Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
SAINT CALLISTOS AND IGNATIOS XANTHOPOULOS
On those who have chosen to live in prayerful quietude [Philokalia, vol. 4, p. 221f.)
"When you wish to pray, sit quietly in your cell, collect your mind and direct it inwardly by the way of breathing through which the breath enters into the area of the heart...
Keep the Jesus Prayer--'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me'--as a constant activity and a ceaseless meditation, and never cease from saying it. This work of prayer will keep your mind from being distracted, and will prove it to be not only invincible and untouched by the attacks of the enemy, but will also lead it toward the love and desire for God on a daily basis..."
On February 25th (a fast free week for all Orthodox Christians) Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of Your 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 Tarasius, Archbishop of Constantinople; Saint Reginus, Bishop of Skopelos; Saint Alexander at Drizipara of Thrace; Saint Theodore, fool-for-Christ; Saint Erasmus and Paphunutius of Kephala; Saint Marcellus, Bishop of Apamea in Syria; Holy Martyr Anthony; Holy Martyrs Alexander and Hypatius at Marcianopolis.
SAINT TARASIUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE. His predecessor, Patriarch Paul, secretly left the Patriarchal throne, retired to a monastery and received the Great Habit. This was during the reign of Irene and Constantine. By Paul's advice, Saint Tarasius, a Senator and advisor to the Emperor, was chosen as Patriarch in 784 A.D. He quickly passed through all the stages of ordination and became Patriarch. A man of great physical stature and great zeal for Orthodoxy, Saint Tarasius accepted this undesired state in order to help in the struggle of Orthodoxy against heresy, especially that of Iconoclasm. He was responsible for the summoning of the 7th Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 787 A. D., where the iconoclasts were condemned and the veneration of the holy icons was restored and confirmed. Saint Tarasius was very compassionate to the poor and indigent, building them shelters and feeding them, but he was decisive with those in power in the defense of faith and morals. When the Emperor Constantine divorced his lawful wife, Maria, and took a kinswoman to live with him, seeking the Patriarch's blessing to remarry, Saint Tarasius not only withheld his blessing, but first counseled and then reproached him, and finally excommunicated him. As death approached, those round him saw him answering the demons: 'I am not guilty of that sin, nor of that one', until he was incapable of speech. He then began defending himself with his arms, driving them away from him. As he breathed his last, his face shone as with the light of the sun. This truly great hierarch entered into rest in 806 A.D. He had governed the Church for 22 years and four months.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Patriarchs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Peter 1:20-21, 2:1-9
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 13:9-13
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND MEDITATION
"Be convinced and informed that every sin and hell itself, has as its beginning and root and center a bad thought; and again conversely, a bad thought is the beginning and root and center of every sin and of hell itself, because, just as a small pebble or rock, when it happens to fall into some well, first causes a small circle, then the small circle causes another large one, and the large one another larger one, and so on until it reaches the edge of the well. Likewise, an assault from one bad thought begets a passionate coupling with the thought; coupling begets consent; consent begets the act; the act begets habit; habit begets addiction; addiction begets unrepentance; unrepentance begets hell". (Saint Kikodemos the Hagiorite or of the Holy Mountain)
SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD
by His Grace, Bishop Gerasimos (Papadopoulos) of Avidou of blessed memory [source: Orthodoxy: Faith and Life]
The only way to be successful in spiritual struggle is to evaluate carefully life's needs and to give priority to spiritual values. "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" and together with these the other needs of life will be met. The Kingdom of God and the Person of Christ should be the desire of the heart, the precious pearl, for which we will be ready to give up everything. God and His will should be the desire of the soul. Before God everything takes second place; everything becomes useless and sometimes even "a loss" when we seek it apart from God. "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?"
THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF THE MIND AND THE HEART
The seat of virtue is the heart, and it is the heart which God judges. The thoughts and deeds which sanctify or pollute a person come from the heart (St. Mark 7:21-23). Man has been given the gift of being able to distinguish between good and evil, to will the good and to avoid the evil (Romans 2:14-16). With the Fall of Adam, however, the mind of man was darkened and his will weakened, so that while by nature he wants the good, many times he does the evil he does not want (Romans 7:18-25). Very often our mind is confused and our judgment distorted so that we overestimate things which are secondary in our life and overlook the more important ones. Sometimes our stubbornness, our egotism does not allow us to see ourselves as we actually are in our virtues and in our weaknesses and to correct ourselves. Sometimes, again, we want to deceive ourselves with the notion that we can have both, the world and God. But this is impossible as our Lord clearly stated: "No one can serve two masters" (St. Matthew 6:24).
It is necessary, therefore, to constantly enlighten our heart and mind. Study of Sacred Scripture, other edifying books, and regular prayer are needed so that we can distinguish and evaluate correctly what is really good; where our real treasure is. For where our treasure is, there will our heart be also The heart can reach all the way to God if we keep it free, pure, luminous, as God wills it to be. And let us allow our conscience free to censure our shortcomings, for through the voice of conscience, God Himself speaks to us as the chief judge who sees the depths of the heart. He will one day shed light upon all the hidden and dark things, and will bring light on all the secret thoughts of the heart of every person. Then it will become clear what each person is and then each will receive his rightful praise from God (1 Corinthians 4:4-5). As Saint Paul says, "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). Seek always the Kingdom of God, which is our communion with God, and "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 1:17). Then all the other things will be given to us abundantly by the Heavenly King.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God