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.
FROM THE OFFICE OF Vespers
THE SECOND PRAYER
Lord, in Your anger rebuke us not, chastise us not in Your wrath (Psalm 37 ) but treat us in Your kindness, Physician of our souls and bodies. Guide us to Your desired haven (Psalm 106). Enlighten the eyes of our hearts to understand Your Truth; and grant that the rest of this day, and all our days, may be peaceful and sinless, through the prayers of the Theotokos and of all the Saints. For Yours is the dominion, and Yours the Kingdom and the power and the glory: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On June 8th [The Week of the Holy Spirit] 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: The translation(removal) of the holy relics of Saint Theodore the Commander.
THE HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR THEODORE STRATELATES. This Saint is commemorated on February 8th, and his life is recounted there. However, June 8th commemorates the translation of his relics from Heraklion, Crete to Euchaita. Saint Theodore's last request to his servant Varus before his martyrdom was: "Bury my body on the estate of my ancestors at Euchaita." Saint Anastasius of Mount Sinai has recorded the following miracle by an icon of Saint Theodore: At a place called Karsat, close to Damascus, there was a church dedicated to Saint Theodore. When the Saracens conquered Damascus, a party of them, with their wives and children, turned the church into their lodging. There was a fresco of Saint Theodore on the wall, and one of the Saracens let fly an arrow and struck the image of Saint Theodore in the face. At once blood flowed from it. Soon after that, the entire group of Saracens in that church died. Saint Anastasius says that he had been in that church himself, and had seen the traces of blood on the Saint's face on the wall.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 2:4-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:16-22
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Is there genuine peace among us and untiring love for others? If we rebuke a fault, is our goal to encourage and not to destroy? Is our correction meant to save and not to be cruel? Do we exercise not only sincere faith towards God, but faithfulness in our social relationships? Do we pity the unfortunate? Do we have simple lives that hate concealing evil behind deceit and hypocrisy? Do we acknowledge the True God and His undivided Sovereignty? This is real godliness and sincere, undefiled religion...Those who confess allegiance to God aren't easily enraged. Instead, they stand nobly under the pressure of necessity. Trials that test their loyalty are, in effect, passports to God's favor" [Saint Evsevius of Caesarea].
by Father Anthony Alevizopoulos, PhD. of Theology, PhD. of Philosophy
Man can have the feeling of the presence of Divine Grace in his life, i.e., he can have spiritual experiences. Holy Scripture, however, recommends to the faithful: "Beloved, do not believe in every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God." It further underlines that many false prophets have come into the world and it further shows ways in which one can judge and discern the spirit of Truth from the spirit of error, i.e., the genuine from the counterfeit experiences (I John 4:16).
It must be emphasized at the outset, that Holy Scripture does not place experience at the centre of our interest, nor does it elevate it to something absolute. Faith in Jesus Christ, and not personal experience, is placed at the center of the Christian confession. This confession differentiates the Christian Church from the Hebrew Synagogue; whosoever confessed Christ was thought to have denied the Jewish Synagogue; and was declared an outcast from it (St. John 2:22; 12:42). The Christian's experience is modified by this confession [of Jesus Christ] and is not independent of it (Romans 10:9). The confession of faith is not the result of experience, but exactly the opposite: experience is acquired by unity with the confession and the life of the Church. These two factors also modify and determine the genuineness of the spiritual experience. In this way the Orthodox Christian is not in danger of falling into subjectivity and error, personal experience.
The Apostle Paul does not base the gospel he preaches on his own individual experience, but on the experiences of others: Peter's, that of the Twelve, that of the five hundred, James' and the rest of the Apostles. He refers to himself as the last of all; he says, "Last of all, as one ultimely born, He appeared also to me", in order to add further along that he is what he is through the grace of God. "Whether it was I, or they," he concludes, "so we proclaim and so you come to believe" (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). He does not sever himself from the Church, nor does he base himself on his own personal experience, which he does not even emphasize.
The content of the faith, then, is neither conditioned nor shaped by each one's personal experience, but is handed down and is received in the Church (I Timothy 6:20; II Timothy 1:44; 2:2; St. Jude 3). "As the prophets saw, as the Apostles taught, as the Church received, as the teachers dogmatize…as the truth was proven…so do we believe, so do we speak, so do we declare" (The Seventh Ecumenical Council).
Another "measure and standard" for determining the authenticity of experience is the obedience to Christ's teachings: the Apostle underlines that he who violates and does not abide in the teachings of Christ "does not have God" (II John 9). The entire spiritual life of the believer is understood of course as life in the Holy Spirit, as a gift of the Holy Spirit which is the fruit of God's love. As we have already mentioned, gifts of God which are an offering of agape, presupposes the complete acceptance of this agape on man's part. Man proves his deep desire to accept God's love by offering to Him his complete love; he must humble his mind, his flesh, together with his passions and desires and offer his entire self to God (St. Matthew 22:37; Roman 5:1-2; Galatians 5:24). God accepts this offering and with His grace He sanctifies and transforms the labors of humble man into gifts of the Holy Spirit which are joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and above all, love (Galatians 5:22-23, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit. Without this total humility on man's part, spiritual experiences are not granted; and if they do exist, they do not come from the Spirit of God (St. James 4:6; I Peter 5:5).
The experience of the Saints in Jesus Christ have all the characteristics which we have mentioned. They were experiences of the Church and not of individuals. Consequently, all those who put forth spiritual experiences and "signs" without the characteristics that we have mentioned accompanying them have been deceived by the spirit of error. Such false experiences are already known from the Old Testament, and indeed appear outwardly as being similar to the genuine experiences (Exodus 7:10-11; 20:8, 18). Christ Himself informed us that false messiahs, false teachers and false prophets would work "signs" in order to bring about confusion and to deceive even the elect, if possible (St. Matthew 24:24-25; cf. Revelation 13:12-18).
The holy Apostle Paul informs the Christians of Corinth that the reference here is to false apostles and "deceitful workers" who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ, just as Satan "transforms himself into an angel of light." It is not surprising then, the Apostle concludes, if the devil's servants also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds! (II Corinthians 11:13-15).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God