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.
EVENING PRAYER TO CHRIST
Grant rest, Master, to our souls and bodies as we sleep; preserve us from the gloomy slumber of sin and from the dark passions of the night. Calm the impulses of carnal desires, quench the fiery darts of the evil one which are craftily directed against us. Still the rebellions of the flesh and put far from us all anxiety and worldly cares.
Grant us, O God, a watchful mind, pure thoughts, a sober heart, and a quiet rest free from every vision of the devil. Raise us up again at the hour of prayer, strengthened in Your holding within us steadfastly the thought of Your Commandments.
Grant that we may sing praises to You through the night, and that we may hymn, bless and glorify Your All-Honorable and Majestic Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On February 5th 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 Polyeuctos, Patriarch of Constantinople; Saint Theodosios, Archbishop of Chernigov; Holy Martyr Agathi(a) of Palermo in Sicily; Holy Martyrs Helladius, Macarios, Voethos, and Evagrios; Holy Neomartyr Anthony of Athens; New Martyrs Agatha (1938), Schema monk Evgene (1939), and Righteous Paramon (1941) of Belo-Russia; Saint Gregory Rosca of Romania.
THE HOLY MARTYR AGATHI(A). This glorious holy virgin and martyr for Christ was born in the Sicilian town of Palermo of noble and prosperous parents. When the pagan Roman Emperor Decius launched a persecution of Christians, Saint Agathi was arrested and brought to judgment before Quintian the judge. He saw Saint Agathi's beauty and desired her for his wife. When he suggested this to her, she replied that she was the bride of Christ and could not be faithless to her Betrothed. The judge condemned her to cruel torture: Saint Agathi was flogged, mocked, bound to a tree and beaten till the blood flowed. After that, the judge again urged her to deny Christ and so escape further torture, to which Christ's bride replied: 'These tortures are of great help to me. As wheat cannot come to the granary until it is cleansed of its chaff, so my soul cannot enter paradise unless my body has first been broken by torture.' Then the torturer ordered that her breasts be cut off and then she be thrown into prison. The holy Apostle Peter appeared to her in the prison and restored her to physical wholeness and health. She was once again taken out for torture and again cast back into prison, where she gave her soul to God in the town of Catania in the year of our Lord 251. After her death, her torturer Quintian set out to appropriate her lands, but on the way the horses became maddened under him and his soldiers. They were savaged on the face, thrown onto the ground and trampled to death. Thus God's punishment came swiftly upon him for his ferocious crime against the great and holy Martyr Agathi
THE HOLY MARTYR THEODULA. Saint Theodoula suffered for Christ in the time of Diocletian, the impious pagan Roman Emperor. During her tortures, Saint Theodoula (her name in Greek means 'the servant of God') brought one of her torturers, Helladius, to his senses and to the Christian faith. When Helladius openly confessed his faith in Christ, he was beheaded. Saint Theodoula showed great courage at her trial, for which the judge considered her witless. To this, she retorted: 'It is you who are witless, for you forget the one true God and bow down to lifeless stones.' The judge put her to cruel torture, which Saint Theodoula endured with heroism, making her torturers marvel and bringing them to Christ. Among these were two eminent citizens, Macarius and Evagrios. With these two and many others, Saint Theodoula was thrown into a red-hot furnace, where they all finished this life with honor and were made worthy of the Kingdom of Christ.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Great and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 12:25-27, 13:22-25
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 6:1-7
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND EDIFICATION
"It is clear that all of our care should lie in the preserving of Grace, for in this Grace lies all of our happiness and our salvation; without it, our souls are dead..." (Saint Seraphim of Sofia)
THEOTOKOS: GUIDE TO TRUE FREEDOM
by Archimandrite George Capsanis, Egoumenos [Abbot] of the Monastery of Osiou Gregoriou, Mt. Athos [source: The Eros of Repentance]
(Christmas address, 1986, translated on Mt. Athos.)
This year in particular, let us direct our attention to one of the most beautiful idiomela of the Vespers for Christmas:
'What shall we offer Thee, O Christ, Who for our sakes hast appeared on earth as man? Every creature made by Thee offers Thee thanks. The Angels offer Thee a hymn; the heavens a star; the Magi, goats; the shepherds, their wonder; the earth, its cave: the Wilderness, the manger: and we offer Thee a Virgin Mother, O Pre-Eternal God, have mercy on us.'
All God's creation feels the need to thank Christ for His Incarnation, and to offer Him the gift of its gratitude. The Angels offer their hymns; they awaited the Incarnation of Christ because they loved mankind, and were saddened to see men far from God. With the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ, the good Angels will be stabilized in their goodness, that is, holiness and sinlessness and, even more--beatitude and glory will become their permanent condition.
Non-rational creation suffered and groaned with mankind and awaited with yearning (cf. Romans 8:19) the liberation of man and of all creation from the decay it inherited with man after his fall and separation from the heavenly Father and Creator, the source of life.
Rational man suffered even more, awaiting his liberation. For this reason, mankind offers the highest gift to Christ Who becomes man: His Virgin Mother.
In fact, we men had nothing more honorable to offer God. The Panaghia ('Pan-Aghia': 'All-Holy Mother of God') had already offered herself entirely to God, and as a Most Pure Vessel was ready to receive in her womb her Son and her God and so, at her Annunciation, when Archangel Gabriel told her that she would become the Mother of Christ, she could answer with confidence in God: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word."
Moreover, we could not have offered the Ever-Virgin Mary to God if she had not offered herself to God. This free offering of the Ever-Virgin made the Incarnation of God possible, for God would not violate our freedom by becoming Incarnate without our own consent. The Ever-Virgin was able to stand before God as our representative, and to say 'Yes' to God. Her deed is a deed of unique responsibility, of love, and of freedom. She gave God what He Himself did not have-human nature-in order that God might give man what he did not have-deification (theosis). Thus the Incarnation of Christ is not only God's free act of offering to man, it is also a free offering from man to God through the Ever-Virgin.
This mutual freedom is the prerequisite for love. God offers freely without any necessity, and the Ever-Virgin accepts the gift freely, without compulsion. The Virgin could not co-operate with God if she had established her own egotistic satisfaction at the content of her freedom-rather than her offering to God and man. Moreover, the Virgin is always rightly blessed by all generations of Christians, and especially during these holy days, as the: 'cause of the deification of all.' At the same time, she points out the way of true freedom.
Contemporary man is deluded by the devil and believes--as did Adam and Eve earlier--that his freedom is to be found in his autonomy and in his revolt against God. With this egotistic attitude man loses the possibility of true communion, not only with His God and Father, but also with his fellow men, and he lives as an orphan in an intolerable loneliness, which he experiences as an existential emptiness. A young man who uses drugs assures me that he would stop using them if he could stop trying to fill his existential emptiness with them.
The Virgin Panaghia and her Incarnate Son call us to the freedom of love. This freedom proceeds from the Cross. This is not the easy way of the satisfaction of our passions. It is the hard way of sacrifice, of offering, of victory over egotism.
In the name of this freedom, which we have received from the Gospel of Christ, and from the tradition of the our Greek Orthodox people, we cannot accept institutions such as those allowing abortion, which evade the freedom of love and which introduce the 'freedom' of egoism as a way of life. Since we Orthodox Christians have chosen the freedom of love as a way of life in the world, as did the Virgin Mary and her Only-Begotten Son, we have before us a great struggle, for we must strive to acquire this freedom. This is the struggle of the Orthodox Christian. This is a Cross, but it is also a joyful struggle because it carries us to the Resurrection.
In this struggle, which you too will undergo, we pray that our Savior Jesus Christ, Who was born in a cave, will grant you His grace and blessing, through the intercessions of His Most Blessed Mother and our Mother, the Lady Theotokos.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
"If we fulfill the Law of God in our thoughts, we will find it easy to fulfill it in our actions. That is: if we are not at fault in our thinking, we shall not be at fault in our actions. Or, to develop this further, if our hearts are fixed on God, our tongues and hands and feet and our whole being will be in harmony with Him. Prepare your heart for God, consecrate it to God and worship of Him; fulfill the Law of God in it, enkindle the love to God in it and unite it with God. The rest will all follow and be conformed to the heart. It is not He who holds the spoke of the wheel that drives the wheel, but He Who holds its axis. The heart is the axis of our being...Our holy Father Hesychius says: "If you make yourself fulfill them in thought, you will rarely find it necessary to toil over the fulfilling of them in action." That is, if we set our hearts, like an axis, on God, the wheels will easily go with the axis and draw the whole man after the heart. "Thy Law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:8), says the wise David."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God