Sermon of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (Part III)

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Holy 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.

THE AFTERNOON PRAYERS

Introductory Remarks

[The blessing of a family eating together during the mid-day luncheon is a rare phenomenon in our society today, because of the fast pace of life and the dispersion of the members of the family to various types of work and responsibilities.

This should not cause us to neglect the prayer before our meal, nor the other afternoon prayers. Even one person of the family can pray for the others who do not or cannot. Moreover, each person can certainly pray privately the prayers before the meal and the other prayers of the Sixth and the Ninth Hours, which can provide so much strength and encouragement during the course of the daily labors and temptations of life.]

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THANKSGIVING AFTER LUNCH

Blessed is God, who has shown mercy upon us, Who has provided nourishment for us from the days of our youth. As You provide sustenance for every living creature, Lord, fill our hearts also with joy and gladness. Thus, enjoying always a sufficiency in all things, we may all the more excel in every possible virtue and good work, and give proper glory, honor and worship to you, through Christ Jesus our Lord and in the Holy Spirit, unto the ages. Amen.

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Glory to You Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for You have satisfied us with food and sustenance; fill us also with the Holy Spirit, that You may find us pleasing in Your presence, and may not put us to shame when You render to each person according to their works.

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Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy. Blessed be God Who shows mercy, Who provides nourishment for us from His abundant gifts, through His Divine grace and love for mankind, always, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

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Christ our God, Bless the abundance of this left-over food, multiply it in this household and throughout the whole world, for You are the Holy One Who blesses and sanctifies all things now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

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

On July 1st (Kalo Mena! Blessed new Month to all!) 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 souls made perfect in faith: Saints Cosmas and Damianos the Holy Unmercenary (Anargyroi) Physicians at Rome; Saint Portitus at Naples; Saint Peter the Patrician; Saint Gallus, Bishop of Clermont; Saint Eparchius the Recluse of Gaul; Saint Basil, the founder of the Monastery of the Deep Stream in Cappadocia; 25 Holy Martyrs in Nicomedia; St. Nicodemos of Svyatogorsk; Saint Leontius, Bishop of Radauti in Moldavia; Saint Constantine of Cyprus, and those with him; Translation (Anakomidi) of the holy relics of St. John of Rila from Turnovo to Rila; Saint Leo the Hermit.

THE HOLY UNMERCENARIES COSMAS AND DAMIANOS (DAMIAN) AND HOLY MARTYRS. Unmercenary doctors and wonderworkers, these two Saints were brothers. Born in Rome, baptized as children and given a Christian education, they were endowed by God with the gift of healing, generally by the laying-on of their hands, of both men and animals. They sought no reward for their work, only urging the sick to faith in Christ the Lord. Inheriting great wealth they compassionately divided among the poor and needy. The Emperor Galerius was on the throne in Rome at that time. Persecutors of the Christian faith brought these two holy brothers, bound in chains, before him. After prolonged interrogation, the pagan Roman Emperor charged them to deny Christ and offer sacrifice to idols. Saints Cosmas and Damianos not only refused to obey the Emperor; they urged him to forsake dead idols and come to the knowledge of the One, True God. 'Our God is not created, but is the Creator of all, and your gods come from imaginings of men and the hands of artists. If there were no artists to make your gods, you would have nothing to worship.' After a miracle performed on the Emperor himself--healing him of a grave infirmity--the Emperor declared his faith in Christ and let the holy brothers go in peace. They continued to glorify Christ our God and to heal the sick, and were themselves glorified on all sides by the people. A doctor, a former teacher of theirs, envying their fame, lured them into the hills on the pretext of collecting herbs and stoned them to death. They suffered with honor for the Christian faith in the year of our Lord 284 AD. Their memory endures in the Church on earth, and their souls went to the Kingdom of the Lord, to live eternally in glory and joy.

TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:8
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:1, 5-8

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

"Reverence is the greatest virtue, because it attracts the grace of God" (Saint Paisios the Athonite).

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SERMON ON THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL (Part III)

By Saint Gregory Palamas

Saint Peter the Apostle was the sort of man who can be described in a few words. As for Saint Paul, on the other hand, what tongue or how many and what sort of tongues can depict even to a limited extent his endurance unto death for Christ's sake? He was put to death every day, or rather he was always dead, no longer alive himself, as he tells us, but having Christ living in him (Galatians 2:20). For love of Christ he not only counted everything in the present world as dung (Phil. 3:8), but even put things to come in second place compared to the Lord. "For I am persuaded", he says, "that neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (cf. Romans 8:38-39). He had zeal for God, and was jealous over us with divine jealousy (2 Cor. 11:2). The only one to equal him in this was Saint Peter, but hear how humble he is when he says of himself, "I am the least of the Apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle" (1 Cor. 15:9).

Given that Saint Paul made the same confession of faith as St. Peter, and had the same zeal, humility and love, surely they received the same reward from Him Who measures everything with completely just scales, yardstick and plumbline. Anything else would be unreasonable. The Lord said to Ananias about Saint Paul: "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings" (Acts 9:15). Which name? Clearly the name we have been given, the name of Christ's Church...Consequently the Church now bestows one and the same honor on both, and celebrates them together with equal esteem. As we consider the outcome of their lives, let us imitate how they lived, or at least how they were restored through humility and repentance, even if we cannot attain to their other great and exalted achievements, which are appropriate to great men and fitting for great men to emulate. In fact, some aspects of their lives are probably impossible for anyone to imitate. Amendment through repentance, however, is more appropriate for us than for the great, since we all sin many times every day, and unless we lay hold of salvation through continuous repentance, we have no hope of it from any other source.

Repentance is preceded by awareness of our sins, which is a strong incentive to mercy. "Have mercy upon me", said the Psalmist and Prophet of God, "for I acknowledge my transgressions" (Psalm 51: 1, 3). Through his recognition of sin he attracted God's compassion, and through his confession and self-condemnation he obtained complete forgiveness. "I said," the Psalmist tells us, "I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my heart" (cf. Psalm 32:5), because acknowledgment of our sins is followed by condemnation of ourselves, which in turn is followed by that sorrow for our sins which Saint Paul calls "godly sorrow" (2 Cor. 7:10). After godly sorrow confession and prayer to God with a contrite heart comes naturally (Psalm 51:17), as does the promise to keep away from evil from now on. This is repentance!

[Source: Orthodox Church in America)

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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