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.
by Saint John Climacus
"This work (of prayer of the heart) is not something one achieves in one or two days, but after much time and timely effort. There is need for much time in training and a great struggle to expel the enemy (the devil) and to allow Christ to dwell in us."
Heavenly Father, we understand and feel deeply that all good things have their source in You and that You, the Infinite God, show great love toward us, who are among the least and insignificant of Your creatures. Because You graciously provide us with Your own gifts and goodness, so that we too may be partakers of Your own Blessedness and Goodness, You experience perfect joy, delight and blessedness from this benevolence provided to us. Consequently, this love of Yours, Our God, is also the joy, the happiness and the blessedness of our life now, and of the entire heavenly world in Your Eternal Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.
Glory be to God for all things!
On March 8th 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 Theophylaktos, bishop of Nicomedia; Saint Paul the Confessors of Prusias; holy Martyr Dion; Venerable Dometius, monk; Saints Quintilian and Capatolinos in Nicomedia; Saints Athanasius and Lazarus of Murom; Saint Felix of Burgundy, Enlightener of East Anglia.
VENERABLE PAUL THE CONFESSOR OF PRUSIAS. Saint Paul lived during the iconoclast desecrations. He was an iconophile, a defender of the holy icons at a time when the forces of society were iconoclasts, enemies of the holy icons. Seeing them behave with a fury against the Church of Christ in which they manipulated the laws to their own ends, desecrated the figures on the holy icons and the adornment of the churches, Saint Paul shot the iconoclasts with words as if they were arrows. For this he was persecuted, banished, and suffered many other torments. Having fought courageously for Orthodoxy, Saint Paul at last commended his soul to God.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Confessors, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 John 1:1-13
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 15:20, 22, 25, 33-41
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Real Christian love is proved by our relationship with our enemies. Not only should slight and incidental annoyances not extinguish our love for others--neither should attacks and persecutions, misfortunes and deprivations, intentionally and maliciously inflicted. We must not only bless people (that inflict these upon us), but also do good to them and pray for them. See whether you have such a disposition toward your enemies, and judge by this whether you have Christian love, without which there is no salvation." (Saint Theophan the Recluse)
DO GOOD FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST
by Geronda [Elder] Paisios of Mount Athos
Spiritual Counsels III [source: Spiritual Struggle]
Geronda I am afraid when I think of the difficult times ahead.
What are you afraid of, that you might go to hell and be tormented along with the little devils? I can understand if you pray and say, "Help me, my Christ, to go to Paradise, so that I do not grieve You, for it will be heavy indeed for You after all that You have done for me to see me in hell." But to want to go to Paradise simply to provide a comfortable place for yourself, this does not have any philotimo. I'm not saying this so that we allow our life to be wasted with mischief which will lead us to hell, but to emphasize how, sometimes, we tend to make a certain self-centered "effort" to do some good simply for the sake of not losing Paradise. If we have philotimo, we will think, "So many unfortunate souls continue to suffer in hell after having spent a lifetime on earth without even a little true joy, and I care only for myself!" I'm honestly telling you, I am not concerned with where I am going. I have set myself aside. Not that I want to be separated from Christ and so am not concerned whether I'll go to Paradise; but rather It's not my goal to do good just to get to Paradise. So I say, "Even if you set me aside, Lord, I will still be satisfied; I am not worthy of Paradise."
Today our life has become graceless and difficult because the spirit of heroism and philotimo has diminished. Even spiritual people have become calculating. They live a life that is only spiritual in appearance. They seek to enjoy whatever they want, as long as they are not condemned. So they calculate: "Is this a wrong that will condemn me? No, OK, then I can enjoy it." For example, on the subject of fasting, they say, "Tomorrow is Friday. Well, tonight I can eat meat until five minutes to midnight; so bring out the food and let us eat. It's not permitted after midnight; it's already Friday, and now it is a sin to eat meat." In other words, they do not want to lose Paradise, but they also want to enjoy this life. Thus they take a calculating approach to both sin and hell. But if they thought with philotimo, they would say, "Christ was crucified and suffered so much for me, and I would hurt Him with one of my sinful acts? I don't want to go to hell, for no other reason than not to grieve Christ, who would see me in hell and grieve."
Let us not do good expecting to receive wages like a hireling; let us do good out of love for Christ. Whatever we do, let us do it purely, for the sake of Christ. We must guard against the calculating human spirit of selfishness, of self-interest and self-love. We must keep in mind that Christ sees us, He is observing us, and we must be ever vigilant not to grieve Him. Otherwise, our faith and our love become worn out and frayed.
If we should examine what it is we do in our spiritual life: asceticism, fasting, vigils, and so on, we realize that they all help us to be in a good physical state. Does someone sleep in a hard bed? Even doctors recommend this: "Sleep on a firm mattress; sleeping on a soft mattress does not help your posture." Does someone else do prostrations? Others do physical exercises to strength their muscles. Do others sleep little? Too much sleep stupefies any person. Don't people say, "This person is asleep, the other's awake"? In other words, the spiritual exercises one does even help him in his physical health. After all, self-control is helpful to everyone. A lot of people who conduct research try to live a chaste life in order to maintain clarity of mind. Of course we do not practice self-control for this reason; but out of our spiritual exercises, we also have the benefits sought by worldly people. We do whatever is spiritual and form this spiritual work stems physical health also.
May the Lord God strengthen the holy and pure faith of devout Orthodox Christians, and of His Holy Church, this city and Parish, to the endless ages. Amen [Great Vespers]
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God