My beloved spiritual 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 ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name. You will prolong the king's life, his years as many generations. He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him! So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may daily perform my vows.
[The psalmist gives thanks to the Lord, for himself and for the people, who have been saved by faith. He promises God he will sing praise to His name until the end. This psalm is used as a prayer for protection."The heritage of those who fear Your name" (v.5) is the salvation of God Himself. This is prayed as the evening prokeimenon (gradual) of Sunday Vespers during Lent.]
Saint John Chrysostom
"When prayer enters into the souls, every other virtue will enter also. For what the foundation is for the house, this is what prayer is for the soul. And it is necessary to have prayer, as a basis and a sort of root implanted first in everyone so that all may be able to also cultivate prudence, meekness, righteousness, care for the poor and all the commandments of Christ, through Whom glory and dominion be to the Father together with the Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages. Amen."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On July 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 perfect in our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: The Deposition of the Precious Raiment of the Most Holy Theotokos in her holy shrine at Vlachernae (Constantinople), during the reign of Leo the Great and Verina his wife; Holy Martyr Quintus of Phrygia, and our Father among the Saints Juvenal, Archbishop of Jerusalem; our Righteous Mother Monegunda of Chartres; Saint Swithin, Bishop of Winchester; our Father among the Saints Photius, Metropolitan of Kiev; Saint Stephen the Great, Prince of Moldavia; Holy Hieromartyr Juvenal of Alaska.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Archbishops, Holy Bishops, Holy Metropolitans, Holy Princes, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Confessors, Holy Righteous, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
The Deposition of the Precious Raiment of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos in Vlachernae. During the reign of Leo the Great (457-474 A.D.), two patricians and brethren on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land lodged with an old widow, a Christian of Jewish descent. Seeing the many miracles wrought at a small shrine in her house, they pressed her until she revealed to them that she had raiment of the Most Holy Theotokos kept in a small coffer. Our Lady had had two virgins in her lifetime who attended upon her; before her Holy Dormition (Koimisis), she gave each other them one of her divine garments as a blessing. This old widow was of the family of one of those two virgins, and it had come through the generations into her hands. With the permission of God, that this holy relic be had for the profit of many, the two men took the garment by stealth and brought it to Vlachernae near Constantinople, and building a church in honor of the Apostles Peter and Mark, they secretly enshrined the garment therein. But here again, because of the multitude of miracles that were worked, it became known to the Emperor Leo, and a magnificent church was built, as some say, by that same Leo, but according to others, by his predecessors Marcian and Pulcheria, and enlarged by Leo when the holy raiment was found. The Emperor Justin the Younger completed the church, which the Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes raised up immediately again after it had burned in 1070. It burned again in 1434, and from that time it remained a small house of prayer together with the renowned holy spring. After the 7th century, the name Vlachernae was given to other churches and monasteries by their pious founders out of reverence for this famous church in Constantinople. In this church John Catacuzenos was crowned in 1345; also, the Council against Acindynus, the followers of Varlaam, was convoked here (see the Second Sunday of the Great Fast).
HOLY HIEROMARTYR JUVENAL, ENLIGHTENER OF AMERICA. Saint Juvenal (together with Saint Herman (Germanos); see Dec. 12) was a member of the first mission sent from Russia to proclaim the Gospel in the New World. He was a priest-monk, and a zealous follower of the Apostles, and baptized hundreds of the natives of Alaska. He was martyred by enraged pagans in 1796.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Holy Theotokos. Plagal of Fourth Tone
O Ever-Virgin Theotokos, shelter of mankind, thou hast bestowed upon they people a mightily investure, even thine immaculate body's raiment and sash, which by thy seedless childbirth have remained incorrupt; for in thee nature and time are made new. Wherefore, we implore thee to grant peace to the world, and great mercy to our souls.
Kontakion of Saint Jevenal. Fourth Tone
As the first to grace our land, O sacred Martyr, with confession unto death, keep us who honor thee with hymns in the confession of Jesus Christ, O righteous Father, most venerable Juvenal.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 9: 1-7
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 1:39-49, 56
INSPIRING SAYING FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"It is from faith thus formed that the fear of God is born, which impels a man to repent and to observe the Commandments of God. And a man is therefore made worthy by God of spiritual knowledge, which consists of sensing the mysteries (of God). This spiritual knowledge is not born of fear (for how can there be produced by birth that which something does not by nature have existing in itself?), but is given by God to the man who, by works of repentance, is worthy of it, it being the result of God's Grace, which is given to those betrothed to God by Holy Baptism." (Abba[Father] Isaac) [Source: The Evergetinos)
CAN ONE BE SAVED WHILE LIVING IN THE WORLD?
To this question, we, the Pastors of the Church, not infrequently hear from you, our pious readers, this response: "How are we to be saved, Father! Were we living in a monastery or in some desert-that would a different matter. But here, even when you want to pray or to think about your sins, there is no time; either there is work to be done, or household affairs must be put in order. Far from salvation are we sinners!-it is difficult for us in the world to be saved!"
But I say to you, our pious readers, that you also are just as close to salvation as those who live in monasteries and deserts. You also have as much of an opportunity to care for your souls as those who have devoted their whole life to the service of God alone. It is not worldly affairs that destroy us, but rather is our evil will; location and occupation do not save us, but rather faith and good deeds. Of course, in the world there are more seductions and hindrances to salvation than in monasteries and deserts; however, the more arduous the warfare, the greater the victory; the more perilous the struggle, the more splendid the crowns. It is not difficult to be a faster when there is a dearth of food and drink, but it is glorious to refrain from surfeiting and drunkenness when food and drink are set forth in abundance. It is not difficult for someone not weighed down by a family to be non-possessive; but it is amazing to see an unmercenary who has a wife and children. For we, dear children, are not the first to come into the world, nor shall we be last. Meanwhile, how many lay people, like you, often completely illiterate, were saved and now abide in bliss there-in the mansions of our heavenly Father. Be manful, struggle, do not give in to the temptations and seductions of the world, walk according to the Commandments of the Lord and-you will be saved.
A city dweller, in conversation with the Venerable Niphont, when setting forth various difficulties in attaining salvation, said-similarly as you say to us pastors-that whoever wants to save his soul, needs to go to a monastery or to a desert and become a monk, for in the world he will in no wise ever be saved, "Child!" -the Venerable One answered him: "The place will not save a man nor destroy him; only deeds save or destroy. No benefit will accrue from a holy place or a holy calling to him who does not fulfill the Lord's Commandments."
"Saul lived amidst royal splendor and perished; David lived amidst the very same splendor, and received a crown. Lot lived amongst the iniquitous inhabitants of Sodom, and was saved; Judas was found in the choir of the Apostles, and inherited Gehenna. Whoever says that with a wife and children it is not possible to be saved, flatters his ignorance and his vices. Abraham had a wife and children, three hundred and eighty male and female slaves, and much gold and silver; however, this did not hinder him from acquiring the name, "Friend of God." How many ministers of the Church and lovers of the desert were saved! How many grandees and warriors! How many craftsmen and landholders! How many in the midst of noisy capitals and in quiet villages! On the other hand, in those very same callings and conditions, in those same places and at the same time, an innumerable multitude of people perished. From kings to slaves, there come children of the Kingdom of Heaven, and from kings to slaves, there come children of perdition. O Son of Christ's Church! Do not incline in your mind and heart toward the seductions of the world; in every place the salvation of our God may be found, and in every place it is possible to fulfill His Holy Will. The Lord accepts in His embrace each righteous soul in the same way-whether from off a throne or from behind a plow, from before an altar or from a field of battle. And so, is there someone living in the world? Let him not despair. Is there someone who falls into sin? Through repentance he can again draw near to God. Let each of you fulfill the duties of the calling in which God has placed you. Be pious and loving toward your fellow man, and-you will be saved. Conversely, even if one should go off into the still desert, but does not cast aside his evil ways and evil will, he will inevitably perish."
There can be found many people, famous in the history of the Church, who by their example confirm this truth. How did Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel become renowned, if not by means of their domestic virtues? Joseph was an affectionate and submissive son in the house of Jacob, a diligent and devoted servant in the house of his Egyptian lord, a virtuous comrade and a wise counselor and a comforter of the unfortunate while in prison; and for this he later became a savior for Egypt and the benefactor of his nation. When Ruth-who is worthy of love-sacrificed her own peace in order to comfort the old age of her mother-in-law, she received as a reward not only a famous spouse, but also the glory of being a foremother of Jesus Christ. Be not amazed at God's great favor toward domestic virtues, and do not at all consider them insignificant. Within this close circle, the fulfilling of the law begins; here is laid the foundation, without which the edifice of public virtues cannot endure, because if a person does not fulfill his family obligations, that is, if he does not respect the tranquility and the well-being of those who are united to him by bonds of blood or by other kinship ties, how can it be expected that he would want to fulfill his obligations towards those whom he calls-although completely unjustly-strangers?
A household is an example in miniature society. The same virtues contribute to prosperity and the same vices lead to misfortune for both the one and the other. Having learned to be useful members of a family, you will, without a doubt, be useful members of society. The virtuous spouse, father and son bring into society also the virtues found in their own homes-in the same way that those infected with vices at home bring these also with them into society. In a word, the ability to order, to obey, to maintain tranquility in the home-this is the primary foundation for the science of social behavior and, I might add, for the science of government. Therefore, the Apostle Paul, in depicting how a ruler of the Church should live, prescribes that he possess all of the domestic virtues: He "must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" [1 Timothy 3:2-5]. That which is said here concerning serving the Church also be said regarding serving one's country; because good deeds are needed everywhere and God accepts them as true service unto Himself. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (St. Matthew 18:20). This is why the families and homes of the first Christians were truly churches and temples of the Lord ("domestic" or "kat' oikon" ecclesia).
From the above mentioned sacred examples and instructions, the following truth emerges: There is a common path, along which God leads all Christians to the Kingdom of Heaven-the path of Christian life. But each person can attain this common path by no other means than by that particular and special way which is opened to him through fulfilling his primary obligations. These obligations begin in the family; rising higher, they pass over into social circumstances; finally, attaining their aim, they fashion the True Christian, the complete person, the fruit-bearing branch of Christ.
Therefore, if you wish to enjoy well-being both in this life and beyond it, be devout; that is, fulfill those obligations to the glory of God, which, in accordance with your age and calling, the Lord has laid upon you in your household. This devotion is just as necessary for you as clean air is for breathing. Breath, live, delight in your devotion. The Author and Finisher of our salvation Himself guides us to this by His own example. He fulfilled all his household obligations toward Joseph and His Most Pure Mother and lived in obedience to them.
(Source: The Family of the Orthodox Christian, a collection of sermons, reflections, accounts and poems. Saint Andrew Orthodox Publications Society.)
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.
May the Lord God strengthen the holy and pure faith of devout Orthodox Christians, and of His Holy Church, this city and Parish, to the endless ages. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God