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.
Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
On June 29th 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: Holy Apostles Peter and Paul; Saint Peter, prince of the Tatar Horde, wonderworker of Rostov; Saint Mary, mother of John-Mark, nephew of holy Apostle Barnabas, at Jerusalem; Uncovering of the holy relics of St. Nicander, monk, of Pskov; Saint Efstathius of Mtskher.
HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL. The son of Jonah and brother of Saint Andrew the Apostle and First-Called, of the tribe of Simeon and the town of Bethsaida, he was a fisherman and was at first called Simon, but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas, or Peter (St. John 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to give clear expression to his faith in the Lord Jesus, saying: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (St. Matthew 16:16). When the Lord was put on trial, Saint Peter denied Him three times, but it needed only one into the face of the Lord, and Peter's soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Saint Peter became a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. After his first sermon in Jerusalem, about 3,000 souls were converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, in Italy and in Illyria. He performed many miracles (wonders), healing the sick and raising the dead, and even his shadow had the power of healing the sick. Saint Peter was condemned to death on the order of the wicked Emperor Nero, a friend of Simon the Magician. After installing Linus as bishop of Rome and exhorting and encouraging the flock of Christ there, St. Peter went to his death with joy. When he saw the cross before him, he asked to executioner to crucify him upside-down, because he felt himself to be unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord. And so this great servant of the greatest Master went to his rest and received a crown of eternal glory.
St. Paul was born in Tarsus of the tribe of Benjamin, he was formerly called Saul and studied under Gamaliel. He was a Pharisee and persecutor of Christians. He was wondrously converted to the Christian faith by the Lord Himself, Who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was baptized by the holy Apostle Ananias, named Paul and enrolled in the work of the Great Apostles. He preached the Gospel everywhere with burning zeal, from the borders of Arabia to the land of Spain, among both the Jews and the heathen, and receiving the title of 'the Apostle to the Gentiles'. His fearful sufferings were matched only by his superhuman endurance. Through all the years of his preaching, he hung from day to day like a thread between life and death. Filling his days and nights with toil and suffering for Christ, organizing the Church in many places and reaching a high level of perfection, he was able to say: 'I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me.' (Galatians 2:20). He was beheaded in Rome in the reign of the pagan emperor Nero, at the same time as holy Apostle Peter.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Apostles, O Lord Jesus Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Corinthians 11:21-33, 12:1-9
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Matthew 16: 13-19
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS:
"The closer a man is to God, the more clearly he knows himself a sinner". (Abba [Father] Matoes)
ALL CHRISTIANS ARE OBLIGATED TO KEEP ALL OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF CHRIST
by Saint Nicodemos the Hagiorite (source: CHRISTIAN MORALITY)
Firstly, therefore, all Christians are bound to keep and carry out all of Christ's Commandments--that is, all Christians, both clergy and laity, both men and women, both young and old, both monastics and seculars, both unimportant and important, both poor and rich, both private citizens and rulers, both kings and Patriarchs, and, quite simply, all people of every station and rank, without any exceptions. For the Lord said to His sacred Apostles: "Whatever teachings I utter and whatever commandments I give to you I give and teach to Christians in general: "And what I say to you I say unto all." (St. Mark 13:37). Christians are obligated to fulfill all of Christ's Commandments, that is, both the Ten Commandments contained in the Decalogue of Old Law--such as that everyone should honor his father and his mother, that he should not kill, that he should not steal, that he should not bear false witness, that he should not covet his brother's wife or anything belonging to him, etc.--and likewise all of the Commandments and ordinances contained in the Holy Gospel, such as that a Christian should not resist and evil man, but that if anyone wishes to smite him on the one cheek, he should turn the other cheek to him also for him to smite (St. Matthew 5:39); that a Christian should not desire to take a brother Christian to court (St. Matthew 5:25), but that if anyone should wish to take his outer garment (cloak), he should let him take his inner garment (coat) also (St. Luke 6:29); that if anyone should compel a Christian to go one mile, he should go with him two miles (St. Matthew 5:41); that a Christian should give alms in general to all who ask, and that he should lend to all who have need (St. Matthew 5:42); that a Christian should love his enemies and all who hate him (St. Matthew 5:44); that he should bless those who curse him, that he should pray to God and beseech Him for those who vex, hound, and persecute him. (St. Matthew 5:44). To put it concisely, all Christians are duty bound to keep all of Christ's Commandments, without a single exception.
For when the Lord sent out His Holy Disciples to preach the Holy Gospel in the world, He told them to teach Christians (to those who believe) to observe all that He commanded them, saying: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (St. Matthew 28:19-20). Commenting on this verse, Saint Basil the Great points out that the Lord did not say that Christians should keep some Commandments and neglect others. No, He said, rather, that they should "keep all that I have commanded you." Elsewhere, Christ Himself, wishing to show that Christians ought to keep all of His decrees, said: "[W]hen you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do" (St. Luke 17:10). Do you hear? He says, "When you shall have done all those things which are commanded you," and not, "When you shall have done some, but left others aside." For this reason, the holy Apostle Paul commended himself for his observance of all the Master's commandments, as a servant of God, and did not give any scandal in any matter. Hence, he said, "Giving no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our ministration be not blamed; but in everything commending ourselves, as ministers of God" (2 Corinthians 6:3-4).
THAT THERE ARE THREE ORDERS OF CHRISTIANS
There are three orders and estates of Christians, according to Saint Basil the Great. Some are as slaves, who out of fear of punishment do not do what is evil; others are as hirelings, who do what is good for the sake of the reward and enjoyment of the Kingdom of Heaven; and others are as sons, who joyfully do what is good for its own sake and solely out of love for their Master.
"It is not possible for those who fear to omit anything that they have been enjoined to do or to perform it carelessly. But even the hireling will not want to transgress anything that he is ordered to do; for how will he earn the wages for his work in the vineyard if he does not fulfill all that has been agreed upon?...What son, whose goal it is to please his father, will wish to gladden him in more important matters while grieving him over the most insignificant ones?" (Patrologia Graeca, Vol. xxxi)
And if God ordered the people of the old Israel to keep all of His Commandments, how much more does He now order Christians, who are His chosen people, a beloved people that has been redeemed by His Precious Blood, to keep His Commandments.
Personal note: Today's Christians (the Christian believers or those who willingly follow Christ) have become selective and conditional when it comes to the Divine Commandments of God. They accept some and reject others. Many give their own personal interpretation which is subjective and always wrong. Christians are to be obedient to God's Commandments and by doing so they will receive the grace and blessing of God. Our par excellence example of perfect obedience is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Who "being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross" (Philippians 2:8).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God