Orthodoxy & continuous child’s asking

Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you
“.
Luc.11: 9

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites;
for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners,
that they may be seen by men.
Truly, I say to you, they have their reward.
But when you pray, go into your room and
shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you
“.
Matth.6: 5-6

Prayers have to be done in secret
This is the first rule given by Christ.
The person who prays must do so in such a way
that he would not be seen by men to be praying.
In the spiritual tradition of the Church,
the words of Christ “go into your room”
have been interpreted in two ways.
1.]. They have been understood
to be a literal commandment.
The praying person must close himself off physically during times of prayer
in order to pray secretly and to avoid being seen.
2.]. These words of Christ have been understood to mean
that the praying person must enter within himself,
praying secretly in his mind and heart at all times,
without displaying his interior prayer to others.
Thus the “room” which one must “go into
is the “room of your soul“.

The room of the soul is the body;
our doors are the five bodily senses.
The soul enters its room
when the mind does not wander here and there,
roaming among the things and affairs of the world,
but stays within, in our heart.
Our senses become closed and remain closed
when we do not let them be passionately attached
to external sensory things and in this way our mind remains free from every worldly attachment
and by secret mental prayer unites with God its Father.

God who sees all secret things sees mental prayer
and rewards it openly with great gifts.
For that prayer is true and perfect
which fills the soul with Divine Grace
and Spiritual Gifts
“.
Saint Gregory Palamas – 14th cnt.

Thus, in the spiritual Tradition of the Christian teachers of prayer,
the unification of the mind and the heart within the soul
is seen to be the fulfillment of the basic condition of prayer
as commanded by Christ.
And in praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the heathen do;
for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
Do not he like them, for your Father knows
what you need before you ask Him
“.
Matth.6: 7,8

continuous childlike asking
And if you continue asking,
though you receive not at once,
you surely will receive.
For to this end was the door shut,
that He may induce you to knock:
to this end He does not straightway assent,
that you may ask.
Continue then to do these things
and you will surely receive
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

God knows the needs of His people
– Man prays in order to unite
his mind and heart with God.
– He prays in order that God’s will would be done in his life.
– He prays so that whatever he needs from God would be given.
– He prays so that he would consciously and
with full awareness express the fact that all that he is,
has and does is dependent on God.
à It is man who needs to pray.
à It is not God who needs man’s prayers.

True Christian prayer must be brief.
It must be simple and regular.
It must not be many-worded.
Indeed it need not have words at all.
It may be the totally silent inner attitude of the soul before God,
the fulfillment of the words of the psalmist:
Commune with your hearts . . . . .
and be silent.
Be still,
and know
that I am God
“.
Psalm 4: 4, 46: 10

The teaching about briefness and silence in prayer
is found in all of the spiritual teachers.
Saint Dimitry of Rostov [17th cnt.] sums up this teaching
when he says that the publican prayed only
God be merciful to me a sinner” and was justified;
the repentant thief prayed only
Remember me . . . . . ” and received Paradise;
and the prodigal son and the tax-collector, Zacchaeus,
said nothing at all
and received the Mercy of the Father
and the forgiveness of Christ.
Luc.15: 20, 18: 13, 19: 5, 22: 42

Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives
and he who seeks, finds
and to him who knocks
it will be opened.
(…) If you who are evil know
how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father
Who is in Heaven
give good things
to those
who ask Him!
“.
Luc.11: 9,13

Whatever you ask in My Name,
I will do it,
that the Father may be glorified in the Son;
if you ask anything in My Name,
I will do it
“.
John 14: 13,14

Truly, truly I say to you,
if you ask anything of the Father,
He will give it to you in My Name.
Until now you have asked nothing in My Name;
ask, and you will receive,
that your joy may be full
“.
John 16: 23,24

Whatever one asks in the Name of Jesus will be given.
This does not mean
that man can ask God for anything at all.
He cannot ask for what is not needed, or for what is evil.
He can ask, however, and must ask for “good gifts“,
for whatever can be asked in the Name of Christ,
for whatever is Holy and sinless and Good.
If one asks for good things in faith,
He will certainly receive them
if God thinks that he should have them
for his Life and Salvation.
This is the promise of the Lord Himself.

If you abide in Me and My words abide in you,
ask whatever you will
and it shall be done for you“.
John 15: 7

And whatever you ask in prayer,
if you have faith,
you will receive
“.
Matth.21: 22, cf. Luc.18: 1-8

Every prayer directed to God in faith is answered.
This does not mean that what is asked is always given,
for God knows better than the person who prays what is good for him.
For this reason the spiritual teachers warn man
against being too long and insistent
in his concrete demands of the Lord.
God knows best what is needed
and in order to prove this to His servants,
He may at times yield to their insistent demands
and give what they want,
but should not have,
in order to show them quite clearly
that they should have trusted in His wisdom.
Thus it is always best to be silent and brief in prayer
and not too specifically demanding.
It is always best to pray:
Give what is needed, my Lord.
Your will be done
“.

How many times have I prayed
for what seemed a good thing for me
and not leaving it to God to do,
as He knows best, what is useful for me.
But having obtained what I begged for,
I found myself in distress
because I had not asked for it to be,
rather, according to God’s will . . . . .
Saint Nilus of Sinai –  5th cnt.

Orthodoxy & make a clean breast for our Lord

We celebrate the Holy Liturgy together.
But we must pay what this costs:
each one must be concerned
for the Salvation of all.
Our life is an endless Martyrdom“.
Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov [1896 – 1993]

Divine Liturgy is the official action of the Church
formally gathered together as the chosen People of God.
The word church, means a gathering or assembly of people
specifically chosen and called apart to perform a particular task.
It is the action of the Church assembled by God
– in order to be together in One Community
– to worship, to pray, to sing, to hear God’s Word,
– to be instructed in God’s Commandments,
– to offer itself with thanksgiving in Christ to God the Father.
Divine Liturgy has the living experience of God’s Eternal Kingdom
through communion with the same Christ
Who is present in His people by the Holy Spirit.
[Although it is generally the practice in the Orthodox Church today
to allow non-Orthodox Christians, and even non-Christians,
to witness the Liturgy of the Faithful, it is still the practice
to reserve actual participation in the Mystery of Holy Communion
only to members of the Orthodox Church
who are fully committed to the life and teachings of the Orthodox Faith
as preserved, proclaimed and practiced by the Church throughout its history].

Because the Divine Liturgy exists for no other reason than to be the official all-inclusive act of prayer, worship, teaching, and communion of the entire Church in Heaven and on earth,
it may not be considered merely as one devotion among many, not even the highest or the greatest.
The Divine Liturgy is not an act of personal piety.
– It is not a prayer service.
– It’s not merely one of the Mysteries [lat. Sacraments]. The Divine Liturgy is the one common Mystery
of the very being of the Church Itself.
– It is the one Mysterial manifestation of the essence of the Church
as the Community of God in Heaven and on earth.
– It is the one unique Mysterial revelation of the Church
as the mystical Body and Bride of Christ.
As the central mystical action of the whole church,
the Divine Liturgy is always Resurrectional in spirit.
– It is always the manifestation to His people of the Risen Christ.
– It is always an outpouring of the life-creating Spirit.
– It is always Communion with God the Father.
The Divine Liturgy, therefore, is never mournful or penitential.
– It is never the expression of the darkness and death of this world.
– It is always the expression and the experience of
the Eternal life of the Kingdom of the Holy Trinity.

Orthodox Christians hold that man was originally created in Communion with God,
but through acting in a manner contrary
to his own nature [which is intrinsically ordered to communion with God],
he disrupted that Communion.
Because of man’s refusal
to fulfil the “image and likeness of God
within him,corruption and the sickness of sin whose consequence is death
entered man’s mode of existence.
But when Jesus came into the world He Himself was Perfect Man and Perfect God united in the Divine Hypostasis of the Logos,
the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Through His assumption of human nature, human existence was restored,
enabling human beings, the fulfilment of Creation,
through participation in Divinity by Incorporation into Jesus Christ.

The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone,
the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man made after the Image.
In order to effect this re-creation, however,
He had first to do away with death and corruption.
Therefore He assumed a human body,
in order that in it death might once and for all be destroyed
and that men might be renewed according to the Image
[of God]”.
Saint Athanasius‘On the Incarnation

Salvation, or “being saved“, therefore, refers to this process
of being saved from death and corruption and the fate of hell.
The Orthodox Church believes that its teachings and practices
represent the true path to participation in the Gifts [Grace] of God.
Yet, it should be understood that the Orthodox do not believe
that you must be Orthodox to participate in Salvation.
God is merciful to all.
The Orthodox believe that there is nothing that a person
[Orthodox or non-Orthodox] can do to earn Salvation.
It is rather a Gift {Grace] from God.
However, this Gift of relationship has to be accepted by the believer,
since God will not force Salvation on humanity.
Man is free to reject the Gift of Salvation continually offered by God.
To be saved, man must work together with God in a Synergeia
whereby his entire being, including his will, effort and actions,
are perfectly conformed with and united to the Divine.

God becomes powerless before human freedom; He cannot violate it since it flows from His own omnipotence.
Certainly man was created by the will of God alone; but he cannot be deified [made Holy] by it alone.
A single will for creation, but two for Deification.
A single will to raise up the image,
but two to make the Image into a Likeness.
The love of God for man is so great
that it cannot constrain;
for there is no Love without respect.
Divine will always will submit itself to groping’s, to detours,
even to revolts of human will to bring it to a free consent

Vladimir Lossky‘Orthodox Theology, an Introduction

The ultimate goal of the Orthodox Christian is
to achieve Theosis, or Union with God.
This is sometimes expressed thus:
God became Man so that Man might become god“.
Some of the greatest Saints have achieved, in this life, a measure of this process.
The individual who achieves Theosis never realizes his accomplishment,
as his perfect humility keeps him blind to pride.
Salvation therefore is not merely an escape from the eternal bondage of death,
but an entrance to life in Christ here and now.

Out of Love for us and in obedience to His Father,
our Lord, Jesus, His Son joyfully took insult and suffering upon Himself,
as the Gospel says:
Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our Faith;
Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross,
despising the shame and is set down
at the right hand of the Throne of God
“.
Hebr. 12: 2
For this same reason our Lord said
on the night when He was betrayed:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread
and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples,
and said,
‘Take, eat; this is my body‘,
and He took the Cup gave thanks
and gave it to them, saying,
‘Drink ye all of it;
for this is My Blood of the New Covenant,
Which is shed for many for the remission of sins’
“.
Matth.26: 26-28
Or in other words:
And for their sakes I sanctify Myself,
that they also might be sanctified
through the Truth
“.
John 17: 19
It is the same with all the Saints:
when they become perfected, they attain this accomplishment by imitating God
in outpouring of their Love and Compassion
upon all Humanity.
The real Saints in the past
and here and now seek for themselves
this Sign of Likeness to God
– to be perfected in the Love of their Neighbour.

In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He shall direct your paths
“.
Proverbs 36: 6

Orthodoxy & 40 days of Lent

After the Sunday of Last Judgement [meat-fare] we meet the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam & Eve from Paradise
[cheese-fare, forgiveness Sunday].
After todays Vespers we ask each other forgiveness and the 40 days of Lent start.
During the 40 days of Lent we have:
– Sunday of Orthodoxy
– Sunday of Gregory Palamas
– Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross
– Sunday of John Climacos [of Sinaï, author of the Ladder]
– Sunday of Mary of Egypt
– Lazaros Saturday and
– the Sunday of the entry of our Lord into Jerusalem [Palm Sunday]
The “Lent”, as just said, is the 40-days-during period
from the First Sunday of Lent until the Sunday of Palms.
This period is very strict fasting and spiritual struggle.

Strict fasting and spiritual struggle
doesn’t mean we only look after our consume of food;
we prepare ourselves by more reading and praying and
retire from public life to return to silence in a monastic way.
We can’t do this in our own way, we ask God
that we receive an awareness of His Power
in fasting, praying and reading.

If you need to prepare food for the rest of the family,
you can do that and continue your fast.
It demands more willpower on your part
not to eat everything you prepare.
Meditate on the goodness of God;
you can serve others, while abstaining yourself.
In this period you will be confronted with the lies of the Satan.
Satan will try to flatten, to circumvent or in the worst case
to terminate your deployment.
The excuses he will offer:
– Feeling that you are too old or too young or too sick
or too busy may be a half-likely excuse.
Even when you are fleshly not allowed to fast
you are able to have more silent moments by reading and praying.
The devil and his servants are very clever
and have the most vague excuses imaginable
for not fasting:
• Some actually make you think
that you are going to die if you are going on fasting.
• Some make you feel to have some type of reaction,
you can’t breathe. “It’s too hard for me“, they make you think;
and when you are trapped, you discontinue fasting.
• Some make you to intend to fast – next year.
It’s a good intention, but for the future, not today.
• Some make you actually fast – breakfast, lunch and dinner.
then it overcomes you to eat like no-one-else
and fall into the bed to ‘sleep it off’.
• Some make you feel to that it is enough
to abstain food from bedtime to break-fast.
• Some make you feel you can’t function
without meat or cheese in your stomach.
• Some make you to fast on wrong motives.
If you want to serve God, serve Him
and your neighbours with a pure motive.
If you want to deny the flesh, than do it
and stop making excuses.
• Some make you to profess to fast to please others.
In reality you stop at Mc-fat on the way home and eat heartily.
They make you think you are fooling someone, but you can’t fool God.
Fasting isn’t for the pleasure of other people, it’s done unto God.
In reality you are cheating yourself. God doesn’t benefit from your fasting.
Why play games with God? If you cannot be sincere in a fast,
God won’t be able to trust you with His blessings.
• Some make you to not start fast because you will be “misunderstood
and you don’t want to be criticized.
Well, that’s just part of it.
It’s wonderful to walk in the Power and anointing of God.
Some people will be critical of you, even when you are a priest or monk.
They may say you are “anti-social“. They may say [or write] many other unkind things.
But when they have a need, they will know who to call on.
When effective prayers have to be prayed, they will remember your dedication to God.
Don’t let what other people think or say hinder you.
Put your trust in God, obey only Him.

Every time on during this period of Lent, 40 days long, day and night.
Here and now you have to face the thing that has kept you from fasting and conquer it once and for all.
If gluttony has kept you from God’s best, He is ready to deliver you from that sin.
If food is your lord, cast it down
from its throne here and now
and let Christ reign and be the Lord of your life.
So you have a medical problem that prevents you fro fasting, God will find another way to heal you.
If His Will is that you fast and you are one of His children, His Will is that you fast.
And when you are not able to fast because of a medical problem, He wants to remove that obstacle so that you can have total victory in your life.
In that way you are healed in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, here and now.
If God is leading you to this period of Lent, fast then the full 40 days.
Lay aside every excuse; conquer the flesh and just do it as a good servant befits.

Orthodoxy & the need for support

Nothing equals prayer!
It makes the impossible possible,
and the difficult easy
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

The practice of going out into the wilderness
to seek God is a tradition well established in Church
as early as religion became God-centred in Jewish times.
The Prophets and the latest Prophet Saint John the Forerunner did the same,
as Saint Andrew of Crete testifies:
The Forerunner of Grace dwelt in the desert and all Judea and Samaria ran to hear Him”.
As we know Jesus went into the wilderness before He started His Holy Mission:
Jesus Himself was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted.
After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry
“.
Matth.4: 1,2

Jesus is our example.
He didn’t go into the wilderness to fulfil some Tradition of His fathers.
He went there to get the support of God, His Father in His coming life;and when He came forth from that solitary place,
no enemy could stand against Him:
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the control of the devil,
because God was with Him
“.
Acts 10: 38

When Jesus returned to the synagogue in Nazareth,
He was permitted to have the appreciation of
a visitor and was given by the Jewish visitors
the privilege of reading the Scriptures in public.
The Holy Book was given to Him and He
was reading the periscope of Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because the Lord anointed me to preach Good News to the poor.
The Lord has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
“.
Luc.4: 18,19
Waiting upon God , the Father in prayer and fasting
had placed a special anointing upon the Life of our Lord Jesus and that special anointing enabled Him to do the works of God.
In great majority we need the support of God in our Church today, much attention and education has to be given to seeing that sinners come to be saved

and come to the real deep knowledge of Christ;
not the superficial knowledge based on familiar Tradition and Nationalism,
but to meet God, our Father in the real original way of Love.
Once the believers are saved [baptised] in our times, however,
very little is done to ensure that they receive an anointing of the Holy Spirit,
become effective and go forth to live Victorious Godly lives.
Once they are born and clothed in Christ,
we intemperance them, in a sense and leave them as powerless infants,
helpless against the evil intents of the enemy.
This is one of the reasons we don’t see any more the original miraculous demonstration
of God’s support in our churches these days because we have religious entertainers at the podium.
The clergy who are able to organise changes are not supported to arrange things,
because surviving in economic way is more important.
It’s more important to have big church-buildings
– officiousness because of having control over more parishes,
instead of seeking God’s best for our lives.
Clergy are beached in a political way
to put a certain “spinning” on things so that they become acceptable.
Those who work in the news media have done the same; preachers are take over the same method. It’s nowadays possible to sit in their services week after week and never feel uncomfortable, never feel challenged.
They make you feel totally satisfied with your present position in God:
The days are coming’, declares the sovereign Lord,
“when I will send you a famine through the land
– not a famine of food or thirst of water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
Man will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east,
searching the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.
In that day the lovely young women and strong men will faint because of thirst

Amos 8: 11-13

In this moment people are traveling long distances when they know that
the ‘True Word of the Lord‘ is being preached somewhere.
Because they are hungry for something more real, interesting and transforming;
it is not uncommon for people
to drive a hundred kilometres to church or to go halfway across the country, even to other countries for a Divine Liturgy,
or other Orthodox meetings.                                  God’s Word is being performed.
People are hungry for the supernatural because it can’t be found in
their church nearby, priests are looking for more luxury churches – self-satisfaction and personal control.
Many people looking for God are turning
to far-east religions and new-age thinking;
hungry people are susceptible to deceit.
Many devilish practices have been adopted
into corporate western countries in the guise of “productivity training“.
Eccentric practices are being taught in seminars sponsored by the largest corporations.
Many false prophets have entered [been forced] into our world
and many people are being deceived and are, in turn, deceiving others.
No amount of funding or re-education can stop this lucrative trend toward the occult.

The Church of our Lord is called back to basics,
to apply itself serious to battle.
We must return to the simple Gospel  and to the
Power of God that enables us to stand against any enemy.
The only hope is for God’s people to rise up in indignation and take control of this situation.
The only hope of reversing the gains of the enemy is through concerted prayer and fasting.

For more than sixty-five years
I have lived by the Word of God.
Nothing else was important for me.
It works. I can rely on it. It never fails.
I can write this without any reservation. I have no interest in playing the common church game in overruling people, by keeping them a-sleep.
God’s Power is greater than any other. We can use that Power by our behaviour,
by prayer and fasting; for prayer and fasting will open your spirt to the supernatural.

Many ministers are preaching more like civil-right activists today, instead of like men of deliverance.
There is no power in their message; there is no anointing in their hands; and nothing is happening under their leadership.
Many of them are really good people,
They are handsome, intelligent and caring.
But they have lost the Power of God.
They lost the formal behaviour; in formal days I have seen [Latin] priests, who were praying their official prayers [brevier – like the monks in monasteries] of the services of the day in the garden of the parish,
nowadays I don’t see any and I know they are more busy with other duties.
What do they have to offer? only social work?
Most of us are impressed by good preaching, by good communication
– we say: “He knows how to get his point across”.
But where are the miracles? Where is the Power of God?
It’s one thing to have a silver or golden tongue and another thing to see and experience the Power of God on a regular basis.
Preaching can be pleasant to the ears and be void of power.
Intellect doesn’t cast out devils. If it did we would be calling upon professors to deliver people who are tormented.
Men and woman of Power, whatever their status in life is,
are used of God to drive away evil spirits.
If your spiritual needs are not being met by your minister, your clergy,
it is time to shake the dust from your feet and go somewhere [in Orthodoxy]
where you can be fed, somewhere where God’s Power is in demonstration.
I know priests don’t like this freedom, this rebellious attitude, but I’m very selfish in regard to achieving the Kingdom of Heaven.
I don’t need a religious importance as deacon or priest to be admired, I know they are repulsed by this, but I do not let me catch in the nets of their offerings.
To go somewhere [in Orthodoxy] where you can be fed, somewhere
where God’s Power is in demonstration, is not always an easy move.
People are reluctant to move from one church to another, for many reasons.
– “My Grandmother grew up in this church“, they say.
They have a lot of friends in their old church.
And will another church be any better?
I understand these reservations, but don’t stay in ‘a dead church’ just because your parents were members there.
Find a church that means business for God.
Your own soul and the souls of your other family members are at stake!!!
Look for a community where people love Jesus enough to seek His Face and
present His word in Power and Glory.
Look for a church that has more than a few minutes of prayer at a time.

Fasting is not a heavy burden, it is a joy. How is it for you not to be able to fast
while your brothers and sisters are moving in the same way.
While others look forward for a good meal, you with your community are looking forward to the opportunity to shut themselves away with God without distraction and draw closer to our
Heavenly Father.
Any community which has not learned to pray and fast will not have an effective demonstration of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit,
Which are the Manifestation of God’s Power in our midst.
Look for a community
where these frank Grace and Manifestation of God’s Power are showed.
Many people, when they think of looking for a church home, always think first of “pleasantness” or of “Love“.
While it’s good to look for loving people, we have to remember that the True Love of God, ”His Kind-heartedness”, is only manifested through His Power.
Everyone has a measure of love, even the people of the world.
God’s love, His Kind-heartedness is another level of love
which the world can never hope to realize.
The ministry of Jesus,
the Son of the living God was effective
because He was moved with Compassion“.
Jesus was God incarnated, He is love; for God is Love.
Yet, in order to effectively minister, He had to be moved with Compassion.
He received this God-breathed Love by waiting in the presence of the Father
in prayer and fasting.
If our Lord needed a special touch from the Father to effectively minister,
how much more we need God to do this great Miracle for us!
Not all communities that claim to love have this unpretentious kindness.
Without prayer and fasting we are not able to see the extremity of
the Good Message, the Gospel.
– You can’t have God’s best attentiveness for your live.
– You can’t be familiar with all that He has promised.
The promises of our Lord are not for the carnal;
they are not for those who walk in the flesh.
They are reserved for those who walk in the Holy Spirit
Why should you be as a warrior
disordered as a mighty man that can’t save?
Yet, O Lord,
You are in our midst
and we are called by Your name;
Don’t leave us!
“.
Jeremiah 14: 9
And every creature which is in Heaven,
on the earth, and under the earth,
and such as are in the sea,
and all that are in them, heard I saying,
Blessing, and Honour,
Glory and power,
be unto Him that sits on the Throne
for ever and ever,
Amen.

Orthodoxy & the period of Great Lent

The period of Great Lent is a period
to prepare for the Feast of feast – Pascha,
in which we re-clothe ourselves like
at the moment of our Baptism in Christ.
That’s why the Church calls us
to prepare ourselves by prayer and fasting.

The teaching of fasting and prayer seems
strangely out of place in our time.
Fasting is connected to sports, to get a restored body good-looking to others, instead of a method
to come near to our [inner Christian] principles.
Even most Christians have lost the habit of prayer and fasting
and most of our young believers are never well-educated to fast.
This is a catastrophe that saddens our Lord, Who is always waiting
for our coming-home.

For when we were in the flesh,
the motions of sins, which were by the law,
did work in our members
to bring forth fruit unto death
“.
Rom.7: 5

For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting,
you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself ?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58: 1-5

Fasting helps us reduce and conquer
the longings and requests of the flesh.
The body makes a wonderful servant, but a very poor master.
Fasting brings the carnal nature into
subjection so that the body becomes the servant
and the Spirit becomes the master.
We have to fast to control the flesh.

For I know that in me [that is, in my flesh]
dwells no good thing:
for to will is present with me;
but how to perform that
which is good I find not
“.
Rom.7: 18

God is disappointed because He knows that prayer and fasting
make us powerful in the spirit; the adversary delights
because without the Power of the Holy Spirit [Grace]
we are unable to offer him resistance.
Why have the mainstream of believers have abandoned
the practice of prayer and fasting?
Some of the believers have abandoned prayer and fasting
because they didn’t seem to be getting
the domino effects they were looking for.
They expected cash on the nail [dutch: butter with the fish] as real commercials;
They positioned the problem to God.
It’s not our attitude that we first look to ourselves,
it’s more easy to empty the blame on the other side.
When we pray and fast and do not experience a breakthrough, we are not used to blame ourselves.
We don’t ask ourselves:
Is there something in your life that needs to be dealt with?
Maybe our motives for fasting are wrong!

As children of God, we have to know the will of God for our lives.
Many countries in East & West are founded upon Godly principles.
Despite the infiltration of immorality and debauchery into the very heart of modern culture, a majority of people is still very religious.
We want to see positive changes in our society,
but we seem to do it in the wrong way.

“They ask me for just decisions
and seem ready for God to come near them
“.
Isaiah 58: 2
The people in the time of Isaiah also asked
– why God was not hearing their prayers;
– why God was producing no visible results
after their prayers and fasting.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

Isaiah 58: 3

These people thought they were serving God.
They thought they were believing His Word.
They were continuing their religious traditions
and working for social justice in their days.
Yet, when they quoted the promises and exercises their Faith, nothing happened.

The answer God gave them may surprise even our Russian or Greek Christians:
Yet on the day of your fasting,
you do as you please
and exploit all your workers“.
Isaiah 58: 3

If the people of Isaiah’s days were getting nowhere spiritually
because they were pleasure seekers, we are really in trouble in our times.
A great percentage of our time, our effort and our money
are now spent for things that bring us pleasure.
To most of us nothing is more important than our jobs
– nothing else than related to our jobs and the gathering of
over-luxury-income, more, more, and more only to consume.
We have more important things to do than prayer and fasting;
fasting is simply not in the schedule.
There is no time for it.

If God is not answering our prayers, something is wrong.
Our approach is wrong; our perception of God is wrong.
If we really put God first, He will never fail to put us first.
But if we put Him third, He is not owing a favour to us first;
he is not obligated to answer our very impulse and fancy.
If having fun is more important to us than having God’s favour on our lives,
there is not much hope for our spiritual future.
If our jobs and the results of it are more important to us than doing the will of God,
we are serious in trouble.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
“.
Isaiah 58: 4
Those who fasted actually had an evil purpose in doing so;
[collecting money or an admired dignified look of the bystanders].
God declared that this was not the fast He had chosen.
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58: 5

Prayer and fasting is not for the purpose of showing off.
It’s very a very personal act performed unto God, not to men.
The fast which God has chosen is very different.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter . . . . .
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Isaiah 58: 6-7

What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
You want something but don’t get it.
You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.
You quarrel and fight.
You do not have, because you do not ask God.
When you ask, you do not receive,
because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get
on your pleasures.
James 4: 1-3

Fasting is not a tool to twist the arm of God
so that He will give you exactly what you want.
Fasting has a spiritual resolve, and that resolution is
to get your flesh out of the way
so that the Spirit of God [Grace] can enter into your life.
Fasting removes the barriers to communication with God
and allows the spirit man to commune directly
with the Heavenly Father – without any disruption.
When a person makes a determination to fast,
he is making a determination to remove obstacles in his life
to total submission to the Will of God.
No wonder that the adversary [the Satan]
is strong-minded to destroy this practice!
The adversary [the Satan] wants you to be poor,
to give free rein to your appetites . . . . .
until he consumes you.
The food-industry, the illegal drug industry
and the entertainment industry have much in common. They are all connected to the run-away appetites of our society.
Much of the poverty of our backlog neighbourhoods [ghettos] and their social projects are a direct result of this almost total loss of control.
Most of us who live comfortable in the prosperous nations have problems
with prayer and fasting because everything around us is designed
to charm to our flesh and its carnal desires.

But when we seek the Face of God through prayer and fasting, we push the flesh aside, denying the appetites the control they seek over us,
and allow our spirit man, who desires God,
to develop a strong relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Man is a triune being made up of body, soul and spirit.
It’s the spirit that came from God and longs to be
re-united with Him, as our Father.
When we give our spirit the opportunity he will reach out to God.
God will say: “reach out, I will be there” [a popular hit in my youth from the Bee Gees];
and we will communicate with Him.
These three parts of a person, however, strive [play progress] for influence.
Your spirit can influence your soul and your soul can influence your flesh.
If you are accustomed spiritually with God, your soul has no choice but to delight in the decisions of
your spiritual life.
Your flesh submits to the authority of your soul.
When the angel Gabriël appeared to the Theotokos, she reoonded immediately:
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
Luc.1: 46-47
               If your soul is magnifying the Lord, your flesh will bow in submission.
If your flesh has risen to authority in your life, however,
it will struggle with your spirit for dominance,
and the soul will obey the lusts of the flesh.
Fasting sets your spirit free to worship and serve God.
Fasting enables you to break the hold of the flesh
and brings your appetites into control.
It places you in submission to the Holy Spirit of God.
When this happens, you get answers to your prayers.

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 . . . . .

Preparing to receive Holy Communion

The most important element
in the spiritual renewal of
the Orthodox Christian is the Mystery [lat.Sacrament] of Holy Communion.
It is the one Mystery that transcends all other Mysteries.
When we receive Holy Communion we receive Jesus Himself into us.
So great is this Mystery that we are left without any possible response which would express what God has done.
Therefore, we offer the only answer we can give,
Thank you‘.

The Greek word for Thanksgiving is “Ευχαριστω” [“Eucharisto”].
We refer to Holy Communion as “the Unity with God” and
offer thanksgiving to God for this great Mystery
whereby God not only sanctifies the bread and wine,
but also changes them into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The bread and wine do not change into the body and blood of Jesus Christ
until the blessing and thanksgiving has been completed.
This happens at every Divine Liturgy.
We praise Thee,
we bless Thee,
we give thanks to Thee, O Lord,
and we pray to Thee, O our God
“.
While the choir sings the above hymn,
the priest prays for the descent of the Holy Sprit,
Who transforms the elements on the altar
into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood,
you have no life in you…
For My flesh is food indeed,
and My blood is drink indeed
“.
John 6:53, 55

Therefore, if receiving the Eucharist is receiving Jesus Christ, our Lord
we must take care to approach the Eucharist in a proper manner.
The way we approach this awesome mystery determines
whether our participation will be a blessing in our lives,
or whether we are condemning ourselves.

Fasting
– Fasting is a spiritual discipline which was and is
intended to enhance our participation in the Eucharist
– it is not to be seen as an excuse
to keep away from the Chalice.
– Fasting is a discipline which is not restricted only to food.
It is more than simply not eating.
It is also not lying, stealing, cheating, committing adultery,
gossiping, quarrelling etc.
We must abstain from all forms of evil.
To think that by only setting a few days aside
to omit certain foods from our diet
makes us worthy to receive the Eucharist
is to be spiritually naive.

It is not uncommon to hear Orthodox Christians say
they are fasting on Wednesday and Friday
because they plan to take Communion at Sunday Liturgy.
In reality, the practice of Wednesday and Friday fasting
has never been purposefully linked to participation in the Eucharist.
Orthodox Christians are required to fast on those two days of the week
regardless if they are going to take Holy Communion or not.
The Holy Apostles Sixty-Ninth Canon of the Church
This same Canon requires that fasting be maintained throughout Great Lent also.
No mention is made of the Eucharist.
In other words, regular fasting must be a way of life.

Many Orthodox Christians extend the Wednesday and Friday fast to Saturday.
They reason that if they fast on Wednesday and Friday in preparation for the Eucharist on Sunday,
it does not seem right not to fast on Saturday, the day prior to receiving Communion.
However, in so doing, they violate
the sixty fourth Canon of the Holy Apostles
which specifically forbids ever fasting on Saturday,
the day God rested after creation.
Exceptions to this Canon
– Holy Saturday and a few other major feast days
should they fall on a Saturday.

The Eucharistic Fast involves total abstinence from any food or drink
in the morning prior to receiving the Eucharist.
If therefore, you keep the Eucharistic Fast, and
there exists no moral reason for you to stay away from Chalice,
you become obligated to come forward
and receive Christ as He is offered at the liturgy.

To assert that one has not fasted on the previous Wednesday and Friday
and therefore cannot come forward for Communion,
is, by itself, an insufficient cause to abstain from the Eucharist.

So strongly did the Church feel about this
that we find in the ninth Apostolic Canon of the Holy Apostle,
the following:
“All those faithful who enter and listen to the Scriptures,
but do not stay for prayer and Holy Communion must be excommunicated,
on the grounds that they are causing the Church a breach of Order”.
The early Orthodox Church attended liturgy for one reason – the Eucharist.

Saint John Cassian, writes,
We must not avoid Communion because we deem ourselves to be sinful.
We must approach it more often for the healing of the soul
but with much humility and faith considering ourselves unworthy.
Otherwise it is impossible to receive communion once a year,
as certain people do such people manifest
more pride than humility for when they receive,
they think of themselves as worthy
“.

Fasting was never intended to be a barrier to keep us from Christ,
but a bridge to lead us to fuller participation in the life of Christ.

Confession
In general, two views emerge concerning Confession and the Eucharist.
– The first sees Confession as necessary before each participation in the Eucharist.
– The second sees Confession as a periodic practice not required
before every participation in the Eucharist.

The result of viewing Confession as a pre-requisite to every participation in the Eucharist
is that it does not enhance one’s spiritual life but hinders it.
It hinders it because Confession becomes an excuse not to take Holy Communion,
much like fasting becomes
an excuse to stay away from the Chalice.

Confession itself, of course, is not a hindrance, but people [even priests] make it a hindrance.
It is not uncommon to hear from individuals
that they are not regular participants in the Eucharist
because they have not been to Confession.

The Church, does not require a Confession
from her people every time they wish to partake of the Eucharist.
However, if it is your practice to receive the Eucharist
only a few times per year at certain times,
your Priest may rightfully insist that you go to Confession !!!
If it is your practice to partake of the Eucharist rarely,
it is probable that your whole approach to the Eucharist could,
and should, be questioned.

If you resolve to be a regular participant in the Eucharist,
as every Orthodox should be, you should plan on periodic Confession.
This is defined by your Parish-priest [not the bishop!!!]
and usually it means anywhere from once a month
to once every six months.

It is not acceptable in the tradition of the Church
to keep away from the Eucharist using Confession as an excuse.
The Mystery [lat.Sacrament] of Confession exists
to enhance our approach to the Eucharist,
not to impede it.

Frequency of Participation
Did you know that the first Orthodox Christians
took Holy Communion every day?
That’s right, they could not think of going through a day
without taking the Eucharist.
So strongly did the early Orthodox Christians feel about this
that they introduced the 9th Apostolic Canon
that anyone who did not stay for prayer and Holy Communion
must be excommunicated.
This shows how seriously the Eucharist
should be taken when offered on Sundays.
Those who attend Sunday liturgy
and do not take Holy Communion regularly
should consider not going at all
unless their intention is to receive the Eucharist.

Christians sin constantly. Sin is part of our life. Everybody is a sinner, the clergy also.
Therefore forgiveness must also be a part of our life.
Constant sin requires constant forgiveness.
If we say we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us
“.
John 1: 8

The Eucharist, approached in the correct manner,
takes away our sin and gives us the strength to draw closer to God.
What is the correct manner?
The answer is found in the liturgy itself
when the Priest presents the Chalice and intones,
With the fear of God, faith and love, draw near“.
Therefore, if you do not have a valid reason for not partaking,
you are obliged to receive the Eucharist.

If you have kept the Eucharistic Fast
[ie – not eaten or drunk anything after waking up in the morning],
and if you approach with “fear of God, faith and love“,
and there is no moral or canonical reason to impede you
– you must go forward when you hear the call.

To live a life of infrequent participation in the Eucharist
means spiritual sickness.
It may be you fail to be regular in your partaking of the Eucharist
because you feel unworthy.
In this case, the question must be asked;
when will you be worthy?
Of course, if you wait until you are worthy,
forget it, you will never be able to approach the Chalice.
One of the reasons we must constantly go forward
is precisely because we are unworthy.

Should you still not be able to accept the fact
that you should be a regular participant in the Eucharist,
you must question yourself.
Why do you feel this way?
Are you aware that there does exist someone
who stands to gain by your staying away from the Chalice?
That person is the devil.
The longer you stay away from the Eucharist,
the stronger the devil’s influence in your life.
Do you want to overcome the devil?
Than receive Jesus Christ.
– The Body of God both deifies and nourishes.
– It deifies the spirit and nourishes the mind.
– It heals, purifies, enlightens and sanctifies the body and soul.
– It helps us to turn away from every fantasy,
evil practice and diabolical activity which work subconsciously in our members.
– It increases virtue and perfection for Communion
with the Holy Spirit as a provision of salvation and eternal life.

If you know that you will receive the body and blood of Christ on Sunday
then during the week you will begin to discipline yourself
and make a determined effort to overcome your passions.
– You will make every effort not to sin.
– You will pray and fast with relative ease
for you are preparing your body and soul to receive Christ.
– You clean and tidy your house [your heart] to receive the King
to whom no other King can be compared.
And once you receive the Eucharist,
Christ gives you the spiritual gifts to ward off the temptations of the devil
which war continuously against you
and assist you to climb the ladder of Divine Ascent.
This especialy during the preparation of Pascha,
which we call Great Lent.
Prayers for preparation Holy Communion