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.
PRAYER BEFORE STUDYING THE HOLY BIBLE
(by Saint John Chrysostom)
O Lord Jesus Christ, open up the eyes of my heart to hearken unto Thy Word and to understand and do Thy Will, for I am a pilgrim upon the earth. Conceal not from me Thy Commandments, but unveil mine eyes that I may comprehend the wonders of Thy Law: Tell me the secret and hidden things of Thy Wisdom. O my God, I trust that Thou will illumine my mind and comprehension by the light of Thy reason, that I may not simply read the Scriptures but also live by them; that I may read the lives and words of the Saints not to sin unto myself, but unto renovation and illumination and sanctification, and unto the salvation of my soul and unto inheritance of life everlasting. For Thou does illumine those in darkness, and from Thee comes every good gift and ever perfect gift, and unto thee do we ascribe glory: now and ever, and unto age of ages. Amen.
On October 9th 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: Holy Apostle James, the son of Alphaeus (On the ninth James was stretched out upon a cross); our Righteous Father Andronikos of Antioch and his wife Athanasia; our Righteous Mother Publia the Confessor of Antioch; our Righteous Father Peter the former soldier; our Righteous Father Dorotheos, Bishop of Tyre; our Righteous Patriarch Abraham and his nephew Lot; our Father among the Saints Dionysius, Bishop of Paris, who was beheaded in the 3rd century; Saint Stephen Brancovich, king of Serbia; the Synaxis of the Holy Icon of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, which is called Of Korsun (that is, Cherson).
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY APOSTLE JAMES, THE SON OF ALPHAEUS. SAINTS ANDRONICUS AND ATHANASIA. THE RIGHTEOUS PATRIARCH ABRAHAM AND HIS NEPHEW LOT.
The Holy Apostle James was one of the Twelve, and preached Christ to many nations, and finally suffered death by crucifixion.
Saint Andronicus and Athanasia were from Antioch, and finished their lives in asceticism about the year 500 A.D.
The Holy Patriarch Abraham, born a pagan, ten generations after Noah, when the knowledge of God had perished from among men, became the beginning of God's dispensation for the universal renewal and salvation of man. He was called out of his country--the land of the Chaldees, that is, Mesopotamia--to the land of Canaan, and received the promise that through his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed; through his singular faith in the promises of God, he was justified before the giving of the Law and the coming of Grace; through his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, he portrayed the love wherewith God loved the world in sacrificing His only begotten Son. The greatness of Abraham, and the trials that he and his righteous nephew Lot underwent, are set forth in the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament, chapters twelve through twenty-five.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Third Tone
O Holy Apostle James, intercede with the Merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.
Apolytikion (Dismisall) Hymn of the Righteous Ones. Plagal of First Tone
Ye adorned your divinely-wrought robe of chastity with the sublime varied colors of sacred virtues in God, when with one accord you strove in the ascetic life. Wherefore, your silence on the earth was received equally with the thrice-holy hymn in Heaven; O wise Andronicus, pray God, with Athanasia, that we all be saved.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Patriarch Abraham. Plagal of First Tone
In the night universal of ignorance towards God, and in that starless, profound gloom bereft of heavenly light, thou, O Abraham, was kindled in the firmament, burning with bright far-shining faith in the Everlasting Light, Who shone forth to us from thy seed. Do thou entreat Him with fervor, that He enlighten us and save our souls.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Corinthians 4:9-16
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 9:36-38; 10:1-8
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH
Myriad Flowers in the Field of the Sky
"Nothing gives as much joy as the sky which is like a pure transparent veil, like a meadow with a thousand flowers-the stars, like a crown for our heads. Nothing is as delightful as the rising of the sun when the night is fleeing away. Its rays are not yet scorching hot The sky is turning red. In a moment its light reaches the earth, the sea, the mountains, the valleys, the hills, the whole sky, removing form nature the cloak of darkness and revealing it naked to our eyes. Nothing rouses more admiration than the course of the sun, the regularity of its route, the service it never denies us, its beauty, its brightness, its splendor, its purity. And its usefulness is beyond description. Just think what the sun does for seeds, for plants, for the human race, for animals, for the earth, for the sea, for the air, for everything that exists!" (Saint John Chrysostom, On Providence).
THROUGH DARK TO LIGHT
by Archimandrite Sophrony (source: His Life Is Mine)
"A man is born into the world" (St. John 16:21). Before Christ no one ever greeted with such rapture the appearance of man as He Who had created man. The Creator of the universe rejoiced more over man than over the glorious choir of heavenly bodies. Man is more precious than all the rest of the cosmos. Man, completed and perfected, is wondrous, even as God is wondrous. He is immortal and supra-cosmic. He is more than a microcosm--he is a micro-theos. For the Eternal Logos (Word) of the Father to be made flesh "in the likeness of man" (Phil. 2:7) means that, with the gift of His love, man in turn may become like God, even to identity.
Between God and man there is and must be commensurability in spite of all that is non-commensurable. To dismiss this idea of commensurability would make it totally impossible to interpret any form of cognition as truth--that is, as corresponding to the reality of Primordial Being. If man by the nature of his spirit is not "like unto God", then neither could God have been made man. In the lofty bliss of His All-Perfect Being God, infinite goodness, desired to bestow this bliss 'outside' Himself, and so He created a world of reasonable beings. He did not create them for a part only of His bliss--any element of limitation would indicate unlikeness and rule out eternal unity with God on the highest plane.
The doctrine that man may become god-like, entirely, not just to a certain degree, lies at the root of our Christian anthropology. As the image and likeness of the Absolute, man is conscious that in his spirit he transcends every other form of natural being. In prayer we glimpse in ourselves divine infinity, not yet actualized but foreknown. Perfection of likeness, however, does not remove the ontological distance between God the Creator and man the created.
The tragedy of creation came with the fall, and continues in our perpetual instability. Prone to evil, we detest and fight evil; in our longing for the absolute good, for God, we push Him away and resist Him.
Christ, having linked God and man inseparably in Himself, is the one and only solution to the apparently insoluble conflict. He is in truth "the Savior of the world" (St. John 4:42). He is the measure of all things, divine and human. He is the sole way to the Father. He is the sun which illumines the universe. Only in His Light can the way be seen.
We are naturally attracted to the All-Highest but our pilgrimage must start with a descent into the pit of hell. Saint Paul said of Christ: "Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lowers parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens, that He might fill all things" (Ephesians 4:9-10). And this is the way for us after the fall. In our consciousness we descend into hell, since the moment the image of Man eternal is revealed to us we become more sharply aware of our benighted state. We are overwhelmed with grief. The agony of our spirit is so acute that no physical pain can compare with this timeless suffering. With the last remnants of our strength we pray for help from on High. Brought low in sin, we see ourselves torn from God, and out of the depths we cry: 'Death has struck. Come and make me whole. Come and drive away all that defiles. Come and perform in me all that is pleasing in Thy sight. I am held captive, in darkness. I have no strength to rise to Thee'.
By darkness, by all that defiles, we mean pride. Pride is at the root of every sin. Christ began His preaching on earth by a call to repentance--to a radical alteration in our approach to life. Our normal perspective changes to its opposite: humility raises, pride casts down. God manifested Himself to us in absolute humility. This is the beginning of repentance which has no end on earth, for an end would indicate perfect deification (theosis)--equality with Christ-God.
It is a fact that sorrowful prayer becomes all-enveloping. There is nothing left in mind or heart: death engulfs all creation, ourselves first and foremost. And, lo, there appears that which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man" (cf. I Corinthians 2:9)--a way of the uncreated Sun to pierce deep into our darkness.
This Divine Light, hidden, mysterious by nature, imparts new life to the soul. Immaterial and invisible, yet sometimes to be seen, it gently draws to itself the spirit of man; and the earth and its alarms are forgotten. Meek, it is more powerful than aught else. It comforts the soul; the heart melts; the mind is stilled. It is life suffused with love. Doubt and fear are driven out. Death flees before its face.
"O Holy Spirit, mysterious Light; O Light inscrutable, Light beyond all name: Come and abide in us. Deliver us from the darkness of ignorance; and fill us with the stream of Thy Knowledge."
This Light is the Light of Divinity. Ineffably tender, one is unaware of its approach. It may come in the night watch or at bright noon-day. As even light, entire, it is the breath of love. It brings peace. It brings an experience of resurrection. The spirit of man enters the realm where death is no more. Time is at a standstill. The world, hitherto devoured by death, comes to life.
"O Lord Jesus Christ, Light Everlasting; Who from the Father did shine forth before all worlds; Who did open the eyes of the man that was born blind: Do Thou open the eyes of our hearts; and grant us to behold Thee, Our Creator and our God."
Grant us to perceive the Gospel word of Christ as undying Light, as creative divine strength, as a new step in creation; not now in the form of a command--"Let there be..."--but as a discourse with a reasonable being. "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth" (St. James 1:18).
There is no vehemence in the word of Christ: man is free to reject, although the whole world will be judged by it. He who accepts knows from whence it came--knows whether it was pronounced of man or whether it did verily come down "from the Father of Lights" (St. James 1:17).
Christ is the Light of the world. He revealed the Heavenly Father to us and showed us what man is. Christ is eternal truth transcending all 'scientific truths' which per se are ephemeral. It is impossible to the truth which is Christ other than by listening to Him: "If you continue in My Word, then you are My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free…Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep My saying, he shall never see death…If a man love Me, he will keep My Words and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (St. John 8:31-32, 51; 14:23). He will make us His abode, not for a while, but for all eternity.
Thus, those who in one way or another reject Christ do not know What and Whom they are rejecting. Christ is Wisdom, Pre-Eternal, hidden Wisdom which the rulers and servants of this globe do not know. ("We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom" (I Cor. 2:7). Before Christ's coming the whole world, all the people of the earth, walked in darkness, ignorant of the way which leads to the Kingdom of God and our Father. Now these mysteries are revealed to us. To us has been given sure knowledge of the ultimate meaning of our coming into the world. Christ proclaimed the love of the Father for us, and in Himself showed us the Father. But we crucified him, and when He was hanging on the Cross we mocked Him; and to this day continue to mock Him.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God