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.
Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your Name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your Truth. Why should the Gentiles say, so where is their God? But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they eyes have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; they have noses, but they do not smell; Feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them. O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield. The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us; He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great. May the Lord give you increase more and more, you and your children. May you be blessed by the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's; but the earth He has given to the children of men. The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!
Saint John Chrysostom
"I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too. For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it, unless it be done according to a suitable law. 'For the wrestler,' it is said, 'is not crowned unless he strive lawfully.' To the end, then, that when we have gone through the labor of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business, since that Pharisee also fasted, but afterwards when down empty, and destitute of the fruits of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that thou mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it."
Walk in the Light: CONFESSION
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the Truth. But if we walk in the Light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." (1 John 1:6-10)
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF THE SAINTS OF THE DAY):
On the February 17th 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 Great Martyr Theodore the Tyro; Saint Mariamne, sister of Saint Philip the Holy Apostle; our Righteous Father Auxibius, Bishop of Solon in Cyprus; Saint Theosteriktos, and the finding of the holy relics of Saint Menas the Most Eloquent; the Holy Sovereigns Marcianos and Pulcheria of pious memory; Holy New Martyr Theodore the Byzantine was perfected in martyrdom by hanging in Mytilene in the year 1795; Saint Fintan, Bishop of Clonenagh, the Father of Irish Monks; Saint Theodore the Silent of the Kiev Caves; Saint Theodosius and Romanus of Bulgaria; Holy Hieromartyr Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia; Saint Barnabas of the Gethsemane--Chernigov Hermitage; Holy New Hieromartyr Theodore, Priest of Udobnaya, who was slain by the communist atheists in the year 1918; Saint Nicholas Planas, Presbyter of Athens, who reposed in peace in the year 1932.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Sovereigns, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Monks, Holy Bishops, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR THEODORE THE TYRO. 'Tyro' means 'Recruit'. No sooner had Saint Theodore entered the Marmarite Regiment of the army in the town of Amasea than a persecution of Christians broke out under the pagan Roman emperors Maximian and Maximinus. Saint Theodore did not attempt to conceal that he was a Christian, and was brought to trial and imprisoned in a prison that was then locked and sealed. The evil judge intended him to die of hunger, but the Lord Christ Himself appeared to Saint Theodore in the prison and encouraged His martyr with these words: "Fear not, Theodore; I am with thee. Take no more earthly food and drink, for thou shalt be in the other life, eternal and unending with me in Heaven." Then a multitude of Angels appeared in the prison, and the whole place shone with Light. The prison guards on duty saw the Angels in white apparel and were filled with fear. Then Saint Theodore was taken out, tortured and condemned to death. He was thrown into fire, and gave his soul to the Most High God. He suffered in 306 A.D.
SAINT MARIANME (MARIA). The sister of the Holy Apostle Philip, she traveled with her brother, and with him preached the Gospel in Hierapolis and other places. After the Holy Apostle Philip had died a martyr's death, Saint Mariamne continued her missionary work in Lycaonia, where she died.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: II Timothy 2:1-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 20:46-47; 21:1-4
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"The Savior granted both benefits by the Incarnation on the one hand, he abolished death from our midst and, on the other hand, He renewed us." (Saint Athanasius the Great)
(as edited by Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by Saint Theophan the Recluse)
One should never believe in oneself or trust oneself in anything
Not to rely on oneself is so necessary in our struggle, my beloved brother, that without this, be assured, not only will you fail to gain the desired victory, but you will be unable to resist the smallest attack of the enemy (Satan). Engrave this deeply in your mind and heart.
Since the time of the transgression of our forefather, despite the weakening of our spiritual and moral powers, we are wont to think very highly of ourselves. Although our daily experience very effectively proves to us the falseness of this opinion of ourselves, in our incomprehensible self-deception we do not cease to believe that we are something, and something not unimportant. Yet this spiritual disease of ours, so hard to perceive and acknowledge, is more abhorrent to God than all else in us, as being the first offspring of our self-hood and self-love, and the source, root and cause of all passions and of all our downfalls and wrong-doing. It closes the very door of our mind or spirit, through which alone Divine grace can enter, and gives this grace no way to come and dwell in a man. And so it withdraws from him. For how can grace, which comes to help and enlighten us, enter that man, who thinks of himself that he is great, that he himself knows everything and needs no outside help?--May God preserve us from this disease and passion of Lucifer!---God severely reprimands those who stricken with this passion of vainglory and self-esteem, saying through the Prophet: 'Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight" (Isaiah 5:21). And the Apostle tells us: "Be not wise in your own conceits" (Romans 12:16).
While God abhors this evil conceit in us, there is nothing he loves and desires to see in us more than a sincere consciousness of our nothingness and a firm and deep-felt conviction that any good we may have in our nature and our life comes from Him alone, since He is the source of all good, and that nothing truly good can ever come from ourselves, whether a good thought or a good action. Therefore He takes care to plant this heavenly seed in the hearts of His beloved friends, urging them not to value themselves and not to rely on themselves. Sometimes He does this through the action of grace and inner illumination, or sometimes through external blows unconquerable temptations, and sometimes by other means, not always comprehensible to us.
Yet, although expecting no good from ourselves and not relying on ourselves is the work of God in us, we on our side must make every effort to acquire this disposition, doing all we can, all within our power. And so, my brother, I offer you here four activities, by means of which, with God's help, you many end by acquiring disbelief in yourself, and learn never to rely on yourself in anything.
a. Realize your nothingness and constantly keep in your mind the fact that by yourself you can do nothing good which is worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Listen to the words of the wise Fathers: Saint Peter of Damascus assures us that "nothing is better than to realize one's weaknesses and ignorance, and nothing is worse than not to be aware of them" (Philokalia). Saint Maximus the Confessor teaches: "The foundation of every virtue is the realization of human weakness" (Philokalia). Saint John Chrysostom says: "He alone knows himself in the best way possible who thinks of himself as being nothing."
b. Ask God's help in this with warm and humble prayers; for this is His gift. And if you wish to receive it, you must first implant in yourself the conviction that not only have you no such consciousness of yourself, but that you cannot acquire it by our own efforts; then standing daringly before the Almighty God, in firm belief that in His Great Loving-kindness He will grant you this knowledge of yourself when and how He Himself knows, do not let the slightest doubt creep in that you will actually receive it.
c. Accustom yourself to be wary and to fear your innumerable enemies (demons) whom you cannot resist even for a short time. Fear their long experience in fighting us, their cunning and ambushes, their power to assume the guise of Angels of Light, their countless wiles and nets, which they secretly spread on the path of your life of virtues.
d. If you fall into some transgression, quickly turn to the realization of our weakness and be aware of it. For God allows you to fall for the purpose of making you more aware of your weakness, so that you may thus not only yourself learn to despise yourself, but because of your great weakness may wish to be despised also by other. Know that without such desire it is impossible for this beneficent self-disbelief to be born and take root in you. This is the foundation and beginning of true humility, since it is based on realization, by experience, or your impotence and unreliability.
From this, each of us sees how necessary it is for a man, who desires to participate in heavenly Light, to know himself, and how God's mercy usually leads the proud and self-reliant to this knowledge through their downfalls, justly allowing them to fall into the very sin from which they think they are strong enough to protect themselves, so as to make them see their weakness and prevent them from relying foolhardily on themselves either in this or in anything else.
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God