Sunday, January 24, 2021 - Venerable Xenia of Rome, and her two female servants - Saint Xenia of Rome, in the world Eusebia, was the only daughter of an eminent Roman senator. From her youth she loved God, and wished to avoid the marriage arranged for her. She secretly left her parental home with two servants devoted to her, and set sail upon a ship. Through the Providence of God she met the head of the monastery of the holy Apostle Andrew in Milassa, a town of Caria (Asia Minor). She besought him to take her and her companions to Milassa. She also changed her name, calling herself Xenia (which means "stranger" or "foreigner" in Greek).
At Milassa she bought land, built a church dedicated to Saint Stephen, and founded a women's monastery. Soon after this, Bishop Paul of Milassa made Xenia a deaconess, because of her virtuous life. The saint helped everyone: for the grief-stricken, a comforter; for sinners, a guide to repentence. She possessed a deep humility, accounting herself the worst and most sinful of all. In her ascetic deeds she was guided by the counsels of the Palestinian ascetic, Saint Euthymius. The sublime life of Saint Xenia drew many souls to Christ. The holy virgin died in 450 while she was praying. During her funeral, a luminous wreath of stars surrounding a radiant cross appeared over the monastery in the heavens. This sign accompanied the body of the saint when it was carried into the city, and remained until the saint's burial. Many of the sick received healing after touching the relics of the saint. Following the death of Saint Xenia, first one of her former servants died, then the other. They were buried at the saint's feet.
Scripture Readings for Sunday, January 24: John 21:15-25, Colossians 3:4-11, Luke 18:35-43
The next Divine Liturgy at St. Mark will be held on Sunday, January 24, 2021 at 10:00 AM; the reading of the third and sixth hours begins at 9:30 AM.
All are welcome to attend Divine Liturgy at St. Mark. If you wish to attend, please email us and we will send you an attendance form to fill out prior to Sunday services. Masks are mandatory and if you are ill we ask that you stay home until you are well. You may email us at email@example.com
Confession: Father Kevin has begun hearing Confessions on the telephone and will continue to set up appointments. Many have asked about Confession and this is the best that can be done under the present restrictions.
Please remember in your prayers: Conor, Nicholas, Francis, Nancy, Sarah, Cecilia, Alexandra, Robert, Eleanor, Priest Antony, George, Peter, Nicholas, Norma, Eugenia, Reader George, Alexandra, Alban, the kidnapped Hierarchs Metropolitan Paul (Boulos Yazigi) & Archbishop John (Yohanna Ibrahim); the suffering Christians of Egypt and Syria; Newly-departed Diana (40th Day 12/26) & newly-departed His Eminence Archbishop David of Sitka, Mary
Please send your prayer requests to Catherine by email
Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg - If you would like to read more about Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg please click on the following link: www.oca.org/saints/lives/2021/01/24/00297-blessed-xenia-of-st-petersburg
Wednesday, January 20: Venerable Euthymius the Great; Martyrs Innas, Pinnas, and Rimmas; Readings: Hebrews 5:11-6:8, Luke 21:5-7, 10-11, 20-24 (Fish, Wine & Oil)
Saturday, January 24: New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia; Readings: Colossians 3:4-11, Luke 18:35-43
Encyclical of Hope: On Thursday, December 31, 2020, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America has issued an encyclical entitled, "We Rejoice Even in Tribulation"; An Encyclical of Hope. The Holy Synod offers this work out of love and gratitude to its faithful at the end of this year. The Synod also intends for the encyclical to be seen as an encouragement for the year to come. If may read this wonderful message of encouragement by clicking on the following link: www.oca.org/news/headline-news/holy-synod-of-bishops-issues-an-encyclical-of-hope
Nativity Appeal Letters: A very special thank you to all who have sent in donations in honor of the Nativity season; your ongoing support is greatly appreciated. All donations help support and maintain our parish and ministry. We pray that God may bless you abundantly for your generosity.
2021 Calendars have arrived and they are available at the church.
We are collecting items for distribution to those in need via a local food pantry. Please leave the items you wish to donate in the large blue bin located in the nave of the church. It is important that we continue to care for those in need, especially during these uncertain and difficult times.
The Parish Council will meet on Monday, February 15 at 6:30 PM via Zoom
If you would like to support our parish with a donation, here is the information:
Make all checks payable to: St. Mark of Ephesus Orthodox Church
Please mail your check to:
St. Mark of Ephesus Orthodox Church
261 Main Street
Kingston, MA 02364
Thank you for your generous donation and for your support! May God bless you.
A New Message for Hope and Encouragement (1/4/2021): from the book "Thoughts For Each Day of the Year" by St. Theophan the Recluse for the Sunday after Theophany, Thirty-Second Sunday After Pentecost: Yesterday the Apostle armed with the whole spiritual armor the Christian who sets out upon the path of salvation. Now, for our inspiration in times of hardship, he shows who the leaders are in this battle procession, and what is the final bright goal of everything. The leaders are pastors and teachers, whom the Lord has given to the Church, and through whose mouths He Himself utters the guiding direction needful for all, as soon as one turns to such leaders with faith and prayerful appeal to the Lord. Those who selflessly walk the Lord's path know this truth, as do those who conduct a struggle against the enemies of salvation without pity for themselves. In their pastors they always find help and are brought to understanding, while, looking from the outside, such help could not be expected. For they are not coming to men, but to the Lord, Who is always ready to direct and give understanding through such men, to anyone who sincerely and with faith seeks help from Him. The final bright goal is the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ - the stature of a perfect man (Eph. 4:13). We all know what a perfect man is in the usual order of things, and we could hardly find a person who would not wish to attain such perfection. But the meaning of a perfect man in the Lord is something not known to anyone other than those who have entered into that stature. This, however, should not cool one's fervor for the attainment of such a stature, but on the contrary should kindle it even more; for this lack of knowledge is due to the height of that spiritual perfection which is called a manly stature in a life according to God. The Apostle defined this as taking on the fullness of perfections revealed in the Lord and Savior. Anyone can see that there is reason for us to apply all diligence (II Peter 1:5) toward our calling.
Sunset on Mt. Athos (from the opening page of the glorious book "A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain: Discussion with a hermit on the Jesus Prayer" written by Archimandrite Hierotheos Vlachos and translated by Effie Mavromichali: The sun was sinking in the west. Morning on Mt. Athos are fragrant, charming. The darkness of the night is dispersed while the monks are at the Katholika (the main church) of the holy monasteries, singing "Glory to Thee who showed us light...". One could say that the sweetest melodious voices, the sweet-ringing gongs and the warm rhythm of the talanta drive the darkness away. But also the afternoons on Athos are peaceful. A day of struggle has passed and the night is spreading its veil now; the monk will hide within it many battles, abundant tears and a lot of spiritual exercises (ascesis). The sun falls but the sun which exists in the hearts of the ascetics is not extinguished. A ceasless luminous day exists in their all pure heart, without the clouds of the passions. O! the sunsets of Athos! Sunsets full of charm, full of grace, wrapped up in silence.
After vespers some "athletes" (monks), with slow movements, their faces bent to the earth, come out of the Katholika of the Holy Monasteries or out of the chapels of their houses into the open air to take some rest; they sit on a bench of stone and they meditate on the prayer, on the sweetest name of Christ. They want and they insist on incribing it in their heart with the golden letters of prayer. I am carried away by these hours of tranquility, when even nature is calm and only the sea is heard sometimes playing on the rocks, when the king-sun paints the sky in every colour. Nature on Athos has a special charm, which is radiance of prayer and holiness. The uncreated grace indeed passes through the soul to the body and spreads even to the nonrational nature, to all creation. Nothing is fierce; everything is calm. All night and all day Athos is consumed by prayer. Even nature itself calms down with the beautiful voices of the monks, by the sweet-sounding gongs and the obedience!
Nature does not attract me much, yet the nature of Mt. Athos has a special grace. It might be that one sees it through the perspective of the God-bearing monks and becomes illuminated. It might be that one sees it not through the eye or the mind but through the deified heart. And the heart knows how to love and how to appreciate things. It might be that quietness in its full sense, plays a great part, since "life which is without anxieties because of its hope in God moves naturally towards the understanding of the lower creation of God" (St. Gregory Palamas).
The Real God and the Real Me: We will grapple with the truth that the real God and the real me are quite mysterious. Father Hopko said, "We need to meet the real God with the real me." Perhaps the great challenge and opportunity of my life is to continue a lifelong process of knowing the real God and the real me. The real God is totally mysterious, or to use the colloquial word, paradoxical. On the one hand, He is totally transcendent. He made, and is making, billions of stars, more numerous than we can count. He made, and is making, universes beyond counting. As Isaiah said, "as heaven is distant from earth, so is My way distant from your ways, and your thoughts from My mind" (Is 55:9). God said to Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (Job 38:4). God is totally transcendent, far beyond our wildest dreams. Yet, on the other hand, God is totally immanent. He reduces Himsef to be completely contained in the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist. He dwells within the deepest depths of our soul. How do transcendence and immanence coexist in God? That question is a way to begin to describe the incomprehensible mystery. That is why Jesus came, to show us in His person who almighty God is. The real God is a total mystery in Jesus.
The real me is also mysterious. On the one hand, I am nothing on my own. I am corrupt, scummy, a sinful self. We really, really don't know how corrupt we are. I heard someone say that every human is capable of committing the greatest atrocity ever perpetrated. Is that true? It is worth thinking about. On the other hand, I am a spot of light for the cosmos, a cherished child of God, supremely strong by His strength within me. St. Anthony the Great tells us about this when he says, "Expect temptation to your last breath." Although children of the Almighty, we will be children of Adam and Eve until our last breath. Our conscious weaknesses are our conscious strength. We gradually grow in insight and wisdom by connecting the dots, by comprehending how our lowliness is God's opening to become our strength. I need to continue to reflect upon me, the person within, my own unique construction by God of my energy, my personality, my character. If I do this, my insight will grow. I read a great quote somewhere that said, "If I don't go within, I go without." If I don't go within my heart, I go without wisdom, insight, and the light. We are like the airplane pilot who is continually getting her or his bearings from the flight tower. At any given moment the plane is always a bit off course, too high or too low, too far to the left or too far to the right. Yet the pilot is right on course, so to speak, and will land at the assigned airport. So, too, with us. We are always off course, yet always on course.
The real me is relational. There is no "me" without a realiship to God and to others. We relate through connectedness. Human connection is made in many ways, especially through eye contact, when the black of my eye meets the black in your eye. At that moment a fusion takes place, energy is transferred. It is the moment in the Sistine Chapel where God's finger reachest to connect with the human finger. A gap is crossed; an infinite chasm is bridged; isolation is broken. Connection is made, and the "me" become more "me." The real me is an inner universe of ever-changing energies. As Bishop John siad so clearly in the Foreward to this book, we are "a macrocosmos in a microcosmos." My paltry understanding is that these inner energies are primarily our relationships, more in number than we can count. These relationships include God Almighty, the saints and angels we know, and all the humans, living and dead, who were or are a part of our life. We are more inextricably interwined with each other than we can imagine. In one sense, my brother and my sister are me, or at least make a significant impact on my identity as me. The Christian view of the interrelatedness of persons is diametrically opposed to much of the current cultural notion of rugged individualism.
It certainly is possible not to meet the real God - to have our own variations as we create God in our imagined image and likeness. If I were to recommend a book on this topic, it would be Fr. Thomas Hopko's book The Names of Jesus, published by Ancient Faith Publishing, which talks about the triune divinity as known through Jesus Christ, through His names. We know the real God through Christ, our friend. In John, we read, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15;15, 16). It baffles the human mind to think of Christ as our friend.
An excerpt taken from the book All is Well by Albert S. Rossi, PhD
Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh: The adoration of Jesus by the wise men from the East is part of the Nativity celebration in the Orthodox Church. Whatever the actual historical circumstances of the event - and Orthodox tradition takes them quite literally - the spiritual and theological significance of the coming of the kings with their gifts is of paramount importance. We have already seen how the Church emphasizes the fact that the entire order of nature participates in the announcement of Christ's birth, thus revealing itself as God's creation. For, as the troparian of the feast proclaims, "those who worshipped the stars were taught by a star" to adore Jesus as Lord: The riddles of the soothsayers and the diviner Balaam are now fulfilled. For a star has dawned from Jacob, leading the Magi, Persian kings bringing gifts, to the Sun of Glory. The error of Persia has ceased, for the stargazers, kings of the East, bring gifts to Christ the King of all at His birth: Gold, frankincense and myrrh. Bless Him, O children, and praise Him, O priests, exalt Him, O people, through the ages. The coming of the wise men also bears witness to the fact that Jesus has come as King and Lord for all people, and not only the Jews. In the persons of the Persian kings the Church sees all the peoples of the earth and all the kingdoms of men.
The daughter of Babylon, once led David's children captive from Zion, whom she had taken with the sword. But now she sends her own children, the Magi bearing gifts, to beg the Daughter of David in whom God came to dwell. Therefore let us raise up the song: let the whole creation bless the Lord, and exalt Him above all forever. The Magi, kings of Persia, knew that You, the Heavenly King, were truly born on earth. They came to Bethlehem led by the light of a star, and offered their chosen gifts: Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Falling before You they worshipped, for they saw You who are timeless lying as a babe in the cave. Earth spreads out its wide spaces and receives the Creator, as He receives glory from angels and the star from the heavens, gifts from the Magi and recognition from the whole world.
The gifts of the Magi are of particular significance. They are interpreted symbolically in the liturgy of the feast. The gift of gold is taken as the sign that jesus is the king of Israel, of the entire universe, and of the kingdom of God to come. This is a crucial part of the Christmas story in the gospels. It caused Herod to kill all the "male children in Bethlehem and in all the region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men" (Mt 2:16).
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "in Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern My people Israel.'" (Mt 2:1-6)
The gift of frankincense is taken by the liturgy to signify the fact that Jesus is God, since incense is for worship, and only God may be worshipped. And the gift of Myrrh is for the Lord Jesus who has come to die as the perfect sacrifice for the people. For the dead were anointed with myrrh, as Jesus Himself was anointed, according to the scriptures, at the time of His death (Jn 19:39-40). In the gifts of the Magi, therefore, are contained all the mysteries of Christ's coming. They point to the purpose of His appearance on earth. He is the royal king, the Son of David, whose kingdom will have no end. He is the victim, the Lamb of God, who by His death takes away the sins of the world. And He is God Himself, the divine Son of the Father: "Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father , by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven..." as the Nicene Creed declares. The contemplation of the wise men and their gifts is an integral and lasting part of the Church's celebration of the Lord's Winter Pascha.
The kings, the first fruits of the gentiles, bring You gifts at Your birth in Bethlehem from a mother who knew no travail. With Myrrh they point to Your death, with gold, to Your royal power, with frankincense to the preeminence of Your divinity. When the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judah, Magi coming from the East worshipped God made man. And eagerly opening their treasures, they offered Him precious gifts: Refined gold, as to the King of the ages; Frankincense, as to the God of all; Myrrh they offered to the Immortal One as one three days dead. Come all nations, let us worship Him who was born to save our souls.
Set a Watch Before My Mouth: Sr. Sarah and Sr. Thekla, having become novices around the same time, had a special bond. Not only did they share books and stories, work together, and were even tonsured together, they had a unique pact. From the very begining of their monastic lives, they agreed they would never, under any circumstances, indicate to each other that they had gotten into an argument, were upset with, or had been offended by, a member of their monastic community. This decision to safeguard the bond of peace within the sisterhood was a very wise one. "See, if I had a problem with a certain sister, if for some reason I got upset with her and went and vented to Sr. Thekla, then she might also find herself becoming embittered or disliking the other sister. You know, the way a person sometimes dislikes those whom their friends dislike. We never wanted this to happen, so we agreed that we would never say anything bad about another sister, ever." This simple commitment brings with it immeasurable protection. Many times we allow ourselves to vent. We convice ourselves that it is better to get it all out than to allow our anger to boil up inside us, as the saying goes. Unfortunately, we are wrong on two counts for engaging in such behavior. First, venting allows our thoughts and suspicions, our hurt feelings and offenses, to become solidified. We confirm our thoughts by justifying them, explaining why we are right and the other person is wrong, how we are wounded and the other is the cruel offender. Second, we pull the other person or persons listening to us into sin with us. We infiltrate their thoughts and preceptions, tainting the way they think and feel about the supposed offender. This is actually worse than the first wrongdoing, because we are not only sinning but creating a stumbling block for someone else. It is an easy enough temptation to fall into, especially given that contemporary society encourages expressing our anger, it teaches us it's a necessary evil to pour out the poison in order to avoid blowing up. But since when has the authentic Christian embraced what the world teaches? Here is what Elder Thaddaeus teaches we ought to do to resolve our inner turmoil: When the period of warfare comes, we are overwhelmed by thoughts...This is when we must turn to the Lord in our hearts and keep silence. If we cannot abandon the thought that is bothering us immediately then we must keep silence. We should not think about anything. It is not ours to think. The Lord knows what we can take and what we cannot. Then, when we are in silence and our mind is quiet, we should give it something to do so that it will not wander [and return to the matter that is bother us]. We should pray." When we are confronted by strong emotions and thoughts, instead of venting to someone else, we can apply the elder's advice. And then we go to confession. It is in confession that our venting can take place. Not that confession is an opportunity to accuse, slander, or even simply reveal the faults of others, but it is here in confession that we can reveal our honest feelings and preceptions. Most importantly, it is through confession that our erring thoughts are corrected and we receive consolation for our sorrow. A wise spiritual guide can help us discern where we are at fault in a conflict, or, if we are innocent, how we can bear the injustices done to us. The sisters protected themselves and each other by committing to keep silent instead of venting. Silence doesn't mean the heart is at peace, but it does ensure that sin does not progress into action through word and deed. By their silence the sisters "silence the enemy and the avenger" of mankind (Ps. 8:2) - Excerpt from the book "The Sweetness of Grace' by Constantina R. Palmer
Morning Prayer of the Last Elders of Optina: O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me with spiritual tranqulity. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to thy holy will. At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to thy holy will. Guide my thoughs and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurences, let me not forget that all is sent down from thee. Grant me to deal in a straightforward and wise manner with every member of my family, neither embarrasing nor saddening anyone. O Lord, grant me power to endure the fatique of the coming day and all the events that will take place during it. Guide my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love. Amen
Seek God, Such is the unalterable rule of all spiritual advancement. Nothing comes without effort. The help of God is always ready and always near, but it is only given to those who seek and work, and only to those who put their own powers to the test, then cry out with all their heart: Lord, help us. So long as you hold on to even a little hope of achieving something by your own powers, the Lord does not interfere. It is as though He says, "You hope to succeed by yourself - very well, go on trying. But, however long you try, you will achieve nothing." May the Lord give you a contrite spirit, a humble and contrite heart. - St. Theophan
"Our whole environment - our education from earliest childhood, the struggle for survival - teaches us self-respect. But if any of us can put himself in the place of the publican - and may God help us all to feel that way - let him rejoice, for he is the stray sheep, that lost piece of silver, for the sake of which Christ came; his salvation causes more joy in heaven than that of a hundred just souls." - From "The Diary of a Russian Priest" by Alexander Elchaninov
Psalm 137 - In our exile from God:
By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy! Remember, O Lord, against the Edmomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, "Raze it, Raze it! Down to its foundations!" O daughter of Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall he be who requites you with what you have done to us! Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!
(Note: in translation the "little ones" refers to the small temptations, the petty demons, the little sins, seemingly so innocent, insignificant and harmless, must be dashed upon the Rock of Christ. Otherwise they grow big and become strong and destroy the heedless and negligent with their lethal power. - Fr. Thomas Hopko "The Lenten Spring"