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.
PRAYERS OF THE FIRST AND THIRD HOUR
(The Prayer Services for the Hours have been determined by the Church to be read at the various intervals of the day, that is, at approximately 8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. The Four Services of the Hours, however, are usually read in church together on the major pre-feast days, with designated readings from Sacred Scripture and special festal hymns, in anticipation of the great Feast days of the Church. When the Hours are read privately, two are said in the morning and two in the afternoon. But whenever it is possible, the First Hour (or even also the Third) may be read after breakfast by the whole family before the holy icons as a family prayer.)
Here only a few of the prayers have been selected and arranged in very brief devotional exercises for our edification:
The First Hour (8:00 a.m.)
+In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to You, our God, glory to You. Come, let us bow down and worship God our King. Come, let us bow down and worship Christ our God and King. Come, let us bow down and worship Christ Himself, our King and our God.
In the morning, hearken to my voice, O my King and my God. Listen to the words of my prayer, O Lord, And attend to my supplication. In the morning, hearken to my voice, O my King and my God. For to You I pray, O Lord, That You may hear my voice.
In the morning, hearken to the words of my prayer, O my King and my God.
Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Now and forever and the age of age. Amen
What shall we call You, Who are full of Grace? Heaven, for You have caused the Sun of Righteousness to dawn. Paradise, for You have cause the incorruptible flower to blossom. Virgin, for You indeed have remained inviolate. Pure Mother, for You have held in Your Holy arms the Son Who is God of All. Intercede for us that He may save our souls.
Guide my steps to walk according to Your word, O Lord, And do not allow any transgression to overcome me. (2 times)
Redeem me from the slander of men And I shall observe Your Commandments. (2 times)
Manifest Your face to Your servant, And teach me Your Commandments. (2 times)
Let my mouth be filled with praise of You, O Lord, That I may sing all day long, Of Your glory and majesty. (3 times)
[The prayers for the First Hour continue.
Source: A Prayer Book: An Anthology of Orthodox Prayers by Fr. Peter A. Chambers]
By Father Georges Florovsky [A Russian Orthodox theologian]
Man has been created in freedom. He had to come into being in freedom, and he fell in freedom. The fall is an act of will; and sin is primarily in the will--it is a condition, or form, or arrangement of the will. Man is a free being. This means that he is a volitional being. Sin is a false choice and false contrariness and arbitrariness of the will. Evil is the feebleness and insufficiency of the will. Evil is of an "elliptical" nature. Here Saint Maximus the Confessor comes very close to Saint Gregory of Nyssa and the thought expressed in the Corpus Areopagiticum as well. Evil does not exist by itself. Evil is really the free perversion of reasoning will, which turns aside from God, which circumvents God, and thus turns to non-existence. Evil is "non-existing" primarily as this striving or this will to non-existence.
The fall manifests itself primarily in the fact that man falls into the possession of passion. Passion is a sickness of the will. It is the loss or limitation of freedom. The hierarchy of the soul's natural forces is perverted. Reason loses the capability and power to control the soul's lower forces--man passively--that is, "passionately"--subordinates himself to the elemental forces of his nature, and is enticed by them--he spins in the disorderly movement of these forces. This is connected with spiritual blindness. The feebleness, the weakness of the will is connected with the ignorance of reason--'αγνοια, as the opposite of γνώσις. Man forgets and loses the ability to contemplate and recognize God and the Divine. His consciousness is overcrowded with sensual images.
Sin and evil are movements downward, away from God. Man not only does not transform and animate the world or nature, where he was placed as priest and prophet, not only does not raise nature above its level; but rather descends himself, and sinks below his measure. Called to deification (theosis), he becomes like the dumb beasts. Called to existence, he chooses non-existence. Created from a soul and body, man loses his integrity in the fall, and splits in two. His mind grows coarse, and becomes overcrowded with earthly and sensual images. And his very body becomes coarse.
In these general conclusions about the nature and character of evil Saint Maximus the Confessor is merely repeating generally accepted opinions. The only things of his that is original is his insistent stressing of volitional factors. This allows him to develop the ascetic doctrine of the "ordeal" as the transformation of the will with greater consistency. In general, in his anthropology St. Maximus is closest to Saint Gregory of Nyssa. For sin--that is, the "sin volition"-- man was "vested in leathern garments." This is the feebleness of nature--its passivity, coarseness, and mortality. Man is drawn into the very maelstrom of natural decay. His passivity is a certain immanent exposure of passion, an unmasking of its inner contradictions. The decay of man is proclaimed most clearly in his sinful birth, a birth from a seed, from male lust and voluptuousness like the way of the dumb beasts...
Man's freedom did not, however, fade away in the fall and in sin--it merely grew weak. Rather, inertia of nature increased very much after the fall--it was shot through and through with the sprouts of "unnatural" or para-physical" passions and grew heavy. But the capacity for free movement, for circulation and return, did not dry up and was not taken away. Here is the pledge of resurrection and liberation from under the power of decay and sin. Christ delivers and frees, but everyone must accept and experience this deliverance within himself, creatively and freely. It is for this reason that his is liberation, a way out of slavery and the oppression of the passions to freedom--a shift from passivity to activity--that is, from passivity (being included in the rotation of non-verbal nature) to mobility, to creativity and the "ordeal."
Saint Maximus always makes a clear distinction between these two factors: nature and volition or will. Christ heals nature once and for all, without the actual participation of individual persons, and even independently of their possible participation--even sinners will be resurrected. But everyone must be liberated in a personal "ordeal." Everyone is called to this liberation--with Christ and in Christ.
Christian life begins with a new birth, in the baptismal font. This is the gift of God. it is participation in a pure and chaste birth of Christ from the Virgin. However, one must approach baptism with faith and only through faith does one receive the gifts of the Spirit which are offered. Realization is the task of free "ordeal." Man is given the "grace of innocence"--της 'αναμαρτησίας. He can simply no longer err, but he must also actively not sin. He must fulfill the Commandments and activate good principles in himself.
Grace through the Sacraments frees man, tears him away from the first Adam, and unites him with the second Adam (Christ). It raises him above nature's measures--for deification (theosis) has already begun. This is, however, only the fulfillment of man's natural calling, for he was created to outgrow himself, to become higher than himself. It is precisely for this reason that the activity of grace cannot be only external, and is not forced. Grace presupposes exaction and susceptibility. It awakens freedom, and arouses and animates volition. It is "volition" which is the repository of grace...
Passion is the unnatural movement of the soul, either through illogical and non-sensical love or foolhardy hatred for something sensual, or for the sake of something...St. Maximus repeats the customary ascetic outline of the development of passion: around the sensual image which is introduced into soul...Evil itself, and passion, are of a dynamic nature...
...It is even harder to overcome hatred and rage. To court mildness and temperance it takes even longer...One must drive thoughts away while focusing one's attention on something else disciplining one's mind, spiritual sobriety and prayer….One must not only cut off the passions, but also create good. And apatheia does not end with mere suppression of the passions but also signifies a certain positive state of the soul. "Doing" begins with fear of God and is accomplished in fear. Love, however, drives fear away--rather it transforms it into reverential trembling…
Deification (theosis) is the goal of creation, and for its sake everything which came into being was created. And everything will be deified-God will be everything, and in everything. This will not, however, be violence. Deification (theosis) must be accepted and experienced in freedom and love. (Source: The Byzantine Fathers of the Sixth to Eighth Century)
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