“O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Thou art everywhere and fill all things…” (Prayer to God the Holy Spirit)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

Prayer to God the Holy Spirit

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth,
Thou art everywhere and fill all things,
Treasury of blessings and Giver of Life come
and abide in us, and cleanse us from every
impurity, and save our souls, O Good One!

Saint John Chrysostom writes, "Who is there that is not surprised and does not marvel at the love of God, which He demonstrates by rendering such a great honor to human beings in making them worthy to pray and to converse with God Himself! When we converse with God at the time of prayer we become similar to the Angels and dissimilar to the irrational beings. For the work par excellence of the Angels is prayer and worship. By praying with much awe and presenting themselves to us as an example, the Angels teach us to learn and to know that we must pray to God with joy and with fear. We must pray both with fear of being found unworthy of the prayer which connects us with God, but also with fulness of joy for the magnitude of honor which is bestowed upon the human race through the very possibility of prayer. Divine Providence has made us capable of enjoying constant communion with God, through which we appear not to be mortal and transient. Even though by nature we are mortal, IT IS THROUGH OUR CONVERSATION WITH GOD THAT WE ARE TRANSFORMED INTO IMMORTAL LIFE. For the one who holds conversation with God must be by necessity above death and every moral and spiritual corruption. And by the same token, as it is most essential for one who enjoys the rays of the sun to be free of darkness, so also the one who enjoys conversation with God must no longer be mortal, precisely because the magnitude of this honor transfers us into the realm of spiritual immortality. It is impossible for those who pray and speak to God to have mortal souls. THE DEATH OF THE SOUL IS PRECISELY IMPIETY AND A SINFUL LIFE, WHILE THE LIFE OF THE SOUL IS THE WORSHIP OF GOD AND A WAY OF LIFE IN THE BELIEVER THAT IS BECOMING TO SUCH WORSHIP." [An Homily on Prayer]

Psalm 139: 7-12 reveals God’s Omnipresence: "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me. And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me," Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You." There is no place whether in heaven or on earth where God is not present. It is, therefore, indispensable that the Christian believer maintains communion with His Creator through prayer and worship. Prayer must be united with quiet and godly behavior.

Our prayer should be a prayer of faith. Each person has a "measure of faith" as Saint Paul mentions in his epistle to Romans 12:3. We, as Orthodox Christians live out this faithful relationship to God in our Holy Church, the body of Christ, with (1) humility–contentedness with one’s role,(2)self-control (to think wisely), especially control over the sinful passions; (3) proper use of spiritual gifts and ministries. Ministry (diakonia) requires working together for the good of all with love and integrity of heart.

It is most important that we are not swayed by the unbelievers that man is in control of the world. Man is not in control of anything including his own life or future. It is foolish for a person to believe that he or she is in charge of what God Himself has created from nothing. Therefore, mankind should submit to God’s authority and commandments for we depend on God for everything, including the very air that we breathe. God’s love for us is infinite and life-giving. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is our supreme example of this Divine love Who sacrificed His life on the Cross to save the human race from evil and death.

"Obedience to the faith" (Romans 16:26) includes both surrender of the will to God and acceptance of Church doctrine. It is, therefore, significant that before the Divine Eucharist in our Holy Orthodox, the Nicene Creed is recited by all the faithful, showing that all have the same faith in God the Father, His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Church "unto ages of ages." By faith, we actively participate in God’s grace given to us, His "Righteousness." By continuing in it we are gradually transformed internally and externally into His likeness. Faith is far more than possessing mental belief. Since neither faith nor righteousness originates in us but in our All-Merciful God, true faith transforms our lives, making us Godlike, bearing the fruit of the Spirit. It is the power and life of the Holy Spirit active in those who by faith in Christ live out their baptism and chrismation to the fullest possible degree. This makes the righteousness of God gained by faith real in one’s life.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch writes: "Let [others] be instructed by you, at least by your works. With their wrath, you be mild, with their boastful speech you be humble-minded, with their abuse you offer prayers, with their deceit you be firm in faith, with their cruelty you be gentle, not eager to imitate them" (To the Ephesians). The holy mission of every Orthodox Christian is, by the grace of God, to teach others by example, how to live in harmony with one another. To be loving, kind, gentle, compassionate, forgiving, humble, truthful, merciful, patient, hopeful, and faithful. We are constantly bombarded with deceitful messages, distortions, and with accusations of all kinds. Do not listen to it but instead, turn to our Savior Jesus Christ and seek His guidance and Divine wisdom, "that you would walk worthy of God Who calls you into His own Kingdom and Glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:12).

_____________

"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

LIVING A LIFE IN CHRIST IN A HOSTILE AND SECULAR WORLD

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

LIVING A LIFE IN CHRIST IN A HOSTILE AND SECULAR WORLD

In his second Epistle to Timothy Saint Paul writes, "But you have carefully followed
my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra–
what persecutions I endured. And out of them, all the Lord delivered me.
Yes, AND ALL WHO DESIRE TO LIVE GODLY IN CHRIST JESUS WILL SUFFER
PERSECUTIONS" (3:10-12).

The message to the followers of Christ is that in this world, godliness elicits persecution. Our Savior Himself says to us, "Rember the world that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ IF THEY PERSECUTED ME, THEY WILL PERSECUTE YOU… They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming THAT WHOEVER KILLS YOU WILL THINK THAT HE OFFERS GOD SERVICE. AND THESE THINGS THEY WILL DO TO YOU BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN THE FATHER NOR ME" (John 15:20-21; 16:2-3).

We understand that while union with Christ brings love, joy, and peace, it also brings the world’s hatred and persecution. Christian history bears witness to this fact. Not thousands but millions of Christians have been persecuted and killed over two thousand years. But even when the world hates true Christians, they must not become despondent, but take comfort from God the Holy Spirit. Saint John Chrysostom writes, "Great is the tyranny of despondency." The struggle of the Christian is one of the ongoing struggles between Light and darkness, between Jesus and the prince of this world.

We learn from the lives of the Saints that are manifold trials and temptations that we must be willing to endure for Christ’s sake. Jesus speaking to His Disciples says, "If anyone desires to come after Me, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOW Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but WHOEVER LOSES HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE WILL FIND IT" (Matthew 16:24-25). The cross is indeed a symbol of suffering by Christians in imitation of Christ. Self-denial is for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, for a better life; it is not a punitive end in itself. The Cross of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the means through which all of mankind is saved because it is the Cross of Christ that saves and not our own.

Spiritual strength comes through faith, prayer, and fasting. Saint Maximos the Kafsokalyvetes states: "When the grace of the Holy Spirit enters one at the time of prayer, then the prayer ceases, since the mind is entirely dominated by the Holy Spirit and cannot energize its powers. It is still laboring,
subordinating itself to the Holy Spirit. It is directed as the Holy Spirit wills, either to the realm of the immaterial Divine Light, or to some other ineffable contemplation, or oftentimes to divine converse. And is short, even as the Holy Spirit wills, in that manner He consoles and comforts His servants, granting grace even as is appropriate for one."

"Therefore, when this grace of the Holy Spirit comes to one, it does not reveal to him the customary things, nor those things of this world which are apprehended by the senses, but it shows him those which he has never seen before nor imagined. And the mind of that man is taught by the Holy Spirit mysteries–lofty, hidden, and unknown–which, according to the holy Apostle Paul, are those which "eye hath not seen, and ear not heard, for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9); that is, such things cannot be seen by the bodily eye nor can the mind of man understand on his own."

"The signs of grace, however, are as follows. When the grace of the Holy Spirit comes and overshadows one, it collects for itself the mind and causes it to be attentive and humble. It brings about in one the remembrance of death and one’s sins, and the future judgment and everlasting punishment. It makes the soul easily come to compunction that it might weep and mourn. It produces eyes full of tears in the sober-minded. As much as it draws near to a man, such a one perceives calm in his soul. He receives consolation by means of our Lord Jesus Christ’s boundless love for man and His holy Passion. This acts as an agent to the mind, conferring upon it lofty and true contemplation. First, he medicates upon the incomprehensible power of God, regarding how He created all things out of nothing. Second, he meditates upon God’s infinite power, by which He holds together and governs all things in His Providence, Third, he meditates upon the incomprehensibility of the Holy Trinity, the unsearchable and inscrutable gulf of the Divine Light and is illumined with the Divine Illumination of knowledge, his heart becomes serene, still, and meek, gushing forth the fruits of the Holy Spirit–that is, JOY, PEACE, LONG-SUFFERING, KINDNESS, SYMPATHY, LOVE, HUMILITY, and the rest [Galatians 5:22], thus the soul os such a one PARTAKES OF ONE INEXPRESSALBE JOY. This is why I have sought the wilderness, and this is hy I have always longed for quietness, in order to enjoy more the fruits of prayer." [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]

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

Lord God, Almighty Father,
Lord God, Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ,
And Lord God, the Holy Spirit,
One God, one power, and one essence,
Have mercy on me a sinner
And through the judgments which You know best,
Save me Your unworthy servant,
For You are Blessed unto the ages of 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

TEMPTATIONS

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

TEMPTATIONS

"… And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from the evil one."
[Matthew 6:13]

Man is tempted by the evil one unceasingly, day and night. To be "tempted" is to be tested in fundamental areas of faith. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted soon after "He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (Matthew 4:2-3).

Needless to say, we live under that threat daily and, therefore, we must remain vigilant and prayerful. The struggle against the devil is constant and we must always be prepared spiritually through prayer and fasting. The world which we dwell in is a spiritual wilderness filled with demonic temptations and challenges. We need not be defeated when temptations come but possess the spiritual weapons to combat them. Jesus was tested with hunger but did not sin. "But He answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’" (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3). Our true food is to live by that which God commands us. This way we too will triumph over temptations as did our Savior Christ. When we pray to our God we request and supplicate Him to "forgive us… as we are to forgive others. Furthermore, we pray not only that our sins be forgiven (v. 12), but that we not surrender to temptation. We believe that God tempts no one (James 1:13); temptations are from the evil one, the devil. They are aimed at our soul’s willful yielding to the sinful passions of the flesh (Romans 7:5). No one can live without at some time encountering temptation. To surrender to temptation and commit sin is blameworthy. Therefore, we pay that great temptations, tests beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), should not come our way.

Saint Maximos the Confessor, from his Commentary on the Our Father writes: "The evil one mischievously uses types of temptations, voluntary and involuntary, the first by sowing and greatly provoking the soul with bodily pleasures and scheming first to take away the desire of Divine agape. Then he cunningly works on the other type, hoping to corrupt our nature by pain so as to constrain the soul, struck down by the weakness of sufferings, to set in motion the attitudes of hatred of the Creator. We pray to avoid voluntary temptation so that we will not turn aside our desire from Divine agape. As far as involuntary temptation is concerned, let us endure it nobly as coming with God’s consent, SO THAT WE MAY SHOW THAT WE PREFER THE CREATOR OF NATURE TO NATURE ITSELF." [Saint Maximos, Selected Writings: Our Father)

Saint Maximos said, "The Saints are tried so that their secret virtues may be made manifest to all. Job in the Old Testament was tempted to reveal his perseverance and patience, while Joseph was put to the test that his chastity and temperance might shine forth. If God permits the Saints to suffer in this life, it is because He would have us vanquish the devil, the ancient serpent. The patience of the Saints was a consequence of their trials. We were given by our Creator FREE WILL and, therefore, we can be tempted by the evil one but he cannot impose his will upon anyone of us. The choice of whether to sin or not to sin is left up to our choice and decision.

The Creator imparted to man THREE GREAT GIFTS at his creation: FREEDOM, REASON, AND AGAPE (LOVE). These gifts are indispensable for the spiritual growth and blessedness of man. But where there is freedom there is the possibility of wavering in one’s choice; thus, temptation is possible. The temptation for reason IS TO GROW PROUD in mind; instead of acknowledging the wisdom and goodness of God, to seek the knowledge of good and evil outside of God; to desire oneself to be a "god." The temptation for the feeling of AGAPE is in place of love for God and one’s neighbor, to love oneself and everything that satisfies the lower desires and gives temporary enjoyment. The possibility of temptation and fall stood before mankind, and the first man did not stand firm against it.

Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church has always understood the serpent, THE TEMPTER, to be THE DEVIL, who took the form of a serpent as corresponding best in his sneaky, cunning, and poisonous character. The clear words of our Lord Himself about the devil confirm this interpretation: "He was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44). In the Apocalypse (Revelation) of Saint John the Theologian is called "the great dragon, that old serpent (Revelation 12:9). In the book of the Wisdom of Solomon it says: "Through the devil’s envy death entered the world" (Wisdom of Solomon 2:24).

"What was the sin in the eating of the fruit? The transgression of our first ancestors was this: Having been TEMPTED by the serpent, they violated the direct Commandment of God not to eat of the forbidden tree. The fulfillment of this Commandment would have shown OBEDIENCE TO GOD AND TRUST in His words, as well as HUMILITY and CONTINENCE."

According to Saint Maximos the Confessor "We are not empowered to be in health or sickness, we do contribute to those conditions which are likely to lead to one of the other state. In like manner, we cannot determine whether we shall attain the Kingdom of the Heavens or be cast into the Gehenna of the fire, though keeping God’s Commandments is cause for our attaining the Kingdom, and not observing them is cause for our being cast into the Gehenna of the fire."

The holy Apostle James writes: "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12). We are to rejoice even in temptations. Our attitude toward them reveals whether or not we are prepared for heaven. Saint Paul reminds us when he writes, "And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but, we for an imperishable crown" (1 Corinthians 9:25). As training prepares an athlete, so spiritual DISCIPLINE prepares a Christian to exercise faith and enter the Kingdom of God. All people share a common human nature, but Christians have two fathers: first Adam, who became the father of mortality and earthly life, and now Christ, the Father of IMMORTALITY and SPIRITUAL LIFE.

Remember that the devil and his angels explore us individually, looking for our weaknesses. The enemy offers appealing visions to our eyes, music to our ears, to each of our senses setting forth whatever might tempt them. Thus, we must always be alert for the many-faceted attacks , ready to resist him at every turn. The holy Apostle exhorts us, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

___________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

On the 10th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates Saint GREGORY OF NYSSA

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

On the 10th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
Our Holy Father among the Saints, GREGORY OF NYSSA.

Kontakion Hymn of the Saint. Second Tone

REJOICING with the Angels and taking delight in the Divine Light,
Gregory of Nyssa, the vigilant mind, the God inspired hierarch of
the Church, and wisdom’s revered hymnographer, intercedeth
unceasingly for us all.

Saint Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa (+372 A.D.), is to be praised for the holiness of his conduct of life, his theological knowledge, and his zealous promotion of the Orthodox Faith embodied in the Nicene clauses. He is believed to have been born in Caesarea, the Capital of Cappadocia, in 335 or 336 A.D. The family of Saint Gregory was wealthy, distinguished, and conspicuously Orthodox. He was the youngest brother of Saint Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.).

The Saint’s father, Basil was a notable rhetorician, He died at a relatively young age, after fathering a family of ten children, five boys, and five girls. The children were reared by their paternal grandmother Makrina and their mother Emmelia. Saint Gregory received his first instruction in grammar and rhetoric from his father. Saint Gregory’s father reposed when he was twelve years old. Saint Basil undertook his education.

Saint Gregory was celebrated for his gentle spirit. He was better suited to a life of monasticism and study. His Diocese was troubled with controversy and hostility from the Arian and Sabellian heretics. Problems in his Diocese were intensified on account of the imperial patronage for the heretics–the throne was occupied by Valens (364-378 A.D.), whose twisted mind bent on the uprooting of Nicene Orthodoxy. Saint Gregory was to suffer persecution as bishop of Nyssa.

Valens appointed his evil minion Demosthenes, a former clerk of the imperial kitchen, as Viceroy of the civil Diocese of Pontos. Demosthenes managed to have a synod meeting at Nyssa, where Gregory was summoned to answer to false charges against him. Saint Gregory refused to attend. The false council, deeming him intractable, charged him with the unwillingness to submit to authority, and deposed him in his absence. Emperor Valens also interfered, and in 376 A.D. he decreed banishment (exile) for Gregory to Seleukeia. He suffered from a lack of physical comforts and necessities. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Gratian, a disciple, and friend of Saint Ambrose, decided Bishop Gregory of Nyssa ought to be rightfully restored to his Episcopal throne. To the utter gladness of the Orthodox Christian faithful of his Diocese, the sentence of banishment was revoked. He returned in triumph to his people.

With the repose of the glorious Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory was called to fill the vacancy. He became bishop in 372 A.D. He rose in preeminence and exerted a powerful influence as the chief defender of the Nicene Creed, but was still harassed by the heretics. Saint Gregory, as his brother Basil’s worthy pupil, completed his brother’s description of the Six Days of Creation, the HEXAEMERON, AND WROTE On The Making of Man. In the latter, he explains the reason why man appeared last, after the creation.

Saint Gregory Attended the Local Council of Antioch, which sent him to visit the Churches of Arabia and Palestine, which had been defiled and ravaged by Arianism heresy. He attended the Second Ecumenical Council, which was assembled in Constantinople in 381 A.D. Having lived some 60 years and left behind man remarkable writings, and important dogmatic works on the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption, and the Mysteries (Sacraments) of Baptism and the Divinie Eucharist. He struggled on behalf of Orthodox Christianity against the heretics who attempted TO PENETRATE THE FLOCK (THE CHURCH). He assigned the will at the source of evil, and considred the gift of FREE WILL AS THE MOST PRECIOUS OF BLESSINGS. To this end, he wrote in The Life of Moses about the Egyptian Pharaoh’s heart and free will, remarking, "God gives up to dishonorable passions the one who gives himself up to them. IT LIES WITHIN EACH PERSON’S POWER TO MAKE THIS CHOICE. GOD gives up to passion him whom He doest not protect, because He is not acknowledged by him. But his failure to acknowledge God becomes the reason why he is being pulled down into the passionate and dishonorable life. The Egyptian tyrrant is hardened by God not because the Divine will places the resistance in the soul of Pharaoh, but BECAUSE THE FREE WILL, THROUGH ITS INCLINATION TO EVIL, DOES NOT RECEIVE THE WORD WHICH SOFTENS RESISTANCE." THUS, "EACH MAN (PERSON) MAKES HIS/HER OWN PLAGUES."

Although Saint Gregory endured many disappointments, he was consoled by this fact, and he declared it in a letter, that "I am rich in friendships." In his writing, The Life of Moses, he leaves us with two thoughts: "The vision of God is never to be satisfied in the desire to see Him. But one must always, by looking AT WHAT HE CAN SEE, REKINDLE HIS DESIRE TO SEE MORE." And this is TRUE PERFECTION: "NOT TO AVOIDE A WICKED LIFE, BECAUSE LIKE SLAVES WE SERVILELY FEAR PUNISHMENT, NOR TO DO GOOD BECAUSE WE HOPE FOR REWARDS, AS IF CASHING IN ON THE VIRTUOUS LIFE BY SOME BUSINESS-LIKE AND CONTRACTUAL ARRANGEMENT. On the contrary, DISREGARDING ALL THOSE THINGS FOR WHICH WE HOPE AND WHICH HAVE BEEN RESERVED BY PROMISE, WE REGARD FALLING FROM GOD’S FRIENDSHIP AS THE ONLY THING DREADFUL, AND WE CONSIDER BECOMING GOD’S FRIEND AS THE ONLY THING WORTHY OF HONOR AND DESIRE. THIS, AS I HAVE SAID, IS THE PERFECTION OF LIFE."

As a theologian, HE DEFENDED ORTHODOXY WITH BRILLIANT REFUTATIONS AGAINST THE HERETICS. Thus, we see the prophecy of Saint Basil the Great was surely fulfilled in him, that Saint Gregory would be theone to bring honor to Nyssa, and not the cith to the man.

The acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Syond call him "Father of Fathers." Saint Gregory’s holy relics were translated to the Church of Saint Efstathios in Perissos, Attike, located in the outskirts of Athens, Greece. [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

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN HYMNS REVEAL THE DIVINE INCARNATION AND BAPTISM OF THE SON OF GOD

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN HYMNS REVEAL THE DIVINE INCARNATION
AND BAPTISM OF THE SON OF GOD.

Kathisma 1. Mode 3.

At Your Epiphany at River Jordan, O Christ,
when by the Forerunner, O Savior, You were
baptized, the voice from heaven testified that
You are the Beloved Son.
Therefore You were shown to be with the Father
beginningless, and the Holy Spirit came down
as a dove and alighted on You.
In Him, we are illumined and cry out, Glory to
God in Trinity.

Kathisma III. Mode 4.

You hallowed the waters of the Jordan River,
O Lord; and by Your Own might You shattered sin’s
dominion, O Christ our God.
You bowed Yourself, O Savior, beneath the
hand of the Baptist, and saved the human race.

Ode v. Katavasias of Epiphany I and II

He is Jesus, the Author of life. He has
come to loose the condemnation of first-
created Adam. Being God, and thus not
needing to be purified, in the Jordan He
purifies the one who has fallen. He put
to death the enmity, and therefore He
grants the peace that passes all under-
standing.

Iambic.

The Spirit’s cleansing has washed away
from us now the dark and dirty enemy’s
poison venom. Therefore we have landed
on a new unerring path, which leads to
happiness that has no access, save to them
whom God to Himself reconciled.

Troparia.

Wash yourselves and be clean, says the
Prophet Isaiah, and put away your evildoing
from before the Lord’s eyes. All you who are
thirsty go now to the Living Water. For Christ
will sprinkle those who believing run to Him
with water that renews, and He baptizes them
with the Spirit unto undecaying life.

We have come to know the Wonders shown
to Moses in the Bush by some strange laws
are here accomplished: preserved uninjured
was the Fire-bearing Virgin when she brought
forth the Light-bringing Benefactor, as were
Jordan’s streams when they received the
Master.

Exapostelarion. Mode 3.

Our Savior, Grace, and Truth, appeared in
His Epiphany in the streams of the Jordan;
and those who lay once in the dark and
shadow He illumined now. He has come and
appeared, the Light Unapproachable.

Stichera for the Feast. Mode I.

Light from Light, Christ our God, has
shone upon the world. He is God and He
appeared to us. O peoples, let us worship
Him.

Idiomelon. Mode I.

The True Light has appeared and bestows
illumination on all. Christ is baptized with us,
even though He is above all purity; and thus
He infuses sanctification into the water,
which then becomes the purifying agent of
our souls. What is seen belongs to earth, but
what is understood transcends the heavens.
By means of a bath comes salvation; by means
of water comes the Spirit; by means of immersion
does our ascent to God come to pass. How
wonderful are Your works, O Lord!
Glory to You.

Mode 2.

Today Christ came to be baptized in the Jordan.
Today John touches the head of the Master. The
Hosts of Heaven were astounded seeing the
paradoxical mystery. The sea beheld it and fled;
when the Jordan saw, it retreated. And we who are
now illumined cry aloud, "Glory be to God Who
appeared, and Who was seen on earth, and Who
illumined the world.

Hymns from the Synaxis of the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John

Glory. For the Forerunner.

Mode 2.

The memory of the just is observed with hymns of praise; for
you suffices the testimony of the Lord, O Forerunner, You have
proved to be truly more venerable than the Prophets, since you
were granted to baptize in the river the One Whom they
proclaimed. Therefore, when for the truth you had contested,
rejoicing, to those in Hades you preached the Gospel, that God
was manifested in the flesh, and takes away the sin of the world,
and grants to us great mercy.

For the Forerunner. Mode 2.

Coming from the desert, the Forerunner’s voice to all points out
the Logos/Word Who for our sake has visited us bodily; full of
joy he prepares himself to baptize Him Who has arrived, the One
Who purifies our souls from the Ancestral sin through faith in
Him.

Both now. Theotokion

Exceeding compassion, the Savior and Redeemer of the
the universe becomes a man and accepts to be born in the flesh,
in His love for the human race, since He by nature is humane;
He came forth from your virgin womb, All-Blessed Maiden
who gave birth to God.

Glory. Mode pl. 2.

You emerged from a barren woman’s labor as an Angel, O
Baptist, and you dwelt in the wilderness from the time you were
in swaddling clothes. You were shown to be the Seal of the
Prophets all; for you were counted worthy to baptize in the
Jordan Him Whom they beheld in various ways and proclaimed
enigmatically. You heard the Father’s voice from heaven bearing
witness to His Sonship. And you saw the Spirit in the form of a
dove showing that the voice was directed towards the One being
baptized. And you, who are superior to all the Prophets, never
cease interceding on our behalf, as we loyally observe your
memorial.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Feast. Mode 1.

As You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, then the worship
of the Trinity became manifest, for the voice of the Father bore
witness to You, naming You the Beloved Son, and the Spirit, in
the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of the word. O Christ God,
Who appeared and illumined the world, Glory to You.

CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΓΕΝΝΑΤΑΙ! ΔΟΞΑΣΑΤΕ!

____________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +



With sincere agape in His Glorious Appearance and Baptism,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

On the 7th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates the SYNAXIS of the Honorable Prophet, Forerunner, and BAPTIST JOHN

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

On the 7th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
the Synaxis of the Honorable Prophet, Forerunner and
BAPTIST JOHN.

Saint John, the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist, is commemorated on the 7th of January by Our Holy Church. The word SYNAXIS signifies a GATHERING OR ASSEMBLY. In this case, today’s Synaxis IS AN ASSEMBLY OF THE CONGREGATION FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP, WITH A VIGIL AND EUCHARIST, AND INSTRUCTION REGARDING THE FEAST DAY OF Saint John, following the Major Feast of the Theophany, in which he materially participated.

Saint Ephraim the Syrian (+306-383 A.D.) says that "the daughter [Elisabeth] of Aaron the priest gave birth to the voice in the desert [Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3], and the daughter (Mary) of King David to the Logos/Word of the Heavenly King." The hymnographers of the Church proclaim John as the "VOICE." Hear Elisabeth speaking to the Virgin Mary: "Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" [Luke 1:43]. "Thou dost carry the King and I the soldier; thou the Law-giver and I the enactor of the la; thou the Logos, and I THE VOICE PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN" [Isaiah 40:3]. Saint Kyril of Jerusalem (+349-386 A.D.) observes: "John (the Baptist) ALONE, while carried in the womb, LEAPED FOR JOY" [Luke 1:44]; and though he saw not with the eyes of the flesh, he knew his Master by the Spirit. For since the grace of Baptism was great, IT REQUIRED GREATNESS IN ITS FOUNDER ALSO. Saint Ephraim writes: "He who was to baptize with water would proclaim Him Who would baptize in fire and in the Holy Spirit" [Matthew 3:11].

The Festal Reading from the Gospel According to the Evangelist Luke

"The word of God came to be upon John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness" [Luke 3:2]. Saint Theophylact (+765-840] explains: "By ‘the word,’ he means the Holy Spirit or the command of God. The word of God, literally, ‘came to be’ or ‘arose’ upon John. This is in order that you may learn he did not call himself to bear witness concerning Christ, but RATHER WAS MOVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT." Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan [+ 374-397 A.D.), adds that "Saint Luke fittingly says that the word of the Lord came to be upon John so that the Church will not begin from a man, but from the Logos/Word".


   The Prophet Isaiah wrote:  "The VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD; BE MAKING HIS PATHS STRAIGHT" [Luke 3:3-6]. Saint John Chrysostom comments: "Do you see how the Prophet anticipated all by his words–the concourse of the people, the change of things for the better, the easiness of that which was preached? …He is signifying the exaltation of the lowly, the humbling of the self-willed, the difficulty of the law changed into easiness of faith. For it is no longer sweat and pains, but grace and forgiveness of sins, affording great facility of salvation… Now not only Jews and proselytes shall see the salvation of God, BUT ALL. The crooked things signify our whole corrupt life… as many as were previously perverted, afterward they walked in the right way."

Saint John said, "Produce fruits worthy of repentance" [Luke 3:8]. According to Saint Kyril, "The fruit of repentance is, in the highest degree, FAITH IN CHRIST; and next to it, the evangelic mode of life, and in general terms the works of righteousness in contradistinction to sin, which the penitent must bring forth as fruits worthy of repentance." The Baptist then says, "Think not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for a father’; for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham’ [Luke 3:8]. Saint Kyril observes that John "skillfully humbles their foolish pride. For of what benefits is nobility of birth, if men practice not the life earnest deeds, nor imitate the virtue of their ancestors? The relationship God requires IS ONE N CHARACTER AND MANNERS; SO THAT IT IS A VAIN THING TO BOAST OF HOLY AND PROUD PARENTS, WHILE WE FAIL SHORT OF THEIR VIRTUE." With reference to the "stones," Saint Ambrose tells us that "although God can change and transform diverse natures, yet, because a mystery is of more benefit to me than a miracle. I should acknowledge in the (words of) Christ’s Forerunner nothing greater than the building of the growing Church, which is constructed not of stony rocks, BUT OF LIVING STONES [1 Peter 2:4-5], through THE CONVERSION OF OUR SPIRITS THAT RISE INTO A HABITATION OF GOD AND PEDIMENT OF THE TEMPLE [Ephesians 2:21-22]… Therefore, faith is prophesied to be imparted to the stony hearts of the Gentiles."

The Baptist John was proclaiming A BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE TOWARD THE REMISSION OF SINS. "And all the land of Judaea, and of Jerusalem, were going out to him; and all were being baptized in the Jordan River by him, CONFESSING THEIR SINS" (Mark 1:4-5). Saint Theophylact comments: "John preached the baptism of repentance which led toward the remission of sins… The Forerunner proclaimed the baptism of repentance so that those who repent and receive Christ would have the forgiveness of sins." And elsewhere, "John’s baptism gave neither spiritual grace nor the forgiveness of sin, but Christ WILL FORGIVE YOU AND GIVE YOU THE SPIRIT ABUNDANTLY." Saint John says that Christ, "SHALL BAPTIZE YOU IN THE HOLY SPIRIT AND IN FIRE" [Matthew 3:11]. Saint John Chrysostom comments: "He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit" and by metaphor, he declares THE ABUNDANCE OF GRACE. For he said not, ‘He shall give you the Holy Spirit,’ but ‘He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit.’ And by the additional mention OF THE FIRE, he again indicates THE EXCEEDINGLY STRONG AND ROVING QUALITY OF THE GRACE."

Saint John bore witness, saying, "I have beheld the Spirit descending out of heaven as a dove, and He abode upon Him. And I knew Him not, but the One Who sent me to baptize in water, that One said to me, ‘Upon whomsoever thou shall see the Spirit descending and abiding on Him, this is the One Who baptizeth in the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that THIS IS THE SON OF GOD" (John 1:32-34).

Saint Ambrose comments: "It was not a dove that descended, but the Holy Spirit ‘as a dove’ (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10). Luke, however, added that ‘the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape as a dove upon Him’ [Luke 3:22]. You must not think that this was an incarnation, BUT AN APPEARANCE. He, then, brought the appearance before him, that by means of the appearance he might believe who did not see the Spirit, and that by the appearance he might manifest that He had a share of the one honor in authority, the one operation in the mystery, the one gift in the bath, together with the Father and the Son… And he said fittingly, ‘He abode on Him,’ because the Spirit inspired a saying or acted upon the Prophets as often as He would, but abode always in Christ. Saint Athanasios, Archbishop of Alexandria (+328 A.D.), observes that "the Spirit’s descent on Him in the Jordan WAS A DESCENT UPON US, BECAUSE OF HIS BEARING OUR BODY. For when the Lord, as Man, was washed in the Jordan, IT WAS WE WHO WERE WASHED in Him and by Him. And when He received the Spirit, IT WAS WE WHO BY HIM WERE MADE RECIPIENTS OF THE SPIRIT." [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





THEOPHANY, THE MANIFESTATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY UNTO THE WHOLE WORLD

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

THEOPHANY, THE MANIFESTATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY
UNTO THE WHOLE WORLD.

"When Thou was 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 to Thee." (Apolytikion)

Our Savior Jesus Christ came to Galilee to the Jordan and sought and received baptism–though He was the Master and John was but a servant. Whereupon, there became 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 begging baptized, and the Voice was heard from the Heavens bearing witness that this was the Beloved Son of God, now baptized as a man (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:1-22). From these events, THE DIVINITY OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND TH GREAT MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY WERE DEMONSTRATED. It is also from this that the present Holy Feast is called "THEOPHANEIA," that is, THE DIVINE MANIFESTATION, GOD’S APPEARANCE AMONG MEN. On this Venerable Day the Sacred Mystery of Christian Baptism was inaugurated; henceforth also began the SAVING PREACHING OF THE Kingdom of the Heavens.

Titus 3:5-7: He (Christ) "according to His mercy saved us, by the washing of REGENERATION (in Baptism), and renewing of the Holy Spirit… that being justified by His Grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

Ephesians 4:30: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption" (that is today, the day of Baptism and the receiving of the Seal of the Holy Spirit).

Baptism by water is called to the Apostolic Scriptures likewise a "new birth, adoption, sanctification. But you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 6:11). "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:7).

Saint Symeon the New Theologian explains how, through the Sacrifice of Christ, man can be cleansed of sin and delivered FROM SPIRITUAL DEATH, receiving WITHIN HIMSELF THE GRACE OF GOD as Adam had it before the Fall: "One Person of the Holy Trinity, namely the Son and Logos/Word of God, having become INCARNATE, OFFERED HIMSELF IN THE FLESH AS A SACRIFICE TO THE DIVINITY OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON HIMSELF, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, IN ORDER THAT THE FIRST TRANSGRESSION OF ADAM MIGHT BE BENEVOLENTLY FORGIVEN FOR THE SAKE OF THIS GREAT AND FEARFUL WORK, THAT IS, FOR THE SAKE OF THIS SACRIFICE OF CHRIST, and in order that by its power there might be performed ANOTHER NEW BIRTH AND RE-CREATION OF AMN IN Holy Baptism, in which we also are CLEANSED BY WATER MINGLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. From that time people are baptized in water, ARE IMMERSED IN IT, AND TAKEN OUT FROM IT THREE TIMES, IN THE IMAGE OF THE THREE-DAY BURIAL OF THE LORD, and after they die in it to this whole world, in the third bringing out from it they are ALREADY ALIVE, AS IF RESURRECTED FROM THE DEAD, THAT IS, THEIR SOULS ARE BROUGHT TO LIFE AND AGAIN RECEIVE THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AS Adam had it before the transgression. Then they are ANOINTED WITH Holy Myrrh, and by means of it ARE ANOINTED WITH JESUS CHRIST, AND ARE FRAGRANT IN A WAY ABOVE NATURE. Having become in this way WORTHY OF BEING ASSOCIATES OF GOD, THEY TASTE His Flesh and drink His Blood, and by means of the sanctified bread and wine BECOME ONE Body and Blood with God Who was incarnate and offered Himself as a sacrifice. After this, it is no longer possible THAT SIN SHOULD REIGN AND TYRANIZE OVER THEM, FOR THEY ARE gods by Grace…

"Thus God, Who is incomparably Higher than the visible and invisible creation, accepted human nature, which is higher tan the whole visible creation, and offered it a sacrifice to His God and Father… Honoring the sacrifice, the Father could not leave it in the hands of death. Therefore, He annihilated His sentence and RESURRECTED FROM THE DEAD FIRST OF ALL AND AT THE BEGINNING Him Who had given Himself AS A SACRIFICE FOR THE REDEMPTION AND AS A REPLACEMENT FOR MEN WHO ARE OF THE SAME RACE AS Himself and afterward, in the LAST DAY OF THE END OF THIS WORLD, HE WILL RESURRECT ALSO ALL MEN. Moreover, THE SOULS OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, IN THIS GREAT AND FEARFUL SACRIFICE, GOD RESURRECTS IN THE PRESENT LIFE; AND A SIGN OF THIS RESURRECTION IS THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHICH HE GIVES TO THE SOUL OF EVERY CHRISTIAN, AS IF GIVING A NEW SOUL".

On the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Holy Apostles, when after the speech of the Holy Apostle Peter his listeners asked what they should do, the Holy Apostle Peter said to them: "Repent and BE BAPTIZED EVERY ONE OF YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37-38).

Thy mystical Grace-given aspect of Baptism is indicated in the above-cited passage of the Holy Scripture; BAPTISM IS A "NEW BIRTH," and it is performed for the salvation of men (Mark 16:16). Moreover, setting forth the Grace-given significance of Baptism, the Holy Apostles in their Epistles indicate that in it we are "sanctified," "cleansed," "Justified"; that in Baptism we "die to sin" so as to walk in RENEWD LIFE."

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 hands of God, restores all the power of his soul, renews them and brings them tot he condition in which they were before the transgression of First-created Adam; in this way, it leads him into the Kingdom of God into which NO ONE UNBAPTIZED CAN ENTER, and enlightens him with its Light and 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 BY THE KEEPING OF THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHICH WAS GIVEN TO HIM THROUGH HOLY BAPTISM, CONFESSING THAT THE POWER OF THIS GRACE WHICH DWELLS IN HIM FULFILLS TOGETHER WITH HIM THE COMMANDMENTS OF CHRIST" (First-Created Man, p. 71). [Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology)

_________

"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 the 6th of January, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates the HOLY THEOPHANY (THEOPHANEIA) Of Our Lord and 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 6th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church
Commemorates the HOLY THEOPHANY (THEOPHANEIA)
OF OUR LORD AND GOD, AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Feast. First Tone

WHEN Thou was 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. First Tone

WHEN Thou didst enlighten all things by Thine Epiphany, the
briny sea of unbelief fled, and as Jordan flowed down, it turned
back, exalting us to Heaven. Through the intercessions of the
Theotokos, preserve us at the height of Thy Divine Commandments,
O Christ God, and have mercy on us.

Kontakion. 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 HAST NOW COME, THOU HAST
APPEARED, O THOU LIGHT UNAPPROACHABLE.

The Great Holy Feast of Theophany (Theophaneia), meaning "MANIFESTATION OF GOD." is also known as the Epiphany (Epiphaneia), meaning "MANIFESTATION FROM ABOVE." The divine office for this Feast celebrates THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST IN THE RIVER JORDAN, thus SANCTIFYING BOTH MAN AND THE WATERS, AND HIS MANIFESTATION AS CHRIST AND THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD IN TRINITY. Epiphany is THE OLDEST FEAST OF OUR LORD NEXT TO PASCHA and has always been celebrated on the 6th of January. The first mention of the Feast is found in Saint Clement of Alexandria (+ 150-215 A.D.). Originally, Epiphany commemorated not only the Baptism of Christ but also His Nativity. However, the day on which Christ was born, He was NOT manifested to all; when He was baptized, He was MADE MANIFEST TO ALL; and so says Saint John Chrysostom (Homily XXIV) on the Baptism of Christ). During the early centuries, this day of our Lord’s Theophany, together with Pascha and Pentecost, and later the Feast of the Nativity were the solemn occasions of Christian INITIATION THROUGH BAPTISM. The remnant of this practice is observed in the chanting of this hymn during the Divine Liturgy: "As many as were baptized into Christ, ye put on Christ (Galatians 3:27) Alleluia." It was not until the 4th Century that the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus was commemorated as a separate feast. As a historical note, according to the old Egyptian calendar, the 6th of January was the day OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE, at which time the benighted pagans celebrated THE CONQUEST OF THE WINTER DARKNESS BY THE SUN god. Later, the new Roman calendar placed the winter solstice on the 25th of December, at which time the polytheistic Romans glorified their deified emperor. Therefore, at the time the idolaters were commemorating the conquest of winter darkness by their sun god or deifying their emperor, THE CHRISTIANS WERE CELEBRATING THE MANIFESTATION OF JESUS CHRIST, TRUE GOD AND TRUE MAN, WHO CONQUERED THE DARKNESS OF IGNORANCE AND SIN, LEADING OUR RACE TO WORSHIP OUR CREATOR RATHER THAN THE CREATURE.

The Theophany took place when Our Lord Jesus Christ had lived thirty years from the time He took flesh and became Man. Our Lord’s Descent into the Jordan and His Baptism were A PATENT MANIFESTATION OF HIS INCARNATION. We, therefore, cry aloud with the Psalmist David, "Blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord…God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us" (Psalm 117:26-27). This THEOPHANY is fulfilled in the Prophecy of Prophet Baruch "This is our God, and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison of Him… Afterward, did He show Himself upon earth, and conversed with men" (Baruch 3:35-37). Thus, we chant, "Divinity was seen with flesh by those of the earth" (cf. Baruch 3:37).

According to Metropolitan HIerotheos of Nafpaktos, Saint John Chrysostom distinguishes between Jewish and Christian baptism. The former does NOT purify from sin of the soul but only from the filth of the body. Church baptism is incomparably higher, because IT FREES THE PERSON FROM HIS SINS, PURIFIES THE SOUL, AND GIVES THE HOLY SPIRIT. Between these two baptisms ther is the baptism which the Worthy Forerunner John the Baptist practiced, which was A BRIDGE BETWEEN THE JUDAIC AND THE CHRISTIAN. Saint John’s baptism was higher that the Judaic, because it referred to Christ, but it was lower than our own, the Christian.

Saint John of Damaskos says that Christ WAS NOT BAPTIZED BECAUSE HE HAD NEED OF PURIFICATION, "BUT TO IDENTIFY HIMSELF WITH OUR PURIFICATION." Just as Chris suffered and was crucified for mankind and felt all the grief and pain, so He identified Himself with OUR OWN PURIFICATION. Many things happened in this way. Furthermore, Saint John of Damaskos, Christ was baptized in order TO CRUSH THE HEADS OF THE DRAGONS IN THE WATER, for there was a conception that the demons dwell in the water; in order to wash the sin and bury the old Adam in the water; in order to bless the baptist, for the Forerunner DID NOT BLESS CHRIST, but CHRIST BLESSED THE FORERUNNER when the latter put his hand on Christ’s head; in order to keep the law, since He Himself gaveit and should not appear to transgress it; in order to reveal the mystery of the Holy Trinity, because at that moment we have THE MANIFESTATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY; in order to become a model for our own baptism, which is perfect baptism and is done by water and the Holy Spirit.

Beyond these things, by His Baptism in the River Jordan, Christ blessed the water as well. That is why even today we perform THE SERVICE OF THE BLESSING OF THE WATERS and during the celebration we call upon the Holy Spirit to bless the waters. Thus after the blessing it CEASES TO BE WATER OF THE FALL AND BECOMES WATER OF RENEWAL, SINCE IT IS UNITED WITH THE UNCREATED GRACE OF GOD."

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite says that in order to reshape a vessel, the potter needs two elements: water for moulding the earth, and fire to burn and cast the moulded clay and so to reshape it. And God, the Great Potter of OUR OWN MOULD, DOES JUST THE SAME THING. WANTING TO RESHAPE OUR NATURE, WHICH WAS CRUSHED BY SIN, GOD USED FIRE AND WATER. AND HE TAKES THE FIRE FROM HIMSELF, BECAUSE AS GOD HE IS A"CONSUMING FIRE" WHICH CONSUMES WICKEDNES, AND HE BORROWS THE WATER FRO THE RIVER JORDAN.

The fact is that by Christ’s INCARNATION, by all the steps of the Divine Economy, and certainly by the Baptism in the River Jordan, THE HUMAN RACE IS RESHAPED. After the Fall and THE CRUSHING OF OUR NATURE WE HAVE RESHAPING AND REBIRTH. This RESHAPING IS POSSIBLE, ON THE ONE HAND BECAUSE AFTER THE SIN HUMAN NATURE DID NOT DISAPPEAR ALTOGETHER, AND ON THE OTHER HAND BECAUSE GOD HIMSELF IS MAN’S CREATOR AND IS HIMSELF MAN’S RECREATOR.

It is quite impossible for these two elements, WATER and FIRE, to exist together. For fire cannot ignite and prosper in a damp place, and water quenchs fire. In the River Jordan THEY CAN EXIST TOGETHER, BECAUSE THE FIRE IS UNCREATED, WHILE THE WATER IS CREATED. AND THEREFORE THE UNCREATED FIRE IS NOT INFLUENCED BY THE CREATED ELEMENT OF THE WATER. INDEED ON THE CONTRARY, THE CREATED WATER IS MADE HOLY BY THE FIRE OF DIVINITY. [Source: The Feasts of the Lord. An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, HIEROTHEOS).

(To be continued)

_____________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Thngs!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +



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

+ Father George

THE HOLY LIFE OF SAINT BASIL 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 HOLY LIFE OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT (Part II)

The holy bishop commissioned a goldsmith to fashion a dove of pure gold, as an image of what took place at the Baptism of Christ, when Saint John the Baptist bore witness, saying, "I have beheld the Spirit descending out of Heaven, AS A DOVE, and He ABODE UPON Him" (John 1:32). He then suspended it above the Holy Table as a receptacle in which to store the Mysteries.

Whenever the Saint served the Divine Liturgy and ELEVATED THE HOLY GIFTS, THAT GOLDEN DOVE, which was suspended above the Holy Altar, shook thrice by the power of God. However, one day, when Saint Basil was serving, the usual sign of the movement of the dove did not take place. Saint Basil pondered why this should have happened now. Then he observed that one of the Deacons, who was holding the fans, was gazing earnestly at a woman standing in the church. The Deacon was dismissed and given penance. He was to pray and fast for seven days and distribute alms to the poor. As a result of this incident, Saint Basil COMMANDED THAT A VEIL BE HUNG AND A PARTITION CONSTRUCTED BEFORE THE SANCTUARY.

Today, the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great is celebrated by the Orthodox Church only TEN TIMES A YEAR: the FIVE SUNDAYS OF The Great Lent (Fast), Great Thursday, Great Saturday, the Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord, the Eve of the Theophany, and the Feast Day of the Saint January 1st.

The Saint’s Writings

Saint Basil the Great bequeathed to us many superb writings which may be arranged by categories: Liturgics, Dogmatic theology [Against Evnomios, On the Holy Spirit, The Hexaemeron), Exegetic (interpretations of the Holy Scripture), Thirteen Homilies on the Psalms, Sermons for the various feasts of the Martyrs, Instructions, Sermons on practical ethics.  The Moral Rules, Asceticism (The Long Rules, The Short Rules, the basics of the coenobitic life, including enlistment in the SACRED WARFARE, on renunciation of the world and spiritual perfection, and the virtues exhibited in the life of the solitary), Epistles (368 letters to diverse peoples on different subjects are extant), Canon of the Great Basil (contained in the Sixth Ecumenical Synot), and a PHILOKALIA (compiled by Saint Basil and Saint Gregory while they took up the ascetic life together in Pontos.


Famine

   In 368 A.D. a great famine befell the Saint's Diocese so that many perished from hunger.  What then did the holy man do to remedy this calamity?  Seeing that the nobles and landed gentry of his Diocese were greedily guarding their wheat in granaries, and not dispersing it to the poor, he was profoundly grieved by their hardness.  Such was the character of the nobles of Caesarea at the time.  Therefore, every day the Saint kept on teaching about almsgiving (charity); he admonished them, exhorted them, and he put his words in writing.  With this manner of constraint, he persuaded the wealthy to open the granaries.  Then, as an imitator of the Master Christ Who washed the feet of His Disciples, the holy Basil served in the apportionment of the wheat; he singlehandedly boiled the legumes and solely distributed food to the poor.  Now, this attended to for many days, until he took care of the hungry.

   His Falling Asleep in the Lord

   Although very weak and dying, by the grace of God, the Archbishop arose and walked to the church where he baptized his Jewish physician Joseph and his family.  He gave him the name John.  The Saint then asked his physician John:  "When shall I die, Sir John?" And he answered, "Whenever thou will determine, holy master."  As the physician answered, the Saint surrendered his honorable soul, replete with light, into the hands of God.  John fell at his feet, weeping and wailing.  It was the 1st of January 379 A.D.  His last words were, "INTO THY HANDS I WILL COMMIT MY SPIRIT; THOU HAS REDEEMED ME, O LORD GOD OF TRUTH" (Psalm 30:5).

   Saint Basil the Great had only a single worn-out garment and ate almost nothing but bread, salt, and herbs.  In 375 A.D., his health worsened, and he wrote:  "I was so ill that I had lost all hope of life… I have now completed the time of my sojourn in this miserable and painful life."  He gave Glory to God, and confessed, "So far, I have sustained every assault unmoved.  This has come about by the mercy of God, which supplies to me the aid of the Spirit and strengthens my weakness through Him."

   Saint Gregory lauds his friend in a funeral oration, saying, "After he  (St. Basil) finished his course, and kept the Faith (cf. 2 Timothy 4:7), he longed to depart."  The whole city poured around him, unable to endure the loss of their shepherd. [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

On January 1st Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates Our Father Among the Saints BASIL THE GREAT, Archbishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia.

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

On January 1st Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates Our Father
Among the Saints BASIL THE GREAT, Archbishop of Caesarea of
Cappadocia.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Saint. First Tone

THY sound hath gone forth into all the earth, which hath received thy
word. Thereby thou hast divinely taught the Faith; thou hast made
manifest the nature of all things that be; thou hast adorned the ways
of man. O namesake of the Royal Priesthood, our Righteous Father
Basil, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.

Kontakion Hymn of the Saint, Fourth Tone

FOR the Church art thou in truth, a firm foundation, granting an
inviolate lordship unto all mortal men and sealing it with what
thou hast taught, O Righteous Basil, revealer of Heavenly things.

SAINT BASIL THE GREAT was born about the end of the year 329 A.D. in Caesarea of Cappadocia, to a family renowned for their learning and holiness. His parents’ names were Basil and Emmelia. A great personal friend of Saint Basil was Saint Gregory the Theologian (+ 329-330 A.D.), Patriarch of Constantinople. In a panegyric on Saint Basil, Saint Gregory mentions that despite the most frightful persecution of Maximinus, the paternal ancestors of Saint Basil exercised every form of piety during that period.

Saint Basil’s father was conspicuous in the Church for probity and godliness. He married the orphaned gentlewoman Emmelia, whose father suffered impoverishment and even death for Christ’s sake. Ten children were born in their happy union, five boys and five girls. The one surviving daughter was Makrina, the angel of the family. Of the five boys, one seems to have died in infancy. Basil was the eldest of the surviving sons, but he was not the only one who was blessed, for he had wondrous brethren and standard-bearers, Peter, the youngest of the brothers, became Archbishop of Sevasteia. Gregory, the third brother, became the Metropolitan of Nyssa. Nefkratios became an ascetic, and he is commemorated by the Holy Orthodox Church on the 19th of July. Verily, the parents fulfilled the word of David who says, "The generation of the upright shall be blessed" (Psalm 111:2). Our Saint Basil, however, surpassed his brethren in virtue and learning.

Saint Basil was close with his mother Emmelia, and later in life, he disclosed in a letter: "Now, for my sins, I have lost my mother, the only comfort I had in life. Do not smile, if, old as I am, I lament my orphanhood. Forgive me If I cannot endure separation from a soul, to compare with whom I was nothing in the future that lies before me." He writes of his grandmother Makrina: "I was brought up by my grandmother, blessed woman… I mean the celebrated Makrina who taught me the words of the blessed Gregory, which, as far as memory had preserved down to her day, she cherished herself, while she fashioned and formed me, with yet a child, upon the doctrines of piety." When assailed b the enemies of the Church, he declared, "The teaching about God, which I had received as a boy from my mother and my grandmother Makrina, I have ever held with increased conviction. On my coming to ripe years of reason, I did not shift my opinion from one to another but CARRIED OUT THE PRINCIPLES DELIVERED TO ME BY MY PARENTS. Just as the seed when it grows is first tiny and then gets bigger, but always preserves its identity, not changed in kind though gradually perfected in growth, so I reckon the same doctrine to have grown, in my case through gradually advancing stages. What I hold now has not replaced what I held at the beginning."

From childhood, the Saint learned the Sacred Letters from his father Basil, who was a priest and teacher of the Christians. When he reached a suitable age, young Basil also desired to receive instruction in the learning of the Greeks at Athens. At Saint Basil’s repose, his good friend Saint Gregory, wrote a funeral oration, saying "He (Basil) was trained in general education, and practiced in the worship of God, to speak concisely, led on by elementary instructions to his future perfection. For those who are successful in life or in letters only, while deficient in the other, seem to me to differ in nothing from one-eyed men… While those who attain eminence in both alike, and are ambidextrous, both possess perfection and pass their life with the blessedness of heaven. This is what befell him, who had a model of virtue in well-doing, the very sight of which made him excellent from the first…
"He was an orator among orators, even before the chair of the rhetoricians, a philosopher among philosophers, even before the doctrines of philosophers and what constitutes the highest tribute in the eyes of Christians, he was a priest even before the Priesthood. So much deference was paid to him in every respect by all… He attained such eminence in each as if it had been his sole study. The two great sources of power in the arts and sciences, ability and application, were in him equally combined… As for astronomy, geometry, and mathematics, he was content with knowledge sufficient to avoid being confused by those who were clever in these sciences. Anything beyond that he scorned as useless for those who wished to lead a pious life."

After Basil departed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to Evsevios, the Metropolitan of Caesarea, saying, "The worthy successor of thy throne is coming this hour. Therefore, send forth thy clergy and the nobles to go and meet him at the gate of the city." Thereupon, after the clergy and the nobles went and saw the holy Basil coming, they marveled and rejoiced. They were awed by the foresight of the Angel and rejoiced because they were counted worthy to obtain such a shepherd and renowned teacher, who possessed both virtue and a good report. The Saint tarried there for some days and was ordained a Presbyter. The ordination, of Basil to the Presbyterate was not wholly voluntary. He was forced against his inclinations to accept duties attending the dignity, FOR WHICH HE DEEMED HIMSELF UNFIT.

After being ordained to the Priesthood in 364 A.D., Basil devoted his life to his ministry. He continued to emulate the lives of the monks he had visited in his earlier pilgrimages. Other monks had joined him, and he cared for them and imparted the word of God to them. Saint Basil easily attracted a large and loyal following. In his practical work in the Diocese and in his writing, Saint Basil also made himself quite useful to Evsevios, formerly a layman of rank and influence, who was elevated to the Episcopate.

It was the will of God to place the lamp upon the lampstand. Archbishop Evsevios reposed in the Lord. The bishops of that Province then gathered together. They canonically voted and consecrated Basil as their Hierarch and shepherd–and much more, a teacher of the world. In this capacity, he had fifty country bishops (chorepiscopoi) under him. Meanwhile, Gregory’s aged father, also named Gregory, who was Bishop of Nazianzos, called his son to help battle the Arian heretics. Both men, beholding her call, emerged from seclusion. When Saint Basil was elected to the Archepiscopal Cathedra, he ordained his brother Peter to the Priesthood and then Bishop of Sevasteia, that he might assist him in his labor against the Arian madness.

The Divine Liturgy

After the Resurrection of Christ, the son of Joseph the Betrothed, Iakovos (James), who is called Adelphotheos or "Brother of God," Bishop of Jerusalem. He wrote in the Hebrew tongue certain prayers and petitions to God, to be used whenever the priests were about to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, which was handed down by Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Apostles during the night when He was about to be delivered up. Shortly thereafter those prayers and the rest of the service of the Divine Liturgy were translated into Greek, as we have found it today, by Saint Lemes (Clement 88-97 A.D.), the Disciple of the holy Apostle Peter, who afterward became Bishop of Rome. He ordained as law, that in this way, the Christians are to perform the Divine Liturgy.

In such a manner then the Christians conducted the Liturgy for about 350 years. However, because the prayers were long and the service lengthy, the priests were negligent and did not liturgize. Saint Basil urged, "It is not good and beneficial to communicate every day and to partake of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ… And who doubts that to share frequently in Life is the same thing as to have life abundantly? I, indeed, communicate four times a week, ON THE LORD’S DAY, ON WEDNESDAY, ON FRIDAY, AND ON SATURDAY, AND ON OTHER DAYS IF THERE IS A COMMEMORATION OF ANY SAINT."

Nonetheless, the Christians were feeling weighed down and began murmuring on account of the length of the service, and wished to go about their work in the world. Thus he pondered and supplicated God for many days, with fasts and tears. "Then one night, the Saint, observing this response of the people, was desirous to find a way to relieve their weariness. Consequent to this, he sought Divine enlightenment, by entreating the Lord to show him a sign that He might know whether his intention was God’s will. Well then, the Lord with His Apostles appeared to come down to the Saint, And according to hierarchical order, Christ celebrated the Divine Liturgy with His Apostles. Yet the Lord was not uttering those prayers which are written in the Liturgy of Saint Iakovos (James) the Brother of the Lord, but an abridgment, which afterward Saint Basil placed in his Liturgy. After seeing this vision, the Saint gave thanks to God Who had hearkened to his entreaty. Hence, HE COMPOSED THE SHORTENED DIVINE LITURGY, WHICH HAS COME DOWN TO US TO THIS DAY, AND WHICH WE KNOW AS THE LITURGY OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT.

After Christ and the Apostles appeared to Saint Basil, he uttered the new prayers in the Divine Liturgy. Evoulos and the clergy of higher rank then beheld A CELESTIAL LIGHT ILLUMINATING THE SANCTUARY AND SAINT BASIL. Certain radiant men clad in white garments surrounded the Saint. All the clergy were astonished and fell prone to the floor, weeping and glorifying God. ( Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)

[To be continued]

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"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

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

+ Father George