WEDNESDAY OF THE 14TH WEEK
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Forefeast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Anastasia the Great Martyr, Chrysogonos, Theodota, Evodias, & Eutychianus, the Martyrs, The opening of the gates of the Great Church of God
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO TIMOTHY 5:22-25; 6:1-11
Timothy, my son, do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure. No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. The sins of some men are conspicuous, pointing to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good deeds are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden. Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brethren; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. But as for you, man of God, shun all this.
The Lord said, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.
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.”
The Great Martyr Anastasia the Deliverer from Potions, a Roman by birth, suffered for Christ at the time of Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. Her father was a pagan, but her mother was secretly a Christian. Saint Anastasia’s teacher in her youth was an educated and pious Christian named Chrysogonus. After the death of her mother, her father gave Saint Anastasia in marriage to a pagan named Publius, but feigning illness, she preserved her virginity.
Clothing herself in the garb of a beggar, and accompanied by only one servant, she visited the prisons. She fed, doctored and often ransomed captives who were suffering for their faith in Christ. When her servant told Publius about everything, he subjected his wife to a beating and locked her up at home. Saint Anastasia then began to correspond secretly with Chrysogonus, who told the saint to be patient, to cleave to the Cross of Christ, and to accept the Lord’s will. He also foretold the impending death of Publius in the sea. After a certain while Publius did indeed drown, as he was setting out with a delegation to Persia. After the death of her husband, Saint Anastasia began to distribute her property to the poor and suffering.
Diocletian was informed that the Christians who filled the prisons of Rome stoically endured tortures. He gave orders to kill them all in a single night, and for Chrysogonus to be sent to him at Aquileia. Saint Anastasia followed her teacher at a distance.
The emperor interrogated Chrysogonus personally, but could not make him renounce his faith. Therefore, he commanded that he be beheaded and thrown into the sea. The body and severed head of the holy martyr were carried to shore by the waves. There by divine Providence, the relics were found by a presbyter named Zoilus who placed them in a coffer, and concealed them at his home.
Saint Chrysogonus appeared to Zoilus and informed him that martyrdom was at hand for Agape, Chione and Irene (April 16), three sisters who lived nearby. He told him to send Saint Anastasia to them to encourage them. Saint Chrysogonus foretold that Zoilus would also die on the same day. Nine days later, the words of Saint Chrysogonus were fulfilled. Zoilus fell asleep in the Lord, and Saint Anastasia visited the three maidens before their tortures. When these three martyrs gave up their souls to the Lord, she buried them.
Having carried out her teacher’s request, the saint went from city to city ministering to Christian prisoners. Proficient in the medical arts of the time, she zealously cared for captives far and wide, healing their wounds and relieving their suffering. Because of her labors, Saint Anastasia received the name Deliverer from Potions (Pharmakolytria), since by her intercessions she has healed many from the effects of potions, poisons, and other harmful substances.
She made the acquaintance of the pious young widow Theodota, finding in her a faithful helper. Theodota was taken for questioning when it was learned that she was a Christian. Meanwhile, Saint Anastasia was arrested in Illyricum. This occurred just after all the Christian captives there had been murdered in a single night by order of Diocletian. Saint Anastasia had come to one of the prisons, and finding no one there, she began to weep loudly. The jailers realized that she was a Christian and took her to the prefect of the district, who tried to persuade her to deny Christ by threatening her with torture. After his unsuccessful attempts to persuade Saint Anastasia to offer sacrifice to idols, he handed her over to the pagan priest Ulpian in Rome.
The cunning pagan offered Saint Anastasia the choice between luxury and riches, or grievous sufferings. He set before her gold, precious stones and fine clothing, and also fearsome instruments of torture. The crafty man was put to shame by the bride of Christ. Saint Anastasia refused the riches and chose the tools of torture.
But the Lord prolonged the earthly life of the saint, and Ulpian gave her three days to reconsider. Charmed by Anastasia’s beauty, the pagan priest decided to defile her purity. However, when he tried to touch her he suddenly became blind. His head began to ache so severely that he screamed like a madman. He asked to be taken to a pagan temple to appeal to the idols for help, but on the way he fell down and died.
Saint Anastasia was set free and she and Theodota again devoted themselves to the care of imprisoned Christians. Before long, Saint Theodota and her three sons accepted a martyrdom. Her eldest son, Evodus, stood bravely before the judge and endured beatings without protest. After lengthy torture, they were all thrown into a red-hot oven.
Saint Anastasia was caught again and condemned to death by starvation. She remained in prison without food for sixty days. Saint Theodota appeared to the martyr every night and gave her courage. Seeing that hunger caused Saint Anastasia no harm whatsoever, the judge sentenced her to drowning together with other prisoners. Among them was Eutychianus, who was condemned for his Christian faith.
The prisoners were put into a boat which went out into the open sea. The soldiers bored holes in the boat and got into a galley. Saint Theodota appeared to the captives and steered the ship to shore. When they reached dry land, 120 men believed in Christ and were baptized by Saints Anastasia and Eutychianus. All were captured and received a martyr’s crown. Saint Anastasia was stretched between four pillars and burned alive. A certain pious woman named Apollinaria buried her body, which was unharmed by the fire, in the garden outside her house.
In the fifth century the relics of Saint Anastasia were transferred to Constantinople, where a church was built and dedicated to her. Later the head and a hand of the Great Martyr were transferred to the monastery of Saint Anastasia [Deliverer from Potions], near Mount Athos.