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 BASIL THE GREAT
God and Lord of the heavenly powers of Angels And Creator of the whole universe, Out of the depths of Your unimaginable loving kindness, You sent Your Only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, For the salvation of our human race. Through His precious Cross, Christ tore up the written accusation against our sins, And He triumphed upon the Cross Against the principalities and authorities of darkness. Receive now, O Loving Lord, also from us sinners, These prayers of petition and thanksgiving, And redeem us from every destructive and evil transgression, And from all visible and invisible enemies who seek to harm us. Through the salutary fear of You, O God, Transfix our flesh upon the Cross, And do not incline our hearts to words or thoughts of evil. Uphold our souls with the desire for You, So that looking intently toward You always, Being guided by Your Light, And Seeing You, the uncreated and unapproachable Light, We may send up to You an unceasing confession and thanksgiving, To You the unbegotten Father without beginning, Together with Your Only-begotten Son, And Your All-Holy, Good and Life-Creating Spirit, Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
On September 18th 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 Evmenios, Bishop of Gortyna; St. Ariadne of Phrygia; Sts. Sophia and Irene of Egypt; Saint Castor of Alexandria; Saint Arcadius, bishop of Novgorod; Saints Bidzini, Shalva, and Elizbar of Ksani, Georgia; Saint Romylos of Vidin; Righteous Hilarion of Optina.
SAINT EVMENIUS, BISHOP OF GORTYNA IN CRETE. He gave himself to Christ with his whole heart from his youth, freeing himself of two heavy burdens: the burden of riches and the burden of the flesh. He freed himself from the first by giving away all his goods to the poor and needy, and from the latter by strict fasting. He thus healed himself and was able to heal others. Passionless and filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, St. Evemenius shone with a radiance that could not be hidden, as it is written: "a city set on a hill cannot be hid" (St. Matthew 5:14), and so holy Evmenius could not be hidden from the world. Seeing him, the people chose him as their bishop in Gortyna. As a bishop, he governed Christ's flock as a good shepherd. He was a father to the poor, riches to the needy, consolation to the sad, healing to the sick and a marvelous wonderworker. He worked many miracles by his prayers: he killed a poisonous snake, drove out demons, healed many of the sick, and did this not only in his home city but in Rome and in the Thebaid. In the Thebaid, he brought rain from God in a time of drought, and there finally finished his earthly course and entered into the eternal presence of his Lord. He lived and worked in the 7th century.
+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: Galatians 5:11-21
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 3:23-38, 4:1
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Take no greater care than to correct your will and inward disposition. In this consists all the power of Christian piety." [Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk]
INTRODUCTION OF APOCALYPSE
by Rev. Father Athanasios Mitilinaios
By the grace of our Triune God, we are approaching once again the month of October, the month when most of us get busy. We prepare for winter and our farmers prepare the fields to plant. As our farmers go out to their fields to plant their wheat, in the same manner it is necessary for the word of God to come forth and be planted. According to the Gospel of Saint Luke: "A sower went out to sow his seed" (St. Matthew 13:3). The word of God comes forth not to till or cultivate, but only to sow. The preparation of the field is the responsibility of man. Now if we come to hear the word of God, how we hear it and perceive it, and how it affects out personal life, is something totally dependent on us. However, the Sower comes and sows constantly. This is the exodus of God, which is an exodus of God's love towards His creation. God wanted to walk with His people. He did so through His Incarnation, and He continues to come to sow the word of His Divine Truth. However, as I told you, how we hear the word of God depends on us.
Now, the word of God at times falls on trampled and hard ground, unbroken and untilled; for this reason it leaves the ground of the heart indifferent; someone comes in and hears but he is not moved at all. The word of God also falls on fickle hearts, those that become easily enthused. They feel inner joy for the word of God, but when they step out the door, they forget everything. Other seeds fall on hearts that promises a lot, who map out a beautiful spiritual life; but one thousand and one concerns of this life come and choke the seedlings of God and in the end these hearts remain fruitless! We pray that no one belong to the above categories. No, my beloved, the word of God must fall on good and fertile soil so that it can bear fruit-the fruit of Holiness. However, these hearts must accept the word of God with fear and humility, and in doing so they will produce thirty-fold, sixty-fold and a hundred-fold! I hope and pray once again that there is not a single heart from the first three fruitless categories, but that all hearts prove to be of good earth. My prayer is that the word of God that falls on our hearts produces great fruit.
This year, the grace of God offers us the great opportunity to sow His word from the book of the Revelation. It is the last book of the New Testament and for the entire Holy Scriptures. This book forms the conclusion of the Holy Scriptures and it corresponds considerably to the first book, the book of Genesis. These books form the axis of the fall and salvation. Now, if the book of Genesis refers to the history of man's fall, the book of Revelation refers to the history of man's restoration and salvation. In the book of Genesis (Old Testament) we have the description of the creation of the world and of man. It is the beautiful twilight of the visible created world. Unfortunately, the man and woman fell into sin at the instigation of the devil, and since then, in addition to sin, both death and corruption were introduced into the world. To all appearances, God's beautiful plan--to have nature draw near to God, to unite him and be deified and sanctified--was negated. However, that which God creates cannot be nullified or negated. In order to renew the visible created world, God's economy brought forth the Incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ.
The entire world did not accept Jesus Christ and it crucified Him. Still, the plan of salvation was not negated. By His Death on the Cross, Christ crushed the devil, and by His Resurrection, death and corruption were defeated. So, the Church, the Body of Christ, continues to travel through history facing much tribulation, turmoil and martyrdom from the God-opposed, God-fighting powers that continuously crucify the flesh of Christ. In the end, the Church will be victorious, triumphant, because Christ defeated the devil, the world and death! The Church sanctifies nature and leads it to the Kingdom of God. So if the book of Genesis gives us an account of the creation of man and his fall, the book of Revelation (Apocalypse) describes apocalyptically the journey of the Church, of the faithful through the history of creation, and more specifically, the rebirth, re-creation and eternal glory of man and the visible creation. The book of Revelation, which we are introducing today, contains the entire mystery of the divine dispensation, of divine economia, in the form of a summary--from the incarnation of the Word (Logos) of God up to the Second Coming of Christ, the judgment day and the appearance of the Kingdom of God.
To give you a bird's eye view I tell you this; in one scene alone in the book of Revelation, the Mystery of Incarnation is made manifest. In chapter twelve we read about the woman who holds a male child. Before she gave birth, the beast was waiting for the pregnant woman to give birth so he could grab the newly born child and devour it! However, when the child was born, the woman was led into the desert, and the beast ran behind the woman spewing water from his mouth like a river to sweep her away with the flood. However, he does not reach the child because the child ascends into heaven. My friends, this is the entire history of the Incarnation. The devil, according to one of our Church holy Fathers, was searching out the virgins even from the Old Testament to see which one would give birth to the Messiah. However, according to Saint Ignatius of Antioch, the male child escaped the attention of the prince of this world. The devil was not informed about the Son of God's birth from the Virgin. The devil had no clue. The devil is not omnipresent. Nor does he know everything. However, he kept a close watch. We see this very clearly in the book of Revelation, "and the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth!" (Rev. 12:4).
Now the woman swept away in the torment signifies the Theotokos, or the Church. The person of the woman here has two aspects, two applications--the Theotokos or the Church. Certainly the Church, because the Church is the Body of Christ, which body Christ received from the Theotokos, the Panagia. Consequently, the Theotokos and the Church are the same thing with two views or aspects. So here, we have two sides of the same coin. The Church is persecuted, the Disciples and the Theotokos are persecuted, but the child was snatched up to heaven. In other words, we have the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. The devil can no longer do anything to the child. He cannot go to heaven; so then, he pursues the woman in the desert. He turns against the Church, day in and day out, and we can see in this scene alone the cross section of the mystery of God's holy economy. Scenes like this permeate the book of the Revelation. So the book of the Revelation refers to the establishment and the expansion of the Church of Christ; the Kingdom of God on earth, which is the Church; the unfolding of the battle between the Church (or the woman) and the beast, or the God-opposing powers; in the end, the plagues take place against the beast, against the unbelieving world, the devil is bound, and the Kingdom of God glows! This is the Second Coming of Christ as Judge and King! The book begins and ends with this same theme. The Church--the bride--and the Spirit Who remains in the Church will say, "Come Lord Jesus! And the response is, yes, I am coming soon!"
This describes the state of expectation, characteristic of both the book and the Church. The Church is expecting Christ; it awaits Him as Judge and as King to put away all evil--to expel the devil so sin will cease to exist, so corruption and decay will cease to exist, so death will cease to exist. The central idea of the book is Jesus Christ, the Second Coming of Christ, Christ coming back as Judge and King. We will also notice, as we progress, the repeated usage of a seven-fold system. This will be more obvious during the analysis of the book. Again, the central theme is the battle between the Kingdom of God and the God-opposing power, with the resulting triumph of the Church of Christ. The purpose of the book of Revelation is the preparation of the faithful that they might fight the good fight up to the end. All these things that I am referring to in a few words are recorded in the book of Revelation with visions, images and descriptions that make up its symbolic language. To be sure, the book of the Revelation is primarily a prophetic book. However, prophecy does not only reveal future events, but the present as well! Thus, we have here prophecy in its broad sense. Our Lord Himself instructs John, "Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter" (1:19).
[to be continued]
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God