Friday, 18 August 2017

On the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ

Homily on the Day of the Lord’s Transfiguration

By our Venerable Father Ephraim the Syrian, the Deacon + 373 A.D.


Our Saviour led the Apostles up into the mountain to show them the glory of His Divinity and to grant them to know that He is the Redeemer of Israel, as He had declared through the Prophets, and so that they would not be tempted concerning Him, when they would see His voluntary Passion, which He was to suffer for our sakes in His human nature.  For they knew Him as a man, but they did not comprehend that He was God.  They knew that He was the Son of Mary, a man, living with them in the world.  And on the mountain He gave them to comprehend that He is the Son of God, and God.  They saw that He ate and He drank, that He was wearied and that He rested, that He became tired and that He slept, that He experienced fear and that He poured forth sweat, but all of this did not correspond to His Divine nature, but pertained only to the human. Therefore He led them up into the mountain, so that the Father might proclaim His Son, and so that He might show them that He was in actuality the Son of God, and God.

    He took them up into the mountain and He showed them the glory of His Divinity before the Resurrection so that when He rose from the dead in the glory of His Divine nature, they would understand that He had not received that glory as a reward for this feat, or as one who had been in need of such glory, but that before the ages the glory had been His together with the Father and of the Father, as He Himself said when going to the voluntary passion: O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was (John 17:5).

    Thus this glory of His Divinity, invisible and hidden in the human nature, was manifested to the Apostles on the mountain. They saw His face shining like lightning, and His clothes white as light. The disciples beheld two suns: the one was visible to them and was shining upon the world from the firmament, and the Other manifested His face to them alone.  His clothing appeared white as light, because from His whole Body the glory of His Divinity poured forth, and in all the members of His flesh the light shone forth.  It was not as with Moses; it was not something exterior to Him that lightened His flesh with splendour, but rather the glory of His Divinity pouring forth from Him; His light rose up from within Him and in Him was it concentrated; it did not transfer from Him to something else, thus leaving Him; it did not strike Him from the side so as to adorn Him, and it was not something borrowed for Him.  Nor did it show them the whole abyss of His glory, but only as much as the pupils of their eyes could apprehend.

    There appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him (Matt. 17:3). Thus the ascent of the mountain was a joy to the prophets and the Apostles.  The prophets rejoiced seeing His humanity, which they had not known; the Apostles rejoiced seeing His Divinity which they had not apprehended.  And when they heard the voice of the Father, bearing witness to the Son, they understood thereby what had not formerly been clear to them: that He had become man. And together with the voice of the Father, the glory of His body, with which unalterably and unconfusedly the Divinity was united in Him, and which glory had become manifest, bore testimony to them.  And the testimony was sealed by three voices, that of the Father, as well as those of Moses and Elias, who stood before Him as servants. 

    And they looked one upon another, the prophets upon the Apostles and the Apostles upon the prophets.  The leaders of the Old Testament and the leaders of the New Testament beheld each other there. Moses the holy beheld the sanctified Simon. The steward of the Father’s house saw him who had given lodging to the Son.  The one had divided the sea, so that the people might cross between the billows; the other had proposed a tabernacle so that he might build the Church.  Elias looked upon John; he who had ascended in a fiery chariot upon him who had leaned upon the burning breast.  Thus this mountain became an image of the Church, and Jesus unites therein the two Testaments which the Church accepts, and He gave us to comprehend that He Himself is the Giver of both Testaments: the one received His mysteries and the other manifested the glory of His works.

    And Peter said: Let us make here three tabernacles, one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias (Matt. 17:4). Simon was sent to build the Church in the world, and behold he makes three tabernacles on the mountain, because he still regarded Jesus as a man and places Him on a level with Moses and Elias.  But the Lord immediately shows him that He does not require his tabernacles, because He is the One Who for the course of forty years provided a tabernacle of cloud for his forefathers in the wilderness.  For as he yet spoke, such a bright cloud overshadowed them (Matt. 17:5).  Behold, Simon, a tabernacle made without travail, a tabernacle which protects from the heat and in which there is no shadow, a tabernacle which is like lightning and radiant.

    While the disciples yet wondered, the voice of the Father was heard from the cloud: This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.  The Father speaks of the Son, not separating Him from the glory of the Divinity. For the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit are of one Nature, one Power, one Essence and one Kingdom.  And He addresses the One with a name which is not exalted, but is awesome in its glory.  Mary also calls Him Son, Who in His human body is not separated from the glory of His Divinity. For One is God, Who was manifest in the world in the body. His glory proclaims His Divinity which is from the Father, and His body proclaims His human nature which is from Mary, for both natures have been united in the one hypostasis.  The Only-Begotten of the Father is the only One born of Mary.  And whosoever would separate the natures in Him will themselves be separated from His Kingdom, and whosoever should confuse them will have no part in His life.  Whosoever denies that Mary gave birth to God will not see the glory of His Divinity; and whosoever denies that He bore flesh free from sin, such a one will not be granted salvation and life, which are granted through His body.  His deeds themselves and His Divine powers instruct those of sound judgment that He is true God.  And His sufferings show that He is true man.

    And if this does not convince those who are weak of understanding, then they shall be given over to punishment on His dread day. If He were not flesh, then for what reason did Mary bring Him forth?  And if He were not God, Whom did Gabriel name as Lord?  If He were not flesh, then who lay in the manger?  And if He were not God, Whom then did the Angels who had come down glorify?  If He were not flesh, who was bound in swaddling clothes? And if He were not God, Whom did the shepherds adore?  If He were not flesh, whose hands and feet were pierced with nails?  And if He were not God, why was the veil of the Temple rent in twain, and the rocks split asunder, and the graves opened?  If He were not flesh, who cried out My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me (Matt. 27:46)?  And if He were not God, Who said, Father, forgive them (Luke 23:34)?  If He were not flesh, who was crucified on the Cross with the thieves?  And if He were not God, Who said to the thief, Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43)?  If He were not flesh, to whom did they offer the gall and vinegar?  And if He were not God, at Whose voice did Hades tremble?  If He were not flesh, whose side was pierced with a spear, and blood and water flowed forth?  And if He were not God, Who broke the gates of Hades and burst the bonds, and by Whose command did the dead held captive there come forth?  If He were not flesh, whom did the Apostles see in the Upper Room?  And if He were not God, Who entered there, the doors being closed?  If He were not flesh, in whose hand did Thomas feel the wound of the nails and in whose side that of the spear?  And if He were not God, to Whom did Thomas cry out, My Lord and My God (John 20:28)?  If He were not flesh, who ate by the Sea of Tiberias?  And if He were not God, by Whose decree were the nets filled?  If He were not flesh, who did the Angels and Apostles see received into Heaven?  And if He were not God, to Whom were the Heavens opened, Whom did the Powers worship with trembling, and to Whom did the Father say, Sit Thou on My right hand (Heb. 1:13), as even David says, The Lord said unto my Lord: Sit Thou at My right hand (Ps. 109:1) and so on? And if He were not God and man, then, as a consequence, our salvation would be false, and the proclamations of the Prophets false too. 

    Yet the Prophets abode in the truth and their testimonies are not lies. For what they were commanded, that they spoke through the Holy Spirit. For this reason also the chaste John, who leaned upon that flaming breast, confirming the prophetic saying, theologising in the Gospel, instructs us, and says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 3, 14).  The One Who is of God, God the Word, the Only-Begotten Son of the Father, of one essence with the Father, the One Who is from the One Who is, the pre-eternal Word, inexpressibly begotten of the Father without mother before all ages, the Same in the last days was born of a daughter of mankind, from Mary the Virgin without father; He was born God incarnate, bearing in Himself flesh taken from her, made man, which formerly He was not, and remaining God, which He was, so that He might save the world. 
 
Originally published in the August 2014 issue of The Shepherd
 


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

What is 'Sergianism'?


The cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Communist regime is known as ‘Sergianism’ after its founder Metropolitan Sergius (1867-1944). Sergianism did not simply pledge obedience to the civil authority, but complete oneness of mind with the atheistic regime which was, at the same time, imprisoning and executing thousands of Orthodox Christians. Although the Russian Church under the Soviets retained an outward liturgical conservatism, Sergianism involved substantial theological modernisation, particularly in the area of the relationship between the Church and the state. 

In his declaration of July 20th 1927, Metropolitan Sergius stated: ‘We want to be Orthodox, and at the same time to see the Soviet Union as our civil Fatherland, whose joys and successes are also our joys and successes, whose failures are our failures.’ He also praised Joseph Stalin as a ‘great, God given leader of the Russian people.’[1] For his loyalty to the USSR, Metropolitan Sergius was appointed as Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1943 by Joseph Stalin. Later Patriarchs were similarly rewarded: Patriarch Alexis II (agent DROZDOV) was awarded an honorary citation by the USSR KGB chairman for services to state security.[2]

Undoubtedly, these were difficult times, and many bishops and priests cooperated unwillingly with the Soviet regime. Some, placing themselves in great danger, outwardly cooperated, but were secretly spreading the truth about the oppression of Christians under Communism. Father Vladimir Rusak, imprisoned in the USSR for spreading religious literature, explained the terrible dilemma that many faced: ‘I love my Church, I grieve for its fate and I want to serve it, but of course, not at the price of subservience, that terrible price which our Church leadership is paying and which it proposes that I also should pay’.[3]

In the USSR, the Christians who had separated themselves from the Sergianist Church were known as the Catacomb Church and worshipped in secret. Many were betrayed by bishops and priests of the official Church and ended their lives as martyrs. However, the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate consistently proclaimed, without a trace of irony, that there was no religious persecution in the USSR. According to Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev and Galicia, (later to become ‘Patriarch’ of the Ukrainian Church): ‘no one is persecuted for religious convictions in the Soviet Union...The attitude of the Soviet State to the needs of the Church is considerate and understanding’.[4]

Solovki Monastery. Turned into a Gulag (concentration camp) by the Soviets. Many members of the Catacomb Church were imprisoned here.
Sergianism was not simply a Russian phenomenon, but was adopted by all Orthodox Churches within the territories controlled by the Soviets. It is also possible to see the influence of Sergianism in the ‘official’ Orthodox Churches today – an outwardly correct ‘canonical’ Orthodoxy is maintained, but many of the bishops fight against Orthodox Tradition. Christians that oppose these innovations are punished by their own church, and in some countries the ‘official Churches’ are also able to call upon the state to carry out judicial and extra-judicial punishments.

Sergianism teaches complete obedience to the hierarchy –  even  when this hierarchy is betraying Orthodoxy. This false obedience has penetrated into the minds of many Orthodox Christians who believe that obedience to their bishop, rather than to the Orthodox Faith, is the only requirement for Orthodoxy. On the contrary, faithful Orthodox Christians should not, in any circumstances, consent to a betrayal of Orthodoxy but should separate themselves from these wolves in sheep’s clothing (cf. Matt. 7:15).


[1] M. Spinka, The Church in Soviet Russia (New York: OUP, 1956) p. 86.

[2] C. Andrew, V. Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive (London: Allen Lane, 1999) p. 650.

[3] Orthodox Life, Vol. 38, No. 1 (1988) p. 20.

[4] J. Ellis, The Russian Orthodox Church (London: Croom Helm, 1986) p. 209.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Month of August


IN August we celebrate the last two Great Feasts of the Church Year: the Lord's Transfiguration (6th/19) and the Dormition of the All-holy Virgin Theotokos (15th/28th). The placing of the first of these in August is evidence of a calendar change. Originally the festival was kept forty days before the Lord's Crucifixion, because as the Gospel narrative tells us the Lord's Transfiguration on Mount Thabor was a preparation for "His decease which He should accomplish in Jerusalem." The hymns of the feast, inspired by the Holy Spirit, emphasize that the Apostles were permitted to see the glory of the Lord, so that when they should see Him crucified they would know that His Passion was voluntary, and that they would thus be strengthened for the coming trauma. Later, because the festival always fell in the penitential days of Great Lent, it was shifted to its present date, forty days before the festival of the Exaltation of the Cross in September. Thus the link with the Cross is unbroken, although the actual date of the festival has been changed.

In the fourth century, the Empress St Helen founded a church on Mount Tabor for the feast. When in the Middle Ages, the Crusaders entered Palestine they found a number of churches and monasteries on the holy mountain, and they commandeered them for Roman Catholic worship. After the Crusaders retreated from the Holy Land, the churches were either destroyed or fell into ruin. It was not until 1849, that the possibility of erecting a church there presented itself. In that year, the Patriarch Cyril II of Jerusalem began to petition the Ottoman authorities for permission to build there. Even so, it was only in 1860 that permission was granted and a new church was built on the foundations of the ancient Byzantine one. To this day, each year on the festival, a radiant cloud is seen to come and stand over the monastery there.

The Russians count three festivals of the Saviour in August. The first of these is the Procession of the Wood of the Cross on the first of the month, the second is the Transfiguration and the third is the translation of the Holy Mandilion, the icon not made by hands, from Edessa to Constantinople (16th/29th). Of these only the Transfiguration ranks as one of the Twelve Great Feasts.

The Dormition of the Mother of God is one of the Twelve and the last in the Church Year. Three days before her death, the Mother of God was again visited by the Archangel Gabriel, who foretold her demise. She prayed that the Lord's closest disciples, the Apostles, might be with her at the end, and her prayer was granted miraculously. The Apostles, who, in their teaching ministry, were scattered over the face of the earth, were wonderously brought to Jerusalem to be with her. On the icons of the festival, they are shown being borne on clouds. The Virgin ended her earthly course in Sion, and her body was take to Gethsemane to be buried. There her family had a family tomb, and there her parents, Sts Joachim and Anna, and the Righteous Joseph the Betrothed had been buried. The body was borne to burial accompanied by the Apostles and other eminent Church leaders such as St Dionysius the Areopagite and Saint Hierotheus, and by the company of the Christians in Jerusalem, as well as by a multitude of Angels. A priest of the Jews, Athonius, seeing the funeral procession, and being filled with wrath against her whom he thought to be the mother of a deceiver, rushed forward and attempted to overturn her bier. As he grasped it, an Angel appeared and severed his hands at the wrists. Immediately, he understood his sin and repented, the Apostles prayed that he should be healed, and he was. Later, he was baptized and joined the Christian community. Just as he had been chosen to confirm the Resurrection of his Saviour, St Thomas was allotted a special ministry at this festival. Alone among the Apostles he had not been present at the Virgin's death.

He arrived on the third day, and the others opened the cave tomb for him to venerate the body that had borne God. The tomb was found to be empty. The Most Holy Mother of God had been taken body and soul into the Heavenly Mansions.

The tradition of the Elevation of the Panagia (now usually confined to monasteries) refers back to this festival. Before the Dormition, the early Christians had established a custom of setting aside a portion of bread, which at their meal, they would lift up, intoning, "Great is the name of the Holy Trinity. O Lord Jesus Christ, help us." This was done in honour of the Risen Saviour. When on the third day after her Dormition, the Apostles were about to do this and elevated the bread, the Mother of God appeared in heavenly glory, assuring them and us that she would be always with us through her mediations and intercessions. The Apostles therefore raised the bread, chanting "Most Holy Mother of God, help us!" This little rite has been somewhat elaborated, but is still done on festivals of the Mother of God. The bread which is elevated is called the Panagia. It is usually cut in the form of a three-sided pyramid. The word Panagia means All-holy, and it is one of the titles accorded the Mother of God.

Another very important feast in August is that of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (29th August/11th September). It is usually celebrated with a Vigil Service, and because Herod and those with him were feasting on that day, and through surfeiting and drunkenness were lead into sin, Orthodox Christians always observe a fast on this day on whichever day of the week it might fall.

Among the Saints we have in August are:- Our Holy Father Myron of Crete (8th/21st) was a farm labourer, who made it his practice to give of the produce of his fields to the poor. Such was his unpossessiveness that once he caught some thieves stealing grain from his threshing floor, and rather than stopping them or rebuking them, he helped them fill their sacks and load them up to take them away. Later, when they learned who he had been, they were brought to repentance by the example he had given them, and thereafter lived righteous lives. For his virtuous life and his kind-heartedness, Myron was chosen by the townsmen to be their priest and was later consecrated Bishop. He cared assiduously for his flock, nurturing them in piety. At the time of persecution he encouraged the martyrs, and he was granted the gift of working miracles. He lived to be an hundred years old, and entered into rest in the year 350.

The New Martyr Christos of Ioannina (15th/28th): In August 1823, the Turkish militia in the region of Ioannina started a particularly violent suppression of the Christians there. The hieromonk Christos comforted and encouraged the suffering Christians, and for this he was arrested, beaten and, for refusing to give up his Christian confession, was condemned to death. The Orthodox Christians were celebrating the festival of the Dormition, and the Turks chose this time to execute the Saint. Furthermore, they deliberately chose to mock the Saviour's Passion in the way they devised to kill him. Father Christos was crowned with thorns, stripped and spat upon, and nailed to a cross, which was set up by the plane trees at Kalou Tzesme. As he expired on the cross, he prayed for his tormentors, but they sat around and taunted him. One of the Turks eventually pierced his side with a sabre and he gave up his soul. Even in death they did not cease tormenting him; they coated his body in tar and set it alight so that it was consumed in the flames.

The Venerable Martyrs Liberatus, Boniface and the five others with them (17th/30th) lived in the fifth century and were members of a monastic community. Liberatus was the abbot, Boniface the deacon; two others Servius and Rusticus were subdeacons, and the remaining three, Rogatus, Septimus and Maximus unordained monks. They were slain not by pagans but by people who claimed to be Christians. They lived in North Africa at the time when Huneric the King of the Vandals ruled there. Huneric was a fervent Arian, and instigated a persecution of the Orthodox Christians. Thus these seven monks were arrested and taken to Carthage. There they were required to embrace the heretical faith of the Arians, but they steadfastly refused. They were confined to prison, but certain Orthodox Christians bribed the guards to let them visit them so that they could encourage them in their ordeal. This came to the ears of Huneric, who ordered that they be put in an old boat and set out to sea, and then the boat fired. However, try as they might the persecutors were unable to fire the ship, and so the martyrs were returned to land and were done to death by having the brains brutally dashed out with clubs. They received the crowns of martyrdom in the year 483 and an authentic and contemporary record of their contest exists.

The Venerable Edbert of York (20th August/2nd September) succeeded his kinsman Ceolwulf as King of Northumbria. His brother, Egbert, was the first Archbishop of York to receive the pallium since the time of St Paulinus. Edbert ruled his kingdom wisely and justly for twenty years, and then abdicated in favour of his son, Oswulf. Such was the respect in which he was held that his allies and his noblemen tried to persuade him not to abdicate, however Edbert was resolved upon taking up the monastic life. He retired to York, where he placed himself under obedience to his brother the Archbishop, and spent the last ten years of his life as a monk. His brother predeceased him by two years, and his sacred relics were laid next to those of the Archbishop when he himself died in 768 A.D.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Way of Life


"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait in the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).

With these words, O Christ-loving brothers and sisters, the Lord enjoins us to follow that narrow path in life, the way of afflictions, of privation and of bitter experiences, the way which leads to life eternal; there can be no other way there except this one of sorrows. Indeed there is a way, the broad, wide way, but this way leads to destruction, and even though it does lead to destruction there are many who, in the Lord's words, go in thereat. In the words of the holy Apostle Paul, the people who take the broad way in life live "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). 

Such people forget about God completely, and they always give themselves over to drunkenness, sexual licence, fornication, stealing, envy, hatred, pride, anger, laziness, irritability, self-love, love of money, extortion, slander, pleasing the stomach, foolishness and to the other lusts of their flesh. Let such people not think that they are alive. No, they have been a longtime dead, for of such the Holy Spirit says: l know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead" (Rev. 3:1). Then reflect, beloved brothers and sisters, how shall we, being dead, appear before the face of our Lord? Don't we know that He will then repudiate us? "I," He says, "am not the God of the dead, but the God of the living." And He goes on to emphasize this, saying: "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41).

This is the portion, beloved brethren, that will fall to those people who go by the broad way in this life. Then let the reader pause on these last words of the Lord, let him reflect deeply and ask himself: how will it be if in actual fact I come to hear that dread and fearsome sentence from the Lord, and am plunged in the eternal, inextinguishable fire of hades? And in that fire we will burn not for a hundred, a thousand or even a million years, but eternally. When as many ages have passed as there are drops of water in the oceans, as there are grains of sands over the whole of the earthly globe, then the torments of hades will be as if they have only just begun, and even then there will be as many ages to follow as have already been. This is what our living on the broad way, our luxuriating way of life, should tell us.

Very few journey in this life by the narrow path of afflictions. The Lord Himself said, that "few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:14). We might ask. Why is it thus? Because, according to the word of the Psalmist, "they are all gone astray, they are altogether rendered useless, there is none that doeth good, no not one" (Ps. 13:3). Woe to that town or that country, says Saint Demetrius of Rostov, in which there is not even one righteous man; such places are close to destruction and devastation; as an example of this we have the Old Testament cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. During the time that the righteous Lot sojourned there they were safe, but when he left, at that very same time, the whole land was destroyed. Then let us marvel that the very same Saviour bears so long with the present times, in which we see the destruction of cities, the devastation of lands, civil wars, the shedding of blood, and everywhere countless misfortunes. What is the reason for all this? Because, the same hierarch (St Demetrius of Rostov) himself replies, the number of the righteous has grown few.

So, beloved brethren, let us examine ourselves. Do we not resemble the Old Testament and the New Testament sinners, who go by the broad path, and of whom the Word of God says, "many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door... and he shall answer and say: I know you not whence ye are" (Luke 13:24-25). Those who wish to go by the narrow path, that is, to lead a pious life, will always be persecuted and hated by all, for it is said: "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). All the holy Apostles pursued the earthly course of this life by this narrow way of much affliction, and they test this way well, desiring to show an example to those servants of God, who manifest a desire to journey by that narrow way. The holy Apostles said: "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). And the Lord enjoins His disciples, and through them all His true followers, to journey by that same narrow way: lf any man will come after Me," He says, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24). 

From the Lord's words it is clear, that He does not in any way forcibly require anyone to follow Him, but He leaves this to the individual will of each man. He does not say that, whether you want it or not, you must suffer; rather He says: If any man will come after Me. I do not compel anyone, I do not require anyone, but I leave this to the individual will of each man. He who denies himself, renounces his own natural will and disposition, surrenders himself to the will of God, renounces everything for himself for the sake of Christ and for His sake is ready for every affliction, every deprivation, persecution and suffering, - in a word, such an one is prepared for every affliction even death itself. The Apostle Paul asks him that desires to set out on this narrow and much-afflicted path, and to continue thereon until the end of his earthly life, to first of all labour in prayer: "I exhort, therefore, that, first of all" that is before the start of every good endeavour, "supplications ... be made" (1 Tim.2:1). 

From this it is evident that without prayer it is not only impossible to make progress, but even to set out upon the accomplishment of any good deed. Saint Chrysostom says that without prayer it is in no way possible for one to have virtue as one's companion or travel the path of life with her. For who can begin to struggle in virtue, without having frequent recourse to, and falling down before, the One, Who is the Bestower and Granter of virtue? He who strengthens the desire for chastity and righteousness in himself by constant nourishing it, will he not pleasurably linger in converse with the One, Who requires this of us, and ever do this more and more? But I shall give my attention to showing briefly that, even if perforce we have been filled to repletion with every sin, the prayers, both those which are born within us and those which we initiate, quickly cleanse us from them. And, if such be the case, what can be greater and more divine than prayer, if it is demonstrated to be a healing medicine for those who are sick in soul? Consider the Ninevites, the first manifest as being cleansed through prayer of their many sins before God. As soon as prayer embraced them as her charges, immediately she made them righteous, - and the city, which formerly had been accustomed to live in dissipation, evil and every kind of lawlessness, was corrected, overthrowing her earlier evil practices, installing instead the laws of heaven, it committed itself to chastity and philanthropy, to meekness and care for the poor. It had been without these virtues and they had no place in their souls, but suddenly there settled in every soul that thing which makes for every righteousness, which disposes one to every virtue, and which casts out every evil. If, at that time, someone who had known Nineveh well had visited her, he would not have recognised the city, so speedily had she converted from the life of dissipation to that of piety. "Behold, here you have a clear and true demonstration of the fact that if one does not travel the path with prayer, it is impossible to perfect good deeds." And St John of the Ladder calls prayer “the mother of all the virtues" (Step 28). 

So then, imitator of Christ, if you are considering or if you have already set out on the narrow path in this life, with God's help your first duty is to be instructed in prayer; and as prayer if the mother of all the virtues, you must also unite it with the father, which is attention, for from a mother children are not born without a father. So from this mother, which is prayer there will be born no children, that is virtues, unless she is united to the father, which is attention. Thus, if with the help of God you learn to pray with attention, then spiritual fruits will come to you, such as the holy Apostle Paul recounts: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, kind-heartedness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22-23). Now perhaps, a desire to understand how one can learn to pray as is outlined above has come to the reader. To this we can in reply use the words of the blessed Patriarch Kallistos, who says: lf you desire to maintain the genuine activity of prayer, then emulate the psaltery player, who inclines his head a little and turns his ear to the strings, who skilfully plucks the strings that they emit a harmonious sound, and who himself is delighted by their melody.

Is this example clear to you? The psaltery is the heart, the strings are the feelings, the plucking of the strings is the remembrance of God (the repetition of the Jesus Prayer), and the player is the mind. The mind, mindful of God and of Divine things, elicits from the God-fearing heart holy feelings, from which a certain ineffable sweetness fills the soul and mind, which, when purified, is illumined with a Divine effulgence. The psaltery player sees nothing and hears nothing at all except his melody, by which he is delighted, and the mind at the time of prayer is actively sober, that is without any thoughts, and is immersed in the heart, and can pay no attention to anything save God alone. His whole inner being speaks to God with the voice of David: ‘My soul hath cleaved after Thee' (Ps. 62:8). Saint Hesychius the Presbyter of Jerusalem speaks of attentive prayer thus: "Here is an image and order for stillness of heart. If you wish to engage in spiritual warfare (successfully and as you should) then let that little animal, the spider, always be your example for stillness of heart; otherwise you will not be still in your intellect as you should be. The spider hunts and kills small flies; and you, if you will be like him, sitting in his spider's web, most assiduously remaining still in your soul, will continuously slay the children of Babylon,' that is evil thoughts, and for this slaying through David (Ps. 136:12) the Holy Spirit will bless you. If you do not achieve this, you will not be silent in mind as should be."

Do not think, beloved reader, that one can pray without attention, standing in prayer only physically, and that in this way you can achieve any virtue or please God. No, do not accept any such thoughts. This idea comes from the enemy, for he well knows that prayer without attention is not prayer, but simply empty words. Someone asked Saint Abba Agathon about this: "Tell me, Abba, what is greater bodily labour or the guarding of the heart?" The Abba replied to him: “Man is like a tree; bodily labours are the leaves, and the guarding of the heart is the fruit." Furthermore, according to the Scriptures, "every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Matt. 3:10). Thus, beloved brothers and sisters, all that we have said might be summed up in the words of Saint Abba Esaias, who says: "Brethren, be attentive to yourselves. How long will you labour profitlessly, your work perishing through carelessness? How long will you submit to the enemy, who lives in us and entices us daily towards defilement, who deflects us from virtue, and does not permit us to lift up our eyes to contemplate the Divine light".

Examine yourself, poor one, you who were baptised into Christ and into His death! Think what a death He surrendered Himself to for you, and do you follow in His footsteps? Show me your morals - are they akin to Him, Whose image you bear? He is sinless and in all things gave Himself as an example for you to emulate. He loved lowliness, and you avoid lowliness. He did not have where to lay His head (Matt. 8:20), and you seek spacious and comfortable accommodation. He bore with every kind of abuse, and you do not want to accept any kind of reproach. He did not return evil for evil, and you thirst for vengeance. He did not become wrathful even when He bore sufferings from others, and you, when you are put upon by others, are enraged. In the depth of dishonour He was not in the least disturbed, and you are disturbed by the slightest disgrace. He benevolently called sinners to Himself, and with your words you even alienate your friends. He good-heartedly bore offenses, and you are irritated by a slight insult. He was condescending to sinners, and you exalt yourself over them and even over those who are better than you. He gave Himself over to those who afflicted Him that He might redeem them, and you are afflicted even by those are doing good for you. 

Think on this: that He gave Himself for you, and what for your part you give Him. Recognize Him from His deeds, and yourself from your own deeds. If you have died with Him [in Baptism], then who is it that is doing these things, these sins? And so, brethren, be attentive in your life lest your mind stagnate on account of your evil deeds, lest you lose time, lest you not achieve the peace of a son of God, which peace consists in these things: that in all things you guard your humility and innocence, that you not be at enmity with anyone, that you not find comfort in anything that God detests, and that you always have your sins before your eyes, and be dead to all evil deeds. For in such a way, the God "Who cannot lie" (Titus 1:2) will come to us and, in His kind-heartedness, will heal our infirmities. Amen.
 

Published as an anonymous paper by the Russian Saint Elias Skete on Athos in 1896. Published in English translation in The Shepherd September 2002


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Teaching Children about the Orthodox Faith

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)


Some children, influenced by what they are taught at school, have a flawed understanding of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Three common errors are listed below:
  • The Jews worship the God of the Old Testament, but Christians worship the God of the New Testament.
  • The God of the Old Testament is God the Father.
  • The Old Testament was ‘nasty’ but the New Testament is ‘nice’.
Explain to children that the Trinity exists before time began, and that all the appearances of God in the Old Testament were the unincarnate Word of God. Christ took flesh in Bethlehem as the man Jesus Christ, but was not separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit as we hear in the Akathist Hymn:
Wholly present with those below was the uncircumscribed Word, yet in no way absent from those above; for this was a divine condescension and not a mere change of place; and His birth was from a virgin chosen of God.[1]
The difference between the two Testaments can be illustrated by comparing the slaying of Uzzah for touching the Ark of the Covenant to prevent it from falling with Christ’s forbearance when being beaten by the soldiers before the Crucifixion. In both Testaments, Christ’s power is undiminished because He is God, but in the New Testament He came as a Lamb to the slaughter to destroy death by His death. St. Philaret of New York explains:
The main distinction of the New Testament law from that of the Old Testament consists in that the Old Testament law looked at the exterior actions of man, while the New Testament law looks at the heart of man, at his inner motives. Under the Old Testament law, man submitted himself to God as a slave to his master, but under the New Testament, he strives towards submitting to Him as a son to submits to a beloved father.[2]
The Holy Spirit is also active in the Old Testament, because He is inseparable from the Father and the Son, as Metropolitan Hierotheos observes:
The Holy Spirit is active in the Old Testament as well, differently from the way He acts in the New Testament, in the Church. For, as we said before, in the Old Testament, He pointed out to the prophets the transgression of the commandments and revealed the coming of Christ, while in the New Testament He makes men sons of God and members of the Body of Christ and guides them to deification. [3]
The Orthodox Church is the true heir of the Old Testament Church. Fr. Michael Pomazansky explains that:
In this heritage, some things have an eternal significance and value, but others have ceased to exist and are significant only as recollections of the past and for edification as prototypes. The Church makes use of her Old Testament heritage authoritatively, in accordance with her understanding of the world, which is complete and superior to that of ancient Israel’s.[4]
It is worth explaining to children that the righteous and the sinners that died in the Old Testament all had a second chance to believe on Christ through the preaching of St. John the Baptist in Hades. The kontakion for the Beheading of John the Baptist begins: ‘The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was a certain divine dispensation, that the coming of the Saviour might also be preached to those in Hades.’ [5]

There are many types of Christ in the Old Testament, but make sure that children understand the difference between a type and the actual appearance of the Person.

Types of the Word of God in the Old Testament


The Paschal Lamb

On seeing Christ, John the Baptist cried out ‘Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world’(John 1:29). Christ is called the Lamb of God because He is offered in sacrifice for us. Christ is our Passover. He is our ‘Paschal Lamb that has been sacrificed’(1 Corinthians 5:7). Christ was sacrificed, or rather, He gave Himself as a sacrifice so that our sins might be forgiven. Christ became man out of love for man and offered Himself up on the Cross to forgive the sins of the whole world.

Rock


St. Paul makes clear that the Rock of Horeb is a type of Christ: ‘They drank from that spiritual Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ’ (1 Corinthians 10:4). Christ is ‘the stone which the builders rejected that has become the head of the corner’ (cf. 1 Peter 2:7); He is the ‘rock of stumbling’ prophesied by Esaias (Is. 8:14), and the ‘chief cornerstone’ of the Church (Ephesians 2:20).

Manna

The Jews, after their escape from Pharaoh, wandered in the wilderness for forty years and were fed by manna sent from heaven. This manna prefigured Christ who is the true Bread of Life. St. Gregory of Nyssa explains that this bread had a physical substance, even though it was created in a miraculous fashion. He also links together the miraculous nature of the bread which required no sowing, harvesting, grinding or mixing to make it, with the birth of Christ from the Virgin:
The bread which came down from heaven is not some incorporeal thing. For how could something incorporeal be nourishment to a body? Neither ploughing nor sowing produced the body of this bread, but earth which remained unchanged was found full of this divine food, of which the hungry partake. This miracle teaches in anticipation the mystery of the Virgin. [6]

Extract from Young Children and the Church written by the Fathers of Saint Edward Brotherhood


[1] A Prayerbook for Orthodox Christians (Brookline: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1987) p.224.

[2] http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/law_of_god.htm

[3] Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, The Feasts of the Lord (Levadia, Birth of the Theotokos Monastery: 2003) p.316.

[4] Protopresbyter M. Pomazansky, The Old Testament in the New Testament Church (Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery,1977) p.5.

[5] The Great Horologion (Brookline: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1990) p. 591.


[6] A.J. Malherbe, E. Ferguson (trans.), Gregory of Nyssa – The Life of Moses (New York: Paulist Press, 1978) p. 88.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Saints celebrated in July

July falls neatly between the Apostles’ Fast, which ends after the Liturgy on 29th June / 12th July, and the Dormition Fast which begins on 1st / 14th August.  (Remember, though, that this year the day of the Saints Peter and Paul is also a fast day because it falls on a Wednesday).  Although the month falls in mid-summer, when generally the services are a little shorter – undoubtedly because the nights are shorter and because in agricultural societies there was much more work to do  –  yet we celebrate many of the most beloved saints in July.  Saints Cosmas and Damian of Rome, the Great Martyr Procopius, the Great Martyr Marina, the Venerable Seraphim of Sarov, the holy Prophet Elias (Elijah), the Righteous Anna the mother of the Theotokos, and the Great Martyr Panteleimon are among them.

    Among the other saints celebrated in July we have:-

    The Venerable Athanasius of Athos (5th / 18th July), whose feast day coincides with the renowned Russian monastic father, Sergius of Radonezh, was named Abraham in holy Baptism, and was born in the city of Trebizond.  He was orphaned early in life, and was raised by a certain good and pious nun. He imitated his foster mother in the disciplines of monastic life, and he also progressed well in his studies.  After the nun’s death, Abraham went to Constantinople, to the court of the Emperor Romanus, and was enrolled as a student under the renowned rhetorician Athanasius.  In a short while he attained the mastery of skill of his teacher and himself became an instructor.  Reckoning asceticism to be the true way of life, Abraham led a strict and abstinent life; he slept little and then only sitting upon a stool, and barley bread and water were his nourishment.  However his teacher Athanasius, succumbing to temptation, became jealous of him, and Abraham resolved to leave.  Just at that time the Venerable Michael Maleinos (feast day: 12th / 25th July) arrived in Constantinople.  Abraham sought his counsel and revealed to him his desire to become a monk.  

The holy elder, discerning in Abraham a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit, instructed him in the ways of salvation. Once, during their spiritual talks, Saint Michael was visited by his nephew, Nicephorus Phocas, a renowned military officer and future Emperor.  The lofty spirit and profound mind of Abraham impressed Nicephorus, and all his life he regarded the saint with reverent respect and with love.  Having forsaken everything, Abraham went to the Saint Michael’s monastery, seeking to take up the monastic life.  He was tonsured with the name Athanasius.  With severe fasts, long prayer vigils and prostrations, struggling night and day, Athanasius attained such perfection, that he was blessed to live as a solitary.  Subsequently, having left the monastery at Kimineia, he made the rounds of many desolate and solitary places, and guided by God, he came to a place called Melanos, at the very extremity of Athos, far distant from other monastic habitations.  Here he built himself a cell and began to struggle.  The enemy of mankind tried to arouse in Saint Athanasius hatred for the place he had chosen, and bombarded him with constant suggestions to leave.  Saint Athanasius decided to suffer it for a year, and then wherever the Lord should direct him, he would go.  On the last day of that year’s duration, when he started his prayer rule, a Heavenly Light suddenly shone upon him, filling him with an indescribable joy, all the thoughts dissipated, and from his eyes welled up grace-filled tears. From that time Saint Athanasius received the gift of tenderness, and he became as strongly fond of the place of his solitude as before he had been tempted to loathe it.  

At this time Nicephorus Phocas, having had his fill of military exploits, remembered a vow he had made to become a monk and he sought out Father Athanasius to build a monastery and a church where the brethren could commune of the Divine Mysteries of Christ on Sundays.  Trying to shun cares and worries, the Venerable one would not at first consent, but seeing the fervent desire and good intent of Nicephorus, and discerning in this the will of God, he set about building a monastery.  He built a large church in honour of the holy Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist, and another church at the foot of the hill, in the name of the All-Holy Virgin Theotokos. Around the church were cells, and thus the first monastery was founded on the Holy Mountain. Brethren flocked there from far and wide, desiring to become monastics in the Laura of Saint Athanasius on Athos.  The saint established the cœnobitic rule based on the ancient Palestinian monasteries.  

The Heavenly Protectress of Athos, the All-Pure Mother of God herself, was graciously disposed towards the saint. Many times he was granted to behold her. By the sufferance of God there once occurred such a dearth of food, that the monks one after the other left the monastery. The saint remained alone and in a moment of weakness he also considered leaving.  Suddenly he beheld a Woman, coming to meet him. “Who art thou and whither goest thou?” she asked quietly.  Saint Athanasius from an innate deference halted. “I am a monk here,” he answered, and told her about his plight. “And on account of a morsel of dry bread thou would forsake thy monastery, which was intended for glory from generation to generation?  Where is thy faith?  Turn back, and I shall help thee”. “Who art thou?” asked Athanasius. “I am the Mother of thy Lord,” she replied and bade Athanasius strike a rock with his staff, such that from the fissure there gushed forth a spring of water, which continues to this day in remembrance of that visitation.  

Thereafter brethren again gathered, and the construction work at the Laura continued.  Father Athanasius, foreseeing the time of his departure to the Lord, foretold his impending end and besought the brethren not to be troubled over what he had foreseen. “For Wisdom disposeth in ways other than people do judge.” The brethren were perplexed and pondered over these words of their father. He gave the brethren his final guidance and comforted all. Saint Athanasius entered his cell, and after prolonged prayer he emerged.  Alert and joyful, the holy hegoumen went up with six of the brethren to the dome of the church to inspect the construction work.  Suddenly, through the imperceptible will of God, the dome collapsed.  Five of the monks immediately gave up their souls to God.  Saint Athanasius and the architect Daniel were thrown down under the debris but remained alive. All heard him call out to the Lord: “Glory to Thee, O God!  Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” The brethren with great weeping began to dig their father out from the rubble, but when they found him he had already given up his holy soul.  This occurred in the year 1003.  Thus even in the manner of his dying he gave us a lesson in not judging according to the perceptions of our fallen human state.
Our Holy Father Willibald, Bishop of Eichstatt (7th / 20th July), was born about the year 704 in Wessex, probably near where Southampton now stands. When he was three years old he was stricken with a sickness and his life was despaired of, but his parents laid him at the foot of a great cross which had been erected near their house. There they prayed with great fervour, and made a vow to God that should the child recover they would consecrate him to divine service. God accepted their pious offering, and the child was immediately restored to his health.  In fulfilment of their vow his parents kept the child until he was a little older at home, and when he was five years old placed him under the Abbot Egbald in the monastery at Bishops Waltham.

The young saint in all his thoughts and actions seemed to aspire only to heaven, and his heart seemed full only of God and His holy love.  He spent his childhood at Bishops Waltham and left the monastery when he was seventeen years old, and his brother Winibald nineteen, only to accompany his father and brother in a pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles at Rome and to the Holy Land.  They visited many churches in France on their way; but the father, who is venerated as Saint Richard and is called a king (though there seems to be no historical record of a king with that name at that time, perhaps he was a nobleman thought to be a king and his name has been modified from its original form), died at Lucca, where his relics are still venerated in the church of Saint Fridian. The two sons went on to Rome, and there took monastic vows.  

Subsequently Winibald was obliged to return to England, and Saint Willibald and some companions continued to visit the holy places which Christ had sanctified by His sacred presence on earth.  They added most severe mortifications to the fatigues of their journey, living only on bread and water, and when on land using no other bed than the bare ground.  They sailed to Cyprus and thence into Syria.  At Emesa the saint was taken by the Saracens for a spy, was loaded with irons, and suffered much in confinement for several months, till certain persons, who were moved with compassion for him, satisfied the caliph of his innocence and procured his freedom. The holy pilgrims then pursued their journey to the holy places, sanctified by the earthly life of our Saviour.  They likewise visited all the monasteries, lavras, and hermitages in that country, and with an ardent desire to learn they imitated all the most perfect practices of virtue, and whatever might seem most conducive to the sanctification of the soul.  After seven years spent on this pilgrimage the saint and his companions arrived safely in Italy.  There the celebrated monastery of Mount Cassino had been lately repaired by Pope Gregory II, and the saint chose that house to further his monastic endeavours.  He was first appointed sacristan, afterwards dean or superior over ten monks, and during the last eight years porter, which required his dealing with the lay people that visited.  

It happened that in A.D. 738 Saint Boniface of Crediton, the Apostle of Germany, came to Rome, and he begged Pope Gregory III that Willibald, who was his cousin, might be sent to assist him in his missions in Germany.  The pope desired to see the monk, and was much delighted with the history of his travels, and edified by his virtue. At the close of their conversation, he told him of Bishop Boniface’s request. Willibald desired to go back to his monastery to obtain the blessing of his abbot; but the pope told him his order sufficed, and commanded him to go without more ado into Germany. The saint did so in obedience. Accordingly he set out for Thuringia, where St. Boniface then was, and by whom he was ordained priest.  His labours in the country about Eichstatt, in Franconia and Bavaria, were crowned with success.  

In A.D. 746, he was consecrated by St. Boniface as Bishop of Eichstatt. This dignity made trial of his humility, but he used it to increase his zeal. The cultivation of so rough a vineyard was a laborious task, but patience and invincible meekness overcame difficulties. His charity was most tender and compassionate, and he had a singular talent for comforting the afflicted. He founded a monastery which resembled in discipline that of Mount Cassino, to which he often resorted. But his love of solitude did not diminish his pastoral solicitude for his flock. He was attentive to all their spiritual necessities, he often visited every part of his charge, and instructed all his people with indefatigable zeal and charity. His fasts were most austere, nor did he allow himself any indulgence in them or in his labours on account of his great age, till his strength was entirely exhausted.

Having laboured almost forty-five years in setting in order and sanctifying his diocese, he died at Eichstatt in A.D. 790, being eighty-seven years of age, and was buried in his own cathedral.  Since his repose he has been glorified as the worker of many miracles.  The two brother Saints Winibald and Willibald also had a sister, Walburga, who is greatly venerated in Bavaria and her sacred relics were later laid besides those of her brother, Saint Willibald.

Excerpt from the July issue of The Shepherd

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Homily on the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul

After His Resurrection, Christ said to the Apostle Peter who had denied Him: "When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee and carry thee whither thou wouldest not" (John 21:18).

Without doubt with these words Jesus Christ foretold the martyric death of a disciple whom He loved, and actually this is confirmed by the words of the evangelist which follow: "This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God" (John 21:19). Furthermore the Greek text of these words gives one cause to think that Christ stretched out His hands in the form of the cross as He foretold to him death on a cross. In actuality the Apostle Peter was crucified head-down.

From the most ancient history of the Christian Church we know that all the other disciples of Christ ended their lives as martyrs. Only one, Saint John the Theologian, died a natural death, although even he did not escape sufferings. The Apostles knew that afflictions awaited them (John 16:33), but this in no way confounded them in boldly and zealously spreading the light of Christ's teaching. On the contrary, with joy they bore injurious beating (cf. Acts 5:40-41, Col. 1:24).

Evidently the example of their Divine Teacher always stood clearly before their eyes (John 13:15). "If they have persecuted Me," He said, "they will also persecute you (John 15:20), and this is quite understandable, because "the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him" (John 13:16). Therefore they firmly proclaimed that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). To them it would have seemed beyond comprehension that they should live in any other way than had their Teacher, Who had not where to lay His head (Luke 9:58). "If one died for all, then were all dead. But Christ died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14-15). This filled their hearts with the assurance that when our earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have of God a building in the heavens, not made with hands, eternal (2 Cor. 5:1), to which they strove irrepressibly; having a desire to depart, says the holy Apostle Paul, and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23). His desire was fulfilled before natural death overtook him: "Already they offer me in sacrifice" – he wrote not long before his end – "and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Tim. 4:6). On the 29th June in the year 67 he was beheaded with the sword.

In this way the Apostles lived physically on earth, but spiritually they were in heaven. They were not disturbed by the bloody end which faced them, but on the contrary they rejoiced and counted it a blessing to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the Apostle Paul even says with boldness: "Be ye imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 4:16).

Of course, this does not mean that all are to be martyrs, for it was only to the Apostles that Jesus Christ foretold a martyric end, and even so He did so not to predestinate such a death. In any event what is important for us is that the holy Apostles' love of their Divine Teacher extended to selflessness: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13), and they actually did lay down their lives for they remembered Christ's precept, "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.... If a man love Me, he will keep My words" (John 14:21, 23). In such love there is no fear (see 1 John 3:17), for as the holy Apostle Paul cries out: "Who shall separate us from the love of God; shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom. 8:35). No one and nothing can separate us (cf. Rom. 8:38-39).

O friends and brethren, may the example of Christ's holy disciples be instructive for us. Let not the afflictions and distress of this sinful and adulterous world make us fearful, for the Lord never sends trials which are greater than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:18). And all the blood poured out from the time of the Apostles to that of the numberless martyrs of our days will serve as the very best cement to bind all believing Christians into the one body, the Church of Christ, against which the gates of Hades shall not prevail (Matt. 16:18).

O holy, glorious and all-famed Chiefs of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, whose memory we now prayerfully keep, we call upon you assiduously: help us to abide in peace and concord that the love of Christ might be inflamed. Pray to God for us! Amen.

By Archpriest Leonid Kolchev 
Translated from a collection of sermons published in Copenhagen, 1938