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 SAINT BASIL THE GREAT
Lowering Your pure Body from the Cross, the noble Joseph wrapped it in clean muslin with fragrant spices and laid it in a new tomb. When You descended into death, Life Immortal, You struck Hades dead with a lightning flash of Divinity; and when You raised up the dead from the underworld, all the Heavenly Powers shouted: "Christ God, Life-Giver, glory to You!" Standing by the tomb the Angel said to the myrrh-bearing women: "Myrrh is for the dead; but Christ has shown Himself stranger to death."
THE MYSTERION (SACRAMENT) OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST IS CONSUMMATED.
(This sacred moment is the loftiest and the Most Sacred moment of the Divine Liturgy, because at this moment the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist is consummated or consecrated. The faithful Orthodox Christians kneel, expressing their veneration to the Mysterion).
"...But He left us remembrances of His saving Passion, these which we have set forth as He commanded. For as He was about to go forth to His voluntary and eternally Memorable and Life-Giving death, on the night when He gave Himself up for the life of the world, taking bread in His Holy and Spotless Hands, and presenting it to You, God and Father, He gave thanks, blessed it, sanctified it and broke it:
Priest: He gave it to His holy disciples and apostles saying: Take, eat, this is My Body which is broken for you for the remission of sins.
Priest: He gave it to His Holy Disciples and Apostles, saying: Drink of this all of you; this is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.
Priest: Do this in remembrance of Me. For whenever you eat this Bread and drink this Cup, you proclaim My death and confess My Resurrection. Therefore, Master, as we too remember His saving sufferings, the Life-Giving Cross, the three days in the tomb, the Resurrection from the dead, the ascension into Heaven, the Enthronement at Your Right Hand, God and Father, and His Glorious and awesome Second Coming,
Priest: Offering You these gifts from Your Own gifts, in all and for all.
Cantor or Choir: We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, and we pray to You, Lord our God.
Priest: Thus it is, Most Holy Master, that we, too, though sinners and Your unworthy ministers, yet judged worthy to serve at Your Sacred Altar, not for any righteousness of our (for we have done nothing good on earth), but by virtue of Your love and mercy, richly lavished on us, make bold to approach Your Holy Sacrificial Table. And setting out the antitypes of the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Your Christ, we ask and entreat You in Your Goodness, that Your Holy Spirit may come upon us, and upon these gifts here presented: to bless them, sanctify them, and make them manifest.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On April 8th 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 Apostles of the Seventy, Herodion, Agavos, Rufus, Phlegon, Asyncritos, and Hermes; our Righteous Father Celestine, Bishop of Rome; Holy New Martyr John the Shipmaster who was perfected in martyrdom and who was burnt alive on the Island of Cos in the year of our Lord 1669; Saint Pafsilipos; St. Niphon the Wonderworker, Bishop of Novgorod; Father Rufus the Obedient, Recluse of the Kiev Caves.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Fathers, Holy Mothers, Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE TAKEN FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT:
Othros [Matins] OT: Isaiah 49:6-10
Esperinos [Vespers] OT: 1: Genesis 31:3-16
Esperinos [Vespers]: Proverbs 21:3-21
SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Christ came that He might slay sin, render death null and void, and give life to men. The Logos (Word) of God was made flesh in order that He might destroy death and bring us to life, for we are tied and bound to sin." (Saint Irenaeus +202 A.D.)
LONGING TO SEE THE LORD
by Archimandrite Zacharias [Source: Remember Thy First Love (Rev. 2:4-5)
God redeems man's whole life, his past and even his future by means of repentance. Our life is full of sins, betrayals, transgressions and injustices, but repentance renders them powerless, wiping them out so that in God's sight on the Day of Judgment, they will be no more. Every kind of contact with the Lord burns up man's impurities, cleanses and save him. We see this in the case of Isaiah: God touched his lips with a burning coal saying, 'Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged' (Isaiah 6:7). (Personal note: The celebrant priest following the partaking of the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says: 'This has touched my lips; the Lord takes away all my guilt and my sin is forgiven'.) The merest contact with God, then, was enough to blot out all Zacchaeus' iniquities, yet he needed to confess them verbally before the Lord. (As done by the penitent in the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession).
SEEING GREATER THINGS
"O Holy Spirit, how dear art Thou to the soul! To describe Thee is impossible but the soul is sensible of Thy coming and Thou givest peace to the mind and delight to the heart." [St. Silouan the Athonite]
There is no greater tragedy for us men than to see ourselves cut off from the Spirit of Christ. Without the bond of love with our Savior-God everything is vain and absurd.
In the Gospel of Saint John we find a narrative which speaks of the mystery of coming to know the Truth of Christ: it is the account of the calling of the disciples Philip and Nathanael (see St. John 1:43-51). It tell us how we come to know our Creator, the Almighty Lord, Who for our sakes entered into man's weakness, emptying Himself in order to save us through this weakness, for we would not have been able to bear the Greatness of His Majesty. And we know that 'the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Corinthians 1:25).
So the Lord finds Philip and says, 'Follow Me." Philip is simple and straightforward: to hear the commandment of the Lord is enough for him to accept His call. The spontaneity of his response is also inspired by the Face of the Lord which is full of His Divinity, as is the Life-Giving energy of His word. We should also remember that there was at that time a strong spirit of expectation of the coming of the Redeemer, and this was expressed in the faith of those who awaited Him, for they had inherited the piety of their Forefathers. The combination of these elements bore fruit in Philip's unquestioning discipleship; he immediately followed the Lord.
The lamp of Philip's soul was lit by the fire he received from the Lord, and no one would have able to prevent him from going on to light other lamps in his turn. The fire of God spreads from place to place, and Nathanael's lamp was the next one to be lit. Nathaniel, however, could not contain his doubt. How could the Messiah possibly come from the ill-reputed town of Nazareth? Philip, with the wisdom he had acquired in meeting the Lord, simply answered, 'Come and see.' Indeed, there is no better answer than this: 'Come and experience the Truth for yourself, and if He is the Real Truth, you will be unable to disbelieve.'
If we seek the Truth sincerely and objectively we can carry out an experiment which, as in any of the sciences, will enable us to discover it. In this sense theology is like the empirical sciences in that once a theory has been conceived and a hypothesis formed, an experiment can be carried out and verified so as to demonstrate the law governing a given phenomenon. It is the same in our spiritual life: we learn about God and His ways through experimentation, and put His Truth 'to the test' within our relationship with Him, and this Truth then becomes the law that governs our life. Our hypothesis, then, comes in the form of Christ's Commandments. In the case of 'Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted,' for example, the hypothesis is that those who sorrow will be comforted. Christ reveals Himself to His creatures who, as images of God, are endowed with reason and freedom. In His Goodness God allows us to test Him by means of our free will, even as He tries our hearts from morning till evening and from evening till morning" (cf. Job 7:18). Indeed, He wants us to come to Him with a guileless heart, freely and without prejudice, and to try Him innocently as did Nathaniel. If we do in fact 'come and see'. God does not fail to give us evidence of Himself. But He leaves it up to man to take the initiative, to engage in his desire to obtain authentic knowledge of God, and to follow Him freely with his whole heart. God is All-Good and All-Humble, and the words proceeding from His mouth aim to encourage man to 'put God to the test' and, through this, to know Him as He is. In the Epistle to the Romans we read: 'Since they did not try God out so as to gain knowledge of Him, God left them at the mercy of their own inexperienced minds, to act wrongfully' (cf. Romans 1:28 [our translation]).
The greatest misfortune for man is to remain without experience in mind and heart, that is, never to have tasted of God or to have received knowledge of Him. And the greatest disaster in this life is to be deceived with respect to God, and therefore to fail to acquire any taste or sense of His Truth.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God