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.
AN EVENING PRAYER
Make us worthy, O Lord, to be kept without sin this evening. Blessed are You, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Your Name unto the ages of ages. Amen. Lord, let Your mercy be upon us, even as we have placed our hope in You. Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your Commandments; blessed are You, O Master, make me prudent by Your Commandments; blessed are You, O Holy One, enlighten me with Your Commandments; Lord, Your mercy endures forever, do not overlook the creations of Your Own hands. To You belong praise, hymns and glory, to the Father and to the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
By Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus)
"Man must believe that, if he stands in prayer with fear of God and reverence, he will receive what is good and beneficial for his soul, and that God will accept his words and his desire and incline favorably toward his concerns."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On September 5th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Prophet Zacharias, father of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner; Saint Avdaius of Persia having been beaten with thorny rods, was perfected in martyrdom; Holy Maryrs Medimnus, Urban, Theodore, and the Eighty Priests and Levites (that is, Deacons) with them, who were put on a ship by the Arians (heretics) and burned at sea; the appearance of the holy Apostle Peter to the Emperor Justinian in Athyra; blessed Prince Gleb the Passion-bearer, who in holy Baptist was renamed David; Holy Hieromartyr Athanasius of Brest.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Prophets, Holy Priests, Holy Deacons, Holy Emperors, Holy Ascetics, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Confessors, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY PROPHET ZACHARIAS, FATHER OF THE VENERABLE FORERUNNER. According to the opinion of many holy Fathers of the Church, based on an ancient tradition, this is the Zacharias whom, as our Lord said, the Jews slew between the temple and the altar (St. Matthew 23:35), first, because even after the Virgin Mary gave birth, he continued to refer to her as virgin and numbered her among the virgins (see Saint Basil's Homily on the Birth of Christ); second, because Zacharias' son John was not found during the slaughter of the Innocents (+ Dec. 29), since the elderly Elizabeth had taken him and carefully hid him while he was yet an infant, in an unnamed place somewhere in the desert, where, according to the Evangelist, "the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the desert till the day of his showing unto Israel" (St. Luke 1:80). When the child was not found, his father was slain by Herod's command (see Saint Peter of Alexandria, Canon 13, in The Rudder).
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
In the vesture of a priest, according to the Law of God, thou didst offer unto Him well-pleasing whole-burnt offerings, as it befitted a priest, O wise Zacharias. Thou wast a shining light, a seer of mysteries, bearing in thyself clearly the signs of grace; and in God's temple, O wise Prophet of Christ God, thou was slain with the sword. Hence, with the Forerunner, make entreaty that our souls find salvation.
Kontakion. Third Tone
On this day the Prophet and venerable priest of the Most High, even Zacharias, who begat the Forerunner, hath now mixed for us the draught of virtue and set the table of his sacred memory, nourishing all the faithful; for this cause do we extol him as a most godly initiate of grace divine.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: II Corinthians 11:5-21
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 24:13-28
SAYINGS FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Do you not know how much compassion God has for us and that He cares for us more than our own fathers? Although we spurn Him, He nonetheless desires to gather us to Himself, 'as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings?' " (St. Luke 13:34). [Saint Abramios]
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
By Protopresbyter Michael Pomazanksy
Personal note: It is extremely important that every Orthodox Christian understands what the Church of Christ is and how the Orthodox Christian believer is connected with it and that the Founder and Head of the Church is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"Ekklesia (Church) [Greek term derived from the Holy Scripture]. Its root meaning is from the term 'to be called out' or gathered. It was the Greek rendering of the Hebrew kahal. The church is thus the in-gathering of God's servants, the New Israel, the Elect People, with whom He has made a covenant through the mystery of Jesus."
It is a fact that Greek Orthodox Christians who do not know or understand what the Church of Christ is all about and Her divine Mission on earth treat the Church as a secular club, a club that belongs to them. It is due to that ignorance that the Greek Orthodox parishes have abused and mistreated their priests, brought politics and division among the people, created suspicion, hostility, mistrust, power struggles, became the rivals of the parish priest, drove priests from the church they were assigned to serve, conspired against their priests, and yet they, in their ignorance, thought that they were serving and protecting the local parish. You see now why it is important to understand the Faith, the divine purpose and mission of the Church of Christ. In the Sacrament of Baptism there is a blessing that says, "that evil creates defective reasoning and confusion of thought", and that is precisely what was working within the minds and hearts of these unfortunate and lost souls.
THE CONCEPT OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST ON EARTH
In the literal meaning of the word, the Church is the "assembly," in Greek, ekklesia, from ekkaleo, meaning "to gather." In this meaning it was used in the Old Testament also.
In the New Testament, this name has an incomparably deeper and more mystical meaning which is difficult to embrace in a short verbal formula. The character of the Church of Christ is best explained by the Biblical images to which the Church is likened.
The New Testament Church is the new planting of God, the garden of God, the vineyard of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, by His earthly life, His death on the Cross and His Resurrection, introduced into humanity new Grace-giving powers, a new life which is capable of great fruitfulness. These powers we have in the Holy Church which is His Body.
The Sacred Scripture is rich in expressive images of the Church. Here are the chief of the m:
- The image of the grapevine and its branches (St. John 15: 1-8). "I am the true vine, and My Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring froth more fruit... Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the Vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned...Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.
- The image of the shepherd and the flock (St. John 10:1-16). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep...Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep...I am the door; by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and go out, and find pasture…I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine…and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
- The image of the head and the body (Ephesians 1:22-23, and other places). The Father "hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all."
- The image of a building under construction (Ephesians 2:19-22). "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone; in Whom all the buildings fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in Whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit."
- The image of a house or family: "That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth" (I Timothy 3:15). "Christ as a Son over His own house,, Whose house are we" (Hebrews 3:6).
To this same thing refer likewise other images from the Gospel: the fishing net, the field which has been sown, the vineyard of God.
In the holy Fathers of the Church one often finds a comparison of the Church in the world with a ship on the sea. The Apostle Paul, comparing the life of the Church of Christ with a marriage, or with the relationship between man and wife, concludes his thoughts with these words: "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church" (Ephesians 5:32). The life of the Church in its essence is mystical; the course of its life cannot be entirely included in any "history." The Church is completely distinct from any kind whatever of organized society on earth.
The Church of Christ received its existence with the coming to earth of the Son of God, "when the fullness of the time was come" (Galatians 4:4), and with His bringing of salvation to the world.
The beginning of its existence in its complete form and significance, with the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, was the day of Pentecost, after the Ascension of the Lord. On this day, after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, in Jerusalem there were baptized three thousand men. And, further, the Lord each day added those being saved to the Church. From this moment, the territory of the city of Jerusalem, then of Palestine, then of the whole Roman Empire, and even the lands beyond its boundaries, began to be covered with Christian communities or churches. The name "church" which belongs to every Christian community, even of a single house or family, indicates the unity of this part with the whole, with the body of the whole Church of Christ.
Being "the body of Christ," the Church "increaseth with the increase of God" (Col. 2:19). Comparing the Church with a building, the Apostle teaches that its building is not completed, but continues: "All the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:21). This growth is not only in the sense of the visible, quantative increase of the Church on earth; in even greater degree, this is a "spiritual growth, the perfection of the saints," the filling up of the heavenly-earthly world through sanctity. Through the Church is accomplished "the dispensation of the fullness of times" foreordained by the Father, so that "He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth" (Ephesians 1:1).
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
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