Sts Alexander and Antonina: Holy Spirit and prayer
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. My beloved, today we remember Saints Alexander and Antonina, Christian martyrs from Alexandria in the 4th century.
The virgin Antonina was first captured and tortured. Alexander, a soldier, helped Antonina escape while he remained in prison. Then Alexander was tortured. When Antonina heard, she came back and both were tortured, their hands cut off, whipped, their wounds torched with flames, and then burned alive on May 3, 313 AD. The wicked judge became dumb, and eventually died from a tortuous 7 days ordeal.
Early church fathers Saint Ambrose and Saint Gregory, both expounded that Job 33:4 showed the Holy Spirit to be sharing with Jesus Christ our Lord, in working both the Creation and the Resurrection. In a single profound verse, we see that the Holy Spirit created us and teaches us in our lives. Likewise, in the LXX Psalm 138, we find the Holy Spirit as the “breath of life”, our conscience, and the small, encouraging and positive voice in us. Let us remember that the devil will tempt, but never the Holy Spirit. The devil will present negative thoughts, while the Holy Spirit is uplifting and positive.
Whenever we face a troubling event that we must choose between right and wrong, the Holy Spirit will stir us to look in the right direction. Don’t succumb to our own will, but allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. As Saint Nikolai, the Serbian saint said, “Whenever men strive earnestly to see the truth, and when they put nothing else to block the truth, God, in His gentle way, comes to meet them.”
How then, do we attempt to find, and meet God? Through prayer.
As we read from Romans 8: 22 to 27, we begin to realize just how spiritually poor we are, in our inability to pray. Too often, we hear prayers simply asking for favors and grace from God. God is infinite but He would love so much more prayers of intercession for others, prayers of healing and penance, prayers of gratefulness. Let us always remember to pray not with our lips, to pray not for exhibition, but to pray with our humbled hearts, since God already knew our hearts. Even as we experienced pain and suffering, let us recall how Latin saints such as Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, would pray for others rather than to focus on his own suffering. For God looks for and exalts the saints in us.
In our suffering, let us not forget what we read in Matthew 10: 23 to 31, that God loves His children, and His creation.
When we lament and complain, He comforts us in ways beyond our understanding. When we face challenges, He gives us just enough strength to tide through. When we falter and fall, He stays with us. While we are yet sinners, He has not forsaken us. Let’s remember this precious gift of knowing God, and keep to His commands, for these are not for our suffering, but for our healing and reconciliation back to Him. Let us walk to our God. Let us find Him in the strenuous journey of life, call on Him. Let us weep on His chest, as Saint John the Beloved experienced leaning on Jesus. In that infinite chest of God we find the greatest solace and comfort above all suffering and pain.
While some look for miracles in the form of supernatural events, let us remember that the Devil is most cunning in pleasing our egos. While we seek comfort, our true God often presents to us simple and graceful means to comfort and save us. This reminds me of a story.
When a pilgrim was desperately finding his way out of a hot and dry desert that seems to have no end, he cried out to God, saying, “God, please give me an oasis of water to quench my thirst, and I will listen to your every command for the rest of my life.” Just then, suddenly, an oasis appears and the man cried out to God again, saying, “Never mind, God, I just found an oasis on my own.”
Let us always remember the Triune God as the Celts described: God above us (our Father), God beside us (His Son our Christ and His Word), and God inside us (the Holy Spirit). Let us call upon Christ beside us, as we remember the Prayer of the Heart, of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Let us close with a thanksgiving prayer:
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Psalm 138:1-12 (Greek LXX)
St Matthew 10:23-31