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 PRAYER TO OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
(Saint Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain)
Master Lord Jesus Christ, immortal Word of God, Artist and Governor of these greatest creatures, the Only-Begotten Son Who shown fort from the Father beyond time and Who ineffably came out of the Virgin Mary and were Incarnate without change or confusion, as You Yourself know, that You may deliver from the bondage of the enemy those whom You have created; You Who did not separate Yourself from the Father and yet You lived with us, Your useless servants; the Light of Truth, the dispeller of the darkness of ignorance, the brightness of sober souls, the universal joy of the of the Orthodox, the delight of Angels and souls; You Who are all insatiable beauty, sweetness, desire and longing, the abundant blissfulness of the understanding of the mind for those who are genuine followers of You; You Who are the Good, Compassionate and Merciful One by nature, cast away from me, the wretched one, those thoughts which disturb me. For You, Who know the heart, know that they are involuntary. Forgive me, O Master of all, and let not these imaginations become a regiment of sin...
For Yours it is to have mercy and to save us, O Christ Our God, and to You we send up glory, thanksgiving and worship, together with Your Father, Who is without beginning and Your All-Holy, Good and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On March 13th 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 Publius the holy Martyr, Bishop of Athens; Removal of the holy relics of Saint Nicephoros, Patriarch of Constantinople.
SAINT NICEPHOROS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE (c. 758-829). He governed the holy city with wisdom and zeal as the greatest arch-pastor of Constantinople. When Leo the Armenian made his stand against holy icons, he opposed the Emperor; first counseling him and then denouncing him. For this the accursed Emperor exiled him to the island of Prochonis. There was a monastery on the island, which Saint Nicephoros himself had built in honor of Saint Theodore. And this confessor of the Orthodox faith spent thirteen years there, then he fell asleep in the Lord in 827 A.D. Then all the iconoclast Emperors perished, and Michael, with his mother Theodora, came to the imperial throne in 842 A.D., and Methodios became Patriarch. Then, in 846 A.D. the holy relics of Saint Nicephoros were translated from Prochonnesos to Constantinople and placed first in the church of Saint Sophia, from which he had been driven in his lifetime, and then in the church of the Holy Apostles. The main commemoration of this great hierarch is on June 2nd, but on March 13th is commemorated the finding and translation of his uncorrupt holy relics. Saint Nicephoros was driven from Constantinople on March 13th, and on March 13th, nineteen years later, his holy relics were brought back to his Patriarchal seat.
THE HIEROMARTYR PUBLIUS. This holy priest and martyr was successor in the Episcopate in Athens to the famous Saint Dionysius the Areopagite. As bishop, he was tortured by unbelievers and beheaded in the 2nd century. For a brief time of torture he inherited eternal life.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs and Confessors, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND MEDITATION
"Faith is the wing of prayer, and without it my prayer will return to my bosom. Faith is the unshaken stance of the soul and is unmoved by any adversity." (Saint John Climacus)
INTRODUCTION: THE MYSTERY OF MAN'S HEART
by Archimandrite Zacharias [source: The Hidden Man of the Heart (I Peter 3:4)]
Question 3: In our journey to the heart, as we come to know God more, there is spiritual growth. Part of the journey is also learning and studying, and I was wondering if you could comment on the balance between the knowledge and growth of the mind versus the knowledge and growth of the heart. How do we know whether they are growing together or whether they are growing apart? And as we learn, we realize that we will never truly learn anything anyway, and it seems that the heart goes one way and the mind realizes that it will never know it all.
Answer 3: I think it is true that intellectual work is not very favorable for the activity of the heart, but it is necessary and we have to go through it, as least for a number of years. It is necessary for the life of the Church, especially if we are to serve people. The only thing that can protect us is if we do it in obedience to the Church--to a bishop or a spiritual father. That will protect us and keep us for a time. I remember when I was studying theology, I was trying to keep the prayer. It was not possible. One week I kept the prayer, but the following week I could not keep up with my work. When I tried to catch up with the work, I lost the prayer. I did not have any stability in those years. Sorry, to speak of my personal experience, but looking back, I can say that it was very profitable because I was told to do it and I did it, and the prayers of the one who asked me to do it protected me.
Once I said to one of my elders at the monastery, 'Nowadays, the work of a spiritual father is so difficult and dangerous; you have to be incorruptible to do it.' And he replied, 'No, that is wrong. You do not have to be incorruptible; you have to have a point of reference.' And he was right: a point of reference in the person of an elder in the Church keeps the spirit of humility, that is to say, it protects us from danger. We do not have to be incorruptible, but we have to have a trustworthy point of reference. Nobody is incorruptible.
Question 4: In our modern culture that is so materialistic, scientific and focused on biology and the natural sciences, how can we even become aware that the heart is something more than just a muscle? How can we become aware of ourselves as being something more than just a brain or a circulatory system?
Answer 4: We must learn the language of God. I wanted to talk to you about this later, but I will say a few words now. Because we all have sinned, we all have a common language, the language of pain. When we come to God, we will inevitably have to suffer in order to be purified. If we speak to God with pain, if we pour out our heart to God with that pain, then God will listen to us, and the heart will be activated. I have an example from the First Book of Samuel. The Prophetess Hannah was childless, but she had a servant who had many children. This servant despised her; she was very proud and arrogant, because she was so vainglorious about her family. Hannah did not take any revenge, although she was the mistress, but she went to the temple and, like one drunk, she poured out her heart to God in pain. Of course God heard her and answered her prayer, and the following year she came back to the temple with her new-born son, Samuel. When we suffer tribulation, pain or illness in our life, we must remember to pour out our heart to God rather than seek human consolation by going from one person to another and talking about it. This might give us some psychological consolation, but we lose all the tension of life, that energy of pain which is so precious when we direct it towards God. This is one way, as I have said before, is to find someone who can teach us how to speak to God. In the temple, little Samuel was sixteen or seventeen when he heard a voice calling him and he ran to Eli, the priest of the temple, and the priest said to him, 'Go back to sleep, nobody called you.' The same thing happened a second time. Again he ran to Eli, saying to him, 'Did you call me?' and the priest sent him back to sleep once more. When the same thing happened a third time, Eli, who had been initiated into the life of the Spirit, understood that this was a prophetic calling from God, and he advised him, 'Go, and if you are called again say, "Here am I, speak for Thy servant heareth" (cf. I Samuel 3:1-20).' Indeed, the voice called again and Samuel received the prophetic anointing. Similarly, we learn to speak to God with our heart through obedience to our elders and, in fact, the ministry of a priest is to teach his people this language of God in the same way as Eli taught Samuel. We all have a common language of pain, of suffering; one way or another we all go through it in this life, because God love us.
(to be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God