An Orthodox Christian
of St Nicholas
Sep 20 / Oct 3, 1999
18th Sunday After Pentecost
Pastoral Directive *
News and Announcements
News and Announcements
Letter from the Fathers on Mount Athos*
When is a Hate crime NOT a Hate Crime?*
Sober Christians Take Note!*
St Eustathius and his family*
Would we have his faith in the midst of his loss?*
Gleanings from the Holy Fathers*
LESSONS FROM THE FATHERS - On Prayer in Church*
In the church there is the one thing needful*
Understanding our rites and Divine Services*
Beloved in Christ:
It is not spiritually profitable to any person to confess irregularly and only attend the full services a few times a year in order to commune the Holy Mysteries. The early Christians communed the Holy Mysteries every day! We are much more unworthy than they because we are not often in a prayerful state and we let things of the world distract us. We are not able to commune every day, and some of us may not be able to commune frequently, but we must do everything in our power to keep ourselves "in Christ". With this in mind, I am giving this pastoral directive.
Unless you have another confessor, please make plans to confess your sins at least monthly. If you are spiritually prepared, you may also commune monthly. Spiritual preparation also involves frequent church attendance, including the vigils, fasting according to the typicon of the church, a struggle to say daily prayers, the reading of the Scriptures and other holy things, and struggling against our sins.
I am asking everyone to be spiritually responsible about this, just as they must be responsible when they have a requirement pressed upon them in their job. You must make plans to confess, and order your priorities so you are able to call me to make an appointment, and be present when the appointment time comes.
As always, I invite anyone who has any questions to contact me privately. There are individual situations which some people have that are always taken into account, such as extreme distance from church, the necessity of working on a day or evening when services are normally held, and other things.
The task of being a Christian becomes harder every day. Outwardly, it is still quite easy, but inwardly lies the struggle, and the society in which we live, and the very air we breathe seems to constantly entice us to be easy on ourselves, and make worldly decisions, much to our spiritual detriment. It is my task as a pastor to try to inspire everyone to struggle in every way to gain their salvation.
God bless you and help you in all things.
one who prays for you,
unworthy Priest Seraphim
Our building fund balance is $25,176.00, as of last weekend. We have had a total of $350.00 in donations in the recent weeks as a result of the material on the front of our web page (http://www.orthodox.net) Our goal is to raise two hundred thousand dollars as soon as possible, then begin to build, or purchase a building. To this end, our church budget stipulates that one thousand dollars a month be taken from the monthly income, and put in the building fund. This is only twelve thousand dollars a year, and we will not get anywhere soon if this is the only source of funds for the building fund. Please give to the building fund as often as you can, but abide by THIS ONE CONDITION. DO NOT decrease your tithe to the general fund of the church in order to give to the building fund. This would be, as they say, "robbing Peter to pay Paul". Those who do not tithe already SHOULD, because they are neglecting not the church only, but themselves. Our money truly IS where our heart is, as the Lord said: "For here your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt 6:21)
Please remember that your tithe is given to God, and should not be "used" to garner support for any opinion, influence people, or "make a statement". It should not be given, nor taken away because we agree or disagree with some event or community direction or opinion, or anything else in the community. To do these things is to follow the way of the world. We must be able to give to God because it is the right thing to do, and not for any other reason.
Here is an English translation a letter from the Fathers on Mount Athos. It exposes the hypocrisy and apostasy of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the so-called "Pope of the East". May all Orthodox peoples realize what the Ecumenical Patriarch is doing, and reject his unorthodox ecumenism.
Greek text at
This English Text is taken from http://www.greekforum.com/messages/358/841.html?FridaySeptember2419990336pm
HOLY COMMUNITY OF THE HOLY MOUNTAIN OF ATHOS
Karyae, 11th/24th May 1999
His Most Divine All-Holiness
The Ecumenical Patriarch
Most Holy Father and Master,
To begin, we most respectfully and reverentially convey our filial regards on this, the Holy and Joyous Resurrection of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and likewise extend the honour which is due and proper to Your Venerable All-Holiness.
We rejoice in the Lord with resurrectional joy along with the all of the Most Holy Orthodox Church, despite this joy being mixed with much sorrow over the unjust tribulations brought upon Orthodox Serbia by the Western powers as well as by the suffering borne by the Kossovo refugees. We pray that our Resurrected Lord Jesus, the God of peace and father of all supplications, grant peace to these suffering peoples.
We proceed therefore, with all due respect to express also our disquiet over certain matters which concern the holy and immaculate Orthodox Faith, and which consequently impact our salvation and the salvation of all the fathers of the Holy Mountain. Being deeply conscious of our responsibility as regards the rational sheep of our Lord who look up to the Athonite Republic, we are deeply saddened by the following:
The first concerns Your address to the Roman Catholic Delegation on the occasion of the cathedra feast day of Saint Andrew on November 30, 1998.
This is certainly not the first occasion during such cathedra feasts of Constantinople and Rome on which such words have been uttered; we would like you to know that on such occasions we have always been greatly saddened, as for example, in June of 1998 when in Rome, the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Pergamon spoke of the so-called "two lungs" with which the Universal Church of Christ breathes.
However, in Your address to the papal delegation last November, certain viewpoints were expressed which were quite unanticipated by the body of Orthodox faithful. We were greatly grieved and our conscience shaken.
Our disquiet grows ever more intense on account of the questions posed to us daily by our spiritual children and in general by the pious Christians who visit us and ask if indeed the text of your address expresses the mind-set (phronema) of our Holy Church. The matter takes on tragic proportions however, when we see the most pious of Orthodox faithful deserting for schismatic groups and in this way cause the holy body of the Church to bleed. You are well aware, Your All-Holiness, that there is nothing more painful for a shepherd than the scattering of these, the sheep of Christ.
How should we answer then? How do we justify something which is not justifiable? How do we convince ourselves and our spiritual children that the words of Your address are consistent with the Orthodox Faith and Tradition, when obviously they cause the Tradition of the Church to be overturned and offend the Orthodox conscience?
How can we consider the following statements consistent with Orthodox Tradition? "We are obliged from this... to reconsider our policy, to clean away the old yeast, to become new dough..." and elsewhere, "Our repentance for the past is indispensable."
Are we obliged then, Your All-Holiness, to reconsider the Tradition of our Saints, from Photios, Gregory Palamas and Mark of Ephesus, up until Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and Athanasios of Paros, whose struggles against the heterodox teachings of Rome and whose unrelenting persistence in the holy dogmas and ethos of Orthodoxy constitute our legacy from them? Can we ignore the words of Gregory Palamas that: "Our confession (of faith) is secure in all things and is for us a crown of pride and our hope which cannot be put to shame"?1
Is then our holy Tradition "old leaven" and must we now reconsider this mind-set (phronema) and adopt the "new dough" of a false union with Rome, in as much as she continues to be heterodox? And is not the same Saint Gregory's characterization of Western heretical dogmas still timely in our day: "These are the deep secrets of Satan, the mysteries of the Evil One"?2 --and his words to those in the West: "We will never accept you in communion as long as you confess the Spirit to be also from the Son."?3
Furthermore, how can we rectify with our conscience the following statement from your address: "Those of our forefathers from whom we inherited this separation were the unfortunate victims of the serpent who is the chief of all evils; they are already in the hands of God, the righteous judge"?
According to the Holy Fathers, the Popes of Rome and their representatives are the true cause of the West's schism from the Universal (Katholike) Orthodox Church. Your All-Holiness, you are aware that Saint Mark says literally: "For they have given cause for the schism, having obviously carried out the addition... We had previously broken from them, or rather had cut them off and separated them from the common body of the Church, as being of an improper and impious mind-set (phronema) and for irrationally having made the addition. Therefore, we turned away from them since they were heretics and for this reason separated from them."4 And in our century, Saint Nectarios wrote: "Thenceforth the separation of the Churches began, which came into completion quite rightly under Photios, since the Church was in danger of going away from the One, Catholic, and Apostolic Church to become a Roman Church, or rather a papist Church, professing no longer the dogmas of the holy Apostles, but those of the popes"5.
And these men, being the causes for the schism, are now in the hands of God, the righteous judge. But is it possible that the holy Fathers, who rightfully cut heretical Rome off from the body of the Church as one would amputate an incurable body part, and stitched back together the seamless tunic of Christ - is it possible that they are "unfortunate victims of the serpent, chief of all evils?" What Orthodox Christian cannot help but grieve just by hearing those words alone?
And how then can we accept the following statement from your address: "Since in as much as one Church recognizes another Church to be a repository of divine grace, capable of granting salvation, ... the attempt to break believers off from the one and attach them to the other is impossible"?
Have we then ceased to believe that only the Orthodox Church constitutes the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church?
Are we returning to the unorthodox ecclesiology of the Balamand document, which You yourself admitted to Austrian journalists, was not accepted by any Orthodox Church save the Church of Romania, and which, as you are aware, was condemned conciliarly by the Church of Greece and rejected by our Holy Community and by many bishops and theologians as being unorthodox?
But even if one interprets the above statement as being against Rome's proselytism via the Unia, its formulation denies to the Orthodox Church the right to consider herself the only true Church.
Are we then condemning the Unia solely because by its actions it undermines the theory of the "sister churches" and the recognition of Rome as the complete Church of Christ which arises from this theory? Are we not condemning the Unia because it has been the devious enemy of the Orthodox for centuries and because it is impossible, based on Orthodox ecclesiology, for even the existence of Uniate groups to be acceptable?
How can we accept as being consistent with Orthodox ecclesiology the statement that "each local Church is not a competitor with other local Churches, but of one body with them..." when it is totally impossible to consider heterodox Rome as being one of the most holy Orthodox Local Churches and of one body with them?
Finally, how can we not but be deeply pained by the epilogue of the address: "May the Lord make us worthy to see the resurrection of unity of His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" when by this statement the impression given is that since the time of the schism with Rome, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church ceased to exist, so that we must pray for her "resurrection?" In other words, were we not born into, baptised, and reared in the embrace of the One Holy Catholic Church, but are anticipating her resurrection? Is then our faith in vain? Are we dashing off into the void?
We would like to believe that You did not write this address yourself, and that it does not express Your actual sentiments. We console ourselves with the idea that the pen of some champion of ecumenical thinking put Your speech together and that on account of Your justifiably many and various duties, You were unable to appreciate its significance to the Orthodox Faith and the conscience of the pious people of the Church.
Nonetheless, it is before such people that Your tour of Greece will take place. The more pious of the clergy and the people are already aware of the contents of Your address, it having been published in a front page article in the newspaper Ekklestiastike Aletheia (12/15/98); it is by no means easy for them to reconcile their Orthodox conscience with the words of Your address.
We consider it imperative, Your All-Holiness, that You make certain clarifications which are necessary: to dispel the impression that these words, most likely spoken without being given the proper attention, express Your mind (phronema); to give comfort to those whose conscience has been scandalized; to give joy to the pious people, who consider their procession of the Orthodox Faith a certain assurance of salvation and the greatest of our Holy God's gifts. It is a Faith which the Church has preserved with many sacrifices by the Holy Fathers against every heretical affront, so that it might be the path to true knowledge of God6. It is a Faith which they feel they are in danger of losing on account of unwise theological trends, such as that expressed in the above speech addressed to the papal delegation.
We well hope, Your All-Holiness, in the arrival of a breath of consolation as soon as possible from the hills of the Mother Great Church of Christ to the valleys of lamentation which our hearts have become, as we have said and written above, and the danger which they present to the unity of our most holy Church.
We are also grieved and in anguish by the occurrence of pan-religious common prayers whose syncretistic nature is obvious.
From the first such common prayer which took place in Assisi (1986), these pan-religious spectacles have never ceased to be celebrated annually, reaching distressing proportions for the Orthodox during the 12th pan-religious common prayer on the 30th of August 1998 in Romania. Why must we Orthodox be dragged into such common prayers by the Roman Catholic agents who mastermind them, when their goals are to serve papal pretensions for, at the least, spiritual leadership in Europe?
In addition, common prayers, such as are practiced, stand clearly against the Holy Canons of the Church. To be sure, You have not personally participated in such common prayer, but Orthodox Hierarchs and indeed, Heads of Churches have participated. In Romania, the papal cardinal and the Patriarch together blessed a mixed congregation of Roman Catholics, Uniates, and Orthodox.
The common prayer in Romania opens the Kerkoporta7 through which the Orthodox Church will be in danger of spiritual capture. His Beatitude the Primate of the Church of Romania is too weak, it would seem, to stand up to the politics of his nation's leaders who are making provisions to open towards the West; in this context an official visit of the Pope to an Orthodox nation recently took place for the first time in history. Are they suffering amnesia when it comes to the crimes committed by the Uniates against the Orthodox for centuries? Are we now to accept de facto the existence and activities of Uniate groups?
Besides, since there seems to be no chance that heterodox Christians will abandon their heretical dogmas and unbiblical teachings, what purpose do common prayers serve, except to blunt Orthodox sensitivity and to create a syncretistic convergence?
Finally, how can we justify common prayer with heterodox? Do the Orthodox representatives who partake in these common prayers recognize that the rest of the heterodox and those of other religions properly give praise to and worship God? Is not such a position antithetical to the holy Gospel and thus, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
We would reverently recommend to Your attention the prohibition of common prayer with heterodox and to be sure, with non-Christian religions by means of a pan-orthodox decision, in as much as this common prayer stands against the commands of the Old and New Testament as well as the Holy Canons, as they prepare the way for the pan-religion of the so-called "New Age" in denial of the uniqueness of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The publication of the periodical "God & Religion," whose contents serve pan-religious syncretism, has caused us great sorrow. Despite assurances from the periodical's editors that its goals are not syncretism, viewpoints are nevertheless promoted which overlook the uniqueness of man's salvation in Christ and in the Orthodox Church under the guise of a religious approach to current topics. If that were not enough, the periodical promotes depictions which are insulting and abusive to the All-holy person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When considered from this perspective, support for such a periodical as expressed in commendatory letters written by certain ecclesiastical figures, creates the very great danger for Orthodox people to be misled into believing that this is a periodical which is of an Orthodox mind-set (phronema).
We were especially grieved by Your granting a blessing for its publication, as well as by the publication of a special interview, which was used as a strong indication that You agree with the editorial policies of the periodical.
We want You to know, Your All-holiness, that we foster the piety towards Your most reverent person and the institution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which is set down by the tradition of the Orthodox Church and the history of our martyred Nation. For this reason our grief becomes even more excessive when we see, next to Your photograph, advertisements in this periodical with pictures of semi-naked women and other scenes which are incongruous with the holiness of Your ministry and office.
It is our opinion that the editors of this periodical while feigning objectivity, aim to belittle the Orthodox Faith by placing it alongside other, false religions, as it appears in associated articles. Messages such as, for example: "Religion: sacrifice at the altar of the gods" -- with the juxtaposition of various religious symbols beside the Christian Cross; "God is everywhere" -- meaning, in all religions; "I don't think, I BELIEVE" -- obviously in the advertised books on Islam, Judaism, Buddhism -- confirm the truth of our assertion.
In addition, the "objective" presentation of serious moral and social problems lessens the authoritative position of genuine Orthodox Christian ethical teaching. For example, the phrase which they propose: "the setting of standards would be a rational act of philanthropy" -- meaning 'euthanasia' -- is tantamount, at the very least, to a subconscious message in favour of euthanasia.
In our opinion, even some of those who claim to profess an Orthodox perspective fail to express fully true Orthodox positions.
For this undermining of the holy Orthodox Faith, we not only grieve, but are also filled with righteous anger.
It is with pain that we have composed these lines. We see that a pervasive spirit of neglectfulness predominates in the world, whose fruits are the above mentioned disturbing phenomena. The sensitivity of the Orthodox with regards to the true Faith becomes blunted day by day, following the same path as the decline of the ethics of the Gospel and the increase in human self-love and arrogance. What will be the outcome?
We, the Orthodox people, are in need of a spiritual awakening in view of the present adverse conditions which confront us, so that we might understand "what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."8
The terrible incursion of modern day barbarians against our brothers in the faith, the Serbian people, is perhaps not unrelated to these things. A Fifth Crusade is unfolding before our very eyes, the goal of which is a new conquest of the Orthodox peoples. Perhaps it is a sign for us to awaken and understand that the Lord asks us to keep ourselves pure from the outrage which is syncretism? Do we have anything more certain than the word of the Apostle: "for what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?... Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord"9, so that the most holy Orthodox Faith can stand without innovations as a witness to them and to the nations and as a salvific call to everyone?
We filially put forward these our anxieties, believing that You will not ignore the sound of our pleas, but will bend a sympathetic ear to them and will grant consolation to our hearts and to the whole Church, which in the imagery of the Holy Book of Revelation is aptly depicted as a woman flying into the wilderness, pursued by the Dragon who seeks to drown her and make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.10
With these things in mind, we kiss Your Most Divine All-Holiness' holy Right Hand and ask for Your Patriarchal and Fatherly blessings, remaining Yours with deepest respect and all due reverence.
All the Representatives to the common Synaxis and Superiors
of the twenty Holy Monasteries of the Holy Mountain of Athos.
1 St Gregory Palamas, Peri tes ekporeuseos tou Agiou Pneumatos [On the Procession of the Holy Spirit], E.P.E. [Greek Fathers of the Church], Volume I, p. 180
2 ibid., p.74
4 St Mark of Ephesus, Encyclical to Orthodox Christians in all the Earth and on Islands
5 St Nectarios of Pentapolis, Historical Study on the Causes of the Schism
6 ref. John 17:3
7 translator's note: the gate left open on May 29, 1453 through which the Turks gained access to sack Constantinople
8 Romans 12:2
9 II Corinthians 6:14-17
10 Revelation 12:13-17
The New York Post
September 17, 1999, Friday
MEDIA MUM WHEN THE VICTIMS ARE CHRISTIANS
By Rod Dreher
THE Fort Worth church murders were not a senseless act. They had an express purpose: to kill Christians. "It's all bull- what you believe!" Larry Gene Ashbrook shouted as he fired, witnesses said.
Ashbrook targeted Christians just as the Kentucky high-school student who fired on a prayer group in 1997 did. He targeted Christians just as Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris did in their Columbine High School rampage, which also marked athletes and a black student for death.
This is called hate crime.
It's a distinction the media had no trouble making when Buford Furrow opened fire on Jews at a Los Angeles Jewish center last month. It's a distinction the media had no trouble making when those racist monsters dragged black man James Byrd to his death, or when the anti-gay wretches tortured and killed Matthew Shepard.
On those occasions, the national soul-searching commenced - as it should have. There was grief at the savagery and hand-wringing over what should be done to instruct our children in the virtues of tolerance, nonviolence and love of neighbor.
In his public statements addressing the tragedies, President Clinton rightly challenged Americans to resist those who would demonize Jews, blacks and gays.
And before the police even knew the identity of the killer in the L.A. shootings, Attorney General Janet Reno vigorously denounced them as a hate crime.
And now, when the victims are Southern Baptists? Reno issued a
mealy-mouthed, tepid statement blaming guns, and saying we've got to think about "how we deal with hate."
"She dispatched a civil-rights team of investigators to Texas in the
James Byrd case, as well she should have," fumes Robert Knight of the Family Research Council. "But has she dispatched a team of investigators to find out what happened in Fort Worth?"
We shouldn't be surprised that Reno and other elites have trouble
mustering up much outrage over the mounting body count resulting from anti-Christian hatred.
The number of Christians killed this year alone by fanatic gunmen greatly exceeds the number of abortion providers or gays murdered by right-wing haters.
But one waits in vain for the federal task force or blue-ribbon government panel looking into the root cause of these bloody pogroms. One grows old waiting for a "Nightline" town meeting about the way Christians are routinely demonized by the news and entertainment media.
To so many media figures, Christians - specifically evangelicals,
orthodox Catholics and others who believe in traditional Judeo-Christian moral teaching - are not victims, but victimizers.
They are so used to casting Southern Baptists and fellow travelers as buffoons and bigots that they find it hard to imagine them as anything but.
It may never be said on TV, but I know what many people privately believe: "Well, it's too bad for those Southern Baptists, but you know, they do bring this sort of thing on themselves, boycotting Disney, preaching against homosexuality, crusading against abortion and all that."
"There's a sense that "it's payback time, you deserve this," says Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. "I'm not surmising this; I see it over and over again."
If Larry Gene Ashbrook, guns blazing, had walked into a synagogue, a gay bar, an abortion clinic or even a black church service, there is no doubt what the government, cultural and media elite's reaction would be.
Unfortunately, dead Southern Baptist kids don't seem to matter as much to them as a murdered gay youth or a slain abortion doctor.
Today we commemorate the glorious Great Martyr Eustace Placidas, his wife Mary Theopistes, and their children Martyrs Agapius and Theopistus, of Rome.
St. Eustathius lived in Rome, during the reign of the Emperor Trajan. He was a general, and of noble birth, and feared by all his enemies. At the time, he bore the name Placidas.
Although he and his wife were idolaters by faith, they were Christians in their manner of life. They were kind and merciful to all, and were lacking only in the knowledge of the true Faith.
One day, while Placidas was hunting, Christ appeared to him between the antlers of the deer he was chasing, and revealed to him the one true Faith. Following the Lord’s instructions, Placidas, together with his wife and two sons, went to the house of a Christian priest and were baptized. Pacidas was given the name Eustathius; his wife, the name Theopiste, and his sons, Agapius and Theopistus.
The Lord soon revealed to Eustathius that he would undergo much suffering for the sake of Christ. But rather than causing him sorrow, on hearing these things he was filled with joy. He went home and told his wife these things, and she too resolved firmly to undergo with him whatever the Lord might send.
Soon after, their servants and beasts began to die; thieves stole their valuables, and in a short time they were reduced to poverty. But rather than bemoaning their fate, Eustathius and his wife resolved to depart to a far country, the better to conceal their nobility and serve God. They left their home by night, and after dwelling in a hidden place for some time, they departed for Egypt, together with their children.
However, the captain of the boat on which they were sailing to Egypt was wounded with lust for Eustathius' wife, and when they arrived at their destination, he demanded her in payment for their passage. When Eustathius refused, he attempted to kill him. Finally Eustathius was forced to leave the ship, together with his sons, and that barbarian sailed away with his wife on board. But God's judgment soon came upon that wicked man; he fell ill and died before ever reaching his homeland. Eustathius' wife was preserved unsullied, and that honorable woman lived in peace, living by the labor of her own hands.
Eustathius and his children continued on their way, weeping; the children for their mother, Eustathius for his wife. But his misfortunes had not yet ended. They soon came to a river, which crossed the path they were following. Eustathias carried one of his sons accross, and then started back for the other. He was half way across the water when he saw a lion seize one of the boys and carry him off. Lamenting, he started back for his other son, when a wolf appeared and seized that child, carrying him into the woods.
Having wept for a long time, Eustathius continued on his way. He had no way of knowing that God, in his providence, had preserved both his children safe from harm, for villagers had rescued them, and taken them in, though neither child knew the other was there. But even in this time of great sorrow, Eustathius did not lose faith in God, and continued to praise Him for all things, though he sorrowed greatly for his wife and sons. At last he arrived at a small village, and there found employment, laboring at unfamiliar chores to obtain food.
At that time, foreign tribes attacked Rome, and the Emperor Tragen was saddened at the absence of Placidas, who had been a great favorite of his. Two of his soldiers, who had been friends of Placidas, vowed to find him, and set out at once on their journey.
After searching many villages and towns, they arrived at the village where Eustathius lived. They came upon Eustathius himself, and asked him if he had seen a man of this description, named Placidas.
Eustathius wept at seeing them, recognizing them as his friends. But he did not yet reveal his identity. He claimed not to know this Placidas, but he offered the soldiers hospitality, took them to the house of his employer, and began to serve them food with his own hands. As he did so, the soldiers began to wonder if it was really Placidas himself. Upon seeing a scar on his neck from an old wound, they knew with certainty that this was Placidas, and getting up and embracing him, they arrayed him in his former general's vesture, and took him with them back to the palace of the Emporer.
The Emporer received him joyfully, and restored to him his rank, and bestowed on him great wealth. Then Eustathius gathered his forces to attack the barbarians. Among the new soldiers, though he knew it not, were his own two sons, who as yet knew not each other. Eustathius, though he did not recognize them, loved them as his own children. He went into battle, and emerged victorious, having completely conquered the barbarians and captured their cities.
When the war was over and the armies were returning home, Eustathius stopped to rest at a certain place. Though he did not know it, it was in this place that his wife lived, tending her garden. By God's providence, her sons Agapitus and Theopistus pitched their tent beside her garden.
Once, as she worked, she chanced to hear them talking. One asked the origin of the other, and the elder described all the events of his life; the kidnapping of his mother, his capture by the wolf, and his being reared by shepherds. At this, the younger one arose and exlcaimed that he was his brother who had been carried off, and they wept for joy.
Their mother realized that they were her sons, and glorified God. But she dared not reveal herself to them, because of their rank; therefore, she went to the General and asked for permission to travel with his company, thinking she would then find the proper time to make herself known to her sons. As she stood before the General, however, she perceived immediately that he was her husband, though Eustathius did not recognize his wife as he granted her request to travel with them.
His wife departed, and after praying to God, she returned into his presence, and revealed to him that she was his wife. He at once realized that it was so, and he embraced her, weeping and praising God.
His wife then asked, "Where are our children?"
He sadly told her what had befallen them, but she revealed to him what she had heard while working in her garden. Eustathius immediately summoned Agapius and Theopistus, and after inquiring about their history, knew that they were his sons, and they all rejoiced greatly.
Eustathius returned home, rejoicing. But on their return, they found that Tragen had died, and that a wicked idolater, the Emperor Hadrian, had ascended the throne. When Eustathius arrived, Hadrian wished to sacrifice to the idols in thanksgiving for the great victory. When Eustathius refused to offer sacrifice, the Emporer stripped him of his rank, and when further persuasion to worship the idols had no effect, he sentenced him to be eaten by beasts, together with his family. But the beasts were made calm as soon as they were released into the arena.
The enraged Emperor commanded that St. Eustathius, together with his wife and sons, be placed in a huge brass ox that had been heated, but it was cooled with dew as the Chaldean furnace was once for the Three Youths. There the holy martyrs prayed, and surrendered their souls into the hands of God.
Three days later, the ox was opened, and the bodies of the martyrs were found to be untouched by the blazing heat. Not a hair of their heads, nor their garments had been burnt. All the people saw this and glorified God, reviling the cruel Emperor. The bodies of the saints were buried with honor. They are commemorated on September 20.
Nathan Williams, for COTC
Here in the church there is the one thing needful: Here is a refuge from the vanity and the storms of life. Here is the calm harbor for souls seeking after salvation. Here is incorruptible food and drink for the soul. Here is the light that enlightens all men existing upon earth. Here is the clean air of the spirit. Here is the fountain of living water which flows to life eternal (John 4:14). Here are distributed the gifts of the Holy Spirit, here is the cleansing of souls. The reading and chanting is done in church in a holy language. All Orthodox Christians should learn it, that they might understand the sweet pronouncements of their mother, who educates her children to prepare them for heaven, for life eternal…. Here in the temple, man comprehends the truly noble origin of his soul, the worth of life and its goal and purpose. Here he is torn away from his fascination with earthly vanities and passions. Here he comprehends his temporal and eternal fate. Here the Savior lives – in His Life-giving Mysteries, in His salvation. Here he recognizes his true relationship to God and to his neighbor, to his family and to the society in which he lives. The temple is heaven on earth, a place where intimate union with the Divine takes place. It is a heavenly school, where Christians are taught to become citizens of heaven, where they are taught heavenly norms, the way of life in heaven. It is the threshold of heaven, a place of communal prayer, thanksgiving, praise of the Triune God, creator and protector of all. It is a place of unification with the angels. What is more honorable and more esteemed than the temple? Nothing. In its Divine Services, as in a blueprint, are severally depicted the fates of all humanity, from beginning to end. The Divine Services are the alpha and omega of the world and of mankind.
Holy Righteous St. John of Kronstadt
One may say that in the rites and Divine Services established by the faith and spirit of millions of believers, that faith, that power of perceiving God with which the rites and Services were composed, is crystallized. Divine Service is the bright garment of Christ toward which everyone yearning for salvation is drawn, and in which internal power is hidden. According to the laws of physics, there are various types of storage units which, following the laws of physics, hold a hidden power which is revealed and acts at the proper time. Examples of such storage units in the natural world are electrical batteries, which save up electrical energy. We may characterize as a storage battery of spiritual energy, power, and faith, everything that is established by the work of the Church. As we have already said, all of the creative work of the Church over the centuries has been crystallized, concealing within it that direction of faith, prayer, love in which the people lived, people in whose liturgical experience everything in the Church developed. Of course, every contact with this condenser produces a spark, and frequent contact can even engender a flame, can re-ignite the candlestand of the soul, of the living faith which is hidden under the ashes. And faith is resurrected!
Archpriest Paul Svetlov
Russian Orthodox Church
of St Nicholas
Phone: 972 529-2754
Priest Seraphim Holland
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