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 SINCERE PRAYER TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
(Saint John Chrysostom)
O Jesus Christ, the Good Name above all names, my sweetness, my longing and my hope, You became man for us and in wisdom planned and assigned everything for our salvation. With all my heart, O Lord my God, I confess to You. I bow down upon the knees of my body and my soul and recount before You, my God, all my sins. May I hope that You too will incline Your ear to my supplication and will forgive the irreverence of my heart. Amen.
Saint John Chrysostom
"Prayer is, of course, harmed when someone is standing before God with the body, and the mind is preoccupied with disorderly fantasies and improper imaginings and impurities; and it is again harmed when we do nothing to bring the mind back to its proper activity.
If you want to achieve a good and God-pleasing prayer, arise and remove from your person the appetites and the thoughts and the love of pleasure of the world; divest your mind of all the thoughts and the cares and the disorderly things, purify your heart of the polluting passions, avoid all of your own wills, renounce your body and its inclinations, and climb willingly up to God with all of your desire. Fervent faith and hope give wings to prayer and cause it to fly to heaven."
(The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian)
"When patience greatly increases in our soul, it is a sign that we have secretly received the grace of consolation. The power of patience is stronger than the joyful thoughts that descend into the heart. Life in God is the downfall of the senses; when the heart lives, the senses fall away. The resurrection of the senses is the deadening of the heart; when the senses are quickened, it is a sign that the heart has died to God."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On February 21st 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: Saint Timothy of Symbola; Saint John the Scholastic, Patriarch of Constantinople; Saint Efstathios, Archbishop of Antioch; Saint Zacharias, Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint George, Bishop of Amastris; "Cucuzelis" Holy Icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God).
SAINT ZACHARIAS, PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM. The Persian King Chozroes attacked Jerusalem, ransacking the city, in the time of the Great Emperor Heraclius, in 614 A.D. He took the Precious and Holy Cross off to Persia and enslaved an enormous number of Christians, including Patriarch Zacharias. The Jews supported him in his wickedness towards the Christians. It is recorded, among further malice on the part of the Jews, that they bought 90,000 Christian slaves from Chozroes and killed them all. The aged Patriarch spent fourteen years in slavery. Many marvels were wrought in Persia by the Precious and Holy Cross, and the Persians exclaimed: "The Christian God has come to Persia!" The Byzantine Emperor Heraclius later compelled King Chozroes to return the Precious and Holy Cross to Jerusalem, together with the Patriarch and the remaining slaves. The Emperor himself carried the Holy Cross into the Holy City on his back. Saint Zacharias spent his remaining days in peace, and went to the Lord in 632 A.D. Patriarch Modestos deputized for him on the patriarchal throne, and after him came Saint Sophronius.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 John 1:1-13
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Mark 15:20, 22, 25, 33-41
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY MOTHERS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"We should refer all our problems, whatever they are, to God, just as we say in the Divine Liturgy that we 'command our whole life to Christ our God.' We leave everything to You, O Lord. Whatever You will. Let Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The person who belongs to Christ turns everything into prayer. He makes both difficulties and tribulations into prayer. Whatever happens to him, he begins, 'Lord Jesus Christ..." Prayer is beneficial for everything even for the simplest of things." (Geronda [Elder] Porphyrios the Kapsokalyvite)
THE FORGOTTEN MEDICINE: THE MYSTERY (SACRAMENT) OF REPENTANCE
by Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev
Rules for a Saving Confession (Part III)
WHAT SHOULD WE DO WHEN WE LEAVE THE CONFESSOR?
After we have confessed well, we must carry out the penance which has been given to us: bows, intensified prayer, fasting, diligent reading of God's Word, almsgiving, visiting the sick, caring for orphans, etc. We must pay special attention to the following three points:
1) If you have an enmity against someone, "forgive with all your heart," so that God will also forgive you (cf. St. Matthew 6:14-15). Otherwise, your confession will be in vain.
2) Others who have admitted in Confession that they have violated their celibacy or family honor must "give up the bad road forever." They cannot love both the sin and God.
3) Finally, if you have misappropriated another's possession, if you have robbed someone, "return that which does not belong to you." Otherwise, there is no forgiveness for you.
If you blaspheme God's Name, if you deny Orthodoxy, if you are angry, if you are proud, if you envy, or commit other heavy sins--when you repent, everything will be forgiven you. Why? Because with all of these sins you offend God, and God has made the priest His representative for all these sins with which men offend Him. As God's representative, the priest can forgive you the sins against God if you repent.
We see then what the rules are for a saving Confession: first, before we go to the confessor, we must examine well our conscience; second, when we are with the priest, we must confess sincerely, with a broken heart, and without shame and excuses; third, when we leave the priest, we must carry out penance, put an end to the hostility, give up our impure life, and return that which is not ours.
WHAT IS SIN?
"Sin is an infinite evil because it is an insult to the infinite God. The Lord has commanded us not to sin. But we sin, and thus we insult the infinite greatness of the Creator.
The Word of God says: "sin is the transgression of the Law" (I John 3:4). This means that sin is a violation of God's Law. Every violated law, be it civil or natural, entails punishment. Sin, as a transgression of the highest law--the Will of God, leads to most heavy punishments. These punishments can be temporary or eternal. The temporary ones are sent by God to bring us to our senses and for correction. If we repent and are reconciled with God, we will save ourselves from the eternal punishment. But if we remain with bitterness in our sins, if we do not want to repent of them, if we persist in our rebellion against God, He will let us go our own way.
The end result of sin is an ultimate separation from God. And since God is the happiness of the human heart, separation from God is the deprivation of that happiness, or eternal sorrow.
Take courage, sinners! There is deliverance for us! Jesus Christ, Who carried on His shoulders the sin of all humanity and Who paid our debts to God with His death on the Cross, can take our sin on His shoulders as well. Is it not because of this that Saint Andrew of Crete prays in the name of all of us who sin before God: "Take my heavy sinful burden away from me and give me tears of repentance!" We must shed tears of repentance, because there are only two kinds of water which can wash away the filth of sin: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance. Furthermore, as Saint John Climacus (of the Ladder) asserts: "Greater than baptism itself is the fountain of tears after repentance, even though it is somewhat audacious to say so. For baptism is the washing away of evils that were in us before, but sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears. As baptism is received in infancy, we have all defiled it, but we cleanse it anew with tears. And if God in His love for mankind had not given us tears, those being saved would be few indeed and hard to find."
Please note: It is my hope that you now understand better the need for the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession. You are encouraged to participate not only now and the upcoming Holy and Great Lent but throughout the year. If for some reason you find it difficult to come to your parish priest, you can always make arrangements with the Serbian Orthodox priest of Sts. Peter and Paul, Father Sasa. And you also have the option to go to any other Orthodox priest in our Metropolis of Chicago or Geronda Joseph at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Michigan.
Please remember well that there is no repentance after death!
With sincere agape in his Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God