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 ΚΑ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A PRAYER TO THE MORE-THAN-HOLY THEOTOKOS
[Saint Gennadios Scholarios, Patriarch of Constantinople]
O Blessed Virgin, You are full of grace and among women the Most Blessed of any person; You are the adornment of the human race, the miracle of Angels, the joy of all creation, the crown of virtue, the Most True Image and Likeness of God, the Most well-disposed Queen, and we laud and praise your holiness. After all the glory we render to the Eternal Logos (Word) of God, our Creator and Savior, we directly confess and witness to your graces, O Theotokos, for You co-operated with and participated in the plan of our salvation. We beseech You, Most Holy Mother of God, accept also now our petition and send it for a favorable consideration to our Savior, and your Son, Jesus Christ, and through Him to the Unoriginate God and Father and the Holy Spirit. For You have served God in the very best of all the divine acts and in the greatest heavenly plan for the salvation of us humans. If God listens to sinners when they return in repentance to His obedience and love--O what supernatural wonder!--how will He reject your intercessions on our behalf? We admit that we are sinful and unworthy of any heavenly or earthly visitation; and yet we dare to be bold because we know the depth of your own loving kindness and compassion that resembles that of God Himself. We also confess and witness to your own abiding favor and providence toward our nation, which has been demonstrated from the beginning until now.
For these reasons therefore do not overlook us, the least of your servants, but intercede on our behalf; show your guardianship over us. Our life is passing away and the guilt for our sins is great and heavy. Our repentance is lukewarm and uncertain. We turn to God our Creator in repentance and immediately we return again to evil.
For this reason then, Most compassionate Mother of our Merciful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, be quick to deliver us from these present fears of ours. Grant us a repentance that is as true and steadfast as possible; make us all to be diligent in the work of our salvation; supplement with your divine love for mankind what is lacking in us because of our natural weakness and long-standing companionship with evil. Dissolve the guilt of our many sins, by generating a profound contrition in our soul and by offering it as a start to the divine love for mankind, through which so many repentant thieves, prostitutes and publicans have been saved. If, through your own concern and effort on our behalf, we do not see the Light of Divine mercy shine upon us who are most imprudent and reckless, then all of our affairs will be filled with horrible fears and destruction. We know and are certain that You will not abandon us altogether; we still have hope that is based upon the abundance of God's loving kindness toward mankind and your own many visitations to us. O Most Holy Theotokos, Full of Grace and Most Blessed among women, the Lord is indeed with You, and may He be also with us through You, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On August 10th 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 Lavrentius the Archdeacon of Rome; Saint Hippolytus of Rome; Saints Felicissimos and Agapitos of Rome, and others with them; Saint Romanus, soldier of Rome; Six holy Martyrs of Bizin; Saint Laurence, fool-for-Christ at Kaluga; Saint Abundius of Rome.
THE HOLY MARTYRS LAVRENTIUS (LAURENCE) THE ARCHDEACON AND BISHOP SIXTUS, AND OTHERS WITH THEM. When Bishop Stephen was killed, Saint Sixtus was installed in his place. Sixtus was an Athenian, first a philosopher and later a Christian. At that time, the Roman bishops were being killed one after the other in such quick succession that to be made Bishop of Rome was tantamount to a death sentence. The Emperor Valerian was determined to stamp out Christianity, and Bishop Sixtus was quickly brought to trial with two of his deacons, Felicicius and Agapitus. When they were being taken off to prison, St. Lavrentius (Laurence) said to the Bishop: 'Where are you going, Father, without your son? Whither, O Bishop, without your archdeacon?' The Bishop consoled him with the prophecy that he would undergo yet greater suffering for Christ, and follow him very soon. And indeed, as soon as Sixtus and the two deacons had been beheaded, St. Lavrentius was arrested. He had been inspired to set in order both his own affairs and those of the Church. As treasurer, he had taken all the Church's valuables to the house of a widower, Cyriacus. At that time, he healed Cyriacus of terrible pains in the head by the touch of his hand, and restored the sight of a blind man, Crescention. Thrown into prison, St. Lavrentius there healed an elderly prisoner, Lucillus, of blindness and baptized him. Seeing this, the warder, Hippolytus, also received baptism, and later suffered for Christ (see August 13th). As Saint Lavrentius would not deny Christ, but strongly counseled the Emperor Valerian to abandon his false gods, he was beaten on the face with stones and on his body with scorpions (chains with poisoned teeth). A soldier, Romanus, who was present at the torture, came to belief in Christ and was immediately beheaded. They finally put Saint Lavrentius on an iron grid and lit a fire underneath. Roasting in the fire, Saint Lavrentius gave thanks to God, and mocked the Emperor for his paganism. When he had given his pure and heroic soul to God, Hippolytus took his body by night, first to the house of Cyriacus and then to a cave, where he buried it. Saint Lavrentius (Laurence) suffered, together with the others, in 258 AD. [The Prologue from Ochrid]
+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: 2 Corinthians 1:12-20
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 22:23-33
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Long before we wish to go to sleep let us ponder upon the glorifications and our psalm-singing and our reading from the Holy Scriptures, keeping our soul from evil recollections and from every odious reflection and let us furnish our treasury with every sort of beautiful thing. Then sleep will overtake us while we are full of the recollection of God, and our soul will be aflame with ardent longing for the good things...because God's grace surrounds us in our sleep and pours forth upon us gifts, though we slumber." [Saint Isaac the Syrian]
ON SACRED AND BLESSED PRAYER, THE MOTHER OF VIRTUES
By Saint John Climacus (of the Ladder) [The 1883 Edition of Constantinople by Sophronios] [source: A Prayer Book, An Anthology of Orthodox Prayers by Fr. Peter A. Chamberas]
The quality and the grace of prayer which is done, as it should, with fervent love and desire for God, has so much great power, that it unites human beings with their Creator and raises their mind to be inseparably bonded with Him. The energy of such prayer, moreover, can hold the world together and keep it from being annihilated by the many sins done each day.
This prayer is remission and forgiveness of sins; a bridge that separates and frees man from temptations and dangers and transports him to freedom and rest; it is a wall of separation which obstructs the grief of the passions both of men and of demons, and does not permit them (the demons) to enter into us and to torment us; it is a celestial activity that nourishes all the Angels and the Saints; it is the endless joy and delight of the righteous; it is the virtue which must never cease; it is a source from which spring all good things; it is a mediator for all the gifts; and invisible progress in the heart; a table of noble souls that is unfailing in providing spiritual food; a perpetual illumination of the mind; a heavenly light; an axe that cuts off and dispels despondency; it is the proof of the hope the soul has in God and for this reason it prays; it is the antidote to and the release from sorrow; it is the wealth of the monastics who practice it with contrition; it is the great treasure of the hesychasts who study it thoroughly; it is the reduction and disappearance of anger; it is the mirror which reflects the degree of success in good things for the praying person; it is the revealer of the soul in love with God; the torch of the inner spiritual condition of man; it is a door through which the Angelic light enters into the praying persons and reveals to them the hidden mysteries of God; it is the messenger of the eternal honor and of the gifts of the beloved servants of God. And to put it even more briefly, prayer creates such a great activity in the soul that it is captivated to rejoice with all of its heart and to be aware that it is standing before the tribunal and the throne of God, and it is examined for its sins, as if it were that fearful hour of the Great Judgment, so the soul is judged and condemned, standing also in fear and trembling, entreating and grieving and seeking correction, in order that in the future judgment it may be found free from the wrath of God and the condemnation of its sins.
Let us approach willingly the most sacred prayer, the queen of the virtues, speaking to us with an exalted voice and saying: Come to me, all who have become weary of the carnal and the worldly and the demonic warfare, and I will redeem you from all of these and give your rest (St. Matthew 11:18).
On order to pray, let us prepare and adorn ourselves with all of our soul and heart and strength, and with all of our mind and with profound humility...When you go to present yourself before God in order to pray, may your soul be adorned with the garment of shame and piety and meekness...and with a full forgiveness and a perfect love for your enemies...
The stance of those who pray before God is singular, but it can have a great variety in its activity and in its content...We, above all, should in the first verse, at the beginning of our prayer, express to God our pure gratitude with our whole soul for the great benefactions and the daily graces we receive from our Lord and King.
In the second verse of our prayer, let us express, with compunction and pain of heart, the confession of our sins which we, as fools, commit against God on a daily basis.
In the third verse of our prayer, let us place before our heavenly King our own particular issues, and entreat Him with much humility to be compassionate and merciful to us and to console us with His Loving-Kindness, and to make us worthy ultimately of His Great Mercy, His Kingdom in Heaven.
Let us, therefore, first of all thank God for His infinite mercy then let us confess to Him our sins, and, finally, let us entreat Him to forgive us.
For a few, well spoken, pious and contrite words are best suited to serve God, our Heavenly Father.
Pray with much humility and then a greater desire will come to your from God, with yearning and grace to approach Him with greater piety and more contrition.
Prudence and tears create wings for prayer to soar toward God.
Struggle with all of your strength to be raising your mind in health and purity during prayer, and to secure and contain all of your thinking and your thoughts to understand the reason and the content of the prayer you are doing, without inclining the whole toward one thing or to another distraction. And if your mind should tire and fall from its natural weakness, or from its bad habits, recall it and bring it back directly to its proper place. And do not neglect or grow weary in recollecting your mind, if you wish to correct it and to heal it completely. For it is characteristic of the mind to be transferred from place to place and to be removed from its proper activity and from prayer. But it is also characteristic of God to be able to hold everything in its proper place.
If you work hard enough and struggle unremittingly to train your mind to stand immovably and firmly in the activity of prayer, then surely God Himself will come to dwell in your soul...
The beginning and the firm foundation of a good and effective prayer is when the praying person, from the very first start, banishes, with a decisive word of reason, the insults and the imaginations of bad thoughts which come to mind.
The mid-point in prayer is to unite the whole mind to the words and meaning of the prayer.
The end-point of prayer is the rapture of the mind as it ascends totally toward God. This is the reason why it is not enough to simply avoid the evil thoughts as soon as they come to it, but must also raise itself (the mind) totally toward God, and this is how prayer becomes perfect and full of grace.
This too is the reason why we, who are weak and reluctant, must constrain and compel ourselves to pray with great power and desire, and to do this with much extensive and painful prayer. This way we will be able to attain good and perfect prayer, which is carried out without obstacles, and with purity of mind and sanctity of soul.
Prayer, of course, is harmed when someone is standing before God with the body, and the mind is preoccupied with disorderly fantasies and improper imaginings and impurities; and it is again harmed when we do nothing to bring the mind back to its proper activity.
If you want to achieve a good and God-pleasing prayer, arise and remove from your person the appetites and the thoughts and the love of pleasure of the word; divest your mind of all the thoughts and the cares and the disorderly things, purify your heart of the polluting passions, avoid all of your own wills, renounce your body and its inclinations, and climb willingly up to God with all of your desire.
Fervent faith and hope give wings to prayer and cause it to fly to Heaven…
Before you even come to prayer, prepare yourself by learning how to pray with your soul without ever ceasing; be well attentive to whatever it is you are doing so that you may do it with your soul always connected with God. This way you will become accustomed to focusing your heart toward God, and in the hour of prayer you will focus on God and on prayer and will quickly make progress in prayer…
Please note: Our Holy Orthodox Church encourages and guides all of her children to pray unceasingly to the Only True God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Holy seasons such as the Fifteen Days of August are conducive for prayer, fasting, worship, repentance, confession, philanthropy and for Mysteriaki zoe (Sacramental life). Please do not neglect or ignore these wonderful opportunities. May God bless and illumine your hearts!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God