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.
ALL MY HOPE IS IN GOD'S MERCY
Thy grace has made it possible for me to call upon Thy name, O Lord. O only Good One, Who hast created us all, forgive the transgressions and sins of Thy sinful and ungrateful servant. I know, O Lord, that my sins exceed those of all other men, but I have as my refuge the abyss of Thy compassions which exceeds all things. I am confident that Thou wilt accept and have mercy on all who approach Thy goodness, for it pleases Thee to behold repentance, and Thou rejoicest a the ascetic struggles of Thy servants.
Grant me, Thine unworthy servant, tears, that with an enlightened mind, with love and faith, I may entreat Thine incomparable goodness and be cured of my hidden sores. Show miserable me Thy charity. Deliver me from the torment I deserve. May Thy grace be preached all about, to the benefit both of the countless multitudes who are careless, and me as well.
As Thou didst fill the water pots with Thy blessing, so likewise fill my heart with Thy grace and Thy goodness. When a caring mother is rejected by her child, she does not scorn him, for her motherly care triumphs over all; may my sins likewise not surpass Thy grace.
I know that I will be punished even for idle words, for evil thoughts, for mere desire. Yet as soon as an opportunity to satisfy my pleasures presents itself, I immediately forget everything, and like a fool indulge in all manner of sin. I am a vainglorious, wrathful cripple, a lazy, dissolute glutton, a sensualist covered with impurities who hourly strays into error--and I do not realize it.
Only hope in the manifestation of Thy grace, O man-befriending Master, consoles me and keeps me from despair. Whether Thou so desirest or not, save me, O All-Good Lord, according to Thy Great kindness.
[A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God by Saint Ephraim the Syrian]
On July 14th 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: Aquila, Holy Apostle of the Seventy; Saint Justus at Rome; Saint Joseph, Archbishop of Thessaloniki; Saint Heraclios, Patriarch of Alexandria; Saint Onesimus of Magnesia; Saint Hellius of Egypt; Saint Marcellinus of Utrecht; Saint Nicodemos of Mt. Athos; Saint Stephen of Makhrishche; holy Martyr Aquila.
THE HOLY APOSTLE AQUILA OF THE SEVENTY. One of the Seventy secret Apostles, he was a Jew living in Italy with his wife Priscilla. When the pagan Roman Emperor Claudius decreed the exile of all Jews from Rome and Italy, St. Aquila moved to Corinth, where the Apostle Paul first made his acquaintance, staying eighteen months in his house and baptizing him and his wife. Burning with zeal for the Christian faith, St. Aquila and Priscilla accompanied Saint Paul to Ephesus and helped him in his apostolic work. From Ephesus, Saint Paul wrote his First Epistle to the Corinthians, in which he says at the end: "Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house" (16:19). After the death of Claudius, Jews were permitted to return to Italy, and Saints Aquila and Priscilla went back to Rome. Writing the Epistle to the Romans from Corinth after this, the holy Apostle sends greetings to his old friends and fellow-workers: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus, who have for my life laid down their own necks, unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house" (16:3-5). We later see St. Aquila again in Ephesus, where he is working with Saint Timothy. In chains in Rome, Saint Paul wrote to St. Timothy in Ephesus: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila" (II Timothy 4:19). As a bishop, Saint Aquila baptized many and consecrated them to the Faith, destroyed idols, built churches, made priests and spread among the people the glory of the Incarnate Son of God. He was finally murdered by wicked pagans, and went to the Kingdom of Christ.
+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 16:1-16
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 16:20-24
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"If the world knew the force of Christ's words, "Learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart," then the whole world, the whole universe, would abandon all other knowledge in order to study this heavenly science. Men are ignorant of the power of Christ's humility, and that is why they aspire to the things of this earth; but without the Holy Spirit they cannot know the force of these words of Christ. But he who has learned will never relinquish his knowledge, even were he to be offered all the kingdoms of the world". [Saint Silouan the Athonite]
by Metropolitan Philaret [source: ON THE LAW OF GOD]
The complete opposite of sin is virtue. Its rudiments are found in every person, as remnants of that natural good which was placed into the nature of man by his Creator. It is found in a pure and complete form only in True Christianity, for Christ the Savior said: "without me you can do nothing".
Christianity teaches us that man's earthly life is a time of moral struggle, a time of preparation for the future, eternal life. Consequently, the tasks of man's earthly life consists of correctly preparing for future eternity. The earthly life is brief and it does not repeal itself, for man lives but once on earth. Therefore, in this earthly life, one must work at virtue if one does not wish to destroy one's soul. For this is precisely what God's Truth demands of one on the threshold of eternity.
Each Christian, with God's help, shapes his own earthly life, in the sense that he or she directs its course toward virtue. In order to be virtuous, however, one must not only do good for others, but work on oneself, struggling with his insufficiencies and vices, developing in himself a good, Christian-valued foundation. This work on oneself, this struggle toward moral perfection of man's earthly life is indispensable for every Christian. The Lord Himself said: "the Kingdom of Heaven has endured violent assault and violent men seize it by force" (St. Matthew 11:12).
The moral character and features of each person are worked out in such a life-struggle. A Christian must, of course, be a Christian before all else, a person with an established, solid moral character and he must aim for the building of such a character. In other words, he must strive for progress in himself toward moral perfection.
Thus, from a Christian point of view, life is a moral struggle, a path of constant striving toward good and perfection. There can be no pause on this path, according to the law of the spiritual life. A man who stops working on himself will not remain the same as he was, but will inevitably become worse-like a stone which is thrown upwards and stops rising, it will not remain suspended in the air, but will fall downward.
We already know that our sins generally originate from three sources: from the devil, from the world around us lying in evil, and form our sinful flesh. Since sin is the main enemy and obstacle of virtue, it is evident that a Christian who is striving towards virtue must, through God's mercy and help, struggle against sin in all its aspects. It is especially needful at this point to recall the Savior's words to the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, "keep vigil and pray lest you fall into temptation." The words are directed not only at the Apostles but to all of us, indication that the struggle with sinful temptations is possible only for one who is vigilant and who prays, standing on guard for his survival.
"This world is an arena and a running place...And this is a time of struggle," says Saint Isaac the Syrian. In order to overcome in this struggle our attention must be constantly directed towards God: for the Lord, says the same writer, is "the Omnipotent, the Almighty, the Victorious at all times, whenever He descends into the body of mortals to fight for them. But is manifest that those who are defeated...are those whose will is stripped of Him because of their injustice." When ardor slackens, resolution falters and grace remains inactive. The evangelical precept to watch, not to allow oneself to be weighed down by sleep, is a constant theme of Eastern asceticism, which demands the full consciousness of the human person in all the degrees of its ascent towards perfect union."
This ascent is composed of two stages, or, more exactly, it is achieved simultaneously on two different but closely interrelated levels: that of action (praxis πράξις) and that of contemplation (θεωρία). The two are inseparable in Christian knowledge, which is the personal and conscious experience of spiritual realities--η γνώσις--'gnosis'.
Saint Isaac the Syrian distinguishes three stages in the way of union: penitence, purification and perfection--that is to say, conversion of the will, liberation from the passions and the acquisition of that perfect love which is the fullness of grace. If it is true that penitence is the beginning of this way "the gateway of grace'' this is not to say that it is a passing moment, a stage to be left behind. It is in fact not a stage but a condition which must continue permanently, the constant attitude of those who truly aspire to union with God. The Greek word μετάνοια means literally 'change of mind' or 'transformation of spirit.' It is a 'second regeneration' granted by God after baptism; a possibility of return to the Father; a continuous exodus from ourselves; a power which brings about the transformation of our nature. "Repentance," says Saint Isaac the Syrian, "is fitting at all times and for all persons. To sinners as well as to the righteous who look for salvation. There are no bounds to perfection, for even the perfection of the most perfect is naught but imperfection. Hence, until the moment of death neither the time nor the works of repentance can ever be complete." [Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church by Vladimir Lossky].
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinners and unworthy servant of God