EVE OF THE THEOPHANY OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Eve of the Theophany of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, The Holy Martyrs Theopemptus and Theonas, Righteous Syncletike of Alexandria, Gregory of Akrita, Apollinaria of Egypt
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 9:19-27
BRETHREN, though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law – though not being myself under the law – that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law – not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ – that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." He said therefore to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father"; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." And the multitudes asked him, "What then shall we do?" And he answered them, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than is appointed you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages." As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, John answered them all, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.
Eve of the Theophany of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
The fourth day of the Forefeast of Theophany falls on January 5. If January 5th falls on a weekday, the following order is observed:
Vespers on the evening of the 4th, then Matins. The First Hour is not read after Matins.
On the 5th we read the Royal Hours, followed by Vespers and the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great.
If the Eve of Theophany falls on Saturday:
The Royal Hours are read on Friday, but there is no Liturgy. Vespers on the evening of the 4th, followed by Matins. The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is celebrated on Saturday morning.
If the Eve of Theophany falls on a Sunday:
The Royal Hours are read on Friday, but there is no Liturgy. Vigil is served on Saturday evening, and the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is celebrated on Sunday.
There are thirteen readings at Vespers on the Eve of Theophany, and the entrance is made with the Gospel. There is fasting today, whatever day of the week it may be.
Hieromartyr Theopemptus, Bishop of Nicomedia, and Martyr Theonas
The Holy Martyrs Theopemptus and Theonas suffered in Nicomedia in the year 303. Saint Theopemptus was bishop in Nicomedia in the time of Diocletian. Speaking out against idolatry, he defended the faith in Christ. Because of this, he became one of the first victims of the Diocletian persecution.
The saint refused to obey the emperor’s order to worship an idol of Apollo. Saint Theopemptus was thrown into a red-hot furnace, but by the power of God he remained alive. The emperor came to the furnace by night with a detachment of soldiers, and there he saw the saint alive and praying to God. Ascribing the miracle to magic, Diocletian thought to exhaust Saint Theopemptus by depriving him of food and drink for twenty-two days, but the martyr was preserved by the will of God.
The emperor brought the famous sorcerer Theonas to overcome Bishop Theopemptus’ supposed magical power. Theonas prepared a poison for Saint Theopemptus, put it into a little cake, and offered it to him to eat. The poison did no harm at all to Saint Theopemptus. Then Theonas tried an even stronger poison on the martyr. Seeing that Saint Theopemptus remained unharmed, he came to believe in Christ. They threw him into prison together with the holy bishop, who taught and baptized him, giving him the name Synesios (which means “full of understanding”).
At dawn Diocletian summoned Saint Theopemptus, and again tried to turn him to pagan impiety. Seeing that the bishop remained firm in his faith, he subjected him to many grievous tortures, after which the saint was beheaded. The holy martyr Theonas refused to offer sacrifice to idols, so he was buried alive in a deep ditch. This occurred at Nicomedia in the year 303.
Venerable Syncletica of Alexandria
Saint Syncletica was a native of Alexandria, the daughter of rich parents. She was very beautiful, but from a young age she thought only about things pleasing to God. Loving the purity of virginity, she refused to marry anyone, and spent all her time in fasting and prayer.
After the death of her parents, she distributed her inheritance to the poor. She left the city together with her younger sister, and lived in a crypt for the rest of her life.
News of her ascetic deeds quickly spread throughout the vicinity, and many devout women and girls came to live under her guidance. During the course of her ascetic life the saint zealously instructed the sisters by word and by deed.
In her eightieth year she was struck by an intense and grievous illness. The nun bore her ordeal with true Christian endurance, and the time of her death was revealed to her in a vision. After giving final instructions to her nuns, she surrendered her soul to God around the year 350.
The Holy Prophet Micah was a companion of the holy prophet Elias. He prophesied the ruin of King Ahab in a war with the Assyrians, for which he was cast into prison. Set free after the downfall of Ahab (3 Kings 22: 8-22), the holy prophet Micah died as a martyr in the ninth century B.C.
Saint Apollinaria of Egypt
The renowned Apollinaria (Απολλιναρία) lived during the reign of Leo the Great (457–474), and was the daughter of Anthemius, a former proconsul of Rome during the minority of Theodosius the Younger (408-450). Saint Apollinaria was renowned for her beauty and wisdom, as well as for her fervent faith and whole-hearted devotion to Christ. From a young age she was inclined to live a life of virginity, and she prayed to God night and day that she might achieve her desire, which was to remain a virgin until death. For this reason she entreated her parents to let her go to Jerusalem. When they granted her permission, the blessed one took some male and female servants with her, as well as gold, silver and expensive clothes, and left for Jerusalem. There she distributed everything to the poor. After she venerated the Holy Places, she freed her servants, keeping just one old servant and a eunuch with her. With them, she went to Alexandria. Arriving there at a level and even place, she decided to rest a little from her weary journey. Slipping away from her servants, she changed into monastic garb and hid in a marsh, where she lived a life of asceticism for several years in strict fasting and prayer. One day, an angel appeared to her in a dream and instructed her to go to the monastery of Sketis, which was under the spiritual direction of Saint Macarius of Egypt (January 19), and to call herself Dorotheus. Saint Macarius accepted her as one of the brethren, and she quickly distinguished herself by her ascetical life.
Saint Apollinaria’s parents had another daughter who was possessed by an unclean spirit. They sent her to Saint Macarius at Sketis, who brought the afflicted girl to "Father Dorotheus." Through her prayers, and by divine grace, her sister was healed. Everyone wanted her to remain with them, but she bade all of them farewell and returned to her monastic cell. Soon, her sister was attacked by a violent demon, who made her appear to be pregnant. The demon spoke through the girl’s lips, saying that Dorotheus had forced himself on her. Her outraged parents sent soldiers to the monastery to find the monk who had defiled their daughter. Saint Apollinaria took the blame and accompanied the envoys to the home of her parents in Rome. There she revealed her secret to them, healed her sister, and returned to Sketis. She reposed in the year 470, and was found worthy to dwell in the heavenly abodes (John 14:2). Only after her death, as the monks were preparing her body for burial, was it discovered that “he” was actually a woman. The Saint was buried in a cave in the monastery church of Saint Macarius of Egypt.
Saint Apollinaria is commemorated on January 4 in Greek usage, while the Slavic churches honor her on January 5.
Venerable Phosterius the Hermit
Saint Phosterius the Hermit led an ascetical life on a lofty mountain, where he was fed by an angel. He brought many back to the Church from the heresy of Iconoclasm by his miracles and saintly life.
Venerable Menas of Sinai
Saint Menas lived in asceticism for more than fifty years in the monastery of Sinai, where he died peacefully in the second half of the sixth century. Myrrh flowed from his holy relics. Saint John Climacus speaks of this wonderful man in The Ladder of Divine Ascent (Step 4:34).
Venerable Gregory of Crete
Saint Gregory of Akrita was born on the island of Crete in the year 760, and was raised by pious parents. At this time the iconoclast heretics persecuted the Orthodox. The youth Gregory, wanting to preserve his Orthodox Faith, went to Seleukia and led a life of piety.
At the age of twenty, Saint Gregory went to Jerusalem and lived there for twelve years, enduring fierce persecution from the Jews. From there Saint Gregory journeyed to Rome, where he entered a monastery. He became acquainted with Saint Michael, Bishop of Synnada (May 23), who took him along and settled in a monastery on the Cape of Akrita (Sea of Marmora). The saint accomplished great ascetic deeds and died there around the year 820.
Venerable Romanus the Martyr
New Martyr Romanus of Karpenisi was born in Karpenisi in central Greece. He was a monk on Mt. Athos for a time, and suffered for Christ at Constantinople, beheaded by the Turks in the year 1694. His relics were taken by ship to England.