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.
PRAYERS OF THE FIRST AND THE THIRD HOUR
The Prayer Services for the Hours have been determined by the Church to be read at the various intervals of the day, that is, at approximately 8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. The four Services of the Hours, however, are usually read in church together on the major pre-feast days, with designated readings from Sacred Scripture and special festal hymns, in anticipation of the great Feast days of the Church. When the Hours are read privately, two are said in the morning and two in the afternoon. But whenever it is possible, the First Hour (or even also the Third) may be read after breakfast by the whole family before the holy icons as a family prayer.
A PRAYER FROM THE FIRST HOUR
O Eternal God, the Uncreated Light, Infinite and without beginning, the Creator of all creation, the inexhaustible source of mercy, the deep ocean of goodness, and the unsearchable abyss of loving-kindness for mankind, let the Light of Your Countenance, O Lord, shine upon us, illuminate our hearts, O spiritual Sun of Righteousness, and fill our souls with Your gladness. Teach us always to meditate and to speak of Your judgments, direct the work of our hands to conform with Your Will, and support us in doing what You love and what pleases You. Thus, even through our unworthiness, Your All-Holy Name will be glorified, the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, to Whom befits all glory, honor and worship, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
ON THE IMPORTANCE AND NECESSITY OF PRAYER
"Prayer is God's greatest gift to fallen man. As such, prayer is also man's greatest power, which he can use to rediscover and restore the original beauty, the original glory and honor of his nature, created in the image and likeness of God. Prayer has indeed strengthened all the Saints, and it can also strengthen us. Consequently, prayer should not be seen as simply one of the virtues, or merely a duty we must fulfill as Christians. Rather, we must see prayer as constituting the natural and perfect stance of man as a creation of God. In other words, prayer reveals the very essence of human existence and interprets what it means to be a human being, that is, a person whose existence is always understood in relation to the True and Living God."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On June 5th 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 Dorotheos, Bishop of Tyre; Abba[Father] Dorotheos of Palestine; Saints Marcian, Nicander, Heperechius, Apollonius, Leonidas, Arius, Gorgias, Selenias, Irenaeus, and Pambo of Egypt; Saint Christopher of Rome; Saint Conon of Rome; Saint Constantine, Metropolitan of Kiev; Saint Illidius of Gaul; Saint Dorotheos, Egoumenos (Abbot) at Chiliokama; Saint Agapius and St. Nicodemos of the Monastery of Vatopedi; Saint Theodore Yaroslavich, brother of Saint Alexander Nevsky; Saint Peter of Korisha, Serbia; Saint Boniface of Credition, England, Archbishop of Mainz (Germany); New Holy Martyr Mark of Smyrna, in Chios.
+By the holy intercessions of your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Ascetics, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Egoumenoi, Holy Monks, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
HIEROMARTYR DOROTHEOS, BISHOP OF TYRE. Saint Dorotheos endured persecutions during the reigns of four Christian-hating emperors: Maximian, Diocletian, Licinius, and Julian the Apostate. He authored works in Greek and Latin, including the lives of many Apostles and other Saints. He also wrote a lucid interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, as well as other articles of the Orthodox Christian faith still admired today. Between persecutions, he attended the First Ecumenical Council of Niacaea, which lasted for several years. From then until the year 361 AD, he attended to his duties as bishop of Tyre. At the age of 107, he was arrested by Julian the Apostate and tortured to death.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 25:13-19
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint John 16:23-33
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Live through lowliness of mind instead of going to your death through pretentious pride. We should not set ourselves up as guideposts, we should not consider ourselves sagacious (i.e., wise), we should not believe that we can direct ourselves. We need assistance; we need guidance in addition to God's grace." (Saint Dorotheos of Gaza)
SAINT SYMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN
"The world is death, for what does it have that is not transient?" (St. Symeon the New Theologian)
The ascetical and practical works of Saint Symeon the New Theologian hit with an impact that is unforgettable and almost unforgiving towards lukewarm Christian living.
In his Practical and Theological writings he says, "When a man walks in the fear of God he knows no fear, even if he were to be surrounded by wicked men. He has the fear of God within him and wears the invincible armor of faith. This makes him strong and able to take on anything, even things which seem difficult or impossible to most people. Such a man is like a giant surrounded by monkeys, or a roaring lion among dogs and foxes. He goes forward trusting in the Lord and the constancy of his will to strike and paralyze his foes. He wields the blazing club of the Word in wisdom".
He writes, "The roof of any house stands upon the foundations and the rest of the structure. The foundations themselves are laid in order to carry the roof. This is both useful and necessary, for the roof cannot stand without the foundations and the foundations are absolutely useless without the roof--no help to any living creature in the same way the grace of God is preserved by the practice of the Commandments, and the observance of these Commandments is laid down like foundations through the gift of God. The grace of the Spirit cannot remain with us without the practice of the Commandments, but the practice of the Commandments is of no help or advantage to us without the grace of God."
Our holy Fathers, he says, have renounced all other spiritual work and concentrated wholly on this one doing, that is, on guarding the heart, convinced that, through this practice, they would easily attain other virtue, whereas without it not a single virtue can be firmly established."
He says, "for those who believe in Him, Christ will become all this and even more, beyond enumeration, not only in the age to come but first in this life, and then in the world to come. Though in an obscure way there below and in a perfect manner in the Kingdom, those who believe see clearly nonetheless and receive as of now the first-fruits of everything they will have in the future life. Indeed, if they do not receive on earth everything that was promised to them, they do not have any part of foretaste of the blessings to come, their higher hope being set on the hereafter. However, it is through death and the resurrection that God in His foresight has given us the Kingdom, incorruptibility, the totality of life Eternal. Given these conditions, we unquestionably become partakers of the good things to come, that is, incorruptible, immortal, sons of God, sons of the light and of the day, inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven, since we carry the Kingdom within."
According to Saint Symeon the New Theologian there are three ways of attention and prayer by which the soul can be lifted and become spiritually exulted, or crumble and perish. If these three ways are used appropriately and at the right time, the soul will be lifted, whilst if they are used unreasonably and at the wrong time, the soul will perish. Attention therefore should be tied and inseparable to prayer, in the way that the body is tied and inseparable to the soul. Attention should have the lead and mind for enemies as a guard, and fight sin, and resist evil thoughts of the soul. It should be then succeeded by prayer, which will destroy all those evil thoughts which attention fought against earlier, since attention alone is not able to do this.
It is this war of attention and prayer on which both life and death of the soul depend. By attention that we keep our prayer safe and therefore we progress: if we do not have attention to keep it clear and we leave it unguarded, then it is infected by evil thoughts and we become wicked and hopeless. Hence, the ways of attention and prayer are three, we ought to explain the features of each one and leave the choice to whoever may wish to find salvation.
The first way of attention and prayer
The features of the first way are these: one stands to pray by raising his hands towards the sky together with his eyes and mind. He imagines divine concepts, the good things of Heaven, the armies of the holy Angels, the residences of the Saints and, in short, he gathers in his mind all that he has heard from the Holy Scriptures. He recalls them in the time of his prayer looking at the sky, and he exhorts his soul to what seems to be love and eros of God's compassion for Him. Hence he pleads with God to always grant him worthy of such deeds which are, however, signs of error.
A good thing ceases to be good, when it is carried out in the wrong way or at the wrong time. To such an extent this is the case here that, if this person finds perfect solitude, it will be impossible for him not to lose his mind. Should this not happen, it will still be impossible for him to acquire any virtues or detachment from the earthly...Others have been mislead by accepting the Devil who was transformed and appeared to them as an angel of light, and they have remained uncorrected until the very end, without wanting to hear any advice from their brothers. Some of them were even incited by the Devil and committed suicide, whilst others were crumbled and others became insane. Who can describe the various illusions of the Devil by which he misleads them.
The second way of attention and prayer
The second way is this: when someone concentrates his mind in himself, detaching it from all that is earthly, guarding his senses, and gathering his thoughts so that they are not scattered to the vain things of the world. Sometimes he examines his thoughts and sometimes he pays attention to the words of the prayer he recites. Sometimes he returns to his thoughts that were trapped by the Devil and were drawn to that which is evil and vain, and sometimes with much effort and struggle he comes back to himself, after being defeated and possessed by some weakness.
Having this battle and war with himself, he cannot find peace nor time to do the virtuous good deeds and receive the crown of righteousness. For this man is like the one who fights a war against his enemies in darkness and night, who hears the voices of the enemy and suffers being stabbed, yet he cannot see clearly who they are, where they came from and how, and why they are attacking him. For this damage is caused by the darkness in his mind and the confusion in his thoughts and therefore he can never escape from his enemies, the demons, so that they will stop defeating him...
The third way of attention and prayer
The third way is indeed strange and difficult to explain, whilst, to those who are not aware of it, it is often incomprehensible, appearing unreal and impossible that any such thing can happen. This is because in these days the third way is not found in many, but rather in very few. As I understand, this virtue abandoned us together with obedience, since it is the obedience one shows to his spiritual father which makes one truly free, leaving all the cares to him and staying away from the struggles of this world, whilst being a diligent artisan of this third way. (That is, if one finds a real spiritual father who has no error!) Thus he who dedicates himself and all the care to God and the spiritual father, by real obedience is no longer living his own life where he does his own wishes, but is free from any struggle of the world or his body...
But you, my friend, if you seek your salvation you should start in this way: after the perfect obedience which we said you should have to your spiritual father, you should then conduct all your deeds with a clear conscience, as if you had God in front of you, for conscience can never be clear without obedience. You should keep your conscience clear towards these things: God, spiritual father, other people and earthly things. Towards God, it is an obligation to keep your conscience clear by avoiding the things you are aware that He neither likes nor give Him any joy. Towards your spiritual father you should do the things he orders you to do, doing nothing more and nothing else, living according to his plan and wish. As for the other people, you should keep your conscience clear by not doing to them any of the things you hate and do not wish them to do to you. Towards the earthly it is your obligation to restrain yourself from abuses, using them all appropriately, food as well as drinking and clothes. In short, you should do everything as if you had God in front of you, making sure that your conscience does not restrain nor condemn you for not doing something right. This is the beginning of the true and firm route of the third way of attention and prayer."
As has been said, the first and the second way do not bring any spiritual advancement. When we want to build a house, we do not make the roof first and then lay the foundation--for this is impossible--but we firstly lay the foundation, then build the house and then add the roof. We should do the same in spiritual matters: first lay the foundation, which is to guard the heart and cast out its weaknesses; then build the spiritual house, which is to cast out the evil spirits fighting us through our senses; finally, having overcome the war as soon as possible, add the roof, which to depart from all things earthly, and give ourselves completely to God. Thus we complete our spiritual house in Christ our God, to Whom all glory is due, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God