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 ΜΕΣ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE TWELFTH PRAYER OF ORTHROS (MATINS)
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
O God of our fathers, we praise You, we hymn You, we bless You and we thank You, for You have set aside the darkness of night and have shown us again the light of day. We beseech Your goodness to be merciful over our sins and, in Your great compassion to accept our prayer. For we turn for refuge to You, the Merciful and Almighty God. Let the true Sun of Your righteousness shine in our hearts. Enlighten our minds and uphold all of our senses, to walk modestly, as in the day, upon the way of Your Commandments, and thus to attain to the eternal life. For the source of life is in You, and You can make us worthy to enjoy Your inapproachable Light. For You, Lord, are indeed blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On September 17th 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 Martyrs Faith, Hope and Agape (Love) and their mother Sophia, at Rome; St. Heraclides and Myron, Bishops of Cyprus; St. Maximos, Asclepiodotos, and Theodotos of Adrianopolis; St. Theodota at Nicaea, and St. Agathoklea; St. Lucy, and her son Geminian of Rome; St. Anastasius in Cyprus; St. Eusipius of Cyprus; St. Lambert of Maastricht; 156 Holy Martyrs of Palestine, including Bishops Peleos and Nilos, Presbyter Zeno, and noblemen Patermuthius and Elias; holy Martyr Haralambos, Pantoleon, and others.
+By the intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy Children, Holy Bishops, Holy Presbyters, Holy Confessors, Holy Monks, Holy Ascetics, Holy Apostles, Holy Fathers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
THE PASSION OF THE HOLY MARTYRS FAITH, HOPE, AND AGAPE (LOVE), AND THEIR MOTHER, SOPHIA. During the reign of the impious and pagan Roman emperor Hadrian, a widow of Italian ancestry called Sophia, whose name means wisdom, lived in Rome. She was a Christian, and in accordance with her name, she lived wisely, showing that wisdom praised by the Apostle James, who says, "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits" (St. James, ch. 3). This wise gentlewoman, Sophia, while living in honorable wedlock, bore three daughters, whom she named after the three great virtues. The first was named Faith, the second Hope, and the third Agape (Love), for to what does Christian wisdom give birth other than to God-pleasing virtues?
Soon after the birth of her three daughters, St. Sophia was widowed. Living piously, she pleased God by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (charity). She reared her three daughters in a manner befitting a wise mother so that they, being the namesakes of virtues, mighty in truth acquired those traits, the names of which they bore. As they matured, they increased in virtue, and they learned well the books of the Prophets and the Holy Apostles. They became accustomed to listening to the words of their teachers and earnestly occupied themselves with spiritual reading, prayer, and household chores. Moreover, they submitted themselves in all things to their holy mother, who was filled with divine wisdom.
Word spread throughout Rome of the wisdom and beauty of the three sisters, and even the Eparch Antiochus wished to see them. When they were brought before him, Antiochus learned that they were Christians, for they did not hide their faith in Christ. Hoping in Christ, they did not doubt nor falter in their love for Him, but before all they glorified Christ, showing disdain for the idols, hateful to God.
Antiochus related all these things to the emperor Hadrian, who immediately sent his servants to bring the virgins before him. Realizing the purpose of this summons, they arose to pray and said, "O Almighty God, do with us according to Thy holy will, and forsake us not, but rather grant us Thy holy aid, that our hearts be not frightened by the proud tormentor and that we be not terrified by his fearful tortures nor terrorized by bitter death and that nothing might separate us from Thee, our God."
They were then led before the emperor, who sat proudly upon his throne. They rendered him fitting honor but stood before him without fear, their faces radiant, their hearts steadfast, their eyes gazing gladly upon all as though they had been summoned to a banquet. Such was their joy with which they came to suffer torment for their Lord!
Seeing their honorable, fair, and fearless countenances, the emperor questioned the mother as to their lineage, names, and faith. She, being most wise, spoke briefly of the girls' ancestry and names, she began to tell of Him Whom she confessed and before Whose name every knee should bow. She added that she had betrothed her daughters to Christ so that they might preserve their chastity for the incorruptible Bridegroom, the Son of God.
Speaking to her daughters, St. Sophia said: "My sweet children, do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the enemy's allurements, for the emperor will entice you greatly and promise you rich presents, offering you glory, wealth, honor, and all the beautiful and sweet things of this corruptible and vain world. Faith was twelve, Hope was ten and Agape was nine years old.
The emperor put them to the question separately. Faith (Pistis), who was twelve years old, was brought in first. She boldly dismissed the tyrant's flatteries. The infuriated emperor had her stripped, mercilessly beaten and her breasts torn off, when milk not blood flowed forth. The other tortures she endured were to no avail, for she was protected by the power of God. When, at last, they came to strike off her head, St. Sophia encouraged her to accept with joy the death that would unite her to Christ.
Hope (Elpis), who was ten years old, was brought in next. Confessing Christ as steadfastly as her sister, she was beaten and cast into a raging furnace, but its fire went out on touching her, in whom love of God burnt with a fierce flame than material fire. After many other tortures, she too died by the sword, giving thanks to God.
Love (Agape), the third of the sisters then was summoned before the emperor whom anger had maddened. She was only nine years old but of the same steadfast mind as her sisters. She was hung on a gallows and chained so tightly that her limbs were broken by the bonds. She was then thrown into a furnace, from which she was delivered by an Angel, and finally, beheaded.
Saint Sophia took the dead bodies of her daughters out of the town and buried them, and stayed by their grave in prayer for three days and nights, then gave her soul to God, hastening to the heavenly company where the blessed souls of her daughters awaited her.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURES ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 1:1-9
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 7:24-30
[Afterfeast of the Holy Cross]
INSPIRING WORDS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Before the war begins, seek after your ally; before you fall ill, seek out your physician; and before grievous things come upon you, pray, and in the time of your tribulations you will find Him, and He will listen to you" (Saint Isaac the Syrian).
THE JESUS PRAYER
By Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (+2003), from "Living Prayer," Templegate Publisher, Springfield, Ill. 1966, p. 84-88.
Pray with each breath, thus: Lord Jesus Christ (breathing in), Have mercy on me, (breathing out). Elder Joseph the Hesychast
Those who have read "The Way of a Pilgrim" are familiar with the expression The Jesus Prayer. It refers to a short prayer the words of which are: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner, constantly repeated. "The Way of a Pilgrim" is the story of a man who wanted to learn to pray constantly (1 Thess. 5:17). As the man whose experience is being related is a pilgrim, a great many of his psychological characteristics, and the way in which he learned and applied the prayer, were conditioned by the fact that he lived in a certain way, which makes the book less universally applicable than it could be; and yet it is the best possible introduction to this prayer, which is one of the greatest treasures of the Orthodox Church.
The prayer is profoundly rooted in the spirit of the gospel, and it is not in vain that the great teachers of Orthodoxy have always insisted on the fact that the Jesus Prayer sums up the whole of the gospel. This is why the Jesus Prayer can only be used in its fullest sense if the person who uses it belongs to the gospel, is a member of the Church of Christ.
All the messages of the gospel, and more than the messages, the reality of the gospel, is contained in the name, in the Person of Jesus. If you take the first half of the prayer you will see how it expresses our faith in the Lord: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God. At the heart we find the name of Jesus; it is the name before whom "every knee bows" (Isaiah 45:3), and when we pronounce it we affirm the historical event of the Incarnation. We affirm that God, the Logos (Word) of God, Co-Eternal with the Father, became man, and that "the fullness of the God head dwelt in our midst" (Col. 2:9) bodily in His Person.
To see the man of Galilee, in the Prophet of Israel, the Incarnate Logos (Word) of God, God became man, we must be guided by the Spirit, because the Spirit of God Who reveals to us both the Incarnation and the Lordship of Christ. We call Him Christ, and we affirm thereby that in Him were fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. To affirm that Jesus is the Christ implies that the whole history of the Old Testament is ours, that we accept it as the Truth of God. We call Him Son of God, because we know that the Messiah expected by the Jews, the man Who was called Son of David by Bartimaeus, is the Incarnate Son of God. These words sum up all we know, all we believe about Jesus Christ, from the Old Testament to the New, and form the experience of the Church through the ages. In these few words we make a complete and perfect profession of faith.
But it is not enough to make this profession of faith; it is not enough to believe. "The devils also believe and tremble" (James 2:19). Faith is not sufficient to work salvation, it must lead to the right relationship with God; and so, having professed, in its integrity, sharply and clearly, our faith in the Lordship and in the person, in the historicity and in the divinity of Christ, we put ourselves face to face with Him, in the right state of mind: "Have mercy on me, a sinner."
These words "have mercy on me, a sinner" are used as the response of the people to all the petitions suggested by the priest. Our modern translation "have mercy" is a limited and insufficient one. The Greek words which we find in the gospel and in the early liturgies is eleison. Eleison is of the same root as elaion, which means olive tree and the oil from it.
If we look up the Old and New Testament in search of the passages connected with this basic idea, we will find it described in a variety of parables and events which allow us to form a complete idea of the meaning of the word. We find the image of the olive tree in Genesis. After the flood Noah sends birds, one after the other, to find out whether there is any dry land or not, and one of them, a dove--and it is significant that it is a dove--brings back a small twig of olive. This twig conveys to Noah and to all with him in the ark the news that the wrath of God has ceased, that God is now offering man a fresh opportunity. All those who are in the ark will be able to settle again on firm ground and make an attempt to live, and never more perhaps, if they can help it, undergo the wrath of God.
In the New Testament, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, olive oil is poured to soothe and to heal. In the anointing of kings and priests in the Old Testament, it is again oil that is poured "on the head as an image of the grace of God that comes down and flows on them" (Psalm 133:2) giving them power to fulfill what is beyond human capabilities. The king is to stand on the threshold, between the will of men and the will of God, and he is called to lead his people to the fulfillment of God's will; the priest also stands on that threshold, to proclaim the will of God, to pronounce God's decrees and to apply God's decision.
The oil speaks, first of all, of the end of the wrath of God, of the peace which God offers to the people who have offended against Him; further its speaks of God healing us in order that we should be able to live and become what we are called to be; and as He knows that we are not capable with our own strength of fulfilling either His will or the laws of our own created nature, "He pours His grace abundantly" on us (Romans 5:20). He gives us power to do what we could not otherwise do…
The Jesus Prayer is known to innumerable Orthodox Christians, either as a rule of prayer or in addition to it, as a form of devotion, a short focal point that can be used at any moment, whatever the situation...
The use of the prayer is dual, it is an act of worship as is every prayer, and on the ascetical level, it is a focus that allows us to keep our attention still in the presence of God...Whether in joy or in sorrow, it is, when it has become habitual, a quickening of the soul, a response to any call of God. The words of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, apply to all its possible effects on us: "Do not worry about what will come next, you will discover it when it comes."
(Source: Orthodox Heritage)
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 servant of God