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.
AN ANCIENT HYMN AT THE LIGHTING OF THE LAMPS CHANTED AT VESPERS
O gladsome Light, Of the Holy Glory of the Immortal Father-Heavenly, Holy and Blessed-O Jesus Christ, Having come to the setting of the sun, Having seen the evening light, We praise God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is proper at all times to praise You with joyful voices, O Son of God, Giver of life. For this the world does glorify You.
On January 30th 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 perfect in our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Synaxis of the Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom; Holy Martyr Hippolytos, Bishop of Rome, and other Holy Martyrs with him; Saint Zeno of Antioch; Saint Adelgonda, foundress of Maubeuge; Saint Zeno the Faster of the Kiev Caves; Saint Olympius of Ostia; New Holy Martyr Demetrius of Sliven (+1841); Saint Peter, king of Bulgaria; holy Neomartyr Theodore of Mytilene; Saint Theophilos of Constantinople; Saint Bathild, Queen of France; "Tinos" Holy Icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God).
+By the holy intercession of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Neomartyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Venerable kings; Holy Hierarchs, have mercy on us and saves us. Amen.
OUR FATHERS AMONG THE SAINTS, THE ECUMENICAL TEACHERS BASIL THE GREAT, GREGORY THE THEOLOGIAN, AND JOHN CHRYSOSTOM.
This common feast of these three teachers was instituted a little before the year 1100, during the reign of the Emperor Alexis I Comnenus, because of a dispute and strife that arose among the notable and virtuous men of that time. Some of them preferred St. Basil the Great, while others preferred Saint Gregory the Theologian, and yet others preferred Saint John Chrysostom, quarrelling among themselves over which of the three was the greatest. Furthermore, each party, in order to distinguish itself from the others, assumed the name of its preferred Saint; hence, they called themselves Vasilians (Basilians), Gregorians, or Joannites. Desiring to bring an end to the contention, the three Saints appeared together to the saintly John Mavropos, a monk who had been ordained Bishop of Euchaita, a city of Asia Minor; they revealed to him that the glory they have at the Throne of God is equal, and told him to compose a common service for the three of them, which he did with great skill and beauty. Saint John of Euchaita (celebrated Oct. 5th) is also the composer of the Canon to the Guardian Angel, the Protector of a Man's Life. In his old age, he retired from his Episcopal See and again took up the Monastic life in a Monastery in Constantinople. He reposed during the reign of the aforementioned Emperor Alexis Comnenus (1081-1118 AD).
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. First Tone
The three most great luminaries of the Three-Sun Divinity have illumined all of the world with the rays of doctrines divine and true; they are the sweet-flowing rivers of wisdom, who with godly knowledge have watered all creation in clear and mighty streams: The great and sacred Basil, and the Theologian, wise Gregory, together with the renowned John, and famed Chrysostom of golden speech. Let us all who love their divinely-wise words come together, honoring them with hymns; for ceaselessly they offer entreaty for us to the Trinity.
Kontakion. Second Tone
Thou hast taken to Thyself, O Lord, the sacred and God-proclaiming heralds, the crown of Thy teachers, for the enjoyment of Thy blessings and for repose; for Thou hast accepted their sufferings and labors above all sacrifice, O Thou Who alone dost glorify They Saints.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 13:7-16
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Matthew 5:14-19
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Do not delay in coming to grace, but hasten, lest the robber outstrip you, lest the adulterer pass you by, lest the insatiate be satisfied before you, lest the murderer seize the blessing first, or the publican or the fornicator, or any of these violent ones who take the Kingdom of Heaven by force (cf. Matt. 11:12). For it suffers violence willingly, and is tyrannized over through goodness". (Saint Gregory the Theologian)
ON THE WILL OF GOD
by Staretz Silouan of Mt. Athos
It is a great good to give oneself up to the will of God. Then the Lord alone is in the soul. No other thought can enter in, and the soul feels God's love, even though the body may be suffering.
When the soul is entirely given over to the will of God, the Lord Himself takes her in hand and the soul learns directly from God. Whereas, before, she turned to teachers and to the Scriptures for instruction. But it rarely happens that the soul's teacher is the Lord Himself through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and few there are that know of this, save only those who live according to God's will.
The proud man does not want to live according to God's Will: he likes to be his own master and does not see that man has not wisdom enough to guide himself without God. And I, when I lived in the world, knew not the Lord and His Holy Spirit, nor how the Lord loves us--I relied on my own understanding; but when by the Holy Spirit I came to know our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, my soul submitted to God, and now I accept every affliction that befalls me, and say: "The Lord looks down on me. What is there to fear?" But before, I could not live in this manner.
Life is much easier for the man who is given over to the Will of God, since in illness, in poverty, in persecution he reflects thus: "Such is God's pleasure, and I must endure on account of my sins."
Thus for many years have I suffered violent headaches, which are hard to bear but salutary because the soul is humbled through sickness. My soul longs to pray and keep vigil, but sickness hinders me because of my body's demand for rest and quiet; and I besought the Lord to heal me, and the Lord hearkened not unto me. So, therefore, it would not have been salutary for me to have been cured.
Here is another case which happened to me, wherein the Lord made haste to hearken unto me and save me. We were given fish one feast-day in the refectory, and, while I was eating, a fish-bone found its way deep down my throat and stuck in my chest. I called to the Holy Martyr Saint Panteleimon, begging him to help me, as the doctor could not extract the bone. And when I spoke the word 'heal', my soul received this answer: "Leave the refectory, take a deep breath, fill out your cheeks with air, and then cough; and you will bring the bone up together with some blood.' This I did. I went out, exhaled, coughed, and big bone came up with some blood. And I understood that if the Lord does not cure me of my headaches it is because they are good for my soul.
The most precious thing in the world is to know God and understand His Will, even if only in part.
The soul that has come to know God should in all things submit to His Will, and live before Him in awe and love: in love, because the Lord is love; in awe, because we must go in fear of grieving God by some evil thought.
"O Lord, by the power of the grace of the Holy Spirit, vouchsafe that we may live according to Thy Holy Will."
When grace is with us we are strong in spirit; but when we lose grace we see our infirmity--we see that without God we cannot even think a good thing.
"O God of Mercy, Thou knowest our infirmity. I beseech Thee, grant me a humble spirit, for Thy mercy Thou dost enable the humble soul to live according to Thy Will. Thou dost reveal Thy Mysteries to her. Thou givest her to know Thee and the infinity of Thy love for us."
How are you to know if you are living according to the Will of God?
Here is a sign: if you are distressed over anything it means that you have not fully surrendered to God's Will, although it may seem to you that you live according to His Will.
He who lives according to God's Will has no cares. If he has need of something, he offers himself and the thing he wants to God, and if he does not receive it, he remains as tranquil as if he had got what he wanted.
The soul that is given over to the Will of God fears nothing, neither thunder nor thieves not any other thing. Whatever may come, 'Such is God's pleasure,' she says. If she falls sick she thinks, 'This means that I need sickness, or God would not have sent it.' And in this wise is peace preserved in soul and body."
The man who takes thought for his own welfare is unable to give himself up to God's Will, that his soul may have peace in God. But the humble soul is devoted to God's Will, and lives before Him in awe and love; in awe, lest she grieve God in any way; in love, because the soul has come to know how the Lord loves us.
The best thing of all is to surrender to God's will and bear affliction having confidence in God. The Lord, seeing our affliction, will never give us too much to bear. If we seem to ourselves to be greatly afflicted, it means that we have not surrendered to the will of God.
The soul that is in all things devoted to the Will of God rests quiet in Him, for she knows of experience and from the Holy Scriptures that the Lord loves us much and watches over our souls, quickening all things by His grace in peace and love.
Nothing troubles the man who is given over to the Will of God, be it illness, poverty or persecution. He knows that the Lord in His mercy is solicitous for us. The Holy Spirit, Whom the soul knows, is witness therefore. But the proud and the self-willed do not want to surrender to God's will because they like their own way, and that is harmful for the soul.
Abba (Father) Pimen said: Our own will is like a wall of brass between us and God, preventing us from coming near to Him or contemplating His mercy."
We must always pray the Lord for peace of soul that we may the more easily fulfill the Lord's Commandments; for the Lord loves those who strive to do His Will, and thus they attain profound peace in God.
He who does the Lord's Will is content with all things, though he be poor or sick and suffering, because the grace of God gladdens his heart. But the man who is discontent with his lot and murmurs against his fate, or against those who cause him offence, should realize that his spirit in a state of pride, which has taken from him his sense of gratitude towards God.
But if it be so with you, do not lose heart but try to trust firmly in the Lord and ask Him for a humble spirit; and, when the lowly spirit of God comes to you, you will then love Him and be at rest in spite of all tribulations.
The soul that has acquired humility is always mindful of God, and thinks to herself: 'God has created me. He suffered for me. He forgives me and sin and comforts me. He feeds me and cares for me. Why then should I take thought for myself, and what is there to fear, even if death threatens me?"
The Lord enlightens every soul that has surrendered to the Will of God, for he said: Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.
A soul that is troubled about anything should inquire of the Lord and the Lord will give understanding, but this primarily in time of calamity and bewilderment. As a general rule we should be advised by our spiritual father, for this is a humble way.
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God