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 ΗΝΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE DIVINE LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS
At nightfall, dawn and noon, we sing to You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, and we beseech You, Master of all, Lord and lover of mankind: guide our prayers aright as an offering of incense before You. Let not our heart be led to wicked thoughts or words, but deliver us from those (demons) who pursue our souls. For it is on You, Lord, Lord, that our eyes are fixed, and in You that we have our hope; do not put us to shame, O Our God. For all Glory, Honor, and Adoration are You due, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
"There are four virtues which the mind needs at all times, and by which it is protected: first, prostrating before God and praying unceasingly; second, throwing ourselves before God in self-abasement; third, not praying into other people's affairs, so as not to condemn anyone; and fourth, remaining deaf towards the passions that speak to us--that is, towards passionate thoughts. We shall be able to apply all of this, provided we strive not to forget God's benefactions to us or our obligations to Him."
The soul is darkened by four vice, all directed against one's neighbor: hatred, contempt, grumbling, and envy. The soul is rendered barren by the following four passions: when a Christian wanders around from place to place; when he loves distractions; when he yearns for material possessions; and when he is overcome by miserliness."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION TODAY'S SAINTS):
On April 11th 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: Holy Hieromartyrs Antipas, Bishop of Pergamum; our Righteous Mothers Tryphaina and Matrona of Cyzicus; our Righteous Father Pharmuthius the Anchorite; our Righteous Father Guthlac of Crowland; our Righteous Father James of Zhelezny Borok and James his fellow ascetic; our Righteous Fathers Efthymius and Chariton of Syanzhema; Saint Barsanuphius, Bishop of Tver; our Father among the Saints Callinicus, Bishop of Rimnicu in Romania; Holy Hieromartyr Serapion, Archpriest of Nikolaevsk, who was slain by the atheists in the year of our Lord 1921.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Ascetics, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Righteous, Holy Fathers, Holy Mothers, Holy Bishops, Holy Archpriests, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and saves us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE TAKEN FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT:
Orthros[Matins] OT: Isaiah 66:10-24
Esperinos[Vespers] OT 1: Genesis 49:33-50:26
Esperinos[Vespers] OT 2: Proverbs 31:8-31
SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"A secular (κοσμικός) or lay person who had a son came to see Abba (Father) Sisoes on Abba Anthony's mountain. On the way, it happened that his son died. He was not troubled by this but brought him with confidence to the old man (geronda) and bowed down with his son, as though making prostration, so that he would be blessed by the geronda. Then the father stood up, left the child at the old man's feet and went outside. The old man, thinking that the boy was bowing said to him, 'Get up, go outside.' For he did not know that he was dead. Immediately the boy stood up and went out. When he saw it, his father was filled with amazement and went back inside. He bowed before the old man and told him the whole story. When he heard it the old man was filled with regret, for he had not intended that to happen. So the disciple asked the father of the child not to speak of it to anyone before the old man's death." (Sayings of the Desert Fathers).
MAN COMES TO HIMSELF
by Archimandrite Zacharias [Source: Remember Thy First Love (Rev. 2:4-5)]
The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life in the Theology of Elder Sophrony
All of us lose our way when we forsake the grace of God. As we wander in far-off lands, searching for the path back home, we slowly begin to realize that we have to choose between life and death. Either we turn to the Living God in our distress, or we give in to despair and all its disastrous consequences.
For all its brevity, the Parable of the Prodigal Son (St. Luke 15:11-32) is one of the most beautiful narratives the world knows. I somehow wish that it had come to be known as the Parable of the Love of the Heavenly Father. The Parable dwells less on the sins of the prodigal than it does on the compassion of the Father. However, the name it has been given is better-suited to our psychology.
As we struggle to regain our deep heart, we see that our tragedy lies in the fact that we have chosen to live mostly outside the house of our Father, outside our heart, far from the very place where the Spirit of God would dwell. When the Apostle Paul says that we are the temples of the Living God, he means that our heart is the natural home of the Holy Spirit. This is confirmed by the other great Apostle, Peter, when he says that the Spirit of God's glory should rest in our heart (cf. 1 Peter 4:14).
Our struggle is not easy. We are conceived in sin, and we go on to accumulate a great measure of corruption. The law of sin rules over our members and we need to uproot it so as to establish within ourselves the law of the two great Commandments of the New Covenant: to love God with our whole being and to make our neighbor the content of our heart (cf. St. Matt. 22:37-39). But our struggle is a magnificent one, because it involves crossing over from darkness to light, from death to life, from transitory things to eternal ones, from earth to heaven, from our fallen human nature to participation in the Divine nature.
To encourage us in the process of our rebirth, the Church gives us the opportunity to think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son just before Great Lent. Her intention is to show us that however hard our struggle may be, there is no place for despair in our life in Christ. We have complete confidence in our Heavenly Father Who seeks us out and waits with open arms. Not only does He watch us from afar, He even comes to meet us, desiring to lead into His Kingdom.
Such, then, is the love of the Heavenly Father. The Troparion (hymn) sung at the beginning of the service of the monastic tonsure is known as 'The Fatherly Embrace': 'Into Thy Fatherly embrace make haste to receive me, who have wasted my life like the prodigal son. Consider the unfailing treasure of Thy mercies, O Savior. Despise not a heart now come to want; for in compunction I cry unto Thee, 'O Lord, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee." ' Monasticism is a fearful leap of faith into the strenuous labor of repentance, yet at the very outset we sing this tender hymn, which reminds us that nothing is impossible, for we have tasted of God's love.
No matter how corrupt a man may have become through sin, or how he may have sunk into the bottomless pit, he will always retain within himself a certain nobility that cannot be destroyed, namely, the image of God in which he has been created. And God has implanted within our being the possibility of repentance, so that we can turn to Him and ask for His forgiveness at any time of our life. Indeed, God bestows great honor upon the man who 'comes to himself', who examines his heart and then speak with God responsibly, that is, in the truth of repetance. The Lord then pours out the refreshing waters of His mercy upon him. Having created man after His likeness, God has implanted in his nature the desire for divine sonship, as He responds with these blessed and saving words: 'All that I have is thine.' That is to say, 'The fulness of my life, O man, is now your life.' What God is by nature, He bestows on man; and man is made god by grace.
The moment of man's 'coming to himself ' is highly significant. The hesychasts of the 14th century made much use of this phrase, which indicates the way in which sin draws the mind towards the external world. The mind, the senses, and man's life as a whole are dissolved and dispersed. In order to be healed the mind must be reunited with the heart in a movement towards wholeness. His mind must descend and settle in the heart: only when it is reunited with the heart can it effectively govern man's being. And when man's whole being, including his body, is gathered into the heart, a third movement takes place, this time towards God Himself. The overall pattern has a circular character according to the holy hesychasts. Having 'wasted all his substance' in the outside world (the first movement), the prodigal son then 'comes to himself' (the second movement), so as to direct his whole being towards the Father's embrace (the third movement) Saint Gregory Palamas. But in order to reunite his mind to his heart, man must do battle with the multitude of thoughts provoked by the enemy (Satan), most of which are rooted in pride. Having discovered his heart, however, man begins to see the origin of such thoughts, as well as the direction they will take. They no longer deceive him as easily as before, because he learns to guard the entrance to his heart. And when he finally abides within his heart, only humble thoughts will arise there to nourish his being.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God