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 IN THE TIME OF DEATH
[Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki]
Incorruptible, Immortal, Unchangeable Lord, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who alone has immortality and alone lives without beginning and without end, for You are the same and Your years will have no end, hear us, Your lowly and useless servants, and deliver us from Your justified present wrath which troubles us, and from an early death which smashes and destroys our nature before its time. For You have not created us that we may die; You have not produced us that we may perish; You have not made us that we may not exist, O Good One, but rather You brought us from the state of not being into the state of being, that we may live and remain, magnify and glorify our Creator and Master...
Wherefore, we pray revive us and delight us on earth and give that we may remain for long alive and healthy, that we may live unto the glory of Your power and do what is pleasing to You, and in peace and repentance at the due time of Your goodwill and mercy we may depart from our body and join Your elect one...
For You only ever live before ages and unto ages of ages, and to You we send up glory together with Your Only-Begotten Son and your All-Holy, Good and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On March 4th 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 Gerasimos of Jordan; Saint Paul and his sister Juliana and their Companions; Saint Daniel, Prince of Moscow.
OUR HOLY FATHER GERASIMOS. This well-known Saint first learned asceticism in the Egyptian Thevaid, but then went to the Jordan and there founded a Monastic Community of about seventy monks which remains to this day. He formulated a particular rule for his Monastery: the monks spent five days a week in their cells weaving baskets and mats; they were allowed no heat in their cells; five days they ate only a little dry bread and a few dates; the monks had to leave their cells open, even when they went out, so that anyone could, if he wanted something, take it from another's cell. On Saturdays and Sundays they gathered in the monastery church, ate together boiled vegetables, and took a little wine in God's presence. Then each monk brought and placed before the feet of the Egoumenos (Abbot) the work he had done in the preceding five days. Each monk had only one garment. Saint Gerasimos was an example to all. In the Great Fast (Great Lent) he ate nothing but what he received in Holy Communion. He once saw a lion which was roaring with pain, having a thorn in its paw. Saint Gerasimos came near to it, crossed himself and pulled the thorn out. The lion was so tame that it followed the Geronda (Elder) to the Monastery and remained there until the latter's death. When the Geronda died, the lion also succumbed to illness after him and died. Saint Gerasimos was present at the 4th Council in Chalcedon in 451 A.D., in the time of Marcian and Ulcheria, and though he at first inclined a little towards the Monophysite heresy of Eftyches (Eutyches) and Dioscoros, he was at the Council a great champion of Orthodoxy, having been turned from heresy by Saint Efthymios (Euthymius). Saint Gerasimos entered into rest and into the eternal joy of his Lord in 475 A.D.
THE HOLY MARTYRS PAUL AND JULIANA. Brother and sister from Ptolemais in Phoenicia, they were cruelly tortured for Christ under the pagan Roman Emperor Aurelian and were finally beheaded. Many marvels attended their martyrdom and many of the pagans, seeing them, were brought to the Faith. Several of them were beheaded in 273 A.D. and received martyr's wreaths.
+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: I John 2:18-29; 3:1-8
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 11:1-11
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND MEDITATION
"The books will be opened and the acts of men will be revealed before the unbearable judgment-seat; and the whole vale of sorrow shall echo with the fearful sound of lamentation, as all the sinners, weeping in vain, are sent by Thy just judgment to everlasting torment. Therefore we beseech Thee, O compassionate and loving Lord; spare us who sing Thy praise, for Thou alone art rich in mercy." (Vespers on Saturday evening. The Sunday of the Last Judgment)
by Saint Macarius of Optina [source: Letters of Elder Macarius of Optina]
Please note: Elder Macarius of Optina was canonized by the Russian Church Abroad in 1990, together with the other Elders of Optina.
Optina was in many ways the spiritual center of Holy Russia in its last years. Pilgrims travelled from across the empire to receive counsel from the revered Elders of Optina, who in their simple humility and deep spiritual insight echoed the wisdom of the desert Fathers of centuries past. In reading their writings, we are drinking from the same font of spiritual wisdom as has nourished Orthodox Christians for centuries.
Do not limit yourself to striving for the right outward order: fasting and prayer. Strive also for greater inward order, only to be attained through intensified love and deep humility.
You say that the longing for obedience has pierced your heart, and you ask, "How can I attain to it?" Shall I tell you?
In the world you live in, Princes, you must have seen how long it takes an artist to train for his art, and how much effort he must devote to it. Is it not natural that the art of arts should exact even more time and even greater effort?
Pray that you may be granted the grace to read the Holy Fathers with the right understanding, the grace to live up to the standards they put before you, and the grace clearly to see your own frailty. You will not long be left wanting and waiting-God will give you help.
In the meanwhile carefully examine the movement of your heart, the pattern of your thoughts, the intention of all your words and actions. In your case, it may even be good to do this in writing. It may help to make more clear to you your utter poverty; it may humble your pride of mind.
Let us allude no more to the past but rather keep to what may be profitable in the future.
According to the teaching of the holy Fathers, any impression which, touching the heart, fills it with a great agitation, must come from the region of passions. Therefore impulses which spring from the heart should not be followed at once, but only after careful examination and fervent prayer. God preserve us from a blind heart! It is well known that passions do blind the heart and screen the shining sun of the mind that we should all strive to gaze at.
And so at last, the long period of eclipse is over; in your heart the sun shines bright, and in your mind the air is sweet and clean. Sweeter and cleaner than ever before. Praised be the Lord! This is a direct grace; though it is also, in a sense, the fruit of your own sufferings. But this new ability to pray is also a test; and so, the purified heart, according to the Eastern Tradition, is the center of the rational will. Beware! If you permit yourself to relish the delight of your new ability, an even denser cloud of darkness than before will descend and envelope you. This is inevitable on the path we tread: delight in a spiritual attainment imperceptibly, surely, quickly draws us into the meshes of that great-spiritual pride. Then are we mightily humbled! And rightly; for we have proved incapable of accepting with pure gratitude a grace generously bestowed upon us.
Until humiliation have swept away all pride, any virtues we may laboriously acquire rest on a foundation of sand. It takes much time and requires great effort to build a foundation of rock, on which the art of prayer can securely thrive.
Our quest for spiritual advancement cannot lead our soul only on the meadows of joy and consolation, and leave it there. Sooner or later it is inevitably led on to the way of the cross. Carrying our spiritual cross we learn patience and docility.
Conformity to the Will of God
Deeply moved as we are by your sorrow, yet what can we say? Open your heart, perceive the will of God. From Him seek help, in Him seek consolation.
Believe firmly: this tragedy is not the outcome of a chance concatenation of events. God Himself-God, Whose ways are inscrutable-has confirmed them with the seal of His divine purpose. Why? Either as a punishment-but not necessarily for any sins of yours-or to try the power of your faith, and steel it. But whatever the reason, the whole occurrence is one more proof of His love of you, for Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receives...But if you be without chastisement, whereof all the partakers, then are you bastards and not sons (Hebrews 12:6, 8). These are not words of our own invention. It is the holy Apostle Paul himself who thus testifies that you are a beloved child of God.
Strive hard for patient endurance! Do not weaken. Hourly thank God for all. And He will see to it that good comes of your right attitude.
Accept all, even this tragedy, as God's judgment: you perfectly forgave this man; you refrained from inflicting any punishment on him, but the judgment of God singled him out, followed him, and struck him down. Who knows what ways of helping evil in its dark work on earth he might not have found, had he remained among us? But now his departure is a frightful, chastening example to multitudes. Had you sought to punish him, you would have reason to condemn yourself. As things are, there is no occasion for this.
The longing to seek God, to come near Him, is an actual grace; it comes of our having, heard His call. And it is imperative that, having heard, we should actively respond. This we can only do by carefully keeping His Commandments. No matter where we are and what our circumstances may be: in solitude or in company, in a monastery or in the world, everywhere and at all times we must keep them, His Commandments. This is never easy: for, wherever we are and whatever our circumstances, the enemy always tries to prevent us from actively responding to the call.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God