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.
PRAYER AT THE THIRD HOUR (11:00 a.m.)
+Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Give immediate and steadfast consolation to Your servants, O Christ, For our spirits have become weary and discouraged. Do not abandon our souls in sorrows, Do not distance Yourself from our thoughts and circumstances, But always overtake us in our need. You Who are everywhere, come near, come near to us, As with Your Apostles, promising to be always with them. O Compassionate Lord, unite Yourself also with those who love You, So that, united with You, we may praise and glorify Your All-Holy Spirit.
Lord God, Almighty Father, Lord God, Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, And Lord God, the Holy Spirit, One God, One Power, One Essence, Have mercy on me a sinner. And through the judgments which You know best, Save me your unworthy servant, For You are blessed unto the age of ages. Amen.
On January 26th 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, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saints Xenophone, Mary, John and Arcadios of Constatninople; Saint Symeon the Ancient of Mt. Sinai; Saint Ammon of Egypt; Saints Ananias the Presbyter, Peter and 7 soldiers in Phoenicia; Saint Joseph, Bishop of Thessaloniki; Saint Clement of Mt. Stirion; Saint David the Restorer of Georgia; Saint Gabriel, Egoumenos (Abbot) at Jerusalem; Saint Paul of Palestine; Saint Xenophon of Novgorod; Saint Joseph Naniescu of Romania; New Holy Martyrs Cyril of Kazan, Arcadius, and Matushka (Presbytera) Maria of Gatchina; Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Confessors, Holy Presbyters, Holy Bishops, Holy Ascetics, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
OUR RIGHTEOUS FATHER XENOPHON AND THOSE WITH HIM. Saint Xenophon (note: the X in Xenophon has an x sound not a z i.e., ksenophon), a wealthy nobleman of Constantinople, was filled with piety toward God. He had two sons, Archadius and John, whom he sent to Beirut to study law. But they were shipwrecked during their voyage; barely saved, they forsook all things and departed from Palestine. Saint Xenophon and his wife Mary, ignorant of what had happened, went in search of their sons. On finding them in Jerusalem, dressed in the habit of monks, they also took up the monastic life. And thus, having completed their lives in holiness, they departed for the Lord about the beginning of the 6th century. Saint Xenophon and his sons reposed at Saint Savva's Monastery, and Mary at the Monastery of Saint Theodosius.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
O God of our Fathers, ever dealing with us according to Thy gentleness: take not Thy mercy from us, but by their entreaties guide our life in peace.
Kontakion. Fourth Tone
With thy yoke-mate and thy sons didst thou keep vigil in the courts of Christ thy Lord and thou didst cheerfully disperse thy wealth to paupers, O blessed one. Hence, ye have all now inherited joy divine.
HOLY MARTYRS AND CONFESSORS OF RUSSIA. The Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia first set the date of this commemoration in 1981 and the Moscow Patriarchate adopted it in 1992. Today we commemorate the uncounted millions of Orthodox faithful who died at the hands of the Soviets (Communists and Atheists). This includes Tsar Nicholas II and the rest of the Russian Royal Family, Patriarch Tikhon, Grand Duchess Elizabeth, and the thousands of clergy and Orthodox Christians. The number of Russian Holy Martyrs far surpasses all those who were martyred in the first three centuries of Christianity. Another 11,050 New Holy Martyrs were glorified by the Patriarchate in the year 2000 and many more are expected.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING (FIFTEENTH SUNDAY OF SAINT LUKE):
Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Timothy 4:9-15
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Luke 19: 1-10
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH.
"If you wish not to grow angry against one who offends, you should diligently, from your whole heart, pray for him to God and give him some kind of gift or a small consolation. Go to him yourself when you see that he has come to himself from the anger, and speak about being forgiven your sin, find out the reason for his anger, and show him yet greater love." (Saint Paisius Velichkovsky)
HONORING THE SAINTS
by His Eminence, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos (Source: Hesychia and Theology)
Everything we have said so far points to the honor which we ought to bestow on "attested" Saints. They are our protection. Everyone, says Saint John of Damascus, would make an effort to find a patron to lead him to the earthly king and speak to him on his behalf. For the same reason, and may more besides, we should honor "the patrons of the entire race, who make intercession to God for us."
Reverence for the Saints finds expression through raising churches in their names, making offerings of fruit, and celebrating their annual festivals. The way we honor them at celebrations on their feast days, however, must be appropriate, otherwise we do not benefit. When God is truly worshipped, those who serve Him rejoice as well, whereas if we celebrate God's festival in an inappropriate way, His shield-bearers become angry too. We should rejoice spiritually at commemorations of the Saints. As Saint John writes in his characteristic way, "In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, in contrition and compassion for the needy, let us believers do honor to the Saints, through whom most especially is honor rendered to God." In other words, God is worshipped above all by the Saints, so the faithful ought to honor the Saints, who really are the living tabernacle of God, with psalms and spiritual songs, with contrition and mercy shown to those in need.
In addition to constructing churches, holding special services and celebrating festivals for them, we ought to express our honor and respect for the Saints by preparing visible icons. In fact, we ourselves ought to become the Saint's memorials and icons by imitating their virtues. Saint John writes, "Let us raise monuments to them and visible images, and let us ourselves through imitation of their virtues become their living monuments and images. The preparation of holy icons and their veneration alludes to the fact that the Saints have become living temples of God and He dwells in them. They activate his Image within them and experienced His Likeness. Venerating their holy icons should undoubtedly help us to become images of the Saints ourselves.
CATEGORIES OF SAINTS
Saint John of Damascus enumerates the different categories of Saints to whom we should offer reverent veneration.
First of all there is the Mother of God, Whom we should honor "as really and truly God's Mother". Next comes the Prophet Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner, to whom honor is due "as forerunner and Baptist, apostle and martyr". Then we honor the Apostles "as brothers of the Lord, who saw Him face to face and ministered to His Passion". After them we owe honor to the Holy Martyrs, who as soldiers of Christ drank His cup, accepted the baptism of His Life-Giving death and became participants in Christ's sufferings and glory. Saint Stephen (Stefanos) the Protomartyr takes first place among them. Then we honor the Holy Fathers and the God-bearing ascetics "whose struggle was the more drawn-out and laborious one of conscience". Finally we also give honor to the Saints before the Incarnation of Christ, "the Prophets before grace, the Patriarchs and just men who announced beforehand the advent of the Lord".
We should look closely at their lives and emulate their virtues and conduct in order to share the crown of glory with them. Saint John of Damascus writes: "Let us carefully review the life of all these, and let us emulate their faith, love, hope, zeal, way of life and perseverance unto death, so that we may also share their crowns of glory."
Please note: I pray that all of you respect the great sacrifice of the men, women and children Saints and Holy Martyrs of our Holy Orthodox Church. As you just read above about the millions of Russian Orthodox Christians that have given their life for the Faith and the Church under the Communists and Atheists. Orthodox Christians have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ throughout the centuries and continue to do so today. Should we not be ready to emulate their example of virtue and faith? Should we not be inspired by them? If one desires to witness authentic Christianity and Christians, let them turn their attention to our Saints and Holy Martyrs.
It is most important not to ignore our patron Saints. Teach your children about them, their life, their virtues, their faith, their love, their sacrifice, their hope and loyalty. Most of our children in our Greek Orthodox parishes know nothing about their patron Saint and do not even honor them on their feast day. They may not even have a holy icon of their Saint.
Complacency and laziness is not an excuse! We have books in the parish library on the Lives of the Saints but if that is not convenient for you then get on the Internet on one of the Orthodox Websites and you will find the particular Saint.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God