1st Sunday of Lent – Sunday Triumph of Orthodoxy

Lent was in origin the time of final preparation
for candidates for baptism at the Easter Vigil
and this is reflected in the readings at the Liturgy
today and on all the Sundays of Lent.
But that basic theme came to be subordinated
to later themes which dominated the hymnography
of each Sunday.

The dominant theme of this Sunday since 843 has been that of the Victory of the Icons.
In that year the iconoclastic controversy,
which had raged on and off since 726,
was finally laid to rest, and icons and their veneration were restored on the first Sunday in Lent.
Ever since, that Sunday been commemorated
as the “Triumph of Orthodoxy”.

Orthodox teaching about Icons was defined at
the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787,
which brought to an end the first phase
of the attempt to suppress Icons.
That teaching was finally re-established in 843
and it is embodied in the texts sung on this Sunday.

From Vespers:
►”Inspired by your Spirit, Lord,
the Prophets foretold your Birth as a child incarnate of the Virgin.
Nothing can contain or hold you;
before the morning star you shone forth eternally
from the spiritual womb of the Father.
Yet you were to become like us and
be seen by those on earth.
At the prayers of those your Prophets in
your mercy reckon us fit to see your light,
for we praise your Resurrection,
Holy and beyond speech.
Infinite, Lord, as Divine,
in the last times you willed to become incarnate
and so finite;
for when you took on flesh
you made all its properties your own.
So we depict the form of your outward appearance
and pay it relative respect,
and so are moved to love you;
and through it we receive the Grace of healing,
following the Divine traditions of the apostles
“.

►”The Grace of Truth has shone out, the things once foreshadowed now are revealed in perfection. See, the Church is decked with the embodied image of Christ, as with Beauty not of this world, fulfilling the tent of witness, holding fast the Orthodox faith.
For if we cling to the Icon of Him Whom we worship, we shall not go astray.
May those who do not so believe be covered with shame.
For the image of Him who became human is our Glory:
we venerate it, but do not worship it as God.
Kissing it, we who believe cry out:
O God, save your people, and bless your heritage
“.

►”We have moved forward from unbelief to True Faith,
and have been enlightened by the Light of knowledge.
Let us then clap our hands like the Psalmist,
and offer praise and thanksgiving to God.
And let us honour and venerate the holy Icons of Christ,
of His most pure Mother, and of all the Saints,
depicted on walls, panels and sacred vessels,
setting aside the unbelievers’ ungodly teaching.
For the veneration given to the Icon passes over, as Basil says, to its prototype.
At the intercession of Your spotless Mother, O Christ, and of all the Saints,
we pray you to grant us Your great Mercy.
We venerate your Icon, good Lord, asking forgiveness of our sins, O Christ our God.
For You freely willed in the flesh to ascend the Cross,
to rescue from slavery to the enemy those whom you had formed.
So we cry to you with thanksgiving:
You have filled all things with joy, our Saviour,
by coming to save the world
“.

The name of this Sunday reflects the great significance which Icons possess for the Orthodox Church. They are not optional devotional extras, but an integral part of Orthodox faith and devotion.
They are held to be a necessary consequence of Christian faith in the incarnation of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Jesus Christ.
They have a sacramental character, making present to the believer the person or event depicted on them.
So the interior of Orthodox churches is often covered with Icons painted on walls and domed roofs, and there is always an Icon screen, or Iconostasis, separating the Sanctuary from the nave, often with several rows of Icons. No Orthodox home is complete without an Icon corner, where the family prays.

Icons are venerated by burning lamps and candles in front of them,
by the use of incense and by kissing.
But there is a clear doctrinal distinction between
the veneration paid to icons and the worship due to God.
The former is not only relative,
it is in fact paid to the person represented by the Icon.
This distinction safeguards the veneration of Icons from any charge of idolatry.

Although the theme of the Victory of the Icons is a secondary one on this Sunday,
by its emphasis on the Incarnation it points us to the basic Christian Truth
that the one whose Death and Resurrection we celebrate at Easter
was none other than the Word of God
Who became human in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

At the centre of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ
and His Resurrection from the dead.
As such, the Icon of the Resurrection is the most celebrated,
the most common, the most cherished, the most instructive.
It is all of these things because the Orthodox Icon of the Resurrection
is not content with simply showing us the Risen Christ, or the empty tomb;
the Victory shown in the Icon of the Resurrection is complete.

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
“.
                                                       Paschal [Easter] Hymn

Jesus Christ was not content with laying in the tomb
for three days after His Crucifixion.
Instead, while His body was entombed,
Christ’s soul descended into Hades, or Hell.
Christ descended there not to suffer,
but to fight, and free the souls trapped there.
Just as bringing a light into darkness
causes the darkness to disappear,
the Source of all Life descending into the abode of the dead
resulted in Jesus’ victory over death,
and not death’s victory over Jesus.
This is the full reality of what Christ’s death
and Resurrection accomplished.

Orthodoxy & Lent the period of return

This is what the Lord Almighty,
the God of Israel, says:
Reform your ways and your actions,
and I will let you live in this place.
Do not trust in deceptive words and say,
‘that you are the temple of the Lord!‘”
cf. Jer.7: 3,4

You should also not say that Faith
alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save you,
for this is impossible unless you
also acquire Love for Him through your works.
As for Faith by itself,
“the devils also believe, and tremble”.
Jac.2: 19

1.]. Change Your Purpose in Life
Before people are willing to act, they must be motivated.
A sound sleeper is more likely to get up in the middle of the night
if the house is on fire than if he remembers he did not brush his teeth!
Christians have some of the strongest possible motives for changing.
Consider some:
1a. Love and Dedication to God
Christians are transformed by renewing their minds.
To live differently, we have to think differently.
We must not seek to be like the world
but to use our bodies in God’s service.

Unceasing prayer is born of love,
but fault-finding, idle talk
and self-indulgence
are the death of prayer
“.
Saint Silouan the Athonite

I beseech you, brethren,
by the mercies of God,
that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world:
but you be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is good, acceptable
and perfect to the will of God
“.
Rom.12: 1,2

The Macedonians practiced generous giving
because they first gave themselves to the Lord [2Cor.8: 5].
Changing our conduct becomes much easier
when we are totally dedicated to God’s service.
What motivates us to obey God? Our love for Him.
What motivates us to love Him?
The fact that He loved us.
How do we know He loved us?
Because He gave His Son to die to save us.
Love is one of the strongest forces in existence.
It can move a woman to rescue her children from a burning building
or a man to lift an automobile that has crushed a loved one. If you are having difficulty changing yourself, you need to learn to appreciate God’s blessings and mercy.

Imitation of Christ
The desire to be like someone we admire
is another powerful motivation.
Sports heroes inspire young people
in athletics.
So godly people like Abraham, Noah, Ruth
and the Theotokos motivate us to serve God.
But the greatest example of all
is that of Jesus, our Lord.

A disciple seeks to be like His Master [Matth.10: 24,25].
Christians are disciples of Jesus [Acts 11: 26].
We should follow His steps
because He left us a sinless example [1Petr.2: 21,22].

As we face each decision in life,
we should ask,
What would Jesus, our Lord do?
This will give us strong motivation to change our lives.

Desire for Eternal Life [escape Eternal Punishment]
And every man that strives for the mastery
is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown;
but we an incorruptible.
We should set our minds
on our eternal reward,
not on earthly things [2Thess.1: 8,9].

Lack of motivation is a major reason people do not change to please God.
They do not have sufficient desire to change.
Instead they want to please themselves or their friends and family.
Often they are too concerned with the things of this life.
Until our motives are right, little else in this study will help us.
But when we are determined
that serving God is our
most important purpose in life,
then we will find the means
to make the necessary changes.
When we lack the motivation to change,
let us think about why we should love God,
think about the importance of being like Christ
and think about our eternal destiny.

2.]. Believe You Can Change with God’s Help
Keep thy heart with all diligence;
for out of it
are the issues of life.
Prov.4: 23
The way you act is determined
by your attitudes and intentions.
People and circumstances may influence you,
but you do not have to give in.
You do what you decide to do.
God will not allow temptations
that are beyond your ability to bear.
He will always make a way of escape.
“God is faithful”.
He will always keep this promise.
It follows that you can break any bad habit
and develop any good habit
according to God’s will.
The Apostle said:
I can do all things through Christ
which strengtheneth me.
Phil.4: 13
We also can do this.
This includes changing to please Him.
If we trust our own strength, we will fail.
Lucifer can defeat us.
If we use Christ’s strength we will succeed,
because satan can never defeat Him.
Perhaps we have failed in the past
because we have trusted our own power
instead of using Christ’s.
People sometimes convince themselves,
I just can’t change.
It’s too late.
Besides, I’m only human“.
They are not just belittling themselves;
they are denying God’s word.
They will fail simply
because they will give up
instead of persisting to use
God’s Power.
Commit your way unto the Lord;
trust also in Him;
and He shall bring it
to pass“.
Psalm 36: 5
No matter how strong a temptation you face,
no matter how long you have practiced a sin,
if God says to change,
you are able to change.

3.]. Study the Bible about Your Habit.
The Book of the Law
shall not depart out of your mouth;
but you shall meditate therein day and night,
that you may observe to do according
to all that is written therein:
for then you shall make your way prosperous
and then you shall have good success“.
Joshua 1: 8

To succeed in God’s work, meditate on God’s word.
List the pertinent Bible passages
about each habit you need to change.
List reasons why you should change.
Meditate on these verses daily,
filling your mind with them.
But his delight is in the Law of the Lord;
and in His Law does he meditate day and night
“.
Psalm 1: 2
Your word have I hid in my heart,
that I might not sin against You“.
Psalm 118: 11
And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart:
And you shall teach them diligently unto your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way,
and when you lies down,
and when you rises up.
And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand,
and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
And thou shall write them
upon the posts of your house
and on your gates“.
Deuteronomy 6: 6-9
Frequently remind yourself of these verses.
Write them and place them
where they will remind you:
on your bathroom mirror,
on the refrigerator door,
on your table at mealtime,
on the Television-knob.
Jesus, our Lord, overcame temptation by quoting Scripture.
But this worked only because He knew the Scripture, by heart.
Memorize verses about your habit so that,
when you are tempted,
they will come to mind and strengthen you.
Quote them to yourself and
to those who tempt you.

4.]. Repent of Sin
Repent therefore of this your wickedness,
and pray God, if perhaps the thought of your heart
may be forgiven you.
Acts 8: 22
Repentance is a change of mind
– a determined commitment
to cease sin and obey God.
Before one can change his conduct,
man has to change his mind.
Do not cover up your sin,
deny it, excuse it, or blame someone else.
Admit the error and be truly sorry [2Cor.7: 10].
But sorrow is not enough.
We have truly repented only
when we are so sorry
that we determine to change our conduct.
Most other achievements in life require about 10% ability
and just 90% determination and hard work.
In spiritual matters, every accountable person
has the ability to please God;
so changing to please God is
100% determined by our choice.
God has provided everything we need.
The decision is ours.
We will never change
until we make up our minds
to pursue the means God provides
until we succeed.
The decision to do this is repentance
and no one will change to please God without it.

5.]. Develop a Plan of Action
Do they not err that devise evil?
but mercy and truth
shall be to them
that devise good“.
Proverbs 14: 22
God’s example demonstrates the importance of planning.
He purposed man’s redemption [Rom.8: 28],
the Church [Eph.3: 10,11],
the Temple [Hebr.8: 5].
See how He did it from the beginning:

Now the Lord had said to Abram,
Get out of your country,
and from your associated,
and from your father’s house,
to a land that I will show you:
And I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you,
and make your name great;
and you shall be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless you,
and curse him that curses you:
and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken to him;
and Lot went with him:
and Abram was seventy and five years old
when he departed out of Haran.
And Abram took Sarah his wife, and Lot his brother’s son,
and all their substance that they had gathered,
and the souls that they had gotten in Haran;
and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan;
and into the land of Canaan they came.
And Abram passed through the land
unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh.
And the Canaanite was then in the land.
And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said,
Unto you seed will I give this land:
and there he built an altar to the Lord,
Who appeared to him
“.
Gen.12: 1-7
As Saint Silouan did we likewise have to do,
as God’s servants we need to have a plan
to succeed in His Service.

In what other important actions will we succeed without a plan?
Consider the forethought needed to build a house,
run a business or a household, program a computer, etc.
Worthwhile activities, to be successful, need planning.

Likewise, to change your life, you need
a specific, practical checklist of steps
you will take to change.
Analyse [with the help of your confessor]
the circumstances or causes that lead you
to fail to do right,
then plan how to avoid
those causes.
It may help to write your plan down
and modify it as needed.
This plan will include some specific points
you and your confessor are studying plus other points
that fit your specific problem.

Many people fail to change
to please God because they never planned to succeed.
They did not plan to fail, but they failed to plan!

6.]. Pray Regularly

Prayer is essential in two ways.
A child of God should pray for forgiveness.
If you are not yet a child of God, you need to believe in Jesus,
repent of sins, confess Christ, and be baptized to be forgiven of sins.
When you have done those things, you become a child of God.
If you sin afterwards,
you need to pray for forgiveness and confess.
He that covers his sins shall not prosper:
but who confesses and forsakes them
shall have mercy

Prov. 28: 13
If we say that we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins,
God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned,
we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us
“.
1 John 1:8-10
Then pray for God’s help.
Ask God to “deliver us from evil”.
Tell God exactly what’s your problem.
Pray often and regularly.
Pray especially at the moment
when you face temptation.
God has promised that,
if you ask His help,
He will hear
and answer.

7.]. Seek Help from the Church [your confessor]
Christians should confess their faults to one another
so they can pray for one another.
We should bear one another’s burdens [Gal.6: 2].
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar
and there remember that your brother
has something against you;
Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way;
first be reconciled to your brother,
and then come and offer your gift“.
Matth.5: 23,24
When we are troubling and fighting each other
an especially difficult habit,
it may help to choose one or two
special [priest-] counsellors to talk with [regularly].
They can give us good advice about how to change.
They can encourage us.
It may motivate us
just to know that others
are aware of our problem.
And they can surely pray for us.
Public church meetings [coffee-drinking, weekends]
are especially designed to give encouragement.
We need to attend regularly for many reasons,
but especially we need encouragement
as we try to become what God wants us to be.

8.]. Diligently Practice What is Right

Therefore, my beloved brethren,
be steadfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as you know
that your labour is not in vain in the Lord
“.
1Cor.15: 58

We have discussed here several steps to prepare us to change,
but none of them can substitute for hard work and dedicated effort.
All the good attitudes in the world will not get the job done
until we follow through with action.
God does not promise change will be easy,
but He promises it is possible
if we work diligently according to His word.

Discourse on Divine preservation and pleasure on creation

The Victory over death,
the sense and assurance of immortality
is an experience that is common to all the Saints.
Elder Porphyrios himself says:
The man who belongs to Christ should love Christ
and when he loves Christ
he will be freed from the devil,
from hell and from death“.

“Christ is our love“; ‘Our first love’.

Christ is the Joy,
the True Light,
Happiness.
Christ is our hope.
The relationship with Christ is love, is love, is excitement, longing sulphur.
Christ is everything. This is our love, Our love is.
Is gender inalienable love of Christ;
from there comes the joy
The joy is Christ himself. It is joy that makes another man.

It is a spiritual madness, but in Christ.
It intoxicates like wine fair,
this wine is the spiritual.
Says David:
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 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 the Joy of Christ.
It is this Joy that lasts forever, which is eternal delight.
It is the Joy of our Lord, Who gives the safe serenity, calm and pleasantness bliss.
The Joy of the coming Pascha, beyond all Joy.
Christ wants to be thanked and scatters joy,
to enrich their believers with joy.
I wish, “so the Joy is filled to you“.

This is our religion. There you go.
Christ is Heaven, my children.
What is Heaven? It is Christ.
From here and 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 His Joy,
because He 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 joyful blessing God.
The blessing ever sounded on the door of our soul and
waiting is to open, to come to dispose our heart and fill it.
The crew is the Christ, Our Lady, the Holy Trinity.
What a nice things!

When you love, you live in Heaven on earth and
not knowing that you are in Heaven.
Neither cars you see, or see the world or anything.
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 in everywhere, Christ is in everyone.

Christ is life, the Source of life, the source of Joy,
the source of Light of the True, 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 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, so 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 our friend; it is our 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 trust to 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, 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 be separated from Him,
even when we fall down and sin.
We ensure the Love and Like and 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 ceparate 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,
the relationship of the soul with God doesn’t cleaves anuthing and
doesn’t scares or shakes anything.

The Gospel, of course, says with symbolic words that the unjust will be found where there is “the grinding and gnashing of teeth
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, raised fears 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 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 love.
Whatever the groom desires to the bride.

If you want and follow Him and
This Life with Christ is Joy, even in 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.

For 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 is 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.
Elder Porphyrios Kafsokalyvitis

Elder Porphyrios Kafsokalyvitis has seen in practice
that God’s Grace operates within the Church,
that the faithful must be united in a single body, the Body of Christ,
that nobody can be saved if they seek only their own salvation,
that the believer’s experience of and desire and demand for unity
is a basic feature of the Church and a requirement of Salvation,
and that Love, which impels the soul to seek unity,
is essential if one is to enter and gain Salvation in the community
that is the uncreated Church of God on earth.

Orthodoxy & make a clean breast for our Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Lossky‘Orthodox Theology, an Introduction

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

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

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

Orthodoxy & 40 days of Lent

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

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

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

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

Orthodoxy & the need for support

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

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

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

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

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

Amos 8: 11-13

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

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

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

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

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

Orthodoxy & the period of Great Lent

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 58: 1-5

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 58: 3

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 58: 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.