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.
A PRAYER FOR THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST
(Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain)
Jesus, Son of the Father without a mother in Your Divinity, I glorify You, ever existing beyond cause and reason in the beginning. Jesus, Son of the Mother without a father in Your humanity, I glorify You, Who became in time a human person for us. Jesus, Immanuel unchangeable, Angel of the great will of God, I thank You for Your boundless love for us. Jesus, innocent Lamb of God, I confess to You For I have sinned against You far more than all other men. Jesus, my Good Shepherd, I always confess to You And admit that I am the lost sheep. Jesus, most compassionate Paraclete, Make the grace of Your Spirit active in me. Jesus, the New Adam, remove from me the old man And put on me the new one, that is, You. Jesus, You condescended and came to earth, Make me worthy to live not as if on earth but as if in heaven. Jesus, by nature You became a human person, Make me by grace to be a participant of Your Divinity. O Jesus, my life and my breath, come to visit me And remain with me. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On July 7th 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 every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Kyriake the Great Martyr of Nicomedia; Saint Acacius of Sinai, mentioned in The Ladder, Hieromartyr Efstathius; Saints Peregrinus, Lucian, Pompeius, Hesychius, Pappias, Saturninus, and Germanos in Macedonia; Saint Pantaenus the Confesor of Alexandria; Saint Thomas of Mt. Maleon; Saint Evangelos, Bishop of Tomi in Romania; Saint Efrosyni (Evdokia), Grand Duches of Moscow; New Holy Martyr Polycarp.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Hieromartyr, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Bishops, Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
HOLY AND GREAT MARTYR KYRIAKE OF NICOMEDIA. Saint Kyriake was the only child of Dorotheos and Efsevia. Since she was born on a Sunday (Kyriake, in Greek), she was named Kyriake.
One day a wealthy Magistrate wished to betroth Kyriake to his son. Not only was she young and beautiful, but her parents were wealthy, and the Magistrate wished to control that wealth. The Magistrate went to her parents to request her hand, but Saint Kyriake told him that she wished to remain a virgin, for she had dedicated herself to Christ.
The Magistrate was angered by her words, so he went to the pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian to denounce the Saint and her parents as Christians who mocked the idols, and refused to offer sacrifice to them. Diocletian sent soldiers to arrest the family and have them brought before him. He asked them why they would not honor the gods which he himself honored. They told him that these were false gods, and that Christ was the One True God.
Her father Dorotheos was beaten until the soldiers grew tired and were unable to continue. Since neither flattery nor torture had any effect, Diocletian sent Dorotheos and Efsevia to Melitene on the Eastern border between Cappadocia and Armenia. Then he sent Saint Kyriake to be interrogated by his son-in-law and co-ruler Maximian at Nicomedia. Maximian urged her not to throw herself away, promising her wealth and marriage to one of Diocletian's relatives if she would worship the pagan gods. Saint Kyriake replied that she would never renounce Christ, nor did she desire worldly riches. Enraged by her bold answer, Maximian had her flogged. The soldiers who administered this punishment became tired, and had to be replaced three times.
Shamed by his failure to overcome a young woman, Maximian sent Saint Kyriake to Hilarion, the Eparch of Bithynia, at Chalcedon. He told Hilarion to either convert Kyriake to paganism, or send her back to him. Making the same promise and threats that Diocletian and Maximian had made before, Hilarion was no more successful than they were. Saint Kyriake challenged him to do his worst, because Christ would help her to triumph. The Saint was suspended by her hair for several hours, while soldiers burned her body with torches. Not only did she endure all this, she also seemed t become more courageous under torture. Finally, she was taken down and put into a prison cell.
That night Christ appeared to her and healed her wounds. When Hilarion saw her the next day, he declared that she had been healed by the gods because they pitied her. Then Hilarion urged her to go to the temple to give thanks to the gods. She told him that she had been healed by Christ, but agreed to go to the temple. The Eparch rejoiced, thinking that he had defeated her.
In the temple, Saint Kyriake prayed that God would destroy the soulless idols. Suddenly, there was a great earthquake which toppled the idols, shattering them to pieces. Everyone fled the temple in fear, leaving Hilarion behind. Instead of recognizing the power of Christ, the Eparch blasphemed the True God as the destroyer of his pagan gods. He was struck by a bolt of lightning and died on the spot.
Saint Kyriake was tortured again by Apollonius, who succeeded Hilarion as Eparch. When she was cast into a fire, the flames were extinguished. When she was thrown to wild beasts, they became tame and gentle. Therefore, Apollonius sentenced her to death by the sword. She was permitted time to pray, so she asked God to receive her soul, and to remember those who honored her martyrdom.
Just as Saint Kyriake ended her prayer, Angels took her soul before the soldiers could strike off her head. Pious Christians took her holy relics and buried the in a place of honor.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Great Martyr. Fourth Tone
O Lord Jesus, unto thee Thy lamb doth cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, Thee I love, and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee: accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since Thou art great mercy.
Kontakion of the Great Martyr. Second Tone
The Martyr of Christ hath called us all together now to praise and acclaim her wrestlings and her godly feats; for possessed of manliness of mind, she hath proved to be worthy of her name, being lady and mistress of her mind and the passions of unseemliness.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 3:23-29, 4:1-5
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 5:24-34
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"True love of God, and of Divine knowledge, when it is joined with the soul's renunciation of its love affair with material embodiment, is our deliverance from all evil, and the short road to our salvation."
SAINT JOHN OF KRONSTADT: MY LIFE IN CHRIST
By John Sergieff
PRAYER: The Spirit of Prayer
Prayer is the lifting up of the mind and heart to God, the contemplation of God, the daring converse of the creature with the Creator, the soul reverently standing before Him, as before the King and the Life Itself, giving life to all; the oblivion of everything that surrounds us, the food of the soul; its air and light, its life-giving warmth, its cleansing from sin; the easy yoke of Christ, His light burden. Prayer is the constant feeling (the recognition) of our infirmity or spiritual poverty, the sanctification of the soul, the foretaste of future blessedness, Angelic bliss, the heavenly rain, refreshing, watering, and fertilizing the ground of the soul, the power and strength of the soul and body, the purifying and freshening of the mental air, the enlightenment of the countenance, the joy of the spirit, the golden link, uniting the creature to the Creator, courage and valor in all the afflictions and temptations of life, the lamp of life, success in all undertakings, dignity equal with the Angels, the strengthening of faith, hope and love. Prayer is the amendment of life, the mother of heartfelt contrition and tears...Prayer is holding all men in our hearts through love; the descent of heaven into the soul; the abiding of the Most Holy Trinity in the soul, in accordance with that which has been said: "We will come to him and will make Our abode with him."
Faith in Prayer
The chief thing in prayer for which we must care above all is--lively, clear-sighted faith in the Lord: represent Him vividly before yourself and within you--then ask of Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit whatever you desire and you will obtain it. Ask simply, without the slightest doubt--then your God will be everything to you, accomplishing in an instant great and wonderful acts, as the sign of the Cross accomplished great wonders (miracles). Ask for both spiritual and material blessings not only for yourself, but for all believers, for the whole body of the Church, not separating yourself from other believers, but in spiritual union with them, as a member of the one great body of the Church of Christ, and loving all, as your brethren or children in Christ, as the case may be. The Heavenly Father will find you with great peace and boldness.
Prayer breathes hope, and a prayer without hope is a sinful prayer. When you are praying, either inwardly only, or both inwardly and outwardly, be firmly convinced that the Lord is there, by you and within you, and hears every word, even if only said to yourself, even when you only pray mentally; speak from you whole heart, without in the least justifying yourself; have faith that the Lord will have mercy upon you--and you will not remain unforgiven. This is true. It is taken from experience.
Prayer is founded upon faith. I believe that there is a God, before whom I lay my prayer, that there is an Almighty, holding all creatures in the palm of His hand, and giving various kinds of voices to His creatures, for inward intercourse amongst themselves, but no needing any voice Himself. I trust that my prayer with reach Him, or, to speak more exactly, will go direct from my heart to His ears.
Humility in Prayer
Prayer is the proof of my reasonable personality, of my likeness to God, the pledge of my future godliness and blessedness. I was created from nothing. I am nothing before God, as having nothing of my own; but, by the mercy of God, I am a being endued with reason, with a heart, with free will, and by my reason and freedom I can, by turning with my heart to Him, continually increase in myself His infinite Kingdom, increase more and more His gifts in me, draw from Him, as from an ever-flowing inexhaustible source, every blessing, both spiritual and material, especially spiritual ones. Prayer instills in me that I am the image of God, that by the humble and thankful disposition of my soul before God, and by the humble and thankful disposition of my soul before God, and by my free will, I infinitely increase in myself the spiritual gifts of God, that I can thus infinitely improve myself can increase to infinity my likeness to God.
Pronounce the words of the prayer with heartfelt firmness. When praying in the evening, do not forget to confess in prayer to the Holy Spirit with all sincerity and contrition those sins into which you have fallen during the past day. A few moments of fervent repentance and you will be cleansed by the Holy Spirit from every impurity; you will be whiter than snow, and tears, purifying the heart, will flow from your eyes; you will be covered with the garment of Christ's righteousness and united to Him, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Sincerity in Prayer
Concerning hypocritical prayer. Did the Pharisees think that they prayed hypocritically? They did not think so; they considered themselves to be right in their hypocrisy itself! It had become their habit; it had become, so to say, their nature; and they thought they were serving God by their prayer. Do the Christian hypocrites of the present day think that they pray and live hypocritically? They do not think so. They pray daily, perhaps long; they pray out of habit with their lips, but not with their hearts, without hearty contrition, without a firm desire for amendment, and only in order to fulfill the established rule, and "think" that they do "God service," whilst by their prayer they only incur the wrath of God. We all more or less sin in praying hypocritically, and shall be greatly censured for this. Humble yourself, consider yourself as the grass, which is worthless in comparison to the ancient oak-trees, or as a prickly thorn, which is nothing, which is worthless in comparison to the fragrant and delicate flowers; for you are indeed grass; you are indeed a prickly thorn, by reason of your passions.
Forced prayer develops hypocrisy, renders a man incapable of any occupation requiring meditation, and makes him slothful in everything, even in fulfilling his duties. This should persuade all who pray in this manner to correct their mode of praying. We must pray gladly, with energy, from the whole heart. Do not pray to God only when you are obliged to, either in sorrow or in need, for "God loveth a cheerful giver."
During prayer always firmly believe and remember that every thought and word of yours may, undoubtedly, become deeds. "Because no word shall be impossible with God.' "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit." This signifies that even your words shall not be without power. "All things are possible to him that believeth." Take heed of your words; the word is precious. "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of Judgment."
Perseverance in Prayer
It is said that we soon grow weary of praying. Wherefore? Because we do not vividly represent to ourselves the Lord, Who is at our right hand. Look upon Him unceasingly with the eyes of your heart, and then, even if you stand praying all night, you will not grow weary. What do I say--all night? You will be able to stand thus praying two and three nights without growing weary. Remember the Stylites. They stood for many years in a prayerful disposition of soul on pillars or columns, and mastered their flesh, which was the same as yours, and which was also inclined to slothfulness. And you feel oppressed by a few hours' public prayers, even by one hour's prayers...
Our heart daily dies spiritually. Only ardent, tearful prayer quickens it, and makes it begin to breathe again. If we do not daily pray with sufficient spiritual fervor, we may easily and speedily die spiritually.
Hindrances to Prayer
During prayer there sometimes occur moments of deadly darkness and spiritual anguish arising from unbelief of the heart (for unbelief is darkness). Do not let your heart fail you at such moments, but remember that if the Divine Light has been cut off from you, it always shines in all its splendor and greatness in God Himself, in God's Church, in heaven and on earth, and in the material world in which "His eternal power also and divinity" are visible. Do not think that Truth has failed, because Truth is God Himself, and everything that exists has its foundation and reason in Him. Only your own weak, sinful and darkened heart can fail in the Truth, for it cannot always bear the strength of the Light of Truth, and is not always capable of containing its purity, but only if it's being, or has been, purified from its sins, as the first cause of spiritual darkness. The proof for this you may find in yourself. When the Light of faith or God's Truth dwells in your heart, only then is it tranquil, firm, strong, and living; but when this is cut off, then your heart becomes uneasy, weak as a reed shaken by the wind, and lifeless. Do not pay any attention to this darkness of Satan. Drive away from your heart by making the sign of the Life-Giving Cross!
When praying, keep to the rule that it is better to say five words from the depth of your heart than ten thousand words with your tongue only. When you observe that your heart is cold and prays unwillingly, stop praying and warm your heart by vividly representing to yourself either your own wickedness, your spiritual poverty, misery, and blindness, or the great benefits which God bestows every moment upon you and all mankind, especially upon Christians, and then pray slowly and fervently. If you have not time to say all the prayers, it does not matter, and you will receive incomparably greater benefit from praying fervently and not hurriedly than if you had said all your prayers hurriedly and without feeling: "I had rather speak five words with my understanding...that ten thousand words in a tongue."
When you pray, endeavor to pray more for others than for yourself alone, and during prayer represent to yourself vividly all men as forming one body with yourself, and each separately as a member of the Body of Christ and your own member, "for we are members of one another." Pray for all as you would pray for yourself, with the same sincerity and fervor; look upon their infirmities and sicknesses as your own; their spiritual ignorance, their sins and passions, as your own; their temptation, misfortunes, and manifold afflictions as your own. Such prayer will be accepted with great fervor by the Heavenly Father, that most gracious, common Father of all, with Whom "there is no respect of persons," "no shadow of alteration," that boundless Love that embraces and preserves all creatures.
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