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 SOLEMN PRAYER TO OUR ALMIGHTY GOD
[Saint Basil the Great]
Lord, our God, You have given Your peace to mankind; and the gift of the All-Holy Spirit You have sent to Your Disciples and Apostles, opening their lips with fiery tongues by Your power. Open also the lips of us sinners and teach us how and for what we should pray. Lord, govern our life for You are the calm harbor for those who are storm-tossed. And make known to us the way we should go. Renew a right spirit within us, and establish our spiritual instability with Your governing Spirit. Each day, may we be guided brightly by Your Good Spirit toward what is beneficial for us. Being empowered to observe Your Glorious presence, which leads us to seek the salvation accomplished by You for mankind, and not to be deceived by the corrupting pleasures of this world. Strengthen us, Lord, to desire rather the delight of future blessings, for You are truly Blessed and Praised among Your Saints unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Through the prayers of our Holy Father, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
On November 2nd Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Preachers, Apostles, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyrs Acindynos, Pegasius, Anempodistos, Elpithephoros of Persia; Holy Martyrs Atticus, Evdocius, Agapius, and other martyrs with them, at Sevastia; St. Marcian of Cyrrhus; Holy Martyrs: Domna, Domnina, and Cyriaki of Storozhev, former outlaw; Bishop Victorin and Priest Basil of Luzgin; Erc, Bishop of Slane, Ireland; Holy Martyrs of Senatorial rank beheaded under the pagan Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Presbyters, Holy Mothers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY MARTYRS ACINDYNOS, PEGASIUS, ANEMPODISTOS, APHTHONIUS, ELPIDEPHOROS AND OTHER HOLY MARTYRS WITH THEM. They were Persian Christians, and suffered in the time of king Sapor, in 355 A.D. The first three were servants at the Court of this king, but secretly served Christ their Lord. When they were arrested and brought to trial before the king, he asked them whence they came. To this they replied: 'Our paternity and life is the most Holy Trinity, consubstantial and undivided, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God.' The king gave them over to harsh torture, and they endured it all courageously, singing psalms and with prayers on their lips. At the time of their torture and imprisonment, Angels of God appeared to them several times, and once the Lord Christ Himself, as a man 'with a face radiant as the sun'. When one of the torturers, Aphthonius, saw with wonder that boiling lead did no harm to the Holy Martyrs, he believed in Christ and cried out: 'Great is the Christian God!' He was then immediately beheaded, and many others saw and believed. Then the king commanded that Acindynos, Pegasus and Anempodistos be sewn into goat-skins and thrown into the sea. Then Saint Aphthonius appeared from the other world with three shining Angels, and they bore the Holy Martyrs to dry land and set them free. Elpidephoros was a courtier. When he revealed that he was a Christian, and denounced the king for his slaughter of innocent Christians, the king condemned him to death, and Elpidephoros was beheaded along with about 7,000 other Christians. Then the three first-named Holy Martyrs were finally thrown into a burning furnace, along with 28 soldiers and the king's mother, who had also come to faith in Christ. And so, in the flames, they gave their righteous souls into the hands of the Lord.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: I Corinthians 15:58, 16:1-3
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also. On the First Day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem."
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 9:1-6
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Humility is so powerful that even the All-Conquering God did not conquer without it. Humility was even to bear the burden of a stiff-necked nation in the desert. Moses, the humblest of men, was given charge of the nation that was the most stubborn of all men. God, Who needed nothing to save His people, later found Himself in need of the humility of Moses just to abide the grumbling and complaining of His critics. Only humility could tolerate the perversity of a nation that dismissed signs in Egypt as well as wonders (miracles) in the desert. Whenever pride caused divisions in the nation, the prayer of humility healed their divisions. Now, if the humility of a tongue-tied man endured six hundred thousand, how much more does His humility endure, Who granted speech to the tongue-tied! For the humility of Moses is a mere shadow of the humility of our Lord." (Saint Ephraim the Syrian).
THE CHRISTIAN WAY IN THE SECULAR WEST
[source: Orthodox Christian Medicine]
Western culture is steeped deeply into this new Secular religion. We encounter its doctrines and worldview in the media, in academic and professional settings, and in personal conversation. Although tolerance is claimed as a central doctrine, adherents to Secularism, believing they are morally superior to all others, consider themselves justified to force non-believers to conform to their dogmas. Secularists finger-point at Christians who evangelize with forceful accusations of intolerance and pushing their beliefs upon others, while their own evangelists, whether self-described "experts," "activists" or "advocates, spare no opportunity to aggressively push others toward conformity to their opinions...The promotion of Secular propaganda is often presented as an effort to "raise awareness". School systems often shape children and young adults so thoroughly in the Secular worldview and ethos that many consider its tenants unquestionable. Due to the wedding of Secularism with national and international politics, Secularism is emerging as the state religion of Western nations.
Our Orthodox Christian Fathers and Mothers outright reject the presumption that many "spiritual traditions" lead to salvation alongside the Way of Christ. Instead, they believed the words of Christ, Who said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me" (St. John 14:6). The Orthodox Christian follows a Way directly opposed to the religious pluralism of Secularism. In order to justify discrimination against Christians who hold to the unalterable and timeless Orthodox Christian Faith, Secularists will surely dismiss us as irrelevant and accuse us of being evil by labeling us as pejorative, oppressive, hate-monger, patriarchal, hate-speech user, offensive, non-inclusive, extremist, misogynist, sexist, homophobes, and so on. Orthodox Christians who challenge Secularism should expect Secularists to respond by attempting to nurture outrage among their own. Secularists may publicly demand that the Christian challenger be silenced and perhaps otherwise punished through legal action, business boycott, loss of professional position, or public shame for daring to question the truthfulness of Secular doctrine. When Secularists agree with Christians, we shall be considered (perhaps surprisingly) enlightened. When, however, we correctly identify the activities they embrace as sin, such as the misuse of sexual expression outside of a faithful marriage between a man and a woman, Secularists will accuse us of being judgmental bigots for simply discerning between that which is right, good, and healthful and that which is wrong, evil, and dangerous to the health of the soul. Those who rail against Christians often possess very little knowledge of the authentic mind, ethos and life of the Orthodox way.
"God said, "Let there be light." God created all things through His Logos (Word), or, to put it another way, The Father brought all things into existence through His Son. The Son, Who has always existed Eternally with the Father and through Whom the universe came into being, knitted from Himself a human body in the womb of a Virgin. The Son took on our human nature, joining it with His unchangeable Divinity. Then, He Who is the Source of Life, liberated us from slavery to death and opened the gate to resurrection and immortality. "Christ is Risen!"
Since Christ came to heal us from physical and spiritual death, He established His Church as a spiritual Hospital on earth. The Church is an unfathomable Mystery that is indeed, according to the Holy Scripture, "the pillar and ground of Truth". Within the Church, the unalterable Truth "once for all delivered to the Saints" is preserved and passed on from generation to generation. When early heretical communities started popping up soon after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the answer to the question, "Where is the true Church of God on earth?", was essential for our ancestors who lived during the time of the Apostles was simple: "Wherever you find the Apostles, who held the authority they had received from Christ, there is the Church." In other words, any community that claimed to be 'Christian' but was not under the pastoral authority of Christ's Apostles was not the True Church, but instead a heretical community adhering to their own human opinions and invented traditions. Distinguishing the difference between the Orthodox Church and a heretical community was the difference between finding a real hospital with competent physicians who administer effective medicine and a fake clinic run by frauds who incompetently, albeit with sincere intentions, administer poisonous concoctions that promote infection and disease.
The Apostles consecrated bishops as their co-ministers and successors to oversee and shepherd the local churches. Those first bishops consecrated more bishops, as needed. During this time, the answer to the question, "where is the Church" remained essentially the same as before. One of the early bishops who lived during the time of the Apostles was Saint Ignatius, the second bishop of the Biblical Church of Antioch. In one of his pastoral letters, he explained that wherever the Orthodox bishop is found, there is the Church. Conversely, those communities that claimed to be Christian, but operated apart from the authority of an Orthodox bishop, offered, as Saint Ignatius explained, poison mixed with sweet wine.
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God