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.
OUR PRAYER TO OUR LORD GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
The First Hour (8:00 a.m.)
+In the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As You send the light and it goes on its way, O Lord; As You cause the sun to dawn upon the evil and the good; As You bring about the morning and give light to the whole world, O Lord of all, illumine also our hearts. Grant to us the possibility to please You on this day; Protecting us from every adverse and evil influence that comes each day, through the intercessions of our All-Pure Lady, the Theotokos, of the immaterial ministering spirits and heavenly powers, and of all the Saints, who have pleased You from the beginning. For it is Your Will to show mercy and to save us, our God, and to You we offer up glory, to the Father and to the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH, THE PLACE OF THE AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE OF THE GRACE OF GOD
By Archimandrite George, Geronda (Abbot) of the Holy Monastery of Saint Gregorios of Mt. Athos
Our Orthodox Church is the Church of Pentecost and why is She so? Because She is the Church of the Incarnation of Christ, of His death on the Cross, of His Resurrection and of Pentecost. When, from Christ's work, we isolate one part only, over-emphasize it and interpret it falsely, this is one-sidedness and heresy. Only the Church that accepts and lives in accordance with all of Christ's work including Pentecost is the true Church of Pentecost. Can man see God without crucifying himself through fasting, prayer, repentance, humility and practice of God's Commandments? The Cross in the life of Christ and in the Christian's life comes first. On the contrary, those outside the Church want the Resurrection and spiritual gifts, without crucifying themselves through repentance, spiritual struggle and obedience to the Church. For this reason, it is not they who constitute the Church of Pentecost.
We have Pentecost in every Divine Liturgy in our Church. How is it that the bread and the wine become the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ? Does not this happen with the descent of the Holy Spirit? Behold Pentecost! Every Holy Altar of the Orthodox Church is also an upper room of Pentecost. We have the Pentecost in every Baptism. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, man becomes a Christian and is embodied in the Body of Christ. Every ordination of deacon or priest and especially of a bishop is a new Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descends and makes man God's minister.
Every Christian's confession is also a Pentecost. When the Christian kneels in front of his confessor with humility and confesses his sins with repentance and the confessor reads him the Absolution Prayer, the penitent is forgiven through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Every congregation and every Mystery (Sacrament) of the Church is a continuation of Pentecost because they are performed within the presence of the Holy Spirit. That is why almost all the acts, prayers and Mysteria (Sacraments) of the Church begin with the prayer: "O Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth... come and abide in us..." We ask for the Paracletos, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to come and He comes. The Holy Spirit descends there, where the Orthodox Church, the true Church of Christ is gathered.
Every Saint of our Church is a Spirit-bearing man, full of the Holy Spirit's gifts, a person of Pentecost.
The request of the Lord's Prayer, "Thy Kingdom come" also means: "Come, the grace of thy Holy Spirit." The Kingdom of God is the grace of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, with the Lord's Prayer we ask for the Holy Spirit.
The prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner", is also practised with the grace of the Holy Spirit because as Saint Paul says, "…and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but in the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3). No one can call Jesus Lord except with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Here then is proof that our Church lives in Pentecost continuously.
We have, my brethren, the blessing of having the Grace of God abide in our holy Church. We have the possibility to become familiar with God and to receive the experience of the Grace of God, to unite with Him. Our Orthodox Church is a tested and safe path to salvation. It is the Church of the Prophets, the Apostles, the Fathers, the Martyrs, the Saints and even the Church of the more recent Saints, such as the Holy and Wonderworking Saint Nektarios. It is the Church that has kept the preaching of the Holy Gospel unadulterated for about two thousand years, although it was persecuted by formidable heretics.
Keep in mind how many heretics have persecuted our Church throughout the centuries. Not just enemies like the Pentecostals, but emperors, with armies and worldly powers. Nevertheless, they were not able to overthrow the Church. Not even the iconoclast controversy, which lasted one hundred and thirty years, was able to overthrow Orthodoxy. Thousands are the martyrs of the Church and nevertheless the Church is never defeated, although She appears to be weakened and rendered illustrious.
Therefore, the grace of the Holy Spirit dwells in our Church. There are Saints in our Church up to this day. The bodies of many Saints are preserved intact, give forth myrrh, give fragrance, perform miracles. Where else does this happen? In which heresy and in which 'church' are men unburied and their bodies (holy relics) are fragrant? You might have heard that the reliquaries on Mount Athos are fragrant. That is because among the bones of the fathers, are the bones of holy monks. These things occur because the Holy Spirit is present.
Furthermore, only the Orthodox holy water is preserved intact. Those of you who have holy water at home, know that it never spoils as time passes.
This is our Faith, true and Orthodox! Why renounce this faith and follow some novel 'saviors' who believe that they are the founders of the Church? Think of the demonic arrogance they possess! The Church has been in existence for two thousand years and they claim that the authentic faith was founded by them, the Pentecostals and the rest of the heretics.
And if other people have an alibi as to why they follow the heresies, is there an excuse for us, the Orthodox people, to do the same? We, who have such a tradition, so many Saints, so many monasteries, so many holy relics, so many miraculous icons and so many holy Martyrs and Fathers? Our departure from Orthodoxy is a terrible and unforgivable apostasy from the God our Fathers.
Through the heresies, the devil attempts to crush the Church. Finally, this turns out as his disadvantage. He thinks that he will do evil to Christ, to the Church and to the Christians when he fights against them. In the end, though, he himself is crushed. Holy God brings about good, out of the devil's war against the Church. The Orthodox are strengthen in their faith, become new martyrs and confessors, great theologians and defenders of the Orthodox Faith.
When in the 14th century the Western (Latin or Roman catholic) monk, Varlaam, attacked the Orthodox teachings concerning the Divine Energies and the Uncreated Light, as it was experienced on Mount Athos, God raised the Athonite Hieromonk St. Gregory Palamas, to be a great Theologian and teacher of the Orthodox Faith.
Here it is then, that what is attempted against the Church, results at the expense of the heresies and the devil. Holy Apostle Paul says, "For there must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest in you" (I Corinthians 11:19). There must be heresies, he says, so that those who are firm in the faith be recognized. Therefore, now that our Church is attacked by atheism, worship of the flesh and the heresies through the radio, television, newspapers and other media, now is the time for the faithful and true Orthodox Christians, fighters and confessors of the Orthodox Faith to come forth.
At these very crucial hours, the Orthodox Christian who remains steadfast in his Orthodox Faith in Christ, will receive great blessings and great rewards from Holy God. This is so because in this evil and perverse era, he was not carried away by contemporary paganism nor by contemporary pseudo-gods and because he did not bow to them, but remained stable and firm to our Holy Orthodox Faith.
May, then, no one Orthodox become a traitor, a Judas and apostate of our holy Orthodox Faith. Moreover, all those who out of ignorance and in cooperation with the devil were carried away by deceptions and by the heresies, may they be enlightened by God and return to our Holy Orthodox Faith, so as to have hope of salvation
We may all be sinners but when we are in our Lord's Holy Orthodox Church we have hope of our salvation. While, on the contrary, even if we are 'just' men, yet alienated from the Church, we have no hope of salvation. In the Church, where we are, we will repent, confess, be forgiven and God will have mercy on us. Away from the Church, who will save us? What Holy Spirit will forgive our sins and what church will intervene for our souls after our death? Therefore, any Orthodox who dies as an Orthodox must know that he has hope of salvation. While whoever departs from the Church, even if he performs good deeds, has no hope of salvation.
For this reason, brethren, let us remain unto the end loyal to and firm in our Orthodox Church with a holy determination. Then, we may have, by the Grace of God and the blessings of our most Holy Mother of God, hope of salvation.
[source: Experiences of the Grace of God]
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God