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.
An Extemporaneous Prayer of a Parish Priest
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Good Shepherd and I thank You for giving also to me, who am weak and unworthy, the same commandment which You had given to Your Apostle Peter when You told him: "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep." Lord, I would have never dared to undertake such a heavy and responsible mission, if I did not believe that Your grace "heals the weak and fulfills the deficient." This is why at this time when I feel so strongly my own deficiencies, I, Your priest, the offender of Your sacrifice and the humble shepherd of Your flock, beseech You most fervently. Support me, Lord. Preserve my heart in purity and authenticity of spirit; May I be detached from the sin of greed, and totally dedicated to Your Commandments. Remove from Your servant the sin of pride, vanity and worldliness. Protect me from the passions of anger, resentment, malice, and jealousy. Make me into a worthy person of prayer, so that not only with my lips but also with my heart I may praise and glorify Your Holy Name. Help not to forget the awesome emotions of my very first Divine Liturgy, so that with them I may ward off the alien spirit of familiarity with the sacred and the holy, which comes upon me from time to time, as I carry out my sacred duties. Lord, help me, Your priest, to be always a messenger of consolation to those who are discouraged, a haven of serenity for those who are troubled and sorely tested, a guide toward peace and joy for those who are wounded and suffering turmoil. O my Savior, help me to combine in my life and in my work both a sense of tenderness and inflexibility, polite refinement and authoritative power, sensitivity and austerity. Reduce my faults and grant me constant vigilance and discretion, so that no one will ever fall because of my weaknesses.
Teach me, Lord, how to teach the children, how to inspire the youth, how to counsel and guide the adults and the parents, how to bring sinners to repentance, how to support those who are sick and those who are dying.
Teach me also, O Great Knower of the hearts of men, how to conduct the Mysteries of the Church, and particularly the Mystery of Repentance and Confession. During that sacred time, uphold me to be an excellent psychologist and a loving father. In my parish, help me to inspire and motivate the faithful toward good works of faith and love, to be the leader in efforts and activities that are pleasing to You, O God, so that souls may be gained for their own edification and salvation, and for the glory of Your Holy Name.
Come, O Lord, and reign powerfully in our parish, to live among the flock of faithful entrusted to me, so that all of us together may be made worthy to be in Your Glorious presence now, during our earthly life, and the time of Your Second Coming. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On June 16th 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 of every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saints Tikhon, Bishop of Amathus in Cyprus; Holy Hieromartyr Mark, Bishop of Apollonias, having been dismembered by the weight of stones hung from his hands, was perfected in martyrdom; Holy Five Martyrs of Nicomedia were perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Holy Forty Martyrs of Rome were perfected in martyrdom by fire; Holy Hieromartyrs Ferreolus the Priest and Ferrution the Deacon, who were sent by St. Irenaeus of Lyons to preach the Gospel in Besancon and were martyred; our Righteous Father Tikhon of Kaluga; our Righteous Father Tikhon of Lukh; St. Kaikhosro of Georgia; Holy New Hieromartyrs Hermogenes, Bishop of Tobolsk, Ephraim the Archpriest, and Michael the Priest, who were slain by the atheists in the year 1918; Holy New Hieromartyr Tikhon the Deacon of Velizh and his son, who were slain by the atheists in the year 1918.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Bishops, Holy Martyrs, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Deacons, Holy Fathers, Holy Mothers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Priests, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and saves us. Amen.
OUR HOLY FATHER TIKHON (TYCHON), BISHOP OF AMATHUS IN CYPRUS. This Saint was born of pious Christian parents and flourished in the 5th century. Because of his piety and purity of life he was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Amathus, and later was made Bishop of Amathus by the great Epiphanius. He worked many signs and wonders and turned many from the worship of idols unto Christ. Once he planted a vine in the ground and it wondrously sprouted and brought forth ripe grapes. After his death, on his annual feast-day on June 6th, it being yet early in the season, that vine would be laden with unripe grapes, as is natural; but as the Divine Liturgy began, the grapes would begin to darken, and by the end of it, they would be fully ripened. The third of the Vespers Stichera in the Menaion service to Saint Tikhon alludes to this yearly miracle.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Saint. First Tone
Thou didst prove to be a citizen of the desert, and Angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Tikhon, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer thou didst obtain heavenly gifts, and thou healest the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to thee with faith. Glory to Him that hath given thee strength. Glory to Him that hath crowned thee. Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee.
Kontakion Hymn. Third Tone
Shining in ascetic toils beloved of God, O Saint Tikhon, from on high didst thou receive the Holy Comforter's power to destroy the wicked idols of gross delusion and to save imperiled peoples, to cast out demons, and to heal the sick, O blest one; wherefore, we honor thee as a true friend of God.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 2:28-29; 3:1-18
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 6:31-34; 7:9-11
[Please take time to read the daily Holy Scripture.]
"Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:21)
THE FAST OF THE HOLY APOSTLES (June 16-29)
By Archpriest Ayman Kfouf
ORIGINS OF THE FAST OF THE APOSTLES
The fast of the Holy Apostles is dated back to early years of the Church. The first evidence of this fast is found in the writings of Saint Athanasius the Great (+373 AD). In his letter to Emperor Constance, he writes: "During the week following Pentecost, the people who observed the fast went out to the cemetery to pray." Some 20 years later, Saint Ambrose (+397 AD) writes: "On the days following his ascension into heaven, however, we again fast" (Sermon 61).
The famous pilgrim Egeria mentioned the Apostles' Fast also in her 4th century writing which records that "on the day following the feast of Pentecost, a period of fasting began." In the same period, the 4th century, the Apostolic Constitution prescribes: "After the feast of Pentecost, celebrate one week, then observes a fast, for justice demands rejoicing after the reception of the gifts of God and lasting after the body has been refreshed."
Until the second half of the 3rd century, the Fast of the Holy Apostles was linked to Pentecost and lasted only for one week (Apostolic Constitutions). Later on, after the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul and following the development of the commemoration of their death around the year 258 AD, the Apostles' Fast became linked to the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th. Consequently, it became a fasting period of preparation for the celebration of the feast of the great Apostles. Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki (+1429) explains: "The Fast of the Apostles is justly established in their honor, for through them we have received numerous benefits and for us they are exemplars and teachers of the fast...For one week after the descent of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the Apostolic Constitution composed by Clement, we celebrate, and then during the following week, we fast in honor of the Apostles."
Subsequently, the duration of the Fast of the Holy Apostles changed from one week to a variable period depending on the date of the Feast of Pascha (Easter).
DURATION OF THE FAST OF THE APOSTLES
The Fast of the Holy Apostles starts on the second Monday after Pentecost. The duration of this fast varies, depending on the date of Pascha. The rule is that the Fast starts on the second Monday after Pentecost and ends on June 29th, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. According to the new calendar, the Apostles' Fast could last as short as 8 days and as long as 30 days (42 days according to the old calendar).
FASTING RULES OF THE FAST OF THE HOLY APOSTLES
The Fast of the Holy Apostles is not as strict as the Fasts of Pascha and the Nativity of Christ; rather it is more lenient in its duration and rules. The current rules of fasting, during the Apostles' Fast, were established first for the monks of the Monastery of the Kiev Caves by Metropolitan George of Kiev (+1069-1072). These rules are still practiced amongst most Orthodox Christians with minor variations, depending on the jurisdiction.
THE RULES ARE:
1. Red meat, poultry, and dairy products are not allowed during the entire fasting period in all week days.
2. Fish, wine, and oil are allowed on all days except on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The Apostles Fast has emerged since the very early days of Christianity. It is honored and preserved in the Church as a part of our Holy Tradition. Like all Fasts in the Orthodox Church, the Holy Apostles' Fast aims to help us on the "armor of light" to against the attacks of the enemy (Satan) that may befall during our spiritual journey to become united with God through His grace. No better words may express the importance of fasting in our life like the words of Saint and Father Isaac the Syrian who says, "...since fasting is a weapon established by God...the human race knew no victory before fasting, and the devil was never defeated by our nature as it is: but this weapon has indeed deprived the devil of strength from the outset…As soon as the devil sees someone possessed of this weapon (fasting), fear straightway falls on this adversary and tormentor of ours, who remembers and thinks of his defeat by the Savior in the wilderness; his strength is at once destroyed and the sight of the weapon given us by our Supreme Leader (Christ) burns him up. A man armed with the weapon of fasting is always afire with zeal. He who remains therein, keeps his mind steadfast and ready to meet and repel all violent passions."
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God