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.
According to the Seventy
The Lord said unto my Lord: Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet. A scepter of power shall the Lord send unto Thee out of Sion; rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies. With Thee is dominion in the day of Thy power, in the splendor of Thy Saints. From the womb before the morning star have I begotten Thee. The Lord hath sworn and will not relent: Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedek. The Lord at Thy right hand hath broken kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nation, He shall fill them with dead bodies, He shall crush the heads of many upon the earth. He shall drink of the brook in the way; therefore shall He lift up His head.
On January 14th 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 Savvas 1st, first Archbishop of Serbia; Saint Nina (Nino), enlightener of Georgia; Saint Theodoulos of Sinai; Saint Macrina, grandmother of Saint Basil the Great; New Holy Martyr Bishop Ambrose (Gudko) and others martyred at Raithu Monastery near Kazan (1918); Holy Martyr Agnes; Saint Meletius, Bishop of Ryazan; Saint Stephen of Chenolakkos Monastery; Saint Joseph Analytinos of Raithu Monastery; Saint Felix of Nola.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Archbishops, Saint Ascetics, Holy Bishops, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
SAINT FELIX OF NOLA, PRIEST AND CONFESSOR. Saint Felix's father left him and his brother an estate near Naples, Italy in the 3rd century. Saint Felix feared that this wealth might entangle his soul, so he gave most of it to the poor and was ordained a reader and later a priest by Bishop Maximus of Nola, who was grooming Felix to replace him. When the pagan Roman Emperor Decius began his persecutions, Maximus fled to the desert and Felix was arrested instead. He was scourged and heavy chains were laid about his neck, hands, and legs. He was cast into a dungeon, where the floor was covered with shards of broken pots. He could not even find a comfortable place to stand. One night an Angel of God appeared to him and instructed him to go to Maximus who was in distress. Felix's chains fell off and the doors of the prison opened of their own accord. He followed the Angel to Maximus, who was senseless, dying of cold and hunger, and filled with anxiety for his flock. Felix prayed for some food, and a bunch of grapes appeared that revitalized Maximus, and Felix carried him back to his house where an old woman cared for him. Felix hid until the emperor died, but when he emerged, the pagans tried to arrest him. However, he crawled through a crevice in an old wall and spiders quickly covered the opening with their web. He hid himself in an old well for six months and was brought food by a Christian woman until peace was restored. When Maximus died, Saint Felix was the unanimous choice for bishop, but he deferred the honor to another priest, Quintus, who nonetheless carefully followed Saint Felix's advice. Towards the end of his life, Saint Felix rented a small piece of land that he tilled, fed himself, and gave to the poor.
TODAY'S SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 10:32-38
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 12: 32-40
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"We must so train ourselves that the mind, as it were, swims in the Law of God, under the guidance of which our life must be governed. It is very useful to be occupied with reading the Word of God in solitude and to read the whole Bible through with understanding. When a man so equips his soul with the Word of God, then he is filled with understanding of what is good and what is evil." [Saint Seraphim of Sarov]
THE SOLE PATH OF SALVATION OF MANKIND
According to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, we believe that:
The sole path to salvation of mankind is the faith in the Holy Trinity, the work and the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, and their continuance within His Body, the Holy Church. Christ is the Only True Light; there are no other lights to illuminate us, nor any other names that can save us: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved". All other beliefs, all religions that ignore and do not confess Christ "having come in the flesh," are human creations...As Christians who believe in the Holy Trinity we do not have the same God as any of the other religions.
For two thousand years, the One Church which Christ founded and the Holy Spirit has guided and has remained stable and unshakeable in the salvific Truth that was taught by Christ, delivered by the Holy Apostles and preserved by the Holy Fathers. She did not buckle under the cruel persecutions by the various enemies of Christ and His Church. The internal enemies of the Church began to multiply and strengthen. A variety of heresies began to appear, which endeavored to overthrow and adulterate the faith once delivered, such that the faithful became confused, and their trust in the Gospel and traditions was debilitated. Saint Basil the Great says: "The dogmas of the Fathers have been entirely disregarded, the Apostolic Tradition withered, the inventions of the youth are observed in the churches; people are now "logic-chopping" not theologizing; precedence is given to the wisdom of the world, pushing aside the boasting on the Cross. Shepherds are driven out, and in their place cruel wolves are ushered in, dispersing Christ's flock."
That which happened because of external enemies--religions--also happened because of internal ones--heresies. The Church, through Her great and enlightened Holy Fathers, demarcated and marked the boundaries [perixarakose] of the Orthodox faith with decisions by Local and Ecumenical Synods (Councils) in the cases of specific, dubious teachings, but also with the agreement of all the Fathers (Consensus Patrum), on all the matters of the Faith. We stand on a sure ground when we follow the Holy Fathers and do not move the boundaries that they have set. The expressions "Following after our Holy Fathers" and "Not withdrawing the boundaries that our Fathers have set" are signposts for a steady course of spiritual advance and a guardrail for [remaining within] the Orthodox faith and way of life.
The term "Grace" is often misunderstood today. The Patristic teaching on the subject was best expressed by our Venerable Father Diadochus the God-bearer, Bishop of Photike in Epirus. As he writes in his Hundred Texts on Spiritual knowledge and Discernment: "Before holy baptism grace encourages the soul towards good from outside, while Satan lurks in its depths, trying to block all the intellect's ways of approach to the Divine. But from the moment we are reborn through Baptism, the demon is outside, Grace is within." And, in our own days, Blessed Archbishop Seraphim of Sophia writes concerning the two forms of Grace: "According to the teaching of the Holy Fathers, the Grace of the Holy Spirit is manifest in two forms: firstly, as an external, providential Grace, which acts in and throughout the lives of everybody, enabling anyone to accept the True Faith; and secondly, as an internal, salvific Grace, which revivifies, redeems, and functions solely in the Orthodox Church." Here the Confession refers to the latter form of Grace. The general operation of the Holy Spirit among all men is not in question.
Question: When Church Fathers such as Saint Cyprian of Carthage make such bold statements as, "He cannot have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother," does this mean that all non-Orthodox people condemned?
"God is salvation, and God's saving power is mediated to humans in His Body, the Church. All the categorical strength and point of this aphorism lies in its tautology. Outside the Church there is no salvation, because 'salvation is the Church.' (Fr. Georges Florovsky, "The Catholicity of the Church,'). Does it therefore follow that anyone who is not visibly within the Church is necessarily damned? Of course not; still less does it follow that everyone who is visibly within the Church is necessarily saved. As Augustine wisely remarked, 'How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!' (Homilies on John 14:12). While there is no division between a 'visible' and an 'invisible Church', yet there may be members of the Church who are not visibly such, but whose membership is known to God alone. If anyone is saved, he must 'in some sense' be a member of the Church; 'in what sense, we cannot always say." (The Orthodox Church by Kallistos Ware).
Orthodox theologian Fr. Georges Florovsky was even bolder when he wrote, "Outside the Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church." Let's define terms, "Salvation" (soteria in Greek) means spiritual wholeness, health. "Salvation is not an instant experience, nor is it a reward for getting a passing grade in holiness, nor it is the result of God's arbitrary waiving heaven's entrance requirements."
"Man's salvation consists in the acquirement of eternal life in God, in the Kingdom of Heaven. "But nothing unclean can enter the Kingdom of God" (cf. Ephesians 5:5; Apoc. 21:27). God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him, and those who enter the Kingdom of God must themselves be sons of the Light. Therefore, entrance into it necessarily requires purity of soul, a garment of "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
The Son of God came into the world in order (a) "to open the path" to mankind in its entirety for the personal salvation of each of us; and in order by this means (b) to direct the hearts of men to the search, to the thirst for the Kingdom of God, and "to give help, to give power on this path of salvation for the acquirement of personal spiritual purity and sanctity." The first of these has been accomplished by Christ entirely. The second depends upon ourselves, although it is accomplished by the "activity of the grace of Christ" in the Holy Spirit." (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Father Michael Pomazansky)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God