Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True God,
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.
A PRAYER FOR DAILY SUPPORT
[Saint Paisios the Great]
Lord Jesus Christ My God, today grant me a good day without sin and vain distractions. Lord, do not abandon me. Lord, do not turn away from me. Lord, do not abandon me. Lord, do not turn away from me. Lord, extend to me a hand of assistance. Lord, support me in the fear of You. Let this fear of You but also Your love be implanted deeply into my heart. Lord, grant compunction and humility to my heart. Lord, grant me constant tears and contrition and the remembrance of death. Lord, deliver me from every temptation of the spirit and of the body. Lord, uproot from me negligence, laziness, sorrow, forgetfulness, insensitivity, callousness and the surrender to captivity of my mind. Lord, as You know and as You want, have mercy on me and forgive all of my transgressions. Lord, having attained peace through a good repentance and a ready and full confession, I hope that You will permit my lamentable soul, in due time, to make its exodus from this body in pure and perfect faith. Amen.
On August 11th 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: Great and holy Martyr Efplos the Deacon; Commemoration of the miracle of St. Spyridon on Kerkyra; St. Nephone, Patriarch of Constantinople; Saint Theodore and Basil of the Kiev Caves; St. Demetrios of Lesvos.
THE HOLY MARTYR EFPLOS THE DEACON. He was a deacon from Catania in Sicily. The pagan Roman emperor Diocletian sent a commander, Pentagurus, to Sicily to exterminate any Christians that he found there. Pentagurus did not find a single Christian, for they had hidden from the persecutors and did not show themselves. Then someone accused Efplos of taking a book to some secret Christians and reading to them. This book was the Holy Bible. He was therefore soon taken for trial, and, with the book hung round his neck, put in prison. After seven days of imprisonment and hunger, he was put to torture. When they whipped him with iron flails, St. Efplos mockingly said to the torturing judge: 'You fool; don't you see that these tortures are, to me, like a cobweb? If you can, find other, harsher tortures, as these are like playthings.' Finally, they led Christ's holy Martyr to the scaffold. Then Saint Efplos opened the holy Gospel and read from it to the people for a long time. Many turned to the Christian faith, and Saint Efplos was beheaded, in the year 304 A.D., and went to the heavenly Kingdom. His wonderworking holy relics in a village near Naples called Vico della Batonia.
+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 15:30-33
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 17:24-27, 18:1-4
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Reading spiritual books without instruction, you fear how not to fall into some incorrect thoughts or incorrect opinions. Your fear is well justified. Therefore, if you do not wish to suffer such a spiritual afflictions, do not indiscriminately read all manner of new works, even if they are of spiritual content, but are written by those who have not confirmed their teachings by holiness of life, but rather read such works of the Holy Fathers as have been recognized by the Orthodox Church as being fully well-known and doubtlessly edifying and soul-saving" [Saint Ambrose of Optina].
EXTERNAL NOISE AND INTERNAL PEACE
by Geronda [Elder] Paisios of Mount Athos [source: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man]
Most of the devices that people use these days for their comfort are so noisy. They have turned nature, which is always so peaceful, crazy with all this noise! Using all these modern means they have managed to spoil it. Remember how serene it was before! How does man manage to destroy and be destroyed without even realizing it!
Now, we have all learned to live with noise. In fact, there are many children who cannot study without listening to rock and roll music. In other words, they find it more restful to study with music, rather than in peace and quiet. The reason this external unrest makes them comfortable is because they feel unrest inside. There is noise everywhere You constantly hear a buzz: buzz when they cut wood, buzz when they sandpaper it, and buzz when they spray with the vaporizer. In the future they will invent vaporizers the size of aeroplanes that will make even more noise and they will say, "Oh, these are better because they spray from above and do not leave even a single bud unsprayed." And of course everybody will want to buy from those producers and will be so pleased for having done so.
Someone wants to drill a hole in the wall, and he plugs in the electric drill! All this noise and what does he achieve? He drills a "hole in the wall"! And the funny thing is that he is so proud of it! When it gets hot and he wants to cool off, he goes and buys an electric fan. In the old days, if you wanted to cool off you would use a simple hand fan...now you must go deal first. Even in the sea, everything has become so noisy. In the old days, ships sailed by quietly. Now even the smallest motorboat is so noisy. Pretty soon people will be going everywhere in an aeroplane. And you realize the earth absorbs some of the noise, but the air does not...may God help us!
They Have Even Ruined the Sacred Places
The restless secular spirit of our times, with its supposed civilization, has unfortunately destroyed even the sacred sites of the desert that bring so much peace and sanctification of souls. The restless person cannot find peace. They have not left any place on earth in peace. They have even gotten hold of the Holy Land. As mentioned in the biography of Hermit Photeni, kiosks and canteens have been built in the desert, where once she had lived as an ascetic. Inside the actual ascetic cells, where so many saintly people had lived, the British were selling refreshments! There goes the desert! It is now full of houses, radios, stores, hotels and airports! What Saint Cosmas had once predicted, has now happened, "A time will come when gypsies will hang their instruments where our brave young men now hang their weapons!"
I mean to say that we have come down to that too. Where monks once lived ascetic lives, weaving their komboschoinia and saying their prayers, we now have radios and soft drinks! Anyway, it seems to me that in few years, we will not anymore need all these things. The way we are going, it seems that life is coming to an end. The end of life...the end of the world is near.
Geronda [Elder], is there a quiet place left on the Holy Mountain of Athos?
--No, even there you cannot find a quiet spot; everywhere you go they are opening up forest roads! Cars are everywhere! Even the most remote and quiet places can now be reached by car! I wonder what these people are seeking in the desert! When a gentle wind from the desert stirred the reeds, Arsenios the Great would say, "What sound is this? Is it an earthquake?' I wonder what the Holy Fathers would have said if they had seen and heard what is happening today!
One day Abba [Father] Arsenios came to a place where there were reeds blowing in the wind. Abba Arsenios said to the Brothers, "What is this movement?" They said, "Some reeds." Then the Abba said to them, "When one who is living in silent prayer hears the song of a little sparrow, his heart no longer experiences the same peace. How much worse it is when you hear the movement of those reeds." [The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Abba Arsenios].
In the old days, certain monks, especially those who served in the refectory and in the hospitality house of the Coenobitic Monasteries, would get very tired. They had to wash dishes, scrub the copper utensil, and so on. Today they have conveniences, modern devices, and most of them are noisy. I remember, in the Monastery, we used to carry water in containers from a spring and would slowly lift it to the third floor with a windlass. Now they bring the water up with an engine and you hear its constant noise. The walls shake and the windowpanes creak! They should at least put a sound barrier around it! When I was serving in the army, during the Guerrilla War, I used to charge the radio battery using a silencer so the noise would not bother the people nearby.
One day some monks came to my Kalyvi and started speaking very loudly, I said to one of them, "Speak more softly; they can hear us over there." He continued to speak loudly. "Lower your voice," I repeated. "Bless me Father," he said finally. "We have a generator in the Monastery and we have become accustomed to speaking loudly to hear each other." Can you believe that? Instead of saying the Jesus prayer and speaking in a low voice, they shout because they got used to having a generator. We are getting to be like those young people who interfere with the exhaust pipe of their bikes and make all this noise--this same spirit has penetrated into our Monasteries. That's where we are heading; and people are really enjoying being loud...
Tranquility Is Mystical Prayer
When the monk makes use of all these noisy devices, he does away with the preconditions for prayer and the monastic way of life. For this reason, we should avoid using noisy devices as much as possible. What people today consider to be conveniences, do not actually help the monk achieve his goal. A monk cannot find in such a noisy environment what he set out to find by becoming a monk.
To be tranquil is very important. Even if one is not actually praying, tranquility will put him in a state of prayer. Much like our imperceptible breathing, tranquility is mystical prayer and of great help to those who seek to pray. Thos who labor spiritually while in a state of tranquility will lose themselves in the Jesus prayer. Do you know what it really means to lose oneself that way? When a small child rests contentedly in his mother's arms, he is quiet, he does not talk. The two are now united in deep communication. This is why it is good for Monasteries to be located in isolated areas, away from the rest of the world, away from archaeological sites, worldly noises and great numbers of people.
External tranquility, living away from the world, along with discerning asceticism and unceasing prayer, will soon bring about the inner tranquility, the peace of the soul, which is an essential precondition for the more refined and more profound prayer of the heart. When one attains this state, he is no longer disturbed by an external distractions, since in reality it is only his body that is on earth, while his mind is in Heaven.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God