Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only 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.
A PRAYER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
[Saint Symeon the New Theologian]
Come, O Life of delight, Eternity and all Power, the All-Holy Life-Giving and Creative Spirit, Who are of equal honor in Authority with the Father and the Son, Whose convergence and unity into One is through the identity of worthy and of will in the Three Persons of the Divinity. Come, O my Lord, my anguished soul has yearned and still years for You. Come, O yearning that is in me and causes me to desire You Who are altogether inaccessible. Come, O my breath, my life and the consolation of my soul. Become one spirit with me, O Most Benevolent Lord, yet without confusion, without change, without alteration, since You are God above all. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On June 17th 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: Holy Martyr Isavrus of Athens and those with him: Basil, Innocent, Felix, Hermias, and Peregrinus; Holy Martyr Manuel, Savel, and Ishmael of Persia; our Righteous Father Hypatius of Rufinianae; Holy Hieromartyr Philonides, Bishop of Curium in Cyprus; our Righteous Father Joseph the Anchorite ; Saint Prior of Egypt; the Righteous Passion-bearer Nectan of Wales; our God-bearing Father Botolph of Ikanhoe in Lincolnshire, and his brother Adolph, Bishop of Maestricht; our Righteous Father Herveus (or Harvey) Egoumenos (Abbot) in Brittany; the Righteous Alphanov brethren of Novgorod: Nicetas, Cyril, Nicephoros, Clement, and Isaac; Saint Ananias the Iconographer of Novgorod; Holy New Hieromartyrs Basil the Archpriest, Seraphim the Hieromonk, and Vladimir, Mark, Basil, and Gabriel, who were slain by the atheists (communists) in the year 1919; Holy New Hieromartyr Ishmael, who was slain by the atheists (communists) in the year 1937, and also his brother Michael the Confessor, the Priest.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Egoumenoi, Holy Archpriests, Holy Ascetics, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY MARTYRS ISAVRUS AND THOSE WITH HIM. The holy Martyr Isavrus, a deacon, and Basil and Innocent were from Athens. In the reign of Numerian (283-284 A.D.), they came to Apollonia (most likely, the city in Illyricum); there encountering Felix, Peregrinus, and Hermias hidden in a cave, they strengthened them in their Faith. Betrayed to Tripontius the Proconsul, all but Isavrus and Innocent were beheaded; these last two Tripontius gave over to his son, Apollonius, who tormented them, and then had them beheaded.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Martyrs. Fourth Tone
Thy martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our Immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strenghless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion Hymn of the Martyrs. Second Tone
pierced through in your hearts with faith in Christ, O blessed ones, ye drank of His cup with faith, and ye hurled to the ground all the impudence of the Persians and their vaunting idolatry; and ye intercede for us all, ye equal in number to the Trinity.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 4:4-12
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 7:15-21
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
Don't even listen to slander
(The visionary Shepherd of Hermas was a very influential book in early Christian times. Here the writer is commanded to keep away from slander. Even listening to malicious gossip makes you part of the sin.)
"Be simple and guileless, and you will be like children who don't know the wickedness that ruins man's life. First, do not speak evil of anyone, and do not listen with pleasure to anyone who speaks evil of another. If you do listen, you will share in the sin of the one who speaks evil, if you believe the slander you hear. For if you believe it, you will also have something to say against your brother. Thus you will be guilty of the sin of the slanderer. For slander is evil, and an unsteady demon. It never stays in one place, but is always in strife. Keep away from it, and you will always be at peace with everyone." -Hermas, Commandment 2
THE AIM OF THE INCARNATION AND GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
By Father Alexis (Trader) Monastery of Karakallou, Mount Athos, Greece (Source: In Peace Let Us Pray to the Lord: An Orthodox Interpretation of the Gifts of the Spirit)
A Patristic Reading of Saint Paul's Discourse on Spiritual Gifts in His First Epistle to the Corinthians
The Aim of the Incarnation and Gifts of the Spirit
"For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 30:17)
The question of spiritual gifts, their function and their purpose in the life of the faithful, is ultimately a question about the purpose and activity of the Church in general and the Incarnation of God the Logos (Word) in particular. Taken outside of this context, Saint Paul's words in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (12-15) can be misconstrued into an ideology on the workings of the Spirit that is at odds with the most basic teachings of the Christian faith. When viewed in its proper context, however, Saint Paul's discourse unveils the most profound mystery and sublime heights of the life in Christ: the purification, illumination, and perfection of man. Since Saint Paul's words remain in a foreign and incomprehensible tongue as long as the basic alphabet of man's spiritual healing is not known, it seems prudent to spell out briefly the background of man's sickness and restoration to health before proceeding to Saint Paul's words as interpreted by Saint Nikitas Stithatos and in agreement with the entire ascetic and hesychastic tradition of the Church.
In an overabundance of love, God created man, adorned him with the virtues, placed him in Paradise, and entrusted him with a single Commandment so that through obedience man could also express his love for God and thus proceed from the image of God traced in his soul to the beauty of the divine likeness. In other words, man was meant voluntarily and actively to make his own the virtues nascently present in his soul (the image) by cooperation (synergy) with Divine grace. Already pure by nature and illumined by his intimate converse with God, man was to grow in virtue and unselfish love eventually becoming like God by divine grace. By accepting, however, the prideful suggestion of the serpent, by breaking God's Commandment, and by refusing to repent for his transgression, the image of God in man's soul was cloaked with the thick garment of the passions and every aspect of man's soul was distorted and enfeebled. The blameless passions of death, corruption, sleep, hunger, thirst, and fatigue entered man's life and were transformed by his now darkened heart into blameworthy ones. His desires became selfish. His will and aggressive faculty were directed towards the acquisition of his selfish desires. His intelligence was employed to devise ways in which his selfish desires could be fulfilled using his selfish will. And his prayerful union and communion with God, which was meant to direct and enlighten every activity and faculty of his soul, was broken and that aspect of the soul (the nous or spiritual heart) through which man was to commune with God became functionally dead. Furthermore, man's memory, which was to be utilized to remember God through ceaseless prayer, became forgetful and engrossed in sensible realities. Dominated by the senseless passions of the love of money, glory, and pleasure, man was no longer able to think or to feel properly. Thus, only a few rare examples were able to rise above the disease that darkened man's heart and that can be summarized with a single word: self-love.
Christ the Logos (Word) however, in His great mercy and love, labored to gradually heal man first by curtailing the outward expressions of the passions through the Mosaic Law, secondly by prodding man towards an honest and sincere fulfillment of the Law through the Prophets, and finally by taking on human flesh and becoming man in order to be the Way and provide the means for man to be completely healed: i.e., to purify his body and soul from the passions, to continue the work that was set before Adam in Paradise, and by grace to enter communion with Christ again. The Incarnate Christ now is able to heal man through His teachings, His example, His Person, and His Church. In His teachings, the Lord Christ revealed to man the nature of his sickness in his selfish relationship with God, his fellowman, and the world. He gave him self-emptying commandments that could heal his heart through repentance, humility, and love. By His example, Christ practically revealed how to be humble, how to pray, how to fast, how to love God and how to love one's enemies. In His Person, He healed human nature itself conquering both corruption and death by resurrecting His own human body. Finally, Christ ascended with His resurrected human body to the very throne of the Father, raising it to the state of permanent glorification and thereby making it the natural source of Divine Glory. In so doing, He raised human nature through His glorified body to a state of higher than that of Adam in Paradise thus reconciling Him with His Father, offering Him His glorified human body that He allowed to be crucified, and sending the Holy Spirit, the Comforter to sanctify creation. And finally the Good Physician of our souls and bodies established His Church on the day of Pentecost as the most perfect hospital in which sick man could be healed.
The Church continues to heal man through diverse means. In Holy Baptism, man is healed of the consequences of the ancestral (original) sin, cleansed of his own personal sins, and clothed with Christ. The new believer thus dies with Christ "in order to be raised with Him and to lead the new life that His Resurrection has granted to mankind." In Chrismation, he receives the seal of the Holy Spirit and the grace to help him turn fully to God. Through confession, the believer has the opportunity to cleanse himself of his sins committed after Holy Baptism. And in Holy Communion (Eucharist), the most powerful medicine for healing the soul, man receives not simply the grace of Christ, but Christ Himself. In addition to the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments), the Church directs the believer towards the goal of health (through the commemoration of the Saints) and teaches him how to repent, how to believe, and how to pray. The believer learns to follow Christ's Commandments, to make them the law of his existence, acting according to them rather than according to sinful habit (the passions). Through the ceaseless prayer of the heart, he reacquires the permanent memory of God that Adam had in Paradise, while through watching over his thoughts he gains control over the deluding effects of the imagination. And thus gradually, the Church leads the believer through the stages of purification and illumination to that of glorification.
(To be continued)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the 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