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 PRAYER FOR THE HOLY NATIVITY OF CHRIST
(Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain)
Jesus, Son of the Father without a mother in Your Divinity, I glorify You, ever existing beyond cause and reason in the beginning.
Jesus, Son of the Mother without a father in Your humanity, I glorify You, Who became in time a human person for us.
Jesus, Immanuel unchangeable, Angel of the Great Will of God, I thank You for Your boundless love for us.
Jesus, innocent Lamb of God, I confess to You, and admit that I am the lost sheep.
Jesus, Most Compassionate Paraclete, make the grace of Your Spirit active in me.
Jesus, the New Adam, remove from me the old man and put on me the new one, that is You.
Jesus, You condescended and came to earth, make me worthy to live not as if on earth but as if in heaven.
Jesus, by nature You became a human person, make me by grace to be a particular of Your Divinity.
O Jesus, my life and my breath, come to visit me and remain with me. Amen.
On December 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: The Conception by Saint Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos; Holy Prophetess Anna (Hannah), mother of the Holy Prophet Samuel; Saint Stephen the 'New Light' of Constantinople; Saint Narses of Persia; New Holy Martyr Priest Sergius Mechiev of Moscow (+1941); Saint Sositheos of Persia; Holy Martyr Isaac; Consecration of the Church of the Resurrection in the Holy City.
THE CONCEPTION OF SAINT ANNA, THE MOTHER OF THE THEOTOKOS. THE CONSECRATION OF THE CHURCH OF THE RESURRECTION IN THE HOLY CITY. According to the ancient tradition of the Church, since Saint Anna, the Ancestor of God, was barren, she and her husband Joachim remained without children until old age. Therefore, sorrowing over their childlessness, they besought God with a promise that, if He were to grant them the fruit of the womb, they would offer their offspring to Him as a gift. And God, hearkening to their supplication, informed them through an Angel concerning the birth of the Virgin. And thus, through God's promise, St. Anna conceived according to the laws of nature, and was deemed worthy to become the mother of the Mother of our Lord. The Theotokos (Mother of God) was born nine months later. At the age of three, she was taken to the temple to live a life dedicated to God.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Saint. Fourth Tone
Today the bonds of childlessness are loosed; for God hearkened to Joachim and Anna. And though it was beyond hope, He clearly born the Uncircumscribable One Himself Who became a mortal, and through an Angel commanded them to cry unto her: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace; the Lord is with thee.
The majestic Church of the Resurrection, built by Saint Constantine the Great and his mother Helen, was consecrated in the year 336 A.D. In the year 614 A.D., this edifice was destroyed by the Persians, who set fire to it. Modestos, the Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Monastery of Saint Theodosius, and later Patriarch of Jerusalem, rebuilt the church in 626 A.D. and had it re-consecrated. In 637 A.D., Jerusalem fell to the Moslems; however, the holy shrines were left intact. But in 934 A.D., on the Sunday of Pascha, the Saracens set fire to part of this church. Again in 969 A.D., the Moslems set fire to the dome of the church, plundered all the sacred objects that were found therein, and surrendered John IV, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, to the flames. In 1010 A.D., the Moslems, under Hakim the Mad, Caliph of Egypt, destroyed the church of its foundations, but in 1028 A.D., by the mediation of Emperor Romanus III Argyrus of Constantinople, the church began to be rebuilt on a more modest scale. This third edifice was completed and reconstructed in 1048 A.D. In 1099 A.D. the Latin Crusaders took Jerusalem and ruled there for 84 years, and during this time they made certain changes in the structure, which, for the most part, has remained unaltered ever since.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Consecration. Fourth Tone
Thou has shown the earthly beauty of the holy tabernacle of Thy glory to be like unto the splendor of the heavenly firmament, O Lord. Strengthen it forever and ever, and accept our prayers which we unceasingly offer therein unto Thee, through the Theotokos, O Thou Who art Life and Resurrection of all.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 4:22-27
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 8:16-21
WRITINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"If anyone has the temerity to say that Christ is a Divinely Inspired man instead of saying that He is Truly God since He is by nature a single Son, in that the Logos (Word) became flesh and shared in flesh and blood like us, let him be anathema...Christ Himself said about the holy Prophets or the Righteous who preceded Him: 'If he called them gods to whom the Word of God came, do you say of Him Whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, "You are blaspheming," because I said, "I am the Son of God"?' (St. John 10:35-36). But God does not dwell in Christ in the same way as he does in us. For Christ was God by nature, Who became like us. He was the one and only Son even when He became flesh. Those who have the temerity to say that He was God-bearing man instead of saying that He was God made man inevitably incur this anathema". (Saint Cyril of Alexandria)
THE GLORIFICATION OF SAINTS
by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
Witness of the Early Church
It is known from history that prayer meetings were held in honor of the martyrs as early as the first quarter of the Second Century. In all probability, they were begun in the period immediately following the first persecution of the Christians by the pagan Roman emperor Nero. It is apparent that no special ecclesiastical decree was required to authorize the prayerful veneration of this or that particular martyr. A martyr's death itself testified to the reception of a heavenly crown. But the numbering of departed bishops and ascetics among the choir of the saints was done individually, and was naturally carried out on the basis of each one's personal worthiness. (This where we left off I believe).
It is impossible to give a general answer as to which criteria the Church employed for recognition of saints belonging to this third classification. As regards the ascetics in particular, without a doubt the fundamental, general basis of their glorification was and still is the working of miracles. This is because supernatural evidence is free from human whim or bias...
The ancient Church's glorification of holy hierarchs (bishops) should be viewed somewhat differently. Their lofty service itself was the basis of their glorification, just as the martyrs' holy ends were for them. In the Carthaginian Calendar, which dates from the 7th century, there is the superscription: "Here are recorded the birthdays (i.e., the dates of martyrdom) of the martyr and the days of the repose of the bishops whose annual commemoration the Church of Carthage celebrates."
The names of all departed bishops were entered in the local diptychs--the lists of the departed which were read aloud at the divine services, and every year, on the date of the repose of each of them, their commemoration was kept with special solemnity. Sozomen, the church historian, states that in individual churches or dioceses, the celebrations of their local martyrs and the commemoration of their former priests (i.e., their bishops) were observed. Herein he uses the term "celebration" in reference to the memory of the martyrs, but "commemoration" in reference to the bishops, leaving it to be understood that in the ancient Church the latter events (if one may speak of an overall plan and not of individual cases) were of lesser stature than the former...According to the testimony of St. Symeon of Thessaloniki, from the earlier times in Constantinople the hierarchs were interred within the sanctuary of the largest church, that of the Holy Apostles, like the holy relics of the saints, because of the Grace of the Divine Priesthood.
In the Greek Orthodox Church, until the 11th century, only a very few of the choir of hierarchs were saints universally venerated throughout the entire Church. The greater portion of the hierarchs remained local saints of the individual Churches (i.e., diocese), and each individual diocese/Church celebrated only its own local hierarchs, with a very small number of hierarchs venerated universally throughout the Church.
In local Churches (dioceses) the right to recognize individuals as saints belonged to their bishops and their clergy or officials subject to their authority. It is also quite possible that the bishops did not perform such an act without the knowledge and consent of the Metropolitan and the Synod of bishops of the Metropolitan province. At times the laity determined beforehand the future glorification of ascetics, even while the latter were still alive, and in witness of their determination erected churches dedicated to such ascetics, apparently in the certainty that the blessing of the hierarchy would be forthcoming.
MARTYRS AND ASCETICS
Under Turkish rule, the Greek Church had no small number of martyrs who were put to death for their exceptional zeal for the Christian faith and for publicly denouncing Islam. The later Greek Church, and the Universal Church with her, has regarded and continues to accept her martyrs just as the ancient Church regarded the martyrs of the early Christian era, acknowledging martyrdom as sufficient foundation for glorification, irrespective of the gift of working miracles, although miracles did have a place in many cases.
As before, in the Eastern Church the criterion that had to be met for the glorification of ascetics, be they hierarchs or monastics, was the gift of workings miracles. Patriarchs Nectarius of Jerusalem (reigned 1661-1669 A.D.), gives lucid testimony concerning this he writes: "Three things witness to true sanctity: 1) irreproachable Orthodoxy, 2) perfection in all the virtues, which are crowned by standing up for the faith, even unto the shedding of one's blood, and finally 3) the manifestation by God of supernatural signs and wonders (miracles)." In addition to this, Patriarch Nectarius indicates that at that time, when abuses in reporting miracles and virtues were common occurrences, yet often other signs were required, i.e., the incorruption of bodies or a fragrance emanating from the bones (holy relics).
The act of numbering among the choirs of the saints is, for the most part, combined with the uncovering of relics of the righteous one who is being glorified. In these cases one must then distinguish three specific acts. The examination of the relics may be reckoned as one of the actions that precede the act of glorification, on par with the verification of the accounts of his miracles. The follows the Synodal decision concerning the glorification. In our day, the solemn removal of the relics is usually one of the first sacred actions in the realization of the act of the glorification which will take place. With the removal of the relics and the enshrining of them in a specially prepared place in a church, the prayerful commemoration in honor of the newly-glorified favorite of God begins. However, the presence of relics and their actual uncovering are not absolutely essential to a glorification. The relics of many saints have not been preserved. As regards the relics of a considerable number of ancient saints, certain constitute entire bodies-- bones with flesh; others--bones devoid of flesh.
From all that has been said, we may draw several conclusions. Essentially, according to the understanding of the Church and according to the principles of the glorification of saints, the glorification of saints, has always been the same in the Orthodox Church. In these questions, the Eastern Orthodox Churches of the Second Millennium have followed the tradition of the Church of the First Millennium and its ancient period...The glorification of the saints consisted and consists of a general statement of faith by the Church that God Himself has united the departed one to the assembly of His saints. This faith is founded on the facts of a death by martyrdom, or upon a righteous life which is apparent to the whole church, or upon the glorification of the saint of God by instances of wonderworking (miracle-working) during his lifetime or at this tomb. Glorification is usually an expression of the voice of the people of the Church, to whom the higher ecclesiastical authority, after due verification, gives synodically the final word, establishment, recognition, confirmation and the sanction of the Church.
The glorification of the saints is among the most important activities of the Church. In its basic, elementary aspect, glorification consists of turning from prayers "for the dead" to requests for a saint's intercession before God, and in his prayerful glorification by services from the general Menaio or with specially composed services. The glorification of a saint and the uncovering of his holy relics do not constitute a single, inseparable act, although they often are performed together. The Orthodox Church does not maintain that it is essential that a fixed period of time pass between the repose of a righteous man and his numbering among the choir of the saints, as if accepted in the Roman confession, which has instituted a period of several decades (usually fifty years from the date of death for "beatification," a process which corresponds roughly to local veneration, and eighty years for canonization). [Personal observation: This Latin tradition has changed recently with the beatification of Pope John Paul in a much shorter time].
In the miracles worked through the prayers or at the tombs of the righteous of God, the Orthodox Church sees the will of God in the glorification of these strugglers. When no such signs exist, the Church does not see the will of God in their solemn glorification, as one of the resolutions of Patriarch Adrian of Moscow (reigned 1690-1700) expresses in regard to a certain request for glorification: "If our Lord God, the Creator of all, glorifieth anyone in this life, and after his death declareth this to His people through many miracles of this person become clearly known, for many holy wonderworkers were found in the Holy Church, whose memories the Church always hymns and their relics it contains. They that are not known, whom God Almighty Himself hath not been well pleased to glorify with signs and wonders, even if such lived righteously and in a holy manner, are not such as the Church glorifieth. The names of many are not remembered, and the whole world cannot contain the books of their names that could be written."
[Source: Missionary Leaflet. Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church. Editor: Archmandrite Alexander (Mileant)]
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God