My beloved in Christ,
Christ is in our midst!
As we proceed on our spiritual journey to worship the Divine Child, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, we must remain vigilant, watchful and very alert. The enemy, the evil one, is setting snares to catch us by deception and trickery. When Saint Anthony the Great saw all the snares of the devil spread out everywhere, he sighed, and asked God how anyone could ever avoid them. God answered him, "humility. It is humility that enables you to escape them all. And what is more astonishing, God added, "they cannot even touch you." (St. Dorotheos of Gaza and Sayings)
"...and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one." (Lord's Prayer)
When our Savior taught us how to pray, He did not say to ask for deliverance from evil, but specifically, "deliver us from the evil one." For, in this life we are often subjected to evil, and those who actually struggle to follow Christ and His Holy Orthodox Faith must often endure it. Indeed, in the Beatitudes, we are even assured that we must endure evil.
"Demons do not have the power to inflict death upon anyone, and their power rests mostly in the ability to deceive or to lead a person to harm himself. Saint Anthony the Great informs us that, "We have among us terrible and cunning enemies, the evil spirits. As soon as the demons see that any Christian is a struggler and developing in virtue, they strive to hinder the path with temptation, inspiring evil thoughts (logismoi). If they cannot seduce the heart with blatant, impure sensuality, then they attack again trying to instill fear with dreams and visions…But these apparitions are, in themselves, nothing, and soon disappear if one, with faith in God's help, signs himself with the sign of the Cross" (Works, p.30).
It is most crucial in our spiritual quest to turn and study the Holy Scripture during this most holy season. In the book of Zechariah we hear the words, "Smite the shepherds and draw out (scatter) the sheep..." (13:7). In other words "Strike the shepherd (priest) and the sheep (Orthodox Christians) will be scattered" in Hebrew text. Jesus cites this verse in St. Matthew 26:31). Also, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (St. Matthew 7:15).
May the Almighty God give you the gift of discernment, the gift of faith, the gift of love and the gift of humility, so that you will reach the city of David, Bethlehem.
God's blessings to all of those who are responding to the call of our beloved Church. Already your love and compassion is pouring into our parish. We have had a number of touching and most inspiring experiences from our brothers and sisters in Christ who may be the poorest in the community, and yet, they have given everything they had for the love and glory of God. What a wonderful Christian message and Christian example of an authentic Orthodox Christian. May our Lord and Savior bless you abundantly!
This coming Wednesday (December 9th) the holy service of Orthros (Matins) and Divine Liturgy will take place at the Chapel of Panagia (All-Holy Mother of God) at the Holy Dormition Chapel. Hope to see you there. We have much to be thankful for.
With agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God