The importance of a disciplined life of prayer
One medicine for the heart, is the use of a “Prayer Rule.” This “Rule” is of the utmost importance, for the prayer rule helps develop the discipline we all need to progress, spiritually. It is one of the great tools the Orthodox Way has to offer, and has been handed down, from the earliest of times, through the Fathers of the Church. The “art of prayer,” comes from the experience of the Early Church.
The Morning and Evening Prayers should be said as though one’s life depended on it, for, in a profound way, our spiritual life DOES depend on it. The Precommunion Prayers, as well as the Postcommunion Prayers, together with abstinence from all food and drink from midnight on, prior to receiving the Holy Mysteries, is also a discipline that, not only is commanded by the Church, but properly prepares us for the reception of Our Lord’s Body and Blood. It is in the reception of His very Body and Blood, where we receive healing of both body and soul.
The use of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,” throughout the day, aids us in a most powerful way, to live out our life, focused on Christ. There is power in the Holy Name of Jesus, and this prayer fulfills Saint Paul’s injunction that we “should pray always.” The Jesus Prayer, also known as the Prayer of the Heart, gives us the strength to walk with Jesus, throughout the day, even when driving through heavy traffic, weeding in the garden, waiting for the bus, or sitting in a long board meeting.
Finally, it is important to remember that the Church, as defined by the Early Church Fathers, is not a religious institution, but, rather, a living organism, that is the Hospital for the Soul. Her priests, who first sought therapy, became the therapists. Therefore, the frequent use of the “tools” given to us by Christ, through His Church, are of the utmost importance to our spiritual progress. Weekly confession, and weekly reception of the Holy Eucharist, give us spiritual strength, and enable us to live “in the world,” without being “of the world.”
Because Orthodoxy is “wholistic,” in nature, our living out this Faith should not be confined to Sunday morning. If we were a pianist, and made our living playing with a orchestra, we wouldn’t think of going through a week without daily practice, for we’d not be in the orchestra for long. As well, a marriage that is not worked at, on a daily basis, is doomed to ultimate failure, for a relationship between two people, requires work. If we expect to have a relationship with God, and have Him dwell in our hearts, and commune with Him, we have to treat our spiritual life as something important, and something that we are committed to. An occasional Liturgy, does not suffice, if we expect to grow in Faith and Wisdom.
With love in Christ,
Thursday February 8, 2018 / January 26, 2018
Week of the Prodigal Son. Tone two.
St. Xenophon and his wife, St. Mary, and their two sons, Sts. Arcadius and John, of Constantinople (6th c.).
New Martyr Matushka Maria of Gatchina (1930).
New Hieromartyr Cyril, metropolitan of Kazan (1937).
New Hieromartyr Arcadius (1938).
Martyr John (1938).
Venerable Xenophon, abbot of Robeika (Novgorod) (1262).
Martyrs Ananias presbyter, Peter, and seven soldiers, in Phoenicia (295).
Venerable Symeon “the Ancient” of Mt. Sinai (ca. 390).
Translation of the relics of Venerable Theodore, abbot of the Studion (845).
St. Joseph, bishop of Thessalonica, brother of St. Theodore of the Studion (830).
St. Davit IV the Builder, king of Georgia and Abkhazeti (1125) (Georgia).
St. Ammon, of Egypt, disciple of St. Anthony the Great (350), and St. Gabriel, abbot at Jerusalem (490).
St. Conon, bishop and monastic founder on the Isle of Man (648) (Celtic & British).
Two Martyrs of Phrygia (Greek).
Venerable Clement of Mt. Sagmation (12tK c.) (Greek).
St. Paula of Palestine (404).
The Scripture Readings
1 John 4:20-5:21
Obedience by Faith
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
5 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
The Certainty of God’s Witness
6 This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue tobelieve in the name of the Son of God.
Confidence and Compassion in Prayer
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.
Knowing the True—Rejecting the False
18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.
19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
Jesus Faces Pilate
15 Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate. 2 Then Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
He answered and said to him, “It is as you say.”
3 And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. 4 Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!” 5 But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.
Taking the Place of Barabbas
6 Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. 7 And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion. 8 Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. 9 But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.
11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. 12 Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”
13 So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!”
14 Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”
15 So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.