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 ΜΕΣΩΗ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A CONTRITE PRAYER TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
+In the Name of the Fathers, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. O Christ our God, at all times and at every hour, in heaven and on earth, You are worshipped and glorified; You are long-suffering, most merciful, most compassionate, You love the righteous and have mercy upon the sinner; 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 to 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 23rd Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following 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 Hieromartyr Clement, Bishop of Ancyra and the Holy Martyr Agathangelos; our Righteous Father Eusebius on Mount Coryphe, near Antioch in Syria; St. Maisimas of Syria; St. Salamanes the Silent of Syria; Holy Two Martyrs of Parium, having been cast into a pit, were perfected in martyrdom; our God-bearing Father Dionysius of Olympus; Saint Gennadius of Kostroma.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Righteous, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Mothers, Holy Confessors, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY HIEROMARTYR CLEMENT, BISHOP OF ANCYRA. THE HOLY MARTYR AGATHANGELOS. Saint Clement, who was from Ancyra in Galatia, was the son of an unbelieving father, but believing mother whose name was Sophia. At first he lived as a monk; later, he became the bishop of his city. He suffered so many things in confession of the Faith of Christ that the time of his sufferings and struggles stretched out over a period of twenty-eight years. Finally he and Saint Agathangelos (who was from Rome) were beheaded during the reign of pagan Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximian, in the year 296 A.D.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of St. Clment. Fourth Tone
Thou didst blossom forth for the faithful, O most sacred Clement, as a branch of holiness, a staff of contest, a most sacred flower, and a sweet God-given fruit. But as a fellow-sufferer of martyrs and a fellow-prelate of hierarchs, intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion of Saint Clement. Fourth Tone
As an honored branch of Christ, Who is the True Vine, all-famed Clement, thou didst win thy many contents for the Faith, crying with them that had shared they pains: Christ is the Martyrs' exceedingly radiant joy.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Philippians 3:20-21; 4:1-3
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-5
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHER AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Learning truth is like learning a trade; apprentices grown in experience little by little." (Saint Basil the Great)
IS THERE SPIRITUAL LIFE AND SANCTITY TODAY?
By The V. Reverend Archimandrite Kyrillos, Egoumenos [Abbot] of the Holy Monastery of Essex, England.
Is there spiritual life and sanctity today? My immediate answer to both parts of this question is a very affirmative "Yes." God does not change. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the nature of human beings has not changed either. Since Adam, humans are dignified with such a power over their own destiny that they can to a great degree turn their backs on God, on spiritual life, on the quest for holiness. But until the end of the world, there will always be people who, even if they are in the minority, will call down God's grace upon the earth and their fellow humans. That the world continues is proof that there is holiness today. Saint Silouan said, "I tell you that when there are no more men of prayer on earth, the world will come Wan end."
In other words, spiritual life, and holiness, which is its fruit, does not exist only in the past. We can see holiness in our predecessors and learn from them, but we are not examining spiritual life like an exhibit in a historical museum. It is a living reality to which we are all called. Every human being has a spiritual dimension. God is not partial: He calls each one into existence with personal love, and endows each human with the potential to share his own life. Saint Peter using the terminology of his time said that we are called to "become partakers of the Divine Nature" (2 Peter 1:4). And that is what holiness is: "Be holy, for I am holy, and I will that you have all that I have, unreservedly." This is God's invitation to us all, whatever our place in society, or our rank in the Church: the rank of the laity, or that of the clergy. Saint Silouan writes: "Everyone in this world has his task to perform, be he king, or patriarch, cook, blacksmith or teacher, but the Lord Whose love extends to everyone of us will give greater reward to the man whose love for God is greater." And again: "Not everyone can be an emperor or a prince; not everyone can be a patriarch or an abbot, or a leader; but in every walk of life we can love God and be pleasing to Him, and only this is important."
Spiritual life is life which takes into account the spiritual dimension of human beings. Working at our relationship with God is not like a hobby for a certain category of person. As people say, "He or she is the religious type." It is not an optional extra. It is what makes our life really human. Biology and psychology, when they exclude the Divine input into the human make-up, give an incomplete picture. Secular man is merely a superior animal, and actually subhuman. Without spiritual effort we will not cultivate our spirit. It cannot be obliterated, but it can be stifled and atrophied, ignored or denied. Only if we live a life which is spiritual will we ever be fully ourselves, fully reintegrated as persons. Spiritual life includes our psychological and our physical aspects. What I think and do on every level of existence affects my soul. And when my soul is touched by God's grace, my thinking, my feeling, and my body are also blessed.
Especially in Western countries, many people have abandoned Christianity. An English author (G.K. Chesterton) wisely said that where people stop believing in the Truth, they do not start to believe in nothing, they start to believe in anything. Thus although belief in God may remain when Christ is abandoned, in every country nowadays one can meet all kinds of spiritualities. This is not surprising, because "man cannot live on bread alone," and spiritual hunger exists even where ideas about the Absolute Being are confused...
The fullness of life in God is only accessible in the God-man, that is, in the One Who shares our human nature as well as having Divine Nature, as One of the Holy Trinity. The Orthodox Christian Church gives us a True Prototype: we can see, and hear, and touch, and taste, the Absolute Being; we can experience the fragrance of God's actual Being. Thus we can go to the end of the Church's path with confidence. No other path, however noble its practices, its morals, and it aspirations, goes safely to the very end. Though nobody is totally bereft of grace, fullness of sanctity presupposes orthodox doctrine. Our teaching is unsurpassed; it is not out of date. It has borne fruit in many different ages and circumstances and cultures. Orthodoxy is for everyone; we can understand why Tertullian said that "every soul is innately Christian".
Thus spiritual life could be defined as "life in Christ." Let us dwell on this for a moment. This phrase has been used as the title of a book by Saint Nicholas Cabasilas about the Sacraments. Echoing him, the great wonderworker, St. John Kronstadt, who was a married priest living in Russia and who reposed in 1905, gave a similar title to his "spiritual diary" when he was asked to publish it. An almost contemporary author called one of the books where he shared his spiritual insights His-that is, Christ's--Life is Mine. To be "in Christ" means to be incorporated into His actual body, and to be anointed with the Holy Spirit--Christ means "the Anointed One"--and adopted as a child of His Heavenly Father. Christian faith is not only saying "yes" to the Creed. It means "putting on Christ" (Galatians 3:27). How? By Baptism, which, precisely, is preceded by a confession of faith. We easily take this great gift for granted, but those who are converted in the mission field or as adults can tell us from their experience that it is a passage from darkness to Light, from death to Life. We sometimes forget that at Baptism the priest said over us, "Thou art washed, thou art sanctified, thou art justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God." These magnificent words, borrowed from Saint Paul's letter to the Corinthians, can seem like a mere ritual formula if we neglect to actualize the Divine gift of Grace in our life. The seed of spiritual life has been sown in us. We "are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints" (1 Corinthians 1:2). That is our task.
If we are certain that we "have found the True faith", we have nothing to fear from the plethora of spiritual paths around us, even though it seems confusing. "For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). If we remain faithful, and continually enrich our experience and knowledge of the Church's life and teaching, we will be all the better fitted to help our contemporaries.
The basic question is always: What do you think of Christ? Saint John reminded his correspondents that, "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ is [the Divine Lord] come in the flesh is not of God" (1 John 4:2). Of course, our exposition of what we think of the Lord will be humble, not arrogant with self-assurance; it will be full of love and gratitude. Saint Silouan says, "God is love, and therefore the preaching of His word must always proceed from love. Then both preacher and listener will profit. But if you do nothing but condemn, the soul of the people will not heed you, and no good will come of it.
Certainly, not everyone is called to be a full-time preacher, but whoever witnesses to Christ will be speaking of One Who has made it possible for all humans to become true persons.
Spiritual life is, according to Orthodox doctrine, a collaboration between our free will and the will of God. The best ambassadors of Christ will be those whose spiritual life in Him has prepared them to speak prayerfully, so that others will want them to explain their belief. "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15). If we conform to the path which alone we can acquire what St. Paul daringly calls the mind of Christ, it does not mean that our individuality gets lost.
Our God is One in Nature and Three in Persons. Our Holy Fathers teach us that we do not divide the Nature or confuse the Persons. And so it is to be when humanity is one as God is one. If the world lived in Christ, His Commandments would be the first goal of each person: love for God and for each other. Therefore each person would be, not dissolved, but affirmed and fulfilled in loving relationships….
Spiritual life will involve some "mortification" for all of us. One example of this is the fasts that we undertake together at certain periods of the Church year, precisely to help us to pray and to cleanse our heart of sinful passions. Saint Paul goes on to say that, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, 'Abba, Father'." "The Spirit Itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:13-16). When "the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us" (1 Peter 4:14), then it will be evident that there is spiritual life and sanctity today.
Please note: The messages sent to you via emails have the purpose of educating, enlightening and deepening your understanding and appreciation of our Holy Orthodox Christian faith. The message is authentic, pure and holy because it comes from the Head and Founder of the Church, Jesus Christ Himself, the Holy Apostles, Holy Fathers, Holy Mothers, and all the Saints of the Church. I, personally, am not concerned with sentimentalism, emotionalism, and instant gratification. I am, however, concerned with helping you know who you are as an Orthodox Christian and how to best imitate our Lord Christ, and how you can work out your own salvation. There are, however, other sources within our Church and Archdiocese that one can turn to be stimulated and be comforted if that is what one desires and needs.
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