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 CONTRITE PRAYER TO OUR LORD
[The First Hour (8:00 a.m.)]
O Eternal God, the Uncreated Light, Infinite and without beginning, the Creator of all creation, the inexhaustible source of mercy, the deep ocean of goodness, and the unsearchable abyss of loving-kindness for mankind, let the Light of Your countenance, O Lord, shine upon us. Illuminate our hearts, O spiritual Sun of Righteousness, and fill our souls with Your gladness. Teach us always to meditate and to speak of Your judgments, and to constantly confess to You, our Master and Benefactor. Direct the work of our hands to conform with Your will, and support us in doing what You love and what pleases You. Thus, even through our unworthiness, Your All-Holy Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, of the One Godhead and Kingdom, to Whom befits all glory, honor and worship. Amen.
ON JANUARY 7TH OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE SYNAXIS OF THE GLORIOUS PROPHET, FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST JOHN
Saint John's role during his life was enacted on the day of the Theophany, and because of this the Church has, from the earliest times, dedicated the day following that feast to his memory. This day is also connected with an event involving the hand of the Forerunner. The Evangelist Luke desired to take St. John's body from Sevaste, where the great Prophet had been beheaded by Herod, to Antioch, his own birthplace. He succeeded, though, in acquiring and taking only one hand, which was kept in Antioch till the 10th century. It was then moved to Constantinople, whence it disappeared during the Turkish enslavement.
Saint John is commemorated several times during the year, but his greatest feast is on this day, January 7th. Among the Gospel-figures surrounding the Savior, the person of St. John the Baptist holds a very special place, by the manner of his birth in this world and of his earthly life, by his role of baptizer of men to repentance and his baptism of the Messiah, and, lastly, by the tragic manner of his departure from this world. He was of such moral purity that he indeed deserved the name 'angel', as he was named in the Holy Scripture, rather than being thought of as just a mortal man. St. John differs from all the other Prophets in that he had the joy of showing forth to the world the One Whom he had foretold.
About the hand of Saint John: it is related that each year, on his feast-day, the Archbishop would bring it out before the people. Sometimes the hand appeared open, and sometimes clenched. In the first case it indicated that it would be a fertile year, and in the second that it would be a year of famine.
[The word 'messenger' is, in Greek, 'Anggelos'. See Malachi 3:1; St. Matthew 11-10 -- Tr.]
MIRACLE OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST IN CHIOS
In 1740, there was a church dedicated to Saint John the Forerunner in Atzike, Chios, situated near the countryside. It was necessary for the Muslim to pass that way en route to their Mosque. Because of the extreme winter cold and rains, a group of seven wealthy Muslims, known as Beys, discussed the feasibility of taking the church by force converting it to a Mosque. Two of these seven disagreed with the plot, but the other five signed a letter and sent it with a messenger by sea seeking the imperial decree to legally confiscate the church. However, God frustrated their plan in the following manner. On the eve of the feast of the Synaxis of Saint John the Baptist, six of the Beys met on the first floor of a three-story tower near the church to discuss their plot. Suddenly, an earthquake collapsed half of the tower upon them, killing the five who plotted to take the church. The sixth person, who disagreed with them, was completely unharmed in the rubble. The other half of the tower was filled with women and children, and they too were unharmed. The ship carrying the letter was lost at sea.
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS OF THE CHURCH
"The devil does not hunt after those who are lost; he hunts after those who are aware, those who are close to God. He takes from them trust in God and begins to afflict them with self-assurance, logic, thinking and criticism. Therefore we should not trust our logical minds. Never believe your thought. Love simply and without thinking too much, like a child with his father. Faith without too much thinking works wonders (miracles). The logical mind hinders the grace of God and miracles. Practice patience without judging with the logical mind." (Saint Paisios the New of Mount Athos)
SAYINGS OF THE FATHERS ABOUT REPENTANCE
Saint John the Baptist would preach thus: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand " (St. Matthew 3:2)
Saint Ephraim the Surian says, "Fill your eyes with tears, and the eyes of your mind will soon be opened. Come all, one with another, rich and poor, princes and subjects, young men and maidens, old men and children, every age and gender, who desire to be delivered from eternal torments and to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. With holy David let us beseech our Merciful and Most Gracious Lord, saying, 'Open Thou mine eyes, that I may see the wondrous things of Thy Law. Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.' Let us cry as that blind man did, who sat by the wayside, 'Thou Son of the Most High God, have mercy upon me!' And if any rebuke us, or charge us to hold our peace, let us cry the more, a great deal, and never be weary of crying, till Christ, the Giver of Lights, shall open the eyes of our hearts. Therefore draw near to Him and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed.' He encourages repentance by saying, 'My Brothers and Sisters, let us repent and bring forth fruits worthy of repentance while we have time. Hear what Our Lord says, "There shall be joy in Heaven over one sinner that repents!"
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