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!
APOSTICHA HYMNS. SECOND TONE
Thy Resurrection, O Christ Our Savior, enlightened the whole world, and recalled Thine own creation Almighty Lord, Glory to Thee.
Come, let us worship Him, Who was begotten of the Father before all Ages, God the Logos, Incarnate of Mary, the Virgin, for of His own will He endured the Cross, and was committed to the grave; and He rose from the dead and saved me, an erring man.
Christ our Savior blotted out the manuscript that was against us, and nailed it to His Cross, and annulled the power of Death. We worship His Resurrection on the third day.
Let us with the Archangels, praise the Resurrection of Christ, for He is the Redeemer and Savior of our souls, and with fearful glory and mighty power, He come again to Judge the world which He fashioned.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On May 7th, 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: Commemoration of the Apparition of the Sign of the Precious Cross over Jerusalem; Confessor John Psychaites; St. Quadratus of Nicomedia; St. Rufinus and Saturinus of Nicomedia; St. Akakios of Cappadocia; St. John of Zedazeni in Georgia and 12 disciples; St. Pachomios of Patmos, Greece; Uncovering of the holy relics of Nilos the Myrrh-gusher of Mt. Athos; St. John of Beverley, Bishop of York; Repose of St. Alexis Toth in America; "Zhirovitsk" and "Lubech" holy Icons of the Theotokos (Mother of God).
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Disciples, Holy Bishops, Holy Mothers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Confessors, Holy Fathers, Holy Teachers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE COMMEMORATION OF THE APPARITION OF THE SIGN OF THE PRECIOUS
CROSS OVER JERUSALEM, IN 351 AD
The precious Cross appeared in the sky over Jerusalem on the morning of May 7, 351 AD during the reign of the Emperor Constantius, the son of Saint Constantine the Great (+May 21st).
At that time the heresy of Arianism, which taught that Christ was merely a creature and not God, was causing great turmoil and division throughout the Empire. Even after the First Ecumenical Synod (Council) at Nicea in 325 AD, many people were drawn to this false teaching, and the Orthodox found themselves in the minority in many places.
Constantius, the ruler of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, was a fervent supporter of Arianism. His brothers Constantine II and Constans, who were pious Orthodox Christians, ruled in the West. They were both killed in separate battles around 350 AD, leaving Constantius as sole ruler. Also, in 350 AD, Saint Cyril (+March 18th) became Patriarch of Jerusalem and began his zealous struggle against Arianism.
In May of 351 AD a luminous Cross appeared over Jerusalem, stretching from Golgotha to the Mount of Olives, a distance of about five and a half miles. The Cross was wide as it was long, and shone more brightly than the sun. Many people left their homes and workplaces to gather in the church and glorify Christ. The historian Sozomen says that this wondrous sign led to the conversion of multitudes of pagans and Jews to Christianity.
A letter from Saint Cyril to the Emperor describing this phenomenon, and admonishing him to become Orthodox, has been preserved. The apparition of the Cross remained over the city for a whole week.
The vision of the cross over Jerusalem strengthened Orthodox faithful and contribute to the return of many Arians (heretics) to the Church. It is also a reminder of the awesome second coming of Christ, when "the sign of the son of Man shall appear in heaven" (Saint Matthew 24:30). (Source: Orthodox Church in America)
"The Cross is the preserver of the whole universe, the Cross is the beauty of the Church, the Cross is the might of kings, the Cross is the confirmation of the faithful, the Cross is thy glory of Angels and the scourge of demons." (Octoechos: Exapostilarion, Monday Matins).
ABOUT THE SIGN OF SON OF MAN
By Saint Nikolai Velimirovic
"And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens" (St. Matthew 24:30).
What kind of sign will the sign of the Son of Man be, which once had been shown briefly? That is the cross, more brighter than the sun, which manifested itself over Jerusalem before the coming of an earlier personification of the Antichrist by the name of Julian the Apostate. And in lieu of every homily concerning this miraculous sign, it is worthwhile to quote here the letter of Cyril of Jerusalem written to Emperor Constantius, the son of Saint Constantine the Great and predecessor of Julian the Apostate. A portion of his letter reads, "For in these very days of the Holy Feast of Pentecost on the nones of May, about the third hour, a gigantic cross formed of light appeared in the sky above Holy Golgotha stretching out as far as the Holy Mount of Olives. It was not seen by just one or two but was most clearly displayed before the whole population of the city. Nor did it, as one might have supposed, pass away quickly like something imagined but was visible to sight above the earth for some hours, while it sparkled with a light above the sun's rays. Of a surely, it would have been overcome and hidden by them, had it not exhibited to those who saw it a brilliance more powerful than the sun, so that the whole population of the city made a sudden concerted rush into the Martyry [the church] seized by a fear that mingled with joy at the heavenly vision. They poured in, young and old, men and women of every age, not only Christians but pagans from elsewhere sojourning in Jerusalem, all of them as with one mouth raised a hymn of praise to the worker of wonders, Christ Jesus our Lord, the Only-begotten Son of God and indeed attested to through experience, came to discern that the honorable [pious] Christian teaching is to be found not only in "persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power" (I Corinthians 2:4), and not only preached by man but, witnessed by God from Heaven. "Announced originally through the Lord, it was confirmed for us by those who had heard. God added His testimony by signs, wonders, and various acts of power" (Hebrews 2:3-4). We consider it our obligation not to remain silent about this Heavenly vision, but through this letter, hasten to inform Your God-glorified and Pious One."
O my brethren, everything is possible with God: both, to reveal the created to man and to create the uncreated. But most importantly for us is that he wants to redeem our souls from sin and death and to give us life eternal. Let us pray to Him for this day and night.
O Lord Almighty, To You be glory and thanks always. Amen. (Source: The Prologue from Ochrid).
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 26:1, 12-20
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 8:12-20
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY FATHERS AND HOLY MOTHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"He who is careless about prayer is careless about his salvation; he who quits prayer renounces his salvation" (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov).
By Metropolitan Kallinikos of Edessa
Fruits of Healing: The Sweet Smell of Freedom
We also see death being overcome by the experience of freedom. The ever-memorable Elder Kallinikos of Edessa had inner freedom and respected the freedom of others. Just as God, although He deified human nature and gave the Church the potential to save human beings, does not force their free will, because salvation without freedom is worthless, so the man of God acts in the same way. He respects the other person's freedom.
Man's freedom is closely connected with Christ's death. After the Resurrection, Christ came and went "when the doors were shut" and appeared to those who were expecting Him and wanted Him. Also, after His Resurrection He gave people freedom. Thus Saint Nicholas Cabasilas writes that, "It was when He ascended the Cross and died and rose again that the freedom of mankind came about, that the form and the beauty were created and the new members were prepared." Freedom is an outcome of the Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.
True freedom depends on knowing God, putting the Commandments into practice and being aware of Christ's mercy. "The law of freedom is studied by means of true knowledge, it is understood through the practice of the commandments, and is fulfilled through the mercy of Christ", says St. Mark the Ascetic.
The blessed Elder had such freedom. He did not restrict his spiritual children. He did not subject them to himself. He often gave me the following instruction: "If I happen to fall out with someone, you must not break off the good relationship you have with him on account of your high regard for me. There is no need for you to do the same as me..."
I clearly saw that he did not regard himself as an Elder. He was not aware of having spiritual children. Although many were nourished by his teaching, and particularly by his transfigured being, he did not give the impression of wanting to have spiritual children. I was the person closest to him and counted myself fortunate to have such an Elder (Geronda). But as he did not regard himself as my Elder, he never imposed himself on me. He developed my sense of honor. He had a way of transfiguring his desires without coercion. I believe that this sort of pastoral guidance constitutes a cross. Such Pastoral guidance can only be offered by someone who lives the death that brings life and who experience the overcoming of death.
Remembrance of Death and Resurrection
He often talked about death. He was waiting for it. It was not simply that he had a feeling that eventually the hour would come for him to die. He experienced it as though it were happening every moment. The Second Coming of Christ and the formidable judgment were constantly present before his eyes…
He said in the midst of the joyful atmosphere of the Enthronment: "I am thinking about the great and splendid day. I am thinking about that Day, on which the Lord, the Chief Shepherd, will seek the souls of my flock. I am thinking that I shall stand trembling and naked before the Judgment-seat of Christ, the Judge of the World..."
The blessed Metropolitan Kallinikos of Edessa had a whole genuine life within him, the life of Christ. He waged an unceasing battle in his soul against the devil. He strove for victory and he was victorious. He expressed these struggles outwardly, not as personal experiences, but in the form of teaching. If destructive questions asking "why" arose within him, he found a successful way of dealing with them. This struggle is obvious from his spoken addresses. He did not speak based on what he had read; he actually spoke about himself, without attempting to define or psychoanalyze. That is why his message went straight to the heart of those listening.
Deification (Theosis) and the Deified
The subject of deification (theosis) and deified human beings who experience deification is a crucial theological issue connected with man's salvation.
The Holy Fathers use the term "deified" to describe the Saints, that is to say, those human beings who participate in deification (theosis) or, better expressed, who experience the blessed state of deification...
We encounter the word "deified" in the writings of Saint Dionysios the Areopagite. Speaking about the hierarchy and the fact that it contributes to man's salvation, he says that salvation can only happen with the deification of the saved." A little further on he states that the Divinity is the origin of deification (theosis) and writes: "Let us say that the blessed Deity, which of itself is God, is the source of all deification. Out of its divine generosity it has bestowed hierarchy as a gift to ensure the salvation and deification of every rational and noetic being."
In The Divine Names, Saint Dionysius, speaking about the divine names and the uncreated energy of God is particular, says, "it is the cause of everything, it is origin, essence and life." It is life according to the state of the one who receives illumination that is to say, "the radiance of those who are illuminated, source of perfection for those being made perfect, source of divinity for those being deified, principle of simplicity for those turning toward simplicity."
The vocabulary of Saint Dionysios the Areopagite influenced many of the Holy Fathers, particularly Saint Maximos the Confessor, Saint John of Damascus and Saint Gregory Palamas.
Saint Clement of Alexandria refers to the term in his Michellanies, saying, "Deified in dispassion without suffering defilement, man becomes unique…"
Saint Cyril of Alexandria, speaking about the Holy Spirit, writes: "We likewise believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life…ruling over the whole of creation, not ruled over; deifying, not deified…The Holy Spirit deifies and is not deified, whereas man is deified, as a created being.
In his book An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Saint John of Damascus quotes the term "deification" from Saint Dionysios the Areopagite, which means that he too accepts it: "The radiance of those who are illuminated, source of perfection for those being made perfect, source of divinity for those being deified." Saint John of Damascus also cites Saint Gregory the Theologian's words, "...and to complete the mystery is deified by his inclination to God, becoming deified by participating in the divine radiance and not by changing into the divine essence..."
We find the term "deified" throughout the Orthodox Tradition. The Saints are deified because they receive the Holy Triune God. Saint Symeon the New Theologian, referring to the Service of Preparation of the Eucharistic Gifts, and specifically, to the paten where the portions for Christ and the Mother of God and the particles for the Saints are laid out, writes, "God in the midst of gods deified by Him Who is God by nature."
Clearly the Saints, who share in the grace of the Triune God, are referred to as "deified" in the language of the Holy Fathers. There are many degrees of deification..."
Deification shows the height to which a person can attain by God's grace. It was the original purpose for which man was created, although this does not mean that he can reach this goal on his own. The grace of God acts and man participates in this action, he collaborates. Thus he comes into communion and union with God. He is regarded as deified in so far as he collaborates with the energy of Divine Grace.
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God