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.
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He Who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
[The closing psalm of the series of five on the theme of praise is an Old Testament processional hymn. A popular psalm for devotional reading, it has no special liturgical use apart from its place in the weekly psalm cycle. All those who embrace the faith are exhorted to give thanks and praises to God for everything accomplished on their behalf.]
On October 19th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreat 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 faith: Holy Prophet Joel; Holy Martyr Varus of Egypt and the Seven Holy Martyrs with him; Righteous Mother Cleopatra of Palestine and her son John; Righteous and God-bearing Father John, Archpriest of Kronstadt and Wonder-worker; Holy Martyr Sadoth and the One Hundred and Twenty Holy Martyrs with him, who were perfected in martyrdom in Persia; Saint Leontius the Philosopher; Saints Felix the Presbyter and Efsevius the Deacon were perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Righteous Father John the Wonder-worker; our Righteous Mother Frideswide, Egoumenissa (Abbess) and Patroness of Oxford.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Prophets, Holy Mothers and Fathers, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY PROPHET JOEL. The second in order of the Minor Prophets, Prophet Joel was the son of Phanuel, of the tribe of Reuben. He lived eight hundred years before Christ, and foretold the misfortunes of the Israelites and their captivity in Babylon for the sins that they had committed against God. He called the people to fasting and the priests to penitent and tearful prayer that God would have mercy on them: 'Sanctify ye a fast and cry unto the Lord' (1:14); 'Let the priests weep between the porch and the altar' (2:17). Prophet Joel also prophesied the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, and the outpouring of His Grace on all the faithful. He foretold and described the dreadful judgment of God, and also the glory of God's Holy Church.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 2:14-21
"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, 'Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the Prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams...And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the
Name of the Lord Shall be saved."
[St. Peter' sermon focuses on two prophetic themes: (1) the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, and (2) the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. This pattern of showing Old Testament prophesy fulfilled in Christ is a major theme of Apostolic preaching, leading to repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit (vv. 38,39].
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 7:1-10
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Let us draw near then, dear friends, to faith, since its powers are so many. For faith raised Enoch up to the heavens and conquered the Flood. It caused the barren to bring forth. It delivered from the sword. It raised up from the pit. It enriched the poor. It released the captives. It delivered the persecuted. It brought down the fire. It divided the sea. It cleft the rock, and gave to the thirsty water to drink. It satisfied the hungry. It raised the dead, and brought them up from Sheol. It stilled the waves. It healed the sick. It conquered armies. It overthrew walls. It stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the flame of fire. It humiliated the proud, and brought the humble to honor. All these mighty works were done by faith. Now this is faith: you must believe in God and Lord of all, Who made the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them; and he made Adam in His image; and gave the Law to Moses; He sent His Spirit on the Prophets; moreover, He sent His Christ into the world. Furthermore, you must believe in the resurrection of the dead; and should also believe in the Mystery (Sacrament) of baptism. This is the faith of the Church of God" (Aphrahat, Demonstration on Faith).
DIVINE GRACE ACCORDING TO OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH
by Mr. John Karmiris, Greek Orthodox Theologian [source: A Synopsis of the Dogmatic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church]
The objective salvation, completed by our Redeemer as an event in history, needs to be personally and subjectively applied and appropriated by each man individually: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), through the Life-Giving and Saving energy of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in him.
Therefore, the objective, catholic, historic, and potential redemption obtained for us by the Savior for appropriation to all men, making saving grave a possibility for all, should be subjectively, and in time, appropriated by each man, that he might be perfected in the Holy Spirit. Such subjective appropriation of redemption cannot be understood in terms of an entirely external, mechanical process. On the contrary, it is the result of the union of two factors, the Divine and human--the grace of the Holy Spirit on the one hand, and the free "cooperation" of man on the other hand, the prevailing role always being that of the Divine factor. Therefore, on the one hand, the All-Good God participates by His grace in the calling, enlightenment, repentance, and conversion of the sinner and, after justification, in his regeneration and sanctification in the Church--all of this free on the basis and through the power of the redemptive work of the Savior. On the other hand, man, who accepts the proffered grace, cooperates fully in the work of his own salvation, through correct faith and good works, which is the same as saying "faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6), thus denying any mechanical or magical element in the justification and salvation, as well as the extreme positions arrived at by Pelagius and Augustine respectively concerning interdependent doctrines of Ancestral (Original) sin, its consequences, and especially death and redemption therefrom. And God positively "will have all men to be saved" (II Timothy 2:4), but all are not going to be saved,, this is due , first of all, to their wrong use of free will and, secondly because God saves only those who, in love and free will, earnestly desire and ask to be saved. Thus, we can conclude that the two above-mentioned factors cooperate harmoniously and unitedly in the work of the personal appropriation of redemption by each man, for the completion of which both are absolutely necessary. "It is God's to grant grace, but thine to receive and to guard it" (St. Cyril of Jerusalem).
Of these two factors, the Divine Grace granted by the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary and indispensable for the salvation of all men; no one can be saved without it, by his own powers. For "except for the aid and cooperation of God, it is impossible for us to even seek, let alone perform, the good" according to Saint John Damascene; and Saint Basil the Great writes, "in the grace of God lies our salvation...Whatever good befalls us is an operation of grace, working in all things". The Divine Grace is somehow the motivating power, which starts man on the working out of his own salvation, and moreover pushes him uninterruptedly and accompanies him (the saved man) until the end. Consequently, Divine Grace is absolutely necessary--preceding, cooperating with, and following the work of salvation of each man, for grace begins the whole work, calling man to salvation, bestirring him, enlightening him, directing him. Then, after the free-will consent and acceptance on the part of the man has been pledged, and he has been justified, grace continues to accompany him, aiding him, cooperating in his sanctification, breaking down all resistance in him, and affecting the complete salvation of the man's life. (It is to be noted here that, according to the Holy Fathers, especially Byzantine hesychast theologians, the Divine Grace is not created, but uncreated, a life-giving action of God, which through the expiatory sacrifice of God, justifies and saves all those who believe in Him" (John Karmiris). Please note: the Latin church believes that "grace is created").
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God