Daily Devotional for December 6 – 12
This Week Excerpts from St. Nikolai’s Prologue…
But behold how the Prophet Jeremiah is crowned with glory in the other life! Gray hairs and exceeding glorious! Around him was a certain indescribable dignity, a certain bright aureole, a certain inexpressible pleasure and beauty. He was dragged and beaten by the men to whom he had imparted the will of God, was a captive in prison and a martyr in a fetid hole, was derided as a liar, was tried as a traitor, and finally was stoned to death as a transgressor. However, the judgment of sinners is one thing, and the judgment of God is another. The most humiliated among men became crowned with angelic glory before God. And yet, behold how heaven names one whom the earth called false, a traitor and a transgressor! Lover of the brethren: this is what heaven called him. Lover of the brethren, who prays much for the people. Finally, see how the saints in heaven pray to God for us! Not sleeping, they pray for us while we are asleep; not eating, they pray for us while we are eating—and over-eating; not sinning, they pray for us while we are sinning. O brethren, let us be ashamed before so many of our sincere friends. Let us be ashamed, let us be ashamed of so many prayers for us by the saints, and let us join with their prayers.
Prayer: O Gentle Light of the holy glory of the immortal, heavenly, holy, blessed Father, O Jesus Christ: Having come to the setting of the sun, having beheld the evening light, we praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: God. Meet it is for Thee at all times to be hymned with reverent voices, O Son of God, Giver of life. Wherefore, the world doth glorify Thee.
*Eastern Vesper Hymn
Following a terrible earthquake in Antioch, St. John Chrysostom spoke to the people: “Great are the fruits of an earthquake. Behold the man-loving Lord, Who shakes the city and strengthens the soul, Who sways the foundation and strengthens the thoughts, Who shows the weakness of the city and makes the will of the people strong! Turn your attention to His love for mankind. He sways us for a while, but strengthens us forever; an earthquake for two days, but the devotion will remain for all times; you were sorrowful for a short time, but strengthened forever. A mother, wanting to wean her child from the habit of frequent crying, strongly rocks its little cradle, not in order to harm it but to frighten it. Precisely in this manner, the Lord of all, Who holds the universe in His hands, shakes it, not in order to destroy it but rather to bring back to salvation those men who live lawlessly.” Behold how the Holy Fathers, the pillars of the universal Church, knew how to explain by God’s love for man both assaults and blessings, both misfortune and fortune. Let us be ashamed who are slow to give thanks to God when He gives, and are quick in our murmuring toward Him when He takes away.
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.
…it is necessary that we pray daily that the Holy Spirit be sent to us just as we pray every day for our daily bread? God is willing to send us the Holy Spirit every day, but He seeks that we pray daily for the Holy Spirit. For just as it is with regard to bread, which is at one time abundant and at another time scarce, so it is also with regard to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us and departs from us according to our zealousness and our slothfulness in prayer, according to our good deeds and our patience. That is why the Church ordained that morning services begin with an invocation of the Holy Spirit: “O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, come!” and after that comes the prayer: “… give us this day our daily bread!” Why? Because, without the Holy Spirit, we do not even know how to use bread as it should be used for our salvation. He shall teach you all things. That is, every day and every night, according to the conditions and circumstances in which you find yourself, He will direct you, counsel you, teach you what you should think, what you should say, and what you should do. For that reason, implore God for the Holy Spirit only, and He Himself will bring all that you need at that particular moment. When the Holy Spirit shall descend upon you, you will know all, understand all, and you will be capable of all that is necessary. And bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. That is: “Do not be afraid that you will forget My teaching and My words. The Holy Spirit also knows all that I know, so that when He will be present in you, all My teaching will be present in you, together with Him.”
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.
To conceal one’s virtues and ascetic labors has been the custom of ascetics, both female and male, not only in the earliest times of Christianity but throughout all ages to the present time. Eudocia, wife of the glorious Prince Dimitri Donskoy, the liberator of Russia from the Tartars, was left a widow in 1389, while still fairly young. Imbued with devotion, this princess built many churches, distributed alms, and secretly weakened her body by fasting and long vigils. She wore an iron chain around her body. Meanwhile, she always appeared happy before the public, clothed in opulence and adorned with pearls. The public said many things about her, and they began to spread rumors that she was leading an immoral life. Her sons also heard about this and, insulted and embittered, openly informed their mother of what was being said about her. Their mother opened her luxurious robe and her sons, with great horror, saw her body, completely withered, dried up and bound with iron chains.
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.
God the Son sent God the Holy Spirit into the world to testify of Him until the end of time. He shall testify of Me. How will God the Spirit testify of God the Son? God the Spirit will testify in many ways: By attracting men’s souls to Christ’s Church; By revealing to them the meaning of the Holy Scriptures; By leading their minds to the commandments of Christ; By giving warmth, freshness, power and gentleness to the words of Christ; By converting repentant sinners to righteousness; By fulfilling all the promises and prophecies of Christ to men, to nations, and to God’s Church; By strengthening the Church of Christ and holding it firm against all the tempests of time and all the evils of hades and men throughout the ages. The Spirit Who works in these and many other Not one of Christ’s words goes against the Spirit of God, nor does the Spirit of God go against a single word of Christ. That is why, when the Spirit of God is pleased to enter into the heart of man, such a man is enlivened and becomes a true witness to all that Christ said and did. Then, that man believes joyfully and unwaveringly. For how could he not believe the greatest and the most enduring Eyewitness of and Participator in all the words, miracles and works of Christ? Thus, brethren, let us pray before all and above all, that this Eyewitness and Participator, the Holy and All-powerful Spirit, will settle in our hearts, so that our faith may become alive, unwavering and joyous.
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
The great hierarchs, the pillars of the Orthodox Church, knew how to blend meekness and firmness in their character: meekness toward the righteous ones and penitents, and firmness toward unrepentant criminals. One Sunday, following the Divine Liturgy, Tsar Ivan the Terrible approached Metropolitan Philip to receive his blessing. The metropolitan pretended not to see the tsar and gazed at the icon of the Savior. The tsar’s adjutant approached the metropolitan and said to him: “Your Eminence, the Ruler is before you, bless him.” The metropolitan looked at the tsar and said: “O Tsar, fear the judgment of God. Here, we offer up the Bloodless Sacrifice to God, and outside the sanctuary the blood of Christians is being spilled. How many innocent people suffer? You are exalted on the throne, but nevertheless you are a man.” The enraged tsar told the metropolitan to keep silent, but the metropolitan said to him: “Where is my faith, if I remain silent?” When the tsar began to threaten the metropolitan, the latter quietly replied: “I am a visitor and guest on earth and am ready to suffer for the truth!” After some time, the cruel tsar had the metropolitan suffocated, but he could not suffocate the saint.
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
This is witnessed by the Apostle Peter, who was himself a holy man of God, a rock of faith and a knight of the Cross. As a holy man of God he explained, from his own personal experience, how the holy men of God spoke, and how they still speak: They spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. They did not speak according to their own reasoning, nor according to their own memory, nor according to their own speculation, nor according to their own eloquence; rather they spoke from and by the Holy Spirit. The wisdom of God flowed through them, and the truth of God was revealed through them. Holy Scripture was not written with the false pen of the scribes (Jeremiah 8:8), but was written by the servants and the chosen ones of the Holy Spirit of God. Neither was Holy Scripture written by professional writers; rather, it was written by the saints of God, who were directed and compelled by the Spirit of God to write. Although they often did not want to write, at times even protesting, they had to write, as the Holy Prophet Jeremiah testified: I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing and I could not stay (Jeremiah 20:9).
O my brethren, Sacred Scripture is not of men but of God. It is not of the earth but rather from heaven. Nor is it from the body; rather it is from the Spirit. Yes, from the Holy Spirit of God. Inspired by the wisdom and truth of the Holy Spirit, these holy men of God wrote: prophets, evangelists, apostles, fathers, teachers and shepherds.
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)