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 SINCERE PRAYER TO THE ALMIGHTY GOD
Lord God Almighty, the God of heavenly Powers and of every human being, You dwell in high heaven, yet look after the humble, You examine the hearts and the inner nature of people and You know well their hidden things; You are the Divine and Uncreated Light for which there is no comparison and no chance to be over-shadowed; You Yourself, O Immortal King, accept our prayerful petitions, at this present time of the night, as we take courage, from the multitude of Your Loving-kindness, to address them to You with unclean lips: Forgive us our transgressions in deed, in word and in thought, which we have knowingly or unknowingly committed. Cleanse us from every defilement of flesh and spirit and make us temples of your Holy Spirit. Grant us, O Lord, to pass through the whole night of this present life with a vigilant heart and a clear mind, awaiting eagerly for the appearance of the bright and luminous day of Your Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. On that day He will come again to earth with glory as the Judge of all to render unto each person according to their works. By not lying down and being at rest, but by being vigilant and awake in the practice of His Commandments, may we be found ready to enter with Him into the great joy of the divine bridal chamber of His Glory, where there is the never ceasing sound of those rejoicing and the inexpressible delight of those who look upon the ineffable beauty of Your Person. For You are the True Light Who enlightens an sanctifies all things, and all creation in turn praises and glorifies you unto the ages of ages. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On July 9th 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 Pancratius, Bishop of Taormina; Saint Cyril, Bishop of Gortyna in Crete; Saint Dionysius the Rhetorician and Saint Metrophanes of Mt. Athos; Saints Patermuthios, Copres, and Alexander the soldier, in Egypt; Saint Methodius of Amaria, Crete; Saint Panges (Basias); Saint Peter of Vologda; Holy Martys Andrew and Provus; Saint Theodosios, stylite of Edessa; Saint Efthymius of Karelia; Saint Everild of England; Saint Killian, Colman, and Torman, at Wurzburg.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Bishops, Holy Soldiers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Monks, Holy Mothers, Holy Teachers, Holy Stylites, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HIEROMARTYR CYRIL, BISHOP OF GORTYNA IN CRETE. As an old man of 84, he was tortured for Christ during Decius' reign. Cast into the flames, he was saved by the providence of God. Then the judge pronounced this sentence: "Just judgment cannot tolerate that Cyril, having been delivered from fire, remain among the living. I therefore command that he be killed with the sword.' The old man joyfully laid his head under the sword and was beheaded, to live eternally in the Kingdom of Christ.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 15:7-16
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 12:38-45
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Often when someone throws a rock at a dog, rather than rushing at the person who threw the stone, the dog will run and bite the stone. We do the same thing. The tempter uses someone else to tempt us, either in word or deed, and, rather than deal with the tempter, who threw the stone, we bite the rock, our fellow man that the hater of the good used against us." (Geronda [Elder] Amphilochios of Patmos)
A MIRACLE WROUGHT THROUGH ALMSGIVING
By Elder Cleopa of Sihastria
Counsels to Laity
In speaking of the significance of almsgiving and mercy, again Fr. Cleopa stressed the importance of these virtues by relating a story.
"Emperor Nicephoros of Constantinople reigned from 1078 until 1081. He decided to build a cathedral that would be almost as grand as Saint Sophia. When it was ready, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Patriarch of Alexandria as well as the Patriarch of Constantinople were all invited to consecrate the beautiful new church built by the Emperor. Announcements had been made about the consecration for several months in advance so that everyone would have time to travel to the great city of Constantinople; remember that during that time there were no cars, planes, or trains. Everyone had to travel either in carts pulled by oxen, horses or donkeys, and those from great distances had to cross the sea in boats.
"When Nicephoros' cathedral was ready to be consecrated there were three Patriarchs, forty Metropolitans, and thousands of priests present, since this was an imperial cathedral. Thousands of carts and wagons converged on the city as the faithful came from all around. Everyone brought something for the new cathedral: rugs, barrels of wine, oil, flour, candles, etc. Each person wanted to offer something!
"At that time there was a widow named Anastasia who lived in Constantinople. For fifty years she had lived faithfully, going to church regularly and praying to God. She lived on the edge of the city, right along the road on which all the carts and wagons of people had to travel, in a dilapidated shack, she had no money, no oil, no flour, nothing that she could offer to the new church. As she saw so many oxen pulling wagons of people toward the new church, she decided to give an armful of grass to the poor animals, since she did possess a small sickle and a pitchfork.
"The widow was poor in material things, but very rich in faith! During the winter months she would spin flax and wool for the people of the town, and in the summer she would take her sickle and glean in the fields after the harvesters had left, then she would wrap the wheat in a rug and beat it to make a little flour for her own meager needs. That is how poor this widow, Anastasia, was!
"Poor though she was, she had a very merciful heart! What went through her mind as she saw the oxen pulling such heavy loads of goods for the celebration of the new church? 'I don't have any money, or rugs, or oil, nothing. But I can give the animals a little grass.' Still, she was afraid because she did not own land, so where would she get the grass without doing something wrong?
"She took a big sack and went into a field where there was a kind of wild grass, called couch-grass, growing. She cut a lot of this grass, being careful not to damage the other crops that were growing, and put it into her sack, saying to herself, 'I will give the oxen some grass, even if it is not from my own land.'
"Anastasia opened her sack of grass and put it in front of the oxen, saying, 'Lord, accept this bit of grass, and forgive me, for I have nothing to bring to the church consecration, and even this is not from my own land!' She wept as she said these words, then when the oxen had finished eating, she also went to the church for the consecration.
"She was astounded at what she saw in the church: so many people and such rich adornments for the new temple! The church was prepared like a bride for a wedding with all the embellishments ready for the consecration that was to take place the following day. Anastasia went to an icon in the rear of the church, where women generally would stand: there the poor old woman, her face wrinkled with age, an old scarf on her head, the poorest of sandals on her feet and wearing a raggedy dress, knelt and prayed to the Lord, saying, 'Lord, forgive me, for I have not brought any kind of offering for the church. I have nothing. The emperor is a king on earth and will be great in heaven, but I am so poor and have no money, nothing to offer. And as she prayed her tears dropped to the ground.
"The Emperor Nicephorus, with all his entourage and servants, came into the church. His chief minister, Peter was his name, pointed to the dedication plaque--since in churches and monasteries that are historical monuments there are dedication plaques over the doors.
"While the dignitaries were inspecting everything in the church, the elderly widow Anastasia, who had given an armful of grass to the oxen, was weeping before the icons in the rear of the church. As she prayed, the Angel of the Lord changed the inscription on the dedication plaque. The inscription, even more beautifully executed now read, "To the glory of the All-Holy Trinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, this holy church was built and provided for by me, the widow Anastasia.'
"The people in the rear of the church saw the inscription and froze with fear. Before they had clearly read the Emperor's name on the inscription. There were people all around, no scaffolding was in the church for someone to reach the plaque and change the writing, thus, no one could explain how this change had happened. The men read the inscription and began to talk among themselves...
"Those present were afraid to tell the Emperor, so they called the head minister, Peter, and showed the inscription to him. Peter read the inscription and said, 'But this is a miracle! It's alright. I will tell the Emperor!' The Emperor listened to Peter. What a sight it was the Emperor and Empress both had shining gold crowns on their heads and were dressed in all their royal garments, surrounded by soldiers.
"Your Majesty, come into the vestibule a moment.' The Emperor came and looked at the plaque in amazement. 'But, when we came into the church, it was my inscription.' 'I know that it was yours, Your Majesty. Everyone knows it was yours. But look at what is written there now!'
"Oh! What a sinner I am! This is a great miracle! No one could have done this except God Himself! This is a wonderful miracle. I lost the church because I made it in my own pride. Now it has been given to a widow!'
"The Emperor then called all his chief servants and told them, 'This church is not to be consecrated until we find this widow! Once she is found, we will do the consecration in her name because she is greater before God than I am.' Then he gave the order to search throughout his entire Empire for the widow Anastasia.
"Now, it was God's will to reveal this mystery quickly, and He did so through another widow who was about the same age as the blessed Anastasia. This woman was in the crowd, but was not aware that Anastasia was also there.
(To be continued)
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