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 CONTRITE PRAYER TO OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST\
[Saint Isaac the Syrian]
But You, O Christ, Who are the Only Mighty, and Blessed is He Whose help is from You, and Who has made ascents in his heart! In our desire for You, O Lord, turn our faces away from the world that we may see it as it really is, and no longer believe in a shadow as in truth. Having made us new, O Lord, initiate in our mind zeal before death, so that in the hour of our departure we may know that both our entrance and departure from this world is now. And so, we may complete the work to which we have been called first in this life, according to Your Will and then we can hope, with our mind full of confidence, to receive those great things, promised in the Scriptures, and prepared by Your love in the second new creation, and the remembrance of which is kept in the faith of the mysteries. O Christ, the fulfillment of the Truth, let Your Truth rise in our hearts and let us know how to walk in Your way according to Your Will. Amen.
On September 18th 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: Our righteous Father Evmenius; Holy Women Martyrs Sophia and Irene; Holy Martyr Ariadne of Prymnessus in Phrygia; Holy Martyr Castor; our righteous Father Romulus of Vidin; Saint Efstorgios, First Archbishop of Milan; our righteous Father Apfi of Egypt; our Father among the Saints Arcadius, Archbishop of Novgorod; Holy Great Martyr Bidzina the Prince and the martyred Princes Shalva and Elizbar of Georgia; our righteous Father Hilarion of Optina.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY MARTYR ARIADNE. In the town of Promisea in Phrygia in the time of the emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D.), there lived a pagan patrician, Tertullus. The maiden Ariadne was a slave of his, and a Christian. On his son's birthday, Tertullus ordered a great sacrifice to the idols, in which Ariadne did not take part, staying at home and praying to the True God. Her owner was furious with her for this, and put pressure on her to deny Christ and worship Idols. When Ariadne refused to do this, he had her whipped and tortured in other ways, then threw her into prison. He soon released her from prison and drove her from the house, but quickly changed his mind and sent servants to bring her back. St. Ariadne was already a long way from the town. When she saw her persecutors, she prayed to God beside a great rock, and the rock opened and hid her. The servants were nonplussed at this, quarreled among themselves and came to blows, and so perished at one another's hands.
THE HOLY MARTYRS FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE, AND THEIR MOTHER SOPHIA (+Sept. 17th). They lived and suffered in Rome in the time of the emperor Hadrian. The wise St. Sophia (as her name--Sophia--wisdom, indicates) was left a widow and, as a Christian, steeped herself and her daughters in the Christian faith. At the time that Hadrian's persecuting hand stretched out over the virtuous house of St. Sophia, Faith was twelve, Hope ten and Love nine years old. The four of them were brought before the emperor, with their arms entwined 'like a woven wreath', humbly but firmly confessing their faith in Christ the Lord and refusing to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. At the moment of their passion, the mother urged her valiant daughters to endure to the end: 'Your heavenly Lover, Jesus Christ, is eternal health, inexpressible beauty and life Eternal. When your bodies are slain by torture, He will clothe you in incorruption and the wounds on your bodies will shine in heaven like the stars. 'The torturers inflicted harsh torture on Faith, Hope and Love one by one. They beat them, stabbed them and threw them into fire and boiling pitch, and finally beheaded them one after the other. Saint Sophia their mother took the dead bodies of her daughters out of the town and buried them, and stayed by their grave in prayer for three days and nights, then gave her soul to God, hastening to the heavenly company where the blessed souls of her daughters awaited her.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: II Corinthians 9:12-15; m 10:1-7
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 4:1-15
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH: Evergetinos
The following incident is told about Abba (Father) John the Short. He once visited an Elder (Geronda) who lived in a skete of the Thebaid; he took up residence near him in the desert. It was said of Abba John that his spiritual Father once took a dry stick and planted it in the ground. "Water it every day with a pitcher of water", he told John, "until it bears fruit". The water was so far away from the cells, that one had to set out the evening before, in order to return in the morning. After three years, the dry stick budded and produced walnuts. Then the spiritual Father of this obedient disciple took the nuts, brought them into the church of the skete, and said to the brethren: "Take and eat of the fruit of obedience."
THE WAY INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
by Saint Innocent of Alaska
Let us now examine more closely the path indicated to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
He said: "Whoever desires to come after Me must: Deny himself. Take up his cross. Follow Me."
Thus, a follower of Christ must begin by "denying himself". This means that you must disown all bad habits, free your heart from sinful bonds (like hunger for money, luxury, fame, power over others, etc.), squelch impure thoughts, harbor no lustful desires, distance yourself from situations leading to sin, and, in general, do nothing because of stubbornness or ego but do all for the love of God and with the desire to contribute to the glory of His Holy Name. In other words, to deny yourself is to be dead indeed to sin but alive to God", as Saint Paul has explained in Romans 6:11.
Then, it is necessary for a disciple and follower of Christ to "take up His Cross". The "Cross" may be external as well as internal. To take up your cross means to tolerate everything without complaining, regardless of how unpleasant things might become. For example, if someone has insulted you or laughed at you or provoked you, bear it all without anger or resentment. Similarly, if you helped someone and he, instead of showing gratitude, make up deceitful tales about you or if you wanted to do something good but were unable to accomplish it, bear it without despondency. Did some misfortune befall you? Did someone in your family become ill, or despite all your efforts and tireless labor did you repeatedly suffer failure? Has some other thing or person oppressed you? Bear all with patience in the name of Jesus Christ. Do not consider yourself punished unjustly, but accept everything as your Cross.
To bear your Cross means not only to accept patiently all difficulties but also to strive for spiritual perfection, as the Holy Scriptures teach us. For example, we must do good to others: work for the prosperity of your parish, and assist in spreading spiritual enlightenment. In other words, we must seek out tasks which will lead to the salvation and welfare of those around us and then, with perseverance and meekness, strive in that direction by our actions, words, prayer, and advice.
Should the prideful thought arise that you are better or smarter than others, quickly cast it aside because it will undermine all your good efforts. Blessed is he who carries his cross with prudence and humility, because God will never allow such a person to perish but will guide and strengthen him with His Holy Spirit.
In following Jesus Christ, it is not enough to carry only an outward cross. Indeed, external crosses are borne not only by Christians but by everyone; there exists no person free from one or more sorrows. He who wishes to become a true disciple of Christ must also carry his own inner cross.
An inner cross comes more readily than an outer one. In a state of repentance, you need only direct your thoughts inward to study your soul, and instantly a multitude of crosses will appear. For instance, reflect on how you were created and what is the purpose of your life. Are you living according to Christ teaching, are you accomplishing something good, are you growing spiritually? Meditate about his in some depth, and soon you will come to realize that you are failing in many important areas. God created you so that with all your works, life, and being you should contribute to the spreading of good and the strengthening of His Kingdom. You, however, have not only failed in this, but, by your sins, you have rejected and even insulted Christ. Reflect on what awaits you beyond the grave and on what side you will find yourself at the Last Judgment: with the righteous or with the evildoers? And if you seriously reflect on all this, you will naturally become distressed and will regret your many words and deeds and these painful feelings and the desire for repentance will become your inner cross. If you continue attentively to study yourself, you will find many other inner crosses. For instance, hell, which you have so carelessly avoided considering until now, will suddenly appear to you as a very threat. Paradise, which the Lord has prepared for you and which has barely crossed your mind, will vividly present itself to you s it really is: a place of eternal and pure joy from which you have deprived yourself by your careless way of life.
If, in spite of the inner turmoil brought about by such reflections, you firmly resolve to repent and amend your ways and, if, instead of consoling yourself with earthly enjoyments, you diligently pray to the Lord to save you and you decide to surrender yourself totally to His Will, then the Lord will reveal to you more clearly the state of your soul so that you may be totally healed. Our problem is that the actual condition of our spiritual sickness is hidden from us under a thick mantle of self-love and passions. Only occasionally, thanks to our conscience, do we get a glimpse of our major and most obvious spiritual wounds.
Usually the devil, knowing how good it is for us to recognize our moral illness, uses all his wiles to prevent us from doing so and tells us that all is well and there is no need to worry. But when he sees that we are really serious about becoming true Christians and with God's help are on the way to restoring our spiritual health, then the devil uses craftier means: He presents to us our internal illnesses in such a hopeless condition that we become bewildered and despair of our salvation. If the Lord permitted the devil to use this trick on all of us, few of us would find the strength to continue the struggle. However, the Lord, as a knowledgeable Physician, protects as from despair. He heals our spiritual ulcers and encourages us as heal.
Therefore, as the Lord restores your spiritual sight, you will begin to comprehend more clearly that your heart is corrupt and that your passions obstruct your path to God. You will begin to understand also that the little good you have to your credit so far is damaged by your selfishness and conceit. Then you will certainly grieve, and you will become frightened and saddened: frightened because you are in danger of perishing forever, saddened because you have declined for so long to listen to the gentle voice of God Who was calling you to salvation, and saddened because you accomplished so little good.
(to be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God