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.
A PRAYER TO OUR ALMIGHTY GOD (Saint Cyprian)
Holy, Holy, Holy of holies, Father of fathers, O God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God of the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Martyrs, God of the virgins, of those who live with integrity, and of those who believe in Your Son, O God and Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We pray to You and beseech You, the Only-begotten Son, begotten of the Father before all ages, and in time mystically incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Virgin Mary. We beseech You to grant us an increase of fervor in our desire for a holy life and integrity of heart, so that, being renewed in the Baptism of salvation, our hearts may be free from sin and remain pure. We ask for an Orthodox faith, a pure spirit, and enlightened piety and steadfast love. Help us to grow in spirit and to progress in the life of Your Holy Church.
We bend the knees and bow the head before You, Lord, for before You the Angels and Archangels, the multitude of Martyrs, the chorus of Apostles and Prophets stand in awe and find spiritual delight. Every tongue in heaven and on earth confess You and all of creation praises and glorifies You. Even the least of the created beings are sensitive to You. You alone exist eternally without a beginning. Without You and apart from You nothing can exist...You, O Lord, Who are seated at the Right Hand of the Father in heaven, turn Your gaze toward us, free us from the possibility of an eternal death, and grant us that all important integrity and purity of the heart that is so essential for our salvation in the Church and in You, Who are One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Blessed and Glorified now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
THE HOLY GOSPEL LESSON ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN (16:1-13)
The Lord said: "These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go away to Him Who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On June 3rd 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 Lucilian of Nicomedia; the Children with him: Claudius, Hypatius, Paul, and Dionysius; and Paula the virgin; our Righteous Father Athanasius the Wonderworker; our Righteous Mother Hieria of Mesopotamia; St. Pappus; Holy Hieromartyr Lucian and his fellow Holy Martyrs Julian and Maximian at Beauvais in Gaul; Saint Clotilde, Queen of the Franks; our Righteous Father Kevin, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Glendalough in Ireland; Holy Righteous Martyr Isaac, who was beheaded in Cordova by the Moors in the year of our Lord 851 AD; Synaxis of the Young Icon of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Children, Holy virgins, Holy Righteous, Holy Egoumenoi, Holy Qeens, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY MARTYR LUCILLIAN AND THOSE WITH HIM. Formerly a priest of the idols near Nicomedia, the Saint came to the Christian Faith in his old age; this was during the reign of the pagan Roman emperor Aurelian (270-275 AD). St. Lucillian was brought before Silvan the Count; when he refused to return to the service of the idols, his jaw was broken, he was beaten with rods, and hanged upside down, then imprisoned with four Christian children, Claudius, Hypatius, Paul, and Dionysius. All of them were brought out again before Silvan, and remaining constant in their faith, were cast into a raging furnace. Preserved unharmed, they were sent to Byzantium, where the children were beheaded, and Lucillian was crucified. The virgin Paula, a Christian, buried their holy relics. For this, she was taken before the Count, and refusing to sacrifice to the idols, was stripped naked and mercilessly thrashed; after other torments, she was beheaded, in 270 A.D. There was a church in their honor in Constantinople.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. First Tone
Let all of us entreat Christ the Lord's holy Martyrs, for they make supplication for our souls' salvation; with faith and with longing, therefore, let us draw nigh unto them, for they overflow with the divine grace of healings, and they drive away the ranks of demons in terror, as guardians of the Faith.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 21:26-32
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 16:2-13
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
From Saint Isaiah
"Unless a man forsakes every activity of this world, he cannot serve God. For the service of God consists in our not having anything extraneous in our mind when we pray and in meditating on Him; that is, we should have in our mind neither pleasure, malice, hatred, nor envy, nor any fantasy or anxiety for the things of this world. For these things are dark walls that imprison the wretched soul and impede it in the air, not allowing it to encounter God, to bless Him in secret, or to pray to Him in purity, with enlightenment and with sweetness of heart, through partaking of the spiritual delight of Divine love. For as long as the soul feels anxiety over external matters, the mind is deadened and the internal passions act without restraint. But if the soul abandons any concern for external matters, then the mind rejoices and stands up straight (raised up to God)." (Source: The Evergetinos)
THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE TO THE OTTOMAN TURKS, 1453
From the great church (Saint Sophia) the Emperor rode to the Palace at Vlachernae. There he asked his household to forgive him. He bade the emotionally shattered men and women farewell, left his Palace and rode away, into the night, for a last inspection of the defense positions. Then he took his battle position.
The assault began after midnight, into the 29th of May 1453. Wave after wave the attackers charged. Battle cries, accompanied by the sound of drums, trumpets and fifes, filled the air. The bells of the city churches began ringing frantically. Orders, screams and the sound of trumpets shattered the night. First came the irregulars, an unreliable, multinational crowd of Muslims, who were attracted by the opportunity of enriching themselves by looting the great city, the last capital of the Roman Empire. They attacked throughout the line of fortifications and they were massacred by the tough professionals. The battle lasted two hours and the irregulars withdrew in disorder, leaving behind an unknown number of dead and wounded.
Next came the Anatolian troops of Ishak Pasha. They tried to storm the stockades. They fought tenaciously, even desperately trying to break through the compact ranks of the defenders. But following them came the Janissaries, disciplined, professional, ruthless warriors, superbly trained, ready to die for their master, the Sultan. They assaulted the now exhausted defenders; they were pushing their way over bodies of dead Christian soldiers.
Meanwhile more were pouring in through the Kerkoporta, where the defenders had not been able to eliminate the first intruders. Soon the first enemy flags were seen on the walls. The Emperor and his commanders were trying frantically to rally their troops and push back the enemy. It was too late. Waves of Janissaries, followed by other regular units of the Ottoman army, were crashing through the open Gates, mixed with fleeing and slaughtered Christian soldiers. Then the Emperor, realizing that everything was lost, removed his Imperial insignia, and followed by his cousin Theophilos Palaeologus, and others holding their swords, charged into the sea of the enemy soldiers, hitting left and right in a final act of defiance. They were never seen again.
The excesses which followed, during the early hours of the Ottoman victory, are described in detail by eyewitnesses. Bands of soldiers began now looting. Doors were broken, private homes were looted, their tenants were massacred. Shops in the city markets were looted. Monasteries were broken into. The monks were killed, nuns were raped, many to avoid dishonor killed themselves. Killing, raping, looting, burning, enslaving, went on and on according to historical account. The Muslim troops had to satisfy themselves. The great doors of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia were forced open, and crowds of angry soldiers came in and fell upon the unfortunate worshippers. Pillaging and killing in the holy place went on for hours. Similar was the fate of worshipers in most churches in the city. Everything that could be stolen from the splendid buildings was taken by the new masters of the Imperial Capital. Holy icons were destroyed, precious manuscripts were burned or lost forever. Thousands of civilians were enslaved, Muslim soldiers fought over boys and young women.
The Sultan, with his top commanders and his guard of Janissaries, entered the city in the afternoon of the first day of occupation. Constantinople was finally his and he intended to make it the capital of his mighty Empire. He toured the ruined city. He visited Saint Sophia which he ordered to be turned into a mosque. He also ordered an end to the killing. What he saw was desolation, destruction, death in the streets, ruins, desecrated Orthodox Christian churches.
"We remember the fall of Constantinople because history teaches us that when a few decide to resist the many, they may be defeated for the moment, but in the end, they triumph. The resistance on the walls of the Reigning City by 5,000 Greeks and 2,000 foreign allies persisted in the souls of the enslaved people as a title of honor and a commitment to new struggles. The sacrifice of Constantine Palaeologus at the gate of Romanos set the foundations for 1821. The dozens of movements on the part of the enslaved people were nourished by the legends of the Enmarbled Emperor and the Red Apple. If they had surrendered on 29 May 1453, there would not have been any resistance or national uprising. Capitulation would have been an indelible shame. Heroic defense, however, gave birth to patience, hope, expectancy. This hope is expressed in the Pontic lament: "Romania has passed, Romania has been taken; But passed Romania yet thrives and still bears fruit".
The resistance of the last defenders of Constantinople and "willingly we die and count our lives as nought" (Emperor Constantine Palaeologus) also inspired the "No" of the Greek people in 1940 to the fascist Mussolini and to Nazi Germany...We shall fight with weapons that are, principally, spiritual and moral. And we shall learn from the Tradition and experience of our Church. The fall of Constantinople and the concomitant circumstances teach us that, in the end, we have survived because of our Orthodox Christian faith and Tradition is linked to the Cross and the Resurrection. It reminds us that after every Crucifixion of the Nation, there is a Resurrection!
A reference to a legend that Constantine was not killed but saved by an Angel and rests, "enmarbled", in a cave. When the time is ripe he will awake and be restored.
Please note: I cannot stress enough how important it is for us to know our Greek Orthodox Church history and to appreciate the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters who were tortured, violated and killed for Christ and the Church, so that we, today, can enjoy its divine fruits.
Our commitment to our Lord and Savior and our Holy Orthodox Church must be unshakable, uncompromising and unquestionable. It cannot be either lukewarm or impersonal.
If we are to honor the sacrifice of millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the centuries, we must live and practice our Christian faith daily and with true conviction.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God