Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
O Lord, make me worthy to know You and love You, not in the knowledge arising from mental exercise and the dispersion of the mind, but make me worthy of that knowledge whereby the mind, in beholding You, glorifies Your nature in this vision which steals from the mind the awareness of the world. Account me worthy to rise above the vision of the will which begets fantasies and to behold You in the constraint of the bond of the Cross, in the second part of the crucifixion of the intellect, which rests free from the activity of its thoughts by abiding in Your continuous vision, which is beyond nature. Instill in me the growth of Your love, that I may come forth from the world and follow after Your fervent love. Raise up in me understanding of Your humility, wherewith You did sojourn in the world, in the tenement composed of our members, which You put on through the mediation of the Holy Virgin; may I, in the unceasing memory of this humility, accept with pleasure the humility of my nature. Amen.
On January 16th 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: Veneration of the holy Apostles Peter's Precious Chains; Saint Romilo the Monk of Mount Athos; holy Martyrs of Cappadocia, the triplets Peusippus, Elasippus, and Mesippus, and Neonilla their grandmother; holy Martyr Danax the Reader of Illyricum; New holy Martyr Damascene; New holy Martyr Nicholas of Lesvos; Saint Priscilla of Rome, disciple of the holy Apostle Peter; Saint Honoratus, Archbishop of Arles, Founder of the Monastery of Lerins; Blessed Maximus of Totma, and Fool for Christ's sake.
THE HOLY APOSTLE PETER. Today we commemorate the chains with which Saint Peter the Holy Apostle was shackled by the lawless Herod and which, when an Angel appeared to him in prison, fell from him (Acts 12:7). The faithful kept these chains, both in memory of the great Apostle and also because of their healing power, for many of the sick were healed by touching them (as with the towel of the Holy Apostle Paul: (Acts 19:12). The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Juvenal, made a gift of these chains to the Empress Evdocia, the exiled wife of the Emperor Theodosius the Younger. She divided them in half, sending one half to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and the other to her daughter, the Empress Evdoxia, wife of Valentian of Rome. This Evdoxia built the Church of Saint Peter and placed these chains in it, together with those in which Saint Peter was shackled before his death under the pagan Roman Emperor Nero.
THE HOLY MARTYRS SPEUSIPPUS, ELEUSIPPUS, MELEUSIPPUS AND THEIR GRANDMOTHER LEONILLA. They suffered for Christ in France in the reign of the pagan Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.). The three brothers were triplets. At first only Lenonilla was a Christian, while her grandsons were pagans. After much advice on the part of the pious Leonilla and a local priest, the three brothers were baptized. Being baptized, they began with youthful fervor to witness to their faith, and in their zeal went out and smashed all the idols in the area. Accused and brought before the judge, they acknowledged their action and openly confessed their faith in Christ. The judge threw them into prison, then summoned their grandmother and directed her to go to the prison and counsel her grandsons to deny Christ and worship idols. Leonilla went off without a word to the prison, but instead of advising her grandsons to deny the true Faith, she set about encouraging them not to give up, but to persevere to the end in all their sufferings and die for Christ. When the judge examined them again and saw their yet stronger steadfastness in the Faith, he condemned them to death. All three were first hanged on one tree, where they hung 'like the strings of a lute', and after that flogged and then finally burned. A woman, Jovilla, stirred by the courage of these martyrs, cried out: "I too am a Christian!" They immediately seized her and beheaded her with a sword, together with the aged Leonilla.
+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: Acts 12:1-11
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 21:14-25
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND MEDITATION
"Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained Angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body". (Hebrews 13:1-3).
THE PRIMORDIAL MAN
By Panagiotes K. Chrestou Ph.D. Theology
Theophillos, the Apologist and bishop of Antioch at the end of the second century, presented primordial man in a state of childlike simplicity and innocence; an infant spiritually and morally, and incapable of clearly discerning good from evil. Exactly two centuries later, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, starting from an opposite point, presented man in a state of fullness and perfection. Infancy and fullness are two extreme views of the human race's original state, and they are not unrelated to the philosophical presuppositions of these two men. Between these two views there is a wide variety of terms with which other Church Fathers described primordial man. However, among all this variation a common line of thought can be discerned which traces man from the point of his creation and fall to his ascent towards the realm of the divine. Even the two Fathers mentioned earlier ultimately come to an unexpected agreement on the evaluation of the human being. The fact that Saint Gregory considered man to be perfect, assimilated with God and "a Godlike thing," is well suited to his doctrine on man's creation. The noteworthy fact is that even Saint Theophilos gave him such dignity that he placed man together with the Trinitarian persons in the famous passage where, for the first time, the term 'Trinity' is found. The three days which preceded the creation of the luminaries were a typos of the Trinity. Man, who needs light, appears in the fourth position; and, thus, there is "God, Logos, Wisdom, and Man."
In light of what has been said, it is easy to perceive what dignity the Fathers generally ascribed to man. He is the crown of creation, the initiate of the rational world and the king of the visible one. He obviously is not great before God, but neither is he small before the world. He is great within what is small. He is the recapitulation of creation; and, in this context, some Fathers did not hesitate to attribute to him the Stoic term 'microcosm,' which, in their thought, loses all trace of any pantheistic nuance. Man is a microcosm in the sense that he forms the frontier which unites the visible and spiritual categories of existence and which, after the Fall, contributes to their reunion. Yet, he is something more than all this--he is the creature which possess such powers that he can extend his substance beyond the categories of time and space, beyond beginning and end, and reach the throne of God.
The Image of God
The dignity of man is attested to directly by his frontier function between the material and spiritual worlds. The integration of two dissimilar elements resulted in the formation of a single composite being with admirable completeness and harmony. These elements are represented correspondingly in many by the soul and body. From time to time, some Fathers and theologians have distinguished three constituent elements; namely soul, body and mind or spirit. Perhaps they were influenced by the teachings of Aristotle and the Stoics, or sharpened the Pauline teachings with a partial interpretation. Contrary to what these philosophers believed, the mind is not a distinct element, according to the Fathers, but rather is sometimes identified with the soul and sometimes considered as the highest particle of the soul. From one point of view, we could say that the mind represents man's formative faculty, that which makes him man, although it is a particle of the soul. Thus, finally, the component parts of man remain as two, and the terms 'soul' and 'mind' may be used synonymously.
This phenomenon of two so dissimilar entities (soul and body) being bound together with such harmony, is one of creation's miracles. But this miracle is adequately understood only when it is perceived that the two composite elements are created and, from the standpoint of causality, belong to the same category of existence. There is also, however, another link, different and more noteworthy, which does not unite two created entities but, rather, unites the created with the uncreated--creation with the Creator. Saint Gregory of Nyssa, in two pairs dialectical, speculating way, distinguished between two pairs of substance, of which one element, the spirit, is common to both. Concerning the uncreated pair, there is God and spirit; concerning the created pair, spirit and matter.
This entire process of an assorted integration of elements is closely related to the purpose which underlies the creation of rational beings. This purpose is none other than reaching the point where they will glorify God worthily and will partake of His blessings abundantly. The union of the rational soul with the body aims at making the soul sovereign over the physical body, not by abolishing it, but by drawing the body towards it in an ascending course until the soul spiritualizes it. Then the whole man will be in a position to obtain glory and reach his destiny. This achievement can be realized only within the relationship which must exist between man and God.
This relationship is initially representative or iconic, as is indicated by the famous phrase 'in the image' of God which from the beginning has constituted the cornerstone of Christian theology. The phrase 'in the image' is a general faculty of man, and every attempt to locate a definite point were the image is sealed is fruitless. Naturally, every image is a likeness of its archetype, and here the archetype is God; and since God is the fullness of all good, man constitutes His image precisely in this way--he is endowed with all blessings. Therefore, image is the complex and integral faculty which man has been given so that he can be self-determining, sovereign and creative like God, but on another level. If God is free in His actions, man is also free. If God reigns above, man reigns below on earth. If God creates out of nothing, man creates out of existing matter.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God