In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, as we celebrate the Apodosis, or “leave taking” of the Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us remember also, the Holy Fathers who were martyred at Sinai and Raithu. We also remember Saint Nina, equal-to-the-Apostles, fool for Christ, and enlightener of Georgia. Lord Jesus Christ our Lord, have mercy on us. Holy Fathers martyred at Sinai and Raithu, and Saint Nina, the great enlightener of Georgia, pray for us.

Beloved, we pray the Lord’s Prayer frequently (St Matthew 6:10-14), and we continuously ask for our God’s mercy and forgiveness of our falls and sins. In the same Lord’s Prayer, we are also to forgive the debts of others who cross our paths. Therefore, one of the primary marks of a true Christian, is that of forgiveness. It is written deep into the Holy Scriptures, it is preached and written extensively by the many Holy Fathers and saints before us. The most important we have to constantly remind ourselves is, before we ask of the Lord with a laundry list of demands and desires, do we at least do what He desires of us?

Let me tell you a story of a saint before us, Saint Dennis of Zakynthos.

There was once 2 families, the Mondinos, and the Sigouros. The 2 families had a long standing animosity that could not be resolved by the relentless efforts of Saint Dennis, of the Sigouros family.

Saint Dennis was the abbot of a monastery, and one day, the Mondinos family hired a killer who murdered Saint Dennis’s brother, Constantine. In a strange twist of Divine mystery, the killer sought refuge with Saint Dennis after committing the murder. Saint Dennis did not know this killer at that time. The killer confessed his grave sin to Saint Dennis. Saint Dennis, as a priest, comforted the killer and even gave him refuge in the monastery, out of compassion and love. But the saint wept for his dead brother when alone.

Soon, the saint’s relatives and friends came to the monastery with weapons, and told the saint about the murder. The saint pretended not to know of the incident. After crying and consoling his relatives, he sent all of them off in the wrong direction.

The saint then told the killer who he was, and told the killer to repent for his sins, and absolved his sins as a priest. Saint Dennis then brought the penitent killer to the waters and helped him escape to another place.

From the time of Christ to our contemporary times, it has never been easy to be a true Christian, and to defend the faith, to live the faith as genuinely as we can. Many of the saints before us, whom we celebrate in feast days, and whom we ask to pray for us, have been martyrs of the faith. One of the most profound and most difficult, is to forgive and love those who trespass against us, much as we relentlessly ask God for Divine mercy and forgive us for our many sins (Micah 7:18-19).

In St James 1:19-27, we understand one of the great starting points to our journey as Christians. Despite the many tensions and pressures we face deep in the world everyday, we were told to watch our words, for they betray our hearts. Let us try, as much as we can as mere ordinary people, to watch what we say, and whenever possible, to edify, to praise, to inspire, to motivate others. For what better way than to raise people up when they are weak? What better way than to forgive and love those who cross your paths? What better way than to show the language of Christ and the message of God?

We are asked by Christ Himself, to reach for the long and narrow road of holiness He showed us. He showed us as much mercy as possible while holding us to an extremely high standard. And yet, as we read from St Mark 10:17-27, even as we walk, and we fall, rise up, walk, and fall again and again, God does not forsake us despite our many failings and many falls and lapses, for ALL things are possible with God.

Let us pray the prayer of the heart as a penitent. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the 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.

Fr Raphael+

Readings:
Micah 7:18-19
Psalm 31:1-5 LXX
St Mark 10:17-27
St James 1:19-27