Holy Church of the Dormition of Virgin Mary, Christchurch
Incredulity of Thomas.
Matins, Divine Liturgy & Blessing of Water.
8:00 – 10:45 a.m.
Irene the great Martyr
Matins, Divine Liturgy 9:00 – 11:30 am
Holy Myrrhbearers Sunday
John the Apostle, Evangelist, & Theologian
Matins, Divine Liturgy .8:00 – 10:45 a.m.
Epiphanios, Bishop of Cyprus
Service of Supplication to the Mother of God
10:00 – 11:45 a.m.
Sunday of the Paralytic
Pachomios the Great
Matins, Divine Liturgy .8:00 – 10:45 a.m.
Wednesday after Pascha - Mid-Pentecost
Matins, Divine Liturgy 9:00 – 11:30 am
Constantine & Helen, Equal-to-the Apostles
Matins, Divine Liturgy 9:00 – 11:30 am
22 Sunday Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
Matins, Divine Liturgy .8:00 – 10:45 a.m.
26 Thursday Carpos & Alphaeus, Apostles of the 70.
Service of Supplication to the Mother of God
10:00 – 11:45 a.m.
Sunday of the Blind Man
Matins, Divine Liturgy . 8:00 – 10:45 a.m.
Thou that didst weep over Lazarus,
and shed tears of sorrow and compassion for him,
accept the tears of my bitterness.
By Thy Passion cure my passions.
By Thy wounds, heal my wounds.
By Thy Blood, purge my blood;
mingle the fragrance of Thy life-creating Body with my body.
Let the gall Thou didst drink at enemies' hands
sweeten my soul from the bitterness which
the foe has given me to drink.
Let Thy Body,
O Lover of men, which was stretched on the Tree of the Cross,
extend toward Thee mine intellect
which is dragged evilly downward by demons.
Let Thy Head,
which Thou didst bow on the Cross, raise up my head,
which is buffeted by mine adversaries.
Let Thine all-holy Hands,
which were nailed to the Cross by the unbelieving Jews,
lead me out of the abyss of perdition to Thee,
as Thine All-holy Mouth hath promised.
Let Thy Countenance,
which received blows and spittings from accursed men,
brighten my countenance, which is stained with iniquities.
Let Thy Soul,
which on the Cross Thou didst commend to Thy Father,
guide me to Thee by Thy grace.
I have not a mournful heart wherewith to seek Thee,
I have no repentance,
I have no compunction,
which bring children into their proper inheritance.
O Master, I have not a comforting tear.
My mind is darkened by the affairs of this life,
and hath no strength to look steadfastly toward Thee with groaning.
My heart is grown cold from the multitude of temptations,
and cannot warm herself with tears of love for Thee.
But Thou, O Lord and God Jesus Christ,
the Treasury of good gifts,
grant me thorough repentance and a sorrowing heart,
that with all my soul I may go forth to seek Thee.
For without Thee,
I am a stranger to all that is good.
Therefore, O Good One,
freely grant me Thy grace.
Let the Father,
Who hath timelessly and everlastingly brought Thee forth from His bosom,
renew in me the features of Thine image.
I have forsaken Thee,
do not forsake me.
I have gone out from Thee,
come out to seek me,
and lead me up to Thy pasture,
and number me among the sheep of Thy chosen flock,
and nourish me with them on the verdure of Thy Divine Mysteries;
for their pure heart is Thy lodging-place,
and therein is the illumination of Thy revelations clearly beheld,
which is the comfort and refreshment
of those who for Thy sake have travailed
in afflictions an every kind of outrage.
May we also be deemed worthy of this illumination
by Thy grace and love for man,
O our Savior Jesus Christ,
unto the ages of ages.
by St Isaac the Syrian
Holy Church of the Dormition of Virgin Mary, Christchurch
Matins, Divine Liturgy 9:00 – 11:45 a.m.
Great Vespers 5:00-5:45 pm
17 Sunday Palm Sunday: Triumphant entry into Jerusalem
Matins, Divine Liturgy 8:00 – 10:45 a.m.
Divine Service of the Bridegroom (Nymfios). 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Great and Holy Monday.
Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified 9:00 – 11:00 am
Great Compline 5:00 – 6:00 pm
Divine Service of the Bridegroom (Nymfios) 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Great and Holy Tuesday .
The 10 Virgins .
Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts 9:00 – 11:00 am
Great Compline 5:00 – 6:00 pm
Divine Service of the Bridegroom (Nymfios) and Hymn of Cassiane 6:00 – 7:30 pm.
Great and Holy Wednesday.
Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts 9:00 – 11:00 am
The Sacrament of the Holy Unction 5:00 – 7:00 pm
21 Thursday Great and Holy Thursday. The Mystical Supper & the Passion of the Lord
Divine Liturgy 9:00 – 11:45 a.m.
Divine Service of Nymfios , Our Lord’s Passion & the 12 gospel readings
6:30 – 9:00 pm
22 Friday Holy & Great Friday Unnailing & Burial of our Lord
Royal hours, Vespers 8:30 – 11:00 am
Lamentation and Holy Ceremony of the Burial of Christ. 7:00 – 9:30 pm.
Great and Holy Saturday.
Divine Liturgy 7:00 – 8:30 am
Matins, Divine Liturgy of Our Lord’s Resurrection 23:00 pm – 1:45 am
Great and Holy Pascha.
Service of Love 11:00am – 12:30 pm
Renewal Monday. George the Great Martyr & Triumphant
Matins, Divine Liturgy
9:00 – 11:30 am
Today is Palm Sunday, and our Church celebrates the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, six days before the Jewish Passover.
The Gospel tells us that Jesus was in Bethany, where He had stayed at the home of Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead and his family had prepared a dinner for Christ to thank Him and Lazarus was one of those at the table. Mary, the sister of Lazarus, came and brought precious spices and wiped the Lord’s feet with them and dried them with her hair. This really upset Judas the miser and he said: “Why do you needlessly waste so much myrrh? It could rather be sold and the money given to the poor”.
The Evangelist then tells us that this was not out of any concern for the poor, but rather that he was avaricious and a thief and he was in charge of the treasury and helped himself to the cash. Avarice is idolatry and when one becomes a slave to money, he loses everything. Judas the wretched bondman even sold Jesus. And it wasn’t as if he gained anything. No. He threw the money back at the feet of those who had given it to him, went and hanged himself and lost both the present life and eternal life.
Jesus then defended Mary and said that this action was for His entombment and that “…the poor you shall have with you always, but me you shall not”. Jesus is our fervent love, he is all that we have, our entire life … He is everything. Woe to him, though, who will be a slave to avarice and changes from being one who loves Christ to one who loves money.
There were large crowds in Bethany, because they had heard that Christ had gone back there after the raising of Lazarus, after hiding for a while because of the envy of the Jews. They were there to see both Jesus and the risen Lazarus. And the Scribes and Pharisees thought of killing Lazarus. How evil is envy! How greatly it destroys him who is envious and how much evil can it cause! They even wanted to kill Lazarus. But, could not Christ raise him again from the dead as He had already done? It is laughable. How incensed does one become when envious! How badly does he lose his mind!
On the next day, Palm Sunday, Jesus went to the Holy city of Jerusalem and there were very many people, both those who had been in Bethany and others who had heard that he would be coming to Jerusalem and they all came out to meet Him. The ordinary people love Jesus and express their adoration in many ways. They took palm branches in their hands and glorified Christ the Messiah and pre-symbolized His victory over death with these palms and laurels which are symbols of victory and immortality. Then the Apostles, once Jesus was on the foal of the ass and had entered the city as a humble and mild king, understood the prophecy of Zachariah who had foretold this entry ( the donkey is a symbol of peace, the horse a symbol of war).
The people were shaken by this entry of Jesus Christ. This is how people are. While the avarice and envy of those in authority destroy their lives, honest people and all good people, run to Jesus Christ who is riches, love joy and eternal life.
A blessed Resurrection!
I asked God to take away. My habit.
God said, No.
It is not for me to take away, But for you to give it up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, No.
His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, No. Patience is a byproduct of tribulations;
It isn't granted, it is learned.
I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, No.
I give you blessings;
Happiness is up to you.
I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, No.
Suffering draws you apart from
Worldly cares and brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, No. You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.
I asked God for all things
That I might enjoy life.
God said, No.
I will give you life,
So that you may enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me..
Finally you have the idea.
THIS DAY IS YOURS
DON'T THROW IT AWAY
May God Bless You,
'To the world you might be one person,
But to one person you just might be the world'
'May the Lord Bless you and keep you,
May the Lord Make his face shine upon you,
And give you Peace......Forever'
'Good friends are like stars...
You don't always see them, But you know they are always there.
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion, Thou didst confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with palms of victory, We cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death; Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!
Chanted by: Vassilis Hadjinicolaou
They only rely on the signals given by their instructors who stand at the four corners of the stage. Truly amazing!!!As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
A thousand hands will naturally come to your aid
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
You will reach out with a thousand hands to help others
.Guan Yin is the bodhisattva of compassion, revered by Buddhists as the Goddess of Mercy. Her name is short for Guan Shi Yin. Guan means to observe, watch, or monitor; Shi means the world; Yin means sounds, specifically sounds of those who suffer. Thus, Guan Yin is a compassionate being who watches for, and responds to, the people in the world who cry out for help.
Ambition and demand and how to cure them.
Today is the fifth Sunday of Lent and our Church is preparing us even more for Christ’s passion. We hear Christ Himself in the Gospel, speaking ever more clearly of His passion to His disciples and Apostles. While in last Sunday’s Gospel He told them that He would be given into the hands of men, generally and non-specifically, He now identifies these people, who are the Scribes and Hierarchs and the spiritual leaders of the Jews.
He continues and clearly tells them of His passion, that they will mock Him, they will crucify Him and that he will die. He also gives them the joyous news that, after three days, He will rise. This is what Christ does. When something huge and difficult is about to happen, He prepares us in His own way.
The Apostles however showed that they did not understand. James and John, two of His three favourites, even asked Him for something serious. They brushed aside the other Apostles, and having first set their mother, Salome, to do the asking, they asked Christ to give them the first two seats in His Kingdom. They believed that this kingdom would be an earthly one and they wanted to be FIRST. How evil is ambition - for one to want to trample on others in order to show himself and to be dominant. The Lord was saddened and reprimanded them. He also said, though, that there is good ambition! “You do not know what you are asking”, He said. Firstly, I am not going to create a temporal kingdom and secondly I am not seeking this sort of ascent, for that is the way to fall. I want the way of toil, sacrifice and grace”.
He then asked if they were able to drink of the cup that He was about to drink – that is, to die. They said “Yes”. One who is so ambitious, sees things in a different light and thinks that he can do all things, just to succeed in his aims. He also gives everything, just to succeed.
And the Lord said: “You will die as martyrs, but to receive your place on my right and on my left is not my doing, for it is God’s on the one hand and yours on the other, for the great seats need great toil and great sacrifices”.
When they heard this, the ten were indignant, for they too were ambitious and they too wanted the honour seats. “Why them and not us?”, they thought. This happens in our lives on earth, every day and every second. Even today, we see things and we suffer and the powers that be, want to lead nations, to impose their beliefs and ideas through violence, blood and oppression.
Jesus then took them aside, did not chastise them, neither did He advise them against what they were doing, but said: “Come here, my children. People here on earth do these things, but for us, things are different. Whoever wants to be great, must become a servant. And he who wants to be first, must become a slave to all. Do you want an example? Take me. I did not come to be served, but to serve. I did not come to sacrifice, but to be sacrificed and to give my life as a ransom for all, that all may be free”.
Therefore, the cure for ambition is humility and love. As Christ Himself did. If we want to, let us follow Him and we will be cured from all evil ambition and demand and everything negative and our lives will shine both here and in the eternal creation.
Committing Sins and Committing to God: A Sermon on St. Mary of Egypt
Orthodox Christianity records many accounts of conversion experiences. Throughout her long history the Church has commemorated thousands of men and women saints whose former unethical and undesirable lifestyles were transformed into a wholesome Christian existence of submission and obedience to the will of God.
By God's grace, the one-time rulers, persecutors, tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, and murderers, today make up our canon of saints. This reality bears witness to the Church's raison d'être; to why our Lord established the Church within the world. The Church is God's ultimate vehicle for transforming people's lives. The Church's main purpose is to heal, sanctify, and save all believers.
In Orthodox theology, the Church is properly called the "redeemed community" of Christ Jesus, a union of sinners constantly struggling and growing toward God's eternal Kingdom, of which the Church offers only a glimpse. To suggest that the Church exists only for the holy and worthy is to undermine its whole nature, if not ridicule Christ, who came into this world to save sinners and established the Church to continue this ministry of conversion and salvation.
The life of St. Mary of Egypt
The saints of the Church then come right out of the ranks of us sinners. On this Fifth Sunday of Great Lent, the Church remembers and honors one such sinner turned saint: Mary of Egypt. Her life is extraordinary. St. Mary was an individual who represented a cross section of the immoral, fallen world of her day, a woman whose powerful conversion experience from a life of prodigality to a life of holiness and purity has been the focus of much admiration among the Orthodox.
St. Mary lived during the fourth century A.D. At the tender age of twelve, she relocated with her parents to the prominent metropolitan city of Alexandria , in Egypt , where she lived on her own for seventeen years as a loathsome prostitute. So enveloped was the young Mary in her sexual sins that many times out of desperation, she sought out clients for herself without requesting any payment in return. Her fellow citizens looked down on her lowliness as a harlot and treated her with the utmost disrespect. Mary in turn resented her accusers, living in seclusion, and realizing that she was willfully throwing her life away.
Until one day . . .
A group of Christians gathered to embark on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the solemn feast of the Elevation of the Cross. Driven by curiosity, Marytagged along with the group. When the Alexandrian Christians arrived in Jerusalem , they headed immediately for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Christendom's most sacred shrine, built over the place where our Lord was crucified and the tomb from which He rose.
As Mary reached the gates of the church, some invisible power obstructed her from physically entering in. Pious worshipers passed her on either side and made their entrance, but Mary's limbs seemed to become stiff and petrified. As Mary peered into the church, she saw every Christian falling to his knees as the Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ, still fully intact, was raised and processed around the sanctuary. Mary's gaze then fell upon an icon of her namesake, the Blessed Virgin Theotokos, and immediately, Mary also dropped to her knees in deep contrition, weeping uncontrollably for the sins she had committed.
Leaving the church, she returned the day after, this time able to physically enter and venerate the Precious Wood. At that moment, Mary decided to change her life by dedicating the remainder of it to God through repentance. That same day, she left the Holy City , crossed the Jordan River , and entered the desert, where she lived in all piety, humility, and poverty for 47 years.
For almost half a century, Mary engaged herself in strenuous fasts and prayed to God unceasingly, repenting over her former life and praising the God whose mercy and compassion back in Jerusalem made her aware of the seriousness of her spiritual condition and saved her.
Toward the end of her life, St. Mary sent word to a priest named Zosimas to come to the desert and offer her Holy Communion. St. Zosimas came to the dying Mary on Holy Thursday and communed her. Returning the year after to the same place in the desert where he had last seen St. Mary, Fr. Zosimas found her dead, asleep in the Lord.
Miraculously, he found her body undecomposed and uncontaminated, fragrant with the grace of the Most Holy Spirit of God. Next to her body there lay a note, written by St. Mary's own hand, which read: "Father Zosima, in this region bury the body of the lowly Mary. I surrendered my spirit the same day that I communed the Precious Gifts. Please pray for me." Edified by this miraculous woman, St. Zosimas offered St. Mary a Christian burial. Church historians place the date of her falling asleep as April 1, 378 or 437 A.D.
The meaning of the life of St. Mary of Egypt
Two aspects of St. Mary of Egypt 's life stand out and are worth noting. First, Mary's complete immersion in her sins made her cognizant of just how serious her spiritual state was. Second, God's full-force attempt to transform Mary's life made her abundantly aware of just how much God loved her and how much she desired to follow Christ and serve Him. Let us examine both aspects in greater detail.
Mary's complete immersion in her sins made her aware just how serious her spiritual state was. Like most harlots and people of ill repute in her day, Mary had no time (and made no time) for personal meditation and inner spiritual assessment. She offered herself from client to client, blinded by her transgressions. She did not realize she was spiritually ill. She did not know there was something really wrong with her. Then her past struck her in the face like a brick, then was her heart pierced with the pain of knowing how many souls she led to the gates of hell, including her own. Mary's immersion in sin was the final motivating force behind her conversion. It proved, in the end, a great blessing, because it reinforced in her heart and mind the severity of her sinfulness and the immediacy of conversion.
If Mary of Egypt had sinned only a few times, then repented, and again fell into the same sins, her conversion process not only may have been lukewarm, but also may never have occurred at all. A little sprinkle of rain will not cause a person to run inside for shelter, but a violent downpour will. St. Mary experienced this "downpour" of sins, this unrelenting storm in her spiritual life. With God's grace, she ran for cover and was saved. For this reason must we never gossip or condemn or criticize others because, believe it or not, they may very well become tomorrow's saints, like Mary of Egypt.
God's full-force attempt to transform Mary made her realize just how great God's love for her was. Many times God reveals His power to us in a physical, materialistic way, in a way He knows will appeal to and be understood by a physically minded world. Before Christ spoke to people's souls, He knew that He had to make known His power on a purely physical level.
For St. Mary of Egypt , it was an "invisible forcefield" at the gates of the Holy Church . For St. Paul , it was a blinding light on the road to Antioch . For Lazarus' sisters, it was the bodily resurrection of their brother following his four-day entombment. In each circumstance, the recipients of the miracle do not simply become physically healed; instead, a deep faith and devotion, once dormant in them, now becomes alive and draws them into a deeper understanding and love for God. As Jesus says regarding Lazarus: "This [Lazarus'] sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of man may be glorified through it" (John 11.4). The same with the blind man (John 9.3). God's love is mysteriously manifested through the actions He takes in people's lives ¬ actions which at times are quite harsh ¬ to induce more faith and thus to effect within them a spiritual as well as physical healing.
My dear people, the Church today lifts up St. Mary of Egypt as a prime example of repentance and conversion. In her life we witness two necessary extremes, which lead her to change: her complete sinfulness and God's sublime revelation within the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem . Sometimes such extremes, humanity going one way and God forcefully chasing after us, are blessings in disguise, ways in which God tries to redeem a lost situation and give to it meaning and direction.
Indeed, to know God fully in His goodness many times means we must encounter evil in His absence, or at least hardships. Then only can we truly appreciate His fatherly love and never again want to leave Him. Remember once again the Prodigal Son from the Bible. At the lowest point in his life did he "come to his senses" and return back to his father. The road, like the one St. Mary of Egypt traveled, was a long and narrow one, but it was also the most direct road to the Kingdom of God .
Fr. Stylianos Muksuris, BA, MDiv, MLitt, PhD (candidate), is a graduate of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline , MA , and the University of Durham , Durham , UK , and specializes in Eastern Liturgy and Theology. His doctoral dissertation is entitled "Economia and Eschatology: The Mystagogical Significance of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy's Prothesis Rite in the Commentaries of Sts. Nicholas Cabasilas and Symeon of Thessalonike". He has also authored "The Anaphorae of the Liturgy of Sts. Addai and Mari" and the "Byzantine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great: A Comparative Study" (unpublished MLitt thesis). He may be reached at: email@example.com.
Fr. Stelyios Muksuris
O Lord Eternal and Creator of all things, Who of Thy inscrutable goodness called me to this life; Who bestowed on me the grace of Baptism and the Seal of the Holy Spirit; Who imbued me with the desire to seek Thee, the one true God: hear my prayer.
I have no life, no light, no joy or wisdom; no strength except in Thee, O God.
Because of my unrighteousness I dare not raise my eyes to Thee. But Thou said to Thy disciples, 'Whatsoever you shall ask in prayer believing, you shall receive.'
and 'Whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do.' Wherefore I dare to invoke Thee. Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit. Teach me to pray aright.
Bless this day which Thee give unto me, Thy unworthy servant. By the power of Thy blessing enable me at all times to speak and act to Thy glory with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love, gentleness, peace, courage and wisdom:
aware always of Thy presence.
Of Thy immense goodness, O Lord God, show me the path of Thy will, and grant me to walk in Thy sight without sin. O Lord, unto Whom all hearts be open, Thee know what things I have need of. Thee are acquainted with my blindness and my ignorance, Thee know my infirmity and my soul's corruption; but neither are my pain and anguish hid from Thee. Wherefore I beseech Thee, hear my prayer and by Thy Holy Spirit teach me the way wherein I should walk; and when my perverted will would lead me down other paths pare me not O Lord, but force me back to Thee. By the power of Thy love, grant me to hold fast to that which is good.
Preserve me from every word or deed that corrupts the soul; from every impulse unpleasing in Thy sight and hurtful to my brother-man. Teach me what I should say and how I should speak. If it be Thy will that I make no answer, inspire me to keep silent in a spirit of peace that causes neither sorrow nor hurt to my fellow man.
Establish me in the path of Thy commandments and to my last breath let me not stray from the light of Thy ordinances, that Thy commandments may become the sole law of my being on this earth and all eternity.
Yea, Lord, I pray to Thee, have pity on me. Spare me in my affliction and my misery and hide not the way of salvation from me. In my foolishness, O God, I plead with Thee for many and great things. Yet am I ever mindful of my wickedness, my baseness, my vileness. Have mercy upon me. Cast me not away from your presence because of my presumption. Do Thee rather increase in me this presumption, and grant unto me, the worst of men, to love Thee as Thee have commanded, with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength: with my whole being.
Yea, O Lord, by Thy Holy Spirit, teach me good judgment and knowledge. Grant me to know Thy truth before I go down into the grave. Maintain my life in this world until I may offer unto Thee worthy repentance. Take me not away in the midst of my days, nor while my mind is still blind. When Thee shall be pleased to bring my life to an end, forewarn me that I may prepare my soul to come before Thee. Be with me, O Lord, at that dread hour and grant me the joy of salvation.
Cleanse me from secret faults, from all iniquity that is hidden in me; and give me a right answer before Thy judgment-seat. Lord, of Thy great mercy and immeasurable love for mankind, receive my prayer. Amen.
«l will arise and go to my father and will say to him, "Father. I have sinned against heave, and before you»». (Luke 15:18)
There are always some bad moments in our lives. A bad moment is when we decide to do something wrong, commit a sin. Bad moments are those when we decide to steal, be unfair, denigrate someone and lie to the detriment of a fellow human being. Bad moments are those when we aim at splitting up a married couple, destroying a household or killing someone like an innocent and helpless embryo during its first days, or a baby during its first hours of life. A bad moment is when we betray our benefactors.
A bad moment is when we deny Christ or our country. A bad moment for the prodigal son was when he decided to leave his father. A bad moment for Judas was when he betrayed Christ Bad moments for the Apostle Peter were he denied his Teacher three times. A bad moment for Demas was when he deserted Apostle Paul, which made the great Apostle whisper and write in bitterness «for Demas has forsaken me» (2 Tim. 4:10). A bad moment was when Ephialtes betrayed Leonidas and his three hundred warriors at the narrow passage at Thermopyles. Bad moments... lots of them. But there are also good moments in our lives.
A good moment for the prodigal son was when he took the big decision to return to his father. What a sweet moment that must have been for the prodigal son, «l will get up», he said, «l will get up and go back to my father. I will fall at his feet and say to him: My father, I sinned before you and before God. I am not worthy to be called your child. I betrayed you and hurt you. I will arise and go to my father». (Luke15:18). And truly he got up and took the way back along the road of repentance. He returned to his father and did exactly what he had planned in the distant country where he had lived in dissoluteness. He fell at his father's feet full of repentance and contirion. In tears which nearly drowned his feeble voice he asked his caring father to allow him to be, not a child, but a humble and lowly servant of his household. A servant who would be able merely to stave off his hunger and thirst. Nothing more. But the big heart of the father forgave all of his child's past prodigality. Before his child's overwhelming repentance the troubled father wrote his sorrows in water and wind and welcomed his child back. Not as a servant, as the child himself had asked, but as a child.
And then something even greater happened in the father's household. There came happiness and a feast was at hand. All the servants were put on alert and started rushing back and forth to prepare the feast. One servant brought the prodigal son's robe, a second servant brought his sandals, while a third servant brought the ring as a symbol of the son's eternal bond with his father. The fourth sevant slaughtered the fatted calf while others were cleaning the house and did various other chores. Such happiness had never been seen in the household for a long time. These were good moments, very good moments, when the prodigal son decided to leave behind him all prodigal living and return to his father.
Such moments can also be seen in the lives of contemporary prodigal children. There was once a young woman who was living very comfortably in a large village. Her parents were very proud of her because she was very young, honest, pure, humble and discreet. But the Devil tricked her into sin, through her peers who exerted a negative influence on her. What terrible effects indeed bad peers can have on a person. This simple and unassuming village girl started to paint and cut her hair thinking she would be fashionable. Let us presume behaviour like that doesn't do any harm. But alas she went even further. She started wearing short dresses and then started wearing trousers. Let us presume even that doesn't really matter. She went even further. She started drinking ouzo (strong alcoholic beverage) and smoking.
But does that not matter either? Let us presume so. Unfortunately, however she kept on compromising her morality. A rock that rolls is not sure to stop. She then started relationships with boys. At first only on a friendly level and then in a more involved way. And then came her first fall. The first moral defeat. So what happened then? What could happen? She started staying out late at night at various clubs until one night she didn't go back home. She «journeyed to a far country» as had the prodigal son. Her poor mother could not find consolation. Her life was full of lamentation.
Fortunately, however the mother was a faithful woman. Enlightened by God she did the following: she found a photograph and with great pain she wrote behind the photograph: «My daughter, your Mother is waiting for you». She then went to the big city where her daughter was residing and found the club her daughter was frequenting. She hung the photograph on the wall and went back to her village. She waited. Many people saw the photograph but did not pay any attention. But when the prodigal daughter saw it, the miracle that the troubled mother was praying for, occurred. The daughter was overwhelmed. She fell down and started to cry. And while she thought of her Mother's word: «My daughter, your Mother is waiting for you», she would cry and lament even more. Then came the good moment for the prodigal daughter. Full of conviction now she whispered: «Mother, I am coming back». And she did go back. She returned and fell into her mother's arms bringing great happiness back to her household in the same great manner as the prodigal son.
One more story and we will finish. A story with good moments in it, too. Here, the prodigal figure is not a young man or woman. Here, the prodigal figure is an old man. The Devil tricks not only young people but old people also. This old man was living prodigally for many years. He was living prodigally by being a gambler, drunkard and engaging in all other types of corrupt behaniour. Many times he would abandon his wife and children, living here and there. He passed his fifty years of age. He became sixty and yet he was still living prodigally. However, at the age of sixty three his good moment came. At that age he had read a religious pamphlet which inspired him. He was moved to tears as if he were a young child. He cried for hours and then for days. Then he eagerly sought a confessor and after having confessed his sins felt relieved. In that manner he put an end to his sinful ways and returned to God. Unfortunately though he did not live for many more years to take pleasure in his new mode of living. He died at the age of seventy.
Before he passed away he asked his relatives to engrave the following words upon his grave: «Here lies a man aged seventy who only lived for seven years». The seven years that he had lived close to God.
The good moment came for the prodigal son, the prodigal daughter and the elderly man we mentioned. When will this good moment come for you?
By: Echoes from Galilee , Very Rev. Gervasios Raptopoulos
For Thou art the Bread of Life, the Fountain of Holiness, the Giver of all that is Good, and unto Thee we ascribe Glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and from all Ages to all Ages. Amen
Thou Who grants me willingly nourishment of Thine own Flesh: Thou Who art Fire and burns up the unworthy, do not scorch me, O my Maker, but rather pass through me for the right ordering of my members, into all my joints, my affections, and my heart. Burn up the thorns of all my offences; Purify my soul; Sanctify my mind; make strong my knees and my bones; Enlighten the simplicity of my five senses; nail down the whole of me with Thy Fear.
Always Protect, Guard and Watch over me, and keep me from every soul destroying deed and word.
Sanctify and Purify and order me; make me clean, give me Understanding and Enlighten me; make me worthy to be the habitation of the Only Holy Spirit, and no longer a habitation of sin; so that as Thine Abode from the Entrance of Thy Holy Communion, every evil deed and passion may flee from me like fire.
As supplicants I bring to Thee all those whom Thou hast Sanctified: the Leaders of the Angelic Powers; Thy Forerunner; Thine Enlightened Apostles; and further, Thy Pure and Spotless Mother.
Receive the Prayers of these, O Merciful Christ, and make Thy slave a Child of Light. For Thou art our Sanctification and our only Good, and the Illumination of our souls, and unto Thee as our God and Master each day as is fitting,
we ascribe all Glory, Honour and Worship. Amen
Lord Jesus Christ, our God, may Thy Holy Body be unto me for Everlasting Life and Thy Precious Blood for the Forgiveness of sins.
And may this Holy Eucharist be Joy, Health and Gladness for me and at Thine awful Second Coming make me, a sinner, worthy to stand at the right hand of Thy Glory, through the Intercessions of Thy Pure Mother and of all Thy Saints. Amen.
Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent, dear friends, and we celebrate the memory of our venerable father John of Sinai, author of the Ladder (The Ladder of Divine Ascent). We are slowly ascending towards Holy and Great Friday and the Sunday of Pascha, and our Church is preparing us as Christ prepared his disciples and Apostles for His voluntary Passion.
The Holy Gospel according to St Mark, transports us to Mount Tabor. Jesus and His three well-known disciples have gone up the mountain where He was transfigured before them and they saw, as much as they were able to, the glory of His Divine nature, so that they could get strength and have courage also during the hour of His Passion. They came down from the mountain and found the rest among many people and a sick person, who was possessed, whose father came to Jesus because the Apostles were not able to heal him and complained to Him. Jesus was saddened and called them all “a faithless generation”. He was saddened at finding Himself among faithless people, among people who had no trust in Him and people who did not understand Him. The father shouted and said: “The Apostle could do nothing, so if you can, do something”.
Prayer – because what that father did was also prayer, even though it was weak and fainthearted – does great good for people, always, especially during great difficulties and problems. Our lives too have become extremely difficult today and we need God’s presence, His love and His protection. We get God’s strength through prayer, as well as through fasting, especially now in the period of Holy and Great Lent. It is through prayer that we rise to the Lord and leave behind all concerns. Through fasting even our bodies become light and can rise too. Our bodies become spiritual and through fasting can also avoid illness and torment and many other things. The Church which appointed fasting, is omniscient, even from a medical and scientific perspective.
Christ shows His concern for the possessed man. He asked how long he had been suffering and his father replied: “Since he was a child, so if you can, do something”. And Jesus said to him: “If you have faith, I can do everything”. And then, seeing that crowds were assembling and as He does not like conceit and exhibition, he ordered the demon to depart. Let people say that there is no demon and that demons are a philosophical explanation of evil. It would be great if this was true. There are demons and they torment us and only Christ and the Church can liberate us from them. So, He ordered the demon to depart. And after it had screamed loudly and quivered and tormented his possessor, it departed. The child fell down and many thought that he had died. Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up. That’s what Jesus does. After prayer and fasting we give Him our hand and He gives us His. And so we build a relationship with Him, we communicate with Him and gain strength. He then gave the child to his father.
Our youth today can be demonized and can shake and fall and die, many times literally. Only Christ and the holy Church can help them.
Finally, His Apostles asked Him, when they were alone with Christ, why they were not able to get rid of the demon. The Lord did not rebuke them for their faithlessness and difficulties. Jesus does not reprimand, we do. But he told them that this type of demon does not depart in any other way other than with prayer and fasting. Prayer and fasting then are the most powerful weapons in our lives.
Finishing the Gospel, Jesus made a second forewarning of His Passion, telling them that He would be crucified, given over to the hands of the people, not the hands of demons who are the worst, but into the hands of people who He befriended who would kill Him, but that He would rise on the third day. He told them of the Resurrection so that they could have courage.
Every time we have a problem and we are crucified, Christ gives us a window to look towards the future, the optimistic future, to the Light and the Resurrection.
We once asked an elder, "How can a person receive divine grace?"
"One cannot receive divine grace unless he endures all temptations as they come," he replied and then added: "The greatest obstacle that obstructs God's grace is self-love. When I God finds one's heart emptied of all desires, He fills it with His grace, which is impossible to describe. It can only be experienced in one's heart. But even a moment's sinful thoughts can make this grace withdraw."
When the athlete of asceticism, the hermit Petros, who laboured in the cave of St. Peter the Athonite, felt God's grace in his heart, he would exclaim, "The Lord hit me with a javelin of mercy!"
An elder said, "People of today do not have God's grace I And if they sometimes have a little bit of it, they cast it away Then the demons stay with them. Bad thoughts obstruct divine grace. No ascesis is as powerful as good thoughts. Good thoughts come only to those who see everything through cleansed eyes."
A contemporary venerable hesychast would say to me: "Not many people are graced these days. Frequently we remain empty of God's grace. Then through a sorrow or difficulty
it comes back to us again."
An elder said, "Many times our prayers are not answered because of us. Other times it is because of someone else and for a different reason. For example, someone asks me to pray for a person who is ill. I pray and let's say I have sufficient faith and am not egotistical. Still God does not answer my prayer, because the other person is not humble enough. He may believe that God will help, but his ego stands in the way We must trust God. We should let Him do whatever He wills. If I pray correctly, I may feel the removal of the temptation, and everything will go well. Any time, however, that God allows us to go through a temptation, it is for our own benefit, and we should probably not ask God to deliver us from that difficulty If the difficulty is caused by the Devil, then God helps us right away. Many times God's will is unknown to us."
An ascetic once was asked: "How is it that many times we don't feel anything when we pray, either in church or privately somewhere else?"
He answered: "There are many possible reasons. Sometimes you may feel deep compunction, or you may sense that the Lord has given you a sweet consolation, though not as a result of your own labour. Then, because you did not understand these things, He takes them away until you understand. There is always a purpose to these things.
"In any case, do not strive for the gift of tears while praying, or for any other spiritual gift, for that matter. The silent suffering within a person for some sin done in the past is the best gift. Forced tears in prayer can be dangerous because they can create illusions about one's spiritual state.
"Tears give rest. A deep sigh many times could be worth— I am not sure, this is only my thought, and I might be wrong—such a deep sigh might be worth more than a basketful of tears.
"We should not ask from God the gift of tears; rather we should ask Him for repentance, over and over again. We need repentance."
ΑΝ ATHONITE GERONTIKON
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