Monday, December 31, 2007

Venerable Melania the Younger of Rome

Commemorated on December 31

Saint Melania was born in Rome into a devout Christian family. Her parents, people of property and wealth, hoped that their daughter would marry and have children who would inherit their wealth.

At fourteen years of age Melania was married to the illustrious youth Apinianus. From the very beginning of their married life, St Melania asked her husband to live with her in chastity or else release her from the marriage. Apinianus answered, "I cannot agree to this right now. When we have two children to inherit the property, then we shall both renounce the world."

Soon Melania gave birth to a daughter, whom the young parents dedicated to God. Continuing to live together in marriage, Melania secretly wore a hairshirt and spent her nights in prayer. The second child, a boy, was premature and had severe complications. They baptized him, and he departed to the Lord.

Seeing the suffering of his wife, Apinianus asked the Lord to preserve St Melania's life, and he vowed to spend the rest of their life together in chastity. Recovering, St Melania stopped wearing her beautiful clothing and jewelry. Soon their daughter also died. The parents of St Melania did not support the young couple's desire to devote themselves to God. It was only when St Melania's father became deathly ill, that he asked their forgiveness and permitted them to follow their chosen path, asking them to pray for him.

The saints then left the city of Rome, and began a new life completely dedicated to the service of God. Apinianus at this time was twenty-four years of age, and Melania twenty. They began to visit the sick, to take in wanderers, and to help the indigent. They visited those who were exiled, and mine-convicts, and the destitute, there in debtor's prison. After selling their estates in Italy and Spain, they generously helped monasteries, hospitals, widows and orphans in Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, Phoenicia, and Palestine.

Many churches and hospitals were built with their assistance. Churches of both West and East benefited from them. Leaving their native land, they set sail for Africa, and a strong storm arose while they were at sea. The sailors said that this was because of the wrath of God, but St Melania said that it was not God's will that they should go directly to their destination.

The waves carried the ship to an island on which barbarians had landed. The besiegers demanded a ransom from the inhabitants, or else they threatened to lay waste the city. The saints supplied the necessary ransom, and thus saved the city and its people from destruction.

Resuming their voyage, they landed in Africa and helped all the needy there. With the blessing of the local bishops, they made offerings to churches and monasteries. During this time St Melania continued to humble her flesh by strict fasting, and she fortified her soul by constantly reading the Word of God, making copies of the sacred books and distributing them to those who lacked them. She sewed a hairshirt for herself, put it on, and continued to wear it.

The saints spent seven years in Carthage, and then decided to visit Jerusalem. At Alexandria, they were welcomed by the bishop, St Cyril, and they met in church with the holy Elder Nestorius, who was possessed of the gift of prophecy and healing. The Elder turned to them and told them to have courage and patience in expectation of the Glory of Heaven.

At Jerusalem, the saints distributed their remaining gold to the destitute and then spent their days in poverty and prayer. After a short visit to Egypt, where the saints visited many of the desert Fathers, St Melania secluded herself in a cell on the Mount of Olives. Only occasionally did she see St Apinianus.

Later, she founded a monastery, where eventually ninety virgins lived in obedience to St Melania. Out of humility, she would not consent to be abbess, and lived and prayed in solitude as before. In her instructions, St Melania urged the sisters to be vigilant and to pray, to disdain their own opinions and cultivate first of all love for God and for one another, to keep the holy Orthodox Faith, and to guard their purity of soul and of body.

In particular, she exhorted them to be obedient to the will of God. Calling to mind the words of the Apostle Paul, she counselled them to keep the fasts "not with wailing, nor from compulsion, but in virtuous disposition with love for God". By her efforts an oratory and altar were built in the monastery, where they enshrined the relics of saints: the Prophet Zachariah, the holy Protomartyr Stephen, and the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. About this time St Apinianus fell asleep in the Lord. St Melania buried his relics and there spent another four years in fasting and unceasing prayer.

St Melania wanted to build a men's monastery on the Mount of the Ascension of the Lord. The Lord blessed her intent by sending a benefactor who provided the means for the monastery. Joyfully accepting it, St Melania finished the great work in a single year. In this monastery, saintly men began to lift up unceasing prayer in the church of the Ascension of Christ.

Having completed her tasks, the saint left Jerusalem for Constantinople, hoping to save the soul of her pagan uncle Volusianus who had traveled there from Rome. Along the way she prayed at the relics of St Laurence (August 10), at the place of his martyrdom, and received auspicious signs. Arriving in Constantinople, the saint found her uncle had fallen ill. Her demeanor and her inspired discourses had a profound influence on the sick man. He gave up pagan impiety and died a Christian.

During this time many inhabitants of the capital were deceived by the heretical teaching of Nestorius. St Melania accepted anyone who turned to her for proper explanation, converting many of them to Orthodoxy. Many miracles were worked through the prayers of the saint.

Returning to her own monastery, the saint sensed the approach of death, and told this to the priest and the sisters. They listened to her final instructions with deep sorrow and with tears. Having asked their prayers and commanding them to preserve themselves in purity, she received the Holy Mysteries with joy. St Melania peacefully gave up her soul to the Lord in the year 439.

Troparion - Tone 4

In your fervent desire for the angelic life,You renounced the comforts of this earth.In watchfulness you practiced sobriety and deep humility.Therefore, most wise Melania, you became a pure vesselFilled by the Holy Spirit, who adorned you with gifts,Attracting all to your divine fervor,Leading them to the Master and Savior of our souls.

Troparion - Tone 4

You tread to the end of the path of virtue and were betrothed to God the Word.You rejoiced in the contest, O Anysia;And you, O Melania, shone with the light of dispassion,Together, radiant with virtue in the world.And now we ask you to implore Christ the Lord that he may be gracious to us!

Kontakion - Tone 4

Your soul radiated light from the One born for us of the Virgin,And you shone with virtues, O saint worthy of all praise.By giving away your possessions on earthYou stored up treasures in Heaven,Showing a wonderful example of the ascetic life.Therefore, O holy Melania, we honor you with love.

Kontakion - Tone 3

Like a lamp with two flames you illumine Christ’s ChurchWith mystical radiance.In your martyr’s contest you brought forth fruits a hundred-fold, O Anysia;And you, O Melania, were resplendent in asceticism.You were found worthy of the incorruptible life of the blessed!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Virginmartyr Anysia at Thessalonica

Commemorated on December 30

The Holy Virgin Martyr Anysia lived in the city of Thessalonica during the reign of the emperor Maximian (284-305). Upon the death of her parents, who had raised her in Christian piety, St Anysia sold everything she owned, distributing her riches to the poor, and she began to lead a strict life of fasting, vigil, and prayer.

During his persecution against Christians, Maximian issued an edict stating that anyone had the right to kill Christians with no fear of punishment. Soon there were many bodies to be found in cities, towns, and by the roadside. Once, when St Anysia was on her way to church, a pagan soldier stopped her and demanded that she come along to the festival of the sun to offer sacrifice. St Anysia gently pulled herself away from him. When the soldier boldly grabbed her and attempted to tear the veil from her head, she shoved him, spit in his face and said, "My Lord Jesus Christ forbids you!"

In anger, the soldier ran her through with his sword. Those gathering over her body wept and loudly complained against the cruel emperor for issuing an edict that resulted in the death of many innocent people. Christians buried the martyr near the city gates, and a chapel was built over her grave.

Troparion - Tone 4

You tread to the end of the path of virtue and were betrothed to God the Word.You rejoiced in the contest, O Anysia;And you, O Melania, shone with the light of dispassion,Together, radiant with virtue in the world.And now we ask you to implore Christ the Lord that he may be gracious to us!

Troparion - Tone 4

Your lamb Anysia, O Jesus,Calls out to You in a loud voice:I love You, O my bridegroom,And in seeking You, I endure suffering.In Baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You,And died so that I might live with You.Accept me as a pure sacrifice,For I have offered myself in love.By her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

Kontakion - Tone 3

Like a lamp with two flames you illumine Christ’s ChurchWith mystical radiance.In your martyr’s contest you brought forth fruits a hundred-fold, O Anysia;And you, O Melania, were resplendent in asceticism.You were found worthy of the incorruptible life of the blessed!


Saturday, December 29, 2007

14,000 Infants (the Holy Innocents) slain by Herod at Bethlehem

Commemorated on December 29

14,000 Holy Infants were killed by King Herod in Bethlehem. When the time came for the Incarnation of the Son of God and His Birth of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Magi in the East beheld a new star in the heavens, foretelling the Nativity of the King of the Jews. They journeyed immediately to Jerusalem to worship the Child, and the star showed them the way. Having worshipped the divine Infant, they did not return to Jerusalem to Herod, as he had ordered them, but being warned by God in a dream, they went back to their country by another way. Herod finally realized that his scheme to find the Child would not be successful, and he ordered that all the male children two years old and younger at Bethlehem and its surroundings be killed. He thought that the divine Infant, Whom he considered a rival, would be among the dead children.

The murdered infants thus became the first martyrs for Christ. The rage of Herod fell also on Simeon the God-Receiver (February 3), who declared before everyone in the Temple that the Messiah had been born. When the holy Elder died, Herod would not give permission for him to be properly buried. On the orders of King Herod, the holy prophet and priest Zachariah was also killed. He was murdered in Jerusalem between the Temple and the altar (Mt. 23:35) because he would not tell the whereabouts of his son John, the future Baptist of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The wrath of God soon fell upon Herod himself: a horrid condition struck him down and he died, eaten by worms while still alive. Before his death, the impious king murdered the chief priests and scribes of the Jews, and also his brother, and his sister and her husband, and also his own wife Mariam, and three of his sons, and seventy men of wisdom who were members of the Sanhedrin. He initiated this bloodbath so that the day of his death would not be one of rejoicing, but one of mourning.

Troparion - Tone 1

We beseech You, O Lord of mankindTo accept in supplicationThe suffering which Your saints endured for Your sake, O Lord,And heal all our infirmities.

Kontakion - Tone 8

When the King was born in Bethlehem, the Magi came from the East.Having been led by a star from on High, they brought Him gifts.But in exceeding wrath, Herod harvested the infants as sorrowing wheat;The rule of his kingdom has come to an end.


Friday, December 28, 2007

20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia: Glycerius,Zeno, Theophilus,Dorotheus,Mardonius,Migdonius,Indes,Gorgonius,Peter,Euthymius,Agape,Domna,Theophila

Commemorated on December 28

The Holy 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia: At the beginning of the fourth century the emperor Maximian (284-305) gave orders to destroy Christian churches, to burn service books, and to deprive all Christians of rights and privileges of citizenship. At this time the bishop of the city of Nicomedia was St Cyril, who by his preaching and life contributed to the spread of Christianity, so that many members of the emperor's court were also secret Christians.

The pagan priestess Domna was living in the palace at that time. Providentially, she obtained a copy of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St Paul. Her heart burned with the desire to learn more about the Christian teaching. With the help of a young Christian girl, Domna went secretly to Bishop Anthimus (Cyril's successor) with her faithful servant, the eunuch Indes. St Anthimus catechized them, and both received holy Baptism.

Domna began to help the poor: she gave away her valuables with the assistance of Indes, and she also distributed food from the imperial kitchen. The chief eunuch, who was in charge of provisions for the imperial household, found out that Domna and Indes were not eating the food sent them from the emperor's table. He had them beaten in order to find out why they did not partake of the food, but they remained silent. Another eunuch informed him that the saints were distributing all the emperor's gifts to the poor. He locked them up in prison to exhaust them with hunger, but they received support from an angel and did not suffer. St Domna feigned insanity so she wouldn't have to live among the pagans. Then she and Indes managed to leave the court, and she went to a women's monastery. Abbess Agatha quickly dressed her in men's clothing, cut her hair and sent her off from the monastery.

During this time the emperor returned from battle and ordered that a search be made for the former pagan priestess Domna. The soldiers sent for this purpose found the monastery and destroyed it. The sisters were thrown into prison, subjected to torture and abuse, but not one of them suffered defilement. Sent to a house of iniquity, St Theophila was able to preserve her virginity with the help of an angel of the Lord. The angel led her from the brothel and brought her to the cathedral.

At this time the emperor cleared the city square to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. When they began sprinkling the crowd with the blood of the sacrificial animals, Christians started to leave the square. Seeing this, the emperor became enraged, but in the middle of his rantings a great thunderstorm sprang up. People fled in panic, and the emperor had to retreat to the palace for his own safety.

Later Maximian went to the church with soldiers and told them they could escape punishment if they renounced Christ. Otherwise, he promised to burn the church and those in it. The Christian presbyter Glycerius told him that Christians would never renounce their faith, even under the threat of torture. Hiding his anger, the emperor exited the church, and a short time later commanded the presbyter Glycerius be arrested for trial. The executioners tortured the martyr, who did not cease to pray and to call on the Name of the Lord. Unable to force St Glycerius stop confessing Christ, Maximian ordered him to be burned to death.

On the Feast of the Nativity of Christ in the year 302, when about 20,000 Christians had assembled at the cathedral in Nicomedia, the emperor sent a herald into the church. He told the Christians that soldiers were surrounding the building, and that anyone who wished to leave had to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Anyone who defied the emperor would perish when the soldiers set fire to the church. All those present refused to worship the idols.

As the pagans prepared to set fire to the church, Bishop Anthimus, baptized all the catechumens and communed everyone with the Holy Mysteries. All 20,000 of those praying died in the fire. Among them were the abbess Agatha and St Theophila who had been saved from the den of iniquity by a miracle. Bishop Anthimus, however, managed to escape the fire.

Maximian thought that he had exterminated all the Christians of Nicomedia. He soon learned that there were many more, and that they would confess their faith and were prepared to die for Christ. The emperor wondered how to deal with them. At his command they arrested the regimental commander Zeno, who was openly criticizing the emperor for his impiety and cruelty. Zeno was fiercely beaten and finally beheaded. They jailed the eunuch Indes, formerly a priest of the idols, for refusing to participate in a pagan festival.

The persecution against Christians continued. Dorotheus, Mardonius, Migdonius the deacon and others were thrown into prison. Bishop Anthimus encouraged them by sending letters to them. One of the messengers, the Deacon Theophilus, was captured. They subjected him to torture, trying to learn where the bishop was hiding. The holy martyr endured everything, while revealing nothing. Then they executed him and also those whom the bishop had addressed in his letter. Though they were executed in different ways, they all showed the same courage and received their crowns from God.

For weeks, St Domna concealed herself within a cave and sustained herself by eating plants. When she returned to the city, she wept for a long time at the ruins of the church, regretting that she was not found worthy to die with the others. That night she went the sea shore. At that moment fishermen pulled the bodies of the martyrs Indes, Gorgonius and Peter from the water in their nets.

St Domna was still dressed in men's clothing, and she helped the fishermen to draw in their nets. They left her the bodies of the martyrs. With reverence she looked after the holy relics and wept over them, especially over the body of her spiritual friend, the Martyr Indes.

After giving them an honorable burial, she did not depart from these graves so dear to her heart. Each day she burned incense before them, sprinkling them with fragrant oils. When the emperor was told of an unknown youth who offered incense at the graves of executed Christians, he gave orders to behead the youth. The Martyr Euthymius was also executed along with Domna.

Troparion - Tone 2

Blessed is the earth that received your blood, passion-bearers of the Lord,and holy is the dwelling place which received your spirits.You triumphed over the enemy in the stadiumand you preached Christ with boldness.Since He is good, we pray that you beseech Him to save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 1

Their souls strengthened by faith, the twenty thousand martyrs accepted their suffering by fire,and cried out to You, the One born of the Virgin:"Like gold, myrrh, and frankincense, the gifts of the Persian kings,receive our whole burnt offering, O Eternal God."


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen

Commemorated on December 27

The Holy Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen was the eldest of the seven deacons, appointed by the Apostles themselves, and therefore he is called "archdeacon." He was the first Christian martyr, and he suffered for Christ when he was about thirty. In the words of Asterias, he was "the starting point of the martyrs, the instructor of suffering for Christ, the foundation of righteous confession, since Stephen was the first to shed his blood for the Gospel."

Filled with the Holy Spirit, St Stephen preached Christianity and defeated Jewish teachers of the Law in debate. The Jews maligned St Stephen, saying that he had uttered blasphemy against God and against Moses. St Stephen came before the Sanhedrin and the High Priest to answer these charges. He gave a fiery speech, in which he recounted the history of the Jewish nation, and denounced the Jews for persecuting the prophets, and also for executing the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ (Acts ch. 7).

During his speech, St Stephen suddenly saw the heavens opened and Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God. The Jews shouted and covered their ears, and rushed at him. They dragged him out of the city and stoned him, but the holy martyr prayed for his murderers. Far off on the heights stood the Mother of God with the holy Apostle John the Theologian, and She prayed fervently for the martyr. Before his death St Stephen said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. O Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Then he joyfully gave up his pure soul to Christ.

The body of the holy Protomartyr Stephen, left to be eaten by beasts, was secretly taken up by the Jewish teacher Gamaliel and his son Habib, who buried Stephen on his estate. They both believed in Christ, and later received holy Baptism.

St Stephen is also commemorated on August 2 (Translation of his relics) and on September 15 (Uncovering of his relics in the year 415).

Troparion - Tone 4

O Protomartyr and mighty warrior of Christ our God,You are victorious in battle and crowned with glory, O holy Stephen!You confounded the council of your persecutors,Beholding your Savior enthroned at the right hand of the Father.Never cease to intercede for the salvation of our souls!

Kontakion - Tone 3

Yesterday the Master assumed our flesh and became our guest;Today His servant is stoned to death and departs in the flesh,The glorious Protomartyr Stephen.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God

Commemorated on December 26

The Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos: On the second day of the feast, the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated. Combining the hymns of the Nativity with those celebrating the Mother of God, the Church points to Mary as the one through whom the Incarnation was made possible. His humanity - concretely and historically - is the humanity He received from Mary. His body is, first of all, her body. His life is her life. This feast, the assembly in honor of the Theotokos, is probably the most ancient feast of Mary in the Christian tradition, the very beginning of her veneration by the Church.

Six days of post-feast bring the Christmas season to a close on December 31. At the services of all these days, the Church repeats the hymns and songs glorifying Christ's Incarnation, reminding us that the source and foundation of our salvation is only to be found in the One who, as God before the ages, came into this world and for our sake was "born as a little Child."

Father Alexander Schmemann, The Services of Christmas (1981)


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ

Commemorated on December 25

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, was born of the Most Holy Virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem during the reign of the emperor Augustus (Octavian). Caesar Augustus decreed that a universal census be made throughout his Empire, which then also included Palestinian Israel. The Jews were accustomed to be counted in the city from where their family came. The Most Holy Virgin and the Righteous Joseph, since they were descended from the house and lineage of King David, had to go to Bethlehem to be counted and taxed.

In Bethlehem they found no room at any of the city's inns. Thus, the God-Man, the Savior of the world, was born in a cave that was used as a stable.

"I behold a strange and most glorious mystery," the Church sings with awe, "Heaven, a Cave; the Virgin the Throne of the Cherubim; the Manger a room, in which Christ, the God Whom nothing can contain is laid." (Irmos of the 9th Ode of the Nativity Canon).

Having given birth to the divine Infant without travail, the Most Holy Virgin "wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger" (Luke 2:7). In the stillness of midnight (Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-15), the proclamation of the birth of the Savior of the world was heard by three shepherds watching their flocks by night.

An angel of the Lord (St Cyprian says this was Gabriel) came before them and said: "Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11). The humble shepherds were the first to offer worship to Him Who condescended to assume the form of a humble servant for the salvation of mankind. Besides the glad tidings to the Bethlehem shepherds, the Nativity of Christ was revealed to the Magi by a wondrous star. St John Chrysostom and St Theophylactus, commenting on St Matthew's Gospel, say that this was no ordinary star. Rather, it was "a divine and angelic power that appeared in the form of a star." St Demetrius of Rostov says it was a "manifestation of divine energy" (Narrative of the Adoration of the Magi). Entering the house where the Infant lay, the Magi "fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh" (Mt. 2:11).

The present Feast, commemorating the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, was established by the Church. Its origin goes back to the time of the Apostles. In the Apostolic Constitutions (Section 3, 13) it says, "Brethren, observe the feastdays; and first of all the Birth of Christ, which you are to celebrate on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month." In another place it also says, "Celebrate the day of the Nativity of Christ, on which unseen grace is given man by the birth of the Word of God from the Virgin Mary for the salvation of the world."

In the second century St Clement of Alexandria also indicates that the day of the Nativity of Christ is December 25. In the third century St Hippolytus of Rome mentions the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, and appoints the Gospel readings for this day from the opening chapters of St Matthew.

In 302, during the persecution of Christians by Maximian, 20,000 Christians of Nicomedia (December 28) were burned in church on the very Feast of the Nativity of Christ. In that same century, after the persecution when the Church had received freedom of religion and had become the official religion in the Roman Empire, we find the Feast of the Nativity of Christ observed throughout the entire Church. There is evidence of this in the works of St Ephraim the Syrian, St Basil the Great, St Gregory the Theologian, St Gregory of Nyssa, St Ambrose of Milan, St John Chrysostom and other Fathers of the Church of the fourth century.

St John Chrysostom, in a sermon which he gave in the year 385, points out that the Feast of the Nativity of Christ is ancient, and indeed very ancient. In this same century, at the Cave of Bethlehem, made famous by the Birth of Jesus Christ, the empress St Helen built a church, which her mighty son Constantine adorned after her death. In the Codex of the emperor Theodosius from 438, and of the emperor Justinian in 535, the universal celebration of the day of the Nativity of Christ was decreed by law. Thus, Nicephorus Callistus, a writer of the fourteenth century, says in his History that in the sixth century, the emperor Justinian established the celebration of the Nativity of Christ throughout all the world.

Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople in the fifth century, Sophronius and Andrew of Jerusalem in the seventh, Sts John of Damascus, Cosmas of Maium and Patriarch Germanus of Constantinople in the eighth, the Nun Cassiane in the ninth, and others whose names are unknown, wrote many sacred hymns for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, which are still sung by the Church on this radiant festival.

During the first three centuries, in the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Cyprus, the Nativity of Christ was combined together with the Feast of His Baptism on January 6, and called "Theophany" ("Manifestation of God"). This was because of a belief that Christ was baptized on anniversary of His birth, which may be inferred from St John Chrysostom's sermon on the Nativity of Christ: "it is not the day on which Christ was born which is called Theophany, but rather that day on which He was baptized."

In support of such a view, it is possible to cite the words of the Evangelist Luke who says that "Jesus began to be about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23) when He was baptized. The joint celebration of the Nativity of Christ and His Theophany continued to the end of the fourth century in certain Eastern Churches, and until the fifth or sixth century in others.

The present order of services preserves the memory of the ancient joint celebration of the Feasts of the Nativity of Christ and Theophany. On the eve of both Feasts, there is a similar tradition that one should fast until the stars appear. The order of divine services on the eve of both feastdays and the feastdays themselves is the same.

The Nativity of Christ has long been counted as one of the Twelve Great Feasts. It is one of the greatest, most joyful and wondrous events in the history of the world. The angel said to the shepherds, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Then suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts, glorifying God and saying: Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Those who heard these things were astonished at what the shepherds told them concerning the Child. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen" (Luke 2:10-20).

Thus the Nativity of Christ, a most profound and extraordinary event, was accompanied by the wondrous tidings proclaimed to the shepherds and to the Magi. This is a cause of universal rejoicing for all mankind, "for the Savior is Born!"

Concurring with the witness of the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church, in their God-inspired writings, describe the Feast of the Nativity of Christ as most profound, and joyous, serving as the basis and foundation for all the other Feasts.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

See also: Discourse on the Nativity of Christ by Saint Gregory Thaumatourgos, Bishop of Neocaesarea.

Troparion - Tone 4

Your Nativity, O Christ our God,Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom!For by it, those who worshipped the stars,Were taught by a Star to adore You,The Sun of Righteousness,And to know You, the Orient from on High.O Lord, glory to You!

Kontakion - Tone 3

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!Angels with shepherds glorify Him!The wise men journey with a star!Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!



Monday, December 24, 2007

Nun-Martyr Eugenia of Rome

Commemorated on December 24

The Holy Martyr Eugenia, was a Roman by birth. She lived at Alexandria, where her father Philip was sent by the emperor Commodus (180-192) to be Prefect of Egypt. Eugenia received a fine upbringing and was noted for her beauty and good disposition. Many illustrious youths sought her hand, but she did not wish to marry anyone, for she was determined to preserve her virginity.

Providentially, she became acquainted with the Epistles of the Apostle Paul. She yearned with all her soul to become a Christian, but kept this a secret from her parents. At that time, Christians were banished from Alexandria by the command of the emperor. Wishing to learn more about Christian teachings, she asked permission to visit one of the family estates outside the city, supposedly to enjoy the countryside. She left in the company of her two servants Protus and Hyacinthus, dressed in men's clothes. She and her companions were baptized at a certain monastery by Bishop Elias (July 14), who learned about her in a vision. He blessed her to pursue asceticism at the monastery disguised as the monk Eugene.

By her ascetic labors, St Eugenia acquired the gift of healing. Once, a rich young woman named Melanthia turned to her for help. Seeing "Eugene," this woman burned with an impure passion, and when she was spurned, she falsely accused the saint of attempted rape. St Eugenia came to trial before the Prefect of Egypt (her father), and she was forced to reveal her secret. Her parents and brothers rejoiced to find the one for whom they had long grieved.

After a while they all accepted holy Baptism. But Philip, after being denounced by pagans, was dismissed from his post. The Alexandrian Christians chose him as their bishop. The new Prefect, fearing the wrath of the people, did not dare to execute Philip openly, but sent assassins to kill him. They inflicted wounds upon St Philip while he was praying, from which he died three days later.

St Claudia went to Rome with her sons, daughter, and her servants. There St Eugenia continued with monastic life, and brought many young women to Christ. Claudia built a wanderers' hostel and aided the poor. After several peaceful years, the emperor Galienus (260-268) intensified the persecution against Christians, and many of them found refuge with Sts Claudia and Eugenia.

Basilla, an orphaned Roman girl of imperial lineage, heard about the Christians and St Eugenia. She sent a trusted servant to the saint asking her to write her a letter explaining Christian teachings. St Eugenia sent her friends and co-ascetics, Protus and Hyacinthus, who enlightened Basilla, and she accepted holy Baptism.

Basilla's servant then told her fiancé Pompey that his betrothed had become a Christian. Pompey then complained to the emperor against the Christians for preaching celibacy and denouncing idolatry. Basilla refused to enter into marriage with Pompey, and so they killed her with a sword.

They dragged Sts Protus and Hyacinthus into a temple to make them sacrifice to the idols, but just as they entered, the idol fell down and was shattered. The holy Martyrs Protus and Hyacinthus were beheaded. They also brought St Eugenia to the temple of Diana by force, but she had not even entered it, when the pagan temple collapsed with its idol.

They threw the holy martyr into the Tiber with a stone about her neck, but the stone became untied and she remained unharmed. She also remained unscathed in the fire. Then they cast her into a pit, where she remained for ten days. During this time the Savior Himself appeared to her and said that she would enter into the heavenly Kingdom on the day He was born. When this radiant Feast came, the executioner put her to death with a sword. After her death, St Eugenia appeared to her mother to tell her beforehand the day of her own death.

Troparion - Tone 4

Your lamb Eugenia, O Jesus,Calls out to You in a loud voice:I love You, O my bridegroom,And in seeking You, I endure suffering.In Baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You,And died so that I might live with You.Accept me as a pure sacrifice,For I have offered myself in love.By her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

Kontakion - Tone 4

You left the passing glory of the world to follow Christ,Keeping spotless the brilliance of your soul,O inspired Martyr Eugenia, worthy of all praise!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

10 Holy Martyrs of Crete

Commemorated on December 23

The Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Saturninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evaristus suffered for Christ during the third century under the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of Crete, also named Decius, fiercely persecuted the Church, and arrested anyone who believed in Christ. Once, ten Christians were brought before him from various cities of Crete, who at the trial steadfastly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to worship idols.

For thirty days they were subjected to cruel tortures, and with the help of God they all persevered, glorifying God. Before their death they prayed that the Lord would enlighten their torturers with the light of the true Faith. Since pain did not influence them, the saints were beheaded.

St Paul of Constantinople (November 6) visited Crete about a hundred years later. He took the relics of the holy martyrs to Constantinople to serve as a protection for the city, and a source of blessings for the faithful.

Troparion - Tone 3

Let us show forth our great praise of CreteThat brought forth these precious Christians: the pearls of Christ!And these blessed ten, the offspring of martyrs,Who though few in number, overcame all the deceits of powerful demons.Therefore these martyrs of Christ have been crowned with victory!

Kontakion - Tone 3

The noble struggle of the martyrsShines forth as the morning star,Shedding brilliant light for usOn the One who was born in the caveTo whom the Virgin gave birth without human seed.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Greatmartyr Anastasia the "Deliverer from Potions"

Commemorated on December 22

The Great Martyr Anastasia the Deliverer from Potions, a Roman by birth, suffered for Christ at the time of Diocletian's persecution of Christians. Her father was a pagan, but her mother was secretly a Christian. St Anastasia's teacher in her youth was an educated and pious Christian named Chrysogonus. After the death of her mother, her father gave St Anastasia in marriage to a pagan named Publius, but feigning illness, she preserved her virginity.

Clothing herself in the garb of a beggar, and accompanied by only one servant, she visited the prisons. She fed, doctored and often ransomed captives who were suffering for their faith in Christ. When her servant told Publius about everything, he subjected his wife to a beating and locked her up at home. St Anastasia then began to correspond secretly with Chrysogonus, who told the saint to be patient, to cleave to the Cross of Christ, and to accept the Lord's will. He also foretold the impending death of Publius in the sea. After a certain while Publius did indeed drown, as he was setting out with a delegation to Persia. After the death of her husband, St Anastasia began to distribute her property to the poor and suffering.

Diocletian was informed that the Christians who filled the prisons of Rome stoically endured tortures. He gave orders to kill them all in a single night, and for Chrysogonus to be sent to him at Aquileia. St Anastasia followed her teacher at a distance.

The emperor interrogated Chrysogonus personally, but could not make him renounce his faith. Therefore, he commanded that he be beheaded and thrown into the sea. The body and severed head of the holy martyr were carried to shore by the waves. There by divine Providence, the relics were found by a presbyter named Zoilus who placed them in a coffer, and concealed them at his home.

St Chrysogonus appeared to Zoilus and informed him that martyrdom was at hand for Agape, Chione and Irene (April 16), three sisters who lived nearby. He told him to send St Anastasia to them to encourage them. St Chrysogonus foretold that Zoilus would also die on the same day. Nine days later, the words of St Chrysogonus were fulfilled. Zoilus fell asleep in the Lord, and St Anastasia visited the three maidens before their tortures. When these three martyrs gave up their souls to the Lord, she buried them.

Having carried out her teacher's request, the saint went from city to city ministering to Christian prisoners. Proficient in the medical arts of the time, she zealously cared for captives far and wide, healing their wounds and relieving their suffering. Because of her labors, St Anastasia received the name Deliverer from Potions (Pharmakolytria), since by her intercessions she has healed many from the effects of potions, poisons, and other harmful substances.

She made the acquaintance of the pious young widow Theodota, finding in her a faithful helper. Theodota was taken for questioning when it was learned that she was a Christian. Meanwhile, St Anastasia was arrested in Illyricum. This occurred just after all the Christian captives there had been murdered in a single night by order of Diocletian. St Anastasia had come to one of the prisons, and finding no one there, she began to weep loudly. The jailers realized that she was a Christian and took her to the prefect of the district, who tried to persuade her to deny Christ by threatening her with torture. After his unsuccessful attempts to persuade St Anastasia to offer sacrifice to idols, he handed her over to the pagan priest Ulpian in Rome.

The cunning pagan offered St Anastasia the choice between luxury and riches, or grievous sufferings. He set before her gold, precious stones and fine clothing, and also fearsome instruments of torture. The crafty man was put to shame by the bride of Christ. St Anastasia refused the riches and chose the tools of torture.

But the Lord prolonged the earthly life of the saint, and Ulpian gave her three days to reconsider. Charmed by Anastasia's beauty, the pagan priest decided to defile her purity. However, when he tried to touch her he suddenly became blind. His head began to ache so severely that he screamed like a madman. He asked to be taken to a pagan temple to appeal to the idols for help, but on the way he fell down and died.

St Anastasia was set free and she and Theodota again devoted themselves to the care of imprisoned Christians. Before long, St Theodota and her three sons accepted a martyrdom. Her eldest son, Evodus, stood bravely before the judge and endured beatings without protest. After lengthy torture, they were all thrown into a red-hot oven.

St Anastasia was caught again and condemned to death by starvation. She remained in prison without food for sixty days. St Theodota appeared to the martyr every night and gave her courage. Seeing that hunger caused St Anastasia no harm whatsoever, the judge sentenced her to drowning together with other prisoners. Among them was Eutychianus, who was condemned for his Christian faith.

The prisoners were put into a boat which went out into the open sea. The soldiers bored holes in the boat and got into a galley. St Theodota appeared to the captives and steered the ship to shore. When they reached dry land, 120 men believed in Christ and were baptized by Sts Anastasia and Eutychianus. All were captured and received a martyr's crown. St Anastasia was stretched between four pillars and burned alive. A certain pious woman named Apollinaria buried her body, which was unharmed by the fire, in the garden outside her house.

In the fifth century the relics of St Anastasia were transferred to Constantinople, where a church was built and dedicated to her. Later the head and a hand of the Great Martyr were transferred to the monastery of St Anastasia [Deliverer from Potions], near Mount Athos.

Troparion - Tone 4

Your lamb Anastasia, calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice:"I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering.In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, and I died so that I might live with You.Accept me as a pure sacrifice,for I have offered myself in love."Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

Troparion - Tone 5

As a martyr you emulated the deeds of the martyrs,To whom you ministered,And, striving valiantly, you overcame the enemy.You are an abundant and overflowing source of graceFor all who come to you, O godly-minded Anastasia!

Kontakion - Tone 2

Those in temptations and afflictions hasten to your templeAnd are restored by the grace that dwells in you,For you ever pour forth healings for all the world,O great Martyr Anastasia!


Friday, December 21, 2007

Virginmartyr Juliana of Nicomedia

Commemorated on December 21

The Holy Virgin Martyr Juliana, daughter of an illustrious pagan named Africanus, was born in the city of Nicomedia. As a child, she was betrothed to a certain Elusius, one of the emperor's advisors. St Juliana was endowed with a profound intellect and goodness of soul. She saw through the delusion and deception of the pagan faith, and secretly accepted holy Baptism.

When the time of her wedding approached, Juliana refused to be married. Her father urged her not to break her engagement, but when she refused to obey him, he began to beat her viciously. Then Africanus handed his daughter over to the Eparch, who happened to be Elusius, Juliana's former fiancé. Elusius fervently asked Juliana to marry him, promising not to require her to abandon her faith. St Juliana refused and said that she'd rather be put to death.

They beat the saint both long and harshly, but after each beating she received healing and new strength from God. Her punishment took place before a large number of people. Of these, 500 men and 150 women came to confess Christ after witnessing the steadfastness and courage of the holy virgin miraculously healed from her wounds. They were all beheaded, and were baptized in their own blood.

Convinced of the futility of attempting to separate the holy virgin from her heavenly Bridegroom, Eleusius sentenced Juliana to death. She accepted the sentence with joy and glorified the Lord for permitting her to receive a martyr's crown. The holy Martyr Juliana was executed in the year 304.

St Juliana is the subject of an Anglo-Saxon poem, believed to have been written by Cynewulf in the eighth century.

Troparion - Tone 4

All-blameless bride and venerable trophy-bearer,You are wedded to the Word of the immortal Father, O glorious Juliana.For having wisely disdained your mortal bridegroom,You strove beyond nature to destroy the serpent,And now you delight in the joys of your Bridegroom!

Kontakion - Tone 1

You were a beautiful virgin, wise Juliana,and as your soul was wounded with divine love,your body was also pierced with the wounds of martyrdom adorning you as a bride of Christ and His martyr.Now as you dwell in the heavenly bridal chamber,you pray for us all.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer the Bishop of Antioch

Commemorated on December 20

The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, as was also St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (February 23). St Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch, and successor to Bishop Euodius, Apostle of the Seventy (September 7).

Tradition suggests that when St Ignatius was a little boy, the Savior hugged him and said: "Unless you turn and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt. 18:3). The saint was called "God-Bearer" (Theophoros), because he bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him. He also had this name because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.

St Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John the Theologian, together with St Polycarp of Smyrna. As Bishop of Antioch, St Ignatius was zealous and spared no effort to build up the church of Christ. To him is attributed the practice of antiphonal singing (by two choirs) during church services. He had seen a vision of the angels in heaven alternately singing praises to God, and divided his church choir to follow this example. In the time of persecution he was a source of strength to the souls of his flock, and was eager to suffer for Christ.

In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians, ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods, and to put to death any Christians who refused to worship the idols. In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch. Here they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ, and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity. St Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor, so as to avert persecution of the Christians in Antioch. St Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of the emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols. The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts. St Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him. His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses, who accompanied St Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.

On the way to Rome, the ship sailed from Seleucia stopped at Smyrna, where St Ignatius met with his friend Bishop Polycarp. Clergy and believers from other cities and towns thronged to see St Ignatius. He exhorted everyone not to fear death and not to grieve for him. In his Epistle to the Roman Christians, he asked them to assist him with their prayers, and to pray that God would strengthen him in his impending martyrdom for Christ: "I seek Him Who died for us; I desire Him Who rose for our salvation... In me, desire has been nailed to the cross, and no flame of material longing is left. Only the living water speaks within me, saying, 'Hasten to the Father.'"

From Smyrna, St Ignatius went to Troas. Here he heard the happy news of the end of the persecution against Christians in Antioch. From Troas, St Ignatius sailed to Neapolis (in Macedonia) and then to Philippi.

On the way to Rome St Ignatius visited several churches, teaching and guiding the Christians there. He also wrote seven epistles: to the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna. He also addressed a letter to St Polycarp, who mentions a collection of the letters of St Ignatius in his letter to the Philippians (Ch. 13). St Irenaeus of Lyons quotes from St Ignatius's letter to the Romans (AGAINST HERESIES 5:28:4). All these letters have survived to the present day.

The Roman Christians met St Ignatius with great joy and profound sorrow. Some of them hoped to prevent his execution, but St Ignatius implored them not to do this. Kneeling down, he prayed together with the believers for the Church, for love between the brethren, and for an end to the persecution against Christians.

On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led St Ignatius into the arena, and he turned to the people: "Men of Rome, you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime, but because of my love for God, by Whose love I am embraced. I long to be with Him, and offer myself to him as a pure loaf, made of fine wheat ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts."

After this the lions were released and tore him to pieces, leaving only his heart and a few bones. Tradition says that on his way to execution, St Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ. When they asked him why he was doing this, St Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart, and that he confessed with his lips Him Whom he always carried within. When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched. When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters: "Jesus Christ." After his execution St Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer for the city of Rome.

Hearing of the saint's great courage, Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians. The relics of St Ignatius were transferred to Antioch (January 29), and on February 1, 637 were returned to Rome and placed in the church of San Clemente.

Troparion - Tone 4

By sharing in the ways of the Apostles,you became a successor to their throne.Through the practice of virtue, you found the way to divine contemplation, O inspired one of God;by teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith, even to the shedding of your blood.Hieromartyr Ignatius, entreat Christ God to save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 3

The stirring celebration of your victorious fightIs an announcement of the One who is to be born of the Virgin.In your eagerness to possess Him forever,You hastened to be devoured by the wild beasts.Therefore, O glorious Ignatius, you were called the bearer of God!


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Martyr Boniface at Tarsus, in Cilicia

Commemorated on December 19

The Holy Martyr Boniface was the slave of a rich young Roman woman named Aglaida and he dwelt with her in an iniquitous cohabitation. But they both felt the sting of conscience and they wanted somehow to be cleansed of their sin. And the Lord granted them the possibility to wash away their sin with their blood and to finish their life in repentance.

Aglaida learned that whoever keeps relics of the holy martyrs in the home and venerates them receives great help in gaining salvation. Under their influence, sin is diminished and virtue prevails. She arranged for Boniface to go to the East, where there was a fierce persecution against Christians, and she asked him to bring back the relics of some martyr, who would become a guide and protector for them.

As he was leaving, Boniface laughed and asked, "My lady, if I do not find any relics, and if I myself suffer for Christ, will you accept my body with reverence?" Aglaida scolded him, saying that he was setting off on a sacred mission, but he was not taking it seriously. Boniface pondered her words, and during the whole journey he thought that he was unworthy of touching the bodies of the martyrs.

Arriving at Tarsus in Cilicia, Boniface left his companions at the inn and proceeded to the city square, where they were torturing Christians. Struck by the beastly horrible torments, and seeing the faces of the holy martyrs radiant with the grace of the Lord, Boniface marveled at their courage. He embraced them and kissed their feet, asking them to pray that he might be found worthy to suffer with them.

The judge asked Boniface who he was. He replied, "I am a Christian," and then refused to offer sacrifice to idols. They stripped him and hung him upside down, beating him so hard that the flesh fell from his body, exposing the bone. They stuck needles under his nails, and finally they poured molten tin down his throat, but by the power of the Lord he remained unharmed. The people who witnessed this miracle shouted, "Great is the God of the Christians!" Then they began to throw stones at the judge, and then they headed for the pagan temple, in order to cast down the idols.

On the following morning, when things had quieted down somewhat, the judge directed that the holy martyr be thrown into a cauldron of boiling tar, but this also caused the sufferer no harm. An angel come down from Heaven and bedewed him as he stepped into the cauldron. The tar overflowed the cauldron, splattering and burning the torturers themselves. St Boniface was then sentenced to beheading by the sword. Blood and a milky fluid flowed from his wounds. Beholding such a miracle, about 550 men believed in Christ.

St Boniface's companions, waiting for two days at the inn for him in vain, began searching for him, thinking that he had gotten drunk somewhere. At first their search was without success, but finally they came across a man who had been an eyewitness to the martyr's death. The man also led them to the place where the decapitated body lay. St Boniface's companions tearfully begged his forgiveness for their unseemly thoughts about him. After they ransomed the martyr's remains, they brought them back to Rome.

On the eve of their arrival an angel appeared to Aglaida in her sleep and told her to prepare herself to receive her former slave, now the brother and fellow-servant of the angels. Aglaida summoned the clergy, and she received the holy relics with great reverence. Then she built a church on the site of his grave and dedicated it to the holy martyr. There she enshrined his relics, glorified by numerous miracles. After distributing all her wealth to the poor, she withdrew to a monastery, where she spent fifteen years in repentance, then fell asleep in the Lord. She was buried beside St Boniface. The sins of the one were washed away by his blood, the other was purified by her tears and asceticism. Both were found worthy to appear unsullied before our Lord Jesus Christ, Who desires not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn from his wickedness and live (Ezek. 33:11).

We pray to St Boniface for deliverance from drunkenness.

Troparion - Tone 4

You fervently followed the way of the martyrsConfessing Christ before unbelievers, O Boniface.You gave your body to modest AglaeAs an imperishable treasure.Healing and mercy flow from it for the world.

Kontakion - Tone 4

Willingly you offered yourself as a blameless sacrificeto the One about to be born of the Virgin for our sake,holy crown-bearer, all-wise Boniface.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Martyr Sebastian at Rome, and his companions

Commemorated on December 18

The Holy Martyr Sebastian was born in the city of Narbonum in Gaul (modern France), and he received his education at Mediolanum (now Milan). Under the co-reigning emperors Diocletian and Maximian (284-305) he occupied the position of head of the imperial guards. St Sebastian was respected for his authority, and was loved by the soldiers and those at court. He was a brave man filled with wisdom, his word was honest, his judgment just, insightful in advice, faithful in his service and in everything entrusted to him. He was a secret Christian, not out of fear, but so that he could provide help to the brethren in a time of persecution.

The noble Christian brothers Marcellinus and Mark had been locked up in prison, and at first they firmly confessed the true Faith. But under the influence of the tearful entreaties of their pagan parents (Tranquillinus and Marcia), and also their own wives and children, they began to waver in their intent to suffer for Christ. St Sebastian went to the imperial treasurer, at whose house Marcellinus and Mark were held in confinement, and addressed the brothers who were on the verge of yielding to the entreaties of their family.

"O valiant warriors of Christ! Do not cast away your everlasting crowns of victory because of the tears of your relatives. Do not remove your feet from the necks of your enemies who lie prostrate before you, lest they regain their strength and attack you more fiercely than before. Raise your banner high over every earthly attachment. If those whom you see weeping knew that there is another life where there is neither sickness nor death, where there is unceasing gladness and everything is beautiful, then assuredly they would wish to enter it with you. Anyone who fears to exchange this brief earthly life for the unending joys of the heavenly Kingdom is foolish indeed. For he who rejects eternity wastes the brief time of his existence, and will be delivered to everlasting torment in Hades."

Then St Sebastian said that if necessary, he would be willing to endure torment and death in order to show them how to give their lives for Christ.

So St Sebastian persuaded the brothers to go through with their act of martyrdom, and his speech stirred everyone present. They saw how his face shone like that of an angel, and they saw how seven angels clothed him in a radiant garment, and heard a fair Youth say, "You shall be with Me always."

Zoe, the wife of the jailer Nicostratus, had lost her ability to speak six years previously, and she fell down at the feet of St Sebastian, by her gestures imploring him to heal her. The saint made the Sign of the Cross over the woman, and she immediately began to speak and she glorified the Lord Jesus Christ. She said that she had seen an angel holding an open book in which everything St Sebastian said was written. Then all who saw the miracle also came to believe in the Savior of the world. Nicostratus removed the chains from Marcellinus and Mark and offered to hide them, but the brothers refused.

Mark said, "Let them tear the flesh from our bodies with cruel torments. They can kill the body, but they cannot conquer the soul which contends for the Faith." Nicostratus and his wife asked for Baptism, and St Sebastian advised Nicostratus to serve Christ rather than the Eparch. He also told him to assemble the prisoners so that those who believed in Christ could be baptized. Nicostratus then requested his clerk Claudius to send all the prisoners to his house. Sebastian spoke to them of Christ, and became convinced that they were all inclined to be baptized. He summoned the priest Polycarp, who prepared them for the Mystery, instructing them to fast in preparation for Baptism that evening.

Then Claudius informed Nicostratus that the Roman eparch Arestius Chromatus wanted to know why the prisoners were gathered at his house. Nicostratus told Claudius about the healing of his wife, and Claudius brought his own sick sons, Symphorian and Felix to St Sebastian. In the evening the priest Polycarp baptized Tranquillinus with his relatives and friends, and Nicostratus and all his family, Claudius and his sons, and also sixteen condemned prisoners. The newly-baptized numbered 64 in all.

Appearing before the eparch Chromatus, Nicostratus told him how St Sebastian had converted them to Christianity and healed many from sickness. The words of Nicostratus persuaded the eparch. He summoned St Sebastian and the presbyter Polycarp, and was enlightened by them, and became a believer in Christ. Nicostratus and Chromatus, his son Tiburtius and all his household accepted holy Baptism. The number of the newly-enlightened increased to 1400. Upon becoming a Christian, Chromatus resigned his office of eparch.

During this time the Bishop of Rome was St Gaius (August 11). He blessed Chromatus to go to his estates in southern Italy with the priest Polycarp. Christians unable to endure martyrdom also went with them. Father Polycarp went to strengthen the newly-converted in the Faith.

Tiburtius, the son of Chromatus, desired to accept martyrdom and he remained in Rome with St Sebastian. Of those remaining, St Gaius ordained Tranquillinus as a presbyter, and his sons Marcellinus and Mark were ordained deacons. Nicostratus, his wife Zoe and brother Castorius, and Claudius, his son Symphorian and brother Victorinus also remained in Rome. They gathered for divine services at the court of the emperor together with a secret Christian named Castulus, but soon the time came for them to suffer for the Faith.

The pagans arrested St Zoe first, praying at the grave of the Apostle Peter. At the trial she bravely confessed her faith in Christ. She died, hung by her hair over the foul smoke from a great fire of dung. Her body then was thrown into the River Tiber. Appearing in a vision to St Sebastian, she told him about her death.

The priest Tranquillinus was the next to suffer: pagans pelted him with stones at the grave of the holy Apostle Peter, and his body was also thrown into the Tiber.

Sts Nicostratus, Castorius, Claudius, Victorinus ,and Symphorian were seized at the riverbank, when they were searching for the bodies of the martyrs. They were led to the eparch, and the saints refused his command to offer sacrifice to idols. They tied stones to the necks of the martyrs and then drowned them in the sea.

The false Christian Torquatus betrayed St Tiburtius. When the saint refused to sacrifice to the idols, the judge ordered Tiburtius to walk barefoot on red-hot coals, but the Lord preserved him. Tiburtius walked through the burning coals without feeling the heat. The torturers then beheaded St Tiburtius, and his body was buried by unknown Christians.

Torquatus also betrayed the holy Deacons Marcellinus and Mark, and St Castulus (March 26). After torture, they threw Castulus into a pit and buried him alive, but Marcellinus and Mark had their feet nailed to the same tree stump. They stood all night in prayer, and in the morning they were stabbed with spears.

St Sebastian was the last one to be tortured. The emperor Diocletian personally interrogated him, and seeing the determination of the holy martyr, he ordered him taken out of the city, tied to a tree and shot with arrows. Irene, the wife of St Castulus, went at night in order to bury St Sebastian, but found him alive and took him to her home.

St Sebastian soon recovered from his wounds. Christians urged him to leave Rome, but he refused. Coming near a pagan temple, the saint saw the emperors approaching and he publicly denounced them for their impiety. Diocletian ordered the holy martyr to be taken to the Circus Maximus to be executed. They clubbed St Sebastian to death, and cast his body into the sewer. The holy martyr appeared to a pious woman named Lucina in a vision, and told her to take his body and bury it in the catacombs. This she did with the help of her slaves. Today his basilica stands on the site of his tomb.

Troparion - Tone 1

O Sebastian, spurning the assemblies of the wicked, You gathered the wise martyrs Who with you cast down the enemy; And standing worthily before the throne of God, You gladden those who cry to you: Glory to him who has strengthened you! Glory to him who has granted you a crown! Glory to him who through you works healing for all!

Troparion - Tone 4

Your holy martyrs, O Lord, Through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God. For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries, And shattered the powerless boldness of demons. Through their intercessions, save our souls!

Kontakion - Tone 4

Excelling in godly zeal,You gathered a band of martyrs from which you shone as a star.The arrows that wounded your body, O Sebastian,Pierced the hearts of the enemy.Therefore Christ has glorified you!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Daniel the Prophet & Ananias, Azarias, & Misail, the Three Holy Youths

December 17

Apolytikion in the Second Tone
Great are the accomplishments of faith. In the fountain of flame the three Holy Youths rejoiced as though they were resting by the waters. And the Prophet Daniel showed himself to be a shepherd to the lions, as though they were sheep. Through their prayers O Christ our God, save our souls.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Since thy pure and hallowed heart had been made pure by the Spirit, it became His dwelling-place and clearest prophecy's vessel; for thou didst behold things far off as near and present, and when cast into the den, thou didst muzzle lions; for which cause, O blessed Prophet, glorious Daniel, we all revere thee in faith.

The Prophet Daniel and the Three Children were all descended from the royal tribe of Judah In the year 599 before Christ, in the reign of Joachim, who was also called Jechonias (I Chron. 3:16, and II Chron. 36:8), while yet children, these righteous ones were led away as captives into Babylon together with the other Jews by Nabuchodonosor. He singled them out from among the other captives to serve him, and renamed them thus: Daniel was named Baltazar; Ananias, Sedrach: Misael, Misach; and Azarias, Abednago. They were reared in the royal court, and taught the wisdom of the Chaldeans; and after the passage of three years, they surpassed all the Chaldean sages (Dan. 1).

Thereafter, Daniel, being still a lad, interpreted that mysterious image seen by Nabuchodonosor in a dream, an image that was composed of different metals, but was shattered and ground to dust by a certain stone which had been hewn out of a mountain without the hand of man. This vision clearly portrayed through the mountain the height of the Virgin's holiness and the power of the Holy Spirit which overshadowed her. Through the image of the Stone, Christ was portrayed, Who was seedlessly born of her, and Who by His coming as the Godman would shatter and destroy all the kingdoms of the word, which were portrayed through the image; and He would raise them that believe in Him into His Heavenly Kingdom, which is eternal and everlasting (ibid. 2:31-45). Thereupon, he signified in prophecy the time of His appearance in the Jordan, the beginning of His preaching of the Gospel, the time of His saving Passion, and the cessation of the worship according to the Mosaic Law, (ibid. 9:14-27). He portrayed most excellently the majestic and dread image of His second coming, presenting by means of words, as with living colours, the fiery throne which shall be set, the Eternal Judge Who shall sit thereon, the river of fire that shall flow forth before Him, the calling to account before the impartial judgment seat, the opened books of each ones deeds, the thousands upon thousands of them that minister to Him, and the ten thousands of them that stand in His presence (ibid. 7: 9-10). Daniel (whose name means "God is judge) was called "man of desires" by the Angels that appeared (ibid. 9:23), because he courageously disdained every desire of the body, even the very bread that is necessary for nourishment. Furthermore, he received this name because, in his longing for the freedom of those of his tribe, and his desire to know their future condition, he ceased not supplicating God, fasting and bending the knee three times a day. Because of this prayer he was cast into the den of lions, after he had been accused by his enemies as a transgressor of the decree issued through the proclamation of the king, that no one should worship or ask for anything from God or from men for thirty days, but only from the king. But having stopped the mouths of the lions by divine might, and appearing among them as though he were a shepherd of sheep, Daniel showed the impious the might of godlinness (ibid. 6:1-23).

As for the Three Children, Ananias ("Yah is gracious"), Misael ("Who is what God is?), and Azarias ("Yah is keeper"), since they refused to offer adoration to Nabuchodonosor's image, they were cast into the furnace of fire. They were preserved unharmed amidst the flames - even their hair was untouched - by the descent of the Angel of the Lord, that is, the Son of God. Walking about in the furnace, as though in the midst of dew, they sang the universal hymn of praise to God, which is found in the Seventh and Eighth Odes of the Holy Psalter. And coming forth therefrom, without even the smell of the fire on their clothes (Dan. 3), they prefigured in themselves the Virgin's incorrupt giving of birth; for she, on receiving the Fire of the Godhead within her womb, was not burned, but remained virgin, even as she was before giving birth.

Therefore the Church celebrates the Three Children and Daniel on this day, on the Sunday of the Forefathers, and on the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ, since they prefigured and proclaimed His Incarnation. Furthermore, they were of the tribe of Judah, wherefrom, Christ sprang forth according to the flesh. The holy Three Children completed their lives full of days; as for the Prophet Daniel, he lived until the reign of Cyrus, King of Persia, whom he also petitioned that his nation be allowed to return to Jerusalem and that the Temple be raised up again, and his request was granted. He reposed in Peace, having lived about eighty-eight years. His prophetical book, which is divided into twelve chapters, is ranked fourth among the greater Prophets.


The Christmas Pre-Partum Blues

I know I said I would not post anything except the Feast for the day, but I ran across this article which I thought I would like to share.

By Dan Cheely
Posted in Our Columns on December 15, 2007 with 0 comments.
tags: History Religion

Recently, psychologists have begun to describe a growing phenomenon—the “Christmas Blues”.

Christmas Blues?

Paradoxical but true, in the midst of a season when our streets are filled with colorful decorations and our public places all resounding with jolly songs, many people feel depressed and sad. “None of this joy applies to me,” they silently lament. “There is no Santa Claus who comes down my chimney!” “Every year I get deeper in debt at this time of year.” A datum that we all know, but don’t like to talk about, is that suicides and other lonely deaths are higher than normal at this time of year.

By way of contrast, in the early Christian centuries, the feast of Christmas was actually preceded by a period of fasting, not feasting. In today’s culture of holiday, client, and office parties, awash with succulent hors d’oeuvres, caloric beverages, and delectable cookies, fasting before Christmas seems so dissonant as to be unbelievable. (Weight Watchers says the average adult American gains 5 to 10 pounds during the annual holiday season.) Yet, fasting is nevertheless an ancient practice associated with the origin of the season. It is interesting to note that the Eastern Orthodox Church still observes a pre-Christmas fast as a tradition believed to be passed on from the post-Apostolic era.

Why fasting? The holiday celebrates after all not Santa Claus who came relatively late in the game but the coming to earth of Messiah, the bringer of incarnate goodness itself into a rough and selfish world. To be able to recognize Messiah, we have to understand what goodness is, and have a personal experience with it ourselves. The only way really to understand this goodness is to try to be part of it ourselves.

This comes through giving, not grabbing. Early Christians knew this from stories of Christ and the saints, who sacrificed like Him. The most personal way to imitate this was in one’s own personal life – even in eating – “I’ll sacrifice here so I can really feast on His actual life, His Body and Blood – “Christ’s Mass.” Christmas isn’t really about getting things, it’s really about the presence on earth of an entirely different kind of person, linking up with Him, and becoming a different kind of person, a better person oneself. That’s why during this period of time the Church recalls in its liturgy the penitential figure of John the Baptist.

Poles and Ukrainians have a beautiful tradition for Christmas eve called “Oplatki.” Oplatki is a long sheet of unleavened wafer bread, often with an Image of Christ or other religious symbols imprinted on it. It has the same consistency and taste of the Communion wafer. Before the (traditionally meatless) Christmas eve dinner begins, each member of the family breaks the wafer with each other member of the family, wishing each one a special personal blessing. Here we can see the true meaning of this season. We try to bring about the presence of the Messiah in our homes. We replicatd His life in our environment as best we can. We do it through sacrifice. We share that imitation Messiah-life with those who share our lives, and in so doing, this renewal of the new kind of life becomes the most important part of our very unique, sacrificial feast.After four weeks of fasting, we will really enjoy not just the pierogies, but also the starry vision of the Messiah who gives meaning to everything.

Try that and there’ll be no pre-partum Christmas blues.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday of the Forefathers

Commemorated on December 16

The Sunday that falls between December 11-17 is known as the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. These are the ancestors of Christ according to the flesh, who lived before the Law and under the Law, especially the Patriarch Abraham, to whom God said, "In thy seed shall all of the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3, 22:18).

Troparion - Tone 2

Through faith You justified the Forefathers,betrothing through them the Church of the gentiles.These saints exult in glory,for from their seed came forth a glorious fruit:She who bore You without seed.So by their prayers, O Christ God, have mercy on us!

Kontakion - Tone 6 You did not worship the graven image,O thrice-blessed ones,but armed with the immaterial Essence of God,you were glorified glorified in a trial by fire.From the midst of unbearable flames you called on God, crying:Hasten, O compassionate One!Speedily come to our aid,for You are merciful and able to do as You will.


Blogging Hiatus

You may have noticed that I have posted the Saints and Feasts for the next several days ahead of time. I will be at Saint Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery for the next several days.
I ask for your prayers as out of a group of eight of us, only three of us are Orthodox and I so hope for my friends to come further into the Mystery of the Church. Whataver the case, let God's will, not mine be done.
When I return, I will only post the Saints each day and not anything else in observance of the rest of the Nativity Fast.
When I do resume posting, my focus will be taken off the topics of the New World Order, Freemasonry and the like as I have found myself sucked into a whole other world I never knew existed and it is dangerous to remain there without hurting myself spiritually as I believe began to happen to me.
This does not mean that these subjects will not receive attention, but it does mean that I will cease making them the focus of my attention and return my focus on Orthodox Prayer Life and Orthodox News from around the world.
This is all subject to change, of course as the subtitle under my blog's header states that I'm "reflecting on my journey through this world" and anyone on a journey reflecting will inevitably be pulled aside into many detours and investigations and new experiences.
This next upcoming year is a year in which I will change much, especially in the area of rest and pressure on myself. I have spent the last several years really pushing and I feel the need of some deep rest necessary for many reasons including my health.
So again, dear reader, I ask for your prayers.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Eleutherios the Holy Martyr, Bishop Illyria and his mother Anthia

December 15

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Adorned with flowing priestly vesture and with dripping streams of blood you at once went to your Lord Christ, O blessed wise Eleftherios, annihilator of Satan. Wherefore, do not cease to intercede for those who honor your blessed struggles in faith.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
O venerable One, we all praise and entreat you, Eleftherios, Priest-Martyr, comeliness of Priests and exaltation of champions. Deliver from diverse dangers those fervently honoring your memory, interceding unceasingly for us all.

This Saint had Rome as his homeland. Having been orphaned of his father from childhood, he was taken by his mother Anthia to Anicetus, the Bishop of Rome (some call him Anencletus, or Anacletus), by whom he was instructed in the sacred letters (that is, the divine Scriptures). Though still very young in years, he was made Bishop of Illyricum by reason of his surpassing virtue, and by his teachings he converted many unbelievers to Christ. However, during a most harsh persecution that was raised against the Christians under Hadrian (reigned 117-138), the Saint was arrested by the tyrants. Enduring many torments for Christ, he was finally put to death by two soldiers about the year 126. As for his Christ-loving mother Anthia, while embracing the remains of her son and kissing them with maternal affection, she was also beheaded.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Holy Martyrs Thyrsus, Leucius and Callinicus of Apollonia

Commemorated on December 14

The Holy Martyrs Thyrsus, Leucius and Callinicus suffered for Christ under the emperor Decius (249-251) at Caesarea in Bithynia. St Leucius, having reproached the prefect Cumbricius for his unjust persecution of Christians, was executed after being tortured. As soon as his head was cut off, his soul departed to heaven.

St Thyrsus, who was still a catechumen, was nonetheless eager for martyrdom. He was sentenced to cruel tortures and torments after refusing to offer sacrifice to the idols. Citing the words of the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 2:27), he ridiculed those who worshiped wood and stone.

The saint's arms and legs were pulled out of their sockets, his eyes were plucked out, and his teeth were shattered with a hammer. He was taken to a heathen temple, where, by his prayers, he toppled a statue of Apollo. Cumbricius was enraged by this, and he ordered that greater torments be devised for the athlete of Christ. He endured them all and died peacefully after making the Sign of the Cross. The pagan priest Callinicus, seeing the bravery and the miracle involving St Thyrsus, believed in Christ and boldly confessed the true Faith, for which he was beheaded.

Troparion - Tone 3
With garlands and songs let us adorn the seven martyrs,Thyrsus, Philemon, and steadfast Apolonius, Arianus, Callinicus, Apollonia and glorious Leucius,For they destroyed the enemy and are pillars of godliness.Together they shine on all the world with rays of heavenly grace!

Kontakion - Tone 4
Let us gather today,And praise the Church's luminaries,Acclaiming them as fitting trophy–bearers of Christ our God!


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Herman the Wonderworker of Alaska & First Saint of America

December 13

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Blessed ascetic of the northern wilds and gracious intercessor for the whole world, teacher of the Orthodox Faith, good instructor of piety, adornment of Alaska and joy of all America, holy Father Herman, pray to Christ God that He save our souls.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Monk of Valaam, who through ascetic labours didst become an emulator of the desert-dwelling Saints of old, O beloved of the Mother of God and Virgin, having taken prayer as sword and shield, thou wast revealed as the scourge of pagan darkness and the demons' hosts. Hence we cry to thee: O Saint Herman, pray that we be saved.

Saint Herman (his name is a variant of Germanus) was born near Moscow in 1756. In his youth he became a monk, first at the Saint Sergius Hermitage near Saint Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland; while he dwelt there, the most holy Mother of God appeared to him, healing him of a grave malady. Afterwards he entered Valaam Monastery on Valiant Island in Lake Ladoga; he often withdrew into the wilderness to pray for days at a time. In 1794, answering a call for missionaries to preach the Gospel to the Aleuts, he came to the New World with the first Orthodox mission to Alaska. He settled on Spruce Island, which he called New Valaam, and here he persevered, even in the face of many grievous afflictions mostly at the hands of his own countrymen in the loving service of God and of his neighbour. Besides his many toils for the sake of the Aleuts, he subdued his flesh with great asceticism, wearing chains, sleeping little, fasting and praying much. He brought many people to Christ by the example of his life, his teaching, and his kindness and sanctity, and was granted the grace of working miracles and of prophetic insight. Since he was not a priest, Angels descended at Theophany to bless the waters in the bay; Saint Herman used this holy water to heal the sick. Because of his unwearying missionary labours, which were crowned by God with the salvation of countless souls, he is called the Enlightener of the Aleuts, and has likewise been renowned as a wonderworker since his repose in 1837.



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

St Spyridon the Wonderworker and Bishop of Tremithus

Commemorated on December 12

Saint Spyridon of Tremithus was born towards the end of the third century on the island of Cyprus. He was a shepherd, and had a wife and children. He used all his substance for the needs of his neighbors and the homeless, for which the Lord rewarded him with a gift of wonderworking. He healed those who were incurably sick, and cast out demons.

After the death of his wife, during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337), he was made Bishop of Tremithus, Cyprus. As a bishop, the saint did not alter his manner of life, but combined pastoral service with deeds of charity.

According to the witness of Church historians, St Spyridon participated in the sessions of the First Ecumenical Council in the year 325. At the Council, the saint entered into a dispute with a Greek philosopher who was defending the Arian heresy. The power of St Spyridon's plain, direct speech showed everyone the importance of human wisdom before God's Wisdom: "Listen, philosopher, to what I tell you. There is one God Who created man from dust. He has ordered all things, both visible and invisible, by His Word and His Spirit. The Word is the Son of God, Who came down upon the earth on account of our sins. He was born of a Virgin, He lived among men, and suffered and died for our salvation, and then He arose from the dead, and He has resurrected the human race with Him. We believe that He is one in essence (consubstantial) with the Father, and equal to Him in authority and honor. We believe this without any sly rationalizations, for it is impossible to grasp this mystery by human reason."

As a result of their discussion, the opponent of Christianity became the saint's zealous defender and later received holy Baptism. After his conversation with St Spyridon, the philosopher turned to his companions and said, "Listen! Until now my rivals have presented their arguments, and I was able to refute their proofs with other proofs. But instead of proofs from reason, the words of this Elder are filled with some sort of special power, and no one can refute them, since it is impossible for man to oppose God. If any of you thinks as I do now, let him believe in Christ and join me in following this man, for God Himself speaks through his lips."

At this Council, St Spyridon displayed the unity of the Holy Trinity in a remarkable way. He took a brick in his hand and squeezed it. At that instant fire shot up from it, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in the hands of the wonderworker. "There was only one brick," St Spyridon said, "but it was composed of three elements. In the Holy Trinity there are three Persons, but only one God."

The saint cared for his flock with great love. Through his prayer, drought was replaced by abundant rains, and incessant rains were replaced by fair weather. Through his prayers the sick were healed and demons cast out.

A woman once came up to him with a dead child in her arms, imploring the intercession of the saint. He prayed, and the infant was restored to life. The mother, overcome with joy, collapsed lifeless. Through the prayer of the saint of God the mother was restored to life.

Another time, hastening to save his friend, who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death, the saint was hindered on his way by the unanticipated flooding of a stream. The saint commanded the water: "Halt! For the Lord of all the world commands that you permit me to cross so that a man may be saved." The will of the saint was fulfilled, and he crossed over happily to the other shore. The judge, apprised of the miracle that had occurred, received St Spyridon with esteem and set his friend free.

Similar instances are known from the life of the saint. Once, he went into an empty church, and ordered that the lampadas and candles be lit, and then he began the service. When he said, "Peace be unto all," both he and the deacon heard from above the resounding of "a great multitude of voices saying, "And with thy spirit." This choir was majestic and more sweetly melodious than any human choir. To each petition of the litanies, the invisible choir sang, "Lord, have mercy." Attracted by the church singing, the people who lived nearby hastened towards it. As they got closer and closer to the church, the wondrous singing filled their ears and gladdened their hearts. But when they entered into the church, they saw no one but the bishop and several church servers, and they no longer heard the singing which had greatly astonished them."

St Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9), the author of his Life, likened St Spyridon to the Patriarch Abraham in his hospitality. Sozomen, in his CHURCH HISTORY, offers an amazing example from the life of the saint of how he received strangers. One time, at the start of the Forty-day Fast, a stranger knocked at his door. Seeing that the traveller was very exhausted, St Spyridon said to his daughter, "Wash the feet of this man, so he may recline to dine." But since it was Lent there were none of the necessary provisions, for the saint "partook of food only on certain days, and on other days he went without food." His daughter replied that there was no bread or flour in the house. Then St Spyridon, apologizing to his guest, ordered his daughter to cook a salted ham from their larder. After seating the stranger at table, he began to eat, urging that man to do the same. When the latter refused, calling himself a Christian, the saint rejoined, "It is not proper to refuse this, for the Word of God proclaims, "Unto the pure all things are pure" (Titus 1:15).

Another historical detail reported by Sozomen, was characteristic of the saint. It was his custom to distribute one part of the gathered harvest to the destitute, and another portion to those having need while in debt. He did not take a portion for himself, but simply showed them the entrance to his storeroom, where each could take as much as was needed, and could later pay it back in the same way, without records or accountings.

There is also the tale by Socrates Scholasticus about how robbers planned to steal the sheep of St Spyridon. They broke into the sheepfold at night, but here they found themselves all tied up by some invisible power. When morning came the saint went to his flock, and seeing the tied-up robbers, he prayed and released them. For a long while he advised them to leave their path of iniquity and earn their livelihood by respectable work. Then he made them a gift of a sheep and sending them off, the saint said kindly, "Take this for your trouble, so that you did not spend a sleepless night in vain."

All the Lives of the saint speak of the amazing simplicity and the gift of wonderworking granted him by God. Through a word of the saint the dead were awakened, the elements of nature tamed, the idols smashed. At one point, a Council had been convened at Alexandria by the Patriarch to discuss what to do about the idols and pagan temples there. Through the prayers of the Fathers of the Council all the idols fell down except one, which was very much revered. It was revealed to the Patriarch in a vision that this idol had to be shattered by St Spyridon of Tremithus. Invited by the Council, the saint set sail on a ship, and at the moment the ship touched shore and the saint stepped out on land, the idol in Alexandria with all its offerings turned to dust, which then was reported to the Patriarch and all the bishops.

St Spyridon lived his earthly life in righteousness and sanctity, and prayerfully surrendered his soul to the Lord. His relics repose on the island of Corfu (Kerkyra), in a church named after him (His right hand, however, is located in Rome). His memory is also celebrated on Cheesefare Saturday.

Troparion - Tone 1

You were revealed as a champion of the First Council and a wonderworker, our God-bearing father Spyridon. You spoke to one dead in the grave and transformed a serpent into gold. While chanting your holy prayers you had angels serving with you!

Kontakion - Tone 2

Wounded by the love of Christ, all-holy one, your mind was given wings through the light of the Spirit, you found work in active contemplation, God-pleasing Spyridon, becoming a divine sacrifice, and imploring divine illumination for all.