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 ΜΕΣ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A PRAYER FOR THE PEACE OF THE WORLD
(from the Great Euchologion)
O Lord our God, who can be compared with You? Who is even similar to You among the gods? What god is as great as our God, Who is abundant in mercy and benevolent in strength to bring consolation and salvation to all of us?
This is why we pray to You, O God, this day, not to be silent at a time when we hear the sounds of war and threats from the mighty ones of the earth. Forgive, O Most Loving God, forgive and show mercy. You are a Most Compassionate and Merciful Lord and will not chastise us in Your wrath nor instruct us in Your anger. Otherwise we would revert back to the chaos at the beginning before we came into existence. During these difficult times be with us. Lord our God, make us strong for we have placed our hope in You and are fortified in and encouraged by Your Name. May Your word be confirmed, Lord, which You spoke to us that You will be with us always even to the end of the age. May the hopes of the Christians be raised up high, and may those who threaten us with wars and battles be terrified, shamed and scattered, and may their power be destroyed and their dominion be no more. And they will all know indeed that Your Name is the Lord, that You alone are the Most High over all the earth.
May You be glorified, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
On December 11th 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: Venerable Daniel the Stylite of Constantinople; St. Mirax of Egypt; Saint Barsabas, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Ishtar and 10 companion martyrs in Persia; Saint Aeithalas and Acpsius at Arbela; Saint Nikon the Dry of the Kiev Caves; New Holy Hieromartyr Theophan of Solikamsk; St. Kuksha, hieroschemamonk of Odessa (+1964); Holy Martyrs Terence, Vincent, Emilian, and Bebaia; Saint Leontius, of Monemvasia in the Peloponnesus; Saint Luke the New holy Stylite of Chalcedon; All Saints of Georgia.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
VENERABLE DANIEL THE STYLITE OF CONSTANTINOPLE. Saint Daniel was born in Mesopotamia in the 5th century to barren parents who tearfully prayed for a child. They dedicated him to God, and at age twelve he became a monk not far from his home. He later became an Egoumenos (Abbot). En route to the holy places in Jerusalem, Daniel and several monks stopped at the pillar of Saint Symeon the Stylite. He blessed them and invited Daniel to climb his rope ladder. Symeon foretold that Daniel would also live atop a pillar. As the group continued their journeys, Daniel was instructed in a vision to go instead to Constantinople. From there, he went to live in an abandoned pagan temple. He suffered many attacks by the demons, but he endured them through prayer and the sign of the Cross. The people of the city went to Daniel for his prayers, but the priests became jealous saying that he had preempted their authority. They complained to Patriarch Anatolius, who summoned Daniel for questioning. He examined him, embraced him, and gave Daniel his blessing. When the patriarch became sick, Daniel went and prayed for him, and he quickly became well. When Saint Symeon the Stylite died, his disciple delivered the saint's robe to Daniel, saying that it was Symeon's hope that Daniel would choose to live on a pillar. He chose a pillar just outside the city of Constantinople. He attracted many pilgrims, including kings, patriarchs, princes, and nobles. He foretold his own death, at the age of 84.
TODAY'S SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 8:30-34
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Obedience leads to humility, humility to discernment, discernment to vision, vision to clairvoyance." (+Elder Porphyrios the Kavsokalivite)
PARADISE AND HELL IN THE ORTHODOX TRADITION
by Father George Metallinos, former Dean of the Athens University School of Theology
(4) The important thing, however, is that not all people respond to this invitation of Christ, and that is why not everyone partakes in the same way of His Uncreated Glory. This is taught by Christ, in the Parable of the rich man and the poor Lazarus (St. Luke, Ch. 16). Man refuses Christ's offer, he becomes God's enemy and rejects the redemption offered by Christ (which is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for it is within the Holy Spirit that we accept the calling of Christ). This is the "never repentant" person referred to in the hymn. God "never bears enmity," the blessed Chrysostom observes; it is we who become His enemies; we are the ones who reject Him. The unrepentant person becomes demonized, because he has chosen to. God doesn't want this. Saint Gregory Palamas says: "...for this was not My pre-existing will; I did not create you for this purpose; I did not prepare the pyre for you. This undying pyre was pre-fired for the demons who bear the unchanging trait of evil, to whom your own unrepentant opinion attracted you." "The co-habitation with mischievous angels is arbitrary (voluntary)." In other words, it is something that is freely chosen by man.
Both the rich man and Lazarus were looking upon the same reality, i.e., God in His Uncreated Light. The rich man reached the Truth, the sight of Christ, but could not partake of it, as Lazarus did. The poor Lazarus received "consolation," whereas the rich man received "anguish." Christ's words that they: "have Moses and the Prophets"-for those still in the world-signifies that we are all inexcusable. Because we have the Saints, who have experienced theosis (deification) and who call upon us to accede to their way of life so that we too might reach theosis (deification) like they did. We therefore conclude that those who have chosen evil ways--like the rich man--are inexcusable.
Our stance towards our fellow man is indicative of our inner state, and that is why this will be the criterion of Judgment Day, during Christ's Second Coming. This does not imply that faith, or man's faithfulness to Christ is disregarded; faith is naturally a prerequisite, because our stance towards each other will show whether or not we have God within us.
(5) The experience of Paradise or Hell is beyond words or senses. It is an uncreated reality, not a created one. The Franks created the myth that Paradise and hell are both created realities. It is a myth. The Franks had also perceived the fires of hell as something created (e.g. Dante's Inferno). Orthodox Tradition has remained faithful to the Holy Scriptural claim that the damned shall see God (like the rich man of the Parable), but will perceive Him only as "an all-consuming fire." The Frankish scholastics accepted hell as punishment and the deprivation of a tangible vision of the divine essence. Biblically and patristically however, "hell" is understood as man's failure to collaborate with Divine Grace, in order to reach the "illuminating" view of God (Paradise) and selfless love. Consequently, there is no such thing as "God's absence," only His presence. That is why His Second Coming is dire ("O, what an hour it will be then," we chant in the Laudatory hymns). It is an irrefutable reality, toward which Orthodoxy is permanently oriented: "I anticipate resurrection of the dead..."
The damned-those who are depraved at heart, just like the Pharisees-eternally perceive the pyre of hell as their salvation! It is because their condition is not susceptible to any other form of salvation. They too are "finalized"-they reach the end of their road-but only the righteous reach the end of the road as saved persons. The others finish as damned. "Salvation" to them is hell, since in their lifetime, they pursued only pleasure. The rich man of the Parable had "enjoyed all of his riches." The poor Lazarus uncomplainingly endured "every suffering."
The Apostle Paul expresses this (1 Corinthians 3:13-15): "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. The righteous and the unrepentant shall both pass through the uncreated "fire" of divine presence, however, the one shall pass through unscathed, while the other shall be burnt. He too is "saved", but only in the way that one passes through a fire. Efthimios Zigavinos (a 12th century theologian) indicates: "God is fire that illuminates and brightens the pure, and burns and obscures the unclean." And Theodoritos Kyrou (regarding this "saving") writes: "One is also saved by fire, being tested by it," just as when one passes through fire. If he has an appropriate protective cover, he will not be burnt? Otherwise, he may be "saved," but he will be charred!
Consequently, the fire of hell has nothing in common with the Frankish "purgatory", nor is it created, nor is it punishment, or an intermediate state. A viewpoint such as this is virtually a transferal of one's accountability to God. The accountability is entirely our own, whether we choose to accept or reject the salvation (healing) that is offered by God. "Spiritual death" is the viewing of the Uncreated Light, of Divine Glory, as a pyre, as fire. Saint John Chrysostom in his 9th homily on Corinthians I notes: "Hell is never-ending... sinners shall be judged into a never-ending suffering. As for the 'being burnt altogether,' it means this: that he does not withstand the strength of the fire." And he continues: "And he (Saint Paul) says, it means this: "that he shall not be thus burnt also-like his works-into nothingness, but he shall continue to exist, only inside that fire. He therefore considers this as his 'salvation.' For it is customary for us to say 'saved in the fire,' when referring to materials that are not totally burnt away."
Scholastic perceptions-interpretations, which, through Dante's work (Inferno) have permeated our world, have consequences that amount to idolatrous views. An example is the separation of Paradise and hell as two different places. This has happened, because they did not distinguish between the created and the uncreated. Also, the denial of hell's eternity, with their idea of the "restoration" of everything, or the concept of a "good God". God is indeed Benevolent (St. Matthew 8:17), since He offers salvation to everyone. (He wants all to be saved…per 1 Timothy 2:4). However, the words of our Lord, as heard during the funeral service, are formidable: "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear I judge: and My judgment is just" On Chapter 5:30).
Equally manufactured is the concept of "theodicy," which applies in this case. Everything is finally attributed to God alone (i.e., if He intends to redeem or condemn), without taking into consideration man's "collaboration" as a factor of redemption. Salvation is possible, only within the framework of collaboration between and divine grace. According to the blessed Chrysostom, "the utmost, almost everything, is God's; He did however leave something little to us." That "little something" is our acceptance of God's invitation. The robber on the cross was saved "by using the key request of 'remember me'…"
Finally, idolatrous is also the perception of a God becoming outraged against a sinner, whereas we mentioned earlier that God "never shows enmity." This is a juridical perception of God, which also leads to the prospect of "penances" in confessions as forms of punishment, and not as medications (means of healing).
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia
The sinner and unworthy servant of God