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.
THE LENTEN PRAYER OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
O Lord and Master of my life, Give me not a spirit of laziness, of aimless curiosity, A spirit of lust for power over others and of vain talk. Rather, grace me, Your servant, With the Spirit of purity, humility, patience and love. Yes, O Lord King, Grant me discernment to see my own faults, And not to judge and condemn my fellow human beings. For You are Blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On January 29th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, entreats and supplications of 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: Translation (Removal) of the holy relics of Saint Ignatios the God-bearer; Saint Silvanos, Bishop of Emesa; Saint Sarbelos and his sister Saint Vevaia of Edessa; Saint Barsimaeus the Confessor, Bishop of Edessa; Saints Gerasimos, Pitirmi, and Jonas, bishops of Perm; Seven holy Martyrs of Samosata: Philotheos, Hyperechius, Habib, Julian, Romanos, Iakovos, and Paregorios; Saint Luke the deacon and Mocius the Reader; Saint Aphrahates of Persia; Saint Laurence of the Kiev Caves, Bishop of Turov; Saint Ignatius of Smolensk; Saint Demetrios of Chios (1802); Saint Ashot Kuropalates of Tao-Klardjeti; Righteous Acepsimas.
VENERABLE APHRAHATES OF PERSIA. Saint Aphrahates was a 4th century Persian who settled in Edessa and was baptized a Christian. He became a hut-dwelling hermit outside the city walls. Though he was uneducated, he knew just enough Greek to destroy the arguments of the heretics. He accepted nothing from those who came to see him, and would only take bread from one friend. Later he labored at a Monastery near Antioch. Upon hearing that the Arian Emperor Valens was exiling hierarchs and bishops, Saint Aphrahates left his solitude to strengthen and teach the Christians correct doctrine in Antioch. When Saint Aphrahates happened to meet Valens one day, Valens asked him why he had abandoned his silence. He replied that if his father's house was on fire, he would need to put out the fire, and that the Lord's house was now ablaze. Valen's eunuch fell into a vat of hot water and died. This frightened Valens, and he dared not punish or exile Saint Aphrahates. On another occasion, a favorite pedigreed horse of Valens developed a disease. When it was taken to Saint Aphrahates, he gave it water that was blessed by the Cross and anointed it with oil, and it became well. Still Valens fought against Jesus Christ. A short time later, Valens died by fire in a losing battle against the Goths. Saint Aphrahates fell asleep in the Lord peacefully.
+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: Hebrews 10:32-38
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 9:33-41
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Share what you have, lest you lose what you have. Spend what you possess on the needs of others in order to keep what you possess." [Saint John Chrysostom]
THEOLOGICAL WITNESS OF MOUNT ATHOS
By Archimandrite George Capsanis, Abbot [Egoumenos] of the Monastery of Osiou Gregoriou [source: The Eros of Repentance]
The holy mountain of Athos in its entirety, both in its past and in its present, bears witness to Christ. Its witness is one faith, hope and love, a witness to life everlasting. This witness of true and evangelical life is thus also a theological witness: 'The accomplishment of purity is the foundation of theology', says Saint John of Sinai. Permit me to draw attention to some aspects of this witness.
The witness of true repentance
Our Lord, the Logos (Word) made flesh, began His preaching with an invitation to repentance: "And after John had been imprisoned, Jesus came to Galilee preaching the word of God and saying: The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel" (St. Mark 1:14-15). On Mount Athos, repentance is experienced once as the basis of the Christian life. Someone once asked a Geronda [an Elder] of the Mountain: "What is the Holy Mountain?" He replied, "There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, and here we have many who repent."
Athos is indeed a place of repentance. Its monks have come here in order to live true repentance, to receive in themselves the depths of their own sinfulness, to suffer on account of it, to find assurance of the Lord's forgiveness, to be cleansed of their passions.
Repentance is the daily struggle of the monk. His asceticism looks toward this one purpose: that he repents the more deeply and so is more pleasing to God. Repentance is the monk's 'science.' He does not repent just because he sinned at some time in the past. Rather, he feels intensely and every day that he cannot reply perfectly to God's love. He wants to offer himself completely to God, to be in perfect harmony with His Commandments, and not to embitter Him with the slightest opposition to His will. Neither does the monk desire for even an instant to relax from the remembrance of God. As Saint Gregory the Theologian writes: 'Rather he remembers God even more than breath.' Repentance is thus a dynamic condition, a continuous progress towards the Lord. Properly speaking, it is the pursuit of the Living God.
Its character is neither primarily ethical nor legalistic. Instead, it is the fruit of a sanctified eroticism which strains toward the beloved Lord, a sign of profound humility and desire for God.
The younger monks on Athos learn from the older fathers who, even where they have attained a high degree of virtue, still repent and still mourn, so that they fulfill the word of the Lord: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who weep now, for they shall laugh."
The holy Gerondes [Elders] instruct the younger men not by calling them to imitate their virtues, but by showing them how much they feel themselves to be sinners and unworthy. Athonites do not pretend to be good.
They are not hypocrites. They reveal what they are. They confess in all simplicity whatever temptation they consider sinful. If, as human beings of flesh and blood, they become the cause of any grief to a brother, they do not rest until they have bowed before him and sought his forgiveness before the day's end.
Our whole climate on Mount Athos calls us to repentance, to spiritual struggle, and to violence within ourselves for the sake of God's Kingdom. How could we rest when we meet daily, when we keep company with brethren who are holy, are prototypes of repentance; when daily at the office so many examples of Christian perfections as set before us. These demand that we struggle not for half-measures but for the perfection which the Lord commands.
One sign of true repentance is blessed compunction, the broken and contrite heart, the constantly flowing tears of those who have progressed in repentance. Very often such fruit cannot be hidden. This kind of repentance draws down the Grace of God, secures the penitent, and brings peace and spiritual joy to his soul. The same peace and joy greatly impress those who visit the Holy Mountain, and are able to discern these qualities in the faces of those monks...who are so holy, and outwardly deprived of life's pleasures.
A characteristic of the monk who lives in repentance is his attribution of every good thing to God. Depending on divine grace for everything, he has been stripped of every human self-sufficiency, every confidence in self, and every desire to please himself. Those who possess the spirit of repentance and humility will normally withdraw from giving advice.
Even should they do so, it will be out of love and obedience, and not because they feel themselves to be worthy of it. Should you ever visit or live for a time on Mount Athos, you will find yourself in a place of repentance, where human incapacities, imperfections, and sins may not be lacking, but where everyone is yet in complete harmony on the goal of life; to cleanse oneself of discord, of willfulness and self-love in order to fulfill the Commandments of the Savior. You will yourself feel the need to repent, to confess, to struggle.
It has often been observed that many of those who come to the Holy Mountain with no intention of confessing, will confess while they are there, and that while on the Mountain others who confess regularly while in the world, find themselves confessing sins of which they had either been unconscious or had not had the courage to confess before. There is indeed much joy in heaven when every day on Athos many sinners repent, both monks and pilgrims who, making their peace with God, become His friends. In this fashion the Holy Mountain makes its silent proclamation of repentance, and reminds us all that true repentance does not exhaust itself in some ethical and pharisaic self-justification. Neither can it be divided up into single moments. Instead, it comprises the foundation of the whole of Christian life.
In today's world, psychology, pedagogy, and psychiatry--all of them based on a non-Orthodox Christian anthropology--ignore and are silent about the reality of sin. Yet sin after the fall is an anthropological reality. It does not disappear because we try to persuade ourselves that it does not exist. There exists only one way for man, the creature of God, to find freedom from the guilt and the weight of sin: through forgiveness by his maker and creator. Then, truly, man is at peace, liberated from the interior contradictions that create in him anxieties, neuroses and pyschopathy.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God