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.
THE PSALTER ACCORDING TO THE SEVENTY
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. High above all the nations is the Lord, above the heavens is His Glory. Who is like unto the Lord our God? Who dwelleth on high and looketh down on things that are lowly, in heaven and on the earth, Who raiseth up the poor man from the earth, and from the dunghill lifteth up the pauper, That He may seat him with princes, with the princes of His people, Who maketh the barren woman to dwell in a house and be a mother rejoicing over children.
THE SAYINGS OF THE HOLY FATHERS ON THE ART OF PRAYER
"Prayer and contemplation are closely joined together; and as in contemplation, so in prayer, a time comes when we must rise above the colorful imagination and the busy intellect, and approach God in 'pure prayer." By this is meant a kind of prayer in which the mind does not run from image to image, or from one consideration to another, nor work out its prayer in a coherent texture of words, but stands still in unmoving attachment to God."
by Cyril of Jerusalem
"Oftentimes a man for Christ's sake has been outraged and dishonored unjustly; martyrdom is at hand; tortures on every side, and fire, and sword, and savage beasts, and the pit. But the Holy Spirit softly whispers to him, 'Wait on the Lord, O man; what is now befalling you is a small matter, the reward will be great. Suffer a little while, and you shall be with Angels forever. 'The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us' (Romans 8:18). He portrays to the man the Kingdom of Heaven; He gives him a glimpse of the Paradise of delight; and the martyrs, whose bodily faces are of necessity turned to their judges, but who in spirit are already in Paradise, despise those hardships which are seen."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF THE SAINTS):
On February 15th 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 Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Apostle Onesimus of the Seventy Apostles; Synaxis of Saint John the Theologian at Diaconissa; Saint Anthimos of the island of Chios; Saint Major of Gaza; Saint Oswy, king of Northumbria; Saint Eusebius of Syria; Saint Paphnutius of the Kiev Caves; Saint Dalmatos of Siberia.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Apostles, Holy Fathers, Holy Mothers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY APOSTLE ONESIMUS, ONE OF THE SEVENTY APOSTLES. This Holy Apostle, who was from Colossae, was a bond-servant of that Philemon to whom the Apostle Paul addressed his epistle. Saint Onesimus escaped from Philemon and fled to Rome, where he became a disciple of Saint Paul. Saint Paul brought him to the Faith of Christ, and then sent him back to his master, who in turn gave him his freedom and sent him back to Rome again, where he ministered to Saint Paul. Later, he was seized because he was a Christian and was sent to Puteoli, where he was beaten with clubs. Saint Onesimus the Apostle is also commemorated on November 22nd with the holy Apostles Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus.
Apolytkion (Dismissal) Hymn. Third Tone
O Holy Apostle Onesimus, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.
Kontakion. Fourth Tone
Thou didst shine upon the world as a bright sunbeam, shining with the rays of Paul, the sun of most resplendent light, who hath enlightened the world entire. Thus, we all honor thee, blessed Onesimus.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READING ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: I Timothy 6:11-16
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 20:46-47, 21:1-4
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY MOTHERS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Mercy to heat the word of God saves no one and is instead a condemnation. After hearing, one must do." (Saint Theophylactos of Ochrid)
(As edited by Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and revised by Saint Theophan the Recluse)
What is Christian perfection?--Warfare is necessary to acquire it--Four things indispensable to success in this warfare.
We all naturally wish, and are commanded to be perfect. The Lord commands: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (St. Matthew 5:48). And as Saint Paul admonishes: "In malice be ye children, but in understanding be men" (1 Cor. 14:20). In another place he says: "Stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Col. 4:12); and again "Let us go on unto perfection" (Hebrews 6:1). The same commandment is also found in the Old Testament. Thus God says to Israel in Deuteronomy: "Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God" (Deut. 18:13). And David advises his son Solomon: "And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind" (I Chron.28:9). After all this we cannot fail to see that God demands from Christians the fullness of perfection, that is, that we should be perfect in all virtues.
But if you, my beloved in Christ, wish to attain to such heights, you must first learn in what Christian perfection consists. For if you have not learnt this, you may turn off the right path and go in a totally different direction, while thinking that you make progress towards perfection.
I will tell you plainly: the greatest and most perfect thing a man may desire to attain is to come near to God and dwell in union with Him.
There are many who say that the perfection of Christian life consists in fasts, vigils, genuflections, sleeping on bare earth and other similar austerities of the body. Others say that it consists in saying many prayers at home and in attending long services in church. And there are others who think that our perfection consists entirely in mental prayer, solitude, seclusion and silence. But the majority limit perfection to a strict observance of all the rules and practices laid down by the statutes, falling into no excess or deficiency, but preserving a golden moderation. Yet all these virtues do not by themselves constitute the Christian perfection we are seeking, but are only means and methods for acquiring it.
There is no doubt that whatever they do represent effective means for attaining perfection in Christian life. For we see very many virtuous men, who practice these virtues as they should, acquire strength and power against their own sinful and evil nature,--to gain, through these practices, courage to withstand the temptations and seductions of our three main enemies: the flesh, the world and the devil; and in and by these means to obtain the spiritual support, so necessary to all servants of God, and especially to beginners. They fast, to subdue their unruly flesh; they practice vigils to sharpen their inner vision; they sleep on bare earth, lest they become soft through sleep; they bind their tongue by silence and go into solitude to avoid the slightest inducement to offend the All-Holy God; they recite prayers, attend church services and perform other acts of devotion, to keep their mind on heavenly things; they read of the life and Passion of our Lord, for the sole purpose of realizing more clearly their own deficiency and the Merciful Loving-Kindness of God,--to learn and to desire to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, bearing their cross with self-denial, and to make more and more ardent their love of God and their dislike of themselves.
On the other hand, these same virtues may do more harm than their open omission, to those who take them as the sole basis of their life and their hope; not from their nature, since they are righteous and holy, but through the fault of those, who use them not as they should be used; that is, when they pay attention only to the external practice of those, and leave their heart to be moved by their own volitions and the volitions of the devil. For the latter, seeing that they have left the right path, gleefully refrains from interfering with their physical endeavors and even allows them to increase and multiply their efforts, in obedience to their own vain thought. Experiencing with this certain spiritual stirrings and consolations, such people begin to imagine that have already the state of angels and feel that God Himself is present in them. And at times, engrossed in the contemplation of some abstract and unearthly things, they imagine that they have completely transcended the sphere of this world and have been ravished to the third heaven.
However, anyone can see clearly how sinfully such people behave and how far they are from true perfection, if he looks at their life and character. As a rule they always wish to be preferred to others; they love to live according to their own will and are always stubborn in their decisions; they are blind in everything relating to themselves, but are very clear-sighted and officious in examining the words and actions of others. If another man is held by other in the same esteem, which in their opinion they enjoy, they cannot bear it and become manifestly hostile towards him; if anyone interferes with them in their pious occupations and works of asceticism, especially in the presence of others,---God forbid!--they immediately become indignant, boil over with wrath and become quite unlike themselves...
For whatever affliction may visit them, they refuse to bend their necks to the yoke of God's Will and to trust in His Righteous and secret judgments. They do not want to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Who humbled Himself and suffered for our sakes, and they refuse to be humble, to consider themselves the lowest of all creatures, and to regard their persecutors as their good friends, the tools of the divine bounty shown to them and helpers in their salvation.
Now, having seen clearly and definitely that spiritual life and perfection do not only consist in these visible virtues, of which we have spoken, you must also learn that it consists in nothing but coming near to God and union with Him.
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God