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 LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS FIFTH WEDNESDAY OF HOLY LENT
Verse: I had no means of escape; no one would take care of my life. My whole life has been spent with harlots and publicans. Can I ever, even in old age, repent of my sinful acts? Creator of all, healer of those in distress, Lord, before I am utterly lost, save me.
Verse: I cried out to You, Lord, and said, You are my hope, my share in the land of the living. I am burdened by sloth, wallowing in the mire, pierced by the arrows of Belial, and I defile my divine image. Chastiser of the slothful, deliverer of the fallen, Lord, before I am utterly lost, save me.
Verse: Attend to my supplication, for I am laid very low. I have become a stumbling block to others, like one born of the earth cultivating earthly things. According to Your Will I entered into marriage, and violated it, polluting my own bed. Lord, who shaped Your creatures from the earth, before I am utterly lost, save me.
Verse: Deliver me from my oppressors, for they are too strong for me. I am become my soul's executioner, thinking first of my body. I am become the plaything of demons, a slave to pleasures and disgusting acts. Lord, Who banish demons, in Your compassion, pity me, and before I am utterly lost, save me.
Verse: Release me from prison, that I may give thanks to Your Name. Willfully I have sinned above all others; that is why I am abandoned. My carnal mind opposes my soul and keeps me in shadows. Lord, Light of those in darkness and Guide of the wayward, before I am utterly lost, save me.
Verse: The just shall gather around me when You give me my due reward. "My soul shall live and praise You, Lord," said the Prophet. Seek me out, the lost sheep, and number me among Your flock. Allow me time for repentance that, with sighs, I may cry out to You, " Lord, before I am utterly lost, save me."
FROM EVERGETINOS FROM THE LIFE OF SAINT JOHN THE MERCIFUL
The great Saint John appointed and advised the clergy under him to come together and celebrate Divine Liturgies for the reposed. He maintained and assured them that memorial services and liturgies very much benefited those found in hell. In support of what he told them, he referred to an incident which had recently occurred:
He told them, therefore, about a young man whose homeland was Cyprus and who was a countryman of the Saint. The young man was taken captive by the Persians and carried off to Persia. There he was confined and kept in chains under guard in a prison that was called "Lethe." There prevailed a law among the Persians that those held in this prison should never leave from it alive. For precisely this reason, it was called "Lethe"; that is, that those confined in it were to be forgotten.
Nonetheless, once several prisoners escaped from there. They reached Cyprus, where they assured the parents of the young captive Cypriot that he had died in the prison. His family, thereafter, had memorial supplications celebrated for him three times a year, under the impression that they youth was dead. In this manner, four years passed.
After four years, the young man was able to escape and to return to his native land. Such was the surprise and the inexpressible gratitude of his parents that--the moment they saw him--they thought of him, not as though they had received him as one released from captivity, but as though he had risen from the dead. In the throes of such moving sentiments, they said and did all that was possible for any soul seeing such an event. Among other things, they told their returning child that, since they had thought him dead, they had celebrated all of the regular memorial services for his soul that are appointed for the reposed. At the same time, they referred to all of the days that they fulfilled this duty; and these were Theophany, Pascha, and the Feast of Pentecost.
On hearing these things, they young man recalled a wondrous thing that had happened to him while he was imprisoned; he confirmed to this parents, on his word, that on those very days he had been freed from his chains, under the care of a resplendent man, thus enjoying freedom for a short time. Afterwards, he was locked in his bonds again, as before.
Please note: Every Divine Liturgy is not only conducted for the living here on earth but also for those who have fallen asleep in the Lord and are awaiting the Final Judgment Day. Memorial services are extremely necessary and no Orthodox Christian should take it lightly and ignore the souls of his/her loved ones.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On April 3rd 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 Nikitas the Confessor, Egoumenos [Abbot] of the Monastery of Medicium; Saint Joseph the Hymnographer; Saints Theodosia and Irene the Holy Martyrs; Holy Martyr Elpidophoros; Holy Martyr Dius; Holy Martyr Bythonius; Holy Martyr Galycus; our righteous Father Illyrius; holy New Martyr Paul the Russian was perfected in martyrdom by the sword in Constantinople in the year of our Lord 1683; our righteous Mother Burgundofara, Egoumenissa (Abbess) of Faremoutiers in Gaul; Saint Nectarius of Bezhersk; Synaxis of the holy Icon of our Lady the Most Holy Theotokos called "Unfading Rose."
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Confessors, Holy Egoumenoi and Egoumenisses, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE TAKEN FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT:
Orthros (Matins) OT: Isaiah 42:5-16
Esperinos[Vespers] OT 1: Genesis 18:20-33
Esperinos[Vespers] OT 2: Proverbs 17:17-18:5
SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"He who holds possessions as the gifts of God...and knows that what he possesses is for the sake of others is blessed by God and poor in spirit." (Saint Clement of Alexandria)
AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE, THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH
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
The Holy Spirit visits man as a single tongue of fire that is slowly kindled more brightly into a glorious and perfect day. (Proverbs 4:18). The Holy Spirit is that Living Water springing up into everlasting life, (cf. John 4:14), and those who thirst for it will drink with joy. Unless we thirst, however, we have nothing in this Living Water. And that is why we are given times before our own Pentecost, a special opportunity for us to rouse within ourselves that blessed thirst for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Before His passion and His Crucifixion the Lord said that He would go to the Father, but would not leave His disciples comfortless, or 'orphans' (in the Greek original). He said He would pray to the Father that He would send the Spirit Who would abide in them forever. (John 14:16-18). These great and Holy Apostles did, however, remain orphans for some ten days, from the day of their Master's Ascension until Pentecost. They had been treated gently, tenderly and graciously by the Lord during the three years He was with them and after His Resurrection. They had been endowed with many gifts-raising the dead, casting out demons, healing the sick and infirm (see Matt. 10:8). Even so, they too were orphaned for a short time so that they might experience for themselves the words of the Lord: 'Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). They were left alone, and so they prayed together, patiently awaiting the other Comforter Whom the Lord had promised (Acts 1:4). The first Comforter had been the Lord Himself; He had continually comforted them with His word. But the experience of a certain forsakenness, impoverishment, and loneliness was necessary, so that a thirst for the Living Water of Pentecost would arise in their hearts.
Under the Old Covenant (Testament), the day of Pentecost was a time when the Jews celebrated Moses' receiving of the Law engraved in stone from the hands of God. But this law would not lead them to liberty in the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:3-7), for no one could be perfected by it (Heb. 7:19). Its purpose was to prepare the people for the fullness of time, when the law of the Spirit would be engraved upon their hearts. So when the day of Pentecost came, ten days after the Lord's Ascension, a truly momentous event took place. As the disciples were gathered together, waiting upon the Lord and thirsting, praying, and breaking bread as He had instructed them to do, the Holy Spirit--the other Comforter--came upon them. It is important to note that the Holy Spirit descended during the breaking of bread, during the Apostles celebration of the Eucharist, for this is one of the many signs that the Apostolic Church was at that moment coming into being. (Personal note: This very significant event is historical and scriptural and something for our Protestant friends to understand clearly and see the significance of the Divine Eucharist in the life of the Church and in the life of every Christian.)
If we look carefully at the Old Testament readings for the feast of Pentecost (Num. 11:16-17, 24-29; Ezek. 36:24-28; Joel 2:23-32), we can identify three main themes: the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh; the sanctifying invocation of the Name by which we are saved; and the gift of a new heart--a sensible heart of flesh, in place of the heart of stone that is incapable of perceiving anything spiritual.
Not all, however, who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved. According to another hard saying of the Lord, "Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven" (Matt. 7:21)--that is, he who keeps the Commandments. And when the Holy Spirit comes into the heart as a mighty rushing wind, breaking the hardness of it, there, in the deep heart. He will depict the figure of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform and purify our heart, and we will call upon the name of the Lord from its very depths. Saint Paul says that such invocation is salutary when it comes from a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22), which is why the Holy Spirit prepares the heart of man by means of contrition and humility. His great desire is that we invoke His Holy Name in a manner that is at once pleasing to Him, and salutary for us.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God