Two weeks ago we celebrated the great feast of Pentecost at which the Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord’s followers, making them members of His Body, the Church. A week ago we celebrated the Sunday of All Saints, remembering all those who have become living icons of our Lord’s salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit. Since then, we have begun the Apostles Fast, a period in which we embrace a fairly light discipline of self-restraint in our diets in order to gain the spiritual strength that we need to become more like the apostles who responded faithfully to Christ’s command “Follow Me.”
Monthly Archives: June 2019
~ Words of the Church Fathers ~
St John Maximovitch: . . . God saves His fallen creature by His own love for him, but man’s love for his Creator is also necessary. Now the Church consists of both her earthly and heavenly parts, for the Son of God came to earth and became man that He might lead man into heaven and make him once again a citizen of Paradise, returning to him his original state of sinlessness and wholeness and uniting him unto Himself.
This is accomplished by the action of Divine grace grated through the Church, but man’s effort is also required. God saves His fallen creature by His own love for him, but man’s love for his Creator is also necessary; without it he cannot by saved. Striving towards God and cleaving unto the Lord by its humble love, the human soul obtains power to cleanse itself from sin and to strengthen itself for the struggle to complete victory over sin.
St John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, “The Church as the Body of Christ,” Man of God: Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco
If you are like me, sometimes when you read the lives of the saints you shake your head and think, “I could never do anything like that.” Many endured horrible tortures to the point of death because they refused to deny Christ. Others denied themselves food, clothing, and shelter in ways that seem beyond the strength of human beings. Some accepted insult and abuse while forgiving their tormentors and turning the other cheek in a fashion that seems not of this world. As today’s epistle reading reminds us, the Old Testament saints endured such trials purely in anticipation of the coming of the Saviour. Most of us, who have received the fullness of the promise in Christ, cannot fathom how we could be nearly as faithful as was this cloud of witnesses who point us by their examples and prayers to commend our lives to Christ.
The Holy Apostle Peter ~
The son of Jonah and brother of Andrew the First-Called, of the tribe of Simeon and the town of Bethsaida. he was a fisherman and was at first called Simon, but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas, or Peter (Jn 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to give clear expression to his faith in the Lord Jesus, saying: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt, 16:16). His love for the Lord was very strong, and his faith in Him went from strength to strength. When the Lord was put on trial Peter denied Him three times, but it needed only one look into the face of the Lord. and Peter’s soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit. Peter became a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. After his first sermon in Jerusalem, about 3,000 souls were converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, in Italy and in lllyria. He performed many wonders, healing the sick and raising the dead, and even his shadow had the power of healing the sick. He had a major struggle with Simon the Magician, who declared himself to be from God but was actually a servant of the devil. He finally put him to shame and overcame him. Peter was condemned to death on the order of the wicked Em-peror Nero, a friend of Simon’s. After installing Linus as Bishop of Rome and exhorting and encouraging the flock of Christ there, Peter went to his death with joy. When he saw the cross before him, he asked the executioner to crucify him upside-down, because he felt himself to be unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord. And so this great servant of the greatest Master went to his rest and received a crown of eternal glory.
The Holy Apostle Paul ~
Born in Tarsus and of the tribe of Benjamin, he was formerly called Saul and studied under Gamaliel. He was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christians. He was wondrously converted to the Christian faith by the Lord Himself, who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was baptised by the Apostle Ananias, named Paul and enrolled in the work of the Great Apostles. He preached the Gospel everywhere with burning zeal, from the borders of Arabia to the land of Spain, among both the Jews and the heathen, and receiving the title of ‘the Apostle to the Gentiles’. His fearful sufferings were matched only by his superhuman endurance. Through all the years of his preaching, he hung from day to day like a thread between life and death. Filling his days and nights with toil and suffering for Christ, organising the Church in many places and reaching a high level of perfection, he was able to say: ‘I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal. 2:20). He was beheaded in Rome in the reign of Nero, at the same time as St Peter.
John 7:37-52, 8:12 ~ Save and sanctify all who know You as God
I will try to say a few words to analyse this sublime line taken from the hymn for this great day of Pentecost.
In Cyprus, the suffering island, where Greek Orthodox identity is more purely, fully and faithfully upheld, they call this day ‘the day of the flood’. Which means that the heavens and God Himself flooded the world – not with threatening waters, as when the world was destroyed in the time of Noah. Instead, He has flooded the world with endless gifts, which the life-giving death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, has opened up for all of us on earth.
‘But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you’ (John 14:26).
What practical meaning have these words other than that we must pray every day that the Holy Spirit be sent to us, just as we pray every day for Our daily bread?
God is willing every day to send us the Holy Spirit, but He seeks from us that we pray every day for Him to be sent to us. For as, with regard to bread, there is sometimes abundance and sometimes dearth, so it is with regard to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us and leaves us according to our good works and our patience. Therefore the Church has ordained that the first morning service in church begin with the invocation of the Holy Spirit: ‘O heavenly King, O Comforter, Spirit of truth – come!’, and after that comes the prayer: ‘Give us our daily bread.’ Why? Because, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot even make use of bread in the way that we must for our salvation.
‘He shall teach you all things.’ That is: every day and every night, according in the situation in which you find yourself, He will instruct you, advise you and direct you in what you must think, say and do. Therefore, ask God only for the Holy Spirit, and He will Himself bring all that you need in any given moment. When He has descended upon you, you will know all things and be capable of all that is needful.
‘And bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you’. That is: do not fear that you will forget My teaching and My words. The Holy Spirit knows all that I know; so, when He is present with you, then all My teaching will be present in you together with Him.
O Lord the Holy Spirit, be pleased to descend upon us, not according to our merit but according to the merit of the Lord Jesus, and according to Thine endless goodness. To Thee be glory and praise forever.
St Nikolai Velimiroviċ, The Prologue from Ochrid
John 17: 1-13
Today we remember the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of 325 A.D. The Church brings into remembrance those faithful Fathers who defended the Apostolic Faith in the face of one of the greatest challenges to the truth of Christ. We remember so that we may be vigilant in our own day and in our own lives to safeguard the truth of Christ that we may truly know Christ.