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.
Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who built it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth, happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
On September 20th 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: Saint Efstathius Placidas, his wife Theopiste, and their children Agapius and Theopistos, of Rome; Saint Martin of Rome; Saint Maximos the Confessor; Saint Hilarion of Crete; Saint Michael of Chernigov, and Theodore, Boyar of Chernigov; Saints Theodore, Efprepios, Anastasios, and Anastasios, disciples of St. Maximos the Confessor; Saint John of Crete; holy Martyrs Artemidoros and Thalos; Saint Oleg, Prince of Briansk; Saint John the Confessor of Egypt, and 40 holy Martyrs with him; Saint Hypatius and Saint Andrew the Confessors.
BISHOP HYPATIUS AND PRESBYTER ANDREW, CONFESSORS. Both were educated in a monastery. St. Hypatius became a monk and St. Andrew became a priest. They were humble and fasted much. The Archbishop of Ephesus appointed St. Hypatius bishop of the Church of Asia. Later, Emperor Leo of the Greeks started an iconoclast movement, ordering that all holy icons be removed from the churches and not be venerated. St. Hypatius and Saint Andrew defied this edict by speaking out boldly to all Christians in their charge, asking them not to obey the command. Leo summoned them and attempted to convince them of his position. When he failed, he had them imprisoned, then later beaten. Their scalps were torn off, their beards burned, they were dragged through the city, and then they were killed and left unburied. The faithful Christians secretly buried them honorably.
+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: Ephesians 6:10-17
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 21:12-19
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS AND ASCETICS OF THE CHURCH:
"We should learn from examples provided by human arts and sciences. If we cannot accomplish anything in them by ourselves...how can it be anything but foolish to think that the spiritual art, the most difficult of all the arts, has no need of a teacher. Failure in it brings, not temporary loss, but the soul's destruction and Eternal death." [Abba(Father) Serapion].
THE WAY INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
by Saint Innocent of Alaska
Why did God not make the path to the Kingdom of Heaven light and pleasant? Only God knows. Who would question His Divine Wisdom? He saw that the narrow path is what we need! We who are below see only bits and pieces, but He, Who is above all creation, sees our lives from the standpoint of Eternity. However, though not completely understanding the plans of our Creator, let us consider the following:
1. The Kingdom of Heaven is the highest beatitude and inexhaustible wealth. If great efforts are necessary to obtain meager and temporary earthly advantages, then how can it be possible to obtain such a great and Eternal treasure without any effort?
2. The Kingdom of Heaven is the most coveted reward. Where else are rewards given freely and for nothing? If we struggle to get temporary benefits, so much more should we struggle to obtain the Eternal reward.
3. We must bear our cross because we want to be with Christ and to participate in His Glory. If Jesus Christ, our Master and Teacher, gained glory through suffering, would it not be shameful for us to share His Glory when we faintheartedly shun any trials or sorrows?
4. Besides, lifelong crosses are not the lot of Christians alone. Everyone carries their own cross, both Christians and non-Christians, believers and pagans. The difference is that for some, their crosses serve as a means of attaining the Kingdom of Heaven, while for the others they bring no such value. For the Christian, the cross gradually becomes lighter and more joyful, while for the non-believer it becomes heavier and more burdensome. Why is this so? Because where the one carries their cross with faith and devotion to God, the other carries it with grumbling and anger.
Therefore, Christian, do not shun your lifelong cross, on the contrary, thank Jesus Christ that He honored you to follow and imitate Him. If Christ had not suffered and died, then none of us, no matter how much we suffered and struggled, would enter the Kingdom of Heaven, for then we would have had to suffer as slaves, and slaves deserve no rewards. Now, however, we suffer as sons for our own salvation. O Merciful Lord! How great is Thy love for us. How great are Thy benefits to us. Thou bendest evil itself for our benefit and salvation!
Christian! Gratitude alone to Jesus Christ, your Benefactor, obliges you to follow Him. Christ came down to earth for you. Can it be possible that you would prefer some worldly thing to Him? For you Jesus drank the cup full of suffering; can it be that you would refuse to suffer a little for Him?
5. Jesus Christ redeemed by His death, and, therefore, by the right of redemption we belong to Him and must do all that He wills. Christ wills only one thing: that we should attain eternal bliss.
6. Finally, we cannot avoid the narrow path into the Kingdom of Heaven, since every man has sins and sin in itself is an ulcer that cannot be cured without strong medicine. Suffering is the medicine with which God cures our souls. When somebody is ill, then, regardless of his surroundings even though he is in the most magnificent of palaces he will still suffer. Such is the fate of every sinner no matter where he settles.
Similarly, a righteous person can be as happy in a shack as in a palace. When our heart is filled with the Holy Spirit, wherever we may find ourselves, there we will always feel joy, since paradise is within us.
And so, brethren, if you wish to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, you cannot bypass the path taken by Jesus Christ. Indeed, all the Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the Saints and countless other righteous ones walked along this path. There is no other.
Some might object, saying, how can we, who are sinful and weak, be like Jesus Christ or the Saints! We live in the secular world and have families and many responsibilities. Oh, brethren! This is a cunning excuse and an insult to our Creator. To justify our carelessness by such reasoning means to accuse our Maker of being unable to create us properly. After all, the Saints, like us were not sinless at first but participated in worldly affairs, labored and had various obligations and families to care about. Surely they were not perfect in everything. They had their share of temptations and low moments. Notwithstanding this, living in circumstances similar to ours and having their ups and downs, they steered toward the main objective of their life: the Kingdom of Heaven. Undoubtedly, we also, if we truly desire to, can be good citizens, faithful spouses, loving parents, and simultaneously good Christians. Our faith will not be an obstacle but, on the contrary, will aid all our good undertakings. The essence of Christianity is pure and selfless love, and which is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, brethren, if you wish to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, follow the path which Jesus Christ took, and He, The All-Merciful One, will help you every step of the way.
(to be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God