THE BREVITY OF MAN’S EARTHLY LIFE

My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

THE BREVITY OF MAN’S EARTHLY LIFE

"As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he
flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is
gone,
And its place remembers it no
more" (Psalm 103:15-16).

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speaking against the greed of men offers the following Parable saying:

"The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying ‘what should I do since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘FOOL! THIS NIGHT YOUR SOUL WILL BE REQUIRED OR YOU; THEN WHOSE WILL THOSE THINGS BE WHICH YOU HAVE PROVIDED?’" (St. Luke 12:16-20).

Even after thousands of years, man has not learned that this earthly life is brief. But how can this be? How can man not believe it when family members, relatives, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances have died and, no matter their station in life, are no longer with us. People are born and people die every day. Over the centuries, billions have died, people with families, with professions, with businesses, wealthy and poor people, people in high positions, and ordinary people who are laborers, as well as kings, queens, presidents, Patriarchs, Bishops, Priests, professors, police officers, engineers, generals, adult men and women, seniors, young adults, children, and even infants. Death is INEVITABLE and no one, but no one, can escape death. Yet, mankind refuses to believe it and acts as though he/she can make short-term or long-term plans as though he/she has control over their life span. How very foolish?

Man is in denial of his mortality. He has convinced himself that he determines the length of his life and, therefore, he suffers from self-deception. Man is truly delusional and irrational. Perhaps this the reason why he places such importance on this life. He may even be guilty also of doubting that there is a life after this earthly life. That there is eternal life, that there is a Paradise. Unfortunately, even some Christians may have fallen into this disbelief. However, Our Most beloved Lord assures us when He says, "In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I GO AND PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU" (St. John 14:2). What do you have to say to that? "Many mansions" literally "many dwelling places," a word picture of numerous living units surrounding a central courtyard, an abundance of living accommodations.
The reality is that all of us will eventually depart from the earthly existence. What we need to consider, though, is how we live this life and not how or when we will die. Our life, as the disciples of Christ, must be our willingness to conform and abide by His Divine commandments. Our personal relationship with our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ is one of love, trust, and obedience. We should never act with arrogance, but ought to approach Him with genuine meekness and profound humility.

Life is a gift from our Creator and we should use it wisely. We all have the capacity and the ability to be His true ambassandors to the world. We, as Orthodox Christians, have the opportunity to reprsent Him and to spread and preach His Gospel to the Gentile world or as, He commissioned His Holy Disciples, to "Go forth and teach all 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" (St. Matthew 28:19-20). We have a holy mission as followers and servants of Christ to bring hope to he world and to inspire those who as of now have not heard His "good tidings."

The Orthodox Christian believer is not one who lives in misery and despondency, but one who rejoices in everything. Saint John Chrysostom writes, "Glory Be To GOD for ALL THINGS!" There is always a purpose or a lesson that we find in all happenings in our life and we become stronger in character and in faith as a result. The Almighty created life out of love and for love. A love that is manifested through faith, compassion, charity, and kindness toward our neighbor. We should not think only of ourselves and ignore the needs of our fellow man. We have the opportunity to make a real difference in the cosmos.

Our Merciful Savior says, "…He who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God" (St. John 3:21). We believe that goodness and a pure heart welcome Christ’s Light, whereas evil deeds and malice resist the Light and seek to hide in darkness. God’s gift of life should not be wasted needlessly. Appreciate the great value of life and come to understand how sacred it is and protect it. In the world which we live in today, life is not only undervalued, but also not respected. There are those who are willing to take someone’s life as though it means absolutely nothing. An example of this are the millions of innocent children who are aborted and killed every year throughout the world. People are being killed every day for no good reason at all. In some countries, there are entire cities that are referred to as a "murder capital of the world." No one has the right to take a life, but God alone who gave it. Murder is evil and a crime against God and His will. Murder can never be justified in the eyes of God. Our Lord made it perfectly clear when He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and to His chosen people. "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). As you can anyone see, this is NOT a suggestionn but A COMMAND from the One Who created life.

The Orthodox Christian must act with discernment and be the one who submits to the will of God and His Commandments. Appreciate God’s gift of life, for it is priceless. Treasure it with all your might. There is absolutely a purpose to every God-given life that comes into this world. Saint Isaac the Syrian says, "Weakness for wealth and for collecting and owning things of different kinds; the urge for physical (sensuous) enjoyment; the longing for honor, which is the root of envy; the desire to conquer and be the deciding factor; pride in the glory of power; the urge to adodorn oneself and to be liked; the craving for praise; concern and anxiety for physical well-being. All these are of the world; they combine deceitfully to hold us in heavy bonds." We are constantly reminded by the Holy Scripture not to love the world. Saint John writes: "DO NOT LOVE THE WORLD OR THE THINGS IN THE WORLD. IF ANYONE LOVES THE WORLD, THE LOVE OF THE FATHER IS NOT IN HIM. For everything that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, IS NOT OF THE FATHER BUT OF THE WORLD. And the world IS PASSING AWAY, and the lust of it; but he who DOES THE WILL OF GOD ABIDES FOREVER" (1 John 2:15-17). It is true that the world is no longer oriented toward God, but dominated by inordinate passions, and subject to death (see Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

Knowing the brevity of life here on earth, one should use his time to prepare himself/herself for eternal life in God’s Kingdom. Our life as Orthodox Christians should be one of virtue and piety. A life of faith in God and unconditional love for Him and our fellow man. "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore, the world does not know us, because it did not know Him… whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him" (1 John 3:1-6). Christians are children of God by grace while remaining human by nature.

Glory be to God!

_______________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

ON THE GARDEN OF THE HEART

My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

ON THE GARDEN OF
THE HEART

"God shall be with you continually, and you shall be satisfied
as your soul desires. Your bones shall be enriched, and YOU SHALL
BE LIKE A WELL-WATERED GARDEN and like a spring of water
that does not fail" (Isaiah 58:11).

There is no better description of the heart than a flower garden. A beautiful garden filled with aromatic and colorful flowers. Along with the garden, of course, there must be a diligent and caring Gardner. The good soil he has received is from none other than God Himself. In addition, God provided the seed, the sun’s warmth, the rain, and the energy to grow.

The Gardner has assumed the responsibility to work hard for long hours to make certain that no weeds are growing and stifling the growth of the flowers or being chocked by aggressive weeds. Therefore, the Gardner must be constantly alert that nothing interferes with his garden, including the ferocious insects who present a real threat to his plants. Ultimately, however, everything depends on God, who is always in charge of His Creation and its longevity.

Our special and unique garden, our very own heart, must not be neglected. We have undertaken to tend and watch over it carefully and responsibly. The spiritual condition of our heart is strictly up to us and our decisions affect it immediately, either for the better or for worse. Just like a garden, it constantly needs to be taken care of. All the ingredients and all elements used must be the right ones to avoid harming it.

Weeds and insects that threaten the health of our beautiful flower garden can be easily compared to the passions, to evil thoughts, to wrong and negative feelings, to hate, to selfishness, to vanity, to greed, to envy, to slothfulness, to harmful phantasies, and to indifference. The Almighty God has given each of us all the spiritual ingredients that one needs in order to keep his/her heart vibrant and full of life and vigor.

What will nourish our heart is unceasing prayer, faith and trust in God, works of charity, compassion for others, and abiding by Christ’s commandments to prevent evil thoughts from poisoning it, avoiding pride, and always seeking God’s help and guidance for everything. Our Savior has given us a lifetime to till the soil of our heart, to cultivate it, to water it, to use the correct fertilizer, to make sure it has enough sun, and to pull up the weeds from it.

It takes a lot of love to have a good and beautiful garden, and so does a good and beautiful heart. We have all that we need to make this happen and to make sure the field of our own hearts is clear of all dangers. A good and virtuous heart leads to eternal life. Every man, woman, and child has the God-given ability and potential to succeed and keep the heart as beautiful as a flower garden.

As a young boy in my village in Greece, I remember that almost every home had a flower garden in front of it. The neighbors were proud of their individual gardens. If you asked them to give you flowers to take to your home, they were always willing to give you some. When you brought them home the house was immediately filled with fragrance and beauty. The flowers made you feel good inside and happy enough to forget all your problems and difficulties.

A beautiful flower garden may give us a slight glimpse of what awaits us in heaven. The glory, beauty, and joy in heaven are beyond our comprehension and imagination. Everything there is perfect and authentic. Nothing there, of course, is material, but everything is spiritual and eternal. Nothing there dies or decays, nothing loses its beauty, nothing ages, nothing needs replacing nor to be uprooted. Everything, as our Creator says, "is very good."

Everything begins here and now. To live in Christ is to live in eternal life. The stairway to His Kingdom is within each of us, in our immortal soul. "Cast off the burden of sin and you will find within you the upward path that will make your ascent possible." Just a few days ago, we celebrated the ascent of Our Risen Lord to His heavenly Kingdom and, therefore, we too must look forward to our own ascent to His Kingdom whenever we are called by Him.

May you all come to know your heart and the beauty and sweet fragrance within it. What a true blessing!

____________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

THEOSIS (DEIFICATION) IS THE SUMMIT OF ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY

My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

THEOSIS (DEIFICATION) IS THE SUMMIT OF
ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY

In the Holy Orthodox Church of Christ, man can achieve theosis (deification) because the grace of God, according to the sacred teachings of the Holy Fathers, IS UNCREATED. God is NOT only ESSENCE, as the Latin West believes, but also ENERGY. If God was only essence, we would not be able to join, to commune with Him, because THE ESSENCE OF GOD IS TERRIFYING AND INACCESSIBLE TO MAN, according to "you CANNOT SEE My face: for there shall no man see Me, AND LIVE" (Exodus 33:20.

Let us mention some specific examples regarding people. If we touch a live bared cable we would die. However, if we connect a light bulb to the cable we are illuminated. The energy of the electric current we see, enjoy and use. Its essence we cannot hold. Something similar, if we may say, happens WITH THE UNCREATED ENERGY OF GOD.

The Human Nature of our Lord Jesus Christ through ITS UNION WITH THE Divinity participated in Divine qualities and was ENRICHED BY THEM, in other words, "DEIFIED." And not only the Human Nature of the Lord Himself was deified: THROUGH Him and IN Him OUR HUMANITY ALSO IS DEIFIED (THEOSIS), for "He also Himself likewise TOOK PART IN our flesh and blood" (Hebrews 2:14), UNITED Himself in the most intimate way WITH THE HUMAN RACE, AND CONSEQUENTLY UNITED IT WITH THE Divinity. Since our Lord Jesus Christ received flesh from the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Church books very frequently call her THE FOUNT OF OUR THEOSIS (DEIFICATION). "Through her, we have been deified." We are deified likewise THROUGH WORTHY RECEPTION OF THE Body and Blood of Christ. The term "theosis" ("deification") does not mean the same thing as the term "God-Manhood," and one who is deified in Christ is not placed on the path to personal God-Manhood. If the Church of Christ is called a Divine-Human organism, this is because the Head of the Church is Christ God, and the body of the Church IS HUMANITY reborn in Christ. (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology)

If God had only incommunicable Divine essence without His energies He would have remained a self-sufficient God, closed into Himself and NON-COMMUNING with His creation…

" With these, THE UNCREATED ENERGIES, God created the world and continues to sustain it. He gives essence and existence to our word… He is present in nature and sustains the universe with His sustaining energies. He enlightens man with His enlightening energies. He sanctifies him with sanctifying energies. And finally, He makes him a god with Godly energies. So, with His UNCREATED ENERGIES, Holy God enters nature, the world, history, and the lives of the people.

We, therefore, unite with God THROUGH HIS UNCREATED ENERGIES, and NOT through His essence. This the mystery of the Orthodox Faith and of our life.
The Church convened three great Councils in Constantinople which justified Saint Gregory Palamas and declared that the life in Christ IS NOT SIMPLY THE MORALIZINGOFMAN BUT HIS THEOSIS (DEIFICATION), WHICH MEANS PARTICIPATION IN THE GLORY OF GOD, OF HIS GRACE, AND OF HIS UNCREATED LIGHT." (Source: Archimandrite George, Egoumenos of Gregoriou Monastery).

_________________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

GREAT VESPERS ( ΜΕΓΑΣ ΕΣΠΕΡΙΝΟΣ) ON THE EVE OF HOLY ASCENSION

My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

GREAT VESPERS (ΜΕΓΑΣ ΕΣΠΕΡΙΝΟΣ) ON THE EVE OF THE
HOLY ASCENSION – ON WEDNESDAY OF THE SIXTH WEEK
IN THE EVENING.

PRIEST
Blessed is our God always, now and ever, and
to the ages of ages. Amen.

READER

Come, let us worship and bow down before
God our King.

Come, let us worship and bow down before
Christ God our King.

Come, let us worship and bow before
Him, Christ our King and God.

PSALM 103 (104)

BLESS the Lord, O my soul, O Lord my God,
You are magnified exceedingly; You clothe
Yourself with thanksgiving and majesty, who
cover Yourself with Light as with a garment, who
stretch out the heavens like a curtain; You are He
Who covers His upper chambers with water, Who
makes the clouds His means of approach, Who
walks on the wings of the winds, Who makes His
Angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.
He established the earth on its stable foundation;
it shall not be moved unto ages of ages. The deep
like a garment is His covering; the waters shall
stand upon the mountains; at Your rebuke they
shall flee; at the sound of Your thunder, they shall
be afraid. The mountains rise up, and the plains
sink down to the place You founded for them. You
set a boundary they shall not pass over; neither
shall they return to cover the earth. You are He
Who sends spring into the valley; the waters
shall pass between the mountains; they shall give
drink to all the wild animals of the field; the wild
asses shall quench their thirst; the birds of heaven
shall dwell beside them; they shall sing from the
midst of the rocks. You are He Who waters the
mountains from His higher places; the earth shall
be satisfied with the fruit of Your works. You are
He Who causes grass to grow for the cattle, and
the green plant for the service of man, to bring forth
bread from the earth; and wine gladdens the heart of
man, to brighten his face with oil, and bread strengthens
man’s heart. The trees of the plain shall be full of fruit,
the cedars of Lebanon, which You planted; there the
sparrows shall make their nests; the house of the heron
takes the lead among them. The high mountains are for
the deer; the cliff is a refuge for the rabbits. He made the
moon for seasons; the sun knows its setting. You
established darkness, and it was night, wherein all the
wild animals fo the forest will prowl about the young
lions roar and snatch their prey, and seek their food from
God. The sun arises, and they are gathered together;
and they shall be put to bed in their dens. Man shall go
out to his work and to his labor until the evening. O Lord,
Your works shall be magnified greatly; You MADE ALL
THINGS IN WISDOM; THE EARTH WAS FILLED WITH YOUR
CREATION. There is this great and spacious sea; the
creeping things are there without number; the living things
are there, both small and great; there the ships pass through;
there is this dragon You formed to play therein. All things wait
upon You, that You may give them food in due season. When
You give it to them, they shall gather it; when You open Your
hand, all things shall be filled with Your goodness. But when
You turn Your face away, they shall be troubled; when You take
away their breath, they shall die and return again to their dust.
You shall send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created,
and You shall renew the face of the earth. Let the glory of the
Lord be forever; the Lord shall be glad in His works; He looks
upon the earth and makes it tremble; He touches the mountains,
and they smoke. I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing to
my God as long as I exist; may my words be pleasing in Hm, and
I shall be glad in the Lord. May sinners cease from the earth, and
the lawless, so as to be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

The sun knows its setting. You established darkness, and it was
night.

O Lord, Your works shall be magnified
greatly; You made all things in wisdom.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit. Both now and ever and to the ages of ages.
Amen.

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. Glory to You, O God. (3)

Our hope, O Lord, glory to You.

+

CLERGY AND PEOPLE

GLADSOME Light of Holy Glory of the Holy,
Blessed, Heavenly, Immortal Father, O Jesus Christ:
arriving at the hour of sunset and having seen the
evening light, we praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
God. It is worthy for You to be praised at all times with
happy voices, O Son of God and Giver of life; and
therefore the world glorifies You.

DEACON

The evening Prokeimenon.

CHANTERS

Prokeimenon. Mode pl. 1.

Save me, O God, in Your Name, and judge me
In Your power. (2)

THE READINGS

READER (ANAGNOSTIS)

The reading is from the Prophecy of Isaiah.

DEACON OR PRIEST

Wisdom. Let us be attentive.

READER

Isaiah 2:2-3

Thus says the Lord: Now it shall come to
pass in the last days, the mountain of the Lord
and the house of God shall be visible on the tops
of the mountains and exalted above the hills. All
the Gentiles shall come to it. Many Gentiles shall
travel and say, "Come and let us go up in the mountain
of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He
will proclaim His way to us, and we shall walk in it."11

READER

The reading is from the Prophesy of Isaiah.

DEACON

Wisdom. Let us be attentive.

READER

Isaiah 62:10 – 63:1

Thus says the Lord: "Go through My gates make a way for My people, throw
the stones off the road, and lift up a standard for the Gentiles." For behold,
the Lord caused this to be heard to the ends of the earth: "Say to the daughter
of Zion, ‘Behold, your Savior is come, and has His reward, and His work before
His face." One shall call them a holy people, the redeemed of the Lord, and you
shall be called a City Sought for and Not Forsaken. Who is this who comes from
Edom with red garments from Bozrah, so beautiful in Hi apparel, with force of
strength?" I speak of righteousness and saving judgment." Why are Your
garments red and Your apparel as one who treads in a winepress? "I am full of
the treading of grapes, and there is no man with Me among the nations." I
remembered the Lord’s mercy, the praises of the Lord in all things in which the
Lord recompenses us. The Lord is a good Judge to the house of Israel, and He
deals with us according to His mercy, and according to to the multitude of His
righteousness. He said, "Surely My people, My children, have not rejected Me?"
So He became their salvation. Not an elder or an Angel, but the Lord Himself
saved them from tribulation because He loved them and spared them. He
redeemed and took them up, and lifted them up all the days of old.
14:1
READER

The reading is from the Prophecy of
Zechariah.

DEACON

Wisdom. Let us be attentive.

READER

Zechariah 14:4, 8-11

Thus says the Lord: Behold, the days of the Lord come. And on that day His feet will stand on the Mountain of Olives,
which faces Jerusalem on the east. And in that day living water shall come forth our of Jerusalem, half of it toward the
eastern sea and half toward the western sea. And the Lord shall be King of all the earth, and in that day the Lord shall be
one Lord, and His Name one Name, encircling all the land, even the wildness from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem [and

be exalted]. But Rama shall remain in her place; from Benjamin’s Gate to the place of the First Gate; to the Gate of the Corners,
and to the Tower of Hananeel, as far as the king’s winepresses, they will dwell in her, and it will no longer be a curse.
Jerusalem shall dwell securely.

READER

O Lord, keep us this evening without sin. Blessed are You, O Lord, God of our fathers, and
praised and glorified is Your Name to the ages. Amen. O Lord, let Your mercy be upon us for
we have set our hope in You. Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments.
Blessed are You, Master, grant me understanding of Your commandments. Blessed are You,
Holy One, enlighten me with Your commandments. Lord, Your mercy is forever. Do not
despise the works of Your hands. To You is due praise, to You is due song, to You is due glory,
to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

PRIEST

Blessed are You, Christ our God, always now
and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Make firm, Lord our God, the holy and pure faith
of the pious Orthodox Christians, together with
the Holy Church and this city forever.

READER

AMEN.

Greater in honor than the Cherubim, and in
glory greater beyond compare than the Seraphim;
You without corruption gave birth to God the Logos,
You do we magnify.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Both nw and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison. Holy father give the blessing.

May He Who asended from us into heaven in glory, and sat at the right hand of God the Father,
Christ our True God, through the intercessions of His All-Pure and All-Immaculate Holy Mother,
the power of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, the protection of the Honorable, bodiless powers
of heaven, the supplication of the honorable, glorious Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist,
of the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy Apostles, of the holy glorious, and triumphant Martyrs, of
our righteous and God-bearing Fathers, of Saint Andrew the First-Called and Apostle, of the holy
and righteous ancestors of God Joachim and Anna, and of all the Saints, haver mercy on us and
save us, for He is Good and Loves mankind.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God have mercy on us [and save us
and save us. Amen.

_____________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

Η ΑΝΑΛΗΨΙΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ ΗΜΩΝ – THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD

My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

Η ΑΝΑΛΗΨΙΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ ΗΜΩΝ ΙΗΣΟΥ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ – THE ASCENSION
OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ passed FORTY DAYS ON EARTH AFTER His Resurrection from the dead, appearing continually in various places to His Disciples, with whom He also spoke, ate, and drank, thereby further demonstrating His Resurrection. On this Thursday, June 10th, the FORTIETH DAY AFTER THE CELEBRATION OF THE ALL-HOLY PASCHA, He appeared again in Jerusalem. After He had first spoken to the Disciples about many things, He gave them His last commandment, that is, that they go forth AND PROCLAIM His Name TO ALL NATIONS, BEGINNING FROM JERUSALEM. But He also commanded them that for the present, they were not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait there together UNTIL THEY RECEIVE POWER FROM ON HIGH when the Holy Spirit would descend upon them.

Saying these things, He led them to the Mount of Olives, and raising His hands, He blessed them, and saying again the words of the Father’s blessing, He was parted from them and TAKEN UP. Immediately a cloud of Light, a proof of His Majesty, received Him. Sitting thereon as though on a Royal Chariot, He was TAKEN UP INTO HEAVEN, and after a short time was concealed from the sight of the Holy Disciples, who remained where they were with their eyes fixed on Him. At this point, two Angels in the form of men in white raiment appeared to them and said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, Who is taken up from you into Heaven, SHALL SO COME IN LIKE MANNER AS YE HAVE SEEN HIM GO INTO HEAVEN/" (Acts 1:11). These words in a complete and concise manner, declare what is taught in the Symbol (Creed) of Faith concerning the Son and Logos/Word of God. Therefore, having so fulfilled all His dispensation for us, our Lord Jesus Christ ASCENDED IN GLORY INTO HEAVEN AND SAT AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD THE Father. As for HIs Holy Disciples, they returned from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem, rejoicing because Christ had PROMISED US TO SEND DOWN THE Holy Spirit.

It should be noted that the Mount of Olives is a Sabbath’s day journey from Jerusalem, that is, the distance a Jew was permitted to walk o the day of the Sabbath. Ecumenius writes, "A Sabbath day’s journey is one mile in length, as Saint Clement says in his Fifth Stromatis; it is two thousand cubits, as the Interpretation of the Acts states." They draw this conclusion from the fact that, while they were in the wilderness, the Israelites of old kept within this distance from the Holy Tabernacle, whither they walked on the Sabbath day to worship God.

"The feast of the Lord’s Ascension has great meaning and importance for the Christian and spiritual life because IT IS CONNECTED WITH THE DEIFICATION (THEOSIS) OF EVERY PERSON."

The Old Testament makes prophecies about this Great Even, and the New Testament presents it. Prophecy relating to the Ascension is revealed in the Psalms. In Psalm 18:9-10 we read: "He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind."

What took place in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ should take place in the life of every Orthodox Christian. Everyone without any exception at all should live Christ’s Passion, Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension in our life. We must all pray for illumination from God and go up where Christ is and enjoy His Ascension "using action and vision of God." The action is PURIFICATION of the heart by keeping the Gospel commandments, and the vision is the illumination of our soul.

It is spiritually profitable that we truly live a life of virtue and piety. Our devotion must be real and our commitment unwavering. Our loyalty, as the disciples of Christ, must be unyielding and strong, our faith must not be lukewarm but filled with the fire of the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is imperative to implement purity of the body and soul. A Christian believer must keep the eye of his or her soul as a watchful guard so that when the evil one appears and attempts to pollute him or her with carnal sins he or shi will be able to say: "I am not going to turn traitor to the Lord’s possession" (Saint Epiphanios). In other words, I will not betray and turn over to the devil that which belongs to my God and Savior.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) hymn of the Ascension. Fourth Tone

THOU HAST ASCENDED in glory, O Christ our God, and gladdened
Thy disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit; and they were
assured by the blessing that Thou art the Son of God and Redeemer
of the world.

Konatkion Hymn. Plagal of Second Tone

WHEN Thou hadst fulfilled Thy dispensation for our sake, uniting
things on earth with the Heavens, Thou didst ascend in glory, O
Christ our God, departing not hence. but remaining inseparable
from us and crying unto them that love Thee: I am with you, and
no one can be against you.

GLORY TO THEE O LORD, GLORY TO THEE!

_________________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

ORTHODOX CELEBRATION OF THE APODOSIS OF ALL-HOLY PASCHA

My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

ORTHODOX CELEBRATION OF THE APODOSIS OF
ALL-HOLY PASCHA

On Wednesday, June 9th, our Holy Orthodox Christian Church celebrates the feast of the Apodosis (Leave-taking or "after-feast") of the All-Holy Pascha 39 days later. Our Holy Orthodox Tradition calls us to observe this holy day as though we celebrating Pascha itself. According to Divine establishment of Old Testament holidays, all of our great holy days have a "leave-taking" or "after-feast," that is the chanting of the holy day’s prayers are not only chanted on the feast day itself, but over the next several days, and on the final day– the "APODOSIS"– the services of the holy day almost in their entirety. The continuation of the celebration of the All-Holy Pascha until the feast of the Ανάληψις τού Κυρίου ημών Ιησού Χριστού (The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ) signifies that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, over the course OF 40 DAYS of His Holy Resurrection APPEARED TO HIS HOLY APOSTLES.

On Wednesday of this week, the Paschal Celebration comes to an end. It is natural for Orthodox Christians to feel a degree of sadness: the rejoicing ends, the abundance of food is replaced by a regular diet, in other words, weekday life begins and those who adore Pascha are grieved. However, our divine feast days are not like that they bring us from one glory to another–the holy day is glorious, but even more glorious is the SPIRITUAL FRUIT THAT THE HOLY DAY CREATES IN THE SOULS AND HEARTS OF THE FAITHFUL.

Our Holy Mother Church has taught us to express the glory of the fruit of the All-Holy Pascha thus: "Taught by Christ the new and pure way of life, let us all strive to preserved to the end, that we may receive the coming of the Holy Spirit." (1st Troparion, 9th hymn on the Fourth Sunday of Pascha).
Jesus speaking to His disciples says, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage THAT I GO AWAY; FOR IF I DO NOT GO AWAY, THE Helper will not come to you." (St. John 16:7).

Our prayer to God the Holy Spirit: O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art in all places
and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of Life: Come and dwell in us and cleanse us from
every stain, and save ou souls, O Gracious Lord.

The celebration of the Great Holy Feasts of the Church year are extended for a number of days, depending upon the particular holy Feast. Each day of the Leave-taking or Afterfeast will have particular hymns assigned to it, continuing the theme of the feast being observed. Most of these Great Feast Days also have a day or more of preparation called a FOREFEAST (those Feast Days that are on the moveable Paschal Cycle do not have Forefeasts).

The last day of an Afterfeast is called THE APODOSIS (Gk. for "leave-taking"), literally, "giving-back") of the Feast. On the Apodosis, most of the hymns that are chanted on the first day of the Feast are repeated. On the Apodosis of holy Feasts of the Theotokos, the Epistle and Gospel readings from the day of the Feast are repeated again at the Divine Liturgy.

The Pashal Apodosis is observed on Wednesday, a day of fasting from meat, dairy, fish, oil, and wine. However, on the celebration of the Apodosis, the Church permits the consumption of fish as well.

In our Holy Tradition, every Lord’s Day (”Hemera Kyriou’) is the celebration of the ‘little Pascha.’ Every Lord’s Day we rejoice as we receive the Holy Eucharist, the Very Body, and Blood of Our Risen Savior Jesus Christ and we become one with Him and with one another.

On Thursday we celebrate the Great Feast of the Holy Ascension of Christ into Heaven. The Lord Jesus passed 40 days on earth AFTER HIS RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD, APPEARING CONTINUOUSLY IN VARIOUS PLACES TO HIS DISCIPLES, WITH WHOM HE ALSO SPOKE, ATE, AND DRANK THEREFORE DEMONSTRATING His Resurrection. On this Thursday, THE FORTIETH DAY AFTER PASCHA, He appeared again in Jerusalem.

Now you can all understand clearly why we chant the hymn of the Resurrection "Christ is Risen." ("Χριστός Ανέστη") for 39 days, the day of the leave-taking of Pascha and NOT only one week following the celebration of the All-Holy Pascha. Our Holy Orthodox Tradition must be respected and adhered to by all.

_____________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Glorious and Life-Giving Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΥΝΗ (JUSTICE) IS INDISPENSABLE TO ALL OF MANKIND

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΥΝΗ (JUSTICE) IS INDISPENSABLE
TO ALL OF MANKIND

"The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night,
and the Lord said to him, ‘Make a particular request
for yourself.’ Solomon said, ‘You have shown great
mercy to Your servant David my father, because he
walked before You in truth, and with You in
righteousness and uprightness of heart, You have
continued this great kingdom for him, and You gave
him a son to sit on his throne, as I do today. Now, O
Lord my God, You made Your servant a king in place
of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not
know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in
the midst of Your people whom You chose, a great
people, who will not be numbered. Therefore, give
Your servant A HEART TO HEAR AND JUDGE YOUR
PEOPLE IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND TO DISCERN
BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL, FOR WHO CAN
JUDGE THIS GREAT PEOPLE OF YOURS? (3 Kings 2:4-8).

The LORD, who APPEARED TO SOLOMON, was the Son of God, for He is the Logos/Word of God the Father. King Solomon did not ask for a "long life", or "riches, or the "life" of his "enemies," for such things are of this world. Therefore, God readily heard his prayer (Saint John Chrysostom). Rather, he asked for VIRTUES SUCH AS UNDERSTANDING AND JUDGMENT, WHICH BELONG TO THE CROWN OF THE VIRTUES. These virtues enable one to"DISCERN BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL." (Hebrews 5:13-14).

"And the word of the Lord came to Zachariah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord Almighty: ‘Render A JUST JUDGMENT; SHOW MERCY AND COMPASSION EACH TO HIS BROTHER. DO NOT OPPRESS THE WIDOW, OR THE ORPHAN, OR THE FOREIGNER, OR THE POOR. Let no one REMEMBER IN HIS HEART ANY WRONG OF HIS BROTHER" (Zechariah 7:8-10).

"Learn to do good. Seek judgment and redeem the wronged. Defend the orphan and justify the widow" (Isaiah 1:17).

"He has shown you, O man, what is good. Or what does the Lord seek from you, but do justly and to love mercy, and
to be ready to walk with the Lord your God?" (Micha 6:8).

The holy Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans 1:7, writes, "For in the righteousness of God is revealed by faith to faith as it is written, ‘THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH". "The righteousness of God: a right relationship with God, which originates with Him. God’s plan for our reception of His righteousness is the Incarnation of His Son. Christ’s righteousness is given to us, and by our own cooperation with God we continue to grow in it.

"The just shall live by faith". Faith, as we know it, is NOT something abstract, but a way of life. The Christian faithful adhere to the commandments of God through their belief and obedience. Living by faith in Christ, we reveal the fruit of the Holy Spirit. As Saint Paul writes, "for the Kingdom of God is NOT eating and drinking, but RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE AND JOY IN THE HOLY SPIRIT" (Romans 14:17).

As the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ our God and Savior, we are to exhibit the same respect for justice as He. God’s Divine justice is absolute and perfect. God’ s justice is founded on the purest and holiest form of love. Man’s kind of justice is flawed and in many cases corrupt. God’s judgment of us is based on our exercise of free will. Although sin impairs our powers, it does not destroy God’s image in us or our free will.

A wonderful illustration of Christ’s act of justice and mercy is the story of the adulterous woman in the Gospel of Saint John 7:53-8:11, "He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her first… convicted by their sonscience, went out one by one… He said to her, ‘Woman where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? She said , ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."

When we, however, review Christ’s mock trial based on false accusations, slander, lies, and fabrications by the high religious Jewish leaders, we see that Our Lord did not receive justice, but was convicted on false charges of blasphemy and killed. "He made Himself to be the Son of God." Blinded by their hatred of Him, they crucified the Son of God, the true Messiah, the Savior of the world! In one of the hymns from Holy and Great Thursday, we hear our Lord asking: "O My people, what have I done unto thee, or wherein have I wearied thee? To thy blind I have light, thy lepers I cleansed, thy paralytic I raised up. O My people, what have done unto thee, and how has thou recompense Me? Instead of manna, gall; instead of water, vinegar; instead of My love, you nailed Me to the Cross…". This of course was man’s greatest act of injustice, not only to another human being, but also to the Almighty God Himself; He Who will pass the final judgment on all humanity on Judgment Day. God’s judgment is absolute.

God, "the Judge will appear in all His glory with all His holy Angels before the face of all the world. ‘Strict and terrible,’ performed in all the justice of God, it will be ‘A day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. ‘Final and definitive,’ determining for all eternity the fate of each one who is judged. The result of the Judgment will be Eternal reward, blessedness for the righteous and torment for the evil who are condemned."

It is said that human justice must be applied equally to all peoples. Law has been passed to determine who is innocent and who is found guilty. Crimes committed must be punished, but after a fair and just trial. No one must be above the law of the land. Whether the accused is rich or poor, the identical legal and correct procedure should be followed. The crime should be investigated and the results should be honest and objective and not prejudicial in any way. The accused should have an attorney to represent him at court. If justice is to prevail, everything must be done according to the laws of the country. Unfortunately, there have been cases where people have been found guilty on circumstancial evidence and have been unustly imprisoned for many years. Also, powerful and rich people who were truly guilty, were exonerated and set free. Hopefully, there is a strong Justice System to protect the rights of the individual and either to investigate or prosecute those in question.

There is not a greater injury to human dignity than injustice. We can clearly see that the Almighty God commands justice, compassion, and the protection of the weak in society, such as widows, orphans, poor, and foreigners. It is easy for these unfortunate people, who are not able to sustain themselves, to be ignored and dismissed by society. It is also easy to abuse and exploit them to the point of exhaustion and even death. There are many tragic stories of people who were treated as though they were subhuman and used as slaves. Many of the poor were used to entertain the wealthy and powerful, to fight wars, and forced to work in mines and the most hazardous of jobs.

The holy Apostles themselves served food to the widows and those in need. When the Apostles could not preach the word of God and serve tables, they elected "seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business" (Acts 6:3). The FIRST ORDINATION PERFORMED BY THE HOLY APOSTLES THEMSELVES WERE THE SEVEN DEACONS. The Greek word ‘διάκονος’ (‘deacon’) which literally means "servant." They were elected to continue the ministry of serving the widows and the poor.

Ο Μέγας Φιλάνθρωπος (The Great Philanthropist) our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, makes charity a criteria for salvation and for entering His Heavenly Kingdom when He says, "Depart from Me, YOU CURSED, INTO THE EVERLASTING FIRE PREPARED FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS: FOR I WAS HUNGRY and you gave Me, no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. Then they also will answer Him, saying, Lord when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You? Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, IS SAY TO YOU, INASMUCH AS YOU DID NOT DO IT TO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE, YOU DID NOT DO IT TO ME. And these will GO AWAY INTO EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT, BUT THE RIGHTEOUS INTO ETERNAL LIFE" (St. Matthew 25:41-46). Our Lord Jesus Christ identifies Himself WITH THE POOR AND THE OUTCASTS. He invites to brotherhood all who are kindled with love for others. "And this COMMANDMENT WE HAVE FROM Him, that he who loves God MUST LOVE HIS BROTHER ALSO" (1 John 4:21). These are crowned with grace.

"But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, BUT SINNERS, TO REPENTANCE" (St. Matthew 9:13). The world should become more loving and merciful as the Almgihty God is to all. Even after thousands of years, mankind has still not learned to respond to the human suffering and plight. The streets, parks, and neighborhoods are filled with the indigent, the mentally impaired, those addicted with drugs, and with thousands of homeless and destitute. Why is this? Especially in the greatest and wealthiest country in the world? Why are chlldren still neglected, abused, and exploited? Why are thousands of women forgotten, ignored, and tormented? Have we, as a society, as a community, lost our humanity?

We should emulate the good exmple of one of the Great holy Fathers of the Church, Saint Basil the Great, who founded philanthropic institutions for the poor. Of course, there were countless other holy Fathers and Mothers of the Church that came from wealthy families and gave all that they had inherited from their parents to the poor. Christians throughout the centuries have been known for helping the poor, the homeless, the suffering, and the forgotten in society. We, as the contemprary Orthodox Christians, must be more engaged in philanthropy. By this, I do not mean only to donate funds alone, but to personally touch the life of someone through compassion, love, understanding, encouragement, kindness, and good example. The world has great need for sensitive and good people.

ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!

THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IS THE ARK OF SALVATION

My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IS THE ARK OF SALVATION

"Then God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth,
is filled with unrighteousness through them, and behold, I will destroy them with
the earth. Make yourself AN ARK …and behold I am bringing A FLOOD OF WATER
ON THE EARTH, TO DESTROY FROM UNDER HEAVEN ALL FLESH IN WHICH IS the
THE BREATH OF LIFE… Now the FLOOD WAS ON THE EARTH FORTY DAYS AND
FORTY NIGHTS. The waters increased and LIFTED UP THE ARK AND IT ROSE HIGH
ABOVE THE EARTH… So it came to pass, at the end of the forty days, Noah OPENED
THE WINDOW OF THE ARK HE HAD MADE. Then he sent OUT A RAVEN, which kept
going to and fro until the waters dried up from earth… he waited another seven days,
and again he sent the DOVE from the Ark. The dove returned to him in the evening,
and behold, a freshly plucked OLIVE LEAF was in her mouth; and Noah KNEW THE
WATERS HAD RECEDED FROM THE EARTH…" ( Chapters 6, 7, 8).

The story of Noah and the Great Flood is one of the most familiar and well-known stories of the Old Testament. However, I will not concentrate on this story perse but on the Christian symbolism of the Ark. Indeed, according to Orthodox Christianity, the entire Holy Bible is interpreted Christocentrically. Books written by the Venerable Prophets of the Old Testament, and the Holy Apostles were written under the inspiration and action of the Holy Spirit, therefore they are called "Divinely inspired." They are divided into books of the Old Testament and the books of the New Testament.

Holy Tradition is the Tradition which comes form the early Church of the Apostolic times. In the 2nd and 4th centuries they are called "the Apostolic Tradition." "Holy Tradition is necessary for the correct understanding of separate passages of Holy Scripture, and for refuting heretical interpretations of it, and in general, so as to avoid superficial, one-sided, and sometimes even prejudiced and false interpretations of it."

"The Orthodox Church of Christ is the Body of Christ, a spiritual ORGANISM whose Head is Christ. It has A SINGLE SPIRIT, A SINGLE COMMON FAITH, A SINGLE AND COMMON CATHOLIC CONSCIOUSNESS, GUIDED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND ITS REASONINGS ARE BASED ON THE CONCRETE, DEFINITE FOUNDATIONS OF Holy Scripture and Holy Apostolic Tradition. This catholic (universal) CONSCIOUSNESS is expressed in the Ecumenical Synods (Councils) of the Church… The Ecumenical Councils formulated precisely and confirmed a number of FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS of the Orthodox Christian Faith, DEFENDING THE ANCIENT TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH AGAINST THE DESTORTIONS OF HERETICS. The Ecumenical Councils likewise formulated numerous laws and rules governing PUBLIC and PRIVATE Christian church life, which are called the Church CANONS, and REQUIRED THE UNIVERSAL AND UNIFORM OBSERVANCE OF THEM. Finally, the Ecumenical Councils confirmed THE DOGMATIC DECREES of a number of LOCAL councils, and aalos the dogmatic statements composed by certain holy Fathers of the Church–for example, the Confessions of Faith of Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop of Neo-Caesarea, the Canons of Saint Basil the Great ans so forth."

"The Orthodox Church is the Church NOT of ‘councils" as such, BUT ONLY OF TRUE COUNCILS, inspired by the Holy Spirit. WHICH CONFORM TO THE Church’s catholic (uviversal) CONSCIOUSNESS (ΣΥΝΕΙΔΗΣΙΣ ΤΗΣ ΕΚΚΛΗΣΙΑΣ)."

Having posted all the above information regarding our Orthodox Christian Faith and Church I pray that it will strengthen your knowledge of the Authentic Church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Founder and Head of the Church.

In the ancient Christian iconography, the image of Noah rising from the Ark is simultaneously a type of Christ riding from the tomb. The dove signifies the Second Coming of Christ, the True Olive (also remember that the dove returned twice to the Ark). The Ark itseldf is seen by the holy Fathers and hagiographers of a type of the Church of Christ, the ARK OF SALVATION. Furthermore, the main church (Gr. κυρίως ναός – ναύ = ship) symbolizes the Ark. Many of the holy Fathers of the Church give allegorical interpretations of practically every detail of the construction of the Ark and of the Great Flood story.

"So, irrespective of its authenticity as literal historical account, Christocentrically interpreted the Great Flood narrative becomes a story of God’s love. It teaches us that we can sacramentally die with Christ, be buried with Him, and be raised up with Him. We can be redeemed, cleansed, and re-created through water and the Spirit and find salvation in the ARK OF THE CHURCH. And we can await in hope the Second Coming of our Lord."

It is clear that in order to be saved or rescued from the storms and challenges of our life on earth, we ought to place ourselves on the SHIP with Christ, the Pilate of the Ship or Ark. This Ship is the Holy Orthodox Church. For all of our faithful the Church is the Life-saving Ship, the Ark of Salvation. Since the name Noah means ‘REST’, his entering the Ark signifies the ‘rest’ which the people of God obtain from this world by enterining into the Church. According to the Holy Apostle Peter, it also signfies BAPTISM. In 1 Peter 3:20-21, he writes, "… While the Ark was being prepeared, in which A FEW, THAT IS, EIGHT SOULS, WERE SAVED THROUGH WATER. There is also an antitype which now SAVES US–BAPTISM (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of good conscience toward God), throug the resurrection of Jesus Christ." For the baptismal water is symbolized by the waters of the Flood, and the grace of the Holy Spirit by the dove bringing the OLIVE BRANCH to Noah after the waters had subsided.

The Holy Church has always been viewed throughout the centuries as the faithful believers struggling through the storms of life with all the tempations, persecutions, assaults, be they physicall, spiritual or moral in nature, or the various and many heresies that undermine the Teachings of the Church from the Apostolic times till today. Saint Nikolai Velimirovich writes: "The flood of madness and sin continues incessantly. Therefore, the Lover of Mankind constructed the Ark of Salvation. Ask for this Ark, and you will soon be entering it. Do NOT let yourselves be led astray by the multitude of variegated vessels, decorate and adorned on the outside. Ask about the power of the engine and about the skill of the captain. The most powerful engine and the most skilled Helmsman are to be found in the Ark of Christ. This is the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, Holy Spirit Himself." (The Faiht of the Chosen People),

As the waters of passions, temptations and persecutions confront us and threaten to throw us against the rocks, it is good to remember that as long as we remain on board the Ship of the Church WE ARE SAFE! We sail aboard a Ship that is piloted by our Savior Jesus Christ Himself and we are comforted with the knowledge that this Ship is headed for the safe habour which is the Eternal Kingdom of God.

Remember too, there is only ONE SHIP, just as there is ONE CHURCH, that is safe and only ONE Ship sea-worthy to safely take us to our heavenly destination. Noah had only eight passengers but now hopefully will be millions. However, without the grace of the Holy Spirit, man is easily overcomed by the devil, for his will power alone is incapable of resisting the devil’s temptations. It is only by the grace of the Holy Spirit that we can hopefully be one of the chosen passengers on the Ship of Salvation.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

______________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

THE CHRISTIANS SPIRITUAL COMPASS IS THE LORD HIMSELF

My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord,

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

THE CHRISTIAN SPIRITUAL COMPASS IS THE LORD HIMSELF

"Now may the Lord DIRECT YOUR HEARTS
INTO THE LOVE OF GOD AND INTO THE
PATIENCE OF CHRIST" (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

"Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and
the life. No one comes to the Father except
through Me" (St. John 14:6).

A compass is a device used for navigation, location, and direction. People use it to find their way and prevent becoming lost. For centuries, the compass has been considered one of the most important instruments for navigation. Knowing what direction to take to arrive at your destination is extremely important to all of us. Even animals, such as certain types of ants, fish, and birds, use the Sun as a compass to help them find direction. Other animals, like pigeons, are able to navigate using the earth’s own magnetic field. It is said that their brains function like an internal magnetic compass.

Today, however, we use the more advanced technological system which is known as the "Global Positioning System or GPS, which is a satelite-based radionavigation system. Both the compass and the GPS system are necessary for us to find our location or to find direction.

Spiritually speaking, the Orthodox Christian living in the world tends to lose his way and, therefore, needs a ‘spiritual compass’ or a ‘spiritual GPS’ to find his or her way back to God. Life in the world is difficult and challenging for everyone. There are so many problems, issues, and challenges of all kinds that people are preoccupied with and absorbed by. There are many distractions and conditions which cause a person to deviate and to change their course. There are illnesses, accidents of all kinds, marriage and family issues, professions which take control of one’s life, making wrong decisions, death of a loved one, etc., which can lead a person to take a different path and choose a more worldly path.

Losing one’s way is not unusual at all. Losing sight of God and communion with Him is a very serious concern. This is the time that we need that spiritual comass to direct us back to Him. Our risen Lord Jesus Christ says, "I am the way," and so naturally we turn to Him and we seek His guidance and our return to the right path that leads to salvation and His Kingdom. Our Savior is never far off nor too busy to help us find our way. We know that this is true, because He has said so over and over again. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall snatch them out of My hand" (St. John 10:27-28).

The Orthodox Christian believer needs no man-made instrument to find his way back home. Our Lord the Holy Spirit is always with us, guiding us to our true destination, His Eternal Kingdom. God awaits for our return, as in the case of the Prodical Son. Who needs a compass or a GPS when the Creator Himself has made it possible for us to be saved and gain eternal life? I believe that His Cross, which is shaped in such a way that it points us and directs us from Earth to Heaven.

A compass or a GPS may be useful, but they are not perfect instruments. People who use them have still gotten lost or even misdirected. Our Almighty and Merciful God is perfect and, beyond that, as our Heavenly Father, He wants all of us to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. We believe that spiritual compass is found in every person, inasmuch we were created in the image and likeness of God. Naturally, instictively, and through faith we are drawn to our Savior. He is our divine magnet whose power is pulling us closer and closer to Him.

Don’t be frightened if you, for a time, lose your way. Our Savior will make sure that you are found just like the lost sheep. "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays, it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 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 SHALL BE MORE JOY IN HEAVEN OVER ONE SINNER WHO REPENTS THAN OVER NINENTY-NINE JUST PERSONS WHO NEED NO REPENTANCE" (St. Luke 15:4-7).

The parable illustrates God’s unconditional love and forgiveness FOR THE REPENTANT SINNER. God neither holds nor pulls anyone by force. We are free to make our own choices and to faithfully follow our Redeemer and Good Shepherd. But even if we make the wrong choice or decision and end up "to a far country", and there "waste" your "possessions with prodigal living" among people who care not about you and come to your senses, it is still NOT too late to return home to your loving Father Who awaits your return. It is very important, however, to repent and to say, "I will arise and go to my Father and I will say to Him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before You, and I am no longer worthy to be called Your son. Make me like one of Your hired servants" (St. Luke 15:18-19). "But when he was still a great way off, his Father saw him and HAD COMPASSION, AND RAN AND FELL ON HIS NECK AND KISSED HIM…AND THE FATHER SAID TO HIS SERVANTS, ‘BRING OUT THE BEST ROBE AND PUT IT ON HIM, AND PUT A RING ON HIS HAND AND SANDALS ON HIS FEET, 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" (vs 20-24). This parable said by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who celebrates the return of his son, just as He always longs for the return of every sinner to His loving and forgiving fatherly embrace.

Περί καλοσύνης (About kindness)

My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

Περί καλοσύνης (About Kindness)

PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE

"… giving all diligence, add to your faith VIRTUE, knowledge,
to KNOWLEDGE, self-control, to SELLF-CONTROL, to
perseverance, to PERSEVERANCE GODLINESS, to
godliness BROTHERLY KINDNESS, and to brotherly kindness
LOVE." (2 Peter 1:5-7).

The Orthodox Christian understands that he or she doe not stand still, but continues to grow in Christ and in knowledge. How do we attain godliness and theosis (deification)? Saint Cyril of Alexandria states, "We that are made worthy to participate in Him [the Holy Spirit] through faith in Christ are brought to perfection as participants of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and are said to be born of God, and on that account are given the title gods, not flying up to the glory above us by grace alone, but as already having God indwelling and taking lodging in us, according to what is set forth in the Prophet, ‘ I shall dwell among them and walk about in their midst’ (Leviticus 26:12; 2 Corinthians 6:16).

Being renewed by God’s power, we become PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE. This does NOT mean we become divine by nature. "If we participated in God’s essence or nature, the distinction between God and man would be abolished. What this does mean is that we participate in God’s Divine ENERGY, described in Holy Scripture, such as GLORY, LIFE, LOVE, VIRTUE, AND POWER. We are to become like God by His grace, and truly His adopted children, but we NEVER BECOME GOD BY NATURE. According to the Holy Fathers of the Church, this TRANSFORMATION especially occurs through the Divine Eucharist, for when Christ’s Body and Blood BECOME ONE WITH OURS, WE BECOME CHRIST-BEARERS AND PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE.

DEIFICATION (THEOSIS) is the theological word used to describe the process by which a Christian becomes more like God. Saint Peter speaks of this process when he writes, "As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… you may be partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:3-4).

The Holy Apostle Peter makes perfectly clear that we reach participation with God through the increase of spiritual virtues, not the absence of them. God’s Kingdom is conditional upon a faith that exhibits perseverance and holiness. Virtue refers to the vigor and courage behind attaining MORAL EXCELLENCE. Love is connected TO BROTHERLY KINDNESS (affection among Christians), for love of God CANNOT BE PERFECTED EXCEPT THROUGH ONE’S NEIGHBOR. This understanding is reinforced by the Holy Apostle John who writes, "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this is a commandment we have from Him: THAT HE WHO LOVES GOD MUST LOVE HIS BROTHER ALSO" (1 John 4:20).

You will agree with me when I say that spiritual people are sweet and kind people who are always gentle and loving. However, as good Christians, we believe that kindness is part of our nature and we emulate our Almighty God for He is kind. God’s kindness is unconditional, not like ours. God is not just kind to the good, but He is also kind to "the ungrateful and selfish." In the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus reminds us, "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore, be merciful as your Father also is merciful" (St. Luke 6:35-36).

A Christian does not question, analyze, or deliberate before he is kind to someone in need. He does not plan to be kind, he simply acts. I am sure you have heard of random kindness, when good people are kind without any forethought. There are so many opportunities to be kind to people in general and should take advantage of them. When some think of kindness, they always associate it with giving money to the poor and destitute. But being kind can also mean giving of one’s self to others. It means to be compassionate and forgiving those who have made mistakes or wrongs in their life. There may be someone who is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or committed a grave sin. Being kind to these people does not mean that one has to gloss over or ignore these sins, but that we pray for them and entreat the Lord to help them overcome their problem and forgive the sins committed by them. Being kind means offering moral support and brotherly guidance and encouragement to someone who is lost.

Everyone must avoid judging another person who has made wrong decisions in his/her life. We must never be cruel, unforgiving, condemn, demean, or even ridicule someone else. A kind word to someone who may think that no one cares goes a long way and may even save a life. Everyone needs love and understanding. A truly kind person will correct someone by encouraging him or her lovingly and gently. There is nothing worse than someone who feels that this unfortunate soul deserves what is coming to him or her and deserves no compassion or understanding. However, this attitude is totally wrong and very unchristian. That kind of person is not only insensitive, but cruel and inhuman. Saint Seraphim of Sarov says, "You cannot be too gentle, too kind." Kindness should take it seriously enough to make it a priority in our lives.

Kindness is not limited to strangers alone. We all should be kind to people who we know, including our own family members i.e., husband, wife, children, friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, etc. Kindness is divine and infinite, beyond space and time. Kindness is spiritually profitable to all, for it brings an abundance of blessings to those who practice it. Kindness brings warmth and comfort to those giving it. When you or anyone commits a random act of kindness to someone that does not expect it, you can watch that person’s eyes light up with gratitude and hope. What greater reward is there than this?

"… for we are members of one another…". Our Risen Lord and God points out the true attitude of kindness and its importance when He said, "Come, you blessed of My Father, INHERIT THE KINGDOM PREPARED FOR YOU FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD; for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, INASMUCH AS YOU DID FOR ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE MY BRETHREN, YOU DID IT TO ME.’" (St. Matthew 25:34-40).

There is absolutely nothing more that can be said after the Divine words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We truly need to take His words to heart and know that the act of kindness to our fellow man IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR SALVATION!

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"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"