Daily Devotional for February 23-29
2 Corinthian 11:19: Ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews ? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
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)
**From St Theophan the Recluse ‘Thoughts’
Before the Lord’s appearance to the people, before He began the work of Divine economy of our salvation, Saint John the Forerunner was sent to prepare people for receiving Him. This preparation consisted in a call to repentance. Since then, repentance has become the path to the Lord and Saviour, and the threshold to faith in Him. The Saviour Himself began His preaching with the words: Repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). Repentance and faith lead a person who seeks salvation back and forth between these two states. Repentance weighs him down with the burden of his sins and frightens him with the impartial judgement of God’s righteousness. But faith comes along and shows him the Deliverer Who has taken away the sins of the world. He who repents cleaves to the Deliverer, and laying down the burden of his sins through confession, joyfully runs after Him along the path of His commandments. Faith in this manner is born of repentance and is founded on it. He who repents holds firmly onto faith according to his feeling of deliverance. Faith is alive through repentance. Without repentance faith would be like a sapling which is without an animating current—withered and not giving of life.
Prayer: O come, let us worship God our King.
O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ our King and God.
O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and God.
The house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). Consequently there is no need for us to look here and there to search out where the truth is. It is near. Be in the Church, contain all that it contains, and you will be in the truth. You will possess the truth and live by it and in it, and you will overflow with true life. The truth does not exist outside of the Orthodox Church. It is the only faithful guardian of all that was commanded by the Lord through the holy Apostles, and therefore is the true Apostolic Church. Some have lost the Apostolic Church; but since their Christian conscience tells them that only an Apostolic Church can truly preserve and show the truth, they decided to make such a church, and they made it, and called it by that name. They could call it the Apostolic Church, but they could not impart the essence to it. For the Apostolic Church was created according to the good will of the Father by the Lord and Saviour, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. Such a church cannot be created by people. Those who think they can create such a church are like children playing with dolls. If there is no true Apostolic Church on the earth, there is no need to waste the effort on the creation of it. But thanks be to the Lord, He has not allowed the gates of hell to prevail against the holy Apostolic Church. It exists and will remain, according to His promise, unto the end of the world. This church is our Orthodox Church. Glory be to God!
Prayer: Soul of Christ, sanctify me, Body of Christ, save me Blood of Christ, inebriate me, Water from Christ’s side, wash me, Passion of Christ, strengthen me, O good Jesus, hear me, Within Thy wounds hide me, Suffer me not to be separated from Thee, From the malicious enemy defend me, In the hour of my death call me, And bid me come unto Thee, That I may praise Thee with Thy saints, and with Thy angels, Forever and ever, Amen.
The Baptism of the Lord is called Theophany [God Revealed] because in it the one true God, worshipped in Trinity, revealed Himself so palpably: God the Father—through the voice from heaven, God the Son, incarnate—through His baptism, and God the Holy Spirit—through the descent upon the Baptized. Here the mystery of the relationship between the persons of the Most Holy Trinity is also revealed. God the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son, but does not proceed from the Son. Here also is revealed the fact that the incarnate Divine economy of our salvation is accomplished by God the Son incarnate, coexisting with the Holy Spirit and God the Father. And it is revealed that the salvation of each person can be accomplished no way other than in the Lord Jesus Christ, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, according to the good will of the Father. All the Christian Mysteries shine here with their divine light and enlighten the minds and hearts of those who with faith celebrate this great festival. Come, let us mentally hasten on high and plunge ourselves into the contemplation of these mysteries of our salvation, singing, “When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest”—a salvation which in trinity establishes us, and in trinity saves us.
Prayer: Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
Looking at the innocence of childhood, some suppose that there is no original sin, that each person falls himself when he comes of age and meets with immoral urges, which, it seems to him, he does not have the strength to overcome. Everyone falls himself, yet the original sin nevertheless is present. Apostle Paul sees in us the law of sin, warring against the law of the mind. This law, like a seed, at first is as if not visible, but then is revealed and entices. Those who are born of lepers do not manifest leprosy until a certain age, but then it is revealed, and begins to consume them just as it did their parents. Where was the leprosy before this time? It was hiding within. So does the original sin hide until the time, and then comes out and does its business. Environment means a lot for both suppressing this sin and revealing it. If there were no sinful elements all around, there would be nothing with which to feed this hidden sin, and perhaps it would dry up of its own. But herein is our sorrow: that all around there is very much favourable food for it. There is much sin in every person as well as in society; but all of this does not necessarily determine that we will sin. Sin is always a matter of freedom—struggle and you will not fall. Only he who does not want to struggle falls. Why do we not want to struggle? There are no regulations concerning desire and lack of desire: I want to, because I want to; and I don’t want to, because I don’t want to. Self-rule is the original principle—one cannot go beyond it.
Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Someone turned to the Lord with a question: Good Master, what shall I do that[mc1] I may inherit eternal life? What necessitated this question? Were there no scriptures? Was the law not read every Saturday for everyone? There was everything—both Scripture and its interpreters; but in society difference of opinion went around and muddled everyone. The Pharisees said one thing, the Sadducees another, the Essenes, their own thing, the Samaritans their own. In Galilee, perhaps even pagan teachings were heard, and each put forth their own with a tone of conviction. Anyone who was zealous for salvation naturally came to the question: What should I do? What should I follow, that my soul not be destroyed? Our situation now is very similar those times. What teachings are not going around our schools, in society, and in literature! For the indifferent it is nothing; but they for whom every teaching is not the same cannot but seek an answer to the question, “What should I do?” So what is the solution? The one the Saviour gave: Believe and live as God commanded, and do not listen to people’s talk; let them talk. The talk of scientists is like rumours and fashion: today they say one thing, tomorrow another. But you should heed only God’s word, which abides unto the ages. What the Lord commanded no philosophizing can revoke. Everything must be done, and cannot be put off. The judgment indeed will be according to the word of the Lord, and not according to our philosophizing.
Prayer: With the Saints, give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Thy servants, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sighing, but life everlasting.
*Kontakion of the Departed
Hearing the word of the Lord about the inconvenience rich people have in entering the Kingdom of God, the disciples thought, Who then can be saved? The Lord said to this, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. It is not possible to renounce self-interest without the influence of grace on the heart; it is not possible to cope with all sorts of weaknesses for things, or with all the sin living in us and all of its consequences without God’s grace. God’s grace is given, according to faith in the Lord, in the mysteries of the holy Church. Hold tightly to the holy Church of God and to all of its institutions, and the power of God, helping to bring about every good, will always abide with you. But at the same time always remember that these illuminating and life-giving institutions are a means and not the goal; that is why you should go through them only in order to enliven and nourish the grace-filled powers hidden in you through their influence, and then take up your work as a strong man, ready for every good deed. If you keep what you have received to yourself and not release it through good deeds, you will not be right; just like one is not right who shuns everything belonging to the church. Incorrect zealots of piety make the very structure of a pious life subject to criticism; but this does not take the significance away from this structure, and does not justify philosophizers, who shun it only on these grounds.
Prayer: Lord, I have cried to Thee, hearken unto me. Hearken unto me, O Lord. Lord, I have cried to Thee, hearken unto me. Attend to the voice of my prayer, when I cry unto Thee. Hearken unto me, O Lord. Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Hearken unto me, O Lord.
*Psalm 140 (141)