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.
Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!
On February 4th 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: Our Righteous Father Isidore of Pelusium; Holy Hieromartyr Abramius, Bishop of Arbeil in Persia; Saint John, Bishop of Irenopolis, one of the 318 Holy Fathers who gathered in Nicaea; and the Holy Martyr Theoctistus; Saint Jasimus the Wonderworker; Holy New Martyr Joseph of Aleppo was perfected in martyrdom by the sword in the year of our Lord 1686; Holy Hieromartyrs Phileas, Bishop of Thmuis in Egypt, and Philoromos the Tribune; our Righteous Father Evagrius of Georgia; Saint George, Great Prince of Vladimir; Saint Cryil, Wonderworker of Novozersk; our Righteous Father Abramius and Coprius of Pechenga; Holy New HIeromartyr Methodius, Bishop of Petropavlovsk, who was slain by the atheist communists in the year of our Lord 1921;
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Fathers, Holy Hieromartyrs, Righteous Fathers, O Christ our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
OUR HOLY FATHER ISIDORE OF PELUSIUM. Saint Isidore was an Egyptian, the son of eminent parents and a kinsman of the Patriarchs of Alexandria Theophilos and Cyril. Completing his secular studies, he renounced his riches and worldly standing and gave himself wholly to the spiritual life for the love of Christ. He was a great and ardent interpreter and defender of the Orthodox faith. The historian Nicephoros states that Saint Isidore wrote more than 10,000 letters to various people, in which he reprimanded one, advised another, consoled a third, instructed a fourth. 'It is more important to be proficient in good works than in golden-tongued preaching', he writes in one letter. In another, he says: 'If a man wishes his virtues to appear great, let him regard them as small and then they will be truly shown to be great.' The first and fundamental rule for St. Isidore was: first do and then teach, after the example of the Lord Jesus. At a time when Saint John Chrysostom was undergoing persecution and the whole world was divided into two camps, one for and one against this great pillar of Orthodoxy, Saint Isidore stood on the side of Saint John Chrysostom. He wrote to Patriarch Theophilos, saying what a great light St. John Chrysostom was in the Church and begging that the hatred of him should cease. He lived long and labored greatly, glorifying Christ the Lord in his life and his writings, and entered into the Kingdom of Christ in about 450 AD. (The Prologue from Ochrid)
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 2:19-22; 3:1-7
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 6:1-7
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY FATHERS AND MOTHERS OF THE CHURCH:
Amma (mother) Syncletica said, "We must arm ourselves in every way against the demons. For they attack us from outside, and they also stir us up from within; and the soul is then like a ship when great waves break over it, and at the same time it sinks because the hold is too full. We are just like that: we lose as much by the exterior faults we commit as by the thoughts inside us. So we must watch for the attacks of men that come from outside us, and also repel the interior onslaughts of our thoughts." (Saint Synkletiki)
The Book of Job
"For mortal man born of woman is short-lived and full of wrath. He falls like a flower that blooms, and like a shadow, he does not continue. Have You not taken account of him and brought him to judgment before You? For who shall be pure from uncleanness? No one. Even if his life is but one day upon earth. His months are numbered by You. You appointed a time for him, and he cannot exceed it."
Orthodox Scriptural Commentary: (The Orthodox Study Bible)
14:5) God set bounds to our spiritual attainments. We learn humility by the things we are unable to master, that we may not be exalted by those things we have the power to do.
14:7-11) Christ was "cut down" in His death, but would "sprout again" in His Resurrection (see Psalm 1:3) and send out "tender shoots"---"the faithful being multiplied by His Resurrection grew out far and wide."
14:14) "Will man live again": "Our Lord, when He was near His Passion, took up the voice of those who were weak in Himself, saying, 'O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me' (St. Matthew 26:39); and that He might remove their fear, He took it in Himself".
Some are bothered by the thought that their suffering may be pointless and fruitless for the salvation of their souls. They tell themselves: the Saints endured for Christ's sake, and that is why they were certain that through the enduring of suffering they would save their souls. But we, unlike the Saints, suffer either for our sins or because of the envy of evil people, or by some chance; and because we do not suffer for Christ's sake our sufferings weigh us down with their aimlessness and torment us doubly because of their uselessness. To this we should answer that nothing in this world happens by chance-without God's Will or God's permission. Even a single hair does not fall from our heads without God's knowledge (cf. St. Luke 21:18). If we are suffering because of our own sins but we endure and repent before God, these sufferings free us from future punishment in the life beyond the grave and save us. The thief who was saved was crucified for his sins on a cross on the right side of Christ but through his endurance and repentance, he entered Paradise.
Suffering is to the soul what fire is to ore. Ore, mixed with dirt, gravel, and other things, is purified when it passes through fire. The soul, muddied by sins, clears up when it passes patiently through sufferings. Even though the sinner does not suffer like the martyrs for Christ's sake, these woes of his are counted as sufferings for God's sake and are beneficial to him when he, consumed with a yearning to be saved, humbles himself in his sorrows, repents of his sins, and says: "For my lawlessness, I deserve much greater sufferings than the merciful God has sent me". Saint John Chrysostom says that "the soul is cleansed when it suffers sorrows for God's sake." Muddy water cannot be made clear unless it passes through the filter of sand. In the same way the soul cannot be cleansed unless it goes through sufferings.
If we undergo troubles without guilt, from the malice of evil people, then, according to the words of Sr. Demitry of Rostov, even though we are not enduring persecution because of Christ our sorrows will be counted as suffering for Christ's sake and will bring us martyr's crowns if we give thanks to God and do not grumble. Thus every suffering can become suffering for God's sake. (Source: Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev in "The Meaning of Suffering and Strife and Reconciliation")
The Reason That God Allows the Devil to Tempt Us
--Geronda (Elder in Greek), why does God allow the devil to tempt people?
--So that He can select His children. "Do whatever you can" God tells the devil, because no matter what he does, in the end, the devil will be smashed on the cornerstone that is Christ. If we believe that Christ is the Cornerstone, then nothing will scare us.
God does not give the devil the permission to test us unless something good is to come out of it. When He sees that a greater good will come out of it, He lets the devil do his job. Do you remember what Herod did? He killed fourteen thousand infants, but, in so doing, he made fourteen thousand martyrs Angels. Can you believe it fourteen thousand martyrs and angels! The devil had his face crushed. Diocletian (pagan Roman emperor who reigned 284-305 A.D.) became the devil's partner when he brutally persecuted Christians, but, against his will, his great good to the Church of Christ because he enriched it with Saints. He thought that he would eliminate all Christians, but in the end, he fell short of his expectations. He left countless holy Relics for us to venerate and made the Church of Christ stronger.
God could easily have wiped the devil off the face of the earth. He is God, after all. If He wishes, He can wrap him up and send him to Hell, but He lets him be for our benefit. He would never allow him to torment and torture His creature without any reason.
He lets the devil loose up to a point, and for a specific time, so that the devil can help us with his malice, by tempting us and sending us running to God for help.
He will only allow the devil to tempt us if that is going to do us good. If nothing good will come out of it, He will not allow it. God permits everything for our own good; we should believe this.
God has given freedom not only to human beings but also to the demons, because they do not and cannot damage the human soul; unless of course we ourselves want to harm our soul. On the contrary, evil or careless people, who unwillingly harm us, provide a gain for our soul.
Why do you think the Abba says, "Take away temptations and no one will be saved"? (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Abba (Father) Evagrios, p. 54:5). Temptations can do us great good. Not that the devil can ever do good--since he is all evil--but our Good God blocks the stone he throws at us to break our head, puts it in our hand, and gives us a handful of almonds to crack and eat! God, in other words, allows temptations not because He wants the devil to torment us, but in order for us to take in this way our "exams" for the next life and have no unreasonable expectations for the Second Coming. "We must realize that we are at war, and we have to go on fighting against the Devil himself as long as we are alive." During this lifetime, we've got a lot of work to do to improve our souls, but we also have the right to take spiritual exams. If we die without having passed the test, there will be no other chance. There will be no make ups!
(Excerpts from Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain in "With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man"" and Holy Monastery Saint John the Theologian, Souroti, Greece).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God