Conception of St. John the BaptistReady to do some counting (think in months, not days)? According to the Byzantine Liturgical Calendar, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conception of the Honorable, Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, on September 23rd. We celebrate John's nativity on June 24th. We celebrate the Feast of the Conception of Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God by the Righteous Anna on December 9th. We celebrate Mary's nativity on September 8th. On March 25th we celebrate the Annunciation of our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary (the conception of our Lord). We celebrate his nativity on December 25th. Elizabeth carries John in her womb for 9 months + 1 day. Anna carries Mary, the Mother of God in her womb for 9 months - 1 day. Mary, the Mother of God, carries our Lord in her womb for exactly 9 months. Only Christ is perfect.

The conception and birth of the Forerunner is part of God's saving plan which was foretold to us by the Prophet Malachi: "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me" (Mal 3:1). The Church Fathers note that John is Elijah and Elijah is John for those willing to receive this, but also that John is something more. Irenaeus teaches us that while John "announced beforehand the advent of the Christ he actually saw him when He came and pointed Him out, and persuaded many to believe in Him, so that he himself holds the place of both prophet and apostle". (See "Against Heresies 3.11.4 and 1 Cor 12:28)

Rejoice, O barren one, who formerly did not bear a child,
for you have conceived the Lamp of the Sun,
who is to enlighten the whole universe which has been darkened by blindness.
Rejoice, O Zachariah, and cry out with boldness:
"The prophet of the Most High desires to be born!"
Troparion of the Conception of the Forerunner (September 23)


Teachings of Christ

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" (Mark 8:34-37 ESV)

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

Encounter

Rejoice, O Mother of God, Virgin full of grace. * From you has risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, * shining upon those who are in darkness. * Rejoice also, you righteous Elder; * for you received in your arms the Deliverer of our souls, * Who has given us resurrection. (Troparion, Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

O Christ God, through Your birth You sanctified the Virgin's womb; * and blessed, as it was proper, the hands of Simeon. * Now, having come, you saved us. * Give peace to Your commonwealth in times of war * and strengthen our civil authorities, whom You have loved, O You who alone loves mankind. (Kontakion, Tone 1)

(The Feast of the Encounter is February 2nd - the 40th Day of Christmas)

Random Proverb

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. (Proverbs 3:9,10 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Our distresses are notorious, even though we leave them untold, for now their sound has gone out into all the world. The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves hurrying the flock of Christ. Houses of prayer have none to assemble in them; desert places are full of lamenting crowds. The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be compassionated, for they do not know of what they have been deprived. All this is enough to stir the pity of men who have learnt the love of Christ; but, compared with the actual state of things, words fall very far short....

Saint Basil the Great
(Letter 90)