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.
A CONTRITE PRAYER TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
[Saint John Chrysostom]
Have mercy, have mercy, O Lord, upon the creation of Your own hands. Do not abhor me the unworthy one, but show compassion on Your creation. You, Who endured the Cross for me and condescended to be wounded and bruised for the sake of healing, wipe away my wounds with the medicine of compassion and the sponge of loving kindness. You can do all things, and nothing is impossible for You. Grant compunction to my hardened heart; lighten the burden of my conscience. Accept my tears and sighing as You accepted those of the harlot and those of Peter, the chief of the Apostles. Accept this brief confession and my repentance as You accepted the gratitude of the one thief while on the Cross. Accept this prayer, the fruit of my lips, as a living sacrifice, a fragrant and pleasing offering. Amen.
On March 9th 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, Teachrers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Forty Martyrs of Sevaste; Saint Caesarius, brother of Saint Gregory the Theologian; Saint Philoromos, Confessor of Galatia; Saint Urpasianus of Nicomedia; Saint Tarasius of Liconium; Saint Jonah, Archbishop of Novgorod; New holy Martyr Archpriest Mitrophan of Voronezh (+1931); "Albazin" holy Icon of the Mother of God (Theotokos).
SAINT URPASIANUS OF NICOMEDIA. In the early 4th century, pagan Roman Emperor Maximian began persecuting Christians within the ranks of his military and court. Some abandoned Christianity while others were steadfast. Saint Urpasianus went before the Emperor and threw his cloak and belt at his feet, telling Maximian that he was a warrior of the Heavenly King, the Lord Jesus Christ. Maximian ordered that Saint Urpasianus be tied to a tree and beaten with thongs. Then he was tied to an iron grate and burned alive. Holy Martyr Urpasianus prayed throughout this intolerable ordeal. His ashes were thrown into the sea.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints 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 12:1-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 20:1-16
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND MEDITATION
"Always remember death; meditating on it should become a rule of life for you. What a struggle the soul has when it separates from the body, when the books are opened and people's hidden deeds revealed! How much it sighs then, how much it weeps, but it has no help except from good deeds it had done!" (Geronda [Elder] Ephraim of the Holy Mountain).
THE HIDDEN MAN OF THE HEART
by Archimadrite Zacharias
The Hidden Man of the Heart consists of a series of presentations on the place of the heart in the spiritual life of the Christian, with special reference to writings of Saint Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938) and Elder Sophrony of Essex (1896-1993). Himself a disciple of the Elder Sophrony, Archimandrite Zacharias bears witness to the golden thread of Tradition passing from one generation to the next, inasmuch as his writings evince that inspiration which is born of the undistorted vision of Christ in glory. As Fr. Zacharias demonstrates with remarkable clarity, it is only in the awakening of the 'deep heart' that the true work of the Christian begins--the cultivation of the human person-hypostasis according to the image of Christ.
The Mystery of Man's Heart
All the ordinances of the undefiled Church are offered to the world for the sole purpose of discovering the 'deep heart' (cf. Psalm 64:6), the centre of man's hypostasis. According to the Holy Scriptures, God has fashioned every heart in a special way, and each heart is His goal, a place wherein He desires to abide that He may manifest Himself.
Since the Kingdom of God is within us (cf. Luke 17:21), the heart is the battlefield of our salvation, and all ascetic effort is aimed at cleansing it of all filthiness, and preserving it pure before the Lord. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life', exhorts Solomon, the wise king of Israel (Prov. 4:23). These paths of life pass through man's heart, and therefore the unquenchable desire of all who ceaselessly seek the Face of the Living God is that their heart, once deadened by sin, may be rekindled by His grace.
The heart is the true 'temple' of man's meeting with the Lord. Man's heart 'seeketh knowledge' (Prov. 15:14), both intellectual and divine, and knows no rest until the Lord of glory comes and abides therein. On His part God, Who is 'a jealous God' (Exod. 34:14), will not settle for a mere portion of the heart. In the Old Testament we hear His voice crying out, 'My son, give Me they heart' (Prov. 23:26); and in the New Testament He commands: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength' (Matt. 12:30). He is the one Who has fashioned the heart of every man in a unique and unrepeatable way, though no heart can contain Him fully because 'God is greater than our heart' (I John 3:20). Nevertheless, when man succeeds in turning his whole heart to God, then God Himself begets it by the incorruptible seed of His word, seals it with His wondrous Name, and makes it shine with His perpetual and charismatic presence. He makes it a temple of His Divinity, a temple not made by hands, able to reflect His 'shape' and to hearken unto His 'voice' and 'bear' His Name (cf. John 5:37; Acts 9:15). In a word, man then fulfills the purpose of his life, the reason for his coming into the transient existence of this world.
The great tragedy of our time lies in the fact that we live, speak, think, and even pray to God, outside our heart, outside our Father's house. And truly our Father's house is our heart, the place where 'the spirit of glory and of God' (I Pet. 4:14) would find repose, that Christ may 'be formed in us' (Gal. 4:19). Indeed, only then can we be made whole, and become hypostases in the image of the true and perfect Hypostasis, the Son and Word of God, Who created us and redeemed us by the precious Blood of His ineffable sacrifice.
Yet, as long as we are held captive by our passions, which distract our mind from our heart and lure it into the ever-changing and vain world of natural and created things, thus depriving us of all spiritual strength, we will not know the new birth from on High that makes us children of God and gods by grace. In fact, in one way or another, we are all 'prodigal sons' of our Father in Heaven, because, as the Scriptures testify, 'All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God' (Rom. 3:23). Sin has separated our mind from the life-giving contemplation of God and led it into a 'far country' (Luke 9:15). In this 'far country' we have been deprived of the honor of our Father's embrace and, in feeding swine, we have been made subject to demons. We gave ourselves over to dishonorable passions and the dreadful famine of sin, which then established itself by force, becoming the law of our members. But now we must come out of this godless hell and return to our Father's house, so as to uproot the law of sin that is within us and allow the law of Christ's commandments to dwell in our heart. For the only path leading out of the torments of hell to the everlasting joy of the Kingdom is that of the divine commandments with our whole being we are to love God and our neighbor with a heart that is free of all sin.
The return journey from this remote and inhospitable land is not an easy one, and there is no hunger more fearful than that of a heart laid waste by sin. Those in whom the heart is full of the consolation of incorruptible grace can endure all external deprivations and afflictions, transforming them into a feast of spiritual joy; but the famine is a hardened heart lacking divine consolation is a comfortless torment. There is no greater misfortune than that of an insensible and petrified heart that is unable to distinguish between the luminous Way of God's Providence and the gloomy confusion of the ways of this world. On the other hand, throughout history there have been men whose hearts were filled with grace. These chosen vessels were enlightened by the spirit of prophecy, and were therefore able to distinguish between Divine Light and the darkness of this world.
(to be continued)
About the Author
A member of the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, England, founded by his spiritual father, and translator of Elder Sophrony's writings from Russian into Greek, Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou holds degrees in Theology from the Institute of St. Sergius in Paris, France, and the University of Thessaloniki, Greece, also receiving the degree of Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) from the latter institution for his work on the theology of Elder Sophrony (translated into English under the title, Christ, Our Way and Our Life: A Presentation of the Theology of Archimandrite Sophrony, translated by Sister Magdalen, South Canaan, PA.
About the Book
Archimandrite Zacharias' The Hidden Man of the Heart constitutes a third book based on his spiritual predecessors, Silouan and Sophrony, and consists of a series of lectures delivered in Wichita, Kansas at the 2007 Clergy Brotherhood Retreat of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God