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.
OUR PRAYER TO OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
(Saint John Chrysostom)
O Lord, my God, great, awesome and Glorious Creator of all things visible and invisible; You Who faithfully keep Your covenant and Your mercy with those who love You and observe Your Commandments; I thank You now and always for all the visible and invisible blessings which You have bestowed upon me. I praise, glorify and magnify You, up to the present time, for in accepting me from my mother's womb and providing for me out of Your abundant goodness and love for mankind, You have providentially protected and guided me in a holy manner, and thus Your rich mercy and compassion has been wonderfully demonstrated in me throughout my life. You did not overlook my lowliness because of my unworthiness and sinfulness, nor did You cease to help me and provide for me because of Your loving kindness, and compassion. Do not forsake me then, O my God, even until my advanced and old age.
O Jesus Christ, the Good Name above all names, my sweetness, my longing and my hope, You became man for us and in wisdom planned and assigned everything for our salvation. With all my heart, O Lord my God, I confess to You. I bow down upon the knees of my body and my soul and recount before You, my God, all my sins. May I hope that You too will incline Your ear to my supplication and will forgive the irreverence of my heart...
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On June 2nd 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 perfected in our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Nicephorus the Confessor, Archbishop of Constantinople; Holy Thirty-eight Martyrs, having been sealed in a bath-house, were perfected in martyrdom; a holy mother and her Three Children were perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Righteous Hieromartyr Erasmus of Ochrid; on this day the Twenty Thousand that believed in Christ through Saint Erasmus were perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Holy Martyr John the New of Suchava was perfected in martyrdom by the sword in Belgorod in the middle of the 14th century; Holy New Martyr Demetrios was beheaded in Philadelphia in the year 1657; holy and glorious New Martyr Constantine who was martyred in Constantinople in 1819.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Mothers and Children, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Archbishops, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS NICEPHOROS THE CONFESSOR, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE. Saint Nicephorus was born in Constantinople about the year 758 AD, or pious parents; his father Theodore endured exile and tribulation for the holy icons during the reign of Constantine Copronymus (741-775 AD). St. Nicephorus served in the imperial palace as a secretary. Later, he took up the monastic life, and struggled in asceticism not far from the imperial city; he also founded monasteries on the Eastern shore of the Bosphorus, among them one dedicated to the Great Martyr Theodore.
After the repose of the holy Patriarch Tarasius, he was ordained Patriarch, on April 12, 806, and in this high office led the Orthodox resistance to the Iconoclasts' war on piety, which was stirred up by Leo the Armenian. Because St. Nicephorus championed the veneration of the holy icons, Leo drove St. Nicephorus form his throne on March 13, 815, exiling him from one place to another, and lastly to the Monastery of Saint Theodore which St. Nicephorus himself had founded. It was here that, after glorifying God for nine years as Patriarch, and then for thirteen years as an exile, tormented and afflicted, he gave up his blameless soul in the year of our Lord 828 at about the age of 70.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
The truth of things hath revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, an icon of meekness, and a teacher of temperance; for this cause, thou hast achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty. O Father and Hierarch Nicephorus, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion. Fourth Tone
Since thou hast received today the crown of victory from the Heavens at God's hand, save all of them that faithfully now honor thee as a teacher and a faithful hierarch, O Father Nicephorus.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 21:8-14
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 14:27-15:7
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
From Abba (Father) Mark
"There are those who ask: Given that, by means of Holy Baptism, sin ceases to exist in our souls, why, then, does it act in our hearts even after Baptism? To this question, we answer: Sin does not act in us after Holy Baptism of its own accord, as if having power of its own to act against us even after it has been expunged, but rather because we continue to love it and to neglect the Commandments of God on its account. That is, while Holy Baptism grants perfect deliverance from sin, the regenerated man's resumption of sin through his attachment to evil, or the preservation of his deliverance from sin through keeping through keeping the Commandments, depends solely on his free will When our thought dwells for a long time on some pleasure or anger, this is proof of an attachment that comes from man's free will and not evidence of a remnant of un-expunged sin after Holy Baptism; for we have power to expel thoughts from our mind and to demolish every obstacle that is raised in order to impede us from knowledge of God, as Holy Scripture says, "For the weapons of our spiritual warfare against evil are not carnal, but have the power from God to pull down strongholds and thoughts" (cf. II Corinthians 10:4-5). [Source: The Evergetinos]
THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE TO THE OTTOMAN TURKS, 1453
(On May 29th our Church commemorates the Fall of Constantinople)
Realizing that all contacts with the Ottoman side were broken Emperor Constantine XI Palaelogus (1449-1453) ordered the closing of the city's gates.
The last Byzantine Emperor, born in 1404, was a son of Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus (1391-1425) and of Helen Dragash, a Serbian Princess. His brother John VIII (1425-1448) hoped that by accepting the union of the Churches (Latin and Orthodox), and the expected Western military assistance, he could stave off the collapse of the state. Leading a Greek delegation, which included the greatest secular and religious minds of 15th century Hellenism, he travelled to Florence. There, after long and heated discussions, on July 6, 1439, Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini and Archbishop Bessarion of Nicaea read in Latin and Greek the Act of the Union. Despite the official document and the Emperor's willingness to implement it, the end could not be avoided. The agreement was seen by the people, back home, as submission to the Papacy and betrayal of the Orthodox faith. The promised crusade, to save Constantinople, collapsed on the battlefield of Varna, in Bulgaria, on the 10 of November 1444. Four years later, on October 31, 1448, John VIII, depressed and disillusioned, passed away. As he had no children the imperial crown passed on to his brother Constantine, who was at the time, ruler of the Peloponnese. Crowned in the Cathedral at Mystra, his capital January 6, 1449, the new and last Christian Roman Emperor entered, two months later, on March 12, the isolated Imperial Capital.
Militarily insignificant, economically depending on the Italian maritime Republics, hoping for Western assistance and a new crusade, the Byzantine Empire, or rather its capital, a head without body, waited for the inevitable. Thanks to the strong, dignified and proud personality of its last ruler, who in other times might have been a fine Emperor, the political end of the Medieval Greek state and the physical end of its leader acquired the dimensions of an apotheosis.
Behind the ancient walls of Constantinople the new Emperor followed his late brother's policies: he could not do much else. Thus, amid hostile reactions by most of the city's population, he attempted to revive the Union by proclaiming it in the Cathedral of Saint Sophia on December 12, 1452. No practical results came out of the enforced proclamation. Despite Constantine's final appeals to the Pope and to his Western allies, no crusade and no substantial help ever materialized. Promises and expressions of sympathy were all that was sent to him, and in any case he did not live long enough to receive them. As a matter of fact, in the middle of May of 1453 the Venetian Senate was still deliberating about sending a fleet to Constantinople. Even the Genoese colony of Pera, facing the capital, attempted to stay neutral. It did, but neutrality did not help it when the Sultan succeeded the Roman Emperors. To the people of the Capital, the only thing that mattered now, at the end of political freedom and at the beginning of the long darkness of foreign occupation, was holding on to the ancestral faith.
When the siege began the population of the capital amounted, including the refugees from the surrounding area, to about 50.000 people...The city's garrison included 5.000 Greeks and about 2.000 foreigners, most Genoese and Venetian. Giustiniani's men were well armed and trained, the rest included small units of well trained soldiers, armed civilians, sailors, volunteers from the foreign communities and also monks. What the defenders lacked in training and armament they possessed in fighting spirit. Indeed, most were killed fighting. A few small caliber artillery pieces, used by the garrison proved ineffective. Despite disagreement over religious policies, and what was seen as capitulation to the Pope, the civilian population supported the Emperor overwhelmingly. The alternative was disastrous. The population, both Greek and foreigner, fought until the bitter end.
At the beginning of 1453 the Sultan's army began massing on the plain of Adrianople. Troops came from every region of the Empire. Possibly over 150.000 men, including thousands of irregulars, from many nationalities, who were attracted by the prospect of looting, were ready to assault the city. The regular troops were well equipped and well trained. The elite corps of the Janissaries composed of abducted Christian children, forcibly converted to Islam, and subsequently trained as professional soldiers, constituted the spear-head of the Ottoman army. The besieging army included a number of artillery pieces, of which one, facing the Military Gate of St. Romanus, was particularly huge and was expected to cause heavy damage to the walls in that area. The army, accomplished by crowds of fanatic Dervishes, started moving slowly towards Constantinople. A few small towns, still in Greek hands, near the capital were soon occupied by the Sultan's army. Of those towns Selymvria resisted longer.
According to Islamic tradition the Sultan, before the beginning of hostilities, demanded the surrender of the city, promising to spare the lives of its inhabitants and respect their property. In a proud and dignified reply the Emperor rejected Mehmed's demand. Almost immediately the Ottoman guns began firing. The continuous bombardment soon brought down a section of the walls near the Gate of Charisius, north of the Emperor's position. When night fell, everyone, who was available, rushed to repair the damage. Meanwhile Ottoman troops were trying to fill the foss, particularly in areas in front of the weak sections of the walls which were now constantly bombarded. Other units began attempts to mine weak sections of the wall. On the port area a first attempt by the Ottoman fleet to test the defender's reaction failed.
The first assault was launched during the night of April 18. Thousands of men attacked the stockade and attempted to burn it down. Giustiniani, his men, and their Greek comrades fought valiantly. Well armed, protected by armor, fighting in a restricted area, they succeeded after four hours of bloody struggle to repulse the enemy.
While the artillery continued pounding the walls without interruption, preparations for the big assault, which was to take place on Tuesday 29th May, were accelerated. The Sultan swore to distribute fairly the treasures found in the city. According to tradition the troops were free to loot and sack the city for three days. He assured his troops that success was imminent, the defenders were exhausted, some sections of the walls had collapsed. It would be a general assault, throughout the line of the land-walls, as well as in the port area. Then the troops were ordered to rest and recover their strength.
In the city everyone realized that the great moment had come. During Monday, May 28, some last repairs were done on the walls and the stockades, in the collapsed sections, were reinforced. In the city, while the bells of the churches rang mournfully, citizens and soldiers joined a long procession behind the holy relics brought out of the churches. Singing hymns in Greek, Orthodox men, women, children, soldiers, civilians, clergy, monks and nuns, knowing that they were going to die shortly, made peace with themselves, with God and with eternity.
When the processions ended the Emperor met with his commanders and the notables of the city. In a philosophical speech he told his subjects that the end of their time had come. In essence he told them that Man had to be ready to face death when he had to fight for his faith, for his country, for his family or for his sovereign. All four reasons were now present. Furthermore, his subjects, who were the descendants of Greeks and Romans, had to emulate their great ancestors. They had to fight and sacrifice themselves without fear. They had lived in a great city and they were now going to die defending it. As for himself, he was going to die fighting for his faith, for his city and for his people...Meanwhile the great church of Saint Sophia was crowded. Thousands of people were moving towards the church. Inside, Orthodox priests were conducting the Diving Liturgy. People were singing hymns, others openly crying, other were asking each other for forgiveness. People confessed and took Holy Communion. Then those who were going to fight rode or walked back to the ramparts.
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God