Concerning Repentance and Spiritual Warfare

Venerable Pelagia the Penitent

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

PSALM 107[108]

O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your mercy is great above the heavens, and Your truth reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and Your glory above all the earth; That Your  beloved may be delivered, save with Your right hand, and hear me. God has spoken in His Holiness: 'I will rejoice; I will divide Shechem and measure out the Valley of Succoth. Gilead is Mine; Manasseh is Mine; Ephraim also is the helmet for My head; Judah is My lawgiver. Moab is My washpot; Over Edom I will cast my shoe; Over Philistia I will triumph.' Who will bring me into the strong city? Who will lead me to Edom? Is it not You, O God Who cast us off? And You, O God, Who did not go out with our armies? Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless. Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He Who shall tread down our enemies. [This is a psalm of triumph. Verse 5 is used on Ascension Day and is also said by the Orthodox priest after Holy Communion has been given to the faithful.]



On October 8th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honor and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Our Righteous and Holy Mother Pelagia of Antioch the Former Courtesan; Holy Martyr Pelagia the virgin of Antioch; Saint Thais of Egypt, the former harlot; Holy New Righteous Martyr Ignatius of Athos was perfected in martyrdom by hanging in Constantinople in the year 1814; Holy and our Righteous Father Trypho of Vyatka; Righteous Father Dositheos of Pskov.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Mothers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

SAINT PELAGIA THE FORMER COURTESAN. This Saint was a prominent actress of the city of Antioch, and a pagan, who lived a life of unrestrained prodigality and led many to perdition. Instructed and baptized by a certain bishop named Nonnos (Saint Nonnos is commemorated Nov. 10), she departed for the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, where she lived as a recluse, feigning to be a eunuch called Pelagius. She lived in such holiness and repentance that within three or four years she was deemed worthy to repose in an odor of sanctity, in the middle of the 5th century. Her tomb on the Mount of Olives has been a place of pilgrimage ever since.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Plagal of Fourth Tone

In thee the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother; for taking up thy cross, thou didst follow Christ, and by thy deeds thou didst teach us to overlook the flesh, for it passeth away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal. Wherefore, O righteous Pelagia, thy spirit rejoiceth with the Angels.

Kontakion. Second Tone

With fasting didst thou consume thy body utterly; with vigilant prayer didst thou entreat they Fashioner that complete forgiveness of thy former deeds be granted thee, which, O Mother, thou didst receive. The path of repentance has thou shown to us.



Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 5:11-21
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 8:1-3


"If There Were Not a Hand on High..."

"Everything on the earth was made by the Logos [Word] of the Master. No human being yet existed to till the fields, a plough did not exist, there was not, as yet, the help of oxen, no one cultivated the earth. But the Word spoke on the earth and caused it to bring forth fruit. The Word gave orders thus: 'Let the earth put forth vegetation,' (Genesis 1:11) and this order sufficed. Today human beings till the earth and know how to make use of beasts of burden. But even if they paid all possible attention to the earth, even if the weather were always favorable, without God it would all be in vain. Sweat and toil would be no use at all if there were not a Hand on High ready to help and to cause everything to ripen". (Saint John Chrysostom)

by Archmandrite Sophrony [source: His Life Is Mine]

The whole of our earthly life, from birth to our last breath, in the end will look like one concise act. Its content and quality will be seen in a flash. Imagine a glass of the clearest crystal full of water. A glance will tell whether the water is clean or not. So will it be with us when we have crossed into another sphere. The most transitory reflex of heart or mind leaves its mark on the sum total of our life. Suppose that just once in the entire course of my existence I have a moment's wicked impulse, say, to murder. Unless I reject the idea from my heart in an act of contrition, it will remain with me, a black stain impossible to hide. "For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known" (St. Luke 12:2). We often comfort ourselves with the thought that no one saw what we did or knows what we think. But when we look at this life as a preparation for eternity; when we strive to get rid of the dark places within us, the picture changes.

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not is us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9). When we repent, resolutely condemning ourselves before God and man, we are cleansed within. The water in the glass is purified, having been passed through the spiritual filter of repentance. So when I make my confession I convict myself of every evil because there is no sin in all the world of which I am not guilty, even if only for a second. Who can be quite certain that he is altogether free from the power of passionate thoughts? And if for a fleeting moment I have been held by an evil thought, where is the guarantee that this moment will not be transmuted into eternity? Therefore, in so far as we can see ourselves we must thoroughly confess our sins, lest we carry them with us after our death.

Prayer offered to God in truth is imperishable. Now and then we may forget what we have prayed about but God preserves our prayer for ever. On the Day of Judgment all the good that we have done during our lives will stand at our side, to our glory. And vice versa: the bad, if unrepented, will condemn and cast us into outer darkness. Repentance can obliterate the effects of sin. By Divine power life may be restored in all its plenitude--not, however, by unilateral intervention on God's part but always and only in accord with us. God does nothing with man without man's cooperation (synergy).

God's participation in our individual life we call providence. This Providence is not like heathen Fate: at certain crucial moments we do, indeed, decide for ourselves on one or other course. When we are faced with various possibilities our choice should be conditioned by the final aim that we have in view: the Kingdom of the Father. But too often we are influenced by other, more contemporary considerations, and we turn aside from the true path offered to us by God, on to false tracks which will not lead to the hoped for dawn. In any case, whatever we choose, suffering is inevitable. But when we opt for the way of God our sacrifice likens us to Christ. "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but Thine, be done" (St. Luke 22:42).

When it is given to man to know the overriding value of prayer as compared with any other activity, be it in the field of science, the arts, medicine or social or political work, it is not difficult to sacrifice material well-being for the sake of leisure to converse with God. It is a great privilege to be able to let one's mind dwell on the everlasting, which is above and beyond all the most splendid achievements of science, philosophy, the arts, and so on. At first the struggle to acquire this privilege may seem disproportionately hard; though in many cases known to me the pursuit of freedom for prayer became imperative.

Prayer affords an experience of spiritual liberty of which most people are ignorant. The first sign of emancipation is a disinclination to impose one's will on others. The second--an inner release from the hold of other on oneself. Mastery over the wish to dominate is an extremely important stage which is closely followed by dislike of constraining our brother. Man is made in the image of God, Who is humble but at the same time free. Therefore it is normal and natural that he should be after the likeness of His Creator--that he should recoil from exercising control over other while himself being free and independent by virtue of the presence of the Holy Spirit within him. Those who are possessed by the lust for power cloud the image of God in themselves. The light of true life departs, leaving a tormenting void, a distressing tedium. Life is bereft of meaning. When the Holy Spirit by its gentle presence in our souls enables us to master our passions we realize that to look down on others is contrary to the spirit of love. And if I have not loved everything else--even the gifts of prophecy, of understanding all mysteries, or of performing miracles profits me nothing" (cf. I Cor. 13:1-3).

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George