Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday of Cheesefare Commemoration of all our God-bearing Fathers and Mothers who shone forth in asceticism

Commemorated on February 28

On this day, we commemorate all the righteous and God-bearing Fathers and Mothers, both known and unknown, who shone forth in asceticism. With these two weeks of Meatfare and Cheesefare, the Church gradually eases us into the full fasting which begins on Monday.

The holy acetics are virtuous men and women who contended against the devil and their own passions. By examining their lives and their struggles against the Enemy, we take courage from the victory they have achieved, and are inspired to imitate their God-pleasing conduct. They also teach us that fasting is not merely abstinence from food, but involves refraining from inappropriate speech and unseemly actions.

Since these holy ascetics share the same human nature that we have, their example is an encouragement to us as we embark on our own spiritual struggles Their lives are a model for us to follow as we seek to acquire and practice the various virtues and to turn away from everything evil. If we undertake these same struggles of prayer, fasting, and good works, we shall receive from God the same reward they did.

Most of the holy ascetics commemorated today have their own separate Feast Day during the year, while some are remembered only on this day.

Troparion - Tone 8
Only Creator, with wisdom profound, You mercifully order all things,and give that which is needed to all men:Give rest, O Lord, to the souls of Your servants who have fallen asleep,for they have placed their trust in You, our Maker and Fashioner, and our God.

Kontakion - Tone 8
With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Your servants,where there is neither sickness nor sorrow, and no more sighing,but life everlasting.



Catch Up

Ok, to a certain degree I may be accused of having neglected this blog and I can accept that charge. Other than posting the "Saint or Feast of the Day" for many a day now, no other material has been posted.

I have been somewhat active in viewing other blogs once again and sharing some thoughts on several posts I ran across. Doing this I realized I was enjoying myself and that I missed blogging and being involved.

So I guess I will resume posting more frequently. I will not, however, resume posting Orthodox News as I once did. I will resume posting on the books I have read or am reading. In fact I have a stack to review which I will post on a little at a time.

I also have some thoughts I wish to put down regarding the Orthdodox Catholic Church and Her Faith.

My sidebar indicating sites that have mine linked to theirs has grown and I will add these sites to my sidebar.

Adding Orthodox Sites and Correcting SideLinks

I am changing the link to Andrea Elizabeth's site to her "wordier blog". Take note as she has some great insights and good conversations transpire there. And she reads alot.

I had the opportunity to meet William(Neo Chalcedonian)when I traveled to Pittsburgh in November to attend the OCA All American Council. We have had several correspondences since then and consider him a friend. He is seeking much and has been gifted with much. Please visit him.

This site is rich in the writings of our Holy Fathers. I have not explored here much but I look forward to.

This one is new and it is in Greek. I have not explored yet.

Orthodox Mission-Ορθόδοξη Ιεραποστολή
πορευθέντες μαθητεύσατε πάντα τα έθνη… ( Ματθ, 28:19).

I will add these site under my sidebar, "Orthodox Blogs" .

Friday, February 27, 2009


Please be sure to scroll down past the Saint or Feast of the day.

After the Saint or Feast of the day I post my "Main Posts". These may be anything including original articles, book reviews, adding new blogs to my web page and just about anything new I may wish the reader to read.

Please note I do not always have "Main Posts" posted. Scrolling further down past my "Main Posts" the reader will find the latest Orthodox News from around the world.

I tend to leave "Main Posts" up for several days but below them will the current news(if any) to be read, so please do.


Repose of St Raphael the Bishop of Brooklyn

Commemorated on February 27

St Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn (+ 1915)

Proclamation on the Glorification of Our Holy Father Bishop RAPHAEL (30-Apr-2000) Our holy Father Raphael was born in Syria in 1860 to pious Orthodox parents, Michael Hawaweeny and his second wife Mariam, the daughter of a priest of Damascus. The exact date of Raphael's birth is not known, but he estimated it to be on or near his Name Day, the Synaxis of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven (November 8). Due to the violent persecution of Christians, at which time their parish priest, St Joseph of Damascus (July 10) and his companions were martyred, the Hawaweeny family was forced to flee to Beirut for their safety. It was here that the future saint first saw the light of day, and not in the city of his parents. Indeed, as the child's life unfolded, it was evident that he would have no continuing city in this world, but would seek the city which is to come (Heb 13:14).

On the Feast of Theophany in 1861, he was baptized with the name Rafla, and later that spring the family was able to return to Damascus. The child attended elementary school, where he did very well, but in 1874 it appeared that Michael Hawaweeny would no longer be able to afford his son's tuition. Fortunately, help came from Deacon Athanasius Atallah (later Metropolitan of Homs), who recommended to Patriarch Hierotheus of Antioch that Rafla be accepted as a student of the Patriarchate in preparation for the priesthood.

He was such a good student that he was selected to be a substitute teaching assistant in 1877. The following year he was appointed as a teacher of Arabic and Turkish. On March 28, 1879 he was tonsured as a monk by Patriarch Hierotheus, and served as His Beatitude's personal attendant.

Since the Balamand Seminary had been closed in 1840, Patriarch JOACHIM III of Constantinople invited the Patriarch of Antioch to send at least one deserving student to study on scholarship at the School of Theology at Halki, and Saint Raphael was the one who was selected to go.

On December 8, 1885 he was ordained to the diaconate at the school chapel. In July of 1886 the young deacon received his Certificate of T heology, and returned to his homeland in the hope of serving the Church there. Patriarch Gerasimus of Antioch was impressed with Deacon Raphael, and often took him along on his pastoral visitations of his parishes. When His Beatitude could not be present, Deacon Raphael was asked to preach the Word of God to the people.

Deacon Raphael was not satisfied with the extent of his knowledge, and thirsted to learn even more. This did not stem from personal pride or ambition, but came from his fervent desire to benefit others. Truly, the words of King Solomon could be applied to Saint Raphael: "Give an opportunity to a wise man, and he will be wiser; instruct a just man, and he will receive more instruction" (Proverbs 9:9). Therefore, he asked Patriarch Gerasimus to permit him to do graduate studies at a school in Russia, promising to return and serve as the Patriarch's Russian-language secretary. The Patriarch gave his blessing, and Deacon Raphael was accepted as a student at the Theological Academy of Kiev.

In 1889 Patriarch Gerasimus ordered the young deacon to take over as head of the Antiochian representation church in Moscow. He was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop SYLVESTER, the rector of the Academy, at the request of Patriarch Gerasimus. A month later, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite by Metropolitan IOANNIKII of Moscow, and was confirmed as head of the Antiochian representation church. After two years, Archimandrite Raphael was able to reduce the representation's 65,000 ruble debt by 15,000 rubles. He also arranged for twenty-four Syrian students to come to Russia to further their education, hoping that they would return to Syria and teach others.

When Patriarch Gerasimus resigned in order to accept the See of Jerusalem, Archimandrite Raphael regarded this as an opportunity to free the Church of Antioch from its domination by foreign hierarchs. Burning with love for the Church of Antioch, and wishing to restore the administration of the church to its own native clergy and people, Archimandrite Raphael began a campaign of writing letters to some Antiochian bishops and influential laymen. He also wrote articles in the Russian press, drawing attention to the plight of Antioch. His courageous efforts did not meet with success, however, and there was a price to pay for his outspoken criticism.

In November of 1891 Metropolitan SPYRIDON, a Greek Cypriot, was elected as Patriarch of Antioch. Many Arabs believed that he had purchased the election by distributing 10,000 lira to several notable people in Damascus. Archimandrite Raphael refused to commemorate the new Patriarch during services at the representation church. As a result, he was suspended from his priestly functions by Patriarch SPYRIDON. Saint Raphael accepted his suspension, but continued to write articles in Russian newspapers in defense of the Antiochian cause. The Patriarchs of Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Jerusalem successfully petitioned the Tsar to forbid Russian newspapers from publishing his articles. With this door closed to him, Saint Raphael began to publish his writings in book form.

Eventually, Patriarch SPYRIDON wrote to the Assistant Overprocurator of Russia, a friend of Saint Raphael's, asking him to persuade Father Raphael to ask for the Patriarch's forgiveness. He did so, and the suspension was lifted. Saint Raphael was allowed to transfer from the jurisdiction of Antioch to the Church of Russia, and to remain there. He went to Kazan, taking a position as instructor in Arabic studies at the theological academy. He remained there until 1895 when he was invited by the Syrian Orthodox Benevolent Society of New York to come to that city to be the pastor of the Arab Orthodox community.

When the holy Apostle Paul had a vision of a man entreating him to come to Macedonia to help them (Acts 16:10), he set off on a great missionary journey. When Saint Raphael heard of the needs of his countrymen who were scattered in a strange land, he crossed the ocean to labor in yet another foreign country.

Archimandrite Raphael arrived in New York on November 2, 1895, and was welcomed by a delegation of Arab Christians who were awaiting their leader from Russia. On November 5, his first Sunday in America, he assisted Bishop NICHOLAS in serving the Divine Liturgy at the Russian church in New York city. Less than two weeks after his arrival, Archimandrite Raphael found a suitable place in lower Manhattan to set up a chapel, and furnished it with ecclesiastical items that he had brought with him from Russia. Bishop NICHOLAS blessed the new chapel, which was dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra.

This zealous pastor remained in New York teaching, preaching, and celebrating the divine services for his parishioners. It was not long, however, before he heard of smaller communities of Arab Christians scattered throughout the length and breadth of North America. Since these Arab immigrants had no pastor to care for them, it was not surprising that some should turn to other denominations, or completely neglect their religious duties. This was an ongoing concern for Saint Raphael throughout the course of his ministry. Although he was not opposed to dialogue with non-Orthodox Christians, nor to friendly relations based on shared beliefs, Saint Raphael never lost sight of the clear line of distinction that exists between the Orthodox and the heterodox. He always insisted that any church unity must be based on the teachings of the seven Ecumenical Councils.

The Orthodoxy of Saint Raphael's life and teaching was demonstrated over and over again by his words and his actions. He always upheld and defended the spotless Faith which was "delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Although at first he did not understand the teachings of the heterodox, he later discovered how far removed they were from Orthodox doctrine. When he realized this, he took steps to protect his flock from harmful influences. He directed his people not to attend heterodox services lest they become confused by "divers and strange doctrines" (Heb 13:9). He believed it would be preferable for the head of the household to read the Hours at home from the Service Book when it was not possible to attend an Orthodox church.

In the summer of 1896, Saint Raphael undertook the first of several pastoral journeys across the continent. He visited thirty cities between New York and San Francisco, seeking out the Master's lost sheep in cities, towns, and on isolated farms. He fed the spiritually hungry people with the Word of God in each place where he stopped. He performed marriages, baptisms, heard confessions, and celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the homes of the faithful where there was no church building. In other words, he zealously fulfilled his ministry as a preacher of the Gospel, enduring many hardships and afflictions, and he was watchful in all things concerning the care of his flock (2 Tim 4:5).

In 1898, with the blessing of Bishop Nicholas, Saint Raphael produced his first book in the New World -- an Arabic language Service Book called The Book of True Consolation in the Divine Prayers. This book of liturgical services and prayers was very useful to priests in celebrating the divine services, and also to the people in their personal prayer life. The English version published by Archimandrite Seraphim Nassar is still being used today.

Between May-November 1898, Saint Raphael set off on his second pastoral tour. During this trip he became convinced of the need for Arabic-speaking priests to serve in the new churches he had established. When he returned to New York, he made a report to Bishop NICHOLAS expressing these concerns. With Bishop NICHOLAS's blessing Saint Raphael was able to bring qualified priests from Syria. He also sought out educated laymen whom he could recommend for ordination. Both as an archimandrite and later as bishop, Saint Raphael would appoint pastors only after obtaining the blessing of the Russian hierarch who headed the American Mission.

This was the normal state of affairs in America at the time. Archimandrite Raphael welcomed Bishop Tikhon when the latter replaced Bishop NICHOLAS as the ruling bishop in America. On December 15, Saint Tikhon came to serve the Liturgy at the Syrian church of St Nicholas. Raphael told his people that their new Archpastor was one who "has been sent here to tend the flock of Christ -- Russians, Slavs, Syro-Arabs, and Greeks -- which is scattered across the entire North American continent." At that time, of course, there were no parallel jurisdictions based on nationality. The Church united those of diverse backgrounds under the omophorion of the Russian Archbishop. This was the norm until the Russian Revolution disrupted church life in Russia, and also in America.

In March of 1899, Saint Raphael received permission from Bishop Tikhon to start collecting funds for a cemetery, and for building a new church to replace the chapel which was located in an old building on a dirty street. In the spring he left on another pastoral tour of forty-three cities and towns. Traveling by land and sea, and undeterred by the obstacles and difficulties before him, he spent seven months in the northeastern, southern, and midwestern regions of the United States. Saint Raphael ministered to Greeks and Russians as well as Arabs, performing weddings and baptisms, and regularizing the weddings of Orthodox people who had been married by non-Orthodox clergy. He also chrismated some children who had been baptized by Catholic priests.

In Johnstown, PA he reconciled those whose personal enmity threatened to divide the Arabic community. Although civil courts had been unable to make peace, Saint Raphael restored calm and put an end to the bitter feud. While in Johnstown, he received a telegram informing him that Metropolitan Meletios (Doumani), had been elected Patriarch of Antioch. With great joy St Raphael told his people that for the first time in 168 years, a native Arab had been chosen as primate of the Antiochian Church.

After the new Patriarch had been installed, Archimandrite Raphael was proposed to succeed Meletios as Metropolitan of Latakia. The Patriarch, however, stated that the Holy Synod could not elect Father Raphael because of his important work in America. In 1901, Metropolitan GABRIEL of Beirut wrote to Archimandrite Raphael asking him to be his auxiliary bishop, but he declined, saying that he could not leave his American flock. First, he wanted to build a permanent church, and to acquire a parish cemetery. The latter goal was achieved in August of 1901 when Father Raphael purchased a section of Mt Olivet cemetery on Long Island.

In December of 1901 Archimandrite Raphael was elected as Bishop of Zahleh. Patriarch Meletios sent a telegram congratulating him and asking him to return. Father Raphael thanked the Patriarch, but again declined higher office. He said that he wished to complete the project of building a temple for the Syrian community in New York. The following year, he bought an existing church building on Pacific St in Brooklyn, and had it remodeled for Orthodox worship. Bishop Tikhon consecrated the church to the great joy of the faithful in attendance. Thus, Saint Raphael's second major project was finished.

Since the number of parishes within the Diocese of North America was growing, Bishop Tikhon found it impossible to visit all of them. The diocese had to be reorganized in order to administer it more efficiently. Therefore, Bishop Tikhon submitted a plan to the Russian Holy Synod which would transfer the See from San Francisco to New York because most parishes and individuals were concentrated in the east. Since various ethnic groups required special attention and pastoral leadership, Bishop Tikhon proposed that Archimandrite Raphael be made his second vicar bishop (the Bishop of Alaska would be his first).

In 1903, the Holy Synod of Russia unanimously elected Archimandrite Raphael to be the Bishop of Brooklyn while retaining him as head of the Syro-Arab Orthodox Mission in North America. The Holy Synod announced the election to Patriarch Meletios, who was pleased by their decision. Bishop Tikhon wrote to Saint Raphael to inform him of his election, and Father Raphael sent him a letter of acceptance. Meanwhile, Fr Innocent Pustynsky was consecrated as Tikhon's first auxiliary bishop at St Petersburg's cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan.

On the third Sunday of Lent in 1904, Saint Raphael became the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated on American soil. Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Innocent performed the service at St Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn. The new bishop's vestments were a gift from Tsar Nicholas II. Following his consecration, Bishop Raphael continued his pastoral labors, ordaining priests and assigning them to parishes, and helping Bishop Tikhon in the administration of the diocese.

At the end of 1904, Bishop Raphael announced his intention to publish a magazine called Al-Kalimat (The Word) as the official publication of the Syro-Arab mission. This would help to link the people and parishes of his diocese more closely together. Bishop Raphael knew that he could not visit all Orthodox Christians across North America in person, but through the ministry of the printed word, he could preach the word of salvation even to people he would never meet. The content was to be spiritual, moral, and churchly so that the magazine could reinforce people in their Faith. The Word would focus on five primary topics: dogmatic truths, ethical teaching, historical and contemporary ecclesiastical subjects, a chronicle of baptisms, weddings, etc., and official pronouncements. The first issue was printed in January 1905, and Saint Raphael considered this milestone as one equal in importance to the acquisition of St Nicholas Cathedral and the parish cemetery.

In July of 1905 Bishop Raphael consecrated the grounds for St Tikhon's Monastery and blessed the orphanage at South Canaan, PA. Three days later, he presided at a conference of diocesan clergy at Old Forge, PA, because Archbishop Tikhon was in San Francisco. Among the clergy in attendance were three who would also be numbered among the saints: Fr ALEXIS Toth, Fr Alexander Hotovitzky, and Fr John Kochurov (the last two would die as martyrs in Russia).

For the next ten years Bishop Raphael tended his growing flock. With the growth of his New York community came an increase in the number of children, and he was concerned about their future. He wanted to establish an evening school to educate them in a Christian atmosphere, because the future of the Church in this country depended upon the instruction of the youth. Children who did not speak Arabic were already going to non-Orthodox churches where Sunday school classes were conducted in English. Bishop Raphael saw the absolute necessity for using English in worship and in education for the future progress of the Syro-Arab Mission.

Taking heed of St Paul's words to pray in a language that people understood (1 Cor.14:15-19), St Raphael recommended the use of the Service Book of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church (translated by Isabel Hapgood) in all of his parishes.

In March of 1907 Saint Tikhon returned to Russia and was replaced by Archbishop PLATON. Once again St Raphael was considered for episcopal office in Syria, being nominated to succeed Patriarch GREGORY as Metropolitan of Tripoli in 1908. The Holy Synod of Antioch removed Bishop Raphael's name from the list of candidates, citing various canons which forbid a bishop being transferred from one city to another.

On the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1911, Bishop Raphael was honored for his fifteen years of pastoral ministry in America. Archbishop PLATON presented him with a silver-covered icon of Christ and praised him for his work. In his humility, Bishop Raphael could not understand why he should be honored merely for doing his duty (Luke 17:10). He considered himself an "unworthy servant," yet he did perfectly the work that fell to him (St Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians).

Toward the end of 1912, Bishop Raphael became ill while working in his office. Doctors diagnosed him with a heart ailment that eventually caused his death. After two weeks he felt strong enough to celebrate the Liturgy in his cathedral.

In 1913-1914 this missionary bishop continued to make pastoral visitations to various cities. In 1915 he fell ill again and spent two months at home, bearing his illness with patience. At 12:40 AM on February 14/27 he rested from his labors. They called him, but he did not answer. They shook him, but he was gone.

From his youth, Saint Raphael's greatest joy was to serve the Church. When he came to America, he found his people scattered abroad, and he called them to unity. He never neglected his flock, but traveled throughout America, Canada, and Mexico in search of them so that he might care for them. He kept them from straying into strange pastures, and he protected them from spiritual harm. During twenty years of faithful ministry he nurtured them and helped them to grow. At the time of his death, the Syro-Arab Mission had thirty parishes with 25,000 faithful.

He was also a scholar, and the author of several books. He wrote many, if not most, of the articles that appeared in The Word. He served his own Arabic community, and also reached out to Greeks and Russians, speaking to them in their own language. He became fluent in English, and encouraged its use in church services and educational programs.

St Raphael came into contact with all sorts of people, and was a gentle father to them. He gained their love and respect by first loving them, and also through his charming personality and excellent character. He was always kind, merciful, and condescending with others, but was strict with himself. He accomplished many good things during his earthly life, and now he joins the holy angels in offering ceaseless prayer and praise to God.

Through the prayers of the holy Bishop Raphael, may we also be made worthy of the heavenly Kingdom. Amen.

Troparion - Tone 1
Your proclamation has gone forth throughout North America,calling the scattered sheep into the unity of the church.hearing your voice, they responded to your teaching,and through your writings you instructed them in guided by your example, O Father Raphael,we sing hymns of praise unto Christ our God.Glory to Him Who gave you strength!Glory to Him Who granted you a crown!Glory to Him Who, through you, grants healing to all!

Kontakion - Tone 8
You were a guardian and a defender of the Church¹s teaching;you protected your flock from false doctrines and confirmed them in the true faith.O holy father Raphael, son of Syria and glory of North America,always intercede before the Lord that our souls may be saved.



Thursday, February 26, 2009

Martyr Sebastian

Commemorated on February 26

The Holy Martyrs Sebastian and Christodoulus died by the sword under Nero (54-68). They were companions of the holy Martyr Photina (March 20).



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Venerable Erasmus of the Kiev Near Caves

Commemorated on February 24

Saint Erasmus of the Kiev Caves St Simon, Bishop of Vladimir (May 10), wrote about him to his friend St Polycarp (July 24): "At the Caves was Erasmus the black-robed. He acquired a legacy of fame because he used everything he possessed for the adornment of the monastery church. He donated many icons, which even now may be seen over the altar.

The saint experienced great temptations after he had given away his wealth. The Evil One began to suggest to him that he should have given the money to the poor, rather than spend it on the beautification of the church. St Erasmus did not understand such thoughts, so he fell into despondency and began to live in a careless manner. Because of his former virtue the gracious and merciful God saved him. He sent him a grievous illness, and the monk lay near death.

In this sickness Erasmus lay for seven days, unable to see or speak, and hardly breathing. On the eighth day the brethren came to him and, seeing the difficulty of his approaching death, said,"Woe to the soul of this brother, for he lived in idleness and in sin. Now his soul beholds something and tarries, not having the strenght to leave the body."

Erasmus suddenly got up, as though he had not been ill, and said to the monks, "Fathers and brethren! It is true that I am a sinner, and have not repented, as you said. Today, however, our monastic fathers Anthony and Theodosius have appeared to me, and said: 'We have prayed for you, and the Lord has given you time for repentance.' Then I saw the All-Pure Mother of God with Christ in Her arms, and She said to me, 'Erasmus, since you adorned My Church with icons, I will also adorn you and exalt you in the Kingdom of my Son! Arise, repent, take the angelic schema, and on the third day you will be taken from this life.'

Having said this, Erasmus began to confess his sins before all without shame, then went to church and was clothed in the schema, and on the third day he died." St Erasmus was buried in the Near Caves. His memory is also celebrated on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.



Monday, February 23, 2009

Venerable John, Ascetic of the Syrian Deserts

Commemorated on February 23

Saint John, disciple of St Limnaeus (February 22), lived in Syria in the fifth century, and chose for himself the ascetic struggle of "a shelterless life." He settled on a hill, sheltered from the wind on all sides, and lived there for twenty-five years. He ate only bread and salt, and he exhausted his body under heavy chains. When one of the nearby ascetics planted an almond tree on the hill so that St John could enjoy its shade and get out of the vicious heat, the saint told him to cut it down. This he did in order to deny his body any respite.



Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday of Meatfare of the Last Judgment

Commemorated on February 22

Today's Gospel reading is Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the Last Judgment. It reminds us that while trusting in Christ's love and mercy, we must not forget His righteous judgment when He comes again in glory. If our hearts remain hardened and unrepentant, we should not expect the Lord to overlook our transgressions simply because He is a good and loving God. Although He does not desire the death of a sinner, He also expects us to turn from our wickedness and live (Ezek. 33:11). This same idea is expressed in the prayer read by the priest after the penitent has confessed his or her sins (Slavic practice).

The time for repentance and forgiveness is now, in the present life. At the Second Coming, Christ will appear as the righteous Judge, Who will render to every man according to his deeds" (Rom. 2:6). Then the time for entreating God's mercy and forgiveness will have passed.

As Father Alexander Schmemann reminds us in his book GREAT LENT (Ch. 1:4), sin is the absence of love, it is separation and isolation. When Christ comes to judge the world, His criterion for judgment will be love. Christian love entails seeing Christ in other people, our family, our friends, and everyone else we may encounter in our lives. We shall be judged on whether we have loved, or not loved, our neighbor. We show Christian love when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit those who are sick or in prison. If we did such things for the least of Christ's brethren, then we also did them for Christ (Mt.25:40). If we did not do such things for the least of the brethren, neither did we do them for Christ (Mt.25:45).

Today is the last day for eating meat and meat products until Pascha, though eggs and dairy products are permitted every day during the coming week. This limited fasting prepares us gradually for the more intense fasting of Great Lent.

Troparion - Tone 1
When You, O God, shall come to earth with glory, all things shall tremble and the river of fire shall flow before Your judgment seat; the books shall be opened and the hidden things disclosed! Then deliver me from the unquenchable fire, and make me worthy to stand at Your right hand, righteous Judge!



Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday of Souls


Through the Apostolic Constitutions (Book VIII, ch. 42), the Church of Christ has received the custom to make commemorations for the departed on the third, ninth, and fortieth days after their repose. Since many throughout the ages, because of an untimely death in a faraway place, or other adverse circumstances, have died without being deemed worthy of the appointed memorial services, the divine Fathers, being so moved in their love for man, have decreed that a common memorial be made this day for all pious Orthodox Christians who have reposed from all ages past, so that those who did not have particular memorial services may be included in this common one for all. Also, the Church of Christ teaches us that alms should be given to the poor by the departed one's kinsmen as a memorial for him.

Besides this, since we make commemoration tomorrow of the Second Coming of Christ, and since the reposed have neither been judged, nor have received their complete recompense (Acts 17:31; II Peter 2:9; Heb. 11:39-40), the Church rightly commemorates the souls today, and trusting in the boundless mercy of God, she prays Him to have mercy on sinners. Furthermore, since the commemoration is for all the reposed together, it reminds each of us of his own death, and arouses us to repentance.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Only Creator who out of the depths of wisdom lovingly govern all things and upon all bestow what is accordingly best for them, give rest to the souls of Your servants, for they have placed their hope in You, our Author and Maker and God.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Give rest, O Christ, among the Saints to the souls of Your servants, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no grieving, but life everlasting.



Friday, February 20, 2009

Beheading of the Venerable Cornelius the Abbot of the Pskov Caves

Commemorated on February 20

The Hieromartyr Cornelius of the Pskov Caves was born in the year 1501 at Pskov into the noble family of Stephen and Maria. In order to give their son an education, his parents sent him to the Pskov Mirozh monastery, where he worked under the guidance of an Elder. He made candles, chopped wood, studied his letters, transcribed and adorned books, and also painted icons. Having finished his studies, Cornelius returned to his parental home with the resolve to become a monk.

Once, the government clerk Misiur Munekhin took Cornelius with him to the Pskov Caves monastery in the woods, which then was in the worst condition of any church in Pskov. The beauty of nature, and the solemnity of services in the cave church produced such a strong impression on Cornelius that he left his parental home forever and received monastic tonsure at the Pskov Caves monastery.

In 1529, at the age of twenty-eight, St Cornelius was made igumen and became head of the monastery. While he was igumen, the Pskov Caves monastery reached its prime. The number of brethren increased from 15 to 200 men. This number of monks was not surpassed under any subsequent head of the monastery.

The activity of St Cornelius extended far beyond the bounds of the monastery. He spread Orthodoxy among the Esti [Aesti]) and Saeti people living around the monastery, he built churches, hospices, homes for orphans and those in need. During a terrible plague in the Pskov region St Cornelius walked through the plague-infested villages to give Communion to the living and to sing burial services for the dead.

During the Livonian war St Cornelius preached Christianity in the occupied cities, built churches, and distributed generous aid from the monastery storerooms to the Esti and Livonians suffering from the war. At the monastery he selflessly doctored and fed the injured and the maimed, preserved the dead in the caves, and inscribed their names in the monastery Synodikon for eternal remembrance.

In the year 1560, on the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, St Cornelius sent a prosphora and holy water as blessing for the Russian armies besieging the city of Thellin. On that very day the Germans surrendered the city.

In 1570 when a See was established in Livonian Yuriev, a certain igumen Cornelius was appointed as Bishop of Yuriev and Velyansk (i.e., Thellin). Some have identified him with St Cornelius, but this does not correspond with actual events.

St Cornelius was a great lover of books, and at the monastery there was quite a collection of books. In 1531 his work entitled, "An Account of the Origin of the Pechersk Monastery" appeared. In the mid-sixteenth century the Pskov Caves monastery took over the tradition of writing chronicles from the Spaso-Eleaszar monastery.

At the start of the chronicles were accounts of the first two Pskov chronicles from 1547 to 1567. Besides this, Igumen Cornelius left behind a great monastery Synodikon for remembering the deceased brothers and benefactors of the monastery, and from the year 1588 he began to maintain the "Stern Book" ["Kormovaya kniga." Since the rear of a ship is called the stern, the sense of the title is "looking back in remembrance"]. He also compiled a "Description of the Monastery" and a "Description of the Miracles of the Pechersk Icon of the Mother of God."

St Cornelius expanded and beautified the monastery, he further enlarged the monastery caves, he moved the wooden church of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste beyond the monastery enclosure to the monastery gate, and on its site he built a church in the name of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos in the year 1541. In 1559, he constructed a church dedicated to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos.

The Caves monastery, on the frontier of the Russian state, was not only a beacon of Orthodoxy, but also a bulwark against the external enemies of Russia.

In 1558-1565, St Cornelius built a massive stone wall around the monastery, and over the holy gates, he built a stone church dedicated to St Nicholas, entrusting the protection of the monastery to him. In the church was a sculpted wooden icon of "Nicholas the Warrior."

In the chronicle compiled by the hierodeacon Pitirim, the martyric death of St Cornelius was recorded: "This blessed Igumen Cornelius ... was igumen forty-one years and two months. Not only as a monk, but also by his fasting and holy life, he was an image of salvation ... in these times there was much unrest in the Russian land. Finally, the earthly Tsar (Ivan the Terrible) sent him from this corruptible life to the Heavenly King in the eternal habitations, on February 20, 1570, in his 69th year." (This information is on a ceramic plate, from the ceramics covering the mouth of the tomb of St Cornelius).

In the ancient manuscripts of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra it was written that Igumen Cornelius came out from the monastery gates with a cross to meet the Tsar. Ivan the Terrible, angered by a false slander, beheaded him with his own hands, but then immediately repented of his deed, and carried the body to the monastery. The pathway made scarlet by the blood of St Cornelius, along which the Tsar carried his body to the Dormition church, became known as the "Bloody Path." Evidence of the Tsar's repentance was the generous recompense he made to the Pskov Caves monastery after the death of St Cornelius. The name of the igumen Cornelius was inscribed in the Tsar's Synodikon.

The body of St Cornelius was set into the wall of "the cave formed by God," where it remained for 120 years without corruption. In the year 1690, Metropolitan Marcellus of Pskov and Izborsk, had the relics transferred from the cave to the Dormition cathedral church and placed in a new crypt in the wall.

On December 17, 1872 the relics of St Cornelius were transferred from the former tomb into a copper-silver reliquary. They were placed into a new reliquary in 1892. It is presumed that the service to the martyr was composed for the Uncovering of the Relics in the year 1690.



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Icon of the Mother of God of Cyprus

Commemorated on February 19

The Cyprus Icon of the Mother of God. In this icon the Mother of God is depicted sitting on a throne with the Divine Infant in Her arms. There is an angel on either side of Her.

The prototype of this holy icon manifested itself in the year 392 on the island of Cyprus at the tomb of Righteous Lazarus, the friend of Christ (October 17), and is kept there in a monastery. Renowned copies of the Cyprus Icon are at the Moscow's Dormition Cathedral, and in the Nikolo-Golutvin church in the village of Stromyn, Moscow diocese (Commemorated on the Sunday of Orthodoxy).

During the week of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the Greek Synaxarion has an account of an icon which is probably the Cyprus Icon. On the island of Cyprus a certain Arab was passing by a church dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos. In order to display his hatred for Christianity, the man shot an arrow at an icon of the Mother of God which hung by the gate. The arrow struck the Virgin's knee, from which blood began to flow. Overcome with fear, the Arab spurred his horse and rode for home, but was struck dead before he could get there. In this way, he was punished for his impiety.

Other days commemorating the Cyprus Icon are the Day of the Holy Spirit, April 20, and July 9. Some copies of the Cyprus Icon have additional names such as "Cleansing," "Knife," and "Hawk."

The "Stromyn" Cyprus Icon became famous in 1841. An eighteen-year-old girl from Stromyn, a village not far from Moscow, was close to death from an illness. In a dream she saw the Cyprus Icon standing over the entrance to the church, and a voice came from the icon: "Take me into your home and have the priest serve a Molieben with the Blessing of Water, and you will be cured."

The sick girl was brought to the church and finally located the icon after a long search. The girl obeyed the command of the Most Holy Theotokos, and after the Molieben she felt strong enough to carry the icon back to the church herself. Shortly thereafter, she was completely healed. The "Stromyn" Cyprus Icon continued to work miracles of healing, which the rector of the church reported to the holy Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow (November 19).



Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Venerable Cosmas of Yakhrom

Commemorated on February 18

Saint Cosmas of Yakhrom was the servant of a certain nobleman, whom he comforted during his prolonged illness by reading him books. And so, travelling from city to city, they happened to stop at the River Yakhroma. Here in the woods an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to Cosmas, and he heard a voice commanding him to become a monk and to build a monastery. His sick master then received healing from the icon, and Cosmas went to Kiev, where he was tonsured in the Monastery of the Caves. Then with the icon of the Mother of God, and on an inspiration from above, he again went to Yakhrom, 40 versts from the city of Vladimir, constructing a temple in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos with the help of some good Christians.

Brethren began to gather around the monk, and a monastery was formed. St Cosmas was chosen as igumen. During this time, word of the monk's ascetic struggles reached even the Great Prince. St Cosmas died at an advanced old age on February 18, 1492, and was buried in the monastery he founded. His memory is celebrated also on October 14, the day that the Yakhrom Icon of the Mother of God is commemorated.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hieromartyr Hermogenes the Patriarch of Moscow and Wonderworker of All Russia

Commemorated on February 17

The Hieromartyr Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, was born in Kazan around 1530), and was descended from the Don Cossacks. According to the Patriarch's own testimony, he served as priest in Kazan in a church dedicated to St Nicholas (December 6 and May 9), near the Kazan bazaar. Soon he became a monk, and from 1582 was archimandrite of the Savior-Transfiguration monastery at Kazan. On May 13, 1589 he was consecrated bishop and became the first Metropolitan of Kazan.

While he was the priest at St Nicholas, the wonderworking Kazan Icon of the Mother of God (July 8) was discovered in Kazan in 1579. With the blessing of Archbishop Jeremiah of Kazan, he carried the newly-appeared icon from the place of its discovery to the Church of St Nicholas. Having remarkable literary talent, the saint in 1594 compiled an account describing the appearance of the wonderworking icon and the miracles accomplished through it. In 1591 the saint gathered newly-baptized Tatars into the cathedral church and for several days he instructed them in the Faith.

The relics of St Germanus, the second archbishop of Kazan (September 25, November 6, and June 23), who died at Moscow on November 6, 1567 during a plague, were transfered and buried in St Nicholas Church in 1592. With the blessing of Patriarch Job (1589-1605), St Hermogenes reburied the relics at the Sviyazhsk Dormition monastery.

On January 9, 1592 St Hermogenes addressed a letter to Patriarch Job, in which he asked for permission to commemorate in his See of Kazan those Orthodox soldiers who gave their lives for the Faith and the nation in a battle against the Tatars. In the past, it was customary to enter into the diptychs the names of all Orthodox warriors who had fallen in battle, and to commemorate them.

At the same time he mentioned three martyrs who had suffered at Kazan for their faith in Christ, one of whom was a Russian named John (January 24) born at Nizhny Novgorod and captured by the Tatars. The other two, Stephen and Peter (March 24), were newly-converted Tatars.

The saint expressed regret that these martyrs were not inserted into the diptychs read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, and that "Memory Eternal" was not sung for them. In answer to St Hermogenes, the Patriarch issued a decree on February 25, which said: " to celebrate at Kazan and throughout all the Kazan metropolitanate a panikhida for all the Orthodox soldiers killed at Kazan and the environs of Kazan, on the Saturday following the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (October 1), and to inscribe them in the great Synodikon read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy," and also ordered that the three Kazan martyrs be inscribed in the Synodikon, leaving it to St Hermogenes to set the day of their memory. St Hermogenes circulated the Patriarchal decree throughout his diocese, and required all the churches and monasteries to serve Liturgies, Panikhidas and Lityas for the three Kazan martyrs on January 24.

St Hermogenes displayed zeal in the faith and firmness in the observance of Church traditions, and he devoted himself to the enlightenment of Kazan Tatars with the faith of Christ.

In 1595, with the active participation of the St Hermogenes, the relics of the Kazan Wonderworkers St Gurias, the first archbishop of Kazan (October 4, December 5, June 20), and St Barsanuphius bishop of Tver (October 4, April 11) were discovered and uncovered. Tsar Theodore Ioannovich (1584-1598) had given orders to erect at the Kazan Savior-Transfiguration monastery a new stone church on the site of the first one, where the saints were buried.

When the graves of the saints were discovered, St Hermogenes came with a gathering of clergy. He commanded the graves to be opened and, when he saw the incorrupt relics and clothing of the saints, he notified the Patriarch and the Tsar. With the blessing of Patriarch Job and by order of the Tsar, the relics of the newly-appeared wonderworkers were placed in the new church. St Hermogenes himself compiled the lives of hierarchs Gurias and Barsanuphius.

Having been found worthy of the patriarchal throne, Metropolitan Hermogenes was elected to the primatial See, and on July 3, 1606 he was installed as Patriarch by the assembly of the holy hierarchs at Moscow's Dormition cathedral. Metropolitan Isidore handed the Patriarch the staff of the holy hierarch Peter, Moscow Wonderworker (October 5, December 21, August 24), and the Tsar gave as a gift to the new Patriarch a panagia, embellished with precious stones, a white klobuk and staff. In the ancient manner, Patriarch Hermogenes made his entrance riding upon a donkey.

The activity of Patriarch Hermogenes coincided with a difficult period for the Russian state: the appearance of the false Tsarevich Demetrius and the Polish king Sigismund III. The first hierarch devoted all his powers to the service of the Church and the nation.

Patriarch Hermogenes was not alone in this exploit: his self-sacrificing fellow-countrymen followed his example and assisted him. With special inspiration His Holiness the Patriarch stood up against the traitors and enemies of the nation, who wanted to spread Uniatism and Western Catholicism throughout Russia and to wipe out Orthodoxy, while enslaving the Russian nation.

When the imposter arrived at Moscow and settled himself at Tushino, Patriarch Hermogenes sent two letters to the Russian traitors. In one of them he wrote: "...You have forgotten the vows of our Orthodox Faith, in which we are born, baptized, nourished and raised. You have violated your oath and the kissing of the Cross to stand to the death for the house of the Most Holy Theotokos and for the Moscow realm, but have fallen for your false would-be Tsarevich ... My soul aches, my heart is sickened, all within me agonizes, and all my frame shudders; I weep and with sobbing I lament: Have mercy, have mercy, brethren and children, on your own souls and your parents departed and living ... Consider, how our nation is devastated and plundered by foreigners, who offer insult to the holy icons and churches, and how innocent blood is spilled, crying out to God. Think! Against whom do you take up arms: is it not against God, Who has created you? Is it not against your own brothers? Do you not devastate your own country?... I adjure you in the name of God, give up your undertaking, there is yet time, so that you do not perish in the end." In the second document the saint appeals: "For the sake of God, come to your senses and turn around, gladden your parents, your wives and children; and we stand to pray God for you..."

Soon the righteous judgment of God fell upon the "Brigand of Tushino: he was killed by his own close associates on December 11, 1610. But Moscow continued to remain in peril, since the Poles and traitors, loyal to Sigismund III remained in the city. The documents sent by Patriarch Hermogenes throughout the cities and villages, exhorted the Russian nation to liberate Moscow from the enemies and to choose a lawful Russian Tsar.

The Muscovites rose up in rebellion, and the Poles burned the city, shutting themselves up in the Kremlin. Together with Russian traitors they forcefully seized Patriarch Hermogenes from the patriarchal throne and imprisoned him in the Chudov monastery.

On Bright Monday in 1611, the Russian militia approached Moscow and began the seige of the Kremlin, which continued for several months. Besieged within the Kremlin, the Poles often sent messengers to the Patriarch with the demand that he order the Russian militia to leave the city, threatening him with execution if he refused.

The saint firmly replied, "What are your threats to me? I fear only God. If all our enemies leave Moscow, I shall bless the Russian militia to withdraw from Moscow; but if you remain here, I shall bless all to stand against you and to die for the Orthodox Faith."

While still in prison, the hieromartyr Hermogenes sent a final epistle to the Russian nation, blessing the liberating army to fight the invaders. The Russian commanders could not come to an agreement over a way to take the Kremlin and free the Patriarch. He languished more than nine months in dreadful confinement, and on February 17, 1612 he died a martyr's death from starvation.

The liberation of Russia, for which St Hermogenes stood with such indestructible valor, was successfully achieved. The body of the hieromartyr Hermogenes was buried in the Chudov monastery, but in 1654 was transferred to the Moscow Dormition cathedral. The glorification of Patriarch Hermogenes as a saint occurred on May 12, 1913.



Monday, February 16, 2009

St Maruthas the Bishop of Martyropolis in Mesopotamia

Commemorated on February 16

Saint Maruthas was Bishop of Tagrith (Martyropolis), a city which he founded between the Byzantine Empire and Persia. He was famed for his knowledge and his piety, he wrote about the martyrs, and he suffered for his faith in Christ under the Persian emperor Sapor. He also left behind other works in the Syrian language, among which the most famous are: "Commentary on the Gospel," "Verses of Maruthas," "Liturgy of Maruthas" and "The 73 Canons of the Ecumenical Council at Nicea" (325) with an account of the acts of the Council.

In the year 381 St Maruthas participated in the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, convened against the heresy of Macedonius. In 383, he attended the Council of Antioch against the Messalians.

During the years 403-404 St Maruthas set off to Constantinople to plead with the emperor Arcadius to protect Persian Christians. He was twice sent by the emperor Theodosius the Younger to the Shah Izdegerd to secure the peace between the Empire and Persia.

In the year 414 St Maruthas, having done his duty as envoy to the court of Izdegerd, persuaded the Shah to a favorable disposition towards Christians, and he assisted greatly in the freedom of Christians in Persia. He rebuilt Christian churches razed during the persecution by the Persian ruler Sapor. He also located relics of saints who had suffered martyrdom and transferred them to Martyropolis. He died there in 422. The relics of St Maruthas were later transferred to Egypt and placed in a skete monastery of the Mother of God.



Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

Commemorated on February 15

The Sunday after the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. This parable of God's forgiveness calls us to come to ourselves" as did the prodigal son, to see ourselves as being "in a far country" far from the Father's house, and to make the journey of return to God. We are given every assurance by the Master that our heavenly Father will receive us with joy and gladness. We must only "arise and go," confessing our self-inflicted and sinful separation from that "home" where we truly belong (Luke 15:11-24).

After the Polyeleion at Matins, we first hear the lenten hymn "By the Waters of Babylon." It will be sung for the next two Sundays before Lent begins, and it serves to reinforce the theme of exile in today's Gospel.

Kontakion - Tone 3
I have recklessly forgotten Your glory, O Father;and among sinners I have scattered the riches which You had given me.Therefore, I cry to You like the Prodigal:"I have sinned before You, O compassionate Father;receive me a penitent and make me as one of Your hired servants."



Saturday, February 14, 2009

Venerable Isaac the Recluse of the Kiev Near Caves

Commemorated on February 14

Saint Isaac was the first person in northern lands to live as a fool for Christ. His name in the world was Chern. Before becoming a monk, he was a rich merchant in the city of Toropets in the Pskov lands. Having distributed all his substance to the poor, he went to Kiev and received the monastic tonsure from St Anthony (July 10).

He led a very strict life of reclusion, eating only a single prosphora and a little water at the end of the day. After seven years as a hermit, he was subjected to a fierce temptation by the devil. Having mistaken the Evil One for Christ, he worshipped him, after which he fell down terribly crippled. Sts Anthony and Theodosius took care of him and nursed him. Only after three years did he begin to walk and to speak. He did not wish to attend church, but he was brought there by force.

Upon his return to health he took upon himself the exploit of holy foolishness, enduring beatings, nakedness and cold. Before his death he went into seclusion, where again he was subjected to an onslaught of demons, from which he was delivered by the Sign of the Cross and by prayer.

After his healing he spent about twenty years in asceticism. He died in the year 1090. His relics rest in the Caves of St Anthony, and part of them were transferred to Toropets by the igumen of the Kudin monastery in the year 1711. The Life of the Blessed Isaac was recorded by St Nestor in the Chronicles (under the year 1074). The account in the Kiev Caves Paterikon differs somewhat from that of St Nestor. In the Great Reading Menaion under April 27 is the "Account of St Isaac and his Deception by the Devil."



Friday, February 13, 2009

Venerable Shio Mgvime

Commemorated on February 13

The Georgian Orthodox Church commemorates St. Shio of Mgvime several times throughout the year. St. John of Zedazeni and his twelve disciples, among whom was St. Shio of Mgvime, are commemorated on May 7; the repose of St. Shio is celebrated on May 9; and on Cheese-fare Thursday the Church celebrates the miracle that, for centuries, occurred every year at St. Shio’s grave.

The 19th-century historian Marie Brosset wrote that every year prior to the 18th century, on Cheese-fare Thursday, the relics of St. Shio rose up out of the ground from the place of their burial. Those who approached them in faith and reverence received healing of their afflictions.

In the 18th century the Persian shah Nadir (1736–1747) invaded Georgia. Hearing about this miracle and becoming convinced of its truth, the enraged shah assailed the monastery and destroyed the shrine containing the saint’s holy relics. A group of Christians later gathered St. Shio’s holy relics and reburied them in their former place, but to this day they have never risen again.



Thursday, February 12, 2009

St Alexis the Metropolitan of Moscow and Wonderworker of All Russia

Commemorated on February 12

Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia the Wonderworker (in the world Eleutherius), was born in the year 1292 (or according to another source, 1304) at Moscow into the family of the noble Theodore Byakont, a descendant of the Chernigov princely line.

The Lord revealed to the future saint his lofty destiny from early childhood. At twelve years of age Eleutherius went to a field and set nets to ensnare birds. He dozed off and suddenly he heard a voice: "Alexis! Why do you toil in vain? You are to be a catcher of people."

From this day on the boy abandoned childish games and spent much time in solitude. He frequently visited church, and when he was fifteen he decided to become a monk.

In 1320, he entered Moscow's Theophany monastery, where he spent more than twelve years in strict monastic struggles. The renowned ascetics of the monastery, the Elders Gerontius and St Stephen (July 14), brother of St Sergius of Radonezh, were guides for him and his companions.

Metropolitan Theognostus, who had taken notice of the virtuous life and spiritual gifts of St Alexis, bade the future saint to leave the monastery and manage the ecclesiastical courts. The saint fulfilled this office for twelve years. Towards the end of 1350, Metropolitan Theognostus had Alexis consecrated as Bishop of Vladimir. After the death of the metropolitan, he became his successor in the year 1354.

During this period the Russian Church was torn by great rifts and quarrels, in part because of the pretensions of Metropolitan Romanus of Lithuania and Volhynia. In 1356, in order to put an end to the troubles and disturbances, the saint went to Constantinople to the Ecumenical Patriarch. Patriarch Callistus gave St Alexis the right to both be called and to consider himself Archbishop of Kiev and Great Russia with the title, "All-Venerable Metropolitan and Exarch."

On the return journey, during a storm at sea, the ship was in danger of shipwreck. St Alexis prayed and vowed to build a temple to the saint of that day on which the ship should come to shore. The storm subsided, and the ship arrived on August 16. Moscow delightedly came out to meet the saint.

In spite of problems on every side, St Alexis devoted himself to his flock: he appointed bishops, he established cenobitic monasteries (on the model of the Trinity Lavra, founded by St Sergius), and he brought order to Russian relations with the Khans of the Horde. The saint journeyed more than once to the Golden Horde. In 1357 the Khan told the Great Prince that the saint should come to him and heal the blindness of Taidulla, his wife.

"This is beyond my powers," said St Alexis, "but I believe that God, Who gave sight to the blind, will also aid me." Through his prayer, and after being sprinkled with holy water, the wife of the Khan was healed.

When Great Prince Ioann died, his young son Demetrius (the future saint), still a minor, was taken under the saint's guardianship. The holy bishop had much toil in reconciling and appeasing princes obstinatly refusing to accept the authority of Moscow. Nor did the metropolitan neglect the work of organizing new monasteries.

In 1361 he founded the Icon of the Savior Not-Made-by-Hands monastery at the Yauza in Moscow (Andronikov, the disciple of St Sergius, was the first igumen of the monastery), fulfilling the vow he had made on his return journey from Constantinople, when the ship was in danger.

He also founded the Chudov monastery in the Moscow Kremlin. Ancient monasteries were restored: the Annunciation monastery at Nizhni-Novgorod, and Sts Constantine and Helen at Vladimir. In 1361 a women's cenobitic monastery was named for him (the Alekseev).

St Alexis reached the advanced age of seventy-eight, having spent twenty-four years upon the metropolitan cathedra. He reposed on February 12, 1378 and was buried in accord with his last wishes at the Chudov monastery. His relics were uncovered in a miraculous manner fifty years later, after which the memory of the great holy hierarch and man of prayer began to be celebrated.

St Alexis is also commemorated on May 20 (Uncovering of his relics) and on October 5.

Troparion - Tone 4
The fervent protector of Apostolic dogmas,The pastor and teacher of the Russian Church:By celebrating the memory of the blessed bishop AlexisWe glorify with our songs Christ our God.He has given us a faithful workerAnd a fountain of healing grace,The praise and confirmation of Orthodox Christians!



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Theodora the Empress

February 11

As for the renowned Empress Theodora, she was from Paphlagonia and was the daughter of a certain Marinus, the commander of a military regiment. While being the wife of the Emperor Theophilus, the last of the Iconoclasts, she adorned the royal diadem with her virtue and piety; as long as her husband Theophilus lived, she privately venerated icons, despite his displeasure. After his death, she restored the holy icons to public veneration; this is commemorated on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the First Sunday of the Great Fast. She governed the Empire wisely for fifteen years, since her son Michael was not yet of age. But in 857 she forsook her royal power and entered a certain convent in Constantinople called Gastria, where she finished the course of her life in holiness and reposed in the Lord. Her sacred incorrupt remains are found in Corfu, in the Church of the Most Holy Theotokos of the Cave, in the capital city of the island (see also Dec. 12).

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
As a right worthy namesake of gifts bestowed of God, and a divinely-wrought image of holy wisdom and faith, thou didst make the Church to shine with godly piety; for thou didst demonstrate to all that the Saints in every age have shown honor to the icons, O Theodora, thou righteous and fair adornment of the Orthodox.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
We sing thy praises as the gem and fairness of the Church, and as a diadem and pattern of all Christian queens, O all-lauded and divinely-crowned Theodora; for in bringing back the icons to their rightful place, thou didst cast usurping heresy out of the Church. Hence, we cry to thee: Rejoice, O Sovereign most ven'rable.



Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Martyr Porphyrius in Thessaly

Commemorated on February 10

Saint Porphyrius was a soldier who suffered martyrdom with Sts Charalampus, Bishop of Magnesia, Baptus, Porphyrius, and three women in the year 202.

Seeing the endurance of StCharalampus and his complete lack of malice, two soldiers (Porphyrius and Baptus) openly confessed Christ, for which they were immediately beheaded with a sword.

Troparion - Tone 4
Your holy martyr Porphyrius, O Lord,Through his sufferings has received an incorruptible crown from You, our God.For having Your strength, he laid low his adversaries,And shattered the powerless boldness of demons.Through his intercessions, save our souls!



Monday, February 09, 2009

Leavetaking of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

Commemorated on February 9

The Leavetaking of the Meeting of the Lord usually falls on February 9, but may be moved if the Feast falls during the period of the Triodion. In that case, the Typikon must be consulted for information on the Leavetaking.

Usually, the entire office of the Feast is repeated except for the Entrance, festal readings, and Litya at Vespers, and the Polyeleos and festal Gospel at Matins. The festal Antiphons are not sung at Liturgy, and the Epistle and Gospel of the day are read.

Troparion - Tone 1
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace! From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God. Enlightening those who sat in darkness! Rejoice, and be glad, O righteous elder; You accepted in your arms the Redeemer of our souls, Who grants us the Resurrection.

Kontakion - Tone 1
By Your nativity, You did sanctify the Virgin's womb, And did bless Simeon's hands, O Christ God. Now You have come and saved us through love. Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians, O only Lover of man!



Sunday, February 08, 2009

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

Commemorated on February 8

The sixth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 8. The hymns of the day speak of Christ fulfilling the Law by being brought to the Temple, and of how the Theotokos "reveals to the world its Creator, and the Giver of the Law."

Troparion - Tone 1
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace! From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God. Enlightening those who sat in darkness! Rejoice, and be glad, O righteous elder; You accepted in your arms the Redeemer of our souls, Who grants us the Resurrection.

Kontakion - Tone 1
By Your nativity, You did sanctify the Virgin's womb, And did bless Simeon's hands, O Christ God. Now You have come and saved us through love. Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians, O only Lover of man!



Saturday, February 07, 2009

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

Commemorated on February 7

The fifth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 7.

Troparion - Tone 1
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace! From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God. Enlightening those who sat in darkness! Rejoice, and be glad, O righteous elder; You accepted in your arms the Redeemer of our souls, Who grants us the Resurrection.

Kontakion - Tone 1
By Your nativity, You did sanctify the Virgin's womb, And did bless Simeon's hands, O Christ God. Now You have come and saved us through love. Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians, O only Lover of man!


Friday, February 06, 2009

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

Commemorated on February 6

The fourth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 6.

Troparion - Tone 1
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace!From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God.Enlightening those who sat in darkness!Rejoice, and be glad, O righteous elder;You accepted in your arms the Redeemer of our souls,Who grants us the Resurrection.

Kontakion - Tone 1
By Your nativity, You did sanctify the Virgin's womb,And did bless Simeon's hands, O Christ God.Now You have come and saved us through love.Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians, O only Lover of man!



Thursday, February 05, 2009

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

Commemorated on February 5

The third day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 5.

Troparion - Tone 1
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace!From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God.Enlightening those who sat in darkness!Rejoice, and be glad, O righteous elder;You accepted in your arms the Redeemer of our souls,Who grants us the Resurrection.

Kontakion - Tone 1
By Your nativity, You did sanctify the Virgin's womb,And did bless Simeon's hands, O Christ God.Now You have come and saved us through love.Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians, O only Lover of man!



Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

Commemorated on February 4

The second day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 4.

Troparion - Tone 1
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace! From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God. Enlightening those who sat in darkness! Rejoice, and be glad, O righteous elder; You accepted in your arms the Redeemer of our souls, Who grants us the Resurrection.

Kontakion - Tone 1
By Your nativity, You did sanctify the Virgin's womb, And did bless Simeon's hands, O Christ God. Now You have come and saved us through love. Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians, O only Lover of man!



Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

Commemorated on February 3

On this first day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord, the Church commemorates the righteous Simeon and Anna the prophetess. The following words are ascribed to Christ in Ode 9 of the Canon: "I am not held by the Elder; it is I Who hold him, for he asks Me for forgiveness."

Troparion - Tone 1
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace!From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God.Enlightening those who sat in darkness!Rejoice, and be glad, O righteous elder;You accepted in your arms the Redeemer of our souls,Who grants us the Resurrection.

Kontakion - Tone 1
By Your nativity, You did sanctify the Virgin's womb,And did bless Simeon's hands, O Christ God.Now You have come and saved us through love.Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians, O only Lover of man!



Sunday, February 01, 2009

Forefeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

Commemorated on February 1

The TYPIKON should be consulted if the Forefeast falls on the Sunday of the Pharisee, the Publican, or Meatfare.

Because of the Forefeast of the Meeting of the Lord, the service to St Tryphon (February 1) may be moved to Compline or to another day, as the rector decides, unless the parish is dedicated to St Tryphon, or there is a particular devotion to him.

Troparion - Tone 1
The celestial choir of heavenly angelsbends down to the earthand sees the First-born of all creationbeing carried into the Temple as a babeby a Mother who has not known man,and in amazement sings with usa pre-festal hymn.

Kontakion - Tone 6
The Word, unseen with the Father,now is seen in the flesh, ineffably born of the Virgin,and is given into the arms of the priest and Elder.Let us worship Him, our True God.