January 28-St. Ephraim the Syrian and St. Isaac the Syrian

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 JANUARY TWENTY-EIGHTH WE COMMEMORATE TWO GREAT FATHERS OF THE CHURCH: SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN AND SAINT ISAAC THE SYRIAN

SAINT EPHRAIM was born in Nisibis of Mesopotamia some time about the year 306 A.D. and in his youth was the disciple of Saint James, Bishop of Nisibis, one of the 318 Holy Fathers at the First Ecumenical Council. Ephraim lived in Nisibis, practicing a severe ascetical life and increasing in holiness, until 363 A.D., the year in which Julian the Apostate was slain in his war against the Persians, and his successor Jovian surrendered Nisibis to them. Ephraim then made his dwelling in Edessa, where he found many heresies to do battle with. He waged an especial war against Bardaisan; this gnostic had written many hymns propagating his erros (heresies), which by their sweet melodies became popular and enticed souls away from the Truth. Saint Ephraim, having received from God a singular gift of eloquence, turned Bardaisan's own weapon against him, and wrote a multitude of hymns to be chanted by choirs of women, which set forth the True Doctrines, refuted heretical error, and praised the contests of the Holy Martyrs.

Of the multitude of sermons, commentaries, and hymns that Saint Ephraim wrote, many were translated into Greek in his own lifetime. Sozomen says that Saint Eprhaim "surpassed the most approved writers of Greece." observing that the Greek writings, when translated into other tongues, lose most of their original beauty, but Saint Ephraim's work "are no less admired when read in Greek than when read in Syriac." Saint Ephraim was ordained deacon, some say by Saint Basil the Great, whom Sozomen said "was a great admirer of Saint Ephraim, and was astonished at his erudition." Saint Ephraim was the first to make the poetic expression of hymnody and song a vehicle of Orthodox theological teachings, constituting it an integral part of the Church's worship; he may rightly be called the first and greatest hymnographer of the Church, who set the pattern for those who followed him, especially Saint Romanus Melodist. Because of this he is called the "Harp of the Holy Spirit." Saint Jerome says that his writings were read in some churches after the reading of the Holy Scripture, and adds that once he read a Greek translation of one of Saint Ephraim's works, "and recognized, even in translation, the incisive power of his lofty genius."

Shortly before the end of his life, a famine broke out in Edessa, and Saint Ephraim left his cell to rebuke the rich for not sharing their goods with the poor. The rich answered that they knew no one to whom they could entrust their goods. Saint Ephraim asked them, "What do you think of me?" When they confessed their reverence for him, he offered to distribute their alms, to which they agreed. He himself cared with his own hands for many of the sick from the famine, and so crowned his life with mercy and love for neighbor. Saint Ephraim reposed in peace, according to some the year 373 A.D., according to others, 379 A.D.

SAINT ISAAC THE SYRIAN, the great luminary of the life of stillness, was born in the early 7th century in Eastern Arabia, the present-day Qatar on the Persian Gulf. He was consecrated Bishop of Nineveh (and is therefore sometimes called "Saint Isaac of Nineveh"), but after five months received permission to return to solitude; he spent many years far south of Nineveh in the mountainous region of Beit Huzaye, and lastly at the Monastery of Rabban Shabur. He wrote his renowned and God-inspired Ascetical Homilies toward the end of his long life of monastic struggle, about the end of the 7th century. The fame of his Homilies grew quickly, and about one hundred years after their composition they were translated from Syriac into Greek by two monks of the Monastery of Mar Sabbas in Palestine, from which they spread throughout the monasteries of the Roman Empire and became a guide to hesychasts of all generations thereafter. (Source: The Great Horologion)

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint Ephraim. Plagal of Fourth Tone

With the streams of thy tears, thou didst cultivate the barrenness of the desert; and by thy sighings form the depths, thou didst bear fruit a hundredfold in labors; and thou becamest a luminary, shining with miracles upon the world, O Ephraim our righteous Father. Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.

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Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint Isaac. Plagal of First Tone

He that thundered on Sinai with saving laws for man hath also given thy writings as guides in prayer unto monks, O revealer of unfathomable mysteries; for having gone up in the mount of the vision of the Lord, thou wast shown the many mansions. Wherefore, O God-bearing Isaac, entreat the Savior for all praising thee.

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QUOTATIONS FROM SAINT EPHRAIM:

"Whenever I have meditated upon You I have acquired a veritable treasure from You, whatever aspect of You I have contemplated, a stream has flowed from You, there is no way I can contain it. Your fountain, Lord, is hidden from the person who does not thirst for you."

"The hutzpah of our love is pleasing to You, O Lord, just as it pleased You that we should steal from Your bounty."

"The hater of mankind, in his shameless imprudence, attacks the Holy Church in the person of her servers. O Lord, do not leave Thy Holy Church without Thy care, that the promise that Thou didst utter concerning her invincibility may not be shown false."

"Blessed is the person who has consented to become the close friend of faith and of prayer: he lives in single-mindedness and makes prayer and faith stop by with him. Prayer that rises up in someone's heart serves to open up for us the door of heaven: that person stands in converse with the Divinity and gives pleasure to the Son of God. Prayer makes peace with the Lord's anger and with the vehemence of His wrath. In this way too, tears that well up in the eyes can open the door of compassion."

"The Seraph could not touch the fire's coal with his fingers, but just brought it close to Isaiah's mouth: the Seraph did not hold it, Isaiah did not consume it, but us our Lord has allowed to do both."

"Scripture brought me to the Gate of Paradise, and the mind stood in wonder as it entered."

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DIVINE SERVICES:

Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.

Place of Worship: Saint Nektarios Chapel

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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.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George