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.
On September 27th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints and Holy Martyrs of Our Church: Holy Martyr Callistratus and his 49 companion Holy Martyrs; Saints Mark, Aristarchos, and Zenon; Holy New Martyr Akylina; Holy Righteous Gideon.
Callistratus the Holy Martyr and his 49 Companions: These Holy Martyrs contested for the Faith during the reign of the pagan Roman emperor Diocletian, in the year 288 A.D. Saint Callistratus was arrested as a Christian, and after being tortured, was enclosed in a sack and cast into the sea. The sack burst, and the Saint came to dry land safe and sound. Forty-nine soldiers, seeing this, also confessed Christ, and with him were cast into prison, then behead.
Saints Mark, Aristarchos and Zenon, Apostles of the 70: They were of the 70 secret Apostles. Saint Mark was also called John. The Apostles gathered together for prayer at the house of his mother, Mary, in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). He preached the Gospel with the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, and was after that bishop in Vivlos. Saint Aristarchus, a companion of the Apostle Paul on his travels (Acts 16:29), was bishop in Syrian Apamea. Saint Zenas, spoken of as a lawyer by the Apostle Paul (St. Titus 3:13), was bishop in Palestinian Lydda. They shone like stars in the darkness of paganism and brought many to the Christian faith, and now they shine like stars in the Kingdom of Christ their Beloved.
The Holy New Martyr Aquilina: From the village of Zaklivera in the diocese of Jedrene, she was a girl of eighteen. Her father embraced Islam and put pressure on his daughter to do the same, but her mother inclined her to the Christian faith. After much torture, all wounded and bloodied, she breathed her last in her mother's arms and received the wreath of martyrdom on September 27th, 1764.
By the holy intercessions of Your holy Saints, Martyrs, Confessors, Fathers and Mothers, bishops, monastics, ascetics, and righteous, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
All our riches and glory and honor are like a meal ended by death. From this meal, no-one takes a single crumb into the other world. Blessed is he who has grasped that the soul is the only one of his possessions that can be stolen by no-one and nothing, even death. Such men think only of three realities: death, the soul and God the Judge. "Hold constantly in your mind the remembrance of the end and of the Judgment, and keep yourself from sin", teaches St. Evagrius. All our bodily cares in this life are like a meal that will very soon be ended", says Saint Isaiah the Solitary. "Remembrance to yourself unceasingly the way that you will part from the body, the way you will pass through the regions of the powers of darkness, who will meet you in the air, and the way you will stand before God. Prepare yourself beforehand for the dreadful day of an answering at the Judgment of God as though you already behold it." A rich merchant called John came one day to Saint Savvatius of Solovetz and brought him a large donation . Saint Savvatius would accept nothing, and told the donor to give it away to the poor. John was very sad and the Saint, to comfort him and make clear to him why he had told him to do this, said: "John, my son, stay here and rest until tomorrow, and you will then see the grace of God." On the following day, John went into Saint Savvatius' cell and saw that the old man had died, and smelled the wonderful fragrance that permeated the cell. He who foresees the end of his life does not think of earthly goods.
HOMILY--on Christ's last prayer for the faithful.
"That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee" (St. John 17:21).
God's mercy is great, my brethren. When the righteous man feels it, he weeps, and when the sinner feels it, he is ashamed. By the mercy of God we are cleansed, illumined, saved and made sons and daughters of God and united with Him Himself. Concerning this unity with God, though, let no-one understand it as meaning that we become one in being with God, equal to Him. We can never be of one being with God or equal to God in the way in which the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are of one being. "That they all may be one", the Savior says to the Father on behalf of His Disciples, "as Thou art in Me and I in Thee", thinking of one-ness of love and not of substance. From love flow forth reciprocal obedience, mutual help, mercy, meekness, humility, goodness, good will and sacrifice. When the Lord says: "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect" (St. Matthew 5:48). He does not think to make men equal with God, but to show the highest example of perfection in every good thing. Many teachers point out an example of something or someone other than God, and thus have often taught men evil and examples of evil to them as perfection. Therefore the Lord taught men to take their heavenly Father as their example of all perfection, and to strive and aim for that true perfection and not some other. By the grace of God, we are all made sons of God and all become "one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). But we do not become gods; we do not become persons of the Holy Trinity. Do not forget that it is said in the Holy Scripture that "the heavens are not clean in His sight" (Job 15:15): that is, the majestic powers of heaven; so what, then, of man? But, by the grace of God and through the Passion of the Lord Jesus, the faithful are caught up into unity with God in love and in spirit. Let us strive to do the will of God, that we may in truth be raised to these majestic heights.
O Lord Jesus, our God, the God of all mercies and goodness, uphold us to the end in Thy mercy, and be Thou not wroth with us but forgive us. To Thee be glory and praise for ever. Amen. (Source: The Prologue from Ochrid).
by His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, HIEROTHEOS
Curing of the heart
The highest aim of man is to attain knowledge of God, for this is his salvation. Naturally when we say "knowledge of God," we do not mean knowledge in the head, but "communion in being". That is, knowledge of God is communion with God. Where this communion is attained, there is salvation. But this communion takes place in the depths of the heart. There God meets with man, there He imparts His knowledge, there man gains a sense of His being. In order for this communion and vision of God to come about, the heart must be pure. The Lord affirmed this: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (St. Matthew 5:8). The heart which has fallen ill and been made dead needs to be cured and purified in order to offer knowledge of God. The pure heart is the organ of knowledge, the organ of Orthodox epistemology.
In what follows we shall concern ourselves with how the heart is cured.
Repentance is the first healing medicine. The heart has to repent and come to its natural condition. If a life of sin has led it to the unnatural state, a life of repentance will bring back to its right state, and give it life. Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus) offers precise definitions of repentance: "Repentance is the renewal of baptism (It is called the Second Baptism). Repentance is a contract with God for a fresh start in life. Repentance goes shopping for humility, repentance is ever distrustful of bodily comfort. Repentance is critical awareness and a sure watch over oneself...Repentance is the purification of conscience..." In another place the same Saint tells how all who have been defiled after baptism must be purified and must remove the pitch from themselves with the unceasing fire of the heart and the oil of divine compassion." God's compassion and the heart's fire heal a person of his sickness.
The deeper the repentance, the more contrition increases. A contrite heart is one which lives in repentance. The Prophet King David says: "The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart God will not despise" (Psalm 51:17). God dwells in a contrite heart. Everyone who comes to the King to receive remission of his debt needs to have "unutterable contrition". According to Saint Nicetas Stethatos, the distinguishing marks of truth are not in faces, forms and words, nor does God reside in those things, but truth as well as God resides "in contrite hearts, in spirits of humility and in souls enlightened by the knowledge of God."
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!"-St. John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God