Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us!
“Higher than the heavens above are you,
And you are much purer
Than the radiance of the sun;
You who have redeemed us
From the curse which is upon us;
The Lady of all people,
In hymns, do we honor you.”
~From the Service of Intercessory Prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos (Paraklesis)
Dearest Spiritual Ohana,
As we begin the month of August, we dedicate the first 15 days of the month especially to our Most Blessed and Glorious Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, Whose Dormition (Falling Asleep in the Lord) we celebrate and commemorate. She is the greatest and most honored among the Saints and is higher in glory than all the ranks of the Holy Angels. She is our Ever-Fervent Intercessor before Her Son and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
You may notice that the Theotokos has a very prominent place in our Church building. When you enter the nave of the Church, you see her icon prominently displayed on the center wall in the altar. This is no coincidence or accident! The Theotokos in bearing the Christ Child in her womb is the human instrument which brought Him, through the Incarnation (taking on of human flesh) into the world.
I invite all of you to come to as many of the services you can, during the first 15 days of August, especially to the Paraklesis Services where we can together supplicate the Theotokos to intercede and pray ceaselessly to Her Son for and on behalf of all of us for the healing and wholesomeness of our spiritual lives amidst all of the daily challenges and illnesses of body and soul we face. I can assure you that as you make the effort to immerse yourselves into the services, that you will find true peace and strength in your personal lives. “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”
Amidst all the challenges we face in life, we may find it difficult to find time to pray. Prayer is often likely to be the last thing we think about or are compelled to do. But to be a Christian, requires of us to open up the capacity of our hearts to have that special connection with God, and this is done by prayer. The True Christian is the one who prays! “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” meaning God can be found close to and within our inner beings. We have the ability to open the portals and doors of our hearts to allow Him entry into them so that He can engulf us with His Love and Mercy. Just as we need wholesome food, drink and exercise to sustain a healthy body, so we need to partake of God daily through our effort towards prayer. Not that God needs our prayers, we need to pray to Him, because we need Him in our lives! He is always present right before us, but it is by our own free will that we allow Him to enter our lives as our God and Savior.
In his “iSermons Series” on Ancient Faith Radio, Fr. Theodore Paraskevopoulos offers some thoughts on the importance of prayer: A young woman told Fr. Theodore that she only prays when she feels spiritual and is compelled to pray. In other words, she said that she prays only when she feels the inspiration to do so. Fr. Theodore replied to her, as I summarize what he said: “You should pray and force yourself to pray. Prayer is not a luxury or a selfish endeavor we do only when we feel like it. By this, we show that we only do what we want to do. Think of God as you do your relationship with your spouse, not in the romantic way but in the way we show our love and commitment. In our loving relationship with our spouse we communicate. We force ourselves to show our love and commitment to them even when we are tired out, have no more energy within, and feel that we just want to rest and do our own thing. It is the same way with God, when it comes to communicating with Him. We must force ourselves, especially when it is most difficult. And in forcing ourselves we show our love and true commitment to Him.
If we wait until the moment that we feel like praying, that moment of prayer in our lives may never come and we will miss out on having that special relationship with God through Whom we find the only true source of fulfillment. Being made in God’s Image and Likeness, we have built within us this natural longing for Him which cannot ever be replaced with any other thing.
Have a Blessed month of August! And may we have a most successful 2017 Greek Festival!
With Love in Christ,
Sunday after Holy Cross; Nikitas the Great Martyr; Philotheos the Righteous; Bessarion of Larissa; Righteous Father Symeon, Archbishop of Thessolonica; John the New Martyr of Crete; Afterfeast of the Holy Cross; Porphyrios the Actor