate, a man even worse than he, as ruler of the Empire. During Julian's persecution of Christians, Saint Evsevius took off his cassock, clad himself in soldier's garb and travelled around the persecuted churches of Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, strengthening the Orthodox faith everywhere and creating the necessary priests, deacons and other clergy and raising some to the episcopate. After the news of Julian's death, Saint Evsevius advised Meletius to summon a Council of the Church in Antioch. This took place in 363 AD, and the twenty-seven hierarchs present denounced Arianism once again and proclaimed the Orthodox faith as it was expressed at the First Ecumenical Council. Besides Meletius and Evsevius, Saint Pelagius of Laodicea, a man of great asceticism and chastity, made a great impact at this Council, which took place during the reign of the devout Emperor Jovian. But he died soon after, and the evil Valens took the throne, and the persecution of Orthodoxy began afresh. Saint Meletius was banished to Armenia, Evsevius to Thrace and Pelagius to Arabia. After Valens, the Emperor Gratian came to the throne and restored freedom to the Church, returning the exiled bishops to their rightful places: Meletius to Antioch, Evsevius to Samosota and Pelagius to Laodicea. Many dioceses were vacant at that time and Evsevius was quick to find canonical pastors for the people. But when he arrived at the city of Doliche with the newly chosen bishop, Marinus, to install him as bishop and denounce the Arian heresy (which was strong in that city), a certain fanatical heretic threw a tile from the roof and gave him a mortal wound. This great zealot for Orthodoxy, this Saint and holy Martyr, died and entered into eternal life in the blessedness of Paradise in the year of our Lord 379 AD.
+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 9:6-19
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:32-36, 11:1
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"One must never, for any reason, become despondent, for we are carried in the hands of God's Providence. Our concern is to be true to the Lord. And the Lord purposely reveals the weaknesses of his to whom He wishes to grant His gift of discernment. For the beginning of a soul's enlightenment is the perception of its own sins and its insignificance..." [St. Ignatius Brianchaninov).
THE VENERATION OF THE HOLY RELICS
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
In giving veneration to the Saints of God who have departed with their souls into heaven, the Holy Church at the same time honors the holy relics or bodies of the Saints of God which remain on earth.
In the Old Testament there was no veneration of the bodies of the righteous, for the righteous themselves were still awaiting their deliverance. Then also the flesh (of the dead) in itself was considered unclean.
In the New Testament, after the Incarnation of the Savior, there was an elevation not only of the concept of man in Christ, but also of the concept of the body as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Himself, the Word (Logos) of God, was incarnate and took upon Himself a human body. Christians are called to this: that not only their souls but also their bodies, sanctified by Holy Baptism, sanctified by the reception of the most pure body and blood of Christ, might become true temples of the Holy Spirit. "Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?" (I Cor. 6:19). And therefore the bodies who have lived a righteous life, or who have become holy through receiving a martyr's death, are worthy of special veneration and honor.
The Holy Church in all times, following Sacred Tradition, has shown honor to holy relics. This honor has been expressed (a) in the reverent collection and preservation of the remains of the Saints of God, as is known from accounts even of the 2nd century, and then from the testimonies of later times (b) in the solemn uncovering and translation of holy relics (c) in the building over them of churches and altars (d) in the establishment of feasts in memory of their uncovering or translation; (e) in pilgrimages to holy tombs, and in adorning them; and (f) in the constant rule of the Church to place holy relics of holy martyrs at the consecration (dedication) of altars, or to place holy relics in the holy Antimension upon which is performed the Divine Liturgy.
This very natural honor given to the holy relics and other remains of the Saints of God has a firm foundation in the fact that God Himself has deigned to honor and glorify them by innumerable signs and miracles--something for which there is testimony throughout the whole course of the Church's history.
Even in the Old Testament, when Saints were not venerated with a special glorification after death, there were signs from the bodies touched to the bones of the Prophet Elisha in his tomb, immediately came to life, and the dead man arose (IV [II] 13:21). The body of the Holy Prophet Elijah was raised up alive into heaven, and the mantle of Elijah, which was left by him to Elisha, parted by its touch the waters of the Jordan for the crossing of the river by Elisha.
Going over to the New Testament, we read in the book of Acts of the Apostles that handkerchiefs and belts ("aprons") from the body of the Apostle Paul were place upon the sick, and the diseases of the sick were cured, and evil spirits departed from them (Acts 19:12). The Holy Fathers and teachers of the Church have testified before their hearers and readers of the miracles occurring from the remains (relics) of the Saints, and often they have called their contemporaries to be witnesses of the truth of their words.
Already from the beginning of the 2nd century there is information on the honor given by Christians to the remains of Saints. Thus, after describing the martyr's death of Saint Ignatius the God-bearer, bishop of Antioch, a person who witnessed this death states that "Of what remained from his body (he was torn to pieces by beasts in the circus), only the firmest parts were taken away to Antioch and placed in a linen as an invaluable treasure of the Grace which dwelt in the martyr, a treasure left to the Holy Church." The residents of the cities, beginning with Rome, received these remains in succession at that time, and carried them on their shoulders, as Saint John Chrysostom later testified, "to the present city (Antioch), praising the crowned victor and glorifying the struggler." Likewise, after the martyr's death of Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, and the burning of his body by the Proconsul, the Christians "gathered the bones of Saint Polycarp as a treasure more precious than precious stones and purer than gold, and place them...for the celebration of the day of his martyric birth, and for the instruction and confirmation of future Christians."
The remains of the Saints (in Greek, ta leipsana, meaning what is "left") are revered whether or not they are incorrupt, out of respect for the holy life or the martyric death of the Saint, and all the more when there are evident and confirmed signs of healing by prayer to the Saints for their intercession before God. The Church Councils many times have forbidden the recognition of the reposed as Saints solely by the sign of the incorruption of the bodies. But of course the incorruption of the bodies of the righteous is accepted as one of the Divine signs of their sanctity.
"On some occasions the holy relics of the Saints emit perfume, or a holy myrrh which can cure the sick who use it with faith and repentance. This phenomenon is widely attested among the Orthodox throughout all the past centuries, and still occurs today. The invisible spiritual presence of a Saint is often signaled to the Orthodox faithful by a perfume that fills a house or chapel. Such things are called thavmata, or wonders. The Western word 'miracle' is too grandiose for them. The Orthodox regard them as more natural than the word miracle would suggest, which has been taken so much in past centuries to suggest a 'supernatural reversal' of the world order. Orthodoxy, however, understands that these signs of the inbreaking of the next age into this age are small, because our comprehension and capacity are small; but they are nevertheless real signs that the 'normal' world order is that which is established by Christ in the eschatological mystery of the Resurrection. The Church, therefore, understands the regular visitations of the Saints and Angels in the sense that they also serve to manifest this mystery of the Anastasis (Resurrection) as loving grace. Far from being 'miracles' of a supernatural order, therefore, Orthodoxy regards such thavmata as being the most normal things possible, signs that normality is actually returning to our alienated consciousness. Most Orthodox, if asked to speak of such things, would have stories to share of times when their spiritual sensibility has glimpsed through the veil, and become aware of the Lord and His Saints drawing near to them. And the stories they would tell would all have the same character, would all accumulate to the same generic theological point: that we are not alone on our pilgrimage but are assisted by a loving and ultimate 'cloud of witnesses.'" [The Orthodox Church by Fr. John Anthony McGuckin].
Revering holy relics, we believe not in the power or the might of the remains of the Saints in themselves, but rather in the prayerful intercession of the Saints whose holy relics are before us.
According to Father John Anthony McGuckin (Professor of Early Christian and Byzantine Church History and Romanian Orthodox theologian) "When Orthodox Christians are visiting churches which contain the holy relics of the Saints they will kneel before the tombs and kiss the holy relics, or the tombs, with deep reverence on the principle that the grace of God which sanctified the living believer then is now still at work in their sanctified and consecrated remains, and that they too are still alive in the Risen Christ: not mere dumb bones and dusty grave memorials. The Orthodox have a deep love for the Saints, and from this a clear expectation and experiences in life that this is indeed the case. For them it is one more sign of the living spiritual vitality of Orthodoxy and a sign that the Church continues to life in the same spiritual communion that led them, in their time, to the glory of the same Master. Accordingly, the Orthodox hold that the graves of even the ordinary faithful are holy places. Many times services are held there, in the open air, for loved ones departed. The body falls to dust, as God said it would, but love never fails, nor our certainty that the believer lives in the light of the Resurrection of the Savior."
Please note: When our church was consecrated by His Eminence, Metropolitan Iakovos holy relics were placed in the crypt in the center of the holy Altar Table. Also, we were blessed to have in two small reliquaries lying on top of the holy Altar Table which I will bring out from time to time for the veneration of the faithful of Saint Andrew and visiting Orthodox Christians.
Our holy Monasteries possess many such holy relics and offer them for veneration. Recently at the women's monastery of Saint John Chrysostomos at Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin the holy relics of Saint Nektarios are offered for veneration by Orthodox Christian faithful. In past years at the same monastery we revered the holy relics of the Holy Cross brought from Crete.
As everything else when the Christian pilgrim approaches and venerates the holy relics with faith, respect and love, he or she receives the blessing from the Saint.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God