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 THE SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST AND FORERUNNER
O Prophet and Forerunner and Baptist of Jesus Christ, You Who baptized in the Jordan River the One Who bore the sins of the world. You who saw the Holy Spirit and heard the voice of God the Father bearing witness, beseech the All-Holy Trinity and intercede for us who praise You.
May you, the Herald of grace of Christ pre-announcing repentance to all the nations, guide my unrepentant and hardened soul on the way to repentance.
May you, divine Forerunner, as a blossom of the most sacred root, cut off in me the roots of evil with the sacred axe of repentance, so that the passions may not choke my mind and my heart. On the contrary, O Baptist, plant in my soul faith, hope and love.
You, O Baptist, by becoming the mediator between the Old and New Covenant, mediate on my behalf who have grown old in sin, and renew all of me by interceding for me to the One Who makes all things new.
You, who traversed through the narrow gate of ascetics self-control, inspire me to follow this salutary way, for I am being drowned by earthly desires and passions.
You, who are the lamp illuminating the way of those walking in the darkness of life, light up the lamp of my souls which has become extinguished because of neglect.
You, who are the sweet-singing swallow, pre-announcing the arrival of Spring, Christ our God, beseech Him to deliver us from the winter that destroys the soul.
You, who are the friend of the Bridegroom, make me worthy to acquire this Friend and to love Him with steadfast and unwavering resolve.
You, who extend your right hand and baptized in the waters the One Who was Immaculate, extend now your hand upon me and cleanse me through your intercessions.
You, who lived as an Angelic being, while bearing flesh upon this earth, liberate my soul from the carnal way of thinking and acting.
You, who found yourself a prisoner for the sake of truth, dissolve the bonds of my difficulties and empowered me to observe the venerable commandments of Jesus Christ.
You, who are the voice of the Logos (Word), direct the voices of all those who honor you and pray to you so that forgiveness of sins may be granted to us through your intercessions. Amen.
On September 23rd 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: Conception of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner; Saints Xanthippa and Polyxeni, disciples of the Apostles; Saint Rhais of Alexandria; Saints Andrew, John, Peter, and Antoninos of Syracuse, in Africa; Saint Nicholas Pantopolis at Constantinople; Saint John of Epriros, Greece; New Holy Martyr Arsenios of Russia; "Hawaiian Iveron" and "Slovensk" Icons of the Mother of God.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE CONCEPTION OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST AND FORERUNNER. On this day are celebrated God's mercy, His wondrous act and His wisdom: His mercy towards the devout and righteous parents of Saint John, the aged Zacharias and Elizabeth, who had all their lives begged a child of God; the wonder of the conception of St. John in Elisabeth's more-than-aged womb; and the wisdom of the dispensation of man's salvation. For Saint John, God had an especially great plan: the he should be a Prophet and the Forerunner of Christ the Lord, the Savior of the world. Through His Angels, God revealed the birth of Isaac to the childless Sarah, and of Sampson to the childless Manoah and his wife, and of St. John the Baptist to the childless Zacharias and Elisabeth. Through His Angels, God revealed the birth of those for whom He had a special plan. How could children be born of aged parents? If someone is curious to find out, let him not ask men, for men do not know, nor does natural law (it being beyond natural law), but let him turn his gaze to the power of Almighty God, Who made the whole world from nothing and who, for the creation of Adam, the first man, used no parents, either young or old. Instead of being curious, let us thank God that He often reveals to us His power and mercy and wisdom beyond the natural law, by which we would otherwise be fettered and, without these special wonders (miracles) of God, would fall in to despair and forgetfulness of Him.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 4:22-27
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 1:5-25
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS AND ASCETICS OF THE CHURCH
"Waves never leave the sea. Anger and gloom never leave the miserly." (Saint John Climacus).
THE WAY INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
by Saint Innocent of Alaska
"It is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven or even come close to it without the assistance of the Holy Spirit."
Jesus Christ said that the Holy Spirit "blows where it wills and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes" (St. John 3:8). This means that a person cannot force the Holy Spirit to come to him or predict the time when He may decide to do so. You can only feel His touch when this happens. Indeed, the book of Acts states that when the Holy Apostles and other Christians received the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, it was always unexpectedly. He seldom descends immediately on those beseeching Him but does so when it suits Him, as God, to do so. No one should attempt to foretell when or what gifts, if any, he will receive or to consider himself worthy of his descent! The Grace of the Holy Spirit is a gift of His endless mercy. And gifts by definition are given when it suits the giver, and only those deemed suitable by the giver.
It is the Holy Spirit Himself Who established within the Church the means of distributing His blessings to the faithful: the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) and other liturgical services. Non-Orthodox Christians are sadly mistaken when they assert that they can always, whenever it suits them, receive the Holy Spirit through well-known means (which are unfortunately also used during spiritual séances and pagan mysteries.) Those who dare to orchestrate these means will not only remain empty of the divine gifts but also commit a terrible sin against the Holy Spirit.
Anyone who considers asking the Holy Spirit for beneficial gifts must know that these gifts are meant only for those who possess true faith. Indeed, the Lord first of all enlightened the Apostles with the True Doctrine and then bestowed upon them the Holy Spirit. Similarly, the Apostles did not bestow beneficial gifts upon newly baptized Christian immediately, but only after a certain period of testing and affirmation in the true faith. That is why the Lord called the Holy Spirit "the Spirit of Truth, and His Church, the beautified community of the faithful, is called in Scripture "the pillar and ground of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).
Therefore, when a Christian, humbly and obediently, has accepted Christ's faith in all its purity, without any corrections or misinterpretations, then following are the requirements to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Purity of heart and chastity
Listening to the voice of God
Reading the Holy Scriptures
Sacraments of the Church, especially Holy Communion
To receive gifts from the Holy Spirit, you must, first of all, cleanse your heart of sin, self-love and pride. The Holy Spirit always surrounds us and wishes to fill us, but the evil nesting within us, like a wall, impedes His path. Any sin keeps the Holy Spirit away from us, but carnal impurity and pride are especially offensive to Him. So, if we do not want the Holy Spirit, Whom we received in Baptism, to depart from us, or if we have pushed Him away through our sinful life and now want him to return, here is what we must do:
1. Cleanse yourself with repentance and sincere confession. Then shun all sinful thoughts and desires. In view of the terrible lewdness of contemporary society, a Christian must protect himself from all that may pollute his soul and keep his flesh from lustfulness. Indeed, our body was designed to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. When a person is clean internally and externally, the Holy Spirit settles within him. In the presence of chastity, the only obstacle for the Holy Spirit is your pride in your righteousness and your regard of His gifts as your just reward. If you have unfortunately defiled yourself, then stop sinning and repent. With a contrite heart regret that you have offended God, your most loving Father, and strive to live with greater vigilance. Then even you will be able to receive the Holy Spirit.
2. One of the surest ways of attracting the Holy Spirit is by humility. Even if you are an honest, just, good, and merciful person, in a word, even though you may have achieved most goodness, keep considering yourself as an unworthy servant of God. Indeed, if we examine our good works more closely, we will see that none of them are completely beyond reproach. For example, if we give alms or help someone, how often do we add conceit, regret, self-interest, judging, or other such kind thoughts to our charity or help. Of course, every good deed always remains good, even when it is imperfect. It can be likened to gold which has value even before it is purified. But as gold becomes more precious when an experienced craftsman purifies and works it, so let us entrust our good deeds to the Heavenly Master that He will make them even more valuable.
Thus, if you wish your good deeds to please God, do not boast about them. You are not the master but only an apprentice. As craftsmanship gives value to gold, so a pure and unselfish Christian love, which stems from the Holy Spirit, gives value to our good deeds. Everything that is done without Christian love, i.e., without the Holy Spirit, is not yet a fully valued good deed. Without the Holy Spirit a person remains poor and pitiful.
But humility consists not only of realizing your unworthiness but also of bearing the various sorrows and adversities of life with patience and without grumbling, considering them as sent or allowed by God for our benefit. Do not say, "How unfortunate I am!" But say, "I deserve a stiller greater punishment for my sins!" And ask God not so much to deliver you from adversities as to give you patience and courage to bear them.
(to be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God