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

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
“.

 

February 15th – Saint Anthimos of Chios [† 1960]

Saint Anthimos, who in the world was
known as Argyrios K. Vagianos, was born on July 1, 1869
to devout peasants, Konstantinos and Argyra, in
Chios in the region of Saint Lucas Leivadion.
He left elementary school early to become a shoe mender.
At the age of nineteen he visited the Skete of the Holy Fathers founded by the monk Pachomios, who
had been the spiritual counselor of Saint Nektarios.
With the blessing of the elder, Anthimos returned home and
built himself a small hut and dwelt in it.
His only help in his spiritual contests was  an icon of
the Mother of God given to him by his mother later
known as Panagia Voithia [the Helper], which soon
began to work miracles, drawing many to his hermitage.

He had returned home to relieve the suffering of
his parents and help the poor of his village as well.
After a time he retired to the Skete, and
it was here that he became a monk and
took the name Anthimos given by Elder Pachomios.
He fell ill there and his abbot sent him home to
his parents for the sake of his health.
At home, despite the fact that he was caring for his aged parents and practicing his shoe mender’s trade,
he continued to live as a monk, spending nights on end in prayer and sometimes living only on bread and water for extended periods.
He took his inspiration reading about the lives of the great ascetics, and in this way he was able to conquer every assault of the devil.

Increasing numbers of visitors came to his hermitage and wonder-working icon of the Theotokos, and
in 1909, at the age of forty, he received the Great Schema by the successor of Pachomios,
Hieromonk Andronikos.
The people of Chios wanted him to be ordained to the priesthood, but his bishop refused due to
the Saint’s lack of education.
At the prompting of Anthimos’ godfather,
the Bishop of Smyrna ordained him instead in 1910.
After a pilgrimage to Mount Athos in 1911, he returned to Chios, where he became chaplain to a leper hospital.
Soon the hospital, which had fallen into corruption,
became a spiritual center, as much like a monastery as                                                                a hospital.
Saint Anthimos tended many of the sickest with his own hands,
working many miracles of healing;
some of his recovered patients became monks or nuns
– such as Venerable Nikephoros the Blind.

With the notorious ‘Exchange of Populations’ of 1922-1924, refugees poured into Chios, many of them destitute nuns and girls.
In response to a vision of the Mother of God,
Saint Anthimos built a monastery in 1930, which opened with thirty nuns and grew rapidly, despite the opposition of many who
said that setting up such a community was out of date.
The Monastery of Panagia Voithia, as it came to be known, soon
housed eighty nuns and was known throughout Greece as
a model of monastic life.
Father Anthimos served as priest to the nuns, and
continued to receive the many faithful — often sixty or seventy per day — who
came to him for prayer or counsel.
He carried on this ministry for more than thirty years,
working many miracles of healing.
When he was too old to work with his hands,
he retired to his cell and prayed that
he be enabled to serve his neighbour until his last breath.

On January 27, 1960 Saint Anthimos celebrated his final Divine Liturgy.
He reposed in peace at the age of ninety-one on February 15th,
mourned and revered by the whole island of Chios.
The remains of Saint Anthimos are in the church inside of
the monastery he founded and still work miracles along with
the holy icon of Panagia Voithia.
He was canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on August 13, 1992.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

In each church of the whole annual cycle period of righteousness
the Lord is full of blessings.
Blessings sky, shines brightly and guide believers in God’s likeness.
But it must be said
that the period of the Triodion blessed the devout
this period has been going through something special.
Bring us, among others, the sweet pain of heart for our mistakes,  failures and, alas our sins.
In only a couple of weeks we come to Lent
–  that period of fasting and prayer
– that the Church puts before us;
and the next few weeks are a preparation for it.

Last week, it presented us with the Parable of Humility
[only with humility can we come close to God].
This week it presents us with Repentance
– we need Repentance to come to God.
Next week it will present us with Judgement
– the Gospel of the Second Coming of Christ.

Humility, Repentance and then coming face to Face with God; this is the journey that the Church takes us on before Lent.
Today Jesus teaches us with symbols,
people have got a problem with symbols in Christianity.
You Orthodox always use symbols“.
Jesus used symbols
– that’s why Orthodox use symbols.
Because Jesus used metaphors, and Jesus used parables, and Jesus used symbols;
we as Orthodox follow Jesus in using symbols
– and those who accuse us of                                                              being too symbolic –
let them read the Scriptures
and know what they’re talking about.

And so today Jesus uses symbols.
A father who symbolises who? … God.
Two sons who symbolise who?…all of us.
Property and wealth that symbolise what?
… every Grace [gifts] that God has given us.
Inheritance which symbolise what?
… the Grace of God that has been given to us.

And the younger of the two sons goes to the father,
“Give me my inheritance”.
Now I don’t know about you but if my son came to me,
while I was still alive and asked for my inheritance,
I’d be very, very upset.
You’d think
wouldn’t it be nice if you just waited till I died,
at least, before you wanted to take
whatever is yours anyway“.
And yet this father says
if you want it, here, come and just have it“.

What was the younger brother’s problem?
The inheritance was his, he was going to get it
– everything the father had was for the two sons.
But no, he wanted it HERE and NOW!
He wanted it on ‘his’ terms. He wanted it self-centredly.
He wanted all the Grace [gifts] without the relationship with the Father.
In fact, the ultimate insult to the Father was what?
… that he asked for his inheritance while his Father was still alive.

Only ‘hate’ could inspire a son to do this. The ultimate self-centredness.
Yet the father in today’s Gospel reading just gives it to him,
and what does the son do?
He squanders it, he goes to a foreign land and he spends all his money
at the treasury Casino, and on picking up pretty girls at new farm and partying;
and then guess what?
… The arabics invades Syrië and there’s no food anymore,
and he’s got no money,
and he’s a long way from home.

So he finds someone and this person says
“hey, listen, mate, I need someone to feed my pigs”.
It’s a job. So here he comes, from a mansion,
here he comes from wealth, here he comes from where he had everything he wanted
– and he feeds pigs.
And not only does he feed pigs, he lives like one.
Why? Because he says
“if only I could eat what these pigs eat”
– that’s how hungry he was.
And the parallels between this man and us are phenomenal.

What does Adam and Eve do?
They want their inheritance.
What’s the inheritance?
If God is the Father then everything that God has:
Immortality, Love, Harmony, Peacefulness,
even an Identity – all of these things He gives to us.
He will gee to us. These are the things God wanted to give to Adam and Eve.
These are the things He wanted to give to all humanity – His own likeness, He wants people to become like Him.
This scandalises a lot of Orthodox Christians.
If the biblical teaching is nothing less, then
we are all to become partakers of the Divine nature,
as Peter says in his Epistle:
That we are created in the image of God
to achieve His likeness“,
– to become gods, through Grace as a gift from Him.
And yet we want inheritance ‘without any relationship‘, just because of Tradition,
because our parents did it in the same way? They were also only baptised,married and were burried in front of the face [πρόσωπο] of God and nothing else?
Adam and Eve took their inheritance and because of their spiritual immaturity,
they squandered it.
They took the Grace [gifts], they tried to live by the inheritance
and made a mass of it.  And so they were exiled from paradise and humanity
has lived like pigs since.
Because humanity continues to do what came for the feet, to lie, to steal, to rape,
to murder, to exploit, not in any differens with the others.

Humanity continues to crush
all the Grace [gifts] God gave it
… and puts itself on top [on a throne], as
most important!
That’s what it means to live like a pig.
Because a pig in Jewish culture was unclean.
And that’s why Jesus in the parable,
specifically chooses pigs.
The prodigal son did the most unthinkable job for a Jew.
He worked with swine,
he worked with what was unclean.
To show that that’s how unclean he had become,
to show that that’s how unclean humanity has become.

And yet this guy comes to his senses.
He experiences an awakening. A conversion.
Something happens within him. You see, he’s blessed.
Because in the depth of his futile existence, he wakes up.
After he’s been to the Treasury Casino,
after he’s slept with all the prostitutes,
after he’s drank himself senseless,
after he’s smoked every drug there is on earth
and injected himself with whatever is available,
he still woke up — others don’t.
They don’t struggle they just die in that state.

He wakes up and says
Hang on a sec, at Dad’s place
people who are the servants,
the hired servants,
the slaves of the household

– these people have more than enough bread to fill their stomachs.
And here I am living like a pig!“.

And so he comes to his senses, which means what?
– when he starts thinking logically,
– when he starts thinking rationally,
– when we start thinking rationally,
– when we start thinking logically,
we turn to God.

When we come to our senses, we come to our Father in Heaven,
and we too think:
“hang on a sec, God promises all these things – bread – heavenly bread – the Eucharist.
– He promises safety, Salvation.
– He promises Eternal Life,
regardless of the suffering that we go through in this world
– sometimes because of the suffering we go through in this world.
And the person that comes to his senses
and the person who thinks rationally
and logically goes to God the Father and says
Father I have sinned against you, I have sinned against heaven.
I have sinned before my brothers and sisters — forgive me.
If you have something in your mercy give it to me“.

And if you feel that it can’t be done for you, well,
then let me tell you what this young man is called in Greek,
because “prodigal” son doesn’t quite get it, Ο Ασωτος Υιος
– the unsaveable son,
– and so when we turn
– and when we present God with our sins
– and we pray
Father, I too have sinned against heaven and before you“,
His only response can be
Bring the fatted calf and kill it so that we can eat and rejoice“.
Put a ring on his or her finger [the Covenant]
Bring a white robe which symbolises the Grace [gifts], or
rather the fruits, of the Holy Spirit.
Put a ring on his finger” symbolises what?
… That when we turn to God like that, He adopts us as sons, as daughters;
and our inheritance is given to us on the way,
through obedience and humility to the Father,
Who knows what [even with our struggle]
will be given to us
for our Salvation.

Beginning of the Triodion – Who do you follow???

But you has fully known
my doctrine, manner of life,

purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured:
but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse,
deceiving, and being deceived.
But continue you in the things
which you has learned and has been assured of, knowing of whom you has learned them;
And that from a child you has known the Holy Scriptures,  which are able to make you wise unto Salvation
through Faith which is in Christ Jesus“.
2Tim. 3: 10-15

The doctrine of the Apostle Paul
After describing the false teachers who hold to a form of religion, but deny its power in 2Tim.3: 1-9, Paul again exhorts Timothy to
remain faithful, even through persecution.
He reminds Timothy of his own example, which
Timothy has observed for many years now.
Paul was not boasting in himself, but rather was saying,
Timothy, my life is open to you.
You know my life and my teaching.
You’ve seen me under persecution of the worst sort,
including being stoned and left for dead in your home town of Lystra.
You’ve seen me go through imprisonment, beatings, shipwreck, and other hardships.
You know that my life backs up my message, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
So after I’m gone, remember my example and continue in it yourself

In this message the Apostle summed up:
-Spiritual faithfulness is not automatic, but
requires recognizing and following godly examples
who follow the Scriptures.
1.] Spiritual faithfulness in the past is not
an automatic guarantee of faithfulness in the future.

These verses fall into two sections, marked out in the Greek text by
two identical phrases [3:10, 14] that should be translated
identically, “But you“, or, “You, however. . . . . ”
– In 3:10, Paul draws a contrast between the character of the evil men [in 3:1-9] and
Timothy’s faithfulness up to this point.
– In 3:14, the contrast is between the evil men and impostors [in 3:13] and
Timothy’s needed faithfulness in the future.
Even though Timothy had followed Paul’s teaching and example thus far,
Paul felt it necessary to exhort him to continue doing so in the future,
especially when he encountered persecution, as he surely would [3:12].
In other words,
past faithfulness does not automatically guarantee future faithfulness.
The lives of these evil men that Paul has been describing [3:1-9, 13] serve as a warning.
– They were not atheists or outwardly opposed to religion.
– Rather, they made a profession of their faith.
– They had been leaders in the church.
– They held to a form of godliness, but
now their lives denied its power.
– They were impostors, or charlatans.

Proceed” [3: 13] means to make progress.
So Paul is sarcastically saying,
They will make progress all right,
from bad to worse,
deceiving and being deceived
“.

Whenever the Bible warns about deception [dishonesty], be careful,
because deception is always tricky.
It picks your pocket when you think everything is okay.
In the context here, the warning is,
just because you have been a faithful Church member for years or you have served faithfully for years, or you’ve been faithful in your marriage for years,
none of these things guarantee future faithfulness.
Long term spiritual faithfulness does not happen by accident.
You must be deliberate [thoughtful] about it.
So, recognizing the danger,
how can we remain faithful to the Lord in
the face of temptation and trials?

2.] Spiritual faithfulness in the future requires recognizing and
following godly examples who follow the Scriptures.
We all need examples to follow, which is why the
Good Message gives us  the stories of
so many faithful witnesses.
Although we see many that fall into sin,
thankfully there are many others,
such as Paul and Timothy, who finish well.
Next is shown
– both how to recognize and
– follow godly examples.
a.] To be spiritually faithful,
learn how to recognize godly examples.
Timothy had Paul as his example, but not as his only example.
The word “whom” [3: 14] is a plural [in the best manuscripts].
Beyond Paul were Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who
taught him the Scriptures from infancy [2Tim.1: 5; 3: 15].
It is not clear whether they led Timothy to salvation, or
whether their teaching him the Scriptures prepared him
to respond to the Gospel when he first heard Paul preach
[Paul calls him, “my true child in the faith” in 1Tim.1: 2; also in 2Tim.1: 2].
There were also probably many other godly examples in Timothy’s life.

There is an important lesson here, namely,
that we all need to be exposed to a number of godly examples.
Also, we should pray that our children would come
under the influence of many godly examples!!!
I have known parents that have tried to keep
their children exclusively under parental influence,
not allowing church youth leaders or anyone else
to get close to their children.
Their motive, no doubt, is to protect their children
from harmful influence, which is always a risk.
But it seems to me that it is to our children’s advantage
to be exposed to a number of godly adults
besides that of us as parents.
We needed all the help that we could get in rearing our children, and
if another godly adult could have an impact in their lives, I thanked God for it.

The same is the Truth of pastors.
Some pastors are afraid of having their people
listen to other pastors, perhaps out of fear
that the other pastor will say something
that undermines what the local pastor is saying.
But there is no corner on God’s truth!!!
I encourage you to benefit from other ‘God-fearing’ pastors
who are faithful to Scripture.
But, how do you discern whether or not a man is a godly example?
Let’s face it, there are a lot of religious charlatans out there!!!!!

Paul gives us three solid guidelines:
[-1-]. A godly example is known for his teaching [3: 10].
Paul writes [3: 10], “But you followed my teaching . . . . .“.
In 2Tim.4: 2, The Apostle will give Timothy a strong charge to preach the Word.
Paul put a premium on sound doctrine,
which is a frequent theme in the Pastoral Epistles.
1Tim.1: 3-5,10; 3: 3,15; 4: 6,13,16; 5: 17; 6: 1,3,20-21; 2 Tim.1: 13; 2: 2,15; 4: 3;
Titus 1: 9; 2: 1,10

So listen to what a man teaches.
It won’t take you long to discern whether he is teaching the Bible or
whether he is merely using the Good Message as
an inspirational springboard to launch off into his own ideas.
Some preachers use the Holy Bible like the Reader’s Digest or
like they are a populair teacher in a class-room:
It has some good quotes that support or illustrate their points,
but they don’t teach it as God’s authoritative Word that
we must understand and submit to.
When you listen to a sermon, ask yourself,
Did he explain and apply the text of Scripture so that
I come away understanding what it means and
how it applies to my life?
Also, a godly Good News teacher does not skip the difficult sections and doctrines.
He teaches the whole purpose of God.

Note also [3: 15] that a godly teacher uses the Scriptures to
lead people “to Salvation through Faith which is in Christ Jesus“.
Timothy’s mother and grandmother had taught him the “sacred writings
[a Jewish term for the Old Covenant] from infancy.
God’s Word is able to give even a child the wisdom that leads to Salvation,
which means, Salvation from God’s righteous Judgment on our sins.
That Salvation does not come by keeping the moral precepts of the Bible, or
even by believing the Bible.
Rather, Salvation comes through Faith in Christ Jesus alone.

As parents, pray for your children’s Salvation and
use the Good News to explain to them their need for the Saviour and
how to trust in Him to forgive their sins.
The popular idea of having your child
ask Jesus to come into his heart” is probably not the clearest way
to present the gospel [it’s too sweet].
A child needs to come under conviction for his sins, so
that he sees that he is guilty and deserves God’s judgment.
He also needs to know that on the Cross Jesus paid the penalty that he deserves,
if he will trust in Christ.
There should be evident signs of new life
if a child truly has been born of God.
Whether with children or adults,
use the Bible as the main tool
in leading people to Salvation.

[-2-]. A god-fearing preacher’s example is known for his character [3: 10].
He practices what he preaches!!!
So when a priest steals money from
the telephone-money-box or
when he promotes that he will even built a new church from criminal [black/stolen] money, leave him immediately!!!
His life backs up his teaching.
Paul mentions six areas of character:

·         Behaviour –

The word [used only here] means,
his way of life“.
You should be able to look at a person’s way of life and tell whether he or she is a godly example worth following.
This would include how he spends his time,
how he manages money and possessions, what kind of entertainment he enjoys, and
how he relates to his family, friends, fellow workers, and  even to strangers.
Is he rude [bad-mannered] or sensitive?
Is he oblivious to the needs of others or kind and caring?
Christianity is a way of life that affects all of life.
A godly example lives under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

·         Drive –
Paul was a man of drive.
– His drive was to help bring about God’s purpose [Eph.3: 9-11].
– He did everything for the Glory of God [1Cor.10: 31].
– He related every aspect of his life to
the supreme purpose of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord [Phil. 3:8-10] and
– making Him known to others [1 Cor. 9:23; 10:33].
– He disciplined himself for the purpose of godliness [1 Tim. 4:7].
– He made it his ambition to be pleasing to Christ [2 Cor. 5:9].
– He told the Ephesian elders [Acts 20: 24],
I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself,
so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus,
to testify solemnly of the Gospel of the Grace of God
“.
Godly examples will always be men and women
who live daily in the Light of God’s purpose.

·         Faith –
The word may mean “faithfulness“, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:22].
Paul was certainly a faithful man [1 Cor. 4:1].
But it also may refer to trusting God to do what is humanly impossible,
so that God will get the Glory.
Refering to how God delivered him from the brink of death,
Paul said:
Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so
that we would not trust in ourselves,
but in God Who raises the dead
“.
2Cor.1: 9
So a pastor who doesn’t believe in the Resurrection
isn’t a pastor, but a wolf in sheepsclothes.
A man or woman of faith lives in light of eternity,
trusting that God will keep His promises beyond the grave [2Tim. 4:8].
Look for those examples that live by faith.

·         Patience –
This also is a fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:22].
It comes from two Greek words that literally mean
to be long before passion or anger.
The patient man doesn’t have a short fuse [temper].
He can bear with difficult people without exploding in anger.
He doesn’t snap at his wife or children with angry words.
The supreme test of patience had not been invented
when Paul wrote, but a truly patient man is patient when he drives!

·         Love –
This leads the list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:22].
Love, above all other virtues, should mark believers in Jesus Christ.
John 13: 34-35; 1Cor.13
My definition is, “Biblical Love is a self-sacrificing, caring commitment that shows itself in
seeking the highest good of the one loved
“.
Sometimes the highest good requires
confronting someone in sin and
holding him accountable.
The aim is to bring him under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, so that his life brings Glory to God.
Such Love should govern everything that we do.

 

·         Perseverance –
This word has the nuance of enduring difficult circumstances over the long haul.
It means trusting God when things aren’t the way
you want them to be and there is no immediate solution in sight.
Many Christians either imply or directly tell you that if you have enough faith,
God will instantly deliver you from your problems,
whether it is a serious health problem or
a difficult relational situation or whatever.
Just name it and claim it by faith“, they say.

Many years ago,
I was wondering what was wrong with my faith,
because I wasn’t experiencing many instant,
miraculous answers to my prayers.
Then I met the text, where Paul prays that we may be
strengthened with all power, according to His Glorious Might“.
Col.1: 11
I thought,
Yeah, that’s what I want.
Give me that Glorious, Mighty Power of God!“.
But read on:
for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience,
joyously giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified us
to share in the inheritance of the Saints in Light
Col.1: 11b-12
Steadfastness and patience” [Επιμονή και υπομονή] are
the same words in Greek
as “Perseverance and patience” in our text.

I thought,
Wait a minute!
If God’s Mighty Power delivers us instantly from our trials,
why would we need Steadfastness and Patience, with joy?“.
The only reason we need steadfastness and patience with joy is
that God has not yet delivered us from our trials.
It takes His Mighty Power to give us joy in the midst of
unanswered prayers and ongoing trials.
That leads to the third mark of a god-fearing example.
A godly example is known for the preacher’s teaching and his character.
Also,

[-3-]. A godly example is known for
his godly demeanour
[appearance] under trials [3: 11-12].
– How does a man respond when trials hit?
– Does he rail at God or submit to God?
– Does he drift into the world or draw near to the Lord?
A godly example trusts God and grows through trials.
Paul mentions the trials that he encountered at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra [Timothy’s city], three cities in the Galatian region of Asia Minor.
During the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas were driven from Antioch
because of intense persecution [Acts 13: 50].
At their next stop in Iconium, they had to flee to avoid being stoned [Acts 14:5-6].
In Lystra, Paul actually was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead.
He was probably unconscious, but God miraculously raised him up [Acts 14:19-20].
Rather than let such awful persecution deter him,
Paul went right on preaching the Gospel in that region [Acts 14:21-22].
Timothy had witnessed Paul’s courage and joy in the face of these terrible trials.
When Paul says that the Lord rescued him out of them,
he means that God brought him through them.
God did not always keep Paul from trials,
although at times He did [Acts 18: 9-10].

Don’t miss verse 12 –
it’s a promise for you to claim!
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted“.
While the type and intensity of the persecution will vary
from ridicule or rejection to physical violence or even death,
every true Christian who lives a godly life in this evil world
will experience persecution.
If you are honest at work,
your honesty will convict those who cheat, and
they will try to get you down again and again until they smile they bejewelled you down.
If you speak out about injustice or evil,
you will be ridiculed and attacked.
Saint Nectarios of Aegina put it plainly:
Those who wish to be exempt from persecutions
must necessarily renounce Christ“.

Thus spiritual faithfulness requires recognizing and following godly examples of those who
follow the Scriptures.
You can recognize them by their teaching, their character, and
their godly demeanour [behaviour] under trials.
But, once you recognize them,
you need to follow them.

b.] To be spiritually faithful,
learn how to follow godly examples.

Three things are involved here:
[-1-]. Follow closely so as to understand and embrace.
That’s the meaning of the Greek word, “followed” [“know all about”].
It means to follow closely in somebody’s footsteps.
Lucas uses [in Luc.1: 3] the word when he tells Theophilus
that he has investigated everything carefully.
He means that he has traced out the history and
carefully checked his sources.
In our text, Paul means that Timothy was thoroughly familiar with Paul’s teaching and
his life because he had spent so much time with him, watching how he lived.
The consequence is that we need examples whose lives are open and transparent.
They are not afraid to let us see how they relate to their families and
to share areas where they struggle.
It implies getting to know someone well enough
that you can tell whether he walks with Christ or is faking it.
If he’s the real deal, then follow his example.

[-2-]. Follow by learning so as to develop strong convictions.
Paul says [in 2Tim.3: 14] that Timothy has learned these things and
become convinced of them.
Christianity involves learning certain doctrinal truths and
developing convictions about them.
Some doctrines are not essential to the faith, and
god-fearing men may differ on them.
We need to hold our views on these matters
with tolerance towards those who differ.
But on core matters, we should not compromise at all.
It requires maturity to discern
where you should draw these lines.

[-3-]. Follow by continuing in your convictions, even when under fire.
Timothy had learned these things and was convinced of them, but Paul tells him to continue in them.
The context makes it clear that he must continue in them even if it means persecution.
With Saint Nectarios, we must say,
even under intense pressure to yield,
Here I stand!
Besides reading about Saint Nectariosof Aegina, St Nectarios Metropolitan of Pentapolis,
who risked his spiritual live to stand for the Gospel against Alexandria,
read the lives of others who stood for the Truth under fire.

I conclude by asking you two questions.
– First, who are the examples that you follow?
To be spiritually faithful, you need godly models who follow the Scriptures.
As I said, if you can’t know them personally,
read about their lives in the Good Message or in Saint biographies.
I have been strengthened greatly by reading
the lives of the God-fearing men who went before me.
Although I do not know them personally,
contemporaries like Saint Nectarios and others
who stand for God’s Truth
encourage me to do the same.

– Second, to whom are you an example?
If you are growing in Christ as you should be,
then you should pray that God will use
your teaching, your conduct, and your godly demeanour under trials
to impact the lives of younger believers.
While none of us may ever be well-known or as strong an example as Paul was,
we all should be faithful enough that our lives are worth imitating.

God is glorious in His Saints

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orthodoxy and living the Christian life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pride & humbleness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Nicholai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid

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

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