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 OF A PARISH PRIEST
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Good Shepherd and I thank You for giving also to me, who am weak and unworthy, the same commandment which You had given to Your Apostle Peter when You told him: "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep."
Lord, I would have never dared to undertake such a heavy and responsible mission, if I did not believe that Your grace "heals the weak and fulfills the deficient."
This is why at this time when I feel so strongly my own deficiencies, I, Your priest, the offerer of Your sacrifice and the humble shepherd of Your flock, beseech You most fervently.
Support me, Lord. Preserve my heart in purity and authenticity of spirit; May I be detached from the sin of greed, and totally dedicated to Your Commandments. Amen.
On June 21st 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 Terence, Bishop of Iconium; Saint Julian of Tarsus in Cilicia; Saint Theodore of Starodub; Saint Julian of Libya; Saints Anthony, Anastasios, Celsius, Vasilissa, 20 prison guards, and 7 brothers, martyred with Saint Julian; Saint Aphrodisius in Cilicia; Saint Julius of Novara; Saints Archil II and Laursab II, kings of Georgia; Saint Niketas of Nisyros, near the island of Rhodes (1732); Saint Anastasia (Anna) of Serbia, mother of Saint Sava.
+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: Acts 27:1-44, 28:1
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 17:18-26
TODAY'S HOLY MESSAGE FROM THE HOLY FATHERS
"Smoke from wood that is kindling a fire troubles the eyes; but then, the fire gives them light and gladdens them. Similarly, unceasing attentiveness is irksome; but when, invoked in prayer, Jesus draws near. He illumines the heart; for remembrance of Him confers on us spiritual enlightenment and the highest of all blessings." (Saint Philotheos of Sinai)
THE CHURCH FATHERS
Use the gifts God gave you rightly
"God gave you wonderful tools and abilities, says Saint John Chrysostom. But it's up to you to use them the way God meant them to be used".
"Look: you were given an eye, so that you could look at the creation and glorify the Master. But if you do not use the eye well, it becomes a servant of adultery to you. You were given a tongue, so that you could speak well, so that you could praise the Creator. But if you don't take good care, it becomes a cause of blaspheme to you. You were given hands so that you could stretch them out in prayer. But if you don't look out, you stretch them out in greed. You were given feet, so that you could run to good works. But if you're careless, you'll use them for wicked works. You see, all things hurt the weak man. Even the medicines of salvation kill the weak, not because of their own nature but because of the patient's weakness. -Saint John Chrysostom, Homily 2 on the Power of Demons, 3
EVERYTHING TAKES FAITH
"Saint Cyril of Jerusalem tells us that faith is by no means an exclusively Christian idea. It takes as much faith to plant as it does to accept the Christian religion."
We Christians are not the only ones for whom faith is very important. Everything that is accomplished in the world, even by those outside the Church, is accomplished by faith.
By faith the laws of marriage bring together those who lived as strangers; because of the faith in marriage contracts, a stranger becomes part of a stranger's person and possessions.
By faith the farmer keeps at his work, for anyone who did not believe that he would get the harvest would not stand for the hard work.
By faith sailors, trusting to the thinnest board, trade the land--that most solid element--for the restless motion of the waves, committing themselves to uncertain hopes, and carrying with them in faith surer than any anchor.
So by faith most human affairs are held together. Not only we have this belief, but--as I said--outsiders as well. For if they do not believe the Scriptures, but hold certain teaching of their own, even these they accept on faith.
--Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 2, 17-19
DON'T DOUBT--JUST PRAY
"How can I pray to God when I'm such a miserable sinner? Don't think like that, the visionary Hermas is told. If you get rid of your doubt and just pray, the Lord will answer your prayers."
Get rid of all your doubt, and don't hesitate to ask of the Lord. Don't say to yourself, "How can I ask the Lord and receive from Him, when I've sinned so much against Him?"
Don't think that way. Will all your heart, turn to the Lord and ask of Him without doubting. And when you will know the multitude of His tender mercies. You will know that He like humans, who remember the evils done against them. He Himself does not remember evils, and has compassion on His own creation.
So cleanse your heart of all the worthless things of this world, and from the arguments I mentioned, and ask of the Lord. You will receive all. None of the requests you make to the Lord without doubting will be denied.
-Hermas, Commandment 9
BELIEVE WHAT CHRIST TELLS YOU
"In a dialogue with Saint Gregory the Great, Peter the deacon seems to prefer to think there is no hell. But we can't do that, Saint Gregory the Great, without making a liar out of Christ."
Peter: Let me ask you: will those who are condemned to hell burn forever and never have any end of their torments?
Saint Gregory: It is certain, without doubt, and very true that, as the good will have no end of their joys, so the wicked will never have any release of their torments. For our Savior Himself said that the wicked "will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (St. Matthew 25:46). Since what He promised to His friends is true, what He has threatened to His enemies cannot be false.
Peter: But if I said He threatened eternal pain to those who lived wickedly so that He might restrain them by those threats from committing sins?
Saint Gregory: If what He threatened is false, because His intent was by that means to keep us from wicked life, then likewise we must says that His promises are false as well, and that He merely meant to provoke us to virtue with them. But would even a madman dare presume to say that? For if He threatened what He did not mean to put into execution, then though we are trying to make Him seem merciful, we are at the same time forced (which is horrible to speak) to say that He is deceitful.
-Saint Gregory the Great, Dialogue, 4, 43-44
LET LOVE LEAD YOUR MIND BACK TO GOD
"The mind that stays from God is miserable, says Saint Augustine. Only love can lead the mind back to God, and to a real understanding of man's place as a created being."
The further the mind goes from God--not in space, but in affection and lust after things below him--the more it is filled with foolishness and misery. So by love it returns to God--a love that places it not beside God, but under Him. And the more ardor and eagerness there is in this return, the happier and more elevated the mind will be, and with God as its only governor it will be at perfect liberty.
Thus it must know that it is a created being. It must believe the truth: that its Creator always possesses the inviolate and unchangeable nature of truth and wisdom. It must confess, considering the errors from which it wants to be delivered, that it is liable to folly and falsehood.
But then again, it must be careful not to be separated from the love of the other creature--that is, of the visible world--or from the love of God Himself, which sanctifies it for lasting happiness.
No other creature, then--for we are creatures ourselves--separates us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-Saint Augustine, Morals of the Church, 15
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God