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.
THE OFFICE OF ORTHROS
THE ELEVENTH PRAYER
O God, Our God, You have made all spiritual and rational Powers subject to Your will. It is to You we pray and You we implore: accept the best praise we are able to offer, along with that of all Your creatures, and reward us with the bountiful gifts of Your Goodness. For to You every knee bows, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:10), and every creature that breathes praises Your incomprehensible glory; You alone are true God and All-Merciful. For all the Powers of Heaven praise You, and offer up glory to You: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On January 28th 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 Ephraim the Syrian; Saint Isaac the Syrian, bishop of Nineveh; Saint Ephraim, Bishop of Pereyaslavl; Saint Palladios of Antioch; Saint James the Ascetic of Porphyreon in Palestine; Saint John of Reomans; Saint Theodosius of Totma; Saint Ephraim of Novotorzhok.
OUR HOLY FATHER EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN. Born in Syria of poor parents in the reign of the Emperor Constantine the Great, his early youth was spent somewhat tempestuously, but he suddenly underwent a spiritual crisis and began to burn with love for the Lord Jesus. He was a disciple of Saint James of Nisibis (January 13th). By the great grace of God, wisdom flowed from his tongue like a stream of honey and from his eyes tears flowed unceasingly. Loving work like a bee, Saint Ephraim was constantly either writing books or teaching the monks in the Monastery or the people in the city of Edessa, or was giving himself to prayer and pondering. His books are numerous; his prayers are beautiful. "The best-known of the latter is the prayer in the Great Fast: "O Lord and Master of my life..." When they wished to take him by force and make him bishop, he feigned madness and began to run through the city of Edessa, trailing his garments along behind him. Seeing him mad, they left him in peace. He was a contemporary and friend of Saint Basil the Great. Saint Ephraim was especially the Apostle of repentance. Even today his writings soften many hearts, strengthen them against sin and turn them back to Christ. He entered into rest at a great age in 373 A.D.
OUR HOLY FATHER ISAAC THE SYRIAN. Born in Nineveh, he began at an early age to live the ascetic life in the Monastery of Mar-Mathew near Nineveh. When he became known for his holy life and miracles, he was chosen as bishop of Nineveh and forced to accept this state. But after only five months he left his episcopate and fled secretly to the desert monastery of Rabban-Shapur. He was the author of many works, of which about a hundred sermons on the spiritual life and asceticism, written mainly from his own experience, have come down to us. He was without equal as a writer and guide in the spiritual life. He entered into rest at a great age at the end of the 7th century.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 5:22-26, 6:1-2
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 6:17-23
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND MEDITATION
"Blessed is the person who has consented to become the close friend of faith and of prayer: he lives in single-mindedness and makes prayer and faith stop by with him. Prayer that rises up in someone's heart serves to open up for us the door of heaven: that person stands in converse with the Divinity and gives pleasure to the Son of God. Prayer makes peace with the Lord's anger and with the vehemence of His wrath. In this way too, tears that well up in the eyes can open the door of compassion." (Saint Ephraim the Syrian)
THE WORKS OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
In many of Saint Ephraim's works we catch glimpses of the life of the Syrian ascetics, which was centered on prayer and working in various obediences for the common good of the brethren. The outlook of all the Syrian ascetics was the same. The monks believed that the goal of their efforts was communion with God and the acquisition of divine grace. For them, the present life was a time of tears, fasting and toil.
"If the Son of God is within you, then His Kingdom is also within you. Thus, the Kingdom of God is within you, a sinner. Enter into yourself, search diligently and without toil you shall find it. Outside of you is death, and the door to it is sin. Enter into yourself, dwell within your heart, for God is there."
Constant spiritual sobriety, the developing of good within man's soul gives him the possibility to take upon himself a task like blessedness, and a self-constraint like sanctity. The requital is presupposed in the earthly life of man, it is an undertaking of spiritual perfection by degrees. Whoever grows himself wings upon the earth, says Saint Ephraim, is one who soars up into the heights; whoever purifies his mind here below, there glimpses the glory of God. In whatever measure each one loves God, he is, by god's love, satiated to fullness according to that measure. Man, cleansing himself and attaining the Grace of the Holy Spirit while still here on earth, has a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven. To attain to life eternal, in the teachings of Saint Ephraim, does not mean to pass over from one realm of being into another, but rather to discover "the Heavenly" spiritual condition of being. Eternal life is not bestowed on man through God's one-sided efforts, but rather, it constantly grows like a seed within him by his efforts, toils and struggles.
The pledge within us of "theosis" (or "deification") is the Baptism of Christ, and the main force that drives the Christian life is repentance. Saint Ephraim was a great teacher of repentance. The forgiveness of sins in the Mystery (Sacrament) of Repentance, according to his teaching, is not an external exoneration, not a forgetting of the sins, but rather the complete undoing, their annihilation. The tears of repentance wash away and burn away the sin. Moreover, they (i.e., the tears) enliven, they transfigure sinful nature, they give the strength "to walk in the way of the Lord's Commandments", encouraging hope in God. In the fiery font of repentance, the Saint wrote, "You sail yourself across, O sinner, you resurrect yourself from the dead."
The Dormition of Saint Ephraim the Syrian
Troparion - Tone 8
By a flood of tears you made the desert fertile, and your longing for God brought forth fruits in abundance. By the radiance of miracles you illumined the whole universe! Our Father Ephraim, pray to Christ God to save our souls!
Ever anticipating the hour of Judgment, you lamented bitterly, venerable Ephraim. Through your deeds you were a teacher by example; therefore, universal Father, you rouse the slothful to repentance.
SAINT ISAAC THE SYRIAN - ON THE PROPER WAY TO FACE SORROWS
"Just as the eyebrows approach each other, so are the temptations close to men. It was the economy of God to be so, with wisdom that we may receive benefit: namely, through knocking persistently, because of the sorrows, on the door of God's mercy and to enter into your mind, due to the fear of grievous events, the seed of memory of God, so that you may approach Him with supplications and your heart be sanctified through the continuous remembrance of Him. And while you ask Him, He will listen."
"The person walking the road to God must thank Him for all the sorrows that he faces, and to accuse and dishonor his negligent self, and know that the Lord who loves and looks after him, would not have allowed the grievous things to happen to wake his mind up, if he had somehow not been negligent. God may have allowed some sorrow because man has become proud and consequently he should understand and let him not become disturbed but find the cause within himself, so that the affliction may not double up, namely suffer and not wish to be treated. 'In God who is the source of justice there is no injustice.' May we not think otherwise."
"According to the level of humility, God gives you the strength to endure calamities. And according to the measure of your patience, the weight of your sorrows becomes light and so you are consoled. And as you are consoled so does your love for God increase."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God