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.
AN EXTEMPORANEOUS PRAYER TO THE ASCENDED LORD
Lord Jesus Christ, Lover of mankind, today when we celebrate Your Ascension into heaven, we direct the signs of our soul all the more toward heaven. We behold You, with Your glorified, Resurrected and Incorruptible human nature, sitting "at the right hand of Majesty in heaven" and being enthroned together with the Father."
As we behold You ascending high up heaven and being hidden from the sight of our eyes by the cloud, we get the false impression that somehow You are leaving us. But then Your voice comes to us loud and clear to dispel this false impression and to reassure us that You will always be with us: "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (St. Matthew 28:20)...
You are present in our joy and happiness in order to sustain and increase it. You are present in our pain and sorrow in order to help us lift and bear our cross. When we do battle face to face with our adversary, and even when our heart feels tired and empty and nothing seems to bring it comfort and satisfaction, even then you do not leave our side, dear Lord Jesus Christ.
It is to You, the Resurrected and Ascended Lord Jesus Christ Who are always with us, that we offer our praise, honor and glory with hope and faith and love, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On June 18th 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 ever righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Marina the virgin of Bithynia; Saints Leontius, Hypatius, and Theodoulos at Tripoli in Syria; Saint Aertheros of Nicomedia; Saint Leontios the Myrrh-flowing of Dionysiou Monastery on Mt. Athos; Saint Leontius, canonarch of the Kiev Caves; Saint Leontios of Phoenicia; Saint Erasmos, monk; Saint Bogoliubov holy Icon of the Theotokos.
BOGOLIUBOV HOLY ICON OF THE THEOTOKOS. The Evangelist St. Luke was said to have painted seventy holy icons. One of these came to be called the wonderworking (miracle-working) Vladimir holy icon in Russia. When Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky relocated in the 12th century, he carried this holy icon with him. But when the cart carrying the holy icon had traveled a short distance, it stopped, and the horses were unable to pull it any further. Priest Nikolai prayed tearfully before the holy icon for a long time. Soon the prince had a vision of the Panaghia, who told him that the Vladimir holy icon must return to that city and that a church and monastery should be built on the very location where they stood. Then she pointed to heaven, and the prince saw Jesus bless them The prince built a church as he was instructed, and a monastery also developed there. Prince Andrei then commissioned a holy icon to be painted commemorating that vision, and a yearly celebration was established to honor it as well. The monastery and the city that grew around it came to be called Bogoliubov because the Panaghia loved that place. The prince came to be called Bogoliubsky, which means God-lover.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 21:26-32
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 16:2-13
TODAY'S HOLY MESSAGE FROM THE HOLY FATHERS:
"What is the sign that a man has attained to purity of heart and when does a man know that his heart has entered into purity? When he sees all men as good and none appears to him to be unclean and defiled, then in very truth his heart is pure". [Saint Isaac the Syrian]
MARTYRDOM AND HUMILITY
by Geronda [Elder] of Mount Athos, Spiritual Counsels II (source: Spiritual Awakening)
One who is made worthy of martyrdom must have great humility and love Christ very much. If he goes to martyrdom with pride, Grace will abandon him. Do you remember Saprikios who was about to be martyred and yet denied Christ at the very end? "Why did you bring me here?" he said to the executioners. "But aren't you a Christian?" they asked him. "No," he answered. And he was a priest! It seems to me that perhaps he went to his martyrdom with a sense of pride at first and not with humility. He was not going to martyrdom for his faith, for his love of Christ, and for this reason Grace abandoned him. For when one acts out of pride and egoism, he cannot receive the Grace of God, and, at a critical moment, he will deny Christ.
-Geronda, we often say that God will give us strength during difficult times.
-God will give strength to a humble person who has a pure heart, who has good intentions. If God sees a truly good will and humility, He will give great strength. In other words, it will depend upon the will of the person for God to give strength.
-Geronda [Elder], you said that one must have humility and good will. Is it possible to have pride and good will?
-When we say humility, we mean that one should have humility at least as far as martyrdom is concerned. One may be proud, but then he must humble himself and say, "My God, I am proud, but give me a little strength now to be able to witness to Your love and redeem my sins." In this case, when he approaches martyrdom with repentance and humility, then God gives much Grace. The point is not to go proudly, with the thought that he will become a martyr, that a synaxarion and a service will be written for him, and an icon will be painted of him with a halo.
Someone told me, "Father, pray for me to reach the fifth heaven." I asked him, "While Saint Paul only reached to the third Heaven, you are asking to reach the fifth?" "Why not? Doesn't he say that we should strive for the best?" What imprudence! In any case, if someone should seek martyrdom only to have glory in Paradise, it is better not to even think of martyrdom. A true and proper Christian, if he knew that even in Paradise he would again have suffering, a martyrdom, still he would long to go there. We must not imagine that if we suffer something here on earth, we will be better there in Heaven. We mustn't add things up like a shopkeeper. We want Christ. Let there be martyrdom, let there by martyrdom every day, let them beat us every day, twice and thrice a day; it doesn't matter. The only thing that concerns us is to be with Christ.
-Geronda, can someone live indolently and, when necessary, confess boldly?
-For someone to be able to do that, he must have inner goodness, sacrifice. That is why I said nobility and the spirit of sacrifice must be cultivated. One should sacrifice himself for others. Do you know about Saint Boniface and Saint Aglaia? They lived that wretched life in Rome, but as soon as they sat down to eat, their mind went to the poor. They ran first to give food to the poor and then they sat down to eat themselves. Even though they were overcome with passions, they had goodness and truly care about the poor. They had a sense of self-sacrifice and God helped them.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God