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 TO OUR LORD, GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
At all times and every hour, in heaven and on earth, O Christ our God, You are worshipped and glorified; You are long-suffering, most merciful, most compassionate, You love the righteous and have mercy upon the sinners; You call everyone to salvation through the promise of future blessings; Receive, O Lord, our prayers at this hour and direct our life toward Your Commandments. Sanctify our souls; make our bodies chaste; Correct our thoughts; purify our intentions; and deliver us from every grief and pain that comes from evil. Encompass us by Your holy Angels, so that guarded and guided by them we may attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of Your inapproachable glory, for You are blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On January 13the Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of Your 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: Holy Martyrs Hermylus and Stratonicus (On the 13th the Danube drowned Hermylus and companion); our Righteous Father James, Bishop of Nisibis, one of the 318 God-bearing Fathers of the Council of Nicaea; Holy Martyr Athanasius, having been beaten with rods, was perfected in martyrdom; Saints Pochomius and Papyrinus were perfected in martyrdom in a river; our Righteous Father Maximus the Hut-burner of Kafsokalyvia, who struggled in asceticism on Mount Athos; our Father among the Saints Leontius, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, one of the 318 God-bearing Fathers at Nicaea; Saint Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers; Saint Remigius, Bishop of Rheims; Holy Martyrs Gumesind (Gomez) of Toledo, the Priest, and Servideus the Monk were beheaded in Cordova by the Moors in the year 852 A.D.; Saint Irenarchus the Recluse of Rostov; Saint Eleazar of Anzersk.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Monks, Holy Nuns, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
HOLY MARTYRS HERMYLUS AND STRATONICUS. OUR FATHER AMONG THE
SAINTS HILARY OF POITIERSL: Saints Hermylus and Stratonicus contested for piety's sake during the reign of the pagan emperor Licinius, in the year 314 A.D. Saint Hermylus was a deacon, and Stratonicus was his friend. For his confession of Christ, St. Hermylus was beaten so fiercely that his whole body was covered with wounds. St. Stratonicus, seeing him endure this and other tortures that left him half dead, wept with grief for his friend. From this he was discovered to be a Christian, and when he had openly professed his Faith and had been beaten, he and St. Hermylus were cast into the Danube River, receiving the crown of martyrdom.
The holy Hierarch Hilary was born of pagan parents in Gaul, and was trained in philosophy and rhetoric. At a time when paganism was still strong in Gaul, Saint Hilary understood the falsehood of polytheism, and became a Christian, and a great defender of his new Faith. About the year 350 A.D. he was consecrated Bishop of Poitiers, when Arles and Milan were in the hands of the Arians (heretics) and the Arian Constantius was sole emperor. Like his contemporary Saint Athanasius, Saint Hilary's episcopate was one long struggle against the Arian heretics. As Bishop of Poitiers, Saint Hilary foresaw the future greatness of Martin (see Nov. 12), and attached him to himself. In 355 A.D., when required to agree to the condemnation of St. Athanasius passed by the Council of Milan, St. Hilary wrote an epistle to Constantius convicting the wrongs done by the Arians and requesting, among other things, the restoration of the Orthodox bishops, including Athanasius. For this, St. Hilary was banished to Asia Minor, where he wrote his greatest work, On the Trinity. Saint Hilary returned to his See in 360 A.D. where Saint Martin sought him out again. It was at this time that Saint Hilary blessed Martin to found a monastery near Poitiers, where Martin remained until being consecrated Bishop of Tours in 371 A.D. In his last years, Saint Hilary strove for the deposition of Auxentius, the Arian (heretic) bishop of Milan, but by affecting an Orthodox confession Auxentius retained his see. Saint Hilary reposed in peace in the year 368 A.D. Auxentius died in 374 A.D. and was succeeded by Saint Ambrose, who continued Saint Hilary's battle against the heresy of Arianism.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Plagal of Fourth Tone
Guide of Orthodoxy, teacher of piety and holiness, luminary of this world, God-inspired adornment of hierarchs, O wise Hilary, by thy teachings thou has enlightened all, O harp of the Spirit. Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 6:10-17
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 20:1-8
ASCETICISM AND THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD
By Sergei Baikalov-Latyshev
What is asceticism? Asceticism is strict, purposeful life, expressed in spiritual labors, that is, in prayer, contemplation, the directing of the mind toward God, frequently in conjunction with corresponding physical undertakings, and simultaneously with abstention from any negative activity and unnecessary natural satisfactions.
This does not mean that asceticism must be the lot only of certain desert-dwellers or monks ("ascetics"). The Christian faith itself is built on self-denial, which to a certain degree is asceticism.
God Himself placed a prohibition on the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Paradise and by this showed the necessity of asceticism, an exercise of will and mind. And the moderation in desires (passions) and urges, control of desires and urges, is necessary for each ordinary Orthodox Christian.
Having all this in mind, we can understand why the materialists, who do not recognize a spiritual principle in man, have always fought against asceticism. Materialism says: "Your nature alone can prescribe laws for you: do everything it demands and to which it draws you."
But at the present time there is a striking phenomenon taking place. On the one hand, by its way of life, our society (including, alas, many Orthodox people) completely rejects any form of asceticism: the non-observance of fasts, the absence of zeal in prayer, private and public, and so forth. This on the one hand.
But on the other, we observe in our era, among the youth of Western Europe in particular, a kind of morbid enthusiasm for "Eastern religions," despite the fact that the entry of this youth into the cells, hidden here in Europe, of all these at times fanatical requires such an ascetic regimen of its adepts, that one can do little else than express amazement at its strictness.
And here we must remind you that true Orthodox spirituality differs completely from pagan "spirituality," from oriental "mysticism."
We believe that God is absolute and almighty, is the Creator of everything; and that between creature and Creator there is a chasm. But man alone among the creatures strives for God as if he did not differ from Him. Only in God does he receive his blessedness. The fall of man became a wall across his path to God. And man could not overcome his fall through his own power. For this, man needed a savior. The gulf between God and man is overcome by God's love. And that God became man is the mystery of this overcoming. Now man can work on himself, although the path of purification is both long and difficult.
It is reached by various ways and methods: by prayer, fasting, struggle with the passions, partaking of the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments), and various spiritual exercises. And this is only the means, not the end. The end is purification from sin and a drawing closer to God.
True, we know instances in Sacred Scripture in which this path, at first glance, seems very short and simple. But this is only at first glance. In the well-known parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, the return to the Father is only the first step in the sinner's repentance. After this, the task of intensive work on himself will stand before him. Before the eyes of the Apostles, Zacchaeus not only offered repentance, but also took upon himself a further podvig (spiritual struggle): the desire to change his life decisively.
And after this, constant abiding in God requires man's close attention. The Christian, according as he progresses, grows spiritually: his feelings, desires, and thoughts become better. This is what the path of correct asceticism consists of. The purpose of Christian asceticism is purification from evil. We must achieve this in the period of our life on earth. This is the reason that time is highly valued in Christianity...
Intense spiritual diseases, and especially chronic ones, as the Holy Fathers express it, are healed by intensive remedies. It is strange that zealots of spiritual purity, even after many efforts in the struggle with the passions, were troubled in their consciences by the onslaught of sin arising from the depths of the heart, and through a feeling of pain and suffering would direct their consciousness away from them? This is especially appropriate in the beginning of the fiery struggle of an inflamed soul with a chronic sinful habit. Only that person who has not begun to struggle with sin does not know what this struggle costs.
Furthermore, according to the teaching of the Holy Apostle Paul, ascetics have transferred their struggle with evil from the realm of flesh and blood to the invisible realm of the very instigators of sin the evil spirits. Who can tell what cunning and what attacks of the invisible enemies they were responding to with their podvigs (spiritual struggles), which we can view only from the outside?
Finally, if the bright horizon of eternal and blessed life is opened them through the action of grace, could they not intensify their struggles in order to come closer in spirit to the desired goal? But the Holy Apostle Paul puts a limit to our curiosity in these instances with a single remark: "He that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man" (1 Corinthians 2:15).
The higher ascetic spiritual struggles are the pursuit of those that have chosen them freely; but asceticism as a moral principle is accessible and necessary for every Orthodox Christian according to the measure of his strength and spiritual growth.
Magnifying our great Saints--the holy desert dwellers, monks, and ascetics--and bowing before their struggles, we will, as consequence, always remember that our Orthodox Christian Faith is ascetic in itself, and that asceticism is necessary, in one degree or another, for all of us.
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