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 OUR SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What shall I lament first? What shall I sigh for next? What shall I mourn? The deprivation of blessings or the pain of sufferings? The endless punishment or the separation from God? Weep and lament, O wretched soul, as you remember that these and all the other things that shall come upon you after your exodus will be very painful and oppressive. Cry out then and say: O God of the heavenly powers, O Eternal God, O God of Mercy and loving kindness! Do not abandon me, do not overlook me, do not take away Your mercy from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, of my salvation! For I know of the compassionate nature of my Lord; I also know of His forbearance and loving kindness, desiring mercy and not the death of a sinner, but that he should repent and live; He desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth, especially those who turn away from sin. For He did not come to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance. Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do...
May these words of prayer be supportive of me in life and in death. May this confession and these tears rise up as incense before You. As for me, each day I anticipate the coming of death, knowing that my miserable body will be buried and will decay, only to be raised up at the time of the regeneration and become incorruptible by You, the Life-Giver, while my spirit I will commit into Your hands...
Yes, O Lord my God, may these things come to pass in us who hope in Your because of Your boundless goodness and ineffable compassion and love for mankind, through the intercessions of our Lady, the Most Glorious, Most Blessed, the All-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, who is Full of Grace; through the intercessions of the Angelic Powers of heaven; and through the intercessions of all the Saints who have pleased You throughout the ages. Amen.
On October 18th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith through our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke the physician; Saint Marinus the Geronda (Elder) at Anazarbus; Saint Mnason, Bishop of Cyprus; Saint Julian of Mesopotamia; Saints Gabriel and Cirmidol of Egypt; Saint David of Serpukhov; Saints Theodore and Efrosyne of Peloponnesos; Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk; Saint Peter of Cetinje; Holy 40 Children Martyrs.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy bishops, Holy Gerondes (Elders), O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST LUKE THE PHYSICIAN. Born in Antioch, he applied himself in his youth to the study of Greek philosophy, medicine, and art. At the time that the Lord Jesus was at work upon earth, St. Luke came to Jerusalem, where he saw the Savior face to face, heard His saving teaching and was a witness of His wonderful works. Coming to belief in the Lord, Saint Luke was included among the Seventy (70) Apostles and sent for to preach the Gospel. Together with Saint Cleopa, he saw the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus (St. Luke 24). After the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Saint Luke returned to Antioch and there became a fellow-worker with the Holy Apostle Paul, with whom he travelled to Rome, bringing Jews and pagans to the Christian faith. "Luke the beloved physician salutes you", writes Saint Paul to the Colossians (4:14). At the request of the Christians, he wrote the Gospel in about the year 60 A.D. After the death by martyrdom of the great and Holy Apostle Paul, Saint Luke preached the Gospel all over Italy, Dalmatia, Macedonia and elsewhere. He painted three Holy Icons of the Most Holy Mother of God and also Holy Icons of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and is regarded as the founder of Christian Hagiography (iconography). In old age, he visited Libya and Upper Egypt, and thence returned to Greece, where he set himself with great zeal to preach the Gospel and bring men to Christ, disregarding his great age. Saint Luke wrote both his Gospel and the Book of Acts of the Holy Apostles, and dedicated them both to Theophilos, governor of Achaia. He was eighty-four years old when wicked idol-worshippers put him to torture for the sake of Christ and hanged him from an olive tree in the town of Theves in Veotia. The wonderworking (miracle-working) holy relics of this wonderful Saint and Apostle were taken to Constantinople in the time of the Emperor Constatius, son of Saint Constantine the Great.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Colossians 4:5-11
"Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Tychicus, a beloved servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here. Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the Kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me".
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:16-21
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH
"In truth, without affliction there is no life" (Saint Isaac the Syrian).
SUPERSTITIONS, DREAMS, SORCERY AND WITCHCRAFT
by Elder Cleopas of Sihastria
Superstition, belief in dreams, and the practice of witchcraft, black magic and other devices of the devil influenced every people of every nation and time. Romania is no exception. Fr. Cleopa constantly had to instruct the faithful regarding the Church's stand on these matters.
There was, and perhaps still is, a superstition in Romania that those who read the Psalms will suffer terrible attacks from the devil. Once someone asked the Elder if it is recommended for the faithful to read from the Psalter. The Elder replied, "Saint Basil the Great says, 'It would be better for the sun to stand still rather than the house of one of the faithful to be without the reading of the Psalter. Just as the sun is the greatest of our lights, so the Psalter is the greatest of the books in inspired by the Holy Spirit.' Have the Psalter in your homes like a good sweetbread; when you are hungry, cut a piece from it, devour it, then go on with your work, always coming back to read another Kathisma, or two or three, as many as you can."
Father Cleopa taught the people how to bring God into every aspect of their daily lives. "Do not begin anything without first signing yourselves with the Holy Cross! When you leave on a journey, when you begin school, when you are alone and when you are with other people, seal yourselves with the Holy Cross on your forehead, your body, your heart, your lips, your eyes, your ears, etc. Let your entire being be sealed with the sign of the victory of Christ over hell. Then you will not have to be afraid of any sorcerers or spells from those who practice such black crafts. They disintegrate before the power of the Cross, like wax near the fire and like dust in the wind."
The topics of witchcraft, sorcery, and dreams came up a number of times when people gathered at Father Cleopa's cell to hear him speak. While there are certain demonic works that are very clearly seen to be from the devil, there are many other more subtle ways in which the evil one entraps people. It is interesting to note how Father Cleopa points out many of these subtle snares that the devil uses, as well as the very obvious ones.
Someone asked, "Father Cleopa, what is witchcraft and how many forms of it are there?"
"Sorcery and witchcraft mean invoking demonic powers to help man instead of calling upon God. The aim is to fulfill certain human desires (passions). Sorcery has been practiced as much by the Hebrew people during the time of the Old Testament, as it has been by Christians of the Testament of Grace (New Testament), right down to our own times. During the Old Testament even king Saul appealed to sorcerers including Barlaam as well as even the three Magi who practiced astrology."
According to the teachings of Saint Nicodemos the Hagiorite, sorcery, or witchcraft, is divided into three categories. Actual witchcraft means calling upon the devils to reveal certain hidden things to men, to find things that have been lost, etc. Fortune telling is a second form of sorcery; this involves certain people telling the future through things like palm reading, coffee grounds, cards, and other objects. Séances and spiritism involve calling the devils into obscure rooms or tombs with the intent to punish those who are alive. Those who practice séances will tell you that they are calling the souls of the dead in Hades, much like the sorcerers during the time of the Prophet Samuel, in order to learn about the future or to seek revenge on another. Even in our own days those who pretend to be sorcerers practice this sort of thing among some of the faithful in ways such as extinguishing charcoal, combining certain words of prayer, especially for the sick.
Other forms of fortune telling involve examining the entrails of dead animals, interpreting dreams, using the zodiac, determining what are 'good' and 'bad' times of the day, interpreting physical movements or ailments such as ringing in the ears, twitching eyes, itching palms. Another form of sorcery involves carrying in one's hands or bosom demonic amulets that had been used in devil worship. Demon worshipers are those who foretell the future through summoning devils. They do this in a multitude of ways including burning fires in front of a house and jumping through the fire.
Astrology is a form of sorcery that has been practiced from ancient times up to today. This entails guessing the future through the movements of the stars, planets, even the winds and clouds and other natural phenomena of the universe. Astrologists insist that every man has his own star.
These are just a few of the most common forms of sorcery; some have been almost completely abandoned, others are practiced right now in our own times, and we must fight against these practices and flee from them because they are demonic tricks that deceive and ensnare many Christians to perdition.
"Father, can the devil help man through such sorcery more than the power and grace of God helps us?"
"Be assured that the devils have absolutely no power to heal someone, nor discover plots against someone. They can never perform true miracles, but they use their false illusions to deceive those who are outside the faith or who are weak in faith. Our godly Father, John Chrysostom, shows us the truth of this saying, 'Don't you see how the devils could not heal the boils and sores of the sorcerers and witches that served them during the time of Moses in Egypt? How do you think they will heal you? If the demons have no mercy on your soul, why should they be sorry for the pains that afflict your body? If the demons strive to banish you from the Kingdom of God, then why should they deliver you from sickness? This is nothing but a joke and a fairy tale. Therefore, don't be fooled, Christians, for the wolf never becomes a sheep, nor does the devil become a doctor. Fire will more readily freeze, and snow will become warm before the devil will truly heal you.'"
Another person in the group asked, "What are the consequences of those who fall into the sin of sorcery?"
"Those who practice sorcery, as well as those who seek it, commit a great sin against the Holy Spirit, for they turn away from God and seek help from the devils. They abandon the servants of Christ, the priests, and they go to the servants of Satan. In other words, they desert the living water of the priest and the grace of salvation of the Church, to follow their own passionate human interest and seek help from the enemies of Christ who are the sorcerers and demon worshippers. They turn from the truth and instead receive a lie since all words of sorcerers are lies and demonic deceptions.
Those who commit such a great sin against the Holy Spirit are "not forgiven either in this age or in the age to come" as Christ said, unless they repent their whole lives. Those who are guilty of the sin of seeking help from sorcery suffer the consequences of all kinds of bad and harmful things; above all is the fact that their consciences bother them for leaving God and seeking help from those who are His enemies.
Those who turn to sorcery are refused Holy Communion for seven to fifteen years, sometimes even twenty years. Those who believe in and seek forms of sorcery have cast the grace of God from their hearts and instead bring the spirit of the devil into their hearts and homes. Those who work sorcery and believe in such things have turned from Christ and united themselves with the devil. Those who commit sorcery or seek these things are no longer rightly call Christians, but rather apostates. God punishes those who are guilty of this grave sin with terrible illnesses that have no relief. They have troubles in their families, all kinds of problems and misunderstandings, and they suffer poverty and terrible deaths. Unless they confess to the priest and weep for this sin for the rest of their lives, they have no salvation.
"What do the Holy Fathers say in the Holy Canons about those who turn to sorcery?" Father Cleopa was asked.
"Saint Basil the Great imposes the harshest Canon on sorcerers. Listen to what he says in Canon 72: 'Those who practice sorcery or any such form are to be punished in the same manner as murderers.' He considers sorcerers to be the same as those who murder and those who abandon God, and therefore he forbids them Holy Communion for ten to twenty years. In Canon 65, this same Saint Basil the Great says, 'Women who work sorcery for thy families and those outside are denied the Holy Chalice for nine years and are to make five hundred prostrations a day.'"
Even Holy Scripture shows the severity of God's punishment on those who seek witchcraft and sorcery; listen to what it says: "You shall not permit a sorcerers to live; a man or a woman who is a medium or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones; and also the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people" (Lev. 20:6).
"Listen to what Saint John Chrysostom says about this method of sorcery: 'You say that the old woman is Christian, or that the man is a Christian fortune teller and reveals things through opening holy books; that they use no other name, either verbal or written, than the name of Christ, the Theotokos and the Saints, so what is wrong with that? I tell you that people like that are to be hated more than prostitutes and other sorcerers because they use the name of God dishonorably. They call themselves Christians, but do the work of pagans. The devils themselves can speak the name of God, but they are still devils. Some people will defend themselves, saying that the woman is Christian and foretold the future by invoking no other name than the name of God. Because of that very fact, I would hate such a one as that and turn from her, because she used the Name of God with evil intent. She may call herself a Christian, but she shows that she does the work of the pagans."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God