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 MORNING PRAYER TO GOD THE HOLY TRINITY
Glory to You, our God, glory to You. Who always overlooks our sins. Glory to You, O Lord, our God, Who enabled me to see this day. Glory to You, O Most-Holy Trinity, our God. I venerate Your ineffable goodness. I praise Your inexplorable forbearance. I thank and glorify Your infinite mercy. For although I deserve every punishment and chastisement, You have mercy and do good to me with myriads of blessings. Glory to You, O Lord, my God, for everything. Amen.
On January 12th 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, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Tatiana the holy Martyr of Rome; 8 holy Monk-Martyrs of Nicaea; holy Martyr Mertios.
THE HOLY MARTYR TATIANA OF ROME. Saint Tatiana was a Christian, of an eminent family, a deaconess in the Church. After the death of the Emperor Heliogavalus, the Emperor Alexander came to the throne in Rome. His mother, Julia Mammaea, was a Christian, but the Emperor himself was unsure and hesitant about his faith; an uncertainty that was clearly expressed by his keeping statues of both Christ and Apollo, of both Abraham and Orpheus, in his palace. His chief advisers took it into their own hands to persecute the Christians without his orders.
When the virgin Tatiana was led to martyrdom, she prayed for her executioners. And lo, their eyes were opened and they saw four Angels around the holy martyr. Seeing this, eight of them were converted to Christ, for which they were tortured and killed. Saint Tatiana's martyrdom was long-drawn-out: she was flogged, parts of her flesh were cut off, she was sawn with an iron saw, and then, all disfigured and bleeding, was flung that evening into prison to be brought out on the following day for further torture. But God sent His Angel to the prison, to give her courage and heal her wounds. Saint Tatiana, therefore, appeared before her torturers each morning in perfect health. She was thrown to a lion, but the lion became tame before her and did her no harm. Her hair was shorn, from an idea that occurred to their godless minds that some sorcery might be hidden in it, some magical strength. Finally she was led out, together with her father, and the two were beheaded. In such manner this heroic maiden finished her earthly life in about the year 225 A.D., and was crowned with an immortal crown of glory. She had the weak body of a woman, but a manly and valiant spirit.
+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: Ephesians 6:10-17
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 4:1-11
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND EDIFICATION
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." [2 Corinthians 10:3-6]
THE PAIN: AN ORTHODOX SCRIPTURAL AND PATRISTIC APPROACH
By Georgia P. Kounavi [APOSTOLIKI DIAKONIA]
After the loss of the good, the condition of man following the Fall was tragic, because the orientation of his soul was changed completely. It is certainly possible that the Fall did not destroy the "natural beauty" of man, but it is a fact that it "hid" and dimmed it. Thus, "from the first of men the disease took its beginning, and so progressing, got hold of all men who continued it", says Saint Nicholas Kabasilas. And Saint Cyril of Alexandria, writing on the same question, namely on the perpetuation of sin, says: "Ruin entering...by this experience, the sickness advanced".
And now man, sick from the ruin of sin, became distant from God, i.e., he lost the "κατ' εικόνα Θεού (godly image), and without God, he was without είδος (kind, appearance), and without μορφή (form). He became 'αγνωστος (unknown) to God, steeped in αγνοια (ignorance) and λήθη (oblivion). Inoculated, therefore, by evil, men became 'flesh', losing the godly spiritual life; they developed into biological beings, they became 'bodies', and lost their true destination. All this happened because with the fall their ability for ομοίωσις (likeness) was eliminated. Because, as Saint Irenaeus writes, the work of man before the Fall was ο μετασχηματισμός, the transformation of the flesh (material body) into spirit. This would have happened with the assistance of his communion with God. However, after his disobedience and Fall, what fell into disuse, says Saint Basil the Great, was the axiological ability for estimation, i.e., the spirit of distinction or discretion. And since his spirit of distinction became weak, man was separated from Divine Grace. This fact of alienation was admirably expressed by Saint Gregory Palamas when he said: "When νούς (mind, intellect) is alienated from God, it becomes either beastly or fiendish. And revolting against the limits of nature, it desires what is alien". So, man is the author of his self-punishment.
So, after the disobedience, man became enslaved under the authority of Satan, and went forth on the road to perdition. This alienation of his κοινωνία (communion) with God was the work and act of his own free will. Because Adam "preferred what seemed delightful to the physical eyes rather than the mental beauty". Thus the sin of Adam, as the Apostle Paul says, was universal and hereditary, because he acted as the representative of the human race. "Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Romans 5:12). Most expressively and characteristically, Saint Cyril of Alexandria wrote about the universality and heredity of the sin of Adam, saying: "Nature became sick by the disobedience of the one, that is, Adam. Thus, the many became sinners, but not as co-disobeyers, for they did not exist then, but as being of the same human nature became sick in Adam, and ruin and pain entered human nature by disobedience, and thus the passion into it".
Thus Adam's sin was inherited by the human race, by the universal man, and so corruption (death) crept into him, as human nature subordinated itself to sin and to the law of sin. Death became necessary (and permissible by God) lest evil become immortal.
Just as it has already been mentioned above, the fall of man was a clear result of his free choice. In no way can we attribute to God the entrance of sin and evil into man. This belief and reality is not expressed in Holy Scripture and by the Fathers of the Church.I
Saint Epiphanios, Bishop of Salamis of Cyprus that the Creator God and Father cannot be considered as the cause of pain or human misfortune. Very clearly the bishop attributes the evil and whatever bad there from to the human freedom, to the disobedience and the to fall of Adam, the first man. He says: "For neither from the time that flesh was created did it sin, lest the Creator be thought of as the cause of sin by creating a sinful flesh, nor did evil exist before the creature. After some time Adam became disobedient, as having free will, and by his own will and all by himself did he commit sin, reflecting and perpetrating it within himself. And thus evil entered into men."
"And thus the Creator created the race of men and desired it to remain good. Men, however, ignored the important things and made bad use of their freedom, bringing pain and sorrow to their life." (Saint Athanasius the Great}
In the book of Revelation (Apocalypse) of Saint John, it becomes evident that the suffering, pain, and sorrows of the world originate from the moral fall and disobedience (chap. 18). Saint John Chrysostom writes: "Wherever there is sin, there is winter; wherever there is disobedience, there is the tempest of pain and sorrow."
Saint Symeon the New Theologian says: "God did not create evil". Therefore, we can say that evil is found outside of the creation of the Good God, and consequently, God is not the Creator of evil. According to this meaning, evil is understood by the Fathers ως μή όν (as non- existing), i.e., it is not the creation of God. Consequently, we should not see the overall cause of the existence of evil outside of man, but in man. And not only in matter, nor only in the spirit, but in the existence of both. And that, since the objective existence of the meaning of man is constituted this way. Certainly, the motive, as was stated, was given by the free will which man has been endowed, for him to choose the good and avoid the evil.
It is necessary to mention here that evil, as to its essence, appears two-sided: As natural and as moral evil. Natural evil is the physical or spiritual pain, destruction, and death. Moral evil is sin. According to all that Saint Basil the Great says, evil is distinguished "as to its own nature" and "as to our feelings".
It would be useful here to also mention the view of N. Berdyaev: "Evil is the child of freedom. And just as evil depends on freedom, even so, pain depends on evil, since pain is a consequence of evil. In other words, pain and evil are two interwoven realities. Evil is interwoven with freedom. For this reason precisely, freedom leads to pain. The road of freedom is the road of pain. Just as the road of pain, on the other hand, is also the road of freedom--but of freedom in its true meaning as redemption."
We could therefore conclude and say that after the misuse of freedom and the perpetuation of evil on the part of the first man, pain followed. However, if man, every man, becomes deeply conscious of this pain, he can regenerate his freedom. He can do this by choosing the good; but above all, with the grace and assistance of God. Because divine grace came to man through a supernatural way. This supernatural way is no other than the Incarnation of the Logos (Word) through the Holy Spirit and our Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. This Incarnation re-establishes the order and reveals the principle that regulates the union and communication between God and man. This is the unity about which Saint Maximus the Confessor speaks when referring to the opinion of Saint Augustine: "With the fall", he says, "and his fragmentation, Adam filled the whole universe with broken fragments. However, God collects the fragments and reforms them in the light of His love, through the sacrifice on the Cross and the Resurrection of His Son, and restores the fragmented unity."
In this unity, man can now elect the good and accept pain by faith. So, when he accepts pain by faith he conquers evil, because pain and death came from evil. "and no evil can ever erase the original mystery of man, because there is nothing that can annihilate within him the indelible seal of God."
From the beginning, God appointed a life without cares and pains, says Saint John Chrysostom. But we did not use this divine gift as we should have, and we suffered distortion and lost Paradise. Thus, after our free choice, our God and Father allowed us to suffer, to hurt, and to be tested. Our life became toilsome and laborious, because if we do not feel pain, then, says the Holy Father, we often get used to doing evil. And if we do not work, then we are very easily tempted to do evil and to sin. "God, from the beginning gave us freedom, a carefree life, free from pains. We did not use the gift properly, but distorted it by idleness, and fell from Paradise. For this reason, God made our life toilsome; and as if apologizing to the race of men, He says: 'I granted you luxury from the beginning, but you became worse by leisure; for this I allowed pains for you, adding also sweat…That is why life is toilsome, because not hurting usually corrupts you. For your nature does not tolerate being idle, but easily tends divergently towards evil." God let our life become tiring and trying, lest we get dragged into sin.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God