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 A PRAYER FOR INNER SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING
O Good Mother of the All-Good God: look upon the prayer of thine unworthy servant with thy merciful eye and grant me the contrition, quietness of thoughts, constancy of mind, chaste reason, sobriety of soul, humble thinking, radiance of spirit, prudent disposition, and spiritual peace that the Lord granted His disciples.
Blot out the record of my falls into sin, cleave the clouds of my sorrow, the haze and tumult of my thoughts. Remove from me the tempest and tumult of passions; enlarge my heart with spiritual breadth, give me joy and gladness and grant that I may walk the right path of thy Son's Commandments and properly pass through life without faltering and with an untainted conscience.
Also grant me who pray before thee pure prayer, that with an untroubled mind and concentrated thought I might always offer prayer to the honor, glory, and magnification of thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
On June 28th 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: Translation (Ανακομιδή) of the holy relics of Kyros and John the Unmercenaries (Αναργύρων); Saint Paul the Physician; Sennuphios the Standardbearer of Egypt; Sergius and Herman of Valaam; Saints Serenus, Plutarchus, Heraclides, Heron, Raiso and others in Alexandria; Xenophon of Novgorod; Donatos of Libya; Three holy Martyrs of Galatia; Seventy holy Martyrs of Scythopolis; holy Martyr Pappias; holy Icon of the Mother of God "Of the Three Hands".
THE HOLY MARTYRS CYRUS AND JOHN. These holy Martyrs are commemorated on January 31st, and their lives and sufferings are described under that date. Today we commemorate the translation of their holy relics from Canopus to Menuthis, and the numerous miracles associated with them. Saint Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria, prayed fervently for the extermination of the abominable idolatrous practices at Menuthis, where there was a temple and where the demonic powers held sway. An Angel of God appeared to the Patriarch and told him that Menuthis would be cleansed of its impurity if he brought the holy relics of Saints Cyrus and John to the town. The Patriarch did this at once. He brought the holy relics of the holy Martyrs to Menuthis and had a church built there in their honor. Ammonius, the son of the governor of Alexandria, Julian, was healed of scrofula through the martyrs' holy relics, and a certain Theodore was healed of blindness, Isidore of Maium was healed of a wasting disease of the liver, Theodore's wife of the effects of poison, a certain Eugenia of dropsy and a great many other of various diseases and torments. All this took place in the year of our Lord 412 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 11:13-24
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 11:27-30
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Prayer consists not only in standing and bowing before God in body, and in reading written prayers, but even without that it is possible to pray in mind and spirit at all times and in everyplace. You can do it while walking, sitting, reclining, among people, and in solitude. Raise up your mind and heart to God, and so beg mercy and help from Him. For God is everywhere and in every place, and the doors to Him are always open, and it is easy to approach Him, not as with man" [St. Tikhon of Zadonsk]
By Father Anthony Alevizopoulos, PhD. of Theology and PhD. of Philosophy
The Church as the Body of Christ is a Divine-human (Theanthropic) organism, i.e., an invisible and visible reality. The invisible dimension of the Church refers to the communion between God and man having as its model the communion between the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. With the creation of the Angels the heavenly Church was constituted; to this Church man was added: "But you are come unto Mount Sion (Zion), and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of Angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in Heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just men made perfect" (Hebrews 12:22-23).
Man's fall broke off his communion with the heavenly Church. God, however, did not abandon His creature, but had already pre-eternally planned man's salvation. In order to prepare man's return to communion with God He chose "the chosen people of Israel" who were the prefiguration of the New Israel, i.e., the Church (Romans 9:7-8; Galatians 3:29).
The Apostle Paul speaks of the pre-eternal mystery of God which was revealed to man and to the Angels with the Incarnation of the Son and Word (Logos) of God. It was the economy of the mystery that was hidden for centuries by God...for the multifaceted wisdom of God according to the eternal purpose which was revealed through Jesus Christ our Lord to be recognized now...through the Church (Ephesians 3:9-11; Col. 1:26).
In Christ Jesus the Church has been reconstituted; Angels and men united in order once again to constitute the Church:
"Through Your Cross, O Christ, One fold has come into being; Of Angels and men, and One Church. Heaven and Earth rejoice. Lord, glory to Thee".
The unity of the Body of the Church is realized from The One Head, Christ, "man is the head of the woman, just as Christ is the Head of the Church and He is the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23). This communion between God and man has an absolute character: this is why in the Old Testament God is called a jealous God (Exodus 1:20, 5; Deut. 5:9).Every apostasy on the part of God's people is characterized as fornication and adultery (Judges 2:17; Ezekiel 6:9).
In the Church the "regathering" i.e., the gathering of the scattered children of God (St. John 11:52) was accomplished-the structuring of the one body under the Head, Christ; He is the Savior of the body, Christ "loved the Church and gave Himself for her in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the Word, so as to present the Church to Himself in splendor without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind-so that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:23-27).
"With the washing of the water by the Word" ("in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" St. Matthew 28:19) we are sanctified and incorporated into the Body under the one Head, Christ, we become "one in Christ" (Galatians 3:26-28). Therefore, when we speak about the Church, we do not mean simply the people of God, without Christ, nor the Lord, the Head, without the body. We mean both together, the Head of the Church with all its other members, the Christians. The Holy Spirit Who descended upon the Church on the day of Pentecost abides in her, renews the faithful and incorporates them into the One Body of Christ. Christ is "the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29); in Himself He reconciled all unto God (II Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:20).
In this way we understand that the Church as the Body of Christ is equated with salvation. In her, the relationship of Christ with the Father is transferred to each one of us: "I in them and you in Me, so that they may become completely one" (St. John 17:23). The Church is not the workshop of man's salvation but salvation itself. The "gathering" of the scattered children of God and their incorporation into the "unity" of Christ is not a fact of secondary importance, but the very event of salvation (St. John 11:52). One can neither be a Christian nor call himself a Christian apart from his incorporation into the Body of Christ, which at the same time is also communion with the brethren (I Cor. 12:12-28). The salvation of each man cannot constitute the separate concern of each individual, independent of his incorporation into, and his life within, the Church. He who in "self-love" retreats and immerses into himself, hoping thereby to find salvation within himself without reference to the Person of Jesus Christ and without incorporation into His Body, cannot be considered a Christian.
The Church, being the Body of Christ, is one (Eph. 4:4) and Christ is not "divided" (I Cor. 1:13); one cannot be Christ's if he is not at the same time with the brethren in Christ. This is why division or schism is a crime.
The Christian synaxis or gathering is not simply a congregation of Christian people but a gathering in which the unity of the One Body of Christ is expressed: the unity of the Body with the Head. This is why wherever two or three are gathered there is Christ, the entire Catholic Church. They must, however, gather in Christ's name (St. Matthew 18:20).
This means that this synaxis must be carried out in the spirit of Christ in order that the work of Christ be performed, and not to serve human goals in the Name of Christ. The work of Christ was the gathering of the scattered children of God "into one"; it is accomplished wherever the Holy Eucharist is performed as an act of unity and not division. The Apostle Paul, referring to these gatherings "in Christ's name" declares: "For I received from the Lord what also I handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread...and said, "take, eat..." (I Cor. 11:23). "For we the many are one loaf, one body", Saint Paul elsewhere affirms, thereby identifying the Holy Eucharist with the return of men to the unity of "the one nature", to the "one in Christ".
The synaxis or gathering, then, "in Christ's name", even if it is synaxis "of two or three" must realize and express the unity of the Catholic Church and not its division into small groups and fragments that have no communion amongst themselves. This unity in the Apostolic Church extended even to the point of possessing all things in common: "now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common...and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:32-33; 2:42). In such a gathering "in the name of Christ" schisms and divisions had no place. For this reason the Apostle reprimands the Corinthians, because in their synaxis which gathered the Church together there were divisions. "…I hear that when you come together as a Church, there are divisions among you…" (I Cor. 11:18). A synaxis then "of two or three" cannot take place "in Christ's name" when it constitutes a schism or conventicle-even when those who gather contend that their gathering is done "in Christ's name.
The Orthodox Church has condemned any notion whatsoever concerning a supposed "church of the pure" (catharoi or Καθαροί), and declares that the "separation of the clean from the unclean" will take place "at the same time of the harvest", during the Second Coming of Christ and certainly not by man; no one is to attempt such a separation before the Lord's Coming, for in such a case the criteria and standard of judgment would be human and the evaluation subject to error (St. Matthew 13:29-30).
The fact that in the Church there are weak members does not mean that the entire Church has fallen into apostasy. When Moses was on the Mountain and speaking to God nearly the entire "chosen people" fell into apostasy; and yet for God it still remained His people; He did not reject them (Exodus 32:1-8).
The Church of the New Testament, the new people of God, are not simply an episode in history which took place during the time of the Apostles, but a continuous event, extending to the time of Christ's Second Coming. The Holy Spirit remains eternally in the Church and leads to the truth (St. John 14:16); Christ is the Head of the Church, and as the Head, He is and ever remains united with the Body. He leads the Body and is not led by it. This is also why the Church, the Body of Christ, can never fall into apostasy-only individual members can become independent and separate themselves from the Body, fall into apostasy and be led to spiritual death. Even pastors of the Church and "stares from Heaven" can fall into apostasy, but never the Church (Acts 20:30; II Thessal. 2:3; Rev. 9:1; 1 Tim. 3:15). There will always be a small "remnant" and remainder of the faithful people, united with the Head and that will be the Church, because according to Christ's promise even "the gates of Hell" will not prevail against her (St. Matthew 16:18).
The Church then, is unique and invisible (St. Matthew 16:18). It exists throughout the ages and is the "pillar and foundation of truth"; the truth is founded upon the Church and not the Church on the truth. The Church is the truth, because its Head is Christ, i.e., the truth (I Timothy 3:15; St. John 6). Without Christ there is no Church (St. Matthew 16:18) and without the Church there is no truth (I Timothy 3:15).
The term Church is used here in a dynamic sense and is identified with the gatherings of the Christians of Corinth in order to perform the Holy Eucharist. Each time that the Christians of an area (parish) gather with this purpose, the gathering becomes the Church; here the entire Church-and not just part of it-is to be found (Romans 16:23).
The parishioners are called to realize in their daily life the experience of the one body through their participation in the Holy Eucharist; this is also implied in the exhortation at the end of the Divine Liturgy: "Let us depart in peace". The deep unity and peace of the One Body and the One Spirit, of the one hope, of the One Lord, the One Faith, the One Baptism and the One God the Father of all (Ephesians 4:4-6) must be put into practice in the everyday life of the faithful. To each of them various charismata have been granted. Thus each one has his own function within the One Body of the Church and uses his charisma for the edification of the other members and of the entire Body. They were not given to be used egotistically (I COR. 12:7-27; 14:12-26). They must not be isolated from the brethren, they must use their gifts for the benefit and edification of the Body (St. Matthew 24:45-51, 1430, I Peter 4:10-11). The possibility of offering becomes a reality when the entire spiritual life of each believer is exercised with the specific liturgical synaxis as its center into which it is incorporated harmoniously.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God