In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. My beloved, we remember St Eusygnius from Antioch today, first a soldier for more than 60 years, reproved Julian the Apostate of his transgressions, was beheaded by Julian in 361 AD, having lived for 110 years.
In the Church, we keep Most Holy Theotokos in our memory and fasts from August 1 to 15, when we observe the Feast Day of the Dormition (or “falling asleep”) of of Blessed Theotokos on August 15 (also known as Assumption of Mary in the Roman tradition). Blessed Theotokos, and St Eusygnius of Antioch, pray for us.
The Church said that St Mary died like all humanity. The Apostles were all present, chanting the Psalms, except St Thomas. Our Theotokos was buried. St Thomas only arrived a few days later, and cried bitterly to his brethren that he wanted to see St Mary. The Apostles opened her tomb out of pity for St Thomas, and discovered her body was no longer there. On that evening, when the Apostles gathered together for food, the Theotokos appeared to them and said, “Rejoice! I am with you all the days of your lives.”
And these are difficult times. Natural calamities, man-made disasters and troubles, disease, famine, and unnecessary wars abound. In the midst of difficulty and pain, the human heart longs for God. Yet, as we read from Matthew 24, false prophets and charlatans abound to mislead the faithful away from God. All too often, we hear of comforting words, or false signs and prophesies, merely to soothe frayed nerves or pander to the human desires and passions, rather than thinking and praying to God, and finding God. The most important question we need to ask ourselves is: Are we worshipping God, or simply worshipping ourselves?
As we read Ecclesiastes 3, Psalm 144: verses 13 to 20, and St Peter’s First Universal Letter 1: verses 3 to 9, we see a common theme – time. We are reminded that there is a time and season to everything, and they work according to the time and season of God. We are reminded that though we may walk through a trial by fire, there is a time that runs according to the clock of God, and God is faithful always. Matthew 24 reminds us that only when we endure to the end are we saved, a serious reminder that we have to endure the duration of our lives, an unknown length of time that only God knows. In Psalm 133, we are told that we should hope only in God, and that God will grant us the fruits of our labor in due course.
If time is something we cannot command or manipulate, what can we do to have a sense of support and strength to draw from?
Prayer, especially that of the prayer of the heart. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
If we are easily distracted, by our surroundings, events, people around us, let us remember these words from St Maximus Kapsokalivitis as he told St Gregory the Sinaite, “I had great faith in my lady the Theotokos, and besought her with tears to grant me the grace of mental prayer. Once I came to her temple as usual and fervently prayed to her for this. I went up to her icon and reverently kissed her image. Suddenly I felt as if a warmth came to my chest and heart, a warmth that did not burn, but delighted me and stirred my soul to guilt. From that moment my heart began to say the Jesus prayer within itself, and my mind began to delight in the remembrance of my Jesus and the Theotokos and to have Him, the Lord Jesus, constantly within the prayer itself. Since then the Jesus prayer has never ceased in my heart.”
Let us close with a thanksgiving prayer, in remembrance of the period leading up to the feast day of the Dormition of our Theotokos, and ask her to intercede for us with our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace to inner 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 144:13-20 (LXX)
St Matthew 24:13-28
1 Peter 1:3-9