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
"Besides loving each other, we must bear with each other and pardon, 'forgive them that trespass against us,' in order that our Heavenly Father may 'forgive us our trespasses,' (St. Matthew 6:14). Thus, with all your soul honor and love in every man the image of God, not regarding his sins, for God alone is Holy and without sin; and see how He loves us, how much He has created and still creates for us, punishing us mercifully and forgiving us bounteously and graciously. Honor the man also, in spite of his sins, for he can always amend." (Saint John of Krondstadt)
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On March 27th 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 Paul, Bishop of Corinth; Saint Matrona of Thessaloniki; Saint John the Clairvoyant of Egypt; Holy Prophet Ananias; Saint Cyricus of Thrace; Righteous Eftychius of Rostov; Saint Paphnutius, disciple of Saint Anthony the Great; Holy Martyrs Philetos, Lydia, Macedon, and Theoprepios; Saint Alexander of Voche; Saint Anthony, Metropolitan of Tobolsk; Saint Cronides and Saint Amphilochios the Captain in Illyria; Saint Repert, Bishop of Salzburg; Holy Martyrs Varuch and John.
+By the holy intercession of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Righteous, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Bishops, Holy Ascetics, Holy Prophets, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT:
Isaiah 28:14-22; Genesis 10:32-11:9
WHAT IS SIN?
"My God, what a fearful war rages within me! I see two different persons in me: the one enflames my soul with God-like zeal; The other opposes Your Holy Will And makes me trample upon Your Divine Commandments".
According to the Orthodox Church, sin is disobedience to God. "Sin is disobedience to Almighty God...Even though we are sinful men and women, the love of Almighty God will cancel the consequences of sin if we are sorry for our transgressions and come to Him with true repentance."
"Sin (Αμαρτία) means 'to miss the mark.' As Saint Paul writes, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We sin when we pervert what God has given us as good, falling short of His purposes for us. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1, 2), leaving us spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). To save us, the Son of God assumed our humanity, and being without sin, "He condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3). In His mercy, God forgives our sins when we confess them and turn from them, giving us strength to overcome sin in our lives. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
As Orthodox Christians, the "mark" for which we "aim" is a Christ-like life, a life of holiness and virtue and according the Commandments of God. When we miss this "Divine Mark", when we miss the target, we sin. Murder is sin, pride is sin, envy is sin, vanity and being vainglorious is sin, stealing is a sin, hatred is sin, jealousy is sin, covetousness/greed is sin, lust is sin, fornication is sin, adultery is sin, gluttony is sin, sloth is sin, anger is sin, refusing to worship God in the Divine Liturgy and all the Sacraments is sin, refusing to pray is sin, refusing to forgive is sin, refusing to repent is sin, breaking the Ten Commandments is a sin, etc. Mortal sin, or sins "unto death," keep us out of Heaven as long as we refuse to repent of them. As the Holy Fathers of the Church state, "It is not the sin that condemns the sinner but the unwillingness of sinner to repent of it." The Holy Apostle of the Nations, Saint Paul is very clear "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God?" (I Corinthians 6:9).
But what is the objective? Saint Paul writes that we are to attain to "the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). This is the Christian objective. Like our Lord Jesus Christ we must be filled with the Holy Spirit and always doing the Will of the Heavenly Father. This means that the measuring stick we will use when confessing is not how well or how poorly we are keeping the rules. Nor will it be how better or worse we are when compared to others. The measuring stick is the Divine Person of Jesus Christ.
When we make a foolish mistake we often say, "Well, I'm only human". But human beings by definition are creatures created in the Image and likeness of God. Being human is not an excuse for weakness and foolishness, it is a call to theosis (deification). Sin is a failure to abide by the Commandments of our Lord. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (Saint John 14:21).
Is it enough to acknowledge ones sins or is there more that we must do? Saint Macarius says, "To uproot sin and the evil that is so embedded in our sinning can be done only by divine power, for it is impossible and outside man's competence to uproot sin. To struggle, yes, to continue the fight, to inflict blows, and to receive setbacks is in your power. To uproot, however, belongs to God alone. IF you could have done it on your own, what would have been the need for the coming of the Lord? For just as an eye cannot see without light, nor can one speak without a tongue, nor hear without ears, nor walk without feet, nor carry on works without hands, so you cannot be saved without Jesus not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
Saint Justin the Martyr wrote: "To yield and give way to our passions is the lowest slavery, even as to rule over them is the only liberty. The greatest of all good is to be free from sin, the next is to be justified; but he must be reckoned the most unfortunate of men, who, while living unrighteously, remains for a long time unpunished. The end contemplated by a philosopher is likeness to God, so far as that is possible."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God