Holy Apostle Philip – Empathy and prayers for enemies

Holy Apostle Philip (small)In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the Holy and All-Praised Apostle Philip, may the holy apostle pray for us.

Today, let us consider this fundamental question – Who is our enemy?

The wonderworking Holy Apostle Philip was mentioned in the Gospel several times, and he was known to us for his prayers where God gifted with healing and wonderworking. When the pagans hanged both Apostle Philip and Apostle Bartholomew on crosses for their faith, the earth shook. Apostle Philip prayed for those who crucified him, and for the safety of the people because of the earthquake. The people relented and believed in Christ, and asked for the holy Apostles to be taken down from the crosses. Apostle Bartholomew lived, but Apostle Philip reposed on the cross.

The Holy Apostle Philip followed Christ gladly, knowing that the path of the Gospel would led to martyrdom (1 Corinthians 4:9-16). he showed us just what forgiveness and sainthood in Christ meant. While people crucified him, he forgave them readily and prayed for their salvation.

In our time, we may have people who think and work against us. In our limited faculties, we may sometimes become envious, frustrated or even angry, and then deem these people as our enemies. And yet the Scripture is clear, as with the Holy Fathers from the ages till now, that we are to forgive our enemies, and pray for them (2 Kings 6:21-23, Proverbs 24:17-20).

In his work “My life in Christ”, St John of Kronstadt, whom we commemorate in our Liturgy, said this:

“Do not let pass any opportunity to pray for anyone, either at his request or at the request of his relatives, friends, of those who esteem him, or of his acquaintances. The Lord looks favorably upon the prayer of our love, and upon our boldness before Him. Besides this, prayer for others is very beneficial to the one himself who prays for others; it purifies the heart, strengthens faith and hope in God, and enkindles our love for God and our neighbors. When praying, say thus: ‘Lord, it is possible for Thee to do this or that to this servant of Thine; do this for him, for Thy name is the Merciful Love of Men and the Almighty.'”

One of the holy fathers of Optina, St Hilarion said in “Living without hypocrisy”:

“We cannot live in such a way that no one grieves or offends us, for the Apostle Luke wrote that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22), and to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Let us therefore ask that we may bear sorrows with self-reproach and humility and not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

People are not our enemies, our passions within ourselves are our true enemies, along with the evil one and his fallen ones under his command. The evil one will try to instill in us depression, sadness, hopelessness, and other evil thoughts. Therefore, each of us fights the evil one every moment, every day. Everyone bears the painful struggle against the onslaught of the evil one, yes, including those we might consider our “enemies”.

Therefore, we must first contend with our own passions, and to strengthen ourselves against the evil one by always lowering ourselves with humility, to repent of our failings, and to pray relentlessly. The fight against the evil one is never over, until we draw our last breath.

And also, just as Christ our Lord commanded us to love God (and so fight our passions with repentance and prayer), and to love others, we are therefore bound by our badge as Christians, to pray for others, whether they be family, friends, peers, strangers, or perceived enemies.

In all things, every moment, “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+

2 Kings 6:21-23
Proverbs 24:17-20
St John 1:43-51
1 Corinthians 4:9-16