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.
PSALM 50 
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy tender mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassions blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know mine iniquity, and my sin is ever before me.
Against Thee only have I sinned and done this evil before Thee, that Thou mightest be justified in Thy words, and prevail when Thou art judged. For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me.
For behold, thou hast loved truth; the hidden and secret things of Thy wisdom hast Thou made manifest unto me. Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be made clean; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me to hear joy and gladness; the bones that be humbled, they shall rejoice. Turn Thy face away from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and with Thy governing Spirit establish me. I shall teach transgressors Thy ways, and the ungodly shall turn back unto Thee.
Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; my tongue shall rejoice in Thy righteousness. O Lord, Thou shalt open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.
For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I had given it; with whole-burnt offerings Thou shalt not be pleased. A sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit; a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise.
Do good, O Lord, in Thy good pleasure unto Sion, and let the walls of Jerusalem be built. Then shalt Thou be pleased with a sacrifice of righteousness, with oblation and whole-burnt offerings. Then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar.
On July 13th 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: Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Gabriel; St. Stephen of St. Savvas' Monastery; Synaxis of Hilander Saints, Mt. Athos; St. Mary (Golinduc) of Persia; St. Julian, Bishop of Cnomanis in Gaul; New Martyr Constantine Oprisan of Romania (1959); Martryr Serapion, under Severus; St. Marcian of Iconium; St. Alamannia in Cyprus; Righteous Sarah of Egypt.
THE HOLY ARCHANGEL GABRIEL. This Great Archangel of God is commemorated on March 26th. On this day his appearances and marvels through the whole history of the salvation of mankind are commemorated. It is reckoned that this observance was first instituted on the Holy Mountain in 982 AD, during the Patriarchate of Nicolas Chrysoverges (979-91), and was occasioned by the Archangel's appearing in a cell near Karyes, where, with his finger, he wrote the hymn to the Mother of God: "It is meet... (Axion Esti...). As a result of this occurrence, the cell was named, and is called to this day, "Axion Esti...". Linked with this, other appearances of the Archangel Gabriel are commemorated, such as his appearing to Moses when he was keeping Jethro's flocks, when he revealed to this great man, chosen by God, how the world was created and all the rest that Moses later wrote down in the Book of Genesis; his appearing to Daniel and the imparting of the mystery of the kingdoms to come and the coming of the Savior; his appearing to Saint Anna and the promise of a daughter, the Most Blessed and Pure Ever-Virgin Mary; his very brief appearing to the Holy Virgin while she was living in the Temple in Jerusalem; his appearing to Zacharias the high priest and the news of the birth of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner, and the punishing of the same with dumbness because he did not believe the Angel's words; his appearing once again to the Holy Virgin in Nazareth, and the Annunciation of the Conception and Birth of the Lord Jesus Christ; his appearing to Righteous Joseph, to the shepherds near Bethlehem, to the Lord Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane when he strengthened the Lord, as man, before His Passion; his appearing to the myrrh-bearing women, and his other appearances.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Angels and Archangels, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURES ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 2:2-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 13:44-54
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Without God it is not possible to love oneself, even. Many people become depressed and hopeless and attempt to take their own lives, for without God we cannot even love ourselves, let alone our friends, family, and neighbors--or our enemies for that matter" [Geronda [Elder] Thaddeus of Vitovnica].
THE NATURE OF SIN
by Metropolitan Philaret [source: The Law of God]
All Orthodox Christians know from the Holy Scripture, and believe, that God created man in His own image and likeness. Therefore, in the creation man received a sinless nature, but not even the first man, Adam, remained sinless. He lost his original purity in the first Fall into sin in Paradise. The toxin of this sinfulness contaminated the entire human race, which descended from its forbears who had sinned-just as poison water flows from a poisoned spring. Acting upon the inclination to sin inherited from our ancestors, each person commits their own personal sins, as the Scriptural indictment says, "there is no one who will live for a single day and not sin." Only our Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely free from sin. Even the righteous, God's Saints, bore sin within themselves and, although with God's help they struggled with it, yet they humbly acknowledged themselves to be sinners. So, without exception, all people are sinners, tainted with sin.
Sin is a spiritual leprosy, an illness and an ulcer which has stricken all mankind, both in his soul and his body. Sin has damaged all three of the basic abilities and powers of the soul; the mind, the heart and the will. Man's mind became darkened and inclined toward error, thus man constantly errs-in science, in philosophy and in his practical activity.
What is even more harmed by sin is man's heart-the center of his experience of good and evil, as well as feelings of sorrow and joy. We see that our heart has been bound in the mire of sin; it has lost the ability to be pure, spiritual and Christian, to possess truly elevated feelings. Instead of this, it has become inclined toward pleasures of sensuality and earthly attachments. It is tainted with vainglory and often startles one with a complete absence of love and of the desire to do good towards one's neighbor.
What is harmed most of all, however, is the capability of our will to affect our intentions. Man proves to be without strength of will particularly when it is necessary to practice true Christian good-even though he might desire this good. The holy Apostle Paul speaks of this weakness of will when he says: "For I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds which I do not desire to do are what I am always doing." That is why Christ the Savior said of man the sinner, "whoever practices sin is the slave of sin, " although to the sinner, alas, serving sin often seems to be freedom while struggling to escape its net appears to be slavery.
How does a sin develop in one's soul? The holy Fathers of the Church, strugglers of Christian asceticism and piety, knowing the sinful human soul, explain it far better than all the learned psychiatrists. They distinguish the following stages of sin: The first moment in sin is the suggestion, when some temptation becomes identified in a person's conscience-a sinful impression, an unclean thought or some other temptation. If, in this first moment, a person decisively and at once rejects the sin, he does not sin, but defeats sin and his soul will experience progress rather than degeneration. It is in the suggestion stage of sin that it is easiest of all to remove it. If the suggestion is not rejected, it passes over the first into an ill-defined striving and then into a clear, conscious desire to sin. At this point, one already begins to be inclined to sin of a given type. Even at this point, however, without and an especially difficult struggle, one can avoid giving in to sin and refrain from sinning. One will be helped by the clear voice of conscience and by God's aid if one will only turn to it.
Beyond this point, one has fallen into sin. The reproaches of the conscience sound loudly and clearly, eliciting a revulsion to the sin. The former self-assurance disappears and the man is humbled (compare Apostle Peter before and after his denial of Christ). But even at this point, defeat of sin is not entirely difficult. This is shown by numerous examples, as in the lives of St. Peter, the holy Prophet-king David and other repentant sinners.
It is more difficult to struggle with a sin when, through frequent repetition, it becomes a habit in one. After acquiring any kind of habit, the habitual actions are performed by the person very easily, almost unnoticed by himself, spontaneously. Thus, the struggle with sin which has become a habit for a person is very difficult since it is not only difficult to overcome, but is even difficult to detect in its approach and process.
An even more dangerous stage of sin is vice. In this condition, sin so rules a person that it forges his will in chains. Here, one is almost powerless to struggle against it. He is a slave to sin even though he may acknowledge its danger and, in lucid intervals, perhaps even hates it with all his soul (such as the vice of alcoholism, narcotic addiction, etc.). In this condition, one cannot deal with oneself without special mercy and help from God and one is in need of prayer and the spiritual support of others. One must bear in mind that even a seemingly minor sin such as gossiping, love of attire, empty diversions, etc., can become a vice in man if it possesses him entirely and fills his soul.
The lowest stage of sin, in which sin completely enslaves one to itself, is the passion of one or another type. In this condition, man can no longer hate his sin as he can with a vice (and this is the difference between them). Rather he submits to sin in all his experiences, actions and moods, as did Judas Iscariot. At this stage, one literally and directly lets Satan into his heart (as it is said of Judas in the Gospel) and in this condition, nothing will help him except grace-filled prayers and other such actions.
There is yet another special, most terrible and destructive type of sin. This is blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. Even the prayers of the Church cannot help one who is found in this condition. The Apostles John the Theologian speaks of this directly when he entreats us to pray for a brother who has sinned, but points out the uselessness of prayer for the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself says that this sin-the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit-is not forgiven and will not be forgiven either in this age or in the future. He pronounced these words against the Pharisees who, though they clearly saw that He worked everything according the will of God and by God's power, nevertheless distorted the truth. They perished in their own blasphemy and their example is instructive and urgent for all those who sin mortal sin: by obdurate and conscious adversity to the undoubted truth and thereby blaspheming the spirit of truth-God's Holy Spirit.
When a seduction, a temptation to sin, appears in man, it usually comes from three sources: from man's own flesh, from the world from Satan.
Concerning man's flesh, there is absolutely no doubt that in many respects it is a den and source of anti-moral predisposition's, striving and inclinations. The ancestral sin-this inclination towards sin, a heritage from the sin of our progenitors and our own personal sinful experiences-all this added up and each (expereince) strengthening one another, creates in our flesh a source of temptations, sinful moods and acts. The enticers are also external goods, comforts, immoral dances, dirty literature, shameless attire, etc.-all of this undoubtedly a fetid source of sin and seduction.
But the main root and source of sin, is, of course, the devil, as the Apostle John the Theologian says: "He who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning." In struggling with God and His truth, the devil struggles with people, striving to destroy each of us. He struggles most intensely and with the most malice with the Saints as we see in the Gospel and in the lives of the Saints. We, sick and infirm, are specially defended by Christ against those fierce temptations to which God's Saints, strong in spirit, are subjected. Nevertheless, Satan does not ignore us, acting through the enticements of the world and the flesh, making them stronger and more deceptive, and also tempting us by sinful suggestions of all kinds. It is because of this, that the Apostle Peter compares Satan with a "raging lion which stalks about seeking whom he might devour."
THE LORD'S PRAYER
"...AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION; BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE..."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God