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.
A CONTRITE PRAYER TO OUR GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
O Christ our God, Who at all times and in every hour in heaven and on earth are worshiped and glorified; Who are longsuffering, merciful, and compassionate; Who love the just and show mercy upon sinners; Who call all to salvation through the promise of the good things to come; O Lord, in this hour receive our supplications and direct our lives according to Your Commandments. Sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, correct our thoughts, cleanse our minds; deliver us from all tribulation, evil, and distress. Surround us with Your Holy Angels, so that guided and guarded by them, we may attain to the unity of the Faith and to the full knowledge of Your unapproachable Glory. For You are Blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
TRANSMITTING THE FAITH
"You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Timothy 2:1-4)
Please note: Faithful diakonia (service) demands discipline; obedience, self-denial and struggle.)
"The Saints lived and live within the realm of unceasing prayer. For them prayer is the way to God. The prayers of the Saints of the Church are those sacred footprints, left behind for us to follow in their sacred and blessed way, which lead us also to God and to our salvation."
On February 8th 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 faith: Holy and Glorious Great Martyr Theodore the Commander; Holy Prophet Zacharias; Holy Martyrs Nicephoros and Stefanos were perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Saints Martha and Mary the sisters and Righteous Lycarion the Child Martyr, who were from Egypt, were perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Holy Martyrs Philadelphos and Polycarp; Righteous Father Macarios, Bishop of Paphos; Holy Martyr Pergetus; our Righteous Mother Elfleda, Egoumenissa (Abbess) of Whitby; Saint Savvas the Second, Archbishop of Serbia; Holy New Hieromartyrs Theodoros, Priest of Golyshmankovskoe, who was slain by the atheist communists in the year 1918, and Theodore, Archbishop of Volokolamsk, who was slain in the year 1935.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Mother, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Bishops, Holy Priests, Holy Egoumenisses, Holy Children, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR THEODORE STRATELATES (COMMANDER). There are martyrdoms that are more than costly. The costliness of a martyrdom depends on the greatness of the good things of this world that a Christian gives up, receiving suffering in its place; and it depends also on the greatness of the suffering which he endures for the sake of Christ. Saint Theodoros, a Roman Commander in the army of the pagan Roman Emperor Licinius and governor of the city of Heraclea, scorned his youth, his good looks, his military status and the good will of the Emperor, and in place of all this received terrible tortures for the sake of Christ. Firstly Saint Theodore was flogged, receiving 600 lashes on the back and 500 on the stomach; then he was crucified and pierced through with arrows. Finally he was slain with the sword. Why all this? Because Saint Theodore loved Christ more than anything else in the world. He scorned the foolish idol-worship of the superstitious pagan Emperor, shattered the silver and gold idols, giving the pieces to the poor, brought many to the Christian faith and urged the Emperor himself to reject idolatry and believe in the one God. During the whole of his torture, Saint Theodore repeated unceasingly: 'Glory to Thee, my God, glory to Thee!' He suffered on February 8th, 319 A.D. at three o'clock in the afternoon, and entered into the Kingdom of Christ. He is regarded as the protector of soldiers, who turn to him for help. His wonderworking holy relics were taken from Efchaita to Constantinople and buried in the church at Vlachernae.
THE HOLY PROPHET ZECHARIAH. The Eleventh of the Minor Prophets, he worked together with the Prophet Haggai to persuade Prince Zerubbabel to restore the Temple in Jerusalem. He prophesied the solemn entry of Christ into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of an ass and Judas' betrayal for thirty pieces of silver: "They weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver", and the forsaking of Christ by His Apostles at the time of His Passion: "Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered." He entered into rest in the second year of the reign of pagan Darius Hystapes, in about 520 B.C.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 2:4-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:16-22
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY MOTHERS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
She (Blessed Syncletica) said, 'It is written, "Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (St. Matthew 10:16). Being like serpents means not ignoring attacks and wiles of the devil. Like is quickly known to like. The simplicity of the dove denotes purity of action.'
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9TH BEGINS THE TRIODION (FROM THE GREEK Τριώδιον)
This is the Orthodox liturgical book that contains the variable portions of the Liturgy and other services for a particular period of the Orthodox ecclesiastical calendar. It begins on the 4th Sunday before the Holy and Great Lent, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, and ends on Saturday of the Holy and Great Week. Triodion is also called the period between the Sunday of the Prodigal Son and Pascha (Easter). The name derives from the fact that during this holy season the Canons contain only Three Odes instead of the usual nine. The Canon is a series of nine hymns, 'odes', used at the Orthros (Matins). The Nine Odes vary so as to correspond with the theme of the particular feast. The introduction of Canons is ascribed to Saint Andrew of Crete. Other famous authors of Canons are Saint Cosmas Melodos, Saint John of Damascus, and Saint Theodore of Studion.
Before the festival of Pascha (Easter) there has developed a long preparatory season of repentance and fasting, extending in present Orthodox usage over ten weeks. First come Twenty-Two days (Four successive Sundays) of preliminary observance; then the Six Weeks or Forty Days of the Holy and Great Lent; and finally Holy and Great Week. Balancing the seven weeks of Holy and Great Lent and Holy and Great Week, there follows after Pascha a corresponding season of Fifty Days of thanksgiving, concluding with Pentecost.
Each of these seasons has its own liturgical book. For the time of preparation there is the Lenten Triodion or 'Book of Three Odes'.
What do we find, then, in this book of preparation that we term the Lenten Triodion? It can most briefly be described as The Book of the Fast. Just as the children of Israel ate the 'bread of affliction' (Deut. 16:3) in preparation for the Passover, so Christians prepare themselves for the celebration of the New Passover by observing a fast. But what is meant by this word 'fast' (nisteia)? Here the utmost care is needed, so as to preserve a proper balance between the outward and the inward. On the outward level fasting involves physical abstinence from food and drink, without such exterior abstinence a full and true fast cannot be kept; yet the rules about eating and drinking must never be treated as an end in themselves, for ascetic fasting has always and inward and unseen purpose. Man is a unity of body and soul, 'a living creature fashioned from natures visible and invisible,' in the words of the Triodion (Vespers for Saturday of the Dead); and our ascetic fasting should therefore involve both these natures at one. The tendency to over-emphasize external rules food in a legalistic way, and the opposite tendency to scorn these rules as outdated and unnecessary, are both alike to be deplored as a betrayal of true Orthodoxy. In both cases the proper balance between the outward and the inward has been impaired.
One reason for the decline in fasting is surely a heretical attitude towards human nature, a false 'spiritualism' which rejects or ignores the body, viewing man solely in terms of his reasoning brain. As a result, many contemporary Christians have lost a true vision of man as an integral unity of the visible and invisible; they neglect the positive role played by the body in the spiritual life, forgetting Saint Paul's affirmation: "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit...glorify God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Another reason for the decline in fasting among Orthodox Christians is the argument, commonly advanced in our times, that the traditional rules are no longer possible today. These rules presuppose, so it is urged, a closely organized, non-pluralistic Christian society, following an agricultural way of life that is now increasingly a thing of the past. There is a measure of truth in this. But it needs also to be said that fasting, as traditionally practiced in the Church, has always been difficult and always involved hardship. Many of our contemporaries are willing to fast for reasons of health or beauty, in order to lose weight; cannot we Christians do as much for the sake of the Heavenly Kingdom? Why should the self-denial gladly accepted by previous generations of Orthodox Christians prove such an intolerable burden to their successors today? Once Saint Seraphim of Sarov was asked why the miracles of grace, so abundantly manifest in the past, were no longer apparent in his own day, and to this he replied: "Only one thing is lacking-a firm resolve.'
The primary aim of fasting is to make us "conscious of our dependence upon God." If practiced seriously, the Lenten abstinence from food-particularly in the opening days--involves a considerable measure of real hunger, and also a feeling of tiredness and physical exhaustion. The purpose of this is to lead us in turn to a sense of inward brokenness and contrition; to bring us, that is, to the point where we appreciate the full force of Christ's statement, "without Me you can do nothing" (St. John 15:5).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God