My beloved children 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 ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A PRAYER TO THE EVER VIRGIN MARY AND THEALL-HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
All-Holy Virgin Mother of God, we humans cannot offer to you the hymn and the praise that is appropriate to you, for your proper praise is superior to any human melody. For you God Himself received flesh and was born as a human being. The totality of nature in heaven and on earth offers to you its boundless respect. For you have become an Angelic Throne of Cherubim. As a reflection of Light, you shine brightly in the imperceptible world and in all the ends of heaven and earth and in the whole universe, where the Unoriginate Father is praised, Whose power always overshadowed you; where the Son is worshipped, the Son to Whom you gave birth; where the Holy Spirit is glorified, the Spirit which enacted in your womb the birth of the Great King. Through you, who are full of grace, the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity is revealed in the world to become known by human beings. We pray to you and beseech you, Most Blessed Theotokos, to make us also worthy of your perfect grace that we too may partake of it with you in Christ Jesus, our Lord, in whom the Glory and the Power abides unto the ages of ages. Amen.
In our holy Orthodox Christian Tradition prayer has a wider, comprehensive and deeper meaning. To pray does not only mean to petition and to beseech something specific from Almighty God. This may be the familiar meaning of prayer, and of course one of the types of prayer. It is, however, only one of various levels of prayer, which are always analogous to the spiritual experience and progress of each praying person.
Most often we see three aspects of prayer: supplication, thanksgiving and doxology. These then are the three basic types of prayer that we experience in the spiritual tradition of our Holy Orthodox Church. In reality, however, these three types of prayer are rarely separated one from another. Most often we see the three elements of prayer-supplication, thanksgiving and doxology integrated into a unified and comprehensive prayer.
Besides these three types of prayer which we mentioned are also various levels of prayer that correspond to the spiritual maturity and progress of the person who is praying.
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication" (Ephesians 6:18). With many such divine words the preeminent Apostle Paul exhorts us to live our life with prayer and to nurture constantly our mind with it, because all human beings have need of prayer just as trees have need of water. As the trees cannot bear fruit unless they drink from their roots abundant water, so also we cannot produce the precious fruit of piety unless we are nurtured by prayers.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS)
On June 21st 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: Saint Terence, Bishop of Iconium; Saint Julian of Tarsus in Cilicia; Saint Theodore of Starodub; Saint Julian of Libya; Saints Anthony, Anastasius, Celsius, Vasilissa, 20 prison guards, and 7 brothers, martyred with Saint Julian; Saint Aphrodisius In Cilicia; Saint Julius and Julian of Novara; Saint Archil II and Laursab II, kings of Georgia; Saint Nicetas of Nisyros, near the island of Rhodes (+1732); Saint Anastasia (Anna) of Serbia, mother of Saint Sava.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy kings, Holy Ascetics, Holy Confessors, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
NEW HOLY MARTYR NICETAS OF THE GREEK ISLAND OF NISYROS. When eighteenth-century Greeks were enslaved and under the rule of the Muslim Turks, St. Necetas died trying to bring his family back to Christianity. When St. Nicetas was a young boy on the island of Nisyros, his father, out of expediency, had the family embrace Islam. At fourteen years of age, he ran away from the new family home on the island of Rhodes to the island of Chios. He was taken in by the monks and educated in Christianity. In just three years, he became one of the more spiritual monks there. Driven by the need to recover his family, he returned to Rhodes. When he could not pay the head tax imposed on Christians, the Turks learned that he was Mehmet, his Muslim name, and consequently he was tried for rejecting Islam. When he refused to deny Jesus Christ, he was beheaded.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 3:19-24
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 7:1-8
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS, HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"When we see that the people around us have no love for God we are distressed. But with our distress we achieve nothing at all. Nor do we achieve anything by trying to persuade them to change their ways. That's not right, either. There is a secret, however, and if we understand it, we will be able to help. The secret is our prayer and our devotion to God so that His grace may act. We, with our love, with our fervent desire for the love of God, will attract grace so that it washes over those around us and awakens them to divine love. Or rather God will send His love and will rouse them all. What we are unable to do, His grace will achieve. With our prayers, we will make all worthy of God's love." (Geronda [Elder] Porphyrios the Kapsokalyvite)
ON SANCTIFICATION AND DISPASSION
(Source: "Elder Joseph the Hesychast: Struggles, Experiences, Teachings," by Geronda [Elder] Joseph of Vatopaidi)
In the spiritual sphere, the human rules of ordinary logic do not apply. This is why Saint Paul frees spiritual people from obligations, saying, "the law is not laid down for the just" (1 Timothy 1:9). But during the course of the struggle, which is the realm of becoming, there are deficiencies which are evident. Called from ignorance to knowledge--and therefore to faith and repentance--we human beings enter upon a cycle of learning and progress in which the further we advance, the further we reduce the void of our previous deficiency.
We see in part, we make progress in part, we are perfected in part; and this by the grace and mercy of God. In this partial progress which is according to nature it is to be expected that deficiencies should appear, which are not due to our right intention bending or giving way, nor to a deviation "to the left". Rather, it is analogous to something that happens with the sun: When the sun has not yet reached its height, its rays do not light up the back of a body so as to bathe the whole body in light. In other words, the spiritual warrior has not yet arrived directly under the fullness of Grace, and for that reason he still has some points which are un-illumined and, consequently, some deficiencies; but even so, fullness and perfection are his life-long aim.
An almost total lack of practical experience in the spiritual life leads modern man to ask many questions, which we hear constantly in our daily encounters and conversations. Sanctification, in other words perfection in God, and its real meaning are almost always wrongly interpreted by those who are far from true experience. In fear and modesty, let me mention some of the things the holy Fathers have said on the subject, so as to interpret the meaning and significance of sanctification according to the Patristic spirit. In presenting and commenting on some of the sayings of the chief holy Fathers we shall speak about what is means by sanctification; where it begins, where it leads and how it is achieved, in order to help provide some sort of orientation.
It is possible for anyone to taste a partial form of sanctification, because the struggle and journey towards complete sanctification passes progressively through several stages. Each person, some less and some more, can and should attain to one or another of these stages. The road that leads to sanctification and perfection in Christ is repentance, since we "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). As one ascends the ladder of repentance, so one encounters the gradations of sanctification. This is the definition of true repentance, when man regains the Divine Grace that was lost through sin, or of which he was deprived by living far from faith and knowledge of God. The regaining of grace is not something partial but the totality of adoption, which Christ grants to the faithful through His Church. If they desire, the faithful are able to attain to perfection insofar as is possible, which the holy Fathers divide into three states: those of purification, illumination, and perfection, is called dispassion, or divine knowledge, or love for God. It is also referred to as "keeping the Sabbath and rest," when man rests from the works of repentance, just as God rests from His work on the seventh day.
The great St. Maximos the Confessor refers to three more general states commonly found in monks, which characterize those who are approaching sanctification. The first consists in not sinning at all in action; this is the stage of purification and the spiritual warrior, after "lawful striving" (2 Timothy 2:5), goes beyond the unnatural state. The second is when "the soul does not dally with impassioned thoughts;" this is the state of illumination, characterized chiefly by the capacity to receive Divine illumination, so that the intellect controls impassioned thoughts. The third state, that of perfection, is when we can contemplate dispassionately in the mind the forms of women and those who have given us offence; in this state the soul succeeds in coming near to freedom, because even if impassioned conceptual images are still present they cannot stir the intellect to be ravished by them, and this more or less is the principal aim of spiritual life. The right use of conceptual images follows the right use of things and thus evil in general is done away with, because "if one does not first sin in the mind, he will never sin in action, as the holy Fathers say.
Faith, divine fear, the fervor that results from these things and strict obedience to the Commandments mortify the soul, which is thus turned in its entirety towards God because, in the words of the holy Apostle Paul, "what is mortal is swallowed up by life" (2 Corinthians 5:4). The senses then function according to the law of need alone; they are obedient to self-control, and thus produce mourning and awareness of our sinfulness.
(To be continued)
"With these blessed Powers, O Merciful Master, we also cry and say: Holy art Thou and All-Holy, Thou and Thy Only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit. Holy art Thou and All-Holy and magnificent is Thy glory, Who hast so loved Thy world as to give Thy Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Who when He had come and fulfilled the whole dispensation for us, in the night in which He was betrayed,--or rather, surrendered Himself for the life of the world,--He took bread in His Holy and Immaculate and blameless hands; and when He had given thanks and blessed it, and hallowed it and broken it, He gave it to His holy Disciples and Apostles..." (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)
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