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.
A PRAYER BEFORE HOLY COMMUNION
O Master Lord Jesus Christ, Our God, Who alone has authority to forgive men from their sins, for You are God and love mankind, overlook all my transgressions in knowledge or in ignorance committed, and make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Your Divine and Glorious, immaculate and Life-Giving Mysteries (Sacraments); not unto punishment, nor unto an increase of my sins, but unto cleansing, sanctification, and a pledge of the life and the of the Kingdom to come; as a rampart, a help and an overthrow of my adversaries, and the erasure of my many transgressions. For you are a God of mercy, compassion, and love toward man, and to you we send up glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On September 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: The Falling Asleep of Saint John the Evangelist and Theologian.
SAINT JOHN THE THEOLOGIAN, APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST. Saint John was the son of Zebedee the fisherman and Salome the daughter of Saint Joseph, the betrothed of the Holy Mother of God. Called by the Lord Jesus Christ, Saint John immediately left his father and the fishing nets and followed Christ with his brother Saint James. From that time, he was not parted from his Lord until the end. With Saint Peter and Saint James, he was present at the raising of Jairus's daughter and at the Lord's Transfiguration, and laid his head on Jesus' breast at the Mystical Supper. When all the others had forsaken the crucified Lord, Saint John stayed beneath the Cross with the Theotokos. In obedience to the Lord's wish, he was as a son to the All-Holy and Ever-Virgin Mary, caring for her and serving her, looking after her right up to her falling-asleep. After her Dormition, Saint John went off with his disciple Prochoros to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor, and mainly lived and worked in Ephesus. By his inspired preaching and miracles, he brought many to Christianity and undermined the foundations of paganism. The vexed pagans bound him and sent him to Rome to the pagan Roman Emperor Domitian. He was tortured and flogged before the Emperor, but, when he was unharmed either by the strong poison that he was given to drink or the boiling oil into which he was put, the Emperor was afraid and, thinking he was immortal, sent him into exile on the Greek island of Patmos. On this island, Saint John brought many to Christianity by his words and miracles, and strengthened the Church of God. He wrote his Gospel and the Apocalypse (book of Revelation) there. In the time of the pagan Roman Emperor Nerva, who gave liberty to all the captives, Saint John returned to Ephesus, where he lived for some time, confirming the work that he had earlier begun. He was over a hundred years old when he went to the Lord. When his disciples later opened his grave, they found that his body was not there. This is why his today is referred also as the metastasis (the translation) of Saint John. Every year, on May 8th, a fine, fragrant dust endowed with healing power rose from his grave. After a long and fruitful life of labor upon earth, this beloved disciple of Christ and pillar of the Church entered into the joy of his Lord, to peace and eternal rejoicing.
+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: I John 4:12-19
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 19:25-27; 21:24-25
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
Jesus Prays for All Believers
"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their world; that they may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them that they may be one just as we are one" [Saint John 17: 20-22].
THE MANNER IN WHICH CHRISTIANS SHOULD GO TO THE CHURCH OF GOD
[That Christians should, of necessity, go to Church; the Church contains the spiritual Table and Fountain for those that hunger and thirst.]
There are five ways, my Christian brothers and sisters in which you should go to Christ's Church: (1) of necessity; (2) with longing; (3) constantly; (4) in purity; and (5) out of duty.
You should go of necessity, firstly because just as those who are hungry and thirsty need to go to a perceptible table and a perceptible spring in order to have their fill of food and drink and satisfy their hunger and thirst; so also you Christians, who hunger both for daily bread, which is the Life-Giving Body of the Lord, and for spiritual bread, which is the word and teaching of God. As Saint Gregory the Theologian says, "And who thirst for the immortal drink, which is the vivifying blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and for the spiritual drink, which is the wine of the Divine Word and teaching." Christians are compelled to go to the Holy Church in order to assuage your hunger from the mystical and holy table of the Lord's body and of the Divine Word that is in the Church and to slake your thirst from the blood of the Lord that flows with life and from the streams of the teaching of the divine Scriptures, which well up in the Church of Christ. For if you do not go to Church in order to eat and drink continually of such immortal and life-giving food and drink, you will assuredly become weak and die spiritually, as the Lord said, "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you" (St. John 6:53). For the divine prophet David prophesied that these good things of twofold food and twofold drink are found in the house of God's Holy Church, saying, "We shall be satisfied with the good things of Thy house; Thy temple is holy, wonderful in righteousness" (Psalm 64:5-6), as did the Prophet Joel, who foretold the teachings concerning the drink of the Divine teaching that wells up from the Holy Church and waters Christians, who are dry and barren like reeds, saying: "And it shall come to pass in that day that...a fountain shall go forth from the house of the Lord, and water the valley of flags" (Joel 3:18).
THE CHURCH IS AN ARK
You Christians should of necessity go to Church, secondly because the Church is an ark. Therefore, just as, in the time of the Flood, all of those people and of all those animals that entered the Ark escaped from the deluge, whereas all of those people and all of those animals that remained outside the Ark were drowned and destroyed, so also now all of those Christians who go to the Holy Church and enter into it are delivered form the spiritual deluge of sin and the passion, whereas all of those Christians who remain outside the Church are engulfed and destroyed. This is why the divine Chrysostomos said: "The events that took place were a type of things to come. For example, the ark is the Church, Noah is Christ; the dove is the Holy Spirit; the olive branch is God's love for mankind…but the former are a type and the latter are the truth. For, just as the ark in the midst of the ocean preserved those inside it, so also the Church preserves all who are in error."
THE CHURCH IS A SPIRITUAL FOLD
You are compelled to go to Church, brothers and sisters, thirdly because the Church is your spiritual fold, and you are the rational sheep of such a fold. Hence when the sheep are outside their fold, they are at risk of perishing, since either a wolf, a jackal or some other wild animal will snatch them, whereas none of the sheep inside the fold are in any danger. Just so, all of those Christians who do not go to Church but remain outside it are at risk of being killed by the spiritual wolf, the devil, and those other wild beasts, the passions, whereas all of those inside the Church escape from peril. For this reason, Saint John Chrysostomos said:
"Remain inside the Church; and the Church will not betray you; but if you depart from the Church, the Church is not responsible (for your capture). For if you are inside, the wolf does not enter, whereas if you go outside, you become prey to wild beasts--thought this is not the fault of the fold, but of your own pusillanimity. For there is nothing to equal the Church…Do not absent yourself from the Church, for there is nothing mightier than the Church. The Church is your hope; the Church is your salvation; the Church is your refuge. It is loftier than the Heaven; it is more spacious than the earth. It never grows old, but always flourishes."
THE CHURCH IS A COMMON SURGERY
You are compelled to go to Church, O Christians, fourthly because the Church is a common surgery, which cures all sinners who have been wounded spiritually by the devil. Therefore, just as all who have bodily wounds are compelled to go to a doctor in order to be healed, lest they die, similarly all of those Christians who are afflicted with spiritual wounds of the passions and sins are in great need of going to the common surgery of the Church, so that they might show their wounds to a spiritual father and receive form him the medications and plasters suitable for their healing For if they make light of such wounds and so not go to this surgery, their wounds putrefy and cause them spiritual and eternal death. Hence, Saint John Chrysostomos says about the Church: "This house is a spiritual surgery, so that here we might heal whatever wounds we may have received outside."
THE CHURCH IS A SPIRITUAL HAVEN
You should run to Church, my beloved, fifthly and finally with as much longing as sailors in peril on the sea race to harbors, for the Church of God is a spiritual haven, secure, free form storms, and tranquil, providing refuge for all those in peril on the ocean of the cities form the tempest of sin and from the waves of cares stirred up by the sea of this world, so that they might find calm and stillness therein. Thus does the pen of Saint John Chrysostomos liken the Church to heaven:
"Or do you not know that God has planted Churches in the cities like harbors on the main, in order that, seeking refuge herein from the tempest of life's cares, we might enjoy the greatest tranquility? For here we do not have to fear the surge of the waves, nor the incursions of brigands, nor the onslaughts of malefactors, nor the violence of winds, nor the attacks of wild beasts, for it is a harbor immune to all of these, it is spiritual harbor of souls".
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God