Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Leavetaking of the Nativity of our Lord

Commemorated on December 31

Materials for the Leavetaking of the Nativity are taken from the service of the Feast day itself in the Menaion. The Scripture readings at Liturgy, however, are of the day, not of the Feast. The Prokeimenon, Alleluia verses, and Communion hymn are all of the Feast.

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!



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Afterfeast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Commemorated on December 30

On December 30, the Afterfeast of the Nativity, let us offer thanks to Christ our God, Who is born of a Virgin for our salvation.

As the days begin to grow longer, we recall that the Lord is also called the Sun of Righteousness, and enlightens those who were in darkness. At this season of the year the daylight increases, and we remember the words of St John the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

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 29, 2008

Afterfeast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Commemorated on December 29

On December 29, the Afterfeast of the Nativity, we commemorate the 14,000 holy infants who were put to death by King Herod in his attempt to kill the new-born Messiah (Mt. 2:16).

Today there is also a commemoration of all Orthodox Christians who have died from hunger, thirst, the sword, and freezing.

Troparion - Tone 2
Proclaim the wonder, O Joseph,to David, the ancestor of God:you saw a Virgin great with Child,you gave glory with the shepherds,you worshipped with the Magi,you received the news from the angel.Pray to Christ God to save our souls!

Kontakion - Tone 3
Today godly David is filled with joy;Joseph and James offer praise.The glorious crown of their kinship with Christ fills them with great joy.They sing praises to the One ineffably born on earth,and they cry out: "O Compassionate One, save those who honor You!"



Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holy Righteous Joseph the Betrothed, along with David the King, and James the Brother of the Lord

Commemorated on December 28

Saint Joseph the Betrothed was of the lineage of King David. In his first marriage, he had four sons and two daughters. After he became a widower, St Joseph led a life of strict temperance. He was chosen to be the husband and guardian of the Most Holy Theotokos, who had taken a vow of virginity.

An angel told him of the Incarnation of the Son of God through her. St Joseph was present when the shepherds and the Magi worshiped the new-born divine Infant. On the orders of the angel, he fled into Egypt with the Mother of God and the Infant Jesus, saving them from the wrath of King Herod. He lived in Egypt with the Virgin Mary and the divine Child, working as a carpenter. St Joseph reputedly died at the age of one hundred.

St Joseph is commemorated on the Sunday after the Nativity. If there is no Sunday between December 25 and January 1, his Feast is moved to December 26. The Righteous Joseph is also commemorated on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers.



Saturday, December 27, 2008

Third Day of the Nativity of our Lord

Commemorated on December 27

The third day of the Nativity is dedicated to the Protomartyr St Stephen. This is the third day of the three day Winter Pascha.

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!



Friday, December 26, 2008

Second Day of the Nativity of our Lord

Commemorated on December 26

On the day after the Nativity of Christ we celebrate the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos, and come together to give her glory and praise. This is the second day of the three day Winter Pascha.

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!



Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Adoration of the Magi

Commemorated on December 25

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).



Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Eve of the Nativity of our Lord

Commemorated on December 24

In Slavic practice, on the eve of the Nativity of the Lord, the liturgical services consist of the Royal Hours with the Typika, Vespers, and the Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great. At Vigil in the evening, Great Compline is followed by Matins.

If the Nativity falls on Sunday, however, the Royal Hours with the Typika are read on the preceding Friday. On Friday evening, the office of the Forefeast, December 24. The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is served on Saturday morning. At Vigil in the evening, Great Compline is followed by Matins. On Sunday morning, the Liturgy of St Basil is celebrated.

If the Nativity falls on a Monday, Royal Hours with the Typika are read on Friday December 22. On Saturday evening and Sunday morning we follow the order for the Sunday before the Nativity with the office of the Forefeast for December 24. On Sunday morning the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is served. Vigil on Sunday evening consists of Great Compline is followed by Matins. On Monday morning the Liturgy of St Basil is celebrated.

On the eve of the Nativity, instead of three readings from the Old Testament at Vespers, there are eight readings (from Genesis, Numbers, Micah, Isaiah, Baruch, Daniel, and two more readings from Isaiah). The entrance is made with the Gospel.

At the end of Liturgy the priest places a lighted candle in a candlestick in the center of the church. Then the troparion and kontakion of the Feast are sung. At Vigil on the evening of the twenty-fourth, Great Compline is followed by Matins.

Troparion - Tone 4 Mary was of David¹s seed,so she went with Joseph to register in Bethlehem.She bore in her womb the Fruit not sown by man.The time for the birth was at hand.Since there was no room at the inn,the cave became a beautiful palace for the Queen.Christ is born, raising up the image that fell of old.

Kontakion - Tone 3
Today the Virgin comes to the caveto give birth to the Eternal Word.Hear the glad tidings and rejoice, O universe!Glorify with the angels and the shepherdsthe Eternal God, who is willing to appear as a little child!



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

St Niphon the Bishop of Cyprus

Commemorated on December 23

Saint Niphon, Bishop of Cyprus was born in Paphlagonia, and was educated at Constantinople. In childhood he was gentle and good, and he often attended church services, but in his youth he began to lead a prodigal and sinful life. He sometimes came to his senses, and he was horrified by the extent of his fall; but believing that he was lost and could not receive forgiveness, he resumed his impious life.

He once met a friend who gazed into his face for a long time with astonishment. When Niphon asked why he was staring, the friend replied, "I have never seen your face like this before. It is black, like that of an Ethiopian." These words showed to Niphon his fallen state, and he began to cry out to the Mother of God, begging Her intercession.

After an intense and long prayer he saw that the face of the Mother of God on the holy icon was radiantly bright with a smile. From that time Niphon prayed incessantly to the Queen of Heaven. If he fell into sin, the face of the Mother of God turned away from him, but after tears and prayers, She mercifully turned toward him again. Finally, Niphon completely turned his life around and began to spend his time in prayer and repentance. After an illness, from which he received healing from the Mother of God, he received the Holy Mysteries, and then accepted monastic tonsure and intensified his efforts, exhausting his body in the struggle against the passions.

This struggle lasted for many years, and devils often attacked St Niphon, but with the help of God he overcame them. He received from God the gift to discern evil spirits and defeat them, and alsoto see the departure of the soul after death. Already advanced in age, and arriving at Alexandria, he was pointed out to the Patriarch in a vision as one worthy to assume the office of bishop. They made him bishop of the city of Constantia on the island of Cyprus. However, he did not remain there for long. St Niphon knew the time of his death three days beforehand. St Athanasius the Great visited him before his blessed repose. On his deathbed the saint was granted to see angels and the All-Pure Mother of God.



Monday, December 22, 2008

Forefeast of the Nativity of our Lord

Commemorated on December 22

The Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord begins on December 20. From now on, most of the liturgical hymns will be concerned with the birth of the Savior.

At Vespers for this third day of the prefeast of the Nativity we sing, "Christ is born on earth to crush the power of evil, to enlighten those in darkness, and to free the captives. Let us go forth to meet Him."

Troparion - Tone 4
Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all!Adorn yourself, O Ephratha, for the tree of life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave!Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with the Divine Fruit:If we eat of it, we shall live forever and not die like Adam.Christ comes to restore the image which He made in the beginning!

Kontakion - Tone 3
Today the Virgin comes to the caveto give birth to the Eternal Word.Hear the glad tidings and rejoice, O universe!Glorify with the angels and the shepherdsthe Eternal God, who is willing to appear as a little child!



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Repose of St Peter the Metropolitan of Moscow and Wonderworker of All Russia

Commemorated on December 21

St Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow, was born in Volhynia of pious parents, Theodore and Eupraxia. Even before the birth of her son, the Lord revealed to Eupraxia the preordained blessedness of her son. At the age of twelve, young Peter entered a monastery. He successfully studied the book sciences of those times and eagerly fulfilled his monastic obediences. The future saint devoted much time to an attentive study of the Holy Scriptures, and he also learned iconography. The icons painted by St Peter were distributed to the brethren and to Christians who visited the monastery.

Because of his virtuous and ascetic life, the igumen of the monastery had St Peter ordained as a hieromonk. After years of ascetic labors at the monastery, the hieromonk Peter, with the blessing of the igumen, left the monastery in search of a solitary place.

He built a cell at the Rata River and began to pursue asceticism in silence. Afterwards, at the place of his ascetic exploits, a monastery was formed, called the Novodvorsk. A church dedicated to the Savior was built for the monks who came to him. Chosen as igumen, St Peter guided his spiritual children, never became angry with a guilty monk. Instead, he instructed the brethren by word and by example. The virtuous igumen and ascetic became known far beyond the vicinity of the monastery. Prince Yuri of Galicia frequently visited the monastery in order to receive spiritual instruction from the holy ascetic.

Once, in his travels through the Russian land, Metropolitan Maximus of Kiev and Vladimir (December 6) visited the monastery with words of instruction and edification. Having received the blessing of St Maximus, St Peter presented him with an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, which he had painted. St Maximus prayed before the icon for the salvation of the Russian land entrusted to him by God until the end of his days.

When Metropolitan Maximus died, the See of Vladimir remained for a certain time unoccupied. An abbot named Gerontius, aspiring to become the primate of Russia, went to Constantinople with St Peter's vestments, archpastoral staff, and the icon he had painted. The Great Prince of Vladimir, St Michael of Tver (November 22), sent him to the Patriarch of Constantinople with a petition that he be appointed as Metropolitan of Russia.

On the suggestion of Prince Yuri of Galicia, Igumen Peter reluctantly went to the Patriarch of Constantinople with a petition that he be consecrated as Metropolitan. God chose St Peter to nourish the Russian Church. The Mother of God appeared to Gerontius during a storm on the Black Sea and said, "You labor in vain, for you will never be bishop. The one who painted this icon, the Rata igumen Peter, shall be elevated to the throne of Kiev."

The words of the Mother of God were fulfilled. Patriarch Athanasius of Constantinople (1289-1293) elevated St Peter as Metropolitan of Russia, bestowing upon him the hierarchal vestments, staff and icon, brought by Gerontius. Upon his return to Russia in 1308, Metropolitan Peter arrived at Kiev after a year, and then proceeded on to Vladimir.

The chief hierarch was tested by many trials during his first years of guiding the Russian metropolitanate. Suffering beneath the Tatar (Mongol) Yoke the Russian land was in turmoil, and St Peter was often obliged to change the place of his residence. During this period the saint's labors and concerns to affirm the true Faith and morality in the realm were particularly important. On his journies throughout the diocese, he incessantly instructed the people and clergy on preserving Christian piety. He also brought quarrelsome princes to peace and unity.

In the year 1312 the saint made a journey to the Horde, where he received a decree from Khan Uzbek, safeguarding the rights of the Russian clergy.

In 1325 Metropolitan Peter, at the request of Great Prince John Kalita (1328-1340), transferred the metropolitan See from Vladimir to Moscow. This event had very great significance for all the Russian land. St Peter prophetically predicted deliverance from the Tatar Yoke and that Moscow would become the foremost city in Russia.

With his blessing, the foundation of the cathedral of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos in the Moscow Kremlin was laid in August 1326 (According to Tradition, the foundations of stone churches are normally laid in the spring). This was a profoundly symbolic blessing by St Peter.

St Peter fell asleep in the Lord on December 21, 1326. The holy relics of the saint were buried in the Dormition cathedral in a stone crypt, which he himself had prepared. Many miracles were accomplished through the saint's prayers. Many healings were even done secretly, which testifies to his profound humility even after death.

The veneration of the first hierarch of the Russian Church was affirmed and spread throughout the Russian land. In 1339, under St Theognostus (March 14), St Peter was numbered among the saints. Princes kissed the cross on the saint's tomb as a sign of their fidelity to the Great Prince of Moscow.

As a particularly venerated protector of Moscow, St Peter was called on to witness the drawing up of government treaties. The people of Novgorod once had the right of nominating their own bishop in the cathedral of St Sophia. After their annexation to Moscow under Ivan III, they swore an oath that henceforth they would only consecrate their archbishops at the grave of St Peter the Wonderworker. And it was at the grave of the saint that the first hierarchs of Russia were named and chosen.

The Russian Chronicles mention him frequently, and no significant state undertaking was initiated without prayers at the grave of St Peter. The relics of St Peter were transferred in 1472 and 1479. In memory of these events, feastdays were established for October 5 and August 24.



Saturday, December 20, 2008

Forefeast of the Nativity of our Lord

Commemorated on December 20

The Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord begins on December 20. From now on, most of the liturgical hymns will be concerned with the birth of the Savior. Many of the Church's hymns of this period are slightly modified versions of the hymns of Holy Week.

From the 20th to the 23rd we sing the Troparion (Tone 4) "Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all. Adorn yourself, O Ephratha, for the Tree of Life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave. Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with the fruit divine; if we eat of it we shall live forever and not die like Adam. Christ is coming to restore the image which He made in the beginning."

We also sing the Kontaion (Tone 3) "Today the Virgin comes to the cave where she will give birth past understanding to the Word from all eternity. Rejoice, O universe, when the tidings are proclaimed. Glorify, with the angels and shepherds, the one Who chose to be manifest as a newborn Child, while remaining the eternal God."

At Vespers on this first day of the prefeast we sing, "Let us celebrate, O people, the prefeast of Christ's Nativity; let us raise our minds on high, in spirit going up to Bethlehem…." (Sticheron on "Lord, I Call.")

Troparion - Tone 4
Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all!Adorn yourself, O Ephratha, for the tree of life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave!Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with the Divine Fruit:If we eat of it, we shall live forever and not die like Adam.Christ comes to restore the image which He made in the beginning!

Kontakion - Tone 3
Today the Virgin comes to the caveto give birth to the Eternal Word.Hear the glad tidings and rejoice, O universe!Glorify with the angels and the shepherdsthe Eternal God, who is willing to appear as a little child!



Friday, December 19, 2008

Venerable Elias of Murom the Wonderworker of the Kiev Near Caves

Commemorated on December 19

Saint Elias Muromets of the Caves, nicknamed "Shoemaker" or "Cobbler," was from the city of Murom. Popular legend identifies him with the famous warrior hero Elias Muromets, who was the subject of Russian ballads and of Gliere's Symphony No. 3.

St Elias died with the fingers of his right hand formed to make the Sign of the Cross in the position accepted even today in the Orthodox Church: the first three fingers together, and the two outermost fingers folded onto the palm [in contrast to the Sign of the Cross used by the "Old Ritualists"]. During the struggle with the Old Ritualist Schism (seventeenth-nineteenth centuries). This information about the saint served as a powerful proof in favor of the present positioning of the fingers.



Thursday, December 18, 2008

Martyr Zoe at Rome

Commemorated on December 18
Saint Zoe is mentioned in the account of St Sebastian's martyrdom. She was the wife of the jailer Nicostratus, and was unable to speak for six years. 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 to glorify 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 Christ, the Savior of the world.
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 of their desire to be baptized. He summoned the priest Polycarp, who prepared them and told them to fast until their 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 sixty-four in all.
Nicostratus, his wife Zoe and brother Castorius, and Claudius, his son Symphorian and brother Victorinus remained in Rome with St Sebastian, refusing to move to a safer place. 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, while she was 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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Venerable Dionysius of Aegina

Commemorated on December 17

Saint Dionysius of Zakynthos, the Bishop of Aegina was born in 1547 on the island of Zakynthos. Though born into a noble family, he was determined to flee the world and set his mind upon heavenly things. He entered the monastery of Strophada, and after the prescribed time, he was clothed in the angelic schema by the abbot. Though young in years, he surpassed many of his elders in virtue, and was found worthy of ordination to the holy priesthood.

Although he protested his unworthiness, St Dionysius was consecrated Bishop of Aegina. In that office he never ceased to teach and admonish his flock, and many were drawn to him in order to profit from his wisdom. He feared the praise of men, lest he should fall into the sin of vainglory, so he resigned his See and returned to Zakynthos.

In 1579 the diocese of Zakynthos was widowed (when a bishop dies, his diocese is described as "widowed"), and Dionysius agreed to care for it until a new bishop could be elected. Then he fled from the worldly life which gave him no peace, and went to the Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos Anaphonitria, twenty miles from the main village.

A certain stranger murdered the saint's brother Constantine, an illustrious nobleman. Fearing his victim's relatives, the stranger, by chance or by God's will, sought refuge in the monastery where St Dionysius was the abbot. When the saint asked the fugitive why he was so frightened, he confessed his sin and revealed the name of the man he had murdered, asking to be protected from the family's vengeance. St Dionysius wept for his only brother, as was natural. Then he comforted the murderer and hid him, showing him great compassion and love.

Soon the saint's relatives came to the monastery with a group of armed men and told him what had happened. He pretended to know nothing about it. After weeping with them and trying to console them, he sent them off in the wrong direction. Then he told the murderer that he was the brother of the man he had killed. He admonished him as a father, and brought him to repentance. After forgiving him, St Dionysius brought him down to the shore and helped him to escape to another place in order to save his life. Because of the saint's Christ-like virtue, he was granted the gift of working miracles.

Having passed his life in holiness, St Dionysius reached a great age, then departed to the Lord on December 17, 1624. Not only are the saint's relics incorrupt, but he is also one of Greece's "walking saints" (St Gerasimus and St Spyridon are the others). He is said to leave his reliquary and walk about performing miracles for those who seek his aid. In fact, the soles of his slippers wear out and must be replaced with a new pair from time to time. The old slippers are cut up, and the pieces are distributed to pilgims. On August 24, we celebrate the Transfer of his Holy Relics. Through the prayers of Saint Dionysius, may Christ our God have mercy upon us and save us.



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Prophet Haggai

Commemorated on December 16

The Holy Prophet Haggai was the tenth of the Twelve Minor Prophets. He was of the Tribe of Levi and he prophesied during the times of the Persian emperor Darius Hystaspis (prior to 500 B.C.). Upon the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity, he persuaded the people to build the Second Temple at Jerusalem, and he proclaimed that the Messiah would appear in this Temple in the last times.

It is believed that Haggai was buried with the priests at Jerusalem, since he was descended from Aaron.

Troparion - Tone 4
Being pure in heart, O Prophet Haggai,You were an inspired prophet and servant of God.Therefore as one who keeps festival,You were taken up to those who keep festival in God.Intercede with him, O herald of God, that we may all be saved!

Kontakion - Tone 2
Resplendent to the ends of the world,You illumine all by the light of the Spirit.You foretold in figures the things that were to come,And were illustrious in your life, O wise Prophet Haggai!

Kontakion - Tone 4
Your pure heart, enlightened by the Spirit,Received the most clear prophecy;For you saw as present that which was still far off!Therefore we honor you, O blessed Prophet,O glorious Haggai!



Monday, December 15, 2008

St Stephen the Confessor the Archbishop of Surozha in the Crimea

Commemorated on December 15

Saint Stephen the Confessor, Archbishop of Surrentium (Surozh), was a native of Cappadocia and was educated at Constantinople. After receiving the monastic tonsure, he withdrew into the wilderness, where he lived for thirty years in ascetic deeds.

Patriarch Germanus of Constantinople (May 12) heard of Stephen's humility and virtuous life, and wished to meet him. He was so impressed with Stephen that he consecrated him bishop of the city of Surrentium (presently the city of Sudak in the Crimea). Within five years, St Stephen's ministry was so fruitful that no heretics or unbaptized pagans remained in Surrentium or its environs.

St Stephen opposed the iconoclasm of the emperor Leo III the Isaurian (716-741). Since he refused to obey the orders of the emperor and the dishonorable Patriarch Anastasius to remove the holy icons from the churches, he was brought to Constantinople. There he was thrown into prison and tortured. He was released after the death of the emperor. Already quite advanced in years, he returned to his flock in Surrentium, where he died.

There is an account of how the Russian prince Bravlin accepted Baptism at the beginning of the ninth century during a campaign into the Crimea, influenced by miracles at the saint's crypt.

Troparion - Tone 4
O solitary dweller with the bodiless hosts,You took the Cross as your weaponAnd stood firm against the iconoclasts,Who would not honor the icon of Christ our God.But you cut out all wicked heresies,Then, having won the martyr’s crown,You delivered your city, Surozh, from all enemies.And now we implore you, O Stephen:Deliver us from temptation and eternal torment!

Kontakion - Tone 3
Strengthened by the power of the Most High God,You overcame the iconoclasts of the royal house.Today your relics are the glory of Surozh and joy for the faithful,And the bodiless hosts bear them triumphantly.Glorifying you with hymns of praise, O great Hierarch Stephen!



Sunday, December 14, 2008

Martyr Arianus of Alexandria

Commemorated on December 14

The Holy Martyrs Philemon, Apollonius, Arianus and Theotychus suffered for the Faith in Egypt, at the city of Antinoe, under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). St Arrian up until his conversion to Christ was a persecutor of Christians, among whom were the martyrs Apollonius and Philemon.

St Apollonius, at first fearing to face the sufferings, asked the pagan musician Philemon to change clothes with him and offer sacrifice to the idols for him. But unexpectedly St Philemon confessed himself a Christian in front of the pagans.

St Apollonius repented and also confessed Christ. After torture, both martyrs were executed. St Philemon's body was hung upon an olive tree, and arrows were shot at him. One struck prefect Arianus in the eye, destroying it. Arianus' injured eye was healed by when he applied dirt taken from Philemon's grave. He repented and was converted to the Christian Faith and baptized together with all his household and bodyguards. Out of love for Christ they voluntarily went to torture and were sentenced to death.

The Martyr Theotychus was the eldest of the guards, and is remembered with the other saints. The Martyrs Philemon and Apollonius died on March 16, 286, and the Martyrs Arrian and Theotychus on March 4, 287.



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Martyr Eustratius at Sebaste

Commemorated on December 13

The Holy Martyrs Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius, and Orestes (the Five Companions) suffered for Christ under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) at Sebaste, in Armenia.

Among the first Christians imprisoned and undergoing torture at that time was St Auxentius, a presbyter of the Arabian Church. One of those who witnessed the steadfastness of the Christians was the noble military commander St Eustratius, the city prefect of Satalios, and archivist of the province. He was secretly a Christian, and when he openly confessed his faith, he was subjected to torture. They beat him, and put iron sandals studded with sharp nails on his feet, then forced him to march to the city of Arabrak.

Witnessing the arrival of St Eustratius in Arabrak, one of the common people, St Mardarius, confessed that he was also a Christian like St Eustratius. He was arrested and cast into prison. Holes were drilled in his ankles, and ropes were passed them. He was suspended upside down, then heated nails were hammered into his body. He died a short time later. To him is attributed the prayer "O Master Lord God, Father Almighty ..." (which is read at the end of the Third Hour).

As for St Eugene, they ripped out his tongue, they cut off his hands and feet, and then they beheaded him with a sword. St Auxentius was also arrested and beheaded. The young soldier St Orestes confessed himself a Christian and stood trial for this "crime." He was sentenced to be stretched out upon a red-hot iron bed, and became frightened when he approached it. Encouraged by St Eustratius, he made the Sign of the Cross and got onto the heated bed, where he surrendered his soul to God.

St Eustratius was sentenced to be burned alive on December 13. As he was being led to his death, he prayed aloud ("I magnify Thee exceedingly, O Lord, for Thou hast regarded my lowliness..."). This prayer is still read at the Saturday Midnight Office.



Letter of Metropolitan of Glyfada Paul, to the Greek Uniates

Hat tip to Jean-Michel.


Voula, the 4th November 2008

Protocol No. 1562

The Apostolic Exarch
Of the Hellenic-Rite Catholics of Greece
Mr. Demetrios Salahas

Dear Sir,

«Rejoice always in the Lord»!
A few days ago I was informed of the content of your homily, during your ordination-enthronement as Bishop of the Hellenic-Rite Catholics of Greece. It is with this occasion that I am writing my personal thoughts, with the outspokenness of an Orthodox Bishop of the Church in Greece; one who was born in Hermoupolis of Syros Island, and raised and residing in his native island up until the completion of the Secondary Education cycle in the renowned High School of Syros.

Your homily, quite extensive, was addressed to the flock “of a small in number ecclesiastic community of faithful, in Athens and in Yannitsa”. These faithful, according to your address, are “fully united with the Church of Rome”, albeit “belonging to the Eastern Byzantine tradition”. And you continue, stressing that “this double ecclesiastic identity of theirs – as Catholics and Easterners – being in full communion with the Apostolic Seat of Old Rome and its Primate the Bishop of Rome, and simultaneously remaining loyal to the sacred Patristic traditions, the theological treasures and the divine Worship of the Christian East, enriches that very Catholic Church of Greece - which historically belongs almost in its entirety to the western Latin tradition - and it constitutes an expression of the “co-inheritance”, the communion and the unity within the bosom of the Catholic Church itself.”
This spirit, which infused many more paragraphs of your speech, was further embellished by the position that “our vision and our mindset is a unifying one and not a ‘Uniate’ one”, and was accompanied by your entreaty: “Do not consider me a Uniate, but a unifying hierarch”, additionally condemning “categorically every act of proselytism, from wherever it may originate”.

Because of your above positions, kindly allow me to ask you a few questions - which spring from my own experiences of living many years in Syros[1], as well as a familiarity with the manner of coexistence between Orthodox and Roman Catholics – which questions of course express my own, personal concerns:
Are you aware to what degree the mode of operation of your Ecclesiastic Community causes confusion amongst the faithful of the Orthodox Church, in the multitudinous urban communities of those two cities, and especially in the densely populated Athens suburb of Patisia, on Acharnon Street, where many Orthodox approach, not knowing the true Ecclesiological and Theological background that lurks beneath the Orthodox appearance?Why do your clergy need to wear the canonical attire of the Orthodox Tradition, erect Temples in the Byzantine style, perform the Sacred services according to the Rubric of the Orthodox Eastern Church, use mostly the Liturgical Books published by the “Apostoliki Diakonia” [=Apostolic Ministry] organization of the Church of Greece ? Isn’t that what Unia is about? Aren’t you a Uniate Bishop ? What exactly does “unifying hierarch” mean?

What is the need for a Uniate to be present in the Theological Dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Confession? Is that how the Union will prosper? Would it perhaps be a gesture of good will on behalf of the Pope – for the progress of the Theological Dialogues – to no longer appoint a Uniate Bishop-Apostolic Exarch of the Hellenic-Rite Catholics of Greece? Why such a persistence for Unia by the Pope?Are you able to reckon how many comprise the “small number of members” of the Community of Hellenic-Rite Catholics of Greece and justify for what reason there is a need to elect and instate a Uniate Bishop in Greece?

If your Community is indeed small in number – even with the recent, artificially increased groups of faithful – why can’t they be poemantically served by the clergy of the Roman Catholic Confession of Greece? Why can’t these people be ministered by Roman Catholic Bishops, who are evidently and manifestly connected to the Vatican; whose attire is according to the Latin tradition – just like those who attend your ordinations (as apparent in related photographs) – so that the members of your Community might come to know Jesus Christ in that manner?
Furthermore, whenever I recall the excellent hospitalization of my ever-memorable mother twenty years ago in the “Pammakaristos” Hospital [2], that memory is always tainted by the question posed at the time by the Orthodox-looking (but Latin in dogma) Hospital minister: “Would you like me to minister Holy Communion?” Despite the fact that my mother’s theological preparation and awareness gave him the appropriate response: “No thank you; I have a son who is a clergyman and he will make sure that I receive Communion in an Orthodox manner”, we do wonder if you continue with this same tactic, in the sensitive realm of pain and consolation… What, indeed, do you do, in other Hospitals?

What, I wonder, were the motive and the objective behind the performing of a “Trisagion” [3] service during the funeral in Rome of the recently deceased Pope, by Orthodox-attired Uniate clergymen, Bishops and presbyters, according to the Orthodox Rite, and in the Greek language?
The above facts give the impression - to a multitude of intelligent and prudent people - that they comprise actions of proselytism and attempts to seize the souls of Orthodox Christians with underhanded means.It is our wish that the aforementioned do not reflect reality. That is why it is our hope that your sincerely written intentions are indeed sincere and do not hide any deception, thus offending Christ’s “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”.

With prayers in the Lord,

The least among Bishops.



OODE Notes:

[1] Skyros is a Greek Island in which lives a relatively large number of members of the Latin Community

[2] Pamakkaristos Hospital is owned by the Greek-Catholic Exarchate of the Latin Community in Greece


[4] Glyfada is a suburb of Athens :

Friday, December 12, 2008

Venerable Therapon the Abbot of Monza

Commemorated on December 12

Saint Therapon of Monza was a monk in the monastery of St Adrian (May 5) at the River Monza. The monk began his ascetic deeds in Moscow, and then transferred to the city of Kostroma at the Elevation of the Cross monastery, and was tonsured there.

The pious monks Adrian and Paphnutius, from the monastery of St Paul of Obnora (January 10). Seeking solitude, they moved to the Monza and founded a monastery 25 versts from Galich. St Therapon transferred to this monastery, where he labored in asceticism until the end of his life. Each day, with the blessing of the igumen, he withdrew into a forest thicket and prayed. By night he read and transcribed copies of spiritually useful books.

In his life he emulated Blessed Basil of Moscow (August 2), whom he called his friend, although personally he never saw him. Even during his life, St Therapon was glorified with a gift of wonderworking. Before his death he predicted a year of famine (1601). He surrendered his soul to God in the year 1597. The monastery at the River Monza was called after him the Theraponov.



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Martyr Akepsimas of Egypt

Commemorated on December 11

The Holy Martyrs Akepsimas and Aithalas were from Persia. Akepsimas was a pagan priest in the city of Arbel. Having received healing through the prayers of a Christian bishop, he was converted to the faith in Christ and boldly confessed it. For this they threw St Akepsimas into prison. Soon St Aithalas, a deacon of the Arbel Church, was imprisoned with him. They brought the martyrs before the ruler, where they again confessed their faith and were beheaded.



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Martyr Hermogenes of Alexandria

Commemorated on December 10

The Holy Martyrs Hermogenes, Menas, and Eugraphus suffered for their faith in Christ under the emperor Maximian (305-313).

St Menas was sent by the emperor from Athens to Alexandria to suppress the riots that had arisen between the Christians and the pagans. Distinguished for his gift of eloquence, Menas instead openly began to preach the Christian Faith and he converted many pagans to Christ. Learning of this, Maximian sent Hermogenes to Alexandria to place the saints on trial. Moreover, he gave orders to purge the city of Christians.

Hermogenes, although he was a pagan, was distinguished by his reverent bearing. And struck by the endurance of St Menas under torture and by his miraculous healing after the cruel torments, he also came to believe in Christ. Maximian himself then arrived in Alexandria. Neither the astonishing stoic endurance of Sts Menas and Hermogenes under torture, nor even the miracles manifested by God in this city, mollified the emperor. Instead, they vexed him all the more. The emperor personally stabbed St Eugraphus, the secretary of St Menas, and then gave orders to behead the holy Martyrs Menas and Hermogenes.

The relics of the holy martyrs, cast into the sea in an iron chest, were afterwards found (see February 17) and transferred to Constantinople in the ninth century. The emperor Justinian built a church in the name of the holy Martyr Menas of Alexandria. St Joseph the Hymnographer (April 4) composed a Canon in honor of these holy martyrs.

Troparion - Tone 8
Having slain the fiery ragings and fierce movements of the passions though their ascetic labors,the Martyrs of Christ, Menas, Hermogenes, and Eugraphus, received grace to dispel the afflictions of the infirm and to work wonders both while alive and after death.It is a truly great wonder that bare bones pour forth healing.Glory to our only God and Creator.

Kontakion - Tone 4
The Lord snatched you from the temporal army making you a fellow inheritor of the eternal, O Menas;together with Hermogenes and Eugraphus with whom you suffered,you are granted an incorruptible crown.



Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Prophetess Hannah the mother of the Prophet Samuel

Commemorated on December 9

The Holy Prophetess Hannah dwelt in marriage with Elkanah, but she was childless. Elkanah took to himself another wife, Phennena, who bore him children. Hannah grieved strongly over her misfortune, and every day she prayed for an end to her barrenness, and vowed to dedicate her child to God.

Once, as she prayed fervently in the Temple, the priest Heli thought that she was drunk, and he began to reproach her. But the saint poured out her grief, and after she received a blessing, she returned home. After this Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel (which means "Asked from God").

When the child reached the age of boyhood, the mother herself presented him to the priest Heli, and Samuel remained with him to serve before the Tabernacle (1 Kings/1 Samuel 2: 1-21).



Monday, December 08, 2008

Apostle Onesiphorus of the Seventy

Commemorated on December 8

Saints Onesiphorus, Apollos, Cephas, Tychicus, Epaphroditus, Caesar, Apostles of the 70 were chosen and sent by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to preach. They were chosen some time after the selection of the Twelve Apostles (Luke 10:1-24).

All of these saints departed peacefully to the Lord (they are also commemorated on March 30). The Church also remembers St Onesiphorus (September 7) with them.



Sunday, December 07, 2008

Venerable Anthony the Abbot of Siya, Novgorod

Commemorated on December 7

Saint Anthony of Siya, in the world Andrew, was born into a family of rich farmers in the village of Kekhta near the North Dvina river. In childhood he received a fine education, read much and learned iconography. After the death of his parents, Andrew went to Novgorod, and for five years worked for a boyar [nobleman] there. He later married, but his wife died after a year.

Then Andrew decided to devote himself to monasticism. He distributed his goods to the poor and as a wanderer came to the Pachomiev wilderness monastery at the River Kena. St Pachomius tonsured him with the name Anthony. Soon he was ordained a hieromonk, and Anthony, with the blessing of the igumen, celebrated the divine services by himself.

He went out with the other monks of the monastery to work for the monastery's needs. Out of love for solitude St Anthony eventually left the Pachomiev wilderness, after choosing two companions from the monastic brethren, and he settled upon Mikhailov Island, on the one side washed by the River Sii, and on the other, by encircling lakes.

In this harsh frontier within the dense thickets Anthony built a chapel in 1520. But to clear the forest required difficult work, and Anthony's companions began to grumble against him. Then quite unexpectedly an unknown man furnished them with the means of subsistence, offering money for good measure. The Siya monastery became famous, and inhabitants of surrounding villages often visited it. And again St Anthony, taking one disciple, withdrew to a still more remote place on Lake Palun. There, in a solitary cell, he dwelt for three years. When the igumen Theoctistus refused to guide the Siya monastery any longer, the brethren tried to persuade St Anthony to return to them. He finally acceded to the request of the monks, again became igumen and piously guided the monastery until his death in the year 1556, when he was seventy-nine years old.

Troparion - Tone 1
You renounced the world in favor of the spirit,Seeking the one God with your whole heart, O Anthony.You retreated to a far wilderness, near waters,In tears and labors living the angelic life.You gathered a multitude of monks in your wisdom.Visit them and cease not to implore the Holy TrinityTo deliver us from evilAnd to save our souls!

Kontakion - Tone 8
From your youth you exhausted your flesh by fasting and prayer,And taking up your cross, you followed Christ.Having joyfully completed your journey to heaven,You stand with the saints before the Holy Trinity.Now visit your flock and remember those who honor you,That all the faithful may cry out in thanksgiving:Rejoice, O wise and righteous Anthony, guide of desert-dwellers!



Saturday, December 06, 2008

St Maximus, Metropolitan of Kiev

Commemorated on December 6

Saint Maximus, successor of Metropolitan Cyril III of Kiev (1243-1280), was a Greek by birth, and he arrived in Rus, then suffering under the Mongol (Tatar) Yoke, in 1283 as Metropolitan. The saint decided to remain at Kiev, but the city was completely devastated by the plundering incursions of the Tatars. Metropolitan Maximus withdrew to Briansk, and from there to Suzdal. During his visit to Volhynia the saint met with St Peter the igumen of the Rata monastery, (December 21), who would succeed him as metropolitan.

In 1295 the saint deposed James from the bishop's cathedra at Vladimir and replaced him with Simon. During these terrible times the throne of the Great Prince was first at Vladimir, then at Pereslavl, then at Tver.

Apprehensive lest he insult the South Russian princes by moving to the north, the saint offered fervent prayers to the Mother of God, and She indicated Vladimir as the place of his residence.

In the year 1299 Metropolitan Maximus went to Vladimir, and in the following year he established St Theoctistus (December 23) as Bishop of Novgorod. In 1301, Metropolitan Maximus was in Constantinople for a Patriarchal Council, where at the urging of St Theognostus, Bishop of Zaraisk, he set forth questions concerning the needs of the Russian Church to be resolved by the Council.

Recognizing the need to build up the strength of subjugated Rus, the saint urged Prince Yuri Danilovich of Moscow to make peace with the holy Prince Michael of Tver. He also advised Yuri to journey to the Horde to receive the throne. In 1304, the saint installed St Michael of Tver (November 22) upon the Great-princely throne of Vladimir.

Setting an example of intense spiritual life for others, Metropolitan Maximus was concerned about the spiritual growth of his proverbial flock. Thus, the saint established rules for fasting for other times in addition to Great Lent. He ordained it for the Apostles', Dormition and Nativity lenten periods, and he defined when fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays is allowed (in Russia until the fourteenth century they did not fast on the Midfeast and Leave-taking of Pascha).

The holy metropolitan was particularly concerned with upholding lawful marriage: "I write, therefore, about this, so that you my children, born and newly-sanctified in the baptismal font, will take your wife from the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the woman is for the salvation of the man. If you cleave to them in promiscuity without marriage, does it benefit you? No, but rather beseech and implore them, whether young or old, to be married in the Church."

The saint reposed on December 6, 1305, and his body was buried in the Dormition cathedral in Vladimir. A gilded covering was built over the saint's grave, on which was written in gold letters: "Maximus, a Greek, was ordained in the year 6791 from the creation of the world. He came to Kiev in the year 1283 after the Birth of Christ. Because of the Tatar onslaught, he moved from Kiev to the Great Russian city of Vladimir. Maximus shepherded the Church of Christ for twenty-three years, and he reposed in the year 6813."

The Maximov Icon of the Mother of God (April 18) was placed on the wall above the grave of the saint. It was painted in the year 1299 following a vision to Metropolitan Maximus. A description of this vision was inscribed on the left side of the crypt.



ANTI Ecumenism - SUPERB American Orthodox docum PART 13 of15

Part 13.

ANTI Ecumenism - SUPERB American Orthodox docum PART 13 of15
Uploaded by anti_ecumenism

It simply does not work to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator and say that the only criteria for being a Christian is that we all believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Or some will even go so far as to say that, if even this is not true of everyone, at least everyone believes in a god, and that's enough - it doesn't matter that some do not even believe in the Christian God. It is fine for Christians and Moslems and Jews and pagans all to join together; the important thing is simply that we all love each other. The differences do not matter; only the similarities. So the ecumenists argue. But this is not true! This is not the apostolic teaching. This is not the true faith. This is ecumenism! The apostles taught us to be of one mind and one body by believing, speaking, and doing all the same things that have been handed down to us ever since the first followers of Christ. We must be completely united in all our beliefs, being perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgement. To reduce the requirements for being a Christian to a mere statement of faith in a god, thus minimalizing Christianity, severs this unity that we are commanded to abide by.

Part 12.

Friday, December 05, 2008

St Gurias the Archbishop of Kazan

Commemorated on December 5

Saint Gurias, Archbishop of Kazan, (in the world Gregory Rugotin), was the first archbishop of the Kazan diocese, established in 1555. He was born in the town of Radonezh outside Moscow into the family of a courtier. His parents were not wealthy, and so from his early years he had to serve Prince Ivan Penkov as steward of his estates.

From his youth, Gregory was pious, humble and gentle, and he preserved his chastity. Accused of improprieties with the prince's wife, Gregory was locked up in an underground dungeon for two years. This undermined his health, but it also intensified and deepened his religious fervor. In prison, he wrote a small booklet to teach children how to read and write. He donated the proceeds from his primer to the needy.

Released from prison, Gregory was tonsured with the name Gurias at the St Joseph of Volokolamsk monastery, known for its strict monastic rule. In 1543, he was chosen by the brethren as igumen of this monastery. He administered it for almost nine years, and then he resigned as igumen and lived for two years as a simple monk.

Before becoming bishop, St Gurias directed the Trinity Selizharov monastery in Tver diocese for one year. He was chosen by lot to the See of Kazan. Assisted by St Barsanuphius (April 11), St Gurias devoted himself to missionary activity. In his eight years as bishop there, four monasteries were organized, and the Annunciation cathedral church and ten more city churches were built.

In 1561 the saint fell grievously ill and could no longer perform the divine services himself. On feastdays they carried him into the church, and he either sat or lay down, since he did not have the strength to walk or even stand.

Shortly before his death (1563), he received the great schema from St Barsanuphius, and he was buried in the Savior-Transfiguration monastery. On October 4, 1595, the incorrupt relics of the holy hierarchs Gurias and Barsanuphius were uncovered. St Hermogenes, Metropolitan of Kazan (May 12), was present at the uncovering of their relics, and he described this event in the lives of these saints.

On June 20, 1613, the relics of St Gurias were transferred from the Savior-Transfiguration monastery to the Annunciation cathedral church. At present, the relics rest in Kazan in a cemetery church named for the holy Princes Theodore of Murom and his sons David and Constantine (May 21).



Thursday, December 04, 2008

Martyr John of Damascus

Commemorated on December 4

Saint John of Damascus was born about the year 680 at Damascus, Syria into a Christian family. His father, Sergius Mansur, was a treasurer at the court of the caliph. John had also a foster brother, the orphaned child Cosmas (October 14), whom Sergius had taken into his own home. When the children were growing up, Sergius saw that they received a good education. At the Damascus slave market he ransomed the learned monk Cosmas of Calabria from captivity and entrusted to him the teaching of his children. The boys displayed uncommon ability and readily mastered their courses of the secular and spiritual sciences. After the death of his father, John occupied ministerial posts at court and became the city prefect.

In Constantinople at that time, the heresy of Iconoclasm had arisen and quickly spread, supported by the emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717-741). Rising up in defense of the Orthodox veneration of icons [Iconodoulia], St John wrote three treatises entitled, "Against Those who Revile the Holy Icons." The wise and God-inspired writings of St John enraged the emperor. But since the author was not a Byzantine subject, the emperor was unable to lock him up in prison, or to execute him. The emperor then resorted to slander. A forged letter to the emperor was produced, supposedly from John, in which the Damascus official was supposed to have offered his help to Leo in conquering the Syrian capital.

This letter and another hypocritically flattering note were sent to the Saracen caliph by Leo the Isaurian. The caliph immediately ordered that St John be removed from his post, that his right hand be cut off, and that he be led through the city in chains.

That same evening, they returned the severed hand to St John. The saint pressed it to his wrist and prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos to heal him so that he could defend the Orthodox Faith and write once again in praise of the Most Pure Virgin and Her Son. After a time, he fell asleep before the icon of the Mother of God. He heard Her voice telling him that he had been healed, and commanding him to toil unceasingly with his restored hand. Upon awakening, he found that his hand had been attached to his arm once more. Only a small red mark around his wrist remained as a sign of the miracle.

Later, in thanksgiving for being healed, St John had a silver model of his hand attached to the icon, which became known as "Of the Three Hands." Some unlearned painters have given the Mother of God three hands instead of depicting the silver model of St John's hand. The Icon "Of the Three Hands" is commemorated on June 28 and July 12.

When he learned of the miracle, which demonstrated John's innocence, the caliph asked his forgiveness and wanted to restore him to his former office, but the saint refused. He gave away his riches to the poor, and went to Jerusalem with his stepbrother and fellow-student, Cosmas. There he entered the monastery of St Sava the Sanctified as a simple novice.

It was not easy for him to find a spiritual guide, because all the monks were daunted by his great learning and by his former rank. Only one very experienced Elder, who had the skill to foster the spirit of obedience and humility in a student, would consent to do this. The Elder forbade John to do anything at all according to his own will. He also instructed him to offer to God all his labors and supplications as a perfect sacrifice, and to shed tears which would wash away the sins of his former life.

Once, he sent the novice to Damascus to sell baskets made at the monastery, and commanded him to sell them at a certain inflated price, far above their actual value. He undertook the long journey under the searing sun, dressed in rags. No one in the city recognized the former official of Damascus, for his appearance had been changed by prolonged fasting and ascetic labors. However, St John was recognized by his former house steward, who bought all the baskets at the asking price, showing compassion on him for his apparent poverty.

One of the monks happened to die, and his brother begged St John to compose something consoling for the burial service. St John refused for a long time, but out of pity he yielded to the petition of the grief-stricken monk, and wrote his renowned funeral troparia ("What earthly delight," "All human vanity," and others). For this disobedience the Elder banished him from his cell. John fell at his feet and asked to be forgiven, but the Elder remained unyielding. All the monks began to plead for him to allow John to return, but he refused. Then one of the monks asked the Elder to impose a penance on John, and to forgive him if he fulfilled it. The Elder said, "If John wishes to be forgiven, let him wash out all the chamber pots in the lavra, and clean the monastery latrines with his bare hands."

John rejoiced and eagerly ran to accomplish his shameful task. After a certain while, the Elder was commanded in a vision by the All-Pure and Most Holy Theotokos to allow St John to write again. When the Patriarch of Jerusalem heard of St John, he ordained him priest and made him a preacher at his cathedral. But StJohn soon returned to the Lavra of St Sava, where he spent the rest of his life writing spiritual books and church hymns. He left the monastery only to denounce the iconoclasts at the Constantinople Council of 754. They subjected him to imprisonment and torture, but he endured everything, and through the mercy of God he remained alive. He died in about the year 780, more than 100 years old.

St John of Damascus was a theologian and a zealous defender of Orthodoxy. His most important book is the Fount of Knowledge. The third section of this work, "On the Orthodox Faith," is a summary of Orthodox doctrine and a refutation of heresy. Since he was known as a hymnographer, we pray to St John for help in the study of church singing.

Troparion - Tone 8 Champion of Orthodoxy, teacher of purity and of true worship,the enlightener of the universe and the adornment of hierarchs:all-wise father John, your teachings have gleamed with light upon all things.Intercede before Christ God to save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 4
Let us sing praises to John, worthy of great honor, the composer of hymns, the star and teacher of the Church, the defender of her doctrines:through the might of the Lord¹s Cross he overcame heretical error and as a fervent intercessor before God he entreats that forgiveness of sins may be granted to all.



Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Venerable Sava the Abbot of Zvenigorod the Disciple of the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh

Commemorated on December 3

Saint Sava Storozhevsky of Zvenigorod left the world in his early youth, and received the monastic tonsure from St Sergius of Radonezh, whose disciple and fellow-ascetic he was.

St Sava loved solitude, and avoided conversing with people. He lived in constant toil, lamenting the poverty of his soul, and trembling before the judgment of God. He was a model of simplicity and humility, and he attained to such a depth of spiritual wisdom that "in the monastery of St Sergius he was a spiritual confessor to all the brethren, a venerable and exceedingly learned Elder."

When Great Prince Demetrius of the Don built the monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God at the River Dubenka, in gratitude for the victory over Mamai, Sava became its Igumen, with the blessing of St Sergius. Preserving the simple manner of his ascetic lifestyle, he ate plants, wore coarse clothing and slept on the ground.

In 1392 the brethren of the Sergiev Lavra, with the departure of its Igumen Nikon into the wilderness, asked St Sava to be the igumen of the monastery. Here he "shepherded well the flock entrusted to him to the best of his ability, helped by the prayers of his spiritual Father, St Sergius." According to Tradition, the great well outside the Lavra walls was built when he was igumen.

Prince Yuri Dimitrievich Zvenigorodsky, a godson of St Sergius, regarded St Sava with great love and esteem. He chose St Sava as his spiritual Father and begged him to come and bestow his blessing upon all his household. The saint had hoped to return to his monastery, but the prince begged him to remain and establish a new monastery, "in his fatherland, near Zvenigorod, at a place called Storozhi."

St Sava accepted the request of Prince Yuri Dimitrievich, and praying with tears before an icon of the Mother of God, he entreated Her protection for the wilderness place. On Storozhi Hill, he built a small wooden church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, and a small cell for himself nearby. Here in the year 1399 the monk established a monastery, lovingly accepting all who came seeking a life of silence and seclusion.

St Sava toiled much at the building up of his monastery. He dug a well at the foot of the hill, from which he carried water on his own shoulders; he encircled the monastery with a wooden palisade, and in a hollow above it, he dug out a cell where he could dwell in solitude.

In 1399 St Sava blessed his spiritual son, Prince Yuri, to go on a military campaign, and he predicted victory over the enemy. Through the prayers of the holy Elder, the forces of the prince won a speedy victory. Through the efforts of St Sava, a stone church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos was also built to replace the wooden one.

St Sava died at an advanced age on December 3, 1406. He appointed his disciple, also named Sava, to succeed him.

Veneration of the God-pleaser by the local people began immediately after his death. The miraculous curative power issuing from the grave of the monk, and his numerous appearances, convinced everyone that Igumen Sava "is truly an unsetting sun of divine light, illumining all with its miraculous rays." In a letter of 1539 St Sava is called a wonderworker. Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich had a special veneration for him, repeatedly going to the monastery of St Sava on foot. Tradition has preserved for us a remarkable account of how St Sava once saved him from a ferocious bear.

The Life of St Sava, compiled in the sixteenth century, relates how at the end of the fifteenth century (1480-1490), the saint appeared to Dionysius, the fourth igumen of the St Sava monastery and said to him: "Dionysius! Wake up and paint my icon." When Dionysius asked who he was, he replied, "I am Sava, the founder of this place."

Now Dionysius had not known the saint personally, so he summoned Elder Habakkuk, who had known St Sava in his youth, hoping to convince himself of the truth of the dream. He described the outward appearance of the saint, and Habakkuk assured him that the saint looked exactly as the igumen had seen him in his dream. Then Dionysius fulfilled the command and painted the icon of St Sava.

The feastday of St Sava was established at the Moscow Council of 1547. The incorrupt relics of the saint were uncovered on January 19, 1652.

Troparion - Tone 8 You revealed the desert as good growth, O Venerable One. For from your youth you desired to live a pure life,Following your spiritual director and his teaching,You trained your mind on the heavens,You have shown the wisdom of the instructor to your flock.Therefore, even as Christ has shown you the torch of the enriching wonders:Our Father Sabbas, pray to save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 2
Burning with desire for the Lord,You shook off carnal passions.You were revealed as shining with the never-setting Divine Light.Rays of wonders poured from your relics upon all the faithful,O our Venerable Father Sabbas.



Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Martyr Myrope of Chios

Commemorated on December 2

The Holy Martyr Myrope was born in the city of Ephesus at the beginning of the third century. She lost her father at an early age, and her mother raised her in the Christian Faith. St Myrope frequently visited the grave of the Martyr Hermione (September 4), daughter of the holy Apostle Philip, took myrrh from her relics, and healed the sick with it.

During the persecution by Decius (249-251), Myrope went with her mother to the island of Chios, where they spent their time in fasting and prayer. Once, by order of the cruel governor of the island, the soldier Isidore (May 14), a man of deep faith and great piety, was martyred. St Myrope secretly removed the body of the martyr and buried it. The soldiers, who had been ordered not to allow the Christians to take Isidore's body, were sentenced to death.

St Myrope took pity on the condemned, and she told the soldiers and then the governor what she had done. At the trial she confessed herself a Christian. For this they gave her a fierce beating and then threw her in prison. At midnight, while she was praying, a light shone in the prison. St Isidore appeared surrounded by angels, and St Myrope surrendered her soul to God. The prison was immediately filled with a sweet fragrance. The pagan guard, trembling at the vision, told this to a priest. Later, he accepted Baptism and a martyric death for his confession of Christ.



Monday, December 01, 2008

Righteous Philaret the Merciful of Amnia in Asia Minor

Commemorated on December 1

Righteous Philaret the Merciful, son of George and Anna, was raised in piety and the fear of God. He lived during the eighth century in the village of Amneia in the Paphlagonian district of Asia Minor. His wife, Theoseba, was from a rich and illustrious family, and they had three children: a son John, and daughters Hypatia and Evanthia.

Philaret was a rich and illustrious dignitary, but he did not hoard his wealth. Knowing that many people suffered from poverty, he remembered the words of the Savior about the dread Last Judgment and about "these least ones" (Mt. 25:40); the the Apostle Paul's reminder that we will take nothing with us from this world (1 Tim 6:7); and the assertion of King David that the righteous would not be forsaken (Ps 36/37:25). Philaret, whose name means "lover of virtue," was famed for his love for the poor.

One day Ishmaelites [Arabs] attacked Paphlagonia, devastating the land and plundering the estate of Philaret. There remained only two oxen, a donkey, a cow with her calf, some beehives, and the house. But he also shared them with the poor. His wife reproached him for being heartless and unconcerned for his own family. Mildly, yet firmly he endured the reproaches of his wife and the jeers of his children. "I have hidden away riches and treasure," he told his family, "so much that it would be enough for you to feed and clothe yourselves, even if you lived a hundred years without working."

The saint's gifts always brought good to the recipient. Whoever received anything from him found that the gift would multiply, and that person would become rich. Knowing this, a certain man came to St Philaret asking for a calf so that he could start a herd. The cow missed its calf and began to bellow. Theoseba said to her husband, "You have no pity on us, you merciless man, but don't you feel sorry for the cow? You have separated her from her calf." The saint praised his wife, and agreed that it was not right to separate the cow and the calf. Therefore, he called the poor man to whom he had given the calf and told him to take the cow as well.

That year there was a famine, so St Philaret took the donkey and went to borrow six bushels of wheat from a friend of his. When he returned home, a poor man asked him for a little wheat, so he told his wife to give the man a bushel. Theoseba said, "First you must give a bushel to each of us in the family, then you can give away the rest as you choose." Philaretos then gave the man two bushels of wheat. Theoseba said sarcastically, "Give him half the load so you can share it." The saint measured out a third bushel and gave it to the man. Then Theoseba said, "Why don't you give him the bag, too, so he can carry it?" He gave him the bag. The exasperated wife said, "Just to spite me, why not give him all the wheat." St Philaret did so.

Now the man was unable to lift the six bushels of wheat, so Theoseba told her husband to give him the donkey so he could carry the wheat home. Blessing his wife, Philaret gave the donkey to the man, who went home rejoicing. Theoseba and the children wept because they were hungry.

The Lord rewarded Philaret for his generosity: when the last measure of wheat was given away, a old friend sent him forty bushels. Theoseba kept most of the wheat for herself and the children, and the saint gave away his share to the poor and had nothing left. When his wife and children were eating, he would go to them and they gave him some food. Theoseba grumbled saying, "How long are you going to keep that treasure of yours hidden? Take it out so we can buy food with it."

During this time the Byzantine empress Irene (797-802) was seeking a bride for her son, the future emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos (780-797). Therefore, emissaries were sent throughout all the Empire to find a suitable girl, and the envoys came to Amneia.

When Philaret and Theoseba learned that these most illustrious guests were to visit their house, Philaret was very happy, but Theoseba was sad, for they did not have enough food. But Philaret told his wife to light the fire and to decorate their home. Their neighbors, knowing that imperial envoys were expected, brought everything required for a rich feast.

The envoys were impressed by the saint's daughters and granddaughters. Seeing their beauty, their deportment, their clothing, and their admirable qualities, the envoys agreed that Philaret' granddaughter, Maria was exactly what they were looking for. This Maria exceeded all her rivals in quality and modesty and indeed became Constantine's wife, and the emperor rewarded Philaret.

Thus fame and riches returned to Philaret. But just as before, this holy lover of the poor generously distributed alms and provided a feast for the poor. He and his family served them at the meal. Everyone was astonished at his humility and said: "This is a man of God, a true disciple of Christ."

He ordered a servant to take three bags and fill one with gold, one with silver, and one with copper coins. When a beggar approached, Philaret ordered his servant to bring forth one of the bags, whichever God's providence would ordain. Then he would reach into the bag and give to each person, as much as God willed.

St Philaret refused to wear fine clothes, nor would he accept any imperial rank. He said it was enough for him to be called the grandfather of the Empress. The saint reached ninety years of age and knew his end was approaching. He went to the Rodolpheia ("The Judgment") monastery in Constantinople. He gave some gold to the Abbess and asked her to allow him to be buried there, saying that he would depart this life in ten days.

He returned home and became ill. On the tenth day he summoned his family, he exhorted them to imitate his love for the poor if they desired salvation. Then he fell asleep in the Lord. He died in the year 792 and was buried in the Rodolpheia Judgment monastery in Constantinople.

The appearance of a miracle after his death confirmed the sainthood of Righteous Philaret. As they bore the body of the saint to the cemetery, a certain man, possessed by the devil, followed the funeral procession and tried to overturn the coffin. When they reached the grave, the devil threw the man down on the ground and went out of him. Many other miracles and healings also took place at the grave of the saint.

After the death of the righteous Philaret, his wife Theoseba worked at restoring monasteries and churches devastated during a barbarian invasion.

Troparion - Tone 3 From the wealth of your faith in God, You distributed your riches to the poor, O Philaret. Your life was adorned with compassion And you glorified the Giver of mercy. Implore him to have compassion and mercy on those who praise you!

Kontakion - Tone 3
You possessed the spirit of Job in temptations, And compassionately distributed your wealth to the poor. You were a living fountain of almsgiving, And by your manner of life you gladden those who cry: Rejoice, O Philaret, servant of Christ God!