11TH SUNDAY OF LUKE
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
11th Sunday of Luke, Spyridon the Wonderworker of Trymithous, Holy New Martyr Peter the Aleut, John (or Joachim), Bishop of Zichni
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 5:8-19
Brethren, walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.
The Lord said this parable: “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; and at the time of the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for all is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and there is still room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet. For many are called, but few are chosen.'”
The Sunday that falls between December 11-17 is known as the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. These are the ancestors of Christ according to the flesh, who lived before the Law and under the Law, especially the Patriarch Abraham, to whom God said, “In thy seed shall all of the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3, 22:18).
The Righteous Aaron was the son of Amram and Jochebed, and the elder brother of the Prophet Moses the God-seer, and also of Miriam. He was a direct descendent of Levi by both parents. God called him “the Levite” in Exodus 4:14, when He appointed Aaron to be the spokesman for Moses, who was “slow of speech,” before the people. Later, he would also speak on behalf of Moses before Pharaoh in Egypt (Ex. 4:30; 7:2). Aaron was married to Elisheba, the daughter of the Prince of Judah (Ex. 6:23), who bore him four sons.
Moses was eighty years old and Aaron was eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh and asked that the Hebrews be released from their slavery. The Lord told Moses that Pharaoh would ask them for a miracle, and that Aaron should throw down his rod before him, and it would become a serpent (Ex. 7:9). When Pharaoh would not allow the Hebrews to leave Egypt, God told Moses to have Aaron stretch forth his rod over the Nile River, and it would turn to blood.
Following a succession of plagues, Pharaoh relented and let the people go, then Moses led them on their long journey to the Promised Land. In Chapter 17 of Exodus, the Hebrews fought Amalek in a battle at Rephidim. Moses stood atop a hill with the rod of God in his hand. As long as he raised his hand, the Hebrews prevailed, but when he became tired and lowered it, Amalek prevailed. Aaron and Hur sat Moses on a rock and held up his hands, one on each side. This was a prefiguration of the suffering of Christ, because the arms of Moses formed a cross. In the Greek Septuagint, the names Aaron and Hur begin with the letters Alpha and Omega, another reference to Christ (Revelation 1:8).
Aaron and his sons were anointed and sanctified to serve God as priests (Exodus chapter 29). In chapter 32, Aaron fell into temptation when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Commandments. Since Moses was taking a long time, the people grew restless and asked Aaron to make them a golden idol in the form of a calf so that they could offer sacrifices. He gave into them, and Moses was angry when he returned and saw them dancing and singing before the calf. He threw down the tablets on which God had written the Ten Commandments, and then he burned the golden calf and ground it to powder. He scattered the powder on the water, and he made the people drink it. When Moses asked those who were on the Lord’s side to gather around him, the Levites came to him. He ordered them to take their swords and slay their sons, companions, and neighbors. About three thousand people were killed that day.
Later, Aaron and Miriam criticized Moses for marrying a Cushite woman (Num. 12:1). God was angry with them, so He punished Miriam with leprosy. She was healed by God seven days after Moses interceded for her.
In chapter 17 of Numbers, the people murmured against Moses and Aaron, so God commanded that the leaders of the twelve tribes should have their names inscribed on their rods and placed in the tent of testimony. God would reveal His choice to make the people cease their grumbling against Moses and his brother. Aaron’s rod bloomed miraculously in the tent of the testimony, to show that he had been chosen for this purpose.
Aaron reposed atop Mount Hor when he was one hundred and twenty-three years old. One of his descendants was Saint Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist (Luke 1:5).
The youngest son of Jacob, he was called Benoni and then Benjamin (Genesis 35:16-18). Before his death Jacob blessed him in a seemingly backhanded way, saying that “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, devouring his prey in the morning, and dividing the spoil in the evening” (Genesis 49:27). Commentators say this is not a reference to Benjamin himself, but to the warlike nature of the tribe of Benjamin.
Information about the holy Prophetess and Judge Deborah may be found in the
Book of Judges 4:5-14, and also chapter 5.
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Information about the Righteous Judith may be found in the Old Testament book
bearing her name.
Saint Miriam, like her brothers Moses and Aaron, was descended from the tribe of Levi.
When Moses was an infant, the Hebrew midwives were ordered to kill any male child when they assisted at childbirths, but they refused to obey. Moses was hidden by his mother for three months, and then, when she could no longer do this, he was placed into a basket of reeds and set upon the waters of the Nile. Miriam watched in secret to see what would happen to him. When Pharaoh’s daughter found him, Miriam emerged from her place of concealment and offered to find a wet nurse from among the Hebrew women for the baby. Miriam went to get her mother, who raised her child until he was grown, and then returned him to Pharoah’s daughter (Exodus 2:10).
In the Torah, she is called “Miriam the Prophetess” (Exodus 15:20), while the Prophet Michah (6:4) has God say that He sent Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam before the Hebrews to lead them out of Egypt.
In Chapter 12 of the book of Numbers, Miriam and Aaron apparently criticize Moses for being married to a foreign woman of Cush (or an Ethiopian). This, however, was merely a pretext for their resentment. Actually, they were disturbed by Moses’ position as the sole mediator between God and the people. Miriam was a prophetess, after all. Miriam and Aaron questioned Moses, “Has the Lord spoken only to Moses? Has He not also spoken to us?” God then tells them that He speaks face to face with Moses, but only in visions to Miriam and Aaron while they are asleep. Then, for daring to speak against Moses, Miriam is punished with leprosy. Aaron pleads with Moses not to hold their sin against them, since they had acted out of ignorance. Even so, Miriam was set apart outside the camp for seven days, and then she was healed and allowed to come in.
In one of the stichera on the Praises for the Sunday before the Nativity, Sarah, Rebecca, Anna, and Miriam, “the glory of women,” are said to “exchange glad tidings.”
The Prophet Nathan was an advisor to King David and King Solomon. He is mentioned in the Prayer of Absolution in the Mystery of Confession: “It was God Who pardoned David through the Prophet Nathan when he had confessed his sin….” David had committed adultery with Uriah's wife Bathsheba, and had him killed. Then he took Bathsheba as his wife. David confessed his sin to Nathan (2 Samuel 12:13) and received pardon.
The Old Testament book of Nehemiah tells of how he returned from the Captivity in Babylon in the twentieth year of the Persian King Artaxerxes (445/444 B.C.) to rebuild Jerusalem and to govern the province. He and Ezra purified the Jewish people by making known the Law of Moses, and forcing the men to divorce their pagan wives.
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Rebecca was the wife of the Old Testament Patriarch Isaac, and the mother of Jacob and Esau. She is mentioned in Genesis 22:23; Chapters 24-28; and Chapter 49:31. Saint Paul also mentions her (Romans 9:10).
Sarah was the wife of the Old Testament Patriarch Abraham and the mother of Isaac. At first she was called Sarai, and her name was changed to Sarah (Genesis 17:15-16). The three men who visited Abraham at the oak of Mamre told her that she would conceive and have a son (Genesis 18:10). She did not believe them at first, since she and her husband were old, but they insisted that she would bear a son in the spring. Their prediction was fulfilled, and God did as He had promised (Genesis 21:1-3). Saint Andrew Rublev depicts the three men as angels in his most famous icon. Sarah is praised in the New Testament for her faith (Hebrews 11:11) and also for her obedience (I Peter 3:6).
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The 64-verse story of Susanna is found in the Septuagint Greek as a Preamble to the Book of Daniel. The Latin Vulgate, however, places the story of Susanna at the end of the Book of Daniel, which constitutes the book's thirteenth chapter.
Information about the Righteous Ruth, the wife of Boaz, may be found in the Old Testament book bearing her name.
Saint Mary is the mother of Saint Anna, and the grandmother of the Theotokos.
Saint Spyridon of Tremithus was born towards the end of the third century on the island of Cyprus. He was a shepherd, and had a wife and children. He used all his substance for the needs of his neighbors and the homeless, for which the Lord rewarded him with a gift of wonderworking. He healed those who were incurably sick, and cast out demons.
After the death of his wife, during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337), he was made Bishop of Tremithus, Cyprus. As a bishop, the saint did not alter his manner of life, but combined pastoral service with deeds of charity.
According to the witness of Church historians, Saint Spyridon participated in the sessions of the First Ecumenical Council in the year 325. At the Council, the saint entered into a dispute with a Greek philosopher who was defending the Arian heresy. The power of Saint Spyridon’s plain, direct speech showed everyone the importance of God’s wisdom before human wisdom: “Listen, philosopher, to what I tell you. There is one God Who created man from dust. He has ordered all things, both visible and invisible, by His Word and His Spirit. The Word is the Son of God, Who came down upon the earth on account of our sins. He was born of a Virgin, He lived among men, and suffered and died for our salvation, and then He arose from the dead, and He has resurrected the human race with Him. We believe that He is one in essence (consubstantial) with the Father, and equal to Him in authority and honor. We believe this without any sly rationalizations, for it is impossible to grasp this mystery by human reason.”
As a result of their discussion, the opponent of Christianity became the saint’s zealous defender and later received holy Baptism. After his conversation with Saint Spyridon, the philosopher turned to his companions and said, “Listen! Until now my rivals have presented their arguments, and I was able to refute their proofs with other proofs. But instead of proofs from reason, the words of this Elder are filled with some sort of special power, and no one can refute them, since it is impossible for man to oppose God. If any of you thinks as I do now, let him believe in Christ and join me in following this man, for God Himself speaks through his lips.”
At this Council, Saint Spyridon displayed the unity of the Holy Trinity in a remarkable way. He took a brick in his hand and squeezed it. At that instant fire shot up from it, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in the hands of the wonderworker. “There was only one brick,” Saint Spyridon said, “but it was composed of three elements. In the Holy Trinity there are three Persons, but only one God.”
The saint cared for his flock with great love. Through his prayers, drought was replaced by abundant rains, and incessant rains were replaced by fair weather. Through his prayers the sick were healed and demons cast out.
A woman once came up to him with a dead child in her arms, imploring the intercession of the saint. He prayed, and the infant was restored to life. The mother, overcome with joy, collapsed lifeless. Through the prayers of the saint of God, the mother was restored to life.
Another time, hastening to save his friend, who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death, the saint was hindered on his way by the unanticipated flooding of a stream. The saint commanded the water: “Halt! For the Lord of all the world commands that you permit me to cross so that a man may be saved.” The will of the saint was fulfilled, and he crossed over happily to the other shore. The judge, apprised of the miracle that had occurred, received Saint Spyridon with esteem and set his friend free.
Similar instances are known from the life of the saint. Once, he went into an empty church, and ordered that the lampadas and candles be lit, and then he began the service. When he said, “Peace be unto all,” both he and the deacon heard from above the resounding of a great multitude of voices saying, “And with thy spirit.” This choir was majestic and more sweetly melodious than any human choir. To each petition of the litanies, the invisible choir sang, “Lord, have mercy.” Attracted by the church singing, the people who lived nearby hastened towards it. As they got closer and closer to the church, the wondrous singing filled their ears and gladdened their hearts. But when they entered into the church, they saw no one but the bishop and several church servers, and they no longer heard the singing which had greatly astonished them.
Saint Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9), the author of his Life, likened Saint Spyridon to the Patriarch Abraham in his hospitality. Sozomen, in his Church History, offers an amazing example from the life of the saint of how he received strangers. One time, at the start of the Forty-day Fast, a stranger knocked at his door. Seeing that the traveller was very exhausted, Saint Spyridon said to his daughter, “Wash the feet of this man, so he may recline to dine.” But since it was Lent there were none of the necessary provisions, for the saint “partook of food only on certain days, and on other days he went without food.” His daughter replied that there was no bread or flour in the house. Then Saint Spyridon, apologizing to his guest, ordered his daughter to cook a salted ham from their larder. After seating the stranger at table, he began to eat, urging that man to do the same. When the latter refused, calling himself a Christian, the saint rejoined, “It is not proper to refuse this, for the Word of God proclaims, ‘Unto the pure all things are pure’” (Titus 1:15).
Another historical detail reported by Sozomen, was characteristic of the saint. It was his custom to distribute one part of the gathered harvest to the destitute, and another portion to those having need while in debt. He did not take a portion for himself, but simply showed them the entrance to his storeroom, where each could take as much as was needed, and could later pay it back in the same way, without records or accountings.
There is also the tale by Socrates Scholasticus about how robbers planned to steal the sheep of Saint Spyridon. They broke into the sheepfold at night, but here they found themselves all tied up by some invisible power. When morning came the saint went to his flock, and seeing the tied-up robbers, he prayed and released them. For a long while he advised them to leave their path of iniquity and earn their livelihood by respectable work. Then he made them a gift of a sheep and sending them off, the saint said kindly, “Take this for your trouble, so that you did not spend a sleepless night in vain.”
All the Lives of the saint speak of the amazing simplicity and the gift of wonderworking granted him by God. Through a word of the saint the dead were awakened, the elements of nature tamed, the idols smashed. At one point, a Council had been convened at Alexandria by the Patriarch to discuss what to do about the idols and pagan temples there. Through the prayers of the Fathers of the Council all the idols fell down except one, which was very much revered. It was revealed to the Patriarch in a vision that this idol had to be shattered by Saint Spyridon of Tremithus. Invited by the Council, the saint set sail on a ship, and at the moment the ship touched shore and the saint stepped out on land, the idol in Alexandria with all its offerings turned to dust, which then was reported to the Patriarch and all the bishops.
Saint Spyridon lived his earthly life in righteousness and sanctity, and prayerfully surrendered his soul to the Lord. His relics repose on the island of Corfu (Kerkyra), in a church named after him (His right hand, however, is located in Rome).
His memory is also celebrated on Cheesefare Saturday.
Saint Therapon of Monza was a monk in the monastery of Saint 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 Saint Paul of Obnora (January 10), seeking solitude, moved to the Monza and founded a monastery 25 versts from Galich. Saint 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, Saint 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.
The Hieromartyr Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem, was a disciple of the great teacher and writer of the Church, Clement of Alexandria. At the beginning of the third century he was chosen bishop of Flavia, Cappadocia. He was arrested during the reign of the emperor Septimus Severus (193-211) and spent three years in prison.
After his release from prison he went to Jerusalem to venerate the holy places, and was told to remain there through a divine revelation. In 212 he was chosen as coadministrator with the elderly Patriarch Narcissus, an unusually rare occurrence in the ancient Church. Following the death of Saint Narcissus (August 7), Saint Alexander succeeded him and governed the Church of Jerusalem for thirty-eight years, working for the enlightenment of Christians. He also established the first library of Christian theological works at Jerusalem.
Saint Alexander was arrested during the persecution of the Church under the emperor Decius (249-251). The holy martyr was sent to Cappadocia, where he suffered many tortures. He was condemned to be eaten by wild beasts, but they did not harm him. Saint Alexander was cast into prison, where he surrendered his soul to God.
The hieromartyr Alexander is also commemorated on May 16.
The Holy Martyr Synetus (the name is derived from the Greek word meaning “man of reason”) was a Roman by birth, and was a reader in the Roman Church under Pope Sixtus (257-258). He was subjected to torture, and was beheaded for his brave confession of faith in the time of the emperor Aurelian (270-275).
The life of the holy martyr John, Abbot of Zedazeni Monastery, has not been preserved, but the list recalling “the names of the holy fathers who reposed at Zedazeni Monastery after John of Zedazeni,” which was compiled by Catholicos Arsenius II, tells us that Abbot John was “murdered at Zedazeni by Muslims.” Saint John was martyred in the 9th century.