Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Christ Led Captivity Captive

"You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive."
(Ps. 67/68)

Saint Methodios: On the Cross and Passion of Christ


METHODIUS, Bishop, to those who say: What doth it profit us that the Son of God was crucified upon earth, and made man? And wherefore did He endure to suffer in the manner of the cross, and not by some other punishment? And what was the advantage of the cross?

Christ, the Son of God, by the command of the Father, became conversant with the visible creature, in order that, by overturning the dominion of the tyrants, the demons, that is, He might deliver our souls from their dreadful bondage, by reason of which our whole nature, intoxicated by the draughts of iniquity, had become full of tumult and disorder, and could by no means return to the remembrance of good and useful things. Wherefore, also, it was the more easily carried away to idols, inasmuch as evil had overwhelmed it entirely, and had spread over all generations, on account of the change which had come over our fleshy tabernacles in consequence of disobedience; until Christ, the Lord, by the flesh in which He lived and appeared, weakened the force of Pleasure's onslaughts, by means of which the infernal powers that were in arms against us reduced our minds to slavery, and freed mankind from all their evils. For with this end the Lord Jesus both wore our flesh, and became man, and by the divine dispensation was nailed to the cross; in order that by the flesh in which the demons had proudly and falsely feigned themselves gods, having carried our souls captive unto death by deceitful wiles, even by this they might be overturned, and discovered to be no gods. For he prevented their arrogance from raising itself higher, by becoming man; in order that by the body in which the race possessed of reason had become estranged from the worship of the true God, and had suffered injury, even by the same receiving into itself in an ineffable manner the Word of Wisdom, the enemy might be discovered to be the destroyers and not the benefactors of our souls. For it had not been wonderful if Christ, by the terror of His divinity, and the greatness of His invincible power, had reduced to weakness the adverse nature of the demons. But since this was to cause them greater grief and torment, for they would have preferred to be overcome by one stronger than themselves, therefore it was that by a man He procured the safety of the race; in order that men, after that very Life and Truth had entered into them in bodily form, might be able to return to the form and light of the Word, overcoming the power of the enticements of sin; and that the demons, being conquered by one weaker than they, and thus brought into contempt, might desist from their over-bold confidence, their hellish wrath being repressed. It was for this mainly that the cross was brought in, being erected as a trophy against iniquity, and a deterrent from it, that henceforth man might be no longer subject to wrath, after that he had made up for the defeat which, by his disobedience, be had received, and had lawfully conquered the infernal powers, and by the gift of God had been set free from every debt. Since, therefore, the first-born Word of God thus fortified the manhood in which He tabernacled with the armour of righteousness, He overcame, as has been said, the powers that enslaved us by the figure of the cross, and showed forth man, who had been oppressed by corruption, as by a tyrant power, to be free, with unfettered hands. For the cross, if you wish to define it, is the confirmation of the victory, the way by which God to man descended, the trophy against material spirits, the repulsion of death, the foundation of the ascent to the true day; and the ladder for those who are hastening to enjoy the light that is there, the engine by which those who are fitted for the edifice of the Church are raised up from below, like a stone four square, to be compacted on to the divine Word. Hence it is that our kings, perceiving that the figure of the cross is used for the dissipating of every evil, have made vexillas, as they are called in the Latin language. Hence the sea, yielding to this figure, makes itself navigable to men. For every creature, so to speak, has, for the sake of liberty, been marked with this sign; for the birds which fly aloft, form the figure of the cross by the expansion of their wings; and man himself, also, with his hands outstretched, represents the same. Hence, when the Lord had fashioned him in this form, in which He had from the beginning flamed him, He joined on his body to the Deity, in order that it might be henceforth an instrument consecrated to God, freed from all discord and want of harmony. For man cannot, after that he has been formed for the worship of God, and hath sung, as it were, the incorruptible song of truth, and by this hath been made capable of holding the Deity, being fitted to the lyre of life as the chords and strings, he cannot, I say, return to discord and corruption.



Some think that God also, whom they measure with the measure of their own feelings, judges the same thing that wicked and foolish men judge to be subjects of praise and blame, and that He uses the opinions of men as His rule and measure, not taking into account the fact that, by reason of the ignorance that is in them, every creature falls short of the beauty of God. For He draws all things to life by His Word, from their universal substance and nature. For whether He would have good, He Himself is the Very Good, and remains in Himself; or, whether the beautiful is pleasing to Him, since He Himself is the Only Beautiful, He beholds Himself, holding in no estimation the things which move the admiration of men. That, verily, is to be accounted as in reality the most beautiful and praiseworthy, which God Himself esteems to be beautiful, even though it be contemned and despised by all else--not that which men fancy to be beautiful. Whence it is, that although by this figure He hath willed to deliver the soul from corrupt affections, to the signal putting to shame of the demons, we ought to receive it, and not to speak evil of it, as being that which was given us to deliver us, and set us free from the chains which for our disobedience we incurred. For the Word suffered, being in the flesh affixed to the cross, that He might bring man, who had been deceived by error, to His supreme and godlike majesty, restoring him to that divine life from which he had become alienated. By this figure, in truth, the passions are blunted; the passion of the passions having taken place by the Passion, and the death of death by the death of Christ, He not having been subdued by death, nor overcome by the pains of the Passion. For neither did the Passion cast Him down from His equanimity, nor did death hurt Him, but He was in the passible remaining impassible, and in the mortal remaining immortal, comprehending all that the air, and this middle state, and the heaven above contained, and attempering the mortal to the immortal divinity. Death was vanquished entirely; the flesh being crucified to draw forth its immortality.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

"I am crucified with Christ": St. Paul on the Mystery of the Cross

"I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Galatians 2 20-21

"And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." Galatians 5 24-26.

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God: Colossians 3

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. 5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Holy Scripture on ‘Eli, Eli, lama savachthani? My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’

NOTE TO THE READER: Throughout the Psalms of the Prophet-King David one finds a multi level "typology", where the speaker of the Psalm is a "typos" or image of, in one instance, the persecuted and suffering Christ and then the embattled human soul. The struggles and battles described in the Psalms are thus phrophetic images of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and then of the inner battles of those who struggle in Christ against the demons and the passions. Some Psalms may be clearly Messianic prophecies, such as Psalm 2. Others may be typologic in two ways: the prophetic image focuses in one instance on the Lord Christ, then on the Christian athlete, or some times it is equally both--an image itself of Christ's victory granted to us. But in Psalm 21 we find "I am a worm and not a man, the scorn of men and the outcast of the people". How can this refer to Christ? One answer would be that it is a image of the persecuted Christ, reviled and spit upon by human society. Thus the Prophet-King writes: "All who saw me jeered at me, they spoke with their lips, they wagged their heads. ‘He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him, let him save him, for he wants him'". Later, St. Matthew records the reaction of the people to the crucified Christ: "While the passers by blasphemed him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days! Save yourself. If you are Son of God, come down from the cross.’ Likewise the chief priests mocked him along with the scribes and elders and Pharisees, saying, ‘He saved others. He cannot save himself. If he is the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross and we will believe in him. He trusted in God, let him now deliver him, if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the son of God." The Pharisees actually use the same words from Psalm 21. In fact, Psalm 21 is rich with Messianic images that the early Church held as precious testimony for the victory of Christ.

Psalm 5

Give ear to my words, O Lord, understand my cry. Attend to the voice of my supplication, my King and my God; for to you I shall pray, O Lord. In the morning you will hear my voice. In the morning I shall stand before you, and you will watch over me; because you are not a God who wants iniquity. The evildoer will not dwell with you, nor will the lawless remain before your eyes. You have hated all those who work iniquity; you will destroy all those who speak lies. The Lord abhors a man of bloodshed and deceit. But I in the abundance of your mercy shall enter your house, I shall worship towards your holy temple in fear of you. Guide me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies, direct my way before you. Because there is no truth in their mouths; their heart is vain. Their throat is an open tomb, they deceive with their tongues. Judge them, O God. Let them fall through their counsels; according to the multitude of their impieties cast them out, for they have embittered you, O Lord. And may all those who hope in you be glad; they will rejoice for ever, and you will dwell among them, and all those who love your name will boast in you. Because you will bless the righteous; you have crowned him, O Lord, with your good pleasure.

Psalm 2

Why were the nations insolent and why did the peoples meditate vain things? The kings of the earth stood up and the rulers were assembled together against the Lord and against his Christ. Let us break through their bonds and cast away their yoke from us. He that dwells in heaven will laugh them to scorn and the Lord will mock them. Then he will speak to them in his anger and panic them in his fury. But I was established as king by him, on Sion his holy mountain announcing the Lord’s decree: The Lord said to me: ‘You are my Son. Today I have begotten you. Ask me, and I shall give you nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession. You will shepherd them with an iron rod; like a potter’s vessels you will smash them.’ And now, kings, understand; be corrected, all who judge the earth. Serve the Lord in fear and rejoice in him with trembling. Accept correction, lest the Lord be angry, and you perish from the right way whenever his fury is suddenly kindled. Blessed are all who have put their trust in him.

Psalm 21

O God, my God, attend to me; why have you abandoned me? Far from salvation are the words of my offences. My God, I shall cry by day, and you will not hear; and by night, and it shall be no folly for me. But you, the praise of Israel, dwell in the Holy Place. Our fathers hoped in you, they hoped and you delivered them. They cried to you and they were saved, they hoped in you and they were not shamed. But I am a worm and not a man, the scorn of men and the outcast of the people. All who saw me jeered at me, they spoke with their lips, they wagged their heads. ‘He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him, let him save him, for he wants him’. For you are the one who drew me from the womb, my hope from my mother’s breasts; on you I have been cast since the womb. From my mother’s womb you are my God, do not abandon me. For trouble is near, for there is no one to help me. Many bullocks have surrounded me, fat bulls have assailed me. They opened their mouths against me, like a lion ravening and roaring. I have been poured out like water, and all my bones have been scattered, my heart has become like wax melting inside me. My strength has dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue has stuck to my throat, and you have led me down into the dust of death, For many dogs have surrounded me, an assembly of evil doers has assailed me. They have dug my hands and my feet; all my bones have been numbered; they have observed me and gazed at me. They have parted my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing . But you, Lord, do not keep your help far from me, be attentive to my defence. Deliver my soul from the sword and my only one from the hand of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth and my lowliness from the horns of unicorns. I shall declare your name to my brethren, I shall hymn you in the midst of the Church. Those who fear the Lord, praise him, all the seed of Jacob glorify him. Let all the seed of Israel fear him. For he has not spurned nor slighted the pauper’s supplication, nor has he turned his face from me; and he heard me when I called upon him. From you is my praise; in the great Church I shall confess you; I shall pay my vows before those who fear you. The poor will eat and be filled, those who seek the Lord will praise him; their hearts will live for ever. All the ends of the earth will remember and turn back to the Lord and all the families of the nations will worship before him. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he is master of the nations. All the fat ones of the earth have eaten and worshipped; all those who go down into the earth will fall down before him. And my soul lives for him, and my seed will serve him. The coming generation will be proclaimed to the Lord, and they will proclaim his justice to a people yet to be born, whom the Lord has made.

The Reading is from the Prophecy of Isaias.

The Lord God has given me the tongue of instruction, that I may know when to speak a word. Very early in the morning he has given me, given me an ear to hear; and the instruction of the Lord, of the Lord opens my ear, and I do not disobey, I do not dispute. I gave my back to scourges, and my cheeks to blows; I did not turn my face from the shame of spitting. The Lord God became my helper; therefore I was not ashamed, but I set my face like solid rock, and I knew that I would not be put to shame; he who justifies me is near. Who will contend with me? Let him stand up against me at the same time; who will contend with me? Let him draw near me. See, the Lord, the Lord will help me; who will injure me? All of you will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat you up. Who among you fears the Lord? Let him obey the voice of his servant; you that walk in darkness and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord and place your reliance on God? See, all of you burn like fire, make the flame grow strong. Walk in the light of your fire, and in the flame that you have kindled! For my sake this happened to you: you shall lie down in sorrow.

The Reading is from the Epistle of Paul to the Romans.

Brethren, while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person - though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

"Truly this was a son of God"

Priest: And that he would count us worthy to listen to the holy Gospel, let us pray to the Lord God.

Reader: Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Priest: Wisdom. Stand upright. Let us listen to the holy Gospel. Peace to all.

Reader: And to your spirit.

Priest: The reading is from the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Reader: Glory to you, O Lord, glory to you!


At that time, when morning had come, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And having bound him, they led him away and handed him over to Pontius Pilate the governor. Judas, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, repented and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And flinging down the pieces of silver in the temple he went away and hanged himself. But the chief priests picked up the pieces of silver and said, ‘It is not permitted to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.’ So they conferred together and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. And so that field has been called Field of Blood until today. Then what had been said by the prophet Jeremy was fulfilled, when he said, And the took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one who was prized, whom they prized from the children of Israel, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord had commanded me. But Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned him saying, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You say so.’ And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders he made no answer. Then Pilate says to him, ‘Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?’ But he did not answer him with s single word, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. They had at the time a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had assembled Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do wish me to release to you? Barabbas or Jesus called Christ?’ For he knew that they had handed him over through envy. But while he was seated on the tribunal, his wife sent to him saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that just man. For I have suffered many things today in a dream because of him.’ But the chief priests and elders had persuaded the crowds that they should ask for Barabbas. Pilate says to them, ‘So what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?’ They say to him, ‘Let him be crucified!’ The governor said, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted even louder, saying, ‘Let him be crucified!’ So Pilate, seeing that he was getting nowhere, but that a riot was starting instead, took water and washed his hands in full view of the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just man. You look to it.’ And the whole people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’ Then he released Barabbas to them, but Jesus he had scourged and handed him over to be crucified. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort round him. They stripped him and dressed him in a scarlet cloak, and having woven a crown of thorns, they placed it on his head and a reed in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They spat on him and took the reed and struck it on his head. And when they had mocked him, they took off the cloak and dressed him in his own clothes and led him away to crucify him. As they went out they found a Cyrenian named Simon; they forced him to carry his cross. At that time, when the soldiers had reached a place called Golgotha, which means place of a Skull, they gave him vinegar to drink mixed with gall. And when he had tasted it he would not drink. But when they had crucified him they divided up his garments, casting lots. And they sat there and watched him. And they placed over his head his written accusation: This is Jesus the king of the Jews. Then they crucified with him two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. While the passers by blasphemed him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days! Save yourself. If you are Son of God, come down from the cross.’ Likewise the chief priests mocked him along with the scribes and elders and Pharisees, saying, ‘He saved others. He cannot save himself. If he is the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross and we will believe in him. He trusted in God, let him now deliver him, if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the son of God.’ And the thieves who were crucified with him reviled him in the same way. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. But around the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama savachthani?’ That is, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ Some of those who stood there when they heard this said, ‘This one is calling on Elias.’ And immediately one of them ran and taking a sponge filled it with vinegar and putting it one a reed gave him to drink. But the rest said, ‘Stop, let us see if Elias is coming to help him,’ But Jesus, having once more cried out with a loud voice, gave up the spirit. And behold, the veil of the Temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom, and the earth was shaken and the rocks were rent, and the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints that slept were raised, and coming out of their graves after his rising they entered the Holy City and appeared to many. But the centurion and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and all that happened, were greatly afraid and said, ‘Truly this was a son of God.’ And there were many women there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him. Among them were Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Reader: Glory to you, O Lord, glory to you!

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Jesus Prayer

'The more rain falls on the earth, the softer it makes it; similarly, Christ's holy name gladdens the earth of our heart the more we call upon it.'—St. Hesychois the Priest, from the Philokalia

To cry out to God with adept longing is known to most Christians as the act of prayer: to bring before Him all one's sorrows, all one's joys, all one's thankfulness and all one's needs. We come to God in Christ, with the aid of His saints, with petitions both of joy and of supplication, of abundance and of want. Prayer is a divine dialogue between humanity and its Creator, in which the Maker of All hears the voice of that which His hands have formed, and responds in loving compassion to that voice.

Such is indeed a worthy and valid form of prayer. Our Liturgy and services are filled with such supplications, prayed in reverence and surity to a God who hears. We would all do well to increase the fervour with which we offer such prayers to Christ.

Yet such is not the only form of prayer. There is another manner in which the work of creation comes before its God, by which each human person is able to behold God face to face, to draw closer unto Him in perfect union and communion. It is a prayer beyond mere adoration, beyond supplication, beyond words themselves. It is truly worldess prayer, wrought from the heart itself, wherein the whole person communes with God directly, in purity, and realizes his salvation. Such prayer is that which the Fathers call the prayer of the heart, known so often in practice as the Jesus Prayer.

It was Paul, Apostle of Christ, who had instructed the faithful at Thessaloniki and throughout the world to 'pray without ceasing' (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Over a millennium later, a poor pilgrim on the Russian steppe wandered into a Sunday Liturgy and heard these words proclaimed. The command pierced him to the core. How does one pray without ceasing? If prayer is solely conversation or dialogue, as he had long understood it to be, how could it be possible to engage in such an activity at all times, through all the events of daily life and social interaction?

Engaging in inner prayer is a task to which every Christian is called. Paul's command to pray without ceasing applies to each Christian today, as much as it did to those in the Church at Thessaloniki. We are called to intimate communion with the Creator of Life, such that there be no moment when our souls and bodies are not enlightened by Him. It was St Evagrius of Pontus who wrote that 'prayer is the communion of the intellect with God', and it becomes our task to transform our prayer from mere words, mere petitions, to the direct communion of the depths of our hearts and beings with God Himself.

One of the greatest tools by which the Church has encouraged this transformation in the individual prayers of its faithful has been through use of the Jesus Prayer. Its formula is simple: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner', yet this short phrase is not meant to be an end in itself, but rather a tool for a changed life of prayer. Its repetition, frequent and regular, causes the mind and heart to become accustomed to the continual outcry to God, until, in God's good time, one's whole being begins to realize its intimate proximity to God at every moment.

[Excerpted from "The Jesus Prayer: The Prayer of the Heart"]

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Prayer: The Language of Silence

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ευχες Μυσικες: Αγιου Συμεων του Νεου Θεολογου


Έλα, το φώς το αληθινό,
έλα, η αιώνια ζωή,
έλα, το απόκρυφο μυστήριο,
ο ανώνυμος θησαυρός,
το ανεκφώνητο πράγμα,
το ακατανόητο πρόσωπο,
η παντοτινή αγαλλίαση, το ανέσπερο φως,
έλα, η αληθινή προσδοκία
αυτών που μέλλουν να σωθούν.
Έλα, των πεσμένων η έγερση,
έλα, των νεκρών η ανάσταση.
Έλα, Δυνατέ, που δημιουργείς,
μεταπλάθεις κι αλλοιώνεις τα πάντα
με μόνη τη θέλησή σου!
Έλα, αόρατε, ανέγγιχτε κι αψηλάφητε.
Έλα, συ που μένεις πάντα αμετακίνητος,
μα κάθε στιγμή μετακινείσαι ολόκληρος,
για να 'ρθεις σε μας, που κειτόμαστε στον άδη,
ο υπεράνω πάντων των ουρανών.
Έλα, πολυπόθητο και πολυθρύλητο όνομα,
που όμως αδυνατούμε να περιγράψουμε
τι ήσουν ακριβώς,
ή να γνωρίσουμε την ουσία και τις ιδιότητές σου.
Έλα, παντοτινή χαρά,
έλα, αμαράντινο στεφάνι,
έλα, πορφύρα του μεγάλου Θεού και βασιλιά μας.
Έλα, κρυστάλλινη ζώνη διαμαντοστόλιστη,
ελα, απλησίαστο υπόδημα,
έλα βασιλική αλουργίδα
κι όντως αυτοκρατορική δεξιά!
Έλα, συ που πόθησε και ποθεί
η ταλαίπωρή μου ψυχή,
έλα, συ ο Μόνος
προς εμένα τον μόνο
γιατί, καθώς βλέπεις
είμαι μόνος!…
Έλα, συ που με ξεχώρισες απ' όλα
και μ' έκανες μοναδικό πάνω στη γή.
Έλα, συ που έγινες ο πόθος της ψυχής μου
και μ' αξίωσες να σε ποθήσω
τον απρόσιτο παντελώς!
Έλα, πνοή μου και ζωή,
έλα της ταπεινής μου ψυχής παρηγοριά,
έλα, χαρά και δόξα μου κι' ατέλειωτη τρυφή.


Σ' ευχαριστώ, που έγινες ένα πνεύμα μαζί μου
ασυγχύτως, ατρέπτως κι αναλλοιώτως,
Θεέ του παντός,
κι' έγινες για χάρη μου τα πάντα σε όλα:
Τροφή ανεκλάλητη που ποτέ δεν τελειώνει,
που ξεχύνεται ακατάπαυστα
από της ψυχής μου τα χείλη
και πλούσια αναβλύζει
απ' την πηγή της καρδιάς μου.
Ενδυμα, που αστράφτει
και καταφλέγει τους δαίμονες.
κάθαρση, που με πλένεις
με τ' άφθαρτα κι' άγια δάκρυα
που η παρουσία σου χαρίζει
σ' όσους επισκεφθείς.
Σ' ευχαριστώ, γιατί για χάρη μου έγινες
ανέσπερο φως και ήλιος αβασίλευτος,
που δεν έχεις πού να κρυφτείς,
αφού γεμίζεις με τη δόξα σου τα σύμπαντα.
Ποτέ δεν κρύφτηκες από κανένα
αλλ' εμείς κρυβόμαστε πάντοτε από σένα,
μη θέλοντας ναρθούμε κοντά σου.
Μα πού να κρυφτείς
αφού πουθενά δεν υπάρχει τόπος
για την κατάπαυσή σου;
Και γιατί να κρυφτείς
εσύ που δεν αποστρέφεσαι κανένα
ούτε κανένα ντρέπεσαι;
Και τώρα, σε ικετεύω, Δέσποτά μου,
έλα να στήσεις τη σκηνή σου στην καρδιά μου,
να κατοικήσεις και να μείνεις εντός μου
αχώριστος κι ενωμένος μέχρι τέλους
με μένα τον δούλο σου, αγαθέ,
για να βρεθώ κι' εγώ
στην έξοδό μου κι έπειτα απ' αυτήν στους αιώνες
κοντά σου Αγαπημένε,
και να βασιλέψω μαζί σου
Θεέ του παντός!


Μείνε, Κύριε, και μη μ' αφήσεις μόνο.
Θέλω, όταν έρθουν οι εχθροί μου,
Που ζητούν να καταπιούν την ψυχή μου,
να σε βρούν μέσα μου,
και να φύγουν για πάντα,
για να μη μπορέσουν ξανά να με βλάψουν
βλέποντάς σε τον ισχυρότερο πάντων
να κάθεσαι στον οίκο της ταπεινής μου ψυχής.
Ναί, Δέσποτα,
όπως με θυμήθηκες όταν ζούσα στον κόσμο
και χωρίς να το καταλάβω
με διάλεξες εσύ, με χώρισες απ' τον κόσμο
και μ' έκανες κοινωνό της θείας σου δόξης,
έτσι και τώρα φύλαξέ με
πάντοτε σταθερό κι αμετακίνητο
στην ενοίκησή σου εντός μου.
Βλέποντάς σε αδιάκοπα εγώ ο νεκρός
θ'ανασταίνομαι και θα ζω,
έχοντάς σε εγώ ο φτωχός
θα πλουτίζω διαρκώς
και θα γίνω πλουσιότερος
απ' όλους τους βασιλιάδες.
και θα σε τρώγω και θα σε πίνω
και θα σε ντύνομαι κάθε ώρα,
ώστε να ζω και τώρα και πάντα
εντρυφώντας σε ανεκλάλητα αγαθά.
Γιατί εσύ είσαι
κάθε αγαθό και κάθε δόξα και κάθε τρυφή
και σε σένα πρέπει η δόξα
στην Αγία και Ομοούσιο και Ζωοποιό Τριάδα,
που όλοι οι πιστοί
τη σέβονται και τη γνωρίζουν,
την προσκυνούν και τη λατρεύουν
στα πρόσωπα
του Πατέρα και του Υιού και του Αγίου Πνεύματος
τώρα και πάντα και στους αιώνες των αιώνων.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Great John the Forerunner

The Reading is from the Prophecy of Isaias.
[40:1 and selection]

Thus says the Lord: Comfort, comfort my people, says God. Priests, speak to the heart of Jerusalem. Comfort her, because her humiliation has been completed; for her has sin has been abolished, because she has received from the Lord’s hand double for her sins. A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. Every valley will be filled and every mountain and hill made low; what is crooked will become straight, and the rough ways will be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Go up onto a high mountain, you who bring good tidings to Sion; lift up your voice with strength, you who bring good tidings to Jerusalem. Lift it up, do not be afraid. I the Lord God, I, the God of Israel, will hearken and will not forsake them; but I will open rivers from the mountains and springs in the middle of plains. I will turn the wilderness into water meadows and the thirsty earth with water courses. Let the heavens rejoice from on high and let the clouds rain justice. Let the earth sprout and blossom with mercy and justice. Announce a voice of gladness to the end of the earth and let this be heard: Say that the Lord has delivered his servant Jacob. And if they thirst through deserts, he will bring water for them from a rock. Rejoice you barren who have never given birth, break out and shout, you who have never known birth pangs, for the children of the deserted are more than those of her who has a husband.

The Reading is from the Prophecy of Malachias.
[3 & 4 and selection]

Thus says the Lord Almighty: See, I am sending my Angel, my messenger, before your face, who will prepare your way before you. And the Lord whom you seek will come to his temple. And who will endure the day of his entrance? And who will withstand at his appearing? Because he will enter like fire in a smelting furnace and like the lye of launderers. And he will come to you in judgement; and he will be a swift witness against the wicked and against adulteresses and against those swear falsely in his name and those who do not fear him, says the Lord Almighty. Because I am the Lord your God, and I have not changed and you, children of Jacob, have perverted the laws and not kept them. Therefore turn back to me and I will turn back to you, says the Lord Almighty. And all the nations will call you blessed and you will know that I am the Lord who discern between just and lawless on the day on which I make a peculiar possession of those who love me. Know then and remember the law of Moses my servant, as I gave him commandment on Horeb, to all Israel ordinances and judgements. And see, I will send you Elias the Thesbite, before the great and manifest day of the Lord comes; he will turn again the heart of father to son and of a man to his neighbour, lest when I come I smite the earth grievously, says the Lord Almighty, God the Holy One of Israel.

The Reading is from the Wisdom of Solomon.
[4:7, selection, & 5:1-7]

A just man if he comes to his end will be at rest. A just man who dies will condemn the ungodly who are alive; for they will see the end of a just man and will not understand what they counselled concerning him. For the Lord will break the ungodly, render them voiceless and cast them headlong, and he will shake them from the foundations and they will be utterly worsted in sorrow, and their memory shall perish. They shall come with fear at the accounting of their sins, and their iniquities will convict them to their face. Then the just will stand with much boldness in the face of those who afflicted him and made his toils of no account. When they see this they will be troubled with great fear and will be amazed at the wonder of his salvation. For they will say as they repent and with anguish they will groan and say: Is this he whom we fools once made a laughing stock and a byword of reproach? We reckoned his life folly and his end dishonour. How has he been numbered among the children of God and his lot with the Saints? Therefore we have erred from the way of truth and the light of righteousness has not shone on us and the sun has not dawned on us. We have been filled with paths of lawlessness and destruction and journeyed through trackless paths, but have not known the way of the Lord.

Doxastikon of the Feast

The Beheading of Saint John the Forerunner: Bede the Venerable

As forerunner of our Lord’s birth, preaching and death, the blessed John showed in his struggle a goodness worthy of the sight of heaven. In the words of Scripture: Though in the sight of men he suffered torments, his hope is full of immortality. We justly commemorate the day of his birth with a joyful celebration, a day which he himself made festive for us through his suffering and which he adorned with the crimson splendour of his own blood. We do rightly revere his memory with joyful hearts, for he stamped with the seal of martyrdom the testimony which he delivered on behalf of our Lord.

There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.

Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.

Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptized in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptize the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.

Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake. He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.