Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIS 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. 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. Amen.
by Saint John Climacus
"Repentance is the renewal of baptism and is a contract with God for a fresh start in life. Repentance goes shopping for humility and is ever distrustful of bodily comfort. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the refusal to despair. (The penitent stands guilty--but undisgraced.) Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the performance of good deeds which are the opposites of the sins. It is the purification of conscience and the voluntary endurance of affliction. The penitent deals with his own punishment, for repentance is the fierce persecution of the stomach and the flogging of the soul into intense awareness.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATIONS OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On March 6th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions (prayers) of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Forefathers, Fathers, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith: The uncovering of the Precious and Holy Cross and Precious Nails by Empress Saint Helen the mother of Saint Constantine the Great; 42 Holy Martyrs of Ammoria in Phrygia, including Saints: Theophilos, Aetius, Constantine, Theodore, Callistos, Basoes, Melissenus, and others; Saint Hesychius of Galatia; Saint Conon and his son Conon of Iconium; Saint Fridolin, Enlightener of the Upper Rhine; Saint Arcadius, monk of Cyprus, and his disciples Saints Julian and Vulius; Saint Abraham of Bulgaria; Saint Job (Joshua) of Solovki; Holy Martyr Maximus; Holy Martyr Euphrosynos; Holy Martyrs Julian and Evoulus; "Chemstokhovskaya", "Shestokhov", and "Blessed Heaven" Holy Icons of the Theotokos (Mother of God).
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Monks, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY FORTY-TWO MARTYRS OF AMORION. These Holy Martyrs, men of high rank in the Roman (Byzantine) army, were taken captive when the city of Amorion in Phrygia fell to the Moslem Arabs in 813 A.D., during the reign of Theophilus the Iconoclast. Among them were Aetius and Melissenus, the generals; Theodore, the chief of the imperial ceremonial bodyguard; Craterus, the eunuch; Callistus, Constantine, Bassoes, and Theophilus, who were military officials; and a certain other who held important positions. Because of their experience in war and their virtue, the Moslems did not slay them, but tried by all means to convert them to Islam and have them to fight in their own campaigns. They kept the Holy Martyrs shut up in a dark dungeon in the city of Samara in Syria, threatening and abusing them, making promises of glorious rank and magnificent riches, keeping them in hunger, oppression, and darkness, not for a few weeks, or a few months, but for seven full years. Finally, unable to break the courage and faith of their captives, they beheaded them in the year of our Lord 845.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our Immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion. Fourth Tone
Ye who contended on the earth for Christ's glory, and were shown forth as godly crown-bearing Martyrs, have been vouchsafed to dwell in Heaven joyously; for since ye brake all the snares of the enemy's cunning by your sufferings and the blood of your tortures and woundings, ye ever send down freely from on high loosing of sins unto all them that honor you.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Isaiah 2:11-21; Genesis 2:4-19
Proverbs 3: 1-18
FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
By fasting it is possible both to be delivered from future evils and to enjoy the good things to come. We fell into disease through sin; let us receive healing through repentance, which is not fruitful without fasting." (Saint Basil the Great)
THE MEANING OF HOLY COMMUNION
by Father Alexander Schmemann (Source: Great Lent)
"He who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's Body" (I Corinthians 11:29). Now we can come to these words of Saint Paul and ask ourselves their real meaning. For, as we have seen, neither the early Church nor the Fathers understood them to mean that the alternative to "eating and drinking unworthily" consists in abstaining from Holy Communion, that reverence for the Sacrament and fear of its profanation ought to result in refusing the Divine Gifts. Such obviously was not the thought of Saint Paul himself, for it is indeed in his Epistles, in his exhortations, that we find the first formulation of the apparent paradox which in reality constitutes the basis of Christian "ethics" and the source of Christian spirituality.
"Know you not," writes Saint Paul to the Corinthians, "that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Corinthians 6:19-20). These words are a real summary of Saint Paul's constant appeal to Christians: we must live according to what has "happened" to us in Christ; yet we can live thus only because it has happened to us, because salvation, redemption, reconciliation, and "buying with a price" have already been given to us and we are "not our own." We can and must work are our salvation because we have been saved, yet it is only because we are saved that we can work at our salvation. We must always and at all times become and be that which--in Christ--we already are: "You are Christ's and Christ is God's" (I Corinthians 3:22).
This teaching of Saint Paul is of crucial importance for the Christian life in general and for the sacramental life in particular. It reveals the essential tension on which this life is based, from which it stems, and which cannot be removed, for this would mean the abandonment and a radical mutilation of the Christian faith itself: the tension in each one of us between the "old man, which is corrupt through the lusts of the flesh," and "the new man, renewed after the image of Him Who created him" through baptismal death and resurrection; between the gift of the new life, death and the effort to appropriate it and truly make it one's own life; between the grace, "given not by measure" (St. John 3:34), and the always deficient measure of my spiritual life.
But then the first and essential fruit of all Christian life and spirituality, so manifest in the Saints, is the feeling and the awareness not of any "worthiness," but of unworthiness. The closer one is to God the more conscious he becomes of the ontological unworthiness of all creatures before God, of the totally free gift of God. Such genuine spirituality is absolutely incompatible with any idea of "merit," of anything that could make us, in itself and by itself, "worthy" of that gift. For, as Saint Paul writes: "...while we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why one will hardly die for a righteous man...But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us..." (Romans 5:6-8). To "measure" that gift with our merits and worthiness is the beginning of that spiritual pride which is the essence of sin.
This tension has its focus and also its source in the sacramental life. It is here, while approaching the Divine Gifts (Holy Communion), that we become aware again and again of the divine "net" into which we have been caught and from which, in human reasoning and logic, there is no escape. For if, because of my "unworthiness," I abstain from approaching, I reject and refuse the divine gift of love, reconciliation and life. I excommunicate myself, for "except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you" (St. John 6:53). If, however, I "eat and drink unworthily" I eat and drink my damnation. I am condemned if I do not receive and I am condemned if I do, for who has ever been "worthy" to be touched by the Divine Fire and not be consumed?
"Holy Things for the Holy!" With these words and also with the congregation's answer to them--"One is Holy, One is the Lord Jesus Christ..."--all human reasoning indeed comes to an end. The Holy Things, the Body and Blood of Christ, are for those alone who are holy. Yet no one is holy, save the One Holy Lord Jesus Christ. And thus, on the level of miserable human "worthiness," the door is closed; there is nothing we can offer and which would make "worthy" of this Holy Gift. Nothing indeed except precisely the Holiness of Christ Himself which he in His infinite love and mercy has imparted to us, making us "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (I Peter 2:9). It is His Holiness and not ours which makes us holy and thus "worthy" of approaching and receiving the Holy Gifts. For as Saint Nicholas Cabasilas says in commenting on these words: "no one has holiness by himself and it is not the effect of human virtue, but all those possess it have it from Him and by Him. It is as if several mirrors were placed beneath the sun: they are all bright and all issue rays, while in reality there is but one sun which brightens all of them..."
Please note: No one is ever worthy to receive the very Body and Blood of Our Lord Savior Jesus Christ, including the priest that officiates at the Divine Liturgy. To indicate that very fact, the priest, turns to the faithful and seeks forgiveness from them before he proceeds to receive Holy Communion. However, our Holy Church guides and lovingly encourages us to prepare spiritually through the fasting, prayer and by participating in the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession. The attitude that we can receive Holy Communion totally and deliberately ignoring the advice of the Church is nothing less than arrogance and open defiance. It is wrong!
A very important element of a Christian spiritual life is obedience! Saint Paul says, "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God