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.
AN HOMILY ON PRAYER
By Saint John Chrysostom
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
As Christians we are obligate to honor and appreciate the Saints of God for two reasons. The first reason is because all the Saints had placed the hope of their spiritual salvation upon the sacred prayers. The second reason is because the prayers which they offered to God with joy and fear have been preserved in their writings. Thus their spiritual treasures, having been transmitted to us, may draw all subsequent believers toward the zeal of these Saints. The way of life of the teachers must be transmitted to their pupils. Thus the pupils of the Saints, that is, us Christians, must prove ourselves to be imitators of their righteousness. This we may do by always being preoccupied with prayers and the worship of God, considering thus as life and health and wealth and the end of all good things our prayer toward God with a pure heart and an incorruptible soul. For as the sun illumines the body so also does prayer illumine the soul. If then the blind person is deprived because he cannot see the sun, how much more is the Christian diminished and harmed who does not pray constantly, and who, consequently, does not gather into his or her soul, through prayer, the Light of Christ.
Who is there that is not surprised and does not marvel at the love of God, which He demonstrates by rendering such a great honor to human being in making them worthy to pray and to converse with God Himself! When we converse with God at the time of prayer we become similar to the Angels and dissimilar to the irrational beings. For the work par excellence of the Angels is prayer and worship. By praying with much awe and presenting themselves to us as an example, the Angels teach us to learn and to know that we must pray to God with joy and with fear. We must pray both with fear of being found unworthy of the prayer which connects us with God, but also with fullness of joy for the magnitude of honor which is bestowed upon the human race through the very possibility of prayer. Divine Providence has made us capable of enjoying constant communion with God, through which we appear not to be mortal and transient. Even though by nature we are mortal, it is through our conversation with God that we are transferred into immortal life. For the one who holds conversation with God must be by necessity above death and every moral and spiritual corruption. And by the same token, as it is most essential for one who enjoys the rays of the sun to be free of darkness, so also the one who enjoys conversation with God must no longer be mortal, precisely because the magnitude of this honor transfers us into the realm of spiritual immortality. It is impossible for those who pray and speak to God to have mortal souls. The death of the soul is precisely impiety and a sinful life, while the life of the soul is the worship of God and a way of life in the believer that is becoming to such worship.
It is prayer itself that produces a marvelously sacred way of life that is altogether appropriate to the worship of God. For, without regard to whether or not one loves the chastity of a monastic life or honors the prudence of married life, or whether one has mastered anger and lives meekly, or is free of envy and practice any of the appropriate virtues guided by prayer, prayer will always make smooth the way of virtues living and the believer will readily be able to rise to the higher levels of the spiritual life. It is altogether impossible for those who seek from God prudence and meekness and goodness not to receive what they seek through prayer. For Christ says: "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (St. Matthew 7:7). To convince us of this Truth, Christ also says the following: "What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (St. Matthew 7:9-11). With such words and such hopes has the Lord of all motivated us toward prayer. We are then obliged, in obedience to the will of God, to live a virtuous and a faithful way of life, and with hymns and prayers to be more attentive to the worship of God than to our earthly life. In this way we will be able to live the life that is becoming to Christians.
For the one who does not pray to God and does not desire to enjoy constantly this conversation with God is indeed dead, without a living soul, and certainly without prudence. The greatest sign of folly and imprudence is for us humans to be unaware of the magnitude of the honor we have received from God; to not love prayer, and to not regard the neglect of the worship of God as the very death of the soul. For, I believe, as our body, without soul, is dead and foul, so also by the same token the soul, without prayer is dead and miserable and foul. In reference to these things, the Prophet Daniel teaches us to consider more bitter than death itself the loss of prayer, and he himself preferred to die than to be deprived of a few days of prayer. This means that without Divine help no good can come to our souls. The help of God comes to our pain and brings us consolation, especially when He sees us loving prayer, praying unceasingly and hoping that all good things come to us from God. Therefore, when I see someone who does not love prayer and does not have a strong and fervent tendency to pray, then it seems to me that that person does not enjoy any noble emotion in his or her soul. But again, when I see someone who is never tired of being involved in the worship of God and who considers as the greatest harm to neglect the life of prayer, then I conclude that that person is also a steadfast observer of every virtue and truly a temple of God…prayer regulates the way of life of each person and does not allow any foolish or inappropriate thing to prevail in our life. Moreover, prayer convinces us to have reverence for God and for the honor He bestows upon us. Prayer also teaches us to expel every satanic fascination and to drive out directly shameful and sinful imaginations. Thus the soul of every believer who prays becomes capable of rejecting the sinful passions. For there is only one thing to be proud of that is appropriate to those who follow Christ, and that is that they may not be enslaved by any shameful sin and that they may also preserve their soul, free, pure and virtuous."
(To be continued)
Please note: Holy and Great Lent is nothing else but a time of prayer, fasting, worship, repentance, reconciliation, and love. It is a time devoted to God and God alone.
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