Weekly Bulletin

August 20, 2017

11th Sunday after Pentecost

Afterfeast of the Dormition

Prophet Samuel; St. Oswin, King and Martyr (651)

CLASS ON THE FAITH THIS WEEK on Tuesday evening at 7:00. We’ll be talking about Christ’s Ascension and Second Coming, and His eternal Kingdom.

THE STATEMENT FROM THE HOLY SYNOD OF BISHOPS of the Orthodox Church in America on the recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, can be found on the OCA website, www.oca.org. 

 

On the Sign of the Cross

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, out of love for us sinners came down from Heaven and, as a man, suffered instead of us for our sins: He was crucified, He died on the Cross, and on the third day He rose from the dead. As the sinless Son of God, by His Cross (that is, by suffering and death on the Cross for the sins of all men and of all the world), He conquered not only sin but also death itself — He arose from the dead, and He turned the Cross in His weapon of victory over sin and death.

One teacher gave the following example in order to explain to his students how Jesus Christ could conquer evil in the world by His Cross:

For many years the Swiss fought against their enemies, the Austrians. Finally the opposing armies met in a certain valley for a decisive battle. The Austrian soldiers, wearing their armor, were drawn up in battle array with their lances extended forward, and the Swiss, beating them with their maces (heavy clubs with weights on the end), tried without success to break the ranks of the enemy. Several times the Swiss threw themselves on the enemy with blind courage, but every time they were thrown back. They were not strong enough to break through the thick row of lances.

Then one of the Swiss soldiers, Arnold Winkleried, sacrificed himself, ran ahead, grabbed with both arms several of the spears pointed at him, and allowed them to pierce his chest. In this way an opening was made for the Swiss and they broke into the ranks of the Austrians and won a decisive and final victory over their enemies. So the hero, Winkleried, sacrificed his own life and died, but he made it possible for his people to conquer the enemy.

In the same way, our Lord Jesus Christ received in His breast the terrible spears of sin and death which were invincible for us. He died on the Cross, but He also arose, as the vanquisher of sin and death, and thus opened for us the way to eternal victory over evil and death. That is, He opened the way to eternal life. Now if we wish to be delivered from the power of evil, sin and eternal death, then we must follow Christ, that is, believe in Christ, love Him, and fulfill His holy will, being obedient to Him in everything, live with Christ.

This is why, in order to express our faith in Jesus Christ our Saviour, we wear a Cross on our body, and during prayer we form the Cross over ourselves with our right hand, or make the sign of the Cross.

For the sign of the Cross we put the fingers of our right hand together as follows. We bring the tips of the first three fingers together (the thumb, index and middle ones), and bend the last two (the “ring” and little fingers) against the palm.

The first three fingers together express our faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, as the Trinity one in essence and indivisible, and the two fingers bent show how the Son of God, when He came down from Heaven, being God, became man; that is, they signify His two natures — divine and human.

In order to make the sign of the Cross, with our fingers in this position, we touch our forehead, for the blessing of our mind, our stomach, for the blessing of our internal feelings, then our right and left shoulders, for the blessing of our bodily strength.

The sign of the Cross gives us great strength to repel and conquer evil and to do good, but we must remember to make the sign of the Cross correctly and without haste, otherwise it will not be the sign of the Cross, but just waving our hand around, which only gladdens the demons. By making the sign of the Cross carelessly we show a lack of reverence for God (sacrilege).

We make the sign of the Cross, or “cross ourselves,” at the beginning of prayer, during prayer, at the end of prayer, and when we draw near to anything holy: when we enter the church, when we reverence the Cross or an icon. We should cross ourselves at every important moment in our life: in danger, in sorrow, in joy, and so on.

When we cross ourselves, mentally we say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Thus we express our faith in the All-holy Trinity and our desire to live and labor for the glory of God. The word “amen” means in truth, truly, let it be so, so be it.

In order to express to God our reverence before Him and our worship of Him, during prayer in church we stand, and do not sit; only the sick and elderly are allowed to pray sitting down. Standing while at prayer is an ancient and God-ordained tradition. In Old Testament times, the congregation of Israel stood in the Temple, the Saints stand in Heaven before the Throne of God, and even Jesus Christ Himself said, “When ye stand praying” (Mark 9:25). Therefore Christians, according to apostolic teaching, stand through the Divine Services, where it is often proclaimed: “Let us stand aright.”

In recognizing our sinfulness and unworthiness before God, and as a sign of our humility, we make bows during our prayers. There are bows from the waist, when we bow from the waist, and to the ground, when we bow down on our knees and touch our head to the ground (a prostration).

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St. Paisios on the Importance of Working on our Hearts

When a person, accustomed to working his heart, becomes ill, or is elderly and his body can no longer labor, then the heart forces the body to work. He is like a beaten up old car with flat tires and a broken axle, but whose engine still works. He just gives himself a push and off he goes.”

A young strong man, on the other hand, who doesn’t work the heart is like a brand new car whose engine won’t start. And so he cannot proceed. To him, doing even the smallest thing seems like having to scale a mountain. Sometimes an old brother will forget an umbrella or a bag at my cell, so I will pick a young man and tell him: ‘Come on, young man, run a little to catch up with him and give him his umbrella.’ As soon as he hears that, he invariably sighs and asks: ‘Isn’t he going to come back, Father?’ So I say again: ‘Come on now, son, do it for love’s sake.’ Again he sighs. Well! Just hearing the words, ‘Run a little,’ makes him tired — to say nothing of actually running!”

If a person does not work the heart, he is not even like an animal. He becomes a lifeless statue. His heart is useless.”

The Holy Martyrs Adrian and Natalia (August 26)

Adrian and Natalia were husband and wife, both of noble and wealthy families from Nicomedia. Adrian was the head of the Praetorium and a pagan, and Natalia was secretly a Christian. Both were young and lived together in marriage for only thirteen months until martyrdom. When Emperor Maximian visited Nicomedia, he ordered that Christians be seized and subjected to torture. In a cave near the city, twenty-three Christians were hidden. Someone reported them to the authorities and they were cruelly flogged with oxen whips and rods and then cast into prison. After that they were taken out of prison and brought before the Praetor to register their names.

Adrian observed these people, tortured but patient, serene and meek and he made them swear to tell him what they expect from their God for so many tortures endured? They spoke to him concerning the blessedness of the righteous in the Kingdom of God. Hearing this and, again observing these people, Adrian, at once, turned to the scribe and said to him: “Write down my name with these saints, I also am a Christian.” When the emperor learned of this, he asked Adrian: “Have you gone out of your mind?” To that Adrian replied: “I have not gone out of my mind, but rather I have come to my senses.”

Learning of this, Natalia greatly rejoiced and when Adrian, with the others, sat chained in prison, she came and administered to all of them. When they flogged and tortured her husband with various tortures, Natalia encouraged him to endure to the end. After lengthy tortures and imprisonment, the emperor ordered that an anvil be brought to prison and their legs and hands be broken with a hammer. This was carried out and Adrian, with twenty-three honorably men, gave up the spirit under the greatest of tortures.

Natalia took their relics to Constantinople and honorably buried them there. After a few days, Adrian appeared to her all in light and beauty and called her, that, she also come to God and she peacefully gave up her spirit to God.