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.
I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up, And have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me. O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing praise to the Lord, you Saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His Holy Name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.
Now in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong; You hid Your face, and I was troubled.
I cried out to You, O Lord; And to the Lord I made supplication: What profit is there in my blood, When I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your Truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
On July 20th 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: Holy Prophet Elias the Thesbite; Saint Elias and Flavianos, Patriarchs of Jerusalem; Saints Lydia, Alexeii and Cyril of Russia (1928); Saint Ilia Chavachavadze; Archpriest Philosophus Ornatsky, and those with him; Saint Salome of Jerusalem and Kartli; Saint Abramius of Galich; Deacon Juvernal (1919); St. Mary of Paris.
THE HOLY PROPHET ELIAS THE TISHBITE. A man who saw God, a wonderworker and a zealot for faith in God, Elias was of the tribe of Aaron, from the city of Tishba, whence he was known as 'the Tishbite'. When Prophet Elias was born, his father Sabah saw Angels of God around the child, swaddling it with fire and feeding it with flames. This was a foreshadowing of Elias's fiery character and his God-given fiery powers. He spent his whole youth in prayer and meditation, withdrawing often to the desert to ponder in prayer in tranquility. At that time, the Jewish Kingdom was divided into two unequal parts: the Kingdom of Judah consisted only of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with its capital at Jerusalem, while the Kingdom of Israel consisted of the other ten tribes, with its capital at Samaria. The former kingdom was ruled by the descendants of Solomon, and the latter by the descendants of Jeroboam, a servant of Solomon's. The Prophet Elias came into the greatest conflict with the Israelite king, Ahab, and his evil wife Jezebel, for they worshipped idols and turned the people from the service of the one, living God. On top of this, Jezebel, being a Syrian, persuaded her husband to build a temple to the Syrian god, Baal, and appointed many priests to the service of this false god. Prophet Elias performed many miracles by the power of God: he closed the heavens, that no rain should fall for three years and six months; called down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice to his God, while the priests of Baal were unable to do this; brought rain from the heavens at his prayers; miraculously multiplied corn and oil in the widow's house at Zarephath, and restored her dead son to life; prophesied to Ahab that the dogs would lick up his blood, and to Jezebel that the dogs would devour her--which came to pass; and performed many other miracles and foretold many events. He talked with God on Horeb, and heard His voice in the calm after the great wind. At the time of his death, he took Elisha and appointed him his heir as a Prophet; he parted the Jordan with his mantle and was finally borne to heaven in a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses. He appeared, together with Moses, to our Lord Jesus Christ on Tabor. At the end of the world, Prophet Elias will appear again, to break the power of Antichrist (Rev. 11).
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Prophets, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Saint James 5:10-20
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Luke 4:22-30
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Remember that while you pray God expects from you a positive answer to His question: 'Do you believe I can fulfill your prayer?' You must be able to answer from the bottom of your heart: Yes! I believe, Oh God,' and then you will be answered according to your faith…Remember that not one word is lost during prayer if you speak from your hear."[Saint John of Kronstadt]
THE PASSION OF GREED
[source: Orthodox Christian Tradition]
There are many who think of passion as something that we should desire. If we are passionate about something, it means that we are driven with desire to fulfill the task at hand. The meaning of the word "passion" [πάθος] in the ancient Church meant "to suffer". When we speak of Christ's Passion, we speak of His suffering during the events of His Crucifixion.
Each of us are afflicted by certain passions [πάθοι] that occurred after the Fall of Adam and Eve. This is the spiritual disease that was passed down. Also from the word "passion" we also derive the word, "passive". The passions are sin sicknesses that have occurred in our hearts after the Fall that feel so natural we can have them operate in our lives and we are its passive victim. Because of this, to be healed from them, we have to fight and struggle constantly against them. We don't struggle only with our own strength, but in synergy with the grace of God. It is still a battle, however, because healing from the passions feels very unnatural to us. But in fact, the effects of the passions in our life is quite unnatural. We were not created for this. Many of the passions feel natural and enjoyable to us, like pride, greed, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth, etc. But in reality, these things cause us to suffer and are pulling us away from our Creator. We cannot serve two masters Christ teaches us (Saint Matthew 6:24). "What a man loves, that he certainly desires; and what he desires, that he strives to obtain." (Elder Evagrius).
In this present life, we either strive to obtain the blessings of God, or we strive to obtain temporal things that are opposed to God and are possessing us. Saint Innocent of Alaska (an American Saint) [+1879] wrote the following:
"Every individual instinctively strives for happiness. This desire has been implanted in our nature by the Creator Himself, and therefore it is not sinful. But it is important to understand that in this temporary life it is impossible to find full happiness, because that comes from God and cannot be attained without Him. Only He, Who is the ultimate Good and the Source of All Good, can quench our thirst for happiness".
As pleasurable and deceptive as the passions are, we can be healed from them and find eternal happiness that is in Christ. This process is often painful, but as Saint Paul writes, "For I consider that the sufferings for this present age are not worthy to be compared with the Glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
There are definite paths of healing for each type of passion. The Holy Fathers of the Church defined each of the passions and laid out the way of healing. Saint John Cassion lays them out in this way:
Out of these eight principle passions provoke all other sins. The Holy Fathers assist us by defining these principle passions and the treatment for each. Elder Evagrius was probably the first Christian to write a list of them. Saint Isaac The Syrian said that it is a "greater miracle that a man can see his true self than the raising of the dead."
Our Holy Orthodox Church saw passions as the distortion of the natural inclinations. Lust is an unnatural use of sexuality. Gluttony is an unnatural use or connection with food. Greed is the unnatural attachment with the material world. Envy is an unnatural need and want for what one does not have. The passion of anger is an unnatural form of anger. We are told "be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath" (Eph. 4:26). Sloth or what we might call procrastination or laziness is an unhealthy form of 'idolness' or apathy.
Pride: the lack of humility befitting a creature of God.
Greed: too great a desire for money or worldly goods.
Lust: impure and unworthy desire for something evil.
Anger: unworthy irritation and lack of self-control.
Gluttony: the habit of eating or drinking too much.
Nine Ways of Participating in Another's Sin:
1. By counsel
2. By command
3. By consent
4. By provocation
5. By praise or flattery
6. By concealment
7. By partaking
8. By silence
9. By defense of the sin committed.
Let us now turn to the very serious passion and sin of Greed. "Christianity in general and Orthodox Christianity in particular recognize greed as one of the passions that are part of our fallen human nature, a consequence for our separation from God. Some of the passions are primarily physical in nature, other emotional or psychic, but in fact virtually all passions are a combination of the two.
Greed, a passion of both soul and body that is endemic to our current existence, is typical of this understanding. There are two aspects to the vice of greed: (1) the emotional or spiritual dimension, that is, the acquisitive lust that usually betokens either a deep seated insecurity or, worse, a desire for power and control: and (2) the external physical manifestations of greed in the actual acquisition of things, often to the detriment or exploitation of others. Eastern Christian writings attempted to work on both dimensions of the passion of greed, especially the spiritual, while often distinguishing between greed (a moral vice) and wealth (an amoral condition).
Orthodox Christians, an important key to overcoming greed is disciplined asceticism, to be practiced by all persons and not simply by monks or nuns. Asceticism--the exercise of control over the passions through fasting, prayer, chastity (understood differently for married and unmarried persons), and almsgiving--is the vehicle by which to cultivate an attitude of apatheia or passionlessness. [An Eastern Christian Perspective by Valerie A. Karras].
Let us now turn to Saint Ephraim's the Syrian exegesis of the New Testament--his commentary on the rich young man (St. Matthew 19:16-24; St. Mark 10:17-31; St. Luke 18:18-30), who moreover, in the Syrian Father's view, is not a young man, but just a man. His interpretation revolves essentially around two themes; the old law and the new law, and the meaning of the expression "God alone is good." Let us review them briefly. Saint Ephraim combines the two themes harmoniously. For Saint Ephraim, the rich man "had enriched himself according to the blessing of the law, and he had full confidence in his earthly opulence that the law had promised him. He came to Our Lord, fully expecting to receive approval for his riches and for his works." "When the rich man came and said: 'what do I still lack?' [St. Matthew 19:20], expecting our Lord to speak to him of some details of the law in which, like St. Paul, he was perfect (Phil. 3:6), Our Lord told him not what he was hoping to hear Him say, but what he did not want to hear...He restated the truth of the law, but He added the seal of a solid good: 'Go, deposit these earthly riches in heaven and then entrust yourself to them, because they have been reserved for you...' Seeing right away that the man's heart was totally submersed in this earth's goods, the Lord took him by surprise and lifted him up from the dust of this earth to make him run toward heaven: No one is good, except One alone in heaven [St. Mark 10:18]. Instead of earth, he shows the man heaven. Instead of his fathers, He shows him a single Father. One Alone is Good, and He is in Heaven. Elevate your love from earth toward the Good that you love...
Nevertheless, the final attitude of the rich young man, his refusal to renounce his possessions on behalf of the poor, thereby acquiring a treasure in Heaven, confirms that Saint Ephraim's analysis corresponds to another, much more decisive dimension of the personality described. More exactly, it helps us better to perceive the inner conflict that was tearing the rich young man from Christ in his poverty. It offers the notable advantage of underlining that the rich man's avarice had deep roots; not only vainglory, which led to his quest for justice according to the law, but also an attachment to earthly life even at the expense of a real pursuit of eternal life.
Saint Basil the Great stressed that property is something entrusted to us rather than something we own. In the first homily, "On Greed," he preached on the parable of the rich fool (St. Luke 12:16-18):
"Who, then, is greedy? The one who does not remain content with self sufficiency. Who is the one who deprives others? The one who hoards what belongs to everyone. Are you not greedy? Are you not one who deprives others? You have received these things for stewardship, and have turned them into your own property? Is not the one who tears off what another is wearing called a cloths-robber? But the one who does not clothe the naked when he was able to do so-what other name does he deserve? The bread that you hold on to belongs to the hungry; the cloak you keep locked in your storeroom belongs to the naked; the shoe that is moldering in your possession belongs to the person with no shoes; the silver that you have buried belongs to the person in need. You do an injury to as many people as you might have helped with all these things!"
Preaching on the Last Judgment scene in St. Matthew 25, a text that appears repeatedly in the sermons of the Cappadocians, St. Gregory of Nazianzus proclaimed:
"I am fearful of that 'left hand side' and of 'the goats'...because they have not ministered to Christ through those in need...Let us take care of Christ, then, while there is still time: let us visit Christ in his sickness, let us give to Christ to eat, let us clothe Christ in His nakedness, let us do honor to Christ, and not only at table, as some do, nor just with precious ointment, like Mary, nor just with a tomb, like Joseph of Arimathea, nor just with gold, frankincense and myrrh...But let us give Him this honor in His needy ones, in those who lie on the ground here before us this day."
Saint John Chrysostom said, "Riches are not forbidden, but the price of them is." Nowadays it is difficult to decide which is more dangerous--the love of money in a materialistic society or the Christian's rationalization for joining in the chase. Saint Paul set out for his readers of the love of money in both general and specific terms. First, the pursuit of wealth leads down a road filled with every variety of pitfall. The words temptation and trap may well be used with Satan's manipulations in mind, and the Enemy is certainly capable of using the hope of wealth to blur the moral distinctions of believers. "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6:6-10). "But you, O Man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness" (1 Tim. 6:11).
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'Assuredly, I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God". [St. Matthew 19:23-24]
Every Christian must remember the following divine words of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Who said: "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul? Or what will man give in exchange for his soul?" (St. Matthew 16:26)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God