THURSDAY OF THE 14TH WEEK
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Forefeast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Ten Martyrs of Crete, Paul, Archbishop of Neo-Caesarea, Rememberance of the Founding of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, Naoum the Illuminator of The Bulgarians, Nicholas & John the New Martyrs
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO TIMOTHY 6:17-21
Timothy, my son, charge the rich in this world not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed. O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith. Grace be with you. Amen.
At that time, as Jesus was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.' " And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.
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 Compline on this fourth day of the prefeast of the Nativity we sing, “Let us purify our minds, washing ourselves with the divine Mysteries; let us draw near in soul and body to Bethlehem, that we may behold the fearful dispensation of the birth of the Lord” (Ode Five of the Canon).
The Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Saturninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evaristus suffered for Christ during the third century under the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of Crete, also named Decius, fiercely persecuted the Church, and arrested anyone who believed in Christ. Once, ten Christians were brought before him from various cities of Crete, who at the trial steadfastly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to worship idols.
For thirty days they were subjected to cruel tortures, and with the help of God they all persevered, glorifying God. Before their death they prayed that the Lord would enlighten their torturers with the light of the true Faith. Since pain did not influence them, the saints were beheaded.
Saint Paul of Constantinople (November 6) visited Crete about a hundred years later. He took the relics of the holy martyrs to Constantinople to serve as a protection for the city, and a source of blessings for the faithful.
Saint Theoctistus, Archbishop of Novgorod, prior to becoming a bishop, was igumen of the Annunciation monastery near Novgorod. After the death of Archbishop Clement in the year 1300, the people of Novgorod chose him as their Archbishop, and Metropolitan Maximus with the bishops Simeon of Rostov and Andrew of Tver consecrated Saint Theoctistus as Archbishop of Novgorod.
One of Saint Theoctistus’ concerns was the renovation and building of churches. He consecrated cathedrals in the name of Saints Boris and Gleb, and in the name of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. The monastery of Valaam was set in good order during his time.
In the year 1307, because of poor health, the saint withdrew to the Annunciation monastery, where he lived until his death, devoting himself to the ascetic deed of silence. Saint Theoctistus was glorified in 1664, because of the miraculous healings at his relics. In 1786, the relics of the saint were transferred to Yuriev, where Archimandrite Photius built a chapel in his honor at the local cathedral.
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 Saint Niphon, but with the help of God he overcame them. He received from God the gift to discern evil spirits and defeat them, and also to 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. Saint Niphon knew the time of his death three days beforehand. Saint 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.
Saint Paul, Bishop of Neocaesarea, suffered under the emperor Licinius (311-324). At his trial he firmly confessed his faith, and was subjected to beatings. They tortured him also with hunger, but he remained steadfast. Then they scorched his hands with red-hot iron and locked him in a prison at the banks of the Euphrates.
After Licinius was executed in the year 324, when Saint Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire, and Christians in prison received their freedom, Saint Paul returned to his flock. He was a participant at the First Ecmenical Council at Nicea, convened in the year 325, at which the Arian heresy was condemned and the Symbol of Faith adopted. At the end of the Council, the Emperor Constantine solemnly received the Council participants and kissed Saint Paul’s burned hand. After long years of guiding his flock, Saint Paul peacefully fell asleep in the Lord.
Saint Nahum was a disciple of Saints Cyril and Methodius (May 11), one of their coworkers known as the Five Followers.
Saint Nahum was a man of great learning, and he spoke several languages. After a visit to Rome, he settled on the shores of Lake Ochrid. There he built a monastery at the time when Saint Clement of Ochrid (July 27) was serving as a bishop.
Many monks gathered around Saint Nahum, who was known as a great wonderworker and a man of prayer. He also labored to translate the Holy Scriptures from Greek into Slavonic.
Saint Nahum fell asleep in the Lord in 910, and his holy relics continue to work miracles of healing for those who venerate them in faith.