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The Holy Orthodox commemorates today Saint Theodora the Holy Empress – February 11/24

Saint Theodora the Empress

Saint Theodora the holy empress was from Paphlagonia, and she was the daughter of Marinus, the commander of a military regiment.  She then became the wife of the Roman Emperor Theophilos the iconoclast (829-842), but did not share the heresy of her husband.  During this time, Saint Theodora adorned the royal diadem with her virtue and piety; and privately venerated icons, despite his displeasure.  After Theophilos died, she governed the empire wisely for fifteen years, since their son Michael was too young.

Saint Theodora the Empresss

Saint Theodora convened a synod, at which the iconoclasts were anathematized, and the veneration of the icons were reinstated.   Saint Theodore established the annual celebration of this event, the Triumph of Orthodoxy, on the first Sunday of the Great Fast.  Saint Theodora did much for the Holy Orthodox Church, and fostered a firm devotion in her son, the future emperor, Michael.

Saint Theodora the Empresssss

 

When Michael became of age, in 857 Saint Theodora retired, and became a nun in the monastery of Saint Euphrosyne for eight years.  She lived a life of ascetic struggle, and read Orthodox books that nourished her soul.  Saint Theodora copied the four Gospels in her own hand, and they still exist to this day.

Saint Theodora the Empressss

Saint Theodora reposed in peace in 867.

Saint Theodora the Empress reliquary

Saint Theodora’s incorrupt and miracle-working relics were given to the people of Kerkyra (Corfu) by the Turks in 1456.  They remain in the church of the Most Holy Theotokos of the Cave, in the capital city of the island, and it is a place of pious pilgrimage by the Orthodox people to this very day.

 

 

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 honour 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 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.

 

 

 

 

Saint Gregory of Nyssa +395

Saint Gregory of Nyssa Feast Day January ten on the Orthodox Calenday and twenty three on the civil calendar

Today the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates:
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
Jan 10/23

Saint Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, was a younger brother of Saint Basil the Great (Jan.1).   His mother, Saint Emmelia and renowned lawyer father raised nine children–five girls and four boys—of whom, one brother Saint Nacratious was a lawyer and another, Saint Peter was the Bishop of Sebasta, a small town on the Mediterranean coast.   Of the other brother and four sisters, little is known.  Macrina, Gregory’s older sister, was widely known and beloved for her devout and holy life, who ultimately was honored as a saint.  She was Gregory’s confidant, sometimes intellectual partner, and deep spiritual influence, who influenced his ordination decision.  Saint Basil was the driving force in Saint Gregory’s decision to pursue holy orders.    In a letter to Saint Peter, Saint Gregory expressed his deep gratitude to their older brother  whom he described as “our father and our master.”

Having received an excellent education, he had trained for and started a career as a teacher of rhetoric, the study of effective pubic speaking and writing.  His family, however, did not support his career choice and tried to convince Saint Gregory to use his talents in the service of the Church.   When he chose to become a teacher, his brother Saint Basil, by then a powerful bishop, objected to and argued against Saint Gregory’s choice with long and impatient letters.  Saint  Basil initially failed to persuade his young brother of his mistake, but ultimately with Gregory’s friends and sister, Saint Macrina, St. Basil persuaded Gregory to become a priest.  Saint Gregory was a reluctant cleric, but shortly thereafter, in the year 372, he was consecrated by Saint Basil as bishop of the city of Nyssa in Cappadocia.

Saint Gregory’s large body of theological work and his many letters constitute an eloquent and intellectually distinctive contribution to Orthodox theology and spirituality.  His Catechism is testimony to his profound grasp of Christian belief. In The Life of Moses, Saint Gregory’s mystical portrayal of God–simultaneously audacious and humble and thoroughly brilliant—has no parallel in Christian thought.  Similarly, his letters are models of elegant grace and beauty, some miraculously anticipating a style of writing and thought not to arise until 1400 years later in the Romantic era of western literature.  He was a gifted writer and speaker who delighted in language and its power to persuade and invoke the senses while illuminating the intellect, a wholly unmatched attribute among writers of his period and unique among the early Church Fathers.

In 787 A.D., roughly four centuries after his repose, the Seventh General Council of the Church honored Saint Gregory of Nyssa by naming him, “Father of Fathers.”

St Gregory was an ardent advocate for Orthodoxy, and he fought against the Arian heresy with his brother Saint Basil.   He was persecuted by the Arians, and falsely accused of improper use of church property, and thereby deprived of his See and sent to Ancyra.

In the following year Saint Gregory was again deposed in absentia by a council of Arian bishops, but he continued to encourage his flock in Orthodoxy, wandering about from place to place.  After the death of the emperor Valens (378), Saint Gregory was restored to his cathedra and was joyously received by his flock.  His brother St Basil the Great died in 379.

With much difficulty Saint Gregory survived the loss of his brother and guide Saint Basil, who reposed in 379.   He delivered a funeral oration for him, and completed Saint Basil’s study of the six days of Creation, the Hexaemeron.  That same year Saint Gregory participated in the Council of Antioch against heretics who refused to recognize the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God.  Others at the opposite extreme, who worshipped the Mother of God as being God Herself, were also denounced by the Council.  He visited the churches of Arabia and Palestine, which were infected with the Arian heresy, to assert the Orthodox teaching about the Most Holy Theotokos.  On his return journey Saint Gregory visited Jerusalem and the Holy Places.

In the year 381 Saint Gregory was one of the chief figures of the Second Ecumenical Council, convened at Constantinople against the heresy of Macedonius, who incorrectly taught about the Holy Spirit.  At this Council, on the initiative of Saint Gregory, the Nicean Symbol of Faith (the Creed) was completed.

Together with the other bishops Saint Gregory affirmed Saint Gregory the Theologian as Archpastor of Constantinople.

In the year 383, Saint Gregory participated in a Council at Constantinople, where he preached a sermon on the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit.  In 386, he was again at Constantinople, and he was asked to speak the funeral oration in memory of the empress Placilla.  Again in 394 Sainat Gregory was present in Constantinople at a local Council, convened to resolve church matters in Arabia.

Saint Gregory was a fiery defender of Orthodox dogmas and a zealous teacher of his flock, a kind and compassionate father to his spiritual children, and their intercessor before the courts.  He was distinguished by his magnanimity, patience and love of peace.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa reposed in 395, having reached old age.  Together with his great contemporaries, Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory the Theologian, he had a significant influence on the Church life of his time.  His sister, Saint Macrina, wrote to him: “You are renowned both in the cities, and gatherings of people, and throughout entire districts.  Churches ask you for help.” Saint Gregory is known in history as one of the most profound Christian thinkers of the fourth century.  Endowed with philosophical talent, he saw philosophy as a means for a deeper penetration into the authentic meaning of divine revelation.

Gregory left behind many remarkable works of dogmatic character, as well as sermons and discourses. He has been called “the Father of Fathers.”

O holy Saint Gregory of Nyssa, please intercede for us all that we will be saved!

 

Troparion — Tone 4

O God of our Fathers, / always act with kindness towards us; / take not Your mercy from us, / but guide our lives in peace / through the prayers of the hierarchs Gregory and Dometian.

Troparion — Tone 4

In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith, / an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence; / your humility exalted you; / your poverty enriched you. / Hierarch Father Gregory, / entreat Christ our God / that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion — Tone 1

You kept watch with the eyes of your soul, holy bishop, / revealing yourself as a watchful pastor for the world. / With the staff of your wisdom and your fervent intercession, / you drove away all heretics like wolves. / You preserved your flock free from harm, most wise Gregory!

The Holy Virgin Martyr Saint Parthena of Edessa +1375

Saint Parthena the Holy Virgin Martyr of Edessa Macedonia

Saint Parthena was born in the city of Edessa in Macedonia in the 14th century.  As was her name, so was her life, for she was a virgin, living in asceticism and modesty.

In about the year 1375, the Turks attacked Edessa, and the citizens of Edessa opposed them with a strong defense.  They were strengthened and encourage by Hieromonk Seraphim, who was the parish priest of the cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos.   But unfortunately the enemy was numerous and well organized.

One of the elders of the town by the name of Peter, who was the father of Saint Parthena, was paid a lot of money by the Pasha to betray the city.   The Turks invaded Edessa on December 26, 1375 from the southeastern part, which he guarded, where one of the main bastions of the city was.   Immediately they started a battle, they slaughtered and enslaved its inhabitants with plunders and dishonors.   They arrested Father Seraphim, and after cruel tortures, they drowned him in a great waterfall.

Saint Parthena’s evil father, then denied Christ and became a muslim.   He then handed over his daughter to be the concubine of the Pasha, after having tried to convince her to renounce Christ.   When Saint Parthena heard these words of her father, like another Saint Barbara, she shuddered and rebuked with spiritual bravery her miserable father, and confessed that she would never betray her heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.   Instead of repenting and being remorseful, he became enraged and was like a wild beast.   He began to beat the Saint until blood was spilled and she couldn’t feel anything.   He then unclothed her and handed her over to  the Turks.   The soldiers tortured her for three days.  Finally she was led naked to a hill and they buried her alive.  This hill is still called “Hill of the Virgin”.

O Holy Saint Parthena, please intercede for us all that we be saved!

 

Apolytikion – Tone 3

Divine offspring, Edessa’s provider, and equal in honor with the renowned Martyrs, Champion who bears the name Parthena, and rebuked the wickedness of your father, with a godly mind you endured the contest for Christ, wherefore intercede for those who honour you, that our sins be remitted and for great mercy.

 

Kontakion – Tone 3

Celebrating today, is the city of Edessa, your holy memory, Virgin Martyr Parthena, rejoicing for faithfully rearing you in the Lord, singing of the struggle of your martyrdom, which you accomplished courageously, for the glory of Christ all-praised one.

 

Megalynarion

Rejoice, beauty of the people of Edessa, godly minded Parthena, incorrupt bride of Christ;  rejoice amusement of the Orthodox, modest Virgin Martyr worthy of wonder.

 

 

 

Saint Domnica of Constantinople +395

Saint Domnica, her Feastday is January eight on the True Orthodox Calendar and January twenty first on the civil calendar

 

Today the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates:
Saint Domnica of Constantinople  +395
Jan 8/21

Saint Domnica was born in Rome and reared in the love of Christ. She secretly left her parents’ house and traveled by ship to Alexandria, where she found lodging with four virtuous pagan maidens. By her example and counsel these four were in time led to abandon idolatry and embrace Domnica’s faith. The five then sailed to Constantinople, where it is said that the Patriarch Nectarius (October 11) was notified of their coming by an angel and met them at the dock. The Patriarch baptized the four maidens himself, giving them the names Dorothea, Evanthia, Nonna and Timothea, then settle them and Domnica in a monastery.

Soon the fame of Domnica’s pure life, wise teaching, and wondrous healings spread throughout the city, and even the Emperor Theodosius, with the Empress and his court, came to see her. Soon the crowds made it impossible for her and her sisters to live the heavenly life for which they had entered the monastery; so they relocated the monastery to a remote, demon-haunted location where executions had once commonly been performed, since everyone avoided the area. Here a new monastery was built by order of the Emperor, and the sisters found peace.

Saint Domnica’s fame continued, and she became not only a healer but an oracle for the city of Constantinople, prophesying the death of the Emperor Theodosius and the unrest which followed it. She reposed in peace, having first entrusted the care of the monastery to Dorothea. At the moment of her death, the whole monastery was shaken, and those present saw Saint Domnica dressed as a bride, being borne heavenward escorted by a company of white-clad monks and nuns.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Love for Christ illumined thy nous, and thou didst shine in asceticism like a radiant lamp, O Domnica.  Hence the Master revealed thee as a light-bearing guide of monastics in life and word.  Intercede with Him, O God-bearer, that we may all be saved.

Kontakion in the First Tone
Thou didst gather a choir of virgins by thy holy works and wise teachings.  Thou didst lead them to the bridal chamber where in is the tree of life.   By thy prayers grant life to my deadened soul, God-inspired, Mother Domnica.

 

 

Hieromartyr Saint Zoticus the Priest of Constantinople, Feeder of Orphans +340

Saint Zoticus Keeper of Orphans

The Holy Orthodox Church commemorates:
Martyr Zoticus of Constantinople, feeder of orphans
December 30/Jan 12 and Dec 31/Jan 7

Hieromartyr Saint Zoticus, Protector of Orphans, an illustrious and rich Roman, was in the service of Saint Constantine the Great (306-337). When the emperor transferred the capital from Rome to Constantinople, Saint Zoticus also moved there. Soon, however, spurning worldly honors, Saint Zoticus was ordained to the holy priesthood. An outbreak of leprosy in the new City became so severe that the Emperor ordered that all lepers, whatever their rank, be driven from the city or drowned in the sea. Zoticus, moved by compassion for these people, went to the Emperor and asked him for a large amount of gold to buy gems and pearls to enhance the glory of the city, ‘For, as Your Majesty knows, I am well-qualified in this field.’ The Saint then used the gold to ransom all those being led into exile or to drowning, and to establish for them a camp on the hill of Olivet on the opposite shore of the Bosphorus. There he brought the sick and provided for their care. Then, receiving funds from Saint Constantine, he built a place of treatment for the sick, a shelter for the homeless, where he took in those afflicted with leprosy, rescuing them from the soldiers, who had been ordered to drown them in the sea.

In the year 337 Constantius, an Arian heretic, and the son of Saint Constantine, took the throne upon the death of his father. Some of Saint Zoticus’ enemies at court, seeing an opportunity, denounced Zoticus to the new Emperor, saying that he not only held subversive views, but had misappropriated public money. When he learned of these charges, Zoticus presented himself to the Emperor, finely dressed, and offered to take Constantius to see the gems and pearls that he had bought on his behalf. When they reached the hill of Olivet, Constantius was astonished to see a company of lepers coming to greet him with lighted candles, honoring and praising him and their patron Saint Zoticus. Then the holy Zoticus said to the Emperor, ‘These are the precious stones and brilliant pearls that give luster to the crown of the heavenly Kingdom that you will inherit by their prayers. I bought them for the salvation of your soul.’

The heartless Emperor, instead of being grateful, ordered that Zoticus be tied behind wild mules and dragged until he died. The mules ran down the hill, breaking the Saint’s body upon the rocks and brush. Then, of their own accord, they returned to the top of the hill, still dragging the body, and, like Balaam’s donkey (Numbers ch. 22), spoke and proclaimed that the Martyr must be buried on that hill. The astonished and repentant Emperor ordered the Martyr buried with honor, and commanded that a hospital for lepers be built there, staffed by the best physicians and caretakers.

Saint Zoticus is also called Orphanotrophos, ‘Cherisher of Orphans,’ because in later years a large orphanage was added to the leprosarium. The orphanage included a general hospital and a home for the aged. The Saint was honored throughout Byzantine history as the patron of the orphanage.

The Blessed Empress Saint Theophania +893

Saint Theophano the empressSt. Theophano the empress

Saint Theophania the Empress came from a devout and noble family of Constantinople, Constantine and Anna, who were kin to several emperors.
Her parents were childless for a long time and prayed to the Most-holy Theotokos to give them an offspring. And God gave them this daughter, Theophania.
Imbued with the Christian spirit from her childhood, Theophano surpassed all her companions in all the Christian virtues.
When she grew up, she entered into marriage with Leo [886–911], the son of Emperor Basil the Macedonian.
She endured great hardships alongside her husband.
Responding to slander – that Leo carried a knife in his boot and planned to kill his father at an opportune time – the gullible father, Basil, locked his son and daughter-in-law in prison.
Thus, two innocent souls languished in prison for three years.
Once, during the Feast of the Prophet Elias, the emperor summoned all his noblemen to his court for a banquet. Suddenly the emperor’s parrot unexpectedly spoke these words, “Alas, alas, my Lord Leo”! and repeated these words a number of times.
This brought great anxiety to all of the imperial noblemen, and they all begged the emperor to release his son and daughter-in-law. The grieved emperor did so.

Remarkably, while Saint Theophania was born into an aristocratic house and married into the imperial palace, she always led an ascetic life. Hymnography recalls how she renounced earthly riches, leading instead a life of prayer and almsgiving.
After his father’s death, Leo became emperor and was called “the Wise”.
Saint Theophania did not consider her imperial dignity as anything, but, completely devoted to God, she cared only about the salvation of her soul, fasting and praying, distributing many alms, and restoring many monasteries and churches.
Neither an untrue word nor an excessive word nor, least of all, slander proceeded from her lips.
Before her death she called all her closest friends, took leave of them and gave up her soul to her God in the year 892.

The Emperor Leo wanted to build a church over her grave in her name, but since the patriarch objected to this, he built a church to All Saints, saying that if Saint Theophania became a saint, she would be Glorified together with the other Saints.
The Feast of All Saints was then instituted to be celebrated on the Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity.   Saint Nikolai Velimirovich

The Relics of Saint Theophania
Like icons, relics are a central aspect of Orthodox Christian worship.   The theology of relics is grounded in the Orthodox doctrine of deification, or Theosis, namely the Sanctification of
the entire human Person—Body and Soul.
They underline the fullness of the Transfiguration of the material world by Divine Grace and serve as a reminder of the essential Unity between the living Church and the Church Triumphant.
They are normally enshrined in elaborately crafted containers, or reliquaries, displayed for veneration and commemoration by the faithful.

Evidence for the preservation and veneration of sacred relics dates back to at least the mid-second century.
Popular veneration of relics further contributed to the unity of the Church during the Byzantine era.
The relics of three women saints of the Church are preserved intact in a row of reliquaries to the right of the Column of Flagellation in the Saint George Church of the Phanar.
Those of Saint Theophania are in the first reliquary.

Apolytikion  – 4th Tone
Preferring heavenly things unto the earthly,
thou while on earth didst live the life of the Angels,
raised up on godly longing, O Theophania.
Wherefore, thou hast been vouchsafed Heaven’s graces and visions,
standing with the Angels’ hosts and the Saints’ fair assemblies before the King of all,
Whom thou didst love; pray Him to grant us His mercy and blessedness.

Kontakion  – 4th Tone
As we celebrate today thy radiant feast-day, O divine Theophania,
we cry with rev’rence unto thee:
Preserve thy servants, who sing thy praise,
from every manner of peril and suffering.

HYMN OF PRAISE
Saint Theophania the Empress
From a royal throne, it is better seen:
The vanity of the world, clever vanity,
And the imperial throne is mercilessly struck
By the tumultuous waves of this world.
Theophania clearly examines
The insane, open sea of this world,
And her heart, her troubled heart,
Is firmly anchored to the Living God.
The kings of this world-are they kings?
They are but many sentries on a quick rotation!
Death counts and carries out the change of these sentries-
Kings of the world: passing shadows!
Theophania, like the wise virgins,
The lamp of her heart lit by the spirit,
Illumined the path with a wonderful light,
Happily avoiding the pits of sin.
Now blessed in the Eternal Kingdom,
Among the stars, and shining like one,
Where there is no pain or change,
Theophania now reigns.

Saint BarbaraSaint Barbara - Georgian Icon

Today the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates: Great Martyr
Saint Barbara, Protectress from Sudden Death

Dec 4-17

Saint Barbara's martyrdomOur Holy Great Martyr Saint Barbara lived and suffered during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-311). Her father, the pagan Dioscorus, was a rich and illustrious man in the Syrian city of Heliopolis. After the death of his wife, he devoted himself to his only daughter.

Dioscorus decided to hide Saint Barbara from the eyes of strangers because she was so beautiful.  So, he built a tower for her, where only pagan teachers were allowed to see her. From the tower there was a view of hills stretching into the distance. By day, she was able to gaze upon the wooded hills, the swiftly flowing rivers, and the meadows covered with a mottled blanket of flowers; by night the harmonious and majestic vault of the heavens twinkled and provided a spectacle of inexpressible beauty. Soon the virgin began to ask herself questions about the First Cause and Creator of so harmonious and splendid a world.

She became convinced that the soulless idols were merely the work of human hands. Although her father and teachers offered them worship, she realized that the idols could not have made the surrounding world. The desire to know the true God so consumed her soul that Barbara decided to devote all her life to this goal, and to spend her life in virginity.

Many young men sought her hand in marriage because of her beauty. But despite the entreaties of her father, she refused all of them. Barbara warned her father that his persistence might end tragically and separate them forever. Dioscorus decided that the temperament of his daughter had been affected by her life of seclusion. He therefore permitted her to leave the tower and gave her full freedom in her choice of friends and acquaintances. Thus Barbara met young Christian maidens in the city, and they taught her about the Creator of the world, about the Trinity, and about the Divine Logos. Through the Providence of God, a priest arrived in Heliopolis from Alexandria disguised as a merchant. After instructing her in the mysteries of the Christian Faith, he baptized Barbara, then returned to his own country.

In the meantime a most awesome bathhouse was being built at the house of Dioscorus. By his orders, the workers prepared to put two windows on the south side. But Barbara, taking advantage of her father’s absence, asked them to make a third window, thereby forming a Trinity of light. On one of the walls of the bath-house Barbara traced a cross with her finger. The cross was deeply etched into the marble, as if by an iron instrument. Later, her footprints were imprinted on the stone steps of the bathhouse. The water of the bathhouse had great healing power. St. Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9) compared the bathhouse to the stream of Jordan and the Pool of Siloam, because by God’s power, many miracles took place there.

Dioscorus returned and was quite upset about the change in his building plans, his daughter told him about how she had come to know the Triune God, about the saving power of the Son of God, and about the futility of worshipping idols. Dioscorus went into a rage, grabbed a sword and was on the point of striking her with it. The holy virgin fled from her father, and he rushed after her in pursuit. His way became blocked by a hill, which opened up and concealed the saint in a crevice. On the other side of the crevice was an entrance leading upwards. St Barbara managed then to conceal herself in a cave on the opposite slope of the hill.

After a long time of trying to find his daughter, Dioscorus saw two shepherds on the hill. One of them showed him the cave where the saint had hidden. Dioscorus beat his daughter terribly, and then placed her under guard and tried to wear her down with hunger. Finally he handed her over to the prefect of the city, named Martianus. They beat St. Barbara fiercely: they struck her with rawhide, and rubbed her wounds with a hair cloth to increase her pain. By night, St. Barbara prayed fervently to her Heavenly Bridegroom, and the Savior Himself appeared and healed her wounds. Then they subjected the saint to new, and even more frightful torments.

There was a virtuous Christian woman who lived in Heliopolis, Saint Juliana, who witnessed the torture of Saint Barbara. Her heart was filled with sympathy for the voluntary martyrdom of the beautiful and illustrious maiden. Saint Juliana also wanted to suffer for Christ. She began to denounce the torturers in a loud voice, and they seized her.

Saint Barbara and Saint Juliana were tortured for a long time. Their bodies were raked and wounded with hooks, and then they were led naked through the city amidst derision and jeers. Through the prayers of Saint Barbara, the Lord sent an angel who covered the nakedness of the holy martyrs with a splendid robe. Then the steadfast confessors of Christ, Saint Barbara and Saint Juliana, were beheaded. Dioscorus himself executed his daughter Saint Barbara. The wrath of God was not slow to punish both torturers, Martianus and Dioscorus. They were killed after being struck by lightning.

During the sixth century the relics of the holy Great Martyr Barbara were transferred to Constantinople. Six hundred years later, they were transferred to Kiev (July 11) by Barbara, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenos, who married the Russian prince Michael Izyaslavich. They rest even now at Kiev’s Saint Vladimir cathedral, where an Akathist to the saint is served each Tuesday.

Pious Orthodox Christians are in the habit of chanting the Troparion of Saint Barbara each day, recalling the Savior’s promise to her that those who remembered her and her sufferings would be preserved from a sudden, unexpected death, and would not depart this life without benefit of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.

VA_266

Saint Barbara’s reliquary

Troparion to Saint Barbara:
Let us honour Saint Barbara, for she hath broken the snares of the enemy; and like a sparrow, she the all-modest maiden was delivered out of them by the help and weapon of the Cross.

Kontakion of Saint Barbara:
O modest trophy-bearer, as thou didst follow Him that in Trinity is hymned with true reverence, thou didst forsake devotion to idolatry; nor didst thou shrink back in fear from the threats of the tyrants while contesting manfully in the battle, O Barbara, while ever loudly singing:  I adore the Holy Trinity the One Divinity.

Saint Nilus the Faster, of Sinai +451

Saint Nilus the Ascetic

 

Saint Nilus was born in Constantinople.    He lived during the fifth century and was a disciple of Saint John Chrysostom.    Having received a fine education, the saint was appointed to the important post of prefect of the capital while still a young man.   During this time, Saint Nilus was married and had children, but the pomp of courtly life bothered the couple.    Saint John Chrysostom exerted a tremendous influence upon their lives and their strivings.    The spouses decided to separate and devote themselves to the monastic life.

The wife and daughter of Saint Nilus went to one of the women’s monasteries in Egypt, and Saint Nilus and his son Theodulus went to Sinai, where they settled in a cave dug out by their own hands.    For forty years this cave served as the dwelling of St Nilus. By fasting, prayer and works, the monk attained a high degree of spiritual perfection. People began to come to him from every occupation and social rank from the emperor down to the farmer, and each found counsel and comfort from the saint.

Saint Nilus wrote many soul-profiting works to guide Christians on the path of salvation.    In one of his letters there is an angry denunciation of the emperor Arcadius, who had exiled Saint John Chrysostom.    The ascetic works of the venerable Nilus are widely known: they are perfectly executed in form, profoundly Orthodox in content, and are clear and lucid in expression.    His Ascetic Discourse is found in Volume I of the English PHILOKALIA.

Saint Nilus suffered many misfortunes in the wilderness. Once, Saracens captured his son Theodulus, whom they intended to offer as a sacrifice to their pagan gods.    Through the prayers of the saint the Lord saved Theodulus, and his father found him with the Bishop of Emessa, who had ransomed the young man from the barbarians.   This bishop ordained both of them as presbyters.    After ordination they returned to Sinai, where they lived as ascetics together until the death of Saint Nilus.

 

Some sayings of Saint Nilus:

“Pray firstly to be purified of passions, secondly to be freed from ignorance and forgetfulness, and thirdly to be delivered from all temptation and forsaking.”

“He who endures distress, will be granted joys; and he who bears with unpleasant things, will not be deprived of the pleasant.”

“Prayer frees the mind of all thought of the sensory and raises it to God Himself, Who is above all, to converse with Him and daringly ask Him for anything. Thus a man spends his life in purity, as one who, having already experienced communion with God, is thereupon again preparing for this communion.”

“Why do demons wish to excite in us gluttony, fornication, greed, anger, rancor and other passions? So that the mind, under their weight, should be unable to pray as it ought; for when the passions of our irrational part begin to act, they prevent the mind from acting rationally.”

The Prophecy of Saint Nilus

The Plight of the World and the Church during the 20th Century

By SAINT NILUS (d. circa AD 430)

After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century, the people of that time will become unrecognizable. When the time for the Advent of the Antichrist approaches, people’s minds will grow cloudy from carnal passions, and dishonor and lawlessness will grow stronger. Then the world will become unrecognizable.

People’s appearances will change, and it will be impossible to distinguish men from women due to their shamelessness in dress and style of hair. These people will be cruel and will be like wild animals because of the temptations of the Antichrist. There will be no respect for parents and elders, love will disappear, and Christian pastors, bishops, and priests will become vain men, completely failing to distinguish the right-hand way from the left.

At that time the morals and traditions of Christians and of the Church will change. People will abandon modesty, and dissipation will reign. Falsehood and greed will attain great proportions, and woe to those who pile up treasures. Lust, adultery, homosexuality, secret deeds and murder will rule in society.

At that future time, due to the power of such great crimes and licentiousness, people will be deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which they received in Holy Baptism and equally of remorse. The Churches of God will be deprived of God-fearing and pious pastors, and woe to the Christians remaining in the world at that time; they will completely lose their faith because they will lack the opportunity of seeing the light of knowledge from anyone at all. Then they will separate themselves out of the world in holy refuges in search of lightening their spiritual sufferings, but everywhere they will meet obstacles and constraints.

And all this will result from the fact that the Antichrist wants to be Lord over everything and become the ruler of the whole universe, and he will produce miracles and fantastic signs. He will also give depraved wisdom to an unhappy man so that he will discover a way by which one man can carry on a conversation with another from one end of the earth to the other.

At that time men will also fly through the air like birds and descend to the bottom of the sea like fish. And when they have achieved all this, these unhappy people will spend their lives in comfort without knowing, poor souls, that it is deceit of the Antichrist.

And, the impious one!—he will so complete science with vanity that it will go off the right path and lead people to lose faith in the existence of God in three hypostases. Then the All-good God will see the downfall of the human race and will shorten the days for the sake of those few who are being saved, because the enemy wants to lead even the chosen into temptation, if that is possible… then the sword of chastisement will suddenly appear and kill the perverter and his servants.

External links

 

Saint John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria

Saint John the Merciful

 

“Saint John the Merciful was born on Cyprus during the 7th century into the family of the illustrious dignitary Epiphanius.   His parents wanted him to marry, so he was obedient to them.    He then married, and he and his wife  had children.    When his wife died, he became a monk.   He was zealous in fasting and prayer, and had great love for those around him.

Saint John was very much honored among men because of his spiritual exploits, and even the emperor revered him.    When the Patriarchal throne of Alexandria fell vacant, the emperor Heraclius and all the clergy begged St John to become the next Patriarch.

He worthily assumed his archpastoral service, concerning himself with the moral and dogmatic welfare of his flock.    As patriarch he denounced every soul-destroying heresy, and drove out from Alexandria the Monophysite Phyllonos of Antioch.

Saint John considered his chief task to be charitable and to give help all those in need.   At the beginning of his patriarchal service he ordered his stewards to compile a list of all the poor and downtrodden in Alexandria, which turned out to be over seven thousand men.   The saint ordered that all of these unfortunates be provided for each day out of the church’s treasury.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, he emerged from the doors of the patriarchal cathedral, and sitting on the church portico, he received everyone in need.   He settled quarrels, helped the wronged, and distributed alms.   Three times a week he visited the sick-houses, and rendered assistance to the suffering.   It was during this period that the emperor Heraclius led a tremendous army against the Persian emperor Chosroes II.   The Persians ravaged and burned Jerusalem, taking a multitude of captives.   The holy Patriarch John gave a large portion of the church treasury for their ransom.

Saint John never turned his back on anyone.    One day, when the saint was visiting the sick, he met a beggar and commanded that he be given six silver coins.   The beggar changed his clothes, ran on ahead of the Patriarch, and again asked for alms.   Saint John gave him six more silver coins.   When, however, the beggar sought charity a third time, and the servants began to chase the fellow away, the Patriarch ordered that he be given twelve pieces of silver, saying, “Perhaps he is Christ putting me to the test.”   Twice the saint gave money to a merchant that had suffered shipwreck, and a third time gave him a ship belonging to the Patriarchate and filled with grain, with which the merchant had a successful journey and repaid his obligations.

Saint John was known for his gentle attitude towards people.   Once, the saint was compelled to excommunicate two clergymen for a certain time because of some offense.   One of them repented, but the other fellow became angry with the Patriarch and fell into greater sins.   The saint wanted to summon him and calm him with kind words, but it slipped his mind.   When he was celebrating the Divine Liturgy, the saint was suddenly reminded by the words of the Gospel: if you bring your gift to the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar … first, be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Mt. 5:23-24).   The saint came out of the altar, called the offending clergyman to him, and falling down on his knees before him in front of all the people he asked forgiveness.   The cleric, filled with remorse, repented of his sin, corrected himself, and afterwards was found worthy to be ordained to the priesthood.

One day someone had insulted George, the Patriarch’s nephew.    George asked the saint to avenge the wrong.    The saint promised to deal with the offender so that all of Alexandria would marvel at what he had done.    This calmed George, and Saint  John began to instruct him, speaking of the necessity for meekness and humility.    Then he summoned the man who insulted George. When Saint John learned that the man lived in a house owned by the church, he declared that he would excuse him from paying rent for an entire year.    Alexandria indeed was amazed by such a “revenge,” and George learned from his uncle how to forgive offenses and to bear insults for God’s sake.

Saint  John who was a very  strict ascetic and man of prayer, was always mindful of his soul, and always remembered death.    He ordered a coffin for himself, but told the craftsmen not to finish it.   Instead, he would have them come each feastday and ask if it was time to finish the work.

St John was asked by the governor Nicetas to go with him on a visit to the emperor in Constantinople.     While on his way to visit the earthly king, he dreamed of a resplendent man who said to him, “The King of Kings summons you.”    He sailed to his native island of Cyprus, and died at Amanthos, the saint peacefully fell asleep in the Lord (616-620).”

 

Just before the repose of Saint John, outside of what is today the town of Lemeso in Cyprus (which holds St. John as its Patron Saint) he wrote his will.   It is short but very  moving.

“I thank You, my Lord and God, for you made me worthy to give back the gifts which You gave me. I thank You, for you also heard my prayer and my work now that I am dying is none other than “a third coin”*, which I order to be given to my poor brothers. When by the grace of God I became bishop of Alexandria, I found in the treasury of my bishopric about 8,000 liters of gold. With the greatly gracious offerings of good-loving men, I established to gather [and distribute] an uncountable amount. All of which, which I knew, is a gift of Christ the king of all, which I returned with assiduity and care towards God, to whom they also belong. To Him I also now commend my soul.”

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone                                                                                            In patiently enduring, you obtained your reward, O venerable father. You persevered in your prayers without ceasing; and you loved the impoverished and you satisfied them. We entreat you, intercede with Christ God, O blessed John the Merciful, for the salvation of our souls.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Thy riches and wealth didst thou disperse unto the poor; thou now hast received the Heavens’ riches in return. For this cause, O all-wise John, we all honour thee with our songs of praise as we keep thy memorial, O namesake of almsgiving and of mercy.

 

 

Saint Martin of ToursSt.  Martin of Tours
Today the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates
Saint Martin the Merciful the Bishop of Tours
Nov 12/25

Saint Martin the Merciful, Bishop of Tours, was born at Sabaria in Pannonia (modern Hungary) in 316. Since his father was a Roman officer, he also was obliged to serve in the army. Martin did so unwillingly, for he considered himself a soldier of Christ, though he was still a catechumen.

At the gates of Amiens, he saw a beggar shivering in the severe winter cold, so he cut his cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the saint wearing Martin’s cloak. He heard the Savior say to the angels surrounding Him, “Martin is only a catechumen, but he has clothed Me with this garment.” The saint was baptized soon after this, and reluctantly remained in the army.

Two years later, the barbarians invaded Gaul and Martin asked permission to resign his commission for religious reasons. The commander charged him with cowardice. St Martin demonstrated his courage by offering to stand unarmed in the front line of battle, trusting in the power of the Cross to protect him. The next day, the barbarians surrendered without a fight, and Martin was allowed to leave the army.

He traveled to various places during the next few years, spending some time as a hermit on an island off Italy. He became friendly with St Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers (January 14), who made Matrin an exorcist. After several years of the ascetic life, St Martin was chosen to be Bishop of Tours in 371. As bishop, St Martin did not give up his monastic life, and the place where he settled outside Tours became a monastery. In fact, he is regarded as the founder of monasticism in France. He conversed with angels, and had visions of Saint Peter and SAint Paul (June 29) and of other saints. He is called the Merciful because of his generosity and care for the poor, and he received the grace to work miracles.

After a life of devoted service to Christ and His Church, the saint fell ill at Candes, a village in his diocese, where he died on November 8, 397. He was buried three days later (his present Feast) at Tours. During the Middle Ages, many Western churches were dedicated to St Martin, including St Martin’s in Canterbury, and St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

In 1008, a cathedral was built at Tours over the relics of St Martin. This cathedral was destroyed in 1793 during the French Revolution, together with the relics of St Martin and St Gregory of Tours (November 17). A new cathedral was built on the site many years later. Some fragments of the relics of St Martin were recovered and placed in the cathedral, but nothing remains of St Gregory’s relics.

Dismissal Hymn of Saint Martin. Fourth Tone
Be quick to anticipate

In signs and in miracles thou wast renowned throughout Gaul; * by grace and adoption now thou art a light for the world, O Martin, most blest of God. * Almsdeeds and compassion filled thy life with their splendour; * teaching and wise counsel were thy riches and treasures, * which thou dost dispense freely unto all them that honour thee.

Kontakion of Saint Martin. Plagal of Fourth Tone
As first-fruits of our nature

As a devoted man of God, thou didst proclaim His mysteries. * And as a seer of the Trinity, thou didst shed thy blessings on the Occident. * By thy prayers and entreaties, * O adornment of Tours and glory of all the Church, * preserve us, O Saint Martin, and save all who praise thy memory. See More