HATE IS THE SPIRITUAL POISON WHICH KILLS THE SOUL

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

HATE IS THE SPIRITUAL POISON THAT
KILLS THE SOUL

One of the Old Testament Books is the Book of Leviticus whose author was Prophet Moses. The Major theme is how to worship God. The Book points out the difference between God’s love for His people and those of the Gentile paganistic world surrounding them. In Leviticus 19:17-19, we read, "You shall NOT HATE YOUR BROTHER IN YOUR MIND…You shall NOT take vengeance, nor bear any grudge…BUT YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF: I AM THE LORD."

The exhortation, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself," (19:18) here makes its appearance for the first time in the Holy Scripture and its only appearance in the Old Testament. It is a summary of what was required in the Mosaic Law. In the New Testament, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ states emphatically, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven: for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (St. Matthew 5:44-48).

The antidote to the poison of hatred is only one, LOVE. Our Lord freed the human race from hate, sadness, and anger and now He offers the greatest possession of all, PERFECT LOVE (AGAPE). That is a gift that can only be possessed by the one, who, by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit, manifests God’s love for all.

Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk writes the following on hate: "Hate arises either from envy, as with Cain who nursed a hatred for his brothers, Abel, whose happiness he envied, and he killed him (cf. Genesis ch. 4); or from an offense done to someone." The holy Apostle Paul exhorts us, "Let not the sun go down upon your anger" (Ephesians 4:26). Hatred is more harmful and injurious to the one who hates than to the hated person. In 1 Peter 2:1-2, we are advised: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby." In addition, we are told, "Follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that does good is of God: but he that does evil has not seen God" (3 John 1:11-12).

Love is the virtue opposite of hate. "As bitter as hate is," writes Saint Tikhon, "so sweet is love and as harmful and pestilent as hate is, so useful is love… Hate works evil, Love does not do evil but does good. Hate is hateful and loathsome. Love is welcome and beloved by all… Where there is no love THERE IS NO FAITH, FOR FAITH DOES NOT EXIST WITHOUT LOVE. Where there is no faith, THERE IS NEITHER CHRIST NOR SALVATION. Christians, we confess God, Who IS LOVE."

The officiating priest at the Divine Liturgy says loudly: "Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." A constant reminder to the Orthodox Christians is to love one another, because otherwise, they are not of one mind, of one faith, and therefore cannot confess their common faith in God the Holy Trinity.

The answer to mankind’s challenges is only one, LOVE. Saint Tikhon says the following: "If there were love, there would be no theft, robbery or other evils…if there were love, people would not touch the bed of their neighbor [commit adultery], if there were love, people would not be subject to slander, reproach, abuse, railing, dishonor, and other evils… if there were love, people would not deceive one another..If there were love people would not pass judgment on the other…if there were love, people would have no use for guards or locks because there would be no robbers and thieves… If there were love, people would not languish in prison for debts, foreclosure, and default…if there were love, people would not go around in rags and half-naked.. if there were love, people would not wander about without homes..if there were love there would be no poor or wretched.."

Indeed if there were love, there would be no wars, there would be no injustice, there would be no violence against the weak, if there would be love there would be no rich or poor, if there were love there would be no need to dominate the other, if there were love there would be no exploitation of the innocent, if there were love there would be respect for life (there would be no abortions), if there were love there would be no neglect and abuse of the elderly, if there were love there would be no hunger, if there were love there would be a world free of all evil; if there were love God would reign in the world. With God as the Loving Ruler of the world, the world would be Paradise and everlasting peace and joy would prevail.

Pray that love will triumph!

_______________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

+ + +

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

+ Father George

HOLY AND GREAT LENT: A TIME TO EXAMINE OUR FAITH

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT: A TIME TO EXAMINE
OUR FAITH

"Do you believe in the Son of God? He answered and said, "Who
is He, Lord that I may believe in Him?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You
have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.’ Then he
said he said, "LORD I BELIEVE!’ and he worshipped Him" (St. John
9:35-38).

Believing in God cannot be forced or coerced by anyone, but it must be a natural and sincere personal decision based on faith. Saint Gregory Palamas says, "How, I ask you, is it credible that someone believes in God if he does NOT aspire to what the Lord pronounces blessed, but to what He pronounces wretched? "Shew me," it says, "THY FAITH BY THEY WORKS" (St. James 2:18), "Who is a wise man? Let him shew out of good conduct his works" (St. James 3:13).

Any one of us can confess, ‘I believe,’ but how true are these words? Are we willing to show our faith in God by our good works and by our keeping of His Commandments? If we sincerely believe in God we will obediently conform to His will and reject all evil acts, thoughts, passions, and wicked pleasures. One who believes is willing to freely surrender himself to Christ God and say along with Saint Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ; IT IS NO LONGER I WHO LIVE, BUT CHRIST LIVES IN ME; AND THE LIFE WHICH I LVE IN THE FLESH I LIVE BY FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME" (Galatians 2:20).

"I have been crucified with Christ," is interpreted to mean that my sinful desires and passions have been crucified. In other words, to subdue the flesh and control its appetites for evil acts. In Galatians 5:16-17, Saint Paul writes, "I say then: Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things you wish." By "flesh," here the holy Apostle does not mean the body, but evil actions, the depraved will of man i.e., adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, jealousies, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.." (Gal. 5:19-21).

The spiritual warfare is real and the war is on. Every Christian believer on earth is a member of the Church Militant, the Church which combats evil in the world. The Church Triumphant is the heavenly Church, which is victorious and rejoices in God’s bosom. As the military of the Church, we are engaged in a constant battle with the faith and determination to win and, by the grace of God, to destroy the evil powers that threaten us and the world that we live in. However, we believe that spiritual warfare does not take place only without, but also within. The dangers are true and our struggle against them is real. We also believe that we have spiritual help through the holy intercessions of the Theotokos, the holy Angels, the prayers of our Saints, and the prayers of God-fearing people who live according to God’s will.

According to Saint James (Iakovos), "faith without works is dead." Works without faith are empty and useless. It incumbent of us to pursue both faith and works of mercy (charity), along with living a pious and virtuous life. The life of the Orthodox Christian must strive for holiness, perfection, and a life that is constantly growing in Christ. This spiritual goal and ambition can only be accomplished if we humbly submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit our God. It is He who protects, guides, illumines, inspires, teaches, cleanses, forgives, heals, adopts, bestows wisdom, renews, and saves us.

"The person who has been deified (theosis) by grace will be in every respect as God is, for His very essence." To those who believe and are true disciples, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says, "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy (satan), and NOTHING BY ANY MEANS HURT YOU" (St. Luke 10:19). The evil one has no power over us, but Jesus has given us the power to defeat him and prevent him from hurting the innocent.

Rejoice! for God is with us. Christians are people who bring joy and hope to the people of the world. They are always confident and filled with courage and goodness. Christianity brought love and compassion for all throughout the world. Without Christ and His Gospel, the world would be a violent and evil place. There would be no kindness, no philanthropy, no justice, no peace, no future, no unity, no brotherhood, and no salvation. Christ has indeed saved the human race from evil and death. He is not only the Savior for His believers and followers, but of all mankind. Thanks be to God!

_____________________

"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

SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY: CELEBRATING THE TRIUMPH OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY: CELEBRATING THE
TRIUMPH OF ORTHODOXY

On Sunday of Orthodoxy, our Holy Church commemorates the final ending of the Iconoclast heresy and the restoration of the holy icons to the churches by Empress Theodora, acting as regent for her young Michael III. This took place on the first Sunday of Holy and Great Lent, March 11th 843 A.D.

ICONOCLASM was one of the most powerful and prolonged heretical movements. The Iconoclast heresy began in the first half of the 7th century and continued to create havoc in the Church for more than 100 years. Directed AGAINST THE VENERATION OF ICONS, it touched also on other aspects of the faith and Church order (for example, the veneration of Saints and holy relics). The heresy was CONDEMNED at the Seventh Ecumenical Synod in 787 A.D., and the final Triumph of Orthodoxy occurred in 842 A.D. under Saint Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople. At that time, there was established the feast of the "Triumph of Orthodoxy," which is observed by the Church even today on the First Sunday of Holy and Great Lent.

If Orthodoxy triumphed in the era of the Iconoclastic heresy, this was because SO MANY OF THE FAITHFUL WERE PREPARED TO UNDERGO EXILE, TORTURE, AND EVEN DEATH, FOR THE SAKE OF THE Truth. The Feast of Orthodoxy is above all A CELEBRATION IN HONOR OF THE MARTYRS AND CONFESSORS WHO STRUGGLED AND SUFFERED FOR THE FAITH.

How can contemporary Orthodox Christians not be inspired and seek to emulate all those who were tortured and shed their blood for the Orthodox Christian Faith? The Orthodox Christian must understand that it is not enough to claim to be Orthodox, but also to be willing to suffer for the Faith as the Saints, Martyrs, Confessors and countless other fellow Christians did back then.

The modern-day Orthodox Christian must make every effort to learn what he/she believes, and learn the Faith. Be ready to teach the faith to others, beginning with your relatives, friends, wives, husbands, and children. He/she need to know it well, so as to defend it and prevent anyone from adulterating it and/or attempting to dilute it or watering it down. The Holy Synods condemn anyone who attempts to either add anything to it or to omit, alter, or corrupt any of the dogmas. Anyone who attempts it is immediately excommunicated.

The evil one is determined to turn everything upside-down. We learn from past experiences and events, such as the Iconoclastic heretical movement and the other earlier heresies, that the devil is willing to create division among the faithful and create confusion in an attempt to distort the image of Christ. We see it happening to other Christians of other traditions and the tragic impact it had among them. Don’t say that it can never happen again to our Church, especially when we are celebrating today on this most sacred day, the Triumph of Orthodox Christianity over heresy. It took our fellow Orthodox Christians to fight the good fight, sacrifice, and be tortured for over 100 years to win and be victorious.

We see even on these very important commemorations that they are observed superficially. There is a lack of understanding of their purpose and meaning. The commemorations are reduced to a ‘ritual,’ and nothing more. As soon as we leave church services, we go back to our routine and life and simply move on to the next event. We remember the sacrifices of the Saints, Martyrs, Confessors, Hierarchs, etc., but is anyone touched or moved by it? Is anyone’s life changed by it? Finally, the pressing question today is, are icons today sacred? Are the holy relics of Saints still holy? Is the Divine Eucharist still the Precious Body and Blood of Christ? And, if they are, why is there is such fear to approach them and avoid offering them the due veneration? Why are some of our faithful afraid to receive any of the sacraments of the Church, including Holy Communion? Have we become the modern ICONOCLASTS?

EXCERPTS FROM SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY SERVICE

The priest reads the following excerpts from THE AFFIRMATION OF THE FAITH, of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod:

As the Prophets beheld; as the Apostles taught; as the Church received; as
the Teachers dogmatized; as the Universe has agreed; as Grace has shone forth;
as Truth has been proven; as FALSEHOOD HAS BEEN DISPROVEN; as Wisdom
has been presented, and CHRIST HAS REWARDED. This is what we believe;
this is what we declare; this is what we preach, Christ OUR TRUE GOD, AND WE
HONOR His Saints IN WORDS, IN THOUGHT, IN SACRIFICES, IN CHURCHES AND
IN ICONS. Christ, WE WORSHIP AS God and Master and His Saints WE HONOR
AS TRUE SERVANTS OF OUR SAME LORD, AND ACCORDINGLY, WE GRANT THEM
VENERATION:

This is the Faith of the Apostles!
This is the Faith of the Fathers!
This is the Faith of the Orthodox!
This is the Faith WHICH HAS ESTABLISHED THE UNIVERSE!

Therefore, with brotherly and filial love, we praise these preachers of piety, for the glory and honor of their own pious struggle for the Faith, and we say: "Eternal be the memory of the defenders of Orthodoxy; pious Sovereigns, holy Patriarchs, Hierarchs, Teachers, Martyrs, and Confessors.

Eternal be their memory (3)

Let their deeds and struggles of pious faith, even death, TUTOR AND STRENGTHEN YOU. Entreat God that WE IMITATE THEIR DEVOUT LIFE UNTIL OUR OWN END, beseeching Him that we may be made worthy of all our askings, by the grace and compassion of the Great and First Hierarch, Christ Our True God; by the intercessions of our Most Glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary, of the godly Angels, and of all the Saints. Amen.

Priest: Τίς θεός μέγας, ώς ο Θεός ημών; σύ εί ο Θεός, ο ποιών θαυμάσια μόνος. What god is great as our God? You are God, Who alone works wonders.

Glory. For the Feast
Mode 2.

We venerate Your immaculate icon, O good
Lord, and entreat You to forgive our offenses, O
Christ Our God. By Your own choice, You were
pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh, to deliver
us, whom You created, from our slavery to the foe.
Therefore we cry to You with gratitude: You have
filled all things with joy, O Our Savior, by
coming to save the world.

Glory. Mode pl. 4

Open to me the gates of repentance, O Giver
of Life, for early in the morning my spirit hastens
to Your holy temple, bringing the temple of my
body all defiled. But as one compassionate, cleanse
me, I pray, by Your Loving-kindness and mercy.

Both now. Same Mode.

Guide me in the path of salvation, O
Theotokos, for I have befouled my soul with
shameful sins and I heedlessly squandered all of
my life’s resources. By your intercession deliver
me from every uncleanness.

__________________

"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

“REJOICE! O Pure One, higher than the Heavens…” (Akathist Hymn)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST1 HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

"Rejoice! O Pure One, higher than the Heavens, Rejoice!
You, who bore without effort the Foundation of the Earth.
Rejoice! O Seashell that dyed the Divine crimson robe for
the King of the Heavenly Powers" (Troparion – Akathist Hymn)

The "Akathist Hymn" ("unseated hymn") is a solemn hymn dedicated to a particular Saint, feast-day, or one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. The name derives from the fact that during the chanting of the hymn, the faithful are standing throughout the divine service out of reverence. This specific Akathis Hymn is dedicated to the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and chanted during five Fridays of Holy and Great Lent. Orthodox Churches follow the Tradition of the Church and conduct the Akathist as a spiritual preparation for the Holy and Great Week and Paschal divine services.

The Akathist Hymn was written during the 17th century for the Holy Feast of the Evaggelismos (Annunciation) of the Mother of God. The authentic Greek version consists of 24 oikoi, each one beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. If was formerly recited in the year 626 A.D. in the church of the Theotokos of Vlachernae in Constantinople on the occasion of the deliverance of Constantinople from the Avars and the Persians who attacked the city and besieged it.

Patriarch of Constantinople Sergius led the terrified faithful in a great procession around the walls of the city, chanting and bearing holy icons of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Theotokos. Strengthened by their devotion and aided by a great tempest that sprang up and wrecked many of the enemy ships, the faithful sallied forth and put the barbarians to flight. The Orthodox Christian believers attributed this miracle to the Mother of God.

In thanksgiving the devout Orthodox Christians gathered in the Great Cathedral of Agia Sofia (dedicate to the Wisdom of God) and stood (akathistoi) the whole night, chanting hymns of thanksgiving and praise. This hymn is chanted on one of the first four Fridays during Holy and Great Lent. On the fifth Friday evening, the entire hymn is chanted.

The Akathist Hymn is known by the first three words of its proimion (preamble), Te Ypermacho Stratego (Τη υπερμάχω στρατηγώ), "To thee, invincible Champion") dedicated to the Theotokos and "The All-Holy Birth-giver of God").

With the dogma of the Son of God’s becoming man is closely bound up the naming of the Most Holy Virgin Mary as THEOTOKOS (Birth-giver of God). By this name the Orthodox Church confirms its faith that God the Logos/Word became Man truly and not merely in appearance; a faith that, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, God was joined to Man from the very instant of His conception in the womb of the Ever-Virgin Mary, and that He, being perfect Man, is also perfect God.

At the same time, the name of Theotokos is the highest name that exalts or glorifies the Ever-Virgin Mary. The name "Theotokos" has a direct foundation in Holy Scripture. The Holy Apostle Paul writes: "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of woman" (Galatians 4:4) Here is expressed the truth that a woman gave birth to the Son of God. Also, "God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16): the flesh was woven for God the Logos/Word by the Most Holy Virgin Mary.

According to Our Holy Orthodox Church, the Most Holy Virgin was born as subject to the sin of Adam together with all mankind, and with him she shared the need for redemption. ("Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs," par. 6). The pure and immaculate life of the Virgin Mary up to the Annunciation by the Archangel, her freedom from personal sins, was the fruit of the union of her spiritual labor upon herself and the abundance of Grace that was poured out upon her. "Thou hast found Grace with God," the Archangel said to her in his greeting: "thou has found," that is, attained, acquired, earned. The Most Holy Virgin Mary was prepared by the best part of mankind as a worthy vessel for the descent of God the Logos/Word to earth. The coming down of the Holy Spirit ("the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee") totally sanctified the womb of the Virgin Mary for the reception of the God the Logos/Word. (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology)

The Theotokos is humanity’s greatest Advocate before her Son and God Jesus Christ. She is man’s heavenly Mother who unceasingly intercedes for our forgiveness and salvation.

OUR PRAYER TO THE EVER-VIRGIN MARY, THE THEOTOKOS
(Chanted before her holy icon at the end of the Akathist Hymn)

O spotless, undefiled, incorruptible, chaste, and pure Virgin-Bride of God, who by Your wondrous conception united
God, who by Your wondrous conception united God the Logos with man, and joined ou fallen nature with the Heavens;
the only hope of the hopeless and the help of the persecuted, the ever-ready to rescue all that flee unto You and the
refuge of all Christians, spurn me not, the branded sinner, who by shameful thoughts, words and deeds, has made my
whole being useless, and through indolence has enslaved my judgment to the pleasures of this life. But as the Mother of
the Merciful God, mercifully show compassion unto me, the sinner and prodigal, and accept my supplication which is
offered from impure lips unto You.

With Your maternal approach entreat Your Son, Our Lord and Master to open for me the merciful depths of His Loving-
Kindness; and overlooking my countless transgressions, guide me to repentance and show me forth as a worthy
worker of His Commandments. As You are merciful, compassionate, and gentle, be at my side; and in this present life. be
my fervent protectress and helper, thwarting the assaults of the adversaries, and leading me to salvation; and in the hour
of passing take care of my wretched soul, and cast far away the dark faces of demons. And at the Dreadful Day of Judgment,
deliver me from eternal punishment, and prove me an heir of the Ineffable Glory of Your Son, and our God.

May this, glory be my share, O my Lady, Most Holy Theotokos through Your mediation and help, by the Grace and mercy
of Your Only-Begotten Son Our Lord and God, and Savior Jesus Christ; to Whom is the All-Glory, Honor, and Worship,
together with His Eternal Father and His All-Holy and Good and Life-giving Spirit now and ever and unto 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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT: OUR LOR AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST TEMPTED BY SATAN

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT: OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
TEMPTED BY SATAN

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be
tempted by the devil…" (St. Matthew 4:1).

We believe that Satan is our archenemy and adversary who desires our total destruction. "Evil," in our ordinary usage of the word, is the name of two kinds of manifestations. We often understand by this word, anything in general that evokes misfortune and causes suffering. In a more precise and direct sense, evil is a name for negative manifestations of the moral order, which proceeds from the evil direction of the will and a violation of God’s law.

Evil is a deviation of living beings from the original state in which the Creator placed them. It is a condition opposed to God’s original creation. Therefore, it is NOT God Who is the cause of moral evil; rather, IT PROCEEDS FROM CREATURES THEMSELVES, FOR THEY HAVE DEVIATED FROM THE AGREEMENT OF THEIR WILL WITH THE WILL OF GOD. The ESSENCE OF EVIL consists IN THE VIOLATION OF GOD’S WILL, THE COMMANDMENT OF GOD, AND THE MORAL LAW WHICH IS WRITTEN IN THE HUMAN CONSCIENCE. This VIOLATION IS CALLED SIN.

"But from where did moral evil arise? God created THE WORLD PURE, PERFECT, and FREE FROM EVIL. EVIL entered the world as a consequence OF THE FALL, which occurred, according to the word of God, originally in the world of fleshless spirits, and then in the human race, and was reflected in the whole of living nature."

According to the testimony of the word of God, the origin of sin comes from the devil: "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning" (1 John 3:8). The word "devil" MEANS "SLANDERER." Bringing together the evidence of Holy Scripture, we see that the devil is one of the rational spirits or angels WHO DEVIATED INTO THE PATH OF EVIL. Possessing, like all rational creatures, the freedom which was given him for becoming perfect in the good, he "abide not in the truth" and FELL FROM GOD. The Savior Jesus Christ said of him: "He was A MURDERER FROM THE BEGINNING and abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh A LIE, HE SPEAKETH OF HIS OWN: FOR HE IS A LIAR AND THE FATHER OF IT" (St. John 8:44). He DREW THE OTHER ANGELS AFTER HIMSELF INTO THE FALL. In the epistles of the holy Apostle Jude and the Apostle Peter, we read of the angels "which kept not their first estate, BUT LEFT THEIR OWN HABITATION" (St. Jude, v. 6; compare with II Peter 2:4).

What was the cause of the fall in the Angelic world? From this same Divine Revelation, we can conclude THAT THE REASON WAS PRIDE: "ΤΗΕ ΒΕGINNING OF SIN IS PRIDE;" says the son of Sirach (Sir. 10:13). The holy Apostle Paul, WARNING the holy Apostle Timothy against making bishops of those who are newly converted, adds: "Lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil" (1 Timothy 3:6).

An incomparably more complete representation of the activity of Satan and his angels (demons) is contained in the New Testament Revelation. From it, we know that Satan and the evil spirits (demons) ARE CONSTANTLY ATTRACTING PEOPLE TO EVIL. Satan DARED TO TEMPT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF IN THE DESERT. The evil spirits (demons) rush into the souls and even into the bodies of men; of this, there is the testimony of many events in the Gospel and the teachings of the Savior. Concerning the habitation of evil spirits in men, we know from the numerous healings by the Savior of the DEMON-POSSESSED. EVIL SPIRITS SPY, AS IT WERE, ON THE CARELESSNESS OF MAN SO AS TO ATTRACT HIM TO EVIL.

Why was man’s fall into sin possible? The Creator imparted to man THREE GREAT GIFTS AT HIS CREATION: FREEDOM, REASON, AND LOVE. These gifts are INDISPENSABLE FOR THE SPIRITUAL GROWTH AND BLESSEDNESS OF MAN. However, 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, and TO DESIRE ONESELF TO BE A "god." The temptation for the FEELING OF LOVE 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 ("INSTANT GRATIFICATION"). The possibility of temptation and fall STOOD BEFORE MANKIND, AND THE FIRST MAN DID NOT STAND FIRM AGAINST IT.

Saint John of Kronsdt’s reflection on this subject. He writes" "Why did God allow the fall of man, his beloved creation and the crown of all the earthly creatures? To this question, the reply is thus: If man is not to be allowed to fall, then he cannot be created in the image and likeness of God, he cannot be granted FREE WILL, which IS AN INSEPARABLE FEATURE OF THE IMAGE OF GOD; but he would have to be subject to the law of necessity, like the soulless creation–the sky, the sun, stars, the circle of the earth, and all the elements–or like the irrational animals. But then there would have been no king over the creatures of the earth, no rational hymn-singer of God’s Goodness, Wisdom, Creative Amightiness, and Providence. Then man would have had no way to show his faithfulness and devotion to the Creator, his self-sacrificing love. Then there would have been no expoits in battle, no merits, and no incorruptible crowns for victory; there would have been no eternal blessedness, which is the reward for faithfulness and devotion to God, and no eternal repose after the labors and struggles of our earthly pilgrimage." (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky)

We must imitate Our Lord’s attitude and actions to drive the evil one away and to reject his machinations, deceptions, temptations, and snares. The battle against evil is constant and we must never let our guard down, but remain always vigilant and alert. If we are spiritually aware and have discernment, we can avoid becoming evil’s victim. All must believe that the devil and his demons are never discouraged and will continue to pursue us and use our weaknesses against us. He uses the passions to entice us and to encourage us to fall into sin. The devil is "the ruler of this world" (Saint John 12:31; 16:11), "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4), because the whole world is in his power (1 John 5:19).

The evil one will continue to test our faith, our convictions, our loyalty to God and commitment to righteousness. The temptations increase and not decrease as our faith in Christ becomes stronger. The more we struggle to live our Christian faith, the greater the asaults from the Devil. He is an obstractionist and does everything in his evil power to distract us, to undermine our efforts, to plant seeds of doubt, and to slander God to us. Evil plants logismous (wicked thoughts) in our mids to convince us that God has no love for us nor any concern of the problems, illnesses, challenges and obstacles that we face in our lives. All of this is done to drive a wedge between us and our Creator. Therefore, "Be sober and BE VIGILANT, BECAUSE YOUR ADVERSARY THE DEVIL WALKS ABOUT LIKE A ROARING LION, SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR. RESIST HIM, STEADFAST IN THE FAITH, KNOWING THAT THE SAME SUFFERINGS ARE EXPERIENCED BY THE BROTHERHOOD IN THE WORLD" (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Our evil enemy offers attractive visions to our eyes and music to our ears and our other senses, setting forth whatever might tempt us to sin. He arouses our tongues to gossip and to speak evil about others (slander), and to urge our hands to injure them. When he is unable to tempt us, he invents and fabricates a threat of persecution so that fear may cause us to betray the faith and our beloved Lord. Remember that the evil one and his demons do need to sleep, eat, or rest. We are in a great disadvantage, because they are invisible spirits…and although they can see us, we cannot see them.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and

of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Father, Who are in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is
in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And
forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who
trespess against us. And LEAD US NOT INTO
TEMPTATION; BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE.

For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory,
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now
and forever and from all ages to all 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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT: OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IN THE WILDERNESS FOR FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT:
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IN THE WILDERNESS FOR
FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness TO BE TEMPTED BY
THE DEVIL. And when He had 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…" (St. Matthew 4:1-3).

In his commentary on the Gospel of Saint Matthew 4:1, Saint Theophylact says, when the Evangelist Matthew writes "Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness," is teaching us that it is especially after our baptism that we should expect temptations, He is led up by the Holy Spirit; for He did nothing apart from the Holy Spirit. He IS LED INTO THE WILDERNESS TO SHOW US THAT THE DEVIL TEMPTS US WHEN HE SEES US ALONE AND WITHOUT HELP FROM OTHERS. Therefore WE MUST NOT PUT TRUST IN OURSELVES WITHOUT ANY COUNSEL FROM OTHERS. "To be tempted by the devil." The devil is called "the slanderer" because he slandered God to Adam, saying, ‘God envies you.’ And even now among us, the devil slanders virtue."

It is very appropriate as we continue our Lenten journey to recall that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness and how He was tempted by Satan himself at the conclusion of the 40 days and nights. All the holy Apostles, holy Fathers, and Mothers of the Church, all the Saints, all the holy Martyrs, and Confessors, followed Christ’s example. One cannot be considered to be a follower of Christ, a disciple of Christ, a Christian, and not be an imitator of Christ. Somehow we, Orthodox Christians, have come to believe that the forty days and nights of the Lenten period of prayer and fasting is a Greek custom, or a Russian custom, or a Rumanian, or Serbian custom, etc. Therefore we marginalize the practice of it and we have reduced it to mean absolutely nothing. We see no importance in it and therefore it has been made by many as AN ‘OPTIONAL’ practice. Many are following the practice of the heterodox where any and all of the Christian beliefs, traditions, and Holy Scripture have been reduced to ‘opinion’ and when it comes to the Holy Scripture become SELECTIVE what they agree with and what they don’t. Who taught this slander! Orthodox Christians always adhere to the Divine Teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ and the divine and AUTHENTIC teachings of our holy Church unadulterated and pure. We, as Orthodox Christians, TOTALY OBEY OUR SAVIOR AND OUR HOLY CHURCH. We are as loyal and faithful to our Orthodox Christian Faith today, as our fellow Christians have been in other centuries.

A total commitment to Our Faith is required. No one can be a fair-weather Orthodox. It is no different than being faithful in other things such as marriage, friendship, business, professions, military, sports, pilots, scientists, explorers, etc. all require total commitment in order to be successful. Nothing can be half-way and have good and positive results. The same way with Holy and Great Lent. I have heard over recent years some of our people say that I’ve decided to give up chocolate, or smoking, watching T.V., or drinking coffee, etc., and even there they are not successful because its not more than empty words and resolutions. How many are truly adhere to our Holy Orthodox Tradition today? Do we really know? Are any of our faithful fast, attend the divine services, receive the sacraments, repent of their sins, reconcile with their enemies, have a prayer discipline, become sensitive to the less fortunate people, attempt to better live the Christian faith and grow in Christ, study the Holy Scripture and the sacred writings of the holy Fathers and Mothers of the Church? Someone said, "there is a difference between being a good person and someone who is a good Christian."

"And when He had fasted." He (Jesus Christ) fasted to show us THAT FASTING IS A GREAT WEAPON AGAINST TEMPTATION, just as the love of delicacies WAS THE BEGINNING OF ALL SIN writes Saint Theophylact. "Forty days and forty nights." He fasts as long as Moses and Elijah did, for if He had fasted longer, it would have seemed that He had taken flesh in appearance only. "Afterward He hungered." He hungered only when He permitted His nature to do so, TO GIVE THE DEVIL THE OPPORTUNITY THROUGH HUNGER TO APPROACH HIM AND ENGAGE HIM IN COMBAT so that Christ could throw him down and vanquish him and GRANT US THE VICTORY."

"And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." That prowler, the devil, had heard the voice from heaven, and then he saw the Lord hunger, and he was in doubt, wondering how the Son of God could hunger. Therefore he tempts Him, to find out. He FLATTERS Christ, meaning to snare, to trap Him by saying, ‘If thou be the Son of God.’ You might ask, "What sin was it to make bread out of stones?" Listen, then: IT IS A SIN EVEN TO ANYTHING THAT THE DEVIL SAYS. Consider this as well, the devil did not say, "Command that this stone be made bread," but "these stones", wishing to cast Christ INTO GLUTTONY. For one loaf would certainly suffice a man who was hungry. For these reasons, then, Christ did not listen to him.

"But He answered and said It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." The testimony is from the Old Testament, from the words of Moses. The Hebrews, too, had been fed by the manna, not by real bread; for the word of God the manna fulfilled every need of the Hebrews, and it became whatever food each one might desire to eat. For the manna provided to each, THE TASTE HE DESIRED. whether of fish, eggs, or cheese."

The Almighty God humbled the Israelites by letting them go hungry, then feeding them with manna, all to help them realize their DEPENDENCE UPON Him (Deuteronomy 8:2, 3). Jesus IS TESTED WITH HUNGER 40 DAYS, BUT HE DOES NOT SIN. Jesus’ answers to Satan are from Deuteronomy AND ALL CALL FOR LOYALTY TO GOD: WE ARE TO LIVE BY THAT WHICH GOD COMMANDS. He is the loyal and obedient Son who triumphs over temptations.

Jesus "FASTED" to overcome temptations, GIVING US AN EXAMPLE OF OUR OWN POWER AND OUR LIMITATIONS. The hunger of the flesh does NOT CONTROL Him; rather, He controls His flesh. Jesus’ forty days IS THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH’S FORTY-DAY LENTEN OBSERVANCE BEFORE HOLY WEEK. IT IS A SPIRITUAL PREPARATION FOR THE Passion and Resurrection of Christ. (Source: Orthodox Study Bible)

(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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT: OUR FORTY-DAY JOURNEY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT: OUR FORTY-DAY JOURNEY
THROUGH THE WILDERNESS

The forty days journey of Holy and Great Lent recalls, in particular, the FORTY YEARS in which the Chosen People journeyed through the wilderness. For us, as for the children of Israel, Lent is a time, crucial time, when our faith in God is tested. It is a time for our liberation from the bondage from slavery, from the domination of sinful passions; a time for progress by faith through a barren and waterless desert. It is a time when God speaks to us out of the desert of Sinai.

Let us turn briefly to the Old Testament, Exodus 17:1-7. The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commended. "Now all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the Wilderness of Sin.. by the word of the Lord…the people contended with Moses, saying ‘Give us water, that we may drink.’ Moses, then said to them, ‘Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?’ … Why is it you brought us up out of Egypt to kill us, our children, and our cattle with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ …Then the Lord said to Moses… Behold I will stand before you there ON THE ROCK in Horeb and you shall strike the rock, AND WATER WILL COME OUT OF IT SO THE PEOPLE MAY DRINK..".

The word ‘Sin’ in "the wilderness of Sin" might be related to the Hebrew word for Sinai, but is not related to our word "sin." However, for the Christian who has fallen into sin, it truly becomes "a wilderness of sin" when there is no sign of repentance and reconciliation with our Lord Christ.

The ‘ROCK’ was a type of the Son of God. He stood on the rock in Horeb and caused it TO POUR FORTH WATER. Rocks do not pour out water by nature, but in a mystery this rock did. It remained a rock but simultaneously BECAME A FOUNTAIN. This provides us the context for the Lord’s words, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow RIVERS OF LIVING WATER" (St. John 7:38). Also, "…all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank of that spiritual drink. For they drank of that SPIRITUAL Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:3-4). Israel’s liberation from Egypt by Moses prefigures our freedom from sin by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The ‘Rock’ is the body of Christ, His humanity; and the ‘spiritual drink’, of our Lord’s Blood, the Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion.

There are many similarities with the Christian believers today and how at times when faced with serious turmoil and problems they lose their faith in God and grumble and murmur complaining that God has not come to their aid. The story of the Israelites going through this hardship and danger, present us opportunities to give voice to our deepest fears ("is God among us or not?") and of wondering on the ways our God responds to us when we are thirsty in the wilderness of life. Moses, the Prophet of God, acting as God’s representative, has brought the people of God out of slavery to their liberation and salvation, however, when they face any danger or deprivation, they lose their faith.

Prophet Moses as the obedient servant of God when faced with a crisis, turns always to the Almighty God for His help. Obediently he follows God’s instruction and takes the elders with him, both to confirm his leadership and to act as witnesses of God’s miracle that is about to occur. He is to take the staff which God has enabled Moses and Aaron to use in miraculous ways. But because the people questioned and doubted whether God was with them or not, this is called their "tempting God," which signifies distrust of Him even after they had received such proof of His Divine power and goodness.

How marvelous is the patience and forbearance of God toward provoking sinners? He gave them water out of a rock. The Lord can open fountains for us where we least expect them. Those who, in their wilderness, keep God’s ways and are obedient to Him, may trust and be confident that He will provide for them. Also, let this direct us to DEPEND on Christ’s grace. The holy Apostle Paul says, that Rock was Christ, it was a type of Him. While the curse of God might justly have been executed upon our sinful souls, behold the Son of God is smitten for us. Let us supplicate Him and let us receive this Living Water and trust that Our Loving and Merciful God will supply it abundantly.

The Life-Giving Water that God provides for us all is water that will quench our thirst and we will never thirst again. This Water flows from Christ our Savior and God, through His ordinance, in our spiritually barren and parched heart, until we come to His glory.

As we continue our journey through the desert we will experience all kinds of temptations and may even be conflicted or perplexed as to why we are doing this. We may become disoriented as we travel through it but we must believe that we are not alone in our quest for the promised land, A time in which we draw near the Promised Land, to our true home in Paradise whose door the crucified Christ has reopened for us. As Orthodox Christians, while traveling through this wasteland we need to turn to Him when we hunger, and just as the Israelites, He will feed us with manna from heaven.

During the forty-day fast Our Creator and Great Benefactor and Heavenly Father always provides the Divine Food, the Holy Eucharist, which we receive for "the remission of sins and Life Eternal." No believer leaves the church hungry and starved of God’s Life-giving Gifts. The Israelites who ate of the manna in the desert soon hungered again while those who receive the Precious Body and Blood of Our Savior Jesus Christ never hunger again.

"By a strange miracle the Lord of old…
O ye faithful, with joy, let us enter upon the beginning of the Fast.
Let us not be of sad countenance but let us wash our face in the
WATER OF DISPASSION; AND LET US BLESS AND EXALT CHRIST ABOVE
ABOVE ALL FOREVER. (Second Canon)

________________

"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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT: A LIFE-SAVING ΦΑΡΟΣ (LIGHTHOUSE)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT: A LIFE-SAVING ΦΑΡΟΣ (LIGHTHOUSE)

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Lighthouse as "a structure with a powerful light for guiding sailors." A Lighthouse can be a circular stone structure erected upon the highest point of land or even a small island that is close to the seashore or surrounded by the sea and its potential threat. It warns the sea-farers or sailors that land is near and caution must be taken by them to avoid rocks, and reefs. The Lighthouse is also the assurance that a safe harbor is near.

The Lighthouse stands alone and fearless no matter the threatening weather conditions. Day and night it is a welcoming sight to all. Its beacon light slices through the darkest night or ferocious storm. I happen to be close to one during a storm and one could see how the enormous waves were pounding on it with great fury and yet it stood strong and resilient.

Our Holy Orthodox Church is very much a Φάρος (Lighthouse) that has stood strong throughout two thousand years of her existence during all kinds of persecutions, heresies, conflict, wars, communism, fascism, civil strife, enslavement by infidels, and lately by apostasy and secularism. No matter what kind of a storm in raging the Orthodox Christian Church is untouched and unharmed. It remains a powerful beacon of Truth and Light. It is there to remind us constantly that the Light of the Church is our Savior Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. He is the one and only guiding Light leading all those who are lost in the tempest and sea to the safe harbor.

Life, in general, can be treacherous and dangerous. Life is unpredictable and so are miseries that seem to always accompany it. We are constantly challenged and our life journey can be turbulent and painful. Life is uncertain just like the sea, it starts out calm, and by midway, through our journey, we are holding on for dear life. I have had the opportunity to speak with sailors who were on board a huge ship and who were caught in a great storm in the Atlantic Ocean that threatened to break the ship in half.

Spiritually the storms can symbolically be interpreted as demonic attacks upon us. Demons threaten our very salvation. Storms that appear out of nowhere at times can be extremely serious illnesses that shock us and are devasting. Where do we turn for guidance and direction? Everything seems bleak and dark to us at the time and the human reaction is to panic and be overtaken by fear. This is the time that we need a guiding light and of hope. Just like a ship we are in danger of breaking up on the rocks. As Christians we gratefully turn, even at the darkest hour, to see the Lighthouse with its bright beacon assuring us that a safe harbor is near to us and to trust its Light to lead the way to safety.

You see now why it is important to stay under the protection and guidance of our Holy Church. The world is full of evil threats and storms. We need faith and God’s help to confront them and triumph over them. The power of the Lighthouse reminds us that regardless of how turbulent the sea of life is we need only focus on the Eternal Light, Christ God, He, after all, is the Pilot of the ship that we are a passenger on.

This is the consistent message of the Holy Church, the Φάρος, and it will never change. Unlike the material Lighthouse and its noble purpose, there is another Lighthouse that we can find within our hearts. God the Holy Trinity dwells within us and it is our God that never abandons us, we are never without His Light and He will never allow us to face any of life’s storms no matter how threatening to be faced by us alone. The Lighthouse Keeper is only One Who never sleeps and keeps watch over all His creation and He is the only One that shines His Light upon a troubled world, and/or a troubled soul, and illumines it, and dispurses the darkness within it, bringing everlasting hope. The Lighthouse symbolizes the Church who is impregnable because its structure has no weakness in it, it cannot be conquered, it cannot be compromised, it cannot be penetrated, it cannot be held by any force, its form is round to indicate that it is eternal.

The Great Harbor is the Kindom of God. It is there that we find eternal peace and salvation. The Great Harbor is our home and we all seek to return there where Our Father awaits our return just like the prodigal son. "But when he came TO HIS SENSES he said, ‘How many of my father;s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, AND I PERISH WITH HUNGER! I WILL ARISE AND GO TO MY FATHER AND WILL SAY TO HIM, FATHER, I HAVE SINNED AGAINST HEAVEN AND BEFORE YOU, AND I AM NO LONGER WORTHY TO BE CALLED YOUR SON. MAKE ME LIKE ONE OF YOUR HIRED SERVANTS. AND HE AROSE AND CAME TO HIS FATHER. BUT HE WAS STILL A GREAT WAY OFF, HIS FATHER SAW HIM AND HAD COMPASSION, AND RAN AND FELL ON HIS NECK AND KISSED HIM…THE FATHER SAID TO THE SERVANTS (ANGELS), ‘BRING THE BEST ROBE AND PUT IT ON HIM, AND PUT ON RING ON HIS HAND AND SANDALS ON HIS FEET, AND BRING THE FATTED CALF THERE AND KILL IT, AND LET US EAT AND BE MERRY; FOR THIS MY SON WAS DEAD AND IS ALIVE AGAIN; HE WA LOST AND IS FOUND" (St. Luke 15:11-32).

Witnessing how turbulent our world is today due to the effort of extremists to undermine and compromise all traditional insitutions people world-wide are shocked, frightened, and scandalized. It is a human crisis of enormous proportions. There is so much manipulation, disception, intimidation, and constant threats that people do not know how to react or what to do to protect themselves and their families. As Orthodox Christians of course we turn to our Church which has dealt with persecution over the centuries from her enemies for support, for guidance, for encouragement, for fellowship, for spiritual comfort and assurance. The Church hierarchy has been entrusted with this responsibility and we all look to them to take the lead as shepherds, and lead the flock to safety. In the meantime all Orthodox Christians must stand together in solidarity and support one another and pray together.

The principle message of Holy and Great Lent is:

OUR HEAVENLY FATHER WHOSE LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL FOR US AWAITS OUR RETURN TO OUR ETERNAL HOME.

__________________

"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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT: SAILING ON THE SHIP OF SALVATION

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

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

HOLY AND GREAT LENT:
SAILING ON THE SHIP OF SALVATION

Let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and

of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Psalm 50 [51]

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your great mercy, and
according to the abundance of Your compassion, blot out my transgression.
Wash me thoroughly from my lawlessness, and my sin is always before me.
Against You only have I sinned and done evil in Your sight; that You may be
justified in Your words, and overcome when You are judged. For behold, I
was conceived in transgressions, and in sins, my mother bore me. Behold,
You love truth; You showed me the unknown and secret things of Your wisdom.
You shall sprinkle me with hyssop, and I will be cleansed; You shall wash me,
and I will be made whiter than snow. You shall make me hear joy and gladness;
my bones that were humbled shall greatly rejoice. Turn Your face from my sins,
and blot out all my transgressions. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew
a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not
take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and
uphold me with Your guiding Spirit. I will teach transgressors Your ways, and
the ungodly shall turn back to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall greatly rejoice in Your righteousness.
O Lord, You shall open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. For if You
desired sacrifice, I would give it; You will not be pleased with whole burnt offerings
A SACRIFICE TO GOD IS A BROKEN SPIRIT, A BROKEN AND HUMBLED
HEART WILL NOT DESPISE. Do good, O Lord, in Your good pleasure to Zion, and
let the walls of Jerusalem be built; then You will be pleased WITH A SACRIFICE OF
RIGHTEOUSNESS, with offerings and whole burnt offerings; then shall they offer young bulls on Your altar.

+

O Christ our God, who at all times and at every hour, both in heaven and on earth, are
worshipped and glorified, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy and compassion; who
love the just and show mercy to the sinners; who call all men to salvation through the
promise of the blessings to come: Do You, the same Lord, receive also our supplications
at this present time, and direct our lives according to Your commandments. Sanctify our
souls; purify our bodies; set our minds right; clear up our thoughts, and deliver us from
every sorrow, evil, and distress. Surround us with Your holy Angels so that being guarded
and guided by their presence, we may arrive at the unity of the faith and the knowledge of
Your ineffable glory; for blessed are You unto the ages of ages. Amen.

PRAYER OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN

O Lord and Master of my life, do not permit
the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for
power and idle talk to come into me.

Instead, grant me, Your servant, THE SPIRIT OF
PRUDENCE, HUMILITY, PATIENCE, AND LOVE.

Yes, Lord and King, give me the power TO SEE
MY OWN FAULTS AND NOT TO JUDGE MY BROTHER. FOR
You are Blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.

PRAYER OF SAINT IOANNIKIOS

The Father is my hope, the Son is my refuge,
the Holy Spirit is my shelter, Holy Trinity, glory to
Thee.

O Mother of God, I have committed my every hope wholly unto you. Keep me under your
shelter. Amen.

The only way to travel to our divine destination is to be on board the Ark of Salvation, our Holy Orthodox Church. We all know that to be a passenger on this holy Ark there is spiritual preparation that we must all undergo before we board it. Holy and Great Lent and all other holy seasons throughout the ecclesiastical year provide us with the opportunities to do just that. Very prudently our Mother Church guides and encourages us to take advantage of these opportunities and prepare for the long and one-way journey to eternal life. This is why we must take seriously Holy and Great Lent. We should not treat this spiritual preparation lightly or sentimentally. Holy and Great Lent is not just a Greek custom that we follow out of habit or because it is expected of us by family members or our fellow Orthodox friends. To do so is a waste of time and effort. It is imperative that we have a profound understanding of its purpose and how spiritually important it is to us.

Everything that we do out of faith provides us with the opportunity to have a personal encounter with our God. The Almighty is in control of everything: our life, our past, our present, and our future. Our Lord Jesus Christ says clearly: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him bears much fruit; FOR WITHOUT ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING" (St. John 15:5). According to Saint Theophylactos, "Jesus uses the example of the branch to illustrate the Life-Giving power He imparts to those who please Him. "A branch bears fruit only if it is joined to the vine and receives from it synergetic power to produce new life. So it is with you. If you "ABIDE" in Me by keeping My commandments, you will bear more fruit. If NOT, YOU WILL WITHER."

Take advantage of the opportunity to grow closer to our Creator and Savior. By following the Holy Tradition of our Church and acquiring the right knowledge of it, Holy Lent can be of great benefit to you: by fasting, you will improve your health bodily and spiritually, by praying more often you will find inner peace, by repenting and reconciling with your enemies through the sacrament of Repentance/Confession you free yourself from anger and hatred, by becoming more philanthropic and touching the lives of those that have no hope you strengthen your love for your fellow man, by forgiving others you free yourself from anxiety, by believing in the Resurrection of Christ and ours, you relieve yourself of the fear of death, and by worshipping together and being a member of your Christian community you eliminate loneliness. The benefits are great for one who truly is committed to the Faith.

Holy Lent works also like a giant spiritual furnace. We, as humans, place a great value on gold. Throughout the centuries, man has been fascinated by it and sought to find it and to use it for various purposes. Even today we use modern technology and go miles deep down in the earth to find it and to retrieve it. But when it is mined it is raw ore filled with impurities and mixed with other metals. The process is to expose the ore to high heat in order to remove all the other impurities and to see the pure gold. Holy Lent does, to some extent, the same thing spiritually. Through fasting, prayer, repentance, we free and purge our souls from all infirmities and impurities and rediscover the holy "image" of God within us. Our immortal souls once again will be brilliant as pure gold.

Let us not minimize the spiritual significance of Holy and Great Lent. There are those who attempt to marginalize the spiritual impact that it has on those who are willing to fast, pray, repent, reconcile, and attend the divine services with an open heart. There are others that mock and redicule the holy tradition of our Church and see absolutely no value to it. Instead, they refuse to adhere to it in any way or form. Still, there are others who use pseudo-piety to distract and deviate from the authentic and genuine purpose of Holy Lent.

The blessing of the Lord and His mercy may come upon you,
through His Divine Grace and philanthropy, now and forever
and from all ages to all 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