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 OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
Master, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, You have been forbearing over our transgressions; and having led us to this present hour, when You were hanging upon the Life-Giving Cross, opening the entrance into Paradise for the repentant thief, and destroying death by death, be merciful to us sinners, Your unworthy servants. For we have sinned and transgressed, and are not worthy to lift up our eyes and to look upon the height of heaven. For we have indeed abandoned the way of righteousness, but now we beseech Your unimaginable goodness. Spare us, O Lord, according to the multitude of Your mercy, for the days of our life have been spent in vanity. Release us from the grasp of our Adversary, and forgive us our transgressions; Mortify our sinful inclinations, so that we may put away the old self, put on the new man and live with You, our Lord and Master. And thus, by following Your Commandments, we shall attain to that eternal rest, which is the dwelling place of all those who delight in You. For You are indeed the True delight and gladness of those who love You, O Christ our God, and to You do we send up glory, together with Your unoriginate Father, and Your All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATIONS OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On February 9th 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: Holy Martyr Nicephorus of Antioch in Syria; our Righteous Father Romanus of Cilicia, the Wonderworker; Holy Hieromartyrs Marcellus, Bishop of Sicily; Philagrius, Bishop of Cyprus; and Pancratius, Bishop of Tavromenium; Holy Hieromartyr Peter of Damascus who was perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Holy Virgin Martyr Apollonia of Alexandria, the Deaconess; our Righteous Fathers Nicephorus and Gennadius of Vazhezersk; the recovery of the holy relics of our Father among the Saints Innocent, Bishop and Wonderworker of Irkutsk.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Deaconesses, Holy Righteous, Holy Ascetics, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Wonderworkers, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE HOLY MARTYR NICEPHORUS. This Holy Martyr, who was from Antioch in Syria, contested during the reign of pagan Gallienus, about the year 260 A.D. Through the working of the Evil One, his friendship with a certain Christian priest named Sapricius was turned to bitter hatred. St. Nicephorus, repenting of his enmity, tried both through intermediaries and in person to be reconciled with Sapricius, but to no avail. Later, when the persecution broke out under Valerian and Gallienus, Sapricius was seized as a Christian. When Saint Nicephorus learned that Sapricius had been arrested by the pagans and was enduring tortures for Christ, he sent intermediaries to Sapricius, begging his forgiveness; but Sapricius would not forgive him. Later, as Sapricius was being taken to beheading, Nicephorus, hoping that Sapricius, at his end, in such a holy hour, would at last forgive him, met him on the way, fell before him, and fervently asked his forgiveness; but Sapricius forgave him not. Wherefore, though Sapricius had passed through many sufferings, and the crown of martyrdom was now awaiting him, because he disdained the chief commandments of love and forgiveness, the grace of God, which had been strengthening him in his torments, departed from him, and he told his executioners he would sacrifice. Saint Nicephorus immediately confessed Christ before them, and being himself beheaded, took the crown that Sapricius had cast away.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Saint. Fourth Tone
Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our Immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption, O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion Hymn of the Saint. First Tone
Bound fast with chains of love, thou didst mightily sunder the wickedness of hatred with manifest courage; and hence, O Nicephorus, when the sword had cut off thy head, thou was shown to be a godly Martyr of Jesus, our Incarnate Savior; pray Him for us who honor thy glorious memory.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 John 2:18-29; 3:1-8
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 11:1-11
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY FATHERS AND HOLY MOTHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Meditation is the mother of good conduct." (Saint Photios the Great)
UNITY OF FAITH
"Having prayed for the unity of the Faith and for the communion of the Holy Spirit, let us offer ourselves, one another, and our whole life to Christ our God." [Litany, the Lord's prayer and Invitation]
The last petition, similarly to the last petition of the Litany Before the Consecration, calls upon the people to offer themselves and each other to Christ God. Once we have asked, and kept, "the unity of the Faith" and "the communion of the Holy Spirit," we may offer our lives to Christ, because True faith and holiness of life are necessary in order to offer to God a pure and acceptable sacrifice.
The petition says, "Having prayed for the unity of the Faith." When did we pray for it? We have prayed repeatedly for unity: to offer our common and united prayers (Prayer of the Third Antiphon), to confess with one mind our Faith (petition before the Creed), and at the conclusion of the Anaphora Prayer. Obviously it also refers to the Creed, that we may always declare our Faith in unity.
In his letter to the Ephesians the holy Apostle Paul stresses the necessity of maintaining unity in the Church, "endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit" (Eph. 4:3), "until we all come to the unity of the faith" (Eph. 4:13). Saint Jude too exhorts us "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (St. Jude 3). We should do everything in our power to maintain the unity of our precious faith.
Today there is pressure on the Orthodox Church to have "open Communion" with those other Christians who also profess faith in Christ. The Orthodox Church resists such pressures, insisting that common faith must absolutely precede the common Cup. Unity of Faith is a presupposition, a conditio sine qua non, to approach the Cup of life. We exclude no one. We say, "Join our faith and you can join the Lord's Cup of salvation." Our prayer for unity is a prayer for Truth. "The Truth of ecclesiastical unity is an existential truth, it relates to the genuineness of human existence."
"...We do not believe in the Augustinian maxim (or, in any case, in its interpretation) subscribed to by both Roman Catholics and Protestants, "unity in essentials and liberty in non-essentials." We believe in the biblical principle, "Whoever keeps the law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it" (St. James 2:10). Saint Photios the Great confirms that the smallest deviation from the dogmas passed on to us leads to spiritual death. Unfortunately, we differ in several essentials with all non-Orthodox--that is why we have separated ourselves from them. We differ from all Protestants because we don't subscribe to their basic tenet that "the Holy Scriptures are the only (and, in any case, the ultimate) supreme authority in all matters of faith alone or even by "the atoning Death of Jesus," as they all hold. We likewise differ from the Roman Catholics in many dogmas of Faith, but particularly because we do not agree that the Pope is the Church or above the Church and that he alone speaks infallibly for the Church.
Since the earliest years, the Church excluded those who did not share her faith, as it is attested by the Didache: "But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the Name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, 'Give not that which is holy to the dogs." Saint Irenaeos of Lyons expresses marvelously the perennial position concerning this foundational truth of the Church, the unity of the Faith:
"The Church although scattered through the whole world even to the ends of the earth has received the faith from the Apostles and from their disciples...[S]he preserves it carefully, as one household: and the whole Church alike believes in these things, as having one soul and heart, and in unison preaching these beliefs, and teaches and hands them on as having one mouth. For though there are many different languages in the world, still the meaning of the Tradition is one and the same...But just as the sun, God's creature, is one and the same in all the world, so the preaching of the Truth shines everywhere and enlightens all men who wish to come to the knowledge of the Truth."
Saint John Chrysostom confirms: "When all of us believe the same, this is the unity of the Faith."
Similarly Blessed Theophylact states: "Unity of faith means that all of us have the same faith," and he adds that next to faith we must also have love. "The unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God is real when we are dogmatically orthodox and when we live in love. For Christ is love." (Source: The Heavenly Banquet: Understanding the Divine Liturgy by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis)
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