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.
PRAYERS TAKEN FROM THE DIVINE LITURGY TO OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS BASIL, ARCHBISHOP OF CAESARIA IN CAPPADOCIA
The Offertory Prayer
Priest: O Lord our God, You created us and brought us into this present life. You have shown us the way to salvation and given us a revelation into heavenly mysteries, ordaining us to this ministry by the grace of Your Holy Spirit. See fit, O Lord, to accept us as servants of Your New Covenant, ministers of Your sacred Mysteries. In the greatness of Your love accept us as we approach Your holy altar, so that we may be rendered worthy to offer You this spiritual and bloodless sacrifice, for our sins and for the failings of the people. Having received it at Your holy and spiritual altar above the heavens as a fragrant scent, will You in turn send down on us the grace of Your Holy Spirit. Look upon us, consider our sacrifice, and accept it as You accepted the gifts of Abel, the offerings of Noah, Abraham's whole-burnt offerings, the priestly ministries of Moses and Aaron, the peace offerings of Samuel. As you accepted this true worship from Your Holy Apostles, likewise, in Your goodness, Lord, accept these gifts from our sinful hands; so that, having been judged worthy to serve blamelessly at Your holy altar, we may obtain the reward of the faithful and prudent stewards on the fearful day of Your just judgment.
The Holy Anaphora
Priest: You are He Who is, Sovereign Lord God, almighty and to be worshiped. It is thus truly right, just and befitting the greatness of Your Holiness, that we praise You, sing to You, bless You, adore You, give thanks to You, glorify You, as the Only True God; that with repentant hearts and in the spirit of humility we offer You this our spiritual worship. For You have given us grace to know Your Truth. Who could so much as speak of Your Lordship, or sing Your due praises, or recount Your countless wonders through the ages? Master of all, Lord of heaven and earth and of all creation, seen and unseen; You are enthroned upon a seat of glory, able to plumb the depths: eternal, invisible, beyond comprehending or describing, unchanging, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the great God and Savior, the object of our hope.
For He is the image of Your goodness, the seal bearing Your perfect likeness, revealing You His Father through Himself. He is the Living Word, True God, wisdom beyond the ages, Life, Sanctification, Power, the True Light. Through Him the Holy Spirit was made manifest, the Spirit of Truth, the gift of adoption, the foretaste of the future inheritance, the first fruits of eternal blessings, the lifegiving power, the fountainhead of holiness. Empowered by Him, every rational and intelligent being sings ceaselessly of Your glory, for all serve You. It is You the Angels and Archangels, adore, the Thrones and Dominions, the Principalities, the Virtues, the Powers and the Cherubim of many eyes. It is You the Seraphim encircle, each with six wings: with the two they cover their faces, with the two their feet, and flying with the two, they cry out to one another with ceaseless voices in perpetual praise.
Choir: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Priest: With these blessed powers, Master and lover of mankind, we sinners also cry out and say: truly You are Holy, and All-Holy; there is no bound to the Majesty of Your Holiness. You are Holy in all Your works, for in righteousness and true judgment You have brought all things to pass for us. Taking clay from the earth, You shaped man, and honoring him, O God, with Your likeness, You set him in a Paradise of delight, promising him immortality and the enjoyment of everlasting blessings in the keeping of Your Commandments.
But once he disobeyed You, the True God Who created him, and fell under the serpent's guile, becoming subject to death by his own transgression, in Your just judgment, O God, You exiled him from Paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was first taken, yet planned for him salvation through rebirth in Your Christ.
For You did not turn away altogether from what You had fashioned, O Gracious God, nor did You forget the work of Your hands. But in the depth of Your love You watched over him in many ways: You sent forth Prophets; You worked mighty signs through Your Saints, who in each generation were pleasing to You. You spoke to us through the mouths of Your servants the Prophets, announcing to us beforehand the salvation that was to come. You gave the Law as guide; You set Angels as guardians. And when the fullness of time came, you spoke to us through Your very Son, through whom You created the ages.
For though He is the reflection of Your glory and the very likeness of Your person, sustaining all things by the power of His Word, He did not count equality with [You, God and Father] a thing to be grasped. But though He was God before all time, He was seen on earth and lived among the people. And taking flesh from the Holy Virgin, He "emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness" of "our lowly body", that He might "change [us] to be like His glorious body".
For since it was by man that sin entered the world, and death through sin, Your Only-begotten Son, He Who was in the bosom of God the Father, condescended to be born of woman, the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary; to be born under the Law, so as to condemn sin in His flesh, that those who die in Adam may be brought to life in Your Christ.
And having lived in this world, and having given precepts for salvation, turning us away from the delusion of idolatry, He brought us to the knowledge of You, the True God and Father, redeeming us to Himself as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation", and, when He had cleansed us in water and sanctified us with the Holy Spirit, He gave Himself up as a ransom to death, to which we were in bondage, sold under sin. He descended into Hades by way of the Cross, "that He might fill all things" in Himself and "loosed the pangs of death."
Rising on the third day, He prepared the way for the resurrection of all flesh from the dead, "because it was not possible for Him [the Author of Life] to be held by it." He thus became the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep", "the first-born from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent". Ascending into heaven, He was enthroned at the right hand of Your Majesty on high, whence He shall come to render to each of us according to our deeds.
But He left us remembrances of His saving Passion, these which we have set forth as He commanded. For as He was about to go forth to His voluntary and eternal memorable and lifegiving death, on the night when He gave Himself up for the life of the world, taking bread in His Holy and spotless hands, and presenting it to You, God and Father, He gave thanks, blessed it, sanctified it and broke it...
Priest: As for all of us, partaking of the One Bread and Cup, unites us to one another in the communion of the one Holy Spirit, and let none of us partake for judgment or condemnation of the Sacred Body and Blood of Your Christ, but rather that we might know mercy and grace, together with all the Saints who through the ages have pleased You well: Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous soul who has been perfected through faith.
Priest: Especially our Most Holy, Blessed and Glorious Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
Choir: In you, the one full of grace, all creation rejoices; the hierarchy of Angels and the human race; hallowed Temple and spiritual Paradise, virgins' pride, from whom God was made flesh and was born as a child, though He existed before all ages. For he made your womb His Throne, broader than the heavens He made it. In you, full of grace, all creation rejoices. Glory to you!
"...Further we pray: be mindful Lord, of Your Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, from one end of the earth to the other, and keep Her in peace, for You have made Her Yours through the precious Blood of Your Christ; and make this holy house firm to the end of time.
Be mindful, Lord, of those who have offered You these gifts, as well as of those for whom, through whom and in behalf of whom they offered them. Remember, Lord, those who bring froth fruit and do good works in Your holy Churches and are concerned for the poor. Reward them with Your rich, heavenly blessings. In place of worldly gifts grant them heavenly ones; in place of transitory goods, eternal blessings; instead of the passing the lasting.
Remember, Lord, those who live in deserts and mountains, in the dens and caves of the earth. Keep in mind, Lord, those who persevere in virginity, ascetics, and those who live seemly lives...Preserve the good in their goodness; make the wicked good through Your Goodness. Be mindful, O Lord, of the people assembled here, as well as of those who are absent for good cause; show mercy to them and to us in Your abundant mercy. Fill their households with every good thing; sustain their marriages in peace and harmony; nurture the infants; train up the youth; support the elderly; comfort the fainthearted; gather in those who are scattered, and lead back those who have strayed, uniting them to your Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church...
"...And if we have failed to commemorate anyone, whether out of ignorance or forgetfulness or because of the great number of names, You, O God, will remember; for You know each one's age and name, since You have known each of us from our mother's womb. For You, Lord, are the help of the helpless, the hope of the hopeless, rescuer of the tempest-tossed, safe haven for sailors, healer of the sick. Be all things to all people, for You know each of us and what we would ask, our homes, our needs. Defend this city, O Lord, this community, and every city and land: against famine and pestilence, earthquake and flood, against fire and the sword, against alien attack and civil strife. Amen.
THE TRADITION OF THE VASILOPETA (St. Basil's bread)
The tradition of the Vasilopeta (St. Basil's bread). For centuries, parents, grandparents and godparents have related the following to Orthodox Christian children about Saint Basil and the Vasilopeta.
One year, during a time of terrible famine, the Byzantine Emperor Julian the Apostate, who denounced Christianity, levied a sinfully excessive tax upon the people of Caesarea. The tax was such a heavy burden upon the already impoverished people that to avoid debtors' prison each family had to relinquish its few remaining coins and pieces of jewelry, including precious family heirlooms. Learning of this injustice upon his flock, Saint Basil the Great, the Archbishop of Caesarea, took up his Bishop's staff and the book of the Holy Gospels and came to his people's defense by fearlessly calling the Emperor to repentance. By God's grace, the Emperor did repent! He cancelled the tax and instructed his tax collectors to turn over to Saint Basil all of the chests containing the coins and jewelry which had been paid as taxes by the people of Caesarea. But now Saint Basil was faced with the daunting and impossible task of returning these thousands of coins and pieces of jewelry to their rightful owners. After praying for a long time before the holy icons of Our Master Jesus Christ and His All-Holy Mother, Saint Basil had all the treasures baked into one huge pita. He then called all the townspeople to prayer at the Cathedral, and, after the Divine Liturgy, he blessed and cut the pita, giving a piece to each person. Miraculously, each owner received in his piece of Vasilopeta his own valuables. They all joyfully returned home, giving thanks to God Who had delivered them from abject poverty and to their good and holy Bishop St. Basil the Great!
In remembrance of that miracle wrought by God as a result of Saint Basil's love and defense of his people, Orthodox Christians have observed the tradition of the Vailopeta each year on January 1st--the date on which Saint Basil reposed in the Lord in the year 379 A.D. Traditionally, Vasilopetes (Basil's cakes or sweet bread) is made in Orthodox Christian households and before it is baked a coin is placed in it and the one whose slice contains the coin considers it as a blessing for the entire year. The head of the household (the father) is usually the one who will cut the Vasilopeta by first making the sign of the Cross upon it and saying: 'In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' At home, of course, the first slice is dedicated to Christ, the Theotokos, to the patron Saint of their church, to the father, mother and to the children according to their age. In the local church the Vasilopeta is blessed, and cut by the priest. The first slice is always is offered to Christ God, the Theotokos, Saint Basil the Great, the Patron Saint of the parish, Priest, parish council president, members of the parish council, heads of the parish ministries and the rest of the slices are give to the faithful.
Another version of the Vasilopeta: The age old tradition commenced in the 4th century, when Saint Basil the Great, who was a Bishop, wanted to distribute money to the poor in his Diocese. He commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins. Thus the families in cutting the bread to nourish themselves were pleasantly surprised to find a gold coin to help them in their struggle to provide food, clothing, etc. for their children.
The sweetness of the Vasilopeta symbolizes the hope that the New year will be filled with the sweetness of life, liberty, health, and happiness for all who participate in the Vasilopeta Observance.
A BLESSED YEAR TO ALL!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God