Spiritual Inspiration

Greatmartyr Irene of Thessalonika

Greatmartyr Irene of Thessalonika

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

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

Let us who 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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Come, all you faithful, let us worship Christ's Holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross joy has come to all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, let us praise His Resurrection. For in enduring the Cross for us, He destroyed death by death.

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Shine, shine, New Jerusalem! For the glory of the Lord has dawned over you. Dance now and be glad, Sion; as for you, Pure One, Rejoice Theotokos in the Resurrection of your Child.

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O Divine, O Beloved, O Sweetest voice! You promised truly that You would be with us to the end of the age. With this pledge as the Anchor of our hope, we rejoice.

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Great and Most Holy Pascha, O Christ; Wisdom, Word and Power of God, grant us to partake of Your More Perfectly in the unwaning day of Your Kingdom.

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

On May 5th 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 faith: Holy and Great Martyr Irene; Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri the Hieromartyr and Wonderworker; Saint Efthimius the Wonderworker; Holy Martyrs Neophytos, Gaius, and Gaianus; Saint Hilary, Archbishop of Arles; our Righteous Father Michaias; Saint Adrian of Monza.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Archbishops, Holy Monks, Holy Righteous, Holy Wonderworkers, Holy Mother and Holy Fathers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us.

THE HOLY AND GLORIOUS GREAT MARTYR IRENE. Saint Irene was the daughter of a princelet called Licinius; named Penelope by her parents, through a divine revelation she was brought to faith in Christ and at Baptism was renamed Irene. In her zeal for piety she broke to pieces all the idols of her father, who commanded that she be trampled underfoot by horses. But while she remained unharmed, one of the horses rose up and cast down her father, killing him. By her prayer she raised him to life again, and he believed and was baptized. Afterwards, in many journeyings, Saint Irene suffered tortures and punishments for her faith, but was preserved by the power of God, while working dread miracles and converting many thousands of souls. At last she came to Ephesus, where she fell asleep in peace, in the first half of the 4th century. Two days after her death, her gravestone was found lifted off, and her grave empty. At least two churches were dedicated to Saint Irene in Constantinople, and she is also the Patroness of the Aegean island of Thera (Santorini or Santa-Irene), which is commonly called Santorini, a corruption of "Saint Irene."

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Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone

O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb, doth cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee: accept me offered out of longing, to Thee as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since Thou art Great in Mercy.

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Kontakion Hymn. Third Tone.

Being fair adorned before with pure and virginal beauty, thou becamest fairer still in thy brave contest, O virgin; for when thou, in thine own spilt blood, wast stained and reddened, O Irene, thou overthrewest ungodly error. Hence, thou hast received the prizes of thy good victory from thy Creator's right hand.

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NEW MARTYR EPHRAIM OF NEA MAKRI. Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri believed to have lived from 1384 to 1426, is venerated as a holy Martyr and miracleworking Saint by the Orthodox Church. Orthodox Christians regard him as a "newly revealed" ("νεοφανείς" Saint, whose existence is a matter of divine revelation rather than historical.

Saint Ephraim's name and biography, complete with exact dates and details, is said to have been revealed to a hermit nun, Makaria Desipri, in a series of divinely inspired dreams in 1950. Following these dreams, a body believed to be that of the Saint was found in the ground near the nun's hermitage, on the site of an abandoned medieval monastery on the slopes of Mount Amomon, near the town of Nea Makri, in Attica, Greece. The Saint, whose body was kept as a holy relic, quickly became the object of popular veneration, as he came to be known as a worker of miraculous healings. On the site of his life and martyrdom a Monastery of the Annunciation of Our Lady (Ιερά Μονή Ευαγγελισμού της Θεοτόκου) Church in Greece.

According to the dreams revealed to nun Makaria, St. Ephraim was born on 14 September 1384 in Trikala, Thessalia, Greece. His name was Konstantinos Morphes. He became a monk, took the monastic name of Ephraim and moved to Attica to live in what was then the Monastery of the Annunciation of our Lady on Mount Amomon. He was captured by the Turks and after many tortures the Saint was hanged.

His father died when he was a young child, and he and his six brothers and sisters were raised by his pious mother. At 14, Saint Ephraim went to the Monastery of the Annunciation of the Mother of God, where he lived in prayer and asceticism for twenty-seven years. He was granted the grace of the Priesthood and became guardian of the Monastery. It is unknown whether he was alone or if there were other monks there as well.

On his birthday in September of 1425, the Feast-day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Fr. Ephraim was taken captive by Islamic pirates and tortured, his captors insisting that he deny Christ. He refused and his torment lasted for eight months, his captors allowing his wounds to heal a little and then torturing him anew. On May 5th, 1426, he was taken out into the courtyard and hung upside down from a tree that is still to be seen at the Monastery. Nails were driven into his hands and feet and he was pierced through the center of his body with a sharpened pole that had been fired until it was red-hot.

Thus did the Great-Martyr give his soul up to the Lord, and five hundred years later, by God's Providence, his holy relics and martyrdom were revealed. Not only has the account of the martyrdom been given, but the Saint--glorified by God for his sufferings--is renowned as a healer and wonder-worker, restoring the sick in soul and body. This grace has been testified to in hundreds of accounts recorded by the Monastery since the uncovering of his holy relics.

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TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 10:21-33

Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 7:1-13

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

"The intellect searches for truth and the heart searches for absolute goodness" (Saint Nektarios).

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SPIRITUAL INSPIRATION
By His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos (Source: Hesychia and Theology: The context for Man's Healing in the Orthodox Church)

Anyone closely acquainted with Elder Sophrony Sakharov of blessed memory, who until recently lived the monastic life at the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Essex, England, saw for himself that he possessed great inspiration for God and the spiritual life. He had a great love for God and expressed it with his whole being: with his words, his silence and his presence. Everyone who approached him sensed the true and pure love that went out from him to all. This was the result of his unceasing prayer and his experience of the authentic spirit of repentance.

If someone who was confused approached the Elder to ask him about different aspects of the spiritual life, he would try by various means to instill in him inspiration for God. If someone was cast down by events in his life and unable to pray, he would say, "You have lost your inspiration", and try to get him back onto the right path.

All genuine spiritual fathers would do the same. For instance, Elder Porphyrios, our contemporary, used to say to his spiritual children: "The soul of the Christian needs to be refined and sensitive, to have sensibility and wings, to be constantly in flight and to live in dreams, to fly through infinity, among the stars, amidst the greatness of God, amid silence. Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet. That's what it is! You must suffer. You must love and suffer - suffer for the one you love. Love makes effort for the loved one. She runs all through night; she stays awake; she stains her feet with blood in order to meet her beloved. She makes sacrifices and disregards all impediments, threats and difficulties for the sake of the loved one. Love towards Christ is something even higher, infinitely higher."

What is Spiritual Inspiration?

Being a Christian is a serious issue, not just a habit or a routine task. It is not merely a matter of particular customs and practices that we happened to find in the environment in which we grew up, or of certain emotions, but something more profound and essential. The Elder of blessed memory said:

"Read Saint Silouan. For him, everyone has his role in the world: one is king, another patriarch, teacher, or even laborer. It is of no importance. Whether someone be a king or a simple laborer, it made no difference to Father Silouan. Someone who loves Christ, who assimilates and bears within himself the 'feelings that were in Jesus Christ', lives the world as one Adam, prays for the whole Adam. That is what true Christianity is."

This makes it clear that the Christian, seen in his perfect perspective, resembles Christ, Who for love of the whole human race took upon Himself a body subject to death and suffering, and human nature as a whole. He suffered, was crucified, died, and descended into hell to save fallen man who had gone astray. Thus the true Christian also transcends his individuality and lives in his hypostasis the whole of mankind. The Christian lives in an atmosphere of inspiration and not just of outward forms.

So what, ultimately, is spiritual inspiration?

The Elder writes:

"One cannot live as a Christian without inspiration. If an artist, a true one, lives night and day with the images of his art, then we Christians should be still more attentive. We must go further than artists in our efforts to live according to the spirit of the Gospel."

Artists, and scientific researchers as well, live constantly with the images or the subject that they are studying. They constantly carry in their nous the work that they wish to bring to completion. Often they are given over to this task day and night. They find no rest, nor can they sleep, until they succeed in what they are aspiring to do. When someone is continually occupied with something he completely surrenders himself to it. Then various solutions present themselves.

This is the perspective in which the True Christian should live. He should be inspired and totally given over to the high calling that he received through his creation and re-creation. God Who created him and then created him anew must rule within him. He should be flooded by the love of God and his endeavor to live "according to the spirit of the Gospel."

The Christian ought to have inspiration in the same way as an artist has; like a painter, poet or musician who continually cultivates the gift his possesses as long as he lives. The Christian has a very great gift, for he has received God's image in order to attain to His likeness. He has received the grace of baptism and has been called to a life of communion with God.

This has other implications as well. The artist struggles hard and undergoes many hardships in order to succeed in his aim. He continually lives the martyrdom of trying to give perfect expression to the vision that he has conceived and to realize his goal. Usually in the end he sees that what he has made was not what he conceived, and he suffers anguish, agony and disappointment. We could say that, for the artist, inspiration-his inner 'demon' in the classical Greek sense of 'genius'-is very closely linked with toil, martyrdom and despair, which drive him on to new inspiration and creation.

The same happens in the case of the Christian. He makes a huge effort and undertakes formidable struggles in order to live with his inspiration. As he tries to express his inspiration and make it a reality, and to live in accordance with God's will, he suffers spiritual martyrdom, because he has to wrestle with the 'old man', with his passions and weaknesses. He often finds himself face to face with his failure to live the perfection of God's will in his own imperfect life. As a result he is always somewhere between inspiration, the struggle to experience the achievement of his goal, and renewed effort to attain communion with God. This entire process creates the atmosphere for divine inspiration.

The Characteristics of Spiritual Inspiration

Inspiration was actually kindled in man by God at the moment of his creation. It is the Divine image: man's potential to proceed by God's grace to His likeness. Subsequently, through Adam's fall, the spiritual inspiration that he had in Paradise was lost, and one after another his descendants reached a state of spiritual darkness. They entered a period of darkening of the nous and spiritual despondency. They had within them a longing for the spiritual life, but they misdirected it.

Human nature was deified (theosis) through Christ's Incarnation. Then on the day of Pentecost the Apostles "were filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4) and became truly inspired. We see this from the epistles they wrote, in which we encounter the Divine inspiration of these spirit-bearing men. We find the same inspiration in the lives of the Saints and ascetics who followed "hard paths" for love of God; and in the lives of the Holy Fathers of our Church. The Church's Synaxaria (collections of accounts of the spiritual Christian lives of the Saints) and the teachings of the Holy Fathers are full of spiritual inspiration.

Through our Baptism the Holy Spirit enters our heart and remains there always, even when this grace is hidden by the passions. Whenever the heart is cleansed from passions through repentance, this fire of the Holy Spirit present in the depths of the heart is revealed. Then prayer and the search for communion with God begin again. When we weep over our sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit that we received through the sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation is at work...

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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