Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Incarnate Divine Logos,
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΓΕΝΝΑΤΑΙ! ΔΟΞΑΣΕΤΕ!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, I will praise the Lord in my life, I will chant unto my God for as long as I have my being. Trust ye not in princes, in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit shall go forth, and he shall return unto his earth. In that day all his thoughts shall perish. Blessed is he of whom the God of Jacob is his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who hath made heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is therein, Who keepeth truth unto eternity, Who executeth judgment for the wronged, Who giveth food unto the hungry. The Lord looseth the fettered: the Lord maketh wise the blind; the Lord setteth aright the fallen; the Lord loveth the righteous; the Lord preserveth the proselytes. He shall adopt for His own the orphan and widow, and the way of sinners shall He destroy. The Lord shall be King unto eternity; they God, O Sion, unto generation and generation.
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O Only-begotten Son and Word of God, Who art immortal, yet didst deign for our salvation to be Incarnate of the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and without change didst become man, and was crucified, O Christ God, trampling down death by death; Thou Who art one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us. Amen.
On December 29th 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: The Holy 14,000 Innocents murdered by Herod the king at Bethlehem (the children were "two years old and under" (St. Matthew 2:16). The 14,000 children killed are regarded as Saints and Holy Martyrs in the Orthodox Church. Saint Mark the Grave Digger; Saint Thaddeus, Confessor of the Studion; Saint Athenodoros, disciple of Saint Pachomios the Great; Saint George, bishop of Nicomedia; Saint Benjamin of Nitria; Saint Theophilos and St. John of the Kiev Caves; Saint Theophilos of Luga; Russian New holy Martyr Bishop Arkady (1937); Commemoration of all Orthodox Christians who died from hunger, thirst, the sword, and freezing; Saint Marcellos, Abbot of the Monastery of the Sleepless Ones.
THE 14,000 HOLY CHILDREN IN BETHLEHEM. When the wise men from the East failed to return to Jerusalem from Bethlehem to tell Herod about the new-born King, but, at the Angel's command, returned to their home another way, Herod was as furious as a wild beast, and commanded that all the children of two years and under in Bethlehem and its surroundings be killed. This terrible command of the king's was carried out to the letter. His soldiers cut off some of the children's heads with their swords, dashed other on the stones, trampled some of them underfoot and drowned others with their own hands. The weeping and lamentation of their mothers rose to heaven: "Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children' as had been prophesied (Jeremiah 13:15; St. Matthew 2:18). This evildoing towards the hordes of innocent children came to pass a year after the birth of Christ, at a time when Herod was trying to find the Divine Child. He sought Zacharias's son, John, meaning to kill him in the belief that John was the new king. When Zacharias refused to hand John over, he was killed in the Temple on Herod's orders. Saint Simeon the Host of God was also killed, and went to God soon after the Presentation in the Temple. Slaying the children in Bethlehem, Herod then turned on the Jewish elders, who had revealed to him where the Messiah would be born. He killed Hyrcanes the High Priest, and seventy elders from the Sanhedrin, and thus they who conspired with Herod to kill the new baby King came to an evil end. After that Herod killed his own brother and sister and wife, and three of his sons. Finally, God's punishment fell on him: he began to tremble, his legs swelled, the lower part of his body became putrid and worms came out of the sores, his nose became blocked and an unbearable stench spread around from it. At the time of his death, he remembered that there were many captive Jews in prison, so, that they should not rejoice at his death, he ordered that they all be slaughtered. Thus this terrible ruler lost his inhuman soul and was given to the devil for eternity.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Innocents, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 2:11-18
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 2:13-23
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND SANCTIFICATION
"Nothing is so characteristically Christian as being a peacemaker." [Saint Basil the Great]
ORTHODOX VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS
by Monk John Vranos
Prayer is conversation with God. There are four kinds of prayer: glorification, when we glorify and hymn God for His Greatness. Thanksgiving, when we give thanks to Him for the innumerable good things which He gives us--because He created us, nourishes us, protects us, and forgives us when we offend. Chiefly, we thank Him for the Cross which He endured for our salvation. Repentance is the third kind of prayer. We ask God to forgive our sins, and we confess to Him that we are sinners and unworthy ones. Petition is the prayer in which we ask from God a grace or help or something necessary for us or for others.
Prayer is the mother virtues and is the most necessary work of our life. Saint John Chrysostom writes: "The man who deprives himself of prayer resembles him who cuts with a knife the tendons and nerves of the limbs of the body. He falls to earth, unable to make the smallest motion. Thus also is the soul of one who does not pray--atrophied, paralyzed."
Prayer must be the necessary habit of every Christian. Good monks and nuns pray unceasingly. They repeat incessantly the short prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." Slowly, it becomes a habit, and the mind of a man says it by itself without the mouth uttering it. Then we have unceasing mental prayer.
When much time is spent in this state and we don't lose our zeal and eagerness, but do whatever God-pleasing work we can, repeating this small prayer continuously, then our soul is purified from the covering of the passions, especially when we have tears at the hour of prayer. Tears are the laver which cleanses the soul. After all these things we have a higher state of prayer, called prayer of the heart. The progress of prayer does not stop here. It has also other higher degrees. The contemplation of the Heavenly Mysteries, and of extraordinary, indescribable light...but this is the realm only of the most perfect.
WHAT IS GENUINE PRAYER?
That person who does not know what genuine prayer is, does damage to himself if he seeks after unceasing prayer. During the time of prayer, we must not from imaginary pictures with our minds. Let us imagine neither the figure of any Saint, nor any shape (such as the Cross), or some light, or anything else. It is necessary that our minds be empty and formless. Two things are indispensable for prayer to be genuine: First, we must believe that God hears us. Second, for us to pray well, we must understand the words of our prayer.
Imagination is the bridge of the demons, by which they jump into our soul. They present to our mind various imaginary images, and they poison us by the passions. For instance, they show us in our imagination that various acquaintances marvel at us because of something important that we did or said. At the same time, they poison our soul with the passion of pride. Without attacking the imagination, the demons are not able to lead us astray. Saint Nilus writes: Don't fashion the divine in yourself while praying, nor allow your mind to be imprinted with such and image, but harmoniously approach the immaterial in an immaterial manner." Suring the time of prayer it is forbidden us to imagine, even if it is something good. When, however, we study or work, it is very useful to think of scenes from the life of Christ, or other useful thoughts. These good thoughts don't allow the demons to show us their own harmful images.
If during the time of prayer an image of a face or some other form is fashioned in your mind, or even seen sensibly with your eyes, you must disdain them, because they are from the evil one.
The various "visionaries" and false "saints" who see Christ or the All-Holy Mother of God and the Saints are mocked and led astray by the demons. Saint Nicodemus writes: "During prayer keep the mind formless."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God