Apocalypse (The Book of Revelation)

St. Basil the Bishop of Ostrog in Montenegro, Serbia

St. Basil the Bishop of Ostrog in Montenegro, Serbia

My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord, Redeemer, God and Only True Savior,

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!

Let us who have beheld the Resurrection of Christ, worship our Holy Lord Jesus, Who is alone without sin. We worship Thy Cross, O Christ, and praise and glorify Thy Holy Resurrection. For Thou art our God, and we know none other beside Thee, and we call upon Thy Name. Come, all ye faithful, let us worship Christ's Holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross, joy has come to the whole world. We praise His Resurrection, and forever glorify the Lord. He endured the Cross for us, and by death destroyed Death. Jesus, having risen from the grave, as He foretold, has given to us Eternal Life and the Great Mercy.

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

On April 29th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Forefathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and of every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Apostles of the Seventy (70) Jason and Sosipater; Holy Seven Martyred Thieves of Corfu; Saint Kerkyra of Corfu, King Kercylinus' daughter, who, having been pierced with arrows, was perfected in martyrdom; Saint Christodulos the Ethiopian, who believed through Saint Kerkyra and was perfected in martyrdom by torments; Holy Martyrs Zeno, Vitalius, Eusebius, and Neon of Corfu, who were disciples of Saints Jason and Sosipater, and were perfected in martyrdom by fire; Holy Martyrs Agapius and Secundinos the Bishops, Tertulla, and Antonia the Virgins, and Emilian the Soldier, who suffered at Cirta in Numidia in the reign of Valerian; Holy Martyrs Quintian and Attikos; Saint John the New Almsgiver, Metropolitan of Theves; our Father among the Saints Basil of Ostrog, Metropolitan of Zakhum in Serbia; Holy Martyr John of Romania; our Righteous Father Nektarios of Optina.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Soldiers, Holy Righteous, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

THE HOLY APOSTLES JASON AND SOSIPATER. Both of these Saints were disciples of the Holy Apostle Paul, who mentions them in his Epistle to the Romans, saying: "Jason and Sosipater my kinsmen greet you" (16:21). Saint Jason was from Tarsus of Cilicia, and became bishop there. Saint Sosipater was from Patras of Achaia, Greece, and became Bishop of Iconium. When they had shepherded their churches well for a long time, they departed west that they might profit others also, and arrived finally at the island of Corfu, where they were the first to preach the Gospel to its people. They suffered many things for Christ's Name, drew many souls to salvation, and finished the course of their life there. In the ancient city of Corfu, a church from the first centuries, built in their honor and bearing inscriptions that mention the Saints by name, verifies the historical account concerning them.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Third Tone

O Holy Apostles, intercede with the Merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.

Kontakion Hymn. Plagal of Second Tone

Being illuminated with the teachings of Paul, ye became luminaries unto the whole world, O thrice-blessed ones; for ye ever shine upon the world with miracles, O Jason, thou fountain of healings, and Sosipater, thou glory of the Martyrs of Christ. O God-bearing Apostles, ye protectors of them that be in need, entreat God that our souls be saved.

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TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 8:18-25
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 8:35-39

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

"God pours Himself out in an ecstasy of love" (Saint Nicholas Cabasilas)

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APOCALYPSE (THE BOOK OF REVELATION)

With a Preface by Prof. Randall Balmer; With an Introduction by Rev. Philemon D. Sevastiades; Translated and with Notes by Rev. Mark B. Arey with Rev. Philemon D. Sevastiades; Edited by Patra McSharry Sevastiades (The Millennium Translation Project Series)

The Apocalypse (Revelation) was the last book to be accepted as part of the canon of the New Testament. It is the first book of the New Testament to be released by the Millennium Translation Project. The Project is an unprecedented attempt to translate into contemporary literary English the living textual tradition of Orthodox Christianity. The Constantinopolitan Text of 1904, the text on which the Millennium Translation Project is based, is a synodically approved narrative version of the Orthodox Christian Gospel Lectionary tradition. It is still read and preached in Greek Orthodox Churches throughout the world. It is a living text, in the original New Testament Greek, that is directly linked, in every "jot and tittle," to the manuscripts that were so carefully copied and transported from one Christian faith community to another in late antiquity.

For Orthodox Christians, Orthodox Christianity is the living Church of Jesus Christ, the inheritor of an unbroken transmission of Christian faith from the Apostles through and in time. The Greeks who are Orthodox Christians are the living descendants, physically and spiritually, of those Christians to whom St. Paul first preached and wrote in Corinth, Thessaloniki, Ephesus, Athens, and so on. That is why Greek Orthodoxy lays unique claim to Christianity, for it has maintained an unbroken tradition of faith for nearly two millennia.

The New Testament canon closed around the beginning of the fifth century in the Common Era (CE); since those centuries of discussion, the Apocalypse has become the book most likely to engender opinionated discussion or lunatic-fringe hysteria about Christian beliefs. Luther did not like the Apocalypse and would have excluded it from the canon. Zwingly and Calvin expressed similar displeasure with it. Eventually, they addressed its inclusion. It remains an irony of history, then, that among Evangelical Christians, who are in many ways the spiritual descendants of those who led the charge in the Reformation, the Apocalypse is frequently understood and revered as a terrifying road map of the future. One can find preachers who cite the text as a divine blueprint of time's terminus and directly conclude that the end of existence is imminent. This common interpretation of the Apocalypse usually features the vengeful return of a Jesus Christ whose patience with humanity has run out. Some few of these same preachers have claimed to possess a special, often "hidden," knowledge of the End Times. However, the Apocalypse is a complex document that merits a more thoughtful assessment.

Revealing Fears and Hopes

To begin to understand the Apocalypse, one needs first to uncover its historical and cultural context. The cultural milieu in which Christianity forged its self-understanding was the Roman Empire. First and foremost a pagan world, the Roman Empire was simultaneously the epicenter of Hellenistic culture and a melting pot of diverse, even competing traditions of Judaism. A complex dynamic existed within that world of philosophical ferment, and that in turn informed how the texts that gradually came to comprise the definitive New Testament were understood by believers. Therefore, the tendency of each generation to read the Apocalypse as a message specific to itself must be tempered by the knowledge that the Apocalypse was written and proclaimed for the benefit of the generation that first received it. In addition, apocalyptic literature already was widespread in the period of the emergence of Christianity and in the period between the two Testaments (c. 250 BC - 55 CE). The apocalyptic genre was represented in the textual traditions of many religious of the time, both pagan and Jewish. That the Apostle John, or Christ Himself, would convey a message using its familiar tropes is therefore most understandable.

Further, by the time the Apocalypse was written, probably around 100 AD, some of the faithful were experiencing growing fears because Jesus Christ had not yet returned as promised. Concern over the fate of those dying before Christ's return was one focus of St. Paul's first letter to the believers in Thessaloniki. Of all the documents contained in the New Testament, this letter is believed to have been written first. Fifty years later, St. John revealed a new fate for those left alive at the return of Christ. Indeed, he may have revealed the second coming of Christ--the Parousia--itself as a spiritual reality for all the faithful.

In exile on the Greek island of Patmos for preaching the Gospel, the Apostle John conveys a message of hope for the afflicted. Believers are reassured that on the throne sits Christ Jesus, who promised He would return, and that those afflicting them will be defeated. The Apocalypse becomes a message of hope for those waiting for fulfillment and vengeance upon those causing persecution, and a guarantee of future triumph in the revelation of what is expected of the persecuted faithful and what they should be doing to attain the Kingdom of God.

Along with the admonitions of the letters to the individual churches in the Apocalypse, the supernatural quality of here and now was being revealed to a faithful populace who were facing rather unpleasant material realities, living in abject fear of the news and rumors of hideous persecutions of their fellow followers elsewhere. Therefore, the text must be read in that light, the light of mingled joy and fear in the witness of martyrs and others whose deaths have precipitated concerns about Jesus' delayed return, even as their noble deaths attest to the genuineness of faith in Christ's promises to them.

(To be continued: Interpretation and Translation)

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CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George