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.
LENTEN PRAYER OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. (Prostration)
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. (Prostration)
Yes, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother (sister), for Thou art Blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration).
SIXTH HOUR PRAYERS
O You Who on the sixth day and hour nailed to the Cross the sin which rebellious Adam committed in Paradise, tear asunder also the bond of our iniquities, O Christ Our God, and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On March 12th 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 ever righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: St. Gregory Dialogos, Bishop of Rome; Saint Symeon the New Theologian and his elder Symeon the Reverent of the Studium; Saint Theophanes the Confessor of Sigriane; Saint Aaron the High Priest, brother of Prophet Moses; Saint Phineas, grandson of Aaron; Emperor Demetrius the Devoted king of Georgia; St. Cyrus of Alexandria; 9 Holy Martyrs who were martyred by fire; St. Theoctistus Dragutin of Serbia; Saint Paul, bishop of Leon in Brittany; St. Nicodemos of Mammola in Calabria; St. Alphege, bishop of Winchester, England; "Lydda" holy Icon of the Mother of God.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Theologians, Holy Priests, Holy Kings, Holy Confessors, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
SAINT THEOPHANES THE CONFESSOR. Saint Theophanes, who was born in 760 AD, was the son of illustrious parents. Assenting to their demand, he married and became a member of the Emperor's ceremonial bodyguard. Later, with the consent of his wife, he forsook the world indeed, both of them embraced the monastic life, struggling in the Monastic houses they themselves had established. He died on March 12, 815 AD, on the island of Samothrace, whereto, because of his confession of the Orthodox Faith, he had been exiled by Leo the Armenian, the Iconoclast Emperor.
SAINT SYMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN. Saint Symeon became a monk of the Studite Monastery as a young man under the guidance of the Geronda [Elder] Symeon the Pious. Afterwards he struggled at the Monastery of Saint Mamas in Constantinople, of which he became Egoumenos [Abbot]. After enduring many trials and afflictions in his life of piety, he reposed in 1022 AD. Marveling at the heights of prayer and holiness to which he attained, and the loftiness of the teachings of his life and writings, the Church calls him "the New Theologian." Only two other Saints, St. John the Evangelist and Saint Gregory, Patriarch of Constantinople, has the Orthodox Church given the name "Theologian." Saint Symeon reposed on March 12, but since this always falls in the Great Fast, his feast is kept today.
SAINT GREGORY DIALOGOS, BISHOP OF ROME. Saint Gregory was born in Rome to noble and wealthy parents about the year 540 AD. While the Saint was still young, his father died. However, his mother, Sylvia, saw to it that her child received a good education in both secular and spiritual learning. He became Prefect of Rome and sought to please God even while in the world; later, he took up the monastic life, afterwards he was appointed Archdeacon of Rome, then, in 579 AD,Apocrisiarius (representative or Papal legate) to Constantinople, where he lived for nearly seven years. He returned to Rome in 585 AD and was elected Pope in 590 AD. He is renowned especially for his writings and great almsgiving, and also because, on his initiative, missionary work began among the Anglo-Saxon people. It is also from him that Gregorian chant takes its name, the chanting he had heard at Constantinople had deeply impressed him, and he imported many elements of it into the ecclesiastical chant of Rome. He served as Bishop of that city from 590 to 604 AD.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Genesis 7: 11-8:3
Proverbs 10: 1-22
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"When a man penetrates the depths of humility and recognizes that he is unworthy to be saved, his sorrow releases springs of tears, and as a consequences spiritual joy floods out in his heart. In this way, hope rises out of this spring, grows with it, and strengthens our certainty of being saved." (St. Symeon the New Theologian)
ONLY ONE THING IS NEEDED
By Geronda [Elder] Ephraim (former Egoumenos [Abbot] of Philotheou Monastery at Mt. Athos and Arizona)
From the Holy and Sacred Gospel we are all familiar with Lazarus, who was resurrected after four days in the tomb. Lazarus had two sisters: Martha and Mary. They once invited the Lord to their home for a meal. Indeed, the Lord went to their home for their hospitality. Martha was extremely concerned with preparing the food. Her sister Mary, on the other hand, sat by the feet of Jesus and listened to His Divine teaching. Martha sought Mary's help by asking the Lord to permit her to arise from his feet and busy herself with the preparations. At that moment, in order to teach Martha that her concern for worldly matters should be in moderation, our Christ informed her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried, and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her" (St. Luke 10:41).
The commandment of Christ applies to all of us. Our concern for life's necessities should be in moderation, as much as is necessary to serve our needs. According to the Christian teaching, what has value is the "one thing needed"; that is, the concern for how to be pleasing to God, the concern for the salvation of our immortal soul.
Martha attempted to please the Lord with material things. Mary, however, was wiser and more prudent. She realized that it was an opportunity to hear His Divine teaching. "How much longer will the Lord remain with us on the earth?" she thought to herself. Therefore, she sat attentively next to Him, and the Lord promised that his blessing would not be taken away from her; that is, the blessing of carefully listening to the Divine words, and delighting in the vision of Christ and His teachings.
We must concern ourselves with the inevitable necessities of life. We cannot live without caring for material things because we are equally corporeal and spiritual. The body requires food, clothing, and the like. Above all, however, our immortal soul is in need of salvation, of this "one thing needed." Our ultimate concern, our only worry should be how to purify our soul, how to draw near to God, how to conform to the will of God, and how to avoid being condemned to Hell. The salvation of our soul is not a game! We cannot play with our eternal life, because we know very well that we are mortal; we are transient; we are foreigners; we are visitors. We are simply guests on this earth, and one day, each one of us will bid farewell to this temporary dwelling, and we will depart for our own permanent residence. Our own residence is where the soul returns: "whence it came" (cf. Genesis 3:19). "And God breathed in his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). The soul, this living essence of man, was created by God through His inbreathing and through His energy, and it will return "whence it came."
For this reason, when we lack Divine consolation, we feel a void in our soul. The soul is not content with anything material because all material things are foreign to its nature. When, however, the soul of man draws near to God through prayer and virtuous conduct, it rejoices, it feels secure, and it senses God within.
The matter of eternal life should not be taken lightly because, if after a few moments we depart from this life, we will find ourselves--definitively and positively--before eternity. Is it a game to confront fearsome death? To encounter the demons? To face our criminal record--which every man has before God--and to observe all our sins being enumerated in complete detail? To discover our sinfulness, which we are unaware of presently? Is it a game to begin our ascent to the Judge, and to face the toll-houses? How will we look at the Lord straight in the eyes? Does our conscience reassure us? Does it hearten us and encourage us? Do we have the confidence? No! I am the first one who does not have it!
We will not be able to look at the Lord in the eyes. We will lower our head in shame because we did not do the will of God. We defiled the white garment that we received during Holy Baptism. I wonder, however: Did we ever wash it with tears? Did we pour out tears of repentance? Did we change our life and live with purity? Not at all! Just as we are about to accomplish something good, we fall back into the same filthy muck again!
With all the strength of our soul, we must put things in order and think: "What does my salvation require? What is my soul? My soul is immortal, and I can die in a few moments. What's going to happen then? Then judgment follows. What will God's decision be at the conclusion of the trial? I will either be placed within the Light or the darkness; either with God for eternity, or with the devil for eternity; either in Paradise or in Hell--all in a matter of minutes!"
Now we are alive. If, however, something happens to us and we die suddenly, we will encounter all these truths. There are no exceptions! There is nothing that can change this fixed course of developments. We will see death, judgment, and everything else unfolding in front of us. Yet, we deal with things so thoughtlessly!
We sin; we remain indifferent; we neglect our prayers and God's Commandments; we do not listen to our conscience and correct our way of life, even though we realize that we can die at any given moment. Then, everything we have created here on earth, whether it be wealth, family, diplomas, or glory and honor, will instantly disappear. "Death has come, and all things have vanished."
"...This is why we must attend to our soul, to the "one thing needed." We should ceaselessly be concerned with how to purify our heart, how to purify our mind, how to purify our body, and how to free our conscience from the invisible bonds of sin. Then, with the grace of God, we will attain the "one thing needed," and through death we will indeed cross over to Heaven.
The person who undertakes this holy preoccupation for the salvation of his/her soul and close union with God will not be seen frequenting nightclubs and dances. You will not see such a person involving himself with unnecessary things. On the contrary! You will notice that he is always careful, wise, serious, thoughtful, and mindful of everything that can possibly lead him to sin.
"...We must reflect upon these matters very seriously and think, "I have an immortal soul; I have a conscience. I will go to be judged by God, and an eternal decision will follow shortly thereafter. What does God want from me? He wants me to correct myself, to repent, to stop sinning, to confess, to cry for my sin, and to map out a new path--a righteous, bright, and positive path." I should look neither to the right nor to the left, but directly toward Heaven. And when death comes, it will not disturb me. The Bible states, "I prepared myself, and I was not disturbed" (Psalm 118:60). When someone is ready, he does not become alarmed. Who panics? The person who is unprepared.
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