20130807_anna_sqIn the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember Righteous Anna on her Dormition, Holy Saints Olympias and Eupraxia, and the 165 Holy Fathers of the 5th Ecumenical Council. Righteous Anna, Mother of our Most Holy Theotokos, St Olympias, St Eupraxia, and the 165 Holy Fathers, pray for us!

Life is a constant endurance race to the finish, where the finish line is determined by what we seek – Theosis, or the world. Life is labor, just as we reflect upon the Wisdom of Sirach 40:1-11.

If we seek the world, our journey will become alienated from the journey God intended for us, and we will fall sway to the many distractions and lures of the evil one, and eventually, we will lose any sense of the presence of God altogether. God is still there, always, with us, but we would be completely blind and deaf to His presence.

If however, we seek Theosis instead, our journey may not be easy at all, and in many instances, may become more difficult. As we attempt to pray unceasingly, calling upon His Holy Name, and repent often, we will, in our own feeble steps, call upon the Mercy of our Lord and God. There will be many trials. There will be many tribulations. There will be suffering. There will be pain. There will be ailments. And yet, in spite of all these, we will begin to find our senses, to find the conscience within us, and the joys of prayers. We will begin to find God’s presence with us, all the time, despite the journey. We will find our God gifting us with His Mercy and Strength, that every turn, every step, will be greeted by Him. The journey will not be easy, as the evil one cannot tolerate our attempt to grow towards God, and will find all means to derail us. But to this endurance race to the finish line, we will look only to God.

The holy Deaconess St Olympias was born of an esteemed family, and was to be married when she was of age. However, the arranged bridegroom died and the saint sought the life of celibacy. After the repose of her parents, St Olympias gave away her great inheritance to the poor, the needy, the churches. During the time when father among the saints St John Chrysostom was wrongly exiled, the St Sophia church caught fire and all those associated with St John Chrysostom were placed under suspicion of arson, including St Olympias. The saint was put on trial, interrogated, fined, and imprisoned. She reposed in jail.

St Eupraxia was a nun, also born to an esteemed family. The saint sought the religious life since young, and was blessed by her mother to join a monastery. St Eupraxia took very little food, only once a week. She labored humbly in the kitchen of the monastery, and took any criticism with humility. The evil one was tormented by the spiritual labors of the pious saint, and caused the saint much problems. The saint fell into a well, got her leg cut by an axe, and nearly blinded by a splinter, and yet the saint endured the torment. Eventually our Lord gifted St Eupraxia with the gift of wonderworking, and she healed the disabled and exorcized others. The saint reposed when she was thirty.

When we journey through life, there will be obstacles, pains and suffering that we face. We face these in our journeys with repentance and prayers unto God, just as we read Tobit 3:1-6, where Tobias prayed with tears unto God, not with complaints, but with faith.

The blessed Russian saint, St Seraphim of Sarov, said, “Oh, if you only knew what joy, what sweetness awaits a righteous soul in Heaven! You would decide in this mortal life to bear any sorrows, persecutions and slander with gratitude. If this very cell of ours was filled with worms, and these worms were to eat our flesh for our entire life on earth, we should agree to it with total desire, in order not to lose, by any chance, that heavenly joy which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Therefore, let us never lose sight of the presence of God, in all His creation, throughout all time, in our own humble journeys. Let us never lose sight of what we prize, the journey towards Theosis, with God. Let us never lose sight of what we need to do, other than labor joyously in the world, also to repent and pray, keeping our sight on the finish line when we pray, “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
Tobit 3:1-6
Sirach 40:1-11
St Matthew 14:35-15:11
1 Corinthians 7:12-24