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. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A PRAYER FOR THE INTEGRITY OF OUR HEART
Holy, Holy, Holy of holies, Father of fathers, O God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God of the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Martyrs, God of the virgins, of those who live with integrity, and of those who believe I Your Son, O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We pray to You and beseech You, the Only-Begotten Son, begotten of the Father before all ages, and in time mystically incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Virgin Mary. We beseech You to grant us an increase of fervor in our desire for a holy life and integrity of heart, so that, being renewed in the Baptism of salvation, our hearts may be free from sin and remain pure. We ask for an Orthodox faith, a pure spirit, an enlightened piety and steadfast love. Help us to grow in spirit and to progress in the life of Your Holy Church.
We bend the knees and bow the head before You, Lord, for before You the Angels and Archangels, the multitude of Martyrs, the chorus of Apostles and Prophets stand in awe and find spiritual delight. Every tongue in heaven and on earth confesses You and all of creation praises and glorifies You. Even the least of the created beings are sensitive to You. You alone exist eternally without a beginning. Without You and apart from You nothing can exist.
We beseech You, Lord God Almighty, Who are not visible except in the Son, to Whom the Angels and Archangels are obedient. Lord and Father, we seek from You that spirit of integrity, purity and wholeness; we seek sincere piety, and of conscience that is clear, innocent, pure, holy and steadfastly founded upon the rock of faith and avowedly against the deceptions of the word. Grant us a heart, O Lord, that is well armed against the machinations of temptation and the sinful desires of the flesh. Help us, O Lord, not to fall victim to the mortal entrapment of the fear enemy, and thus empower us to keep the seal of our eternal salvation intact.
Expel far from us every corruption of this ages and all the deception of temptation. As You helped Tobias and countless others, come in the same way and help us. You were mercifully helpful to the three youths in the fiery furnace and to Daniel in the den of the lions. We beseech You to be merciful to us in like manner. You raised the dead, gave light to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, movement to the paralyzed, health to the sick. Do something similar with us Your humble and unworthy servants. Help us, Lord, as You helped Your Apostles in their imprisonment, Paul in his afflictions, Peter on the waves.
You, O Lord, Who are seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, turn Your gaze toward us, free us from the possibility of an eternal death, and grant us that all important integrity and purity of the heart that is so essential for our salvation in the Church and in You, Who are One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Blessed and Glorified now and forever and to the ages of ages.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On September 10th 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: Synaxis (Assembly) of the Holy Apostles Apelles, Lucius, and Clement of the Seventy; Holy Martyrs: Menodora, Metrodora, and Nymphodora at Nicomedia; Saint Pulcheria, Empress of Greece; Saint Barypsabas in Dalmatia; Saint Salvius, Bishop of Albi; Saint Ioasaph of Kubensk; 3 Holy Women of Constantinople; Saints Peter and Paul, Bishops of Nicaea; Saint Paul the Obedient of the Kiev Caves; Saint Cassian of Spaso-Kamenny, and St. Cyril of White Lake Monasteries; Saint Finian of Ulster.
+ By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Apostles, Holy Empresses, Holy Bishops, Holy Women, Holy Monks, Holy Nuns, Holy Confessors, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
HOLY MARTYRS MENODORA, METRODORA, AND NYMPHODORA. There once lived three virgins, Menodora, Metrodora, and Nymphodora, who presented themselves as offerings to the Holy Trinity. Others offer God gifts from their worldly possessions, as once the Three Kings from the East brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but these virgins offered gifts from their inner treasuries. Instead of gold, they offered their souls, redeemed not with corruptible gold but with the precious blood of the Lamb without blemish. Instead of frankincense, they offered a pure conscience, saying with the Apostle, "We are unto God a sweet savor of Christ." Rather than myrrh, they presented to God their undefiled virginal bodies, which for Christ were given over to wounding. Knowing well that the Lord does not ask for our temporal wealth but rather requires that we offer ourselves to Him, in accordance with the words of David, "Thou art my Lord; for of my goods no need hast Thou." They offered themselves to God and were shown to be both holy of life and courageous in sufferings.
These virgins were born in Bithynia. They were sisters according to the flesh and to the Spirit as well, for, as thou with one soul, they resolved to labor for God rather than for the world and its vanities. Wishing to preserve their souls and bodies undefiled so that in purity they might be united with Christ the Lord, their pure Bridegroom, they hearkened, when He said, "Come out from among these people, and be ye separate, and touch not their uncleanliness; and I will receive you" (2 Cor., ch. 6). Thus, greatly loving virginity, they separated themselves from the company of others. Estranged from the world, they took up their abode in a place apart, knowing well how difficult it is to preserve the purity of virginity among a people "having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin" (2 Peter ch. 2).
At that time the impious pagan Maximian reigned, and Phrontus the Prince governed the province of Bithynia. When Phrontus heard of the holy virgins, he ordered that they be seized and brought before him. Christ's lambs, who in the wilderness had remained unharmed by wild beasts, were now taken by men of bestial appearance and manners and brought before the persecutor. Like three Angels, the three virgins, who were fit to stand in the presence of God Himself, glorified in Trinity, rather than before men, stood before the tribunal...
First, the Prince asked their names and from where they came. They answered that they were called Christians after Christ and that the names they had received at Baptism were Menodora, Metrodora, and Nymphodora and that they were born in Bithynia to the same father and mother. The Prince continued speaking with them, hoping through flattery to bring them to embrace his impiety...
Menodora, the eldest sister, opened her lips, which were accustomed to silence, and said, "We worship God, Who created us and adorned us with His image; therefore, we do not wish even to hear of another god but Him. We no more need your gifts and honors than anyone needs rubbish which is trampled underfoot...
Then Metrodora said, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (St. Matthew, ch. 16). What is this world in comparison with our beloved Bridegroom and Lord? It is as mud compared to gold, darkness compared to the sun, vinegar compared to honey. Are we, then, for the sake of the vain world, to fall away from the love of the Lord and to destroy our own souls? Never!...
Nymphodora answered boldly, "Do you hope to frighten us with tortures and grievous wounds? Gather here all swords, instruments of torture found throughout the world: swords, wheels, and iron spikes; summon all the torturers from the ends of the earth; combine every manner of torment, and employ them on our frail bodies, and you will see that all these instruments shall prove of no effect, that the hands of all the torturers shall weary, and that every torture will fail. We will never renounce our Christ! Bitter torments suffered for Him are for us like unto the sweetness of Paradise, and death the gateway to life eternal..."
When the Prince Phrontus heard this, he became enraged and poured out all his anger upon Menodora. He ordered that the two younger sisters be led away and that Menodora, the eldest of the three, be stripped naked and beaten by four of his attendants. As the saint was being beaten, a herald proclaimed, 'Worship the gods, praise the Emperor, and do not disdain his ordinances!'
After she had been suspended for two hours, the torturer said to Menodoa, 'Sacrifice to the gods!' The Saint answered him, "I do nothing but offer sacrifice; can you not see that I have offered myself wholly in sacrifice to my God?" The tormentor ordered his henchmen to thrash her even more cruelly. They beat her whole body mercilessly, shattering her every member, breaking her bones, and tearing her flesh. But she bore the pain as though she did not feel it, clinging the more fervently with love and longing to her Immortal Bridegroom. Out of the depths of her heart she cried, "O Lord Jesus Christ, my Joy and the Love of my heart, to Thee, my Hope, do I flee, and I pray Thee: receive my soul in peace!" Having said this, she yielded up the spirit and went to her beloved Bridegroom, adorned with wounds as though with costly ornaments.
After four days Metrodora and Nymphodora were brought before the torturer's tribunal where the naked corpse of their elder sister was laid at their feet...They anticipated, too, that adorned with wounds like hers, they would quickly appear before the face of the longed-for Lord. Thus, restraining their tears, the holy virgins said as they beheld the holy body lying before them, "Blessed sister and mother, thou wast deemed worthy to be crowned with the diadem of martyrdom and to enter the chamber of the bridegroom. Pray to the most good Lord, Whom thou now beholdest, that He not wait to summon us along the same path on which thou hast walked, and beseech Him that we may worship His Majesty, delight in His love, and rejoice with Him forever...'
The tormentor became greatly enraged, and he ordered that Nymphodora be led away and that Metrodora be hung up and burned with candles. For two hours her whole body was seared; and as she bore this torment, she lifted up her eyes to the One for Whom she suffered, her beloved Bridegroom, beseeching His aid. Then, charred like charcoal, she was removed from the tree. After this the tormentor commanded that she be beaten severely with iron rods. All of her members were shattered, and as a result of these tortures, Metrodora called out to her Lord, surrendering her holy soul into His hands even as she cried unto Him.
When she had reposed, Christ's third lamb, Saint Nymphodora, was brought forth so that she could see the corpses of her two sisters, in the hope that having beheld the cruel manner in which they were put to death, she might take fright and renounce Christ...Seeing that his words were of no effect, the Prince ordered that Nymphodora be stripped and hung up that her body be scraped with iron claws. While bearing these tortures, she in no way showed herself to be lacking in patience, nor did she cry out nor moan, but only raised her eyes to heaven and moved her lips, indicating that she was offering God fervent prayer. When the herald shouted out, 'Sacrifice to the gods and deliver yourself from torments!' the saint answered, "I have sacrificed myself to my God; suffering for Him is sweet, and dying for Him is gain!'
Finally, the torturer commanded that Nymphodora be beaten to death with iron rods, and thereby the saint was slain in witness to Jesus Christ. Thus did these three virgins glorify the Holy Trinity by their martyric deaths.
The persecutor, not satisfied with torturing the saints while they were still living, poured out his unquenchable cruelty even on their dead bodies, ordering that a great fire be built and that the corpses of the holy martyrs be burned. However, fire suddenly fell from heaven, accompanied by great thunder, and in the twinkling of an eye, it consumed the Prince and all of his servants who had tortured the three holy martyrs. A heavy rain fell upon the fire which had been kindled by the Prince's servants and extinguished it, and the faithful removed the bodies of the saints unharmed from the fire, burying them reverently near the warm springs in a single grave.
(Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints, Vol. 1: September. Saint Demetrius of Rostov. Translated by Father Thomas Marretta. Chrysostom Press, House Springs, Missouri 1994.)
NEGLIGENCE, THE UNSLEEPING DANGER FOR THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN
(From the "Plow" magazine, July 2003) [Source: Orthodox Heritage]
Negligence is a terrible conspirator against our lives and has wronged us many times, and we must never cease to regard it as our most implacable enemy. The Elder's fervor in protecting us from it and his profound experience of the crafty and intricate ways in which it confuses and entangles its victims makes it imperative for us to say something about this enemy of ours.
In the language of the Fathers this is called listlessness (ακηδία--akethia) as well as negligence and sloth, which all mean the same thing--spiritual death. We shall not go into what the Holy Fathers have said about this pestilence, except that it is included among the eight evil thoughts as comprehensive vice. We shall simply give helpful extracts from the Elder's experience, which are of particular use in our own generation.
When we asked about the chief cause of man's failure in his spiritual purpose, he would reply that it was negligence. On one occasion I asked him how it was that the Holy Fathers give self-esteem as the reason, and he replied:
"Yes, that conspires against us too; but not all of us, only those it deceives. And again it affects only a few, because self-esteem corrupts treasures that have been amassed, while negligence does not even let you collect them. Negligence is like a drought in which nothing grows. Self-esteem damages those who have fruit, who have made some progress; whereas negligence harms everyone, because it impedes those who want to make a start, it stops those who have advanced, it does not allow the ignorant to learn, it prevents those who have gone astray from returning, it does not permit the fallen to get up; in general, negligence spells destruction for all those it holds captive."
"Using the pretext of physical needs and weariness from the struggle, this deceiver makes itself credible; and like a conductive material, listlessness transmits us and hands us over to self-love, the more general enemy. Only a courageous soul grounded in faith and hope in God can overthrow this conspiracy. Otherwise, it is difficult for someone inexperienced to escape from these nets. This is a great ordeal for those who live alone and for everyone who avoids a regulated life, whereas it is unable to harm those who are under obedience and have tasks to perform."
"Listlessness begins with despondency and faintheartedness and the prolonged withdrawal of grace. It starts off with the application of economy towards some supposed infirmity or weakness, and ends in total disbelief and shamelessness and ingratitude. For those who live alone as hesychasts, it starts from neglect of the rule and order of their lives, and grows if not attended to in good time. But in those who live with others, it begins with idle talk and backbiting."
As a cure for negligence, the Elder recommended eschatological meditation in ascending and descending form: reward and punishment, the Kingdom of Heaven and hell; and also calling to mind the honorable memory of those who have taken part in the struggle. The means of grace against negligence are prayer, tears and faith. Again, the Elder would recount many examples from the lives of earlier spiritual warriors who happened to be led astray by negligence and lost the record of spiritual progress which they had gained through great fervor and ascetic labor. The Elder would say:
"In my opinion, the other passions into which spiritual warriors are led astray are complications of indifference, because this erodes our attention and so opens the way to related and connected passions and these take men captive."
To wake us up in the morning he would always shout to us, "Don't be negligent, boys, lest you fall into the hands of thieves." He even regarded a pointless occupation as negligence, because he believed that this too could lead to the same bondage.
As David says, "Let not thy foot be moved, and He who keeps thee will not slumber" (Psalm 121:3); and again, "if Thy law had not been my meditation, I should have perished in my humiliation" (Psalm 119"92).
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.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servants of God