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.
THE FIRST HOUR (8:00 a.m.)
+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to You, our God, glory to You.
Come, let us bow down and worship God our King.
Come, let us bow down and worship Christ our God and King.
Come, let us bow down and worship Christ Himself, our King and God.
In the morning, hearken to my voice, O my King and my God. Listen to the words of my prayer, O Lord, And attend to my supplication.
In the morning, hearken to my voice, O my King and my God. For to You I pray, O Lord, That You may hear my voice.
In the morning, hearken to the words of my prayer, O my King and my God.
Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Now and forever and the ages of ages. Amen.
What shall we call You, Who are full of grace? Heaven, for You have caused the Sun of Righteousness to dawn. Paradise, for You have caused the incorruptible flower to blossom. Virgin, for You indeed have remained inviolate. Pure Mother, for You have held in Your Holy arms the Son Who is God of all. Intercede for us that He may save our souls. Amen.
THE WAGES OF SIN
By Dr. George S. Gabriel (Source: MARY: The Untrodden Portal of God)
Inherited guilt of ancestral ("original") sin is not found in the Scriptures and the Orthodox Holy Fathers. They teach instead that mankind's inheritance is the fallen nature of Adam with its condition of corruptibility and death, spiritual illness, and a powerful inclination away from God. (The holy Fathers never use the term "original sin", but rather the "ancestral sin," "Adamic sin," or "forefathers' sin" (προπατορικόν αμάρτημα--propatorikon amartema), assigning responsibility and guilt only to Adam and Eve and not to their descendants.) Indeed, "sin" means failure, being off the true path, missing one's target. Although we often define sin as certain specific actions or transgressions, these are only the symptoms of our diseased condition; sin is the rejection of personal communion with God. (When religion views sins only as specific violations of a moral law or code, it trivializes the Commandments of God and itself perpetuates sin and the fall by externalizing God and substituting a moral code in place of personal communion with Him. It is possible for men to be morally pure and spiritually dead.) When Saint Paul says "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), he does not mean that God recompenses man's actions with death but that sin is a fatal illness. Adam's sin was his declaration of self-sufficiency and autonomy (independence) and his choice to resort to nature and biological life for the self-sufficiency of his existence and strivings. And biological life is bound to corruptibility and death. Separating himself from Him "Who alone hath immortality" (1 Tit. 6:16), the only Source of unwaning life, Adam lost the Holy Spirit, the true life.
The "wage" that remained in his creaturely nature was mere biological life, which Saint Irenaeus called the "temporal breath." Since God neither created death nor has "pleasure in the destruction of the living" (Wis. 1:13; 2:23-24), He allowed the "curse" to pass to the ground, leaving man to the natural consequences of his own earthen nature: "For earth thou art, and to earth thou shalt return" (Genesis 3:17-19)...
God only permitted death, and that was out of mercy so that man would not be immortal in sin, "evil would not be eternal, and the punishment would [in essence] be philanthropy" (St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration on the Theophany). "This indeed is a great benefaction: that man would not have to remain in sin eternally" (St. Theophilos of Antioch) and that death may stir man to return to God. If it were by God's command that death came upon mankind, by His fiat again it would have been abolished. But corruptibility and death entered into our nature because of the first Adam. External judicial acts and absolution of sins could not save man without violating his God-given freedom which is an essential property of the image and likeness of God.
God created man to become immortal and perfect in freedom and love like Himself, in His image, loving God and his neighbor in the same unselfish way that God loves the world. The death of the soul, that is, the loss of divine grace and communion with God, and the corruptibility of the body made this destiny impossible. Corruptibility and death would forever be transmitted like parasites in the nature of mankind. As a direct consequence, the power of the devil, "who has the power of [the fear of] death" (Heb. 2:14), would forever grip men's souls and be the wellspring of sin.
Adam died because he sinned; now we sin because we die. "And so death passed to all men, "because of which all have sinned (έφ΄ ώ πάντες ήμαρτον)" [Rom. 5:12]. The passage is given as Saint Paul wrote it and as the Holy Fathers, untainted by Augustine's doctrine of original sin, understood it: Death is the cause of all men having sinned. The West (Roman Catholicism), however, is steeped in Augustine's doctrines and teaches that death passed to all men as a punishment imposed by God because all men, from their conception, have sinned. They sinned by inheriting legal guilt and culpability of the original sin. Therefore, they also inherit death, the just punishment. Protestant and Roman Catholic Bibles present this erroneous understanding in one way or another, obscuring the true meaning that "sin reigns in death" (Romans 5:21), in our corruptibility and mortality, that the "sting of death is sin" (1 Cor. 15:56), that death is the root, and sin is the thorn that springs from it.
"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:26). Christ has already accomplished this by His death and Resurrection, destroying the endless cycle of corruptibility and death, the seat of sin. At the Second Coming, then, He shall terminate these once and for all and extend the power of His Resurrection to all mankind, freeing us from sin forever and raising us body and soul to incorruptibility and immortal life. Thus, without His Resurrection in the first place, there can be no salvation. His Resurrection destroys Satan and sin by destroying the very source of their power: death and corruptibility.
Mankind's need was for an "antidote to death" (St. Ignatius of Antioch)."Our diseased nature needed a healer. Fallen man needed one to set him upright. He who is beginningless and bodiless, for us and our salvation, became enfleshed in order by like to save the like" (St. John of Damascus). The "diseased nature" refers to the whole man, who had to be reborn in body and soul, to be "set upright" again, restored to the path of incorruptibility and immortality. When the Savior said the only the cure from mankind's illness was rebirth, He was speaking of a psychophysical reality in mankind, not of a legal idea. Rebirth means becoming free of the influences of the devil, free of bondage of instincts and of self-interests, self-preservation, and self-gratification that arise from out corruptible condition, and, finally, free of death and corruptibility.
The antidote to this condition is the "humanity of God" (St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 45 on the Holy Pascha) the leaven and ferment for our illumination and sanctification: the Incarnation which was always the Divine plan, even from before the ages. Our restoration, therefore, did not require a change in God's disposition toward us, which was always unceasing, unselfish love that is "long suffering...and seeketh not its own" (1 Cor. 13:4, 5). To be born again in body and soul is to become the children of the new and second Adam, the only true man and true image of God. Therefore, "saving like by like", the Second Adam regenerates men by the human nature received from His Mother and glorified by His Resurrection.
The Body and Blood of the Risen, Incarnate Logos (Word) are the "antidote to death, the medicine of immortality" (St. Ignatius of Antioch) for each of us to receive directly and personally, given to us in the Holy Eucharist: "Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life...and dwelleth in Me" (St. John 6:54-56). The Holy Gifts (Holy Communion) are "for the cleansing of the soul and the remission of sins" (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). By these words Christ does not refer to a legal absolution but to an antidote that heals and delivers souls from the toxins of sin and the parasitic effect of corruptibility upon the soul. When the Lord offers His Body and Blood for the remission of sins, it is from the ongoing healing, therapy, and sanctification of souls on the path of purification, illumination, and deification (theosis). In the Body and Blood of Christ, the whole man, body and soul, participates in the incorruptible humanity of the Second Adam for the restoration and regathering of the scattered first Adam in every man torn asunder by the two "warring laws" of his mind and members. This is our "first resurrection," the resurrection of the soul in the present life and the subduing of the "warring members".
Thus, a man's deliverance from corruptibility and death, that is, from the seat of sin, and his restoration to Eternal life begin in the present life and sometimes even from his mother's womb, so he may have a good resurrection when the Lord comes again in glory: "But we do now receive a certain portion of His Spirit, tending towards perfection and preparing us for incorruption, being little by little accustomed to receive and bear God [in preparation for the time]...when, on rising, again we behold Him face to face...[and for the effect of] the complete grace of the Spirit" (St. Irenaeus). Therefore, the Life-Giving Mystery of the Holy Eucharist is clearly indispensable in the bodies and souls of the faithful because it is both the promise of the resurrection and our participation in the destruction of the devil, death and corruptibility. This has never been understood very well by the west (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism).
Please note: I pray that all of you now understand the significance of receiving Holy Communion as often as possible. It is not a matter of habit but of spiritual necessity for the healing of your soul and body. This false attitude of "I am not worthy to receive Holy Communion often" as some say is wrong. No one is ever worthy of receiving the Holy Body and Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior! We receive it because we have been poisoned by our pride, by our sinful acts, by disobedience to the Commandments of God, by the Devil and his evil temptations and influence but there is only one cure, one medicine, one antidote to the poison and that is the Holy Eucharist, Christ. Without it there is only death and eternal damnation. What makes one worthy when we receive Holy Communion few times a year? Is it that we abstain from meat few more days? Or that one may make an effort to participate in the Mystery of Repentance and Confession once a year?
There is no doubt that an Orthodox Christian must be spiritually prepared i.e., through fasting, sacrament of Repentance and Confession, by abiding to the commandments of Christ, by living a virtuous and righteous life, by having a true prayer and sacramental life throughout the year and by helping the poor and suffering. There is no such thing as "instant worthiness" and "instant salvation". Rather it is a life time of personal faith, obedience, commitment, love, and philanthropy. Everything that we do must done with honesty, integrity, sincerity, humility, faith, obedience, devotion, trust, love and the fear of God.
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