Commemoration of the Founding of the Church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre) at Jerusalem
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.
THE DAYS ARE PASSING; DO NOT PUT OFF REPENTANCE
by Saint Ephraim the Syrian
Love prompts me to speak to God, but my unworthiness forces me to be silent. Tortuous spiritual afflictions compel me to talk, but sins force me to keep quiet. My soul languishes and my eyes long for tears.
You have sinned, O soul; repent. For our days pass by like a shadow. We will travel through terrible and frightening places. Do not put off turning to the Lord day after day. Become at last contrite, O my soul.
Become contrite at the thought of all the good things that you have received from the Lord, but not kept. Become contrite at the thought of what you have done, and how patient God has been with you. Become contrite, that at Christ's terrible judgment you might not be sent to outer darkness.
Woe is me, a sinner! For because of my weakness I have become defiled, and ever do I defile the purity of my heart. Apathy and slothfulness have shamed the boldness of my heart. Evil desire commands me, like a master commands his slave, and I, like a child, immediately obey with fear. It leads me into sin and this gladdens me.
Woe is me, O Lord! Thy grace draws me toward life, but I instead prefer death. Thou takest pains that I might become as honorable as the Angels; but I, in my depravity, debase myself My sins have multiplied, O Lord, and ceaselessly do they multiply and there is no limit to their multitude.
And who will mourn for me or pray for me? Do Thou, O my Savior, Thyself condescend to have mercy on me through Thy grace and regard me who despair with compassion! For how will I pray to Thee, O Master, when my mouth is filled with vile words? Or how will I sing praises to Thee, when my conscience is defiled? Or how will I love Thee, when I am filled with passion? Or how will truth dwell in me, when I have cursed myself with lies? Or how will I call upon Thee, when I have not kept Thy Commandments?
Blessed are all they that fear the Lord, that walk in His ways. Thou shalt eat the fruit of thy labours; blessed art thou, and well shall it be with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine on the sides of thy house, Thy sons, like young olive trees round about thy table.
Behold, so shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord. The Lord bless thee out of Zion, and mayest thou see the good things of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. And mayest thou see thy children's children; peace be upon Israel.
On September 13th 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: Forefeast of the Elevation (Exaltation) of the Holy Cross; The Consecration of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ; Hieromarty Cornelius the Centurion.
THE CONSECRATION OF THE CHURCH OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST. When the holy Empress Helena found the Lord's Cross in Jerusalem, she stayed longer in the city and built churches in Gethsemane, in Bethlehem, on the Mount of Olives and in other places that commemorated the life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. On Golgotha, where she found the Precious Cross, she began to build an enormous church, under whose roof would be the places both where the Lord was crucified and where He was buried, the holy Empress wanting to bring under one roof the places of His suffering and His glory. But St. Helena went to the Lord before this magnificent church was completed. It was finished in the same year in which St. Constantine completed thirty years on the throne, and so the consecration of the church and the Emperor's Jubilee were fixed for the same day, September 13th, 335 A.D. At that time, a local Council of bishops was meeting in Tyre. These bishops, with many others, made their way to Jerusalem, to the solemn consecration of the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord. It was then instituted that this day, as a day of victory and triumph for the Church of Christ, should be celebrated every year.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 3:1-4
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 12:25-36
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"The Cross, is wood which lifts us up and makes us great...The Cross uprooted us from the depths of evil and elevated us to the summit of virtue". [Saint John Chrysostom]
THE CHURCH ACCORDING TO OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN FAITH
The Church is the assembly of believers in Christ, which He Himself calls every one to join. In her "all things heavenly and earthly" should be united in Christ, for He is the Head of "the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23). In the Church the creation is deified and God's original design for the world and man is fulfilled by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Church is a result of both the redemptive feat performed by the Son Who was sent by the Father and the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit Who descended on the great day of Pentecost. According to Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Christ Himself at the head of humanity, becoming the Head of renewed humanity as His body in which access is found to the source of the Holy Spirit. The Church is the unity of "the new humanity in Christ", "the unity of God's grace dwelling in the multitude of rational creatures who submit to grace" (A.S. Khomyakov). "Men, women, children, deeply divided as to race, nation, language, way of life, work, education, status, wealth...--all are restored by the Church in the Spirit...All receive from her one nature which is beyond corruption--the nature that is not affected by the numerous and profound differences by which people differ from one another...In her, no one is at all separated from the common, as everyone is as if dissolved in one another by the simple and indivisible power of faith" (Saint Maximus the Confessor).
The Church is a divine human organism. Being the Body of Christ, she unites in herself the two natures, divine and human, with their inherent actions and wills. The Church relates to the world through her human, created, nature. However, she interacts with it not as a purely earthly organism but in all her mysterious fullness. It is the divine-human nature of the Church that makes possible the grace-giving transformation and purification of the world accomplished in history in the creative co-work, "synergy", of the members and the Head of the Church body.
The Church is not of this world, just as her Lord, Jesus, is not of this world. However, He came to the world He was to save and restore, "humbling" Himself to match its conditions. The Church should go through the process of historical kenosis, fulfilling her redemptive mission. Her goal is not only the salvation of people in this world, but also the salvation and restoration of the world itself. The Church is called to act in the world in the image of Christ, to bear witness to Him and His Kingdom. The members of the Church are called to share in Christ's mission, in His service of the world, which is possible for the Church only as a conciliar service so that "the world may believe" (St. John 17:21). The Church is called to serve the salvation of the world, for even the Son of Man Himself "came not to be ministered unto, but minister, and give His Life a ransom for many" (St. Mark 10:45).
The Savior said about Himself "I am among you as he that serveth" (St. Luke 22:27). Service for the salvation of the world and human beings cannot be limited to national and religious limits, as the Lord Himself states clearly in the parable of the merciful Samaritan. Moreover, the members of the Church encounter Christ as the One Who assumed all sins and suffering of the world when they welcome the hungry, homeless, sick or prisoners. Help to those who suffer is in the full sense help to Christ Himself, and the fulfillment of this commandment determines the eternal fate of every man (St. Matthew 25:31-41). Christ calls upon His Disciples not to shun the world, but to be "salt of the earth" and "the light of the world".
The Church, being the body of God-Man Christ, is divine-human. However, even if Christ is the perfect God-Man, the Church is not yet perfect in her divine humanity, for on earth she has to struggle with sin, and her humanity, though inherently united with the Godhead, is far from expressing Him and matching Him in everything.
Life in the Church, to which everyone is called, is continuous ministry to God and people. All the people of God are called to it. The members of the Body of Christ, participating in common service, also fulfill their particular functions. Each is given a special gift to serve all. "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same, one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10). "For to one is given by the spirit of the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same spirit; to another faith by the same spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; but all these worketh at one and selfsame spirit, dividing to every man as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:8-11). Gifts of the manifold grace of God are given to everyone individually but for the common ministry of the people of God (also for the service of the world). And this represents the common service of the Church performed on the basis of not one but many various gifts. The variety of gifts creates various ministries; however, "there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all" (1 Corinthians 12:5-6).
The Church also calls her faithful to participation in the life of society, which should be based on the principles of Christian morality. In the High Priestly Prayer, the Lord Jesus interceded the Heavenly Father for His followers: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil...As thou has sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world" (St. John 17:15, 18). The Christian should view the world and society in the light of his ultimate destiny, in the eschatological light of the Kingdom of God.
The variety of gifts in the Church is manifested in a special way in her social ministry. The Undivided Church organism participates in the life of the world around it in its fullness, but the clergy, monastics and laity can realize this participation in different ways and degrees.
Fulfilling the mission of the salvation of the human race, the Church performs it not only through preaching, but also through good works aimed to improve the spiritual-moral and material condition with the state, even if it is not Christian, as well as with various public associations and individuals, even if they do not identify themselves with the Christian faith. Without setting herself the direct task to have all converted to Orthodoxy as a condition for co-operation, the Church hopes that joint charity will lead its workers and people around them to the knowledge of the Truth, help them to preserve or restore faithfulness to the God-given moral norms and inspire them to seek peace, harmony and well-being--the conditions in which the Church can best fulfill her salvific work.
The Old Testament people of Israel were the prototype of the people of God--the New Testament Church of Christ. The redemptive feat of Christ the Savior initiated the being of the Church as new humanity, the spiritual posterity of the forefather Abraham. By His Blood Christ "has redeemed us to God out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nations" (Rev. 5:9). The Church by her very nature is universal and therefore supranational. In the Church "there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek" (Romans 10:12). Just as God is not the God of the Jews alone but also of the Gentiles (Romans 3:29), so the Church does not divide people on either national or class grounds: in her "there is neither Greek, nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:11).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God