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 CONTRITE PRAYER TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
O Christ our God, at all times and at every hour, in heaven and on earth, You are worshipped and glorified; You are long-suffering, most merciful, most compassionate, You love the righteous and have mercy upon the sinners; You call everyone to salvation through the promise of future blessings; Receive, O Lord, our prayers at this hour and direct our life toward Your Commandments. Sanctify our souls; make our bodies chaste; Correct our thoughts; purify our intentions; and deliver us from every grief and pain that comes from evil. Encompass us by Your holy Angels, so that guarded and guided by them we may attain to the unity of the faith and to the knowledge of Your inapproachable glory, for You are Blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On July 8th 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 Procopius of Caesarea in Palestine; Saint Theodosia, mother of Great Martyr Procopius; New Holy Martyr Anastasios at Constantinople; Saint Theophilos the Myrrh-gusher of Pantocrator Monastery; Saint Mirdat, king of Kartli; Saint Epictetos and Astion in Scythian Minor; Saint Procopius, fool-for-Christ of Vologda; Saint Procopius, wonderworker of Ustiug; Holy Martyr Abdas; Appearances of the "Kazan" Holy Icon of the Mother of God; "Our Lady of Sitka" Holy Icon of the Mother of God.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy fools-for-Christ, Holy Wonderworkers, Holy Fathers, Holy Confessors, Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
GREAT AND HOLY MARTYR PROCOPIUS OF CAESAREA. The conversion of Procopius was as profound as those of Apostle Paul and Constantine the Great. Raised by a pagan mother, Neanias, as he was then known, was appointed Duke of Alexandria by the pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian. As he was en route with his soldiers to slaughter the Christians of that city by order of Diocletian, an earthquake struck and Jesus appeared to him. Jesus asked him where he was going and against whom, but Neanias could not recognize Him. Then a brilliant cross appeared in the sky and His voice said that He was the crucified Son of God. Neanias was instructed to overcome his enemies, and that Jesus would be with him. Neanias and two soldiers were converted there. He turned his army instead on marauders that had laid siege to Jerusalem and vanquished them. He visited the holy places there and announced to his mother that he was a Christian. When he and others visited a pagan temple, it collapsed as the last person fled. He was arrested, tortured, and imprisoned. Jesus appeared to him, baptized him, and gave him his Christian name, Procopius. When twelve Christian women visited him in prison, they were arrested. St. Procopius instructed them and prepared them for martyrdom. His mother, seeing them tortured, also became a Christian, and all the women were killed. When Saint Procopius was about to be beheaded, he prayed for the poor, the widowed, and the continued growth of the Church.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Timothy 2:1-10
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:37-11:1
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He turns away when we make the Sign of the Cross." (Saint Anthony the Great)
THE TEMPLE AND ITS SERVICES
By Saint John of Kronstadt (Source: A Treasury of Russian Spirituality)
The House of God
O holy temple, how good, how sweet it is to pray in thee! For where can there be ardent prayer if not within thy walls, before the throne of God, and before the face of Him Who sitteth upon it? Truly the soul melts from prayerful emotion, and tears flow down the cheeks like water. It is sweet to pray for all.
In the church we are freed from worldly enchantment, and from the intoxication of worldly passions and desires; we become enlightened, sanctified, cleansed in our souls; we draw near to God, we are united with God. How worthily reverenced and loved should the temple of God be! How God's Saints loved it!
Truly, the temple is heaven upon earth; for where the throne of God is, where the terrible mysteries are celebrated, where the Angels serve together with men, where the Almighty is unceasingly glorified, there is truly heaven, and the heaven of heavens. And thus let us enter into the temple of God, and above all, into the Holy of Holies, with the fear of God, with a pure heart, laying aside all passions and every worldly care, and let us stand in it with faith and reverence, with understanding attention, with love and peace in our hearts, so that we may come away renewed, as though made heavenly; so that we may live in the holiness natural to heaven, not binding ourselves by worldly desires and pleasures.
In the temple of God the simple, believing souls are as in the house of the Heavenly Father: they feel so free, so happy and light. Here true Christians have a foretaste of the future Kingdom, prepared for them from the foundation of the world, of future freedom from every sin and from death, of future peace and blessedness. When do they especially have a foretaste of this? When they turn sincerely with all their soul to God, praying fervently to God, taking the firm resolution to devote their lives to God, and when doing deeds of virtue outside the temple.
The spiritual tranquility and blessedness which we sometimes experience in God's temple during the harmonious singing and the distinct reading of the reader, or of the officiating clergy, is a foretaste of that infinite bliss which those will experience who will eternally contemplate the unspeakable beauty of God's countenance. We must be zealous about harmonious singing and distinct reading. By calling upon the names of God's Saints in prayer we move them to pray for us.
Is it only for the adornment of your dwelling, as a beautiful piece of furniture, as an ornament, that you hang up richly painted icons in your house, without turning to them with the heart faith, love and reverence due to holy things? Ask your heart if it is so. Icons in houses or in the temple are not intended for show but for prayer before them, for reverence, for instruction. The images of the Saints ought to be our home and church teachers. Read their lives, and engrave them upon your heart, and endeavor to bring your life into conformity with theirs.
In making the Sign of the Cross, believe and constantly remember that your sins are nailed to the Cross. When you fall into sin, immediately judge yourself sincerely, and make the sign of the cross over yourself, saying: Lord, Thou Who nailest our sins to the Cross, nail also my present sin to Thy Cross, and "have mercy upon me according to Thy great mercy"; and you will be cleansed from your sin.
It is impossible to represent and to think of the Cross without love. Where the Cross is, there is love; in the church you see crosses everywhere and upon everything, in order that everything should remind you that you are in the temple of the God of love, in the temple of love itself, crucified for us.
Elder Cleopa of Sihastria
In speaking to the people on prayer, the elder (gerondas) said, "Do not theologize in prayer and do not allow thoughts to come into your mind; instead, pour out tears. There are sentries from hell that take up their watch at the gateway of man's imagination. These bring all kinds of thoughts to our minds when we pray and contemplate on Scripture, saying "The mountains leap like goats and the little hills like lambs" (Psalm 114:4, 6). Then these same sentries from the underworld ask you, 'What are the mountains? What are the hills?' They themselves offer their interpretation, 'The mountains are spiritual men and the hills are those who are on the next step of the spiritual ladder.' All this is in order to distract you from prayer."
Together with private prayer, Fr. Cleopa always urged those who came to him to attend the Divine Liturgy...He insisted that, if for some reason a person could not go to the Liturgy on Sunday, then that person must send another member of his family--husband or wife, children--as the 'apostle of the family.' The one at home should spend that time reading from the Holy Scripture and other holy books, praying, eating nothing until the 'apostle for the family' would return home from the Divine Liturgy with a piece of antidoron for him.
He would stress the importance of the Church, saying, "The Church is our mother! Do not depart from the Church; for it is there that we are united with Christ. That is where Martha and Mary come together. Hold fast to the order of the services, and obey the fasts and feasts according to the Church tipicon. The Church upholds all of us!"
Together with prayer and fasting, the elder also counseled the people to give alms generously.
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