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.
PRAYERS OF VESPERS (ESPERINOS)
+In the Name of the Father and the of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to You, our God, glory to You. Come, let us bow down and worship God our King. Come, let us bow down and worship Christ our God and King. Come, let us bow down and worship Christ Himself, our King and our God. Receive, O Lord, the doxologies and praises, the blessings, thanksgivings and petitions of Your sinful and unworthy servants, such as we are able to make at this time. And grant to us the remission of our transgressions. Overshadow us with the protection of Your wings. Expel from us every enemy and adversary. Bring peace to our life. Deliver us from the darkness of the destructive passions. Dispel from us the gloomy desire of mortal pleasures. You Who know the content of our heart, heal the latent wounds of our souls, which You alone observe, and strengthen the resolve of or mind to do Your will. Have mercy on us, help and protect us, O God, by Your grace, and make us worthy of Your heavenly Kingdom, through the intercessions of our All-Pure Lady, the Theotokos, and of all Your Saints. For unto You are Blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On August 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 Thaddeus, Holy Apostle of the 70; Holy Martyr Vassa and her sons Theogonius, Agapius, and Pistos.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY APOSTLE THADDAEUS. One of the Seventy secret Apostles was not one of the Twelve Holy Apostles. Saint Thaddaeus first saw and heard St. John the Baptist and Forerunner, and then saw the Lord Jesus and followed Him. The Lord included him among His Seventy, lesser Apostles, whom He sent two and two before His face (St. Luke 10:1). After His Glorious Resurrection and Ascension, the Lord sent St. Thaddaeus to Edessa, Theaddaeu's birthplace, in fulfillment of His promise to Avgar, which He made when He sent him the napkin with the imprint of His face. By kissing this napkin, Avgar was healed of his leprosy, though not entirely; a little of the leprosy remained on his face. When Saint Thaddaeus visited Avgar, the latter received him with great joy. Christ's Holy Apostle instructed him in the True faith and then baptized him. When the baptized Avgar came up out of the water, the remaining leprosy fell from him and he was completely healed. Glorifying God, Prince Avgar desired that his people should come to the knowledge of the True God and glorify Him. The prince called together all the citizens of Edessa before the Holy Apostle Thaddaeus, to hear him preach about Christ. Hearing the Apostle's words and seeing their miraculously-healed prince, the people cast away their pagan idols and their unclean living, embraced the Christian faith and were baptized, and the city of Edessa became resplendent with the Christian faith. Prince Avgar brought much gold and offered it to the Holy Apostle, but Saint Thaddaeus said to him: "Having abandoned my own, do I accept another's?" Saint Thaddaeus preached the Gospel throughout Syria and Phoenicia, and entered into rest in the Lord in the Phoenician city of Beirut.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: I Corinthians 13:4-13; 14:1-5
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 3:13-21
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH
"To as many as continue in their love towards God, does He grant communion with Him. Now, communion with God is life and Light and the enjoyment of all the benefits which he has in store. But on as many as depart from God, he inflicts separation from Himself, which they have chosen of their own accord. Now, separation from God is death, and separation from Light is darkness; and separation from God results in the loss of all the benefits which He has in store. Now, as good things are Eternal and without end with God, so the loss of these is also Eternal and never-ending." (Saint Irenaios)
THE LITURGICAL YEAR
by Father Anthony Alevizopoulos, PhD. of Theology, PhD. of Philosophy
Already by ancient Tradition, the Church honored the day on which the Saints reposed as their day of birth, and celebrated the great event in the lives of the Saints by celebrating the Divine Liturgy. But apart from these festivals, the Church also established the great feasts of the year which were associated with the great mystery of divine dispensation.
The liturgical year of the Church is not a measure for calculating time but for the living and experiencing of the entire mystery of the world's salvation, and is a prefiguring of the eternity to which the Christian looks. Liturgical time moves within the dimension of the eternal present; there is no separation between past, present and future. Thus it is that the hymns of the Church which refer to the great events of salvation in Christ use the word "today".
"Today does the Virgin give birth to the Superessential..."
"Today, He Who hung the earth in the waters, hangs upon the Cross..." Here we have a new dimension of time, the time of transfiguration and incorruption bathed in the unwaning Light of the "eighth day", the day of the Resurrection. In liturgical place and time everything finds its harmonious unity; Angels and men are "reconciled" in Christ; they are united under the One Head of the Divine Body, Christ, and men are thus able to practice their "royal" and priestly ministry within creation and thereby bring it [creation] back to its doxological relationship with the Triune God.
In liturgical time we do not simply recall or simply refer back to the events of the Divine dispensation; rather we mystically experience and live these events and sacramentally participate in the life of Christ and of all the Saints; we become partakers of Christ's legacy and commune with His sanctity; partakers of the salvation which is the spiritual experience of the Church throughout the ages; we do not simply celebrate the sacred memory of God's works.
The festal cycle of Christmas puts forth God's entry into the world of faith, an entry which is God's condescenion for man's restoration. The "Child" that "was born unto us and given unto us", according to the hymn of the Church is the super-essential and unapproachable God, Who becomes approachable for fallen man. Through this act God accepts His creation, and leads it from its fallen state to restoration, from death to life, from corruption to incorruption. For this reason all of creation co-celebrates this event. The earth offers the cave, the Angels glorify together with the shepherds and the Magi follow together the Star:
"Today the Virgin brings forth the Super-Essential, and the earth offers the cave to the Unapproachable, Angels together with the shepherds sing praises; the Wise Men journey on with the Star. For, for our sakes, God, Who is before all the ages, is born a little Child".
The festal cycle of Pascha leads the believer through a long preparation of repentance and asceticism, which culminates, during Holy and Great Week, in the night of the Resurrection, in the beginning of the "other life" where we celebrate the death of Death and the annihilation of Hades.
"We celebrate the death of Death, the annihilation of Hell, the beginning of a life new and everlasting. And in ecstasy we sing praises unto the Author thereof, the only God of our Fathers, blessed and exceedingly glorious. Now are all things filled with light; heaven, and earth and the places under the earth. All creation doth celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, on Whom also it is founded."
Man, in the Person of Christ, was assumed by Divinity; thus, through Christ's death, man crushed Death and rose to a life of incorruption and immortality, he ascended in glory and was exalted to the height of the glory of God the Father (I Timothy 3:16; Philip. 2:9-11). This is the significance of the feast of Christ's Ascension Before this "strange miracle" the hosts of Angels remain voiceless; all of creation engulfs the mystery with silence:
"The Angelic Hosts...beholding our nature and marveling at its strange ascension, wondered amongst themselves: Who is this here present? But s they discerned that this was their own Master, they commanded the Heavenly Gates to open..."
Our Lord's bodily Resurrection and Ascension, in accordance with the message of the Angels (Acts 1:11) also pre-announces His bodily return. The Lord, however, prior to His Ascension promised to "send" the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit revealed to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost the entire mystery of Divine love, and gave to them power and divine charismata so as to become zealous preachers and defy all dangers. With Pentecost, the period of confusion which began with Babel ended and man enters into a period of unity and returns to the one nature, to "the one in Christ".
"When the Most High confounded the tongues, He dispersed the nations; but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called men into unity. Wherefore, with one accord, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit". (Kontakion of Pentecost).
This deep unity is experienced by every Orthodox Christian in liturgical place, not only during the Feast of Pentecost, but at every gathering, especially on the Lord's Day, Sunday, during which the weekly festal cycle reaches its climax.
The celebration of Sunday is not a replacement for the keeping of the Jewish Sabbath. By establishing Saturday as a day of rest, God desired to limit Israel's insensitivity and carnality as well as its love for material things. The Command was given to the spiritually-weak Israelites and was based on the fear of punishment, within the framework of a relationship of Lord and servant between God and man that was regulated by the Mosaic Law.
The Orthodox Christian, however, finds himself in a relationship of "adoption"; his place vis-a-vis God is not governed by the Law, but by God's grace; that is, He is under grace (Romans 6:14). He is called to direct all his desire towards God and to do His will out of love-not out of fear-continuously, and not only one day a week.
Sunday is the day of the new creation, the birthday of God's children and depicts not one day's rest but the eternal rest of the faithful. It is outside the weekly cycle of the Jews and is characterized as the eighth day. That which the believer lives in liturgical time and place, he is called to continue throughout all his life, which should be enlightened by the unwaning light of Christ's Resurrection and of Pentecost.
This, however, is not easy for man in this life. Thus, he has need to return often to liturgical place, to receive the joy of the Resurrection and the Transfiguration, in order to set out once again in the world. This he must do until such time s the creation Coming of Christ becomes a reality. Then shall all of man's life and all of creation acquire the experience of a continuous Divine Liturgy within the continuous glory of Resurrection (cf. Isaiah 60: 1-22; Rev. 12:22-25).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God