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 IN TIME OF DEATH
Incorruptible, Immortal, Unchangeable Lord, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who alone has Immortality and alone lives without beginning and without end, for You are the same and Your years will have no end, hear us, Your lowly and useless servants, and deliver us, from Your justified present wrath which troubles us, and from an early death which smashes and destroys our nature before its time. For You have not created us that we may die; You have not produced us that we may perish; You have not made us that we may not exist, O Good One, but rather You brought us from the state of not being into the state of being, that we may live and remain, magnify and glorify our Creator and Master. As for our death, we have caused it against ourselves, fro we loved more that which perishes and did not keep Your Divine and Life-Giving Commandments. Wherefore, Adam and we who came out of Adam, all are subject to corruption for not only he (Adam) transgressed, but also all of us transgress. And behold, Your Only-Begotten Son, Who was Incarnate and became the Second Adam, loosed death and gave us life immortal. But again we die in both soul and body, for we disregard His words of Life and we live unwisely, without at all caring about the immaculate blessings and that life which has been prepared for us before the foundation of the world. Wherefore, we are unworthy even of this present life, and we receive therein a foretaste of the future mourning and sorrow...Wherefore, we pray revive us and delight us on earth and give that we may remain for long alive and healthy, that we may live unto the glory of Your power and do what is pleasing to You, and in peace and repentance at the due time of Your goodwill and mercy we may depart from our body and join Your elect ones...For You only ever live before ages and unto ages of ages, and to You we send up glory together with Your Only-Begotten Son and Your All-Holy, Good and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
"For since it was by man that sin entered the world, and death through sin, Your Only-Begotten Son, He Who was in the bosom of God the Father, condescended to be born of woman, the Holy Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary; to be born under the Law, so as to condemn sin in His flesh, that those who die in Adam may be brought to life in Your Christ". [Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great]
On September 3rd 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 Anthimos, Bishop of Nicomedia; Saint Aristion, Bishop of Alexandria; St. Chariton the holy Martyr; Saint Phoebe the Deaconess; Saint Vasilissa the holy Martyr; Saint Joannicius, Archbishp and First Patriarch of Serbia; Saint Theoctistus .
THE HOLY MARTYR VASILISSA. A nine-year old girl, she suffered in Nicomedia not long after the death of St. Anthimos. The torturers covered her whole body with wounds, but she remained faithful to Christ. God preserved her unharmed in fire and before wild beasts. Her torturer, Alexander, seeing these wonders, repented and became a Christian. Holy Martyr Vasilissa went out into a field, fell on her knees and prayed to God, thanking Him for her endurance under torture, and, while thus praying, gave her soul into God's hands. This was in the year of Our Lord 309 A.D.
+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: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17; 3:1-3
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 23:23-28
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"When Holy Scripture speaks of the world, it has material things in mind; consequently, worldly people are those who occupy their minds with these things, and Scripture tells them somewhat reproachfully: 'Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of God, but of the world" (1 St. John 2:15-16, and so on). [Saint Maximos]
"I anticipate the Resurrection of the Dead..."
by His Eminence and Blessed Memory Archbishop and of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos (+)
The common Resurrection of the dead comprises a dogma of our faith. We confirm it, in the Symbol of our Faith: "I anticipate the resurrection of the dead and the life of the ages to come". Our life has four stages. The first is our terrestrial life. It is the life that we live on Earth. The second stage is the one after our physical death, the so-called "interim-state". The third stage is life after the resurrection of bodies and the fourth is the life of the age to come. That is when the mystery of the "eighth day" begins.
However, if someone does have doubts regarding the bodily resurrection, we need to mention that this resurrection will certainly take place, because it was uttered by the unerring mouth of our Lord. In St. John's Gospel, these words of the Lord appear: "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hearken to it shall live" (St. John 5:25). The voice of Christ will be heard and everyone will live; everyone will be resurrected. Immediately after, the Lord Himself completed His phrase, saying: "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (St. John 5:28-29). It is very clear, that these words of our Lord are referring to bodily resurrection, which will be taking place when the voice of Jesus Christ is heard. But even Saint Paul the Holy Apostle, when expressing the same truth tell us: '...For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an Archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first". (1 Thess. 4: 16). The Apostle was referring to the trumpet sounded by the Archangel, thereby announcing the resurrection of the dead bodies, after which, the dead would arise, in incorruptible form. As for those who have doubts about those bodies coming alive -- and especially all the deceased of the distant past -- there is the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel, where the Prophet, having received the command by God to preach to the bared bones, he indeed proceeds to preach and immediately after, the bones re-acquired flesh and soul: they come alive and they stand upright. (Ezekiel 37:7--8).
Furthermore, it is only proper and fair for the bodily resurrection to take place before the Second Coming, inasmuch as the bodies--along with their souls--will appear together before the Throne of the unyielding Judge, in order to obtain His response to the way of life that they jointly lived. And that is why Man is not only a soul. The Apostle Paul clearly informs us that we shall present ourselves before the Judge, "with our body", in order that each of us may receive the appropriate judgment for all things we have done. Body and soul have lived together, and will therefore either enjoy Paradise together, or be together in "Hell".
There are some who wonder how this resurrection can be possible when the physical body has disintegrated a long time ago? This body will also be resurrected, because Christ's Body was Resurrected. The Holy Bible refers to Him as "the firstborn of all creation" and as the One Who "became the first among the reposed". This means that whatever took place with Christ will also be taking place with us, because Christ is the recapitulation and the summation of our entire life. Our Lord is the head of our body and we are the members. Subsequently, since the head was resurrected, the entire body will be resurrected also. But we shall not be resurrected on our own as was the case with the Lord's Resurrection; instead, we shall be resurrected when the voice of the Lord is heard.
The blessed John Chrysostom says the following: "If the body is not resurrected, then Man is not resurrected. Because Man is not just a soul. Man is body and soul. Therefore, if only the soul is resurrected, then Man is resurrected in half, and not in whole. Besides, we are not speaking literally when referring to the "resurrection of the soul", because only the body is resurrected, since only the body is subject to deterioration."
The bodily resurrection is a miracle. It will be the miracle of the Power of God. And just as a seed is sown in the earth unto deterioration and rises up undeteriorated, so is our body sown in a state of deterioration, it is buried and disintegrated in the earth, to be resurrected and risen in incorruptibility.
This resurrection, according to Saint Clement of Rome, will take place, regardless where we may be scattered - either in the sea, or on land, or even if devoured by wild beasts or by vultures -- God will resurrect us with His power, because the entire world is in His hand.
What the "New" Bodies Will be Like
Justifiably, one may ask what our bodies will be like after our resurrection. Will they look like they did before death, or not? The answer is that our bodies will basically be the same as before, but with different characteristics. In reply to this question, the blessed Chrysostom says that the body will be the "same one" but it will also not be the "same".
The blessed Makarios says that our body will have preserved its nature after the resurrection in the same manner as iron, which, when subjected to heat will turn glowing red, but without ceasing to be iron.
Saint Theodore of Mopsuestia gives us another image -- that of sand and glass. As we all know, glass is composed of sand. However, when it is turned into glass, it is no longer sand. Therefore, between our pre-resurrection body and the one that we shall have after the resurrection, there will be a sameness as well as a difference.
One difference that we must state is that the old body is cloaked with deterioration, whereas the new one with incorruptibility. This body, after the common resurrection, will be immortal. The image used by the Apostle Paul is a very characteristic one. The seed is buried in the soil, it then deteriorates, and eventually a new plant will sprout from that seed, which comes alive and develops. Of course it is of the same nature as the seed that was sown. That is to say, if one sows a seed of wheat, wheat will sprout from it, however, it will be better than the one what was sown. Furthermore, one seed is sown, but multiple seeds will sprout from it. From all this, we can surmise the attributes that our post-resurrection body will have -- the first one being incorruptibility.
In his attempt to approach this mystery, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem resorts to the example of water. Water, he says, has other characteristics when it is in a liquid state, other ones when it solidifies, and yet others when it is vaporous. We shall likewise undergo a change. Thus, since our body will possess the characteristic of incorruptibility, it means that it will not suffer illnesses or feel pain, nor will grow old -- we will all have the "same age", according to the tradition of our Church, which we encounter in our hymnological texts. In other words, we will no longer have the handicaps that we had in this lifetime or the various illnesses, nor will we have the so-called "natural" passions such as hunger, thirst, becoming tired and needing to rest, hurting, etc.
(to be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God