Daily Devotional for February 7-13
When a man acquires a Christian conscience, he zealously labors to correct his life and to please God. For him, all else becomes of little importance. We have examples of such men not only among the great ascetics and spiritual fathers but also among powerful rulers. Emperor Theodosius the Great provides us with such an example. For a brief time he fell into heresy but afterward he repented. St. Ambrose, his earlier critic, spoke over his lifeless body: “I loved this man who, divesting himself of all imperial insignias, be wailed his sin openly in church, and, with sighs and tears, begged forgiveness. What ordinary men are ashamed to do, the emperor was not ashamed to do. After his glorious victory over the enemies of the empire, he decided not to approach Holy Communion until the return of his sons, because his enemies had been slain in battle.”
**This week readings are from St Nikolai’s Prologue
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)
Brethren, the spirit of this world is the spirit of pride and cruelty, and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of meekness and gentleness. The Apostle of God asserts that the followers of Christ received not the spirit of this world but the Spirit which is of God, that is, which proceeds from God the Father as a sweet-smelling fragrance of flowers, as a good fragrance pouring out on the soul of man, making it mighty, bright, peaceful, thankful and pleasant. Men by nature are meek and gentle. St. Tertullian writes: “The soul of man is by nature Christian,” but it is made irritable and angry by the spirit of this world. The spirit of this world makes wolves out of lambs, while the Spirit of God makes lambs out of wolves. The Apostle adds further that we received the Spirit of God so that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God (I Corinthians 2:12), that we may know, then, what is from God in us and what is not from God, and that we may sense the sweetness of that which is from God and the bitterness of that which is not from God but from the spirit of this world. As long as man is outside his nature or beneath his nature, he considers bitterness sweet and sweetness bitter. But when by the Spirit of God he returns to his true nature, then he considers sweetness sweet and bitterness bitter. Who can return man to God? Who can heal man of poisonous sinful bitterness? Who can teach him by experience to distinguish true sweetness from bitterness? No one except the Spirit which is of God. Therefore, my brethren, let us pray that God grant us His Holy Spirit as He granted the Holy Spirit to His apostles and saints. And when the Holy Spirit of God enters into us, the Kingdom of God has come to us, in which is all sweetness, goodness, light, meekness and grace.
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.
We see that vice is something shameful and sinful, in that it always hides and always takes upon itself the appearance of good works. St. John Chrysostom beautifully says: “Vice does not have its own particular face, but borrows the face of good works.” This is why the Savior said: They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15). Call a liar a liar, a thief a thief, a murderer a murderer, an adulterer an adulterer, a slanderer a slanderer, and you will infuriate them. But if you want to call a man honest, honorable, unselfish, truthful, just, conscientious, you will make him light up with joy and please him. Again, I quote Chrysostom: “Good works are something natural in man, while vice is something unnatural and false.” If a man is caught in a vice, he quickly justifies his vice by some good works; he clothes it in the garment of good works. Indeed, vice does not possess its own particular face. The same is true of the devil, the father of vice!
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.
Only he who has the Spirit of God in himself has the witness that he is a child of God. Without the Spirit of God there is no such witness. Not even the whole universe can give this witness. The universe by itself, without the Spirit of God—what else does it witness to us other than the fact that we are its slaves, its victims, whom it unmercifully swallows? In essence, the pagans thought that also. Do not the opponents of God today think likewise? They do think so. For, indeed, it is difficult to take that thought away from those who do not recognize the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Witness of Heaven. The same apostle says: For ye have not received the spirit of bondage (Romans 8:15). What is this spirit of bondage? It is every spirit except the Spirit of God, Whom Christ the Lord sends to those who love Him. The spirit of bondage is the spirit of materialism, the spirit of fortune-telling, the spirit of naturalism, the spirit of pessimism, the spirit of despair, the spirit of vice. Only the Spirit of God is the All-holy Spirit of adoption and freedom. Oh, what happiness; oh, what peace; oh, what joy when the Spirit of God nestles in the cleansed heart of man as a sparrow does in its nest! Then our hope opens hundreds of doors in the prison of the universe; and our embrace, wider than the universe, stretches out to the One Who is greater and more merciful than the universe. To Whom? To the Father! And then we cry out: Abba, Father! (Romans 8:15). The witness of God that comes through sight can lead us to doubt that we are the children of God. But the witness that comes to us from the heart, from the Spirit of God, does not leave even the slightest doubt. God witnesses about God. What doubt can there be? God the Holy Spirit caresses us in the heart of our very being. Can there be any doubt there? No, for then we know and feel completely confident that God is the Father and that we are the children of God. No one’s servants, no one’s slaves, but rather the children of God.
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.
A spiritual man interprets all things and all natural phenomena in a spiritual and symbolic manner, and from everything he draws benefit for his soul. Once, the brethren came to St. John the Dwarf and began to tell him how a heavy rain had fallen and watered the palms, and how new branches had begun to sprout on the palms so that the monks would have enough material for their handiwork. St. John thought and said to the brethren: “In the same manner the Holy Spirit enters the hearts of the saints, so that they are renewed and put forth the branches of the fear of God.”
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.
How was Moses able to fast for forty days? How were the many Christian ascetics able to live a long life in extreme abstinence from food and drink? For the physical man who does not know about the spiritual life, this is impossible to believe. It is impossible even to prove it to him, for the understanding of it is achieved only by experience. When the torturers of St. Basiliscus detained him for three days without food and water, and when they did offer him food to eat, he refused, saying that he was not hungry. “I am,” said he, “filled with immortal food and do not want to receive mortal food. You are fed by earthly bread, but the heavenly word of God feeds me; wine makes you happy, but the grace of the Holy Spirit makes me happy; meat satisfies you, but fasting satisfies me; physical power strengthens you, but the Cross of Christ strengthens me; gold makes you rich, but the love of Christ enriches me; clothing adorns you, but good works adorn me; you are made happy with laughter, but I am comforted by the Spirit through prayer.” Behold this man, one of many, in whom the word of the Lord was confirmed: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
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
How is it, brethren, that our bodies became the temple of the Holy Spirit? Because we are bought with a price. The Lord Jesus bought us with His cares, labors, sufferings and death. Because of this price we were made worthy to become the temple of the Holy Spirit. But someone will say: “That price was paid a long time ago, and we live twenty centuries later!” It is all the same: the price was not paid for one time and for one generation, but rather for all times and for all generations from Adam to the Dreadful Judgment. And if billions and billions of human beings are born on earth, the price is paid for all of them. The price is so great and rich that, if all the sand in the sea were changed into men, the price would be sufficient. Brethren, from what moment do our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit? From the moment of our baptism. Although the Brethren, what is the consequence of the Holy Spirit’s taking up His abode in us? The consequence is this: that we are not our own anymore. When the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in our bodies, then He becomes the Master over us, and not we over our bodies or over ourselves. Then, brethren, we are the possession of God the Holy Spirit. Brethren, what did it mean at the Mystical Supper, when the Lord washed even the feet of Judas, and Judas received a piece of bread from the Lord, when the Scripture says: Satan entered into him (John 13:27). Oh, what dreadful words! Oh, what a horrible punishment for the traitor of God! Brethren, does this not mean that when we reject God, Who washes and feeds us, the Spirit of God departs from us and Satan settles in His place? Oh, what a harsh meaning! Oh, what a terrible reminder to all of us who are baptized! The Holy Spirit settled in us during our baptism and made us a temple for Himself. But the Holy Spirit does not dwell in us by force, but rather according to our good will. If we transgress against Him, He departs from us; Satan enters in His place, and our physical temple is transformed into a pigsty.
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)