In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
As we celebrate the Epiphany, we remember how God revealed himself as the Trinity, that Jesus appeared to the people as Christ. Where did Christ appear Hos did He begin His mission? Did He enter a great city and reveal Himself in His glory? Did He ascend a great mountain as many thousands of people beheld Him from below, wondering at the miracle? No! Christ went into the wilderness, to the Jordan River, where John was baptizing the people. John preached repentance, and called upon sinners, in a sign of repentance, to be baptized in the Jordan. And it was as a sinner that Christ came and asked for baptism. Yet He had no sin. John was afraid: “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Adam sinned through pride, he wished to elevate himself, to become like God. But Christ cam to fulfill the truth of God, to correct Adam’s pride through humility. Christ entered the water and received baptism from His servant. Trembling, John placed his hand upon his God and Master, and Christ humbly bowed His head. Christ’s humility opened up the heavens, and the voice of God the Father boomed forth: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). This is My Son, Who humbled Himself in order to fulfill My will, My true Son, Who humbles Himself in order to elevate mankind. Christ’s meekness opened the heavens and revealed to mankind the Trinitarian nature of God.
David indicates that our Lord Jesus Christ has no genealogy with regard to His divinity (Ps 110.4), Isaiah says the same (Isa 53.8), and later so does the Apostle (Heb 7.3). How can the descent be traced of Him “who is in the beginning, and is with God, and is God, and is the Word and Son of God” (Jn 1.1-2, 18)? He does not have a Father who was before Him, and shares with His Father “a name which is above every other name” and all speech (Phil 2.9). For the most part, genealogies are traced back through different surnames but there is no surname for God, and whatever may be said of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, They are one and do not differ in any respect.
Today we celebrate the memory of one of the greatest saints of the Church of Christ, our holy father Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra the Miracle-Worker, who as no one else has been revered by all at all times and peoples of the world, not only Christians, but even Muslims and pagans.
“I see, brethren, a new sun rising above the earth and bringing sweet consolation to the sorrowful and suffering,” said the Bishop of Patara as he ordained Nicholas to the priesthood. “Joyous is the flock which will be under his ministry; he will strengthen them in faith in the Lord, he will guide them in goodness and piety, he will be an earnest helper to all those in need.”
St Nicholas’ entire life was a brilliant fulfillment of these prophetic words of the visionary bishop. St Nicholas burned with a passionate faith in God since his youth, being a strict, unbending zealot for the purity of Orthodox Christianity; he was a severe ascetic, in constant vigil, fasting and prayer; forgetting himself, he generously helped the needy, consoled the suffering, defended the innocently condemned; strengthening and guiding those who faltered in the faith; he never tired of performing all sorts of Christian acts of love and mercy to others.
Andrew bears crucifixion inverted,
Appearing truly and not as a shadow with feet upwards.
On the thirtieth Andrew the First-Called endured the cross.
Andrew was from the city of Bethsaida, the son of Jonah, and brother of Peter the Apostle. He was the first disciple of John the great Forerunner and Baptist. Later, when he heard his Teacher say, while pointing to Jesus Christ, "Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world," he left the Forerunner and followed Christ. And to his brother the Pre-eminent Peter he said, "We have found the Messiah." With these words he drew Peter towards spiritual eros for Christ. And there are many other things that are found in the divinely-inspired Scriptures regarding this Apostle.
The Holy Church now celebrates one of her great feasts -- a radiant and joyous event in the life of the Church. This is the entry into the temple of the Most-Blessed Virgin Mary, when her holy and righteous parents brought her into the holy temple when -Vie was still quite a three-year-old little Maid, in order to dedicate Her there to God according to the promise that they had given. Many, of course, know in what the essence of this feast consists.
I will point out some details, which are perhaps not known to all: First, when they brought Her into the temple, there also went with her maidens, little girls, with candles, accompanying Her with the chanting of Psalms, so that there went through the streets of Jerusalem a ceremonial procession, to which doubtless also other people joined. Finally, when they came to the temple of God, the Chief Priest, Zacharias, himself went out to meet them, knowing about the promise of the righteous parents. But here all were struck by the fact that -- while he was still at the top of the steps of the temple, and the steps were many, and they were tall -- the holy and pure Child, without any support, all on her own, climbed up all the steps. And then, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, the chief priest Zacharias did that which at [any] other time he never would have done: he brought the maiden Mary into the Holy of Holies. Now one must bear in mind that a person could not approach the Holy of Holies. Even the priests could not enter therein. And only one day a year, on the so-called day of atonement, did the chief priest enter with sacrificial blood, as though offering sacrifice on behalf of the whole people. But this was not the day of atonement; on this day the Chief Priest could not go into the Holy of Holies, but, illumined by the Holy Spirit, he went in -- and he brought therein the Maiden Mary, and She, as tradition says, remaining in the temple continually, stayed in the Holy of Holies and there an Angel brought Her food and conversed with Her. Therefore the holy fathers said that when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Her -- an already nearly grown young woman -- in Nazareth with the word of the annunciation, not the very appearance of an angel frightened or disturbed her. She was used to converting with angels -- otherwise it was an unusual greeting with which the heavenly Messenger addressed her.
Today, dear brethren, we celebrate the glorious feast of the lightning-like Archangel Michael and all the heavenly bodiless powers. On this day let us talk of the boundless world of the angels; of their nature, of their hierarchy, and of the infinite mercy of God which has added us, Orthodox Christians, to this angelic host and has a formed a single Church made of angels and men; and subsequently of our responsibility to venerate them in a worthy manner and try to emulate them as our future compatriots in the celestial homeland; for which we earnestly pray to God, our common Creator.
St. Cyril of Alexandria says: If our earth, which serves as a focal point between two worlds, carries upon itself such a countless multitude of people and various other creatures, then how many times greater is the number of denizens inhabiting the immaterial heaven, which is so immense and incomprehensible to the mind?
In the days of one’s earthly wandering, a person often has need of heavenly aid. Just as a traveler who has lost his way during a stormy winter night eagerly looks around him to see whether there’s a glimmer of light anywhere, so we, too, in difficult moments of our life, when it seems to us that there is no way out, - unconsciously look upward, towards the Giver of all bounties, the Lord God.
A vivid example of such a situation is presented in the event which gave rise to today’s holiday.
This took place more than a thousand years ago, when Asian hordes of savage Saracens invaded Byzantium, our sister in faith, pillaging everything in their path with fire and sword. The Greeks shut themselves up in Constantinople and fearfully awaited inevitable death, since the enemy had already reached the walls of the city. They could not expect help from anywhere, while their own military forces were insignificant. However, the Christians felt that not everything was lost yet, since the impossible for man is quite possible for God.
In the Prophet Ezekiel (9:6), it is said that when the Angel of the Lord was sent to punish and destroy the sinning people, it was told him not to strike those on whom the "mark" had been made. In the original text this mark is called "tau," the Hebrew letter corresponding to the letter "T," which is how in ancient times the cross was made, which then was an instrument of punishment.
So, even then, it was foretold the power of the Cross, which preserves those who venerate it. Likewise, by many other events in the Old Testament the power of the Cross was indicated. Moses, who held his arms raised in the form of a cross during the battle, gave victory to the Israelites over the Amalekites. He also, dividing the Red Sea by a blow of his rod and by a transverse blow uniting the waters again, saved Israel from Pharaoh, who drowned in the water, while Israel crossed over on the dry bottom (Exodus, ch. 14, 17).
Through the laying on of his hands in the form of a cross on his grandsons, Jacob gave a blessing to his descendents, foretelling at the same time their future until the coming of the "expectation of the nations" (Genesis, ch. 48).
The 14st anniversary of the repose of His Eminence, Metropolitan Vitaly, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Vladyka reposed on the feast day of the Apodosis of the Nativity of the Theotokos, September 25, 2006. Memory eternal to Vladyka Vitaly. - Edit.
Our pastors and their flocks currently live under unique conditions, which, without the slightest exaggeration or mystical passion, can be referred to as pre-apocalyptic. Already, throughout the world, there is not a single leader or government that leads its people with any reference to God's mercy or the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Anointed of God has been taken from the world, the epoch of Constantine, of government by God's grace, has come to an end. The last book of Scriptures has opened, that of St. John the Theologian. The power of Orthodox Russia, the heiress of the Byzantine empire, no longer exists. Two forces have divided the world between them: on one side the militant, godless communist, on the other, the so-called democratic, western world, in which the flame of freedom continues to flicker. The latter, for the casual observer, is divided into countless Christian and non-Christian religions and sects, which inwardly are cemented together by an anti-Christian spirit.