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.
PRAYER OF THE FIRST HOUR
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
O Eternal God, the uncreated Light, Infinite and without beginning, the Creator of all creation, the inexhaustible source of mercy, the deep ocean of goodness, and the unsearchable abyss of Loving-kindness for mankind, let the Light of Your countenance, O Lord, shine upon us. Illuminate our hearts, O Spiritual Sun of Righteousness, and fill our souls with Your gladness. Teach us always to meditate and to speak of Your judgments, and to constantly confess to You, our Master and Benefactor. Direct the work of our hands to conform with Your will, and support us in doing what You love and what pleases You. Thus, even through our unworthiness, Your All-Holy Name will be glorified, the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, of the One Godhead and Kingdom, to Whom befits All Glory, Honor and Worship, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On October 6th 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: the Holy and Glorious Apostle Thomas.
+By the holy intercessions of the Holy Apostle Thomas, O Lord, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Corinthians 4:9-16
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 20:19-31
INSPIRING WORDS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Well, the soul is a garden divided into two parts. On one half are planted thorny bushes, and on the other half, flowers. We also have a water pump with two taps and two channels. The one guides the water to the thorns and the other to the flowers. I always have the choice to open one or the other tap. I leave the thorns without water and they dry up; I water the flowers and they blossom." (Saint Porphyrios of Kapsokalyvia)
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
What does it mean to you to be an Orthodox Christian?
The power of a name and its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, and religious ceremony. Everyone recognizes himself or herself by name.
The question is: how does a name influence a person's character?
Let us consider what a name is. It is the grouping of several letters of an alphabet, or other symbols, which represent the identification of a person.
As an Orthodox Christian you belong to the authentic Church founded by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You belong to the Church of the New Testament and the only Christian Church that throughout the ages has maintained a continuity of faith and love with the Apostolic Community which was founded by Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Orthodox Christianity believes that she has preserved and taught the historic Christian Faith, free from error and distortion, from the time of the Holy Apostles. She also believes that there is nothing in the body of her teachings which is contrary to truth or which inhibits real union with God. The air of antiquity and timelessness which often characterizes Orthodox Christianity is an expression of her desire to remain loyal to the authentic Christian Faith.
The life of the Orthodox Church perpetuates and fulfills the ministry of Jesus Christ. The close association between Christ and His Church is reflected in the images from the Holy Scriptures which declare that Christ is the Head and the Church is His Body; and that Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church His bride. In Ephesians 5:23-27 the Holy Apostles says, "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish..." These images express the reality that the Church does not exist independently from Christ.
"One of the tragic aberrations of so-called modern religion is the presence of "Churchless Christianity". The assertion is that it is Christ Who saves us, not the Church, so "all you need is Jesus."
"Few who claim to be Christians would argue against the statement that it is Christ Who saves. For He is the Eternal Son of God Who has assumed human flesh, and has done so "for us and for our salvation". Thus Saint Paul writes, "for there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).
But because this Mediator established the Church which is His Body, we who are joined to Him are joined to His Church as well. To say we love Christ, Who is Head of the Church, and at the same time reject His Body is to deny New Testament teaching.
The Gospel and Acts: The first use of the word "church" (Greek ecclesia) in the New Testament comes in the Gospel of St. Matthew, when our Lord gives His approval of St. Peter's confession of faith and promises, "I will build My Church" (St. Matthew 16:18). Jesus Christ builds and we cooperate with Him.
The Book of Acts discloses more of what Jesus meant in St. Matthew 16. When Saint Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost concludes, those present ask for guidance toward salvation. "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Following St. Peter's word, they are baptized and join with the other believers, three thousand of them (Acts 2:38, 41).
Having been joined to Christ and His Church, these baptized believers begin living as the Body of Christ. We find them looking after each other, using their personal treasures for the care of each other, continuing together in prayer and in the Eucharist (Acts 2:42-47). From this point on "the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47), and throughout Acts, the Church is being built as the gospel of Christ spread.
The Church, that you the Orthodox Christians are members of is, "the place established by Christ where we each may become what we are created to be, maturing and being perfected, while the Church receives what it needs from each of us, so that it, too, is being perfected. The Church as the Body of Christ carries us beyond our petty and worldly personal concerns, stretching our vision to the Eternal and the Heavenly as we ascend together to worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Orthodox Study Bible).
Now that you have a clearer understanding of what the name Orthodox means, we move to Orthodox Christian living, known as orthopraxia.
The situation of an Orthodox Christian who lives in the contemporary world, may be described, without any exaggeration, as extremely difficult. The whole of present-day life, in all its tendencies, in one way or another is directed against a person who is trying to live according to the teachings of the Orthodox Christian Church. In life around us, in our environment, in our heterodox surroundings, everything is essentially a total denial of Christianity. If, in the beginning of the Christian era, Christ's beloved disciples, Saint John the Theologian, could write, "...the whole world lied in wickedness" (1 John 5:19), then how much more justified we are in speaking thus of our times.
Being a true Orthodox Christian, one who lives Christ daily, one prepared to preserve unto death one's faith in Christ our Savior, is much more difficult in our day than it was in the first centuries of Christianity. It's true there were persecutions then and Christians were tormented, but the Christians well remembered the Savior's words, "...fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul" (Saint Matthew 11:28). Being fortified by God's grace, they joyfully went to their martyrdom and gave up their lives for Christ.
"We have been given our holy Christian faith so that we might obtain eternal life in blessedness. But to conform perfectly with the spirit of the Founder of our faith, Christ our Savior, and with His teaching, to really cleanse ourselves morally, to increase in virtue, to become acquainted with spiritual perfection, all this demands special, grace-filled cooperation (Synergy) from above, in addition to an Orthodox person's own efforts. This grace-filled synergy is called sanctification and is given to us by the Lord. It is achieved by the Holy Spirit in the Holy Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ for our sanctification and salvation.
Orthopraxia means that we as Orthodox Christians must live in accordance with God's Commandments, in accordance with Christ's teachings and the laws (Holy Canons) of the Church. We are baptized, we are Orthodox Christians but we don't know very much about our Orthodox Christian Faith. The question is, however, how can one practice his/her Christian faith if he/she does not know the faith? What he/she believes in?
Every path and every action of an Orthodox Christian demands an ascetic struggle. Therefore, our Holy Orthodox Christian Faith is an ascetic faith demanding ascetic labor in the struggle with our sinful passions and lusts.
How must we live and struggle? Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself shows an example: "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (St. John 13:15). The Saints also provide us with an example.
In His Sermon on the Mount our Lord Jesus Christ gives us the whole essence of Evangelical teaching. This is found in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of the Holy Gospel of Saint Matthew. In the Beatitudes the Lord teaches us that we must be born again spiritually and thus prepare ourselves for the beatitude of eternal life in the heavenly mansions. The first step towards this is to recognize one's spiritual emptiness, one's sinfulness and worthlessness, to become humble. This is why "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" (St. Matthew 5:3). But only those who observe the Commandments will achieve this. "Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in Heaven" (St. Matthew 7:21).
In order to go by the path that our Lord pointed out in the Holy Gospel, we have to take ourselves under control, we must check and test ourselves.
Saint Theophan the Recluse says:
"The True Christian tests himself every day. Daily testing to see whether we have become better or worse, is so essential for us that without it we cannot be called Christians. Constantly and persistently we must take ourselves in hand. Do this: from the morning establish thoughts about the Lord firmly in your mind and then during the whole day resist any deviation from these thoughts. Whatever you are doing, with whomever you are speaking, whether you are going somewhere or sitting, let your mind be with the Lord. You will forget yourself, and stray from this path; but again turn to the Lord and rebuke yourself with sorrow. This is the struggle of spiritual attentiveness."
In answer to the question, how must an Orthodox Christian live, how must we act and behave? The Holy Apostle Paul shows us. His words, directed to the Ephesians 5:1-21 are also addressed to us:
"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself to us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet savor. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient [not proper]: but rather giving of thanks..."
It is therefore, my dear Orthodox Christians, the appropriate time to take your personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ seriously. Being an Orthodox Christian does not mean a free ride to heaven. To be an Orthodox Christian carries a greater responsibility than any other Christian of any other Christian tradition. Why? Because you claim to possess the true Christian Faith, to belong to the only authentic Christian Church in the world. It was never enough to simply inherit this Faith. All of you must awake from your spiritual slumber and begin your ascetic struggle if you want to be saved and to enter the eternal Kingdom of God.
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.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God