For what purpose are you coming to Church?

To whom will I have respect,
but (save?) to the humble and meek
and the man that trembles at my words.
For all those things My hand has made
and all those things have been’,
said the Lord:
‘but to this man will I look,
even to him that is poor,
of a contrite spirit,
and trembles at My Word’“.
Isaiah 66: 2

“Awake, O sleeper
and Christ shall shine upon You”.
Eph.5: 14

We know from the life of Saint Arsenius the Great
that after entering upon a life of solitude and prayer
he constantly asked himself,
Arsenios, to what purpose have You gone out?

We as Orthodox Christians, similarly
must ask ourselves each and every time
we approach our Parish church,
for what purpose am I coming to church?

Surely, we attend church for our own spiritual profit.
One might say, yes.       But what is our goal?
We know from many sources
– one of which is the Conversation of Saint Seraphim of Sarov with Moltivilov –
that the reason that we labour at any of the virtues and the ultimate purpose of Christian life is for us to become partakers of the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
But as we know from this same discourse,
one can labour at the virtues to no purpose as the foolish virgins did,
receiving no oil for their lamps, that is,
receiving no Grace for their labours.
It follows that,
yes, we can labour to attend church
and gain nothing.

As Saint Seraphim explains in the same Conversation
and the Lord says:
Not every one that said unto Me: Lord, Lord shall be saved,
but he that does the will of My Father
“.
Matth.7: 21
– that is,
he who does the work of God
and, moreover,
does it with reverence,
‘for cursed be he that does the work of God negligently’
Jer.31: 10, LXX

For this reason the Saints sought to cultivate a reverent fear of God.
Saint David of Thessalonica prayed and fasted for three years while enduring the ascetical feat of dwelling in an almond tree,
in his wisdom he all the while entreated God for this Gift of reverent fear.
As it is recorded in the Life of the Saint,
“When the three years had passed,
a holy angel appeared unto him saying,
‘David,
the Lord has heard your supplication
and grants unto you this favour for which you have asked many times,
that is, that you be humble-minded and modest,
and that you fear Him and worship Him with proper reverence’.
We know from his life that this “Mother Virtue”

[to borrow a term from Saint John Climacus]
gave birth to many spiritual “daughter virtues”
and Saint David was manifested
to all as a clairvoyant wonderworker
“.
from Orthodox Word 1970 May/June, vol. 6 No. 3, pg.123

If one reads the church Service books, one can see
that this reverence and fear of God
is an intrinsic part of the Church’s understanding.
As it is proclaimed in the Great Ektenia:
For this Holy House, and for them that with faith,
reverence, and fear of God enter herein,
let us pray to the Lord
“.

After the Our Father when the deacon commands,
bow your heads unto the Lord“!

[why nobody in Church is bowing?
– indeed, when you only come to Church to hear nice old Greek or Russian words on a nice sound,
you will never understand the background; you even don’t know
you have to bow!!!
]

the priests secret prayer reads as follows:
We give thanks unto You, O invisible King,
Who by Your measureless power hast created all things,
and in the multitude of Your Mercy has out of nothing
brought all things into being.
Do You Yourself, O Master,
look from Heaven upon them
that have bowed down their heads to You:
for they have bowed them not to flesh and blood,
but to You, the dread God . . . . .

In the holy Liturgy we encounter our awesome and terrible God,
Who created all things by His measureless Power
and Who came in Meekness and Humility
in order to gather us
as a hen does her chicks.
A strange and unheard of paradox
which is beyond the mind of man.
[so next Sunday you bow all your heads ???]

Saint Pachomius the Great explains the awesomeness of the New Covenant
and the fearful world – transcending Divine Liturgy.
As a monk describes the words of Saint Pachomius in his life,
“. . . . . He explained the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies,
applying the explanation to the two peoples,
‘For the first people’, he said is the outer Tabernacle,
whose service consisted in animal sacrifices, visible loaves,
the lamp stand and the lamps, and some other things.
But the calling of the Nations is the Holy of Holies,
that is, the fulfilment of the Law.
And everything in the Holy of Holies
is more glorious than the outer Tabernacle.
For instead of animal sacrifices it has a censer of incense;
instead of a table, the Ark of the Covenant with the spiritual loaves,
the book of the Law and all that is to be found there,
and instead of the light of the lamp stand,
the Mercy Seat where God appears as a consuming fire,
that is, God the Incarnate Word
Who was made propitiation for us by appearing in the flesh
“.

In every Divine and Sacred Liturgy
fearful and awesome things are accomplished,
God appears as a consuming fire
to sanctify the gifts and overshadows all of the faithful.
Let us not draw nigh carelessly.
It is our Father’s house and
He calls us all to the banquet,
but let us with fear of God, faith,
and love draw nigh.

Treasures of Orthodoxy:
The fear of the Lord is
the beginning of Wisdom;
and there is good understanding
to all that practice it:
and piety toward God
is the beginning of discernment;
but the ungodly will set
at nought wisdom and instruction
“.
Prov.1: 7

Fear is the paternal rod which guides our way until we reach the spiritual Paradise of good things.
When we have attained there to,
it leaves us and turns back.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, ascetical Homily Forty-Six

What children should be given to read
Father Ambrose:
“It is my opinion that a young mind should first of all
be occupied with sacred history and readings of the Lives of Saints
of your choice,
which will unnoticeably sow the seeds of the fear of God
and Christian life.
You especially need to make them understand, with God’s help,
how important it is to keep God’s commandments
and what disastrous consequences follow breaking them.
All of this will lead them away from the example set by our first parents,
who ate the forbidden fruit and were therefore exiled from Paradise.
You can put Krylov’s fables away until later
[Иван Андреевич Крылов 1769 – 1844, Russian translator and imitator of existing fables],
for now teaching your child some prayers by heart,
like the Symbol of Faith and certain Psalms, for example:
He that dwells in the help of the Most High” [Psalm 90];
The Lord is my Light” [Psalm 26], and the like.
The main thing is that the child himself
be occupied according to his strength
and directed toward fear of God.
Everything good and kind comes from this.
while, to the contrary, idleness and not being instilled with the fear of God
are often the cause of all evil and misfortune.
When the fear of God is not instilled,
children will not bring forth the desired fruits of good morals
and a well-ordered life, no matter what you occupy them with.
When the fear of God is instilled,
all occupations are good and profitable”.
Elder Ambrose of Optina – Амвросий Оптинский [1812-1891]

And they put the ark of the Lord on a new wagon,
and took it out of the house of Aminadab who lived on the hill:
and Oza and his brethren the sons of Aminadab drove the wagon with the ark,
and his brethren went before the ark.
And David and the children of Israel were playing before the Lord
on well-tuned instruments mightily,
with songs, with harps, with lutes, with drums,
with cymbals, and with pipes.
And they come as far as the threshing floor of Nachor;
and Oza reached forth his hand to the ark of God to keep it steady,
and took hold of it; for the ox shook it out of its place.
And the Lord was very angry with Oza;
and God smote him there:
and he died there by the ark of the Lord
before God
“.

Certainly, the idea of conforming one’s actions,
one’s approach to living and thinking,
and even the eye of one’s noetic heart
to live chiefly to glorify God
runs completely contrary to what “the World” values today,
especially in its prevailing secular outlooks of modernism and relativism,
which challenge and question the very concept and existence of objective Truth.
This is why the True heart of the Christian Gospel appears
“as foolishness to those who live
and think and have their being in and of the world,
outside of a yearning for God”.
cf. 1Cor.1: 18-25
Indeed, Saint John the Theologian, beloved apostle of the Lord,
reminds us that our love, if truly selfless,
is something the world not only often fails to understand,
but indeed, because it is selfless, is something the world often despises:
“Wonder not, brethren,
if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life,
because we love the brethren.
He that loveth not, abideth in death”.

1John 3: 13-14

 

March 25th – Annunciation, Christ’s Birth announced to the Theotokos

Christ expounded unto the Disciples,
walking to Emmaus
in all the Historical Scriptures
the things concerning Himself“.
cf. Luc.24: 26-28

Man would never come to know the True God unless God Himself first became man,
thus the Coming of Christ has been foretold.

The promise that Christ would come can be read in:
Gen. 3: 15, 22: 18, 26: 4, 49: 10;
Num. 21: 6-9, 24: 17, Deut. 18:15;
Psalm 15: 8-10, 21: all, specifically: 21: 14-16-18, 131: 11;
Isaiah 7: 14, 9: 6-7, 40: 10-11, 50: 6, 52: 13-15, 53: all, 60: 21;
Jer 23: 5, Jer 33: 14-15, Ezek 34: 23, Ezek 37: 25;
Dan. 9: 25, Mic.5: 2 & 7: 20;
Zach.6: 12, 9: 9, 9: 10, 12: 8-10, 13: 7;
Mal.3: 1-4 & 4: 2-6.
This list is not complete by any means and if one were to take into account
the more complicated Scriptures, the compound Scriptures,
one would be able to enlarge this list geometrically, for the Old Testament
was a promise of that which was to come.
Jesus was that Promise Which did in fact come,
and the New Testament is the record of the Promise fulfilled
and the future Promises yet to come,
but they all revolve around Almighty God’s plan, purpose
and consummation of the eternal Union
between His children and Himself
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Today’s Feast is indeed the Feast of
the True knowledge of God,
as foreseen by the Fore-fathers.
This is the Feast of the Formation of Christ in the flesh, announced by the Archangel Gabriel
and accepted by the Virgin,
and it occurs therefore nine months
before the Birth of Christ at Christmas.
It is, as the hymns of the Church tell us,
the Crown of our Salvation,
the beginning of everything.
This is why its Greek name is ‘Ευαγγελισμος’ [Evangelismos],
which comes from the word ‘Ευαγγελίων’ meaning ‘Good News’.
This is the feast of the Good News, the Feast of the Gospel.
Without this Feast, there would have been
no Good News, no Gospel.

Its usual English name is the Annunciation.
For it is the Feast not of an announcement,
but of the Announcement.
It is the ultimate Announcement, for it is the Announcement that God has become man,
the Announcement of the Presence of
the Wisdom of God amongst us,
not of the wisdom of man as before Christ,
but of the Wisdom of God.
It changes everything in World’s History,
overshadowing and surpassing all
that old human wisdom
of Ancient Greece, Egypt, India and China.

But however Divine this Highfeast is, it is also human.
The humanity of this Feast is not only in that today God becomes an embryo,
it is also in that today the Virgin becomes a Mother.
This is why today the Church is in blue,
the colour of the Virgin-Mother
and why this Feast is also known as ‘Lady Day’ in England.
Today, in accepting the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel, in accepting the Will of God, the Virgin becomes the most high of all mankind,
‘More honourable than the Cherubim
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim’
.
Mp3: Megalynarion of Orthros [Greek & English]
She exceeds in her sacrifice all other men and women in human History,
past, present and future.
She becomes linked with all eternity
and surpasses humanity while remaining human.
In a word,
this earthly being becomes through her sacrifice the Mother of God,
which is why we, though still on earth,
commemorate her in Heavenly blue.

In accepting this cross of sacrifice,
the Mother of God also accepts
the approaching Cross of Victory of Her Son.
This is a very significant fact
and indeed this is a spiritual law.
For every sacrifice, for every cross
that we take on ourselves according to God’s Will,
we receive a spiritual reward.
It may not come at once, but it will inevitably come.
This is a spiritual law, just as, in the same way,
if we fail to make a sacrifice and take up our cross
when God calls us to do that,
there is also a price to pay,
the price of spiritual defeat.
Mp4: Anaphora – Divine Liturgy [English]

For example, at this moment,
and in more than one part of the world,
men are fighting, men are slaughtering one another.
This is because they are blind to Christ.
For when we are blind to Christ,
then we are also blind
to the meaning of Christ’s Cross.
Thus people make war, instead of making Peace.
For people cannot make Peace because
that involves a sacrifice,
the sacrifice of sharing.
If there is no Cross of Sacrifice,
then there is
– no Cross of Victory,
– no Cross of Resurrection,
just the constant cycle of wars.

The sacrifice of the Mother of God
in accepting to bear and nourish God,
giving Him her blood, bones and flesh,
and raise Him as a man is such
that she alone among all mankind
can take us outside the cycle of wars
and can lead us,
if we wish to follow her,
into Eternity,
to the Resurrection of Christ.

“Most Holy Mother of God, save us!”

And the Scripture is fulfilled which said,
Abraham [man] believed God,
and it was imputed unto him [us] for righteousness:
and he [we] is [are] called the friend[s] of God“.
cf. James 2: 23

Orthodoxy & to come to yourself

And when he came to himself, he said,
How many hired servants of my father’s
have bread enough and to spare,
and I perish with hunger!“.
Luc.15: 17

If the Orthodox Churches are able
to strengthen their unity,
to dialogue with each other
than this is obedient and beneficial to their basics;
the original Christian Church.

You are probably motivated by Orthodox churches, and perhaps noticed that they often bear titles like
“Greek Orthodox”, “Russian Orthodox”, “Serbian Orthodox” or even “Ukrainian Orthodox”.
Are they simply different denominations that cater to particular ethnicities?
You could be excused for thinking so,
though this is – less and less – true today,
there is indeed a great deal of overlap
between the ethnic composition of many parishes
and these ‘titles‘.
Some nominations have even the impression
that one possesses a greater degree of importance than the others,
even this is heresy, because it encourages
a further breakdown of the original Christian Church.
In Truth, the Orthodox Church is one unified Church [of 300 million people],
and belongs to no nation at all.
Instead, it is the ancient church, and is unique in that it traces its roots
— in unbroken succession! — all the way back to the 1stcentury
founding by Christ and His Apostles.
It zealously holds to and preserves all the Teachings and Traditions
– including Holy Scripture – that were held by all Christians for the first ten centuries.
The word orthodox
– “right Belief and right Glory” –
has traditionally been used to designate communities [or individuals]
which preserved the True Faith.
The Orthodox Church still
— after thousands of years —
believes and adheres
to these ancient Teachings and Traditions,
and it will continue to do so for thousands more, or in other words until our Lord’s return.

The Masters voice
By the time of Jesus,
Aramaic was the most common language in Judea, though Hebrew may have been dominant in certain areas, such as Jerusalem or the Qumran community by the Dead Sea.
It’s most likely that in Galilee,
where Jesus was raised and where He began His ministry, Aramaic was the most common language of the people, though many would have been able to understand Hebrew
and to get along in Greek as well.
Also Christ spoke the language of the people He met, ‘the language of the region‘.
The languages in which the disciples were speaking were known foreign languages
and dialects of the region they visited.
It was given by the Holy Spirit that they visited a lot of countries and regions
and preached the message of God,
the Gospel of Love.

Just because you call yourself Orthodox Christian it doesn’t mean that you are real Orthodox Christian.
It seems that the infection that has affected other streams of Christianity has also hit the Orthodox community,
that plague is what I call misuse of memberships.
Orthodoxy is much more about image than
anything else and if you want to roll in our performance you have to abide by certain rules.
If you break ‘original‘ norms and customs
which are visible within authentic Christianity
you may call yourself Orthodox all you want,
but within Orthodoxy
you will not be considered as such.

And all the publicans and sinners drew near unto Him to hear Him.
And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured saying,
This man receives sinners and eats with them
“[Luc.15: 1,2].
And this is what it make painfully to a lot of Young growing up people,
who took the decision that their child
wouldn’t be baptized and educated in those communities, because
– the children don’t understand the services;
they hear another language than in their schools
– it gives such squabbles in those Orthodox communities
– we are “Russian”, so we only use Slavonic in our services,
– we are “Greek” and so we only us Greek in our services
– and so on.
It’s indeed that the Lord eats with sinners,
but when he is eating with them He is eating out of Love and
not because they are Pharisees and Scribes.

As therefore the Pharisees and Scribes made this outcry at His gentleness
and Love to man,
and wickedly and impiously blamed Him for receiving and teaching men
whose lives were impure,
Christ very necessarily set before them
the parables,
to show them clearly this very thing,
– that the God of all requires even him
– who is thoroughly steadfast, and firm,
– and who knows how to live Holily,
– and has attained to the highest praise for sobriety of conduct,
– to be earnest in following His will,
so that when any are called unto repentance,
even if they be men highly blameable,
he must rejoice rather,
and not give way
to an unloving vexation on their account.

For we also sometimes experience something of this sort.
For some there are who live a perfectly honourable and consistent life, practising every kind of virtuous action,
and abstaining from everything disapproved by the Law of God, and crowning themselves with perfect praises in the sight of God and of men:
while another is perhaps weak and trodden down,
and humbled unto every kind of wickedness,
guilty of base deeds, loving impurity,
given to covetousness and stained with all evil.

And yet such a one often in old age turns unto God,
and asks the forgiveness of his former offences:
he prays for Mercy, and putting away from him his readiness to fall into sin,
sets his affection on virtuous deeds.
Or even perhaps when about to close his mortal life,
he is admitted to Original Divine Baptism,
and puts away his offences, God being merciful unto him.

And perhaps sometimes persons are indignant at this,
and even say,
“This man, who has been guilty of such and such actions,
and has spoken such and such words,
has not paid unto the Judge the retribution of his conduct, but has been counted worthy of a Grace thus noble and admirable:
he has been inscribed among the sons of God,
and honoured with the Glory of the Saints
“.

Such complaints men sometimes give utterance too
from an empty narrowness of mind, not conforming
to the purpose of the universal Father.
For He greatly rejoices when He sees those
who were lost obtaining Salvation, and raises them up again
to that which they were in the beginning,
giving them the dress of freedom,
and adorning them with the chief robe,
and putting a ring upon their hand,
even the orderly behaviour which is pleasing to God
and suitable to the free.

It is our duty, therefore, to conform ourselves to that which God wills: for
– He heals those who are sick;
– He raises those who are fallen;
– He gives a helping hand to those who have stumbled;
– He brings back him who has wandered;
– He forms anew unto a praiseworthy and blameless life
those who were wallowing in the mire of sin;
– He seeks those who were lost;
– He raises as from the dead those
who had suffered the spiritual death.

Let us therefore rejoice:
let us therefore in company with the Holy Angels by heart,
praise Him as being good, and loving unto men;
as gentle, and not remembering evil.
For if such is our state of mind,
Christ will receive us
“.
Cf . Cyril of Alexandria [ca.376-444] – sermon 107 on Saint Lucas’ Gospel.

If the devil has got that ability to knock you down
from your exalted virtue to such great limits of evil;
so how much more would be God’s ability to restore
you to your previous confidence?
He would not only get you back to what you used to be,
but to a far better status
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

Wishful to be a saint, by Saint Silouan, the Athonite

Saints were just people like all of us.
Many of them started with grievous sins
but through repentance they attained to the Kingdom of Heaven.
And everyone who reaches the Kingdom of Heaven does so through repentance,
which the Merciful Lord granted us by His sufferings.

In the Kingdom of Heaven where dwell the Lord
and His most pure Mother, abide all the Saints.
There live our Forefathers and Patriarchs
who valiantly carried their faith before them.
There dwell the Prophets who received the Holy Spirit,
and by their exhortations called the people to God.
There dwell the Apostles who died
that the Gospel might be preached.
There dwell the Martyrs
who gladly gave their lives for love of Christ.
There dwell the holy Prelates
who followed the Lord’s example
and took upon themselves the burden of their spiritual flock.
There dwell the holy Fathers
who lived lives of prayer and fasting,
and those who assumed folly for Christ’s sake,
all of whom fought the good fight
and thereby overcame the world.
There dwell all the Righteous
who kept God’s commandments
and vanquished their passions.

That place aspires my soul
– to that wondrous holy assembly
which the Holy Spirit has gathered together.
But woe is me!
Inasmuch as I lack humility,
the Lord does not grant me the strength to fight,
and my feeble spirit flickers out like a tiny candle,
whereas the spirit of the Saints burned with a bright flame,
which the wind of temptation not only failed to extinguish
but set burning more fiercely than ever.
They trod the earth and worked with their hands
but their spirits continued with God,
of Whom they were ever mindful.
For the love of Christ they endured
every affliction on earth and feared no suffering,
and thus glorified the Lord.
Wherefore the Lord loved them and glorified them,
and granted them the eternal Kingdom with Him.
Saint Silouan, the Athonite‘,
published by Archimandrite Sofronios

Sunday of Orthodoxy – Recognizing Jesus

Jesus already knows us,
even if we have no calling to mind
of many of our prior encounters with him,
even if we do not Name or recognize
His presence and efforts at the depths of our lives.

The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee,
and found Philip, and said to him,
‘Follow me‘.
Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found Nathanael, and said unto him,
‘We have found him, of whom Moses in the law,
and the Prophets, did write,
Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph
‘.
And Nathanael said unto him,
‘Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?‘.
Philip said to him,
‘Come and see‘.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him,
‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!‘.
Nathanael said to Him,
‘Whence knows You me?‘.
Jesus answered and said unto him,
‘Before that Philip called you,
when you was under the fig tree, I saw you
‘.
Nathanael answered and said to him,
R
‘abbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel‘.
Jesus answered and said to him,
‘Because I said unto you, I saw you under the fig tree,
beliefs you?
‘.
you shall see greater things than these.
And he said to him,
‘Verily, verily,
I say to you, Hereafter you shall see Heaven open,
and the angels of God ascending
and descending upon the Son of man
“.
John.1: 43-51

What is wrong with me
that I sometimes don’t recognize people
I’ve met before?
Am I arrogant? I hope not. Am I losing my short and long term memory?
Have I a kind of Alzheimer? I didn’t think so.
Sometimes I have the sinking feeling
that maybe I’m just not aware enough
of my surroundings in general.
And it’s probably not because
I’m walking around lost in profound thoughts
deaf and blind for everything.
For most ‘human failings’,
there is a biblical Character
to provide company for our misery.

In my case, it’s Nathanael. Jesus already knows him.
As Nathanael walks toward Jesus, Jesus describes him:
Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!“.
It doesn’t appear to be tongue in cheek.
It seems like a straightforward description
based on his knowledge of Nathanael.

Nathanael says, in effect, “I don’t believe we’ve met“.
Where did you get to know me?
He is so moved by Jesus’ prior knowledge of him
that he makes a confession of Faith.
Rabbi, you are the Son of God.
You are the King of Israel
“.
To which Jesus responds, in effect,
You aren’t seen nothing yet!
Do you believe because I told you
that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than these. . . .
You will see Heaven opened
and the angels of God
ascending and descending
upon the Son of Man
“.

In our lives, every time we approach Jesus,
it is in the context of his prior approaches to us.
Every time we recognize his presence in ourselves and others,
in events and moments,
it is because He continually recognizes God in us.
Jesus already knows us,
even if we have no recollection of many of our prior encounters with him,
even if we do not Name or recognize His presence
and efforts at the depths of our lives.

John’s Good Message affirms that The Good Shepherd
knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice [psalm 22].
I am the good shepherd.
I know my own and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.
The sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice
“.
(John.10: 14-16).
The Prologue tells us that Jesus
came to what was His own,
and His own people
did not accept Him
“.
John.1: 11
The Gospel of John has recognition
and failure of recognition as a key theme.
In a number of encounters with Jesus,
people focus on their problems at a literal level
while He stands, unrecognized, before them.
For example, Nicodemus [chapter 3],
the woman at the well [chapter 4]
and the man by the pool of Bethzatha [chapter 5].
Others do recognize Him.
Jesus was killed precisely because His enemies did recognize Him.
As His Healings escalated in drama and power,
so did His threat factor to those who opposed Him.
They recognized Him as the bringer of sight to the blind
[healing of the man blind from birth in chapter 10]
and the raiser of the dead [Lazaros in chapter 11].

In the Good Message of John, Jesus always recognizes us,
but we do not always recognize Him.
The Good Shepherd knows his sheep
– He recognizes who we were meant to be,
namely Children of God [John.1: 12],
in the tangle of our current lives.
The goal of the Gospel is to equip us
to recognize His life within ourselves and the world.
These things are written
so that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,
and that through believing
you may have life in His Name
” [John.20: 31].
[‘Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy upon me, sinner . . . . .]
Our task is clear
—with God’s help, we are to enhance our facial recognition skills.
Knowing Jesus is present in every moment, every person, every situation,
we are to be on the lookout for Him,
recognizing His presence and influence
throughout each day.

On my toilet there is a booklet with sayings from Mother Theresa:
She answered when someone asked her,
What do you do all day walking the streets of Calcutta?“.
She said, “I behold Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God, in every face I see“.

It’s well-known that the monks on the Holy Mountain [Athos]
serve the pilgrims, who are visiting the Holy Monasteries,
with only one object in mind:
the coming visitor is Jesus Christ Himself in Person,
what I do as a servant,
I do for Christ Himself“.
That’s life ► meeting everybody as an Icon,
as an Image of God.
In that moment
– you will not quarrel,
– you will not be agitated, touched or heated,
– you will accept everything,
– because He is your Creator.
Indeed, in that moment you pray:
Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy upon me, sinner . . . . .

After Jesus’ Resurrection, Mary of Magdala didn’t recognize Him in the garden,
mistaking Him for the gardener,
until He calls her by name [John.20: 16].
He already knows her. They have met
each other many times before.
So an appropriate response from Mary would not be to put out her hand
to shake His and to say,
Good morning. My name is Mary.
I don’t believe we’ve met you before“.
An appropriate response for her and for us is,
I recognize You.
I believe we have met each other many times before“,
because we are God’s Children, His children.

Grace and truth have shone forth.
The predictions of old have been clearly fulfilled.
Behold, the Church adorns herself with the form of Christ incarnate!
The icons of the new creation transcend the adornments of the old.
As the Ark of the Covenant held the presence of God,
so now the icons reveal the presence of the One we adore.
By honouring them we will never go astray.


It is our glory to fall down and worship Christ in the flesh.
Come, O faithful, venerate His image and cry out:
‘O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance!
Verses on Lord I call for the Sunday of Orthodoxy

1st Sunday of Lent – Sunday Triumph of Orthodoxy

Lent was in origin the time of final preparation
for candidates for baptism at the Easter Vigil
and this is reflected in the readings at the Liturgy
today and on all the Sundays of Lent.
But that basic theme came to be subordinated
to later themes which dominated the hymnography
of each Sunday.

The dominant theme of this Sunday since 843 has been that of the Victory of the Icons.
In that year the iconoclastic controversy,
which had raged on and off since 726,
was finally laid to rest, and icons and their veneration were restored on the first Sunday in Lent.
Ever since, that Sunday been commemorated
as the “Triumph of Orthodoxy”.

Orthodox teaching about Icons was defined at
the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787,
which brought to an end the first phase
of the attempt to suppress Icons.
That teaching was finally re-established in 843
and it is embodied in the texts sung on this Sunday.

From Vespers:
►”Inspired by your Spirit, Lord,
the Prophets foretold your Birth as a child incarnate of the Virgin.
Nothing can contain or hold you;
before the morning star you shone forth eternally
from the spiritual womb of the Father.
Yet you were to become like us and
be seen by those on earth.
At the prayers of those your Prophets in
your mercy reckon us fit to see your light,
for we praise your Resurrection,
Holy and beyond speech.
Infinite, Lord, as Divine,
in the last times you willed to become incarnate
and so finite;
for when you took on flesh
you made all its properties your own.
So we depict the form of your outward appearance
and pay it relative respect,
and so are moved to love you;
and through it we receive the Grace of healing,
following the Divine traditions of the apostles
“.

►”The Grace of Truth has shone out, the things once foreshadowed now are revealed in perfection. See, the Church is decked with the embodied image of Christ, as with Beauty not of this world, fulfilling the tent of witness, holding fast the Orthodox faith.
For if we cling to the Icon of Him Whom we worship, we shall not go astray.
May those who do not so believe be covered with shame.
For the image of Him who became human is our Glory:
we venerate it, but do not worship it as God.
Kissing it, we who believe cry out:
O God, save your people, and bless your heritage
“.

►”We have moved forward from unbelief to True Faith,
and have been enlightened by the Light of knowledge.
Let us then clap our hands like the Psalmist,
and offer praise and thanksgiving to God.
And let us honour and venerate the holy Icons of Christ,
of His most pure Mother, and of all the Saints,
depicted on walls, panels and sacred vessels,
setting aside the unbelievers’ ungodly teaching.
For the veneration given to the Icon passes over, as Basil says, to its prototype.
At the intercession of Your spotless Mother, O Christ, and of all the Saints,
we pray you to grant us Your great Mercy.
We venerate your Icon, good Lord, asking forgiveness of our sins, O Christ our God.
For You freely willed in the flesh to ascend the Cross,
to rescue from slavery to the enemy those whom you had formed.
So we cry to you with thanksgiving:
You have filled all things with joy, our Saviour,
by coming to save the world
“.

The name of this Sunday reflects the great significance which Icons possess for the Orthodox Church. They are not optional devotional extras, but an integral part of Orthodox faith and devotion.
They are held to be a necessary consequence of Christian faith in the incarnation of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Jesus Christ.
They have a sacramental character, making present to the believer the person or event depicted on them.
So the interior of Orthodox churches is often covered with Icons painted on walls and domed roofs, and there is always an Icon screen, or Iconostasis, separating the Sanctuary from the nave, often with several rows of Icons. No Orthodox home is complete without an Icon corner, where the family prays.

Icons are venerated by burning lamps and candles in front of them,
by the use of incense and by kissing.
But there is a clear doctrinal distinction between
the veneration paid to icons and the worship due to God.
The former is not only relative,
it is in fact paid to the person represented by the Icon.
This distinction safeguards the veneration of Icons from any charge of idolatry.

Although the theme of the Victory of the Icons is a secondary one on this Sunday,
by its emphasis on the Incarnation it points us to the basic Christian Truth
that the one whose Death and Resurrection we celebrate at Easter
was none other than the Word of God
Who became human in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

At the centre of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ
and His Resurrection from the dead.
As such, the Icon of the Resurrection is the most celebrated,
the most common, the most cherished, the most instructive.
It is all of these things because the Orthodox Icon of the Resurrection
is not content with simply showing us the Risen Christ, or the empty tomb;
the Victory shown in the Icon of the Resurrection is complete.

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
“.
                                                       Paschal [Easter] Hymn

Jesus Christ was not content with laying in the tomb
for three days after His Crucifixion.
Instead, while His body was entombed,
Christ’s soul descended into Hades, or Hell.
Christ descended there not to suffer,
but to fight, and free the souls trapped there.
Just as bringing a light into darkness
causes the darkness to disappear,
the Source of all Life descending into the abode of the dead
resulted in Jesus’ victory over death,
and not death’s victory over Jesus.
This is the full reality of what Christ’s death
and Resurrection accomplished.

Orthodoxy & the Mercy of God

For this cause
neither does God hinder
the temptations as they come on…
to teach you that you are
become much stronger
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

The Power of God’s Mercy
We continually oppress God’s Mercy.
Also man, created in the image of God,
has much in common with his Creator,
but predominantly property of alms and benefactions are those near him
to approach the Lord.
Christ voices his life by constantly benefaction to others:
And the whole multitude sought to touch Him
for there went virtue out of him;
and they were healed
“.
Luc.6: 19
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve and to give His Life
as a ransom for many

Marc.10: 45
as a Sample and fruits of His great Love for people.
As poor brethren,
we are either hungry either sick and needy.
As a brother of Christ,
after you have put on Christ.
When your inner self has the same Baptism as Christ, participate in the same cases in point,
obey the same Laws of God,
participate in the same Divine Eucharist
and have the same hope as all Christians“.
Saint Gregory the Theologian
The mystery of communion in the Church is that each of us who belong to the Church needs to leave the closed world of his individuality
and accept the ‘companionship’ of others who “break bread” with us.
– We must think not in terms of ‘me’ but ‘we’.
– That’s why every day we pray ‘our’ Father, ‘our’ daily bread.
– Breaking down the barriers between us and our neighbours is the first pre-requisite for entering the Divine Life
to which we are called.
– We need to be liberated from all that imprisons us and isolates us:
fear and mistrust towards others,
greed and selfishness,
unwillingness to run the risk of defencelessness
to which we expose ourselves
when we are open to Love.
The merciful heart makes a human heir of God’s Kingdom
and not to both large gifts,
such as Miracles, pro-active Charisma,
the great Wisdom of the mind, etc.

A great ascetic of the desert named Saint Isaac the Syrian,
describes how it should be a merciful heart,
or how is the man philanthropist.
We must burn the heart out of love
– for the whole Creation
– to fight for people,
– in act of kindness of hunters
– in favour of animals,
– in favour of the demons, if possible.
A man who has such a heart his tears are unstoppable.
He can’t hear or see suffering some damage
and not disgusting, not to weep.
Praying with tears and in favour of the enemy, in favour of the kind.
All and all be the Mercy coming from God.
We see, then, how a tear can give us
the opportunity to do our own God’s Kingdom.

how we manifest our love for others
Simply facts of everyday’s life will judge us;
no wisdom, no [political] power and strength,
not material wealth and money,
not bodily celebrity [fame] and beauty.
Not those that have a value
that Judgment Day other is proceeding
just as we see in everyday’s life.
–  plate of food, a financial encouragement for the others,
– a sympathy goes to those who have hard times,
– a simple visit to the uncomfortable.
All this is done in a silent way,
without fanfare and publications.
A Christian who believes in actively faith,
avoid spectacular events and those pompous ways;
we have re-cycled our years.
The only thing that will get in next life is charity,
which is an advocate for our God.

Every day’s Gospel is addressed to all of us
who honour the Image of Jesus Christ,
but forget to mark the animated image of
a man who is the contrary.
We must always remember Faith stands entirely alone.
A justified man, no doubt, will always be a Holy man.
True believing will always be accompanied by Godly living.
But that which gives a man a saving interest in Christ,
is not his living, but his Faith.
If we would know whether our faith is genuine,
we do well to ask ourselves how we are living.
But if we would know whether we are justified by Christ,
there is but one question to be asked.
That question is: “Do we believe?
“We are not enriched by fortune ,
but by Divinity . . . . .”.
Saint Gregory the Theologian
So let us enrich not only by material possessions,
but in piety.
Let us be community in every poor as would occur,
what God is for us all to find
and we just ask for Mercy.
We are called to overcome our differences,
– to bring peace and
reconciliation where there is conflict,
– to offer the world a message of hope.
We are called to reach out
– to those in need,
generously sharing our earthly goods
with those less fortunate than ourselves.
And we are called
– to proclaim unceasingly
the death and Resurrection of our Lord until He comes.
Through Him, with Him and in Him,
in the unity [that is the Holy Spirit’s Grace to the Church],
let us give honour and glory to God our heavenly Father
in the company of all the Angels and Saints
Who sing His praises for ever.

Psalms created on Truth – PSALM 22

Psalm 22 which begins with the words,
The Lord is my Shepherd“,
is probably one of the best known, most often quoted
and memorized of all David’s beautiful hymns.
It has always occupied an important place in the spiritual life of the Orthodox Christian,
and is one of the Psalms included in the order of
preparation for the reception of Holy Communion.

In the early Church

the Catechumens, especially as the time
for their Baptism drew near, were made familiar with its contents and were even obliged to learn it by heart.
It seems, however, that its meaning was not fully explained to them until after they had received the Grace of the All-holy Spirit
in the Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and the Holy Eucharist.

We gave you the Psalm,
beloved children who hurriedly approach the Baptism of Christ,
so that you might learn it by heart.
But, it is necessary, because of its mystical, hidden meaning,
that we explain it to you, with the Light of Divine Grace

Saint Augustine – sermon

The Fathers of the Church saw in Psalm 22
both a Prophecy and a summary of the Mysteries
[Lat. Sacraments] of Christian initiation:
By this Psalm, Christ teaches the Church that,
first of all, you must become
a sheep of the Good Shepherd:
the Catechetical Instruction guides you to the pastures and fountains of doctrine.
Then you must be buried with Him into death by Baptism.
But this is not death, but a shadow and image of death.
Then He prepares the Mystical table.
Then He anoints you with the oil of the Spirit.
And finally He presents the Holy Wine
that gladdens the heart of man
and produces that sober inebriation characteristic of the true Christian
“.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa – catechesis

It is to be noted that then, as now,
our Orthodox Church used the Greek Old Testament
[the Septuagint – it is Psalm 22 in Greek language],
and the understanding of its Mystical meaning was based on this version.
The traditional meaning given the Psalm in our Church
is obscured in a few phrases of the most widely known English translations, since they follow the Hebrew rather than the Greek.
In the following selection of commentaries on the six verses, we give first the King James translation and in the parentheses a more or less literal translation of the Septuagint.

The Lord is my Shepherd [The Lord shepherds me];
I shall not want [I shall lack nothing].
Psalm 22: 1
David invites you to be one of the sheep
whose Shepherd is Christ and who lack no good thing.
The Good Shepherd makes Himself everything for you:
pasture, water of rest, food, dwelling place, and the way of Righteousness,
and He gives you the Comforter, distributing His Grace according to your needs
”.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
Those who belong to Christ
“have as their guide not a simple holy man, as Israel had Moses,
but the Prince of Shepherds and the Teacher of doctrine,
in Whom are found all the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge”.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
“He shall feed His flock like a shepherd:
He shall gather the lambs with His arm,
and carry them in His bosom,
and shall gently lead those that are young . . . . .
they shall not hunger nor thirst;
neither shall the heat nor sun smite them . . . . .
Isaiah 40: 11; 49: 10

• “He makes me to lie down in green pastures
[He has made me to dwell in a place of verdure]:
He leads me beside the still waters
[He has nourished me beside the waters of rest]”.
Psalm 22: 2
“The place of verdure [green pastures]
means the ever-fresh words of Holy Scripture,
which nourishes the hearts of believers
and gives them spiritual strength”.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
“The waters of rest means, no doubt,
Holy Baptism, by which the weight of sin is removed”.
After having fed the person who comes to Him in faith with His word,
the Lord leads him to the waters of Baptism,
making him a sheep of His Holy Flock [Church],
Whose destiny is only to enter into God’s rest.
There remains therefore a rest to the people of God . . . . .
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest .
. . . .”
Hebrews 4: 9,11
[“Rest” in both Hebrews 4 and in Psalm 22 is ἀνάπαυσις (Gr. Anapausis)
means cessation from labour, refreshment].

• “He restores my soul [He has converted my soul]:
He leads me in the paths of Righteousness for His Name’s sake.
[He has led me . . . . .]
Psalm 22: 3
David speaks of his own experience:
after having learned of God’s ways
he strayed from the paths of righteousness
and fell into deadly sin.
His experience in this Psalm becomes a Prophecy:
anyone, no matter how far he may have strayed from God,
in Christ may be converted
and return to the way of righteousness
and learn to do God’s will.

• Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
[. . . . . though I walk in the midst of the shadow of death . . . . .]:
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff
they comfort me
[. . . . . they have comforted me]
Psalm 22: 4
It is necessary for you to be buried in death with Him by Baptism.
But it is not really death, but a shadow and image of death
“.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
For we are Baptized into the death of Christ,
Baptism is called the shadow and image of death,
in face of which there is no longer anything to fear
“.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
The last part of this verse refers to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
“He comforts the believer, or guides him,
with the rod and staff [the Shepherd’s crook] of the Spirit,
for the One who guides or comforts is the Spirit
[the Paraclete – the Greek verb here is παρεκάλεσαν “parekalesan”]
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
And I will pray the Father,
and He shall give you another Comforter,
that He may abide with you for ever . . . . .
when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come,
He will guide you into all Truth . . . . .

John 14: 16; 16: 13
– the verb translated “He has led. . . . . ” in vs. 3 of the Psalm,
and “will guide” in John is “hodigise” and “hodigisei” in Greek).

• “You prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies
[. . . . . in the presence of those that afflict me . . . . .]:
You anoints my head with oil; my cup runs over
[. . . . . Your cup which inebriates me, how excellent it is].
Psalm 22: 5

What does David mean by this [“You has prepared a table . . . . .”]
if not the mystical and spiritual table which God has prepared for us? . . . . .
He anointed your head on the forehead with the seal of God,
which you did receive so that you might bear the seal impressed as
the sign of consecration to God.
And you see that David is speaking of the Holy Chalice, over
Which Christ said after giving thanks,
‘This is the Chalice of My Blood‘”.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
Having abandoned the remains of the former error
and renewed his youth like that of an eagle,
the newly baptized hurriedly approaches the Celestial Banquet.
He arrives, and seeing the altar prepared, he exclaims,
‘You has prepared a table before me…’
“.
Saint Ambrose
In these lines the Word clearly designates
the Mystical [lat. Sacramental] unction
[Chrism]
and the Holy Sacrifice of Christ’s Table“.
Eusebius of Caesarea
The Holy Spirit expresses in the Psalms the same figure of the Eucharist
when the Lord’s Chalice is mentioned;
‘Your Cup which inebriates me, how excellent it is!’
But the inebriation which the Lord’s Chalice gives is not similar to that of profane wine.
It intoxicates in such a way that it does not make one lose his reason;
it leads souls to Spiritual Wisdom…
“.
Saint Cyprian of Carthage
Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
But Peter…said unto them…these are not drunken, as you suppose . . . . .
but this is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joël:
and it shall come to pass in the last day, said God,
I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh:
and your sons and daughters shall Prophesy,
and your young men shall see Visions,
and your old men shall dream Dreams
“.
Acts 2: 13-17

• Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
[. . . . . Mercy shall pursue me . . . . .];
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 22: 6
Christ, providing the soul with the wine
‘that makes glad
[Joy] the heart of men’,
provokes in it that sober intoxication
which elevates the dispositions of the heart
from transitory to eternal things . . . . .
He who has tasted, in fact, this inebriation trades
the ephemeral for that which has no end
and remains in the house of the Lord
all the days of his life
“.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa

32e Sunday after Pentecost – meeting of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished,
they brought Him to Jerusalem, to
present Him to the Lord;
As it is written in the Law of the Lord,
every male that opened the womb
shall be called Holy to the Lord;
and to offer a sacrifice according to
that which is said in the law of the Lord,
a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and
the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and
the Holy Spirit was upon him.
And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that
he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and
when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to
do for him after the custom of the law,

Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
Lord, now let You your servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen Your Salvation, Which
You have prepared before the face of all people;
a light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Your people Israel.
And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother,
Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and
for a sign which shall be spoken against;
[Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also],
that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
And there was one Anna, a prophetess,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser:
she was of a great age, and
had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years,
which departed not from the temple,
but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.
And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and
spoke of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord,
they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and
the Grace of God was upon Him
“.
Luc.2:22-40

The enactment of religious rituals for children in the Jewish faith of Jesus’ time is the background of this only biblical glimpse we have of Jesus’ early infancy.
This luminous text of hope from Lucas’ Gospel is
pictorial in its rendering of Jesus presentation at the temple.
As a new-born, He is brought by His parents to be circumcised and officially named, following the custom of their faith.
This story of a baby’s first religious rituals prompts
the memories of many adults whose own parents involved them at an early age in the practices of their faith.
Lucas paints a touching and very typical picture of just such an occasion.
Today, even though obscured in the unknowingness of early infancy,
how many adults still cherish the pictures and artifacts from their own infancy rituals?
Caregivers of all sorts save a scrapbook of pictures, perhaps a special robe,
a candle, a signed guestbook or maybe a picture of the banquet table of well-wishers.
All of these are reminders which can still bear meaning for adults about the religious and personal commitments caregivers made for them as infants.

The child, Jesus, launched into the world,
through the faithful hopes and practices of his parents and others, prompts the Gospel writer to conclude:
The child grew and became strong …..
Paradoxically this text, while focused on Jesus throughout, also records the responses of the adults around him to the child.
In fact, this text poses a critical set of questions for adults who have anything to do with children, be they parents, members of religious communities or the general public.

What expectations do we have for our children
as they grow towards adulthood?
What are our hopes for them?
How do we utilize the resources of
our faith communities to support children?
What protection and guidance do we offer them so hopes and
expectations can be realized for their flourishing?
What responsibilities do all adults have for children,
regardless of whether or not
they are related to them by blood or marriage?

Lucas’ words portray a picture of hope,
innocence and adult concern for the infant Jesus.
His words foster nostalgia and loving sentiments.
This child, Jesus, has received
a strong start in life.
But in juxtaposing this text with some of today’s
facts and realities about children,
the Biblical passage slashes across
our lives with one harsh notice:
“Warning!.               

Lucas’ words have
at their centre a child:
surely a prompt to everyone to consider the treatment of children today.
—> What does it mean to cherish and value children?
Several years ago a proverbial phrase was popularized through a speech; “It takes a village to raise a child”.
How true in the best sense of that phrase.
And yet, there is ready and ugly evidence that communities of varied sorts
are devoted to the destruction of children,
[particularly through sexual trafficking].
One witnesses this in the print and electronic media and in the reports about those who have been caught vandalizing the souls and bodies of children.
Indeed, the incredible commodifying of children’s lives and bodies can be seen on
the streets and hidden rooms of both large urban centres and
smaller towns throughout the western countries.

This destruction of children through sexual trafficking stands in absolute contrast to
the Lucan story of the nourishing and flourishing of children.
Children’s bodies instead of being blessed and protected are bought and sold by adults.
These adults seek only to gain obscure and profit from them.
In the words and acts of the devout adults who bless Jesus,
Lucas offers an unsettling warning of his own about this child, Jesus.
Simeon notes to Mary, his mother, that her child will cause
“the rising and falling” of many.
What will happen to her son will cause her own heart
to be pierced as though by a sword.
Furthermore, Anna’s act of endurance involves fasting.
Fasting does not signify feasting.
To the contrary it signifies that there are things yet
to be accomplished and fulfilled.
Anna was also keenly aware of the need for the coming redemption.
The child, Jesus, exemplified that for her.

How we are caring for our children
Within this text of love and support for a child,
we unmistakably hear the note of justice sounded clearly.
Indeed the rising and falling of many has and
will occur in terms of their treatment of children.
Lucas’ words have set both the model of parental and adult love for children and they also challenge all adults to ask:
How are we caring for
our children today?

Are we educating our children in our communities or do we force them to come to a Church
in which they don’t understand any word and any background?
Are we educating our children in our churches to
Greek, Russian, Romanian, Georgian, Serbian, Bulgarian nationalists
who are longing for a faraway, strange country?
Are we separating them from the
True Word by keeping them away
from an intelligible [understandable] words, written by the Holy Fathers?
Do we support them by forcing them
to attend hour-long services
in a language they do not understand?
Are we supporting their healthy development in relation to
their environment or
do we condemn them to be a continued stranger and guest-worker and to award themselves to make choices of open and free development.
 What responsibilities do all adults have for children,
regardless of whether or not
they are related to them by blood or marriage?

Lord have mercy“, for
they don’t understand what they are doing
and their leaders are missing any point of view.

God is glorious in His Saints

Yes, truly
“Glorious is God in His Saints”
Psalm 67: 35

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation;
whom shall I fear?
Psalm 26:1

The strength of the Lord in us
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
Casting down imaginations, and
every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and
bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”.
2Cor. 10:3,4,5

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness,
obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,
out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight
“.
Hebr. 11:33,34

And I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven,
Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God,
and the power of His Christ:
for the accuser of our brethren is cast down,
which accused them before our God day and night
“.
Rev 12: 10

Let us call to mind the Martyrs’ superhuman struggles,
how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one’s strength,
disregarding pain and wounds as they struggled bodily against fire, sword,
all different kinds of deadly tortures, patiently resisting while their flesh was cut,
their joints dislocated and their bones crushed,
and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity,
complete, unharmed and unshaken.
As a result there were bestowed on them
the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit
and the power to work miracles.

Let us consider the patience of holy men and women,
how they willingly endured long periods of fasting,
vigil and various other physical hardships
as though they were not in the body,
battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin,
in the invincible inner warfare against principalities,
powers and spiritual wickedness.
Eph. 6: 12

They wore away their outer selves and made them useless,
but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him
from whom they
also received gifts of healing and mighty works.
When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such Grace and Power.
For even if their intentions were good and noble,
without God’s strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature
and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.
That is why, when the psalmist and prophet declared,
God is glorious in His Saints”, he went on to say,
He gives strength and power unto His people”.
Ps. 67: 35

Carefully consider the force of these prophetic words.
Whereas God, according to the psalmist,
gives all his people strength and power
– for He shows no partiality [cf. Acts 10: 34]
– He is glorified only in His saints.
The sun pours down its rays abundantly upon all alike, but they are visible only to those with open eyes.
Those with clear-sighted, pure eyes benefit from the pure light of the sun,
not those whose vision is dimmed because illness,
mist or something similar has afflicted their eyes.
In the same way, God richly bestows His help on all,
for He is the ever-flowing, enlightening and
saving fount of mercy and goodness.
But not everyone takes advantage of His Grace and Power
to practise and perfect virtue or show forth miracles,
only those with a good intent,
who demonstrate their love and faith towards God
by good works (cf. Jas. 2: 20– 26),
who turn away completely from everything base,
hold fast to God’s commandments and
lift up the eyes of their understanding to
Christ the Sun of righteousness [Mal. 4: 2].
He not only invisibly holds out a helping hand from above
to those who struggle, but we also hear Him speaking to us
and urging us on in His Gospel.
Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men”,
He says, “him will I confess also before My Father which is in Heaven”.
Matth.10: 32

Notice that we cannot boldly
proclaim our faith in Christ
and confess Him without
His strength and assistance.
Nor will our Lord Jesus Christ speak out on our behalf in the age to come,
recommend us to the heavenly Father and make us His kin,
unless we give Him reason to do so.
To make this clear, He does not say,
Whosoever shall confess Me before men”,
but

Whosoever shall make His confession in Me”, Matth.10: 32
that is to say, whoever is able, in Christ and with His help,
to declare his faith with boldness.
Likewise, again, He does not say,
I will confess Him”, but “I will acknowledge what is in Him”,
meaning that His confession will be in respect of the good fight
and patient endurance which such a person has shown
in the cause of godliness.
Take note, however, of what He goes on to say
about those who are cowardly and betray the faith:
But whosoever shall deny me before men,
him will I also deny before My Father which is in Heaven”.
Matth.10: 33

Here He does not say, “Whosoever shall deny in Me”,
since the person who denies God does so because
he is bereft of God’s help.
Why has he been abandoned and forsaken by God?
Because he first abandoned God by loving what is transitory and worldly
more than the Heavenly and everlasting good things promised by Him.
In His turn, Christ will not just disown what is in Him, but deny him Himself,
finding in him nothing at all that could be used in his defence.
Whoever loves according to God,
dwelleth in God, and God in him”,
as Christ’s beloved theologian tells us [1John 4: 16].
So he who truly loves God has God dwelling in him,
and naturally confesses his faith in God.
On the other hand, as he dwells in God,
God too will acknowledge him.

The words, “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me, him will I confess also” [cf. Matth. 10: 32],demonstrate the unbroken union between God and
those who acknowledge Him,
from which he who denies Him has distanced himself.
These mutual exchanges between God and man are divinely just,
and fairly reward like with like.
Although the prizes God gives us resemble our offerings to Him,
consider the overwhelming superiority of God’s recompense to those
who, in Him, confessed Him.
Each Saint, as a servant of God, boldly acknowledged Him
in this fleeting life before mortal men,
though actually just for a brief period of this present age
and in front of only a few.
By contrast, our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who is God and Lord of heaven and earth,
will speak openly on their behalf in that eternal,
never-ending world before God the Father,
surrounded by angels, archangels and all the heavenly host,
and in the presence of all mankind from Adam onwards.
For all will rise and appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.
Then, before everyone and in the sight of all, He will proclaim,
glorify and crown those who demonstrated their faith in Him to the end.
How can we attempt to tell of those extraordinary crowns and
the excellence of those future rewards,
which eyes like ours cannot see, nor ears hear,
nor hearts understand?
cf. 1 Cor. 2: 9, Isa. 64: 4