“IN WISDOM YOU HAVE MADE ALL” Psalm 103(104)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

“O Lord, how manifold are Thy
works!
In WISDOM Thou hast made them
all” (Psalm 103[104]:24)

Among the authors of the Psalms are David which were written at various times, most likely beginning in the time of David (1000 B.C.) and for several centuries thereafter. The Psalms are thy hymnbook of Israel, and now of the Church. Each psalm has its own theme. The psalms are of many types, including (a) prophecies of the coming Messiah, (b) prayers for the king, (c) personal lamentations (d) songs of praise, and (e) hymns for special feasts.

The Psalms have become for the Church, as for ancient Israel, a book of prayer and praise. All reach their fulfillment in Christ, the Son of God. Not only do the Psalms predict specific events of Christ’s life, but in them He Himself intercedes for and with His people before the Father. The Palms could also be seen as a dialogue between the Church, the body of Christ, and Christ her Head. Therefore, it is encouraged that all Orthodox Christians who may not how to pray to God to use the Psalms as a guide. They make the most sense to us when they are prayed, not simply recited.

Psalm 103[104], the great psalm of the divine service of Vespers (Esperinos), this psalm is a poetic rendition of Genesis 1. Since the new day begins at sundown according to our tradition is sung by the faithful to give praise and thanksgiving to our Creator and Fashioner. This specific psalm is sung on Pentecost. The psalmist indicates the Providence of God: He provides for the heaven and the earth and does not neglect even the smallest creatures.

“Wisdom is radiant and unfading and is easily perceived by those who love her; for she is found by those who seek her” (Wisdom of Solomon 6:12). Our desire for wisdom leads from instruction to love, to virtue, to God’s everlasting Kingdom. The holy Apostle James writes: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5-6). “Wisdom,” the practical and spiritual knowledge required for godly living, comes to those who ask of God, in prayer. While Saint James loves God’s law, for him faith is found not in rules but in a sincere relationship with God.

Saint James the holy Apostle also reminds us the following, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). “Trials,” the world’s oppression, take place with God’s permission. The issue is not trials per se, but our response to them. When we accept them properly, trials reveal where our hearts are. They help to increase our faith, which cannot remain static but must grow or die. Our godly reaction to trials and tribulations is joy and perseverance. Though difficult circumstances are from the evil one, to be angry at circumstances is to be angry at God, Who permits them. Especially it is important at times of personal pain and agony to remain loyal to God and resist the temptation to question God’s wisdom and judgment. Wisdom must prevail at times of distress and fear and not panic or faithlessness.

The contemporary person ought to be a true philosopher, translated as a” lover of wisdom” which is the true meaning of the word. Being an intelligent person does not mean that one is a possessor of wisdom. Again as people of faith, we turn to God to impart His wisdom upon us. It is His wisdom that will make a difference in our lives and how we come to understand our place in the world. We can see historically that human reasoning is flawed and thus we continue to make wrong decisions over and over again. We repeat the same mistakes and the results are always the same but we do not learn anything from them. Why? because humanity lacks wisdom! For example, we are all living in the 21st century and we still see the same human issues plaguing our society e.g., wars, faithlessness, pride, anger, famine, disease, greed, power struggles, injustice, hatred, slavery, persecutions, the obsession to control the world and of all humanity, to possess all wealth, division, exile, the slaughter of children and human trafficking, etc. What all this spells out is that we as humans have lost our way. That we are spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically ill. We need to see a good physician and trust in his diagnosis and knowledge as well as his experience to restore our health. Well, I know of a most excellent physician for us to turn to, the Physician of our souls and bodies, Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the only hope that humanity has and no one else.

Without Him, Jesus Christ, our world will eventually become a wasteland and wilderness. Humanity is in danger of annihilation and it needs to turn to God and trust in His Divine Wisdom. Humans now have the ability, through the use of nuclear weapons, to destroy this planet many times over, and don’t doubt for a minute that some evil person or persons will not use them, now or in the future, even though it will lead to total destruction of the world and humanity. Insanity and irrational thinking are major concerns in today’s world. Looking back at world history we come to realize that not much has changed over thousands of years and even with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Even Christians in general have fallen victim to conditions in the world. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters have become a part of the problem instead of being obedient to the Almighty God and Savior. Christians who are faithful to Jesus Christ and His commandments and teachings have the opportunity not only to make a difference in the world but to lead humanity to Him Who created all.

The fragmentation of Christianity is an evil invention of the Evil One, Satan. The Head of the Christian Church is the Savior of the world Jesus Christ Himself. He is an UNITER and NOT a divider. He who divides and creates confusion, division, hatred, enmity, violence, defective reasoning, and seeks the destruction of the human race is the devil. Why would anyone, especially Christians, be willing to listen to his advice? Our Lord, God, and Savior is the God of AGAPE (LOVE) and taught His followers, His disciples, to LOVE ONE ANOTHER! Discord does not exist where there is love. Where is the love among Christians? Where is their obedience to His commandments? Christ is NOT and WILL NEVER SURRENDER HIS CHURCH TO THE ENEMY. Those Christians who have surrendered to the evil one and are participants of the thousands of fragmentations of the Faith are guilty of betrayal and bring His condemnation upon themselves. In the Wisdom of Solomon, we hear, “LOVE RIGHTEOUSNESS, you who judge on the earth. Think about the Lord in goodness and SEEK Him with sincerity of heart; because He is found by those who do not tempt Him. And His manifest to those who do not disbelieve Him. For dishonest reasoning SEPARATES PEOPLE FROM GOD. And when His power examines someone, it convicts the UNDISCERNING; FOR WILL NOT ENTER IN A BODY INVOLVED IN SIN. FOR A HOLY SPIRIT OF DISCIPLINE FLEES FROM DECEIT AND SENDS AWAY UNDISCERNING REASONING. IT WILL PUT WRONGDOING TO SHAME WHEN IT COMES NEAR. FOR WISDOM IS A SPIRIT THAT LOVES MANKIND” (1:1-5). For the Orthodox Christians, this passage brings to mind the prayer to the Holy Spirit, “O Heavenly King,” in which we confess, “the Spirit of Truth…is everywhere present and fills all things.” Amen.

________________

“Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!”

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +



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

+ Father George

GOD’S HEALING POWER IS MANIFESTED THROUGH HIS COUNTLESS WONDERS (MIRACLES) IN THE WORLD

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

GOD’S HEALING POWER IS MANIFESTED THROUGH HIS
COUNTLESS WONDERS (MIRACLES) IN THE WORLD.

"And Jesus said, ‘Who TOUCHED ME?’ When all denied it, Peter
and those with him said, ‘Master, the multitudes throng and press
Thee, and Thou say, ‘Who touched Me?’
But Jesus said, ‘SOMEBODY TOUCHED ME, FOR I PERCEIVED
POWER GOING OUT FROM ME.’
Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came
trembling and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in
the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him
AND HOW SHE WAS HEALED IMMEDIATELY. And He said to
her, ‘Daughter, be of good cheer, YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU
WELL, GO IN PEACE" (Luke 8:45-48).

"And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he
sent two of his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Coming One,
or do we look for another?’
Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which
you hear and see:
‘THE BLIND SEE AND THE LAME WALK; THE LEPERS ARE CLEANSED11
AND THE DEAF HEAR; THE DEAD ARE RAISED UP AND THE POOR
HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. AND BLESSED IS HE WHO
IS NOT OFFENDED BECAUSE OF ME" (Matthew 11:2-6).

The divinely-inspired Prophet Isaiah prophesied that at the coming of the awaited Messiah the blind would see, the lame walk, lepers would be cleansed, the deaf would hear. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fulfills the prophecies of the Prophet, bearing the fruit which only the True Messiah can produce.

Healing power flows from Jesus Christ. That which Jesus touches or which touches Him, is sanctified. The power to heal comes through the garment (Luke 8:44) of Jesus but originates within Him. The miracles of our God and Savior described in the Holy Scripture parallel and continue those of Jesus’ earthly Ministry: diseases are healed and the powers of evil are overcome. Such is the Authority of the Creator. In Acts, we read, "Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:11-12). Physical objects ("handkerchiefs" and "aprons") are instruments of healing demonstrating the truth of the gospel that God became Man in order to save all creation and make all creation a vehicle of grace. Similarly, we use physical things in our Holy Orthodox Church because, in the context of faith and prayer, the power of God works through them. There is power in the paint or wood or an icon, or in the metal of a cross, or in oil or water; only if it is sanctified by our Lord Christ. Our Savior taught that one thing sanctifies another: "Fools and blind! for which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?" (Matthew 23:17). Therefore, to trustingly touch the border of His garment was to touch Him. Others may have touched Jesus, but this woman’s TOUCH OF FAITH DRAWS His power as well.

"While He was still speaking someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, ‘Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.’ But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, only believe, and she will be made well.’ When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. Now all wept and mourned for her, but He said, ‘DO NOT WEEP; SHE IS NOT DEAD, BUT SLEEPING." And THEY RIDICULED HIM, KNOWING THAT SHE WAS DEAD. But He PUT THEM ALL OUTSIDE, took her by the hand, and called, saying, "Little girl, arise." Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. And her parents were astonished…" (Luke 8:49-56). The disciples, Peter, James, and John including the parents were excluded to witness the great miracle because of their disbelief.

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. " (Matthew 28:18-20).

"Behold, I GIVE YOU THE AUTHORITY TO TRAMPLE ON SERPENTS AND SCORPIONS, AND OVER THE POWER OF THE ENEMY, AND NOTHING SHALL BY ANY MEANS HURT YOU. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:19-20).

"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tounges, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2: 2-4).

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you BY MIRACLES, WONDERS, AND SIGNS WHICH GOD DID THROUGH HIM IN YOUR MIDST, AS YOU YOURSELVES ALSO KNOW…" (Acts 2:32).

The entire Earthly Ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ is one of wonders and miracles. But what is a miracle? "It is a sign whereby God supersedes the normal laws of nature in a mysterious way in order to manifest His power as Master of the universe. Jesus Christ performed many miracles–some showing His mastery over nature, others demonstrating His power over sin, disease, and death. The holy Apostles CONTINUED TO MANIFEST THE POWER OF GOD THROUGH MIRACLES, Healings, weeping holy icons, and other contemporary miracles also show His power in the world today". See Matthew 8:1-34; John 11:1-44; Acts 3:1-9).

The Holy Orthodox Church CONTINUES TO MANIFEST THE POWER OF GOD THROUGH MIRACLES. I can attest to that as a priest of over five decades. God’s power is constantly demonstrated and disease, including death, is conquered and overcome. Divine miracles have never ceased over 2,000 years of Christian ministry. Christ is indeed in our midst. The Holy Spirit bestows His grace through the Holy Church to all who believe. Although in today’s world everything is questioned nevertheless no one can deny a God-given miracle. No person can take credit or attempt to convince others that it is he and not God that performed the miracle. That person is a charlatan and a deceiver.

Orthodox Christian believers do not ever doubt the power of God to do, what in human understanding, is considered to be impossible. What is impossible for man, is possible for God. It is clear, however, that today’s modern person seeks scientific proof for everything. Even among Christians, there is hardly any mention or discussion of miracles. Is it because we don’t believe that they exist any longer or that there is fear that if we believe in them, we would be ridiculed by others?

I can assure you that all of God’s miracles take place all the time throughout the world. The fact that there are some who doubt it does not change the reality that lies before us. I have witnessed them firsthand throughout my priestly ministry. Also, on a personal level. I have seen miracle after miracle from parish to parish. I have witnessed Orthodox Christians healed by the grace of God when doctors had given up on them completely. Orthodox Christians who suffered from cancer. I have witnessed also a young man from my parish of Saint Andrew in South Bend, Indiana who was killed by a fall and recovered although the coroner had signed the death certificate and the hospital had received permission from his parents to distribute his organs. But the greatest of all miracles, as an Orthodox priest, is the Divine Eucharist. Upon the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine to change them to the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. Every time there is a Divine Liturgy those Orthodox Christians present to witness this awesome and divine miracle. We, as Orthodox Christians truly believe that what we are about to receive is indeed the Body and Blood of Christ and not something symbolic or an imitation.

The Mother of God continuously blesses those who believe and supplicate her with miracles. The same with the Saints of our Holy Church who not only intercede for us but perform miracles when through prayers and ask them for help. Our Orthodox Christian Faith is a LIVING FAITH and not something obsolete and/or another dead religion. All Orthodox Christians who are genuine and authentic must constantly acknowledge the existence of miracles and praise and glorify God for His unconditional love for us all. It is wrong to ignore His charity, His compassion, and His great mercy because otherwise, we offend Him directly. We also, by not admitting in His miracles, deny His presence among us. We refuse to believe in His Divine Power and His willingness to save the world and humanity. We also, deny the grace of the Holy Spirit working through the Mysteria (sacraments) of the Church. If we deny all these things what have we left with? A faithless generation of people without hope, purpose, or meaning in life. Instead filled with pride, arrogance, and contempt.

Let us supplicate our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ to strengthen our faith in Him and to bestow upon each and every one of us healing, forgiveness, and illumination.

__________________
"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

THE MARTYRDOM OF SAINT KATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA (Part III)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE MARTYRDOM OF SAINT KATHERINE OF
ALEXANDRIA (Part III)

The Emperor concentrated all his attention on the holy Katherine but he was unable to vanquish her with philosophical arguments, He ordered that she be stripped and lashed without pity with whips of rawhide. After this, they scourged her about the stomach and back for two hours. Her virginal body, once fair, became lacerated and unsightly from the welts. So much blood flowed that the ground was dyed red. Yet, the holy one withstood all this with much courage, to the amazement of the bystanders. After sunset, the savage beast ordered that she be cast into prison and not be given food or water for twelve days until he might devise a method to put her to death.

The Merciful Lord did not abandon His Saint; daily, He sent food to her by a dove. He Himself, the Good Judge of the contest, then came in great glory with the heavenly Host to visit and strengthen Katherine, saying, "Do not weaken, My beloved daughter, for I am with thee, and no torment shall touch thee, in thine endurance thou will bring many to Me, and thou shalt receive many crowns and rewards!" The Lord said these things to the Saint during the night. At dawn, the emperor, sitting on the throne, ordered that the Saint be brought to him. She was taken into the palace, her spiritual qualities shining brightly so that even the bystanders were dazzled by the light of her beauty. The emperor, beside himself, assumed that one of the guards had given her food. He was of a mind to punish the guards.

The holy maiden did not wish to see punished those who were not responsible, so she disclosed the truth and said, "No one gave me sustenance, O emperor, for Christ provided for me, as He doth for all His servants." During the exchange with the emperor, a certain Prefect named Hursasaden, an ill-tempered and sadistic man tried to win the emperor’s favor. Out of his perverted intellect, he proposed, "I, O emperor, have invented an instrument of torture wherewith either thou shalt win over this maiden, or she shall experience an atrocious death. Thou shouldest order the construction of four wooden wheels attached to an axle, from which steel blades and other sharp spikes protrude. Two of the wheels will rotate to the right, and two to the left. The maiden would be placed below, bound, at its center, so that when the wheels turn, her body will be completely mutilated. However, first exhibit the wheel turning, so as to instill terror in her, that she may do as she is ordered; if not, let her receive an evil death." The idea pleased the emperor, and he ordered the plan put into effect.

In three days’ time, that awful apparatus was readied. When they brought the holy Katherine forth, they turned the wheels with a mighty force so as to frighten her. The emperor said, "Behold, by this instrument thou shalt receive a bitter death, if thou dost not worship the gods!" She replied, "Many times already I have told thee my opinion. Therefore, waste no more tie, but do thou as thou desirest!" The emperor then ordered that they cast the Saint, bound, before the wheels and rotate them violently, do that with rapid passes thereof she might suffer a bitter death. But, by the intervention of the grace and will of God, it did not come to pass in this way. An Angel of the Lord came down from heaven and aided the holy Katherine, who was instantly loosed from the bonds and rendered whole and uninjured. The wheels spun away on their own, striking many of the unbelievers, and bringing upon them a hideous death. Those who stood about were awestricken, witnessing this terrible sight; and they cried out, "Great is the God of the Christians!" The emperor raged with a blind fury, and at once sought to devise a new way to torture Saint Katherine.

On the following day, they brought Katherine to the Judgment Hall, and the emperor cried aloud, "Thou has caused me great pain and sorrow! Thou has deceived my wife, and my valiant companion and commander-in-chief, who was the strength of my army. Many more evils have visited me on your account and having no control over his senses, issued the order that she be beheaded outside the city limits. The soldiers took the Saint and marched to the site of execution. A large crowd followed them, of both men and women, weeping bitterly at the loss of such a beautiful and wise maiden. The Saint said, "Cease your needless lamentation! Instead, you should rejoice, for I behold my Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, my Maker and Savior, Who is the adornment and crown of the martyrs. I hear Him calling me into Paradise to reign with Him and to rejoice unto life everlasting. Weep not for me, but for yourselves; for you shall go into the unquenchable fire for your unbelief, where you shall sorrow and burn forever."

On their arrival at the site of execution, the Saint made the following prayer: "My Lord Jesus Christ and God, I thank Thee that Thou hast secured my feet on the rock of patience and hast directed by steps. Stretch out Thy Sacred hand, which was nailed to the Cross for our sake, and receive my soul, which today is separated from the body, out of love for Thee. Be Thou mindful, O Lord, that we are but flesh and blood; and do Thou forgive my transgressions, which I committed unwittingly, before Thy Dready Judgment Seat; but wash them away with the blood that I shed for Thee, and grant that my body, cleaved for Thee, will become invisible to those who seek it, keeping it safe and secure wheresoever Thou dost wish. Look down from on high upon Thy people who surround me, O Lord, and guide them t the Light of Thy knowledge. Because upon those who invoke Thy name, through me, all they seek for their betterment, that Ty works may be praised by all and that Thou mayest be glorified with Thine unoriginate Father and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto endless ages. Amen.

After uttering this prayer, she told the executioner to carry out the sentence. He raised his sword and cut off her precious head on the 25th of November, in about the year A.D. 305. Again, our God desired to honor His Saint and Venerable Martyr, and one miracle followed another! At her beheading, all the bystanders witnessed milk flow from her sacred head instead of blood. Thereupon, at that hour, her revered and precious relics were devoutly translated by holy Angels and deposited on Mount Sinai in a secret place. According to Holy Tradition, they were translated to the peak of the highest mountain in Sinai, which now bears her name.

Truly, this is the account of the Martyrdom of the all-wise and remarkable Katherine, who so loved Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom, that she disdained wealth, glory, and every vain enjoyment. Therefore, she now rejoices and delights with the Choirs of Saints unto endless ages. Amen. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church].

_____________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +



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

+ Father George

SAINT KATHERINE THE GREAT MARTYR (Part II)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

SAINT KATHERINE THE GREAT MARTYR (Part II)a

The maiden then took the holy icon and returned to the place. She closed herself in her inner room as the elder directed. From the tremendous effort exerted in her supplications, she fell asleep and beheld in a vision the Queen of the Angels, as portrayed in the holy icon, holding the Holy Child. Whose person emitted rays more radiant than the sun; yet His face was turned toward His Mother. Thus, Katherine saw His back only. She yearned to behold His countenance, and so went to the other side, but once again He turned His face away. This happened thrice. She then heard the Most Holy Mother say, "My Child, look upon Thy handmaiden Katherine! How beautiful and comely she is!" He answered, "No, rather she is gloomy and so repugnant that it is not possible for Me to look upon her!" The Most Holy Theotokos continued, "Is she not more wise than all the orators, very wealthy, and the most elegant in all the cities?" Yet Christ replied, "My Mother, I tell thee that she is ignorant, poor, and contemptible! Again, the Theotokos spoke, "I beg Thee, my sweet Child, despise not the work of Thy hands! But, advise and guide her as to what she should do, so as to have a share of Thy glory and behold Thy face resplendent with Light, which the Angels long to gaze upon!" Christ then said, "She ought to go to the elder who gave her the icon. Whatever instructions he gives, she should do. Then, when she desires to see, she will receive joy and benefit."

In the morning she hastened with a few other women to the elder’s cell. Falling at his feet, she related, in tears, the vision and implored him t advise her how to proceed, so she might attain her heart’s desire. The blessed elder explained in detail the rites and Mysteries (Sacraments) of our True Faith, commencing with the creation of the universe and the making of man. He catechized her thoroughly as to the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and the ineffable glory of Paradise in contrast to the all-grievous and never-ending torments. Intelligent and quick of mind, Katherine grasped, within a short period of time, all the points of the Faith. She believed with all her heart and was received into the Faith through Holy Baptism at his hands. Afterward, he instructed her to entreat the Most Holy Theotokos to appear once again.

The holy maiden, having put off the "old man" (Colossians 3:9) and put on A GARMENT WOVEN BY GOD, went to the palace and kept vigil all night, fasting and praying with tears. Finally, sleep overcame her, and she beheld the heavenly Queen with the Divine Child, Who looked upon Katherine with a gracious eye. This time, the Mother of God inquired of the Master Christ if the virgin pleased Him. Our Lord answered, "She who was formerly unillumined and unsightly is now resplendent and glorious to behold! She who was contemptible and undistinguishable had become noble and eminent, and now possesses so many good blessings and gifts that I am well-disposed and desire to betroth her to Myself as My undefiled bride!" At that moment, Katherine fell prostrate, weeping and saying, "O exceeding glorious Lord, I am unworthy to look upon Thee! Make me worthy to be numbered among Thy servants!"

The Theotokos then took the right hand of the maiden and said, "My Child, give her a ring as a token of Thy betrothal to her, so as to deem her worthy of Thy Kingdom." The Master Christ then gave her a beautiful ring, saying, "Behold, this day I take thee as My unsullied bride forever. Diligently preserve this troth inviolate, taking no man to thyself!" And with these words, the vision came to an end. Katherine arose, and, verily, a ring was on her right finger! At that moment, her heart was enraptured with the divine love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Emperor Maximinus issued a decree to every city and village, enjoining al to comply with the following: "I, your emperor, greet all who are under my authority, I command all to assemble, without delay, in the capital, that we may render to the supreme gods in a fitting manner, and express our gratitude for their good favor and bestowal of benefits and gifts. Each one will offer according to his resources. Whosoever disregards this edict and does dare to worship any other god, will be subject to disciplinary action and punishment." The impious emperor sacrificed one hundred thirty bullocks. This was done to render homage to Maximinus and devotion to his accursed gods.

The devout Katherine witnessed this grievous act. Inspired by divine zeal, she went, with a small retinue of servants, to the site of the temple where the foolish ones were performing their sacrifice. When she paused at the temple threshold, all were distracted by her exquisite comeliness which mirrored her inner beauty. She then sent word to the emperor that she had information of vital importance, and he summoned her to enter.

The all-beautiful Katherine approached the emperor, first bowing and then boldly and fearlessly declaring, "O emperor, thou shouldest be the first to know that thou art deceived in worshipping perishable and lifeless idols as gods. It is an absolute disgrace to be so manifestly blind, as fools, to the truth, in thy worship of such abominations… The emperor was greatly angered and remained speechless for hours for he was at a loss to counter her words. After the completed pagan ritual, he ordered that the maiden be brought to the palace, where he resumed his questioning. "Tell us, who are you and whose words to you recite before us?" She responded, "I am the daughter of king Constas. My name is Katherine. I have been instructed in all scientific knowledge and literary works, including rhetoric, philosophy, geometry, and the rest. Nevetheless, I consider all of this vain and unprofitable and have become the bride of the Master Christ, for as it is written by the Prophet Isaiah, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and will hide the understanding of the prudent" (Isaiah 19:14)…"

"… The emperor, noting her free manner and speech, did not wish to exchange words, fearing defeat and shame by her arguments. He made the following pretext: "It is indecorous for the emperor to debate with a woman, nevertheless, I will bring together my rhetoricians. Then thou shall comprehend the feebleness of thy syllogisms, and know what is in thy best interest and embrace our beliefs."

One hundred and fifty elite and scholarly men who had keen minds responded and assembled by order of the emperor. The emperor spoke to them and told them, "diligently prepare yourselves to contend vigorously, and be not careless. Appproach her as a worthy opponent and be careful. If you overcome her, I will bestow great gifts upon you. However, if you do not succeed, expect untold shame and a painful demise!"

Consequently, the martyr was commanded to be brought in. The guards brought the Saint forward. The orators, one by one, put her to the test. The debate began but none had the intelect, wisdom, inteligence, knowledge, charisma or eminence of Saint Katherine. They were all overwhelmed and rendered speechless. The emperor became extremely angry seeing that they lost he ordered that a fire be kindled in the midst of the city and the orators be cast therein. As they heard this, they fell at the feet of the Saint, begging that the Lord might forgive them–for they had sinned unwittingly–and that they be allowed to receive Baptism and the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Saint assured them that tthe fire with which they were to be martyred would be their baptism and a celestial ladder to cleanse away every stain of body and soul, transporting them, as bright stars, to the King Who is making them His belvoed friends! With these wods, the holy Katherine encouraged them, sealing them individually on the forehead with the sign of the Cross, and sent them to their martyrdom in thanksgiving and rejoicing. The soldierss cast them int1o the flames, jubilant as they were, on the 17th of November. At dusk that day, a group of God-loving Christians went to gather up their holy relics, and found their holy remains safe and intact, not one hair having been singed by the fire. They burieid them with great honor and reverence in a chosen place.

(To be continued)

___________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

25th of November – The Holy Orthodox Church commemorates the glorious and Great-Martyr KATHERINE of Alexandria

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

On the 25th of November, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates
the holy and Glorious Great-Martyr KATHERINE of Alexandria.

Apolytikion Hymn (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint Katherine

LET us praise the all-lauded and noble bride of Christ, the godly
Katherine, the guardian of Sinai and its defence, who is also our
support and succour and our help; for with the Holy Spirit’s
sword she hath silenced brilliantly the clever among the godless;
and being crowned as a Martyr, she now doth ask great mercy
for us all.

Kontakion Hymn of Saint Katherine

ROUSE up now a choir, O ye that love the martyred Saints, august
and inspired, acclaiming the supremely-wise Martyr Katherine,
who hath proclaimed and preached of Christ in the stadium and
hath trampled the serpent down and spat on the knowledge of the
eloquent.

+



KATHERINE, the glorious Great-Martyr of Christ, came from the metropolis of Alexandria. She struggled during the reigns of the ungodly Emperors Maximian (A.D. 306-308), Maxentius (A.D. 308-312), and Maximinus (A.D. 308-314). The blessed one’s life and martyrdom is so marvelous, sweet, and compunctious that each soul who reads it with care and attention will greatly rejoice and be refreshed by the fruit generated therefrom.

The daughter of the ruler of Alexandria, Constas (Kestou), was tall in stature, incomparably beautiful, and exceedingly kind. She was instructed in the wisdom of the Greeks, learning all the works of the poets and philosophers, including Homer, Virgil, Aristotle, and Plato. She also knew the medical writings of Asklepios, Hippocrates, and Galen. She was a master of many languages, surpassing all others in rhetoric and logic. All who saw and heard Katherine marveled at her scholarship. Many of the wealthy and leading men of the Senate besought Katherine’s mother for her daughter’s hand in marriage.

Her mother was a Christian, but a secret one because of the great persecutions brought about by the followers of Maximian. Both the maiden’s relatives and mother counseled her to marry so that her father’s estate should not fall to another, thus cutting her off altogether. But Katherine cherished her virginity and protested, giving many excuses; for she had no wish to wed. However, when she saw that they troubled her greatly she proposed the following–actually to divert them so as not to further pressure her further. "Present unto me a young man who is like me in the four virtues in which you claim that I am peerless among women, and I will take him as my husband; for I will not condescend to be yoked to one who is unworthy or inferior. Therefore, search here and abroad for one who is equal to me in rank, wealth, and beauty–if such an individual exists. Yet, if he is deficient in any of these areas, he is unsuitable.

Now they knew that it would be quite impossible to find such a qualified suitor but Katherine persisted in her refusal to contract a marriage with an unlettered man. However, her mother had a most holy spiritual confessor who was in hiding outside the city limits. She took her daughter to visit the elder to seek his counsel. The ascetic perceiving Katherine’s modesty and proper deportment gave close attention to her judicious words. He resolved to bring her to the knowledge of Christ, the Heavenly King, and said: "I am acquainted with a unique Man Who incomparably transcends all those attributes thou has mentioned and countless others. His comeliness eclipses the radiance of the sun; His wisdom governs those things both perceptible by the senses and the intelligence; the world of His treasures is distributed to the ends of the earth, yet never diminishes, but rather increases; His nobility is indescribable, infinite, inconceivable, and incomprehensible!"

The maiden presumed all the while that he referred to an earthly prince; whereupon, her expression changed, and she questioned him in detail if all the commendations and praises were indeed true concerning this Man. He reinforced his praises further, extolling His other attributes. Katherine asked, "Whose Son is this Man Whom thou dost laud?" He asserted, "He has no father on earth; but He was born of a most noble and holy grace-filled virgin in a manner surpassing our understanding and transcending the nature of generation; she was deemed worthy by her sublime sanctity to abide both in soul and body, being taken up into the highest heavens, wherein our Lady is venerated by the holy Angels as Queen of all creation." Katherine continued, "Is it possible to see the Youth?" The old man responded, "If thou wilt do as I say, thou shalt be deemed worthy to behold the radiant splendor of His splendid countenance!" I am prepared to follow your instructions implicitly she replied. Then, the ascetic gave her an icon depicting the Most Holy Theotokos holding the Divine Child. He then called Katherine’s attention to it, and said, "This is the Ever-virgin Mother of the One Whose wonders I have extolled. Take this sacred image and close the door to thy bed-chamber; pray all night with profound reverence to her whose name is Mary. Implore he to condescend to reveal her Son; and, I believe, if thou wilt pray with faith, she will hear and show you Him Whom thy soul desires!" [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)

(To be continued)

_________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

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

+ Father George

THE DIVINE EUCHARIST ACCORDING TO THE HOLY ORTHODOX TRADITION

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE DIVINE EUCHARIST ACCORDING TO
THE HOLY ORTHODOX TRADITION.

The celebration of the Divine Eucharist is the action of the ENTIRE COMMUNITY OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD, A FULFILLMENT OF THE
ROYAL PRIESTHOOD" CONFERRED UPON THEM BY GOD IN BAPTISM. Therefore the priest is not the "representative" of the faithful. Although there are prayers in which he speaks for all the people, all these prayers close with the "Amen" of the faithful. Without the active participation of the people, the dialogue between the celebrant and the people becomes a nonsensical monologue. The participatory character of the Divine Liturgy is pointed out by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia of blessed memory:

"Liturgy indeed means precisely a shared corporate action. Liturgy is something done by many persons in common, something that none of us can do alone. So, if the Eucharist is termed liturgy, that means that, at the service, there are only active participants there are no passive spectators."

"… The ultimate form of participation is of course to partake worthily of the Sacred Mystery of Holy Communion–by all: "Drink of This ALL OF YOU." This too will be emphasized throughout this treatise, because short of this goal everything else would be to no avail.

Liturgy is the work of the people. Without people THERE CANNOT BE A LITURGY. This means that besides the celebrant priest at least one other faithful must be present. But participation goes well beyond our physical presence. If you see "chanter" or "choir" in any Liturgy books understand "people" in their place, as the ancient liturgical manuscripts clearly annotate. This means ALL OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD PRESENT, CLERGY, AND LAITY. Everyone is supposed to answer with their "Amen," their "Kyrie eleison," and their many other short invocations, like "Grant this O Lord," "To You, O Lord, "And with your spirit" etc. If not, many of the prayers would not even be prayers, because they are addressed to the people. The people make them with their reply. By not answering they ignore the call of the priest or deacon, but what is worse, nobody prays in church!

"… We need to mention another kind of participation and CONCELEBRATION TAKING PLACE WHEN WE CELEBRATE THE DIVINE MYSTERIES. There may be only two or three faithful gathered together in the Lord’s Name, but they are NOT alone. He is present in the midst of them (cf. Matthew 18:20), and so are His holy Angels and His Saints. The Divine Liturgy takes place IN THE PRESENCE AND WITH THE PARTICIPATION OF THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. Celebrant clergy and concelebrant people have the distinct awareness that THEY ARE NOT ALONE but ARE SURROUNDED BY "A CLOUD OF WITNESSES" (Hebrews 12:1), by the SPIRITUAL POWERS and the Saints. Their icons, which cover the walls, columns, and ceiling of the church, are A CONSTANT REMINDER OF THEIR ACTUAL PRESENCE, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, WHENEVER THE AWESOME MYSTERIES ARE CELEBRATED.

Celestial and earthly members of the Church ARE UNITED IN THEIR THANKSGIVING AND PRAISE OF THE TRIUNE GOD. As sojourners on earth we pray for one another and all together we pray to the Saints, asking for their INTERCESSIONS, SO THAT WITH THE PAHRRESIA (BOLDNESS) WHICH THEY HAVE, THEY MAY BRING OUR PRAYERS BEFORE THE FEARFUL THRONE OF GOD. Likewise, we ask them to intercede for the souls of our departed brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bloodless Sacrifice is offered FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. The Saints, THE GLORIFIED MEMBERS OF THE Church, are offered to God the Father together with us and with the Head of the Body, Jesus Christ, and are "REMEMBERED" (made present) throughout the Liturgy.

Communion with the heavenly Church is what distinguishes the Orthodox Faith from all the Christian confessions: "This is our preeminence, or primogeniture, our glory: THE CONSTANT REMEMBRANCE OF THE HEAVENLY CHURCH." For the Orthodox Christians, our life on this earth IS IN UNITY WITH THE HEAVENLY CHURCH. APOSTLES, MARTYRS, CONFESSORS, PROPHETS, AND RIGHTEOUS DEPARTED THIS LIFE BEFORE US, THE VENERABLE "ASSEMBLY OF THE FIRST BORN WHO ARE ENROLLED IN HEAVEN" (Hebrews 12:23), together with "INNUMERABLE ANGELS IN FESTAL GATHERING" (Hebrews 12:22), LEAD US TO THE WORSHIP OF THE "GOD OF ALL" AND TO His incessant doxology.

Every time we offer ourselves and one another, we do it commemorating the Most Holy THEOTOKOS and all the Saints who pleased God. In so doing we call upon them TO BE PARTICIPANTS AND CONCELEBRANTS WITH US. We are fully aware and cognizant OF THEIR PRESENCE, and we offer the Holy Oblation IN UNITY WITH THEM. Heaven and earth praise and glorify God TOGETHER…

"…The Divine Eucharist constitutes THE CENTRAL MYSTERY OF OUR FAITH. All the other Mysteries (Sacraments) and services of the Church REVOLVE AROUND THE MYSTERY, as planets orbit around the sun. All the other Mysteries (Sacraments) lead to it and are united with it. Saint Dionysius the Areopagite calls the Divine Eucharist the "high point" of every other Sacrament. Saint Nicholas Cavasilas says, "The Eucharist alone of sacred rites supplies perfection to the other Mysteries." Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki (+ 1429) calls it, "the perfection of every sacrament and the seal of every mystery."

"Far from being a ritual ceremony, the Eucharistic celebration engages every parishioner, challenging each of them to further action. It is a charge to put into practice what is said in the ANAPHORA, to make it more than a mere passive offering, TO MAKE IT A TOTAL SELF-OFFERING OF OUR BEINGS, OUR HEARTS."

The Divine Liturgy consists OF A DOUBLE OFFERING: in the form of earthly gifts we offer to God His Only Son, and in return, through the action of the Holy Spirit, we receive Christ in us, in His GLORIFIED HUMANITY as well AS HIS DIVINITY UNITED HYPOSTATICALLY WITH IT. In actuality, the True Offerer and Celebrant of the Divine Eucharist IS CHRIST HIMSELF, WHO, ACCORDING TO THE PRAYERS OF THE CHERUBIC HYMN, IS "the Offerer and the Offered." Priests and bishops are "ministers (diakonoi) of Christ and stewards of the Mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1), serving AS INSTRUMENTS OF CHRIST, THE "High Priest" (ARCHIEREUS) (Hebrews 2:17).

In the words of Saint Nicholas Cavasilas, the Divine Eucharist is "THE FINAL MYSTERY… IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO GO BEYOND IT OR TO ADD ANYTHING TO IT." And Saint John Kronstadt adds: "the Eucharist IS A CONTINUAL MIRACLE." So, let us embark upon this humbling task, to provide, with God’s grace and the prayers of the Holy Theotokos and all the Saints, a commentary on this "continual miracle," this "final Mystery, "which holds the Church IN UNITY, MAKES THE CHURCH TO BE ITSELF, AND WHICH IS THE HEART OF OUR LIFE AS CHRISTIANS." [Source: The Heavenly Banquet. Understanding the Divine Liturgy by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis. Orthodox Witness.)

___________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +



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

+ Father George

“GIVING THANKS ALWAYS FOR ALL THINGS TO GOD…” (Ephesians 5:20).

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

ΕΥΧΑΡΙΣΤΙΑ – ΘΕΙΑ ΕΥΧΑΡΙΣΤΙΑ – EUCHARIST

"Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ…" (Ephesians 5:20).

Greek: "Ευχαριστούντες πάντοτε υπέρ πάντων έν ονόματι
τού Κυρίου ημών Ιησού Χριστού τώ Θεώ καί πατρί…" (Εφεσίους ε΄ 20).

In the gospel according to the Evangelist Luke we are told of the miracle of the cleansing and healing of the Ten Lepers. "And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And ONE OF THEM, RETURNED, AND WITH A LOUD VOICE 18GLORIFIED GOD, AND FELL DOWN ON HIS FACE AT HIS FEET, GIVING THANKS. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘WERE THRER NOT TEN CLEANSED? BUT WHERE ARE THE NINE? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:13-18).

Offering thaksgiving to our Merciful God ought to be not a once a year act but a constant and heartfelt practice done daily. Every prayer that we offer should b a prayer of thanksgiving, of gratitude for God’s many blessings which sadly enough are all too easily taken for granted or forgotten. Saint John Chrysostom offered this contrite prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ:

O Lord my God, Great, and Glorious Creator of all things visible and invisible; You Who faithfully keep Your covenant and Your mercy with those who love You and observe Your Commandments; I thank You now and always for all the visible and invisible blessings which You have bestowed for all the visible and invisible blessings which You have bestowed upon me. I praise, glorify and magnify You, up to the present time, for in accepting me from my mother’s womb and providing for me out of Your abundant goodness and love for mankind. YOu have providentially protected and guided me in a holy manner, and thus Your rich mercy and compassion has been wonderfully demonstrated in me throughout my life. You did not overlook my lowliness because of my unworthiness and sinfulness, nor did You cease to help me and provide for me because of Your lovingkindness and compassion. Do not forsake me then, O my God, even until my advanced and old age… FOR EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT IS FROM ABOVE, COMING FROM YOU, THE FATHER OF LIGHTS… Accept this brief confession and my repentance as You accepted the gratitude of the one thief while on the Cross. Accept this prayer, the fruit of my lips, as a living sacrifice, as fragrant and pleasing offering. Anen.

The observence of the Thanksgiving celebration, an American tradition, is wonderful and most meaningful for the devout and believing people who attribute all good things and blessing which they receive throughout their lifetime to the generosity and love of our Most Gracious God. The pilgrims who celebrated the first thanksgiving were Christian men and women who surived the dificult journey crossing a very dangerous ocean, illnesses, death, suffering, hunger, and other threats. They had no difficulty attributing their survival to the help of God Whom they loved. Therefore, they offered their thanks not to an abstract deity or to themselves, but to their heavenly Father and Creator. The pilgrims did not take anything for granted.

It is most important, however, not to allow our current materialistic, hedonistic, and egocentric society to reduce the meaning of this most spiritually uplifting Christian tradition to a day of glutony, entertainment, leisure and unthankfulness. It is not accidental but a deliberate effort to turn every good and major Christian holy day to a paganistic exercise, e.g., Thanksgiving, Christmas, Pascha or celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ etc. and to reduced them to a meaningless and superficial fastival. This Neo-paganistic movement has systematically attacked Christianity for years and with the intent to destroy all positive and good Christian inluence in the world. Under communism Christmas was reduced to a winter holiday and was devoid of the celebration of Christ’s Nativity. In our American society the Thanksiving Day has, for many, become "Turkey day." Christmas is no longer the observence and celebration of Christ’s birth but of consumerism, not a day in church worshipping and thanking God, but a day of exchanging gifts and thanking eachother for the gifts. Pascha ("Easter") the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the day we glorify God for our salvation, to the day of the "Easter bunny," and Christian children chasing to find Easter eggs around the garden.

The direct assault on all the major Christian holy days is real and has had a devasting effect on our Christian Faith and Tradition. Orthodox Christians must fight back and refused to fall prey to paganism and hedonism. Our Christian celebrations are always to directed to our Most Loving God and Father and not to us. Thanksgiving Day is a day when we concentrate in our devotion to Him Who has given us everything that we as humans need, "FOR EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT IS FROM ABOVE, COMING FROM HIM, THE FATHER OF LIGHTS."

May our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ bless all of you, our country, and the world with peace, love, kindness, and enlightenment. Saint John Chrysostom’s brief but solemn prayer was: "GLORY BE TO GOD, FOR ALL THINGS!"

HAPPY, SAFE, AND BLESSED THANKSGIVING TO ALL!

+ Father George, Presbytera Elaine, Mariam and Stefan

THE ORTHODOX PILGRIM ON A FORTY-DAY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE ORTHODOX PILGRIM ON A FORTY-DAY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

+ In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

Let up pray to the Lord.

Kyrie Eleison.

O Christ our God,
At all times and every hour, in heaven and on earth,
You are worshipped and glorified;
You are long-suffering, most merciful, most compassionate,
You love the righteous and have mercy upon the sinners;
You all ever one to salvation
through the promise of future blessings;
Receive, O Lord, our prayers at this hour
And direct our life toward Your Commandments.
Sanctify our souls; make our bodies chaste;
Correct our thoughts; purify our intentions;
And deliver us from every grief and pain that comes from evil.
Encompass us by Your Holy Angels,
So that guarded and guided by them
We may attain to the unity of the faith
And to the knowledge of Your inapproachable glory,
For You are blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.

+



Orthodox Christians began their forty-day journey to pay homage to the Son of God, our True Messiah, Whose Divine Birth is commemorated on December 25th. However, just as with all journeys, the Orthodox believer prepares spiritually for that long journey through fasting, prayer, repentance, and most definitely faith.

The Holy Nativity of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ for the genuine and practicing Orthodox Christian is not simply an annual event when families gather and a time of exchanging gifts. But, it is a profound spiritual experience, a time of personal renewal, a time when the Orthodox Christian exalts and glorifies God knowing that due to His great mercy and unconditional love becomes man in order to "go after the one which is lost until He finds it." (Luke 15:4). Jestus continues: "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven OVER ONE SINNER WHO REPENTS than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:6-7).

Our Heavenly and Divine Lord and Savior Jesus Christ clearly connects "joy in heaven" with the "repentace of a sinner." (Lk. 15:7). Therefore, Jesus connects REPENTANCE WITH JOY, NOT SADNESS. He emphasizes again, "Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the Angels of God over ONE SINNER WHO REPENTS" (Luke 15:10). This illustrates God’s unconditional love and forgiveness of the repentant sinner.

According to Saint John Climacus, "repentance (Gk. metanoia) is the renewal of baptism and is a contract with God for a fresh start in life. Repentance goes shopping for humility and is evere distrustful of bodily comfort. Repentance is critical awareness and a sure watch over oneself. Repentance, is the daughter of hope and the refusal to despair. The penitent stands guilty–but UNDISCRASED. Repentance is RECONCILIATION WITH THE LORD by the performance of good deeds which are the opposites of the sins. It is the purification of conscience and the voluntary endurance of affliction. The PENITENT deals out his own punishment, for repentance is the fierce persecution of the stomach and the flogging of the soul into intense awareness."

Saint Paul the humble, once stayed in front of the churh gate of a monastery and was watching the state of the monks’s souls, since he had a discerning gift from God. The monks who entered the church had a very nice and pleasant look, and each of them was accompanied by his happy-looking Angel. The holy father glorified God for what he had seen. But at a certain time he saw a monk with a dark look, accompanied by many demons and his Angel at a distance looking gloomy and anxious. When Paul saw this, he started crying and did not want to leave his position so as not to miss watching that monk again during his exit from the church. After the Divine Liturgy, while the monks were leaving the church, he watched that monk again, but this timehis face was shining and was all white, gleaming like light and close to him his Angel was following happily whereas the gloomy looking demons were at a distance.

When Paul saw this, rose up from his position and glorified God. He stood at higher place and narrated the miraculous things he had seen. Everymody kept asking the monk what had happen to him. He said out of extreme humility: "I am a sinful man but sin has not left me yet. When I entered the church, I listened to the words of Prophet Isaiah, which are God’s words: "Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Come now, let us reason together", says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land."

When I heard this, I came to myself, I felt pain in my heart, I cried and sighed: "My Lord God, Who came to this world to save the sinners, please bestow on me, who is a sinner and an unworthy man, all the things you promised through your Prophet. I promise you that form this very moment I give up every lawlessness and sin which I have committed until now and fron now on I will never sin again with Your help." When the fathers heard these words, they glorified God for His Great Philnathropy and extreme condensation, since the power and the consequences of the sinner’s repentance was obvious. (From the book of Evergetinos)

The Progigal son "came to himself" and recognizing his mistakes RETURNED TO HIS FATHER’S HOUSE asking for mercy and saying: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants" (Luke 15:18-19). In this way he abandoned the lie that his life had become and returned to the Truth. He abandoned vice and adopted virtue. He escaped death by returning back to his home and loving father. And his father waiting for his return when he saw him "had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him" (Luke 15:20). What followed was a celebration upon the return of the son. "And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; FOR THIS MY SON WAS DEAD AND IS ALIVE AGAIN, HE WAS LOST AND IS FOUND" (Luke 15:23-24).

Christmas, the Nativity of Our Savior, is our personal homecoming. Our Almighty God always longs for the return of all sinners to His forgiving embrace. Someone said, "it is not the sin that condemns the sinner, but the unwillingness of the sinner to repent of his sin." We must heed the Divine words of our Lord and sincerely repent of our sins. To the Orthodox Christian this means to participate in the Mysterion (Sacrament of Repentance and Confession). If we are to attend this glorious celebration that our Heavenly Father is preparing for us we must be clean and chaste. It is our duty not only to know our Christian Faith, but to be willing to practice it. It is not enough to know what Christ said, but we must all be willing to do as He commanded.

There is no other way for the Orthodox Christian to celebrate His Divine Birth. We cannot allow this secular and atheistic society in which we live in to dictate or even idocrtinate us to believe that Christmas is all about food, drinks, parties, a time of leisure, and gifts. If we desire to succeed in this aim, we have to be obedient to His will (e.g. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.."). We must have faith and trust in our Lord Christ. We must fulfil His commandments by loving one another and forgiving one another. In this way we prove that we have returned to the house of the Father.

May the Divine words of our Savior encourage and inspire us to welcome Him in our hearts for that is where He wants to be. Holy Apostle Paul reminds us: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians3:16). If we are to Grow spiritually we need, "The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit." It is never accomplished by us. God desires our cooperation or synergy since we were created by Him to have a free will. He imposes not His will upon anyone.

Let us continue our holy journey to Bethlehem to pay homage and fall on our knees with humility and in repentance. Let us join the Heavenly Host and joyfully celebrates His Birth on earth and our birth in heaven. He, Jesus Christ, is our True Messiah, He is our salvation, He is our the Master of our life. "Jesus said to him, ‘I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME" (John 14:6).

______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

16th of November – FEAST DAY OF THE HOLY APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST MATTHEW

My brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

On the 16th of November, the Holy Orthodox Church
commemorates the Holy Apostle and Evangelist\
MATTHEW.

MATTHEW, the holy Apostle and Evangelist, the son of Alphaeus, otherwise known as Levi, lived in the Galilaean city of Capernaum. He was a man of means and held a position as a tax collector. His compatriots despised and shunned him, as they did all who were similarly employed; but Matthew, although he was a sinner, was nevertheless no worse than many of the Pharisees who prided themselves on their outwardly seeming righteousness. But, lo! The Lord brought His Divine gaze to rest upon this tax collector, who was disdained by all. One day, while He was sojourning in Capernaum, the Lord left the city and went down to the sea in the company of many people. On the shore thereof He saw Matthew sitting in his customs booth; and sHe said to him, "Follow thou Me" (Matthew 9:9). Hearing these words of the Lord not only with the ears of his body, but with the ears of his heart as well, the tax collector straightway rose from his place and, leaving all behind, followed after Christ. Matthew did not stop to consider, nor was he amazed, that the Great Teacher and Wonder-Worker had summoned him, a hated tax collector; but, with all his heart he took His words to himself and unwaveringly followed Him. Moreover, the Lord did not spurn his invitation but entered Matthew’s house. There gathered in Matthew’s home a multitude of his neighbors, all of them tax collectors and sinners; and they sat down at table with Jesus and His Disciples. There also happened to be present certain of the Scribes and Pharisees who, seeing that the Lord was not shunning the sinners and tax collectors but was reclining with them, murmured and said to His Disciples, "Why eateth your Teacher with the tax collectors and sinners?" (Matthew 9:17). And the Lord, hearing their words, said to them, "THEY WHO ARE STRONG HAVE NO NEED OF A PHYSICIAN, BUT THEY WHO ARE ILL. BUT GO AND LEARN WHAT THIS IS, ‘I WISH MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE (cf. Hos. 6:7 (6). ‘FOR I CAME NOT TO CALL THE RIGHTEOUS, BUT SINNERS TO REPENTANCE’ (Matthew 9:12-13).

Thenceforth, Matthew, forsaking all his possessions, followed after Christ and, as His faithful Disciple, did not part from Him thereafter. Soon he was accounted worthy of being numbered among the Choir of the Twelve chosen Apostles. In company with the other Disciples of the Lord, Matthew joined Him on His journeys throughout Galilee and Judea, hearkened to His Divine Teaching, beheld His countless miracles, went forth to preach to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and was a witness of the Savior’s suffering on the Cross, His REDEMPTIVE DEATH, and His Most Glorious Ascension into Heaven.

After the Lord’s Divine Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, the holy Matthew remained at first in Palestine preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem and its environs. together with the other Apostles. Yet, behold! The time came for the Apostles to disperse from Jerusalem to various other lands, to convert them to the Christian Faith. Before Matthew departed from Jerusalem the Jewish Christians of that city besought him to set down in writing for them the acts and teachings of Jesus Christ. The other Apostles then living in Jerusalem expressed their approval of such an undertaking, and Saint Matthew, in fulfillment of the common desire, wrote his Gospel in the Hebrew (Aramaic) dialect, some eight years after the Divine Ascension of Christ.

After departing from Jerusalem, the holy Apostle Matthew preached the glad tidings of the Gospel in many lands. Proclaiming the Good News of Christ, he passed through Macedonia, Syria, Persia, Parthia, and Media, establishing Churches there and in other places. He underwent many tortures, thirst, hunger, and scourgings, all of which he endured, for God was his helper. He traveled all about Ethiopia, which had fallen to him by lot, and enlightened it with the Light of the knowledge of the Gospel. Finally, guided by the Holy Spirit, he arrived in the land of the cannibals, who were dark-skinned and savage people. There he entered a city known as Mirmena and, after he had converted several souls in Christ, appointed Platon, his fellow traveler, to be their bishop, and built a little church. The holy Apostle, burdened with tribulations, dangers, and hardships by these people, thought to find quiet in some place. He, therefore, ascended a mountain situated not far away and abided there in fasting, earnestly entreating God for the conversion of that unbelieving nation. There the Lord appeared to him in the guise of a youth of great comeliness, Who held in His right hand a staff and greeted him. Extending His right hand and handing the Saint His staff, He commanded him to go down from the mountain and plant the staff at the doors of the church he had constructed. "This staff," said the Lord, "through My power, grow into a lofty tree, and the tree shall bring forth abundant fruit, surpassing all the other fruits of the orchard in magnificence and sweetness, and from its root, a spring of pure water shall flow forth. Washing in the water of that spring, the cannibals shall receive comeliness of visage, and everyone that but tasteth of that fruit shall forget his bestial habits and shall become a good and meek person."

After taking the staff from the Lord’s hand, Matthew descended the mountain and betook himself to the city to carry out that which had been commanded him. The wife and son of Fulvian, the Prince of that city, were possessed by demons. Encountering the Apostle along the way, they cried out against him with wild, threatening voices, "Who has sent thee here with that staff, for our destruction?" The Apostle rebuked the unclean spirits and expelled them, and those who were healed fell down before the Apostle and meekly followed after him. Upon learning of his arrival, Bishop Platon went forth to meet him with his clergy, and the holy Matthew, entering the city and drawing near to the church, did as he had been commanded. He planted the staff which the Lord had given him in the ground, and straightway, in the presence of all, the staff became a great tree which spread forth branches of goodly foliage, and thereon there appeared beautiful fruit, large and sweet; and a spring of water flowed from beneath its roots. The entire city gathered to behold such a miracle, and they partook of the fruit of the tree and drank the pure water. The holy Apostle Matthew, standing on a high place, preached to the assembled multitude the Word of God in their own language, and all came immediately to believe in God, and the holy Apostle baptized them in the miraculous spring. As the Lord had promised, all the cannibals who were baptized left the waters comely of countenance; and they received not only bodily cleansing but purification and beauty of soul as well, having put off the old man and arrayed themselves in Christ, the new Man.

When he was informed of what had transpired, Prince Fulvian at first rejoiced over the healing of his spouse and son, at the prompting of the demons, he became enraged at the Apostle because the whole city was going over to him, forsaking its gods. He began thinking of Matthew’s destruction. But that very night, the Savior appeared to the holy Apostle, commanding him to take courage, and promising to remain with him throughout the impending suffering. Fulvian sent armed soldiers to arrest him, commending them to bring Matthew, to slay him. But the warriors returned empty-handed, because when they had drawn near the church, a heavenly Light illumined the Apostle, and the warriors were unable to see him. The Prince flew into a dreadful rage and went forth with a great number of his servants intending to lay hold of the Apostle himself. But no sooner that he managed to reach the Apostle than suddenly he was struck blind and had to ask for a guide. Then he besought the Apostle to forgive him his sin and to give light again to his blind eyes. The holy Apostle, making the sign of the Cross over the eyes of the Prince, restored his sight. Although his bodily eyes were healed, the eyes of his soul were not, they remained dark for they were blinded by malice.

The pagan and evil Prince inflicted numerous horrific tortures on the holy Apostle (e.g. stretching him out face down upon the ground, and affixing his hands and feet to the ground with spikes. placing on the Apostle pitch and brimstone and setting it afire, dousing him with dolphin oil, pitch, and tar, and tinder was set beneath him and the pyre was kindled. The flame took the form of a serpent threatening the Prince who was unable to flee and save himself from the danger and sought out help from the Saint. The Apostle rebuked the fire, and straightway the flame died down and the figure of the serpent vanished. Fulvian wished to bring the Saint out of the fire with honor, but the Apostle prayed, "Lord into Thy hands I surrender my soul!" and departed into heavenly bliss. The Prince ordered his servants to bring forth a golden bier and to set therein the precious body of the Apostle, which had not been burned by the flame. He had his nobles bore it up and carried it to his palace. Yet again even then he did not have perfect faith, and for this cause commanded that an iron coffin be forged and the holy relics of the Saint be placed inside of it. When this had been done, it was sealed on all sides with lead and cast into the sea. Fulvian said to his nobles, "If He that kept Matthew whole in the midst of the fire will preserve hi also from the depths of the sea, truly He is the only God, and Him will we worship, forsaking all our gods who were powerless to deliver us from destruction in the fire!"

No sooner had the iron coffin with the precious holy relics of Saint Matthew been cast into the seas, than the Saint appeared at night to Bishop Platon, saying, "Tomorrow go to the shore of the sea, to the east of the Prince’s palace and there take up my remains, which will have been borne to the dry land." In the morning the bishop, in company with a multitude of the faithful, set out for the indicated place. There they beheld the coffin riding high upon the waves, and they praised the Lord with hymns of jubilation. Upon learning thereof, the Prince and his nobles came and, this time fell down before the casket containing the holy relics of the Saint. Fulvian besought forgiveness and expressed a heartfelt desire to be baptized. Bishop Platon, perceiving the faith and fervor of Fulvian, then baptized him. And when he placed his hand on Fulvian’s head and was ready to utter his name, there came a voice from on high, saying, "Call him not Fulvian, but Matthew!"

Having thus received the Apostle’s name in Baptism, the Prince strove to emulate the life of the holy Apostle. Within seven days, he purged all his kingdom of pagan idols and smashed them, he devoutly reverenced the holy relics in a befitting manner and all of his subordinates were baptized. The Apostle then appeared in a vision to Bishop Platon and said, "Ordain the Prince a priest, and his son a deacon. After three years, you wilt depart to the Lord. Let the king, who bears my name, become a bishop, and let his son be his successor." After three years the holy Platon departed to the Lord. After he received ordination to the Episcopate, Bishop Matthew labored well in spreading the glad tidings of Christ, and, having converted man from idolatry, he brought them to God. Then he himself passed on to the Lord, after a long and God-pleasing life. And standing with the holy Evangelist Matthew before the Throne of God, he prays on our behalf to the Lord, that we also may be heirs of the Everlasting Kingdom of God. Anen.
[Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]

______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +



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

+ Father George

November 15- December 24th – THE BEGINNING OF THE HOLY NATIVITY FAST

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE HOLY NATIVITY FAST – NOVEMBER 15TH – DECEMBER 24TH

As we Orthodox Christians prepare to commence the Holy Nativity Fast (Nov. 15 to Dec. 24), we are reminded by Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ how should fast: "Moreover; when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But YOU, WHEN YOU FAST, ANOINT YOUR HEAD AND WASH YOUR FACE, SO THAT YOU DO NOT APPEAR TO MEN TO BE FASTING, BUT TO YOUR FATHER WHO IS IN THE SECRET PLACE; AND YOUR FATHER WHO SEES IN SECRET WILL REWARD YOU OPENLY" (Matthew 6:16-18).

Saint Paul writes about fasting: "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. LET NOT HIM WHO EATS DESPISE HIM WHO DOES NOT EAT, AND LET NOT HIM WHO DOES NOT EAT JUDGE HIM WHO EATS; FOR GOD HAS RECEIVED HIM. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another, another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He WHO EATS, EATS TO THE LORD, FOR HE GIVES GOD THANKS, AND HE WHO DOES NOT EAT, TO THE LORD HE DOES NOT EAT, AND GIVES GOD THANKS" (Romans 14:1-6).

Saint Theophylactos comments on Matthew 6:17-18: "Men (people) of all would anoint themselves with oil after bathing as a mark of their joy and well-being. So you also, O reader, should appear joyful when you fast. The oil used to anoint we also understand TO MEAN ALMSGIVING (CHARITY). Our Head is Christ, Which we should anoint with DEEDS OF MERCY; and our face, that is, OUR SENSES, WE SHOULD WASH WITH TEARS OF REPENTANCE."

Saint Paul exhorts us: "Be anxious for nothing, but IN EVERYTHING BY PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION, WITH THANKSGIVING, LET YOUR REQUESTS BE MADE KNOW TO GOD; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

Fasting, philanthropy (charity), and prayer are important and necessary tools that we, as believers, use, to strengthen our spiritual life in Christ. The life of the Christian is a life that revolves around Christ our Savior, He is the center of our life. The Divinely Inspired Scripture is the foundation of the whole of Orthodox spirituality. "Sanctify them through Thy Truth: Thy Word (Logos) is Truth" (John 17:17). Saint John Chrysostom interprets this verse: "Make them holy through the gift of the Spirit and by correct doctrine." In Orthodox Christian churches the Book of the Gospels always lies on the middle of the holy Altar Table, and, while no mark of worship is paid to the reserved Eucharistic elements (when, as is not necessarily the case, they are reserved} each priest approaching the Holy Table kisses (venerates) the Holy Gospel first. The Holy Scripture is the very substance of the dogmas and liturgies of the Orthodox Church and, through them, infuses the piety of Orthodox Christian souls.

The reading and studying of the Holy Bible for Orthodox Christians is the heart of their life in Christ. Saint John Chrysostom was the champion of diligent Bible reading even among the laity. The Holy Scripture is vital in understanding the Lord’s Gospel message and necessary for following Christ, on charity towards the poor and the suffering.

Our Holy Orthodox Christian Tradition teaches that fasting was instituted by God Himself. It goes back to the very beginning of the human race, when our Divine Creator and Fashioner gave the commandment of fasting to Adam and Eve, asking them NOT to eat the forbidden fruit. They instead chose to disobey God, and this lead to their expulsion from Paradise. If the Christian believer desires to attain the Kingdom of God, he or she must first demonstrate his or her obedience to all of God’s Commandments; so he should also respect and abide by the commandment of fasting.

Those believers who are familiar with the Divine Scripture know that Moses fasted for forty days on Mount Sinai in order to be worthy of meeting God and receiving the Ten Commandments from Him (Exodus 34:28). In the New Testament, we witness Jesus Christ fasting for forty days in the desert immediately after His Baptism in the River Jordan (Luke 4:2; Matthew 4:2). Our Savior, even though He Himself is without sin, decided to fast voluntarily in order to reveal that it is through fasting and prayer that we can overcome our sins (Matthew 9:29). Furthermore, the Holy Apostles knew by the Lord Himself and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, that fasting is an inviolable command of God and therefore they officially established the Apostoclk rule of fasting.

We, of course, are taught, above and beyond material fasting, there is SPIRITUAL FASTING which is even more significant. Spiritual fasting means abstaining from non-food-related passions: the Christian should be careful about what one sees (e.g. violent, obscene or sexually explicit images or programs) and what one says (e.g. lying, slender, blame, gossip, false witness, stealing). Therefore, in order to completely enjoy the benefits of fasting, the Orthodox Christian should continue both material and spiritual fasting, together with prayer and spiritual struggle towards the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

Another important point is making shure that the Orthodox Christian has a spiritual father ( a priest, or a monk priest, always the same one, to whom one goes for the Mysterion (Sacrament) of Repentance/Confession and who guides his spiritual child/ren) on matter of faith) and who in the case of fasting offers advice and guidance. It is his/her spiritual father who will give advice on matters of fasting and if there is a logitimate health issue to give his blessing to deviate from the formal or traditional fast discipline.

Fasting should be done: a) in secret, without revealing to others what one is doing. "That when you do a charitable deed, do not let your heand know wht your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret" (Matthew 6:3-4). That it must be done joyfully, because our aim lies in giving rather than receiving. Saint Paul writes: "And these things we write to you that your joy may be full" (1 John 1:4).

We, the Kat’ oikon Ecclesia ("Domestic church") act always together, parents and children. We pray together, we fast together, we pray together, we read the Holy Scripture together, we worship together, we receive Holy Communion together. United as we are, makes the experience by all the family members more edifying, because the Christian family continues to grow in Christ together.

Fasting that is not accompanied by intensified prayer and acts of philanthropy inevitably becomes a source of pride. Saint Timothy writes: "…lest being puffedup with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil" (1 Timothy 3:6). According to Saint John Climacus, "Pride IS A DENIAL OF GOD, AN INVENTION OF THE DEVIL, CONTEMPT FOR MEN. IT IS THE MOTHER OF CONDEMNATION, THE OFFSPRING OF PRAISE, A SIGN OF BARRENNESS… IT IS THE CAUSE OF DIABOLICAL POSSESSION, THE SOURCE OF ANGER, THE GATEWAY OF HYPOCRACY…PRIDE BEGINS WHERE VAINGLORY LEAVES OFF…"

For those who may not be familiar from what to obstain from during the period of the Holy Nativity fast: Wednesdays and Fridays remain strict fast. However, fish, wine, and olive oil are permitted, except for Wednesdays and Fridays until December 17th.

_____________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +



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

+ Father George