3rd Sunday of Lent – Veneration of our own Cross

And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also,
He said unto them, ’Whosoever will come after Me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it;
but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s,
the same shall save it.
For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me
and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation;
of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed,
when He comes in the Glory of His Father
with the holy angels’
.
And He said unto them,
’Verily I say unto you,
that there be some of them that stand here,
which shall not taste of death,
till they have seen the Kingdom of God
come with power’
“.
Marc.8: 34- 9: 1

For what will it profit a man
if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Man is going
to come in the Glory of His Father with His angels
and will then repay every man
according to his deeds
“.
Matth.16: 27

Jesus answered,
’If I want him to remain alive
until I return, what is that to you?
You must follow me’
Because of this,
the rumour spread among the believers
that this disciple would not die.
But Jesus did not say that he would not die;
he only said,
’If I want him to remain alive until I return,
what is that to you’?
“.
John 21: 22,23

’Men of Galilee’ they said,
’why do you stand here looking into the sky?
This same Jesus,
Who has been taken from you into Heaven,
will come back in the same way
you have seen Him go into Heaven’
Acts 1: 11

For the son of man, the True Disciple of Christ
shall come in the Glory of his Father . . . . .

A True Disciple of Christ is one
that does follow Him in duty,
and shall follow Him to Glory.
He is one that walks in the same way Christ walked in,
is led by His Spirit, and treads in His steps, where ever he goes.
Let him deny himself.
If ’self-denial’ be a hard lesson,
it is no more than what our Master learned and practised,
to redeem us, and to teach us.
Let him take up his cross.
The cross is here put
for every trouble that befalls us.
We are apposite to think
we could bear another’s cross
better than our own;
but that is best which is appointed us
and we ought to make the best of it.
We must not by our rashness and folly pull
crosses down upon our own heads,
but must take them up
when they are in our way.
If any man will have the name and credit of a Disciple,
let him follow Christ in the work and duty of a Disciple.
If all worldly things are worthless
when compared with the life of the body,
how forcible the same argument with respect
to the soul and its state of
never-ending happiness or misery!
Thousands lose their souls for the most trifling gain,
or the most worthless indulgence,
nay, often from mere sloth and negligence.
Whatever is the object for which men forsake Christ,
that is the price at which Satan buys their souls.
Yet one soul is worth more than all the world.
This is Christ’s Judgment upon the matter;
He knew the Price of souls, for He redeemed them;
nor would He underrate the world, for He made it.
The dying transgressor cannot purchase one hour’s respite
to seek Mercy for his perishing soul.
Let us then learn rightly to value our souls,
and Christ as the only Saviour of them.

And He said to me,
’Do not seal up
the words of the Prophecy of this Book,
for the time is near.
Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong;
and the one who is filthy [
dirty], still be filthy;
and let the one who is righteous,
still practice righteousness;
and the one who is holy,
still keep himself holy.
Behold, I am coming quickly
and My reward is with Me,
to render to every man
according to what he has done.
I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the first and the last,
the beginning and the end . . . . . ’
“.
Apocalypse 22: 11-13

Self-denial
Leonard Bernstein,
the celebrated orchestra conductor,
was asked,
what is the hardest instrument to play.
He replied without hesitation:
Second fiddle.
I can always get plenty of first violinists,
but to find one who plays second violin
with as much enthusiasm
or second French horn or second flute,
now that’s a problem.
And yet if no one plays second,
we have no harmony
“.

Self-denial is a summons to submit
to the authority of God as Father
and of Jesus as Lord
and to declare lifelong war
on one’s instinctive egoism.
What is to be negated is not personal self
or one’s existence as a rational and responsible human being.
Jesus does not plan to turn us into zombies,
nor does he ask us to volunteer for a robot role.
The required denial is of carnal self,
the egocentric, self-deifying urge with which we were born
and which dominates us
so ruinously in our natural state.
Jesus links self-denial with cross-bearing.
Cross-bearing is far more than enduring this or that hardship.
Carrying one’s cross in Jesus’ day,
as we learn from the story of Jesus’ own Crucifixion,
was required of those whom society had condemned,
whose rights were forfeit,
and who were now being
led out to their execution.
The cross they carried was the instrument of death.
Jesus represents discipleship as a matter of following Him,
and following Him as based on taking up one’s cross in self-negation.
Carnal self would never consent to cast us in such a role.
When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.
The cross is laid on every Christian.
It begins with the call to abandon
the attachments of this world.
It is that dying of the old man
which is the result of his encounter with Christ
“,
wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer was right:
Accepting death to everything
that carnal self wants to possess
is what Christ’s summons
to self-denial was all about.

And the Word was made flesh,
and dwelt among us,
[and we beheld His Glory, the Glory as
of the only begotten of the Father],

full of Grace and Truth . . . . .
And of His Fulness have all we received,
and Grace for grace.
For the law was given by Moses,
but Grace and Truth
came by Jesus Christ“.
John 1: 14, 16-17

3rd Sunday – Veneration of the Cross – We have a Great High Priest

Seeing then that we have
a Great High Priest,
that is passed into the Heavens,
Jesus the Son of God,
let us hold fast our profession.
For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched
with the feeling of our infirmities;
but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the Throne of Grace,
that we may obtain Mercy, and find Grace to help in time of need.
For every high priest taken from among men
is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,
that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
Who can have compassion on the ignorant,
and on them that are out of the way;
for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people,
so also for himself, to offer for sins.
And no man takes this honour unto himself,
but he that is called of God, as was Aäron.
So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest;
but He that said unto Him,
You are My Son,
today have I begotten You.
As He said also in another place,
You are a Priest for ever
after the order of Melchisedec“.
Hebr.4: 14-5: 6

I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You
“.
Psalm 2: 7

The Lord has sworn
and will not relent,
’You are a priest forever
according to
the order of Melchizedek’
”.
Psalm 109: 4

The work and ministry of Jesus Christ in our behalf
The book of Hebrews was written
in order to help keep faithful
those who were tempted to fall away
from the faith.
What Christian, in what era,
hasn’t faced the same temptation?
Therefore the relevance of what Paul wrote to the Hebrews is for us, even today.
Hebrews points weary New Testament believers
– to Jesus,
– to His work on earth below and
– to His work in Heaven above.
The book reveals Jesus in various roles, each one helping us
understand the great Salvation that has been offered to the world through Him.
The Letter shows us a very heavy emphasis on the Old Testament,
on its history and on its sanctuary, and the book is written in a manner implying
that the Apostle knew the readers were known something about that history and sanctuary.

In looking at the richness and deepness
of Jesus in Hebrews, we must consider
the witness of both
the Old and the New Testaments,
which together form an indivisible unity
of the revelation from God,  a unity suggested by its main focus on one Saviour.
This letter is written by Paul because it seemed to be that these people were
in danger of falling away from Christianity and returning to Judaism.
They were losing faith in the Second Coming
[they thought Christ should have been back already];
and, as time progressed,
they were in danger of drifting away from the great Truths of the Gospel.
Thus, not only does Hebrews begin with Jesus as Creator,
it quickly moves to His role as our Saviour.
Instantly linked with His role as our Saviour is His role as our High Priest in Heaven,
a key element of the book of Hebrews.
This is seen in the final clause of
Hebrews 1: 3,  where, after talking about His purging our sins, it says:
that He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high“.
The apostle faces that the new system is better than [superior to] the old,
because its Mediator is the Divine Son of God [Hebr.8: 6; 9: 15].
Jesus, who is human [Hebr.2: 5-18] and Divine [Hebr.1: 1-4],
is able to bring God and humans into a special Covenant association.

Jesus’ Human Nature
The letter to the Hebrews also sets forth the full Divinity and the full humanity of Jesus
in a special contrast:
But we see Jesus, Who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death,
crowned with Glory and Honour; that He by the Grace of God should taste
death for every man
“[Hebr.2: 9].
Jesus’ status as lower than the angels was in a limited manner.
A contrast is drawn between the nature of angels and that of the Son.
According to the laws of Hebrew parallelism,
the angels and the ministers must be related terms.
Angels are ministers, servants of God. Jesus, however, is Deity:
Your Throne, O God, is forever and ever;
a Sceptre of Righteousness is the Sceptre of Your Kingdom
“.
Psalm 44: 6
Jesus Christ took this position, because it was necessary for the plan of Salvation.
By becoming a human being, Jesus won for us the Victory
that could not have been possible had Jesus chosen
to remain eternally separated from humanity.
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the Heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” and then “Let us therefore come boldly unto the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain Mercy, and find Grace to help in time of need.” (Hebr.4: 14,16).
In short here is said: Hang on to your Faith in Christ.
These words, of course, are so important for us today, as well.
Jesus died for us.
The Cross is the turning point of history and of our fate.
Jesus serves as our High Priest; He is intervening in Heaven in our behalf.
He is our great High Priest.
Therefore, we have confidence and assurance,
because Someone now stands in Heaven in our stead, Someone Who, in fact,
knows what it is to be tempted by sin [see Hebr. 4:15].
He knows how it feels to be human, to be tempted, to be hungry,
to be tired, to be assaulted, abandoned, and to face death,
because, as a human, He went through it all.

Therefore, we are called to draw close to God
and receive Mercy, Grace, and Help from Someone Who can relate to us.
The way to the Heavenly Sanctuary, the way to the Throne of God, the Kingdom is now open!
God is our Father, we are His children, and He treats us as such [Hebr.12: 7- 9].
Jesus’ Sacrifice is once-for-all and is sufficient for all.
We just have to accept it.
The book Hebrews may present the aim of the epistle:
Do not give up on Jesus! The best has come.
Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament types
and the guarantee of Salvation.

The Incarnation [becoming man] of Christ has ever been,
and will ever remain a Mystery.
That which is revealed, is for us and for our children,
but let every human being be warned from the ground
of making Christ altogether human,
such an one as ourselves;
for it cannot be.

Orthodoxy & to come to yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orthodoxy & in advance of inner peace

Peace is the message of Christ
Jesus said to his disciples before His Crucifixion,
Peace I leave with you,
My peace I give unto you
John 14:7

Many of us experience life
just filled with turmoil.
Our inner thoughts
rage from one issue to another.
It may seem like
there is never time to stop and reflect.
Peace is something desired but rarely experienced.
The Apostle Paul preached,
The Peace of God,
Which passes all understanding,
shall keep your hearts and minds
through Jesus Christ“.
Phil 4: 7
Our Christian faith is supposed to bring us this Peace,
but yet even though we believe in Christ
many seldom experience this Peace.

What is lacking?
The main issue is
that our minds are too busy
and we lack the ability to control our thoughts.
This is a discipline we can learn
through a combination of our own effort and God’s Grace.
1.]. We should pray for inner peace.
2.]. We should examine our daily prayer rule and modify it.
Prayer combined with repentance can bring Peace
and help us develop the discipline to control our minds.
With a mind under control we make better decisions
that lead us to a more peaceful life.

From my own experience,
the practice of the Jesus Prayer
is the most important practice
for those seeking inner Peace.
For this to be effective a considerable amount of time
needs to be committed to its practice.
It requires at least one-half hour each day
in the beginning and more later.

The most difficult part of this practice
is committing the time to do it each and every day,
without exception.
It must become a habit
just like brushing your teeth.
Each day you miss
you will fall back at least three days.
It is easiest to make this time available
in the morning by deciding
to get up one-half hour earlier.
It is also the quietest time for your body
as well as your surroundings.
This of course means
you will have to go to bed one-half hour earlier as well.
That is the hard part.
Most likely you have a habit in the evening of relaxing,
escaping the issues of the day,
by relaxing and read a book, following the radio-program or
watching [non-stop??] television programs.
This you will have to give up
to make time for prayer.

Once you have made these decisions
the rest is easy, as long as you have
the inner desire for peace
that comes from your Faith in Christ.
This is a practice of love of God.
It is motivated not just for relief from anxiety,
but for a desire to walk your life in union with Christ
and to experience the Peace He had in all kinds of situations.

The prayer is simple:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”.
MP3: Jesus Prayer, 15 minutes prayer ;
Jesus Prayer, song by Coptics;
Jesus Prayer, song with guitar.
You simply repeat it over and over.
You begin your prayer time in a special quiet place
where you have your icons and a candle
which you can light before you begin.
Take a few moment to quite your body
and repeat the [opening] Trisagion prayers,
then begin the repletion of the Jesus Prayer.
Focus on the words.
Say it aloud in the beginning,
so that you also hear yourself [by heart]
Don’t try and rush.
You have committed the time
[You can set a timer
so you know when the time is up]
so there is no time pressure.
Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica tells us:
“We should say the words of the prayer
knowing that the Lord sees us
and He is listening to us”.

Once you begin this discipline
you will find that your mind
is distracted by many thoughts.
You will notice that
you can observe yourself thinking.
This is called the place of the silent witness,
treasure it.
When you encounter thoughts,
you want to immediately
and gently reject them
and focus on the words of the Prayer.
[This is normal].
You may discover some repeating thoughts
related to an issue
that requires forgiveness and repentance.
If so, note it and seek forgiveness
and arrange for the sacrament of Confession
and determine actions to change this aspect of your behaviour.
But, while in your prayer time,
do not focus on any issues.
This is not a time for problem solving.
Try and focus only on the prayer with sincerity,
love for God, and a contrite heart seeking His Mercy.

You will find this is difficult.
Do not be discouraged as it is through difficulty
that we progress and learn to control this wild activity of our mind.
As they say, “No pain, no gain”.
You need to have persistence,
endurance and faith that the Lord will help you.
Remind yourself why you are engaging in this prayer life,
you are seeking inner peace that comes from God
for a life that is no longer filled with anxiety and turmoil
but is lived with Peace.

You also want to keep your focus on your heart
and not on your head or brain.
It is in the heart, the centre of our soul,
where Christ resides within us.
Archimandrite Sophrony tells us:
“Keep your mind firmly focused on God
and the moment will come
when the immortal Spirit touches the heart”.
We are not to seek any experience in this effort
other than silence and peace.
We should also not try to create any images in our mind
and should reject those that do come.
Over time,
you will begin to find silence in the space between the words
as the mind becomes more controlled.

Also this prayer will become part of you
and during the day you can seek out ways to repeat it often.
Use it when you are feeling stressed,
when you are bored or feel impatient.
Fill you mind with God
whenever you have a chance.
Eventually this prayer will be with you throughout your day
and will bring comfort and a re-centring of your life on Christ.
This will bring Peace.

There are many articles on how to pray,
but the most difficult aspect is to just do it.
Make the time!
Make the commitment!
Be consistent!
After you begin and have made some effort for several months
you will notice a change in your life.
Thank God for this blessing [Grace].
At this time you may want to seek out
some articles to give you encouragement.
These articles and more on the Jesus prayer
can be found at www.orthodoxoprayer.org
Everyone can benefit from this practice.
It’s a part of our Orthodox Tradition.
All it takes is your commitment to make time for it.
Let’s all pray that the Lord will bring us all
a quiet mind filled with Peace.
When this happens we will have Peace in the disordered world.

Jesus Prayer in other languages:
Arabic:          أيها الرب يسوع المسيح ابن الله, إرحمني أنا الخاطئ
Belarusian:   Госпадзе Ісусе Хрысьце, Сыне Божы, памілуй мяне, [грэшнага].
Bulgarian:     Господи Иисусе Христе, Сине Божий, помилвай мен [грешника].
Chinese:        主耶穌基督,上帝之子,憐憫我罪人。
Church Slavonic: Господи Ісусе Христе Сыне Божїй помилѹй мѧ [грѣшнаго].
Czech:          Pane Ježíši Kriste, Syne Boží, smiluj se nade mnou [hříšným].
Dutch:          Heer Jezus Christus, Zoon van God, ontferm u over mij [zondaar].
English:        Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me [sinner].
Finnish:       Herra Jeesus Kristus, Jumalan Poika, armahda minua [syntistä].
Georgian:     უფალო იესუ ქრისტე, ძეო ღმრთისაო, შემიწყალე მე ცოდვილი.
German:      Herr Jesus Christus, Sohn Gottes, erbarme dich meiner [eines Sünders].
Greek:         Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, Υἱέ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐλέησόν με τὸν [ἁμαρτωλόν].
Hungarian:  Uram Jézus Krisztus, Isten Fia, könyörülj rajtam, [bűnösön]!
Japanese:    主イイスス・ハリストス、神の子よ、我、罪人を憐れみ給え。
Polish:         Panie Jezu Chryste, Synu Boga, zmiłuj się nade mną [grzesznikiem].
Portuguese: Senhor Jesus Cristo, Filho de Deus, tende piedade de mim [pecador]!
Romanian:   Doamne Iisuse Hristoase, Fiul lui Dumnezeu, miluieşte-mă pe mine [păcătosul].
Russian:      Господи, Иисусе Христе, Сыне Божий, помилуй мя [грешнаго].
Serbian:      Господе Исусе Христе, Сине Божји, помилуј ме [грешног].
Slovak:        Pane Ježišu Kriste, Synu Boží, zmiluj sa nado mnou [hriešnym].
Spanish:      Señor Jesucristo, Hijo de Dios, ten piedad de mi, que soy [un picador].
Ukrainian:  Господи Ісусе Христе, Сину Божий, помилуй мене [грішного].

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

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

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

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

March 11th – Saint Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem [560-638]

Saint Sophronius [Gr. Άγιος Σωφρόνιος ]
was the Patriarch of Jerusalem from 634 until his death,
and is venerated as a Saint in the Latin
and the Orthodox Churches.
He was born 560 in Damascus and died
on March 11th in 638 in Jerusalem.
Before rising to the primacy of the see of Jerusalem,
he was a monk and theologian
who was the chief protagonist for orthodox teaching
in the doctrinal controversy on
the essential nature of Jesus
and His volitional acts.

Sophronius was of Arab descent an a teacher of rhetoric.
Sophronius became an ascetic in Egypt about 580
and then entered the monastery of Saint Theodosius near Bethlehem.
Traveling to monastic centres in Asia Minor, Egypt, and Rome,
he accompanied the Byzantine chronicler Saint John Moschus,
who dedicated to him his celebrated tract on the religious life,
Leimõn ho Leimõnon [“The Spiritual Meadow”]
and whose feast day in the Orthodox Church,
is shared with Sophonius on March 11th .
On the death of Moschus in Rome in 619,
accompanied the body back
to Jerusalem for monastic burial.
Sophronius traveled to Alexandria, Egypt,
and to Constantinople in the year 633 to persuade
the respective patriarchs to renounce Monothelitism,
a heterodox teaching that espoused a single,
divine will in Christ to the exclusion
of a human capacity for choice.
Sophronius’ extensive writings
on this question are all lost.

Although unsuccessful in this mission,
Sophronius was elected patriarch of Jerusalem in 634.
Soon after his enthronement he forwarded
his noted synodical letter to Pope Honorius I
and to the Eastern patriarchs,
explaining the orthodox belief in the two natures,
human and divine, of Christ,
as opposed to Monothelitism,
which he viewed as a subtle form of heretical Monophysitism
[which posited a single [Divine] nature for Christ].
Moreover, he composed a Florilegium [“Anthology”] of some 600 texts
from the Greek Church Fathers in favour of the orthodox
tenet of Dyothelitism [positing both human and Divine Wills in Christ].
This document also is lost.

In his Christmas sermon of 634,
Sophronius was more concerned with keeping
his clergy in line with the Chalcedonian view of God,
giving only the most conventional of warnings
of the Muslim-Saracen advance on Palestine,
commenting that the Saracens already controlled Bethlehem.
Sophronius, who viewed the Muslim control of Palestine
as “unwitting representatives of God’s inevitable chastisement
of weak and wavering Christians
“,
died soon after the fall of Jerusalem to the caliph Umar I in 637,
but not before he had negotiated the recognition of civil and religious liberty
for Christians in exchange for tribute – an agreement known as Umari Treaty.
The caliph himself came to Jerusalem,
and met with the patriarch at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Sophronius invited Umar to pray there, but Umar declined,
fearing to endanger the Church’s status as a Christian temple.

Beside polemics, Sophronius’ writings
included an encomium on the Alexandrian martyrs Cyrus and John
in gratitude for an extraordinary cure of his failing vision.
He also wrote 23 Anacreontic [classical metre] poems on such themes
as the Saracen siege of Jerusalem and on various liturgical celebrations.
His Anacreontica 19 and 20 seem to be an expression of the longing desire
he had of the Holy City, possibly when he was absent from Jerusalem
during one of his many journeys.
The order of the two poems has to be inverted
to establish a correct sequence of the diverse subjects.
Arranged in this way, the two poems describe a complete circuit
throughout the most important sanctuaries of Jerusalem at the end of 6th century,
described as the golden age of Christianity in the Holy Land.
Themes of Anacreonticon 20 include the gates of Jerusalem [or Solyma],
the Anastasis, the Rock of the Cross, the Constantinian Basilica,
Mount Sion, the Praetorium, Saint Mary at the Probatica, and Gethsemane.
The Mount of Olives, Bethany, and Bethlehem come next in Anacreonticon 19.
Sophronius also wrote down the Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,
which is read on the fifth Thursday Lent in Orthodox Churches.

In 637, after the conquest of Jerusalem by Muslim armies,
the Muslim caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab came to Jerusalem
and toured the city with Sophronius.
During the tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
the time for Muslim prayer came,
and despite Sophronius’s offer to Umar to pray inside the Church,
Umar chose to pray outside.
The caliph’s reason for declining to pray there
was because in the future Muslims might say
that Umar prayed here and use it
as an excuse to build a mosque there.
Therefore Muslims are not allowed to build a mosque there.
So appreciating the caliph’s intelligence he gave the keys of the church to him.
Unable to refuse it the caliph gave it to a family of Muslims from Medina
and asked them to open the church and close it;
the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
still remain with this Muslim family.

Troparion           Tn 5
Patriarch Sophronius, you were glorious in the splendor of sobriety,
and through the radiance of your words
you revealed ineffable enlightenment from heaven.
For by your life you attained wisdom
and now you confirm the Church
as an illustrious hierarch
and intercessor for us with the Lord
“.

Kontakion          Tn 8
You were most wise among patriarchs, Sophronius of Jerusalem.
You struggled with divine zeal,
spreading the commandments of Truth with your lips.
You set right the foundations of the Church
and firmly established the monastic order.
You brought to light wise sermons,
and instructed by them,
therefore we cry out to you:
‘Rejoice, splendid boast of the Orthodox“.

 

2nd Sunday of Lent – Sunday Saint Gregory Palamas – the Son of man has Power on earth to forgive sins

And again he entered into Capernaum after some days;
and it was noised that he was in the house.
And straightway many were gathered together,
insomuch that there was no room to receive them,
no, not so much as about the door:
and he preached the word unto them.

And they come unto him,
bringing one sick of the palsy,
which was borne of four.
And when they could not come nigh
unto Him for the press,
they uncovered the roof where He was:
and when they had broken it up,
they let down the bed wherein
the sick of the palsy lay.

When Jesus saw their faith,
he said unto the sick of the palsy,
Son, your sins be forgiven to you.
But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies?
who can forgive sins but God only?
And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves,
He said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy,
your sins be forgiven to you; or to say,
Arise, and take up your bed, and walk?
But that ye may know that the Son of man
has power on earth to forgive sins,
[he sad to the sick of the palsy],
I say unto you,
Arise, and take up your bed,
and go your way into your house.
And immediately he arose, took up the bed,
and went forth before them all;
insomuch that they were all amazed,
and glorified God, saying,
We never saw it on this fashion
“.
Marc.2: 1-12

The Gospel according to Saint Marc is the shortest
and the earliest of the four Gospels we have received.
The way Marc opens his Gospel is with a simple sentence,
which is, sum total of the entire Gospel;
– “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” -.
The acts of apostles and further entire history of the Church
including the contemporary Church experiences
are mere continuation of this glorious beginning
specified by Saint Marc in his opening sentence.
This ensures a direct link between all periods of ages
with the beginning of Gospel.
The word of God is Faithful and True
and is given to us not for merely reading and understanding
but to make it our life experience
and it is worthy of all acceptation
in all fields of action of our life
and the World.

We have just been reading in the Gospel reading about how they brought Jesus
one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four
and He healed him.

one sick of the palsy
It was this man’s misery
that he needed to be so carried
and shows the suffering state of human’s life.
It was kind of those who so carried him
and teaches the compassion
that should be in men
toward their fellow-creatures in distress.
True faith and strong faith
may work in various ways;
but it shall be accepted and approved by Jesus Christ.
Sin is the cause of all our pains and sicknesses.
The way to remove the effect, is to take away the cause.
Pardon of sin strikes at the root of all diseases.
Christ proved His Power to forgive sin,
by showing His Power to cure the man sick of the palsy.
And his curing diseases was a figure of his pardoning sin,
for sin is the disease of the soul;
when it is pardoned, it is healed.
When we see what Christ does in healing souls,
we must own that we never saw the like.
Most men think themselves whole;
they feel no need of a physician,
therefore despise or neglect Christ and His Gospel.
But the convinced, humbled sinner,
who despairs of all help, excepting from the Saviour,
will show his faith
by applying to him without delay.
Marc.2: 13-17

I would like to draw your attention to two ideas in this story.
The first is prayer for others, distant and close.
The second is forgiveness of sins.
These two ideas are tied closely together.
1.]. Because prayer about those close to us intercedes,
as we have seen, for the forgiveness of sin.
2.]. In the plan of our human existence,
forgiveness is also prayer.
Of course, forgiveness from God and human forgiveness are two different things.
Christ speaks and acts as God.
Seeing the Faith of those who brought the paralytic,
He says to the sick man,
Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you“. Marc.2: 5
– That is, He speaks with Divine authority.
And then, when the Scribes thought to themselves that he was committing blasphemy,
Christ saw this right away since nothing can be hidden
from God all-seeing, not even the depths of the human heart.
He exposed them, saying,
Why do you think evil in your hearts?
For which is easier, to say,
‘Your sins are forgiven you’
or to say,
‘Arise and walk’? “.
Marc 2: 9

Let’s pause here for a moment and think about what The Lord is saying.
“For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’
or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? ” [Marc.2: 9].
What is this about?
He seems to be saying,
You think I am an ordinary person
and accuse me of blasphemy for speaking words of forgiveness,
but can it really be that hard to forgive sins?“.
Isn’t it much harder to heal a paralytic,
telling him to ‘arise and walk?
After all, forgiveness is available to all
but healing is available to God alone.
Just as ‘the Son of Man has Power on earth to forgive sins’ [Marc.2: 10],
you also have the same power, being likewise sons of men.
When the God-man Jesus Christ speaks of Himself
as The Son of Man, He is speaking of our human nature
which He took upon Himself.
And when He is called the Son of God,
this is witness to his Divine nature:
two natures united in Him without confusion and indivisible.
Therefore, we all have this power to forgive the sins of those close to us.
This is not the same forgiveness
as that offered by God since He forgives and heals,
but it is forgiveness. Speaking as the Son of God,
Christ says to the paralytic,
’Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’
And he arose and departed to his house
” [Marc.2: 11].
The people who were there marveled at the miracle
that took place right in front of their eyes
and glorified God.

What is the use of our human forgiveness
if it does not have the power to heal?
Why then should we forgive?

The root of any disease, be it of the soul or
of the body, is sin.
Before there can be healing,
there needs to be deliverance from sin,
that is, before healing can be complete,
there must be forgiveness.
This way,
when we forgive someone close to us,
who sinned against us, we are petitioning God to heal him from sin.
Forgiveness of one close to us becomes our prayer to God for him.
God, seeing in this our faith and love, heals.
Examples of this are plenteous and everyone who has ever forgiven knows about it.
Whoever does not know needs to begin forgiving and find out
– find out how miraculously strife is resolved through forgiveness,
as the soul is healed from offenses, envy and anger,
and most importantly, the soul of the one doing the forgiving is healed.
And then,
the one being forgiven is healed by God Almighty
through the intercession of our forgiveness for him.

Truly, having seen this,
seeing it together with the people
in the Gospel, we Glorify God
Who had given such power to men“.
Marc.2: 12

We see a miniaturized Church in
these five people.
One among them is a needy man.
The other able four put their Trust in God
and co-operate together to give a helping hand to the needy among them
and bringing him to the proximity of Jesus.
They promptly responded to the needy man among them.
They understood that the Grace of God is not restricted to them alone,
but it should be extended to all in Church.
In modern Society [even in Church] we see people are alienated from the society
and live their life aloof [approachable] and not ready to respond to the needs of the co-beings.
In a coöperated society everybody should have – the initiative to educate the uneducated,
– give [medical] help for the needy,
– give shelter for those who do not have a good housing,
– give food for the hungry.
These all are responses needed for the Church in Parish-level,
diocese-level and eventually Church-level.
In this situation only our life and Church can become the Gospel of Christ.

Scripture gives us many examples
for this Transfiguration of the World in history.
When Israel went to the bondage of Egypt,
God has sent Moses. Moses knew his responsibility
to uplift his people as a Mission of God.
To strengthen the helpless in a society is
a commissioned mission of the Church.
Church should be able to hear the cry of people [who are visiting the parish] and stretch the hand of care.
Jesus was not at reach of the man with palsy.
Of his own there was no means for him to approach.
So it was possible for him to come to Jesus only with the help of his friends.
Jesus is Immanuel, which means ‘God with us‘,
not ‘God with me‘.
Jesus was not always in the Temple or Synagogue.
He was always with the mass of the people
who were needy and marginalized.
The mission of the Church is to make the God in the Altar reachable to the mass.
Parish or congregation should not be dearer than Jesus.
The roof should be broken, walls should be demolished
or any hindrance [even foreign languages] should be removed
to make God available to the people.
This type of a Church and society only can Glorify God by heart.
We may need to conquer sometimes the objections of reason,
sometimes those of sense.

When Lord comes down to our midst, He absolves our sin,
He heals our sickness, He gives Wisdom to our mind
and He strengthens our weakness.
Lord opens enormous possibilities and makes our World and Church
a part in the history as a continuation of the Gospel.

2nd Sunday of Lent – Sunday Saint Gregory Palamas – who shall be heir of Salvation?

And, You, Lord, in the beginning
has laid the foundation of the earth;
and the Heavens are the works of Your hands:
They shall perish; but You remain;
and they all shall wax old as does a garment;
And as a vesture shall You fold them up,
and they shall be changed: but You are the same,
and Your years shall not fail.
But to which of the angels
said He at any time,
Sit on My right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool?
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them
who shall be heirs of Salvation?
Therefore we ought to give
the more earnest heed
to the things which we have heard,
lest at any time we should let them slip.
For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast
and every transgression and disobedience
received a just recompense of reward;
How shall we escape,
if we neglect so great Salvation;
which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord
and was confirmed unto us
by them that heard Him“.
Hebr.1: 10-2: 3

It would be foolish indeed
to prefer reading a cookbook
to eating a good meal
when one is hungry for God.
Not that there is anything wrong
with reading a cookbook during Lent
– it can be very enlightening –
special when you aren’t an expired cooker,
but it is not very nourishing!
Yet like some of the original readers of Hebrews
we’re doing something very much like that.
We are preferred
to content ourselves with the externals of Faith
– such as the law, the [Aaronic] priesthood and [animal] offerings, [working hard to have a lot of money]
and to ignore the fulfilment of these things
in the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.
We want the cookbook rather than the meal!

As we have seen, the Tabernacle in the desert, with its regulations and sacrifices,
was an accurate and Divinely drawn picture
of the Sacrifice of Jesus
and the new arrangement for living
which would be available
to believers in Christ.
But it could only describe these realities up to a point.
It was both a comparison and a contrast.

I carry a picture of my wife in my wallet and,
when I am away from home,
I find it comforting to look at it.
But it is quite inadequate,
for it is not my wife,
only a picture of her.
I can look at it,
but I cannot have a conversation with it.
I cannot laugh together with it,
and I cannot persuade it to cook any meals!
It is an accurate representation of the real thing,
but also a far cry from it.
So the law and the tabernacle
could never do for believers of any age
what the living Christ can do.

“And it had been revealed to him [Simeon]
by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death
before he had seen the Lord’s Christ …
He took Christ up in his arms and blessed God and said:
Lord, [Gr. Despota] now You are letting
Your servant depart in peace,
according to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your Salvation”.
Luc.2: 26-30

The fact the Simeon would not have seen death
before he saw Christ was a revelation of
the Holy Spirit“.
Therefore the Holy Spirit is “God” and “Master” [Despotis] whom Simeon glorified
because his Prophetic words
were realised.

The Holy Spirit speaks as Giahve (Γιάχβε)
Giahve is the name of the true God in the Old Testament in Hebrew.
I will cite two versus from the Old Testament,
in which the Holy Spirit speaks as Giahve,
as the true God:
Today, if you will hear His voice:
Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
as in the day of trial in the wilderness,
when your fathers tested Me;
They tried Me though they saw My work.
For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
and said,
‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
and they do not know My ways.
So I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest“.
Psalm 94 [95]: 8-11

This verse is strange and astonishing.
One divine person speaks in the beginning about another Divine person,
and further on speaks about Himself.
On the one hand, the other divine person,
speaks about a third person and uses pronoun “His”,
and on the other hand for Himself
He speaks to the first Person of the Trinity and says
tested Me“, “tried Me“, “My work“, “was grieved“,
said“, “My ways“, “My wrath“, “My rest“.
But Which Person speaks in these versus?
According to the word of the Apostle in Hebrews 3:7,
it is the Holy Spirit speaking.
It is clear from these words that the Holy Spirit is Giahve, that is True God.
With the pronoun “His“, in the beginning of the verse
the Holy Spirit distinguishes Himself from God the Father.
Briefly, the meaning of the verse is:
Today, during the Messianic times,
when you hear His voice, of God the Father,
speaking through the Son, do not do all the bad things that your fore-fathers did to Me,
the Holy Spirit, and as a result I became wrathful and I punished them.

It is worthy to note
that according to this verse
the Hebrews “tested” the Holy Spirit,
according to “They tempted Christ” [1Cor.10: 9]
and according to other versus,
such as Psalm 77 [78]: 41, 56 “Tempted God“.
The Hebrews tempted all Three,
because the Three are one in essence or Divinity.

Then the Spirit entered into me,
and set me upon my feet
and spoke with me
and said unto me,
Go shut yourself within your house.
But you, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon you with them,
and you shall not go out among them:
And I will make your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth,
that you shall be dumb, and shall not be to them a criticizer:
for they are a rebellious house.
But I will speak with you,
I will open your mouth,
and you shall say unto them,
Thus said the Lord …
“.
Ezekiel 3: 24-27

The Holy Spirit speaks by His Prophets
saying that they [the people] will bind him,
that He will make them [the prophets] dumb
and that He will speak to them again
and then open their mouth to preach saying:
Thus said the Lord …“.
The Spirit will speak
and the Prophet communicating the words of the Spirit
will preach:
Thus said the Lord …“.
Therefore the Spirit is the Lord,
the True God.

Christ our God will reveal Himself in the Incarnation for our Salvation and establish His Vineyard, the Church.
This vineyard would consist of those
who are changed through conversion to Him and who are saved from the Assyrian,
who is a wild swine and a solitary beast.
That is the devil.
O God of hosts, convert us now;
look down from Heaven and behold,
and visit Your Vineyard
Which Your right hand planted
and perfect it
“.                                                                                                                                      cf. Psalm 79 [80]: 10-16

 

Orthodoxy & put your faith in the Lord

The period of Lent is a period of self-denial:
It is an effort to control
what usually controls us“.

Lent will end on Pascha-eve
– as it does for hundreds of millions
of Christians around the world.
Orthodox Christians prefer to refer
to that which for people in the West is known as “Pascha”
as “The Victory of Christ”, the Victory over death.
Thousands and thousands of followers of Christ
– join Him in this period of reflection,
– join Him in this retreat from the world, the jungle, the desert
– endow the spiritual re-birth
– to become more holy,
– preparing for a re-baptism with Pascha.

Pascha, like every Sunday
marks the spiritual
lack of confusion of the universe“,
a coming home
in the Kingdom.

For You, my Lord, are my hope;
You made the Most High your refuge.
Evils shall not come to you
and a scourge shall not draw near your dwelling;
for He shall command His Angels concerning you,
to keep you in all your ways;
in their hands they shall bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone
“.
Psalm 90: 9-12

And you shall be secure,
because there is hope;
yea, you shall dig about you,
and you shall take
your rest in safety
“.
Job 11: 18

And who is He
Who will harm you
if you become followers
of what is good?
“.
1Petr.3: 13

That He would show you
the secrets of Wisdom!
For they would double your prudence.
Know therefore
that God exacts from you Less
than your iniquity deserves
“.
Job 11: 6

If any man be in Christ,
he is a new creature:
old things are passed away;
and all things are become new
“.
2Cor.5: 17
A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place, or trace all the chain of circumstances in the process of conversion;
but this does not prove him to be unconverted.
Christ said to Nicodemus:
The wind blows where it listed,
and you hears the sound thereof,
but can’t tell  from where it comes

and where it goes:
so is everyone
that is born of the Spirit
“.

When we are in trouble or despair of have lost hope,
we should do what David did:
pour out our hearts to God
and tell Him of our needs and troubles,
just as they are. It is because
He can deal with us wisely that we confess to God:
He can make our troubles easy to bear.
If this is our benefit,
and can save us from dejection
which destroys and corrupts
“.
Saint Hesychius the Priest

Study, my child, to acquire in your life
dignity, simplicity, understanding,
continuous prayer, manliness,
unfeigned love, wisdom, seemliness.
Be sympathetic, love the poor.
Attain silence and patient endurance.
Do not slander, do not laugh at anyone.
Acquire angerlessness, modestly, and humility, so that the Lord will glorify you
before the Angels and the Saints
“.
Elder Athanasius,
monastery Grigoriou, Athos

We are called to take up the Cross,
to die with Christ,
to become the Church,
the one body of Christ.
Our divisions are truly scandal of our own making.
Whether they are between persons,
within an ecclesial body, or between ecclesial bodies,
each and every one of us is responsible
for our failure to make Christ present through our witness,
our martyria, to a world that is increasingly alienated from God
and increasingly thirsting for Christ.
Clinging on to that which we value,
whether our own dignity confronting that of others,
a strife-creating indignation within our ecclesial bodies,
or our pride in the distinctiveness of our own ecclesial body
and the hierarchies of a long-gone era,
we are like the seed that remains alone,
rather than dying to bear fruit.
If we are to be Christ’s one true Body,
we must follow Him by dying to everything
that separated us from Him,
all that belongs to this world rather than to the Kingdom,
and hold ourselves open to whatever He may lead us.
Dying, then,
we might begin make Christ manifest
by how we live as His one Body
“.
Father John Behr

For Your omnipotence
is not far from us
even when
we are far from You
“.
Saint Augustine

As we take this journey together during Lent,
we want to share once again
how beautiful and freeing forgiveness can be.
And that we truly make no progress with
the fasting, the praying, the attendance at prayers,
if we have rancour, hatred, anger . . . . .
any of those ugly, festering, emotions . . . . .
deep in our soul.
Lent becomes meaningless, really,
if we do not approach it with a clean heart;
a heart ready and willing
to be open to God working in our lives.

Wash yourselves and you shall be clean;
put away the wicked ways
from your souls before My eyes;
cease to do evil; learn to do well.
Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed,
consider the fatherless,
and plead for the widow.
Come then,
and let us reason together, said the Lord:
Though your sins be as scarlet,
I will make them white as snow;
and though they be red like crimson,
I will make them white as wool
“.
Isaiah 1: 16-18

 

 

Thanks be to the Lord!!!

Psalms created on Truth – sitting at the rivers of Babylon [Psalm 136]

And the Lord humbled you
and suffered you to hunger
and fed you with manna,
which you didn’t know, neither did your fathers know;
that the Lord might make you know
that man doth not live by bread alone,
but by every Word that proceeds
out of the mouth of the Lord
man does live“.
Deut.8: 3

The Lord tests His children
in the wilderness for forty days [years]
– Eating manna taught them
that man lives by the Word of God.
– Their clothing did not wear out.
– The Lord humiliated them.
– If they serve other gods,
they will perish.

Other nations are driven out of the promised Land
because of their wickedness.
– Moses evaluate the rebellions of Israel
and tells how he mediated
between the people and the Lord.
On two occasions Moses went
without food and water for forty days.

The tables of stone
containing the Ten Commandments
are placed in the altar [ark].
All that God requires is
that we Love and serve Him
– How great and mighty is the Lord!

You shall Love and obey the Lord your God
– If the children of Israel obey,
they will be blessed with rain and harvests
and will drive out mighty nations
– We have to learn God’s laws and teach them
– Blessings flow from obedience;
offensive terms are present in dis-obedience.

We have to destroy the worldly gods and places of worship
– The Lord will elect where His people will worship.
– The frustrating of blood is forbidden.
– Church’s worship have to be conform
to the Divine standard.

I told you before “How soon we forget!
That is more than just a clever saying, it is the truth.
Sports fans forget that their team won last year,
when they begin to lose this year.
Children forget the sacrifices their parents make for them.
Students forget what teachers taught them.
We forget faces, dates, places,
and even the names of old friends.
But fortunately, most of what we forget
is not all that serious.
For many of us forgetfulness
is just one of many signs of aging.

Remember Your God
Problems of memory though come not only through advancing age,
but are endemic in us all.
Scripture calls us to remember for an important reason.
The world does not need so much
to be informed as to be reminded
” [Thomas More]
The Bible says again and again
Forget not!” and “Remember!“;
and so we do during these days of Lent.
We are sitting at the rivers of Babylon
and we remember how we have to be:
– an Image of our Creator;
– rooted in the character of God.
And God does save us through
the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.
It is Christ Who knows and experiences
the laments for and with us,
and it is Christ Who we find our confidence in
to praise Him in the storms of our life.

Moses at the Burning Bush
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”;
and He said,
Therefore you shall say to your sons,
‘I AM has sent me to you’
“.
God, furthermore, said to Moses,
Therefore you shall say to your sons,
‘The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you’
“.
This is My name forever
and this is My memorial-Name to all generations
Go and gather your elders together and say to them,
‘The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
‘,
has appeared to me, saying,
“I am indeed concerned about you
and what has been done to you in Egypt . . . . .

[in the desert/the wilderness].
cf. Ex.3: 14-16

The call to remember is a command to meditate on who God is.
To remember is not so much a warning to master a wealth of facts about God
as it is a reminder of the awful possibility
that we can forget our dependence upon Him.
The command to remember here is given
as Church is poised to possess their inheritance,
the promised land.
There existed the very real possibility
that we would cease to remember all God did for us
as we found we no longer had to depend on Him for everything we have.
When we enjoy the wealth of the land He provides for us,
we will forget it came from Him.
It is ironic that we may find ourselves forgetting Him
because of the many blessings that He has given us.
When our hands are full
we forget the lessons we learned
when our hands were empty.

Time of Investigation
Your Investment in family-live
during these days of Lent, pays benefits later!
Meekness has always been a characteristic of
the Godly [Ps.37: 11]. It’s the only quality
that Jesus ever ascribed to Himself:
– “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and you shall find rest
unto your souls

Matth.11: 29

Meekness
So what is meekness?
The Greeks used the word ”πραότητα” to refer to ‘the taming of a wild horse.
The animal hadn’t lost its strength,
but all of the power of that animal
had been brought under control.
To be meek is to be under
the controlling Power of the Holy Spirit.
It involves our submission to God’s authority
and it involves the yielding of our rights.
It is linked with what the Bible refers to
as by Grace being filled with the Holy Spirit [Pentecost].
If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour
then you have all of the Holy Spirit that you’re ever going to get.
The Holy Spirit is one of the manifestations of God. You can’t just have a bit of Him.
Either you have the Spirit of God or you don’t.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ,
he is none of His
”.
Romans 8: 9
The filling of the Holy Spirit
has nothing to do with getting more
of the Holy Spirit
but it has everything to do with
the Holy Spirit getting more of you.
The Holy Spirit wants to fill and control every area in our lives; but He does not force Himself upon us.
He wants us to yield to Him
the right to every single area of our lives
until they are under His control and Lordship.
This is the way of blessing and success.
The meeker we become
the less upset and angry we will be
when we don’t get our own way.
Meekness is the antidote to anger.

► ►► The contemporary spiritual, theological problem concerns the person [πρόσωπο] …
Revelation reveals that “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
If He says, “I AM” it means that He is a person.
The word “I” has great significance.
For it expresses the person. God says:
Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”.
Gen.1: 26
Science cannot say this. Only revelation can say this.
And we need to base ourselves on revelation,
which the Lord never refuted …

Theology is the content of our prayers.
And an example of this theology is the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great
[every Sunday served during Lent].
The whole anaphora is Theology and is expressed through prayer.
But then Theology comes as a state of being.
John the Theologian, from an academic point of view,
was not a theologian, but he says things simply.
His theology, however, is a state of being.
Whatever he says becomes dogma for everyone.
But the only study that enables us
to sense what God is like,
is the ascetic life according to
the commandments of the Gospel.
When our life is lived according to the will of God,
then we understand that there cannot be a difference
between the commandments and the mind of God Himself.
When we think according to the commandments,
then our mind gets used to thinking as God Himself thinks.
And regarding Theosis, they say: but what is theosis?
With obedience to the abbot from the beginning,
one’s will is cut off,
then in obedience to the Gospel commandments
one reaches this state.
We do small things but the results must become Great.
Through obedience we enter into the life of divine Being.
We have good descriptions of this in
the writings of Saint Nicodemus, the Athonite.
I have told others, as well, that
when they learn things from the world,
they are living in sin.
They need to free themselves through Asceticism.
This is how I tried to make them understand the need for patience.
[Just as the Incarnation was a great kenotic act,
where Christ God became man as one person
and bore our sins patiently with humility and love.
In following Him, we become true persons in Him
and realize our life and fully live our freedom.
It is here where personhood finds its greatest achievement:
in putting on Christ and His indwelling in us
by the Holy Spirit sent from God the Father.
The very essence of our life must become
constant personal encounter with Christ,
and in this we become truly persons, truly free, truly loving.
This is how personhood is understood in Theosis.
We fulfil our personhood in living in Christ
and His dwelling within us,
and inasmuch as He has perfected humanity,
He raises us in freedom, in love,
to the fulfilment of our humanity,
as true persons in Him].
father Sophrony [Sakharov 1896-1993]

Psalm 136 chanted during the Sunday liturgies
during Great Lent instead of the regular Communion hymn,
just before Holy Communion:
1.] Mp3  by George Papanikolaos from Samos, Greece.
Ἐπι των ποταμών Βαβυλωνος -By The Waters of Babylon [Psalm 136] – 3rd Tn
2.] Mp3 by Sirin (Сирин) Ensemble, Russia.
Sirin (Сирин) Ensemble – ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ [Psalm 136}

Tekst Psalm 136:
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down”, they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”.
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us“.

Wherever you go,
have God ever before your eyes“.
Saint Antony the Great