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.
A PRAYER TO JESUS CHRIST
[Saint Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain].
O Mater Lord Jesus Christ, immortal Word of God, Artist and Governor of these greatest creatures, the Only-begotten Son Who shown forth from the Father beyond time and Who ineffably came out of the Virgin Mary and were Incarnate without change or confusion, as You Yourself know, that You may deliver from the bondage of the enemy those whom You have created; You Who did not separate Yourself from the Father and yet You lived with us, Your useless servants; the Light of Truth, the dispeller of the darkness of ignorance, the brightness of sober souls, the universal joy of the Orthodox, the delight of Angels and souls; You Who are all insatiable beauty, sweetness, desire and longing,..For You, Who know the hearts and behold the secrets of my heart, know that they are involuntary. Forgive me, O Master of all, and let not these imaginations become a regiment of sin. Take pity upon me, send Your grace from the Holy Throne of Your glory and overshadow me, Your weak and useless servant. Give me wisdom and I will learn Your Commandments and live. Heal the wounds of my soul and illumine the eyes of my mind that I may always understand, O Lord, Your economy which was done to me, for my mind has been foolish...And let my mind be like a captive who longs and asks for You only, the Savior of the world. Deliver me, O Lord, from all the invisible enemies who go after my soul. Grant that I may pass the remainder of my life without trespasses, in peace, in pure conduct, in a life pleasing to You, in waveless patience. Grant me, also, because of the multitude of Your compassions, the remission of my daily faults. Yes, O Master, Who are the Only Good One, hear my supplication and grant the petitions of my heart. Amen.
On January 22nd 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 Timothy the Holy Apostle of the 70; Saint Anastasios, the Persian Righteous Monk-Martyr.
THE HOLY APOSTLE TIMOTHY OF THE 70. One of the Seventy Apostles, he was born in Lystra of Lycaonia of a Greek father and a Jewish mother. His mother and grandmother were praised by the Apostle Paul for their sincere faith (2 Timothy 1:4-5). He met the great Apostle Paul for the first time in Lystra, and was the only witness of Saint Paul's healing of the man lame from birth. Later, Saint Timothy was an almost constant travelling-companion of Saint Paul's, visiting Achaia, Macedonia, Italy and Spain with him. A great zealot for the Faith, a superb preacher and of a gentle spirit, Saint Timothy contributed greatly to the spreading and establishing of the Christian faith. Saint Paul called him his own son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2). After Saint Paul's martyrdom, Saint Timothy had Saint John the Evangelist as his teacher. But when the pagan Roman Emperor Domitian exiled Saint John from the city of Ephesus to the Greek island of Patmos, Saint Timothy remained in Ephesus as bishop. At the time of an idolatrous feast called Katagogium, the pagans, resentful of the Christians, made a merciless, masked attack on Saint Timothy and killed him, in about the year 93 A.D. His honored and holy relics were later taken to Constantinople and buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles by the graves of Saint Luke the Evangelist and Saint Andrew the First-Called.
OUR HOLY FATHER, THE MARTYR ANASTASIUS. He was a Persian by birth, with the pagan name of Magundat. When the Emperor Heraclius waged war against the Persians, Magundat deserted to the Christians and went to Jerusalem, where he was baptized and given the name of Anastasius. It was not enough for him to be baptized; he also became a monk in order to give himself entirely to the service of God. Among other ascetic practices, he very early read the lives of the holy Martyrs and, reading this, wetted the book with tears, greatly yearning for martyrdom himself. The Lord finally crowned him with the wreath of martyrdom. He lay long in prison and was horribly tortured, until King Chozroes condemned him to death. After this condemnation, Saint Anastasius was drowned, then taken out of the water and beheaded by the executioner, who sent his head to the pagan king. Saint Anastasius suffered on January 22nd, 628 A.D., in the town of Bethsaloe near Nineveh.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
"The very hairs of your head are all numbered" (St. Matthew 10:30).
The hairs of your head, also, are numbered, my brother and sister, not to mention the days of your life! Fear not, then, that you will die before the appointed time, neither hope by some means to prolong your life for even one day beyond the will of Him Who counts and measures. Let this knowledge teach you meekness and the fear of God.
The hairs of your head, also, are numbered, not to mention your sufferings on earth. Fear not, then, that you will suffer more than the appointed measure. Fear even less that your sufferings will remain forgotten and uncounted by Him Who sees all. This knowledge will teach you patience and trust towards your Creator and Provider.
The hairs of your head, also, are numbered, not to mention your friends and foes upon earth. Fear not, then, that you will have too many friends or too many foes; neither fear that your foes will triumph over you or hope that your friends will defend you. Only take care to have God for your Friend, and fear nothing. Lo, He is the only friend that is constant in His love.
O Gracious Lord, Our Wise Provider, Who knowest the number, the measure and the time of all things; drive far from us all fear but the fear of Thee. May we, from fear of Thee, come to a pure and holy love for Thee, Our Creator and Benefactor. To Thee be Glory and praise forever. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: II Timothy 1:3-8
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:32-33; 37-38; 19:27-30
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND MEDITATION
"He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed...He who pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor" (Proverbs 19:17; 21:21).
MAN AS AN IMAGE OF GOD
Archimandrite George Capsanis Abbot of the Monastery of Osiou Gregoriou on Mount Athos [source: The Eros of Repentance]
The Orthodox theology of Christ as the Image of God (II Cor. 4:4) and of man as made: "according to the image of God" (Gen. 1:26) is fundamental to a proper understanding of what it means to be a human being. "Made according to the image of God", signifies both the origin and goal of our existence, our alpha and omega.
The dynamism of the image, freedom and eros
It has been correctly observed that to be human is to be theological. Therefore "in order to live authentically, we must live every moment theocentrically."
If we deny God, we deny and destroy ourselves.
On the other hand, when we live for God, we open ourselves to a process of development and completion which is infinite. Human existence owes its dynamism and its greatness to its "iconic" character. So far as we "image forth" the wise and creative God, so far do we discover in ourselves the charisms of knowledge and creativity.
The same holds true for the quality of freedom: to be the image of God Who is free, means that we possess freedom: liberty. According to Saint Maximus the Confessor: "If we are made according to the image of the blessed and supersubstantial divinity, and if the divine nature is by definition free, then we too, as true image of the divine nature, are by nature free." Saint Maximus the Confessor (662 A.D.). By the same reasoning, if our freedom is lost then we too are lost.
Saint Nicholas Cabasilas writes: "It is the same to say that "freedom is destroyed" as to say: 'the destruction of man'.
But what--more than anything else--manifests the imprint of God on the human soul is the power of desire (eros) within the soul...and the impetus which a sanctified eros lends the soul in its movement towards its divine archetype. The Saints, especially Saint Maximus the Confessor and Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, understand this power of eroticism as not referring simply to human sexual desire.
To put it better, the sexual urge is an expression of that natural yearning which is implanted within us by our Creator, and leads us toward Him.
To quote Saint Maximus once again: "At times scriptures refer to God as desire (eros), and at other times as love (agape), and at still other times as the desirable, and the beloved. Being Himself desire and love, He moves toward us while, as desirable and beloved, He moves all those creatures toward Himself who are capable of desiring and loving. It is thus that the great Apostle, Saint Paul, having come into possession of divine desire, and become a participant of the ecstatic power, cries out inspired: 'I live', he says, 'yet not I, but Christ lives in me.' He speaks as a lover and--as he says himself--as one caught up in the ecstasy of God. No longer living his own life, but instead that of the beloved, which alone is beauty surpassing speech.'
Therefore we understand the erotic power of the soul, at its deepest level, to be our thirst for the depths of our own being. That thirst can only be slacked when we achieve the goal for which we were made: union with our archetype, with God--what the Orthodox Tradition calls 'deification' (theosis).
We can find no rest in created things which pass away. Saint Nicholas Cabasilas says: "...the thirst of human souls requires infinite waters." Saint Augustine adds: "Our hearts can have no rest until they rest in Thee."
We were created to be united with the Uncreated Grace of God, to become ourselves gods by grace. Here, in a single view, is the mystery of how we can understand the human being as one 'commanded to be God.'
Saint Gregory Nanzianzus, called 'the Theologian', writes on the mystery of man: "The Creator Word (Logos)...fashions man as a simple living being from both invisible and visible nature...and places him on earth as a kind of universe in miniature, another Angel, a pilgrim blended of the two worlds, the overseer of the visible creation and the initiate of the spiritual, a king, ruling from above all things on earth...an animal, making its home here, yet translated elsewhere and--the goal of the whole mystery--by his yearning for God, he is made God."
Loss of the image and its recovery in Christ
With the fall of man, the image of God in him is darkened. Human nature, according to Saint Cyril of Alexandria, has been 'infected' by sin. As a result of this illness, that within us which is 'according to the image' is incapable of fulfilling itself, of becoming the likeness of God. Jesus Christ, as the radiant and unchanged icon of God, and as the Archetype of man, re-establishes the fallen image of Adam with His saving economy. He reveals our original beauty. He is also the good Teacher Who re-orients, draws, and guides us toward our divine Archetype.
The Church summarizes the salvation affected in Christ in her liturgy. An example, from the Vespers of the Transfiguration of the Savior (August 6th): "Transfigured, Thou hast made the nature darkened in Adam radiant once again, O Christ, transforming it into the glory and brilliance of the Godhead."
When we thus become: 'conformed to the image of Christ" (Romans 8:29), we come into possession of our own true form, our genuine humanity.
The fellowship of Deification (Theosis)
In the sacraments, the union of God and man through the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a true communion of life, or resurrection, of transfiguration, of our transformation into Christ, and our theosis (deification). In this way our likeness to the image becomes actual rather than potential. The believing, faithful, and struggling human being is deified. Deification is not some idealistic desire, but a reality.
First to be deified was the Most Holy Mother of God (Theotokos). According to our theologians she alone is found at the boundary beyond created and uncreated nature. She alone is god directly after God, and has the second place after the Holy Trinity.
The Saints possessing divine eros have also been deified. All the Saints live the saying of Saint Ignatius the God-bearer: "My eros has been crucified." The relation of the Saints to God is erotic, i.e., desiring or yearning, not simply ethical. The grace of deification shines in their faces, and is revealed in their bodies which smell sweetly, give forth myrrh, remain uncorrupted, and work miracles. The Orthodox Church is the place and fellowship of deification.
Whatever takes place in Orthodoxy is deifying, i.e., given to bring us into communion with God. The Holy Icons of Christ, of the Mother of God, of the Saints, and all the decoration of our Orthodox Churches declare that, truly, "God has become man in order to raise Adam up a God." Deification is possible because grace is an uncreated and divine activity, able thus to deify us. Deification (theosis) is affected by God and "suffered" by man. Deified man is purified from the passions. Attending to the prayers of the heart, he receives an experience of Divine Grace which refreshes and comforts him. A most exalted experience of deification is the vision of the light of Mount Tabor, the Uncreated Light. Deified people not only see this supernaturally, but indeed they are themselves beheld within it--as has been witnessed to in the lives of many Saints.
With sincere agape In His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God