Monthly Archives: December 2015

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.