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.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight--That You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me , and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--These, O God, You will not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.
[This is a psalm of repentance and God's mercy, and a prophecy about salvation through baptism (vv. 2, 7). It is also a teaching about worship in spirit (vv. 17-19). Of all 150 Psalms, this is the one most used in the Orthodox Church. It is a psalm of repentance said three times daily--Orthros (Matins), Third Hour, and Compline (Apodeipnos)--as well as in every Divine Liturgy, where it is recited by the priest as a sign of repentance while he censes before the Great Entrance. Historically, this Psalm is David's prayer of confession after his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1-15). It should be said by every Orthodox Christian believer along with all of his daily prayers.
by St. Neilos the Ascetic
"During the time of prayer, struggle to make your mind deaf and dumb, and then you will be able to pray...Blessed is the mind which has achieved undistracted prayer, and which is always drawn with greater desire toward God. Do you desire to pray? Remove yourself from these present things, and always have your commonwealth in heaven, not merely in word but in Angelic activity and a more divine knowledge."
On July 31st 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 and Just Evdokimos, Military Commander of Cappadocia; Saint Joseph of Arimathea, who buried the Master Christ; Holy Twelve Martyrs of Rome were perfected in martyrdom by the sword; our Father among the Saints Germanos, Bishop of Auxerre in Gaul, the Wonderworker; our righteous Father Arsenius, Bishop of Ninotsminda in Georgia; On this day we commemorate the Consecration of the venerable house of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos of Vlachernae, wherein is her Holy Shrine; On this day we celebrate the Forefeast of the Procession of the honored and Life-Giving Cross from the Royal Palace into the reigning city.
+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: I Corinthians 2:9-16; 3:1-8
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Matthew 13:31-36
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH
"He who wishes to be pleasing to God, to be proved, through faith, an heir of God, and to be called a son of God born of the Holy Spirit, should above all arm himself with patience and long-suffering, and endure with valor and gratitude the afflictions and necessities that he will encounter, namely physical illnesses and the passions, the reproaches and insults of men, or the various unseen battles which are brought which are brought against the soul by the spirits of wickedness, who aim to entice it into negligence and debility." (Saint Ephraim)
FASTING FROM INIQUITIES AND FOODS
by Rev. Father George Mastrantonis
"Let us fast an acceptable and very pleasing fast to the Lord. True fast is the estrangement from evil, temperance of tongue, abstinence from anger, separation from desires, slander, falsehood, perjury. Privation of these is true fasting." [A Hymn of First Monday of Holy and Great Lent by Saint Basil the Great]
"I am the Lord that healeth thee."
Man is created as a unique synthesis of material and spiritual elements, which are mysteriously combined in him, as recorded in the Holy Scriptures for, "the body without the spirit is dead" (St. James 2:26). The Old Testament records the ancient belief that God, after creating the universe, used a different and distinct method to create the human being.
Genesis records that:
"...the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).
Therefore, religion emphasizes that man needs guidance for his spirit as well as instruction for a virtuous and healthy body. A harmonious co-working of spirit and body was intended in man's creation. It is a firm belief strengthened by scientific finding that the alliance of these two elements within man was the expectation of God in man's pursuit of God's likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26).
The imperfection of man, which is attributed to his fall, diminishes his faculties, but did not destroy his capacities, nor the need for growth of his spirit and body and especially the harmony between the two. This is why the Christian religion is concerned not only with the spiritual rightness of man, but also with his bodily needs, even on a secondary level.
The balance of forces which move man, both from within and without, should be regulated for a harmonious life. Such forces as faith and doubt, humbleness and arrogance, obedience and disobedience of ideals, abundance and poverty, love and hate, righteousness and iniquity, virtue and vice, loving chastity and lustful carnal desires, and many others exist in the nature of every human. His being is the platform on which these forces shape his character and nature.
Because fallen man feels guilt within himself, and his divine endowments are bluffed, Almighty God provides man with the means of healing-a healing of the body and of the spirit by the wondrous correlation between the two. Sincere faith expressed in prayers to God heals afflictions of body and spirit. Jesus Christ, facing the tempting bait of materialistic nourishment in the wilderness, declared, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (St. Matthew 4:4; cf. Deut. 8:3). In order to cure iniquities and afflictions of the body and the spirit, the Holy Scripture record the healing words and deeds of God especially pertaining to the healing of the nature and character as explained and practiced by Christ Himself. To pray, believe, worship, give alms and fast are means of healing and restoration for the body and its spirit. These and other means are related, one to another, for a complete cure of the whole man.
The Lord says, "I am the Lord that healeth thee" (Exodus 15:26), "I wound and I healeth" (Deut. 32:39) and "to heal the broken heart" (St. Luke 5:16). Helping to heal the afflictions of the body and spirit is the practice of fasting, not only from foods, which affects the body, but, more important, fasting from sins and iniquities, because "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
Christ's mode of fasting
The fact that fasting was not determined in specific days and certain foods originally, indicates that fasting in itself, for the sake of fasting, was not considered as such. In the New Testament fasting is mentioned by Christ Himself, the first time in reference to temptations: "When He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterwards hungered" (St. Matthew 4:2); the second time when Christ admonished the disciples on fasting versus hypocrisy in the Sermon on the Mount:
"Moreover when you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (St. Matthew 6:16-18; Isaiah 58:5).
The Lord does not refer to specific days, foods or complete abstention from foods. Christ does not refer to them as not having been fixed either, nor does He mention days and foods, because they were known to the people of that time. Here Christ refers to fasting as a sincere attitude of deep humility and repentance, with discipline and vigorous uprightness, all to be held in secrecy, as quoted (cf. St. Matthew 6:18). This principle of secrecy is to be applied not only to fasting, but also to prayer and to alms giving (cf. St. Matthew 6:4, 6).
The Christian Church adopted the custom of fasting from the Jewish religion, but with a new meaning and purpose, and a new dimension contributing to a specific end. The Christian practice of fasting is not for the sake of fasting alone. Fasting in itself is not a virtue. It is especially for certain days and seasons, mainly as a preparation for a feast. Also, fasting is practiced for self-control of the spirit and the flesh; for giving alms to the needy; for praying more frequently, enabling these virtues to be practice according to principles set forth by Christ (cf. St. Matthew chs. 5, 6, 7).
Fasting, compared to other Christian activities, is a means, not an end in itself. Nevertheless, it is the only practice which has to do with the nutrition of the body, having a direct effect upon its physical nature, which in turn affects spiritual well-being as well. This is why the Church at the beginning of the Christian era adopted the practice of fasting, establishing procedures of duration and specific types and quantities of food. During these specific days of fasting the faithful either abstained from foods entirely or would take only a certain amount of bread and water (Xerophagia). New Testament references state attitudes and principles of fasting, but not details pertaining to specific days and foods.
(to be continued)
DO GOOD TO ALL
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reaps corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reaps everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6:1-10).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God