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 OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, having shown Your Holy Mother to be more honorable than all the heavenly powers, through her intercessions and those of all Your Saints, provide spiritual comfort and forgive me Your unworthy servant; forgive whatever I have sinned today as a human being--rather as a sub-human being-- my voluntary and involuntary transgressions, which I have committed in knowledge or ignorance, through beguilement, or by my own inattention, great laziness and negligence. If I have sworn by Your Holy Name, if I have committed perjury or blasphemed in thought, if I have stolen anything or lied or in any way irritated You; if a friend came to me and I slighted him, if I have grieved and embittered a brother, if, while standing to pray and sing psalms, my evil mind wandered off toward earthly and evil things; if I ate more than the appropriate amount or engaged in idle talk, if I laughed imprudently or had vainglorious thoughts, if I behaved arrogantly or looked upon vain beauty, and my mind was attracted by it; if I talked idly about things I should not, if I curiously examined the fault of my brother and condemned him, while my own innumerable faults I overlooked; If I neglected my prayer, or brought to mind any other evil thing--all these many things, and others, that I have done and do not remember, forgive me, O God, that I, the prodigal, may sleep in peace and find rest, glorifying You, together with the Father, and the All-Holy and Good and Life-Creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
On September 28th 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 Chariton the Confessor; Venerable Baruch the Prophet; Saints Neophytos and Afxentios the holy Martyrs of Cyprus; Saint Wenceslaus the holy Martyr, Prince of the Czechs.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Prophets, Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
OUR HOLY FATHER CHARITON THE CONFESSOR. Saint Chariton was an eminent and devout citizen of the city of Iconium. Imbued with the spirit of his compatriot, Saint Thecla, St. Chariton openly confessed the Name of Christ. When a harsh persecution of Christians broke out under the pagan Roman emperor Aurelian, Saint Chariton was immediately brought to trial before the governor. The judge ordered him to worship false gods, to which Saint Chariton replied: "All your gods are furies, which were aforetime through pride cast out from Heaven into the nethermost hell." Saint Chariton openly showed his faith in the One Living God, the Creator of all, and in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind. Then the governor ordered that Saint Chariton be so beaten and tortured that his whole body became covered with wounds until it was like one great wound. After the evil death of Aurelian, whose evil-doing caught up with him in the end, Saint Chariton was released from torture and imprisonment. He traveled to Jerusalem, but on the way was seized by robbers from whom he was freed by God's Providence. He did not return to Iconium, but withdrew to the wilderness of Pharan, where he founded a community and gathered a group of monks together. Having given a rule to this community and desiring to escape the praise of men, he withdrew to another desert near Jericho where, in time, he founded another community, called after him. He finally founded another community, Souka, called in Greek the Old Lavra. He died at a great age and entered into the glory of his Lord on September 28th, 350 A.D., and his holy relics are preserved in his first monastery. The practice of tonsuring monks is attributed to Saint Chariton.
FROM THE HOLY VOICE OF THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
How to Eradicate Ill-Feeling
"Do you maintain that you are keeping the commandment of love towards your neighbor? If so, why is there so much bitter ill-feeling in you against this or that person? Is that not perhaps a sign that you are preferring transient goods to loving, and that just to possess them you are struggling even to the point of hostility to your brothers and sisters? Sadness and ill-feeling go hand in hand. So if you are sad when you see your brother or sister's face, that probably means that you are harboring ill-feeling. If it does, then pray for that brother or sister and you will weaken the drive of your passion, because prayer will purge of all bitterness the memory of the evil the other had done to you. After that, by acquiring love for your neighbor, you will eradicate any trace of that passion from your soul. It is essential to eradicate envy, anger and ill-feeling against people who have offended us. But this in itself does not mean you are loving them. One can avoid returning evil for evil simply because the Law commands it, without experiencing a scrap of love. In this way you will make no progress to repaying evil with good. Yet readiness to do good to someone who hates us is a characteristic of perfect love alone." [Saint Maximus the Confessor]
THE HOLY TRADITION OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
"O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust" (1 Timothy 6:20)
"We preserve the Doctrine of the Lord uncorrupted, and firmly adhere to the Faith He delivered to us, and keep it free from blemish and diminution, as a Royal Treasure, and a monument of great price, neither adding anything, nor taking anything from it ". (Letter of 1718, in G. Williams, The Orthodox Church of the East in the Eighteenth Century, p. 17).
His Grace Bishop Kallistos Ware writes: "This idea of living continuity is summed up for the Orthodox in the one word Tradition. 'We do not change the everlasting boundaries which our fathers have set,' wrote Saint John of Damascus, 'but we keep the Tradition, just as we received it.'.
"Orthodox are always talking about Tradition. What do they mean by the word? A tradition is commonly understood to signify an opinion, belief or custom handed down from ancestors to posterity. Christian Tradition, in that case, is the faith and practice which Jesus Christ imparted to the Apostles, and which since the Apostles' time has been handed down from generation to generation in the Church. But to an Orthodox Christian, Tradition means something more concrete and specific than this. It means the Books of the Holy Bible; it means the Creed fo Faith; it means the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Holy Fathers; it means the Holy Canons, the Holy Services, Church government, worship, spirituality and art which Orthodox has articulated over the ages. Orthodox Christians of today see themselves as heirs and guardians to a rich inheritance received from the past, and they believe it is their duty to transmit this inheritance unimpaired to the future…"
"Orthodox, while reverencing this inheritance from the past, are also well aware that not everything received from the past is of equal value. Among the various elements of Tradition, a unique pre-eminence belongs to the Holy Bible, to the Creed of faith, to the Doctrinal definitions of the Ecumenical Councils: these things the Orthodox accept as something absolute and unchanging, something which cannot be cancelled or revised…"
"...Loyalty to Tradition, properly understood, is not something mechanical, a passive and automatic process of transmitting the accepted wisdom of an era in the distant past. An Orthodox thinker must see Tradition from within, he must enter into its inner spirit, he must re-experience the meaning of Tradition in a manner that is exploratory, courageous, and full of imaginative creativity. In order to live within Tradition, is not enough simply to give intellectual assent to a system of doctrine; for TRADITION is far more than a set of abstract propositions--it is a life of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The Orthodox conception of Tradition is not static but dynamic, not a dead acceptance of the past but a living discovery of the Holy Spirit in the present. Tradition, while inwardly changeless (for God does not change), is constantly assuming new forms, which supplement the old without superseding them…"
This idea of Tradition as a living thing has been well expressed by Father Georges Florovsky:
"Tradition is the witness of the Spirit; the Spirit's unceasing revelation and preaching of good tidings...To accept and understand Tradition we must live within the Church, we must be conscious of the grace-giving presence of the Lord in it; we must feel the breath of the Holy Spirit in it…Tradition is not only a protective, conservative principle; it is, primarily, the principle of growth and regeneration…Tradition is the constant abiding of the Spirit and not only the memory of words."
Tradition is the witness of the Holy Spirit: in the words of Christ, "When the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth" (St. John 16:13). It is this Divine promise that forms the basis of the Orthodox devotion to Holy Tradition."
Saint Paul passionately appeals to the Christians at Corinth, "that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (I Cor. 1:10). He insists that all Church leaders "hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it" (St. Titus 1:9). Our Lord's prayer for unity in Saint John 17 has everything to do with His followers being sanctified "In the Truth" (v. 17). And again, His promise to be present with those who gather in His Name is predicated by His saying, "If two of you agree..." (St. Matthew 18:19). Then, of course, there is Saint Paul's unparalleled reference to "one Lord, one faith, one baptism " (Ephesians 4:5).
From the time of our Lord there began developing a body of truth, a particular interpretation of the divine events, and the Church leaders from the time of the Holy Apostles were given to preserving and building on that sacred "Tradition." So the Holy Apostle Paul exclaims, "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (II Thess. 2:15). "I command you," Saint Paul says to the Corinthian believers, "because you…maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you" (I Corinthians 11:2).
THE MIND OF THE CHURCH
Seeing Tradition as encompassing this common understanding, the appeal to Tradition also becomes an appeal to the mind of the Church. It is the thinking capital of the Church. So the 4th century Greek Father Saint Athanasius encourages a Church Bishop: "Let us look at that very Tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church from the very beginning which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached and the Fathers preserved. Upon this the Church is founded."
Thank God the Church has a mind. It is healthy. It retains. It doesn't forget. There is an ecclesiastical understanding that lives in the Church. We don't have to be "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men" (Ephesians 4:14).
Saint Irenaeus further states that the true faith "is being preserved in the Church from the Apostles through the succession of the presbyters". This speaks of the Church holding the same Faith with one voice as handed down by the Holy Apostles and preserved by the successive witnesses.
Reflecting this mind of the Church, one writer penned it so beautifully:
"We preserve the Doctrine of the Lord uncorrupted, and firmly adhere to the Faith He delivered to us, and keep it free from blemish and diminution, as a Royal Treasure, and a monument of great price, neither adding anything, nor taking anything from it."
So appealing to Tradition is appealing to the mind of the Church, to an ecclesiastical understanding indeed, it is our living connection with the fullness of the Church experience. It is the total life of the Church transferred from place to place and from generation to generation as it is inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit our God. "For Tradition which expresses the voice of the whole Church is also the voice of the Holy Spirit living in the Church." How comforting and securing it is to be a part of that stream of consciousness, that river of truth.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God