Orthodox Spiritual Life: (Part XIV)

Virginmartyr Fevronia

Virginmartyr Fevronia

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. ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

PRAYERS OF THE FIRST AND THE THIRD HOUR

[The Prayer Services for the Hours have been determined by the Church to be read at the various intervals of the day, that is, at approximately 8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. The four services of the Hours, are usually read in church together on the major pre-feast days, with designated readings from Sacred Scripture and special hymns, in anticipation of the great Feastdays of the Church. When the Hours are read privately, two are said in the morning and two in the afternoon. But whenever it is possible, the First Hour (or even also the Third) may be read after breakfast by the whole family before the Holy Icons as a family prayer.]

Here only a few of the prayers have been selected and arranged in very brief devotional exercises for our edification:

THE FIRST HOUR (8:00 a.m.)

+In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to You, our God, glory to You. Come, let us bow down and worship God our King. Come, let us bow down and worship Christ our God and King. Come, let us bow down and worship Christ Himself, our King and our God.

In the morning, hearken to my voice, O my King and God. Listen to the words of my prayer, O Lord, and attend to my supplication. In the morning, hearken to my voice, O my King and my God. For to You I pray, O Lord, that You may hear my voice.

In the morning, hearken to the words of my prayer, O my King and my God.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and the age of ages. Amen.

What shall we call You, Who are full of grace? Heaven, for You have caused the Sun of Righteousness to dawn. Paradise, for You have caused the incorruptible flower to blossom. Virgin, for You indeed have remained inviolate. Pure Mother, for You have held in Your Holy arms the Son Who is God of all. Intercede for us that He may save our souls.

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Guide my steps to walk according to Your word, O Lord, and do not allow any transgression to overcome me. (2 times)

Redeem me from the slander of men and I shall observe Your Commandments. (2 times)

Manifest Your face to Your servant, and teach me Your Commandments. (2 times)

Let my mouth be filled with praises of You, O Lord, that I may sing all day long, of Your glory and majesty. (3 times)

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O Christ, You are the True Light, that illumines and sanctifies every person who comes into the world.

Let the Light of Your countenance shine upon us, that we may see in You the inapproachable Light, direct us in the way of life to observe Your Commandments, through the intercessions of Your All-Pure Mother, and of all the Saints. Amen.

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

On June 25th 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 Virgin-Martyr Fevronia of Nisibis; Saint Gallicianus the Patrician; Saint Symeon of Sinai; Saint Nikon of Optina; Saints Dometius and Dionysios of the Monastery of the Forerunner, Mt. Athos; Saint Theoleptos, Metropolitan of Philadelphia; Saints Orentios, Pharnacios, Eros, Firmos; Saints Firmenes, Cyriakos, and Longinos, in Georgia; Saint George of Attalia; Saints Peter and Fevronia of Murom; Saint Procopius of Varna and Mt. Athos, in Smyrna; Saint Adelbert, Archdeacon; Virgin-Martyrs Leonis, Livye, and Eftropia of Syria; Saint Moluac of Lismore.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Monks, Holy Ascetics, Holy Nuns, Holy Metropolitans, Holy Virgin Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us.

OUR HOLY MOTHER, THE MARTYR FEVRONIA. Saint Fevronia was the daughter of Prosphorus, a Roman Senator. In order to escape marriage with a mortal man, she betrothed herself to Christ and became a nun in the East, in Assyria, in a Monastery where her aunt, Vryaeni, was Egoumenissa (Abbess). Lysimachos, a nobleman's son, was desirous of entering into marriage with St. Fevronia, but the Emperor Diocletian, suspecting him of being a secret Christian, sent him to the East with his uncle, Silenus, to seize and kill the Christians. Silenus was as ferocious as wild beast and mercilessly exterminated the Christians wherever he could. Lysimachus, on the contrary, protected the Christians whenever possible and hid them from his bestial uncle. Having emptied Palmyra of Christians, Silenus came to the city of Nisibis, close to which there was the Monastery of the fifty ascetic virgins in which St. Fevronia was a nun. Although she was barely twenty years old, St. Fevronia was held in respect both in the Monastery and in the city for her meekness, wisdom and restraint. The Monastery followed the rule of a former Egoumenissa (Abbess), Blessed Platonida, and every Friday the nuns would spend their time in prayer and reading sacred books, with no other work. Vryaeni had appointed St. Fevronia to read to the other sisters while standing behind a curtain, so that no-one would be distracted or captivated by the beauty of her face. When Silenus heard about St. Fevronia, he ordered that she be brought before him. When the holy maiden refused to renounce Christ and enter into marriage with a mortal man, he ordered them to whip her and then cut off her hands, breasts and feet and finally to slay her with the sword. But a fearful divine punishment came upon her tormentor that very day. A demon entered into him, and a fearful terror took hold of him. In his terror, he struck his head on a marble pillar and fell down dead. Lysimachus ordered that Saint Fevronia's body be gathered together and brought to the Monastery for solemn burial, and he, together with many of the soldiers, was baptized. Many healings were wrought through Saint Fevronia's holy relics, and she herself appeared on the day of her Feast, standing in her usual place among the sisters. They beheld her with both fear and joy. Saint Fevronia suffered and went to eternal blessedness in the year 310 AD, and her holy relics were translated to Constantinople in 363 AD.

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TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURE READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 11:13-24
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 11:26-30

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

"God does not grant a great gift without a great trial" (Saint Isaac the Syrian).

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ORTHODOX SPIRITUAL LIFE: AS A CHRIST-CENTERED EXPERIENCE

By Saint Silouan the Athonite

As he undergoes these various trials and tribulations, some of which will be quite intense, the believer must always have before him the example of Christ Himself. Obviously it is Christ, Who as the Suffering Servant or 'Man of sufferings,' provides the pristine example which is to be followed by those who have chosen to take up their own cross and follow Him. The Apostle Peter teaches, "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps" (1 Peter 2:21). To live in Christ is to follow Him. This entails following His personal example of self-emptying, self-sacrifice and 'much suffering.' (See Phil. 2:5-7 and Hebrews 9:14; 9:26; St. Luke 17:25).

Man's sin and separation from God have resulted in the rampant sickness, suffering and death that has engulfed the world since the fall of Adam (Romans 2:9 and 5:12). Far from what was originally intended by its Creator, the world is now bound by death, destruction, disease and delusion. Man is now 'born to die'. The world in its fallen state has become dysfunctional. This is apparent both within society at large and within each and every unit of society--the family, as well as within each and every human person. "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do….for the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice." (See Romans 7:15 and Romans 19) Sin, suffering and ultimately death are now the characteristic marks of fallen humanity. (Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23)

When the Son of God became man although in Him was found no sin (1 Peter 2:22) He voluntarily assumed the sin, suffering and even death that is common to all mankind (1 Peter 2:24). He does this not simply to identify with man, but in order to free him from his slavery to sin and to rescue him from the bonds of death (Gal. 1.4.). The earthly life of the Incarnate Son of God was indeed marked by moments of great suffering and deep sorrow ("My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death" (Mt. 26:38). This suffering was assumed voluntarily for the salvation and sanctification of man. The Son of God truly suffered in the flesh (See Peter 4:1). Such suffering is the ultimate example that the Christian is called to emulate.

By partaking in such sufferings--in whatever way God may allow--the believer thereby partakes in the victory of Christ's Resurrection over death. This is not just some kind of ethical or juridical 'trade-off'. It is the existential participation in His victory over death and corruption (Phil. 11:2). His victory then becomes the believer's victory. One's own personal participation in such sufferings thus opens the way to even further participation in the life in Christ ("I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.." Gal. 2:20.) One's own experience is to be dealt with in full consciousness of Christ's sufferings and sorrows ("We must learn to sorrow with Jesus." We Shall See Him As He Is, p. 169 Cf. 1 Peter 2:19). The sufferings encountered in the spiritual life are thus to be seen as opportunities for sharing in those of Christ (See 1 Peter 4:13). Yet sharing in His sufferings implies sharing in His Glory. "...We suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him" (Romans 8:17. Saint Maximos the Confessor also mentions this point when he refers to the "shared suffering" between God and man ("If God suffers in the flesh when He is made man, should we not rejoice when we suffer, for we have God to share our sufferings? True Christ-like suffering, however, is rarely grasped by man. Such suffering is obviously beyond compare. Yet when man somehow shares in the sufferings and sorrows of Christ--to whatever degree--he is then led to a variety of virtues and benefits, and ultimately toward his deification (theosis).

(Next: The fruits of suffering)

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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.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George