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.
PRAYER TO THE GUARDIAN ANGEL
O my holy guardian Angel, Attendant of my wretched soul and afflicted life, Do not abandon me, a sinner, Do not depart from me because of my lack of self-control. Do not allow the evil demon to subdue me Through the oppression of this mortal body of mine. Take hold of my wretched and outstretched hand And guide me on the way to salvation. O holy Angel of God, Guardian and protector of my miserable soul and body, Forgive me for all those things with which I have grieved you Throughout all the days of my life; And for whatever I have sinned this day. During this present night shelter me and keep me safe From every attack of the adversary, That I may not through some sin bring anger to God. Intercede with the Lord in my behalf To give me strength to stand in awe of Him And to become a worthy servant of His goodness. Amen.
[Saint John Chrysostom writes: "It is impossible for man to be able to carry on a divine conversation without the activity of the Holy Spirit, and that is why this activity must be present and associated with the sacred struggle (of prayer). Thus, we are enabled to bend the knees, to petition and to pray...Therefore, when you are aware that not only are you speaking with God but are also receiving the energy of the Holy Spirit to sanctify the soul, you will not allow the devil any entry whatsoever into your soul, when you begin to pray."]
On February 27th 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 Procopius the Confessor of Decapolis; Saints Julian, Chroniun and Vesas at Alexandria; Saints Asclepius and James of Syria; Saint Gelasius the actor of Heliopolis; Saint Stefanos of Constantinople; Saint Thalaleos of Syria; Saint Timotheos of Caesarea; Saint Pitirim of Tambov; holy Martyr Nesius; Saint Titus of the Kiev Caves, the former soldier; Saint Titus of the Kiev Caves, presbyter; Saint Raphael, bishop of Brooklyn.
SAINT RAPHAEL, BISHOP OF BROOKLYN. Saint Raphael was born to pious Orthodox parents in 19th century Syria. He was educated at the school of the Patriarchate, where he excelled, and later at the School of Theology at Halki. St. Raphael would later accompany Patriarch Gerasimos on his parish visits, and he was soon elevated to the priesthood and also made an archimandrite. The Syrian Orthodox Benevolent Society of New York invited Raphael to that city to be a pastor to the Arab Orthodox faithful. He set up a chapel in lower Manhattan, but soon heard about other Arab Orthodox scattered across America that were turning to other denominations. Saint Raphael always saw a clear delineation between the Orthodox heterodox. He stressed that it was better that the family read at home from the service books than to attend other churches, and that any Church unity had to be based on the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Saint Raphael journeyed many times across America visiting as many as 43 cities and towns between the two coasts. He would feed the spiritually hungry and perform the sacraments at each stop. Saint Raphael also assisted Saint Tikhon when he was the bishop of Brooklyn by the Holy Synod of Russia. He published a magazine called The Word to link the people and parishes of his diocese. He also established an evening school to educate the growing number of New York children in a Christian atmosphere. In 1915 Saint Raphael died in New York from a heart ailment.
+By the holy intercessions of the Saints and holy Bishops, 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 3:1-18
Holy Gospel Lesson St. Mark 13:24-31
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"As salt is needed for all kinds of food, so humility is needed for all kinds of virtues." (Saint Isaac the Syrian)
ON THE WILL OF GOD
by Staretz Silouan of Mt. Athos
It is a great good to give oneself up to the will of God. Then the Lord alone is in the soul. No other thought can enter in, and the soul feels God's love, even though the body may be suffering.
When the soul is entirely given over to the will of God, the Lord Himself takes her in hand and the soul learns directly from God. Whereas, before, she turned to teachers and to the Scriptures for instruction. But it rarely happens that the soul's teacher is the Lord HImself through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and few there are that know of this, save only those who live according to God's will.
The proud man does not want to live according to God's will: he likes to be his own master and does not see that man has not wisdom enough to guide himself without God. And I, when I lived in the world, knew not the Lord and His Holy Spirit, nor how the Lord loves us--I relied on my own understanding; but when by the Holy Spirit I came to know our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, my soul submitted to God, and now I accept every affliction that befalls me, and say: "The Lord looks down on me. What is there to fear?" But before, I could not live in this manner.
Life is much easier for the man who is given over to the will of God, since in illness, in poverty, in persecution he reflects thus: "Such is God's pleasure, and I must endure on account of my sins."
Thus for many years have I suffered violent headaches, which are hard to bear but salutary because the soul is humbled through sickness. My soul longs to pray and keep vigil, but sickness hinders me because of my body's demand for rest and quiet; and I besought the Lord heal me, and the Lord hearkened not unto me. So, therefore, it would not have been salutary for me to have been cured.
Here is another case which happened to me, wherein the Lord made haste to hearken unto me and save me. We were given fish one feast-day in the refectory, and, while I was eating, a fish-bone found its way deep down my throat and stuck in my chest. I called to the holy Martyr Panteleimon, begging him to help me, as the doctor could not extract the bone. And when I spoke the word 'heal,' my soul received this answer: 'Leave the refectory, take a deep breath, fill out your cheeks with air, and then cough; and you will bring the bone up together with some blood.' This I did, I went out, exhaled, coughed, and a big bone came up with some blood and I understood that if the Lord does not cure me of my headaches it is because they are good for my soul.
The most precious thing in the world is to know God and understand His will, even if only in part.
The soul that has come to know God should in all things submit to His will, and live before Him in awe and love: in love, because the Lord is love; in awe, because we must go in fear of grieving God by some evil thought.
"O Lord, by the power of the grace of the Holy Spirit, vouchsafe that we may live according to Thy Holy Will."
When grace is with us we are strong in spirit; but when we lose grace we see out infirmity--we see that without God we cannot think a good thing.
"O God of Mercy, Thou knowest our infirmity, I beseech Thee, grant me a humble spirit, for in Thy mercy Thou dost enable the humble soul to live according to Thy Will. Thou dost reveal Thy mysteries to her. Thou givest her to know Thee and the infirmity of Thy love for us."
How are you to know if you are living according to the will of God?
Here is a sign: if you are distressed over anything it means that you have not fully surrendered to God's will, although it may seem to you that you live according to His will.
He who lives according to God's will has no cares. If he has need of something, he offers himself and the thing he wants to God, and if he does not receive it, he remains as tranquil as if he had got what he wanted.
The soul that is given over to the will of God fears nothing, neither thunder nor thieves nor any other thing. Whatever may come, 'Such is God's pleasure,' she says. If she falls sick she thinks, "This means that I need sickness, or God would not have sent it.' And in this wise is peace preserved in soul and body."
The person who takes thought for his own welfare is unable to give himself up to God's will, that his soul may have peace in God. But the humble soul is devoted to God's will, and lives before Him in awe and love; in awe, lest she grieve God in any way; in love, because the soul has come to know how the Lord loves us.
The best thing of all is to surrender to God's will and bear affliction having confidence in God. The Lord, seeing our affliction, will never give us too much to bear. If we seem to ourselves to be greatly afflicted, it means that we have not surrendered to the will of God.
Abba Pimen said: "Our own will is like a wall of brass between us and God, preventing us from coming near to Him or contemplating His mercy."
We must always pray the Lord for peace of soul that we may the more easily fulfill the Lord's Commandments; for the Lord loves those who strive to do His will, and thus they attain profound peace in God.
The Lord in His mercy gives man to understand that he must suffer with a grateful heart. My whole life long I never once rebelled against affliction but accepted all things as physic from the hand of God, and I ever offered up thanks to God, wherefore the Lord enables me to bear all affliction lightly.
No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the afflictions which the Lord sends are not great, men imagine them beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will of God. But the Lord Himself guides with His race those who are given over to God's will, and they bear all things with fortitude for the sake of God Whom they have so loved and with Whom they are glorified forever.
When the Mother of God stood at the foot of the Cross, the depth of her grief was inconceivable, for she loved her Son more than anyone can realize. And we know that the greater the love the greater the suffering. By the laws of human nature, the Theotokos could not possibly have born her affliction; but she had submitted herself to the will of God, and the Holy Spirit sustained her and gave her the strength to bear this affliction.
And later, after the Ascension of the Lord, she became a great comfort to all God's people in their distress.
The Lord gave us the Holy Spirit, and the man in whom the Holy Spirit lives feels that he has paradise within him. Perhaps you will say, 'Why is it I have not grace like that?' It is because you have not surrendered yourself to the will of God but live in your own way.
Look at the man who likes to have his own way. His soul is never at peace and he is always discontented: this is not right and that is not as it should be. But the man who is entirely given over to the will of God can pray with a pure mind, his soul loves the Lord, and he finds everything pleasant and agreeable.
Thus did the Most Holy Virgin Mary submit herself to God: "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word." And were we to say likewise--"Behold the servant of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word"--then the Lord's words written in the Gospels by the Holy Spirit would live in our souls, and the whole world would be filled with the love of God, and how beautiful would life be on earth! And although the words of God have been heard the length and breadth of the universe for so many centuries, people do not understand and will not accept them. But the man who lives according to the will of God will be glorified in heaven and on earth.
The man who is given over to the will of God is occupied only with God. The Grace of God helps him to continue in prayer. Though he may be working or talking, his soul is absorbed in God because he has given himself over to God's will, wherefore the Lord has him in His care.
Saint John of Kronstadt wrote: "It is never so difficult to say from the heart, "Thy will be done, Father," as when we are in sore affliction or grievous sickness, and especially when we are subjected to the injustice of men, or the assaults and wiles of the enemy. It is also difficult to say from the heart "Thy will be done" when we ourselves were the cause of some misfortune, for then we think that it is not God's Will, but our own will, that has placed us in such a position, although nothing can happen without the Will of God. In general, it is difficult to sincerely believe that it is the Will of God that we should suffer, when the heart knows both by faith and experience that God is our blessedness; and therefore it is difficult to say in misfortune, "Thy Will be done." We think, "Is it possible that this is the Will of God? Why does God torment us? Why are others quiet and happy? What have we done? Will there be an end to our torments?" And so on. But when it is difficult for our corrupt nature to acknowledge the Will of God over us, that Will of God without which nothing happens, and to humbly submit to it, then is the very time for us to humbly submit to this Will, and to offer to the Lord our most precious sacrifice--that is, heartfelt devotion to Him not only in the time of ease and happiness, but also in suffering and misfortune; it is then that we must submit our vain erring wisdom to the perfect Wisdom of God, for our thoughts are as far from the thoughts of God "as the heavens are higher than the earth...
"Thy Will be done." For instance, when you wish and by every means endeavor to be well and healthy, and yet remain ill, then say: "Thy Will be done." When you undertake something and your understanding does not succeed, say: "Thy Will be done." When you do good to others, and they repay you by evil, say: "Thy Will be done." Or when you would like to sleep and are overtaken by sleeplessness, say: "Thy Will be done." In general, do not become irritated when anything is not done in accordance with your will, but learn to submit in everything to the Will of the Heavenly Father. You would like not to experience any temptations, and yet the enemy daily harasses you by them; provides and annoys you by every means. Do not become irritated and angered, but say: "Thy Will be done."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God