Devotional for December 30 – January 4
Matthew 2: 13 that time: The Angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in – a dream, saying: Arise, and take the young Child, and his Mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young Child and his Mother by night, and departed into Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my Son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth; and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the Prophet, saying: In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and
weeping, and great mourning: Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Prayer: Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, good will among men.
The love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge! Surpasses, not the knowledge of God, but the knowledge of man, darkened and embittered by sin. God’s knowledge is equal to God’s love and neither surpasses the other. But man’s knowledge, alienated from God, does not at all comprehend God’s love, shown through the Lord Jesus Christ. God understands man, but man does not understand God. God attempted to enable man with reason to understand through nature and through the Old Revelation, through the Law and the prophets, but man did not want to submit to that knowledge. Then God attempted to overcome men through love, and through this love, to draw them to Himself. Hence the Incarnation of the Son of God, His sacrifice and His suffering to the death. Such inexpressible love on the part of God, beyond words and knowledge, has captured and returned many to God, that is, made them to understand and given them a new knowledge, pure and bright. But it has confused many of them as well, for it did not agree with their darkened and embittered understanding. And to know, says the Apostle. How can we, brethren, know that which is beyond knowing and beyond understanding? In no other way than by a change of mind, an awakening and sharpening of the mind, an illumination and elevation of the mind: in brief, by the acquiring of a new mind, which has the capability of understanding the love of Christ, which is beyond the present sinful mind of men.
*From St Nikolai’s ‘Prologue’
Prayer: O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
A devout elder lay on his death bed. His friends gathered around him and mourned him. At this, the elder laughed three times. The monks asked him: “What are you laughing at?” The elder replied: “I laughed the first time because all of you are afraid of death, the second time because none of you are prepared for death, and the third time because I am going from labor to rest.” Behold, how a righteous man dies! He is not afraid of death. He is prepared for death. He sees that through death he passes from difficult life to eternal rest. When the nature of man contemplates its original state in Paradise, then death is unnatural, the same way that sin is unnatural. Death emanated from sin. Having repented and being cleansed from sin, a man does not consider death annihilation, but the gate to life eternal. If, at times, the righteous prayed to God to prolong their earthly life, that was not because of love for this life or because of the fear of death, but solely that they would gain more time for repentance and cleansing from sin, in order that they might present themselves before God more sinless and more pure. Even if they showed fear before death, that was out of fear not of death but of God’s judgment. What fear then must the unrepentant sinner experience before death?
Prayer: Holy angel of the Lord by guardian, pray to God for me.
…for the Faith of Christ is experience and not theory or human sophistry. Even Paul had lain as one spiritually asleep, and he was spiritually dead while he opposed the Christian Faith. St. Paul then awakened, arose, and was resurrected in the spirit and illumined by Christ. He knows himself from the time when he was spiritually asleep, and from the time when he awakened, and when he arose, and when he was resurrected by the Spirit, and when he was illumined by Christ. That which he knows about himself as a Christian, he commends to others. As an apostle, he sees himself in a great light and believes that all other men, if they so desire, can be as bright as he is. The light is not his, but Christ’s light. His is only the love for that Light, Who is Christ. But the illumination of Christ is necessary for man in the beginning as well as in the end. For, without Christ’s illumination, man is unable to awaken, to arise, or to resurrect from the dead, just as afterward he is unable by himself to live in faith or to die in hope. Christ is needed in the beginning as well as in the end. As the hand of the parent is needed to retrieve a drowning child from the water and then to lead him onto dry land, protecting him and preventing him from drowning again, so is Christ needed for those drowning in the waters of sin. The Apostle himself received the illumination of Christ in the beginning, on the road to Damascus, and he received it again later. The first illumination was his conversion to Christ and the second illumination was his confirmation in Christ. The first illumination we all receive through baptism, and the latter, through faith and the fulfilling of the commandments of the Lord. All of those who do not possess the illumination of Christ—or who have had it and lost it—are as if asleep, as if dead.
Prayer: Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Yes, O Lord, Thy word is indeed like fire; like fire that warms the righteous and burns the unrighteous. And, indeed, Thy word is like a hammer; a hammer that softens the stony hardness of the heart of a penitent and pulverizes the heart of an unrepentant sinner into dust. Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us? (Luke 24:32), the apostles asked after speaking with the resurrected Lord. When the heart of a man is set aright, it burns from the word of the Lord; it is melted by kindness and expands with love. However, when the heart in man is not set right, but hardened by sin, then the heart bakes from the word of the Lord and becomes even harder. And pharaoh’s heart was hardened (Exodus 8:19). In vain do sinners fortify themselves in their fortresses of stone, in their fortresses of iron, in their fortresses of silver and gold, and reject the armor of God’s justice. The word of the Lord is as a powerful and irresistible hammer, when He pronounces judgment upon these fortresses of stone in which sinners fortify themselves.
Prayer: O Lord, our God, in Thy goodness and love for men forgive me all the sins I have committed today in word, deed or thought. Grant me peaceful and undisturbed sleep. Send Thy Guardian Angel to guard and protect me from all evil. For Thou art the guardian of our souls and bodies, and to Thee we ascribe glory, to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
*(Evening Prayer and Confession of Sins)
When Christ the Lord did not regret giving Himself over to suffering and death, why should we feel sorry for ourselves for our own sakes? Christ prescribed a recipe for us: a diet for our spiritual restoration to health, which He called “an easy yoke.” The yoke that we impose upon ourselves is much heavier, for this yoke pulls us down deeper and deeper into spiritual illness. The earth seeks much greater sacrifices from us and does not promise us any reward after death. The earth seeks that we sacrifice God, our soul, our conscience, our mind, and all human and divine dignity to it. And, in return, it reveals a dark and putrid grave as the end of everything and the reward for all. Christ seeks that we sacrifice only the earth, our beastliness and sin, vice and all wickedness. And, in return, He promises resurrection and eternal life in Paradise. “Yes, winter is cruel, but Paradise is sweet!”
Prayer: Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (3X)
When it was said, Do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, it was said not only for that time but also for all times, and not only for the Jewish people but also for all peoples. And so is it true for us as well. This is valid today, at all times, for every people, and for every man who turns his back on the Source of living water in his own courtyard and digs a cistern from which to drink rainwater. The Source of living water is the Lord Himself: inexhaustible, copious and sweet. The cistern is every man’s work which is performed in opposition to God and God’s law, and from which men expect progress, happiness and satisfaction for their hunger and thirst. Such is the cistern of godlessness, avarice, gluttony, immorality, love of power, vanity, idolatry, soothsaying, and all the other things that have the devil as their advisor, sin as their digger, and false hope for their water-carrier. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, says the Lord. Be astonished at how man could become so senseless, forsaking the living water and digging a cistern in live coals that inflame his thirst even more! O brethren, our people have also committed two evils: they have forgotten the Lord as the Source of every good and they have gone to seek for themselves good in evil and good through evil. Can water be found in fire? Or wheat in sand? It cannot; no, brethren, it cannot. Even less can peace, happiness, joy, life or any other good be found in the cisterns of sin and godlessness.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.