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 CONSUMMATION OF HOLY EUCHARIST
Like Moses on Mount Sinai entered the Holy Cloud to communicate intimately with God, so the priest now enters into the Most Sacred Part of the Divine Liturgy: to immolate bloodlessly the Divine Lamb and to stand in His presence, not facing the people until after the Mystery of Holy Eucharist is consummated.
The Holy Eucharist is consummated by a sublime and extensive Prayer, the Eucharistic (Thanksgiving) Prayer, which is so arranged that some part of it are read in a low voice, some are intoned by the priest, and others are chanted by the Chanters.
The celebrant priest begins the mystical Prayer in a low voice:
It is meet and right to hymn Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks unto Thee, and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion. For Thou are God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing and eternally the same, Thou and Thy Only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit. Thou did bring us into being out of nothing, and when we had fallen away did raise us up again, and did not cease to do all things until Thou did brought us back to heaven, and had endowed us with Thy Kingdom which is to come. For all these things we give thanks to Thee, and to Thy Only-begotten Son, and Thy Holy Spirit, for all the things we know and we do not know, for the benefits conferred upon us, both seen and unseen. We render to Thee also for this liturgy which Thou dost deign to receive from our hands, although there stand beside Thee thousands of Archangels and myriads of Angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, soaring aloft on wings.
On September 11th 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: Saints Demetrios, Evanthia, and Demetrian at Skepsis; Ias of Persia and 9,000 martyrs with her; Saint Theodora of Alexandria; Saints Diodoros, Didymos, and Diomedes of Laodicea; Saint Efrosynos the Cook; Saint Theodora of Vasta; Saint Joseph of Zaonikieva; Translation of the holy relics of St. Sergios and Herman of Valaam.
SAINT EFROSYNOS THE COOK OF ALEXANDRIA. As a monk and the cook in the monastery kitchen, St. Efrosynos served the brethren with humility and patience. Even so, he suffered much abuse from the brothers. One night a priest there had a vision of Paradise. Standing in a beautiful Garden, he saw St. Efrosynos walking by. When the priest asked what he was doing there, St. Efrosynos said that he lived there as well and that he gave to others the gifts of the Garden. St. Efrosynos then placed three apples in a kerchief and gave them to the priest. Just then, the semandron (a wooden board that is hit by a mallet instead of a church bell to awaken the monks for worship) awoke the priest for the night services. However, he found that he still had the fragrant apples from Paradise on his bed. At the church, he asked St. Efrosynos where he had been. St. Efrosynos said, "Forgive me, Father, I have been that place where we saw one another". The priest replied, "What did you give me, Father, in Paradise when I spoke with you?" Saint Efrosynos said, "The three fragrant apples which you have placed on your bed in your cell; but forgive me, Father, for I am a worm and not man". Following the church service, the humble St. Efrosynos could not be found again. Whoever ate of the apple pieces was healed.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and holy monastics, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Corinthians 6:11-16
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 12:19-36
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"My child, bear your cross, and know that all we have suffered is known to God, and as a true Father, He tries in every way to form Jesus Christ within us. He wants us to suffer because He knows what is prepared in the heavens for His suffering children. But if He did not send us afflictions, He would do them injustice, because they would be deprived of the ineffable blessings of Heaven. The more we suffer, the more beautifully our crown of glory is woven!" (Geronda [Elder] Ephraim of the Holy Mountain).
WE MUST PRAY FOR ALL: The Salvation of the World According to Saint Silouan
by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
Saint Silouan's burning desire and constant prayer was for the salvation of the whole world.
"Members of One Another"
"Love all creation", says Starets Zosima in Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov. "Love all creation, the whole of it and every grain sand within it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything you will perceive the divine mystery in things".
The 'divine mystery' of which Staretz Zosima speaks is precisely the interdependence, the reciprocal coherence, of all created things in God.
Everything, like the ocean, flows and enters into contact with everything else: touch one place, and you set up a movement at the other end of the world.
Such is Dostoevsky's vision of cosmic unity. The created world constitutes individual whole, and so the salvation of each individual person is inextricably bound up with the salvation of all mankind and, yet more widely, with the salvation of the entire universe. 'We are members of one another' (Ephesians 4:25) needs to be given the broadest possible application. It is not only we humans who depend on each other as the limbs of a single body; but we have bonds of kinship with the animals as well, and also with trees and plants, air and water. We live in them and they in us.
Precisely the same sense of cosmic unity is expressed by Saint Silouan the Athonite:
"He who has the Holy Spirit in him, to however slight a degree, sorrows day and night for all mankind. His heart is filled with pity for all God's creatures, more especially for those who do not know God, or who resist Him and therefore are bound for torment. For them, more than himself, he prays day and night, that all may repent and know the Lord".
Archimandrite Sophrony, in his book on Staretz Silouan , sums up the teaching of the Staretz on cosmic coherence in these words:
"The life of the spiritual world, the Staretz recognized as one life and because of this unity every spiritual phenomenon inevitably reacts on the state of the whole spiritual world."
Despite the striking parallels between the Russian novelist and the Athonite monk, it is highly unlikely that Saint Silouan had ever read Dostoevsky. More probably, the similarities arise because both are shaped by the same living tradition and both are drawing on the same sources. Saint Isaac the Syrian, who writes in a famous passage of the Ascetical Homilies:
"What is a merciful heart? It is a heart for the whole of creation for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for every created thing. At the recollection and at the sight of them such a person's eyes overflow with tears owing to the vehemence of the compassion which grips his heart: as a result of his deep mercy his heart shrinks and cannot bear to hear or look on any injury or the slightest suffering of anything in creation. This is why he constantly offers up prayer full of tears, even for the irrational animals and enemies of truth, even for those who harm him, so that they may be protected and find mercy".
What exactly does Staretz Silouan mean when faithful to the teaching of Saint Isaac, he affirms that the Saints "embrace the whole world, with their love? Let us note the all-embracing love and prayer that constitute our true vocation as human persons. There is first his firm conviction that God calls every human being to salvation. Secondly, there is his conception of the "total Adam" and, linked with this, his insistence that my neighbor is myself. Thirdly, there is his firm assurance that in God's total plan it is not only human beings but the entire cosmos that is to be redeemed and transfigured.
"Divine Love Desires Salvation for All"
"It was particularly characteristic of Staretz Silouan to pray for the dead suffering in the Hell of separation from God", writes Father Sophrony and he goes to recall an exchange that he overheard between the Staretz and a hermit:
I remember a conversation between him and a certain hermit, who declared with evident satisfaction, "God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire". Obviously upset, the Staretz said: 'Tell me, supposing you went to Paradise and then looked down and saw somebody burning in Hellfire-would you feel happy?' 'It can't be helped. It would be their own fault,' said the hermit. The Staretz answered him with a sorrowful countenance: 'Love could not bear that,' he said. 'We must pray for all!'
The fact that God desires the salvation of all does not mean of course that our salvation is automatic and inevitable. As the Letter to Diognetus states, "God persuades, He does not compel, for violence is foreign to Him. God's call to salvation comes in the form of an invitation, which we on the human side are free to accept or to reject. But, although the response varies, the call is universal.
"Dwelling in heaven, the Saints behold Hell and embrace it too in their love". This is possible for them, because the love that is at work in their hearts is nothing else than the love of God Himself, and God's love is present everywhere-even in hell. God is present in hell, too, as love…Even in hell Divine Love will embrace all men, but, while the love is joy and live for them that love God, it is torment for those who hate Him.
In the words of Vladimir Lossky, "The love of God will be an intolerable torment for those who have not acquired it within themselves."
In the teaching that the power of love extends even to Hell, the Staretz is once more following Saint Isaac the Syrian who writes:
"Even those who are punished in Gehenna are tormented with the scourging of love. The scourges that result from love-that is, the scourges of those who realize that they have sinned against love-are harder and more bitter than the torments which result from fear... The power of love works in two ways: it torments those who have sinned, just as happens here on earth; but those who have observed its duties, love gives delight. So it is in Gehenna: the contrition that comes from love is the harsh torment; but in the case of the sons of Heaven, delight in this love inebriates their souls."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God