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 ΗΝΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Blessed is the man, who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scoffers. Rather, his delight is the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
On November 6th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Preachers, Apostles, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Paul the Confessor, Archbishop of Constantinople; Saint Herman, Archbishop of Kazan; Synaxis (Assembly) of the New Holy Martyrs of Sarov: Anatole, Basil, Hierotheos, Isaac, and Rufinus; New Martyr Gregory the Cross-bearer of Russia; Saint Luke, steward of the Kiev Caves; Saint Demetrianos, Bishop of Cytheria in Cyprus; Saint Varlaam of Khoutyn; Saint Paul of Corinth, fool-for-Christ; Holy Martyr Nicander; Commemoration of the falling of ash from the air.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
SAINT PAUL THE CONFESSOR, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE. Saint Paul had been the secretary to Patriarch Alexander and an excellent student. When the patriarch was about to die, he chose Paul, who was then only in his early thirties, to succeed him. Emperor Constantius and other Arians (heretics) railed at this and had him and Athanasios the Great of Alexandria both deposed. Paul found allies in the bishop of Rome as well as the emperor's brother, Constans, in Rome, and he was restored while Constans lived. When Constans died, St. Paul was this time exiled to Armenia. As he was celebrating the Divine Liturgy there one day, the Arians set upon him in the altar and strangled him with his own pallium in the 4th century. His holy relics are now in Venice.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 8:1-12
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 12:8-12
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"The good of our profession, as we have said, is the Kingdom of God. It's immediate purpose, however, is purity of heart, for without this we cannot reach our goal." (On the purpose of being a monk.)
THE CALL OF THE ANCIENT CHRISTIAN CHURCH TO ALL CHRISTIANS
(Orthodox Christian Medicine: The Christian Way in the Secular World)
What message, then, does the authentic, 2,000 year-old Orthodox Church have for the non-Orthodox who still desire to live as Christians in the world? In this increasingly darkened society, let all Christians by united by bearing one unchanging Faith, by sharing one all-encompassing life under the guidance of the one Spirit within the one Church established by our only Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The One Church, established by Christ, that has kept the fullness of the Christian Faith unchanged since the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost remains in the world, even into the 21st Century, to bring salvation to all people. The Church is, as Saint Paul wrote and I previously noted, "the pillar and ground of truth", against which, Christ, "the gates of hell shall not prevail."
Still today, wherever you find an Orthodox parish under the pastoral care of an Orthodox Bishop, who bears Apostolic succession in both the sense of historical lineage from the Holy Apostles and preservation of the Orthodox Christian Faith within life of the Orthodox Church, there you find the true Church of Christ. The Church calls everyone to leave behind false religions, philosophies, doctrines, heresies, incorrect opinions, and unfruitful practices to unite with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Real unity among Christians only becomes a reality when Christians walk the singular of Christ in its fullness.
To clarify, let me emphasize what the message of the authentic Christian Church to Western Christians (Roman Catholic and Protestant) is not. The message is not this: You can connect to the ancient Church by "borrowing" elements of ancient Christian spirituality "relevant" for today and by integrating those elements into your "prayer life" and "worship experience". That is not the message. If you were to unplug your coffee brewer and take it with you on a hike up a mountain into the wilderness, you should not be surprised that your machine doesn't work when you get to the top of the mountain-without electricity. That is what trying to "borrow" beliefs and practices from Orthodox Christianity for us outside of the wholeness of the Orthodox Church is like.
Christians must not be double-minded, holding some views in harmony with the Mind of the Church alongside other views contrary to the Mind of the Church. Oil and water do not mix. If I say that I am an Orthodox Christian, you should be able to safely assume much about what I believe. You should also be able to assume how I strive to live, although, personally, I often fail in my attempts and, after repentance, find it necessary to change my thinking and realign my course. We must choose either the narrow Way of Christ that leads to Life or one of the many broad ways heading toward destruction. As the Didache, an early Christian writing, states: "There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways." We need to decide if we want to be Christians or be honest with ourselves that we are something else. If you want to be a Christian, be a Christian completely. Plunge your whole life down into the depths of the Mystery of the Church so that your life will be whole.
In a fallen, corruptible world, the Church remains the holy and pure hospital for all people. (Her treatment is indeed perfect, though her patients bear varying degrees of wellness.) As patients of the Great Physician, we seek healing as we also work to bring others to the One Who heals. Many of those in our society do not realize they are spiritually sick and furthermore, would be offended by the suggestion. Since they remain unaware that they are afflicted by the effects of death within, they do not seek the Physician.
If we are to bring healing to the world through the grace of the All-Holy Trinity we must live as strangers in this world while ministering to the people of the world. The Book of Hebrews reminds us of the Holy Prophets of the Old Testament times, who, like the Saints of the New Testament, endured persecution because of their unwavering faithfulness to God and boldness to proclaim the way of repentance and healing.
"They were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented-of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:35-38).
We have received the Holy Tradition of the Holy Apostles into our most unworthy hands. Our calling as Christians, who presume to bear the Name of Christ, is the same as the Prophets and Saints who have gone before us, preserving and passing on, even to the shedding of blood, the fullness of the Faith from generation to generation. When we live and work within our Secular culture as Orthodox Christians, we can expect conflict because our Way is not the way of the world. Our ancestors were brutally tortured and martyred in old pagan cultures because they stood bearing the Light of Truth in the dark shadows of spiritual ignorance and delusion. May we stand as they stood with such unwavering boldness. Let's proclaim with our whole lives the words we periodically pray at the service of Vespers:
"Though You were arrested, O Christ, by the law-breakers, You still remain my God, and, therefore, I am not denying You-or nailed upon the Cross, I shall not hide it, for in Your Resurrection do I glory, for Your death is my life, O Almighty One and Lover of mankind, O Lord, glory to You! (Octoechos, Tone 7).
Briefly, to those of you who are immersed in Secularism, permit me to offer you the same invitation the Orthodox have offered on behalf of the Living Resurrected Christ for two millennia: Open the door of your heart. Through humility, let in the God Who gives your Life, Who knows you completely, and Who loves you unconditionally. Learn what He has accomplished for you and desires to give you. He knocks on the door of the heart, but, respecting the free will He has given us, God waits for us to open it.
Do not misunderstand the Orthodox Way: Our Holy Tradition is rich with liturgical services, sacred art, lyrical chanting, sweet-smelling incense, dogmatic prose, and theological poetry. An outsider who does not understand the Way may misunderstand this fullness as a series of unnecessarily complex ritualistic exercise. One who knows the Orthodox Way deeply, however, experiences all these external expressions as guides that lead toward the healing of the soul within and as outward expressions of the inner life. The outward expression is inseparable from the personal interior life, that is the inner life of humility before God and our fellow human beings, love of God and others, repentance from sin that causes sickness, prayer of the mind and heart, peace inside and outside, patience in the midst of chaos, and simple obedience that produces harmony both within the soul and in our relationships. These things rest at the heart of the Orthodox Christian Way of Life.
One of the most significant turning-points in my own life was when I, having two degrees in religion, found myself standing before the very Church of the Holy Bible. I had considered myself a member of the Church (from my Protestant perspective), but there I stood outside the doors of the actual Church described in the Acts of the Apostles. I stood there as an outsider looking in. Once a man finds the One and Only Church in the world established by Jesus Christ Himself, that man, if he desires to be a Christian, has nowhere else to go. How could I say that I am a Christian, and reject Christ's own Church? I had been looking for the "right Church for me," and I discovered the right Church for everybody. Instead of joining a congregation that believed what I already believed, I found the necessity to change many of my own preconceived notions so that I believed what was in harmony with Truth and the Way of salvation. I hope that you will have the ears to hear and eyes to see these words. Seek a deeper experience of God, learn the Orthodox Way, and enter into Christ's Holy Church for the glory of God, for your own salvation, and for the benefit of all.
From the ashes, let us rise and soar to the heights. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
(Source: Father Symeon serves as the associate pastor of Saint George Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas).
Personal Comment: I hope you realized that the article that I have shared with you for a number days now was written by Father Symeon, a convert to Orthodoxy from Protestantism. Father Symeon is one of many of our fellow Orthodox Christians who truly understands the Faith and are willing to witness this Faith with all.
It is my intention to bring to you such profound spiritual articles from objective sources and not from someone who may be thought of as a fanatic and extremist. The important thing is that those who take the Holy Orthodox Christian faith for granted, to learn from new Orthodox Christians who sought out the Truth and the Authentic and Only True Church of Christ, Our Lord, God, and Savior.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God