DIVINE INTERVENTION AT TIMES OF WORLD PLAGUES

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

DIVINE INTERVENTION AT TIMES OF WORLD PLAGUES

How Cholera was stopped in Constantinople
in 1910

In the year 1910 disease once again befell Constantinople and its environs: cholera. People were dying by the hundreds every day, making it impossible to bury such large numbers – regardless of their race and religion: Christians, Armenians, Muslims, and Jews. The population especially of Constantinople, in dread and helplessness desperately sought its salvation. The Temples of the Orthodox and the Armenians, the Mosques and the Synagogues were full to bursting every day, with their congregants begging with tears and desperation for Divine intervention to put an end to the evil. And yet, the accursed pestilence continued its destructive opus…

Constantinople was a horrible sight to see; all activity and liveliness had died with it. Then, all of a sudden the Christian population in its state of desperation recalled the previous occurrence of 1871 in the days of Patriarch Anthimos VI Koutalianos, and in one voice asked that the Precious Cincture (waistband) of the Theotokos be brought back, from its safekeeping in the Holy Mountain.

The Holy Synod convened an emergency meeting, and with the proposal of the blessed Patriarch Joachim III, it was decided to dispatch a committee to the Holy Mountain, to bring back to the City (which was paralyzed by death and fear) the holiest treasure of our piety. Taking into account the relative Patriarchal Letters, the Sacred Synaxis of the Holy Mountain immediately ordered two of its most prominent Fathers to accompany the Precious Cincture to the suffering City.

Relief and joyful shouts of hope resounded throughout the City, when the people heard from the Patriarchy that very soon their salvation would be arriving.

On the day of arrival of the Patriarchal representatives together with the Hagiorite Fathers who were accompanying the Precious Cincrure, from before daybreak a host of people regardless of their race and religion – Orthodox, Armenians, Muslims, and Jews – had already flooded the main square outside the Railway Station of Serkitzi.

Per the scheduled time, the Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III, encircled by Hierarchs of the Patriarchal Court and a host of priests, had arrived there, in order to receive the Precious Cincture of the Theotokos, which the populace was so desperately awaiting, to rid them of the pestilence.

The importance that both the Sultan Hamit and the Turkish Government had acknowledged for the transportation of the Precious Cincture was made evident by the reception that the Turkish Government had provided, on the instruction of the Sultan. A military company with double rows of officers at the head had arrayed themselves in front of the Serkitzi Station, to pay their respects to the Precious Holy Relic of Orthodoxy, whose powewr the peoples of Constantinople were well familiar with, during the year 1871.

The elderly Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III was the first to approach and greet the Precious Cincture. On receiving it in his hands from the hands of the Holy Mountain Fathers, he proceeded on foot, ahead of the Hierarchs, the Priests, the Cantors, between the double rows of soldiers and the Christians, Armenians, Muslims and Jews following after them, and walked all the long road from Serkitzi Station to the Phanar, where he esposted the Sacred Treasure inside the Patriarchal Church, FOR VENERATION BY THE PUBLIC.

Night vigil and Divine Liturgies were served constantly, infinite crowds flooded the Patriarchsl Church EVERY DAY, WITH TEARFUL SUPPLICATIONS FOR THEIR SURVIVAL.

The accursed disease began to subside, its victims greatly lessened, until – WITHIN A VERY FEW DAYS – THE CITY OF CONSTANTINOPLE WAS COMPLETELY RID OF THE PESTILENCE.

The Precious Cincture was asked for by the other Provinces fraught with cholera, such as Proosa and others; UPON THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY RELIC, THE DISEASE DISAPPEARED, GIVEN THAT LAL THE PEOPLES – REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE AND RELIGION – HAD BEEN SAVED FROM THE EVERYDAY THREAT OF DEATHS.

(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 GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
By Monk Markellos Karakallenos

The Holy Spirit is the Source of the Divine Gifts and when He descended upon the Holy Apostles, He gave them all the graces. Through them therefore every receptive and pure soul receives the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Through the Holy Apostles, the Holy Spirit granted to the faithful, the believers of their preaching the knowledge of theology, of Divinity, and Divinely to confess in True faith the indivisible and inseparable nature of Divinity, known by the Three Hypostases, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit has as vehicle and throne the souls of people. He approaches very delicately every soul and uses and sanctifies the physical characteristics and gifts of each soul. If the soul remains only in its physical state and does not enjoy through its purity the grace of the Holy Spirit, then it becomes deprived of His rich gift that corresponds to it. Without the Supernatural Grace of the Holy Spirit, the physical graces are not developed and especially the psychological make up of the soul. The soul remains in this suffering stage and does not become renewed. It does not attain the capacity the Divine Grace intends for it. The Divine Grace is always urging towards the good and does not impose. Therefore, if the soul does not accept the invitation of the Divine Grace and does not struggle to develop and multiply its talents, it denies itself, for it cannot reach the level it deserves. As a result on the Day of Judgment, it will repent and will have to give account why it did not use properly its talents.

How can we be found worthy of the Grace of the Holy Spirit?

If we keep our soul from the passions and from evil and vile thoughts. "It is undoable (impossible) to become worthy to possess the Divine Grace within us if we do not first get rid of the passions which managed to capture our souls. For a container that earlier contained foul-smelling liquid, if it is not first washed well, it cannot be used to pour in it, myrrh. First, the existing contents must be poured out to enable to hold whatever will be poured in it later (Basil the Great, explanation of Psalm 61:6).

Purge oh Lord the years that pull at my soul, through the operation of the Grace of the Holy Spirit and brighten its robe and restore its health so that it may always turn with all its strength towards Your love and give praise.

The clean heart attracts to it the rays of the Holy Spirit and then the soul ethereally flies and ascends the heavens. Wishing for the Grace of the Holy Spirit, Prophet David would say: "GIVE ME WINGS LIKE THE PIGEONS AND I SHALL FLY AND FIND REST" (Psalm 59:4).

Like the dew of dawn that settles on the petals of the flowers gives them beauty and life, so also the Divine Grace as dew and a gentle breeze enters the depth of the soul and acts and consoles the soul and the body. It makes tears flow in the eyes and pours into the soul, grace in the form of tongues of fire.

When we recited the prayer of Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, the most sweet name of our Lord brings peace to the heart and blooms and bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, LONGSUFFERING, VIRTUE, KINDNESS, FAITH, MEEKNESS, TEMPERANCE" (Galatians 5:23).

If we show this care then we shall receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit IN PROPORTION TO OUR PURITY and we shall become intimates of Christ and not strangers and foreign to Him. In the present life, we shall receive as betrothal the Grace of the Holy Spirit which we shall enjoy more richly and purely in the Kingdom of Heaven through the Grace and love of mankind of the Most Holy and Life-Creating Spirit to Whom is due all glory, honor, and worship with the without beginning Father and His Logos/Word of the same essence, unto the ages. 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

THE ASCETIC AND THE THIEF

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

THE ASCETIC AND THE THIEF

There was an ascetic elder and anchorite, who has been leading an ascetic life in a desert place for seventy years, in fasting, chastity, and vigil. Although he labored for God for so many years, he was never accounted worthy to receive a vision or revelation from God. Thinking about this and bearing this in mind he said, "Perhaps my ascesis is not pleasing to God for some reason I do not know, and my work is unacceptable, and on account of this I am not able to receive a revelation or behold any mystery."

Contemplating these things the elder began to ask and supplicate God, even more, praying and saying, "Lord, if my ascesis is pleasing to You and You accept my deeds, I – a sinner and unworthy one – ask of You, to grant even unto me a drop of Your gifts, that I may learn from the appearance of a mystery that You have heard my prayer, so that emboldened and enlightened I may live out my ascetical life." As the holy elder was praying and asking these things, he heard the voice of God say to him, "If you desire to see My glory, go to the inner desert and mysteries will be revealed to you."

When the elder heard this, he went out of his cell and went far from there. A thief then came across him who, upon seeing the abba (father), violently, rushed at him desiring to kill him. And when he caught him he said to him, "It is a good thing I ran into you, Elder (Geronda), so that I can finish my job and be saved. For we thieves have this custom and law and belief: that he who commits one hundred murders will surely go to Paradise. So I, having labored hard, have murdered ninety-nine, and lacking one more I have tried hard to finish my hundredth and be saved. So I really owe you and thank you, because I will delight in Paradise because of you."

And when the Elder heard the thief say these things, he was beside himself and was afraid at this sudden and hopeless temptation. And turning the eyes of his mind towards God and reflecting on these things he said, "Is this Your glory, Lord, and Master, which You promised to show me Your servant" What counsel is this You have given me, to leave my cell and be informed by this dreadful mystery? With such gifts, You pay the recompense for the ascesis which I underwent for Your sake? Now I truly know, Lord, that all the labor of my ascesis was in vain; and every one of my prayers before You was considered as abhorrent and desecration. However, I thank You for Your philanthropy, Lord, as You know best, You chastize my unworthiness, as is needed, because of my uncountable sins and You have given me over to the hands of a thief and murder."

Saying these things the pitiful Elder thirsted greatly and said to the thief, "My child since I am a sinner God has given me over to you for you to kill me and for you to have your way, as you have desired, and I to be deprived of life, as the evil man that I am. For this, I ask you to do me a favor – a slight wish – and give me a little water to drink, and then cut my head off." When the thief had listened to the Elder, willing to fulfill the Elder’s wish he put his sword back into its sheath, as he had been holding it out. And he pulled out a flask from his bosom and went to a river that was close by so as to fill up and take it to the Elder to drink. And there where he went to fill the flask, he gave up his soul and died. So, when a little time passed and the thief did not come, the Elder pondered and said, "Perhaps he was sleepy and fell asleep and that is why he is slow in returning and I will be able to flee to my cell. But seeing as I am old, I am afraid since I do not have the strength to run, and as one weak I will become tired and he will catch up with me. Then I will anger him and he will want to torture me without pity, cutting me in many pieces while still alive. Better I do not leave, but go to the river to see what he is doing." So the Elder went thinking about such things and found him dead, and when he saw him he marveled and was taken aback. And lifting his hands toward heaven, he said, "Lord Who loves mankind, if You do not reveal to me this mystery, I will not lower my hands. Therefore, pty my toil and reveal to me this thing."

As the Elder prayed these things, an Angel of the Lord came to him, "Do you see, Abba (Father), this dead man who lies before you? For your sake, he was taken by sudden death, so that you may escape and he not kill you. Therefore, bury him as one saved. For obeying you by returning his murderous sword to its sheath in order to bring you water to quench the flame of your thirst, he pacified the wrath of God and was accepted as a worker of obedience. And his divulgence of the ninety-nine murders was counted confession. Therefore, bury him and consider him among the saved. And by this, know the expense of God’s philanthropy and compassion. And rejoicing, go to your cell and be avid in your prayers, and do not feel sorrow and say that you are a sinner and the toil of your ascesis is acceptable before God; for there is no toil that is done for God’s sake that does not come before Him." Having heard this the Elder buried the dead man. [From a Gerondikon manuscript, from the Holy Monastery of Philotheou]

______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chyrsostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

THE MYSTERY (SACRAMENT) OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE MYSTERY (SACRAMENT) OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST

The Holy Eucharist literally "thanksgiving" is the Mystery in which the bread and wine of offering are CHANGED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT INTO THE TRUE Body and True Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then the believers receive Communion of them for a most intimate UNION with Christ and eternal life. "This Mystery is composed, thus, of TWO SEPARATE MOMENTS: (1) THE CHANGING OR TRANSFORMATION OF THE BREAD AND WINE INTO THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD, AND (2) THESE Holy Gifts. It is called "THE EUCHARIST," THE Mystical Supper," "the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ." The Body and Blood of Christ in this Mystery are called the "Bread of heaven and the Cup of life" or the "Cup of salvation"; they are called the "Holy Mysteries," "the Bloodless Sacrifice," The Holy Eucharist is the greatest Christian Mystery (Sacrament).

The Lord said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood dwelleth in Me, and I in Him" (John 6:53-56).

The words of the Savior at the Mystical Supper, "This is My Body, which is broken for you, this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28).

THE RELATION OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST TO THE SACRIFICE ON GOLGOTHA

"The Eucharistic sacrifice is NOT A REPETITION of the Savior’s Sacrifice on the Cross, BUT IS AN OFFERING OF THE SACRIFICED Body and Blood once offered by our Redeemer on the Cross, by Him Who "IS EVER EATEN, THOUGH NEVER CONSUMED." The Sacrifice on Golgotha and the sacrifice of the Eucharist ARE INSEPARABLE, comprising A SINGLE SACRIFICE; but at the same time THEY ARE TO BE DISTINGUISHED ONE FROM THE OTHER, THEY ARE INSEPARABLE: THEY ARE ONE AND THE SAME Grace-giving Tree of Life planted by God on Golgotha, but FILLING WITH ITS MYSTICAL BRANCHES THE WHOLE Church of God and to the end of the ages nourishing by ITS SAVING FRUITS ALL THOSE WHO SEEK ETERNAL LIFE. But they are also to be distinguished the sacrifice offered in the Eucharist is called "BLOODLESS" and "’PASSIONLESS" since it is performed AFTER THE Resurrection of the Savior."

Therefore, the Orthodox Priest "is NOT permitted to celebrate the Divine Liturgy twice in the same day, nor may be permitted the celebration of two Divine Liturgies on the same Holy Table or Antimision in the course of the day in any temple" (Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America). Churches that have multiple liturgies also have multiple altars and multiple priests. The Orthodox Laity are to commune only once a day. As the common action of the People of God, the Divine Liturgy may be celebrated only once on any given day in an Orthodox Christian community. All of the members of the Christian community must be gathered together with their priest in one place at one time.

In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, in the 26th Chapter, it is said: "As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take eat; this is My Body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, ‘Drink ye all from it; for this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28).

The words of the Savior at the Mystical Supper, "This is My Body, which is broken for you; this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins," (Matthew 26:28) are completely clear and definite, AND DO NOT ALLOW ANY OTHER INTERPRETATION APART FROM THE MOST DIRECT ONE, NAMELY, THAT TO THE DISCIPLES WERE GIVEN THE TRUE BODY AND THE TRUE BLOOD OF CHRIST. And this is completely in accordance with the promise given by the Savior in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Saint John concerning His Body and Blood.

Being UNITED WITH CHRIST in the Holy Eucharist, believers who receive Holy Communion ARE UNITED ALSO WITH EACH OTHER: "We, being many are one body, for we are all PARTAKERS OF THAT ONE BREAD." In the Paschal canon of Saint John Damascene, we chant, "David, the ancestor in God, danced and leaped before the Ark of the Covenant. But, we, God’s holy people, behold the fulfillment of your signs. Let us then rejoice, inspired by God, for that Christ Omnipotent arose."

Following the great Eucharistic Prayer, the priest says: "Christ is in our midst!" And if the concelebrant priest answers, after exchanging the kiss of peace: "He is with and shall always be." The same is repeated frollowing the priests’ communion. The declaration is made again while the Holy Communion is being offered with the chant: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. God is the Lord and has appeared unto us." And after the faithful receive Holy Communion the chanter sings: "We have seen the True Light; We have received the Holy Spirit; We have found the True faith. Let us worship the inseparable Trinity, for He has redeemed us."

The Holy Orthodox Church has always adhered to the fundamental interpretation, to its ritual never underwent that degeneration and degradation which overcame the Mass during the Midle Ages. In the absence of the grace bestowed by the Holy Spirit there can be no consecration of the gifts and therefore the eucharist becomes merely symbolic. The Orthodox Christians must continue to adhere to sacred dogmas, holy canons, and Holy Tradition without deviating from them. The dogmas (truths) have their origin in Divine Revelation, are Divine, Eternal, Uanassailable and Immutable. The dogma is the expression of the Mind of the Church. In other words the dogma of the Church, represents not the expression of an individual mind, but THE EXPRESSION OF THE MIND OF THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE. In our Holy Church the Christian’s religious and moral life has a practical side to it. It promotes growth in the Christian spiritutal life by keeping the truths of redemption ever present in his/her mind. Orthodoxy is not a theory but a way of life. The Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit as THE CONTINUOUS STREAM OF LIFE WITHIN THE CHURCH.

The enemies of the Orthodox Christian Church are working very hard to revise, to distort, and corrupt our beliefs. We must be aware of the enemies of the Church and be willing and ready to defend it and protect it. The purity, sanctity, and integrity of the Mysteries must be protected from these deplorable elements disguised as ‘theologians.’ It is very clear that during the covid 19 outbreak we have seen saboteurs attempting to subvert the true faith by assaulting the Mysteries, and instead, to plant the seed of doubt and fear in the minds and hearsts of the faithful. What kind of a message does the use of multiple communion spoons to distribute Holy Communion, or to sanitize the communion chalice after its use? What kind of message does it send to the believer when the priest is told that he must use different cotton-swabs to administer the saccrament of healing, Holy Unction to the each Orthodox Christians attending? And what has happened to the veneration of holy relics, holy icons, and other holy vessels and objects? Churches has been shut down and goverments and Church authorities prevent the faithful from worshipping in a consecrated holy place. Priests are threatened by the state with a stiff fine if they either conduct services or offer the sacraments secretly to their faithful.

Be alert and be ready to defend our Holy Orthodox faith with vigor and conviction.

______________________
"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

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“…STAND FAST AND HOLD THE TRADITIONS WHICH YOU WERE TAUGHT…” (2 Thess. 2:15)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

"Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which
you were taught, whether BY WORD or OUR EPISTLE" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Holy Tradition must be preserved by the Church, for God is its source. Holy Tradition is that which Jesus taught to the holy Apostles, and which they, in turn, taught the Church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in (a) their instructions as they visited the churches and (b) their sacred writings. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we adhere to Holy Tradition as it is present in the Apostles’ sacred writings and as it is resident in the Holy Church to which the Truth is promised. Saint John states, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak of His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:13-16). Because the Church is given this promise of being GUIDED "INTO ALL TRUTH", she trusts the work of "the Spirit" on behalf of those who have gone before: HOLY TRADITION.

One very significant tradition in Orthodox Christianity is the consecration of the church building immediately following its completion. "Consecration" is an act by which a person or a thing (i.e., building) is separated from secular or profane use and DEDICATED PERMANENTLY TO THE SACRED BY PRAYERS, RITES, AND CEREMONIES. Consecration in the strict sense is distinguished from blessing, benediction, or dedication in that consecration effects an INTIMATE TRANSFORMATION IN THE ESSENCE OF THE OBJECT AND THAT IT IS PERMANENT AND CAN BE NEITHER REVOKED NOR REPEATED. Within the Orthodox Church, the act of consecration can be applied to a bishop, substances of bread and wine into the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by the descent and grace of the Holy Spirit during the Divine Liturgy, a fixed altar, a church, etc. From the earliest history of the Church, doctrine ordered that there be at least three bishops present for the consecration of a new bishop. The consecration takes place by the imposition of hands, as mentioned in the New Testament (Acts of the Apostles 13:2; Timothy 1).

From antiquity, the holy canons required that a new church be solemnly consecrated and dedicated to the Almighty God before divine services could be held. Consecration of an Orthodox church by the bishop or metropolitan includes anointing the church walls with holy chrism, the places anointing being by the sign of the Cross. The Consecration of a church (Εγκαίνια Ναού). The consecration of a church is a complex and long service that is filled with profound symbolism. Many biblical elements are taken from the Old Testament: the Consecration of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40) and of the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 8; 2 /Chronicles 5-7).

Once a building has been consecrated as a church IT MAY NOT BE USED AGAIN FOR A SECULAR PURPOSE. It is also understood that it cannot be sold to anyone outside the Faith for that would constitute ITS DESECRATION. Before construction begins, the local bishop lays a foundation stone that may or may contain holy relics of a Saint. After the construction of the new church has been completed the church building can be consecrated. While the consecration encompasses the whole church, the ceremony centers around the holy altar and holy altar table in particular. As salvation for an Orthodox Christian is union with Christ, called "Life In Christ", the center of this Life in Christ is the Holy Altar, the CONSECRATION OF A CHURCH IS, IN EFFECT, THE BAPTISM AND CHRISMATION OF THE CHURCH.

In the early Church when the Church was severely persecuted, the Christians met in catacombs (in underground burial places) where they celebrated the Holy Eucharist on the graves or tombs of the Martyred Saints. When persecutions against Christians ceased the tradition was continued by placing holy relics inside (in a crypt) in the Altar Table during the consecration of the church. This is a reminder that the Church was built on the sacred blood of the holy martyrs, and their faith in Jesus Christ the Divine Founder and Head of the Church.

After the Altar has been CONSECRATED, SANCTIFIED, AND ADORNED, THE ENTIRE CHURCH IS CENSED while Psalm 26 is recited. then, His Grace or Eminence the bishop or Metropolitan anoints with Holy Chism the FOUR WALLS OF THE CHURCH AND HOLY ICONS, MAKING THE SIGN OF THE CROSS ON EACH WITH THE HOLY CHRISM. The bishop then offers prayers for the ALTAR, CHURCH, AND FAITHFUL AND PLACES A LIGHTED VIGIL LAMP ON THE ALTAR TABLE.

What I find troubling in recent years is that Orthodox Consecrated churches are being sold NOT to another Orthodox congregation but to heterodox and others who are not even Christians, i.e., Muslims. It is wrong and against our Holy Faith and Tradition a clear desecration of the sacred Orthodox temple of worship. To tear or pluck out from the crypt the holy relics from the consecrated altar for the purpose of selling the church is a violation of all that which we as Orthodox Christians believe and hold sacred. It is truly a grave offense to God Himself to Whom the church was dedicated for His worship and by Whom it was consecrated. The practice of selling a Consecrated Orthodox Church is profane and must not continue and be condemned.

The late Blessed Ioannis Fountoulis, a Professor of the Theological Faculty at Thessaloniki University published five books on liturgical matters. His answers were always very detailed and studied and are considered by many as "The Authority" on liturgical questions. I suggest that those interested in learning more about the Holy Tradition and practices of the Holy Church turn to his writings.

_________________

"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

7th JANUARY – SYNAXIS OF SAINT JOHN THE FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

ON JANUARY 7th
OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH
COMMEMORATES THE SYNAXIS OF SAINT JOHN
THE FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST

Saint John’s greatest role during his life was enacted on the day of the Theophany, and because of this the Church has, from the earliest times, dedicated the day following that feast of his memory. This day is also connected with an event involving the hand of the Forerunner. The Evangelist Luke desired to take Saint John’s body from Savaste, where the great Prophet had been beheaded by Herod, to Antioch, his own birthplace. He succeeded, though, in acquiring and taking only one hand, which was kept in Antioch till the 10th century. It was then moved to Constantinople, whence it disappeared during the Turkish occupation.

Saint John is commemorated several times during the year, but his greatest feast is on this day, January 7th. Among the Gospel-figures surrounding the Savior, the person of Saint John the Baptist holds a very special place, by the manner of his birth in this world and of his earthly life, by his role of baptizer of men to repentance and his baptism of the Messiah, and, lastly, by the tragic manner of his departure from this world. He was of such moral purity that he indeed deserved the name "Angel", as he was named in the Holy Scripture, rather than being thought of as just a mortal man. Saint John differs from all the other Prophets in that he had the joy of showing forth to the world the One Whom he had foretold.

Following his martyrdom, the Baptist’s precious body was buried by his disciples near the tomb of the holy Prophet Elisha in the chief city of Samaria, Savaste. Later, the holy Evangelist Luke came there, while traveling through various parts of the land preaching Christ. He wished to take the INCORRUPT RELICS of the holy Forerunner John the Baptist to Antioch, where he was born, reared, educated; but the Savasteans, who greatly revered the holy relics, would not permit him. Saint Luke was only able to remove the Forerunner’s right hand, which baptized our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. The holy Evangelist gave the precious treasure to his native city, where it was accepted with the greatest awe by the faithful and worked numerous miracles.

Julian the Apostate not only did oppress and execute the living, he savagely attacked the dead as well. Exhuming the remains of martyrs, he had them burned, as also many churches. When one day he visited the city of Antioch he saught the holy relics of Saint John to destroy them by fire. Receiving word of his arrival, the faithful had the holy Baptist’s hand in the Tower of Gonius so that it would not be dishonored or destroyed by the persecutor. The historians Nicephorus and Kedrinus state that Julian’s command was carried out, but according to the blessed Symeon Metaphrastes another body was substituted for the Baptist’s and committed to flames with the church. Saint Symeon relates that the Patriarch of Jerusalem learned of the order in time to send the holy relics to Alexandria.

When Julian the Apostate died and piety flourished once more, the hand of the holy Forerunner was removed from the tower like a candle taken out from "under a bushel." Again it was venerated by the faithful and worked miracles.

When the Hagarenes conquered Antioch the invaluable treasure, the priceless hand of Saint John the Baptist, remained in the captive city. Devout emperors tried to purchase the holy relic or acquire it by other means, but without success. Then, during the reign of Constantine and Romanus, brothers born to the purple, the prized hand found its way to Constantinople in the following manner.

In Antioch, there lived a Deacon named Job who was inspired by God to smuggle the sacred hand of the Forerunner out of the Saracen domain. Since at that time the holy relic was kept in the magnificent church of the holy Apostle Peter. Deacon Job arranged to be assigned to that church, where he befriended the verger. When the verger became drunk with wine and passed out, job sneaked into the church and removed the Baptist’s hand. By morning, when the verger regained consciousness, Job was a long way from Antioch. Protected by the Lord and the prayers of the holy Baptist, the Deacon was not stopped by the barbarians and reached the Christian Empire safely. At Chalcedon, he revealed the incomparable treasure. Word was sent immediately to the pious rulers, who, overjoyed by the unexpected news, dispatched the Most holy Patriarch and eminent senators on their personal transport to bring the holy Baptist’s hand to the Capital.

The ship returned from Chalcedon and the Patriarch disembarked, carrying the sacred hand. The emperors and citizens were waiting with candles and incense, chanting psalms and hymns, as if the Forerunner himself were descending from heaven. After reverently kissing the holy relic, they deposited it in one of the palatine chapels. The translation (anakomide) of the Baptist’s holy hand took place on the eve of Theophany, before the blessing of water. The feast was celebrated jubilantly the next day, as was the Synaxis of the Forerunner on the day after that, unto the glory of the Triune God, Who is praised and worshipped by all unto the ages. Amen. (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints and Prologue from Ochrid)

_______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

JANUARY 6th – THE DIVINE THEOPHANY OF OUR LORD, GOD, AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

ON THE SIXTH DAY OF THE MONTH OF JANUARY
WE CELEBRATE AND COMMEMORATE THE
DIVINE THEOPHANY OF OUR LORD, GOD, AND
SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST

About the beginning of our Lord’s 30th year, Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist, who was some 6 months older than our Savior according to the flesh, and had lived in the wilderness since his childhood received a command from God and came into the parts of the Jordan, preaching the baptism OF REPENTANCE unto the remission of sins. Then our Savior also came from Galilee to the River Jordan and sought and received baptism–though He was the Master and John was but a servant. Whereupon, there came to pass those marvelous deeds, great and beyond nature, the Heavens were opened, the Spirit descended in the form of a dove upon Him that was being baptized, and the voice was heard from the Heavens bearing witness that this was the Beloved Son of God, now baptized as a man (THE MANIFESTATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY) [Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:1-22]. From these Events, the DIVINITY OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND THE GREAT MYSTERY OF THE HOLY TRINITY WERE DEMONSTRATED. It is also from this that the present Feast is called "THEOPHANY," that is THE DIVINE MANIFESTATION, GOD’S APPEARANCE AMONG MEN. On this Venerable Day the Sacred Mystery of Christian Baptism was inaugurated; henceforth BEGAN THE SAVING PREACHING OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Feast. First Tone

WHEN Thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of
the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bare
witness to Thee, calling Thee His Beloved Son. And the Spirit in
the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of the word. O Christ
Our God, Who hast appeared and hast enlightened the world,
glory be to Thee.

Kontakion Hymn of the Feast. Fourth Tone

ON this day Thou hast appeared unto the whole world, and Thy
Light, O Sovereign Lord, is signed on us who sing Thy praise
and chant with knowledge: Thou has now come, Thou hast
appeared, O Thou Light unapproachable.

Jesus was baptized at 30 because man at that age has been prey to all passions, as Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Theophylact teach. First come childhood, a time of ignorance and foolishness; then youth, when carnal desires burn fiercely. Finally, at 30, man is fully an adult (according to Saint John Chrysostom) and inclined to vainglory, anger, indignation, and every offense. Christ the Lord waited till He reached the age of thirty to be baptized fulfilling the Law and sanctifying our nature at every stage of life; granting us victory over base inclinations and protecting us from mortal trespasses.

Homily on the Day of Holy Illumination
by Saint John Chrysostomos

Beloved, I wish to celebrate and exult, for the Holy Day of Illumination is both the portal of jubilation and the seal of feasts. It is the culmination of the appearance of the Ancient of Days in the cave in Bethlehem, for the Suckling Who lay in the Manger now releases the streams of Jordan, in which He is baptized with sinners. By touching His Immaculate members, Jordan’s waters have gained power TO REMIT THE WHOLE WORLD’S INIQUITIES. Coming forth from the womb of the Most Pure Virgin, Christ appeared as a Babe among babes, as Man among men, as a son to His Mother, as as a King to the Magi. He manifested Himself as the Good Shepherd, Who "giveth His life for the sheep," (John, ch. 10) in the words of Divine Scripture. Today the same Jesus has appeared on the riverbank to cleanse publicans and sinners. Astonished by the unprecedented occurrence, the divine Paul cries, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men!" (Titus, ch. 2). Everything existent is brightly illumined, beginning with heaven, whence sounds the voice of the Father. The sky is hallowed by the descend of the Spirit, the nature of water is sanctified and alls men to wash their souls and bodies. The hole of creation makes merry, except for the devil, who knows that the font is tthis destruction.

"…The Jews will witness Thy miracles throughout their land. Thou wilt cleanse lepers by a word; the finge of Thy garment will staunch a flow of blood; by Thy command a parlytic will walk. Thou wilt cast a crumb from the table of Thy marvels to the daughter of a woman of Canaan, healing her; Thou wilt open the eyes of a man blind man with clay made of spittle. How is it that Thou requires me to lay my hand upon Thee? "I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me? Thou touchest the mountains the mountains a they smoke; Thou walkest upon water as though it were dry land. Many times have I declared, "There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latched of Whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose." I can only trust in Thine ineffable kindness and hope in Thy love for mankind, knowing that Thou wilt permit a harlot to wash Thy feet with her hair and touch Thy most pure head."

And how does the Lord answer John? "Suffer it to be so now," He says, "for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." Serve as voice for the Logos/Word; act as servant on behalf of the Master, as soldier for the King, as clay for the potter. Take courage and baptize Me, FOR I SHALL SAVE THE WORLD. I SHALL SURRENDER MYSELF TO DEATH TO RESTORE HUMAN NATURE TO LIFE. Despite My command, you hesitate to touch Me, but shortly the Jews will lay shameless hands on Me, delivering Me to death. "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us." In My love for mankind, I resolved before the ages to save the human race. For man’s sake I became man. How, then, can it so amaze you that I come as the Son of man to be baptized? I come because I care for the work of My hands. I am not ashamed of the earthborn nature I have assumed. Putting on what was not Mine, I remain the same in My Divinity as before the ages. "Suffer it to be now," because I have come to expel the enemy of the human race, who was cast down from heaven, proscribed on earth, and has his retreat in the waters. It was about Me that the Prophet said: "Thou didst break the heads of the dragons in the water". "Suffer it to be so now" since the foe prepares to beguile Me as man, and Iw wish to undergo temptation, that I may demonstrate his impotence and rebuke him, saying, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

Oh, new wonder! Oh, ineffable condescension! Christ contends and I am crowned. He wrestles with the devil, and I am triumphant. He crushes the head of the dragon in the water, and a wreath of victory is placed on my head. He is baptized, and I am cleansed. The Holy Spirit descends on Him, and my sins are remitted. The Father declares that He is the Beloved Son, and I become a chkld of God for His sake. Heaven opens for Him and I enter. The Kingdom is revealed and I inherit it. The Father speaks to Him, and I am called. He is approved, and I am no longer cast out. For all this I glorify the Father, Whose voice was heard from on high; the Son baptized below, and the Holy Spirt, come down in the form of a dove; the ONE God in Trinity, to Whom be all worship forever. Amen." (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints)

_______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With agape in His Divine Theophany,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

THE LIFE OF OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS BASIL THE GREAT

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

THE LIFE OF OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS, BASIL THE
GREAT, ARCHBISHOP OF CAESAREA IN CAPPADOCIA

Saint Basil, preeminent among hierarchs, wisest of saintly teachers, and the wondrous favorite of God. The wondrous Basil devoted much effort to attaining an understanding of Divine mysteries, to the point of neglecting to eat while he resolved whatever question was troubling him. Having dedicated himself for fifteen years to mastering Greek learning, the Saint concluded his studies with investigations into astronomy, but no secular knowledge suffered to quench his thirst for the waters of true wisdom. One night, while he was meditating on the only wise Creator and True God, a Divine ray penetrated his heart, kindling in him a fiery longing to comprehend the Scripture on the most profound level. In the possession of a certain Archimandrite Prophyrius, he found a large collection of theological writings, which he spent a year pursuing.

In Athens, he disputed with various Greek philosophers, guided numerous Hellenes to God, and showed them the path to salvation. Desiring out of gratitude to convert his former teacher Evoulos. Speaking to Evoulos Saint Basil related an allegory intended to convey to him a sense of the Savior’s mercy and love for mankind. "Imagine thee plaques hung near the door of the mind," he said. "One is fastened over the doorway and depicts personifications of bravery, wisdom, righteousness, and continence. To the left of the door is a second panel with spiritual deception in the middle, surrounded by gluttony, fornication, drunkenness, immodesty, sloth, contentiousness, garrulity, obsequiousness, and many other vices. To the right repentance is portrayed, dignified and smiling benignly, putting to flight her adversaries and consoling her friends. Near her ware abstinence, chastity, propriety, compassion, and the whole assembly of virtues. These guide us to salvation in very truth, O Evoulos. We shall all rise from the dead and appear before Christ’s judgment seat, some to inherit life everlasting, other to be condemned to eternal torment and shame. The Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and David assure us of this, as do the Apostle Peter and the Lord Himself. He searches out the lost sheep and accepts the prodigal son, embracing and kissing him lovingly, arraying him in splendid apparel, putting a ring on his finger, and holding a banquet for him. He gives equal recompense to those who come at the eleventh hour and those who endure "the burden and heat of the day" (Matthew, ch, 20). Upon the penitents born of water and the Spirit, He bestows things which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Corinthians, ch. 2).

The Great Basil was elevated to the archiepiscopal throne and consecrated by numerous bishops, among whom was Saint Gregory Nazianzus, father of Saint Gregory the Theologian. Several years passed, and the blessed Basil asked God to send down the grace of the Holy Spirit to enlighten his understanding and give him wisdom so that he might offer the unbloody sacrifice using his own words. Until that time the Greek-speaking Christians had celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Hebrew. Saint Basil prayed for seven days; then the Holy Spirit descended and he went into ecstasy. Coming to himself, he celebrated the liturgy daily for some time and prepared for the awesome task of writing the new version of the sacred service. Finally, with prayer on his lips and his heart full of faith, the great hierarch began work. That night he returned to church, and while he was setting out bread and wine on the Table of Preparation, the Lord appeared to him with the apostles. Saint Basil fell prostrate, but Christ raised him up and said, "In accordance with your supplication, your mouth shall be filled with praise, and you will perform the service using your own words." The Lord shone with glory so bright that Saint Basil, who was shaking with fear, could not endure to look upon Him. When the vision ended, the Saint took a scroll and wrote in Greek the following words: "Let my mouth be filled with praise, that I may hymn Thy glory." Then he began the service, the Liturgy that came to be known by his name with such prayers as, "O Lord our God, Who hast fashioned us and brought us into this life," and the prayer at the elevation, "Attend, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, from Thy Holy habitation and from the throne of the glory of Thy Kingdom, and come Thou to sanctify us, Thou Who art here. By Thy Mighty hand vouchsafe to bestow the Holy Things which are for the holy upon us, and through us upon the people." Afterward, Saint Basil recorded these prayers and the others on the scroll. Evoulos and the clergy of higher rank saw a heavenly Light illuminating the Sanctuary and the Bishop as he offered the Eucharist, and radiant men clothed in white garments surrounded the Great Hierarch. Awestruck, they fell to the floor, weeping and glorifying God.

About that time Saint Basil summoned a smith and had him fashion a golden dove to represent the one that appeared when Christ was baptized in the Jordan. The Saint hung it over the holy table as a receptacle for reserving the Divine Mysteries.

One day, while Saint Basil was celebrating the Liturgy, a Jew, wishing to see the offering of the Holy Mysteries, entered the church with teh faithful, disguised as a Christian. He saw Saint Basil holding an infant in his hands and cutting it into pieces. The Jew approached with the faithful and received Holy Communion from the hierarch. Looking into the hand, he saw flesh; likewise, in the chalice, he saw blood. He hid a portion of the Gifts and showed it to his wife when he arrived home, relating everything he had witnessed. Convinced that the Christian Mysteries were truly awesome and glorious, he went the next morning to the blessed Basil and asked to be baptized. The man of God gave thanks to the Lord and straightway cleansed in the font the Jew and his entire household.

When Saint Basil communed the impudent Jew, he put the Most Holy Body of Christ in the hand of the unbeliever. Christians of the present day may wonder how this could be since now the Holy Mysteries are placed in the mouths of communicants with a spoon. Do not marvel at this because it was customary in the ancient Church for the laity to take the Body of Christ in their hands.

Such was the gift of grace possessed by Saint Basil, that when he elevated the Gifts during the Divine Liturgy, the dove holding the reserved Mysteries shook three times, indicating that the Spirit of God was descending. One day, however, the miracle failed to occur. Saint Basil wondered what this might mean. Then he noticed a deacon holding a liturgical fan exchanging glances with a woman standing in the church. The Saint ordered the man to leave the altar and imposed a penance on him. The deacon had to fast for seven days, during which time he was to spend the nights in prayer without any sleep. He was also required to distribute his possessions to the poor. After this Saint Basil ordered THAT A PARTITION HUNG TO PREVENT WOMEN FROM LOOKING INTO THE SANCTUARY. Those who persisted in gazing shamelessly at the celebrants he ordered to be deprived of Holy Communion and drive from the church. (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints)

Saint Basil’s last act of love and compassion was to baptize Joseph the physician, a Jew. He rose, went to church, and baptized Joseph and his family in the presence of the congregation. He gave Joseph the name John, served the Divine Liturgy, and imparted the Divine Body and Blood to him. The holy hierarch remained in church until the ninth hour (3:00 in the afternoon) instructing the newly baptized at length in the mysteries of eternal life and addressing a final discourse to his rational sheep. Then, having exchanged a last kiss with everyone, and forgiven all, he thanked God for the ineffable blessings he had enjoyed throughout his lifetime and surrendered his soul into the hands of the Lord. The newly baptized Jew, seeing the Saint breathe his last, fell to the floor and sobbed. It was on the first of January. The holy Basil was 45 years old when he departed this life. He shepherded the Church of God for 8 years, six months, and sixteen days in all.

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus received word of his friend’s death and hastened to Caesarea to take part in the funeral, at which he shed copious tears. Other bishops assembled, joining the Theologian in chanting the funeral service in the Church of the Holy Martyr Efpsychius. At its conclusion, they buried the precious remains of Heaven’s Great favorite Basil, praising God, Who is one in Trinity. To Him be glory unto the ages. Amen.

_______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"
– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

JANUARY 1st – THE CIRCUMCISION OF CHRIST

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Feast. First Tone

OUR human form hast Thou taken on Thyself without change, O
greatly-compassionate Master, though being God by nature;
fulfilling the Law, Thou willingly receivest circumcision in the flesh,
that Thou mightest end the shadow and roll away the veil of our sinful
passions, Glory, O Logos/Word, to Thine inexpressible condescension.

[ Since the Mosaic Law commands that if a woman give birth to a male child, he should be

circumcised in the foreskin of his flesh on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:2-3), on this the
eighth day from His Nativity, our Savior accepted the circumcision commanded by the Law.
According to the command of the Angel, He received the Name which is above every name
JESUS, which means 'SAVIOR' (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31; and 2:21).]

Nevertheless, His CIRCUMCISION must be interpreted within the theology of the SELF-EMPTYING (KENOSIS) which He accepted FOR THE SALVATION OF THE HUMAN RACE.

As the holy Fathers decided to celebrate the Nativity of Christ on the 25th of December, it is natural that the circumcision, which was performed after eight days, is celebrated on the 1st of January, just eight days after His birth. Therefore, on that day the troparia (hymns) bring out the theological importance of circumcision. This troparion (hymn) is well known: "The Savior, condescending to the race of men, in swaddling clothes, accepted circumcision, He did not abhor the cutting of His flesh…" Just as, out of love and charity, He accepted to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, Christ also accepted the circumcision of His flesh. This extreme condescension and kenosis of Christ is regarded by the Church as a great feast of the Lord.

CIRCUMCISION was linked with godliness, piety, and abiding by the law, and it indicated the pure Israelite, while the unclean, impious man was indicated by the word for the uncircumcised. So circumcision and uncircumcision are opposite concepts and practices, which pointe the Jew and the gentile, the pagan.

The word of God to Abraham by which circumcision was established also shows the most basic reason. God said: "and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you" (Genesis 17:11). In other words, it is an agreement between God and His own people, IT IS A TESTAMENT. Such an agreement must be confirmed with blood. We see also in the New Testament, for God’s new agreement with men is confirmed with the blood of Christ.

Circumcision was a mark of RECOGNITION THAT ONE BELONGED TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD. "So as to be a sign that this people is dedicated by it." According to the interpreters, CIRCUMCISION IN ITSELF WAS NOT A TESTAMENT, BUT A SIGN OF THE TESTAMENT AND AGREEMENT.

Furthermore, CIRCUMCISION WAS ALSO A FORESHADOWING OF Baptism which would be given at the appropriate time, through THE INCARNATION OF THE Son and Logos/Word of God, because in reality BAPTISM IS CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART… Christ kept this painful practice, immediately after His Birth. In the Gospel according to Luke the rite of circumcision which was given to Christ is preserved in a few words. The holy Evangelist says: "And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child, his name was called JESUS, the name given by the Angel before he was conceived in the womb" (Luke 2:21). From this meagre presentation of the rite of circumcision in the life of Christ, we see that it closely connected with the giving of the name, because it was then that He was named Jesus, which means SAVIOR.

What Saint Theophylactos says is characteristic, that this part which was cut back by Christ’s circumcision, Christ Himself kept unharmed and assumed anew with His Resurrection. Furthermore, what happened with Christ also shows the way in which it will happen in our own bodies. It is a teaching of the holy Fathers of the Church THAT THE MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN BODY WHICH HAVE BEEN HARMED IN VARIOUS WAYS WILL BE RECONNECTED TO THE BODY OR RESHAPED BY GOD, SO THAT THE WHOLE MAN, MADE UP OF SOUL AND BODY, WILL ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD. TO BE SURE, IN THIS CASE THE BODY WILL BE SPIRITUAL AND NOT CARNAL AS IT IS TODAY.

"… Saint John of Damascus, circumcision was A FIGURE OF BAPTISM. Just as circumcision cuts off from teh body a part that is not useful, so BY HOLY BAPTISM WE SHED SIN, WHICH IS NOT A NATURAL STATE, BUT EXCREMENT. When we speak of sin which is shed, we mean desire, and of course not the useful and necessary desire, for it is absolutely impossible for man to live without it, but USELESS DESIRE AND PLEASURE. Baptism is the circumcision not done by human hands, which does not remove one from one’s nation, but SEPERATES THE ONE WHO IS FAITHFUL FROM THE UNFAITHFUL ONE WHO LIVES IN THE SAME NATION.

"…The problem was created when Jewish Christians "were teaching the brethren ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). Indeed there was discord and much discussion and, as it says, some who came from teh sect of the Pharisees insisted that the converts be circumcised and keep the law of Moses (Acts 15:5).

In the Apostolic Council the Apostle Peter and the Apostles Barnabas and Paul and James the brother of God spoke. The decision of the Council was that THOSE WHO CAME TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH FROM THE GENTILES SHOULD NOT BE CIRCUMCISED, BUT THEY SHOULD ONLY KEEP THEMSELVES PURE, ABSTAINING FROM THIS OFFERED TO IDOLS, FROM BLOOD, FROM THINGS STRANGLED, AND FROM SEXUAL IMMORALITY. The decision, which was communicated in a letter to the Christians, said: "for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things, that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality." If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well" (Acts 15:28-29).

"… In the teaching of Saint Maximos we see that circumcision is the name for cutting off the passionate relation of the soul to the body. The soul and body have a relationship and unity. It is not a question fo that, however, but of the passionate relationship, the relationship between the soul and body through the passions."

The sayings of the holy Fathers show that the Old Testament circumcision IS INTERNAL, SPIRITUAL, IT IS A COMMUNION OF MAN WITH GOD AND AN EFFORT TO MAINTAIN THIS COMMUNION.

In the Old Testament God gave His law, so as to PREPARE THE PEOPLE FOR RECEVING CHRIST. John the Evangelist says in the prologue of hte Gospel: "The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). The Unincarnate Logos/Word gave the law of Moses in order to cure the people in readiness for receiving the truth and grace which came into the world through the Logos/Word of God made flesh, that is to say, Christ. The Mosaic law, as well as circumcision, also, hade grace, but THIS WAS THE SO-CALLED PURIFYING ENERGY AND GRACE OF GOD, NOT His ILLUMINATING AND DEIFYING ENERGY.

Through Christ we gain SPIRITUAL BIRTH and TRUE WORSHIP. John the Evangelist emphasizes: "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to them He WHO BELIEVE IN HIS NAME: WHO WERE BORN, NOT OF BLOOD, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, BUT OF GOD" (John 1:12-13).

Through circumcision men become good Israelites. God’s chosen people. THROUGH BAPTISM AND THE FAMILY LIFE IN CHRIST MEN BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD, THEY ATTAIN SONSHIP BY GRACE AND THEY CONQUER DEATH.

Therefore Christ’s circumcision suggests to us THE CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART. Through the sacramental and ascetic life WE BECOME MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST. CHRIST’S CONDESCENSION BECOMES OUR ASCENT. (Source: The Feasts of the Lord by Metropolitan of Nafpakos HIEROTHEOS)

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JANUARY 1st – THE FEAST DAY OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT,
Archbishop of Caesarea.

Saint Basil was born in the reign of the Emperor Constantine, in about 330 A.D. While still unbaptized, he spent fifteen years in Athens studying philosophy, rhetoric, astronomy, and other contemporary secular disciplines. Among his fellow-students were Gregory the Theologianand Julian, later the Apostate emperor. When already of mature years, he was baptized in the Jordan together with his former tutor Evulos. He was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia for nearly ten years at the age of fifty.

A great champion of Orthodoxy, a great torch of moral purity and zeal for the Faith, a great theological mind, a great builder and pillar of the Church of God. Basil fully deserved his title "the Great". In the Office for his Feast, he is referred to as a bee of the Church of Christ, bringing honey to the faithful but stinging those in heresy. Many of the writings of this holy Father of the Church have survived– theological, apologetic, on asceticism and on the Canons. There is also the Liturgy that bears his name. This Liturgy is celebrated 10 times in the year on January 1st, on the Eves of Christmas and the Theophany, on every Sunday in the Great Fast with the exception of Palm Sunday, and on the Thursday and Saturday in Great Week.

Saint Basi departed this life peacefully on January 1st, 379 A.D. and entered the Kingdom of Christ. (Source: The Prologue from Ochrid)

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"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

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With sincere agape in the Incarnate Logos,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ’s Divine Nativity,

CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!

"…So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed
for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son,
and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were
in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping
watch over their flock by night. And behold, an Angel of the Lord
stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid. Then the Angel said to them, ‘Do
not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy
which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the
city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the
sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the Angel a
multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

‘GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST,
AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARD
MEN!’ " (Luke 2:6-14)

ON THE 26th of December, the Holy Orthodox Church
commemorates
THE SYNAXIS OF THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS

Memory of the Flight Into Egypt

The Most Holy Theotokos’ flight into Egypt took place after the meeting of our Lord in the Temple at Jerusalem [Luke 2:22-39]. The Evangelist Luke informs us that "when they performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their city Nazareth" [Luke 2:39]. Now before Herod gave the command to slay the children from two years old and under that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof [Mattheww 2:16], the goodly and just elder Joseph was then warned by God in a dream, "Behold, an Angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, and take the young Child and His Mother, and flee thou into Egyp, and be thou there until I should tell thee; for Herod is about to seek the young Child, to destroy Him" [Matthew 2:13].

Thus, gentle and mild-mannered Joseph, when he arose, quickly set in order his household affairs. Then, full of faith, he took his son Iakovos (James) and, complying with the Angel’s bidding, "he arose and took the young Child and His Mother by night and departed into Egypt" [Matthew 2:14]. The Virgin rode a donkey, carrying the young Child in her arms. Joseph or Iakovos strode in front, taking turns in leading the beast.

According to Saint Kyril of Alexandria, Joseph fled into Egypt by the command of an Angel in the month of March, in order that "the lamb should not be killed in the milk of his mother" [Exodus 23:19]. Tradition places the entry of the Lord into Egypt at the 1st of June.

In Praise of Joseph

At the venerable age of 80, when most men have entered that stage of life of retirement and reflection, Joseph is called to active service. Saint John Chrysostom comments that "the elderly Joseph is not offended at hearing that he must flee home, family, and occupation. He resents not that he needs to fly, secretly, as a fugitive. He was a man of faith. Note that he does not make inquiry when he might return from dwelling in a strange land, although the Angel had spoken in an indefinite manner. Neither was he saddened nor embittered at the command, but submissive and obedient bearing these trials with cheerfulness.’

In icons depicting their flight, Mary is seen riding. We also see Iakovos (James), Joseph’s son, leading the donkey on which Mary is seated. Joseph strode behind the animal. Often w see the Infant Jesus astride on Joseph’s shoulders. There are other holy icons in which we see the Child Jesus and Joseph following behind the animal. Mary, then, is depicted turning about in the saddle and extending her arms to her Son, Who responds in like manner. It is not certain if other sons of Joseph accompanied them into Egypt.

The End of the Journey

"But after Herod died, behold an Ange of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Arise, and take the young Child and His Mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they who sought the soul of the young Child have died" [Matthew 2:19-20]. Thus, after the family had lived about three years in Egypt, till the death of Herod (4 B.C.), that prophecy was fulfilled spoken by the Lord, "Our of Egypt I called My Son" [Matthew 2:15; cf. Hos. 11:1]. Saint John Chrysostom says that "this makes the Virgin also in no common degree glorious and distinguished; that the very thing which was the whole people’s special endowment in the way of praise, she also might henceforth have for her own. I mean, that whereas they (Israel) were proud of their coming up from Egypt, and used to boast of it… this pre-eminence belongs to the Virgin likewise."

Christ did not return to Nazareth till after the death of Herod, which history records as in April of 4 B.C. According to Egyptian tradition, the sacred family found refuge in Egypt for about three years. Thus we arrive at the date of Christ’s birth as 7 B.C., which also coincides with the date of the census which is recorded to have taken place in about the years 7 or 6 B.C. when Quirinius (Cyrenius) was governor [Luke 2:2].

There was a good reason to believe that the divine travelers returned to Palestine by the same ay they had come. On the return trip, the holy travelers again lodged in the cave that is now beneath the Church of Saint Sergios in Old Cairo, the ancient Babylon of Egypt. Therefore, from the haven of Egypt, Joseph "arose and took the young Child and His Mother, and came into the land of Israel. But after he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judaea instead of Herod his father, he was afraid to go there. And having been divinely warned in a dream, he withdrew into the parts of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city which is called Nazareth, in order that it might be fulfilled that which was spoken by the Prophets, that He shall be called a Nazarene [Matthew 2:22-23].

Joseph then returned to Nazareth and abided there, resuming his former occupation as a carpenter. "And the little Child was growing and showing Himself strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him" [Luke 2:40]. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)

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"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

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With sincere agape in Christ our Savior, God, and Redeemer,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George