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.
Let All Things Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament!
Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
On February 21st Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Father, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Timothy of Symvola; Saint John the Scholastic, Patriarch of Constantinople; Saint Efstathios (Eustathios), Archbishop of Antioch; Saint Zachariah, Patriarch of Jerusalem; Saint George, bishop of Amastris; "Kozelshchanskaya" holy and miraculous Icon of the Mother of God.
KOZELSHCHANSKAYA HOLY AND MIRACULOUS ICON OF THE THEOTOKOS. This Holy Icon was originally from 18th century Italy, and in the 19th century it was a valued possession of Count Vladimir Kapnist in the Russian village of Kozelschina. In 1880, the Count's daughter Maria dislocated a foot. It was placed in a cast and diagnosed as not very serious. But then her other foot became twisted, and then both shoulders and a hip were dislocated, and she developed pain in her spine. She also lost feeling in her hands and feet. Doctors and remedies could not help her. Maria's mother suggested that they pray before the family icon of the Mother of God that had long been known as wonderworking. It was the custom to clean its cover before praying. Maria did this, and she held the holy icon to her bosom and poured out all her sorrow to the Theotokos. Suddenly, she felt her strength return and the feeling to her hands and legs. The family took the holy icon to Moscow where it attracted crowds and caused more healings. When they returned home, they placed it in a temporary chapel where services of thanksgiving and Akathist were served every day, and finally a chapel was built on the grounds of the estate in 1882 to house it. In 1885 a women's Monastery was established there.
+By the holy intercessions of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:1-5
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 12:38-44
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND MEDITATION
"All the demons teach the soul to love pleasure; only the demon of dejection refrains from doing this since he corrupts the thoughts of those he enters by cutting off every pleasure of the soul and drying it up through dejection." (+ Evagrios the Solitary)
SALVATION AS AN EXPERIENCE OF THE FAITHFUL
by Bishop Gerasimos (Papadopoulos) of blessed memory [source: Orthodoxy: Faith and Life]
Please note: Bishop Gerasimos of Avydou taught at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology/Hellenic College as a resident scholar and spiritual father. All who had the blessing to know him benefited from his profound spirituality, his unshakable faith, his deep understanding of human nature, his lively sense of humor, and his mere presence as a living Orthodox Christian witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Bishop Gerasimos served our Holy Archdiocese since 1952 when he was appointed Professor of New Testament Studies which he taught until 1967. Born in Corinth, Greece, he became a member of the monastic community of the Skete of Saint Anna, Mount Athos. Later he studied theology at the University of Athens, did post graduate work in Germany and at Boston University, and served as spiritual father of the student hostel of the Church of Greece of Greece at the Monastery of Petrake.
Consecrated a bishop in 1962, he served Boston until 1967 when he was transferred to Pittsburgh. His Grace was my Professor of New Testament and was someone whom we loved and respected. What I remember clearly was that practically every sermon he gave was about agape (love). May his memory be eternal!
The heart of our faith is salvation. Salvation is the work of God in Christ and cannot be described easily in rational terms. Salvation is a state of life in God: it is life in its most sublime form and meaning, and only those who experience it existentially know its depth and height. From certain expressions of the great men of faith we can see that salvation is lived as an experience of forgiveness of sins, justification, reconciliation, adoption, knowledge of God, communion with God, and life eternal.
Forgiveness of sins. The first thing which the believer feels is the forgiveness of his sins. Since the time of the Original Fall, man is weak, he errs, sins against God, and the burden of guilt weighs upon his soul unless, of course, he is spiritually callous. Sin is the egotistic tendency in man to be separated from God, to remain alone and independent in the world. Man, however, has been created to live with God, and his isolation from God makes life a hell and brings about spiritual death. This is the fall--the isolation of man from God, man's turning to the finite world and not to God. Faith, repentance and forgiveness of sins reunite us to God, the source of our life. We have seen how Saint Paul describes the struggle of man against the tyranny of sin. "O, wretched man that I am!" (Romans 6:12-8:1). In Christ man saw the forgiving love of God Who came to help us in our infirmity. In the life and death of Christ our sins are forgiven. This reality has been epegrammatically enshrined by Saint Luke in the prayer of Christ: "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (St. Luke 23:34). And God does forgive, if we only believe "that Christ died for our sins" and if we only gratefully accept His love.
The forgiveness of our sins in Christ is the central teaching of our Church. This is why Christ came. This is why He founded His Church (St. Matthew 16:19, 18:18; St. Luke 24:47; St. John 20:23). For this forgiveness we pray most particularly in the Divine Liturgy. For this forgiveness we have the Sacrament of Confession. Confession is like a second Baptism, the healing Sacrament, the clinic of the soul. In Christ are sins are forgiven; we are relieved of the burden of guilt. We become spiritually alight, and with the help of Divine Grace continue our effort for a holier life. Confession is the true psychotherapy and salvation of man. A priceless gift is missed by those who ignore this Sacrament in which God continues to work out our salvation in the Church.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Ephesians 2:11-22
Another emotion which the believer experiences as a consequence of the forgiveness of his or her sins is reconciliation with God. Sin keeps man apart from God (Isaiah 6; St. Luke 5:8; Genesis 3:8-11). With the remission of our sins we can again approach and experience His love and His peace. Saint Paul gives a classic description of this reconciliation as the work of God in Christ and in His Church in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. God implores us to be reconciled with Him. He thirsts for our reconciliation!
This is why God sent His Son, why He founded His Church--for our reconciliation and peace with God. The first greeting of the Resurrected Christ was "Peace be with you." It is a greeting of peace par excellence which passes all understanding. It is with this greeting of peace that He greets all the believers in his letters. He emphasizes peace as the most important mark of Christian life, particularly in times of personal and social distress as in his time and our own (Ephesians 2:11-22; Phil. 4:7).
2 Corinthians 4:16-5.17; St. John 1:13, 3-8; Colossians 3:9-10
Another result of the believer's forgiveness of sins is spiritual regeneration. With repentance, faith, and baptism man feels a new radical change coming over him from within, a new personal cosmogony or creation. Christ said that one must be born from above in order to see and experience the Kingdom of God (St. John 1:12-13, 3:3-8). Saint Paul says that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature." By being in touch with Christ, in communion with God, one's whole personality is changed. The mind, the heart and the will are all purified. As the fathers say, man is "on fire" with divine love and becomes Christ-like. Man restores the "image" of God which he had distorted with sin and attains the "divine likeness" which Adam from the beginning was destined to reach.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God