How to Live a Holy Life

Icon of the Mother of God of Tolga

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

PSALM 69(70)

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord! Let them be ashamed and confounded Who seek my life; Let them be turned back and confused Who desire my hurt. Let them be turned back because of their shame, Who say, "Aha, aha!"

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually,

"Let God be magnified!" But I am poor and needy; Make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.

[All the enemies of God and of His people will be put to shame, but those who seek the Lord will rejoice. The early Desert Fathers used v. 1 as a text for "ceaseless prayer", thereby living out the exhortation of Saint Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray without ceasing." This is often seen as the precursor to the now-famous Jesus Prayer, "O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner," as the means of prayer without ceasing. This psalm is read during both Small and Great Compline (Apodeipnos) [the late evening services].

TODAY'S SYNAXARION:

On August 8th 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: St. Gregory of Sinai; St. Myron, Bishop of Crete; Saints Eleftherius and Leonides of Constantinople, and many infants with them; St. Emilian the Confessor, Bishop of Cyzicus; St. Gormizdas of Persia; St. Gregory, iconographer of the Kiev Caves; St. Gregory of the Kiev Caves; New Holy Martyr Anastasius of Rodovishte in Strumica; 12 Ascetics of Egypt; St. Efthimius of Georgia; New Holy Martyr Triantaphilos of Zagora; Two Holy Martyrs of Tyre; holy Martyr Styracius; St. Zosimas the Sinaite of Tumana Monastery, Serbia; "Tolga" Holy Icon of the Mother of God.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

"TOLGA" HOLY ICON OF THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS. Saint Prochoros was the bishop of 14th century Rostov. As he was traveling about his diocese near White Lake, along the rivers en route to the town of Yaroslavl, his entourage stopped for the night on the banks of the Volga River at the point where the Tolga River flows into it. At midnight, St. Prochoros awoke to see a fiery pillar on the opposite bank, and a miraculous bridge that crossed over the river. He took his staff, crossed the bridge, and approached the fiery pillar, where he saw an icon of the Theotokos suspended mid-air. Saint Prochoros prayed for a long time and then returned to the other side, but without his staff. The next morning, the bridge was no longer there, so Saint Prochoros sent his servants over by boat to get his staff. When they returned, they said that they saw the icon suspended in a tree next to his staff. Saint Prochoros and his entourage cleared the forest at the place where the holy icon was and built the foundation for a church. Hearing the news, the people of Yaroslavl went to that site and the church was completed that very day. It was consecrated that evening, and they place the holy and miraculous icon within. Saint Prochoros later built the Tolga Monastery near this church.

TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Corinthians 7:24-35
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 15:12-21

FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Don't be sad, for we will all depart from here. We are passing travelers. We came here to show our works and to leave" (Geronda[Elder] George of Drama)

HOW TO LIVE A HOLY LIFE

By Metropolitan Gregory (Postnikov) of St. Petersburg

Appeal to the Christian

Do you call yourself a Christian? Are you a Christian in actual fact? Do you live as a Christian should live, that is, do you fervently desire and earnestly seek after that which a true Christian desires and seeks after? The blessings that the Lord promises the true Christians in the future life are to be highly desirous. And inexpressibly horrible is the misfortune into which sin plunges us, if we do not desire and do not seek what a Christian must desire most fervently and seek after most earnestly. What will happen if you do not receive the promised blessings and are cast into eternal torments? You have already lived a considerable time, but have you ever asked yourself these and similar questions? In particular, have you ever contemplated upon them seriously?

The Christian must be such as was Jesus Christ. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus", said the holy Apostle Paul (Phil. 2:5). Are you the kind of person that Jesus Christ was? Do you behave as He did? Do you live by His teaching, or Gospel, that He gave us as a rule of life?

A Christian must not love the world (1 John 2:15). But many are completely bound to the world, so that is seems like they live only for the world: they always think like the world, they behave like the world, and all the rules that they follow in their lives are precisely those rules that the world follows. Aren't you such a person? Such a life is not a Christian one and is quite disastrous.

The Lord once said in the Old Testament through the holy Prophet to His Chosen People: "And now, man of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, judge between Me and My vineyard. What shall I do for My vineyard that I have not done for it? For I waited for it to bring forth grapes, but it produced thorn-plants. But now I will tell you what I shall do to My vineyard: I shall remove its wall and it shall be for booty. I shall break down its wall and it shall be trampled underfoot" (Isaiah 5:3-5). Can not the Lord God with incomparably greater right in the New Testament tell us are disobedient to Him, "What could I do for you that I have not done? I redeemed you with My Blood, gave birth to you in the bosom of My Church; enlightened you with the light of the true faith, gave you all the means and abilities for salvation, prepared eternal blessedness for you and constantly in every way disposed you to seek this blessedness. Did I not sufficiently show my love for you? Wretches! I became your Savior and try in every way to lead all of you into eternal blessedness, but you only endeavor in every way not to find yourself in eternal blessedness, but for Me to become your judge and give you up to eternal torments. I created you to be eternally with Me and to experience My joys, but you behave yourselves in such a way that I would abhor you and repudiate you. I am very merciful towards you, but by your ingratitude and your self-will try only to enflame My anger toward you. Neither My mercy, which I constantly show you, nor eternal blessedness, to which I so often and earnestly call you, nor the terrible torments of Hell, with which I threaten you, rouse you onto the path of salvation. Would it not have been better for you if you had not been born and the light of faith had not shone on you?" My friend, what if one day we shall have to hear such words from the Lord? Such words even now, when we have not yet heard them, tear at the heartstrings. What will it be like when we do hear them and when we have to reap what we have sown for ourselves by our sins? Have fear in your heart!

Cease your customary way of life and begin to live according to the Lord's teaching, which is written in His Holy Gospel, a God-pleasing, holy life.

So that you will be able to more quickly get started, I offer instructions for one day. If you faithfully follow these instructions, you will see that you will need no other instructions. You should pass every subsequent day just as you did the first one.

How should we conduct ourselves in the morning?

In the morning, conduct yourself in the following manner:

1. Upon awakening, try first of all to direct your thoughts to the Lord God. Directing our thoughts to the Lord God should be our most natural activity at every other time of the day as well, because there is absolutely no one who could be so necessary for us, so dear and precious for us as God. For absolutely everything that we have now and that we have ever had, including even our very being--absolutely everything is a gift of God. The person who is the most needed, the most precious, the dearest of all for us is the one who usually first comes to our minds in the morning. As soon as we wake up in the morning, the thoughts of whoever or whatever is the most needed and dear to us wakes up as well. This always happens in the natural course of things. Therefore, it is always natural for our thoughts to turn first of all to the Lord God with some heartfelt appeal, such as "Glory to Thee, O Lord! Glory to Thee, O All-Merciful One!" We would be unworthy of the name of Christian if, waking from sleep, we were to open only our physical eyes, and not our spiritual ones, and were to think first of the earth and of earthly things, and not of the Lord God.

2. If the time at which you woke is the time at which or near which you should get up, then without any delay say, "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," while making the sign of the cross. And then, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

3. Right after this, or at the same time, get out of bed. Getting out of bed quickly is often very unpleasant for our flesh, because our flesh, like a lazy servant, always likes to lie and sleep or to luxuriate and remain idle. Every single morning act against the base desires of your flesh. Let this opposition to the flesh be your first sacrifice to the Lord God. Among other reasons, quickly getting up in the morning is very beneficial for the soul because (as all those who fervently strive for salvation have long observed) when we lie in bed for a long time after waking, impure tendencies very easily arise in our bodies and impure thoughts and desires in our souls. Later in the day these easily cause the careless to fall into serious sins and into great danger of losing their salvation. But whoever bravely opposes the wishes of his flesh in the morning will resist temptations besetting him during the day and evening, even very serious ones. But if you have been watching after yourself to any degree, you already know this.

4. Having risen from bed, wash immediately, and having washed, dress immediately in a way that befits a respectable person. It is necessary to get dressed immediately like this in the morning, although there may be no one with us, because:

First, we never are completely alone; always and everywhere our Guardian Angel and the Lord God are with us. Our Guardian Angel, if we ourselves do not drive him away from us, is always with us, and the Lord God unquestionably is always with us by His very essence, because He is an Omnipresent God. "For in Him we live, and move, and have our being," says the Holy Apostle (Acts 17:28).

Second, after having woken and washed, we should immediately stand before the Lord God with our morning prayers. And we would never dare to appear before even any of our lower-ranking earthly bosses without having dressed properly.

And finally, if you have dressed decently immediately after sleep, you will guard yourself from two dangers to which unfortunately very many people are subjected in our times, namely: from the danger of becoming infected with the spirit of shamelessness. My friend, what can we expect in midday and evening from one who is shameless even in the morning?

5. After having washed and dressed, stand before the holy icons and say those morning prayers as specified and in the order specified by the Holy Church, and interpreter and guardian of the path to salvation.

So that you may pray unimpeded, especially if you do not know how to read, learn by heart at least the beginning morning prayers. Is this difficult? And how could you not know by heart even the Lord's Prayer, that is, the prayer "Our Father, Who art in the heavens..." Learn it! This is the most important prayer and most salvific for all occasions.

6. Because of our long familiarity with them, prayers learned by heart or read from a book are sometimes said without due attention to their contents, and we therefore are actually not praying, but just dreaming that we are praying. For this reason we may pray at times using words other than those of the prayers that are prepared and designated by the Holy Church. 

(to be continued)

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George