Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only 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 GOD AND LIFE-CREATING SPIRIT
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
All Holy Spirit, I beseech You, make my body Your temple. Come to dwell within me, in the depths of my being, to be for me the root and the source of nourishment, preservation and growth of my physical and spiritual life. I want You to guide my thoughts. I want You to prevail in my heart. I want You to be present in all of my being. And I, encouraged by subtle wind of Your inspirations and enlivened by the Divine refreshment of Your grace, will be "transformed from glory to glory". May I indeed so proceed from "power to power." Grant me Your grace to do the works of virtue and love and holiness, which You may accept as an offering of fragrant incense.
O how blessed are those whose souls are inspired by Your Divine grace, descending from heaven upon them as a refreshing breeze and a Life-Giving wind! Do not turn away from us because of our sins. Do not reject us because of our weaknesses and our shortcomings which we continue to have. Inaugurate in us a new life, the life that is consistent with the will of our Father in heaven, the life that has been taught to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
On October 24th 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 Arethas of Omir and with him 4, 299 Holy Martyrs; Syncletiki and her two daughters; Saint Elesbaan, king of Ethiopia; Saints Theophil, Aretha, and Sisoes, hermits of the Kiev Caves; Saint Sevastiane of Heraclea; Saint Akakius of Armenia; Saint John, recluse of the Pskov Caves; Saint Zosimas, Elder of Siberia; Saints Laurence, Bishop of Balakhninsk, Alexis the priest, and Holy Martyr Alexis; Saint Senoch, Abbot (Egoumenos) of Tours; Holy Martyrs Mark, Soterichos, and Valentine; Holy Martyr Nerdon; Saints Abramius and Abraham in Najran of Arabia, Saint Felix; "Joy of All Who Sorrow" holy Icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God).
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Elders, Holy Priests, Holy Abbots, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY MARTYR ARETHAS AND THE 4, 299 HOLY MARTYRS WITH HIM. This Holy Martyr suffered for the Christian faith with more than 4,000 other Christians: priests, monks and nuns, townspeople and women and children. Saint Arethas was the local governor of the town of Negran, in the land of Omir in Southern Arabia, and was 95 years old when he suffered. The land of Omir was governed by a Jew called Dunaan, a vicious persecutor of Christians. Resolving to exterminate Christianity completely in his land, he laid siege to the Christian town of Negran and told the citizens that, if they did not deny Christ, he would put them all to death. The citizens closed the gates, and Dunaan attacked the city wall for a long time without success. Then the iniquitous governor swore to the citizens that he would do nothing to them if they opened the gate for him to enter and take the tribute owing to him, saying that he would then go away at once. The Christians believed him, and opened the gates. Then the bloodthirsty Jew summoned the aged Arethas to him, along with his clergy and other eminent citizens, and slew them all with the sword, and then indulged in a riot of butchery through the town. Hearing of this, the Byzantine Emperor, Justin, was greatly distressed and wrote a letter to the Ethiopian emperor Elsbaan, urging him to set out with an army against Dunaan and avenge the Christian blood that had been spilled. Elesbaan obeyed Justin, attacked the governor of Omir, overcame him, slaughtered his entire army and put him to the sword. A devout man called Abramius was installed as ruler of Omir by God's revelation and, as Archbishop, also by God's revelation, Saint Gregory (see Dec. 19th). In Negran, the Christians rebuilt the Church of the Holy Trinity that Dunaan had burned, and built a church to the holy Martyr Arethas and the other 4,299 Holy Martyrs of that city. They suffered and received wreaths of martyrdom from the Lord in 523 A.D.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 5:33, 6:1-9
"Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and, let the wife see that she respects her husband. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the First Commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.' And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him".
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 11:14-23
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH
"Since our sweet Jesus is so good, compassionate, and kind, why should you despair? We seek one small thing from Him, and He gives us so much! We ask for one beam of light, and He gives us Himself as all Light, Truth, and Love. So humble yourself and rest all your hope in Him". [Geronda (Elder) Joseph the Hesychast]
by Mr. John Karmiris, Greek Orthodox Theologian [source: A Synopsis of the Dogmatic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church]
Man's participation in, his cooperation with, his salvation is not passive, as if he mechanically or magically received the Divine Grace, but it is active and essential. For this reason, Divine Grace is catholic, being freely offered to all without exception, for God wills "all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Timothy 2:4). And, according to Saint John Chrysostom: "Grace is shed forth upon all, turning itself back neither from Jew, nor Greek, nor Barbarian, nor Scythian, nor free, nor bond, nor male, nor female, nor old, nor young, but admitting all alike with an equal regard." The action of the Divine Grace is not compulsory, overpowering man's will and initiative; rather, both cooperate harmoniously, so that Divine Grace alone, without free will and cooperation of man, does not complete man's salvation; nor much less does human will alone, without the Divine Grace, bring it about. According to Saint John Chrysostom, this is "to show that we need both, our own part as well as God's part, if we are to be saved." Truly, "were we to try by ourselves ten thousand times, we could accomplish nothing without the benefit of the divine inclination; without His guidance we could never achieve that which He expects of us, nor can we achieve anything at all without aid from above." Divine Grace and human freedom work together harmoniously in the appropriation of salvation to each person individually. "His death for this reason is become philanthropic, inasmuch as it is by this means that manifestation and condescension of God's Grace comes to the individual person" (Saint Maximus the Confessor). Thus, even though we accept salvation as being wholly a work of Grace, it still is not possible without the condition of its free acceptance on the part of the human will. The Greek Fathers understand the human will as being an indispensable participant in Divine Grace in the salvation of the individual man" (Saint Clement of Alexandria). God brings no one to Himself contrary to that individual's free will; although He wishes all to be saved, He forces no one..Not without the consent of man, nor without his will (as I have told you many times); rather, it is in accord with man's desire and will that God prepares the salvation of man" (St. John Chrysostom). Human freedom, motivated by the inclination of Divine Grace, becomes necessary as the receptive instrument of the salvation in Christ, and without either Divine Grace or human cooperation the subjective appropriation of redemption is not possible.
The only thing required of the man who willingly responds to the voice of God is that "faith which worketh by love" (Galatains 5:6). Consequently, salvation is attained by the "Grace of Christ, through genuine faith in the Lord, for both male and female" (Saint Basil the Great). Also necessary are good works, which must embellish the moral life of the believer, who must voluntarily, willingly, submit himself to the will and law of God. Hence, the Confession of Dositheos teaches: "We believe that nobody can be saved without faith. We call faith the most correct quality within us, existing for the glory of God and all that is divine...which works by love and through the Divine Commandments to justify us before Christ. Without it, it is impossible to please God." (John Karmiris).
From the earliest years of Christianity, the Holy Fathers of the Church emphasized correct faith and good works as conditions for justification. Indeed both are alike, yet without redemptive power or axiomisthias. "Because faith without works is dead, likewise works without faith, because true faith is tested through works," according to Saint John Damascene. Also, Saint James the Holy Apostle writes in his Epistle, "But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? …You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only...For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (St. James 2:14-26). Truly, faith and works are two inseparable elements of the same essence, and for this reason should not be separated, inasmuch as the first presupposes and contains the other.
Faith is closely connected with acts through love, of which necessary manifestations and fruits are good works; faith is thus undoubtedly a moral work, and not an intellectual effort alone. Indeed, true faith in Christ includes the acceptance of truth, on the one hand; and on the other hand, the new life in Christ. Good works being absent, the Christian's faith is exposed as false and hypocritical. Saint James the Apostles writes: "If a brother and sister is naked and destitute of daily bread and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does is it profit? Thus, also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, 'you have faith, and I have works.' Show me faith without your works, and I will show you my faith with by my works" (St. James 2:15-18). Both, however, co-exist, composing an internal, organic unity. Thus, we read in the confession of Mogila that "good works are a fruit, born from faith, as form good tree." Therefore, the Orthodox Christian assumes the middle-of-the-road position between Roman Catholic emphasis on works and the protestant rejection of them altogether. The Orthodox accept them as being organically united with faith, as fruits of faith and of the Holy Spirit, teaching that works, in themselves, cannot redeem, cannot justify a man. Only as they are united with faith, and performed under the leading of Divine Grace are they in the least beneficial. Finally, the Orthodox Church completely rejects the Latin (Roman Catholic) teaching of the treasury of merits.
The general conclusion regarding dogmas of the application of the salvation that is in Christ through the Divine Grace and by human co-operation, of relative predestination, of justification by faith and good works, etc. Orthodoxy is not one-sided, but synthetic and combinative. Finally, it should be added that, in general, all of the above-revealed Orthodox dogmatical teachings concerning our salvation in Christ: the Incarnation, the Sacrifice on the Cross, the Descent to Hades, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Session at the right hand of the Father, Divine Grace, and its appropriation and salvation of man, etc., have all been included in Orthodox Worship, incorporated into the superb liturgical hymns of the Church, and have also been lived by the Christian people of the East for centuries.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God