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.
A PRAYER OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT
Blessed are You, O Lord God Almighty, You have illumined the day with the light of the sun and the night You have brightened with the rays of the fiery moon; You have made us worthy to go through this day and to approach the beginning of the night. Hear our petitions and those of all Your people, and forgive us all our voluntary and involuntary sins. Receive our evening prayers, and send down upon the people of Your inheritance the multitude of Your mercy and compassionate love. Encompass us with Your holy Angels. Arm us with the weapons of Your Righteousness. Outline us with the mark of Your Truth. Guard us by Your Power. Deliver us from every circumstance and influence of the adversary. Grant us once again, O Lord, that his present evening, together with the approaching night, and all the days of our life, will be perfect, holy, peaceful, sinless and without any scandalous imaginations. We pray for this through the intercessions of the Holy Theotokos and all the Saints who have pleased You throughout the ages. Amen.
On September 16th Our Holy Orthodox 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: Holy and Great Martyr, the All-famed Euphemia; Holy Martyr Victor and Sosthenes of Chalcedon; Holy Melitene of Marcianopolis in Thrace; our righteous Father Dorotheos the Solitary of Egypt; our Father among the Saints Ninian, Equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of Scotland; Holy Martyrs Rogellius the Monk and Servideus were beheaded in Cordova by the Moors in the year 852 A.D.; Holy Martyrs Isaac and Joseph of Iberia; our righteous Mother Edith of Wilton, daughter of Edgar, king of England; Holy Martyr Ludmilla, Princes of Behemia, grandmother of Saint Wenceslaus.
THE HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR EUPHEMIA. Born in Chalcedon, her father was the Senator Philophronos and her mother's name was Theodorisia, both devout Christians. Saint Euphemia was a girl beautiful in both body and soul. When the Proconsul, Priscus, celebrated a festival of sacrifice to Ares in Chalcedon, forty-nine Christians absented themselves from the festivities and hid themselves. But they were discovered and brought before Priscus, Holy Euphemia being among them. When the furious Priscus asked them why they did not carry out the imperial command, they replied: 'Both the Emperor's commands and yours must be obeyed if they are not contrary to the God of Heaven. If they are, they must not only not be obeyed, they must be resisted.' Then Priscus put them to various tortures for nineteen days, from day to day. On the twelfth day, he held Saint Euphemia apart from the others and began to flatter her beauty, hoping to bring her thus to idolatry. When all his flattery proved fruitless, he ordered that she be tortured. First, she was put on a wheel, but an Angel of God appeared and broke it. Then he had her thrown into a fiery furnace, but she was preserved by God's power. Seeing this, two soldiers, Victor and Sosthenes, came to the faith in Christ, for which they were thrown to the wild beasts and thus finished their earthly course with glory. After that, Saint Euphemia was thrown into a pit filled with water and all kinds of poisonous reptiles, but she made the sign of the Cross over the water as she went into the pit, and remained unharmed. She was finally thrown to the wild beasts and, with prayer of thanksgiving, gave her soul into God's hands. Her parents buried her body. She suffered in the year 303 A.D., and entered into Eternal joy.
+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: II Corinthians 6:1-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 7:36-50
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS:
"My brother: know that a man cannot make progress in God, unless he becomes detached from all the cares of this age. For there are two material forces that hinder the soul. One is exterior: it concerns itself with worldly work in order to provide respite for the body. The other is interior: it is the force of the passions, which hinders the virtues. But the soul does not see the interior force of the passions unless it is freed from the exterior one. This is why the Lord said: "Whosoever that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple" (St. Luke 14:33). The exterior force wars from the will, the interior from exterior action." [Abba [Father] Isaiah]
THE WAY INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
by Saint Innocent of Alaska
By His way of life Christ showed us how to live to attain salvation. And He also assists us constantly in everything good. By His Most Precious Blood Jesus washed away our sins and made of us children of God, who were slaves of passions and the devil. Those torments we, as transgressors of the will of God, would have had to suffer, He bore for us. By His death He crushed the power of the devil, destroyed the power of Hell, and delivered us from death. By His Resurrection He gave us life and opened the gates of Paradise to all. Therefore, death is no longer an irreversible tragedy but a passage from this temporary world of vanity and sorrows to the world of bright and joyous life. By His Ascension into Heaven Christ glorified our nature, enabling us to share Eternal bliss with the Angels and all the heavenly creatures.
It is impossible fully to comprehend and to describe all the benefits that the Lord has prepared for us. Let us just say that all who choose to believe in Him and to live a Christian life will become sons of God, will attain Paradise, where the Angels and the just reside, and will see God face to face. They will rejoice with a pure and eternal joy, knowing no weariness, sadness, or troubles.
It is so wonderful that Jesus Christ gives these benefits not to a chosen few but to each and every person who desires to receive them! The path to salvation has been shown and arranged; it has been made as smooth and level as possible. Besides this, Jesus Himself constantly helps us along the way, so to speak, leading us by the hand. It only remains for us not to oppose Him, not to be obstinate, but to surrender to His will. So you can see how much Jesus Christ loves us and what great blessings He is bestowing upon us!
Let us consider for a moment what would happen if Jesus were to appear before us now and ask: "My children! Do you love Me for all that I have done for you and do you value those blessings that I bestow upon you?" Who among us would not answer Him: "Yes, Lord! I love You and am grateful to You!"
If, then, we truly love Jesus Christ with our hearts and not just with our words, and if we are grateful to Him, are we then not bound to carry out what He wills for us to do? When a person truly loves his benefactor, he expresses his gratitude by doing what pleases his benefactor.
The basis of life is love: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself" (St. Mark 12:30-31). Because of our sinfulness, none of us is capable of loving God and our neighbors in such a complete and perfect manner. Only Jesus Christ truly loved everyone, even His enemies.
His Infinite Love was evidenced in His every word and deed. Being the Only-begotten Son of God and God Himself, Jesus Christ in His pity for us came down from Heaven and was Incarnate, becoming in everything the same as us, except in sin. Being the Sovereign Heavenly King, before Whom all Angels and creatures tremble, He deigned to take on the image of an ordinary person, to restore our corrupted nature. While possessing all the treasures of the world, He agreed to be born in poverty, lying in a manger in a dark cave.
Being the Supreme Lawgiver, Jesus Christ during His earthly life humbly submitted to all the decrees and commandments of the Jewish law. Thus, on the eighth day after His birth, He submitted to circumcision, and on the fortieth day His Mother brought Him into the Temple and there paid to redemption fee for Him, the Ruler of the Universe. As was fitting for a boy and then later a youth, He always obeyed His earthly Mother and helped His foster father, the elderly Joseph. Once mature, He treated the Jewish elders and leaders with respect, as well as the Roman governors, and paid the required taxes. He willingly lived in poverty and often, while traveling to preach, had no place to rest His head. Christ, to Whom all nature submits, Himself served people and even washed the feet of His disciples, who were uneducated fishermen.
Jesus Christ constantly prayed to His Heavenly Father, even at night when the others were asleep. On Sabbath days at a synagogue, He took part in the communal prayers and the reading of the Scriptures, and on the major feast days He made pilgrimages to the Temple at Jerusalem.
With all His love and diligence Jesus fulfilled that commission for which His Heavenly Father sent Him, directing everything toward His Fathers glory. He felt pity for all people, especially for the poor and underprivileged, wished well to everyone and was willing to bear anything in order to ease their suffering. He bore all conceivable affronts and insults form the ungrateful crowd with the greatest meekness, and did not vent His anger on those who slandered Him and plotted intrigues against Him. Some who bore Christ ill-will called Him a sinner and lawbreaker; others called Him a carpenter's son and a shallow person; still others said He was a friend of drunkards and sinners. On several occasions Christ's enemies attempted to stone Him or toss Him from a mountaintop. Jewish Scribes called His divine teachings deceitful; and when He healed the sick, raised the dead, or exorcised demons, they explained away these miracles as the deeds of an evil spirit. Some even openly called Him possessed. The Lord Jesus, being Almighty God, could have destroyed them all with one word. Instead, He pitied them as spiritually blind and prayed for their welfare and for their salvation.
In brief, from His early youth till His very death, Jesus Christ constantly did good to all people even when instead of being grateful to Him they caused Him anguish. His Mission was to teach the people goodness and to lead them toward faith. They worked with all their might to keep the people from believing in Jesus as the God-sent Messiah, distorting the meaning of the prophecies that predicted His coming. They contradicted all that He said or did. Jesus did not grieve so much that the Jewish leaders fought against Him as He did from the fact that they were rushing blindly toward doom, taking the simple people along with them.
In order to appreciate more fully the boundless love of Jesus Christ and the extent of His Sacrifice, let us remind ourselves how great He is and how insignificant we are. Indeed, Christ is the True God, Equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit. He resides in an unreachable world, this all powerful Creator of the universe, this Immortal King before Whom bow countless hosts of Angels. He is the undying Fountain of Life, the Lord of all that is visible and invisible, the formidable Judge of the living and the dead. This same Jesus suffered for us sinful and worthless creatures. Who can comprehend this Mystery of Godly Agape?
(to be continued: The Path into the Kingdom of Heaven)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God