SAINT MARK EVGENIKOS OF EPHESOS, THE DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY (Part II)

14My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

SAINT MARK EVGENIKOS OF EPHESOS (Part II)

Pope Eugene sent another one of his representatives, Ambrogio Traversari (1386-1439). When he came to Saint Mark’s door, the Saint uttered, "If thou dost also SLANDER THE SEVEN ECUMENICAL SYNODS OF THE HOLY FATHERS, THOU, IN THE SAME MANNER, SHALL DIE WITHIN FORTY DAYS." Indeed, Ambrogio died in that time.

When the Greek bishops had affixed their signatures to the council’s decree, the emperor sent ten bishops to witness the signing of the Pope. When Pope Eugene took up the document, he closely studied the signatures of the Greek bishops. Then, while Pope Eugene was signing the decree, he asked whether the Ephesians had signed it. When he was told that Mark of Ephesos had not, he involuntarily exclaimed, "Then WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING!" He then stood up and demanded that Saint Mark be forced to sign the union or be delivered up to judgment as a stubborn opponent to the decree.

The Pope continued to threaten Saint Mark to no avail. Undaunted, the defender of Orthodoxy, Saint Mark, gave the Pope a decisive answer, saying,
"Thy Synods condemn those who will not obey the Church and maintain opinions contrary to what she teaches. I neither preach to my own glory nor have I said anything new or unknown to the Church. I keep intact the pure and unadulterated teachings which the Church has received and preserved, and continues to preserve, from unanimously with that of the Eastern Church, until the beginning of the schism. Even during the present Synod, you have lauded this exact pious worship of the past. No one can censure or condemn this pious teaching. Therefore, I I remain steadfast in this teaching and do not desire to deviate from it, how is it possible to judge me as a heretic? First, one must judge the teaching which I believe, and then judge me. However, the confession is holy and Orthodox, how can I justifiably be judged?

The Pope, perceiving Saint Mark’s inflexibility, finally understood there was no hope of dissuading THE LONE AND BRAVE GUARDIAN OF ORTHODOX TRUTHS. He told Saint Mark to leave his presence. The Emperor also had much to do with preventing Saint Mark from being further threatened by the Pope and his organization.

A False Union

"The decree of union was as a spider’s web," Saint Mark later wrote to Scholarios. This council can be called neither "holy" nor "ecumenical," for the following reasons: The document was not the fruit of brothers coming freely in Christ to discuss matters of the Faith. Forced measures were employed against the Greeks to reduce them to fear and trembling that they might sign. Bishop Abraham of Suzdal was even imprisoned. Others also were wearied from starvation and the threat of death; whereas others were pressured by the emperor and his pleas for aid to their homeland. Some shamefully accepted the bribe money, while others were actually persuaded by the Latin arguments. Saint Mark identified this synod as the "assembly of Caiaphas" (Matthew 26:3, 57), that is, there were clandestine meetings and agreements in cells and apartments, not out in the open as in proper to an ecumenical gathering. When it came to the signing, "Many did not know the exact contents of the document they were signing," declares Syropoulos.

The Greeks departed on the 19th of October, 1439, sailing on two Venetian vessels. Saint Mark traveled in the same galley with the emperor. The emperor treated Saint Mark with reverence and love, which may seem paradoxical to most. George Sholarios confirms this when he caracterized the emperor as "beholding Mark with wonder as a virtuous and wise man."

When the Greeks passed through Kerkyra (Corfu), the Orthodox Christians of these places received them. However, when they were informed about the union made by the Greek bishops, Syropoulos describes them as "exceedingly disgusted and repulsed." The zealous Orthodox of Methone reproached them… Now, however, we have nothing to say to them, You have worked a great evil for us in what you have done at Florence!"

The Russians turned their backs on apostate Byzantium since she had forfeited all claims to leadership in the Orthodox world by betraying the True Faith. On account of this, Byzantium lost an embittered Russia. In her judgment of the Florentine Union, the Church of Russia had shown herself to be a worthy daughter of Orthodoxy.

On the 1st day of February, in the year 1440, ships carrying the Greeks sailed into the Golden Horn. Through the merchants that had been in Ferrar and Florence, the fame and achievements of Saint Mark arrived before him in the Capital. After hearing of his valiant steadfastness, the people were waiting to applaud and cheer their hero.

When the delegation arrived on shore, the Constantinopolitans overwhelmed the bishops with questions, asking, "How did the synod end?" and "Have we gained the victory>" Bishop Anthony of Herakleia and others answered sorrowfully, "WE HAVE SOLD THE FAITH; WE HAVE EXCHANGED PIETY FOR IMPIETY; WE HAVE BETRAYED THE PURE RELIGION, WE HAVE EXCHANGED ORTHODOXY FOR HETERODOXY, AND BETRAYING OUR FORMER UNDEFILED SACRIFICE, WE HAE BECOME AZYMITES."

The people were justifiably angry. Horrified, the faithful avoided the bishops that had signed and even cast insults at them. The clergy that remained in Constantinople also would not concelebrate with the UNIONISTS. In due time, the Eastern Patriarchs announced that they were NOT bound by anything that their representatives had signed. One described the people’s behavior toward Saint Mark thus: "The Ephesian beheld that the crowd glorified him BECAUSE HE DID NOT SIGN. The multitudes venerated him as the Israelites of old did Moses and Aaron. All lauded him and called him "Saint." Even those that were against Saint Mark said, "HE RECEIVED NEITHER GIFTS NOR GOLD" from the Pope.

The emperor found that it was easier to sign the union than to enforce it. Influenced by his aged mother, Helena Dragases of the Serbian Dynasty in Eastern Macedonia, the emperor did not force it on his people. The Byzantines DID NOT ACCEPT THE UNION and ignored all exhortations by the partisans of the union. An almost painful silence enshrouded by the Church when, during the Great Fast of 1440, the churches were empty and there were no services. NO ONE WANTED TO SERVE WITH THE BISHOPS WHO HAD SIGNED.

SAINT MARK THE HERO

All zealous for Orthodoxy, Athonite monks, and even village priests, flocked around Saint Mark and revered him as a hero. The holy man continued to shatter the strength of the apostates and the Council of Florance with his writings and addresses directed against the union. As had been expected, Saint Mark refused the dignity of the Patriarchal throne. Anthony of Herakleia bowed with remorse, and openly rejected the union, declaring it contrary to the ancient tradition of the Holy Catholic Church. He also refused the honor of being a Patriarch, deeming himself guilty.

The Activities of the Saint

Saint Mark, the bright adornment of ascetics, now forty-nine years old and afflicted with terminal cancer, was still strong in spirit and would not remain silent. In his letters to all Christians, he encouraged them to depart from the Florentine Union, AS A UNION OFFENSIVE TO GOD. In a letter to Hieromonk Theophanes of Evia, Saint Mark wrote: "FLEE, BRETHREN! FLEE COMMUNION WITH THE INCOMMUNICABLE AND THE COMMEMORATION OF THE UNCOMMEMORATIVE. BEHOLD, I, MARK, THE SINNER, TELL YOU THAT WHOEVER COMMEMORATES THE POPE AS AN ORTHODOX PRELATE IS GUILTY. MOREOVER, ONE WHO MINDS THE DOGMAS OF THE LATINS WILL BE JUDGED WITH THE LATINS, AND WILL BE DEEMED A BETRAYER OF THE FAITH."

April 1443 marked the first official judgment against the FALSE COUNCIL OF FERRARA-FLORENCE, which was initiated by the Patriarch Joachim of Jerusalem (1435-1450). The Patriarch Philotheos of Alexandria, Patriarch Dorotheos of Antioch, and Metropolitan Arsenios of Caesarea in Cappadocia met. They all condemned the Florentine Council as "VILE" and only for "the glory of the Latins together with Pope Eugene." Also, Patriarch Metrophanes II of Constantinople was condemned as a heretic.

The Repose of Saint Mark

Long before his death, the Saint, as a father, gave instructions to those present concerning the direction of the Church and OUR CORRECT FAITH, by admonishing many to return away from every innovation. However, the time of his earthly translation approached, that he might receive the everlasting reward. In 1444, having retired to his boyhood home in Galata, a section of Constantinople, the holy man suffered terribly for fourteen days prior to his repose. On the day of his blessed repose, the last thoughts of the Saint were not for himself but FOR ORTHODOXY, TO WHICH HE HAD DEVOTED HIS WHOLE LIFE. His brother John notes that Saint Mark was fifty-two years old when he reposed on the 23rd of June 1444.

Our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates Saint Mark Evgenikos, Metropolitan of Ephesos, single-combatant, champion, and guardian of Orthodoxy on the 19th of January. [ Source:The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]

____________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

OUR HOLY FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS, MARK EVGENIKOS, THE PILLAR OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

OUR HOLY FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS, MARK EVGENIKOS,
THE PILLAR OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY.

Saint Mark Evgenikos, our holy and God-bearing Father, was born in 1392. He lived the greater part of his life in Constantinople. The father of the Saint, George, was at first a Deacon and later proto-ekdikos, proto-notarios and great chartophylax of the Patriarchate. The Saint’s mother, Maria, was the daughter of the well-known physician, Loukas. Both of Saint Mark’s parents were the scions of renowned and devout families. When the Saint first beheld the light of the sun, his home was n Galata of Constantinople.

Before he embraced the Monastic life, the young Mark was named Manuel. Up until the age of thirteen, Manuel’s teacher was his father, who maintained a lecture hall and place for meditation (φροντιστήριον). From his earliest youth, the lad distinguished himself in his studies. He was also a pupil of other acclaimed educators, under whom he advanced n his studies and knowledge. When Manuel was thirteen, his father reposed. A brilliant student, he surpassed all others with his abilities. "In a short time, Manuel acquired the greatest knowledge, owing to his utmost diligence, attention, and sharp mind. In time, the holy Manuel received a complete education. Saint Mark was not only a man of learning and letters but was also adorned with a holy manner of life that evinced his dedication to Orthodoxy. He led a monastic and ascetic life as if he were an Angel living on earth.

Thus, in the words of George Scholarios, "The holy young man, who was spiritually pure, behaved more like a desert dweller than like one who dwelt in the capital, the ‘Queen of Cities.’ His demeanor and manner of life were foreign to the world about him; indeed, he was bound to nothing earthly. Nevertheless, the world weighed heavily upon, the blessed man. Among his many qualities, he possessed humility, and, therefore, he sought neither glory which is vain, nor riches that faded, nor the favor of the imperial court. The young man desired monastic perfection in the eremitic life so that he might concentrate his soul and heart in prayer and in the remembrance of God. He believed there could be no greater good than unceasing joy in the Lord and in the illumination that comes only from the remembrance of God.

Upon the brotherhood’s constant urging and insistence, Mark, with the heaviness of heart and against his will, accepted THE DIGNITY OF ORDINATION. In 1420, at twenty-eight years old, the monk Mark was made a Deacon. Then, two years later, he was ordained to the Priesthood. His brother, John, makes this comment about Mark and how he served the Divine Offices: "When Father Mark celebrated the Divine Liturgy, he was FILLED BY DIVINE INSPIRATION TO SUCH AN EXTENT THAT ALL WHO BEHELD HIM SAID THAT HE APPEARED TO BE OUTSIDE OF HIMSELF, OUTSIDE EVEN THE EARTH, AND COMPLETELY IMMERSED IN GOD, LIKE AN ANGEL IN THE FLESH."

Emperor John looked upon Saint Mark with much love and respect. The emperor also respected the holy Mark’s thorough knowledge OF THE PRINCIPLES OF Orthodoxy. He also appreciated his clear and disciplined mind, which quickly perceived the errors of the enemies of Orthodoxy. With the death of Metropolitan Ioasaph of Ephesos, and for many other reasons, the emperor insisted that the holy Mark accept the See of Ephesos and be consecrated Metropolitan. He understood that Mark had a pure and INCORRUPTABLE LOVE FOR THE TRUTH AND COULD DEVELOP SOUND IDEAS. It was the emperor’s desire that Saint Mark attains this rank, so as to occupy a suitable place among the Greek representatives, namely, THE PLACE OF CHIEF THEOLOGIAN OF THE Orthodox.

The holy man did not wish to accept such a high rank; for when he took the Monastic tonsure, he had fled the world. He sensed that THE OFFICE OF BISHOP WAS BEYOND HIS WORTH AND POWERS. However, all pressed Mark to accept, asserting that his presence was indispensable for the imminent discussions with the West (Latins). They asserted that the title of Metropolitan would be a rank that the Latins (Roman Catholic) would esteem. Therefore, obedient to the Patriarch, the emperor, and to the genuine need of the True and Only Church of Christ, he submitted to the Synod and its decision for his elevation. Thus, it was plain that he accepted this high Ecclesiastical rank solely FOR THE DEFENSE OF ORTHODOXY, which he loved. Indeed, the power and genius of the holy man’s words were needed by the Orthodox, SO AS NOT TO BE LED ASTRAY BY THE INNOVATORS WHO WERE ALREADY PREPARING A WAYWARD PATH.

Shortly after his elevation, at forty-six years of age, the new Metropolitan prepared to depart for Rome. Saint Mark held high hopes for the possibility of union with the Latins. He profoundly believed in the potentiality of restoring the former unity between the two sides. Indeed, he believed in this warmly and fervently. He would labor inexhaustibly toward this aim. He said, "I followed the ecumenical Patriarch and the God-given Emperor John to the council in Italy. I did not consider my own infirmity, nor the difficulty and enormity of the undertaking. I placed my hope in God and in the common Saints shared between the Easter and Western Churches. Indeed, I believed all would proceed well with us and that we would achieve something great and worthy of all our labor and hopes."

Saint Mark, however, was a cautious man. Desiring to receive enlightenment and help from above for the mighty labor that lay ahead in Italy. Saint Mark made it clear to the council that the Orthodox hierarchs HAD NOT COME TO ITALY TO SIGN A CAPITULATION. The Orthodox would NOT SELL THE Faith for the benefit of their crumbling state. Their purpose in attending the council WAS FOR THE CONFIRMATION OF TRUE DOCTRINE. Mark, the star of the Church of Christ, made it clear to the West that THE PURITY OF ORTHODOXY MUST BE PRESERVED. He indicated that negotiations could end in failure if Rome DID NOT CONCEDE AND RENOUNCE HER INNOVATIONS. The Westerners had introduced dogmas and liturgical practices unknown to the ancient Church, WHICH HAD LED TO A SCHISM BETWEEN ROME AND BYZANTIUM. The fiery teacher of piety then said that if the Church of Rome desired to finish as well as she had begun–that is, FROM THE TIME OF THE APOSTLES–then SHE MUST RETRACT HER DOCTRINE ON THE PROCESSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND NOT PERFORM THE LITURGY WITH UNLEAVENED WAFERS (azymes). Furthermore, Saint Mark pointed out to them THAT UNION WAS JUST AS NECESSARY TO THE WEST BECAUSE ALL CHRISTIANS HAD A COMMON ENEMY–the Modern Turks.

It was visibly apparent that the Pope and his committee received Saint Mark’s address with cold disdain. When emperor John and others among the Greeks, who were not present, learned of Saint Mark’s words, they, too, were indignant. They DID NOT wish THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EAST AND WEST TO BE MENTIONED. As the real head of his committee, the emperor authorized ONLY CERTAIN PERSONS TO SPEAK WITH THE Latin delegates. He bade them NOT TO REJECT THE Latin opinion, EVEN IF THEY WERE CONTRADICTORY TO ORTHODOX DOCTRINE, but merely to look, upon every question as not yet having been decided. A solution would be reached by taking the opinions of all AS FINAL AND DECISIVE. Thereupon, it was gradually revealed to the spiritual eye of the Saint THAT THE HOPES FOR A HOLY AND PROPER UNION WOULD NOT, NAY COULD NOT, BE REALIZED.

Principle points of dispute in Doctrine were as follows: (1) THE PROCESSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT; (2) THE QUESTION OF AZYMES IN THE EUCHARIST (3) PURGATORY; AND, (4) THE PRIMACY OF THE POPE OF ROME.

THE BETRAYAL OF ORTHODOXY

At last, the end came. On the 5th of July, in the year 1439, by the signing of the ACT OF UNION, Orthodoxy WAS BETRAYED AND SOLD. The pseudo-Orthodox RENOUNCED Orthodoxy and espoused all the Latin formulas and innovations. After the emperor, all delegates, many of whom were reluctant, accepted and signed the Act of Union, whether for themselves or, in the case of some, for the Eastern Patriarchs, whom they had been entrusted to represent. None of the Greeks bothered to ask or disturb Saint Mark, all were convinced of his firmness.

Pope Eugene spoke to the emperor, provoking him to persuade the Ephesians to sign the union. The Pope sent a papal representative to Saint Mark, not to rebuke him but to pay homage to him. The representative, ordered to take a large tray with gold florins and a golden vase, was to beseech Saint Mark to accept the gifts and accept an invitation from the pope, who would receive him with honor. It should be noted that, shortly before, the pope had spoken many evil remarks against Saint Mark and threatened to cast him into the flames. The holy man not only rejected the gifts but also refused entry to any papal representative to his apartment. He said, "Tell thy lord, the pope, has he not ever heard what the Lord said to the Scribes and Pharisees? ‘Hypocrites! For ye cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, but within they are full of plunder and incontinence’ [Matthew 23:25]. In like manner hast thou, O pope, gathered unclean gold. Therefore, give it to whomever thou dost wish, ‘for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 8:21). Thy council will not be a council, and all of you shall perish." [Source:  The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]

(To be continued)

______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +



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

+ Father George

THE MYSTERY OF BAPTISM: “…Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God…” (John 3:3-6).

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

THE MYSTERY OF BAPTISM: The Savior replied that the new birth
would be accomplished by water and the Spirit:
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a
man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom
of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which born of
the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:3-6).

The establishment of this Grace-giving Mystery (Sacrament) occurred after the Resurrection of Christ. Having appeared to His Disciples, the Lord said to them that He had received from His Father all authority in Heaven and on earth, and He continued: "Go ye therefore, 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 whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD " (Matthew 28:19-20). And to this, He added: "He that believeth and IS BAPTIZED SHALL BE SAVED; but he THAT BELIEVETH NOT SHALL BE DAMNED" (Mark 16:16).

Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes concerning THE SAVING FRUITS OF THIS MYSTERY (SACRAMENT): "There has come another birth, or rebirth, which REGENERATES MAN THROUGH Holy Baptism by the Holy Spirit, again UNITES HIM WITH THE Divine Nature as it was when he was created by the hand of God, RESTORES ALL THE POWERS OF HIS SOUL, RENEWS THEM AND BRINGS THEM TO THE CONDITION IN WHICH THEY WERE BEFORE THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE FIRST-CREATED Adam; IN THIS WAY LEADS HIM INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD, INTO WHICH NO ONE UNBAPTIZED CAN ENTER, AND ENLIGHTENS HIM WITH ITS LIGHT AN GRANTS HIM TO TASTE ITS JOYS. Thus each one who is baptized BECOMES AGAIN SUCH AS ADAM WAS BEFORE THE TRANSGRESSION, AND IS LED INTO THE NOETIC PARADISE AND RECEIVES THE COMMANDMENT TO WORK IT AND KEEP IT–TO WORK IT BY FULFILLMENT OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF JESUS CHRIST WHO HAS RECREATED HIM, AND TO KEEP
IT BY THE KEEPING OF THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHICH WAS GIVEN TO HIM THROUGH HOLY BAPTISM, CONFESSING THAT THE POWER OF THE GRACE WHICH DWELLS IN HIM FULFILLS TOGETHER WITH HIM THE COMMANDMENTS OF CHRIST" (First-Created Man, p. 71).

The comparison of Baptism with a washing by water, with the grave, and other such things indicates that this Mystery (Sacrament) is to be performed THROUGH IMMERSION. The Greek word VAPTIZO (Βαπτίζω) itself signifies "TO IMMERSE." The immersion in water IS DONE THREE TIMES WITH THE PRONUNCIATION OF THE WORDS: "The servant of God (name) is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," in accordance with the commandment given by Christ Himself (Matthew 28:19). Thus was it performed in the ancient Church.

In certain passages of the Holy Scripture, there is mentioned a Baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48). According to the interpretation of the Holy Fathers of the Church, the expression "in the name of the Lord Jesus" means, "according to the command and tradition of Christ," or as a testimony of one’s faith in Christ.

In Baptism a man receives, in place of the old existence he had, A NEW EXISTENCE AND LIFE, and BECOMES A CHILD OF GOD, A MEMBER OF THE Body of Christ, or the Church, an INHERITOR OF ETERNAL LIFE, it is therefore evident that Baptism IS INDISPENSABLE FOR ALL, including infants, so that growing in body and spirit they might grow in Christ. In the Apostolic Scripture many times there is mention of the Baptism of WHOLE FAMILIES (the house of Lydia, the house of the prison guard, the house of Stephanas–1 Corinthians 1:16), and NOWHERE IS IT MENTIONED THAT INFANTS WERE EXCLUDED FROM THIS.

Baptism is not only a symbol of cleansing and washing away the defilement of the soul, but IN ITSELF IS THE BEGINNING AND SOURCE OF THE Divine gifts which CLEANSE AND ANNIHILATE ALL THE SINFUL DEFILEMENTS AND COMMUNICATE A NEW LIFE. ALL SINS ARE FORGIVEN, BOTH ORIGINAL AND PERSONAL SINS; THE WAY IS OPENED FOR A NEW LIFE; OPENED IS THE POSSIBILITY TO RECEIVE THE GIFTS OF GOD. Further spiritual growth depends upon THE FREE WILL OF MAN. But since temptation is capable of finding sympathy in the nature of man, WHO FROM THE DAYS OF HIS FIRST FALL INTO SIN HAS HAD AN INCLINATION TO SIN, THEREFORE SPIRITUAL PERFECTION CANNOT BE ACCOMPLISHED WITHOUT BATTLE. A MAN FINDS HELP FOR THE INWARD BATTLE IN THE WHOLE GRACE-GIVEN LIFE OF THE CHURCH. The Holy Church opens up further Grace-given help to the newly baptized in the Mystery (Sacrament) of Chrismation.

"The baptism of Christ in the River Jordan and our own baptism are an extraordinary flood, much higher and more beautiful than Noah’s flood, as Patriarch Proklos of Constantinople says. Then the water put human nature to death, but now the water of baptism through the baptized Christ gives life to those dying of sin. Then Noah constructed an ark of undecayed wood, while now the intelligible Noah, Christ, has constructed the ark of the body from the incorrupt Mary. Then the dove which held an olive branch brought news of the fragrance of Christ the Lord, now the Holy Spirit, which came as a dove, pointed to the Merciful Lord. All that happened at Christ’s Baptism in the River Jordan IS REPEATED IN OUR LIFE THROUGH THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY BAPTISM."

The Holy Fathers of the Church formed the Creed reminding us constantly that there is only "ONE BAPTISM FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS." And so does Saint Paul the Holy Apostle who says, "ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM" (Ephesians 4:5) UNITING THEM ALL IN CHRIST. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem states: "…Regard not the Baptismal waters as simple water, but RATHER REGARD THE SPIRITUAL GRACE THAT IS GIVEN WITH THE WATER." Saint Diadochos the God-bearer writes: "Baptism RENEWS THE IMAGE OF GOD IN US."

We, as Orthodox Christians, must appreciate God’s Grace, agape, mercy, and countless blessings given to us throughout our life. Our Baptism is the key to His Kingdom and, therefore, we must treasure it and keep it always pristine and holy. The new garments that we were given by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ must remain unsoiled and pure. In the service for the catechumens conducted just before the Holy Baptism, the priest offers the following prayer:

O Lord and Master, our God, call Thy servant (name) to Thy Holy illumination and make him (her) worthy of this Wondrous Grace of Thy Holy Baptism; take from him (her) the things of old and renew him (her) unto the Life Eternal, and fill his (her) with the power of Thy Holy Spirit UNTO UNION WITH THY CHRIST, SO THAT HE (SHE) BE NO MORE A CHILD OF THE BODY BUT A CHILD OF THY KINGDOM. Through the favor and Grace of Thine Only-Begotten Son with Whom Thou art blessed with Thine All-Holy, Righteous, and Life-Giving Spirit now and forever and form all ages to all ages. Amen. At the Mystery of Holy Baptism, the priest chants: "AS MANY OF YOU HAVE BEEN BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST, HAVE PUT ON CHRIST. ALLELUIA [Sources: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, The Feasts of the Lord]

+

Please note: Sadly, we witness in our Church, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and even in Greece an indifference to baptizing children among young couples. There is tragically a lack of understanding of how indispensable Holy Baptism is and the Grace of God that one receives when baptized. From what has been said above, there is no salvation without Holy Baptism. It was reported in recent years by officials at the Clerg-Laity Congress of the Metropolis of Chicago in Minneapolis, Minnesota that 65% or more, of young adults, are not interested to be married in the Church and have given no consideration to baptizing children who were born outside of marriage. This is wrong and a great spiritual crisis, to say the least. We definitely need to pray that the Lord God will enlighten these young couples to do what is proper and right for Orthodox Christians.

_______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +



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

+ Father George

GOD’S GRACE IS UNCREATED AND INFINITE

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

GOD’S GRACE IS UNCREATED AND INFINITE

"For by Grace are you saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves: IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, NOT OF WORKS, lest
any man should boast" [Ephesians 2:8-9].

In Orthodox Christian Theology "Grace" ("Χάρις") most commonly refers to the Uncreated Energy, Power, or Operation of God, which is distinct yet INSEPARABLE FROM God’s Essence. Thus, Saint Gregory Palamas affirms that "This resplendence and deifying (theosis) Energy of God, that deifies those who participate in it, constitutes Divine Grace, but IT IS NOT the Essence of God" (Philokalia, vol. 4, p. 390).

Only God is Uncreated; therefore, to say that Grace is Uncreated is to say that it is God Himself–or, as Vladimir Lossky puts it, it is "a mode of existence of the Trinity which is outside of Its inaccessible Essence" (Mystical Theology, p. 73). Saint Basil the Great writes: "The Energies of God come down to us, but the Essence remains INACCESSIBLE" (Letter 234). Quoting these words of Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory Palamas observes: "Thus it IS IMPOSSIBLE to participate in God’s Essence, even for those who are deified by Divine Grace. It is, however, POSSIBLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE Divine Energy" (Philokalia, vol. 4, p. 397).

The word "Grace" ("Χάρις") is used in Holy Scripture with various meanings. Sometimes it signifies in general THE MERCY OF GOD: GOD IS "the God of all Grace" (1 Peter 5:10). In this, its broadest meaning, Grace IS GOD’S GOODWILL TO MEN OF WORTHY LIFE IN ALL AGES OF HUMANITY AND PARTICULARLY TO THE RIGHTEOUS ONES OF THE Old Testament like Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, the Prophet Moses, and the later Prophets.

In the most precise meaning, the concept of Grace refers to the New Testament. Here in the New Testament, we distinguish two fundamental meanings of this concept. First, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, THE GRACE OF CHRIST, IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD THE WHOLE ECONOMY OF OUR SALVATION, PERFORMED BY THE COMING OF THE Son of God to earth, by His earthly life, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection, and His Ascension into heaven: "For by Grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Secondly, Grace IS THE NAME APPLIED TO THE GIFTS OF THE Holy Spirit WHICH HAVE BEEN SENT DOWN AND ARE BEING SENT DOWN TO THE Church of Christ FOR THE SANCTIFICATION OF ITS MEMBERS, FOR THEIR SPIRITUAL GROWTH, AND FOR THE ATTAINMENT BY THEM OF THE Kingdom of Heaven.

In this second New Testament meaning of the word, Grace is a power sent down from on high, the power of God which is in the Church of Christ, WHICH GIVES BIRTH, GIVES LIFE, PERFECTS, AND BRINGS THE BELIEVING AND VIRTUOUS CHRISTIAN TO THE APPROPRIATION OF THE SALVATION WHICH HAS BEEN BROUGHT BY THE Lord Jesus Christ.

The holy Apostles, therefore, in their writings often used the Greek word CHARIS (‘Χάρις"), "Grace," as identical in meaning with the word DYNAMIS ("Δύναμις"), "POWER."). The term "Grace" in the sense of "Power" given from above FOR HOLY LIFE IS FOUND IN MANY PLACES of the Apostolic Epistles: (2 Peter 1;3; Romans 5:2; Romans 16:20; 1 Peter 5:12; 2 Peter 3:18; 2 Timothy 2:1; 1 Corinthians 16:23; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Galatians 6:18; Ephesians 6:24), and other places. The holy Apostle Paul writes: "The Lord said unto me, My Grace IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEE; for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The distinction between those two meanings of the word "Grace," and the predominant understanding of it in the Holy Scripture of the New Testament as a Divine power, are important to keep in mind because in PROTESTANTISM a teaching has become established about Grace only in its general significance of the great work of our redemption from sin through the Savior’s exploit on the Cross, after which–as the Protestants think– a man who has come to believe and has received the remission of sins IS ALREADY AMONG THE SAVED. However, the Apostles teach us THAT A CHRISTIAN, HAVING JUSTIFICATION AS A GIFT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE GENERAL Grace of redemption, IS IN THIS LIFE AS AN INDIVIDUAL ONLY "BEING SAVED" (1 Corinthians 1:18). AND NEEDS THE SUPPORT OF GRACE-GIVEN POWERS, "WE HAVE ACCESS BY FAITH INTO THIS GRACE WHEREIN WE STAND (Romans 5:2); WE ARE SAVED BY HOPE" (Romans 8:24).

How, then, does the saving Grace of God act?

Both the spiritual birth and the further spiritual growth of a man occur through THE MUTUAL ACTION OF TWO PRINCIPLES. One of these is THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT; the other, MAN’S OPENING OF HIS HEART FOR THE RECEPTION OF IT, A THIRST FOR IT, THE DESIRE TO RECEIVE IT, AS THE THIRSTY, DRY EARTH RECEIVES THE MOISTURE OF RAIN–IN OTHER WORDS, PERSONAL EFFORT FOR THE RECEPTION, PRESERVATION, AND ACTIVITY IN THE SOUL OF THE Divine gifts.

The experience of Orthodox Christian ascetics inspires them to call Christians with all power to the humble acknowledgment of one’s own infirmity, so that the saving Grace of God might act. Very expressive in this case are the expressions of Saint Symeon the New Theologian [10th Century):

"If the thought comes to you, instilled by the devil, that your salvation is accomplished not by the power of God, but by your own wisdom and your own power; and if your soul agrees with such a thought, Grace DEPARTS FROM IT. The struggle against such a powerful and most difficult battle which arises in the soul must be undertaken by the soul until our last breath. The soul must, together with the blessed Apostle Paul, call out in a loud voice, in the hearing of Angels and men: "NOT I, BUT THE GRACE OF GOD WHICH IS WITH ME." The Apostles and Prophets, Martyrs, and Hierarchs, holy monastics, and righteous ones–ALL HAVE CONFESSED THIS GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND FOR THE SAKE OF SUCH A CONFESSION AND WITH ITS HELP THEY STRUGGLED WITH A GOOD STRUGGLE AND FINISHED THEIR COURSE" (Homilies of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Homily 4).

He who bears the name of CHRISTIAN, we read in the same Holy Father, "If he does not bear in his heart the conviction that the Grace of God, given for faith, is the mercy of God… if he does not labor with the aim of receiving the Grace of God, first of all THROUGH BAPTISM, or if he had it and it departed by reason of his sin, TO CAUSE IT TO RETURN AGAIN THROUGH REPENTANCE, CONFESSION, VIGILS, PRAYERS, AND THE REST, HE THINKS THAT HE IS PERFORMING GLORIOUS VIRTUES AND GOOD DEEDS VALUABLE IN THEMSELVES—THEN HE LABORS AND EXHAUSTS HIMSELF IN VAIN" (Homily 2).

What, then, is the significance of ASCETIC STRUGGLE? It is a weapon against "THE LUST OF THE FLESH, AND THE LUST OF THE EYES, AND THE PRIDE OF LIFE" (1 John 2:16). It is the CLEANING OF THE FIELD OF THE SOUL FROM STONES, OVERGROWTH, WEEDS, AND SWAMPY PLACES, IN PREPARATION FOR A SACRED SOWING WHICH WILL BE MOISTENED FROM ABOVE BY THE GRACE OF GOD. (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazanski).

____________

"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

” AND DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND” Romans 12:2

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

"AND DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT
BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR
MIND" [Romans 12:2]

The divine words of the holy Apostle Paul to the Romans are most profound and true. There is no doubt indeed that a faithful relationship to God alters our current relationship with the world. First, we need to renounce the false claims of the world and to be identified and/or be "conformed to this world." We should resist to its influence and be shaped by the world’s secular values and pleasures. As believing and practicing Christians we are "transformed," beginning with the inner man, the "mind" by virtue, adhering to God’s Commandments. The word "mind" here is more than the rational faculty; it is the highest faculty of human nature: "the eyes of your heart" [Ephesians 7:18] by which one sees and comprehends God. As Orthodox Christians, we live out this genuine and faithful relationship to God in the Holy Church, the Body of Christ with faith and humility.

The holy Apostle Paul [Saul] was a Jew and a zealot who at one time was a persecutor of Christians. "I", he says, "persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women" [Acts 22:4]. But on his way to the city of Damascus to capture more Christians and bring them in chains to Jerusalem to be punished he says, "suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Soul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord? And He said to me, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting’" [Acts 22:6-8].

By his exhortation, the holy Apostle Paul instructs Christians not to emulate the materialistic people who are attached and/or absorbed by vain thoughts, and concerns of the present life, but to be transformed through the acquisition of Christian virtues so that you may discern what is the will of God and that which is good and pleasing to Him, and at the same time that which is perfect. The Orthodox Christian receives the appropriate and necessary guidance within the Church. He or she is taught humility, purity of soul and body, and to "think soberly," especially control over sinful passions. To be a person who loves his fellow man and is compassionate and kind "for none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s" [Romans 14:7-8].

The Orthodox Christian. like everyone else struggles daily, to strengthen his/her relationship to God. And he or she knows to accomplish it one must have faith in Him and commune with Him unceasingly. We learn from our Monastic community the importance and power of prayer in our lives. Speaking with someone recently about prayer he revealed that he did not know how to pray. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew 6:8-13 Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ tells us: "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do, For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father KNOWS THE THINGS YOU HAVE NEED OF BEFORE YOU ASK HIM. In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your Kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily
bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into
temptation,
But deliver us from the evil
one.
For Your is the Kingdom and
the power and the glory
forever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer is the greatest of all prayers and when said with faith, humility, and love it is heard by Him. If there is anyone who needs guidance on how to pray, turn to Our Lord Himself and ask Him, Lord, teach me to pray. We approach our God with a humble and contrite heart and speak to Him from our hearts, not our lips or mind. Prayer must not be said mechanically and without a convicted heart.

Having a spiritual life requires having spiritual discipline. True piety is not displaying openly certain attitudes and signs for the sake of others. True piety is not visible to others around us. As Orthodox Christians, we witness it in the lives of our Saints and godly men and women throughout the centuries. There is always a sense of unworthiness, meekness, and humility, and always hidden. True Orthodox Christian piety is connected with a Sacramental life, worship, conduct, fasting, repentance, and living an honorable, moral, and virtuous life. A peaceable life, a life governed by the Holy Spirit. Our Holy Orthodox Church, since the early days, has provided a specific prayer to Him: "O Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who are in all places and fill all things, the Treasure of good things, and Giver of life, come and abide in us, cleanse us from every stain and save our souls, O Good One." 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

“JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME YESTERDAY AND TODAY AND FOR EVER” Hebrews 13:8

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

"JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME YESTERDAY AND TODAY AND FOR EVER" [Hebrews 13:9]

For Orthodox Christians Jesus Christ is God and does NOT CHANGE, His Divine Revelation, His Gospel DOES NOT CHANGE. Since our fellow Christian brothers and sisters attained the Eternal Kingdom of God by adhering faithfully TO THE FAITH, so can we. Thus our Orthdox Christian Church is committed in keeping THE DOCTRINE PURE AND UNDEFILED.

"DO NOT BE CARRIED ABOUT WITH VARIOUS AND STRANGE DOCTRINES." [Hebrews 13:9]. Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church has remained faithful to the Truth of Christ for over two thousand years unwilling to temper with the Divine Teachings of our Lord. Heretics have attempted throughout Church history to alter it and to corrupted but have failed. All the Orthodox Churche’s Ecumenical Synods have fought vehemently and consistently every heresy introduced to it by heretics whose goal has been to destroy the Church of Christ from within. But the Church of Christ triumphed over them and the heretics were excommunicated and deposed. These heresies, Saint Paul refers to as "strange doctrines." These are "foreign" ones, those are NOT coming from the Authentic Church of Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

"Not only did the Orthodox Church begin under the teaching of the Holy Apostles, but she was also instructed to "STAND FAST AND HOLD THE TRADITIONS WHICH YOUR WERE TAUGHT, WHETHER BY WORD OR OUR EPISTLE" [2 Corinthians 2:15]. The holy Apostle Paul insisted that those matters delivered by him and his fellow Apostles, both in peson and in writings that would come to be called the New Testament (Covenant), TO BE ADHERED TO CAREFULLY. Thus followed such appropriate warnings as "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… WITHDREW FROM EVERY BROTHER WHO WALKS DISHONESTLY AND NOT ACCORDING TO THE TRADITION WHICH HE RECEIVED FROM US" [2 Thessalonians 3:6]. The Doctrines taught by Christ and His Disciples ARE TO BE SAFEGUARDED BY "THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH" [1 Timothy 3:15] AND ARE NOT OPEN TO RENEGOTIATION. AND THE CHURCH WAS STILL YOUNG WHEN A WAY HAD TO BE FOUND FOR PROVIDING THIS SAFEGUARD…

The first three hundred years of Christian history were marked by the appearance of certain heresies or false teachings such as secret philosophic schemes for the elite (Gnosticism), dazzling prophetic aberrations (Montanism), and grave HERESIES regarding the Three Persons of the Trinity (Sabellianism). Then, in the early 4th century, a heresy with potential for Church-wide disruption appeared, propagated by one Arius, a presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt. He denied the eternality of the Son of God, claiming contrary to the Apostles’ Doctrine that the Son was a created being who came into existence at a point in time, and thus was not truly God. This deadly heresy struck the Church like a cancer. The First Ecumenical Synod met in Nicea in A.D. 325 to address this heresy. Some 318 Fathers along with many priests, Deacons, and laymen rejected and condemned the new heretical teaching of Arius.

Between the years A.D. 325 and 787, SEVEN SUCH ECUMENICAL SYNODS WERE CONVENED, meeting in the cities of Nicea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and Constantinople. Known as THE SEVEN ECUMENICAL COUNCILS (SYNODS), ALL DEALT FIRST AND FOREMOST WITH SAME SPECIFIC CHALLENGE TO THE APOSTOLIC TEACHING ABOUT JESUS CHRIST…The worship of the Church at the close of its first one thousand years had substantially the same shape from place to place. The DOCTRINE WAS THE SAME. THE WHOLE CHURCH CONFESSED ONE CREED, THE SAME IN EVERY PLACE AND HAD WEATHERED MANY ATTACKS. THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH WAS RECOGNIZABLY ONE EVERYWHERE, AND THIS One Church was the Orthodox Church.

Tensions began to mount as the first millennium was drawing to a close. While numerous doctrinal, political, economic, and cultural factors were working TO SEPARATE THE CHURCH IN AN EAST-WEST DIVISION, two major issues ultimately emerged above others: (1) that one man, the Pope of Rome, considered himself the universal bishop of the Church and (2) the addition of A NOVEL CLAUSE TO THE Church’s Creed. This clause became known as the FILIOQUE clause which became a dogma for the Latin West and is a substantial and most important deviation from Orthodox truth. The consequence, of course, in the Western Church has been the tendency to relegate the Holy Spirit to a lesser than God the Father and God the Son. The change ma appear small, but the consequences have proven disastously immense. The issue, with the Pope departing from the Orthodox doctrine of the Church, became another instrumental cause separating the Roman Church from the historic Orthodox Church, the New Testament Church.

In Orthodoxy today, as in years gone by, the basics of Christian doctrine, worship, and government ARE NEVER UP FOR ALTERATION. One cannot be an Orthodox priest, for example, and reject the Divinity of Christ, His virgin birth, Resurrection, Ascension into heaven, and Second Coming. The Church simply HAS NOT LEFT ITS COURSE IN TWO THOUSAND YEARS. IT IS One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. It is the New Testament Church.

What, then, is the Orthodox Church? It is the First Christian Church in history, the Church FOUNDED BY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST; DESCRIBED INT EH PAGES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. Her history can be traced IN UNBROKEN CONTINUITY ALL THE WAY BACK TO CHRIST AND HIS TWELVE APOSTLES.

Saint Paul states, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterdasy and today and forever." And, therefore, His Church, the Orthodox Church "is the same yesterday and today, and forever." It is ONLY IN THE THE NEW TESTAMENT Church that one can find THE FULLNESS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT FAITH.

As Orthodox Christians loyal only to our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ must emulate our brothers and sisters throughout the centuries to be willing not only to defend the True faith but to be willing to die for it. To denounce every sinister effort to dilute, to disfigure, to corrupt, embrace heretics as so called "brothers and sisters in Christ." These evil forces are determined to create more and more schisms, to confuse the faithful, and to deceive and divide the innocent faithful. Be alert and vigilant and do not trust those disguised themselves as benevolent leaders. The Lord Himself warns us, "BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS WHO COME TO YOU IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING, BUT INWARDLY THEY ARE RAVENOUS WOLVES" (Matthew 7:15). Jesus knows how easy it is for innocent people to be deceived by those who wear a mask of virtue but are in reality corrupt and evil. Saint Luke the Evangelist writes in Acts 20:29, "FOR I KNOW THIS, THAT AFTER MY DEPARTURE SAVAGE WOLVES WILL COME AMONG YOU, NOT SPARING THE FLOCK." These are references to external and INTERNAL TRIALS and PERSECUTIONS and HERESIES.

______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS CYRIL, ARCHBISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS
CYRIL, ARCHBISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA

Saint Cyril was from Alexandria, born about the year A.D. 376, the nephew of Theophilos, Patriarch of Alexandria, who also instructed the Saint in his youth. Having first spent much time with the monks in Nitria, he later became the successor to his uncles’ throne in A.D. 412. In 429 A.D. when Cyril heard news of the teachings of the new Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorios, he began attempting through private letters to bring Nestorios to renounce his HERETICAL TEACHINGS ABOUT THE INCARNATION OF THE LORD; and when the HERESIARCH did not repent, Saint Cyril, together with Pope Celestine of Rome, led the Orthodox opposition to his heresy. Saint Cyril presided over the Third Ecumenical Synod of the 200 holy Fathers in the year A.D. 431, who gathered in the city of Ephesos under Saint Theodosios the Younger. At this Synod, by his most wise words he put to shame and convicted the heretical doctrine of Nestorios, who, although he was in town, refused to appear before Saint Cyril, besides overthrowing the heresy of Nestorios, has left the Church full of Commentaries on the Gospel of Saints Luke and John. Having shepherded the Church of Christ for 32 years, he reposed in A.D. 444. [Source: The Great Horologion]

______________

"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



On 18th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church Commemorates Our Fathers Among the Saints ATHANASIOS THE GREAT and CYRIL, ARCHBISHOPS OF ALEXANDRIA.

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

On the 18th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church
Commemorates Our Fathers Among the Saints
ATHANASIOS THE GREAT and CYRIL, ARCHBISHOPS
OF ALEXANDRIA.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Third Tone

SHINING forth with works of Orthodoxy, ye quenched every false
belief and teaching and became trophy-bearers and conquerors.
And since ye made all things rich with true piety, greatly adorning
the Church with magnificence, Athanasios and wise Cyril, ye both
have worthily found Christ God, Who doth grant great mercy unto
all.

Kontakion Hymn. Fourth Tone

GREAT high priests of piety and noble champions of the holy Church
of Christ, keep and preserve all those who chant: O Most compassionate
Lord, do Thou graciously save those who faithfully honor Thee.

In the half-century after the First Ecumenical Synod held in Nicaea in A.D. 325, if there was one man whom the Arian heretics feared and hated more intensely than any other, as being able to lay bare the whole error of their teaching, and to marshal, even from exile or hiding, the beleaguered forces of the Orthodox, it was SAINT ATHANASIOS THE GREAT. This blazing lamp of Orthodoxy, which imperial power and heretics’ plots could not quench when he shone upon the lampstand, nor find when he was hidden by the people and monks of Egypt, was born in Alexandria about the year A.D. 296. He received excellent training in Greek letters and especially in the Sacred Scripture, of which he shows exceptional knowledge in his writings. Even
as a young man, he had a remarkable depth of theological understanding; he was only about twenty years old when he wrote his treatise ON THE INCARNATION. Saint Alexander, the Archbishop of Alexandria, brought him up in piety, ordained him his Deacon, and, after deposing Arius for his blasphemy against THE DIVINITY OF THE SON OF GOD, took Athanasios to the First Synod in Nicaea in A.D. 325; Saint Athanasios was to spend the remainder of his life laboring in defense of this Holy Synod. In A.D. 326, before his death, Alexander appointed Athanasios his successor.

In A.D. 325, Arius had been condemned by the Synod of Nicaea. Athanasios, knowing well the perverseness of his mind, and THE DISEASE OF HERESY lurking in his heart, REFUSED COMMUNION WITH ARIUS. The heresiarch’s followers then began framing false charges against Athanasios; finally Emperor Constantine the Great, misled by grave charges of the Saint’s misconduct–which were completely false–had him exiled to Triberis (Treves) in Gaul in 336 A.D.). When Emperor Constantine was succeeded by his three sons Constantine II, Constans, and Constantius, in 337, Saint Athanasios returned to Alexandria in triumph. But his enemies found an ally in Constantius, Emperor of the East; Saint Athanaios’ second exile was spent in Rome. It was ended when Constans prevailed with threats upon is brother Constantius to restore Athanasios. For ten years Saint Athanasios strengthened Orthodoxy throughout Egypt, visiting the whole country and encouraging all, clergy, monastics, and lay people, to be loved by all, as a father. But after Constans’ death in 350 A.D., Constantius became the sole Emperor, and Athanasios was again in danger. On the evening of February 8, 356 A.D., General Syrianos with more than five thousand soldiers surrounded the church in which Athanasios was serving, and broke open the doors. Athanasios’ clergy begged him to leave, but the good shepherd commanded that all the flock should withdraw first, and only when he was assured of their safety he also, protected by Divine grace, passed through THE MIDST OF THE SOLDIERS AND DISAPPEARED INTO THE DESERTS OF EGYPT, WHERE FOR SOME SIX YEARS HE ELUDED THE SOLDIERS AND SPIES SENT AFTER HIM.

When Julian the Apostate succeeded Constantius in A.D. 361, Athanasios returned again, but only for a few months. Because Athanasios had converted many pagans, and the priests of the idols in Egypt wrote to Julian that if Athanasios remained, IDOLATRY WOULD PERISH IN EGYPT, the pagan Emperor ordered not Athanasios’ exile, but his death. Athanasios took a ship up the Nile. When he learned that his imperial pursuers were following him, he had his men turn back, and as his boat passed that of his pursuers, they asked him if he had seen Athanasios, "He is not far," he answered. After returning to Alexandria for a while, he fled again to the Thebaid until Julian’s death in A.D. 363. Saint Athanasios suffered his fifth and last exile under Valens in A.D. 365, which only lasted four months because Valens, fearing a sedition among the Egyptians for their beloved Archbishop, revoked his edict in February A.D. 366.

The Great Athanasios passed the remaining seven years of his life in peace. Of his 47 years as Patriarch. he had spent some 17 years in exile. Shining from the height of his throne like a radiant evening star, and enlightening the Orthodox with the brilliance of his words for yet a little while, this much-suffering champion inclined toward the sunset of his life, and, in the year 373 A.D., took his rest from his lengthy suffering, but not before another luminary of the Truth, Saint Basil the Great, had risen in East, being consecrated Archbishop of Caesaria in 370 A.D. Besides all his other achievements, Saint Athanasios wrote the life of Saint Anthony the Great, with whom he spent time in his youth; ordained Saint Frumentios first bishop of Ethiopia; and in his Paschal Encyclical for the year 367 A.D. set forth the books of the Old and New Testaments accepted by the Church as canonical. Saint Gregory the Theologian, in his Oration On the Great Athanasios, said he was "Angelic in appearance, more angelic in mind; …rebuking with the tenderness of a father, praising with the dignity of a ruler… Everything was harmonious, as an air upon a single lyre…and in the same key; his life, his teaching his struggles, his dangers, his return, and his conduct after his return.. he treated so mildly and gently those who had injured him, that even they themselves, if I may say so, did not find his restoration distasteful." [Source: The Great Horologion]

__________

"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 MONASTIC LIFE OF SAINT ANTHONY THE GREAT (Part II)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

THE ASCETIC AND MONASTIC LIFE OF SAINT ANTHONY THE GREAT (Part II)

Kathisma I. Mode pl. 4.

When you fettered your soul with the love for Christ
and you clearly detested all things mundane, you lived
in the wilderness and the mountains. And tasting then
of the tree of knowledge, you shone forth angelically
as a mystic of secrets, righteous Father most glorious.
Therefore, you transcended the dark cloud of the carnal
within you and drove away the demons’ darkness, O
blessed one, first and chief of monastics.
Intercede with Christ our God, that He grant forgiveness
of offenses to those who keep your all-holy memory
with faith and love.

Kathisma III. Mode pl. 4.

You withdrew from the tumult of daily life, and you took up
your cross and denied yourself, and you dedicated yourself
entirely to the Lord. You attained a spiritual state, out of flesh
and world, and you became conversant with the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, you inspired zeal for God in the people.
You emptied the cities and populated the wilderness, O God-
bearer Anthony. Intercede with Christ our God, that He grant
forgiveness of offenses to us who lovingly honor and celebrate
your memory.

Exaposteilarion. Mode 3.

You led an Angelic life, as though you were incorporeal,
although you were in the body. And you shined on the
whole world resplendently, for you shone forth like an ever-
shining star, O Anthony, the God-bearer, the beauty of Ascetics,
and the pride and joy of Monks, and the glory of the Fathers.

Stichera. Mode pl. 4.

Father of Fathers, Saint Anthony, your soul was moved by desire
and insatiable love for Christ, so you searched for Him alone in the
desert and wilderness, where you avoided all tumults and the noise,
and thus conversed with Him one to one, alone, united noetically,
also filled with Uncreated Light, with which now illuminate the souls
of us who honor you.

+



The devices of the evil one are manifold. Reflecting upon this, Anthony reckoned that although the devil had not deceived his heart by bodily pleasure, still the adversary would lay snares to catch him by other means, for the devil’s love is sin. He, therefore, engaged upon a more severe mode of life. His readiness to serve God made every labor easy to bear. Many marveled at how Anthony was able to endure toils easily. On account of his zeal, he participated in all-night vigils, not once or twice, but many times. He ate once daily, after the setting of the sun, or sometimes once in two days, and often even in four. His fare consisted of only bread and salt. His beverage was a limited amount of water. His bedding consisted of one rush mat, but he many times slept on the bare ground. He would anoint himself with oil. Each day he began his life of ascesis anew, as he had done at the beginning.

Anthony then went out to the sepulchers. They were located some distance from the village. He entered and took up his abode therein that he might continue his ascetic struggle. He bade an acquaintance of his to bring him a morsel of bread from time to time. Anthony then had this same man shut and lock the door of that sepulcher, leaving him alone to pray. The enemy became frantic at this juncture, surmising that in but a short time Anthony would fill the desert with the ascetic discipline. Thereupon, the devil came one night with a company of his minions. They administered such a thrashing to the Saint that he was left lying on the ground from his wounds and excessive pain. He was half-dead, with little breath remaining in him. Indeed, the enemy so cut him with stripes that Anthony lay on the ground speechless from the excessive pain. He later said that the pain inflicted had been so excessive that no blows inflicted by man could ever have caused him such suffering.

Nevertheless, by the Providence of God–for the Lord never overlooks those who hope in Him–the next day, his acquaintance came with allotted loaves. He opened the door to the sepulcher, only to find Anthony lying on the ground as one dead. that man raised up Anthony and carried him to the main church in their village, and laid him on the ground. When his kindred and neighbors learned of his brutal beating, they came running in grief. At about midnight, the Saint regained consciousness. He looked about and saw that all of them were slumbering, with the exception of that acquaintance who attended to him. Making a gesture that he carry him to the sepulcher without waking anyone. The man carried Anthony to the sepulcher and shut the door after him. As Anthony lay there, he kept constant in prayer. He would have stood, but he had not the strength from the wounds he sustained from the demons.

Now the Lord was not forgetful of the Venerable Anthony’s contests but instead was at hand to help him in his battle. The Saint then looked up and beheld the roof, as it were, to have been opened. A ray of light came down upon him. Then the demons suddenly dispersed and vanished, the pain of his body forthwith ceased, and the chamber was again whole. There was no sign or trace of the wounds sustained. After he recovered somewhat and rejoiced in that revelation, he lifted up his voice and entreated the Lord, saying, "O Lord, I give thanks to Thee for Thy gracious help. Where wert Thou, O my most sweet Jesus? Why didst Thou not appear at the beginning to halt my pain and tribulations?" And a voice came to him: "Anthony, I was here, but I waited to look upon thy fight. Therefore, since thou hast endured and triumphed, not being worsted or broken with sadness in thy tribulations, I will ever be a succor to thee. I will make thy name known throughout the world." After he had heard this, Anthony arose and prayed. He received such strength that he perceived that he had more power in his body than formerly. He was then about thirty-five years old.

With the passage of time, his fame reached other solitaries in Egypt. Monks, seculars, and men of distinction came in large numbers to see him. Some monks came who were committed to emulating his deeds, while others were wishful to imitate his discipline. They called out to him but he answered not. Then, Anthon, as from a shrine or divine sanctuary, came forth as one initiated in the mysteries and filled with the Spirit of God. This was the first time in twenty years that he was seen outside of the fortress. They observed his dignified bearing and the beauty of his countenance, which had not altered. He urged them to remember the good things to come and the loving-kindness of God toward us ‘Who indeed spared not His own Son, but deliverable Him up for us all’ (Romans 8:32). The holy man persuaded many to embrace the solitary life, which resulted in cells rising in the mountains. Therefore, the desert was colonized by monks, who came forth from their own people, and enrolled themselves for citizenship in the heavens.

Then on one day, when the brethren has assembled, they besought the holy man to speak to them words of salvation. He spoke to them in the Egyptian language, that is, Coptic, as follows: "SUFFICIENT ARE THE SCRIPTURES FOR OUR INSTRUCTION, BUT IT IS A GOOD THING TO ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER IN THE FAITH WITIH SOUL-SAVING WORDS. THEREFORE, YOU, AS CHILDREN, CARRY THAT WHICH YOU KNOW TO YOUR FATHER; AND I, AS YOUR ELDER, SHALL SHARE WITH YOU WHAT KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE HAVE TAUGHT ME.

Let this be the first rule for you and the common aim of all of you my children, that none should weaken or become fainthearted in his commitment to the ascetic way of life he has chosen. Let no one say, ‘I have lived in this ascetic discipline way of life for a long time. Rather, each should strive to renew his experiencess and zeal daily, as if he were just starting out. Consider our human life and its shortness when compared to the ages to come. Our time here is as nothing when compared to Everlasting Life."

Saint Athanasios the Great, who knew him personally and wrote his life. Because of the press of the faithful, who deprived him of his solitude, he was enlightened by God to journey with certain Bedouins, until he came to a mountain in the desert near the Red Sea, where he passed the remaining part of his life. Saint Athanasios says of him that "his countenance had a great and wonderful grace. This gift also he had from the Savior. For if he were present in a great company of monks, and any one who did not know him previously wished to see him, immediately coming forward he passed by the rest, and hurried to Anthony, as though attracted by his appearance. Yet neither in height nor breadth was he conspicuous above others, but in the serenity of his manner and the purity of his souls."

So passing his life, and becoming an example of virtue and a rule for monastics, he reposed on January 17th in the year 356 A.D., having lived altogther some 105 years. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]

___________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

+ + +

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

+ Father George



On the 17th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church Commemorates Our Righteous and God-bearing Anthony the Great

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

On the 17th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church
Commemorates Our Righteous and God-bearing
ANTHONY THE GREAT.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone

EMULATING the ways of Elias the zealot, and following the straight
paths of the Baptist, O Father Anthony, thou madest of the wilderness
a city, and didst support the world by thy prayers. Wherefore intercede
with Christ our God that our souls be saved.

Kontakion Hymn. Second Tone

THOU leftest behind all earthly cares and turbulence, and leddest a
life of stillness and tranquility, emulating John the Baptist in every
way, O most righteous one. Wherefore, we acclaim thee with him,
O first of the Fathers, Father Anthony.

Anthony (Antonios), our great father, was born in Egypt, during the reign of the most impious Decius (249-251 A.D.). His parents were Christians who raised him in piety. He was modest, shy, and honest. He had no dealings with others apart from his kinsfolk. He did not wish to learn letters, because of the rough behavior of the lads at school. By nature, he was guileless and had no desire to keep company with other children or engage in their games. His desire was to conduct his life according to those words that have described the Patriarch Jacob; that is, he was a simple, natural, and unaffected man, dwelling in a house [Genesis 25:27]. Anthony had the desire to attend church frequently with his parents, to whom he was obedient. He listened attentively to the Holy Scripture, keeping in his heart the exhortations and admonitions from which he benefited. He was neither idle in his parents’ house, nor negligent amid moderate affluence, he did not pester his parents for varied or luxurious fare, nor was this o source of pleasure to him. His manner of life showed discernment and understanding.

When Anthony was about eighteen or twenty, his parents reposed. He was left with the care of not only his parental estate but also one little sister. Now it was not six months after the death of his parents that he continued his perfect attendance at church. On one occasion, as he was going in church, he communed with himself as he walked, and reflected upon how the Apostles left all and followed the Christ, even as did the martyrs and other venerable Saints. He then meditated upon those words in the Acts of the Holy Apostles, about how the first Christians sold their possessions and brought and laid them at the Apostles’ feet for distribution to the poor [Acts 4:34-35]. He thought how great was the blessing of such, and how great a hope in the heavens [Colossians 1:5] was laid up for them who had in this wise obeyed the voice of Christ.

As he entered the church, it happened that the Gospel was being read. The words of Jesus to the rich men sounded in his ears: "IF THOU ART WILLING TO BE PERFECT, GO AND SELL THY POSSESSIONS, AND GIVE TO THE POOR, AND THOU SHALT HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN, AND COME AND KEEP ON FOLLOWING ME" (Matthew 19:21]. Upon hearing this admonition, the holy Anthony perceived those words of the Sacred Gospel as a message to himself. After reflecting upon these words, he deemed them not to have been pronounced as a matter of chance, but instead that the righteous notion he had about the Apostles might be confirmed. He forthwith departed from the church and donated to his neighbors, those who were poor, all of the beautiful property which he had inherited from his forefathers. He did not wish that either he or his sister should be encumbered or troubled with the care of the land’s cultivation, but that they might labor unhindered in spiritual contests. The remainder of the movable estate and possessions was sold. Anthony received a considerable sum of money from the sale, and which proceeds went to the poor. He did, however, retain a sufficient amount for the needs of his sister, for he deemed her more vulnerable on account of her gender and age.

On another occasion, when it was Sunday, Anthony went to church. He inclined his ear carefully to hear what would come forth for him. Then the Gospel words of the Lord to His Disciples were read aloud: "DO NOT BECOME ANXIOUS FOR THE MORROW" [Matthew 6:34]. He thereupon went out and gave way among the poor whatever else remained. He spoke to his sister lovingly, regarding truth and the fear of God. He brought her around to his way of thinking, that is, RENUNCIATION OF THE WORLD FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST. He then entrusted her to the care of certain virgins living there. Anthony then began his ascetic course in a place close to his house, where he built a cell. At that time, there were neither monasteries in Egypt nor any who knew OF THE INNER DESERT. If one wished to give attention to his soul, he practiced the ascetical life alone, usually not far from his village. Anthony, therefore, betook himself a sufficient distance from the village, sot hat he might be apart from the habitation and conversation of men.

Now there was in the neighboring village a certain blessed solitary who had taken up THE ASCTICAL LIFE from his youth. Anthony had observed this man and desired to emulate his conduct and deeds; for "IT WAS GOOD TO BE ZEALOUS IN A GOOD THING ALWAYS" [Galatians 4:18]. If he heard of any other righteous men pursuing such a mode of life, as a wise bee which hovers and rests over flowers, Anthony went and strenuously sought out such persons. He disciplined himself, and his resolve grew daily, lest his thoughts should wander to his previous inheritance and the remembrance of his kin. He directed all his energies to spiritual practices that he might be a pure offering to God. He also labored with his own hands, because he heard the Apostle say, "THIS WE COMMAND YOU, THAT IF ANYONE IS NOT WILLING TO WORK, NEITHER LET HIM EAT" [2 Thessalonians 3:10]. With a small amount from the wages he received, he provided for himself, while the remainder he donated to the poor. He PRAYED CONTINUALLY, FOR HE HAD HEARD THE INJUNCTION TO "BE PRAYING UNCEASINGLY" [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. He also gave all his attention TO THE READING OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURE, lest anything should escape him. Thereupon, not one word fell to the ground. He retained everything in his memory, which came to serve him in place of books.

He was beloved by all and loved all. He subjected himself in sincerity to the righteous anchorites he visited, learning thoroughly where each surpassed him in zeal and discipline. He hearkened to them in everything and showed them much love and reverence. He in no way had high thoughts about himself nor vied with another. He toiled in his ascetic labors in such a way AS NOT TO MAKE OTHERS ENVIOUS OF HIM, rather, they rejoiced and gave thanks to God Who wrought mightily in him. He was called by then a lover of God, that is, THEOPHILOS. Some loved him as a brother, and others as a son.

The devil, who hates and envies what is good, could not endure seeing such eagerness and diligence in one so young. He saw Anthony’s perfection and therefore endeavored to war against the Saint, in a manner he was wont to effect against other young men. He first attempted to thwart his asceticism with the remembrance of the care and concern of his little sister, he whispered to Anthony about his former wealth, he reminded him reminded him of those sweet and delightful things of the table, he warned him of the toil and suffering entailed with striving for virtue and the rough path that lay ahead, he called to Anthony’s mind the infirmity of the flesh and bodily sicknesses, and other such ailments. The devil, however, saw for himself that he was vanquished by the great faith and firm resolve of the venerable one.

This was Saint Anthony’s first encounter against the devil, or rather this was the triumph of Christ working in Anthony; for Christ "CONDEMNED SIN IN THE FLESH, IN ORDER THAT THE ORDINANCE OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULFILLED IN US, WHO WALK NOT ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, BUT ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT" (Romans 8:3). The holy man, however, neither relaxed nor neglected his rule. He knew from the Holy Scripture that the ways of the enemy were diverse and wily. He knew that though the enemy had been vanquished for a time, he would not desist. He would look for other opportunities or some small negligence on Anthony’s part to gain a foothold and overwhelm him. Saint Peter clearly taught that our "ADVERSARY, THE DEVIL, AS A ROARING LION, WALKETH ABOUT. SEEKING WHOM HE MIGHT DEVOUR" (1 Peter 5:8). Anthony also learned that we must put on the FULL ARMOR OF GOD, in order to stand against the wiles of the devil" [Ephesians 6:11]. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]

(To be continued)

____________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"