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 LENTEN PRAYER OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
O Lord and Master of my life, Give me not a spirit of laziness, of aimless curiosity, A spirit of lust for power over others and of vain talk. (Prostration) Rather, grace me, Your servant, With the Spirit of purity, humility, patience and love. (Prostration) Yes, O Lord King, Grant me discernment to see my own faults, And not to judge and condemn my fellow human beings. (Prostration) For You are Blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
by Saint John Climacus (of the Ladder)
"Discernment is--and is recognized to be--a solid understanding of the Will of God at all times, in all places, in all things; and it is found only among those who are pure in heart, in body, and speech...Discernment is an uncorrupted conscience. It is pure perception..."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On March 14th 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 Efschemon, Bishop of Lampsacus; Saint Benedict of Nursia; Saint Efstathius and his Company at Carrhae, Mesopotamia; Saint Theognostos, Metropolitan of Kiev and Moscow; Saint Alexander of Pydna; Saint Rostislav-Michael, Prince of Kiev; Saint Kostroma Holy Icon of the Theotokos "Feodorovskaya".
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Princes, Holy Metropolitans, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Confessors, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
OUR RIGHTEOUS FATHER BENEDICT OF NURSIA. This Saint, whose name means "blessed", was born in 480 A.D. in Nursia, a small town about seventy miles Northeast of Rome. He struggled in asceticism from his youth in deserted regions, where his example drew many who desired to emulate him. Hence, he ascended Mount Cassino in Campania and built a monastery there. The Rule that he gave his monks, which was inspired by the writings of Saint John Cassian, Saint Basil the Great, and other Holy Fathers, became a pattern for monasticism in the West; because of this, he is often called the first teacher of monks in the West. He reposed in 547 A.D.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Plagal of Fourth Tone
In thee the image was preserved with exactness, O Father; for taking up thy cross, thou didst follow Christ, and by thy deeds thou didst teach us to overlook the flesh, for it passeth away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal. Wherefore, O righteous Benedict, thy spirit rejoiceth with the Angels.
Kontakion. Plagal of Foruth Tone
O Sun that shinest with the Mystic Dayspring's radiance, who didst enlighten the monastics of the western lands, thou art worthily the namesake of benediction; do thou purge us of the filth of passions thoroughly by the sweat of thine illustrious accomplishments, for we cry to thee: Rejoice, O thrice-blessed Benedict.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE TAKEN FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT:
Isaiah 7:1-15; Genesis 5:32-6:8
SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
All created beings are limited, and what is limited cannot be perfect. Created beings are given the possibility of striving toward perfection." (Geronda (Elder) Thaddeus of Vitovnica)
Excerpts from Metropolitan Kallistos Ware's "The Orthodox Way" with commentary questions on using images in prayer by Brad Jersak
The second stage upon the threefold Way is the contemplation of nature--more exactly, the contemplation of nature in God, or the contemplation of God in and through nature. The second stage is thus a prelude and means of entry to the third: by contemplating the things that God has made, the person of prayer is brought to the contemplation of God Himself. This second stage of physiki or "natural contemplation" is not necessarily subsequent to praktiki but may be simultaneous with it.
No contemplation of any kind is possible without nepsis or watchfulness. I cannot contemplate either nature or God without learning to be present where I am, gathered together at this present moment, in this present place.
Stop, look and listen. The contemplation of nature commences when I open my eyes, literally and spiritually, and start to notice the world around myself--to notice the real world, that is to say, God's world. Becoming sensitive to God's world around myself, I grow more conscious also of God's world within myself. Beginning to see nature in God, I begin to see my own place as a human person within the natural order; I begin to understand what it is to be microcosm and mediator.
All things are permeated and maintained in being by the uncreated energies of God, and so all things are a theophany that mediates His presence. At the heart of each thing is its inner principle or Logos, implanted within it by the Creator Logo; and so through the Logoi (plural) we enter into communion with the Logos. It is to discover through our spiritual intellect that the whole universe is a cosmic Burning Bush, filled with the divine Fire yet not consumed.
The contemplation of nature has two correlative aspects. First it means appreciating the "thusness" or "thisness" of particular things, persons and moments. "True mysticism," says Oliver Clement, "is to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary." Secondly, it means that we see all things, persons and moments as signs and sacraments of God. In our spiritual vision we are not only to see each thing in sharp relief, standing out in all the brilliance of its specific being, but we are also to see each thing as transparent: in and through each created thing we are to discern the Creator.
Natural contemplation signifies finding God not only in all things but equally in all persons. When reverencing the holy icons in church or at home, we are to reflect that each man and woman is a living icon of God. "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (St. Matthew 25:40). In order to find God, we do not have to leave the world, to isolate ourselves from our fellow humans, and to plunge into some kind of mystical world. On the contrary, Christ is looking at us through the eyes of all those whom we meet.
Many people who find the imageless prayer of silence altogether beyond their present capacity, and for whom the familiar phrases written in Scripture or in the books of prayer have grown dull and dry, can renew their inward life through the practice of natural contemplation. Nature and Scripture complement each other. In the words of Saint Ephraim the Syrian: "Wherever you turn your eyes, there is God's symbol; Whatever you read, you will find there His type. Look and see how Nature and Scripture are linked together. Praise for the Lord of Nature. Glory for the Lord of Scripture."
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God