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 the spirit of laziness, of aimless curiosity, A spirit of lust for power over others and of vain talk. Rather, grace me, Your servant, With the Spirit of purity, humility, patience and love. Yes, O Lord King, Grant me discernment to see my own faults, And not to judge and condemn my fellow human beings. For You are Blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
by Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus)
"Before you even come to prayer, prepare yourself by learning how to pray with your soul without ever ceasing; be well attentive to whatever it is you are doing so that you may do it with your soul always connected with God. This way you will become accustomed to focusing your heart toward God, and in the hour of prayer you will focus on God and on prayer and will quickly make progress in prayer..."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATIONS OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On March 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 of every righteous spirit made perfect in faith: Saint Gregory, Bishop in Cyprus; Saint Gerasimus of the Jordan; Saint Julian, Patriarch of Alexandria; Saint Gregory, Bishop of Assos; Saints Paul, Juliana, Quadratus, Acacius, and Stratonicos at Ptolemais in Syria; Saint James the Faster of Phoenicia (Syria); Saint Ioasaph of Snetogorsk and Saint Basil of Mirozh; Saint Basil, Prince of Rostov; Saint Daniel , Prince of Moscow; Saint Wenceslaus, Prince of the Czechs; Saint Gerasimos of Vologda; Saint Peter (Michurin) of Tobolsk (Siberia).
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Ascetics, Holy Princes, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Isaiah 1: 19-2:3; Genesis 1:14-23
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS AND HOLY MOTHERS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"As bodily food fattens the body, so fasting strengthens the soul; imparting it an easy flight, it makes it able to ascend on high, to contemplate loft things, and to put the heavenly higher than the pleasant and pleasurable things of life." (Saint John Chrysostom)
SPIRITUAL WARFARE ON THE PASSIONS
by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos
Love of Pleasure or Sensuality, Part II
Sensuality is a many-headed beast, and for this reason, it is not always easy to discern it. In some great and obvious faults, we see it easily, but it is much more difficult to discern when it is connected with hate, ingratitude and heresy. Man often satisfies his pleasure when he goes against God and hates his brother. In any case, the desire to attain glory and material wealth hides within it the desire for satisfaction of corrupt pleasure.
Sensuality is not only a many-headed beast but a very unique one in each person. It has its own unique functions which make it discernible, which make its existence known, but which at the same time, hide it. Saint John of Sinai says that "many times, those who are dominated by this passion may seem to be loving and merciful and fervent in prayer." This observation of Saint John is truly horrifying because it shows that behind seeming virtues, may hide a cesspool of vile passions, and chiefly, the passion of sensuality.
How then, is it possible for one who is merciful and fervent in prayer to discern that he is dominated by the passion of sensuality? Saint Mark the Ascetic teaches that "the sensual person is upset when he undergoes hardship and ridicule, thought the friend of God, on the contrary is upset when he is praised and given material things."
When the sensual person is accused and falsely blamed for something, then he takes off the clothing of the lamb, the garment of mercy, and becomes a furious beast, a wolf that is ready to attack. The person who is dominated by sensuality cannot tolerate hardship and accusations. If he were a person who was truly pure and close to God, he would find comfort and peace in hardship and false accusations!
CAUSES OF SENSUALITY
All that has been outlined above outlines the root of sensuality, how it is manifested and who is to blame for its manifestation. Of course, the chief role here, it must be pointed out, is played by our free will. When we freely accept the invasion of sensuality into our being, then all of the powers of our soul are distorted and the abnormal and corrupt pleasures are developed within us, both physical and spiritual.
The Holy Fathers teach that apart from the devil, who is the first instigator of passion within us, a major role in the growth of the passion of sensuality within us is played by excessive comfort and luxury. Saint Mark the Ascetic says that "comfort begets lack of faith." Every physical luxury-food, sleep, drink, excessive rest, satisfaction of the senses, excessive and harmful entertainment, and the like, all these things which characterize comfort and luxury and are ways in which we seek to avoid hardship and toil, give rise to the passion of sensuality. This attachment to luxury is in turn caused by lack of faith.
When a person does not believe in God, when he does not await His Second Coming and denies it, then he falls into excessive luxury and a life of sensuality. From there, begins the passion that develops even more this lack of faith in God.
SAINT JOHN OF KRONSTADT WRITES:
"When you read a worldly (secular) magazine or newspaper, it is light and agreeable reading, your easily believe in everything in it. But if you take up a religious publication or book to read, especially one relating to church matters, or sometimes when you begin reading prayers? You feel a weight upon your heart, you are tormented by doubt and unbelief, and experience a sort of darkness and aversion. Many acknowledge this. From what does it proceed? Of course, not from the nature of the books themselves, but from the nature of the readers, from the nature of their hearts, and chiefly from the Devil, the enemy of mankind, the enemy of everything holy: 'he takes away the word out of their heart' (St. Luke 8:12). When we read worldly books, we do not touch him and he does not touch us. But as soon as we take up religious books, as soon as we begin to think of our amendment and salvation, then we go against him; we irritate and torment him, and therefore he attacks us and torments us on his side. What can we do? We must not throw aside the good work, the reading or prayers that are profitable to our souls, but we must patiently endure and in patience save our souls."
SAINT MARK THE ASCETIC WRITES:
"He who is ignorant of the enemy's ambush is easily slain; and he who does not know the causes of the passions is soon brought low."
"Before the war begins, seek after your ally; before you fall ill, seek out your physician; and before grievous things come upon you, pray, and in time of your tribulations you will find Him, and He will listen to you."
SAINT NILUS WRITES:
"Why do demons wish to excite in us gluttony, fornication, greed, anger, rancor and other passions? So that the mind, under their weight, should be unable to pray as it ought; for when the passions of our irrational part begin to act, they prevent the mind form acting rationally."
SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM: This is the cause of all evils..."This is the cause of all evils, the not knowing the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, and how are we to come off safe?"
A FALL IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR REPENTANCE
"I say then, Father, and I was amazed, and I consider those fallen mourners more blessed that those who have not fallen and are not mourning over themselves; because as a result of their fall, they have risen by a sure resurrection...I prefer a sinful man who knows he has sinned and repents, to a man who has not sinned and considers himself to be righteous." (John Chrysavgis, Ascent to Heaven).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God