February 26th -Saint Photini [Svetlana (Russian), Ellen (Dutch)], the Great-Martyr and those with her

Today we celebrate the Great-Martyr, }
and Equal-to-the-Apostles,
Saint Photini, together with her family martyred with her.
Saint Photini was the Samaritain Woman who spoke
to Christ at Jacob’s Well
(told in John 4, and also celebrated the Fifth Sunday of Pascha).

quote on the Gospel of Saint John:
“The woman then left her water pot,
and went her way into the city,
and saith to the men,
Come, see a Man which told me all things
that ever I did;
is not this the Christ?”
Saint John Chrysostom

1.] We require much fervour and uproused zeal,
for without these it is impossible to obtain the blessings promised to us.
And to show this, Christ at one time saith,
Except a man take up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me”.
Matth.10: 38
at another,
I am come to send fire upon the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled?”.
Luc. 12: 49
by both these desiring to represent to us a disciple full of heat and fire,
and prepared for every danger.
Such an one was this woman – Saint Photini.
For so kindled was she by His words, that she left her water pot and
the purpose for which she came, ran into the city,
and drew all the people to Jesus.
Come”, she said,
see a Man which told me all things that ever I did”.

2.] Observe her zeal and wisdom. She came to draw water,
and when she had lighted upon the true Well,
she after that despised the material one;
teaching us even by this trifling instance when we are listening to spiritual matters
to overlook the things of this life, and make no account of them.
For what the Apostles did, that, after her ability, did this woman also.
They when they were called, left their nets;
she of her own accord, without the command of any, leaves her water pot,
and winged by joy performs the office of Evangelists.
And she calls not one or two, as did Andrew and Philip,
but having aroused a whole city and people,
so brought them to Him.

3.] “Observe too how prudently she speaks; she said not,
“Come and see the Christ,”
but with the same condescension by which Christ
had netted her she draws the men to Him; “Come,” she saith“,

see a Man who told me all that ever I did”.
She was not ashamed to say that He “told me all that ever I did”.
Yet she might have spoken otherwise,
“Come, see one that prophesieth”;
but when the soul is inflamed with Holy fire,
it looks then to nothing earthly, neither to glory nor to shame,
but belongs to one thing alone, the flame which occupieth it“.
Saint John Chrysostom – Homily 34

She left her sinful life and immediately preached Christ to her family and community.
After Pentecost, she, her five sisters [Anatole, Phota, Photis, Paraskevi, & Kyriaki]
and her two sons (Victor, who later was renamed by Christ “Photinos”, and Joses] were baptized.
They all became great preachers of Christ
in many different places, including Smyrna in Asia Minor, Carthage in North Africa, and finally in Rome, where they stood up to the Emperor Nero’s endless tortures
[including beatings, poisonings, blindings, imprisonment, temptations, crucifixion, burning in a furnace, etc.],
all while managing to convert one of his Dukes [Saint Sebastian], his daughter [Saint Anthousa], and his magician [Saint Theoklitos],
who all were martyred and are celebrated also on this day.
Their entire Martyrion is found in the Neon Eklogion by
Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, and
most of the important details can be found in various places.
Saint Photini is considered a Patron Saint for those repentant and those suffering carnal temptations, for those with physical or spiritual blindness, and
for those suffering diseases of the head and trembling disorders.
The people of Smyrna in Asia Minor have great love and devotion to the Saint,
so much so that they constructed her magnificent Metropolis Church in only 40 days.
She has worked and continues to work endless miracles
throughout the world by the Grace of Christ.

Apolytikion      3rd Tone
All illumined by the Holy Spirit,
You did drink with great and ardent longing of the waters.
Christ Saviour gave unto you;
and with the streams of Salvation was you refreshed,
which you abundantly gave to those a-thirst.
O Great Martyr and True peer of Apostles,
Photine, entreat Christ God to grant
great mercy unto us.

Απολυτίκιο
Θείω Πνεύματι καταυγασθείσα,
και τοις νάμασι, καταρδευθείσα, παρά Χριστού του Σωτήρος,
πανεύφημε, της σωτηρίας το ύδωρ κατέπιες,
και τοις διψώσι αφθόνως μετέδωσας,
Μεγαλομάρτυς και Ισαπόστολε Φωτεινή,
Χριστόν τον Θεόν ικέτευε, σωθήναι τας ψυχάς ημών.

Kontakion       3rd Tn
Photini the glorious, the crown and glory of the Martyrs,
hath this day ascended to the shining mansions of Heaven,
and she calleth all together to sing her praises,
that they might be recompensed with her hallowed graces.
Let us all with faith and longing extol her gladly
in hymns of triumph and joy.

February 26th – Saint Porphyrios the paralytic of Gaza [346 – 420]

Continue intently in prayer,
being vigilant in it
with thanksgiving“.
Col.4: 2

Saint Porphyrios, Bishop of Gaza, was born in
about the year 346
in Thessalonika  [Macedonia – Greece].
His parents were people of substance,
and this allowed Saint Porphyrios
to receive a optimal education.
Having the inclination for monastic life,
at twelve years of age he left his native region
and set off to Egypt, where he was an ascetic in the Nitrian desert
under the guidance of the monk Makarios the Great [January 19th].
There also he met Blessed Jerome [June 15th],
who was then visiting the Egyptian monasteries;
he set off with him to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places and  to reverence
the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord [Sept. 14th], after which he resettled into the Jordanian wilderness for prayer and ascetic deeds.

There Saint Porphyrios fell
under a serious malady of paralysis.
Unable to walk, he would have to crawl to the divine services.
For healing he decided to go to the Holy Places of Jerusalem.
One time, when fully paralysed, as
he lay half-conscious at the foot of Golgotha,
the Lord sent His servant into a salvific vision in his sleep.


Saint Porphyrios beheld Jesus Christ, descending with the Cross
and turning to him with the words:
Take this Wood and preserve it“.
Awakening, he sensed himself healthy.
The words of the Saviuor were soon fulfilled:
the Patriarch of Jerusalem ordained Saint Porphyrios to the priestly dignity
and appointed him curator of  the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord.
And it was during this time that Saint Porphyrios received
his portion of an inheritance from his parents
– four thousand gold coins.
All this he gave away to the needy and  for the embellishing of the churches of God.

In 395 the bishop of the city of Gaza [in Palestine] died.
The local Christians set out to Caesarea to Metropolitan John  with a request
to provide them a new bishop, who would be able to
contend against the pagans, which were predominant in their city and
were harassing the Christians there.
The Lord inspired the Metropolitan to summon the Jerusalem presbyter Porphyrios.
With fear and trembling the ascetic accepted the dignity of bishop, and
with tears he prostrated himself before the Life-Creating Wood
and then set off to fulfill his new obedience.

In Gaza he found all of only three Christian churches, but of the pagan temples and idols there were a great many.
During this time there had occurred a long spell without rain, causing a severe drought.
The pagan priests brought offerings to their idols, but the woes did not cease.
Saint Porphyrios imposed a fast for all the Christians;
he then had the all-night vigil,
followed by going around all the city in a church procession.
Immediately the sky covered over with storm clouds,
thunder boomed, and abundant rains poured down.
Seeing this miracle, many a pagan cried out:
Christ is indeed the One True God“!
As a result of this, there came to be united to
the Church through Holy Baptism 127 men, 35 women and 14 children,
and soon after this, another 110 men.

But the pagans just like before still harassed the Christians,
passed them over for public office, and
burdened them down with taxes.
Saint Porphyrios and the Metropolitan of Caesarea John set off to Constantinople,
to seek redress from the emperor.
Saint John Chrysostom [November 14th, January 27th and 30th] received them
and rendered them active assistance.

Saints John and Porphyrios were presented to
the empress Eudoxia who at that time was expecting a child.
“Intercede for us”, – said the bishops to the empress -,
and the Lord will send thee a son, who shalt reign during thine lifetime“.
Eudoxia very much wanted a son, since she had given birth only to daughters.
And actually through the prayer of the saints an heir was born to the imperial family.
In consequence of this, the emperor in the year 401 issued an edict directing the destruction of the pagan temples in Gaza and the restoration of privileges to Christians.
Moreover, the emperor bestowed on the saints the means for the construction of a new church, which was to be built in Gaza on the locale of the chief pagan temple there.

Saint Porphyrios to the very end of his life upheld Christianity in Gaza and
guarded well his flock from the vexatious pagans.
Through the prayers of the saint there occurred numerous miracles and healings.
Over the course of 25 years the arch-pastor guided his veritable flock and
reposed at an advanced age, in the year 420.

Hymn of Praise to Saint Porphyrios, the Paralytic
Monk Marcos asked Saint Porphyrios:
You were paralytic, holy father,
On your knees, to church you crawled,
My hand in yours, you held
Yesterday thus and today otherwise
At night you were ill, behold healthy you dawned
So suddenly, who healed you?
Of the rare physician, tell me the name“.

To Marcos, Porphyrius replied:
My Healer, is my Creator,
Last night on Golgotha, I fell asleep
By severe pain, completely overpowered,
As though in person, I saw clearly in a dream
On the Cross, my Lord hanging,
and on the other cross, the good Thief.
as I saw, so I cried out!
‘O God and Lord, remember me,
in Your Kingdom, remember me!’
The Good Lord, said to the thief:
‘Go down and heal his body,
as I healed your soul’.
Quickly the thief, the cross descended,
embraced me, kissed me, and raised me up,
saying: ‘To our Savior, draw near!’
At that moment, the Lord also descended the Cross,
lifted the Cross and  He placed it on me.

As soon as I, with my hands, grabbed the Cross,
immediately I stood and was immediately made whole.

To God my Creator, all the Glory will be,
To Christ my Saviour, all the Glory will be!”.
Saint Nikolai Velimirovich

Apolytikion    4th Tn
“The truth of things has revealed you
to your flock as a rule of faith,
an icon of meekness, and a teacher of temperance;
for this cause, you have achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty.
O Father and Hierarch Porphyrios,
intercede with Christ God that our souls will be saved.

Kontakion              2nd Tn
Arrayed with a most sacred life,
you was adorned with the priestly vestment,
O all-blessed and godly-minded Porphyrius;
and you are conspicuous for miracles of healing,
interceding unceasingly for us all.

Sunday of cheese- fare, the expulsion of Adam from Paradise & Forgiveness Sunday

“Blessed are the Merciful,
for they shall obtain Mercy”.
Matth.5: 7

Lord, we were estranged before from Paradise, because of eating from the Tree.
Therefore, lead us into it again by Your Cross and by Your Passion,
my Saviour and my God.
Fortify us therein that we may fulfil our fast
with becoming purity, and
worship Your Divine Resurrection and Passover of Salvation,
by the intercessions of Your Mother
“.
from Orthros       Tn 2

For those observing the Lenten Fast,
Cheese-Fare Sunday is the last day on which eggs and dairy are eaten before Pascha.

On Cheese-Fare Sunday, we also commemorate
the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise,
entering into the Lenten fast in
remembrance of mankind’s separation from God through disobeying his commandment to
fast from the fruit of the Tree.
Furthermore, many faithful attend Forgiveness Vespers on Sunday evening, asking forgiveness from each other in accordance with the Lord’s words:
If you forgive men their trespasses,
your Heavenly Father will forgive you;
but if you do not forgive men their trespasses,
neither will your Heavenly Father forgive
you your trespasses
“.
Matth.6: 14

What is the first step in forgiveness?
To pray as Christ did on while on His Cross.
Christ prayed for those who crucified Him:
Father, forgive them;
for they know not what they do“.
Luc.23: 34
To the confession of the good thief next to Jesus on the Cross,
saying of himself and his fellow criminal of their crucifixion:
And we indeed justly;
for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds;
but this man has done nothing wrong
“.
And he said,
Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom“.
And Jesus said to him,
Truly, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise
“.
Luc.23: 41-43
Throughout His public life Jesus also preached forgiveness:
“. . .bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you
. . .”
Luc.6: 28
He practiced his own preaching
while enduring the agony on the Cross
to conquer sin and death for Salvation.
Is it any wonder Saint Isaac of Syria comments:
As a grain of sand cannot counterbalance a great quantity of gold,
so in comparison God’s use of justice cannot counterbalance His mercy
“.
In this context the words of Saint James are so compelling:
For judgment will be merciless to
one who has shown no mercy;
Mercy triumphs over Judgment
”.
Jac.2: 13
As Christ himself said:
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear”.
Marc.4: 23

Let us remind ourselves again of
the necessity to follow Our Lord’s injunction
to pray for those who offend us.
As the Evangelist records:
But I say to you, Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you. . . .
“.
Matth.5: 44
It just so happens that praying for someone
who has offended us may be both
the first act of forgiveness some may be capable of
in the beginning of the forgiveness process and
at the same time lead to a deeper level of forgiveness.

Any prayer for one who has offended us has to
conform to the love that God has for all of us.
All prayer for forgiveness must be done with
purity of heart and with the fullness of God’s love.
This is to say, we must pray that
– they reach out to God,
– Glorify His Holy Name and
– in turn God embrace them in His Bosom.
It is so easy to pray with conditional or impure prayer.
I will only forgive if the other person fulfils some condition.
This may be to ask or beg forgiveness.
It may be to say or pray:
“God send them to hell”.
To do this would be to forget
the spiritual insight of Saint Silouan the Athonite
[written by father Sophrony Sacharov, 1999].
– To someone who
declared with evident satisfaction
that ‘God will punish all
[sinners].
They will burn in everlasting fire“.
– Saint Silouan replied:
Tell me, supposing you went to Paradise and
there you looked down and saw someone burning in hell-fire
– would you feel happy?
“.
It can’t be helped. It would be their own fault” [was the response].
– The Staretz answered him in a sorrowful countenance.
Love could not bear that“, he said.
We must pray for all“.

Prayer for others in general will increase
selfless concern for others and simultaneously enhance forgiveness.
For Orthodox Christian these results should not be surprising,
since Grace builds on nature
“.
Morelli

The shared common goal for all mankind is that they be enlivened by Christ and
that all be with Him in Paradise.
We share the knowledge that we are all made in God’s image, called to be like Him, have been re-born and put on the robe of salvation and light by our baptism, and
can receive Christ, indwelling in us by
receiving His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
“. . . the more you are in suffering and difficulties and
are ‘desperate’ for God, the more He is going to come to your aid,
reveal Who He is and show you the way out . . .

Seraphim Rose

We who are members of Christ’s Body,
the Church, have been offered
the fullness of His gifts.
Let us recall Our Lord’s own words:
Everyone to whom much is given,
of him will much be required
“.
So, when you are suffering in any way,
pray to the Lord and say:
Thanks to You, my Lord,
that I may bear Your Mercy“.

Saturday of cheese-fare – commemorations of all monks & nuns

To the souls of the Righteous,
whose memory abided
forever, do I offer these my words
as abiding oblations
“.
Having led us gently through the preceding Feasts, the God-bearing Fathers have prepared us for the arena of Lent and  led us away from luxury and satiety.

They have instructed us with fear of the future Judgment and have skill-fully cleansed us by anticipation during Cheese-fare week,
having placed two fast days in the middle of the preceding week,
in order gradually to rouse us to fasting.
Behold, they now set in our midst
those who lived lives of sanctity,
through their many labours and toils, both men and women, so that,
by reminding us of their struggles,
they might make us more vigorous for the contest, and so that,
having their lives as an example and guide, and
eliciting their alliance and aid,
we might disrobe for spiritual exertions,
taking it into account that they shared in
the same nature as ourselves.
For, just as generals, when their armies are arrayed and
are already standing in line, stir up their own troops by
recounting examples and memories of men of old who
fought with distinction and valour, and the troops,
stimulated thereby with the hope of Victory,
set out wholeheartedly for combat, so
also do the God-bearing Fathers wisely act in our case.

Encouraging both men and women to spiritual contests through the example of those who have lived in holiness,
in this way they bring them to the arena of great Lent, in order that,
looking to their lives as an excellent prototype,
we might attain to the many different kinds of virtue, as each of us is able:
first, love, and then conscious abstinence from unseemly works and deeds, and
fasting itself, that is, not just from food, but also
from the sins of the tongue, anger, sins of the eyes, and,
to put it simply, refraining from all that is evil.
For this reason, the Holy Fathers appointed the present commemoration of
all the Ascetic Saints, adducing those who were well-pleasing to God
for fasting and other good works,
urging us to proceed, in their image, to the arena of the virtues, and
exhorting us to arm ourselves valiantly against the passions and
the demons,
reckoning that if we show zeal equal to theirs, there is no impediment
to our achieving all that they achieved and
being vouchsafed the same rewards;
for, they shared in the same nature as ourselves.

Concerning Cheese-fare week,
when it was previously permitted to eat meat, some say that
Emperor Heraklios decreed its present form.
After campaigning against Chosroës and the Persians for six years,
he vowed to God that, if he prevailed against them,
he would alter this week and make it intermediate between fasting and feasting,
which he did.
In my opinion, although this may have been the case,
the Holy Fathers devised this week as kind of preparatory cleansing,
lest we should become disgruntled at being led straight from consuming meat and overeating to
extreme abstinence from food and damage our physical health,
and so that, by abstaining gently and gradually from rich and delectable foods, we might, like recalcitrant horses, through
a reduced intake of food, accept the bridle of fasting.
That which they devised for the soul through Parables,
they also did for the body, little by little
removing impediments to fasting.

Kontakion          Plagal 4rth Tn
As preachers of true piety who silenced all impiety, Lord,
You have made the whole host of God-bearing Saints
shine forth with splendour on the world.
By their prayers and entreaties,
keep all them that extol and sincerely
magnify You in perfect peace,
to chant and to sing to You:
Alleluia
“.

Never, never, never let anyone
tell you that, in order to be Orthodox,
you also have to be a-look-alike to those believers
from other [
eastern] countries.
The West was Orthodox for thousand years and
her venerable Divine Liturgy is far older
than any of her heresies
“.
Saint John Maximovitch of Shanghai and
San Francisco

“. . . . . By the intercessions of all Your Ascetic Saints,
O Christ our God, have mercy on us, sinners . . . . .

Psalms created on Thruth – Psalm 23

[In Orthodoxy after Psalm 22, Psalm 23 is used as a preparation-psalm to prepair at home to recieve Holy Communion!]

● “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul
Psalm 23: 1
Hieromartyr Cyprian , bishop of Carthage [Augustus 31th] said, that in the primitive times the minister was used to prepare
the people’s minds to pray,
by prefacing
lift up your hearts
[Gr. “
σηκώστε τις καρδιές σας“].
The Jews at this day write upon the walls of their synagogues these words,
פילה בלו שבננה צפה בלו נשמה [Tephillah belo cavannah ceguph belo neshamah]; that is,
A prayer without the intention of the affection
is like a body without a soul.
And yet their devotion is a mere outside, said one
– a brainless head and a soulless body:
This people draw nigh to Me with their lips,
but their heart is far from Me

Isaiah 29: 13
A carnal man can as little lift up his heart in prayer, as a mole can fly.
David finds it a hard task; since the best heart is lumpish, and naturally bears downwards, as the poise of a clock, as the lead of a net.
Let us therefore
“lay aside every weight, and
the sin that does so easily besets us”;
and pray to God to draw us up to Himself.

● “O my God, I trust in You, let me not be ashamed“.
Psalm 23: 2
My God
This title is more dear than the name,
which is used in the first sentence.
Already the sweet singer has drawn nearer to his heavenly helper,
for he makes bold to grasp him with the hand of assured possession,
calling him, my God.

The more than celestial music of that word – “My God!
It is to be observed that the psalmist does not deny expression
to those gracious feelings with which God had favoured him;
he does not fall into loathsome mock modesty,
but finding in his soul a desire to seek the Lord he avows it;
believing that he had a rightful interest in God he declares it,
and knowing that he had confidence in his God he professes it;
my God, I trust in thee.

Faith is the cable which binds our boat to the shore,
and by pulling at it we draw ourselves to the land;
faith unites us to God,
and then draws us near to him.
As long as the anchor of faith holds there is no fear in the worst tempest;
if that should fail us there would be no hope left.
We must see to it that our faith is sound and strong,
for otherwise prayer cannot prevail with God.
Woe to the warrior who throws away his shield;
what defense can be found for him who finds no defense in his God?
Let me not be ashamed.
Let no my disappointed hopes make me feel ashamed
of my former testimonies of thy faithfulness.
Many were on the watch for this.
The best of men have their enemies,
and should pray against them
that they may not see their wicked desires accomplished.
Let not my enemies triumph over me.
Suffer no wicked mouth to make blasphemous mirth
out of my distresses by asking,
Where is thy God?“.
There is a great jealousy in believers for the honour of God,
and they cannot endure that unbelievers should taunt them
with the failure of their expectations from the God of their Salvation.
All other trusts will end in disappointment and eternal shame,
but our confidence shall never be confounded.

● “For all who wait upon You shall not be ashamed;
let those be ashamed who act lawlessly in vain
“.
Psalm 23: 3
Let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Let shame be sent to the right owner, even to
those that deal disloyally, unprovoked on my part.
And so it was;
for Achitophel hanged himself;
Absalom was trussed up by the hand of God, and dispatched by Joab;
the people that conspired with him, partly perished by the sword, and
partly fled home, much ashamed of their enterprise.
The holy Power of prayer!
What may not the Saints have for asking?

● “Make known Your ways to me, O Lord,
and teach me Your paths
“.
Psalm 23: 4
Do what you know, and God will teach you what to do.
Do what you know to be your present duty,
and God will acquaint you with your future duty
as it comes to be present.
Make it your business to avoid known omissions,
and God will keep you from feared commissions.
This rule is of great moment,
and therefore I will charge it upon you by express Scripture.
Show me Your ways, my Lord, i.e., those ways wherein I cannot err.
Teach me Your paths, i.e., that narrow path which is too commonly unknown,
those commands that are most strict and difficult.
There are the “ways” of men, and the “Ways” of God;
the “paths” of sin, and the “Paths” of Righteousness:
there are ” Your ways,” and there are my ways;
Yours the ways of Truth, mine the ways of error;
Your which are good in Your eyes,
and mine which are good in mine eyes;
Yours which lead to Heaven, mine which lead to hell.
Wherefore, show me Your ways, my Lord; teach me Your Paths,
lest I mistake my own ways for Yours;
yea, lead me in the Truth, and teach me,
lest I turn out of Your ways into mine own: show me Your ways,
by the Ministry of Your Word;
teach me Your paths, in the guidance of Your Spirit,
lead me in Your Truth“,
by the assistance of Your Grace.

● “Lead me in Your truth  and teach me,
for You are the God of my Salvation,
and on You I wait all the day
“.
Psalm 23: 5
A  little child having begun to walk,
asks to be still led onward by its parent’s helping hand,
and to be further instructed in the alphabet of Truth.
Experimental teaching is the burden of this prayer.
Lead me according to Your Truth, and prove Yourself faithful;
lead me into Truth that I may know its preciousness,
lead me by the way of Truth that I may manifest its Spirit.
David knew much,
but he felt his ignorance and desired to be still in the Lord’s school;
four times over in these two verses he applies
for a scholarship in the college of Grace.

1.] Though it be a long day, though we be kept waiting a great while,
quite beyond our own reckoning; though when we have waited long,
we are still put to wait longer, and are bid, with the Prophet’s servant,
to go yet seven times 1Kings 18: 43, before we perceive the least sign of Mercy coming …

2.] Though it be a dark day, yet let us wait upon God all the day.
Though while we are kept waiting for what God will do,
we are kept in the dark concerning what he is doing,
and what is best for us to do, yet let us be content to wait in the dark.
Though we see not our signs, though there is none to tell us how long,
yet let us resolve to wait, how long so ever it may be;
for though what God doth we know not now,
yet we shall know hereafter when the Mystery of God shall be finished …

3.] Though it be a stormy day, yet we must wait upon God all the day.
Though we are not only becalmed, and do not get forward, but though the wind be contrary,
and drive us back; nay, though it be boisterous, and the church be tossed with tempests,
and ready to sink, yet we must hope the best, yet we must wait, and weather the storm by patience. It is some comfort that Christ is in the ship; the church’s cause is Christ’s own cause,
He has espoused it, and He will own it; He is embarked in the same bottom with his people,
and therefore why are you fearful? …
To wait on God, is —

4.] To live a life of desire towards God; to wait on him as the beggar waits on his benefactor, with earnest desire to receive supplies from him,
as the sick and sore at Bethesda’s pool waited for the stirring of the water,
and attended in the porches with desire to be helped in and healed …

5.] It is to live a life of delight in God, as the lover waits on his beloved.
Desire is Love in motion, as a bird upon the wing;
delight is Love at rest, as a bird upon the nest;
now, though our desire must still be so towards God,
as that we must be wishing for more of God,
yet our delight must be so in God,
as that we must never wish for more than God …

6.] It is to live of dependence on God, as the child waits on his father,
whom he has confidence in, and on whom he casts all his care.
To wait on God is to expect all good to come to us from him,
as the Worker of all good for us and in us, the Giver of all good to us,
and the Protector of us from all evil.
Thus David explains himself Psalms 61: 5,
My soul, wait you only upon God,” and continue still to do so,
for “my expectation is from Him…..”

7.] It is to live a life of devotedness to God,
as the servant waits on His Master, ready to observe His Will,
and to do His Work, and in everything to consult His Honour and Interest.
To wait on God is entirely and unreservedly
to refer ourselves to His wise and Holy directions and disposals,
and cheerfully to acquiesce in them, and comply with them,
even when it’s not asked by people.
The servant that waits on His Master,
chooses not his own way, but follows his Master step by step.
Thus must we wait on God,
as those that have no will of our own
but what is wholly resolved into his,
and must therefore study
to accommodate ourselves to His.

● “Remember Your compassion,
Lord and Your Mercy,
for they are from of old
“.
Psalm 23: 6
We are usually tempted in seasons of affliction
to fear that our God has forgotten us,
or forgotten his usual kindness towards us;
hence the soul doth as it were put the Lord in remembrance,
and beseech him to recollect those deeds of love
which once he wrought towards it.
There is a Holy boldness which ventures thus to deal with the Most High,
let us cultivate it; but there is also an unholy unbelief which suggests our fears,
let us strive against it with all our might.
What gems are those two expressions,
tender Mercies and loving Kindnesses!“.
They are the virgin honey of language;
for sweetness no words can excel them;
but as for the gracious favours which are intended by them,
language fails to describe them.

If the Lord will only do unto us in the future as in the past, we shall be well content.
We seek no change in the Divine action,
we only crave that the river of Grace may never cease to flow.
For they have been ever of old.
A more correct translation would be “from eternity“.
David was a sound believer in the doctrine of God’s eternal Love.
The Lord’s loving kindnesses are no novelties.
When we plead with Him to bestow them upon us,
we can urge use and custom of the most ancient kind.
In courts of law men make much of precedents,
and  we may plead them at the Throne of Grace.
Faith must make use of experiences
and read them over unto God,
out of the register of a sanctified memory,
as a recorder to him who cannot forget
“.
With a unchangeable God it is a most effectual argument
to remind him of his ancient mercies and his eternal love.
By tracing all that we enjoy to the fountain head of everlasting love
we shall greatly cheer our hearts,
and those do us but sorry service who try to dissuade us
from meditating upon election and its kindred topics.

● “Don’t remember the sins of my youth, nor of my ignorance;
but remember me according to Your Mercy,
because of Your loving kindness, O Lord
“.
Psalm 23: 7
Sin is the stumbling block.
This is the thing to be removed.
Lord, pass an act of oblivion for all my sins,
and  especially for the hot blooded wanton follies of my younger years.
Those offences which we remember with Repentance God forgets,
but if we forget them, justice will bring them forth to punishment.
The world winks at the sins of younger men,
and yet they are none so little after all;
the bones of our youthful feastings at Satan’s table
will stick painfully in our throats
when we are old men.
He who presumes upon his youth is poisoning his old age.
How large a tear may wet this page as some of us reflect upon the past!
Nor my transgressions. Another word for the same evils.
Sincere penitents cannot get through their confessions at a gallop;
they are constrained to use many bemoaning’s,
for their swarming sins smite them with so innumerable grief’s.
A painful sense of any one sin provokes the believer
to repentance for the whole mass of his iniquities.
Nothing but the fullest and clearest pardon
will satisfy a thoroughly awakened conscience.
David would have his sins not only forgiven, but forgotten.

According to Your Mercy remember You me for thy goodness’ sake, my Lord.
David and the dying thief  breathe the same prayer,
and doubtless they grounded it upon the same plea, viz.,
the free Grace and unmerited Goodness of God.
We dare not ask to have our portion measured from the balances of justice,
but we pray to be dealt with by the Hand of Mercy.

● “God and upright is the Lord;
therefore He will instruct sinners in His way
“.
Psalm 23: 8
Here the Goodness and Rectitude of the Divine Character are beheld
in friendly union; he who would see them thus united in bonds of perfect amity
must stand at the foot of the Cross and view them blended in the Sacrifice of the Lord
Jesus Christ.
It is no less true than wonderful that through the atonement the justice of God
pleads as strongly as His Grace for the Salvation of the sinners whom Jesus died to save.
Moreover, as a good man naturally endeavours to make others like Himself,
so will the Lord our God in his compassion bring sinners
into the Way of Holiness and conform them to His own image;
thus the Goodness of our God leads us to expect the reclaiming of sinful men.
We may not conclude from God’s Goodness
that he will save those sinners who continue to wander in their own ways,
but we may be assured that he will renew transgressors’ hearts
and guide them into the way of holiness.

Let those who desire to be delivered from sin take comfort from this.
God himself will condescend to be the Teacher of sinners.
What a ragged school is this for God to teach in!
God’s teaching is practical;
He teaches sinners not only the doctrine but the Way.

● “He will guide the gentle in Judgment;
He will teach the gentle His Ways
“.
Psalm 23: 9
The meek will he guide in Judgment.
Meek spirits are in high favour
with the Father of the meek and lowly Jesus,
for He sees in them the Image of his only begotten Son.
They know their need of Guidance,
and are willing to submit their own understandings to the Divine Will,
and therefore the Lord condescends to be their Guide.
Humble spirits are in this verse endowed with a rich inheritance;
let them be of good cheer.

Trouble puts gentle spirits to their wit’s ends,
and drives them to act without discretion,
but Grace comes to the rescue, enlightens their minds
to follow that which is just, and helps them to discern the way
in which the Lord would have them to go.
Proud of their own wisdom fools will not learn,
and therefore miss their road to Heaven,
but lowly hearts sit at Jesus’ feet, and find the gate of Glory,
for the meek will He teach His Way.
Blessed teacher! Favoured scholar! Divine lesson!
My soul, be you familiar with the whole.

● “And the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth for those
who seek His Covenant end His Testimonies
“.
Psalm 23: 10
This is a rule without exception.
God is good to those that be good.
Mercy and faithfulness shall abound towards those
who through mercy are made faithful.
Whatever outward appearances may threaten
we should settle it steadfastly in our minds
that while Grace enables us to obey the Lord’s Will
we need not fear that Providence will cause us any real loss.
There shall be Mercy in every unsavoury morsel, and faithfulness in every bitter drop;
let not our hearts be troubled, but let us rest by faith in the immutable Covenant of God,
which is ordered in all things and sure.

Yet this is not a general Truth to be trampled upon by swine,
it is a pearl for a child’s neck.
Gracious souls, by Faith resting upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus,
keep the Covenant of the Lord, and, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit,
they walk in his testimonies;
these will find all things working together for their good,
but to the sinner there is no such promise.
Keepers of the covenant shall be kept by the covenant;
those who follow the Lord’s commandments
shall find the Lord’s Mercy following them.

● “For Your name’s sake,
my Lord, pardon my sin, for it is great
“.
Psalm 23: 11
David pleads the greatness of his sin, and not the smallness of it:
he enforces his prayer with this consideration, that his sins are very heinous.
But how could he make this a plea for pardon?
Because the greater his iniquity was, the more need he had of pardon.
It is as much as if he had said,
Pardon mine iniquity,
for it is so great that I cannot bear the punishment;
my sin is so great that I am in necessity of pardon;
my case will be exceedingly miserable,
unless You be pleased to pardon me“.
He makes use of the greatness of his sin,
to enforce his plea for pardon, as a man would make use of
the greatness of calamity in begging for relief.

When a beggar begs for bread,
he will plead the greatness of his poverty and necessity.
When a man in distress cries for pity,
what more suitable plea can be urged than the extremity of his case?
And God allows such a plea as this:
for he is moved to mercy towards us by nothing in us,
but the miserableness of our case.
He doth not pity sinners because they are worthy,
but because they need his pity …
Herein does the Glory of Grace by the Redemption of Christ much consist;
namely, in its sufficiency for the pardon of the greatest sinners.
The whole contrivance of the way of salvation is for this end,
to glorify the free Grace of God.
God had it on His Heart from all eternity to glorify this attribute;
and therefore it is, that the device of saving sinners by Christ was conceived.
The greatness of Divine Grace appears very much in this,
that God by Christ saves the greatest offenders.
The greater the guilt of any sinner is,
the more glorious and wonderful is the Grace manifested in his pardon.
Where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound“.
Rom.5: 20
The Apostle, when telling how great a sinner he had been,
takes notice of the abounding of Grace in his pardon,
of which his great guilt was the occasion.
Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious:
but I obtained Mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
And the Grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant
with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus
“.
1Tim.1: 13-14
The Redeemer is glorified, in that he proves sufficient to redeem
those who are exceeding sinful, in that his blood proves sufficient
to wash away the greatest guilt,
in that He is able to save men to the uttermost,
and in that He redeems even from the greatest misery.
It is the honour of Christ to save the greatest sinners,
when they come to Him, as it is the honour of a physician
that he cures the most desperate diseases or wounds.
Therefore, no doubt, Christ will be willing to save the greatest sinners,
if they come to Him; for He will not be backward to glorify Himself,
and to commend the value and virtue of His own Blood.
Seeing He hath so laid out Himself to redeem sinners,
he will not be unwilling to show
He is able to redeem to the uttermost.

● “Who is the man who fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way he chooses
“.
Psalm 23: 12
What man is he that feared the Lord?
Let the question provoke self examination.
Gospel privileges are not for every pretender.
Are you of the Royal seed or not?
Him shall He teach in the Way that He shall choose.
Those whose hearts are right
shall not err for want of Heavenly direction.
Where God sanctifies the heart he enlightens the head.

We all wish to choose our way;
but what a Mercy is it when the Lord directs that choice,
and makes free will to be goodwill!
If we make our will God’s Will,
God will let His Will have our will.
God does not violate our will,
but leaves much to our choice;
nevertheless, he instructs our wills,
and so we choose that
which is well pleasing in His sight.
The will should be subject to Law;
there is a way which we should choose,
but so ignorant are we that we need to be taught,
and so willful that none
but God Himself can teach us effectually.
I know, my Lord, that man’s way is not his own;
nor will a man go and prosper in his own pursuit
“.
Jeremia 10 : 19

● “His soul shall dwell among good things;
His seed shall inherit the earth
“.
Psalm 23: 13
He who fears God has nothing else to fear.
His soul shall dwell at ease. He shall lodge in the chamber of content.
One may sleep as soundly in the little bed in the corner as in the Great Bed of Ware;
it is not abundance but content that gives True ease.
Even here, having learned by Grace both to abound and be empty,
the believer dwells at ease; but how profound will be the ease of his soul forever!
There he will enjoy the Ease and Glory shall go together.
Like a warrior whose battles are over,
or a husbandman whose barns are full,
his soul shall take its ease, and be merry forever.
His seed shall inherit the earth.
God remembers Isaäc for the sake of Abraham, and Jacob for the sake of Isaäc.
Good men’s sons have a goodly portion to begin the world with,
but many of them, alas! turn a father’s blessing into a curse.
The promise is not broken because in some instances men
willfully refuse to receive it; moreover,
it is in its spiritual meaning that it now holds good;
our spiritual seed do inherit all that was meant by “the earth” or Canaan;
they receive the blessing of the New Covenant.
May the Lord make us the joyful parents of many spiritual children,
and we shall have no fears about their maintenance,
for the Lord will make each one of them princes in all the earth.

● “The Lord is the strength of those who fear Him,
and to those who fear Him, His Name is the Lord
“.
Psalm 23: 14
Some read it “the friendship“:
it signifies familiar intercourse, confidential intimacy, and select fellowship.
This is a great secret.
Carnal minds cannot guess what is intended by it,
and even believers cannot explain it in words,
for it must be felt to be known.

The higher Spiritual Life is necessarily a Path which the eagle’s eye hath not known,
and which the lion’s whelp has not travelled;
neither natural wisdom nor strength
can force a door into this inner chamber.
Saints have the key of Heaven’s hieroglyphics;
they can un-riddle celestial enigmas.
They are initiated into the fellowship of the skies;
they have heard words which it is not possible for them
to repeat to their fellows.
And He will show them His Covenant.
Its Antiquity, Security, Righteousness, Fullness, Graciousness and Excellence,
shall be revealed to their hearts and understandings,
and above all, their own part in it
shall be sealed to their souls by the witness of the Holy Spirit.
The designs of Love which the Lord has to his people in the Covenant of Grace,
He has been pleased to show to believers in the Book of Inspiration,
and by His Holy Spirit He leads us into the Mystery,
even the hidden Mystery of Redemption.
He who does not know the meaning of this verse,
will never learn it from a commentary;
let him look to the Cross,
for the secret lies there.

● “My eyes are always toward the Lord,
for He shall pluck my feet out of the trap
“.
Psalm 23: 15
Though we cannot see Him by reason of our present distance and darkness,
yet we must look towards Him, towards the Place where His honour dwells,
as those that desire the knowledge of Him and His Will,
and direct all to His honour as the mark we aim at, labouring in this,
that “whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him“.
The writer claims to be fixed in His Trust, and constant in His expectation;
he looks in confidence, and waits in hope.
We may add to this look of Faith and Hope the obedient look of service,
the humble look of reverence, the admiring look of wonder,
the studious look of meditation, and the tender look of affection.
Happy are those whose eyes are never removed from their God
The eye“, says Solomon,
is never satisfied with seeing“,
but this sight is the most satisfying in the world.
For he shall pluck my feet out of the net.

Observe the conflicting condition in which a gracious soul may be placed,
his eyes are in Heaven and yet his feet are sometimes in a net;
his nobler nature ceases not to behold the Glories of God,
while his baser parts are enduring the miseries of the world.
A net is the common metaphor for temptation.
The Lord often keeps his people from falling into it,
and if they have fallen he rescues them.
The word “pluck” is a rough word,
and Saints who have fallen into sin find
that the means of their restoration are not always easy to the flesh;
the Lord plucks at us sharply to let us feel that sin is an exceeding bitter thing.

But what a Mercy is here: Believer, be very Grateful for it.
The Lord will deliver us from the cunning devices of our cruel enemy,
and even if through infirmity we have fallen into sin,
He will not leave us to be utterly destroyed
but will pluck us out of our dangerous state; though our feet are in the net,
if our eyes are up unto God,
Mercy certainly will interpose.

● “Look upon me and have mercy upon me,
for I am only-begotten and poor
“.
Psalm 23: 16
His own eyes were fixed upon God,
but he feared that the Lord had averted His Face from him in anger.
Oftentimes unbelief suggests that God has turned His back upon us.
If we know that we turn to God we need not fear
that he will turn from us, but may boldly cry,
Turn You to me!”

The ground of quarrel is always in ourselves,
and when that is removed there is nothing
to prevent our full enjoyment of communion with God.
Have mercy upon me, a sinner”.
Saints still must stand upon the footing of Mercy;
notwithstanding all their experience they cannot get beyond the publican’s prayer,
Have mercy upon me, a sinner“.
For I am desolate and afflicted. He was lonely and bowed down.
Jesus was in the days of His flesh in just such a condition;
none could enter into the secret depths of His Sorrows,
He trod the winepress alone, and
hence He is able to succour in the fullest sense
those who tread the solitary path.

A desolate soul seeking heavenly company,
and an afflicted spirit crying for Divine Mercy.
David is a petitioner as well as a sufferer;
and those sorrows will never injure us that bring us near to God.
Three things he prays for:
1.] Deliverance.
This we are called to desire, consistently with resignation to the divine will.
2.] Notice.
A kind look from God is desirable at any time in any circumstances; but in affliction and pain, it is like life from the dead.
3.] Pardon.
Trials are apt to revive a sense of guilt.

● “The afflictions of my heart have been widened;
bring me out of my distresses
“.
Psalm 23: 17
When trouble penetrates the heart it is trouble indeed.
In the case before us, the heart was swollen with grief
like a lake surcharged with water by enormous floods;
this is used as an argument for deliverance, and it is a potent one.
When the darkest hour of the night arrives we may expect the dawn;
when the sea is at its lowest ebb the tide must surely turn;
and when our troubles are enlarged to the greatest degree,
then we may hopefully pray,
Lord, bring me out of my distresses“.
It has always been so with God’s people.
The road to Heaven is soaked with the tears and blood of the Saints.

● “Look on my humiliation and my pain and forgive all my sins“.
Psalm 23: 18
Note the many trials of the Saints;
here we have no less than six words all descriptive of woe.
Desolate, and afflicted, troubles enlarged, distresses, affliction, and pain“.
But note yet more the submissive and believing spirit of a true saint; all he asks for is,
Lord, look upon my evil plight“, he does not dictate, or even express a complaint;
a look from God will content him, and that being granted he asks no more.

Even more noteworthy is the way in which the believer under affliction discovers
the true source of all the mischief, and lays the axe at the root of it.
Forgive all my sins, is the cry of a soul
that is more sick of sin than of pain, and
would sooner be forgiven than healed.
Blessed is the man to whom sin is more unbearable than disease,
he shall not be long before the Lord shall both forgive his iniquity
and heal his diseases.
Men are slow to see the intimate connection between sin and sorrow,
a Grace taught heart alone feels it.
In sickness of body trust to our Lord, He is as powerful and
as willing to help us now
as He was to help others in the days of His flesh.
All things are possible to us if we believe.
It is but a word from Him to rebuke all storms and tempests whatsoever.
Therefore, with the means, run to Christ, that He may work with them,
and know that virtue and strength comes from Him to bless or curse all sorts of means.

● “Look on my enemies, because they multiply;
and they hate me with unjustified hatred
“.
Psalm 23: 19
Consider mine enemies.
Watch them, weigh them, check them, defeat them. For they are many.
They need the eyes of Argus to watch them, and the arms of Hercules to match them,
but the Lord is more than sufficient to defeat them.
The devils of hell and the evils of earth are all vanquished
when the Lord makes bare His arm.
They hate me with cruel hatred.
It is the breath of the serpent’s seed to hate;
their progenitor was a hater, and they themselves must needs imitate him.
No hate so cruel as that which is unreasonable and unjust.
A man can forgive one who had injured him,
but one whom he has injured he hates implacably.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves“,
is still our Master’s word to us.

● “Keep my soul, and deliver me;
let me not be ashamed, because I hope in You
“.
Psalm 23: 20
O keep my soul out of evil, and deliver me when I fall into it.
This is another version of the prayer,
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil“.

Let me not be ashamed.
This is the one fear which like a ghost haunted the Psalmist’s mind.
He trembled lest his faith should become the subject of ridicule
through the extremity of his affliction.
Noble hearts can brook anything but shame.
David was of such a chivalrous spirit, that he could endure any torment
rather than be put to dishonour.
For I put my trust in You.
And therefore the Name of God would be compromised if His servants were deserted;
this the believing heart can by no means endure.

● “The innocent and the upright cleave to me,
because I wait upon You, O Lord
“.
Psalm 23: 21
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me.
What better practical safeguards can a man require?
If we do not prosper with these as our guides,
it is better for us to suffer adversity.
Even the ungodly world admits that
honesty is the best policy“.

The heir of heaven makes assurance doubly sure,
for apart from the rectitude of his public life,
he enlists the guardian care of Heaven in secret prayer:
for I wait on You“.
To pretend to wait on God without holiness of life is religious hypocrisy,
and to trust to our own integrity without calling upon God is presumptuous atheism.
Perhaps the integrity and uprightness referred to are those righteous attributes of God,
which Faith rests upon as a guarantee that the Lord will not forfeit His word.

● “Redeem Israël, O God,
out of all his afflictions
“.
Psalm 23: 22
Redeem Israël, O God, out of all his troubles.
This is a very comprehensive prayer,
including all the faithful and all their trials.
Sorrow had taught the Psalmist sympathy,
and given him communion with the tried people of God;
he therefore remembers them in his prayers.
Israël, the tried, the wrestling, the conquering hero,
fit representative of all the Saints.
Israël in Egypt, in the wilderness, in wars with Canaanites, in captivity,
fit type of the Church Militant on earth.

Jesus is the Redeemer from trouble as well as sin,
He is a complete Redeemer, and from every evil
He will rescue every Saint.
This most beautiful of “Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
closes with a sweet petition
– such an one, as every one of the true Israel of God
would wish to depart with on his lips.
“Redeem Israël, O God, out of all his troubles”.
It breathes the same holy aspiration as the aged Simeon’s
Lord! now let Your servant depart in Peace,
for mine eyes have seen Your Salvation
“.

February 19th – Saint Philothei [Άγια Φιλοθέη] 1522 – 1589

Saint Philothei (also known as Philotheia or Philothea)
was a Greek martyr and saint.
She was born in Athens to an illustrious and wealthy family.
Against her will, she was married to a cruel man.
When he died three years later,
the Saint gave away her worldly belongings,
took up the monastic life and established a convent, in
which she became a mother to her disciples.

Many women enslaved and abused by
the Muslim Ottoman Turks in harems also ran to her for refuge.
Because of this, in 1589, the Turkish rulers of Ottoman Greece became enraged and came to her convent and
dragged her by force out of the church.
They beat her cruelly and after a few days, she died.

Saint Philothei is considered a martyr
by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Along with Saints Hierotheus and Dionysius the Areopagite,
Saint Philothei is considered a patron of the city of Athens.
Her relics are interred in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens.
The Philothei district of Athens is named after her.

Apolytikion       Tn 5
The faithful of Athens and all the world
honor Philothei the martyred nun
and rejoice in her holy relics.
For she has exchanged this passing life
for the life that knows no end
through her struggle and martyrdom;
and she begs the Saviour
to have mercy on us all
“.

Kontakion          Tn 3
We all honour Philothei with jubilation of spirit,
as this day we rev’rently worship her ven’rable relics.
For she lived her whole life working kindness and mercy;
and the righteous one, receiving a martyr’s ending,
is deemed worthy to entreat God
that all be granted eternal life with the Saints.

Philanthropy
Certainly philanthropy was one of Saint Philothei’s main motives.
At a time when there were no hospitals, no shelters for the poor,
no homes for the elderly, no asylums, and
no shelters for the protection of women,
their place was taken by monastic institutions.

In addition to her dedication to a virtuous life,
practicing philanthropy by offering protection,
giving alms and ministering to the poor and sick,
providing Christian education by teaching everyone
ecclesiastical letters and liturgical knowledge,
the holy woman contributed the following:
-1.] she founded schools for the children of the Athenians,
to open their eyes to Christianity and renown of their ancestors.
‘Lay hold of instruction, lest at any time the Lord be angry’ (Ps. 2:12).
Philothei brought this scriptural quotation to reality.
Within her flickered the hope of the rebirth of the Byzantine Empire and…
the early deliverance from the bestial yoke of the conquerors.
-2.] Philothei aimed at protecting the daughters of Athens
from the disgrace of conversion to Islam….
The danger of being subjected to conversion existed not only for
the noble daughters who were forcibly abducted by the Turks
because of their beauty and grace, but also for the simple ones,
the peasant girls, who were forced to work in Turkish homes and
farms in order to sustain themselves.
Pressure, necessity and ignorance [the great deceiver]
were causes in forcing the maidens into submission.

What to learn from history
However, Philothei, with her convent of virgins (Παρθενώνα), her schools,
her convent’s metochia, and family ties,
was capable of either strengthening those
under duress or sending them away and hiding them.
This was done until their consciences recovered or the danger subsided; and
until fear was replaced by a spirit of faith and sacrifice for the sake of Christian Faith.

Nowadays we think that everything is organised by the Government,
which cost us a lot of tax-money.
But what is the result:
In schools children only are educated in what they need for Society,
to be a good worker and concumer.
Religious education is left to their parents
– the parents have to make the choice
whether their children any sense of religiosity is imparted.
It is not enough to take to the church, where they just join them,
because especially in ‘nationalistic’ churches
– only incomprehensible rites are dished for them.
When they don’t understand what God is offering man and why
they are just lost for Royal Kingdom;
more worse, they build in time that they are bored rigid in church
a dis-pleasure which they carry with them throughout their lives.
So especially in the western countries
the formal need for children-education
– in a language they understand –
[mostly the language of the region in which they live]
is highly required,
next to:
shelters for the poor,
homes for the elderly, asylums, and
even shelters for women-protection.

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
“.

 

Beginning of the Triodion – Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee – Come ‘all’ to me

Two men went up into the temple to pray;
the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,
‘God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are,
extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or
even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week,
I give tithes of all that I possess
‘.

And the publican, standing afar off,
would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven,
but smote upon his breast, saying,
‘God be merciful to me a sinner‘.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other:
for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted
“.
Luc.18: 10-14

Notice:
This Bible-story of Lucas follows at
the story of the widow who
is searching for Justice!!!
Why?
Because Christ calls us that we should
always pray and not to faint doing this!!
He will give us Justice speedily!!!
Christ Himself spoke these words with
the view to some, who trusted themselves
that they were righteous and despised others.
Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes,
shall He find faith on the earth?
Luc.18: 1-9

Jesus Christ shared the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee with us
to warn us of the great spiritual danger of arrogant self-confidence in our own righteousness, coupled with contempt for those whom we consider to be beneath us.
In this way Jesus sought to protect us from the terrible spiritual sickness of Pharissee-ism.

This disease of the soul first manifests itself as
absolute confidence and trust in the rightness of our own point of view and judgement;
it presupposes our personal superiority over others.
And this twisted expression of self-confidence quickly degenerates into
uncritical self-satisfaction and self-righteousness,
into a kind of mindless self-admiration.
It takes endless pleasure in the self, and
in all that it does.

Let us look at the Pharisee in today’s parable.
He goes into the Temple of God
to offer incense to his own self-idol [Gr. eidōλolatreíα].

He proclaims his saintliness and
enumerates his good works.
He admires and praises himself and
is standing before God in his best clothes;
big crown on his head and a
mozes-staff to show his importance.
He, after all, is not like other people
who are up to their necks in immorality and evil.
In the midst of his supposed prayer
he does not hesitate to spill
the poisonous bile of his hatred
for the Publican [sinner]
whom he sees praying off in a distant corner.

With exaggerated self-satisfaction
he refers to his careful fasting and
his generous support of the temple.
He is indeed, a fastidious observer of
the law of the [New] Covenant.

And even though we feel repulsed
by the attitude and behaviour of the Pharisee,
we need to be honest enough to
admit to ourselves
that there are more than a few times
when we astonishingly resemble him.
After all, who among us
does not want others to think
that we are better people than we actually are?
Which one of us does not suffer from some
lack of respect toward others?
Is there even one of us
who is very lenient in his judgement of others , and sterner in his own self-criticism?
I sincerely doubt it.
Every one of us, more or less, has something of that Pharisee inside of us.
Something of that self-adulation and righteousness.
And so to protect ourselves form infection by this disease
requires nothing less than constant struggle [praying] and
vigilant effort [works] on our part.

A truly Christian heart seeks to do what is just and right as
a simple and natural expression of
our responsibility as persons to the flock around us.
But even then we understand that
our good deeds do not reflect perfection and so
should not be the cause of weaning pride on our part.
That is why Saint Basilios,
who devoted his entire life to the loving service of others wrote,
Even if we were somehow able to do absolutely everything that is required of us,
we would still have to conclude that we are unworthy servants of the Lord.
And this is because after having done all this,
we will only have fulfilled our basic duty and
obligation and nothing more
“.
Even when we have to suffer martyrdom [μαρτύριο].

This condemnation of the smug self-satisfaction of the Pharisee, leads us to the justification of the Publican,
who keenly feels and readily acknowledges his personal inadequacies,
Because each of us has to carry his own human, sinners-status.
The Publican is admittedly burdened by a host of sins.
But he is acutely aware of his sinfulness and spiritual poverty.
And so he stands back, in the farthest corner of the temple.
He does not dare to even lift his eyes toward Heaven.
With heavy sighs, he whispers his short prayer,
God, have mercy on me, a sinner“.

His prayer is a request, a plea actually,
that is filled with contrition.
And this contrition, this acknowledgement and confession of personal imperfection,
is nothing less than the very cornerstone of the entire spiritual life.
And this is because it is inseparably bound with humility of the soul; and
it is humility that allows divine grace to transfigure and sanctify our lives.

Perhaps the attitude that we need to acquire if
we wish to offer prayer that is acceptable before God, is
summed up in the words of Jesus himself who said to us,
Come to Me, all you that are weary and
are carrying heavy burdens and
I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and
in Me you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light
“.
Matth.11: 28

May we too approach the altar of God with
that same gentleness of spirit, and
that same humility of heart and soul.
In that case the Son of man when He comes,
shall find real faith on the earth.

The desert of Zin
At the end of Moses’ song,
he reminds Israel
that these are not just idle words
to pass on to their children.
These words are their life!
In keeping with these words
they will live long in the land
that God is giving them.
As we continue with
the narrative of the Old Covenant
we’ll see that they choose not to hold on to life.

Moses is reminded a number of times
that he will die because he did not uphold
God’s holiness in the Desert of Zin.
Despite not getting to reap the reward of a long journey,
Moses concerns himself with the real needs of the people.
He makes sure that when he is gone
that they will continue to follow God.
This has been striking to me over and over again.
I pray that our Church-leaders will be as concerned with the lives of others.