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.
Prayers of the First and the Third Hour
[Please note: Some of you have asked me how to acquire a prayer discipline and the type of prayers to be offered during the day and night. The demands of the hectic daily conditions in which all of you live and work are such, as we all understand, that pious Orthodox Christians must struggle even to be able to attend the Divine Liturgy on Sunday. Precisely because of this reason, they are deprived of the spiritual strength and food contained in the fixed sacred services observed in our Church during the twenty-four hours of the day. However, we need to rekindle the desire of prayer. And let us never forget: "Prayer is the spring of virtues, the cause of gifts, food for the soul and the enlightenment of the mind" (The Ladder of Divine Ascent]).
"Seven times a day will I praise You, O Lord!" (Psalm 119)
The Prayer Services of the holy Hours have been determined by our Holy Orthodox Church to be read at the various intervals of the day, that is, at approximately 8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. The Four Services of the Hours, are usually read in church together on the major pre-feast days, with designated readings from Holy Scripture and special hymns, in anticipation of the great Feat days of the Church. When the Hours are read privately, two are said in the morning and two in the afternoon. But whenever it is possible, the First Hour (or even also the Third Hour) may be read after breakfast by the whole family before the holy icons as a family prayer.
"Let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice." (Psalm 141)
"From ancient times the Church, under both the Old and the New Covenants (Testaments), has ended the day with the setting of the sun, beginning the new day by lighting the lamps of evening. As the day comes to a close, believers, together with the Church, stand before God filled with gratitude. We thank Him for the abundant blessings He has granted to us and to all creation throughout the day just past. With the setting of the sun, everything is led towards rest. Many psalms of the Old Testament, including 104 and 141, are dedicated to this Hour. Let us pray now, hymning God together with the whole of creation."
FIRST HOUR (8:00 a.m.)
O Christ, You are the True Light, That illumines and sanctifies every person Who comes into the world. Let the Light of Your Countenance shine upon us, That we may see in You the inapproachable Light, Direct us in the way of life to observe Your Commandments, Through the intercessions of Your All-Pure Mother, And of all the Saints. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On April 9th 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 Martyr Efpsychius of Caesarea in Cappadocia; Righteous Martyr Badimus of Persia, the Archimandrite, and his seven disciples; Holy Martyrs that were perfected while in captivity in Persia; Saint Abdiesus of Persia was perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Holy newly-revealed and wonderworking Righteous Martyrs Raphael and Nicholas and the Holy Virgin Martyr Irene, and those with them, a the sacred Monastery of Karyes, that is, at Therme on the Island of Lesvos, who were martyred in the year of our Lord 1463 and were wondrously manifested unto us in the year 1959; holy Martyr Patience; Saint Vadin the Righteous of Persia.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy virgin Martyrs, holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Archimandrites, Holy Righteous, Holy Ascetics, Holy Confessors, 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 58:1-11
Esperinos[Vespers] OT: 1:Genesis 43:26-31; 45:1-16
Esperinos[Vespers] OT: 2: Proverbs 21:23-22:4
SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"I would like to have a voice strong enough to make myself heard from the four corners of the world. I would climb the highest mountain in the universe and I would cry out to all men: Save, save your soul!" (Saint John Chrysostom).
KNOWING THE GIFT OF GOD
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 Son of God came to earth to make all things new (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 21:5), and each Christian has his own unique story to tell of his encounter with Christ the Savior. Indeed, Christ reveals Himself in specific and personal ways to human beings as individuals, to groups of people and even to nations. We see this clearly in His encounter with the Samaritian woman (see St. John 4).
"Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink." The Lord, wanting to heal the Samaritan woman of her wounds, humbles Himself by asking her for water. He restores her to dignity so as to prepare her to receive knowledge of His Truth. Likewise does a genuinely spiritual person sometimes pretend to be in need, placing himself below the other so as to benefit him. He breaks down "the wall of partition" (Eph. 2:14), honoring the other as his benefactor.
Father Sophrony once told me that he put himself below those who came to him so as to help them. Not only was his chair the lower one, but his whole attitude was so humble and sincere that people would be moved and their hearts disposed to apprehend prophetic knowledge about themselves. This is the day the Lord Himself teaches His Saints.
Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. The Samaritans were despised, even hated--to such an extent that the Jews would not touch anything that had been touched by them. They were considered to be impure, a heretical people which had forsaken the authentic religious tradition. The Samaritans, for their part, were embittered by the Jewish hostility.
The Lord, sensing her perplexity, responds to her with great delicacy: "If thou knewest the gift of God, and Who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked Him, and He would have given thee Living Water." (When the Prophet Isaiah speaks of 'living water', he means the Holy Spirit which the Messiah as to bring down to earth through His coming into the world" (Isa. 12:3; 41:18;44:3). The Savior asks man for earthly water in exchange for which He gives the incorruptible heavenly water of eternal life. He asks only for things which are possible on the human level: a simple favor, a good disposition, some spiritual zeal and a little repentance. As the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great expresses it: "For earthly things [He bestows] heavenly things; things eternal for things temporal, things incorruptible for this corruptible." How gently the Lord treats the Samaritan woman by referring to Himself in the third person! The purpose of this self-effacing manner is to limit His revelation of Himself in accordance with the Samaritan woman's understanding, for she does not yet know Who He is. As we have said, those who know how to help people spiritually begin by effacing themselves, like Saint John the Baptist, who gave all the space, all the honor, to Christ the Bridegroom. Such people are friends of the Bridegroom, for they reflect His great desire for people to enter ever more deeply into a personal relationship with God, and to do so in complete freedom.
The Lord aims to beget in the Samaritan woman such faith as will enable her to rise to the level at which she can receive the eternal Truth He so desires to impart unto her. The woman becomes aware of the Truth of the Lord's words. She feels their spiritual power, but she is as yet unable to conceive the sacred gift which is being communicated to her by the Life-Giving word and quickening presence of the Lord Jesus. When we read the Gospel, we often feel the divine power of His word and sense the immeasurable depth of truth concealed within it. But because we are still earthly, we find ourselves unable to enter into the mysteries of its deeper meaning. Thus our understanding of His word is limited to the intellectual or psychological, while the deep truth of His word contains the ineffable mystery of eternal life in Christ.
...The Lord is not like us. He never rebukes, but patiently waits, gently revealing Himself to us, asking us if we love Him. A gentle and respectful approach such as this can save, whereas a rebuke can wound and lead to despair. As Saint Silouan says:
"The Lord loves us, and gently, without reproach, receives us, just as the father in the Gospel story did not reproach his prodigal son [but honored him greatly] and in nothing did he condemn his son. O, how gently and patiently in our turn must we set our brother right, that there may be rejoicing in the soul over his return! The Holy Spirit teaches the soul ineffable lovingkindness."
Elsewhere the Saint writes:
"Where would you find a father prepared to die on the cross for the transgressions of his children? The ordinary father grieves and is sorry for his son who must be punished for his wrong-doing; but for all his pity he tells him that he has done wrong and that it is right that he should be punished for his crimes. But the Lord will never say this to us. He will ask us, also, as He asked the Apostle Peter, 'Lovest thou me?' So in Paradise too, He will say to all people, 'And you, do you love me?' And all will answer Him, 'Yea, Lord, we love Thee. Thou didst save us by Thy sufferings on the Cross, and now Thou hast given us the gift of the Kingdom of Heaven."
Our God is Good and loveth mankind. He gladly takes and waters our grain of truth raising us up from wherever we are. He cultivated the Samaritan woman's grain of truth with great tenderness until it ripened and developed into knowledge of His Truth.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God