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 TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, You Who stretched Your arms on the Cross, and Who drank the cup of the Passion for the Redemption of all people, make me worthy to receive today Your instruction. Behold, I, the poor, come to You, the rich; I, the pitiful, come to You, the Merciful; let me not depart empty and despised. I am hungry and come seeking after You; do not abandon me unsatisfied. I want to eat and I draw near to You; let me not depart without any food. If I groan before I eat, then give me to eat after the signs. At first, O Most-Sweet Jesus, I confess before Your kindness my transgression against myself. Behold, O Lord, I was conceived and born in iniquities; and although You washed and sanctified me, later on, I defiled myself again with greater sins. Born with the involuntary sins, I threw myself afterwards into the voluntary ones. But You, O Lord, remembered Your mercy and brought me forth out of the house of my carnal father and the camp of the transgressors, and inspired me to follow You, together with the generation of them who seek Your countenance, who walk on Your straight path, who live among the lilies of purity and who sit with You at the Banquet of the highest poverty...Behold, I cry out, will You not hear me? I feel pain, will You not console me? What can I say? What can I do, the thrice-wretched one?...I pray: be compassionate, have mercy on me and turn not Your face away from those who smite You and spit upon You. I confess that I have sinned and I know myself well, and my repentance is not sufficient to Your satisfaction... Remember not, O Most-Sweet Jesus, Your justice but the one who has sinned against You, but rather remember Your kindness to Your creature... I know, O my Lord, that since You ransomed me and became man for me, I owe You even more than myself, if indeed I had more than myself; so much greater are You than the one for whom you gave Yourself. Behold, there is nothing more that I have. And even if I did, I could not give it to You being what I am, so far away from You. Receive me, then, and draw me near to You that I might be Yours by willful imitation and by love as I am Yours by nature, for You live and reign unto the ages. Amen.
On September 17th 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: The holy and right-victorious Martyrs and virgins, Faith, Hope, and Love who after torture were beheaded and their holy mother Sophia; holy Martyr Agathocleia; holy Martyrs Maximos, Theodotos, and Asclepiodote of Marchionopolis in Thrace, who were beheaded in Adrianople; Saint Lucia and the holy Martyr Geminianos of Rome who was beheaded; holy One Hundred Martyrs from Egypt, who were beheaded in Palestine; holy Fifty Martyrs of Palestine were perfected in martyrdom by fire.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: II Coriinthians 8:16-24; 9:1-5
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 3:23-38, 4:1
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH: FROM EVERGETINOS
"A brother asked a Geronda (Elder), saying: "Worldly people neglect fasting, have disdain for prayer, refrain from keeping vigil, eat every kind of food, fulfill their desires in their relations with each other for giving and receiving, devour one another, and consume the greater part of the day in swearing oaths and breaking them. How is it that in spite of this they do not fall, nor do they say, 'We have sinned' nor are they excluded from Divine Communion? We monks are always engrossed in fasts, vigils, xerophagy, and sleeping on the ground, and are deprived of every carnal relaxation, mourning and lamenting; why in spite of all this do we say that we are lost and condemned to the Gehenna of fire?'
The Geronda [Elder] groaned and replied: "You were right, brother, in saying that worldly people do not fall. The reason is that when they fall one time into a deplorable and fearful sin, they can no longer pick themselves up, since they do not even have a place from which to fall, insofar as out of great ignorance they have remained for quite a long time in their first fall and do not even realize that they have fallen. Why should the Devil have any interest in wrestling with them, when they are constantly lying on the ground?"
THE PATH INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
by Innocent of Alaska
The road into the Kingdom of Heaven was made by the Lord Jesus Christ, and He was the first one Who travelled it. The Holy Bible teaches that only he who follows Jesus can reach His Kingdom. But how can one follow Him. Hear what our Savior says about this: "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (St. Mark 8:34).
The words "whoever desires" mean that Christ does not compel anyone to follow Him. He has no need of the unwilling ones, but He desires that each person freely follow Him. Consequently, only those who willingly choose the Savior's path reach the Kingdom of Heaven.
Christian! Your salvation or perdition is entirely in your own hands. In His unspeakable wisdom and love, the Lord has given you freedom to choose what you wish, and He does not force you to do anything against your will. Therefore, if you truly wish to follow Jesus Christ, He will show you the way into the Kingdom of Heaven and will help you along each step. If you do not wish to follow Him, it is your decision. But take care not to disdain the grace of God! Pitying you, Jesus Christ knocks for a long time at the door of your heart, waiting for your decision to save yourself. But woe to you if He, tiring of waiting, turns His face away from you, as a hopeless son or daughter of perdition. Then no one, neither the most powerful and influential person, nor all the angels in Heaven, will be able to help you!
That is why it is extremely important to nourish in ourselves the desire and resolve to follow the path of salvation. To make this desire grow in us and strengthen our resolve, we must learn where the path Christ showed us leads and how to follow it.
You as a Christian must know the Holy Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments. You must not only learn their contents but also develop an interest in their origin, who wrote them and when, how they were preserved and have been handed down to us, and why they are called Divine and Sacred. You must study the Holy Books with simplicity of heart, without prejudice or excessive inquisitiveness, not trying to discover hidden mysteries but trying to learn that which leads us to self-improvement. Certainly all that is necessary for us to know for our salvation is revealed quite clearly and in detail in the Holy Scriptures.
It is important also to study our God-given faith in detail, since he who is indifferent toward truth is in danger of becoming easy prey for false teachers. It is so sad that many Orthodox Christians perish simply because of their disregard for Christ's teachings. Having access to the light, they wander in the dark.
The studying of faith should conform to your aptitudes and knowledge. For instance, for the serious student, in addition to studying the Holy Scriptures, it is also useful to become familiar with the works of the Church Holy Fathers and with the historical and theological books written by other Orthodox authors. These books will help you to comprehend your faith more deeply, which in turn will give you an opportunity to strengthen others in the Orthodox Christian faith, to whom these books are unavailable.
When you become convinced that our Orthodox Christian faith is based on Holy Scriptures and is not invented by people and that the Holy Scriptures contain the true word of God, revealed by the Holy Spirit through Prophets and Apostles, accept it with all your trusting heart. Believe the Holy Scriptures without doubt or philosophizing, pushing aside all heretical explanations. If you humbly accept Christ's truth, then your faith will become strong and will lead you to salvation.
Finally, try to nourish a diligence in yourself to follow that which is taught by the Holy Scriptures. But if you do not have such diligence, fall down before the Savior and with a sincere prayer ask Him to send you a zealous wish to live according to His Commandments. Then, when the grace of God starts leading you toward salvation, follow it, valiantly repelling the snares of the devil, who will attempt to detract you from Christ's path.
To illustrate what was just said about the path into the Kingdom of Heaven, let's assume that unexpectedly you became the sole heir of a rich relative. This relative, before dying, willed his magnificent mansion on the top of a picturesque mountain to you. Loving solitude, he had not built any roads but reached his mansion by a trail. In order to help you take possession of the property, he left you a map of the mountain, indicating the correct trail on it. The mountain has many other trails, none of which reached the mansion; some lead to a dead end, and others to steep cliff. Therefore, in order to reach your mansion, you have to take the trail indicated by your loving relative.
Prudence would suggest that, before undertaking such a trip, you should carefully study the map of the mountain, obtaining all the necessary supplies for the climb and being prepared to spend the night on the mountain, if necessary. It would be good to ask a ranger about landmarks on the mountain and how best to avoid losing your way or straying from the correct trail. Certainly being a person with a common sense you would follow the directions. Similarly, to reach the Kingdom of Heaven, we should determine which path leads to it, how not to falter, what we must beware of, etc. Our map is the Holy Scriptures and other Orthodox books; the rangers are the priests of the Church, whose duty it is to help the faithful on their way toward Paradise. The provisions are the Mysteria(ries) [Sacraments] of the Church, which reinforce our spiritual strength. Sometimes the path leading to Paradise may become narrow, steep and overgrown with bushes, whereas other paths may seem wider and easier to travel. It is very important not to stray from the correct path. The Lord Jesus Christ and His holy Apostles repeatedly warned that there is but one path that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven, the one given in the Gospel. All others, especially the wide and comfortable ones, lead to perdition.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God