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.
LENTEN PRAYER FROM THE DIVINE LITURGY OF PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS
Almighty God, Who made all creation in wisdom and by Your inexpressible Providence and goodness has brought us to these holy days for the purification of body and soul, for the controlling of bodily passions, for the hope of the Resurrection, Who, during the forty days gave the Covenant into the hands of Moses in characters Divinely traced by You: Enable us also, O Holy One, to fight the good fight; to accomplish the course of this fast; to preserve in wholeness the faith; to crush under foot the heads of invisible serpents; to be counted a victor over sin; and so uncondemned to attain the holy resurrection. For all honor and glory is given to Your noble and worthy Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On October 26th 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 Demetrios the Myrrhbearer and Great Martyr of Thessaloniki; Commemoration of the Great Earthquake in Constantinople.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy and Great Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR DEMETRIOS OF THESSALONIKI. This glorious and wonder-working Saint was born in the city of Thessaloniki, Greece of well-born and devout parents. Begged of God by these childless parents, Saint Demetrios was their only son and was, because of this, most carefully cherished and educated. His father was the military Commander of Thessaloniki, and, when he died, the emperor made St. Demetrios Commander of in his place. In doing this, the emperor Maximian, an enemy of Christ, particularly recommended him to persecute and exterminate the Christians in Thessaloniki. Saint Demetrios not only disobeyed the pagan Roman emperor: he openly confessed and preached Christ the Lord in the city. Hearing of this, the emperor was furious with St. Demetrios and, at one time, on his way back from a war against the Sarmathians, went to Thessaloniki especially to look into the matter. The emperor, therefore, summoned St. Demetrios and questioned him about his Christian faith. St. Demetrios proclaimed openly before the emperor that he was a Christian, and, furthermore, denounced the emperor's idolatry. The enraged pagan emperor, cast him into prison. Knowing what was awaiting him, St. Demetrios gave his goods to his faithful servant, Lupus, to give away to the poor, and went off to prison, glad that suffering for Christ was to be his lot. In the prison, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said: 'Peace be with thee, thou sufferer for Christ; be brave and strong!'
While the games were under way in the city, Maximian was a spectator there. A certain friend of his, a barbarian who was a notable wrestler, Lyaeus by name, waxing haughty because of the height and strength of his body, boasted in the stadium and challenged the citizens to a contest with him. All that fought with him were defeated. Seeing this, a certain youth named Nestor, an acquaintance of Saint Demetrios', came to the Saint in the bath-house (prison) and asked his blessing to fight Lyaeus single-handed. Receiving this blessing and sealing himself with the sign of the Precious and Holy Cross, he presented himself in the stadium and said, "O God of Demetrios, help me!" and straightway he engaged Lyaeus in combat and smote him with a mortal blow to the heart, leaving the former boaster lifeless upon the earth. Maximian was sorely grieved over this, and when he learned who was the cause of this defeat, and straightway the emperor sent soldiers to the prison to kill St. Demetrios. They came upon the Saint of God at prayer, and ran him through with their spears. Christians secretly took his holy body and gave it burial, and there flowed from it healing myrrh by which many of the sick were healed. A small church was very soon built over his holy relics. An Illyrian nobleman, Leontius, became sick of an incurable illness. He ran prayerfully up to the holy relics of Saint Demetrios and was completely healed, and in gratitude built a much larger church in place of the old one. The Saint appeared to him on two occasions. When the Emperor Justinian wanted to take the Saint's holy relics from Thessaloniki to Constantinople, a spark of fire leapt from the tomb and a voice was heard: 'Leave them there, and don't touch!', and thus the holy relics of Saint Demetrios have remained for all time in Thessaloniki. As the defender of the city of Thessaloniki, Saint Demetrios has many times appeared and saved the city from calamity, and there is no way of counting his miracles. The Russian Orthodox regarded Saint Demetrios as the protector of Siberia, which was overcome and annexed by Russia on October 16th, 1581. The great earthquake commemorated here took place in 740 A.D., during the reign of Leo the Isaurian, the first of the Iconoclast emperors.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Holy Martyr. Third Tone
A great champion hath the whole world found thee to be when in grave perils; for thou dost put to flight the heathen, O victorious one. As thou didst humble Lyaeus's arrogance and gavest boldness to Nestor in the stadium, thus, O holy Great Martyr Demetrios, do thou entreat Christ God that we be granted great mercy.
Kontakion of the holy Martyr. Second Tone
God, Who hath given thee invincible strength, O Demetrios, hath adorned the Church with the royal purple of the streams of thy blood and hath kept thy city unharmed, for thou art the support thereof.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: II Timothy 2:1-10
"You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he completes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 15:17-27; 16:1-2
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND FATHERS:
"Be sure, then, to understand, and see that from the beginning, all the Fathers, that is, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs, having passed through the way of afflictions and temptations and having endured their various difficulties with joy and fortitude, were only able to please God because they waited in hope for the reward that is bestowed on the struggler for his exertions." (Saint Ephraim)
THE KINGDOM OF GLORY
by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky [source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology]
With the end of this age and the transformation of the world into a new and better world, there is revealed the Eternal Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Glory.
Then will come to an end the Kingdom of Grace, the existence of the Church on earth, the Militant Church; it will enter into this Kingdom of Glory and will merge with the heavenly Church, the Church Triumphant. "Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death...And when all things shall be subdued unto Him (the Father), then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (I Corinthians 15:24-26, 28). These words concerning the end of the Kingdom of Christ must be understood as the fulfillment of the Son's mission, which He accepted from the Father, and which consists of the conducting of mankind to God through the Church. Then the Son will reign in the Kingdom of Glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and "of His Kingdom there shall be no end," as the Archangel announced to the Virgin Mary (St. Luke 1:33), and as we read in the Symbol of Faith (Creed): "And His Kingdom will have no end." Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says of this: "For will not He who reigned before overthrowing his enemies, reign all the more after He has conquered them?" (Catechetical Lectures).
Death will have no power in the Kingdom of Glory. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death...Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory" (I Corinthians 15:26, 54). "There shall be time no longer" (Apoc. 10:6).
The Eternal blessed life is presented vividly in the twenty-first chapter of the Apocalypse (Revelation): "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away: and there was no more sea" (Rev. 21:1). In the future kingdom everything will be spiritualized, immortal and holy.
But the chief thing is that those who attain the future blessed life and become "partakers of the Divine Nature" (2 Peter 1:4) will be participants in the most perfect life, whose source is in God alone. In particular, the future members of the Kingdom of God will be vouchsafed, like the Angels, to "see God" (St. Matthew 5:8), to behold His glory not as through a dark glass, not by means of conjectures, but face to face. And not only will they behold this glory, but they themselves will be "partakers" of it, shining like "the sun in the Kingdom of their Father" (St. Matthew 13:43), being "fellow heirs" with Christ, sitting with Christ on a throne and sharing with Him the royal grandeur (Rev. 3:21; Romans 8:17; II Timothy 2:11-12).
As is symbolically depicted in the Apocalypse (Revelation), "they shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Rev. 7:16-17). As the Holy Apostle Paul says, drawing from the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God prepared for them that love Him" (I Corinthians 2:9, cf. Isaiah 64:4).
Blessedness in God will be all the more desirable in that it will be Eternal, without end: "The righteous (shall go) into life eternal" (St. Matthew 25:46).
Saint Ephraim the Syrian says: "Just as everyone takes enjoyment of the rays of the sensual sun according to the purity of his power of seeing and of the impressions that are given, and just as in a single lamp which illumines a house each ray has its place, while the light is not divided into many lamps; so also in the future age all the righteous will dwell inseparably in a single joy, but each in his own degree will be illuminated by the single mental sun, and to the degree of his worth he will draw in joy and rejoicing as if in a single atmosphere and place, and no one will see the degrees that are higher and lower, lest looking o the surpassing Grace of another and upon his own deprivation, he will thereby have some cause in himself for sorrow and disturbance. May this not be there, where there is neither sorrow nor sighing; but everyone according to the Grace proper to him in his measure will rejoice inwardly, while outwardly all will have a single contemplation and a single joy" (St. Ephraim the Syrian, "On the Heavenly Mansions").
Please note: To all who celebrate their name-day on the holy Feast of Saint Demetrios the Great Martyr God's blessings to all.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God