WEDNESDAY OF THE 14TH WEEK
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Xenophon & his Companions, Symeon the Elder of Mount Sinai
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS 10:1-10
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified. Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it. But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.
At that time, a lawyer came up to Jesus and asked him a question, to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, "What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." He said to them, "How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put your enemies under your feet'? If David thus calls him Lord, how is he his son?" And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
Saint Xenophon, his wife Maria, and their sons Arcadius and John, were noted citizens of Constantinople and lived in the fifth century. Despite their riches and position, they distinguished themselves by their simplicity of soul and goodness of heart. Wishing to give their sons John and Arcadius a more complete education, they sent them off to the Phoenician city of Beirut.
By divine Providence the ship on which both brothers sailed was wrecked. The waves tossed the brothers ashore at different places. Grieved at being separated, the brothers dedicated themselves to God and became monks. For a long time the parents had no news of their children and presumed them to be dead.
Xenophon, however, already quite old, maintained a firm hope in the Lord and consoled his wife Maria, telling her not to be sad, but to believe that the Lord watched over their children. After several years the couple made a pilgrimage to the holy places, and at Jerusalem they met their sons, living in asceticsm at different monasteries. The joyful parents gave thanks to the Lord for reuniting the family.
Saints Xenophon and Maria went to separate monasteries and dedicated themselves to God. The monks Arcadius and John, having taken leave of their parents, went out into the wilderness, where after long ascetic toil they were glorified by gifts of wonderworking and discernment. Saints Xenophon and Maria, laboring in silence and strict fasting, also received from God the gift of wonderworking.
Today the Church commemorates the transfer of the sacred relics of Saint Theodore of Studion (November 11) from the island of Prinkēpo to Studion Monastery, which occurred in the year 844 (or 845), under Patriarch Methodios of Constantinople (842 – 846). The holy Confessor's relics were preserved whole and incorrupt, to such an extent that even his skin did not undergo the slightest change.
In addition to the relics of Saint Theodore, those of his exiled brother, Saint Joseph, the Bishop of Thessaloniki (July 4), who also suffered at the hands of the iconoclasts, were taken to Constantinople. The holy relics of both brothers were placed beside the coffin of their Igoumen and uncle Saint Platon (April 5).1
1 Saint Platon is commemorated on April 4 in Greek usage.
Saint Xenophon of Robeika was a student of Saint Barlaam of Khutyn (+ 1192, November 6). He was the head of the Khutyn monastery after the igumen Isidore (+1243). Resigning as igumen, Saint Xenophon founded the Trinity Monastery on the banks of the Robeika River (not far from Novgorod). Here he fell asleep in the Lord on June 28, 1262.
The Holy Martyrs Ananias the Presbyter, Peter the prison guard, and seven soldiers suffered in Phoenicia in the year 295. During a persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Ananias was brought before Maximus the governor of Phoenicia. He had been arrested for confessing Christ and refusal to worship idols.
He was beaten with hammers, burnt with fire, and salt was sprinkled on his scorched body. After his terrible sufferings, a temple and the idols standing in it were destroyed through the prayers of Saint Ananias.
Peter and seven other soldiers who were stationed to guard Ananias and witnessed his suffering came to believe in Christ. They were drowned in the sea after lengthy torture.
Saint Simeon the Elder was so named in order to distinguish him from Saint Simeon the Stylite (September 1). He practiced asceticism in Syria in the fifth century, and in his childhood years went out into the Syrian wilderness and lived in a cave in complete solitude.
Unceasing prayer, meditation, and contemplation of God were his constant occupation. The ascetic ate only the grass which grew about his cave. When people began to come to him to receive guidance, he wished to preserve his silence, so he left his cave and settled on one of the mountains of the Aman range. But here also his solitude was disturbed by many visitors. Saint Simeon withdrew to Mount Sinai, where formerly the Prophet Moses (September 4) received a revelation from God.
By divine Providence, the holy ascetic returned to Aman after a short stay on Sinai and founded two monasteries: one at the top of the mountain, the other at its base. As head of these monasteries, Saint Simeon guided the monks, warning them about the wiles of the Enemy of mankind, and he taught them how to struggle against temptations. He inspired and encouraged them in ascetic deeds, rousing them to think of their salvation. Because of the holiness of his life Saint Simeon received from God the gift of wonderworking.
After the many labors of his ascetic life, Saint Simeon departed to God around the year 390.
Saint Joseph, Archbishop of Thessalonica, was brother of Saint Theodore the Studite (November 11), and together they pursued a life of asceticism under the guidance of Saint Platon (April 5) in the monastery at Sakkudion, Bithynia.
Because of his ascetic life, Saint Joseph was unanimously chosen archbishop of the city of Thessalonica. He and his brother opposed the unlawful marriage of the emperor Constantine VI (780-797), for which he was tortured then banished to a barren island. The emperor Michael Rangabes (811-813) freed Saint Joseph from imprisonment.
Under the emperor Leo V the Armenian (813-820) the holy hierarch and his brother Saint Theodore suffered once more for their veneration of holy icons. Though they subjected him to torture, he remained steadfast in his faith. The iconoclast emperor ordered him to sign the iconoclast confession of faith, and when he refused they threw him into an even more foul prison.
Under the emperor Michael the Stammerer (820-829) Saint Joseph was set free, together with other monks who had suffered for their veneration of icons. He spent his final years at the Studion Monastery, where he died in 830.
Saint Joseph is renowned as a hymnographer. He composed triodia for Holy Week, several stikhera of the LENTEN TRIODION, a Canon for the Sunday of Prodigal Son (which is filled with the spirit of profound repentance), and other hymns. He wrote several sermons for feastdays, of which the best known is the Sermon on the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord.
At the end of the 11th century the Georgian Church underwent a trial of physically and spiritually catastrophic proportions.
The Seljuk sultan, Jalal al-Dawlah Malik Shah (1073-1092), captured the village of Samshvilde, imprisoned its leader, Ioane Orbeliani, son of Liparit, ravaged Kvemo (Lower) Kartli, and finally captured all of Georgia, despite the isolated victories of King Giorgi II (1072-1089). The fearful Georgians fled their homes to hide in the mountains and forests.
Tempted and deeply distressed by the difficult times, the nation that had once vowed its unconditional love for Christ began to fall into sin and corruption. People of all ages and temperaments sinned against God and turned to the path of perdition. God manifested His wrath toward the Georgian people by sending a terrible earthquake that devastated their Paschal celebrations.
In the year 1089, during this period of devastation and despair, King Giorgi II abdicated, designating his sixteen-year-old only son, David (later known as “the Restorer”), heir to the throne. It is written that the Heavenly Father said: I have found David My servant, with My holy oil have I annointed him (Ps. 88:19).
The newly crowned King David took upon himself enormous responsibility for the welfare of the Church. He supported the efforts of the Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi to restore and reinforce the authority of the Georgian Church and suppress the conceited feudal lords and unworthy clergymen. During King David’s reign, the government’s most significant activities were carried out for the benefit of the Church. At the same time, the Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi reasserted the vital role of the Orthodox Faith in rescuing the Georgian people from the godless mire into which they had sunk.
Foremost among King David’s goals at the beginning of his reign was the repatriation of those who had fled Georgia during the Turkish rule. The king summoned his noblemen and began to reunify the nation. The king’s efforts to reunify Georgia began in the eastern region of Kakheti-Hereti, but the Turks and traitorous feudal lords were unwilling to surrender the power they had gained in the area. Nevertheless, King David’s army was in God’s hands, and the Georgians fought valiantly against the massive Turkish army. King David himself fought like any other soldier: three of his horses were killed, but he mounted a fourth to finish the fight with a fantastic victory. The Turkish presence was eliminated from his country.
Soon, however, the uncompromising Seljuk sultan Mehmed (Muhammad) I of Baghdad (1105-1118) ordered an army of one hundred thousand soldiers to march on Georgia. When King David heard of the enemy’s approach, he immediately assembled a force of fifteen hundred men and led them towards Trialeti. A battle began in the early morning, and with God’s help the enemy was defeated. Simultaneously, the king’s adviser, Giorgi of Chqondidi, recaptured the town of Rustavi in 1115, as the Georgian army recovered the ravine of the Mtkvari River. (Giorgi of Chqondidi was King David’s teacher and closest adviser. He held the post of chancellor-procurator. At the council of Ruisi-Urbnisi, King David introduced a new law, combining the office of chancellor-procurator with the archbishopric of Chqondidi, the most influential episcopate in Georgia.) One year later, the Turks, who had been encamped between the towns of Karnipori and Basiani, were banished from the country. The “Great Wars” continued, and the holy king was crowned with new victories. David’s son Demetre (later the venerable Damiane), a young man distinguished in “wisdom, holiness, appearance and courage,” was a great asset to his father. The prince led a war on Shirvan, captured Kaladzori, and returned to his father with slaves and great riches, the spoils of war in those days. One year later, the villages of Lore and Agarani were rejoined to Georgia.
In spite of his victories, King David knew that it would be difficult for his meager army to protect the recovered cities and fortresses, while continuing to serve as a permanent military force. Thus it became necessary to establish a separate, permanent standing army. The wise king planned to draft men from among the Qipchaks, a northern Caucasian tribe, to form this army. He was well acquainted with the character of these people, and confident that they were brave and seasoned in war. Furthermore, David’s wife, Queen Gurandukhti, was a daughter of Atrak, the Qipchaks’ ruler. Atrak joyfully agreed to the request of his son-in-law, the king.
As a true diplomat seeking to maintain peaceful relations with the Qipchaks, King David took his adviser, Giorgi of Chqondidi, and traveled to the region of Ossetia in the northern Caucasus. There Giorgi of Chqondidi, an “adviser to his master and participant in his great works and victories,” reposed in the Lord. Following this, the dispirited King David declared that his kingdom would grieve for forty days. But he accomplished what he had set out to do, and selected forty thousand Qipchaks to add to the five thousand Georgian soldiers he had already enlisted. From that point on King David had a standing army of forty-five thousand men.
The king’s enormous army finally uprooted the Turkish presence in and around Georgia permanently. The defeated Turks returned in shame to their sultan in Baghdad, draped in black as a sign of grief and defeat. Nevertheless, the unyielding sultan Mahmud II (1118-1131) rallied a coalition of Muslim countries to attack Georgia. The sultan summoned the Arab leader Durbays bin Sadaka, commanded his own son Malik (1152-1153) to serve him, gathered an army of six hundred thousand men, and marched once more towards Georgia.
It was August of 1121. Before heading off to battle, King David inspired his army with these words: “Soldiers of Christ! If we fight bravely for our Faith, we will defeat not only the devil’s servants, but the devil himself. We will gain the greatest weapon of spiritual warfare when we make a covenant with the Almighty God and vow that we would rather die for His love than escape from the enemy. And if any one of us should wish to retreat, let us take branches and block the entrance to the gorge to prevent this. When the enemy approaches, let us attack fiercely!”
None of the soldiers thought of retreating. The king’s stunning battle tactics and the miracles of God terrified the enemy. As it is written, “The hand of God empowered him, and the Great-martyr George visibly led him in battle. The king annihilated the godless enemy with his powerful right hand.”
The battle at Didgori enfeebled the enemy for many years. The following year, in 1122, King David recaptured the capital city of Tbilisi, which had borne the yoke of slavery for four hundred years. The king returned the city to its mother country. In 1123 King David declared the village of Dmanisi a Georgian possession, and thus, at last, unification of the country was complete.
One victory followed another, as the Lord defended the king who glorified his Creator.
In 1106 King David had begun construction of Gelati Monastery in western Georgia, and throughout his life this sacred complex was the focus of his efforts on behalf of the revival of the Georgian Church. Gelati Monastery was the most glorious of all the existing temples to God. To beautify the building, King David offered many of the great treasures he had acquired as spoils of war. Then he gathered all the wise, upright, generous, and pious people from among his kinsmen and from abroad and established the Gelati Theological Academy. King David helped many people in Georgian churches both inside and outside his kingdom. The benevolent king constructed a primitive ambulance for the sick and provided everything necessary for their recovery. He visited the infirm, encouraging them and caring for them like a father. The king always took with him a small pouch in which he carried alms for the poor.
The intelligent and well-lettered king spent his free time reading the Holy Scriptures and studying the sciences. He even carried his books with him to war, soliciting the help of donkeys and camels to transport his library. When he tired of reading, King David had others read to him, while he listened attentively. One of the king’s biographers recalls, “Each time David finished reading the Epistles, he put a mark on the last page. At the end of one year, we counted that he had read them twenty-four times.”
King David was also an exemplary writer. His “Hymns of Repentance” are equal in merit to the works of the greatest writers of the Church.
This most valiant, powerful, and righteous Georgian king left his heirs with a brilliant confession when he died. It recalled all the sins he had committed with profound lamentation and beseeched the Almighty God for forgiveness.
King David completed his will in 1125, and in the same year he abdicated and designated his son Demetre to be his successor. He entrusted his son with a sword, blessed his future, and wished him many years in good health and service to the Lord. The king reposed peacefully at the age of fifty-three.
St. David the Restorer was buried at the entrance to Gelati Monastery. His final wish was carved in the stone of his grave: This is My rest for ever and ever; here I will dwell, for I have chosen her (Ps. 131:15).
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