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 sworn and will not repent: 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 nations, 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.
by Aphrahat the Persian
How lovely is prayer, and how radiant are its works. Prayer is acceptable to God when it goes with good deeds, and it is heard when it rises out of a spirit of forgiveness. Prayer is always answered when it is pure and sincere. Prayer is powerful when it is suffused with God's vigor. (Source: The Book of Mystical Chapters by Fr. John Anthony McGuckin)
January 23rd. The holy feast-day of Holy Hieromartyr Clement, Bishop of Ancyra. The Holy Martyr Agathangelos.
Saint Clement, who was from Ancyra in Galatia, was the son of an unbelieving father, but a believing mother whose name was Sophia. At first he lived as a monk; later, he became the bishop of his city. He suffered so many things in confession of the Faith of Christ, that the time of his sufferings and struggles stretched out over a period of 20 years. Finally he and Saint Agathagelos (who was from Rome) were beheaded together during the reign of pagan Roman emperor Diocletian and Maximian, in the year 296 AD.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint Clement. Fourth Tone
Thou didst blossom forth for the faithful, O most sacred Clement, as a branch of holiness, a staff of contest, a most sacred flower, and a sweet God-given fruit. But as a fellow-sufferer of martyrs and a fellow-prelate of hierarchs, intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint Agathangelos. Fourth Tone
Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion of Saint Clement. Fourth Tone
As an honored branch of Christ, Who is the True Vine, all-famed Clement, thou didst win thy many contests for the Faith, crying with them that had shared they pains: Christ is the Martyrs' exceedingly radiant joy.
Kontakion of Saint Agathagelos. Third Tone
Having blossomed forth from Rome, the city famed for her Martyrs, thou didst cause astonishment unto thy namesakes, the Angels, when they saw they steadfast courage and great endurance in the torments thou didst suffer for Christ, O Martyr. Wherefore, thou wast rightly hallowed and didst receive grace to work dread wonders and signs.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Philippians 3:20-21, 4:1-3
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-5
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"A devout man happened to be insulted by someone, and he said to the person, 'I could say as much to you, but God's Commandment keeps my mouth shut." (+ Amma (Mother) Theodora of the Desert)
SANCTIFICATION OF SOUL AND BODY
by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos (Source: Hesychia and Theology)
The saint's union with God has resounding implications for mankind. This union is not of a moral, psychological or social nature, but purely theological, which means there are unambiguous criteria for sanctity. Because man is made up of soul and body, God's grace is transmitted through the soul to the body as well, so unmistakable tokens and proofs of holiness exist.
Saint John of Damascus, making use of various biblical passages, such as "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God" (2 Cor. 6:16), and "the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and torment shall not touch them" (Wisdom 3:1), says that the saints become "treasuries and pure habitations of God". What God is by nature, the saints are by grace and participation. Insofar as God is Life and Light, this signifies that "those who are in God's hand are in life and light" (St. John of Damascus). When he refers to light, he means the uncreated Light in which the saints share and which is, of course, represented in Orthodox iconography. There is a halo (photostefanos, lit. "crown of Light") holy icons, which demonstrates that the saints saw the Uncreated Light, lived constantly within the Uncreated Light and continue to do so.
Because soul and body are united, the grace of God is transmitted by the soul to the body. Referring to the passage from Saint Paul about the bodies of Christians being temples of the Holy Spirit, Saint John writes that "God took up his dwelling in the bodies through the nous", which is why the saints are called living temples and tabernacles of God. "How, then, should they not be honored who are the living temples of God, the living tabernacles of God?" asks the Saint. For this precise reason the saints, while alive, "stood with confidence before God", and their deaths are "rather sleep than death."
This is natural, because God's Grace is transferred through the nous to the body, and obviously there are consequences: death, which is present in man's body, is overcome. This is why holy relics do not decay.
TOKENS OF SAINTHOOD
Clear proofs exist that the grace of God dwells in a particular person. We have already drawn attention to the deification (theosis) of nous and body in the case of the saints, as death is overcome. There are various manifestations, however, that prove God's Uncreated Grace and Energy are present in someone, such as the fragrance emitted by the holy relics of the Saints. Saint John of Damascus writes: The Lord Christ made the relics of the saints to be fountains of salvation to us, pouring forth manifold blessings and abounding in oil of sweet fragrance". Christians ought to have unshakable faith in the fact that this can happen. "And let no one disbelieve." In the Old Testament we see that God acted to bring forth water out of the precipitous rock in the desert, and He also made water flow from the jaw-bone of an ass to quench Samson's thirst, so it is not beyond belief that "fragrant perfume should flow from the relics of the martyrs."
Because of God's indwelling grace, the bodies of the saints are alive and are not regarded as dead, which is why they work miracles. Christ, Who is "Life itself, the Author of Life", and descended into hell without being held captive by it, dwells within the bodies of the Saints, and for that very reason "we do not call those dead who have fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection and in faith in Him." So the saints are alive and make their presence felt in the Church, as they have been united with the cause of life, Life Himself, Christ.
The living presence of the saints is demonstrated by the miracles that are accomplished. It is actually God Who performs the miracles by means of the bodies of the saints, because, as we have said already, the Holy Spirit dwells in their bodies. Saint John of Damascus writes concerning the wonders which God works through the saints: "How then through them are demons put to flight, the sick cured, the blind restored to sight, lepers cleansed, temptations and troubles overcome; and how does every good gift from the Father of lights come down through them to those who ask with undoubting faith."
Many miracles, therefore, are performed through the holy relics: illnesses are cured, even temptations and worries are banished, and demons are chased away. For this to come about two indispensable conditions must be fulfilled. Firstly, God's grace must dwell within the holy relics, and secondly, we must approach them with unhesitating faith.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God