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.
THE LIFE-GIVING CROSS OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST THROUGH THE HYMNS OF THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Exapostilarion. Second Tone.
[September 14th - Matins]
The Cross is the guardian of the whole world; the Cross is the support and staff of the faithful; the Cross is the beauty of Church of Christ; the Cross is the mighty strength of kings; the Cross is the glory of Angels; it is the wounding of demons.
TODAY the Cross is lifted up, and all the world is sanctified. For Thou, while enthroned with the Father and with the All-Holy Spirit, by stretching out Thy hands thereon, hast dawn the whole world to Thyself, that it might know Thee, O my Christ. Therefore, vouchsafe Divine Glory to them that trust in Thy goodness.
As the Wood is exalted which was sprinkled with the Blood of the incarnate Logs/Word of God, sing praises, ye powers of the Heavens, celebrating the restoration of mortals. Ye people, worship the Cross of Christ, whereby resurrection hath been granted to the world unto all the ages.
STICHERON. PLAGAL OF FOURTH TONE
O STRANGE wonder, great and marvelous! The length and breadth of the Cross is the equal of Heaven's span, for by means of grace Divine, it doth hallow the universe. By this, barbarian nations are subdued; by this, the scepters of princes are made strong, O ladder most divine! Whereby we ascend unto the Heavens' heights, while exalting Christ the Lord with hymns and songs of praise.
APOSTICHA. PLAGAL OF FIRST TONE.
REJOICE, the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord, thou never-conquered battle-trophy of piety, support and staff of the faithful, the wall surrounding the Church, and the door that leadeth into Paradise. Through thee hath corruption been made to vanish and be no more; death's mighty power hath been vanquished and swallowed up, and we have been raised from the earth to celestial things. O truceless foe of demons, and our weapon invincible, thou art the glory of Martyrs and true adornment of all the Saints, calm port of salvation, that which granteth the great mercy of God unto the world.
REJOICE, O Holy Cross of the Lord, whereby the race of man was loosed from the ancient curse; thou ensign of joy and gladness, thou who dost dash down the foes by thine Exaltation, O All-Venerable. Our succor and help art thou, and the might of all them that rule, strength of the righteous, and the beauty adorning priests; where thou art portrayed, thou dost rescue from every ill. Sceptre of power, staff of strength, wherewith we are shepherded; weapon of peace round about which the Angels hover with fear and awe; divine and true glory of Christ God, Who doth bestow His great mercy on the world.
Plagal of Second Tone
O CROSS of Christ, thou hope of Christians, guide of them that are gone-astray, haven of the storm-tossed, victory in war, surety of the whole world, physician of the sick, and resurrection of the dead: Have mercy on us.
THE PATH OF THE CHRISTIAN
THE CROSS OF CHRIST: THE PATH, THE POWER, AND THE BANNER OF THE CHURCH
The dogmatic teaching of the Orthodox Church has the most intimate connection which the whole moral order of Christian life; it gives to it a true direction. Any kind of departure from the dogmatic truths leads to an incorrect understanding of the moral duty of the Christian. Faith demands a life that corresponds to faith.
The Savior has defined the moral duty of man briefly in the two Commandments of the law; the Commandment to love God with one's whole heart, soul, mind, and understanding; and the commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself. But at the same time the Savior taught that the authentic fulfillment of these Commandments is impossible without some degree of self-renunciation, self-sacrifice; it demands struggle.
And where does the believer find strength for struggle? He receives it through communion with Christ, through love for Christ which inspires him to "follow after Him." This struggle of following Him Christ called His "yoke"; "Take My yoke upon you...For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (St. Matthew 11:29-30). He called it also a cross. Long before the day of His crucifixion, the Lord taught: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (St. Matthew 16:24). "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me" (St. Matthew 10:38).
The Orthodox path of the Christian is "the path of the cross and struggle." In other words, it is the path of patience; of the bearing of sorrow, persecutions for the name of Christ, and dangers from the enemies of Christ; of despising the goods of the world for the sake of Christ; of battling against one's passions and lusts.
Such a path of following Christ was taken by His Apostles. "I am crucified with Christ," writes the Apostle Paul (Galatians 2:20). "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14). Following the path of Christ, the Holy Apostles finished the struggle of their life with a martyr's death.
All believers are called to struggle according to their strength: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts" (Galatians 5:24). The moral life cannot exist without the inward battle, without self-restraint. The Apostle writes: "For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things" (Phil. 3:18-19).
The whole history of the Church has been built on struggle: at first the sufferings of the martyrs in the earliest Christian age; then the self-sacrificing labors of the pillars of the Church, the hierarchs; and then the personal ascetic struggles, spiritual attainments in the battle with the flesh, on the part of the desert dwellers and other strugglers--"earthly angels and heavenly men," the righteous ones who have lived in the world without being defiled by the world. And thus up to now Christianity is adorned with Confessors and Martyrs for faith in Christ. And the Holy Church supports in believers this duty of self-restraint and spiritual cleansing by means of instructions and examples from the Gospel and the whole Sacred Scripture, by the examples of the Saints, by the rules of the Church typicon, by vigils, fasts, and appeals to repentance.
Such is the lot not only of each separate Christian but of the Church herself as a whole: to be persecuted for the Cross of Christ, as was shown in the visions to the Holy Apostle John the Theologian in the Apocalypse (Revelation). The Church in many periods of her history has endured totally open sorrows and persecutions and the martyr's death of her best servants--what one contemporary priest and church writer has called the "harvest of God"---while in other periods, even in periods of outward prosperity, she has endured sorrows from inward enemies, from the unworthy manner of life of her members, and in particular of the people who are assigned to serve her.
Thus is defined the dogma of the Cross. The Cross is the path of the Christian and the Church.
At the same time it is also "the power of the Church." Looking with his mental eyes "unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2), the Christian finds spiritual strength in the awareness that after the Lord's death on the Cross there followed the Resurrection; that by the Cross the world has been conquered; that if we die with the Lord we shall reign with Him, and shall rejoice and triumph in the manifestation of His Glory (1 Peter 4:13). [Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky)
(To be continued)
FROM THE GREAT COMPLINE
[ΑΠΟΔΕΙΠΝΟΝ ΤΟ ΜΕΓΑ]
PRAYER OF MANASSES, KING OF JUDEA
O Lord, Almighty, the God of our Fathers, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and of their righteous seed; who created the heaven and the earth with all their adornment; Who bound the sea by the word of Your command; Who shut up the abyss and sealed it with Your awesome and glorious name; Whom all things dread and before Whose power they tremble, because the Majesty of Your glory is unbearable and the threat of Your anger against the sinners unendurable; yet the mercy of Your promise is both, immeasurable and unfathomable, for You are the Lord Most High, compassionate, long-suffering and All-Merciful, and relent on the wickedness of man.
You, Lord, in the multitude of Your goodness promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against You, and in Your infinite compassion appointed repentance for sinners that they may be saved. Therefore, Lord, the God of the powers, You have not appointed repentance for the righteous, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who have not sinned against You, but You appointed repentance for me the sinner, for I have committed more sins than the grains of the sand of the sea. My transgressions have multiplied, Lord; my transgressions have multiplied, and I am not worthy to look up and see the height of the sky from the multitude of my iniquities, being weighted down by many iron chains, so that I cannot raise my head; there is no respite left for me because I provoked Your anger and committed evil before You not having done Your will and not having kept Your Commandments. And now I bend the knee of my heart, beseeching Your goodness. I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned and I acknowledge my transgressions; but I beg and ask of You: Forgive me, Lord, forgive me and do not destroy me with my transgressions; and do not be angry with me forever and keep my evils in me, and do not condemn me to the depths of the earth; for you are God, the God of those who repent, and in me You shall show all Your goodness; for even though I am unworthy, you shall save me according to the multitude of Your mercy, and I shall praise You without ceasing all the days of my life. For every heavenly power sings Your praises, and Yours in the glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God