The Church commemorates the arrival of the Magi at Bethlehem on the Feast of the Epiphany. Prior to Vatican II an integral part of the Breviary prayers was this homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great: “All things which He had made, bore witness that their Maker was come ... And yet, up to this very hour, the hearts of the unbelieving Jews will not acknowledge that He, to Whom all nature gave testimony, is their God. Being more hardened than the rocks, the Jews refuse to be rent by repentance.”
Compiled By Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
The Holy Spirit
Here the Holy Apostle Peter urges us to humble ourselves beneath the strong hand of God, so that he can lift us up in the appropriate time -- urging us to not be concerned for earthly things, but to throw the care of our lives onto God, Who is our provider.
We are currently living in Apocalyptic times!Nothing on this earth is so important as Orthodox Christians to up hold the faith in which we ourselves where humbly baptized. Nothing is so important spiritually for us all to pray, pray, pray, and pray, but at the same time to be watchful in regards towards the path of our salvation.
Another important spiritual factor is that we must be great warriors and confessors of our Holy Orthodox Faith, as were the divine Holy Fathers, the Saints, the Martyrs, and Ascetics of our Sacred and Holy Church. Then again we must be also defenders of the early seven Ecumenical Councils and lesser councils, as included in the doctrines of our pious faith. Finally we must be aware of the Apostasy that is surrounding us on a daily basis, and be spiritually prepared to suffer in our struggles to be witnesses of our faith. What can we ourselves do to avoid Apostasy? "Get to know it, protect yourself from it and that is enough for you. Get to know the spirit of the times, study it so that you can avoid its influence whenever possible", wrote the humble Bishop Igantius.
In the loving truth of our Holy Orthodox Christian Faith, we ourselves are "experiencing a terrible time, a time such as has never before been seen in the history of Christianity, in the history of mankind! A time of almost total instability!" Thus wrote the humble Archbishop Averky of blessed memory. Without a doubt we have heard about the constant flow now of persecution of our Faith in almost every part of the world, and in general all Christian faiths. Many of us have heard that others are not living up the pure and unadulterated Holy Orthodox Christian faith, that we have those who feel that righteousness on their part is far better then giving guidance and expressing this faith in a truthful way of life. We hear of accusations of heresy and are called heretics! We have among us those who now believe that black is white, and white is black!
We are for sure seeing the neglect of the sufferings and the needs of others, as we turn our heads and hearts to the means of our worldly life. We ourselves notice that the world is now turning away from God and is even beginning to fall into apostasy. We feel that we must step into the times, and to deal with it as we stray away and leave Christ our Lord out of our lives, and the loving teachings of His Holy and Sacred Church. We become the sole interpreters of Holy Scripture and neglect our spiritual lives, and the way to avoid this is to turn to the Holy Fathers of our Church, as we cannot speak about Holy Scriptures without them as we only stray from the holiness and purity of the meaning. We notice that children are killing children, parents killing children, and children killing parents, crime is at our door steps of innocent people. War is at the door and rumors or more wars, as well as earthquakes are increasing, as even our weather is out of control, and the melting down of our hemisphere, and our earnest neglect of our environment the creation of our Lord God. Morals now mean nothing is the new philosophy. Nuclear power and nuclear energy become an excuse for us to save money and money becomes power in it's neglect for the poor and starving children.
We ourselves as Orthodox Christians certainly have several responsiblities in this humble regards in our preparations for the Antichrist and the last days on this earth, we simply have an obligation which are placed upon us!
We must look to our spiritual Fathers of the Church and stay close to the Holy Orthodox Church and faith that we confess and believe. We can protect ourselves from the current Apostasy, and we must defend ourselves against the corrupting spirit of the times to avoid its influence.
1). Participate in loving prayer of the Divine Services of your parish Church, attend frequently Vespers, Matins, and the Holy Divine Liturgy, and when the Church calls you for further prayer.
2). Prepare yourself to go frequently to Holy Confession with your local parish priest, and read the prayers before Holy Communion, and give Thanks to our Lord God afterwards.
3). Live up to the prescibed fasting rules during the weekdays as we fast on both Wednesdays, and Fridays, as well as of midnight the night before the Holy Divine Liturgy. In addition follow the fasting periods in which the Orthodox Church has offered. We fast for forty days in preparation for the birth of our Lord, we fast for forty days for our Lord's Holy Resurrection, we fast for a period of time for the Apostles, and for the Mother of God for fifteeen days. Follow your Orthodox Church calendar in this regards to note when you should fast, and when you are free from fasting.
4). Acquire to understand fully the teachings of our Holy Orthodox Faith from the teachings of the Holy Apostles, and the early Holy Fathers of the Church, and live within these guidelines to defend and share with others this loving faith. Seek out those who lived and struggled a most ascetical life and who have given us guidelines on the path towards our salvation. Find out what would the Holy Fathers say about the life of our Church, and about the issues we face from day to day. It's spiritually impossible to live a full Orthodox life without the Holy Fathers of our Church. Learn who they were, how humbly they lived, and what they taught us!
5). Learn about the lives of the saints of our Church, as well as the holy martyrs, and the ascetics of our faith. Read as frequently as possible (almost daily) about these lives, as a means of spiritual guidance for you and a means for you to follow their loving example for us all!
6). Study the teachings of the early Seven Ecumenical Councils, and the lesser councils, as to what has been expressed and taught to us about the teachings about our Saviour Jesus Christ, both His divine and human nature, as well as the teachings of the Mother of God. Learn how these Ecumenical councils developed the guide lines on the books of Holy Scripture, and the Nicene Creed we confess, and other teachings of our Church.
7). Do your morning and evening prayers as a family, and on an individual basis daily! Pray to our Lord God during the day as well. Find time for yourself to pray frequently and often. Learn about prayer and seek it out so that you can find God! Seek out the teachings of the "Jesus Prayer", also known as the "Prayer of the heart", seek guidance from not only the many rich spiritual texts we have available, but also seek out more information from your spiritual father, or have him suggest further guidance for you. Make prostrations to the floor frequently, and afterwards stay on the floor with tears in prayer for others who need our prayers, pray as did St. Seraphim of Sarov before your holy icons, and lift up your hands to the heavens as did the Holy Prophet and God-Seerer Moses, and other saints. Take a ride by yourself and go to the mountains to find even more private time for prayer and behold the spiritual beauty of our God.
Or take a walk by yourself through the woods and pray. Do this often as possible. Weep in your prayers, and learn about tears, keep your head bowed down and fold your hands cross wise in humility before our Lord God. Fold your hands to pray, pray, and pray.
8). Find time within your busy day to try to learn more about your faith and search out the many books now available that can quide you on the right path of your Holy Orthodox Christian faith. Read humbly about those who have confessed our faith, and lived it daily, read frequently about the lives of the Saints and you will be spiritually rewarded. Know the life of your loving patron saint, and be an expert in this regards to tell others about this precious God-loving life and good works. Share this information with others, and teach your children about the faith in a childlike manner.
9). Know that the Ten Commandments are important for us to live and to follow. Read what the Holy Fathers had written about these Ten Commandments and seek from an Orthodox point of view their meanings for not only yourself but also for your beloved children.
10). Pick up and read Holy Scriptures daily, and struggle to read both the Old and New Testament and the books of the Apochraphal.
11). Make a pilgrimage to either an Orthodox monastery or a convent. Make a serious decision to visit the Holy Land, or to go to Holy Mt. Athos. When you travel make plans to visit the local Orthodox Church's and monasteries in the area, and call the monastery and parish that you would like to stop and pray.
12). Seek out the teachings of our faith about the virtues and the teachings that lead you on your path towards salvation, in both seeking your salvation on a daily basis and living your faith as a good example. Seek truth, and learn that truth will guide towards your salvation. Remember humbly truth is bitter, but it's truth! Have hope, and above all have faith in our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Remember to endure, and learn more about endurance, as did the lives of the Holy Martyrs of our loving Church.
13). Love your children, respect your parents, and be honorable to your relatives, as well as your Godparents. Love your neighbor and care for their needs. Judge no one, and let our Lord God take care of this for all you have to do is pray for those in desperate need of your loving prayers.
14). Forgive, forgive, forgive and learn how to forgive!
15). Struggle, struggle, and struggle with love for God and His Church!
16). Roar like a lion, but be mostly meek as a lamb!
17). Pray for the living, and pray for the departed in the Lord! Keep list of these names, and bring it often to the priest to pray with you.
18). Seek to be saintly and prepare yourself spiritually. Love peace and seek spiritually inner peace with our Lord Jesus Christ. When war is at our door step and destruction, cry out for peace, peace, and never cease in this regards in spite of what might seem a failure at that time. Keep knocking on the door for peace again and again!
19). Love God and love one another! Love your faith and live your faith! Know your faith, and share your faith with others, as well as defend it and speak of it's truths. Once again I repeat truth is bitter, but it's truth. Christ our Lord is truth, and Holy Orthodoxy is the same truth.
20). Learn about the inner peace of our Lord God and live for this peace.
21). Live the pious Christian life of Beatitude! Remember almost by heart in remembrance of these spiritually rewarding Beatitudes. "Blessed are the meek...." Learn to be meek also.
22). Feed the homeless and help the homeless in any way to get on their feet to lead a productive life. Learn that your responsibility is not to convert them, but to live a true Christian life. Reach out in caring for others when they ask for your help. Be a volunteer, and do it with Christian love and expect no reward. The poor and most unfortunate need food, a warm blanket, and shelter, as well as your love, give one of your blankets away, give some of your extra food to someone else, and suggest where one can find shelter and assist in this on a temporary basis. Pray for them and do not cry out that it's their fault, as being poor is a horrific struggle to be what all human beings desire to get back on their feet once again. Aren't we all ourselves at the door step at times in being homeless? Afterwards do not seek any rewards, and deny you did anything before man, as our Lord God will reward you most humbly. Help sponsor a dinner in your local parish and remember to when it's Wednesday or Friday prepare fasting foods. When it's not a fasting day remember that those who are homeless and hungry do not eat as often as yourself.
23). Avoid pride and be humble!
24). Do nothing for honor, and when you are caught doing something good express the following: It's all for the Glory of our God! Or say: Glory be to God for all things!
25). Pray for all and judge no one, leave that up to God!
26). When you pray learn to weep in these humble prayers with all your mind, heart, and soul!
27). Struggle and learn to struggle more!
28). Look for Christ our Lord in others, and speak from the heart to the heart before you!
29). Seek to cleanse your sins, and weep before our Lord God that you desire not to sin in the same manner again.
30). Pick up your Cross, and then pick it up again!
31). When you are ill seek out your parish priest to anoint you with the gift of the Holy Spirit that was performed on Holy Wednesday at the Holy Unction services.
32). Be forbearing always!
33). Listen to the truth as it might at times seem bitter to you.
34). Learn about the Creed we confess during the Divine Services and in your daily prayers, seek to fully understand the Creed, and learn that it's a confession of our Holy Orthodox Faith and it's teachings. If anyone ask you about our faith refer to this Creed frequently.
35). Establish icon corners and places for your holy icons in your home. Keep a vigil light burning fervently before your loving icons, and take oil from it anointing yourself and your beloved children.
36). Respect your environment and plant a tree, and put flowers in the ground and see the beauty of our Lord God and His creation. Give room for nature to dwell, as we desire to dwell on this earth in humble preparations for the Kingdom of our Lord God.
37). Have your house blessed by your parish priest every year.
38). Go to Holy Confession and ask your local parish priest guidelines in preparation for this Holy Mystery.
39). Lean that Holy Marriage is a blessing from God and constantly keep telling each other of your respected love, and learn to talk to each other, as well as the members of your family, and let Christ our Lord reign in your home and hearts. Pray together, and go to Church together, and struggle altogether!
40). Give always Glory, Honor, and Worship to God to the Most Holy Trinity, One in Essence, and Undivided - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen!
Now I would like to humbly touch upon you about the "Antichrist" from an Orthodox perspective, and in doing so I of course desire that you spiritually awaken yourself and fully understand that this presentation is to help you in giving you fuller awareness and preparations. Does this simply mean that the world itself will end in the year 2000? We do not know as only our Lord God knows this answer, as we even know that even the Holy Angels do not have an answer for us. What we need to do spiritually is again I repeat, be aware, prepare and learn about the teachings of our Holy Orthodox Faith for the sake of our humble salvation. The following was written by a Russian Orthodox priest named Father Boris Molchanoff, and this particular presentation is taken from the book "The Mystery Of Iniquity And The Antichrist".
by Archpriest Father Boris Molchanoff
The "gates" of hell" signifies not only the forces of hell, but in general staff of Hell's power. Their most important meeting is dedicated to developing a plan for a general battle with the Church. The Church and Hell are represented as two warring powers. And in this war with Hell, according to Christ's words, the Church will remain invincible.
Hell's war plan with the Church is called the "Mystery of Iniquity" in the Holy Scriptures (2 Thessalonians 2:8). The iniquity has been working for centuries and will have its culmination in the appearance of the Antichrist ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8). The Antichrist can come only as a result of universal Apostasy, that is, the abjuration of the people from God and His paths, when God's grace will withdraw from the people.
In agreement with such teachings of the Holy Fathers, the life of the Antichrist cannot admit one moment free from satanic action. It must already appear in the very birth and even in his conception, peculiar and exceptional in its depravity. "From a defiled virgin will actually be born his (the devil's) weapon." says St. Ephrem the Syrian. This is also confirmed by St. John of Damascus. "A man (the Antichrist) will be born from fornication."
The Holy Fathers Iriney ("Against Heresy", Book V, chapter 30), Ippolit (Legends about Christ and the Antichrist), and also Ilariy, Ambrose, Ieronim and Augustus, remark that the Antichrist will be of Jewish ancestry, from the tribe of Dan.
In the Synaksare, stated in the Week of Lent without meat, we read that, "The Antichrist will come and be born, as St. Ippolit of Rome declares, from a depraved wife and self-styled virgin, which is from the Jews, from the tribe of Dan." (Lenten Triod) Such indications in God's Word have several foundations:
Of course, some resemblance of the Antichrist to Christ will only be external and in essence deceitful, for the whole life and all the deeds of the Antichrist will be an incensed and blasphemous revolt against Christ and His Church. This false external resemblance to Christ will appear in the very birth of the Antichrist. Keeping in mind that Christ was born a Virgin, the devil will produce his weapon from a virgin, not from a pure virgin, however, but from one filled with every vice and satanic filth. Then, as the Lord until he was thirty years old remained in obscurity, so the Antichrist, we assume, will, until the age of 30, remain in clandestine solitude and obscurity. As Christ began His saving service with sermons of His Divine teaching and miracles, so will the Antichrist begin his completely destructive service with the delusion of the people with his false teaching and incredibly shameful, deceitful miracles. As it was pleasing for the Lord to reveal Himself to all the people as the Messiah by solemnly entering Jerusalem and into its Temple, so the Antichrist will reveal himself as the false Jewish Messiah, the international monarch, in him solemn ceremonial entrance into Jerusalem and his enthronement in the temple of Jerusalem, which will by that time be restored.
The Lord's entry into Jerusalem, says Archbishop Innokenty of Herson, was "for all Jews a national declaration that Jesus Christ was veritably the Messiah. Indisputable proof of this are His own words, proclaimed before the gates of Jerusalem, saying: "If thou hadst known, even now, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace: But now they are hid from thine eyes." (Luke XIX, 42.) "With this day, with the rejection of the Messiah, the fate of the Israelite nation was decided for eternity." (The Last Days on Earth of Jesus Christ")
On the day when the Antichrist shall enter into Jerusalem as the false Messiah, forever and irrevocably the fate of his contemporaries will be decided. Blessed are those who, on the last day given by God for the conclusive self-determination of the people, will see the Antichrist as Satan's servant and the inescapable peril of all mankind which recognized him. Finally, as the Lord revealed Himself to the world and fulfilled His service as a Prophet, as King and as High Priest, so will the Antichrist concentrate all this triple power in his hands and complete his destructive service as the teacher of all mankind, as the monarch of an international monarchy and as the highest primate of all religions, demanding reverence for himself as God.
The entire life and activity of the Antichrist may be examined in three periods:
The FIRST PERIOD of the Antichrist from the day of birth to the moment of his social
appearance will pass in clandestine obscurity. St. John of Damascus says that,
"Antichrist will be raised secretly." (The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith", Book
IV, Chapter 26.)
The SECOND PERIOD of the Antichrist's life will be opened by his thunderous entry (on
the world stage - my addition) in the role of a universal teacher or "prophet". It is very
possible that he will begin his activity during a world war, when people, enduring all its
horrors, will not see any way out of the calamitous dead end. All the concealed levers for
the solution will be in the hands of a secret society assisting the Antichrist.
The Antichrist will offer the most successful project for solving the world crisis from the perspective of political and social wisdom, which would establish a uniform political and social order in the whole world. Exhausted from the shock of war, spiritually blinded humanity will not only by unaware that this project is a cowardly trap, enticing it into the most degrading and merciless slavery, but on the contrary, will recognize it as a manifestation of scholarship and genius.
Universal advertisement about the Antichrist as a brilliant thinker, new leader, and savior of mankind, will thunder over all nations in the shortest possible period of time. "Evil spirits dispersed in the universe, will awaken a general, inflated opinion about the Antichrist in man, a general enthusiasm and an irresistible attraction for him." (St. Ephraim the Syrian, 16th word.)
In this period of his activity, the Antichrist will not use any force and will try to win men's trust and affection with his deceitful and hypocritical public mask of virtue. He, according to the expression of Vladimir Soloviev, "will throw a gleaming veil of kindness and truth over the mystery of iniquity." "He will come," said St. Ephrem the Syrian, "in an image which will seduce everyone. He will come as a humble, kind, hater of falsehood (as he will say about himself), rejecting idols, preferring piety and kindness, loving the poor, bearing extremely handsome features, constant, sweet to everyone, respecting especially the Jewish nation because they will be awaiting his coming...He will take sly measures to please everyone, will not accept gifts nor speak in anger, will not show an overcast countenance, but will entice the world with a decorous exterior until he is enthroned." (See previous citation.)
From the great wealth of ascetical experience from our great men of podvig, it is known that when the black devil cannot overcome an ascetic, encountering unswerving opposition from him, a stronger devil comes as an "angel of light" (II Corinthians, XI, 14), attempting to awaken sympathy and trust towards himself in the ascetic, and easily charming him away to destruction. Thus, we can imagine how easily and quickly the bright image of the Antichrist will attract general sympathy towards itself after the filthy devil of Bolshevism.
As a result of such deceit, "the need to invite the Antichrist will arise" within the very temperament of man's spirit. "A beckoning voice will resound in man's society, expressing urgent need for a genius of geniuses, who would raise material development and prosperity to the highest degree and establish affluence on earth". (Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninoff. Vol IV, page 313.)
The hypocrisy of the Antichrist in this period will reach the point that he, even in his relationship to Christians, will not oppose them, but will appear ready to be their benefactor. He will try to imitate Christ in the external, showy side of his life. The majority of Christians, not guided by the spiritual wisdom of the Church, but by worldly wisdom, will not see this deceit, recognizing the Antichrist as Christ who has come to earth a second time. The monks of the Solovetsky monastery pass on the answer given by Righteous Zosima to his disciples when he was asked how the Antichrist could be recognized. Righteous Zosima said, "When you will hear that Christ has appeared on earth, know then that this is the Antichrist." This answer is most precise. "The world or mankind will not recognize the Antichrist, it will recognize him as Christ, it will proclaim him Christ.....
("Antichrist", by Very Reverend Boris Moltchanoff published in 1976, by Archpriest George Grabbe, Department of Foregin Relations Synod of Bishops, New York., pp. 1-4.)
Through Prayers Of Our Holy Fathers,
Lord Jesus Christ Son Of God,
Have Mercy On Us And Save Us!
Glory Be To God For All Things!
Content written/compiled by Father Nektarios Serfes.
(c) Father Nektarios Serfes