The Salvation of the Soul

14,000 Infants (Holy Innocents) slain by Herod at Bethlehem

14,000 Infants (Holy Innocents) slain by Herod at Bethlehem

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 FOR THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF THE SOUL
(Saint Augustine)

O Lord Jesus Christ, Word of God, O God the Logos, You are the Light that created the perceptible light. You are the Way and the Truth and the Life. In You there is no darkness, no deception, or lie, no vanity and no death. You are indeed the Light, and apart from You there is spiritual darkness. You are the Truth and Virtue, without which there only vanity. You are the Life and without you there is death.

Lord, give the command to my soul which You gave in the beginning: "Let there be light!" that I may see the Light of Your Spirit and avoid the darkness of ignorance and of sin; that I may see the way of virtue and of salvation and turn to You and away from what is not a real way; that I may see the truth and avoid the vanity of this temporal life; that I may see the spiritual life and avoid the death which is brought about by sin. Lord, shine Your Spiritual Light abundantly upon me. You are my enlightenment and my Savior, Whom I will respect and fear. You are my Lord to Whom I will sing songs of praise. You are my God, Whose Name I will bless and glorify. You are my Father, Whom I will love. You are my Bridegroom, for Whom I will keep my soul faithful and devoted.

O Lord, the Light of my soul, shine Your enlightenment upon me. As I stand now before You in prayer, shine Your Light upon me who am blind of soul, sitting in spiritual darkness and under the influence and power of death. Guide my works on the way of virtue, which brings peace, so that I may worthily approach the wondrous Tabernacle, Your Holy Temple, the House of God, and there offer to You, with joyous voice, words of thanksgiving and Doxology. For this doxology, when truly coming from the heart, is a way and a means by which I will first be able to turn away from the path of sin, and then directly return to you. For You are truly the way that leads to life. Amen.

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TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):

On December 29th Our Holy Orthodox 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 Church: The 14,000 infants (Holy Innocents) slain by Herod at Bethlehem; Saint Mark the Gravedigger of the Kiev Caves; Saint Thaddeus, Confessor of the Studion; Saint Athenodoros, Disciple of Saint Pachomius the Great; Saint George, Bishop of Nicomedia; Saint Benjamin of Nitria in Egypt; Saint Mercellus, Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Monastery of the Unsleeping Ones; Saints Theophilos and John of the Kiev Caves; Saint Theophilos of Luga; Commemoration of all Orthodox Christians who died from hunger, thirst, the sword, and freezing.

+ By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Innocents, Holy Martyrs, Holy Egoumenoi, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Monks, Holy Nuns, Holy Confessors, Holy Bishops, Holy Orthodox Christians and of all Your Saints.

The 14,000 Holy Children (Holy Innocents) in Bethlehem. When the Wise Men from the East failed to return to Jerusalem from Bethlehem to tell Herod about the new-born King, but, at the Angel's command, returned to their home another way, Herod the king was furious as wild beast, and commanded that all the children of two years and under in Bethlehem and its surroundings be killed. This terrible command of the king's was carried out to the letter. His soldiers cut off some of the children's heads with their swords, dashed others on the stones, trampled some of them underfoot and drowned others with their own hands. The weeping and lamentation of their mothers rose to heaven: 'Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children' as had been prophesied (Jeremiah 13:15; St. Matthew 2:18). This evildoing towards the hordes of innocent children came to pass a year after the birth of Christ, at a time when Herod was trying to find the Divine Child. He sought Zacharias's son, John (the future St. John the Baptist), meaning to kill him in the belief that John was the new king. When St. Zacharias refused to hand his son John over, he was killed in the Temple on Herod's orders. Saint Simeon the Host of God was also killed, and went to God soon after the Presentation in the Temple. Slaying the children in Bethlehem, Herod then turned on the Jewish elders, who had revealed to him where the Messiah would be born. He killed Hyrcanes the High Priest, and 70 elders from the Sanhedrin, and thus they who conspired with Herod to kill the New Baby King came to an evil end. After that Herod killed his own brother and sister and wife, and three of his sons. Finally, God's punishment fell on him: he began to tremble, his legs swelled, the lower part of his body became putrid and worms came out of the sores, his nose became blocked and an unbearable stench spread around from it. At the time of his death, he remembered that there were many captive Jews in prison, so, that they should not rejoice at his death, he ordered that they all be slaughtered. Thus this terrible ruler lost his inhuman soul and was given to the devil for eternity. (Source: The Prologue from Ochrid)

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TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 2:11-18
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 2:13-23

INSPIRING WORDS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:

"This prayer should never be absent from you: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Logos of the Living God, through the Theotokos and all the Saints, have mercy upon me, Thy sinful and unworthy servant." (This is the actual Jesus Prayer: "O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.") Always say this prayer both with your mouth and with your mind, day and night, wherever you may be, whether eating, walking, working, or sitting. Always meditate on it, as it benefits you a great deal, frees you here from every evil, delivers you there from eternal Hell, and renders you worthy of going to Paradise, our heavenly country." (Saint Cosmas of Aitolia or Aitolos)

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THE SALVATION OF THE SOUL
by Saint Nikolai Velmirovich

After a large number of people gathered around our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord spoke these words: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" In addition, He spoke these words: "What can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

This means that a man's soul has more value than the whole visible world. And if a man loses his soul, with what can he make payment, with what can he buy it back again? With nothing in the world. Not even if he gives the whole world can he buy his lost soul.

Blessed is he who knows this, and who guards his soul as his greatest treasure. Blessed is he who stands guard over his soul every day and does not permit his soul to suffer harm in any way. For he who saves his soul will save everything and he who loses his soul will lose everything.

In a small town there once lived a very rich man. He lived in a small dilapidated house. He did not want to renovate his house, but saved and guarded his wealth.

Now this one night his house happened to catch fire and burn down. The man, however, jumped out of bed undressed, searched out his saved-up treasure, and leapt out of the house. His whole house was reduced to ashes, but he did not feel sorry about it at all. Rather, with his wealth he moved to a large city, and in this large city he built a beautiful palace, and there he continued to live cheerfully and free from worry.

What does this story symbolize? The small town represents this world, in which men live as guests for a short time. The small dilapidated house represents man's body, the home of man's spirit (soul). The rich man represents a sensible Christian, who has heard, understood, and laid up in his heart the words of Christ: "What does it help a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?"

The great wealth of the rich man represents the rich soul of a sensible Christian, who labored for a whole lifetime to live according to the Law of Christ and amass into his soul all those good works (works of charity) which shine more brightly than gold or silver or precious gems. That spiritual gold and silver, that great spiritual treasure is: faith and hope in God, love for God, prayerfulness, mercy, goodness, peace, brotherly love, humility and purity.

What does the burning down of the house represent? It represents bodily death. The unexpected fire in the night represents unexpected bodily death, of which no mortal knows the day or the hour. The awakening of the rich man from sleep at the moment of the fire and the moving to the large city represents the freeing of the soul from the body at the hour of death and the moving to the other world.

The large city represents the Eternal Kingdom of Christ, in which only the Angels and the Righteous live. The beautiful palace in the large city represents the dwelling place of every righteous soul in that world, in the eternal and everlasting Kingdom.

This story is clear and the moral is beautiful. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear. Let no one place his hope in this transitory life, which passes as quickly as a cloud driven by the wind from Perister to Oblakov. Let no one take pride in his body, for every human body is a dilapidated house, which death will soon reduce to ashes.

But let every Christian man and woman ceaselessly take thought for their souls, for that unique treasure, which can save them from death and destruction. Whoever takes thought for his soul, listens to Christ's words and carries out His Holy Commandments--the meek Christ helps such a man and helps him without ceasing. He watches over him as mother over a child in a cradle. And He nourishes him and waters him day and night with His Holy Spirit. And He gives him a Guardian Angel to protect him in all the paths of life and to take his soul at the hour of death and lead it into the Heavenly Kingdom.

To our God be glory and praise. Amen.

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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.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George