On Spiritual Life in the Church (Part III)

Martyr Sophia and her daughters, Faith, Hope and Love

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

(Saint John Chrysostom)

O Jesus Christ, the Good Name above all names, my sweetness, my longing and my hope, You became man for us and in wisdom planned and assigned everything for our salvation. With all my heart, O Lord my God, I confess to You, I bow down upon the knees of my body and my soul and recount before You, my God, all my sins. May I hope that You too will incline Your ear to my supplication and will forgive the irreverence of my heart. I have sinned; I have transgressed; I have offended, I have irritated and embittered You my Good Master and Tutor and Guardian. There is no speakable or unspeakable type of evil that I have not committed excessively in word and deed, in knowledge and ignorance, in recollections and in thoughts, so as to have sinned exceedingly. And having promised many times to repent, I have also often fallen into the same sins. It is easier to number the drops of rain than the multitude of my sins; they have risen higher than my head and as a heavy burden they press heavily upon me. From the time of my youth and up to now, I have opened the door of improper desires, using the unbridled and disorderly impulses to defile the heavenly robe of Holy Baptism, to stain the temple of my body, to pollute severely my soul with shameful passions, and to do every other transgression and injustice. If I were to attempt to remember each one of these sins separately, time would not permit me. Yes, O Lord my God, may these things come to pass in us who hope in You because of Your boundless goodness and ineffable compassion and love for mankind, through the intercessions of our Lady, the Most Glorious, Most Blessed, the All-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, Who is full of Grace; through the intercessions of the Angelic Powers of Heaven; and through the intercessions of all the Saints who have pleased You throughout the ages. Amen.



(By Saint Gregory of Sinai)

"Faith alone is not sufficient for grace; active prayer is also required. For true faith which reveals in practice the life of Jesus comes through the Spirit in active love. Therefore, one who does not see faith activated in his life possesses only a dead and lifeless faith. A man does not even have the right to be called faithful, if his faith is merely one of words and is not activated by the Spirit and the observance of the Commandments. Thus faith must be made evident by progress in good works, or, activated by works, it must shine in the light and be obvious, as the divine Apostle says: "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show You my faith: (St. James 2:19). Thus faith of grace is manifested by the good works performed in accordance with the Commandments, just as the Commandments are fulfilled and made bright through the faith which is indeed full of grace. While faith is the root of the Commandments, or rather the spring, which irrigates them for growth and development, and has two aspects: profession and grace, it nevertheless remains essentially indivisible and one by nature."



On September 17th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Preachers, Evangelists, Confessors, Martyrs, Teachers and of every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyrs and virgins: Faith, Hope, and Agape and their mother Sophia; Holy Martyr Agathocleia; Holy Martyrs Maximus, Theodotus, and Asclepiodote of Marcionopolis in Thrace, who were beheaded in Adrianople; Saint Lucia and the Holy Martyr Geminianus of Rome; Holy Martyr Theodota of Pontus; Holy One Hundred Martyrs from Egypt, who were beheaded in Palestine; Holy Hieromartyr Peleus and Nilus, Bishops from Egypt, were perfected in martyrdom by fire in Palestine; Holy Fifty Martyrs of Palestine were perfected in martyrdom by fire; Holy Martyrs Petermuthius and Elisas the Most Glorious were perfected in martyrdom by fire in Palestine; Holy Martyrs Haralambos and Pantoleon and those with them; Holy Hieromartyr Heracleides and Myron, Bishops of Tamasus in Cyprus; our Righteous Father Anastasius; our Righteous Father Efxiphius of Cyprus, the Bishop, and the Holy Hieromartyr Zeno the Presbyter; Holy Hieromartyr Lambert, Bishop of Maestricht, the Patron of Liege; Holy Righteous Virgin Martyr Columba was perfected in martyrdom and beheaded in Cordova by the Moors in the year 853.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Righteous, Holy Virgins, Holy Ascetics, Holy Teachers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

THE HOLY MARTYRS FAITH (VERA), HOPE (NADA) AND AGAPE (LUBOV) AND THEIR MOTHER SOPHIA. They lived and suffered in Rome in the time of the pagan Roman Emperor Hadrian. The wise Sophia (as her name--Sophia--wisdom, indicates) was left a widow and, as a Christian, steeped herself and her daughters in the Christian faith. At the time that Hadrian's persecuting hand stretched out over the virtuous house of Sophia, Faith was twelve, Hope ten and Agape nine. The four of them were brought before the emperor, with their arms entwined 'like a woven wreath', humbly but firmly confessing their faith in Christ the Lord and refusing to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. At the moment of their passion, the mother urged her valiant daughters to endure to the end: 'Your Heavenly Lover, Jesus Christ, is eternal health, inexpressible beauty and life eternal. When your bodies are slain by torture, He will clothe you in incorruption and the wounds on your bodies will shine in heaven like the stars.' The torturers inflicted harsh tortures on Faith, Hope and Agape one by one. They beat them, stabbed them and threw them into fire and boiling pitch, and finally beheaded them one after the other. Sophia took the dead bodies of her daughters out of the town and buried them, and stayed by their grave in prayer for three days and nights, then gave her soul to God, hastening to the heavenly company where the blessed souls of her daughters awaited her. Because of her courageous endurance in the face of her daughters' sufferings, she is also counted a holy Martyr.

Kontakion Hymn of the Saints. First Tone

Since Faith and Hope and Agape were in truth sacred branches of venerable Sophia, the namesake of wisdom, by grace they have shown all men that Greek wisdom is foolishness, and in contest they proved to be prizewinning victors; wherefore, they received a crown that never shall perish from Christ God, the Lord of all.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 3:15-22
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 6: 7-13


By the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church In America



As we consider our spiritual life as Orthodox Christians in America today, let us consider as well some of the more powerful temptations of a spiritual nature which confront us in our time. These are the temptations which are offered not simply by the children of darkness of this evil and adulterous generation, by the wicked and the carnal. These are the temptations which come to us from those who, in the words of Saint Paul, may have a zeal for God which is not enlightened and thereby reject the righteousness that comes from God and replace it with a righteousness of their own (Romans 10:1-3). These are they who, according to our Lord Jesus Christ, may hear the Word of God, but do not understand it. (St. Matthew 13:23).


Among the many temptations confronting us today, one to which many of our church members have yielded, is the temptation of external ritualism. This is the temptation to reduce Orthodox Christianity to the observance of the external practices and forms of churchly life, or worse yet, to the external customs and traditions of one or another of the many nationalities traditionally connected with the Orthodox Church...We must remember that all of our customs and traditions are not ends in themselves. They are not the substance of the Faith, but merely the practices which can help us, if properly used, in our devotion and piety.

All of the rituals of the Church, in her liturgy and piety, are truly from God. They exist to express and convey the Orthodox Christian way of life. These rituals, we believe, are inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. Over the centuries they have been developed and cultivated, growing and changing as the Church lives through human history. They are organically formed by the action of Divine grace working through God's holy people.


In America we Orthodox Christians face a special temptation. According to a widespread understanding of this nation's principle of religious freedom, each person is free to practice the religion of his choice as long as this religion can be accommodated to the values and principles provided by our society, and indeed be subjected to them. According to this approach, each person is spiritually free to practice his faith as long as this does not conflict with the norms of behavior generally acceptable to others.

We Orthodox Christians, therefore, are tempted to believe that, while we may foster our beliefs in our own church communities as much as we desire, we must agree that these beliefs are exclusively our own and are not intended by God to be for all people, in all times and in all places. We are tempted to believe that, if we are religious, we should understand our religion as but one of the many possible religions of man which may differ externally-in customs and forms-but which in essence are really the same. We are tempted to believe that, since in America people may follow their consciences and exercise their liberties in the way they choose, no one should claim that his way is the way given by God. We are tempted to believe that, should people not believe in God, their right to this is not only to be respected but ought to be considered as supreme...While acknowledging our deepest and most sincere gratitude for the freedoms which we enjoy as Americans...we do not believe that Orthodox Christianity is but one of many religious forms which are all essentially the same and which are to be submitted to the aspirations and goals of the American nation.

The United States, like every other nation on the earth, is subject to the judgment of God. The principles of life in American society, however worthy and noble they may be, are subject to the Commandments of God. The ideals of democracy and individual liberty and individual rights, however precious and valuable they be for the ordering of secular society, are not ends in themselves to be worshiped and adored. True religion is not a matter of individual choice, but a revelation of God. Human freedom is to be used for doing what is good and right and beneficial to mankind, and must not be the cover for immorality and corruption, practiced under the pretext of freedom.

As Orthodox Christians we must never have any other gods than the one true and living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must never agree that Orthodox Christianity is merely for ourselves, for our own people and parishes, and not for the whole of mankind. We must never allow ourselves to reduce the True faith of Christ to our peculiar customs and traditions, while we ourselves in our daily lives follow the dictates of society and the norms of our neighbors.

And for the sake of our fellow Americans, our brothers and sisters in this land and others, we must never allow the great social principle of individual liberty to be used as the cover for a multitude of sins and the corruption of human dignity and life.

Let us be grateful citizens of our country, respectful of others and the servants of all. Let us never lord it over others or degrade any person in any way. Let us always show forth the grace of Christ by our loving example in word and in deed. Let us never deny our Orthodox Christian Faith as the wisdom and power of God given by Him not merely to us, but to every person who walks on the face of the earth.

(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

+Father George