Monday, April 20, 2015

Saint Zacchaeus the Apostle as a Model for our Lives

Holy Apostle Zacchaeus (Feast Day - April 20)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Zacchaeus, as is known from the Gospel reading that is read every year in the sacred churches before the Triodion, is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke (19:1-10), that he was a chief publican and wealthy man who sought to see Christ. When he heard that the Lord was to pass through Jericho he climbed a sycamore tree, because he was of a small body stature, in order to see Him. Christ saw him and said: "Come down quickly, for I must stay at your house tonight." Indeed, He even called him out by name, even though he had never met Him nor seen Him before. Zacchaeus immediately came down and welcomed him with joy, while those present began to grumble and complain because the Lord went to stay in the house of a sinner, as if they were sinless. But Christ went to the house of Zacchaeus first because He visits, without discrimination, all those who want Him and desire to seek Him with faith, and secondly because He saw the heart of the chief publican inflamed with true repentance and the desire for correction. Indeed, Zacchaeus actively showed his repentance, when he publicly proclaimed that he would give half of his property to the poor and those he wronged he would give a return fourfold. For this reason he was made worthy to hear from the mouth of Christ those most sweet words: "Today salvation has come to this house."

Saint John of Ioannina as a Model for our Lives

St. John the Tailor of Ioannina (Feast Day - April 18 and Bright Tuesday)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Neomartyr John was born in Ioannina from pious parents, who raised him "in the education and admonition of the Lord". He practiced the profession of tailor and the income he received from his work he distributed in three equal parts. The first part he gave to his parents, the second he gave in alms, and the third he held for his own livelihood. After the repose of his parents he moved to Constantinople, when Patriarch Jeremiah I (1525-1545) was Ecumenical Patriarch, who hailed from Ioannina.

Saint John was a virtuous young man, gifted in body and soul with many gifts which caused the envy of some Turks, who pressed him to deny his faith and become a Muslim. John asked the blessing of his spiritual father to proceed towards martyrdom, because he understood that the time had come for him to give his confession for Christ and to seal it with his blood, but his spiritual father advised him to wait. Eventually, he was convinced it was God's will for John and he gave his blessing. Meanwhile the Turks, who had not ceased for a moment to disturb and pressure him to convert, slandered him saying that once in Trikala he denied Christ. John told them that such a thing never happened, nor will it happen ever in the future. Then they angrily arrested him and dragged him before the judge, before whom he confessed once again his faith in Christ and therefore was tortured fiercely and thrown in prison. Inside the prison, he was full of inner peace, praying and praising God with hymns, and because he continued to remain firm and steadfast in his faith he was condemned to death.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Faith of the Mind and the Faith of the Heart

By Protopresbyter Fr. John Romanides

Human beings can have two kinds of faith. The first kind of faith, which has its seat in the mind, is the reasonable faith of acceptance. In this case, a person rationally accepts something and believes in what he has accepted, but this faith does not justify him. When Holy Scripture says, “man is saved by faith alone,”1 it does not mean that he is saved merely by the faith of acceptance. There is, however, another kind of faith, the faith of the heart. It is referred to in this way because this kind of faith is not found in the human reason or intellect, but in the region of the heart. This faith of the heart is a gift of God that you will not receive unless God decides to grant it. It is also called ‘inner faith,’ which is the kind of faith that the father of the young lunatic in the Gospel asked Christ to give him when he said, “Lord, help my unbelief.”2 Naturally, the father already believed with his reason, but he did not have that deep inner faith that is a gift of God.

May the Calendar of the Heart Say "Resurrection"!

By Fr. Andrew Konanou

resurrect me with You!
Take away from me all stress,
anxiety and fear.

Grant me Your serenity
and joy.

Your strength.
Your authority.
Your victory
in each pain,
corruption and death.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Mystery of the Sabbath and of the Lord’s Day

Explaining the Mystery of the Sabbath and of the Lord’s Day
(And Referring to the Gospel of New Sunday)

By Saint Gregory Palamas

1. Today we keep the Feast of New Sunday, or rather we celebrate the inauguration of the New Lord’s Day. So our word today is intended to reveal a little more of the mystery of Sunday to your charity, as far as time allows. If this is a great and exalted mystery, and not even its more accessible aspects are easy for everyone to understand, we must give thanks to the Lord of all Who gave His name to this day, and Who, through His Coming in the flesh, bestowed on those who draw near to Him through faith things which are perhaps a little difficult for our mind and reason to grasp.

2. But heed the sense of my words, all of you. And if anyone is unable to understand everything, he will grasp the full meaning from the little he does understand, since the Holy Spirit’s teaching is a word of light. In Six days God not only made and adorned the whole visible world, He also created and brought to life the only creature with sense and a mind: man (Gen 1:1-27; 2:7). To him He granted dominion over all the animals and plants throughout the world (Gen 1:38). Then on the seventh day God rested from all His works, as we are taught by Moses (Gen 2:2), who was born later, but beheld the foundation of the world long before his time, or rather as the Holy Spirit in His love for mankind sounds in our ears and souls through Moses’ words. “And God”, it says, “blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” (Gen 2:3). Why did He bless and hallow that day on which He did nothing? For he did not bless and hallow the first day as the most highly exalted, which is why it was referred to by Moses as “one” and not as “first” (Gen 1:5 LXX), that day on which God brought forth everything out of nothing all at once, and illuminated it with new light, although He had not yet put it in due order, assigning everything to its place and kind. And if He did not bless and sanctify that first day, why not the following day, on which He established the great firmament, and stretched out around us the first heaven and after it the second? Then again, why did He not bless the day after that, or the ones following, during which the earth was formed by the waters drawing back and took all nature as its adornment, the heavens received the two great lights for eyes, and the birds and sea creatures took their being from the waters by divine command, each after their kind?

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