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 SEVENTH PRAYER OF VESPERS (ESPERINOS)
O Great and Exalted God, the only One Who is Immortal and dwells in unapproachable Light; Who has created the whole universe in wisdom; who has separated the light from darkness, and has set the sun to rule over the day and the moon and the stars to rule over the night; You have made us sinners worthy once again at this hour to stand in Your presence and to offer to You our evening prayer of praise. Direct our prayer, O Loving Lord, like incense before You, and accept it as a sweet-smelling fragrance. Grant that this present evening and the approaching night will be peaceful for us. Vest us with the weapons of Light. Deliver us from nocturnal fears and from everything that lurks against us by night. Grant us sleep, given for the renewal of our weakness, that is free from every diabolical fantasy. Yes, Lord of All, and Provider of good things, grant that even as we rest upon our beds, we may remember Your Name through the night. Enlightened by mediation upon Your Commandments, may we in time arise in gladness of heart to glorify Your Goodness. Offering petitions and supplications to You for our own sins and for all the people, who expect Your visitation in mercy and compassion, through the intercessions of the Holy Theotokos. For You are a Good and Loving God and to You we give Glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
On October 11th 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: Holy Apostle Philip the Deacon; Saints Nektarios, Arcadius, and Sisinius, Patriarchs of Constantinople; Saint Theophanes the Confessor and Hymnographer, Bishop of Nicaea; Saint Zenais and Philonilla of Tarsus; Saint Leonid of Optina; Saint Kenneth, Abbot (Egoumenos) of Aghaboe (Ireland); Saint Theophanes of the Kiev Caves; Saint Ethelburga, Abbes (Egoumenissa) of the monastery of Barking (England).
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Deacons, Holy Patriarchs, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY APOSTLE PHILIP, ONE OF THE SEVEN DEACONS. OUR RIGHTEOUS FATHER THEOPHANES THE BRANDED. Saint Philip, who had four daughters that prophesied, was from Caesaria of Palestine. He preached throughout Samaria; it was he also who met the eunuch of Candace, the Queen of the Ethiopians, as the eunuch was reading the Prophet Esaias (Isaiah), and he instructed and baptized him (Acts 8:26-39). He reposed in Tralles of Asia Minor while preaching the Gospel.
Saint Theophanes, the brother of Saint Theodore the Branded, was a Palestinian by race. Both were monks at the Monastery of Saint Savvas. They were called "the Branded" because Theophilos, the last of the Iconoclast emperors, had twelve iambic verses branded by hot irons on their foreheads and then sent them into exile, where Theodore died in the year 838 A.D. After the death of Theophilos in 842 A.D., Saint Theophanes was elected bishop of Nicaea. Both brothers composed many holy canons and hymns, thereby adorning the services of the Church.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Apostle. Third Tone
O Holy Apostle Philip, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Righteous One. Plagal of Fourth Tone
Guide of Orthodoxy, teacher of piety and holiness, luminary of the world, God-inspired adornment of hierarchs, O wise Theophanes, by thy teaching thou has enlightened all, O harp of the Spirit. Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURES ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 8: 26-39
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 9:12-18
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"I am Someone Destined to the Service of Unity".
"All of you must become a unity. Let there be no divisions in your hearts. When I was among you I cried at the top of my voice, with the very voice of God: 'Be united with the bishop, the priests and the deacons'. Some people thought I cried like this because I foresaw a schism. He for whose sake I am in chains is my Witness that I did not speak in that way because anyone had given me any such warning. I had simply been listening to the Spirit proclaiming: "Do nothing without the bishop! Keep your body as a temple of God! Love unity, avoid factions! Be imitators of Jesus Christ, as Jesus Christ is of the Father" (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 11:1). With such an aim I have done all I could, as one destined to the service of unity. God does not dwell where there are divisions and bad feeling. I exhort you never give way to a quarrelsome spirit, but always carry out the teaching of Christ! Jesus is my criterion. Unassailable grounds of judgment for me are His Cross, His death, His Resurrection and the faith that comes from Him. And it is thanks to them that, with the help of your prayers, I hope to be justified". (Saint Ignatius of Antioch, To the Philadelphians).
The JESUS PRAYER: Method
by Archimandrite Sophrony (source: His Life Is Mine)
Year after year monks repeat the prayer with their lips, without trying by any artificial means to join mind and heart. Their attention is concentrated on harmonizing their life with the Commandments of Christ. According to ancient tradition mind unites with heart through Divine action when the monk continues in the ascetic feat of obedience and abstinence; when the mind, the heart and the very body of the 'old man' to a sufficient degree are freed from the dominion over them of sin; when the body becomes worthy to be "the temple of the Holy Spirit" (cf. Romans 6:11-14). However, both early and present-day teachers occasionally permit recourse to a technical method of bringing the mind down into the heart. To do this, the monk, having suitably settled his body, pronounces the prayer with his head inclined on his chest, breathing in at the words 'Lord Jesus Christ, (Son of God)' and breathing out at the words 'have mercy upon me (a sinner)'.
This procedure can assist the beginner to understand where his inner attention should be stayed during prayer and, as a rule, at all other times, too. Nevertheless, true prayer is not to be achieved thus. True prayer comes exclusively through faith and repentance accepted as the only foundation.
The complete formula of the Jesus Prayer runs like this: "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me", a sinner, and it is this set form that is recommended. In the first half of the prayer we profess Christ-God made flesh for our salvation. In the second we affirm our fallen state, our sinfulness, our redemption. The conjunction of dogmatic confession with repentance makes the content of the prayer more comprehensive.
It is possible to establish a certain sequence in the development of this prayer. First, it is a verbal matter: we say the prayer with our lips while trying to concentrate our attention on the Name and the words. Next, we no longer move our lips but pronounce the Name of Jesus Christ, and what follows after, in our minds, mentally. In the third stage mind and heart combine to act together: the attention of the mind is centered in the heart and the prayer said there. Fourthly, the prayer becomes self-propelling. This happens when the prayer is confirmed in the heart and, with no special effort on our part, continues there, where the mind is concentrated. Finally, the prayer, so full of blessing, starts to act like a gentle flame within us, as inspiration from on High, rejoicing the heart with a sensation of Divine love and delighting the mind in spiritual contemplation. This last state is sometimes accompanied by a vision of light.
A gradual ascent into prayer is the most trustworthy. The beginner who would embark on the struggle is usually recommended to start with the first step, verbal prayer, until body, tongue, brain and heart assimilate it. The time that this takes varies. The more earnest the repentance, the shorter the road.
The practice of mental prayer may for a while be associated with the hysychastic method--in other words, it may take the form of rhythmic or a-rhythmic articulation of the prayer as described above, by breathing in during the first half and breathing out during the second part. This can be genuinely helpful if one does not lose sight of the fact that every invocation of the name of Christ must be inseparably couple with a consciousness of Christ Himself. The Name must not be detached from the Person of God, lest prayer be reduced to a technical exercise and so contravene the commandment, "thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11).
We try to stand before God with the whole of our being. Invocation of the Name of God the Savior, uttered in the fear of God, together with a constant effort to live in accordance with the Commandments, little by little leads to a blessed fusion of all our powers. We must never seek to hurry in our ascetic striving. It is essential to discard any idea of achieving the maximum in the shortest possible time. God does not force us but neither can we compel Him to anything whatsoever. Results obtained by artificial means do not last long and, more importantly, do not unite our spirit with the Spirit of the Living God.
In the atmosphere of the world today prayer requires superhuman courage. The whole ensemble of natural energies is in opposition. To hold on to prayer without distraction signals victory on every level of existence. The way is long and thorny but there comes a moment when a heavenly ray pierces the dark obscurity, to make an opening through which can be glimpsed the source of the Eternal Divine Light. The Jesus Prayer assumes a meta-cosmic dimension. Saint John the Divine asserts that in the world to come our deification (theosis) will achieve plenitude since 'we shall see Him as He is'. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure...Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither know him" (cf. I John 3:2,3,6). In order in Christ's Name to receive forgiveness of sins and the promise of the Father we must strive to dwell on His Name "until we be endued with power from on high" (cf. St. Luke 24:49).
The way of the Fathers requires firm faith and long patience, whereas our contemporaries want to seize every spiritual gift, including even direct contemplation of the Absolute God, by force and speedily, and will often draw a parallel between prayer in the Name of Jesus and yoga or transcendental meditation and the like. I must stress the danger of such errors--the danger of looking upon prayer as one of the simplest and easiest 'technical' means leading to immediate unity with God. It is imperative to draw a very definite line between the Jesus Prayer and every other ascetic theory.
To believe in Christ one must have either the simplicity of little children--"except you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (St. Matthew 18:3)--or else, like Saint Paul, be fools for Christ's sake. "We are fools for Christ's sake...we are weak...we are despised...we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day" (I Cor. 4:10-13). However, "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 3:11). "Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me' (I Cor. 4:16). In the Christian experience cosmic consciousness comes from prayer like Christ's Gethsemane prayer, not as the result of abstract philosophical cogitations.
There is no ascetic feat more difficult, more painful, than the effort to draw close to God, Who is agape (love) [cf. I John 4:8, 16]. Our inner climate varies almost from day to day: now we are troubled because we do not understand what is happening about us; now inspired by a new flesh of knowledge. The Name Jesus speaks to us of the extreme manifestation of the Father's love for us (cf. St. John 3:16). In proportion as the image of Christ becomes ever more sacred to us, and His word is perceived as creative energy, so a marvelous peace floods the soul while a luminous aura envelops heart and head. Our attention may hold steady. Sometimes we continue thus, as if it were a perfectly normal state to be in, not recognizing that is a gift from on high. For the most part we only realize this union of mind with heart when it is interrupted.
In the Man Christ Jesus "dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). In Him there is not only God but the whole human race. When we pronounce the Name Jesus Christ we place ourselves before the plenitude both of Divine Being and created being. We long to make His life our life; to have Him take His abode in us. In this lies the meaning of deification (theosis). But Adam's natural longing for deification (theosis) at the very outset took a wrong turning which led to a terrible deviation. His spiritual vision was insufficiently established in Truth.
Our most dire enemy is pride. Its power is immense. Pride saps our every aspiration, vitiates our every endeavor. Most of us fall prey to its insinuations. The proud man wants to dominate, to impose his own will on others; and so conflict arises between brethren. The pyramid of inequality is contrary to revelation concerning the Holy Trinity in Whom there is no greater, nor lesser; where each Person possesses absolute plenitude of Divine Being.
The Kingdom of Christ is founded on the principle that whosoever would be "first should be the servant of all" (cf. St. Mark 9:35). The man who humbles himself shall be raised up, and vice versa: he who exalts himself shall be brought low. In our struggle for prayer we shall cleanse our minds and hearts from any urge to prevail over our brother. Lust for power is death to the soul.
Through prayer in the Name of Jesus in its ultimate realization unites man with Christ fully, the human hypostasis is not obliterated, is not lost in Divine Being like a drop of water in the ocean. "I am the light of the world...I am the truth and the life" (St. John 8:12; 14:6). For the Christian--Being, Truth, Life are not 'what' but 'who'. Where there is no personal form of being, there is no living form either. Where in general there is no life, neither is not living form either. Where in general there is no life, neither is there good or evil; light or darkness. "Without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life" (St. John 1:3).
To acquire prayer is to quire eternity. When the body lies dying, the cry 'Jesus Christ' becomes the garment of the soul; when the brain no longer functions and other prayers are difficult to remember in the light of the Divine knowledge that proceeds from the Name our spirit will rise into life incorruptible.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia.
The sinner and unworthy servant of God