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 PRAYER OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT
Blessed are You, O Lord God Almighty, You have illumined the day with the light of the sun and the night You have brightened with the rays of the fiery moon; You have made us worthy to go through this day and to approach the beginning of the night. Hear our petitions and those of all Your people, and forgive us all our voluntary and involuntary sins. Receive our evening prayers, and send down upon the people of Your inheritance the multitude of Your mercy and compassionate love. Encompass us with Your holy Angels. Arm us with the weapons of Your Righteousness. Outline us with the mark of Your Truth. Guard us by Your power. Deliver us from every circumstance and influence of the Adversary (Satan). Grant us once again, O Lord, that this present evening, together with the approaching night, and all the days of our life, will be perfect, holy, peaceful, sinless and without any scandalous imaginations. We pray for this through the intercessions of the Holy Theotokos and all the Saints who have pleased You through the ages. Amen.
Saturday after Holy Theophany
Ephesians 6:10-17; St. Matthew 4:1-11
SAINTS COMMEMORATED TODAY: St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa; Saint Theophan the Recluse; Saint Theosevia the Deaconess, sister of Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nyssa; Saint Marcian of Constantinople; Saint Dometian, Bishop of Melitene; Saint Ammon of Egypt; Saint Paul of Obnora; Saint Ephraim and six incorrupt monks of Obnora; Saint Macarius of the Kiev Caves; Saint Antipas of Romania; Saint Macarius, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Pisma Monastery; Saint Miltiades, Pope of Rome.
FROM THE HOLY FATHERS:
"If you encounter some worldly fascination and are tempted by it, set yourselves in action and overcome it, and thereby you will take one step forward. Every time you come across a temptation, overcome it; don't indulge yourselves and succumb, and soon you will become experienced...How does a warrior acquire skill? By often engaging his enemies." (St. Theophan the Recluse)
"Let anger be stilled for it disturbs peace and tranquility. This is the day in which God descended to sinners! Let the righteous man be ashamed to exalt himself over sinners. This is the day when the Lord of Creation came to servants! Let the master of the house humble himself in similar love to his servants. This is the day on which the Wealthy One became poor for our sake! Let not the rich be ashamed to share their table with the poor." (St. Ephraim the Syrian)
COURAGE IN THE FACE OF EVIL: AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
"Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying of my hands. For God has not given us spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the Gospel according to the power of God, Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, Who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2 Timothy 1:6-10)
Saint John the Apostle writes, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the Light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (1 John 1:6-10).
We are challenged spiritually every day and every minute of every day. We are being pursued by our adversary, the evil one, constantly and relentlessly. The unseen spiritual warfare is fierce and formidable but not to worry because God is with us. The good Christian is never afraid to face his enemies who seek his death for there is no other power greater than that of his Savior, our Lord Christ. We are constantly assured of His Divine love through our communion with Him. Therefore we must always be faithful and not faithless at a time when our faith is being tested. "Be valiant and strong, do not fear nor be afraid of them, nor be terrified before them; for the Lord your God, He is the One Who goes before you and with you and among you, He will not leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6). So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Faithfulness and boldness on our part to believe Him will bring about contentment in us, and will deliver us from all fear.
EXAMPLES OF FAITH AND COURAGE
The story of Telemachus is the story of extreme courage in the face of evil. Telemachus was a Christian monk who, in 391 A.D., went on a pilgrimage to Rome. While there he noticed crowds flocking to the Coliseum to see gladiators do battle. He followed them in, only to witness a sight that repulsed him.
Emperor Honorus was celebrating his triumph over the Goths. Gladiators armed with spears and swords reenacted the battle. After their reenactment the bodies of the dead were dragged from the arena and its bloodied surface covered with a fresh layer of sand.
In came a new series of gladiators. Some were armed with swords and spears, others with nets. The crowed watched with excitement as they sought to outdo each other. When a gladiator was wounded his opponent would loom over him, waiting for the crowd's verdict on whether to slay him or let him live. So great was the bloodlust that at times wealthier spectators would climb down to get a better view of the execution.
St. Telemachus watched with horror as people died, battles raged and the crowds cheered. Prompted into action, this bald headed, robed figure found his way onto the arena floor. He ran toward two gladiators locked in battle, grabbed one of them and pulled him away. He exhorted the two gladiators to abandon their murderous sport. He appealed to the crowd to not break God's law by murdering.
The response was anything but favorable. Angry voices drowned out St. Telemachus, demanding that the spectacle continue. The gladiators prepared to do battle again, but St. Telemachus stood between them, holding them apart, urging them to reconsider. Driven by the anger of the crowd and their rage at Telemacuhus' interference, the gladiators cut St. Telemachus to the ground, as the crowd threw missiles at him. Saint Telemachus was killed.
But this death was not in vain. In 405 A.D. Emperor Honorius gladiatorial battles were to end at the Coliseum. Tradition tells us that it was St. Telemachus' brave protest that helped move him to do so.
SAINT POLYCARP'S MARTYRDOM
In the year 156 A.D. an 86 year old man was brought before a Roman official and asked to renounce Christ. He refused of course. He was the devout Bishop Polycarpos. To the Romans however he was an unbeliever, for he refused to worship the Emperor as a god with the other pagan gods of Rome.
Saint Polycarp knew denial would mean a painful death-either being thrown into the arena with a wild animal or burned alive on a pyre. Three times he was questioned, three times invited to renounce his Christian faith, but no renunciation of Christ would he make. "Swear and I release; curse Christ" urged the Roman official, to which Saint Polycarpos replied "Eighty six years have I served Him [Christ] and He has done no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"
Saint Polycarp was not spared. A pyre was built and he was burned alive, but his words echo down through time to us today: "Eighty six year have I served Him [Christ] and He has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"
Please note: There are innumerable examples of faith and courage among the Holy Prophets, Apostles, Confessors, Fathers, Mothers, Children, Martyrs and Saints recorded in the history of our Holy Orthodox Church. We, the Church, honor them and commemorate them every single day of the year. We read their accounts and we are inspired and strengthened by them.
The contemporary Christian must emulate their example and confront all evil with the same faith and courage which they had and through which they gained the heavenly crown or crown of Light (photostephano). A genuine and true Christian is never defeated by fear or threats but stands firm in his faith and commitment.
The Christian receives whatever he needs to combat evil through prayer and the grace of the Holy Spirit.
"He is a shield to all who trust in Him" (Psalm 18:30).
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 Theophania,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God