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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preparing to receive Holy Communion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orthodoxy & the Mercy of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalms created on Truth – PSALM 22

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

In the early Church

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

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

Saint Augustine – sermon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalms created on Thruth – Psalm 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orthodox discours on Divine Eros and on Creation

Christ is our love, our Grace”

Christ is the joy, the true Light,
our happiness; Christ is our hope.
The relationship with Christ is Love,
is Love, is excitement, longing sulphur.
Christ is everything.
This is our love and our Love is.
In-alienable Love is from Christ,
from Him comes the Joy of Life.

This Joy is Christ Himself. It is joy that makes us another man.
It is a spiritual madness, but in Christ.
It intoxicates like wine fair, this wine is the spiritual. Says David:
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows“.
Psalm 22: 5
And you shall take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him“.
Ex.29: 21
The spiritual wine is rampant, unadulterated, very strong and when I drink, get drunk on.
This divine drunkenness is a Grace, a gift of God,
given to “pure in heart“.

As you are able to fast,  you make many prostrations,
you want to join as many vigils as possible, but
do it in happiness; keep it having in the Joy of Christ.
This is the Joy that lasts forever, which is eternal delight.
It’s the Joy of our Lord, Who gives the safe serenity,
calm and pleasantness bliss.
The Joy of the coming Pascha is beyond all Joy.
Christ wants to be thanked and scatters joy,
to enrich their believers with this Joy.
I wish, “so this Joy is filled to You“.

This is our religion. There you go.
Christ is Heaven, my children.
What is Heaven? It is Christ.
From now entering the  Paradise is exactly the same,
those who live here on earth in Christ,
live in Paradise.
So are you saying it.
It is right, true, trust me!
Our job is to try to find a way to get into the Light of Christ.
It is to do absolutely typical.
The essence is to be with Christ.
To wake the soul and to love Christ, to become Holy.
Indulged in Divine Love. Thus you will love us and Him.
It is then the inalienable Joy.
It wants more Christ, it fills us with that Joy,
because it is the Source of Joy.
This Joy is the Gift [Grace] of Christ.
Within this Joy you will know Christ.
We cannot know Him, if He does not know us.
How David says:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
Those who build it in vain;
Unless the Lord guard the city,
Those who guard it stay awake in vain
“.
Psalm 126: 1

These is what our soul wants to acquire.
If you prepare accordingly, Grace will be given to us.
It is not difficult.
If abstracting Grace, everything is easy and a joyful blessing to God.
The blessing ever sounded on the door of our soul and was waiting to be opened, to come to dispose our heart and fill it.
The crew is Christ, the Holy Trinity and
our Lady, the Theotokos.
What a nice things!

When you love, you live in Heaven on earth and you are not knowing that
you are in Heaven.
Neither cars you see, neither wars you see or see the world or anything else.
You’re inside you with the Person you love.
The breathing free-standing from Eucharist, to be encouraged.
It is truly about?
Consider this the person you love to be the Christ.
Christ in mind, Christ in your heart, Christ in your whole being,
Christ everywhere, Christ is in everyone.

Christ is life, the source of life, the source of joy,
the source of Light of the Truth, of everything.
Whoever loves Christ and others, he lives His life.
Life without Christ is death, hell, misery life.
This is hell, lacking love.
Life is Christ.
Love is the life of Christ.
It’s a basic choice to be in life or in death.
Up to you to choose.

One is our goal, love to Christ, the Church, our neighbour.
Love, worship to God, the longing, the union with Christ and
Church is the earthly Paradise.
Love is in Christ and love our neighbour, to all and to love even our enemies.
Christian life hurts everyone, but through being hurt everyone will be saved,
all who taste God’s Kingdom.
That is Christianity.
Through love and being hurt by your brother to be able to love God.
While we want, while we suffer, while we are worthy,
the blessing comes through our brother.
When you love your brother even when he hurts you,
you love the Church and in this way also Christ.
Inside the Church we are.
So when we love the Church, we love ourselves.

Christ is our friend“.
Christ is how you touch Him as
your friend; it is your friend.
This confirms Himself when He says:
You be there My friends …”
As a friend to look to Him and approaching Him.
We fall? We sin? With intimacy, love and in our trust
we run to Him, not with fear but punish us with courage that gives us the touch of a friend.
Say to Him:
Sir, I did, I fell down, please forgive me“.

But at the same time feel that He loves us,
that we are accepted tenderly,
with love and He forgives us.
Sin attempts to separate us from Christ.
When we think how He loves us and we love Him,
we don’t feel foreign and want to be separated from Him,
even when we fall down and sin.
We ensure the Love and the Like and the Sound,
we know He loves us.

If we love Christ truly, there is no fear of losing our respect to Him.
Here goes one of the Apostle Paul:
Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love
– What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
“.
Rom.8: 31-39
It is a relationship of grandeur, unique even in world’s theology
the relationship of the soul with God
doesn’t cleaves anything and
doesn’t scares or shakes anything.

The Gospel, of course, says it with symbolic words that the unjust will be found
where there is:
the grinding and gnashing of teeth“;
Luc.13: 28,
because so far away is God.

And by neptic many Fathers of the Church speak for fear of death and hell.
They say:
Keep death perpetually in memory“.
These words, if you look deeply, raises fear of hell.
Man trying to escape from sin, do these thoughts to
become dominated by the soul from the fear of
death, hell and the devil.

All have their importance, time and circumstances.
The concept of fear is good for the early stages. It is for beginners.
For those who live in them by the old man.
Man novice, not yet weakened up from evil with fear.
Fear is necessary if we are physical people and vile.
But this is a stage, a low degree of relationship with God.
They grow up to the transaction in order to gain Heaven or hell to escape.
What if good looking shows some selfishness, some interest.
I don’t like this way.
When man goes and come to be in the Love of God, what he needs fear?
Whatever you do, you do it intended for love and
it has a much greater value.
To turn out to be in a great fear for God and
not love does not really value.

Moving on, and the Gospel gives us to understand that Christ is the Joy,
the Truth, that Christ is the Paradise.
How the Evangelist John says?
There is no fear in love;
but perfect love casts out fear:
because fear has torment.
He that fears is not
made perfect in love
“.
1John 4: 18
Trying for fear and
entering slowly in God’s Love.
Then drives away hell, fear and death.
We care only about the Love of God.
We do everything for that mystical Love.
Whatever the Groom desires to the bride.

If you want to follow Him,
This Life with Christ will be Joy,
even in deep difficulties.
As the Apostle Paul says:
I fill up in my flesh
what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ
“.
Col.1: 24
This is our religion, we have to go there.
It is not typical, as it is to live with Christ.
When this succeeds, what else do you want?
Gained everything.
You live in Christ and Christ lives in you.
After all it is very easy,
Obedience, Humility, Peace.

The Beauty of creation
is to rejoice that what surrounds us.
All teach us and lead us to God.
All around us are drips of God’s Love.
And the animate and the in-animate and
the plants and animals.
The birds, the mountains,
the sea, the sunset and the starry skies. [Ps.103]
It are small affections, from inside
which arrive in great love, Christ.
Flowers, for example, have their own sake,
teach us with their perfume with their greatness.
We talk about God’s Love.
Scorpio scent, beauty in sinners and righteous.

To become a Christian must have a poëtic soul, you must be a poet.
‘Heavy’ souls to Him is what Christ wants.
The Christian, even when only love, a poet, is Mesa poetry.
Love poëms hearts to embrace, to put in their heart,
embrace it, feel it deeply.

Do you all take advantage for the nice moments.
The beautiful moments pre-dispose the soul in prayer,
make it subtle, gentle, poëtic.
Wake up in the morning to see the sun king all-embracing comes from the sea.
When excites a beautiful landscape, a church, something nice,
do not stay there, to go beyond, to proceed in thanksgiving for all the good,
to live the only nice.
Everything is Holy the sea, the bath in it and the food next.
All can rejoice.
All our rich, all lead us to great Love,
all lead us to Christ.

Be aware of what man made, houses, buildings, large or small,
towns, villages, people, culture.
Asking to complete your knowledge of everything, do not stand unconcerned.
This helps you to deeper study of God’s Excellence.
Made all opportunities to connect with everything and everyone.
Causing thanksgiving and supplication to the Lord of all.
Do you live in it totally, in nature, in everything.
Nature is the secret Gospel,
where, however,
no one has inner Grace,
not the Benefits of nature.
nature wakes us up,
but we can’t go to Heaven.
So the Evangelist John wrote about the Eternal Word:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made.
In Him was Life,
and the Life was the Light of men.
And this Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it
– And the Word became 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
“.
John 1: 1-5, 14
cf. Elder Porphyrios Kafsokalyvitis [1906-1991]

Orthodoxy & How can you gain affection in prayer.

The work of prayer is the first work in Christian life.
If in everyday affairs the saying:
live and learn” is true,
then so much more it applies to prayer,
which never stops and which has no limit.
However, not every act of prayer is prayer.
Standing at home in your silent corner or in church and venerating Icons is not yet prayer, but the “equipment” of prayer.

Reading prayers either by heart or from a book, or
hearing someone else read them is not yet prayer,
but only a tool or method for obtaining and awakening prayer.
Prayer itself is the piercing of our hearts by pious feelings towards God,
one after another – feelings of humility, submission, gratitude, doxology,
forgiveness, heart-felt prostration, brokenness, conformity to the will of God, etc.
All of our effort should be directed so that during our prayers,
these feelings and feelings like them should fill our souls, so that
the heart would not be empty when the lips are reading the prayers, or
when the ears hear and the body bows in prostrations, but
that there would be some qualitative feeling,
some striving toward God.
When these feelings are present, our praying is prayer and
when they are absent, it is not yet prayer.

With the fear of God and patience and
these two should be brought to life
by our passionate prayer.
To reach this a lot of time and effort is required
“.
Theophanos the hermit

By its nature, water is soft while a stone is hard.
However when it runs along a watercourse and drips on a stone.
It slowly but surely makes a hole in it.
Likewise the word of God is soft while our hearts are tough.
However, if a person frequently listens to the Word of God,
his heart softens and becomes capable to accept the fear of God
“.
Abba Pimen

Make it a rule, from now on, never to pray negligently.
Nothing is more offensive to God than this.
It is better to leave out part of your prayer rule and
to complete the remainder reverently and with fear of God,
than to do the whole prayer rule, and
do it negligently.
It is even better to read but one prayer,
or fall on your knees and pray in your own words,
than to pray negligently.
If you pray carelessly, there will be no fruit.

Give yourself a thorough reprimand for such carelessness.
Let this be clear to you:
No one who prays earnestly and with attention ends prayer
without feeling the effect of prayer.
What a blessing we deprive ourselves by
allowing negligence in prayer!

Next to prayer earning Paradise
The Martyrs earned paradise with their blood;
the Monastics, with their ascetic life.
Now we, my brethren, who beget children,
how shall we earn paradise?
With hospitality, by relieving the poor,
the blind, the lame, as
Joachim [the father of the Theotokos] did….
Almsgiving, love, and fasting sanctify man,
enrich him in both soul and body and
bring him to a good end;
the body and the soul become holy
“.
Saint Cosmas of Aetolia

How do we live a God-pleasing life?
Wait a minute.
This question may make us think that
we have to do something for God to love us.
No, not at all.
The Scriptures and the Fathers are clear about this.
– God loves us here & now, just as we are -;
as the Apostle Paul points out, even
while we were sinners and His enemies,
God sent Christ to die for us.
Saint John writes,
God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son…
God is unchanging eternal Love and
not some angry Father that
we must appease by our good behaviour.

The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us but
we do not fear drowning for we stand firmly upon a rock.
Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock.
Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus.
What are we to fear? Death?
Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile?
‘The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord.
The confiscation of goods?
We brought nothing into this world and we shall surely take nothing from it.
I have only contempt for the world’s threats,
I find its blessings laughable.
I have no fear of poverty no desire for wealth.
I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live except for your good.
I concentrate therefore on the present situation and
I urge you, my friends, to have confidence
“.
Saint John Chrysostomos

“Watch, for you know not
what hour your Lord does come”.
To watch means not to sit idly but
to keep in mind His coming and
having properly adjusted our behaviour and everyday business,
be ready to meet Him at any moment
without fear of reproach and condemnation.
Is that too hard to achieve? Not really.
Follow Lord’s commandments,
without breaking a single one of them;
should you accidentally break one
– cleanse yourself right away by repentance
as well as remuneration.
This way we will stay clean and
ready for His second Coming.

I am with you always, to the end of the age!
I am your father,
I am your brother,
I am your bridegroom,
I am your home,
I am your sustenance,
I am your clothing,
I am your root,
I am your foundation,

Everything you want, I am.
You have need for nothing.
I will work for you,
I have come to serve and not be served.

I am your friend,
I am your members,
I am the head,
I am your brother,
I am your sister,
I am your mother,
I am all things.

Only abide in Me.
I have died for you.
I have been rejected for you.
I have been placed on the Cross for you,
I have been placed in the Tomb for you,
Above, I am before the Father for you,
Below, upon the Earth, I intercede for you before the Father.
You are everything to Me:

My brother,
My co-heir,
My friend,
My member.
What more do you want?

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
“.

 

Saturday of Meat-fare – Memorial Saturday

The New Covenant differs from the Old Covenant

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by
the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and
acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
For I say, through the Grace given unto me, to every man that is among you,
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think;
but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
So we, being many, are one Body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Having then gifts differing according to the Grace that is given to us,
– whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
– Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teached, on teaching;
– Or he that exhorts, on exhortation:
– he that gives, let him do it with simplicity;
– he that rules, with diligence;
– he that shows Mercy, with cheerfulness.
– Let love be without dissimulation.
– Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
– Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love;
in honour preferring one another;
– Not slothful in business;
– fervent in spirit;
– serving the Lord;
– rejoicing in hope;
– patient in tribulation;
– continuing instant in prayer;
– distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
– Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
– rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
– Be of the same mind one toward another.
– Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.
– Be not wise in your own conceits.
– Recompense to no man evil for evil.
– Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
– If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but
rather give place unto wrath:
for it is written,
Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.
Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him;
if he thirst, give him drink:
for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good
“.
Rom. 12: 1-21

For the Kingdom of God is not
meat and drink;
but Righteousness,
and Peace,
and Joy in the Holy Spirit
“.
Rom. 14: 17

The work of righteousness shall be Peace; and the effect of Righteousness                                                                                                        inner silence and security for ever“.
                                                                                 Isaiah 32: 17

And why call you me, Lord, Lord and
do not the things which I say?
“.
Luc.6: 46

Assist in building the Church of God and
Assist in advancing His Kingdom
“.
Matth.16:18-19; Haggai 1:8, 2: 6-9, 19

Preparation for Great Lent –
Church as an Hospital for the soul
The preparation for Great Lent begins soon after the feast of the Theophany of the Lord corresponding to its historical commemoration that soon after His baptism Jesus Christ left [like the Jews during 40 years] for the world to the desert for a fast, in  commemoration of which
the Holy Forty Day Fast was established.

Beginning with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee,
the preparation for Great Lent comes to an end with Cheese-fare Sunday [The Expulsion of Adam from Paradise – Forgiveness Sunday].
The Holy Church for a long time begins to prepare the faithful for Great Lent as a redemptive time for
an all general spiritual cleansing and sanctification.
This cleansing and sanctification are
possible only under
– the condition of the complete remission of sins,
– the complete change of a life view in ideas, feelings and actions,
– the complete renewal and spiritual revival.
But such revival requires the sustained, serious, painful and tenacious ‘spiritual‘                                                                                           struggle, by which it gradually should revive                                                                                   to compel and ingrain itself.
Besides this the determination for such a spiritual struggle and
its persistence also depends on us, but it depends more on
the ‘Mercy of God‘, who revives it in the heart and
is accomplished by His all-acting Grace.
Therefore we should pray a lot and with diligence, so
that the Lord will send us to the ‘Door of Repentance‘,
– to break the hardness of all our hearts and
– to stir up grief about our sins, without
which there cannot be true repentance;
– to inflame our heart with love for Him, without
Whom even the most sincere repentance would not be strong enough;
– to enliven and give wing to our spirit with sacred hope, without
which the trembling heart would be suppressed with sorrow.

That is why the Holy Church prepares us beforehand for our entrance into
the sacred and redemptive days of Lent and Repentance, and
beforehand makes an effort to remove everything that
interferes with our coming to true Repentance, and
beforehand makes an effort to teach us that
the sincere spirit of humility and contrition to be acquired is required from us.
Preparing believers for the Holy Forty Day Fast, the Holy Church in its services,
according to its own expression, acts as the commander who
with timely and wise words encourages the warriors
before doing battle with the enemy.
Therefore in its preparatory services it does not forget to
tell everything that may position the faithful for fasting and repentance.
In its sacred commemorations it returns
– to the first days of the world and mankind,
– to the blessed condition of the forefathers and their fall,
– to show the beginning of sin and to awaken in us contrition for sins, and
– to the time of the coming on earth of the Son of God for the salvation of mankind
in order to turn us to God.

Continuing in the preparatory season,
the Holy Church accustoms the faithful to
the ascetical struggle of fasting and the gradual incorporation of abstinence.
After eating meat all during the week following the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, it reinstates the Wednesday and Friday fasts and then builds up to
the highest degree of preparatory abstinence by prohibiting the eating of all meat products but with the allowance to use cheese products.
The special preparation for the Holy Forty Day Fast is undoubtedly
an ancient established practice of the Holy Church.
Thus, the already famous preachers of the Fourth Century
Saints Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria and
others left us their discussions and sermons,
spoken by them in view of the fast
not already come, but only expected.

On Meatfare Saturday [Κρέας Fare Σάββατο],
Before the commemoration (on Meatfare Sunday) of the Last Judgment,
the Holy Church prays for the departed, so that together with us they also stand at the right hand of the Judge, and especially prays for those who have died, who, as the Synaxarion says,
were stolen suddenly by death in a foreign country, on the sea and on impassable mountains, on cliffs, from starvation, from plagues and hunger, in war, in fires,
from cold, and have undergone all kinds of other generic types of death,
and also about poor and needy, and
in general for all who

have not received commemoration
in the legitimate Psalms [118] and hymns
“.

On a Saturday, instead of another day, before Meatfare Sunday it is necessary to pray for the repose of souls because
the Sabbath Day is the day of rest, according to its innate meaning.
It is the most important day for prayer for those who
repose with the Saints.
Besides this, the present prayer for the departed who
repose the Holy Church reminds us about our inevitable end and our standing for trial before the incorruptible Judge, that,
fearing these things to better prepare us for the spiritual struggle which are to come in the saving fast.

The service for Meatfare Saturday is performed in the same way as for the Saturday before the feast of Pentecost, with
the only exception that on the Meatfare Saturday the hymns of the Octoechos are sung according to the tone in the order, and on the Saturday before Pentecost we
must use the 6th tone.

The peculiarities of the service for these days are that:
a.] at Vespers, instead of the Prokeimenon, we sing the “Alleluia“,
with the priest exclaiming the verses:
Blessed are they whom You have chosen“, and
Their souls shall dwell with the blessed“;

b.] in Matins after the usual verses, i. e. the 16th Kathisma we sing
Blessed are the undefiled” (i.e. the 17th Kathisma), on two stases, and
after each of them at the “Glory“, together with the “Alleluia“,
we sing the end of the stasis, three times,
namely, after the first stasis we sing the words:
Unless Your Law has been my study“, and
after the second stasis we sing the words:
My soul shall live“.
– After the second stasis we sing with the refrain:
Blessed are You, O Lord“, the Apolytikion for the departed:
The choir of the Saints have found the fountain of Life“.
– After the 6th ode of the canon we sing the Kontakion:
“With the Saints give rest”, and the Ikos.

As after the first stasis “Blessed are the undefiled“, so
after the second stasis and the hymn “Blessed are You, O Lord“, and
after the 6th Ode of the Canon, before the singing of the Kontakion:
With the Saints give rest” there is a Litany for the Departed.
In it we call out:
Again we pray for the repose of the souls of the servants of God,
the forefathers, fathers and brothers,
Orthodox Christians who here and everywhere lie asleep
“.

After this, usually, from a special book
=> the departed Orthodox god-fearing Emperors, Kings, Great Princes, and
god-fearing Empresses, Queens, Princesses are commemorated by name.
In other temples after this a table is placed before the Royal Doors, and
on the table is a cross and before it a candle in its holder, and
sometimes even a kutiya [koliva].
In other temples only a candle in a large candleholder is
placed before the Royal Doors.
While intoning these litanies, the priest or deacon hold a censer.

This service for the departed is performed and when, if
the Feast of the Three Hierarchs [Jan. 30rd], or
the Translation of the Head of John the Forerunner [Febr. 24th] falls on Meat-fare Saturday
the service for these feasts is performed on Meat-fare Friday.

But if the Saint’s Feast of the Temple or the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord
falls on Meat-fare Saturday, then on Meat-fare Saturday we sing
the service of the temple feast or the Meeting of the Lord;
then we sing the service for the departed, evening and morning,
on the previous Saturday or on Meat-fare Thursday.
When the Saint’s Feast of the temple falls on Meat-fare Saturday, then
the service for the departed may be sung only at the sepulchre,
in the temple there must only be one service to the temple; and
where there is no sepulchre, the service is sung as noted above;
however, at the sepulchre may also be understood the vestibule,
in which it is necessary to perform the order for the departed after
the dismissal of Vespers.
Cf.Handbook for Church Servers‘ [‘Εγχειρίδιο για την Εκκλησία’], S. V. Bulgakov

…..”In all things may God be Glorified“…..;
May God bless you in your spiritual journey!“.
Pray for me, because I am a sinner, too“.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son – Glorify God in body and spirit

All things are lawful for me,
but all things are not helpful.
All things are lawful for me,

but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods
but God will destroy both it and them.
Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord
and the Lord for the body.
And God both raised up the Lord
and will also raise us up by His Power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
Shall I then take the members of Christ
and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!
Or do you not know that he who is joined
to a harlot is one body with her?
For “the two,” He says,
“shall become one flesh”.
But he who is joined to the Lord
is one spirit with Him.

Flee sexual immorality.
Every sin that a man does is outside the body,
but he who commits sexual immorality
sins against his own body.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,
whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
For you were bought at a price;
therefore glorify God in your body
and in your spirit, which are God’s
“.
1Cor.6: 12-20

This wise teaching of the holy Apostle Paul
is an excellent opportunity for us to reflect on certain issues
and find answers to contemporary questions
that the Holy Church has not had the time to answer yet.
All things are lawful for me,
but I will not be brought under the power of any”, says the Apostle.
I will not be brought under the power of any
is the right answer to many of these questions.

The apostle Paul said not,
abstain from fornication, but Flee:
that is, with all zeal make to yourselves
deliverance from that evil.
Every sin that a man does is without the body;
but he that commits fornication
sins against his own body.
This is less than what went before;
but since he had to speak of fornicators,
he amplifies that guilt by topics
drawn from all quarters,
from greater things and smaller alike,
making the charge heinous.
And, in fact,
that former topic was addressed to the more religious,
but this to the weaker sort.
For this also is characteristic of the wisdom of Paul,
not only to allege the great things wherewith to a bash men,
but the lesser also, and the consideration of what is disgraceful and unseemly.

What then, say you,
does not the murderer stain his hand?
What, of the covetous person and the extortioner?
I suppose it is plain to everyone.
But since it was not possible to
mention anything worse than the fornicator,
he amplifies the crime in another way, by saying that in the fornicator
the entire body becomes defiled.
For it is as polluted as if it had fallen into a vessel of filth
and been immersed in defilement. And this too is our way.
For from covetousness and extortion no one would make haste to go into a bath,
but as if nothing had happened returns to his house.
Whereas from intercourse with a harlot,
as having become altogether unclean, he goes to a bath.
To such a degree does the conscience retain
from this sin a kind of sense of unusual shame.
Both however are bad, both covetousness and fornication;
and both cast into hell.
But as Paul does everything with good management,
so by whatever topics he had
he magnified the sin of fornication.

Do you not know that your body is a
Temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?
He did not merely say, of the Spirit,
but, which is in you;
which was the part of one
who also was soothing.
And again, explaining himself still further,
he added, which you have from God.
He mentioned Him that gave also,
both exalting the hearer and
putting him in fear,
both by the magnitude of the deposit
and by the munificence of Him
that made it.

And you are not your own.
This is not only to a bash, but even to force men towards virtue.
For why, says he; does you what you will? You are not your own master.
But these things he said, not to take away free-will.
For so in saying, All things are lawful for me,
but not all things are expedient,
he does not take away our liberty.
And here again, writing, You are not your own;
he makes no infringement upon freedom of choice,
but he leads away from vice and indicates the guardian care of the Lord.
And therefore he added,
For you were bought with a price.

But if I am not my own, upon what ground
do you demand of me duties to be done?
And why do you go on to say again,
Glorify God therefore in your body
and in your spirit, which are God’s?
What then is the meaning of, you are not your own?
And what does he wish to prove thereby?
To settle them in a state of security against sin
and against following the improper desires of
your own mind.
For indeed we have many improper wishes:
but we must repress them, whenever we can.
And if we could not, exhortation would be in vain.
Mark, accordingly, how he secures his ground.
For having said, You are not your own, he adds not,
– but are under compulsion;
– but, You were bought with a price.

Why do you say this?
Surely on another ground, one might say perhaps,
you should have persuaded men,
pointing out that we have only one Lord, the Master.
But this is common to the Greeks also together with us:
whereas the expression, You were bought with a price belongs to us peculiarly.
For he reminds us of the greatness of the benefit
and of the mode of our Salvation,
signifying that when we were alienated, we were bought:
and not simply bought, but, with a Price.

Glorify then, take up and bear,
God in your body, and in your spirit.
Now these things he says,
that we may not only flee fornication in the body,
but also in the spirit of our mind abstain
from every wicked thought,
and from driving away Grace.

Which are God’s.
For as he had said your, he added therefore,
which are God’s:
continually reminding us
that all things belong to the Lord,
both body and soul and spirit:
For some say, that the words in the spirit mean the gracious gift;
for if that be in us, God is glorified.
And this will be, if we have a clean heart.

But He has spoken of these things as God’s,
not only because He brought them into being,
but also because, when they were alienated,
He won them again a second time, paying as the price, the blood of the Son.
Mark how He brought the whole to completion in Christ,
how He raised us up into Heaven.
You are members of Christ, says he,
you are a temple of the Spirit.
Become not then members of a harlot:
for it is not your body which is insulted;
since it is not your body at all, but Christ’s.
And these things he spoke,
both to make manifest His loving-kindness in that our body is His
and to withdraw us from all evil license.
For if the body be another’s, you have no authority, says he,
to insult another’s body; and especially when it is the Lord’s;
nor yet to pollute a temple of the Spirit.
For if any one who invades a private house and
makes his way revelling into it,
must answer for it most severely;
think what dreadful things he shall endure
who makes a temple of the King a robber’s lurking place.

Considering these things therefore,
reverence your Him that dwells within.
For the Paraclete is He.
Thrill before Him that is enfolded
and cleaves unto you; for Christ is He.
Have you indeed made
yourself members of Christ?
Think thus, and continue chaste;
whose members you were
and Whose you have to become.
Erewhile they were members of an harlot
and Christ has made them members of His own Body.
You have therefore henceforth no authority over them.
Serve Him that has set you free.

For supposing you had a daughter
– and in extreme madness had let her out to a procurer for hire
– and made her live a harlot’s life
– and then a king’s son were to pass by
– and free her from that slavery
– and join her in marriage to himself;
you could have no power thenceforth to bring her into the brothel.
For you gave her up once for all, and sold her.
Such as this is our case also.
We let out our own flesh for hire unto the Devil, that grievous procurer:
Christ saw and set it free, and withdrew it from that evil tyranny;
it is not then ours any more but His Who delivered it.
If you be willing to use it as a King’s bride, there is none to hinder;
but if you bring it where it was before,
you will suffer just what they ought who are guilty of such outrages.
Wherefore you should rather adorn instead of disgracing it.
For you have no authority over the flesh in the wicked lusts,
but in those things alone which God may enjoin.
Let the thought enter your mind at least
from what great outrage God has delivered it.
For in truth never did any harlot expose herself so shamefully
as our nature before this.
For robberies, murders, and every wicked thought entered in
– and lay with the soul,
– and for a small and vulgar hire,
– the [short] present pleasure.
For the soul, being mixed up with all wicked devices and deeds,
reaped this reward and no other.