Sunday of the Last Judgment – Sunday Meat-fare

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
my Glory and the One
Who lifts up my head“.
Psalm 3: 3

What fear is there in this life,
to the man whose Guardian in
this life is God?
“.
Saint Cyprianos

The previous two Sunday-Parables
– especially that of the Prodigal Son –
have presented to us
God’s extreme Goodness and Love for manhood.
But lest certain persons, putting their confidence in this alone,
live inaccurately, extravagant upon sin the time
given them to work out their salvation, and
death suddenly snatch them away.
Most of the Holy Church-fathers have appointed this day’s feast
commemorating Christ’s impartial Second Coming,
through which we bring to mind that God is not only the Friend of man, but
also the most righteous Judge, Who recompenses to each according to his deeds.
Most of us have the idea that by doing good works, the balance of God’s opinion upon us
will be tilt in the right direction.
But by doing good works humans feelings will be growing but
it’s the questions or God’s opinion upon us will change.
God is a father and not a commercial dealer, so
He is looking for love and not for money or things like that.

It is the aim of the holy Fathers, through bringing to mind that fearful day, to
rouse us from the slumber of carelessness unto the work of virtue, and
to move us to that Love and compassion for Him through our brethren.
Besides this, even as on the coming Sunday of Cheese-fare we commemorate Adam’s exile from the Paradise of delight
– which exile is the beginning of life as
we know it here & now –
it is clear that today’s is reckoned the
last of all feasts, because
on the last day of judgment, truly,
everything of this world will come to an end.

Besides for those
who are grown up and able to do this
all foods, except meat and meat products,
are allowed during the week
that follows this Sunday.

On Last Judgment
The day of the Last Judgement!
That day no one knows – only our Father, our God knows – but
its signs are given in the Gospel and
in the Apocalypse of the holy Apostle John the Theologian.
Revelation speaks of the events at the end of the world and of the Last Judgement primarily in images and in a veiled manner.
However, the Holy Fathers have explained these images, and there is an authentic Church tradition that speaks clearly concerning
the signs of the approach of the end, and concerning the Last Judgement.

Before the end of life on earth
there will be agitation, wars, civil war,
hunger, earthquakes…
Men will suffer from fear, will die from expectation of calamity.
There will be no life, no joy of life but a tormented state of falling away from life.
Nevertheless there will be a falling away not only from life, but from faith also, and
When the Son of Man cometh,
shall He find faith on the earth?
“.
Luc.18: 8

Men will become proud, ungrateful, rejecting Divine law. Together with the falling away from life will be a weakening of moral life.
There will be an exhaustion of good and an increase of evil.
Of these times, the holy Apostle John the Theologian speaks in
his God-inspired work, the Apocalypse.
He says that he “was in the Spirit” when he wrote it;
this means that the Holy Spirit Himself was in him, when
under the form of various images,
the outcome of Church and world was opened to him, and
so this is a Divine Revelation.

The Apocalypse represents the fate of the Church in the image of a woman who hides herself in the wilderness:
she does not show herself in public life, as
today she is hidden not able to show
her real face.
In public life, forces that prepare
the possibility for
the appearance of Antichrist
politicians, journalists, public opinion, backbiting,
will play the leading role.

Antichrist will be a man, and not the devil incarnate.
Anti” means “old” [“from the past“] and
it also signifies “in place of” or
against[“in contrast to the original Icon”].
Antichrist is a man who desires to be
in place of Christ, to occupy His place and
possess what Christ should possess
[“to be the ruler of the world“].
He desires to possess the attraction of Christ and
authority over the whole world
[“in word, deed, and through manipulation“].
Moreover, Antichrist will receive that authority
before man’s destruction and
the destruction of the world,
[in such a way that leaders in Church and world
are not anymore able to find solutions;
everyone is in despair over what he beholds].

What is known of this man — Antichrist?
His precise ancestry [heritage] is unknown:
his father is completely unknown, and
his mother a foul pretended virgin.
He will be a Jew of the tribe of Dan.

According to the Torah,
the tribe consisted of descendants of Dan, a son of Jacob and Bilhah,
Rachel’s maidservant [Gen.30: 4). In the biblical account,
Dan is one of the two children of Bilhah,
the handmaid of Jacob’s wife Rachel,
the other child of Bilhah being Naphtali.
Scholars see this as indicating that the authors saw
Dan and Naphtali as being not of entirely Israelite origin
living in the North & North-west
[being descendants of handmaids rather than of full wives].

This man – the Antichrist – will be very intelligent and
endowed with skill in handling people.
He will be fascinating and kind.
The philosopher Vladimir Soloviev worked a long time at
presenting the advent and person of Antichrist.
He carefully made use of all material on this question,
not only Patristic, but also Muslim, and he worked out a brilliant picture.

Before the advent of Antichrist, there was a preparation in the world,
the possibility of his appearance.
The mystery of iniquity doth already work” [2Thess.2: 7].
The forces preparing for his appearance
fight above all against the lawful Imperial authority.

The holy Apostle Paul says
that Antichrist cannot be manifested until
what with-hold is taken away” [2Thess.2: 6-7].
Saint John Chrysostom explains that the “withholding one” is the lawful pious authority: such an authority fights with evil.
For this reason the “mystery” already at work in the world, fights with this authority; it desires a lawless authority.
When the “mystery” decisively achieves that authority, nothing will hinder the appearance of Antichrist any longer.

Fascinating, intelligent, kind, he will be merciful
– he will act with mercy, fascination  and goodness;
– but not for the sake of mercy and goodness,
– but for the strengthening of his own authority.
When he will have strengthened it to the point
where the whole world acknowledges him,
then he will reveal his face.
We see it around us every day,
sports, magical computer-games, horrible television etc.

For his capital, he will choose Jerusalem, because it was here that the Saviour revealed His Divine teaching and His person.
It was here that the entire world was called to the blessedness of Goodness and Salvation.
The world did not acknowledge Christ and crucified Him in Jerusalem;
whereas, the whole world will acknowledge the Antichrist’s authority and Jerusalem will become the best-known capital of the world.

Having attained the pinnacle of authority,
Antichrist will demand the acknowledgement that
he has attained what no earthly power had ever attained or
could attain and then demand the worship of himself as
a higher being, as a god.

Vladimir Soloviev describes the character of
his activity well,
as “Supreme Ruler“, organizing the country,
using attractive things like
television, sports, money,
without accepting any resistance.
He will do what is pleasing to all –
on the condition of being recognized as
Supreme Authority.
He will allow the Church to exist, permit her Divine services, promise to build magnificent churches…,
on the condition that all recognize him as
“Supreme Being” and worship him; even Churchleaders and priests are trapped!!!
Antichrist will have a personal hatred for Christ; he will visit him in church but
he will see Him as a rival and look upon Him as a personal enemy.
He will live by this hatred and rejoice in men’s apostasy from Christ.

Under Antichrist, there will be an immense falling away from the faith.
Many bishops will change in faith and in justification will point to
the brilliant situation of the Church.
The search for compromise will be the characteristic disposition of men.
Straight-forwardness of confession will disappear.
Men will cleverly justify their fall, and
gracious evil will support such a general disposition.
There will be the habit of apostasy from truth and
the sweetness of compromise and sin in men.

Antichrist will allow men everything,
as long as they “fall down and worship him” and
the whole world will submit to him.
Then there will appear the two righteous men,
who will fearlessly preach the faith and
accuse Antichrist.

According to Church tradition,
they are the two Prophets of the Old Testament,
Elijah and Enoch“,
who did not taste of death, but will taste it now for three days, and in three days they must rise.
Their death will call forth the great rejoicing of Antichrist and his servants.
Their resurrection will plunge them into great confusion and terror.
Then, the end of the world will come.

The Apostle Peter said that the first world was made out of water
– an image of the primordial chaos, and perished by water – in the Flood.
Now the world is reserved unto fire.
The earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up [2Petr.3: 5-7, 10].
All the elements will ignite.
This present world will perish in a single instant.
In an instant all will be changed.

Moreover, the Sign of the Son of God, the Sign of the Cross, will appear.
The whole world, having willingly submitted to Antichrist, will weep.
Everything is finished forever:
– Antichrist killed,
– the end of his awful kingdom of warfare with Christ,
– the end, and one is held accountable;
– one must answer to the true God.

The end of the world” signifies not:
– the annihilation of the world, but its ‘transformation’.
– everything will be transformed suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye.
– the dead will rise in new bodies:
their own, but renewed, just as the Saviour rose in His own body and
traces of wounds from the nails and spear were on it,
yet it possessed new faculties, and in this sense it was a new body.
It is not clear whether this new body will be the same as Adam was made, or
whether it will be an entirely new body.

Afterward, the Lord will appear in Glory on the clouds.
Trumpets will sound, loud, with Power!
They will sound in the soul and conscience!
All will become clear to the human conscience.

The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Last Judgement,
relates how the Ancient of Days, the Judge sits on His throne, and before Him is a fiery stream [Dan.7: 9-10].
Fire is a purifying element; it burns sin.
Woe to a man if sin has become a part of his nature:
then the fire will burn the man, himself.

This fire will be kindled within man:
– seeing the Cross, some will rejoice
– others will fall into confusion, terror and despair.
Thus, men will be divided instantly.
The very state of a man’s soul casts him to
one side or the other, to right or to left.

The more consciously and persistently
man strives toward God in his life,
the greater will be his joy when he hears:
Come unto Me, you blessed“.

Conversely:
the same words will call the fire of horror and
torture to those who did not desire Him, who
fled and fought or blasphemed Him during their lifetime!

The Last Judgement knows of no witnesses or written protocols!
Everything is inscribed in the souls of men and these records, these “books” are opened at the Judgement.
Everything becomes clear to all and to oneself.

Moreover, some will go to joy, while others — to horror.

When “the books are opened”
it will become clear that the roots of all vices lie in the human soul.
Here is a drunkard or a lecher:
when the body has died, some may think that sin is dead too. No!
There was an inclination to sin in the soul, and
– that sin was sweet to the soul, and
if the soul has not repented and
has not freed itself of the sin;
– it will come to the Last Judgement with
the same desire for sin;
– it will never satisfy that desire and
in that soul there will be the suffering of hatred;
– it will accuse everyone and everything in its tortured condition;
– it will hate everyone and everything.
there will be gnashing of teeth” of powerless malice and
the unquenchable fire of hatred.
A “fiery gehenna” — such is the inner fire.
“There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth”.
Such is the state of hell.
Cf. Saint John [Maximovich] of Shanghai and San Francisco;
one of the greatest Saints of the 20th Century.

Vesperal stichera
Righteous Judge of all mankind!
Every man will stand in fear before Thee,
Trembling at the river of fire flowing past Thy throne,
As each one wait to hear the sentence he deserves.

On that awesome day have mercy on us as well, O Christ;
Count us worthy of salvation,
For, worthless as we are, we turn to Thee in faith,
Compassionate and merciful Lord!

The books will be opened and the works of all men laid bare:
The value of tears will echo with gnashing of teeth;
The sinners will mourn in vain, as they depart to eternal damnation.
Thy judgements are just, O Lord Almighty!

We beg Thee, Master, full of goodness and compassion:
Take pity on us who sing to Thee, most merciful One!

The trumpet shall sound and the graves shall be opened:
All mankind will arise in trembling;
The righteous will rejoice, as they receive their reward,
But the wicked will depart to eternal fire with wailing and horror.

Lord of Glory, have mercy on us!
Number us with those who love Thee, Master,
For Thou alone art good!

I shudder in terror when I think of that dreadful day;
I weep as I consider the darkness that will never see light:
There the worm shall not cease, or the fire be quenched;
The pain of those who reject Thee will never end.

Save me, Thy most worthless servant, Righteous Judge,
For Thy mercy and compassion are my only hope!

When the thrones are set in place and the books are opened,
Then God will take His place on the judgment-seat.
What a fearful sight,
As the angels stand in awe and the river of fire flows by:
What shall we do, who are already condemned by our many sins,

As we hear Christ call the righteous to His Father’s Kingdom,
And send the wicked to eternal damnation?
Who among us can bear that terrible verdict?

Hasten to us, Lover of mankind and
King of the universe:
Grant us the grace of repentance
before the end and
have mercy on us!
“.

Doxastikon of Matins   Tn 1
Let us go before, O brethren, and
cleanse ourselves for the Queen of virtues;
for behold she hath come bringing to us fortune of good deeds,
quenching the uprisings of passion and
reconciling the wicked to the Master.
Let us welcome her, therefore, shouting to Christ God,
You Who arose from the dead, keep us un-condemned, who Glorify You,
You who alone art sinless
“.

Kontakion          Tn 1
When You comes, O God, upon the earth with Glory, the whole world will tremble.
The river of fire will bring men before
Your Judgment Seat,

the books will be opened and the secrets disclosed.
Then deliver me from the unquenchable fire, and count me worthy to
stand on Your right hand,
Judge most righteous
“.

 

Saturday of Meat-fare – Memorial Saturday

The New Covenant differs from the Old Covenant

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by
the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and
acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
For I say, through the Grace given unto me, to every man that is among you,
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think;
but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
So we, being many, are one Body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Having then gifts differing according to the Grace that is given to us,
– whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
– Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teached, on teaching;
– Or he that exhorts, on exhortation:
– he that gives, let him do it with simplicity;
– he that rules, with diligence;
– he that shows Mercy, with cheerfulness.
– Let love be without dissimulation.
– Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
– Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love;
in honour preferring one another;
– Not slothful in business;
– fervent in spirit;
– serving the Lord;
– rejoicing in hope;
– patient in tribulation;
– continuing instant in prayer;
– distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
– Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
– rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
– Be of the same mind one toward another.
– Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.
– Be not wise in your own conceits.
– Recompense to no man evil for evil.
– Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
– If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but
rather give place unto wrath:
for it is written,
Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.
Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him;
if he thirst, give him drink:
for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good
“.
Rom. 12: 1-21

For the Kingdom of God is not
meat and drink;
but Righteousness,
and Peace,
and Joy in the Holy Spirit
“.
Rom. 14: 17

The work of righteousness shall be Peace; and the effect of Righteousness                                                                                                        inner silence and security for ever“.
                                                                                 Isaiah 32: 17

And why call you me, Lord, Lord and
do not the things which I say?
“.
Luc.6: 46

Assist in building the Church of God and
Assist in advancing His Kingdom
“.
Matth.16:18-19; Haggai 1:8, 2: 6-9, 19

Preparation for Great Lent –
Church as an Hospital for the soul
The preparation for Great Lent begins soon after the feast of the Theophany of the Lord corresponding to its historical commemoration that soon after His baptism Jesus Christ left [like the Jews during 40 years] for the world to the desert for a fast, in  commemoration of which
the Holy Forty Day Fast was established.

Beginning with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee,
the preparation for Great Lent comes to an end with Cheese-fare Sunday [The Expulsion of Adam from Paradise – Forgiveness Sunday].
The Holy Church for a long time begins to prepare the faithful for Great Lent as a redemptive time for
an all general spiritual cleansing and sanctification.
This cleansing and sanctification are
possible only under
– the condition of the complete remission of sins,
– the complete change of a life view in ideas, feelings and actions,
– the complete renewal and spiritual revival.
But such revival requires the sustained, serious, painful and tenacious ‘spiritual‘                                                                                           struggle, by which it gradually should revive                                                                                   to compel and ingrain itself.
Besides this the determination for such a spiritual struggle and
its persistence also depends on us, but it depends more on
the ‘Mercy of God‘, who revives it in the heart and
is accomplished by His all-acting Grace.
Therefore we should pray a lot and with diligence, so
that the Lord will send us to the ‘Door of Repentance‘,
– to break the hardness of all our hearts and
– to stir up grief about our sins, without
which there cannot be true repentance;
– to inflame our heart with love for Him, without
Whom even the most sincere repentance would not be strong enough;
– to enliven and give wing to our spirit with sacred hope, without
which the trembling heart would be suppressed with sorrow.

That is why the Holy Church prepares us beforehand for our entrance into
the sacred and redemptive days of Lent and Repentance, and
beforehand makes an effort to remove everything that
interferes with our coming to true Repentance, and
beforehand makes an effort to teach us that
the sincere spirit of humility and contrition to be acquired is required from us.
Preparing believers for the Holy Forty Day Fast, the Holy Church in its services,
according to its own expression, acts as the commander who
with timely and wise words encourages the warriors
before doing battle with the enemy.
Therefore in its preparatory services it does not forget to
tell everything that may position the faithful for fasting and repentance.
In its sacred commemorations it returns
– to the first days of the world and mankind,
– to the blessed condition of the forefathers and their fall,
– to show the beginning of sin and to awaken in us contrition for sins, and
– to the time of the coming on earth of the Son of God for the salvation of mankind
in order to turn us to God.

Continuing in the preparatory season,
the Holy Church accustoms the faithful to
the ascetical struggle of fasting and the gradual incorporation of abstinence.
After eating meat all during the week following the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, it reinstates the Wednesday and Friday fasts and then builds up to
the highest degree of preparatory abstinence by prohibiting the eating of all meat products but with the allowance to use cheese products.
The special preparation for the Holy Forty Day Fast is undoubtedly
an ancient established practice of the Holy Church.
Thus, the already famous preachers of the Fourth Century
Saints Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria and
others left us their discussions and sermons,
spoken by them in view of the fast
not already come, but only expected.

On Meatfare Saturday [Κρέας Fare Σάββατο],
Before the commemoration (on Meatfare Sunday) of the Last Judgment,
the Holy Church prays for the departed, so that together with us they also stand at the right hand of the Judge, and especially prays for those who have died, who, as the Synaxarion says,
were stolen suddenly by death in a foreign country, on the sea and on impassable mountains, on cliffs, from starvation, from plagues and hunger, in war, in fires,
from cold, and have undergone all kinds of other generic types of death,
and also about poor and needy, and
in general for all who

have not received commemoration
in the legitimate Psalms [118] and hymns
“.

On a Saturday, instead of another day, before Meatfare Sunday it is necessary to pray for the repose of souls because
the Sabbath Day is the day of rest, according to its innate meaning.
It is the most important day for prayer for those who
repose with the Saints.
Besides this, the present prayer for the departed who
repose the Holy Church reminds us about our inevitable end and our standing for trial before the incorruptible Judge, that,
fearing these things to better prepare us for the spiritual struggle which are to come in the saving fast.

The service for Meatfare Saturday is performed in the same way as for the Saturday before the feast of Pentecost, with
the only exception that on the Meatfare Saturday the hymns of the Octoechos are sung according to the tone in the order, and on the Saturday before Pentecost we
must use the 6th tone.

The peculiarities of the service for these days are that:
a.] at Vespers, instead of the Prokeimenon, we sing the “Alleluia“,
with the priest exclaiming the verses:
Blessed are they whom You have chosen“, and
Their souls shall dwell with the blessed“;

b.] in Matins after the usual verses, i. e. the 16th Kathisma we sing
Blessed are the undefiled” (i.e. the 17th Kathisma), on two stases, and
after each of them at the “Glory“, together with the “Alleluia“,
we sing the end of the stasis, three times,
namely, after the first stasis we sing the words:
Unless Your Law has been my study“, and
after the second stasis we sing the words:
My soul shall live“.
– After the second stasis we sing with the refrain:
Blessed are You, O Lord“, the Apolytikion for the departed:
The choir of the Saints have found the fountain of Life“.
– After the 6th ode of the canon we sing the Kontakion:
“With the Saints give rest”, and the Ikos.

As after the first stasis “Blessed are the undefiled“, so
after the second stasis and the hymn “Blessed are You, O Lord“, and
after the 6th Ode of the Canon, before the singing of the Kontakion:
With the Saints give rest” there is a Litany for the Departed.
In it we call out:
Again we pray for the repose of the souls of the servants of God,
the forefathers, fathers and brothers,
Orthodox Christians who here and everywhere lie asleep
“.

After this, usually, from a special book
=> the departed Orthodox god-fearing Emperors, Kings, Great Princes, and
god-fearing Empresses, Queens, Princesses are commemorated by name.
In other temples after this a table is placed before the Royal Doors, and
on the table is a cross and before it a candle in its holder, and
sometimes even a kutiya [koliva].
In other temples only a candle in a large candleholder is
placed before the Royal Doors.
While intoning these litanies, the priest or deacon hold a censer.

This service for the departed is performed and when, if
the Feast of the Three Hierarchs [Jan. 30rd], or
the Translation of the Head of John the Forerunner [Febr. 24th] falls on Meat-fare Saturday
the service for these feasts is performed on Meat-fare Friday.

But if the Saint’s Feast of the Temple or the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord
falls on Meat-fare Saturday, then on Meat-fare Saturday we sing
the service of the temple feast or the Meeting of the Lord;
then we sing the service for the departed, evening and morning,
on the previous Saturday or on Meat-fare Thursday.
When the Saint’s Feast of the temple falls on Meat-fare Saturday, then
the service for the departed may be sung only at the sepulchre,
in the temple there must only be one service to the temple; and
where there is no sepulchre, the service is sung as noted above;
however, at the sepulchre may also be understood the vestibule,
in which it is necessary to perform the order for the departed after
the dismissal of Vespers.
Cf.Handbook for Church Servers‘ [‘Εγχειρίδιο για την Εκκλησία’], S. V. Bulgakov

…..”In all things may God be Glorified“…..;
May God bless you in your spiritual journey!“.
Pray for me, because I am a sinner, too“.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son – Glorify God in body and spirit

All things are lawful for me,
but all things are not helpful.
All things are lawful for me,

but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods
but God will destroy both it and them.
Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord
and the Lord for the body.
And God both raised up the Lord
and will also raise us up by His Power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
Shall I then take the members of Christ
and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!
Or do you not know that he who is joined
to a harlot is one body with her?
For “the two,” He says,
“shall become one flesh”.
But he who is joined to the Lord
is one spirit with Him.

Flee sexual immorality.
Every sin that a man does is outside the body,
but he who commits sexual immorality
sins against his own body.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,
whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
For you were bought at a price;
therefore glorify God in your body
and in your spirit, which are God’s
“.
1Cor.6: 12-20

This wise teaching of the holy Apostle Paul
is an excellent opportunity for us to reflect on certain issues
and find answers to contemporary questions
that the Holy Church has not had the time to answer yet.
All things are lawful for me,
but I will not be brought under the power of any”, says the Apostle.
I will not be brought under the power of any
is the right answer to many of these questions.

The apostle Paul said not,
abstain from fornication, but Flee:
that is, with all zeal make to yourselves
deliverance from that evil.
Every sin that a man does is without the body;
but he that commits fornication
sins against his own body.
This is less than what went before;
but since he had to speak of fornicators,
he amplifies that guilt by topics
drawn from all quarters,
from greater things and smaller alike,
making the charge heinous.
And, in fact,
that former topic was addressed to the more religious,
but this to the weaker sort.
For this also is characteristic of the wisdom of Paul,
not only to allege the great things wherewith to a bash men,
but the lesser also, and the consideration of what is disgraceful and unseemly.

What then, say you,
does not the murderer stain his hand?
What, of the covetous person and the extortioner?
I suppose it is plain to everyone.
But since it was not possible to
mention anything worse than the fornicator,
he amplifies the crime in another way, by saying that in the fornicator
the entire body becomes defiled.
For it is as polluted as if it had fallen into a vessel of filth
and been immersed in defilement. And this too is our way.
For from covetousness and extortion no one would make haste to go into a bath,
but as if nothing had happened returns to his house.
Whereas from intercourse with a harlot,
as having become altogether unclean, he goes to a bath.
To such a degree does the conscience retain
from this sin a kind of sense of unusual shame.
Both however are bad, both covetousness and fornication;
and both cast into hell.
But as Paul does everything with good management,
so by whatever topics he had
he magnified the sin of fornication.

Do you not know that your body is a
Temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?
He did not merely say, of the Spirit,
but, which is in you;
which was the part of one
who also was soothing.
And again, explaining himself still further,
he added, which you have from God.
He mentioned Him that gave also,
both exalting the hearer and
putting him in fear,
both by the magnitude of the deposit
and by the munificence of Him
that made it.

And you are not your own.
This is not only to a bash, but even to force men towards virtue.
For why, says he; does you what you will? You are not your own master.
But these things he said, not to take away free-will.
For so in saying, All things are lawful for me,
but not all things are expedient,
he does not take away our liberty.
And here again, writing, You are not your own;
he makes no infringement upon freedom of choice,
but he leads away from vice and indicates the guardian care of the Lord.
And therefore he added,
For you were bought with a price.

But if I am not my own, upon what ground
do you demand of me duties to be done?
And why do you go on to say again,
Glorify God therefore in your body
and in your spirit, which are God’s?
What then is the meaning of, you are not your own?
And what does he wish to prove thereby?
To settle them in a state of security against sin
and against following the improper desires of
your own mind.
For indeed we have many improper wishes:
but we must repress them, whenever we can.
And if we could not, exhortation would be in vain.
Mark, accordingly, how he secures his ground.
For having said, You are not your own, he adds not,
– but are under compulsion;
– but, You were bought with a price.

Why do you say this?
Surely on another ground, one might say perhaps,
you should have persuaded men,
pointing out that we have only one Lord, the Master.
But this is common to the Greeks also together with us:
whereas the expression, You were bought with a price belongs to us peculiarly.
For he reminds us of the greatness of the benefit
and of the mode of our Salvation,
signifying that when we were alienated, we were bought:
and not simply bought, but, with a Price.

Glorify then, take up and bear,
God in your body, and in your spirit.
Now these things he says,
that we may not only flee fornication in the body,
but also in the spirit of our mind abstain
from every wicked thought,
and from driving away Grace.

Which are God’s.
For as he had said your, he added therefore,
which are God’s:
continually reminding us
that all things belong to the Lord,
both body and soul and spirit:
For some say, that the words in the spirit mean the gracious gift;
for if that be in us, God is glorified.
And this will be, if we have a clean heart.

But He has spoken of these things as God’s,
not only because He brought them into being,
but also because, when they were alienated,
He won them again a second time, paying as the price, the blood of the Son.
Mark how He brought the whole to completion in Christ,
how He raised us up into Heaven.
You are members of Christ, says he,
you are a temple of the Spirit.
Become not then members of a harlot:
for it is not your body which is insulted;
since it is not your body at all, but Christ’s.
And these things he spoke,
both to make manifest His loving-kindness in that our body is His
and to withdraw us from all evil license.
For if the body be another’s, you have no authority, says he,
to insult another’s body; and especially when it is the Lord’s;
nor yet to pollute a temple of the Spirit.
For if any one who invades a private house and
makes his way revelling into it,
must answer for it most severely;
think what dreadful things he shall endure
who makes a temple of the King a robber’s lurking place.

Considering these things therefore,
reverence your Him that dwells within.
For the Paraclete is He.
Thrill before Him that is enfolded
and cleaves unto you; for Christ is He.
Have you indeed made
yourself members of Christ?
Think thus, and continue chaste;
whose members you were
and Whose you have to become.
Erewhile they were members of an harlot
and Christ has made them members of His own Body.
You have therefore henceforth no authority over them.
Serve Him that has set you free.

For supposing you had a daughter
– and in extreme madness had let her out to a procurer for hire
– and made her live a harlot’s life
– and then a king’s son were to pass by
– and free her from that slavery
– and join her in marriage to himself;
you could have no power thenceforth to bring her into the brothel.
For you gave her up once for all, and sold her.
Such as this is our case also.
We let out our own flesh for hire unto the Devil, that grievous procurer:
Christ saw and set it free, and withdrew it from that evil tyranny;
it is not then ours any more but His Who delivered it.
If you be willing to use it as a King’s bride, there is none to hinder;
but if you bring it where it was before,
you will suffer just what they ought who are guilty of such outrages.
Wherefore you should rather adorn instead of disgracing it.
For you have no authority over the flesh in the wicked lusts,
but in those things alone which God may enjoin.
Let the thought enter your mind at least
from what great outrage God has delivered it.
For in truth never did any harlot expose herself so shamefully
as our nature before this.
For robberies, murders, and every wicked thought entered in
– and lay with the soul,
– and for a small and vulgar hire,
– the [short] present pleasure.
For the soul, being mixed up with all wicked devices and deeds,
reaped this reward and no other.

32nd Sunday after Pentecost – there raised another Priest after the similitude of Melchisedec

And without all contradiction
the less is blessed of the better.
And here men that die receive tithes;
but there he received them, of
Whom it is witnessed that He lived.
And as I may so say, Levi also,
who received tithes, paid tithes in Abraham.
For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and
not be called after the order of Aaron?

For the Priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
For He of whom these things are spoken pertained to another tribe, of which
no man gave attendance at the altar.
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe
Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec
there arose another Priest,
Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment,
but after the power of an endless Life.
For He testified,
Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec
“.
Hebr. 7: 7-17

The feast today, the feast of the Meeting ,
surprisingly brings us back to the time of Christmas , the birth of the Lord.
We have the Baptism of the Lord fresh in our memory and it is important to realize that this festival goes back to Christmas,
this is the 40th day after the birth of Christ.
It is the day on which He is charged.
To the Temple as a new-born child , John the Baptist is only a half years old,
Christ Himself is a small baby being brought to the Temple.
Wherein lies the meeting
where this festival is dedicated to?

If we look closely, we see a lot of meetings .
We see the meeting – of course –
between the Old and New Testaments.
But that is an encounter that lasts the whole Gospel,
from the time of Christ’s birth to the moment when
He says, “It is finished” [John.19: 30]
We also see the meeting between
the legislature and the Law.
We see that Christ , the Lawgiver of both
the Old and New Covenant,
obediently adjusts to the Law of the Old Testament.

We see encounters with the Temple .
– the Temple within Himself so that
He would later say,
I will destroy the temple and in three days I will rebuilt it“.
John.2: 19, Marc.13: 1, Luc.21: 6, Marc. 14: 58
the Temple of His Body [John. 2:20]
the Temple in relation to the Holy Trinity
Although the Glory of the Father eternally in the Temple and before. . .,
has been in the Tabernacle  [Ex.40: 34, 2Cron.(O.S.B.)5: 13-14, Ez.9: 3],
although the Spirit of God has always been present
meets the Temple now the incarnate Son of God [John.1: 14].
And as the Trinity in Baptism has become public to all [Apolyticion Theophany],
it is now revealed to the Temple .

The priests of the temple are meeting the new Priesthood,
the Priesthood spoken of in the reading of
the Letter of the Apostle Paulus [Hebr.7: 11-12, 2Petr.2: 9] today.
The people of Israël, represented by Symeon and Anna,
are meeting Him Who is the Bridegroom of the Church of
the New Covenant [Matth.9: 15].

Still not quite explain all these encounters
why we have called today’s festivities “feast of the Meeting“.
After Christ was in the Temple and the sacrifice was made,
bringing him back to his parents Nazareth.
We then read that
He Grows up in Wisdom and
the Grace of God was upon Him
” [Luc.2: 40].
A time of preparation breaks, a time of preparation for several meetings.
Which encounters? With us, you and me.
And if you want a meeting is a meeting,
it must come from both sides .
Not the one who comes to the other more and more [from above] ,
but from two people who are coming together.

And therefore it is important that we are prepared for the meeting with Him .
About that meeting He spoke when He talked about
the foolish and the wise virgins.
Then He said,
What do we do as it sounds in
the middle of the night,
the Bridegroom comes,
Come meet Him . . . . . . ?
“[Matth.25: 1-13].
The biblical word for “meeting” in
Greek is the word “συνάντηση”.
What is our answer
when we are asked the question:
What do you do as the Bridegroom comes!
Is your lamp then ready?

The man-made lights – the candles – are blessed today.
But what about those inner lamp , ‘our eye [Matth.6: 22],
‘our soul, our heart must burn [Luc.24: 32]!!!
Let us, then , now that Lent arrives,
look after the inner lamps and
light the sources of our works,
so we Christians can go with a lighted lamp,
so that we can unite our light with His Light to meet
“.
Sophronios of Jerusalem
and then , as Saint Theophanos the Hermit says:
He will take his residence in us,
just as he took place in the arms of Saint Symeon
“.
homilies at the Meeting of the Lord

31th Sunday after Pentecost – Let no man despise thy youth

This is a faithful saying and
worthy of all acceptation.
For therefore we both
labour and suffer reproach,
because we trust in the living God,
Who is the Saviour of all men,
specially of those that believe.
These things command and teach.
Let no man despise thy youth;
but be thou an example of the believers,
in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy,
with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them;
that thy profiting may appear to all“.
1Tim.4: 9-15

The words you speak today should be soft and tender …..
for tomorrow you may have to eat them

Anonymous

Regardless of how old or young you are physically or spiritually,
soaring high or otherwise in your Christian life and
service is a matter of choice.
Let no man despise your youth.

As we go through life,
I hope many of us believe
we have grown or gained knowledge.
If we talk to a 20 year old,
he will readily admit he knows a lot more as a college student
than he did at 10 when he was in 8th grade.
When one talks to a person in their 40s,
many feel that they know more today
than they did when they were 20 and
if they had to do it over, they would do some things different.
I assume that as one reaches senior citizen age,
they have additional life experiences
that they can share with others.

Because of this the Bible instructs us wisely
to honour the elders.
While our society today teaches to put our older people away, and focus on the fleeting beauty of youth, it is stabbing us in the foot.  The society, advertisers, companies wish us to focus on youth so that the wisdom of the elders is gone and that the media is the one replacing the godly father’s leadership role
with their self for the purpose of influencing us
the way that benefits them.
The lie builds on our pride and
is nothing new.
It goes back to the Garden of Eden when the serpent told Eve, that she would be wiser than God and didn’t have to listen to Him or
respect His commandments.

Many youths through their lack of wisdom believe that they know everything and the adults know nothing, which is not true.
When I was in high school,
I noticed that there were people who applied them self. Some gained wisdom slowly,
some who worked hard to improve had learned more.
Those who didn’t try had less.

Regardless any age,
there are people who have more knowledge
or less knowledge.
A small part of it is genetics.
A big part of it is
what direction one desires to focus.
Whether they desire to grow in knowledge and maturity or
rather spend the time watching mindless entertainment or
playing video games that teach little knowledge to one.
Also, with the wide variety of knowledge out there
one can learn through their life,
everyone will know something a little different and
all can learn from them.
For example one who has a legal degree at 35
probably will know more about law
than an 65 year old physicist, yet
the physicist will know more about science.
Some may have years of experience
drawing closer and closer to God.
Others might have years of experience
being a criminal or a con artist, so
we need to be careful who we have influencing us, and
what knowledge we have entering our minds.

In our society because we have certain things revealed to us,
[ie sciences, technology, etc.] we have many pieces of knowledge
that were not known in the past.
Therefore in these areas of our current society,
we have knowledge which is greater than the past.
TV, computers, space travel are examples of this knowledge
that we have different.
Conversely, the nurturing environment is not as sheltered from sin as
it was 100 years ago in the Europe/ Middle East or the United States.
There are many negative influences on the lives of our society today
training their brains and becoming a part of their formative years.
Therefore, those who grew up in the past, where studying and learning the bible,
morality and other pieces of wisdom
isolated from the influences of our modern decadent culture
in their early schooling, grew much closer to God and
had greater wisdom in those saints than
we do today in our world.
So as I look at the Christian leaders of many denominations,
many appear be a blend of our current decadent/socialist values with Christian principles,
rather than those who were totally separated from that world and
didn’t have to be politically correct to pacify them.
I need to also point out that there were also areas of enlightenment
that they did not have.
Also, so the point being made here, is
that if one does not have spiritual leaders as role models,
one can also learn at the feet of the past saints
in their writings as well as our blessed Lord through the Holy Scriptures.

Because of the lack of wisdom of the elders in our modern environment,
many youths have less exposure to
gaining godly knowledge from the elders.
They are also not stimulated by their parents; many youths without the knowledge come across as
wreck less or carefree.
This may cause parents to think less of them. Yet at the same point, the way we overcome is not to merely brush it off
but to strive to know our weakness and go to improve ourselves.
And those who do, will reach greater heights and wisdom,
growing on the wisdom of the elders which they will appreciate.

Again what’s in a name:
what is the meaning of the name Timothy?
Τιμοθεος  [Timotheos] meaning “honouring God“,
derived from τιμαω [timao] “to honour
and derived from θεος [Theos] “God“.
Timothy had a similar situation and
Paul wrote to him the oft quoted phrase,
let no man despise thy youth“.
And I see so many youth quoting this as if it implied their youthfulness and
immaturity should be appreciated.
But what it is saying is that Paul’s goal was
for Timothy to be a youth that should not be despised.

To gain respect
How quick we forget the second half of the verse
where Paul gives the solution to being despised.
The way he says to gain respect is
to “be thou an example of the believers,
in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity
“.
Notice Paul did not tell Timothy, go out and demand respect?
He showed him instead how to earn it.

Let’s go through each part of this verse.
“an example”
►  the Greek word here is toopos which means, a model for imitation, pattern, form.
So what this word is saying that instead of being despised,
we should strive to be the best in these following areas
where we will be one that others desire to copy.
► The word ‘word‘ here [logos] means something said,
by implication of topic, reasoning, computation.

The bible teaches us to beware of idle words.
Too often all of us at all ages speak frivolously, but
rather it is teaching we must strive to watch
what we say, that it is holy, godly and just and
that we are a proper example of the king of kings.
Let us not strive to justify our self,
but rather seek the Truth of God and
be able to have the verbal/logical skills
to communicate it wisely to others.
► Communication is talking and speaking with each other and
not blaming someone and smash another one totally down.
Conversation, the Greek word here is anastrophe
which basically means our behaviour.
We should strive to be a role model of perfect behaviour.
How sad in Christians of all ages
we see behaviour in our professing Christian communities
focused on the things of the world rather than on God.
As we do our tasks, we should ask our self,
is this what Jesus would do?
Is this bringing me or the other closer to Our beloved Lord?
Or is this action causing me to fall farther from Him.
Has my presence in this community been as a healthy development or
am I just a block to their bones.
When they really not accept me
I have to search for another possibility and
stay in my study room and far, far away from them.
Christ did it in the same way,
in these moments He went up to the mountain and
prayed to His Father in Heaven.
►in charity – the Greek word here is agapè,
which means the greatest Love.
The Love of sacrificing one’s self for another.
How true are the words in the Good Message which say,
Without Love I am nothing” and
when Jesus states, the greatest commandment is to
Love the Lord with all your heart soul and strength“.
Paul is not saying that we should merely love others.
He is saying that our love should be a role model.
And the greatest source of love is
the One Who loved us the most,
our blessed Lord Jesus.
That when people see us,
– they see Jesus in us and His Love though us,
then we can truly be a Light to His Truth.
How sad when
many professing Christians say
– they do not love their brother or
– they do not love their neighbour.
Is God happy with that?
Is he not grieved like the ruler
who forgave so much to a man yet
the man refused to forgive something small of his neighbour?
As we grow closer to God, we will understand His Love,
the Truest and Greatest Love and
that Love will spread out to others.

►In spirit – this is the spirit or one’s rational soul.
It is our essence.
When people see us,
our essence and our spirit should be in line with God’s Spirit,
facing the same direction, desiring the same things.
As John the Baptist once said, not my will, but thine.
So should we have a heart seeking
the things of God so when people see us,
they know our heart is desiring the Lord.

” In faith – the greek word here is pistis,
which means our beliefs or moral convictions.
When people look at us, what do they say as we believe?
Do we ‘mouth‘ the things of God,
but by our actions we live a different life and
show a different belief system?
Faith in God, our belief in Him should be a centerpiece
in our life where our actions flow.
It is not following laws, but coming from a heart
who truly believes God, trusts God and
cannot be happy in any other path than serving God.
Let us look at our heart, and search out our beliefs truly are, and
then use that knowledge to resist the lies of the devil.

►In purity – the Greek word here is cleanliness specifically chastity. or physical purity.
The culture of our world is to sleep around outside of marriage.
Our society, not only doesn’t find it wrong, it glorifies it.
Many churches don’t desire to address this sin,
because it is so rampant in our society.
Yet God takes a firm stand against it throughout the old and new testaments.
Our youth today, many in our churches unfortunately
are committing fornication and think its fun.
Also we give our virgin children to men/women who have them
as one of many women in their life because they are pleasing to us, or
have things of the world, or are great seducers.
Yet we see here, that it makes the person dirty,
it isn’t pleasing to God yet they don’t care and commit deliberate sin
because they believe it will be forgiven,
yet they forget to realize that
deliberate sin perhaps is a sign of problems with
their relationship with God in the belief area.
How sad it is that we no longer aspire to seek the purity of Body.
The Good Message says that fornication is a sinning against our body, and
describes it as marriage when it says the two become one.
Let us not only remain pure for marriage,
let us also respect purity and not hold it as a nice extra
but rather a value that God desires of us, and
teaches us leads to the best relationships of this earth.

So to summarize, understand those who are older than us,
likely they have more wisdom than us.
That we should seek after godly elders for wisdom.
Whether we are younger, or older,
let us be willing to respect others, learn of others, and
respect the wisdom of those who are older, wiser and godly influenced.
Rather than despise others, let us love them.
Rather than defend ourselves,
let us strive to be more perfect and
pleasing our Master.

Orthodoxy and living the Christian life

For a perfect Bridegroom, He takes
the soul as a perfect bride
into the holy and mystical and immaculate communion of marriage“.
Saint Macarios of Egypt – Homily 47

By living with the Saints Who have gone before and enjoying their support,
you learn how to struggle.
You see how they wrestled;
how they confronted the enemy;
how they dealt with human weaknesses.
How hard they were on themselves:
they shadowed life and qualified success
not to their own labours,
but to the grace of God.

If you follow the life and counsels of the Saints . . . . .
If you are granted inner peace . . . . .
Bear with the others:
Be victimised and do not wrong others“.
Hand-no one-down, but forgive everyone,
find somehow a place for them in your heart.
Pray for them with all what is in your capacity,
unrelatedly of whether they upset you.
Be unable to lay on hurt,
not sufficiently expert of
any such thing.
Follow the Lord of Golgotha
– “A Man wounded, knowing how to bear weakness
Isaiah 53: 3
Be wounded and know how to bear the pain.
The Cross must be familiar and acceptable to you
as a place to be and a mode of existence.

Then the Lord will come
at some time, without fail,
as He knows best.
He will come and find you,
He will touch your head.
He touched the leper . . . . .”[Matth. 8: 3].
He will speak to you.
He will enter into you like Light, Repose, Paradise.
You will be aware of Him, you will feel Him,
you will actually live His Passion and Ressurection.
You will find yourself inside the Icon of Ressurection,
of the Descent into Hell.
This Icon will be an expression of your life.
Christ will constantly leading you by the hand,
bringing you to Light, to freedom,
to an unending journey which is Himself.

Then You will understand the words of the Lord:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things
and to enter into His Glory?

Luc. 24: 26
Christ had to suffer and to come forth as Bridegroom from the tomb.
A great Mystery!
You feel that you had to suffer, to endure pain,
to die in the earth like a seed,
so that there might shoot up from within you
something that does not pass away.

I am created for some specific purpose, a certain Christian used to say
– for something intangible, invisible to the naked eye, and yet incarnate.
I know it, I believe it, I experience it.
◙ When I move away from it, everything goes twisted, in my soul and my body.
◘ When I an within it,
I am firmly grounded and recover everything,
the health of my soul and body.
◘ When I am alone, I am in communion with the Saints.
◘ When I am in a crowd, I am nourished by the pure spring
welling up in the desert within.
Reverence for this least and greatest thing
takes the form of constantly going outdoors without protection;
of asking at every moment only that His will should be done.
Asking not with my mouth and my voice,
but with my whole manner of living all the time.

When you ask that His Will should be done,
when your whole Christian being is one bleeding petition, it happens.
But this “happening” is not something you can determine in advance.
It may happen by happening or by not happening.
It may be that before your petition is finished, the answer comes.
Or you may wait years and wear yourself out,
and be disappointed, and reach utter exhaustion and be destroyed.
And then, when you are no longer expecting anything
– neither you nor anyone else –
He Himself will come to raise you up,
to take you with Him on a new journey,
to the unknown.

Then you understand why
He was slow in coming for you:
He was with you “In another form
even when He had not come and you were waiting for Him.
                                                                                 Marc.16: 12

How everything functions as a whole!
Now nothing is irrelevant, nothing is wasted!
How blessings go deeper than hoped!
How the afflictions, the pains and perplexities till the field of our souls
like a deep-cutting ploughshare!
How totally and utterly the strange and heaven-sent rest
differs in nature from the rest and satisfaction
afforded by any earthly and temporary success!
How it teaches us humility, how it schools us in Love, How it reconciles us with others!
It strengthens us, it invigorates us,
and in the same time it makes us weaker, without any prickles or sharp corners
which could wound others.

The lives of the Saints have been sanctified,
their minds have been enlightened, the work of their hands and their minds bears the seal of Grace, the beauty of Heaven.
This Beauty is a gift from the Lord Himself,
the Glory of Whose Godhead became the glory of the body,
but remains obscured from those
who cannot see these things
only visible to the Angels
“.
Saint Gregory Palamas – Agioreitikos Tomos

Through sin man loses the comeliness which is from above and begs the Lord:
Make my humble soul bright with the beauty of repentance
Oktoïch tn2 Canon, Monday morning, 4th ode
When the Christian matures in repentance and attains purification and illumination,
he/she receives the most pure embrace of the Lord,
Which fills his whole being with Beauty, Glory and uncreated Light.

Embracing me totally, He caresses me in my entirety,
He gives Himself entirely to me in my unworthiness,
and I take my fill of His Love and His Beauty,
and am filled with Divine pleasure and sweetness.
I partake in the Light, participate in the Glory,
and my face shines like the of the One I long for
and all my members are luminous.
Then am I fairest of the fair
“.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian

When the intellect has been perfected,
it unites wholly with God and
is illumined by Divine Light,
and the most hidden Mysteries
are revealed to it.
Then it truly learns
where wisdom and power lie…
While it is still fighting against the passions it cannot as yet enjoy these things…
But once the battle is over and it is found worthy of spiritual gifts,
then it becomes wholly luminous, powerfully energized by Grace
and rooted in the contemplation of spiritual realities.
A person in whom this happens is not attached
to the things of this world but has passed from death to Life
“.
Philokalia

Orthodoxy & Official relations

The woman answered and said,
“I have no husband”.
Jesus said to her,
“You have well said,
‘I have no husband,’… ;
in that you spoke truly”.
Luc.4:  17, 18

View on sexuality
From the Orthodox churches point of view, humans are not sexual creatures in terms of their essential identity.
To Eastern Orthodoxy, the relationship which people have with God is reflected in the love for one another; the union of two people in marriage is considered to be a reflection of our ultimate union with God.
However, as a result of humanity’s rebellion against God [the Fall], humanity has tended to adopt a more animalistic view of sexual activity which is not true to the ultimate transfigurable nature of the human race, having been made in the Divine image and likeness.

Orthodoxy holds that Adam and Eve
did not have sexual intercourse until after the Fall,
and that sexual sin and the Fall are intimately linked [Reproduction must have happened in some way, however, for God commands Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” before the Fall as is stated in Genesis 1: 28].
The Orthodox churches do not hold that sex is inherently sinful, but rather condemn seeing sex as something which can be divorced from the loving act between a married couple.
As Saint Cesarios said, “copulation and birth of children in accordance with the law is free from any sin and condemnation“.

Marriage
One of the Fathers of the Church,
John Chrysostom, in elaborating on the words of Paul of Tarsus states that
because man is prone to strong lustful feelings, and because all men are not strong enough to be celibate, the Church allows the temporary union of marriage as an alternative to sin“.
This is a commentary on 1Cor. 7, which states “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion“.

To some Orthodox, sex and marriage
are both temporary states experienced in this world only.
In Heaven all are equal and our relationship is with God [Matth.22: 30, Marc.12: 25, Luc.20: 35].
Other Orthodox regard marriage as being eternal, that the crowns used in the Orthodox marriage ceremony are received [as the rite states] into Heaven and therefore signify an eternal reality.
Thus, while sexuality in its physical sense may not be continued in Heaven, the bond between a husband and wife is permanent, and celibacy, while an honourable and holy state if done for the sake of the Kingdom, is not by any means the most common path for all Orthodox Christians.
With virginity, marriage is thus also understood as
an ascetical working out of salvation.
As the Bible says,
the “marriage bed is undefiled” [Hebr. 13: 4].
As is seen in the sacramental rites themselves,
marriage is understood as being forever sanctified by Christ’s presence and first miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. John 2: 1-11

The Orthodox view Christian marriage as a primary image in the New Testament of the union of the Church with Christ.
The eschatological fulfillment of all things is in terms of the marriage of the Bride to the Lamb [Revelation 19: 7-9], i.e., the Church to Christ.
“Thus, marriage is a Mystery — Holy, Blessed, and Everlasting in the sight of God
and His Church” [Orthodox Study Bible, pg. 448].
Or, as Father r. Alciviadis C. Calivas writes:
Orthodox theology has always presented Christian marriage as something absolutely unique, and, indeed eternal.
In marriage, human love “is being projected into the Kingdom of God” [John Meyendorff],
reflecting the intimate union between Christ and the faithful which Saint Paul speaks of [Eph. 5].
Married life is a special vocation which requires the grace of the Holy Spirit; and it is this very grace which is conferred in the Marriage Service.

Father John Meyendorff in Byzantine Theology [pp. 196–197] says:
The Byzantine theological, liturgical, and canonical tradition unanimously stresses the absolute uniqueness of Christian marriage, and bases this emphasis upon the teaching of Ephesians 5.
As a sacrament, or Mysterion, marriage reflects the union between Christ and the Church, between Yahweh and Israel, and as such can be only one — an eternal bond, which death itself does not destroy.

In its sacramental nature, marriage transfigures and transcends both fleshly union and contractual legal association: human love is being projected into the eternal Kingdom of God.

Only this basic understanding of Christian marriage can explain the fact that until the tenth century no second marriage, whether of those widowed or of those divorced, was blessed in church. Referring to the custom of “crowning” the bridal pair – a feature of the Byzantine rite of marriage
— a canon attributed to Nicephorus the Confessor [806-815] specifies:
Those who enter a second marriage are not crowned and are not admitted to receive the most pure mysteries for two years; those who enter a third marriage are excommunicated for five years“.
This text, which merely repeats the earlier prescriptions of the canons of Basil, presupposes that second and third marriages of those widowed or divorced can be concluded as civil contracts only.
Actually, since the marriage blessing was normally given at a Eucharist, where the bridal pair received communion, the required temporary excommunication excluded the Church’s participation or blessing in cases when marriage was repeated.

Later Meyendorff also says:
The most striking difference between the Byzantine theology of marriage and its medieval Latin counterpart is that the Byzantines strongly emphasized the unicity of Christian marriage and the eternity of the marriage bond; they never considered that Christian marriage was a legal contract, automatically dissolved by the death of one of the partners….
Guided in its practice by the legal notion of contract, indissoluble as long as both parties were alive, the West seemed to ignore the idea that marriage, if it is a sacrament,
has to be projected as an eternal bond into the Kingdom of God.
Byzantine Theology, pp. 198-199

Homosexuality
The Orthodox Church has been consistent in condemning acts of homosexuality [but not homosexual persons], despite variations
in the conditions for homosexual activity and responses from
various Church leaders and the State.
Continuing a worldview evident from the Old and New Testaments, the Church Fathers consistently condemned homosexual activity, as did the Byzantine state.

Official statements by the Orthodox hierarchy continue to be consistent in terms of the traditional position that homosexual behaviour is sinful and thus damaging to the human person, and that homosexual temptation is a subject for ascetic struggle.
While some Orthodox theologians and jurisdictions have championed the traditional view, they have also engaged in scientific conversation and in dialogue with the increasing number of societies that view homosexuality far differently than at the time of the Byzantine Empire.
After affirming the import and meaning of the Scriptures that address homosexual activity, calling it sin, the Orthodox Church in America offered the following advice at its 10th All-American Council in 1992:
Men and women with homosexual feelings and emotions are to be treated with the understanding, acceptance, love, justice and mercy due to all human beings…
Persons struggling with homosexuality who accept the Orthodox faith and strive to fulfill the Orthodox way of life may be communicants of the Church with everyone else who believes and struggles.
Those instructed and counselled in Orthodox Christian doctrine and ascetical life who still want to justify their behavior may not participate in the Church’s sacramental mysteries, since to do so would not help, but harm them.

Assistance is to be given to those who deal with persons of homosexual orientation in order to help them with their thoughts, feelings and actions in regard to homosexuality.
Such assistance is especially necessary for parents, relatives and friends of persons with homosexual tendencies and feelings. It is certainly necessary for pastors and church workers.

Within the Orthodox churches, there is a minority advocating a change in the view of homosexuality; one such group is Axios.
However, the work of such groups and any blessings they confer are largely ignored by the Orthodox as a whole.

I have always asked myself
why the world has to confront tradition
in calling to make homosexual relations official by Law
– a ‘Marriage‘, instead of a ‘friendships-commitment’.
By taking this formulation the world denies her relation with God, our Lord.

The Biblical Greek term for sin is αμαρτία [amartia] which means missing the mark,
it means that our aim is out and we have not reached our goal, our fullest potential.
As in Western Christianity, in Orthodoxy, the goal is Union with God.
Orthodoxy also understands sin as
a disease of the soul, a condition where
the soul is lacking in God’s Grace.
Union with God, which is made possible through Christ, is the ultimate medicine.
In Orthodoxy, the Mysteries of the Church, also known as sacraments in the West,
are vehicles leading towards union with God.

I wish, nobody loses hope,
even if he reaches the limit with his evil…
The power of repentance is so immense,
to turn us into the whiteness of snow, and the purity of wool,
even if the sin reigned over us and tinted us“.
Saint John Chrysostom

Orthodoxy & the inner interchanges

Heavenly King,
the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere and fills 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“.
Prayer to Holy Spirit

Prayer
“… prayer … actualizes our ascent to and
union with the Deity…
when our prayer, through its fervent compunction, transcends the passions and conceptual thoughts; for the intellect,
while still passion-dominated, cannot be united to God.
Thus so long as the intellect when praying remains in a passion-charged state,
it will not obtain mercy; but to the extent that it can dispel distractive thoughts it will experience inward grief, and in so far as it experiences such grief
it will partake of God’s mercy.
And if with humility it continues to savour this mercy
it will transform entirely the aspect of the soul that it accessible to passion

Saint Gregory Palamas – On Prayer and Purity of Heart

Keep your heart with all vigilance;
for from it flow the spring of life
“[Prov. 4: 23].

For from within, out of the heart of man,
come evil thoughts
“[Marc.7: 21].

So shun youthful passions and aim at
righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along
with those who call upon the Lord
from a pure heart
“[2Tim. 2:22].

In its biblical concept, the heart is the source of all the potentiality of the spiritual and physical life: “Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the spring of life“. Prov. 4: 23
This applies not only to good potentialities but to evil ones as well: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander“. Matth.15: 19
So the heart has become the expression of the final condition of man, whether he be good or evil: “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil“[Luc.6:45].
This means that the inclinations of the inmost heart set the tone of the whole man – they colour his thoughts, his words, and his deeds.
Man’s speech thus inevitably betrays the nature of his heart: “For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks“[Luc.6: 45].
So man’s words usually testify to the state
of his heart.
They can justify him or condemn him:
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned“. [Matth.12: 37]
The relationship between one’s heart
and one’s lips is defined by the Apostle Paul as follows: “For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved“[Rom.10: 10]. So when the heart believes, the lips must confess what kind of faith is in the heart.

However, the Bible tells us that it is possible for
two kinds of hearts to exist side by side in man,
one expressing his true nature and another falsifying his thoughts, words and deeds.
In the latter case, a person talks of good deeds and actually does them to give people the false impression that he is virtuous, while in fact he is wicked:
You brood of vipers! How can you speak of good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks“.
Matth.12: 34
From the words of the Lord, we learn that it is impossible for man to speak good words out of himself while being wicked. Good words coming from an evil source could only occur with the help of an auxiliary power – or of another heart implanted by the devil to mimic good deeds. We can infer this from the way our Lord describes those who counterfeit good deeds as a “brood of vipers“.
The viper is a symbolical expression of the devil. Here the intention behind showing off virtue is to safeguard evil and guarantee its lasting effect – which is the very work of the devil. The devil’s work, with regard of the heart, is not merely confined to contaminating it with evil desires. It is not just that he makes the devil treasured up in the heart produce evil. He even adds to this the possibility of giving man another heart from which he can speak gilded words. This he does to keep the evil intent and make sure that it is carried out.
As for God’s work concerning the heart, it is the complete removal of the evil heart and the creation of a new one that he implants into man. Thus, when man’s heart is transformed into a new heart, man of necessity is turned into another man:
Then the Spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you shall prophesy with them and be turned into another man . . .  When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart“.
1Sam.10: 6,9
In the Bible, the good News, the reality of creating a new heart for man goes hand in hand with three basic actions:
1.] contrition of the sinner’s heart;
2.] man’s complete cleansing or purging from within; and
3.] the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
These three actions we find most clearly expressed in Psalm 50 of the Prophet David:

Have mercy upon me, o God, according to Your steadfast Love;
According to Your abundance Mercy blot out my transgressions.
wash me thoroughly from my iniquity . . .

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,
and I shall be whiter than snow . . .
Create in me a clean heart. O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence, and
take not Your Holy Spirit from me . . .
A broken and contrite heart, o God, You will not despise”.

However, the creation of a new heart for a person in the Old Commitment [O.T.] was an exceptional and individual case. In the New Commitment [N.T.], the act became universal, not merely to create a new heart, but for creating a whole new man.
We find these three actions implied in the Mystery of Baptism. We find within it the image of cleansing and inward purging: “[He] cleaned their hearts by Faith“[Acts 15: 9]. This takes place during the burial in water in the Name of Christ. However, cleansing and purging cannot happen except through contrition of heart. It calls for genuine repentance a complete ˂-turn from sin. It is on account of this that forgiveness is granted; “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit“[Acts 2: 38]. That is, by thorough cleansing and purging through Faith and Repentance, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. It has thus become possible for every man to obtain the new creation and the new heart – by water and the Spirit, through Faith and Repentance.

However, purification of the heart through faith and repentance is one thing, but the acceptance of a heart newly created and purified by the Holy Spirit is another.
There is a crucial distinction between the two.
Purification of the heart is a necessary and vital activity in which we should be intimately involved.
But the creation of a new and a pure heart is an action that transcends our nature and belongs to God alone. God’s work should be adjoined to our own.
To the extent that we purify our own hearts from evil by faith and repentance, we become able to embrace the new heart created within us in God’s image.
In other words, insofar as we hate wickedness, are distressed by evil passions and thoughts, and abhor acts of sin, we become able to embrace the power of holiness.
This power dwells in us as a new nature, with the activity of divine love and the promptings, or intimations, of righteousness. Not only that, but as we strive to purify our hearts from the darkness of sin, which blinds our spiritual sight, we become able to face the truth, letting it live within us and penetrate to the very roots of our being. In other words, the more we can emerge in the power of the new, divine man: “Seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after te image of the creator“[Col.3: 9,10].
We thus enter the sphere of ascetical theology.
Ascetical theology makes out man’s labor and struggle, which are sustained by Grace, an essential basis for the gifts of God.
Such gifts, however, transcend human action and nature.
The ascetic fathers in general set purification of the heart as a vital basis for Salvation.
It qualifies us for the revealing of the new man, that we may live in the newness of live as spiritual men in Christ.

In its patristic concept, the heart, [η χαρδια], is identical with its biblical concept.
The fathers of the Church consider the “heart” in its spiritual and patristic sense corresponds to what medical jargon calls the brain.
This is true both of its characteristics
and its activity.
It may even be more than that.
It is the centre of faculties, talents, intelligence, insight, volition, wisdom, vision – all of which emanate from it and pour into it:
In the same way the heart has a captain in the mind, the conscience, which tests the thoughts that accuse and defend
Saint Macarios, the Great [In the fifty Homilies; 43-7] – Intoxicated with God.
In the same homily, Saint Macarios describes the heart as a “workshop of justice, righteousness, unrighteousness“. He also says that though the heart may be the meeting place of all evils,
it may be a meeting place for God and His Angels:
And when Grace gives pasture to the heart, it rules over all the members and the thoughts“.
For there in the heart, the mind abides as well all the thoughts of the soul and all its hopes.
This is how Grace penetrates throughout
all parts of the body [Spiritual Homily 15-20].

From this, we infer that the Fathers of the Church
see Grace pervading all our faculties: the mind, the will, the conscience, and the physical members of the body.
But all this depends on Grace
reigning first and foremost over the heart.
In other words, if Grace reigns over a person’s heart,
it changes its very nature
the result is a new spiritual nature.
This is where the value of the purification of the heart [received by Baptism]
is clearly shown; it is a preparation
for the indwelling of Grace.
Saint Macarios the Great insists that the evil heart contaminates the will.
It corrupts the natural inclinations and instincts of a man. Without his knowing of, everything that such a person sees and touches becomes impure for him:
So, on the contray, as many as a sons of darkness, sin has control over their heart and infiltrates into all his members.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts“[Matth.15: 19].
And thus diffused throughout sin covers man with darkness . . . Just as water runs through a pipe, so also sin runs through the heart and the thoughts.
All those who deny these statements are refuted end ridiculed by sin itself, which is always intent on victory.
For evil tries to hide itself end remain undetected in man’s mind [Macarios the great Homily 15-21].

Hence, first among man’s struggles and concerns is to purify his heart.
His endeavour is to overcome the deviations of the will and to correct the inclinations and instincs that have been subjected to the rule of evil.
This means that he has to confront the tendency of his heart toward evil activity.
He has to bridle it, curb it and finally destroy this tendency.
In his fifteenth homily, Saint Macarios describes the heart as “The place of Christ in which He retires” . He also describes it as “the Captain [who] rules and directs all the sailors“. Also, “it is like a chariot.
The reins, horses, and the whole apparatus are under one driver. When he wishes, he drives the chariot at high speed. When he wants, he stops it. Wherever he wishes to steer the chariot, there it goed. For the whole chariot is under the power of the driver. So also the heart
“.
Saint Macarios thus expresses the crucial rule of the heart as a captain of the ship of our life. It is the driver of the chariot that our bodies pull. If the captain is ignorant or foolish, what will become of the ship?  Or, if the driver is careless or crazy, what will the end of the chariot and its horses be?
If the house is impure how can the King dwell or rest in it?

Mattá al-Miskīn – Orthodox Prayer Life: “The Inner Way“.

 

Pride & humbleness

Humility is in the Middle of the Heavenly Kingdom;
the Glory of God is lost by the one who missed the gain of humility.
You lose the Glory of God by the traps of the Devil, money, reputation etc.
The power and beauty of the people are vain things destroyed because of clothing [dark or shiny uniforms].
Wisdom without God is also vain.
With wisdom the devil even tried to trap Jesus Christ, but caught himself.
And the Jews have suffered the same.
The real pride of man is to know the greatness of God.
Everything is a gift of God.

The main reason underlying a person’s arrogance is unrealistic sense of superiority
or is his erroneous assumption that he has an existence
apart from and independent of God, and that he has acquired his qualities of his own doing.

When you are arrogant you feel superior to everyone else. You are right and everybody else is wrong
–at all times.
You are beyond reproach. Whatever anyone else says, if it disagrees with what you say and believe, then everything you say is gold, and everything they say is garbage.
You tend to think: “I am this powerful; you are less powerful.
I am beautiful; you are less beautiful
”, and so on.
You are amazingly boastful and strongly tend to belittle the efforts of others unless they completely agree with you.
People who lack self-esteem are arrogant because they are not comfortable with themselves.
People who have a healthy self-esteem are humble and comfortable with themselves; therefore, they take pleasure in quietly being who they are.
They don’t need to tell the world about it, and they encourage others to be able to feel the same way about themselves as they do.
Arrogance also comes from you values and beliefs.
[morals that were taught to us as a child on how to act and interact with others and in life]
Some people when growing up are tough that they are better than others and everyone else is below them; while other people are tough that everyone is equal no matter of how they look, color, race etc. and that [amongst other things] humble them.
Humble will be very strong, like grass will not fall at the time of windstorm.
You can see the strength by bending and giving way to others.
At the same time stand on own feet firmly.
Whereas pride attitudes, are like tree look very strong in the time trials and misery
that is to say storm, it will fall within no time.
Understanding the many benefits that Humility brings
should move us to cultivate and maintain this precious quality.

How can we go about gaining
this fine quality of humility?
It does not come automatically.
As with all other fine qualities,
we must work at it.
It will take time, so we must not become discouraged and think, What’s the use?
There is use, even if it does take time and effort and we keep making mistakes.
– First of all, we must have an earnest desire to be humble.
We must keep reminding ourselves that only by being humble can we please our Lord.
This is clearly shown where we read: “Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you
”.
1Petr.5: 7

And do we not need God’s undeserved kindness?
Can we afford to have Christ oppose us?
By regularly reading God’s Word
we will gain his mind on Humility.

For Humility to be able to help us in time of adversity, we must exercise it in our everyday lives,
in all we think, say and do.
Humility means lowliness of mind, not having big ideas or ambitions, and not tending to look down on others.
It means thinking like the apostle Paul, who spoke of himself as “a man less than the least of all holy ones”, and as “the least of the apostles”.
Humility should mark our conversation.
Do we always want to talk about ourselves, how we feel about things,
what we have accomplished or plan to do?
Do we often speak critically of others?

Do we often find ourselves monopolizing
the conversation?
Humility moves one to give others
the opportunity to speak.
If others are slow to express themselves, humbly, tactfully and lovingly draw them out, to their own happiness and to your own up-building.
There is more happiness in giving others
the opportunity to talk than in doing all the talking yourself.
Does humility characterize our actions?
Humility keeps one from shoving others
or always wanting to be first if one happens to be standing in line.
Truly, humility has ever so much to recommend it.
It makes for peaceful relations with Christ our Maker.
It makes for peace of mind. It makes for friendly relations with our fellows.
And it is of great help when we most need help – in times of harsh conditions.

Of all that exists on the four corners of the earth, what, O mortal man, can make us proud except stupidities and demonic illusions. Did we not enter into the world naked and wretched and are we not going to depart this world in the same manner?
Everything that we have, did we not borrow it; and by our death, are we not going to return everything? Oh, how many times has this been said and overheard?
The wise apostle says, “For we have brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it”
[ITim.6: 7].
And, when we offer sacrifice to God of ordinary bread and wine, we say,
“Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee”
[Holy Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom].
For nothing that we have in this world is ours:
not even a crumb of bread nor a drop of wine; nothing that is not of God.
In truth, pride is the daughter of stupidity,
the daughter of a darkened mind, born of evil ties with the demons.

Pride is a broad window through which all of our merits and good works evaporate.
Nothing makes us so empty before men and so unworthy before God as does pride.
When the Lord is not proud, why should we be proud? Who has more reason to be proud than the Lord, Who created the world and Who sustains it by His power?
And behold, He humbles himself as a servant, a servant to the whole world: a servant even to the death, to the death on the Cross!”

Saint Nicholai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid

God’s realm is totally different
from the world around us.
In fact, Kingdom wisdom seems foolish to the world.
In God’s Heavenly Kingdom
the first shall be the last,
little children are the model citizens,
and people are not regarded according to their ability, income, gender, or race.
We are to put the King and His Kingdom business before the care of our own livelihood.
This Kingdom is truly upside down.

Kingdom laws are summed up in one word: love.
The air we breathe is Grace, and the national characteristic is Holiness.
One of God’s highest goals for His people is freedom
– freedom to love Him and freedom to love each other.

February 1st – Saint Tryphon (Trypho) of Campsada near Apamea, in Syria [† 250]

Saint Tryphon is said to have been born at Kampsade (Campsada, in Phrygia, nowadays Turkey, and
as a boy took care of geese.

His name is derived from the Greek τρυφη (tryphe) meaning “softness, delicacy”.
He acquired fame as a healer, especially of animals,
and is considered one of the Holy Unmercenaries, particularly invoked on farms.
During the Decian persecution he was taken to Nicaea about the year 250 and was tortured in a horrible manner. He was beheaded with a sword
after he had converted the heathen prefect Licius.
Fabulous stories are interwoven with his hagiography.
His relics were first buried in his native city of Campsada.
Later on, they were translated to Constantinople, and then [stolen] to Rome.
His feast day is on 1 February in both the Eastern Orthodox Church and
in the Latin Catholic Church.

He is greatly venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church,
in which he is also the patron saint of gardeners and winegrowers.