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.
THE AKATHIST HYMN
The Archangel was sent from Heaven to say "Hail" to the Theotokos. And with his Celestial Voice, envisioning You O Lord embodied, he was wonder-rapt and stood crying unto Her:
Hail! To you through whom joy shall shine forth.
Hail! To you through whom the curse will vanish.
Hail! The recalling of the fallen Adam.
Hail! The redemption of Eve's tears.
Hail! O Height beyond human logic.
Hail! O Depth invisible even to the eyes of Angels.
Hail! For you are the King's throne.
Hail! For you bear Him, Who bears the Universe.
Hail! O Star revealing the Sun.
Hail! O womb of Divine Incarnation.
Hail! To you through whom Creation is re-made.
Hail! To you through whom the Creator is born a Babe.
Hail! O Bride Ever-Virgin.
Beholding herself in purity, the Holy One courageously said to Gabriel: "Your strange voice seems almost unbelievable to my soul; for how do you speak of birth-giving without seed? crying": "Alleluia".
On August 1st (Beginning of the Koimisis (Dormition) Fast-Aug. 1-14) 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: Seven Holy Maccabees: Abimus, Antonius, Gurias, Eleazar, Eusebonus, Alimus, and Marcellus, and their mother St. Solomonia, and their teacher Eleazar; Nine Holy Martyrs of Perge: Leontius, Attius, Alexander, Cindeus, Minsitheus, Cyriacus, Menaeus, Catanus, and Eucleus; St. Timothy, Archbishop of Priconissus; St. Nicholas, Enlightener of Japan; Saint Basil, Archbishop of Chernigov; Elesa on Cythera; Papas the New; holy Martyr Eleazar; Holy Martyrs Theodore and Polyeuctus; Saints Menas, Menais, and others of England; Procession of the Precious and Holy Cross. (Dormition Fast: Abstain from meat, meat products, fish, dairy products, olive oil and wine).
PROCESSION OF THE PRECIOUS WOOD OF THE LIFE-GIVING CROSS OF THE LORD. The Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches created this feast day simultaneously during the time of Emperor Manuel to celebrate the victories of the Greeks over the Saracens and of the Russians over the Bulgars. Both armies had carried radiant crosses into battle. The actual Holy Cross of Jesus, which had been kept at the Imperial Palace in Constantinople, was taken each year to Saint Sophia's Cathedral on July 31st. On August 1st, the Holy Cross would be carried around inside the cathedral, then through the streets to consecrate the area so that all could venerate it and be healed of illness. Saint John Chrysostom said that even the sign of the Cross drove out demons and aided healing. Saint Benedict made the sign of the Cross over a glass of poison, and drank it without harm. Saint Vasilissa crossed herself and stood in flames without harm. Sts. Audon and Senis crossed themselves in the presence of wild animals, and the animals became meek. Jesus made the Cross, once a sign of shame and wickedness, the vehicle for His power.
+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: Hebrews 11:33-40, 12:1-2
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:16-22
FROM THE VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS:
"Ever keep in remembrance those who surpass you by their virtue, so as to see yourself always as inferior to their measure. And be ever conscious of the bitter tribulations of the afflicted and oppressed, so that you may render due thanksgiving for your small and inconsequential troubles, and be able to endure them patiently and with joy". (Saint Isaac the Syrian)
FASTING FROM INIQUITIES AND FOODS
Rev. Father George Mastrantonis
Fasting with Communion, Prayer, Christian Life
Fasting from foods and, more important, from sins is observed in partaking of the very preparation for Holy Communion, the Holy Body and Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, especially during Great and Holy Lent. For the pious Christian, Holy Communion is the sacred privilege of being in Communion with God Himself. It is a sacred union of his own being with that of his Creator and Redeemer. Thus the pious Orthodox Christian tries to practice the Commandments of God the year around. His repentance, confession, prayers, fasting and alms-giving especially before partaking of Holy Communion are spiritual acts, which bring him nearer to God.
The Saints and pious servants of God practiced fasting, among other things, as a means for furthering their own spiritual growth in the service of the Church. In the New Testament fasting is linked with prayer. Jesus Christ, in reference to the banishment of the evil spirit, assured His Disciples that even the devil is rebuked by prayer and fasting: "This kind (the devil) can come forth by nothing by forth by nothing but prayer and fasting." (St. Mark 9:29; cf. St. Matthew 17:20-21).
Effects of Fasting In Life
True fasting is the entire abstention from foods. The Christian meaning of abstention from foods has developed various interpretations. They have varied from time to time in duration, method of practice, kinds of food, consumed and implications of their affect on the life of the Christian. Regardless of the non-religious aspects of fasting (that is, one's appearance and health, fanaticism, self-satisfaction, modes of diets, and vegetarianism), fasting has the same effect on the body. Abstention from foods has its effects on the body regardless of human presupposition and ideals. Nevertheless, the fasting of the Christian is based on a spiritual point of view. It is an expression of one's reverence for Almighty God, a kind of humble obedience to the old Commandments and especially the new ones that express the "newness of life". It is a basic practice in the brotherly Christian community in which the life of dedication to the divine cause is inseparable from human sacrifice for one's fellow man, his neighbor and he who is "the least".
It is important to note that fasting as an observance and dedication to the Will of God presupposes a healthy body strong enough to endure the bodily effects of fasting. For those who are ill or weak in body fasting may be regulated in terms of duration and selection of certain foods in order to retain their health and fulfill obligations at work and at home. Saint Timothy (381 A.D.) gave a canonical answer on fasting for those who are sick or weak in body, an answer which was adopted as a Canon by the Sixth Ecumenical Synod in Trullo, it reads:
"Fasting was devised in order to humble the body. If, therefore, the body is already in a state of humbleness and illness or weakness, the person ought to partake of as much as he or she may wish and be able to get along with food and drink". (Canon 8 of St. Timothy; cf. Canon 69 of the Apostles).
Saint Timothy's answer can be used by the pious Orthodox Christian to regulate his fasting with sincerity and without concession. A person who is ill and or weak in body should however strive all the harder to abstain from sins. For the sick or the weak in body, in accordance with the definition of fasting by St. Timothy, it is proper that a minimum of fasting be observed when they are not strong enough to endure the strict fasting from foods observed by mostly by monks and nuns.
Children should be instructed by their parents as to the purpose and meaning of Church observances such as the procedure of fasting. Children should be taught at home the ideals of abstention from foods and from sins and their relationship to prayer, charity, self-control and love. Children of sound health should fast. The main purpose of children fasting is to make them aware that fasting is a dedication and pledge to obey the principles of faith in Christ. Infants are not required to fast. However, the feeding should take place at least two or three hours before Holy Communion.
Standards Set Forth By the Holy Fathers of the Church
The Holy Fathers of the Church, preaching on fasting, set forth two distinguished standards:
1. They interpreted the Holy Scripture on fasting as a means for spiritual achievements;
2. Witnessing their profound knowledge was their own experiences of fasting under many and varied circumstances related to environment.
The following are few passages of the Holy Fathers of the Church on the true meaning of fasting:
St. Clement of Alexandria (150-c.215), a great Theologian, wrote in his Selection from the Prophets:
"Fasting is abstention from foods according to the meaning of the word, but the food does not make us either more just or more unjust. Yet, in its mystical meaning it declares that as the life of each one depends upon food, total abstention is the sign of death. Thus we ought to abstain from worldly things, for we would die as far as worldly matters are concerned, and after that, when we partake of food of divine nature, we will live in God. Above all, total abstention empties the soul of matter, and presents the soul pure and nimble to the body according to the divine words. Then, on the one hand, worldly nourishment consists of temporal life and iniquities, while divine nourishment is faith, hope, love, patience, knowledge, peace, prudence as our Lord said in St. Matthew: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (5:6), where truly He attributes this longing to the soul and not to the body.
Saint Isidore, a great teacher of the Church says:
"Fasting in respect of food is of no benefit for those who fail to fast with all their senses; for whosoever is successfully waging his battle must be temperate in all things."
Saint John Chrysostom (345-407 A.D.) said that the purpose of fasting is to prepare for partaking of the Holy Eucharist and for the Christian solemn celebrations. Saint John taught many times that fasting is not merely the abstention from certain foods, but mainly an abstention from evil doings.
Saint John Chrysostom warns against hypocritical fasting:
"It is possible for one who fasts not to be rewarded for his fasting. How? When indeed we abstain from foods, but do not abstain from iniquities-when we do not eat meat, but gnaw to pieces the homes of the poor-when we do not become drunkards with wine, but we become drunkards with evil pleasures; when we abstain all the day, but all the night we spend in unchastened shows. Then what is the benefit of abstention from foods, when on the one hand you deprive your body of a selected food, but on the other offer yourself unlawful food?"
Please note: Let us turn our attention to the warning and condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (St. Matthew Chapter 23) on their hypocrisy which may apply to us today as well:
"...Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribe and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness... Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" (23:25-33)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God