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 THE ALL-HOLY THEOTOKOS
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
All-Holy Virgin Mother of God, we humans cannot offer you the hymn and praise that is appropriate to you, for your proper praise is superior to any human melody. From you God Himself received flesh and was born as a human being. The totality of nature in heaven and on earth offers to you its boundless respect. For you have become an Angelic Throne of Cherubim. As a reflection of Light, you shine brightly in the imperceptible world and in all the ends of heaven and earth and in the whole universe, where the Unoriginate Father is praised, Whose power always over-shadowed you; where the Son is worshiped, the Son to Whom you gave birth; where the Holy Spirit is glorified, the Spirit which enacted in your womb the birth of the Great King. Through you, who are full of grace, the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity is revealed in the world to become known by human beings. We pray to you and beseech you, Most Blessed Theotokos, to make us also worthy of your perfect grace that we too may partake of it with you in Christ Jesus, Our Lord, in Whom the glory and the power abides unto the ages of ages. Amen. --Saint Gregory of Neocaesaria
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On December 10th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, and entreats the holy intercessions of the 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 Menas the Kallikelados, Hermogenes, and Efgraphos of Alexandria; Holy Hieromartyr Theotecnos; St. John, king of Serbia, and his parents Stephen and Angeline Brancovich; St. Gemellos of Paphlagonia; Holy Martyrs Marianus and Eugene; St. Thomas of Bithynia; St. Ioasaph, Bishop of Belgorod.
+ By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Kings, Holy Bishops, Holy Mothers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Confessors, Holy Apostles, Holy Fathers, Holy Deacons, Holy Forefathers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
SAINT MENAS, according to the Synaxaristes, had Athens as his homeland. He was a military officer, and educated man and skilled in speech, wherefore he was surnamed Kallikelados ("most eloquent"); Saint Efgraphos was his scribe. Both had Christian parents. The pagan emperor Maximinus (he was the successor of Alexander Severus, and reigned from 235 to 238 A.D.) sent Saint Menas to Alexandria to employ his eloquence to end a certain strife among the citizens. Saint Menas, having accomplished this, also employed his eloquence to strengthen the Christians in their faith, which when Maximinus heard, he sent St. Hermogenes, who was an eparch born to unbelievers, to turn St. Menas away from Christ. But Hermogenes rather came to the Faith of Christ because of the miracles wrought by Saint Menas. Saint Menas, Efgraphos, and Hermogenes received the crown of martyrdom in the year of our Lord 235 A.D.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Holy Martyrs. Plagal of Fourth Tone
Since they had slain through their abstinence and struggles the fiery ragings and fierce motions of the passions, the staunch Martyrs of Christ God laid hold on the graces to drive off the pains and illnesses of the sick and work wonders both while living and after death. Strange indeed is the miracle! That these bare bones should pour forth such overflowing streams of cures. Glory be to our only God.
Kontakion Hymn. First Tone
With sacred songs and hymns, let us all render honor to marvelous Menas, with the valiant Efgraphos and godly Hermogenes, for they honored the Lord of all; and for Him, they suffered.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: St. Titus 1:5-14
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 21: 28-33
INSPIRING WORDS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Shun the praise of men and love the one who, in the fear of the Lord, reprimands you" (Saint Pachomios the Great).
THE VIRTUES AND VICES ACCORDING TO THE HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN FAITH
The Virtue of Gratitude
The spiritual person is the one who is grateful for everything. He is the one who receives everything with thanksgiving, and who knows that he has nothing he has received from God. (Cf. St. John 3:27)
"And from His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace." (St. John 1:16)
In the Old Testament, thanksgiving was central in the life of God's people. The temple liturgy offered sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise, and psalms sang continually of thanksgiving to God.
"Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His Holy Name."
"Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving. Let us enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His Name!"
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Thy Name, O Most High; to declare Thy steadfast love in the morning, and Thy faithfulness by night."
"O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is gracious, for His mercy endures forever." (The Psalms)
In the New Testament, thanksgiving is the very essence of the Church's life. The word "Eucharist" (Gr. Ευχαριστία) means thanksgiving, and the very center of the Church's Liturgical Worship of God is when, in remembrance of all His saving acts in Christ, the faithful "lift up their hearts" ("΄Ανω σχώμεν τάς καρδίας") and "give thanks unto the Lord" ("Ευχαριστήσωμεν τώ Κυρίω").
The Apostolic Scripture and the lives of the Saints abound with thanksgiving to God for all things.
"Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving...always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father" (Ephesians 5:4,20).
"Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
"Rejoice always in the Lord; again I say, Rejoice! (,,,) Have not anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7).
The spiritual person has thanksgiving and gratitude in all circumstances, in everything and for everything. This thanksgiving is rooted in the firm conviction of God's merciful providence and care in all things, in the steadfast faith that "God works in everything for good with those who love Him" or, as the passage may also be rendered, "Everything works together for good with those who love God" (Romans 8:28).
The spiritual teachers, especially Saint John Chrysostom (4th century), are very strict in this teaching. The spiritual man does not thank God only for what he considers to be good. Rather, he thanks God for everything, even for what appears to be bad, knowing that God's tender care is over all, and that the evil in this world--which is always present and inevitable (Cf. St. John 17)--can itself be the vehicle for the spiritual growth and salvation if rightly understood and overcome by the grace of God.
The opposite of gratitude is bitterness and complaining; it is bemoaning one's lot in life because of pride and covetousness. It is caused by the absence of humble trust in the Lord. It is rooted in an attitude of life which does not allow the person to exclaim with the righteous Job:
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21)
To thank God in everything and for everything is the result of faith and faithfulness in God. It is the result of absolute trust in the Lord Who knows best what we need for our salvation and does all He can within the evil conditions of the world to bring us to eternal life, to peace, and to joy. It is the product of believing, with Isaiah, the Logos (Word) of the Redeemer who says:
"For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid My face from you, but with everlasting love will I have compassion on you."
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither your ways, my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts…"
"And you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing..."
"Keep justice and do righteousness, for soon My salvation will come..." (Isaiah 54:7-8, 55:8-9, 56:1)
A person is grateful to the extent that he or she trusts in the Lord and has love for God and man. (Source: Orthodox Church in America)
The Greatest Virtue is Agape (Love)
God is Agape (Love)
According to the Christian faith "the greatest virtue is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love is the "fulfilling of the law" of God (Romans 13:10) for God Himself is love.
"Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God."
"He who does not love does not know God; for God is love."
"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him."
"In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be expiation for our sins."
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us."
"By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His own Spirit."
"And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son as the Savior of the World. Whoever confesses Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God."
"So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."
"In this love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of Judgment, because as He is so are we in this world."
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love."
"We love, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:7-19)
In this inspired words, of the beloved Apostle John, one sees that man's communion with God, his entire spiritual life, is expressed in love. Where there is no love, God is absent and there is no spiritual life. Where love is, God is, and all righteousness."
Man's love has its origin in God. God's love always comes first. Men are to love God and one another because God Himself has loved us first.
God's love is shown in the creation and salvation of the world in Christ and the Holy Spirit. All things were made by, and for Jesus Christ, the Logos (Word) of God, and the "Son of His love" (Colossians 1:13-17; St. John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:2).
When the world became sinful and dead, "God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son...not to condemn the world, but to save the world." (St. John 3:16, 12:47)
"But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8). But when the goodness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit which He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that we might be made righteous by His grace and become heirs in the hope of eternal life" (St. Titus 3:4-7).
God's love for man and His world in Christ is given in the Holy Spirit. This love is the first and greatest "fruit of the spirit" (Galatians 5:22), "for God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).
In the spiritual tradition of the Church, the aim of life as the "acquisition of the Holy Spirit" is expressed most perfectly in love (cf. Saint Macarius of Egypt, 4th century, Spiritual Homilies, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, 19th century, Conversation with N. Molovilov). Indeed, the Holy Spirit Himself is identified with God's love by the Saints, as witnessed in the writings of Saint Simeon the New Theologian.
So it is that love as goodness, love as union, love as friendship are all to be found in God and man, between God and man, and between human beings. There is no form of true love which lays outside the realm of the spiritual life.
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