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.
[Waiting for the Redemption of the Lord.]
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplications.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord More than those who watch for the morning--Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption, And He shall redeem Israel From all his iniquities.
On February 26th 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 Porphyrios, Bishop of Gaza; Saint Photini the Samaritan Woman, and her sisters Saints Anatoli, Phota, Photis, Parasceva, and Cyriaki; and her sons Saints Photinos and Joses, and Sevastian the Duke, Victor, and Christodoulos, all martyred under the pagan Roman Emperor Nero; New holy Martyr John Calphas at Constantinople (1575 A.D.); holy Martyr Theoclites, with Saint Sevastianos of Poshekhonye.
NEW HOLY MARTYR JOHN CALPHAS, THE APPRENTICE, AT CONSTANTINOPLE. Saint John was a master cabinetmaker in the 16th century suburb of Constantinople, called Galata, and he was in charge of the work inside the Sultan's palace. John was a Christian and he was filled with good works. He provided for orphans and those in prison, and helped any who came to him. An important official once asked Saint John to take his nephew as an apprentice, and St. John agreed. After being trained by Saint John, this young man was given an honorable position at court. Later, this young man, who was devoted to Islam, asked Saint John what the Christian books say about Prophet Mohammed. Saint John was reluctant to answer, but the young man persisted, and Saint John finally answered that Mohammed was an uneducated man who never performed a miracle. The young man told other Muslims, and Saint John was brought to trial where they demanded that he renounce Christ. Instead, Saint John bravely confessed his faith, and he was tortured and imprisoned for six months. For three months Saint John was beaten, but he would not submit. He was beheaded in the crowded town square.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy and Great Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and saves. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Peter 2:9-22
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 13: 14-23
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND MEDITATION
"More often than not, we ourselves create most temptations when we put our ego within our collaborations with others; that is, when we wish to exalt ourselves. No one climbs to heaven through worldly ascent, but through spiritual descent. He who walks lowly, always walks with surety and never falls." [Geronda [Elder] Paisios of Mount Athos]
by Saint Macarius, Starets of Optino [source: Russian Letters of Spiritual Direction 1834-1860]
Remember that a good action is always either preceded or followed by temptations. God permits this so that the virtue, exercised in that particular action, may be confirmed, consolidated, steeled.
You complain of overpowering laziness. This temptation often besets those who take on spiritual labor. To get rid of it the Fathers advise us to hold death constantly before the mind's eye; death with its two alternatives, eternal torment or eternal bliss. The Fathers say that this, when carried out with perfect humility, brings down upon us that grace which completely frees us from laziness.
So now, our charitable Lord has, in an unforeseeable manner, unraveled the complicated knots of your dark temptations, simultaneously granting you the courage to accept with gratitude all that the future may hold in store. Thus is the heart of man helped to die unto the fierce lure of the world; to be rid of every hankering after vainglory, every attraction of sensuous excitement, all lust after gold and silver.
You are sorely distressed because of the surge of blasphemous thoughts against our Lord that you cannot stop. Believe me, you are innocent of these blasphemies. It is not you, but the devil who invents them. You do not take part in making them up and you are not responsible for them. But when you are overcome by distress he is delighted, and quickly unfolds an even richer carpet of them before you.
My advice is: firmly refuse to accept his suggestion that these thoughts are sins of yours. Strive to regain your poise, strive for peace of mind. Then they will soon vanish altogether.
Blasphemous thoughts assail us when we settle down in the comfortable illusion that we are living as we should, that we are getting on nicely with warm, fervent prayers, and when we condemn others for their lack of zeal. It is in punishment for such sins as these that the devil of blasphemy is allowed to creep into us.
Think less of yourself, refrain from judging others, and, with God's help, evil thoughts will lose their hold on you. I shall pray that they may soon do so.
Be careful not to undertake more rigors than you can bear. And since you are troubled by evil thoughts, remember that a simple evil thought is not a sin but only a test of the quality of our free will. We are free to indulge it or thrust it away. But whenever an evil thought becomes entwined with the corresponding passion, we have sinned and must make penance.
When we are not strong enough to fight unaided against such compound evil thoughts, we should pray for help to our Lord and our Lady. And, since pride is always the ground on which these battles are won by the evil thoughts that have crept into us, the most important thing is thoroughly to humble ourselves.
Saint Isaac says that whenever a man properly humbles himself, grace gathers round him.
You long for peace of mind, peace of the soul, but cannot find it? Of this peace--always a great reward--our Lord Himself says where and how we are to seek it: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Saint Matthew 11:29).
None can achieve this except through battling with temptations and through suffering great sorrows. Our Lord, too, fought, suffered, and sorrowed much before the time of His death on the Cross. He was reproached, vilified, humiliated, and tempted. And He laboriously built up for us a picture of His own life on earth, which all of us must strive to follow. Read Saint Isaac, Chapters 78 and 79. There you will learn how necessary temptations are, and that they are permitted so that we should gain strength in fighting them. He chiefly examines temptations of the spirit, but what he says also holds good for temptations of the flesh.
As warriors are awarded medals and crosses for repeatedly proving their readiness to sacrifice their lives, so we--soldiers of the spirit--can only reap our reward after fighting valiantly and long. The greatest fight of all is vainglory, rage, hatred. When we overcome this, we receive our best reward: the beautiful peace of the soul.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God