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.
FROM THE LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS
II Reading: The reading is from Proverbs (17:-28, 18:1-5)
Deacon: Wisdom. Let us be attentive.
Reader (Anagnostis): A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A man without sense gives a pledge, and becomes surety in the presence of his neighbor. He who loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction. A man of crooked mind does not prosper, and one with a perverse tongue falls into calamity. A stupid son is a grief to a father; and the father of a fool has no joy.
A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones. A wicked man accepts a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice. A man of understanding sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him. To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good; to flog noble men is wrong. He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
He who is estranged seeks pretexts to break out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in expressing his opinion. When wickedness comes, contempt comes also; and with dishonor comes disgrace. The words of a man's mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a gushing stream. It is not good to be partial to a wicked man, or to deprive a righteous man of justice.
"Our prayer is not acceptable when we have enmity against another, or when others have enmity against us and we do not take care to reconcile with them." From the Life of Saint John the Merciful
Saint John the Great (the Merciful), Patriarch of Alexandria, once punished two clergymen who had become enemies--the one with the other--with a harsh penance. One of them gladly accepted the penance, since he understood his culpability and wanted to correct himself; the other one, however, remained indifferent and took this as an excuse, on account of his spiritual laziness, to be completely negligent with regard to Church gatherings, prayer, and the various religious duties of a cleric. Therefore, he attended only to the satisfaction of his various wants and, moreover, risked playing on the Saint's goodness.
As soon as the Saint saw the dangerous spiritual condition of the latter, he thought that perhaps the Devil had completely won him over; so, he decided to summon him to demand an apology. By the Providence of God, however, in order to demonstrate the incomparable majesty of the Saint's humility and his exceeding sympathy for the sinner, Saint John shortly forgot his intention.
The Sunday after the Saint had made his decision to summon the clergyman, he was celebrating the Divine Mystery of the Holy Eucharist inside the Holy Altar.
Exactly at the moment that the sacred coverings are removed from the Holy Gifts, he remembered the hateful cleric. At the same time that he remembered him, there came to his mind the command of the Master, which requires that we first forgive our enemies and be reconciled to them, and only then offer our gift on the altar of sacrifice (St. Matthew 5:23-24). Immediately, therefore, he ordered the Deacon to repeat the augmented litany over and over, until he returned to the Holy Altar. And he, using the excuse that his stomach was hurting, sneaked out of the Altar, without being noticed, and asked someone to bring to him, as quickly as possible, the hateful cleric.
Indeed, within a short time, the cleric came. There occurred, thereupon, an extremely amazing incident. The Patriarch, without the slightest embarrassment before those who were looking at them, fell down at the feet of the cleric and asked his forgiveness. On seeing this sight--the extreme humility of the Patriarch--the cleric, until this moment insensitive, seeing this holy man kneeling before him, conquered the resistance in his soul and, fearing fire from on High and the chastisement of God, also fell prostrate and asked forgiveness.
Saint John then drew the cleric close to him, and together they entered the Holy Altar with indescribable gladness and delight. He then said to God with courage and peace of soul: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (St. Matthew 6:12). After this incident, that cleric became so chastened and humble that he was judged worthy by the Patriarch himself to be ordained a Presbyter.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On April 4th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honor 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 Martyrs Claudius, Diodore, Victor, Victorinus, Pappias, Serapion, and Nicephoros; our Righteous Mother Theodora of Thessaloniki; Holy Martyr Theodora and Didymus of Alexandria; Holy Women Martyrs, a lady and her handmaid; Holy Martyr Pompey; Saint Zeno who was perfected in martyrdom when he was smeared with pitch, cast into fire, and pierced through with a spear while in the fire; holy Martyrs Maximus and Terence; Holy Five Maiden Martyrs of Lesvos; Holy New Martyr George, who contested in New Ephesus in the year of our Lord 1801 who perfected in martyrdom by the sword.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Christians, 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 45:11-17
Esperinos[Vespers] OT 1: Genesis 22:1-18
Esperinos[Vespers] OT 2: Proverbs 17:17-18:5
SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS:
"Love can do all things, and if it ceases to be generous and sharing, it is no longer love." (Saint Gregory [+604 A.D.]
LONGING TO SEE THE LORD
by Archimandrite Zacharias [Source: Remember Thy First Love (Revelation 2:4-5)]
The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life in the Theology of Elder Sophrony
"My soul yearns after the Lord and I seek Him in tears. How could I do other than seek Thee? Thou first didst seek and find me and gavest me to delight in Thy Holy Spirit and my soul fell to loving Thee." (Saint Silouan the Athonite)
Our entire struggle in this life is aimed at discovering our 'deep heart' (Psalm 64:6) because that is the place where God manifests Himself. Above all, we aim to uproot the passion of pride within us, because this is the passion which buries the heart, leaving us feeling as if we no longer had a heart. 'Pride stops from loving,' says St. Silouan. Indeed, true love proceeds from humility, for the humble man has room in his heart for God and his fellow-men. As long as we are proud we will be separated from our heart; we will live only according to our little minds, totally missing the ultimate purpose of our coming into this life, and will end up as dry leaves blown about aimlessly by the wind. If, however, we succeed in finding our deep heart, but also in the depths of heaven where our life is 'hid with Christ in God' (Col. 3:3). And God will come an make His abode in us.
No matter how greatly we have corrupted our hearts through sin, there comes a time when, like Zacchaeus, we burn with the desire to know the Lord, to know just Who He is (St. Luke 19:3: "He sought to see Jesus Who He was.'). No matter how dense the darkness of the pit of sin into which we have sunk, sooner or later the moment comes when the question of eternity refuses to be ignored any longer. We begin to see our past life as one massive betrayal of God, as a wholly unjust offence against Him. Our spirit now yearns for things eternal, for we have begun to see the vanity of anything that does not bear the seal of eternity. This is a crucial moment, for our eternal future depends entirely on the direction we choose to take. If we turn to the living God and accept His word, ardently desiring to see the Face of the Lord, He will enlighten us and begin His work of salvation in our soul. We will embark on an adventure with God. All we need is the desire to know Him, together with a little humility. This desire is the small part we offer to God in faith, and without it God will not act. To our small part He then adds the infinitely greater part that is His grace, which enlarges our hearts fourfold and saves us.
According to Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Zacchaeus was consumed with the desire to know God the Savior in person and to see His kind (τό είδος). This is the seed of salvation and when this seed falls into the heart of man, he has a great longing to see who the Lord is. Once he is possessed by his longing he will do certain things which will seem mad in the eyes of this world, but which will in fact prepare the way for his first meeting with the Savior. Such was the case of Zacchaeus when he began to seek the Lord. And this was the Lord's desire, for the Son of God came to save the sinners. It is hardly astonishing that He should want to save a chief publican: in every time and place, the Lord seeks out His own.
Zacchaeus' desire made him run ahead and climb a sycamore tree so that he could see the Lord. But what was happening in his heart was visible only to Him Who is both God and Man. The crowd could not see the transformation of his heart, nor could they understand the nature of his desire. But even before Zacchaeus had seen Him, the Lord had perceived the movement of Zacchaeus' heart in a supernatural way, with the eyes of His divinity. He saw that the wild and greedy heart of the chief publican had now begun to soften and, melting with desire, had become transfigured so that he was ready to bear within himself the image of Christ.
Zacchaeus has ignored his reputation and esteem, which hinder man's approach to God, and he now attracts public scorn. In his shame he becomes kin to the Lord Jesus Who, at this point in the Gospel, is on His way to be crucified on the Cross of shame in order to deliver the world from the shame of sin. In our desire to see the Lord we too will make fools of ourselves, bearing as much shame as possible in order to achieve our goal: to find our Lord and Savior. We are indifferent to the opinion of men and any fear of becoming a laughing-stock fades away. For we know that the Lord will grant us the honor of seeing His Face--which is far more beautiful than we can ever imagine--and our souls will be truly satisfied with His glory (Psalm 16:15): "χορτασθήσομαι εν τω οφθήναί μοι τήν δόξαν σου." On account of his burning desire, then, Zacchaeus despised all his worldly honors and was pleased to look ridiculous in the eyes of the people, if he could only gain a different kind of honor; that of finding favor with the Lord and being visited by Him.
As soon as the Lord came to the sycamore tree He looked up and saw the publican and spoke the following word: "Zacchaeus, hasten and come down!" (St. Luke 19:5-8). To delay in the spiritual life is a dangerous thing. When God calls us and addresses a word to us, we must be like Abraham: we must heed his invitation and set off promptly wherever He leads us. So the Lord's first word to Zacchaeus is "Hasten!" and the next is, "Come down!" or, "Humble yourself!" Come down from the height of your position in the world, from your high-mindedness and also from the sycamore tree. God is calling you! Be clothed with humility and receive the joy of salvation."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God