23rd SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST — Tone 6. Monastic Martyr and Confessor Stephen the New of Mt. St. Auxentius
Tone 6 Troparion (Resurrection)
The Angelic Powers were at Your tomb;
the guards became as dead men.
Mary stood by Your grave,
seeking Your most pure body.
You captured hell, not being tempted by it.
You came to the Virgin, granting life.
O Lord, Who rose from the dead,//
glory to You.
Tone 4 Troparion (St. Nicholas)
The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock as a rule of faith,
an image of meekness and a teacher of self-control; your humility exalted you;
your poverty enriched you.//
O Father Bishop Nicholas, pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved.
Tone 4 Troparion (St. Stephen the New)
Trained in asceticism on the mountain,
with the weapon of the Cross you destroyed
the spiritual assaults of the hostile powers,
O all-blessed one.
Again you bravely prepared for combat
and slew Coprónymus with the sword of faith;//
for both struggles you have been crowned by God, monk-martyr Stephen of eternal memory.
Tone 6 Kontakion (Resurrection)
When Christ God, the Giver of Life,
raised all of the dead from the valleys of misery with His mighty hand,
He bestowed resurrection on the human race.//
He is the Savior of all, the Resurrection, the Life, and the God of all.
Tone 3 Kontakion (St. Nicholas)
You proved yourself to be be a holy priest, O Nicholas.
You served God in Myra and lived the gospel of Christ.
You offered your life for your people,
And rescued the innocent from death.
Therefore God has glorified you as a trustworthy guide of things divine.
Tone 8 Kontakion (St. Stephen the New)
Lovers of the feasts, from the heart with hymns let us praise in faith
God-like Stephen, the lover of the Trinity,
for he honored the fair icon of the Master and of His Mother.
Now let us rejoice together and cry out to him with love://
“Rejoice, ever-glorious Father!”
Tone 6 Prokeimenon (Resurrection)
O Lord, save Your people, / and bless Your inheritance! (Ps. 27:9a)
V. To You, O Lord, will I call. O my God, be not silent to me! (Ps. 27:1a)
Ephesians 2:4-10 (Epistle)
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the heavenly God. (Ps. 90:1)
V. He will say to the Lord: “My Protector and my Refuge; my God, in Whom I trust.”(Ps. 90:2)
Prayer Before the Gospel
Illumine our hearts, O Master and Lover of mankind, with the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Your Gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Your blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing to You. For You are the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto You do we send up glory, together with Your Father, Who is without beginning, and Your all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Luke 13:10-17 (Gospel)
Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.
And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound – think of it – for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.
St. Nectarios of Pentapolis
The aim of our life is for us to become perfect and holy; to prove to be children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. We must be careful lest, for the sake of this present life, we’re deprived of that of the future; lest, because of the cares and concerns of daily living, we neglect the aim of our life. Fasting, vigils and prayer don’t, of themselves, bring the desired fruits, because they aren’t the aim of our life; they’re the means for us to achieve our goal.
Decorate your festal candles with virtues. Strive to cast out the passions from the soul. Clean all the grime from your heart and keep it pure, so that the Lord may come and reside in you; so that the Holy Spirit may inundate you with his divine gifts. My beloved children, may all your care and attention be directed to these things. May they be your constant aim and desire. Let the whole of your prayer to God be about these things. Seek the Lord every day, but in your heart, not outside it. And when you find him, stand with fear and trembling, as do the Cherubim and Seraphim, because your heart will have become the throne of God. In order to find God, humble yourself down to the ground, because the Lord abhors the proud, but loves and visits the humble in heart. This is why he says: ‘These are the ones I look on with favor, those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word’ (Is. 66, 2). Fight the good fight and God will strengthen you. In the struggle, we identify our weaknesses, shortcomings and faults. It’s the mirror of our spiritual state.
If you haven’t striven, you don’t know yourself. Pay attention to small transgressions, as well. If some sin befalls you through lack of attention, don’t despair, but recover quickly; fall down before God who has the power to put you right. Great sorrow is a cover for pride. Excessive sorrow and despair are harmful and dangerous, and are often exacerbated by the devil in order to impede the progress of those who are striving.
We have within us weaknesses, passions and deeply-rooted faults, some of which we inherited. None of them can be cut off through some fitful action, fretfulness or profound sorrow, but only through patience and persistence, perseverance, care and attention. The road leading to perfection is a long one. Pray to God that he’ll give you strength. Deal with your lapses with patience and, once you’ve recovered, start running again; don’t stand on the same spot, like a little child who’s fallen down and is crying and wailing inconsolably.
Be watchful and pray not to enter into temptation. Even if you keep falling into old sins, don’t despair. Many of these are powerful, by nature and by habit. But over time they can be defeated with enough diligence. Let nothing make you despair.
Temptations are allowed so that our hidden passions will manifest themselves, so that we can fight them and thus heal our soul. They, too, are an example of God’s mercy. So, trust God and ask for his help and support in your struggle. Hope in God never leads to despair. Temptations bring humility. God knows the resilience of each of us and allows temptations which are commensurate to our strength. But we should also make sure we’re vigilant and alert, so that we don’t put ourselves into the path of temptation of our own accord. Trust in the good, powerful and living God and he will bring you to rest. After the trials, spiritual joy follows. The Lord watches over all those who are undergoing trials and sorrows for the sake of his love. So don’t lose heart and don’t flinch.
I don’t want you to be sad and upset when things don’t go your way, no matter how justified you might feel. Such sorrow is evidence of the existence of egotism. Beware of the egotism that hides under the cover of being justified. Also beware inappropriate sadness if it follows a justified rebuke. Excessive sorrow over these things is a temptation. Real sadness does, indeed, exist: when we recognize the wretched condition in which our soul finds itself. None of the other sorrows have anything to do with the grace of God. Take care to guard within your heart the joy of the Holy Spirit and don’t allow the evil one to pour his gall into you. Beware. Beware lest the paradise within you be transformed into hell.
Elder Efraim Vatopaidinos
Through prayer, our being expands, we can embrace the whole world and we’re then happy to be alive. But prayer is missing from the world and this is why people are unhappy. Although we people are created and finite, through prayer we can communicate with our uncreated and infinite God.