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 PRAYER FOR THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL
O Loving God, we confess and bring before You our weaknesses, beseeching you to add strength to our efforts for correction and restoration. Forgive the sins we have committed until now and remit all our faults from the past, making each one of us into a new person in our soul. Help us to be Your authentic and pure servants. We entrust ourselves to You, Lord. Accept us, O God of Truth, as we humbly come to You. Accept these Your people, Lord, and grant that we all become truly Your people. Make it possible for all to live without reproach and to be cleansed of sins. May they become such faithful people that they will be counted with the heavenly Angelic spirits and will all be with the elect and the Saints in heaven.
We pray for the Christians who have believed and have come to know You, our Lord Jesus Christ. May they all become steadfast in the faith, in the knowledge of the Truth, and in the reception of the teaching. We beseech You, Lord, of all of these Your people. Remove from them every enmity of sin and establish friendly relations with all. May Your Holy Name be always known and glorified among them. Amen.
On October 25th 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 Tabitha (Dorcas) of Joppa, the widow raised from the dead by Holy Apostle Peter; Saint Anastasios the Fuller at Salona in Dalmatia; Saint George of Amastris; Saints Marcian and Martyrios the Notaries; Saint Macarius, Bishop of Paphos in Cyprus; Holy Two Martyrs of Thrace, Greece; Saint Martyrios the Deacon and Saint Martyrius the Recluse of the Kiev Caves; Holy Martyrs Wallerios and Chrysaphos; Holy Martyr Savinos; Philadelphos and Polycarpos; Holy Martyrs Nikephoros and Stephen; Holy Martyrs Faustus, Basil, and Lucian; Holy Martyrs Pappias, Diodoros, and Claudianus; Holy Martyr Waros; Holy Martyr Wallerinos.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Deacons, Holy Mothers, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 6:18-24
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 11:23-26
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS:
"It is necessary for us to hasten to repentance before sin becomes a habit for us; because then, it is impossible for us to be saved." (Saint Nektarios of Aegina)
by Mr. John Karmiris, Greek Orthodox Theologian [source: Synopsis of the Dogmatic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church]
When a man undergoes natural death, his material, earthly, corruptible and mortal body is destroyed. It dissolves and decomposes into those substances from which it was originally formed. Meanwhile, the immaterial, spiritual, incorruptible and immortal soul is undergoing the first, partial judgment, after which it enters "the middle situation" of Hades, where it remains until the Second Coming and the general resurrection, at which time the resurrected bodies will be reunited with their respective souls. Next follows the universal judgment and the consummation of the age, after which remain Eternal life and eternal hell.
Death, the consequence of ancestral (original) sin and therefore a universal phenomenon, does not imply the total annihilation of man. Rather, he merely departs from his current, spiritual-material situation, proceeding to an exclusively spiritual realm which constitutes the final purpose of his earthly existence. Death terminates the moral development of man; any further evolution is rendered impossible, and retribution begins. We must note here that man "disobeying God, became the cause of his own death" (Saint Theophilos of Antioch) and of his own "corruption" (Saint Athanasius the Great). Consequently, it was not "God who brought about death," (Saint Basil the Great) as we have already mentioned.
After death, men are judged partially in a primary judgment conducted by God (Ecclesiasticus 11:26; St. Luke 23:43; 16:19-31; Hebrews 9:27). This judgment has as its basis the faith of the individual, his appropriation of the Savior's redemption, and his moral life as well. The soul, separated from its body, goes immediately, it good, into rest and blessedness; if bad, into affliction and grief in the so-called "middle situation" (John Karmiris, The Descent of Christ into Hell (Hades). In this situation, the soul experiences a foreview, a foretaste, and a foreknowledge of the full and complete retribution it yet awaits; be it enjoyment of damnation, blessedness or misfortune, prepared for them after the Last Judgment, only a relative blessedness or affliction being experienced in this middle situation. This applies as well to the Saints and righteous, who "only perceive the blessings which await them," according to Saint Gregory of Nazianzus.
According to Saint John Chrysostom, the righteous dead of the Old Testament, and even Saint Paul the Apostle, "after dying in such great tribulation, still have not received their reward. They gained their victory ages ago, but have yet to receive their rewards…Waiting for those who have been perfected, that they may receive their reward." "If therefore, the Savior of all men were not to descend from heaven, neither would any resurrection take place, nor would any retribution follow" (Saint Cyril of Alexandria). It must be understood that the nature of rewards and punishment in Hades is neither real nor organic, but beyond matter and relative to the nature of the souls in question (Saint Gregory of Nyssa). Just as, in the present life, there are to be distinguished several levels of justification and sanctification; so, too, in the middle situation, there are correspondingly distinguishable levels of blessedness and misfortune, relative to the moral situation of each man and woman the moment of death, which follows and accompanies them, according to Revelation 14:13 (St. John Damascene).
The souls in the middle situation possess full awareness and self-consciousness, but they remain "unchangeable" (St. John Chrysostom) (unable to improve their condition), inasmuch as only during this present life, while we have access to grace through repentance, that we can be reconciled to God through Christ. After death, "there is no opportunity for repentance" (St. John Damascene). Thus it is that "this is the time of repentance; that will be the time of judgment" (St. John Chrysostom).
Due to the conscious state of those in the middle situation, there remains a relationship between them and those who are yet living upon the earth, between the members of the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant, this communication being by no means severed by death, inasmuch as all the members of Christ constitute His Mystical Body. Thus, the Saints (faithful) pray and intercede with God for their living brothers, and for the Church Militant in general. In no way do these intercessions supplement or make void the work of the One Mediator (Metrophanes Kritopoulos, Confession). For, indeed, "there is One Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who alone directly intercede with the Father for us." The Saints we "call not mediators, but ambassadors and supplicants toward God"--"ambassadors" to whom we appeal as those who "pray to God for us" (St. Dositheos of Jerusalem) as our brothers and friends of God, they might ask the Divine aid and assistance for us, their brothers...(John Karmiris) not as if they could help us by means of their own power; neither "as if God were indebted to them, because God is indebted to no one, but by the means of the sincerity which God has given them" (St. John Damascene).
In the same way, the living ask of the Saints their prayers and intercessions before God. They also dedicate feast-days and temples to the names of Saints, honoring them with a relative veneration that does not approach worship, which is reserved for God alone. Icons also are venerated, the Saint being hailed as 'temples, living tabernacles of God." Thus this honor is distinguished from the worship that belongs to God alone: "Our true worship, we believe belongs only to God." Icons are venerated, but this veneration is delivered "not to the material (of the Icon), but to the person depicted thereby" for "the honor paid to the Icon proceeds to its prototype" (7th Ecumenical Council).It is 'through the Icon that honor and veneration are offered to the Saint' (Saint John Damascene).
Generally speaking, Orthodox follow the principle that "no one except God Himself is to be worshipped as God is worshipped; no one in all of the natural creation is to receive that form of veneration intended for God alone".
There is yet another connection between the Church Militant and the souls of the sinners in Hades; for, on their behalf, the Church offers up all manner of liturgical services, prayers, supplications, charitable and merciful actions, good works and memorials, as witness the liturgical texts of the ancient Catholic Church, together with the writings of her Fathers.
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God