My beloved spiritual children 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.
THE JESUS PRAYER OR THE PRAYER OF THE HEART:
"O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On November 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 of every righteous soul made perfect in our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Righteous Martyr Stephen the New, whose head was crushed, was perfected in martyrdom; Saint Andrew, who was dragged on the ground for his worship of the holy icons, was perfected in martyrdom; Saint Peter, who was beaten to death for the holy icon's sake, was perfected in martyrdom; Saint Anna, who was beaten to death for refusing to denounce Saint Stephen, was perfected in martyrdom; other Holy Martyrs who died with Saint Stephen for the holy icons' sake: Basil, Stephen, two Gregories, and John; Holy Martyr Irenarchus of Sebastia and the Holy Seven Women with him who were perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Saint Theodor, who became Bishop of Theodosiopolis in Armenia during the reign of the emperor Maurice; Holy Martyrs Timothy, Bishop of Tiberiopolis; Theodore the Bishop; Peter, John, Sergius, Theodore, and Nicephorus the Priests; Basil and Thomas the Deacons; Hierotheos, Daniel, Chariton, Socrates, Comasius, and Eusebius the Monks; and Etimasius, who were beheaded in Tiberiopolis in the year of Lord 361; Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Rostov.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Archbishops, Holy Women, Holy Bishops, Holy Priests, Holy Mothers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Confessors, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY RIGHTEOUS MARTYR STEPHEN THE NEW. The righteous Stephen was born in Constantinople in 715 AD to pious parents named John and Anna. His mother had prayed often to the Most Holy Theotokos in her church at Vlachernae to be granted a son, and one day received a revelation from our Lady that she would conceive the son she desired. When Anna had conceived, she asked the newly-elected Patriarch Germanus to bless the babe in her womb. He said, "May God bless him through the prayer of the Holy First Martyr Stefanos (Stephen)." At that moment Anna saw a flame of fire issue from the mouth of the holy Patriarch. When the child was born, she named him Stefanos (Stephen), according to the prophesy of Saint Germanus.
Stephen struggled in asceticism from his youth in Bithynia at the Monastery of Saint Auxentius, which was located at a loft place called Mount Auxentius (see Feb. 14). Because of his extreme labors and great goodness, he was chosen by the hermits of Mount Auxentius to be their leader. The fame of his spiritual struggles reached the ears of all, and the fragrance of his virtue drew many to himself.
During the reign of Constantine V (741-775 AD), Saint Stephen showed his love of Orthodoxy in contending for the Faith. This Constantine was called Copronymus, that is, "namesake of dung," because while being baptized he had soiled the waters of regeneration, giving a fitting token of what manner of impiety he would later embrace. Besides being a fierce Iconoclast, Constantine raised up a ruthless persecution of monasticism. He held a council in 754 AD that anathematized the holy icons. Because Saint Stephen rejected this council, the emperor framed false accusations against him and exiled him. But while in exile Saint Stephen performed healings with holy icons and turned many away from Iconoclasm. When he was brought before the emperor again, he showed him a coin and asked whose image the coin bore. "Mine," said the tyrant. "If any man trample upon thine image is he liable to punishment?" asked the Saint. When they that stood by answered yes, the Saint groaned because of their blindness, and said if they thought dishonoring the image of a corruptible king worthy of punishment, what torment would they receive who trampled upon the Image of the Master Christ and of the Mother of God? Then he threw the coin to the ground and trampled on it. He was condemned to eleven months in bonds and imprisonment. Later, he was dragged over the earth and was stoned, like Saint Stefanos the First Holy Martyr; wherefore he is called Stefanos the New. Finally, he was struck with a wooden club on the temple and his head was shattered, and thus he gave up his spirit in the year of our Lord 767 AD.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Righteous Martyr. Fourth Tone
Trained on the mountains in ascetical labors, with the whole armor of the Cross thou didst vanquish the spiritual arrays of unseen enemies; and when thou hadst stripped thyself with great courage for contest, thou didst slay Copronymus with the sword of the true Faith. For both these things hast thou been crowned by God, O righteous Martyr, blest Stephen of great renown.
Kontakion Hymn of the Righteous Martyr. Plagal of Fourth Tone
With songs and hymns, O ye feast-lovers, let us extol the godly Stephen, that great lover of the Trinity, for he honored with his whole heart the comely image of the Master, of His Mother, and of all the Saints. Now with one accord, with longing, and with joy of heart, let us cry to him: Rejoice, O Father most glorious.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 19:12-28
HOLY SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"A rational soul that nourishes hate for a person cannot be at peace with God, Who gives us the Commandments. 'For if,' He says, 'you will not forgive men their offenses, neither you’re your Heavenly Father forgive you your offenses' (St. Matthew 6:14-15). But if he does not want to be at peace, still keep yourself away from hate by praying sincerely for him and by not speaking ill of him to anyone" (Saint Maximus the Confessor).
ON THE PRAYER OF JESUS
By Saint Ignatius Brianchninov
Open to All
On account of the importance of prayer in the name of Jesus, David invites all Christians to the practice of this prayer. "Praise the Lord, O ye servants, praise ye the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord from henceforth and for evermore. From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is to be praised" (Psalm 112:1-3). "Bring unto the Lord glory due unto His name, worship the Lord in His holy court" (Psalm 28:2). Pray in this way so that in your prayers the greatness of the name of Jesus may be manifested and by its power you may rise to the inner temple not made with hands (the temple of the heart) and worship in spirit and truth. Pray carefully and constantly. Pray in fear and trembling before the greatness of the name of Jesus, "and let them hope in Thee", the Almighty and All-Good Jesus, Who "know Thy name" from their own blessed experience, "for Thou hast not forsaken them that seek Thee, O Lord" (Psalm 9:10-11).
Only the poor in spirit who cling constantly to the Lord by prayer on account of the constant sense of their poverty and need are capable of discovering within themselves the greatness of the name of Jesus. "Let not the humbled man be turned away" and disappointed in his prayer, but let him offer it to God whole, not torn by distraction. "The beggar and the poor man shall praise Thy name" (Psalm 73:21). "Blessed is the man, whose hope is in the name of the Lord, and who hath not looked upon vanities and false frenzies" (Psalm 39:6). He will not pay any attention during his prayer to the seductive action of vain cares and passions which attempt to defile and spoil his prayer.
Night-time is particularly helpful for the practice of the prayer of Jesus on account of the darkness and silence. At night that great man of prayer, David, occupied himself with the remembrance of God: "I remembered Thy name in the night, O Lord," he says. I turned my soul at night to a divine pitch, and, having acquired that pitch in the activity of the following day, "I kept Thy Law" (Psalm 118:55). "At night," advises Saint Gregory the Sinaite, quoting Saint John Climacus ("of the Ladder"), "devote much time to prayer, and little to psalmody."
In the grim struggle with the invisible enemies (demons) of our salvation, the supreme weapon is the prayer of Jesus. "All nations"--the vociferous and wily demons are called nations--"compassed me", says David, "and by the name of the Lord I warded them off. Surrounding me they compassed me, and by the name of the Lord I warded them off. They compassed me about like unto bees around a honeycomb, and they burst into flame like a fire among the thorns, and by the name of the Lord I warded them off" (Psalm 117:10-12). "With the name of Jesus flog the foes (demons), because there is no stronger weapon in heaven or earth" (Ladder of Paradise: 21:7). "Through Thee", Lord Jesus, "shall the horn of our strength push down our enemies (demons), and through Thy name shall we bring to nought them that rise up against us. For not in my bow will I hope, and my sword shall not save me. For Thou hast saved us from them that afflict us, and them that hate us hast Thou put to shame. In God we will boast all the day long, and in Thy name will we give praise in the age to come (Psalm 43:6-9).
Having conquered and dispersed the enemies (demons) by the name of Jesus, the mind joins the ranks of the blessed spirits and enters for true worship into the temple of the heart which had previously been closed to it, singing a new, spiritual song, singing mystically; "I will confess Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart, and before Angels will I chant unto Thee, for Thou hast heard all the words of my mouth. I will worship towards Thy holy temple and confess Thy name, for Thy mercy and for Thy truth; for Thou hast magnified Thy Holy Name above all that is. In whatsoever day I call upon Thee, quickly hearken unto me; Thou shalt abundantly endow my soul with Thy strength" (Psalm 137:1-3).
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God