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 MORNING PRAYER
[Saint Paisios the Great]
O Lord Jesus Christ, my God, give me a good, sinless, and spotless day. O Lord, forsake me not. O Lord, do not stand afar off from me O Lord, stretch out to me a helping hand. O Lord, support me with the fear of You. O Lord, plant this fear and the love for You in my heart. O Lord, teach me to do Your will. O Lord, grant mourning and humility to my heart. O Lord, give me unceasing tears, compunction, and remembrance of death. O Lord, free me from every temptation of soul and body. O Lord, expel from me every unclean thought, and every shameful and improper imagination. O Lord, wipe out of me the negligence, the indolence, the sorrow, the forgetfulness, the insensitivity, the hardness, and the captivity of my mind. O Lord, have mercy on me, as You know and as You wish, and forgive all my transgressions. And grant that my pitiful soul may depart from my wretched body in quietude, in good repentance, in unhesitating confession, and in pure and spotless faith. Amen.
On February 20th of 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; Saint Leo, Bishop of Catania; Saint Agathos, Pope of Rome; Saint Vessarion the Great; Hieromarty Sadok.
SAINT LEO, BISHOP OF CATANIA. Beneath Mount Etna the volcano, in the town of Catania, Saint Leo was a good shepherd and compassionate teacher of the people. He had great care for the sick and poor, and both his zeal for the Faith and his compassion for the needy were great. There appeared one day in that town a magician called Heliodoros, who deluded the people with many illusions and greatly seduced the young. He once entered a church during divine services and began his tricks. Saint Leo came up to him, bound him with one end of his pallium and led him out to the market place. There he ordered that a great fire be kindled. When it was burning fiercely he stood among the flames and pulled Heliodoros to him. Heliodoros was completely burned up, but Saint Leo remained alive and unharmed. All who had been taken in by Heliodoros, and who had regarded him as in some way divine, were put to shame by this. The compassionate and zealous Leo became known throughout the whole kingdom as a wonder-worker, helping people by his miracles. When he had finished his course, some time in the 8th century, his soul went to the Lord and healing myrrh flowed from his holy relics.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Fathers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: I Peter 4:1-11
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 12:28-37
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"The one who believes in the Lord fears punishment; the one who fears punishment becomes master of his passions; the one who becomes master of his passions patiently endures tribulations; the one who patiently endures tribulations will have hope in God; hope in God separates from every earthly attachment; and when the mind is separated from this it will have love for God". [Saint Maximos the Confessor]
by Bishop Gerasimos (Papadopoulos) of Avydou [source: Orthodoxy: Faith and Life]
Christian faith is not simply rational knowledge and confession of Christian truth. Christian faith is really itself, a personal experience of a divine reality. Faith means the acknowledgment that one is not independent in life, that one cannot be saved alone with his works, his wealth, and his knowledge. One cannot live one's life fully in a world where imperfection, corruption, sin, and death reign. Therefore, a person acknowledges the Christ of the Gospel as the only personal Savior, Lord and God and with absolute confidence lets Him guide his life, to work out his salvation and eternal life.
This living faith must be a lifelong experience; our life itself must be a life of faith. Every moment of our life God calls us to faith, through the beauty of nature, the prophets, the gospel, the Church, Christ. Everywhere we hear the whisper of His voice in our hearts, and our heart must always respond with a "yes" to the voice of God. Faith is a continual obedience to the voice of God. Man must continually leave the world and go to God.
The faithful person, who has known Christ as Savior, ceases to live for himself; he lives for Christ. Before the love and power he has found in Christ everything else fades away: wealth, knowledge, glories, achievements--everything is considered refuse and detriment if they become an obstacle to being with Christ (Phil.3:4-11). In Christ the believers see all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:1-5). Christ becomes that most valuable pearl, so dearly desired that a person will sell everything in order to be able to possess it (St. Matthew 13:44-46). The believer is one who is ready to be released from every other obligation in order to be able to follow Christ and to have eternal life (St. Luke 18:18-30). The faithful will renounce everything in order to make room in his heart for Christ. He will say with Saint Paul: "For through the law I died to the law so that I live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:19-20).
Living faith is the most important work. Where such faith, as described by Holy Scripture exists, it is unnecessary to ask if works are required. Faith itself is the most important work anyone can do for salvation. In all of our works of love we give something of our possessions, of ourselves. With living faith, as the Apostles lived it, we give our whole being to Christ together with all of our treasures, and Christ sanctifies us and all the works we undertake to do in His Name. This is why great men and women of faith emphasize so much the value of faith for salvation. True faith as complete commitment to God is the only sacrifice we can offer to God. This is the Sacrifice Christ offered for all of us and this is why He can save us.
Faith is living salvation. Faith, then, is the main means of salvation. Yet, if we look at faith a little more deeply, we will see that faith is salvation itself. When a person attains faith in Christ in its highest form, then he is actually living his salvation; he lives the life of righteousness, reconciled and saved, he lives as a son/daughter of God. Salvation is precisely this life of faith, of peace and of absolute confidence in the love of God, with a personal communion with Christ. "The righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:16-17). There is no other form of real life than the life of faith, or life near God.
It is true that with faith we look toward the future for perfection of our salvation. Nothing is perfect in this world of imperfection. Here everything lives and exists potentially. The whole world is becoming. Faith, however, can mystically live the future in the present life. Faith, in its sublime form, can see here in this life the invisible realities and can be certain of what we do not yet see (Hebrews 11:1). The believer lives his salvation in Christ here on earth and is constantly working to achieve perfection in the future. He is continually becoming that which he already is relatively. He is already a Saint in Christ but he is continually sanctifying himself through virtue and faith. If one does not have a foretaste of holiness here on earth, he is not likely to find it in the future life. The believer lives here the joy of a son and this is why he can pray "Our Father Who art in heaven..." He lives here as a prince and says, "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," and therefore he can also say, "Thy Kingdom come." He feels here that God has raised us out of death into life in Christ; he has made us Saints--"For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves" (Col. 1:13-14). This is why the believer can also live with the hope of the heavenly glory and Kingdom. With the Incarnation, the Cross, the Resurrection and Pentecost, the eschatological new life; the life of divine grace in the Holy Spirit, was inaugurated. The life of the Church is a foretaste on earth of God's heavenly Kingdom. This could be the one thousand year reign of Christ and the Saints John envisioned in the book of Revelation (20:4-6).
The Power of Faith
With an existential, empirical and dynamic mountain-moving faith the Apostles successfully transmitted to the world the gospel of reconciliation, the word of the Cross-a scandal for the Jews who looked for signs, and foolishness to the Greeks who looked for wisdom, but "the power of God and the wisdom of God" for those who are to be saved. Their certainty of salvation and the testimony of the Holy Spirit that they were "sons of God," "called" and "sent" by God gave the Christians the typical characteristics of joy and triumph, in spite of the many griefs they knew from public disdain and the persecutions by Jews and Romans. They challenged the world to believe, and the Gospel actually conquered the world; the world was won for Christ.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God