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 FOR THE PEOPLE
[from the Prayer Book of Serapion]
O Loving God, we confess and bring before You our weaknesses, beseeching You to add strength to our efforts for correction and restoration. Forgive the sins we have committed until now and remit all our faults from the past, making each one of us into a new person in our soul. Help us to be Your authentic and pure servants. We entrust ourselves to you, Lord. Accept us, O God of Truth, as we humbly come to You. Accept these Your people, Lord, and grant that we all become truly Your people. Make it possible for all to live without reproach and to be cleansed of sins. May they become such faithful people that they will be counted with the heavenly Angelic spirits and will all be with the elect and the Saints in Heaven.
We pray for the Christians who have believed and have come to know You, our Lord Jesus Christ. May they all become steadfast in the faith, in the knowledge of the Truth, and in the reception of the teaching. We beseech You, Lord, for all of these Your people. Remove from them every enmity of sin and establish friendly relations with all. May Your Holy Name be always known and Glorified among them. Amen
On March 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 Mark the Athenian; Saint Conon the holy Martyr of Isauria; Saint Conon the Gardener of Nazareth; Saint Onisius of Isauria; Saint Evlambios of Palestine; Saint Rhais of Antinoe in Egypt, with Archelaos and 152 holy Martyrs; Saint Evlogios of Palestine; Saint Basil and Constantine of Yaroslavl; New holy Martyr George of Rapsana (1818 A.D.); Saint Nicholas Velimirovich, Bishop of Zhicha, Serbia (1956 A.D.); Saint John of Bulgaria (1784 A.D.) Saint Adrian of Poshekhonye and ascetic Leonid; Saint Theodore, Prince of Smolensk, with Yaroslav, David, and Constantine.
THE HOLY MARTYR CONON OF ISAURIA. Saint Conon was instructed the Christian faith and baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity by the Archangel Michael himself, and he was accompanied by this Archangel of God right up to his death. He was so enlightened and fortified by grace of the Holy Spirit, so that his heart was kept from all things earthly and cleave to the spiritual and heavenly. When his parents forced him to marry, he, on the first evening, took a candle and put it under a vessel, then asked his bride: 'Which is better, light or darkness?' She answered: 'Light', and he then began to speak to her of the Christian faith, and of the spiritual life as better and finer than the physical. He succeeded in bringing first her and then his parents to the Christian faith, and he and his wife lived as brother and sister. His wife and parents soon died, and he withdrew himself entirely from the world and gave himself to prayer, fasting and pondering on God. He performed great wonders, which brought many to Christianity. Among other wonders (miracles), evil spirits were forced to serve him. During a persecution he was arrested and tortured, and stabbed all over with knives. The sick anointed themselves with his blood and were healed. He lived for two further years in his own town, and went to the Lord. This wonderful Saint lived and suffered in the second century.
OUR HOLY FATHER MARK THE ASCETIC. An ascetic and wonder-worker, he was made a monk at the age of forty by his teacher, Saint John Chrysostom. Saint Mark spent sixty more years in the Nitrian desert in fasting, prayer and the writing of instructive books. He knew the whole of the Holy Scriptures by heart. He was very merciful, and wept for the distress of any one of God's creature. He was once weeping for the blind whelp of a hyena when the whelp received its sight. In gratitude, the mother hyena brought him a sheepskin, and the Saint forbade the hyena in future to slaughter the sheep of poor people. He received communion at the hands of an Angel. His homilies on the spiritual law, on repentance, on sobriety and so forth fall into the first rank of ecclesiastical literature; the great Patriarch Photios himself held them in high esteem.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyr, and Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
"Why do some people, well-educated, baptized as Christians, fall away from Christianity into philosophy and learned theories, alleging them to be something truer than Christianity? For two main reasons: either from an utterly superficial knowledge of Christianity, or from sin. A superficial knowledge of Christ rejects Him, and sin flees from Christ like a felon from judgment. Superficial and guilty Christians have often become as bitter enemies of Christianity as are pagans. To the superficial and the guilty it is more comfortable to bathe in the shallow pool of human thought than in the dangerous depths of Christ. Those who sincerely set themselves to follow Christ are constantly invited by Christ to a greater and greater depth, as He once said to the Apostle Peter: "Launch out into the deep". Saint Mark the Ascetic writes that one understands the Law of God insofar as one fulfils His Commandments. 'Ignorance urges a person to speak against that which is helpful, and insolence breeds vice.' " [The Prologue from Ochrid]
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: I John 3:9-22
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 14:10-42
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION:
"People can do me no evil, as long as I have no wounds." [Saint Nicholas Velimirovich]
A DISCOURSE FOR THOSE LIVING IN THE WORLD
by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos
"Angels are the light of monastics, while the monastic state is a light for all men." Saint John Climacos
The exaltation of monasticism in my discourse on the monastic life does not mean that one can attain sanctity only in monasticism, in a life far from the world, that those living in the world cannot become holy and be saved. By world we mean cities, hamlets, and villages, where there are, among the inhabitants, many irreverent people, sinners, slaves of passions and unrepentant folk. Their bad example, the temptations which they present, the uproar and the troubles that they create--these things render exceedingly difficult the attainment of holiness for those who are struggling for it. Moreover, for those who have spouses and children, their manifold cares serve to divert their attention away from exacting askesis. Despite all of that, however, the attainment of sanctity within the world is not impossible. We have already noted, in the lecture which preceded my discourse on monasticism, that there are other paths, paths within the world, which lead to holiness. The Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the Hierarchs and the Righteous largely struggled within the world. How did they achieve divinization, holiness, and salvation? The God-bearing Fathers of the Church answer us. Many references are not needed. A few passages will suffice.
The divine Chrysostom says: Even a man living within a city can imitate the life of monks. Indeed, even a man who has wife, and who is occupied with the demands of his household, can pray, fast, and learn contrition. For those who were first taught by the Apostles, even though they were living in cities, showed the same piety as those who lived in the deserts, again, others, such as Priscilla and Aquila, ruled over workshops [this case, they were tent-makers]. Also the Prophets had spouses and homes, as did Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the great Prophet Moses, and these things did not hinder them at all with regard to virtue. Let us therefore imitate these people, and let us continually offer up thanks to God, and let us constantly praise Him. Let us cultivate self mastery and all of the other virtues, and let us bring into our cities the way of life which is sought in the deserts.
And the blessed John of the Ladder observes: Some people carelessly living in the world inquired of me: How can we, who have wives and are taken up with social cares, lead the solitary life? I replied to them as follows: All of the good works that you are able to do--do them. Speak evil of no one. Do not tell lies to anyone. Do not boast to anyone. Do not hate anyone. Do not be absent from the Divine Services. Be generous to those who have need of help. Do not offend anyone. Do not take that which belongs to another. And be satisfied with that which your wives give you. If you do this, you will not be far away from the Kingdom of Heaven.
Again, the divinely-inspired Symeon the New Theologian writes: Those who find themselves amidst the masses of men and amongst the disturbances of the world, if they nonetheless conduct themselves as they should, will find salvation, and become worthy of receiving from God great blessings...such as are beyond the mind, hearing, or thought. I say this not to impede withdrawal [the world], or to show greater preference for the life lived in the world than for that lived in solitude, but to make it known, to all those who read this account, that he who wishes to do good has received power from God to do it in every place, both within the world and in solitude...
The Lord said, "Be ye holy: for I am Holy. And with this He urges us who are sinful to imitate Him, to the extent possible, by way of good works, and says, in a way, flee from all evil and do all good: and employ each of you, every virtue, as best you can, and become as holy as you can, if you wish to have communion with Me. For I am holy, being pure and without spot, and these things--that is, purity and spotlessness--are natural to Me. As for you, you will become holy if, by toiling in My Commandments, you are cleansed from the defilement of your sins and participate in Me through the grace of the All Holy Spirit. For this is what becoming holy means. It is when he is far removed from all evil, and does good, that a man becomes holy…
From these passages of Saint John Chrysostom, Saint John of the Ladder, and Saint Symeon, we indeed learn of the possibility of sanctification for those living in the midst of the world, as well as several presuppositions, with examples for the realization of this possibility. Saint John Chrysostom indicates, among other things, that those living in the world may imitate those who strive in the desert--the monastics.
In more ancient times, such Fathers, who gave guidance to those living in the world, and who brought them to sanctification, were found not only in the deserts, but in the cities. They were the holy bishops, who came from monasteries and who took with them to the cities their rich spiritual experience and ascetic way of life. Of this, Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain speaks most beautifully and instructively in his book Handbook of Counsel. He says, among other things:
"O what happy and golden centuries were those during which the Holy Church of Christ had the excellent and very beautiful custom of choosing from among the modest ranks of monastics all those (with the exception of a few, who, because of their exceeding virtuousness, were chosen from among the laymen and immediately elevated to the leadership of the people) who were to be elevated to the exalted throne of the episcopacy and entrusted with the protection of souls..."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God