St Anicetus and St PhotiusIn the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Let us commemorate Saints Photios and Anicetus of Nicomedea today. May the holy martyrs Saints Anicetus and Photius pray for us.

Saint Anicetus professed his faith before the tyrant Diocletian, and was beaten with rods so hard his bones showed through his wounds. His nephew Saint Photios came to comfort Saint Anicetus and was tortured together. Both of them were jailed for 3 years. After much torture, they were thrown into a furnace, and they died in prayer. Miraculously, their bodies were unharmed by the fire.

Psalm 5:1-9 shows us such a petition before God, that God as the infinite Good, will displace all evil before its blinding Light and Truth. And though we are struggling always, our aim is to fight and crawl our way towards this same Light. God is never fooled by our sins and however hard we pretend or hide (as we reflect on Matthew 21:43-46). So while some heretics may argue against the Prophets, God and His Nature has never change. We are to abide in His Truth and His Ways, as long as we live. We are not holy saints, but we must attempt and strive to be. Likewise, there are no nation or people who are deemed permanently saved, and that the only road to salvation is with our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The road to martyrdom in Christ, whether living or dying, is not going to be easy.

We read from Ezekiel 36:24-27, God promised that He will fill us with a new Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to regenerate and renew us. When we are deluded or lured by the evil ones, the Holy Spirit will prick our conscience and allow us to realize where God’s Illumination is. When we are sad and depressed, the Holy Spirit will nudge us subtly through our environment and people around us, so that God’s Mercy can gift us with consolation (2 Corinthians 1:1-7). God has gifted us with the gift of tears, so that we will always be able to return to God with repentance and prayers during trying times.

Ezekiel 36:24-27 admonishes us not to have a heart of stone. What makes us distinctly human, and what makes us capable of redemption and salvation, are our hearts and tears.

Theosis, or the partaking of the Divine Nature, is our only goal in life as Orthodox pilgrims. For all the material things in the world, this is the only prize worth fighting for. In our toughest times, God listens to our cries and prayers of repentance, and we can lean on Him to carry on.

So while the fight is lifelong and arduous, we are consoled that God will at our worst times, give us temporary help and consolations, so that we can be renewed and carry on our pilgrimage. Do not indulge in such consolations, but soldier on as Apostle Paul admonished in the Epistles (2 Timothy 2:3).

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.

Fr Raphael+

Readings today:
Ezekiel 36:24-27
Psalm 5:1-9
Matthew 21:43-46
2 Corinthians 1:1-7