Holiness: Man's Supreme Destiny (Part 2)

St. Philemon

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


O Lord, You Who have measured heights and the earth in the hollow of Your hand, and created the six-winged Seraphim to cry out to You with an unceasing voice Holy, Holy, Holy, Glory to Your Name. Deliver me from the mouth of the evil one, O Master. Forget my many evil deeds and through the multitude of Your compassion grant me daily forgiveness, for You are Blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.


On February 19th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Apostles, Philemon and Archippos of the 70; Saint Philothea of Athens; Saint Niketas the Younger, holy Martyr Apphia.

THE HOLY APOSTLES ARCHIPPUS, PHILEMON AND APPHIA. Saint Archippus was one of the Seventy. The holy Apostle Paul mentions him in his Epistles to the Colossians (4:17) and to Philemon (2), calling him his fellow-soldier in the battle. The Christians' gathering-place for prayer in the town of Colossae was in the house of Philemon. The holy Apostle Paul, writing to St. Philemon, calls this "the Church in thy house". This was in the time when the holy Apostles were consecrating their disciples to the Episcopate--some to permanent sees and other as missionaries, traveling to various places. Saint Philemon was one of these latter. Saint Apphia, St. Philemon's wife, remained to serve the house-church (E Kat' Oikon ecclesia) with fasting. At the time of a feast of the pagan goddess Artemis, all the faithful in Colossae were, as was their custom, gathered at prayer in the house of Philemon. The pagans came to hear of this gathering, rushed in on them and seized all the Christians. They flogged Saint Archippus, Saints Philemon and Apphia as their leaders, then buried them up to the waist in the ground and stoned them. Saints Philemon and Apphia died of this, but they took Saint Archippus out of the hole barely alive and left him for the children to play with. They took knives and stabbed him all over, and thus this fellow-soldier of Saint Paul in the battle made a good end of this earthly road.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy and Great Martyrs, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Peter 3:10-22
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 12:18-27


"How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the Living God." (Psalm 84:1-2).

by Constantine Cavarnos

Striving for Holiness (Part II.)

Saint Cosmas Aitolos (+1714-1779) has spoken eloquently and emphatically about the importance of participating regularly in the holy services of the Church. In one of his sermons he says the following: "Do not separate yourselves form Christ and the Church. Go to Church to listen attentively to the Orthros (Matins). Similarly, attend the Divine Liturgy…whoever, my brethren, hears the bells of the Church and is slothful to go to Church shall be drowned in sin. The priest is the herald of the ark. The Church is an ark. Those brethren who worship in Church will be forgiven their sins and they will not be drowned by their faults."

In the process of striving for victory over the passions and vices and the acquisition of the virtues, the virtues continuously grow and render us more and more "in the likeness of God." According to the Orthodox teaching, all men are "in the image of God," because all have a soul that possesses the faculty of reason and that of free choice and self-control, and is endowed with immortality; but only those are "in likeness of God" who have achieved victory over the passions and vices and have acquired all the virtues.

When an individual has attained to the state of purity and likeness to God, "while still in the flesh," as Saint John Climacos remarks, "he has God dwelling within him as his ruler in all his words, and deeds, and thoughts, and through illumination he apprehends the will of God as a sort of inner voice, and becomes superior to every human teaching. "He no longer lives himself, but Christ lives in him," as he who fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the Faith, says.

Very high as this level of holiness or spiritual perfection is, it is not the ultimate limit of man's spiritual perfection. Saint John Climacos speaks of "the unfinished perfection of the perfect (he teleia ton teleion atelestos teleiotes)." And Symeon the New Theologian says in this connection the following: "Through a clear revelation from Above the Saints know that in fact their perfection is endless, their progress in glory will be eternal, that in them there will be a continual increase in Divine radiance, and that an end to their progress will never occur."

Similar statements appear in the Ladder of Divine Ascent, in the treatise Concerning Perfection of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, in the Philokalia, and in other Patristic writings. Such passages are quite in accord with the statement, of our Lord Jesus Christ that "Whosoever hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundance."

Saint Nectarios of Aegina introduces his counsel by saying that God created man "in His image" in order to render us partakers of His goodness. Dwelling on the significance of the phrase "in the image of God," Saint Nectarios says that this implies that love for God and neighbor is innate in our heart. It is the first law of Christian ethics.

Our love for God, he counsels, following Christ's teaching, must be with our whole soul, with our whole heart, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our love for our neighbor must be similar to our love for ourselves.

From this innate law of love spring, according to our Saint, the laws of love of "beautiful, the good, the true, and the just." Consequently, he continues, in order for a person to make progress spiritually and to become a partaker of Divine goodness and blessedness, he must observe these laws of love.

The observance of these laws, remarks Saint Nectarios, is directly related to conscience (syneidesis). This important faculty prompts us to observe with strictness the Commandments of God. Whether we do so or not is ascertained by self-examination. For this reason, he advises the practice of daily self-examination. He says:

"Examine your heart and discover its moral state. Does it condemn you for the transgression of moral laws? Does it protest because you suppress it? Does it censure you for having neglected your duties? Do you observe in your heart any vices, faults, passions, or bad thoughts?"

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George