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.
PRAYER OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
O Lord and Master of my life, Give me not a spirit of laziness, of aimless curiosity, A spirit of lust for power over others and of vain talk.
Rather, grace me, Your servant, With the Spirit of purity, humility, patience and love.
Yes, O Lord King, Grant me discernment to see my own faults, And not to judge and condemn my fellow human beings.
For You are Blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On July 26th 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: Saint Hermolaos and his companions; Saint Paraskevi, holy Martyr of Rome; Saint Moses the Hungarian; Saint Jacob Nestsvetov, Enlightener of Alaska.
OUR HOLY MOTHER, THE MARTYR PARASKEVI. Born in Rome of Christian parents, she was brought up from her earliest youth in the Christian faith and gave herself wholeheartedly to the fulfilling of God's commandments in her life. She brought others to the Way by means of her true and deep faith and devout life. When her parents died, Saint Paraskevi gave all her goods away to the poor and received the monastic habit. As a nun, she preached the truth of Christ with ever more burning zeal, not hiding from anyone, even though the Christian faith was at that time subject to bloody persecution by the pagan Roman authorities. Wicked Jews denounced St. Paraskevi for preaching a forbidden faith, and she was brought to trial before the Emperor Antoninus. All the Emperor's flattery was unavailing in shaking the faith of this servant of God. She was then put to torture by fire, and a white-hot helmet was place on her head, but God saved her miraculously and she escaped and left Rome. She again began to go from city to city, there to bring the pagan people to the true Faith. In two more cities she was brought before princes and judges, and tortured for her Lord, performing on these occasions great miracles by the power of God and quickly recovering from her wounds. The pagans, as ever, called her miracles magic, and ascribed her recovery to the power and mercy of their gods. Saint Paraskevi once said to a prince who was torturing her: 'it is not your gods, O Prince, who healed me, but my Christ, the True God.' She was finally beheaded by a Prince Tarasius. Thus gloriously ended the fruitful life of this holy woman. Her holy relics were later taken to Constantinople. She suffered for Christ in the 2nd century.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-5
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 5:24-34
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"The greatest thing we have to say about prayer is that every praying person converses with God Himself, and this to the extent that, being human, one can speak with God...One cannot adequately express in words this honor. For this honor exceeds even the magnificence of the Angels themselves...At the time of prayer we are forgetful of our human nature, considering ourselves to be in the midst of Angels and carrying out the same worship as they. For all the other things are very different and separated--I mean between us and the Angels--but the work of prayer is common to both Angels and humans". [St. John Chrysostom]
ABOUT THE ANTICHRIST
[source: "Orthodox Kypseli" Publications]
Prior to the Second Coming of Christ to the world, according to the Holy Scripture and the holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, the Antichrist will precede--a most impious man activated by Satan. Saint Cyril I of Jerusalem informs us that the Antichrist "is coming…when the close of the world is approaching", that he will reveal all his murderous disposition against the Church, and "against all (people) especially against us Christians". According to Saint John Chrysostom, the Antichrist will be a person accepting all the energy of Satan. "What will he not work then? He will move all, he will disturb all...for he will work a million things and prepare others to work hardships". "When the Antichrist becomes prevailing," says the sacred Chrysostom, "he will persecute the Church of God and reveal his wickedness..." Among many other things, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem makes known to us the following also about the Antichrist: "Daring such things for only 3 and 1/2 years, he will then be abolished by the second glorious coming from the heavens of the Only-begotten Son of God, of our True Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Who, defeating the Antichrist with the breath of His mouth, will hand him over to the fire of Gehenna" (Catech. 15, Chapter 12).
Hate amongst brothers, according to Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, will give ground to the Antichrist; because the Devil prepares the schisms of peoples, so that he who is coming can become acceptable. Saint Cyril places above all martyrs, those who at the time of the Antichrist will witness with piety for the name of Christ; because the former struggled only with people, whereas the martyrs of the Antichrist's time will fight with Satan himself in person. The temptation to define the time of the events of the revelations is limited by the terms of Saint Irenaeus, who says:
"It is safer and less dangerous, to await the outcome of the prophecy, rather than to ponder and guess at the name", and elsewhere he tells us: "Every prophecy before being fulfilled is an enigma and something irrational to people. When, however, the time comes and that which has been prophesied is realized, then it achieves the most precise explanation." While Saint Andrew of Caesarea says: "Time and experience will reveal to those who are vigilant."
The Antichrist will precede the Second Coming of Christ. He will preach on earth a worldwide persecution against the faithful, and for this reason great attention and spiritual wakefulness is demanded; so that we not be deceived in any way, as the holy Apostle Paul proclaims to the Thessalonians.
The Antichrist will be a natural person, who will place himself against the God-man Christ, His teaching and His Orthodox Church. Antichrist means he who is coming instead of Christ and is opposed to Christ. He is essentially the opponent to of Christ and His world saving work.
The Evangelist John tells us (1 John 2:22): "This is the Antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son." While Saint John Damascene assures us, that "he who does not confess the Son of God having come in the flesh and that He is perfect God and has become a perfect Man, after being God, is Antichrist" (P.G. 94, 1216). Whoever, that is, rejects the Incarnation of Christ is Antichrist. Whoever again are enemies of Christ's faith, opponents of the Gospel of the Lord, are antichrists There existed many forerunners of the Antichrist in the past, but also very many who are working today in his own plans, as are the heresies, sorceries, Zionism and many international political and financial organizations.
Additional signs of the last days will be: the appearance of many false prophets; the increase of destructive wars; hunger, dreadful and mortal illnesses; earthquakes in places; and the scandals of lay people and clergymen. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem writes in relation: "Bishops against Bishops and clergymen against clergy men and peoples against peoples unto blood". The holy Father urges us not to pay attention to those things which are happening, but to those which have been written; nor should the per chance evil conduct of the clergy be a cause, for our own perdition.
Another echatological sin is the lessening of love and the increase of hating brothers before the coming of the Antichrist. "And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold", as the Evangelist Matthew mentions in chapter 24 verse 12.
Another sign is the preaching of the Gospel to all the world, independently of whether the people believe or not: "and the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come" (St. Matthew 24:14).
The planned superinflation will aid in the nations being subjected to the electronic money system. All exchanges and buying/selling will occur through the electronic means of exchanging values, and will be conducted with the "mark': Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number or its name. This calls for wisdom: "let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number six hundred and sixty-six." (Revelation 13:16-18).
The Antichrist's coming is being prepared by his forerunners, who with impious and sinful works will lead humanity to great apostasy and uselessness; and to idolatry, in order to accept the Antichrist. They will pursue the joining of the currents of politics, of economy and of religion with the aim of the creation of a world wide state (Globalization) with a world wide Governor-Dictator, and a pan-religion with the Antichrist as God.
The heresies, many satanic organizations, as well as the atheistic material systems are forerunners of the Antichrist; which cause confusion, disbelief in Christ's Church, and lead unsupported people to perdition. With all these things they strive to wound Orthodoxy, in order to work unbattered for Satan and his ungodly instruments. The most effective manner of facing the forerunners of the Antichrist, and of the Antichrist himself, are to know Christ and place Him correctly inside us with such intensity, that we will love Him first and above all; so that, henceforth, it is not possible for anything to separate us from Him.
The par excellence Antichrist will be him whom God will allow to appear to the world a little prior to the Second Coming of Christ "he who is coming during the close of the world", according to Saint John Damascene, "to fight the Church of Christ and the faithful disciples of Christ". He will perform in a word whatever Satan dictates to him, as if Satan is acting in person through him. He will be the person through whom Satan will act.
God will allow the Antichrist to come for the unbelieving, the Jews and the believers. According to Saint John Chrysostom he will not be powerful on the believers, but on all those who follow the road of perdition, as well as unrepentant believers.
Saint Ephraim the Syrian tells us in relation, that "by the allowance of Holy God, he (the Antichrist) will receive authority to deceive the world; because the impiety of the world has multiplied and everywhere he works hardships". Saint Cyril of Jerusalem stresses to us: "So man, guard please your own self. You now have all the signs to know before hand of the Antichrist. And do not just think about it, but also tell them and inform the others, as many more as you can."
The Lord will come as the flood of Noah, that is, suddenly: "As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (St. Matthew 24:37). "Like a thief in the night" (2 Peter 3:10). Like lightning! "For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:27). That is, it will be felt like lightning, and will be seen all over the earth and to all people.
The Lord will come again on earth with the same manner that He left. The Angels Who were present with the disciples of the Lord in His Ascension assured this: "This Jesus, Who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). Till then, let us cultivate inside us this sweet expectation--with worthy works of repentance and virtue, love and holiness.
Christ will not leave His faithful people, so long as we walk the path of the Saints of our Church: to live with the fear of God, with humility, with prayer, with charity, with repentance, with patience, with love. Let us walk the path of truth, of light, of grace, of sanctification, studying the Holy Scripture, patristic works, the lives of our Saints, partaking worthily in the Sacramental life of our Church; and the philanthropic and soul-saving Lord will not leave us helpless. Our Lord assured us of this with the following consoling words of His: "And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (St. Matthew 28:20).
We are called completely to entrust ourselves to God, to strive to serve the truth, to do that which pleases God; and to never forget, neither God's judgment not the recompense. Then, and only then, the peace of God and His divine protection will accompany and guard us always.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God