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 CONTRITE PRAYER TO THE ALMIGHTY GOD
+In the Name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lord, our God, if I have sinned this day in any way, by word, deed or thought, forgive me everything as a Good and Loving God. Grant me a peaceful and undisturbed sleep; deliver me from every attack and influence of the evil one. Raise me up at the appropriate time to glorify You, for You are Blessed, together with Your Only-Begotten Son, and Your All-Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
On October 12th 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 Symeon the New Theologian; Holy Martyrs Provus, Tarachos, and Andronicos; Saints Jeventius and Maximus at Antioch; Saint Martin, Bishop of Tours; Saint Domnina of Anazarbus and St. Anastasia of Rome; Saint Maximilian, Bishop of Noricum; Saint Theodoros, Bishop of Ephesos; Saint Jason, Bishop of Damacus; Saint Efrosyne of Siberia; Saints Amphilochius, Macarius, Tarasius, and Theodosios of Glushitsa Monastery; Saint Theosevius the God-bearer of Arsinoe; Holy Martyrs Andromachos and Diodoros; Holy Martyrs Malfethos and Anthea; 70 Holy Martyrs beheaded; Holy "Jerusalem" icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God).
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Ascetics, Holy Mothers, Holy Bishops, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
SAINT SYMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN. Saint Symeon became a monk of the Studite Monastery as a young man, under the guidance of the Geronda (Elder) Symeon the Pious. Afterwards he struggled at the Monastery of Saint Mamas in Constantinople, of which he became Egoumenos (Abbot). After enduring many trials and afflictions in his life of piety, he reposed in 1022 A.D. Marveling at the heights of prayer and holiness to which he attained, and the loftiness of the teachings of his life and writings, the Church calls him "the New Theologian". Only to two others, Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Gregory, Patriarch of Constantinople, has the Orthodox Church given the name "Theologian". Saint Symeon reposed on March 12, but since this always falls in the Great Fast, his feast is kept today.
THE HOLY MARTYRS PROVOS, TARACHOS, AND ANDRONICOS contested for Christ during the reign of the pagan Roman Diocletian, in the year 296 A.D. or 304 A.D. Saint Tarachos was advanced in years, of Roman birth, and had been a soldier; Saint Provos was from Side in Pamphylia, and Saint Andronicos from Ephesus. They were taken together in Cilicia and subjected to manifold exceedingly cruel tortures. Saint Tarachos was beaten on his cheeks and neck with stones, his hands were burned, he was hanged on a post and smoke was put underneath him to choke him; vinegar was forced down his nostrils; after enduring further tortures, he was cut to pieces. Saint Provos was thrashed with whips, his feet were burned with red-hot irons, his back and sides were pierced with heated spits; finally he also was cut up with knives, and received the crown of Martyrdom. Saint Andronicos suffered similar tortures, and also finished his course being cut to pieces, commending his soul into the hands of God.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint Symeon the New Theologian. Third Tone.
Since thou had received within thy pure soul God's enlightenment, O righteous Father, thou was shown to the world as a blazing light which drove away its thick darkness and moved all men to see the grace of the Spirit which they had lost. O all-holy Father Symeon, intercede with Him to grant mercy unto us who honor thee.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Holy Martyrs. Plagal of First Tone
All the powers of Heaven were awestruck and amazed at the achievements and deeds of the holy Martyrs of Christ, for contending well in mortal bodies clothed with flesh, they overcame the fleshless foe by the power of the Cross and invisibly subdued him. And now they pray to the Lord, that He might bestow His mercy on our souls.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: I Corinthians 10:23-28
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 6:1-10
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
THAT ONE MUST ALWAYS BE VIGILANT
"An old man said, 'Every evening and every morning a monk ought to render an account of himself and say to himself, 'What have we not done of what God does not want, and what have we done of that which God wills?' In this way he must live in repentance. This is what it means to be a monk, and this is how Abba (Father) Arsenius used to live."
"And old man said, 'He who loses gold or silver can find more to replace it, but he who loses time cannot find more.'
"One of the old men (Gerondes) went to another old man one day, and while they were speaking, the first said, 'I am dead to the world'. The other old man said, 'Do not count on it, brother, before you have left the body, for even if you say you are dead, yet Satan is not dead."
"An old man (Geronda) said, 'Just as no one can cause harm to someone who is close to the king, no more can Satan do anything to us if our souls are close to God, for truly he said, 'Draw near to me, and I shall be near to you'. But since we often exalt ourselves, the enemy (Satan) has no difficulty in drawing our poor souls into shameful passions". [source: The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers].
WHAT CHRIST ACCOMPLISHED ON THE CROSS
by Hieromonk Damascene
The Orthodox dogma of our redemption--which includes the doctrine concerning Christ's Incarnation, death and Resurrection--is the chief dogma of our Faith, together with the dogma of the Holy Trinity.
Let us begin by discussing the state of man and the world before the Fall. A right understanding of this pre-Fall state is actually essential to a right understanding of the meaning of Christ's death on the Cross. We have to understand what Adam fell from in order to understand what Christ restores us to.
According to the Patristic (holy Fathers of the Church) interpretation of the Holy Scripture, before the Fall man's body was not subject to death and corruption. He was made potentially immortal, that is, if he had not sinned he could have lived forever in an incorrupt body, partaking of the Tree of Life in the Garden. Before the Fall, man knew no pain, no sickness. He was not subject to old age. He was not subject to the elements; he could not be physically hurt. He knew no decay, his body, while still material and sensual, was more spiritual than the body we inhabit now. It was not grossly material, like the body we now have.
At his creation from the dust of the ground, man was created in grace. The Holy Fathers (such as St. John Damscene) say that Adam's body and soul were created at the same time, and that when God breathed a living soul into him, he breathed also into the grace of the Holy Spirit. Before the Fall, first man and the first woman had the Holy Spirit abiding within them.
The first man was not deified at the time of his creation, but he was created for deification (theosis), for union with God. By drawing ever closer to God in love, by seeking spiritual pleasure in God rather than physical pleasure through His senses, man was to become ever more holy and spiritual, ever more in the likeness of God, ever more transformed and deified by the grace of God. Since God is limitless and unfathomable, the path of union with God was never to end. Man was created a little lower than the Angels (Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7), but he eventually was to become higher than the Angels, higher than the highest rank of the Angels: "more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim."
Moreover, as man became more spiritual and divinized by drawing closer to God, he was to make all of creation more spiritual and divinized as well, drawing everything closer to God. Many Holy Fathers--such as Saint Macarius the Great, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory of Sinai and Saint Maximos the Confessor--teach that the entire creation was incorrupt before the Fall just as man was incorrupt: for the entire creation had been made for man. Saint Symeon the New Theologian states explicitly that not only Paradise was incorrupt before the Fall: "everything, the whole creation, was without death and corruption. Because he possessed both body and soul, man was the link between this incorrupt material world and the noetic world of the Angels. As such, he was to unite the material world with the noetic world through his own ascent to God.
As you will recall, in the book of Genesis God told Adam: "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shall not eat: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shall surely die" (Genesis 1:17). Now, we know that Adam did not die on the day he ate from the tree: according to the Holy Scripture he lived to be 930 years old. But according to Saint Gregory Palamas and other Holy Fathers, God's words were true: Adam did die on the day he ate the fruit. He died spiritually. He lost the Divine Grace in which he had been created. He no longer had the Holy Spirit abiding within Him. Because his nature had become corrupted, deifying Grace was now foreign to it. Before, God Himself abode within him through His uncreated energy. Now man became empty, devoid of grace. He was separated from God. And, according to Saint Gregory Palamas, this spiritual death made Adam subject to physical death, which in his case occurred after 930 years.
At the Fall, man's nature was changed. He still had the image of God in him, but now he had become corrupted. His spiritual corrupting made his body more grossly material, subject to physical corruption or decay after death. Also, his spiritual corruption made his soul unable to partake of eternal union with God after death. Paradise had been barred to Adam during his earthly life, and both paradise and Heaven remained barred to him after death. After their death, Adam, Eve and all their posterity went down into Hades: a place of waiting of separation from God.
Also, at the Fall, all of creation fell into corruption along with man: decay and death were introduced into the creation. In Romans 5:12 Saint Paul says that "By one man sin entered the world", and a little later, in Romans 8:20-21, he says, "that the creation entered into corruption because of man's sin".
We are all the inheritors of the death and corruption that into man's nature at the fall. Saint Gregory Palamas says that, "through Adam's one spiritual death, both spiritual and physical death were passed onto all men. This is because human nature is one: we are all of the family of Adam.
Orthodox Christianity does not accept the idea that we are guilty of Adam's sin. No, Adam alone was guilty of his sin. However, we do share the consequence of his sin. We are born into corruption, and with an inherited tendency or inclination toward sin. All of us sin, and so we deserve the consequences of sin: spiritual and physical death, and eternal separation from God in Hades.
Between the time of Adam's fall and the Coming of Christ, there were many righteous men and women, whom we read about in the Old Testament. But they, even through godly lives, were unable to reverse the consequences of the Fall. Grace could cast on them from the outside, as it did on the Prophet Moses, so much so that he had to cover his radiant face as he descended from Mount Sinai. However, this was only a temporary radiance, as the Holy Scripture and Holy Fathers say. All the Old Testament Prophets did not have the Grace of the Holy Spirit abiding within them, as their personal strength and power. And after death, everyone, even the most righteous, went down into Hades, being cut off from paradise and Heaven.
During the Old Testament period, God gave Laws to the Hebrews to help them live righteous lives. He instituted animal sacrifices, which the Hebrews were to make as offering for sin. These sacrifices were a prefiguration of Christ's sacrifice, to prepare the people of God to understand and accept the meaning of Christ's death on the Cross. But neither the sacrifices not the laws were able to restore mankind to the state he had lost at the Fall.
A perfect blameless sacrifice was needed--a man who was without sin--in order to destroy the consequences of sin. That was why Christ came. The first Adam fell from his original designation, bringing everything into ruin. Therefore Christ, Who is called the second Adam or the new Adam, came into the world to fulfill man's original designation and restore what was lost. But Christ did even more than that. He not only restored man to what Adam was before the Fall: He gave man the possibility to become that which Adam was supposed to become, what Adam could have become had he not fallen.
Now, having looked at the pre-Fall state and the consequences of the Fall, let us look more closely at how Christ restores man to the pre-Fall state and in fact beyond and above this state.
The how of the redemption, like the nature of God the Holy Trinity, is ultimately a mystery. And yet the Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers help to approach this mystery. They enable us to understand and believe in our redemption by Jesus Christ in such a way that, believing, we can receive the gift of salvation.
Our redemption by Jesus Christ began with His Incarnation. When He took flesh, He became like us in everything except sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). In assuming human nature, He deified it. Since human nature is one, this gave us the potential of being deified as well: not deified by nature and Sonship, as Christ was, but deified by grace and adoption.
But with Christ's Incarnation, man was still not able to actualize the potential for deification (theosis). Because of his spiritual corruption, man was impure vessel. Because of the barrier of sin, man could not receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit within himself. So Christ, having overcome the barrier of nature at His Incarnation, now had to break down the barrier of sin. He would do this through His Death. As Saint Nicholas Cabasilas says, "Christ broke down the three barriers that separated man from God: the barrier of nature by His Incarnation, the barrier of sin by His Death, and the barrier of death by His Resurrection.
As God, Christ knew He had come to earth to die for man, and in dying to rise from the grave. On the day before His Crucifixion, He said: "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour. But for third cause come I unto this hour" (St. John 12:27).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God