Orthodox Daily Devotional for March 22-28
Ephesian 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth, proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
Prayer: O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not.
But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.
The Philokalia for Lent…
We must therefore offer to the Lord at once a strict confession even of our involuntary failings in the practice of our normal rule – and it is impossible for a human being to avoid such human failings – until our conscience is assured through tears of love that we have been forgiven. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). We should pay close attention to maintaining inward awareness during confession, so that our conscience will not deceive itself into believing that the confession it has made to God is adequate; for though we may not be aware that we have done anything wrong, the judgment of God is far more severe than our conscience. This is what Paul in his wisdom teaches us when he says: ‘I do not judge myself; for although I am not conscious of anything against myself, yet I am not thereby acquitted. But it is the Lord who judges me’ (1Cor. 4: 3-4). If we do not confess our involuntary sins as we should, we shall discover an ill-defined fear in ourselves at the hour of our death. We who love the Lord should pray that we may be without fear at that time; for if we are afraid then, we will not be able freely to pass by the rulers of the nether world. They will have as their advocate to plead against us the fear which our soul experiences because of its own wickedness. But the soul which rejoices in the love of God, at the hour of its departure, is lifted with the angels of peace above all the hosts of darkness. For it is given wings by spiritual love, since it ceaselessly carries within itself the love which ‘is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom. 13:10).
(St Diadochos of Photiki)
Prayer: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
The five watchful virgins who bore in the vessels of their hearts the oil that was not inherent in their nature – for it is the grace of the Holy Spirit – were able to enter with the bridegroom into the bridal-chamber. But the other foolish and sinful virgins, who remained fixed in their own nature, did not practice watchfulness, nor did they think it important to receive this oil of joyfulness in their hearts, for they still walked according to the flesh. On the contrary, in their negligence, slothfulness and self-righteousness, they were as though asleep, and for this reason they were shut out from the bridal-chamber of the kingdom (cf. Matt. 25:1-13). It is clear that they were held back by some kind of bond and amity with the world, inasmuch as they could not offer all their love and longing to the celestial bridegroom. For souls aspiring to acquire the sanctifying power of the Spirit that is not intrinsic to human nature direct all their love towards Christ: they walk, pray, think and meditate in Christ, and they turn away from everything else. And if the soul’s five senses -understanding, spiritual knowledge, discrimination, patient endurance and compassion – receive the grace and sanctification of the Spirit, they will in truth be wise virgins; but if they are left imprisoned in their own nature then they are indeed foolish virgin-children of the world and subject to the wrath of God.
(St Makarios of Egypt)
Prayer: Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world: have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world: have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace.
‘Christ died on account of our sins in accordance with the Scriptures’ (1 Cor. 15:3); and to those who serve Him well He gives freedom. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ He says, ‘you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your Lord’ (Matt. 25: 21). He who relies on theoretical knowledge alone is not yet a faithful servant: a faithful servant is one who expresses his faith in Christ through obedience to His commandments.
He who honors the Lord does what the Lord bids. When he sins or is disobedient, he patiently accepts what comes as something he deserves. If you love true knowledge, devote yourself to the ascetic life; for mere theoretical knowledge puffs a man up (cf. 1 Cor. 8:1). Unexpected trials are sent by God to teach us to practice the ascetic life.
Light is the property of a star, as simplicity and humility are the property of a holy and God-fearing man. Nothing distinguishes more clearly the disciples of Christ than a humble spirit and a simple way of life. The four Gospels shout this aloud. Whoever has not lived in this humble manner is deprived of his share in Him who ‘humbled Himself… to death, even the death of the cross’ (Phil. 2:8), the actual Lawgiver of the divine Gospels. It is said that those who thirst should go to the waters (cf. Isa. 55:1). Those who thirst for God should go in purity of mind. But he who through such purity soars aloft should also keep an eye on the earth of his own lowliness and simplicity, for no one is more exalted than he who is humble. Just as when light is absent, all things are dark and gloomy, so when humility is absent, all our efforts to please God are vain and pointless.
(St Hesychios the Priest)
Prayer: O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victory over their enemies to Orthodox Christians, and protect Thy people with Thy Cross.
Prayer gives thanks for blessings received and asks for failures to be forgiven and for power to strengthen us for the future; for without God’s help the soul can indeed do nothing. None the less, to persuade the will to have the strongest possible desire for union with and enjoyment of Him, for whom it longs, and to direct itself totally towards Him, is the major part of the achievement of our aim. And tears too have great power. They gain God’s mercy for our faults, purify us of the defilements produced through sensual pleasures, and Spur our desire upwards. Thus, our aim is the contemplation of intelligible realities and total aspiration towards them. The mortification of the flesh, together with the fasting, self-restraint and other things that contribute to it, are all practiced as a means to this end. And in their company is prayer. Each has many aspects; some contribute to one thing, some to another.
(St Theodoros the Ascetic)
Prayer: O my God relying on Thy infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Thy grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.
*Act of Hope
God in His unutterable goodness has arranged all things in a marvelous way for us; and if you want to understand this and to be as you should, you must struggle to acquire the virtues so as to be able to accept with gratitude everything that conies, whether it is good or whether it appears to be bad, and to remain undisturbed in all things. And even when the demons suggest some pride-provoking thought in order to fill you with self-elation, you should remember the shameful things they have said to you in the past and should reject this thought and become humble. And when they again suggest to you something shameful, you should remember that pride-provoking thought and so reject this new suggestion. Thus, through the co-operation of grace and by means of recollection, you make the demons cast out the demons, and are not brought to despair because of their shameful suggestions, or driven out of your mind because of your own conceit. On the contrary, when your intellect is exalted, you fake refuge in humility; and when your enemies humble you before God, you are raised up through hope. In this way until your last breath you will never become confused and fall, or through fear succumb to despair.
(St Peter of Damascus)
Prayer: O my God I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all-good and worthy of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.
*Act of Contrition
Patience is the house of the soul, for in it the soul is safeguarded. Humility is the soul’s wealth, for the soul is nourished through it. If you do not bear criticism patiently, you will not be honored with praise. If before indulging in pleasure you reflect on the pain inherent in it, you will escape the distress to which it gives birth. Do not fetter yourself to a small thing and you will not be enslaved to a greater one. For the greater evil is built up only on the basis of the smaller. By being mindful of greater evils, you will also be fearful of smaller ones; but if you give way to the greater evils, you will shamefully indulge in the lesser as well. You will not be able to attain the greater virtues until you have fully achieved those which lie within your power.
(Ilias the Presbyter)
Prayer: O my God I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured. (Act of Charity)