Here is the homily for Sunday, February 13, 2022.
You can also download the homily here .
Here is the homily for Sunday, February 13, 2022.
You can also download the homily here .
Here is the homily for Sunday, February 20, 2022.
You can also download the homily here .
Here is the homily for Sunday, February 27, 2022.
You can also download the homily here .
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT
Righteous John Cassian the Confessor, Basil the Confessor, Jonah the Righteous Martyr of Lerios, Kyranna the New Martyr of Thessaloniki
The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in health; I know that it is well with your soul. For I greatly rejoiced when some of the brethren arrived and testified to the truth of your life, as indeed you do follow the truth. No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth.
Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers, who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey as befits God's service. For they have set out for his sake and have accepted nothing from the heathen. So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth.
I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority. So if I come I will bring up what he is doing, prating against me with evil words. And not content with that, he refuses himself to welcome the brethren, and also stops those who want to welcome them and puts them out of the church.
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. He who does good is of God; he who does evil has not seen God. Demetrios has testimony from every one, and from the truth itself; I testify to him too, and you know my testimony is true.
I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.
Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them.
At that time, when Jesus drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here. If any one asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say this, 'The Lord has need of it.'" So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" And they said, "The Lord has need of it." And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road. As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So he sent Peter and John, saying; "Go and prepare the passover for us, that we may eat it." They said to him, "Where will you have us prepare it?" He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house which he enters, and tell the householder, 'The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?' And he will show you a large upper room furnished; there make ready." And they went, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover.
And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall never eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!" And they began to question one another, which of them it was that would do this.
A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.
You are those who have continued with me in my trials; and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren." And he said to him, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." He said, "I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.
And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, 'And he was reckoned with transgressors'; for what is written about me has its fulfillment." And they said, "Look, Lord, here are two swords." And he said to them, "It is enough.
And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.
Saint Basil the Confessor was a monk and suffered during the reign of the iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). When a persecution started against those who venerated holy icons, Saint Basil and his companion Saint Procopius of Decapolis (February 27) were subjected to much torture and locked up in prison. Here both martyrs languished for a long while, until the death of the impious emperor.
When the holy Confessors Basil and Procopius were set free along with other venerators of holy icons, they continued in their monastic struggles, instructing many in the Orthodox Faith and the virtuous life. Saint Basil died peacefully in the year 750.
Blessed Nicholas of Pskov lived the life of a holy fool for more than three decades. Long before his death he acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit and was granted the gifts of wonderworking and of prophecy. The Pskov people of his time called him Mikula [Mikola, Nikola] the Fool. Even during his lifetime they revered him as a saint, even calling him Mikula the saintly.
In February 1570, after a devastating campaign against Novgorod, Tsar Ivan the Terrible moved against Pskov, suspecting the inhabitants of treason. As the Pskov Chronicler relates, “the Tsar came … with great fierceness, like a roaring lion, to tear apart innocent people and to shed much blood.”
On the first Saturday of Great Lent, the whole city prayed to be delivered from the Tsar’s wrath. Hearing the peal of the bell for Matins in Pskov, the Tsar’s heart was softened when he read the inscription on the fifteenth century wonderworking Liubyatov Tenderness Icon of the Mother of God (March 19) in the Monastery of Saint Nicholas (the Tsar’s army was at Lubyatov). “Be tender of heart,” he said to his soldiers. “Blunt your swords upon the stones, and let there be an end to killing.”
All the inhabitants of Pskov came out upon the streets, and each family knelt at the gate of their house, bearing bread and salt to the meet the Tsar. On one of the streets Blessed Nicholas ran toward the Tsar astride a stick as though riding a horse, and cried out: “Ivanushko, Ivanushko, eat our bread and salt, and not Christian blood.”
The Tsar gave orders to capture the holy fool, but he disappeared.
Though he had forbidden his men to kill, Ivan still intended to sack the city. The Tsar attended a Molieben at the Trinity cathedral, and he venerated the relics of holy Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel (February 11), and expressed his wish to receive the blessing of the holy fool Nicholas. The saint instructed the Tsar “by many terrible sayings,” to stop the killing and not to plunder the holy churches of God. But Ivan did not heed him and gave orders to remove the bell from the Trinity cathedral. Then, as the saint prophesied, the Tsar’s finest horse fell dead.
The blessed one invited the Tsar to visit his cell under the bell tower. When the Tsar arrived at the cell of the saint, he said, “Hush, come in and have a drink of water from us, there is no reason you should shun it.” Then the holy fool offered the Tsar a piece of raw meat.
“I am a Christian and do not eat meat during Lent”, said Ivan to him. “But you drink human blood,” the saint replied.
Frightened by the fulfillment of the saint’s prophecy and denounced for his wicked deeds, Ivan the Terrible ordered a stop to the looting and fled from the city. The Oprichniki, witnessing this, wrote: “The mighty tyrant … departed beaten and shamed, driven off as though by an enemy. Thus did a worthless beggar terrify and drive off the Tsar with his multitude of a thousand soldiers.”
Blessed Nicholas died on February 28, 1576 and was buried in the Trinity cathedral of the city he had saved. Such honors were granted only to the Pskov princes, and later on, to bishops.
The local veneration of the saint began five years after his death. In the year 1581, during a siege of Pskov by the soldiers of the Polish king Stephen Bathory, the Mother of God appeared to the blacksmith Dorotheus together with a number of Pskov saints praying for the city. Among these was Blessed Nicholas (the account about the Pskov-Protection Icon of the Mother of God is found under October 1).
At the Trinity cathedral they still venerate the relics of Blessed Nicholas of Pskov, who was “a holy fool in the flesh, and by assuming this holy folly he became a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem” (Troparion). He also “transformed the Tsar’s wild thoughts into mercy” (Kontakion).
The Hieromartyr Proterius, Patriarch of Alexandria, and those with him. The priest Proterius lived in Alexandria during the patriarchal tenure of Dioscorus (444-451), an adherent of the Monophysite heresy of Eutyches. Proterius fearlessly denounced the heretics and confessed the Orthodox Faith.
In 451 at the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, the heresy of Eutyches was condemned and the teaching of Christ as Perfect God and Perfect Man, existing in these two natures “unconfusedly” and “indivisibly” [and “immutably” and “inseparably”] was set forth. The heretic Dioscorus was deposed and exiled, and Proterius, distinguished for his strict and virtuous life, was placed upon the patriarchal throne of Alexandria.
However, many supporters of Dioscorus remained in Alexandria. Rebelling against the election of Proterius, they rioted and burned the soldiers who were sent out to pacify them. The pious emperor Marcian (450-457) deprived the Alexandrians of all the privileges they were accustomed to, and sent new and reinforced detachments of soldiers. The inhabitants of the city then quieted down and begged Patriarch Proterius to intercede with the emperor to restore their former privileges to them. The kindly saint consented and readily obtained their request.
After the death of Marcian the heretics again raised their heads. Presbyter Menignus (“the Cat”), himself striving for the patriarchal dignity, and taking advantage of the absence of the prefect of the city, was at the head of the rioters. Saint Proterius decided to leave Alexandria, but that night he saw in a dream the holy Prophet Isaiah, who said to him, “Return to the city, I am waiting to take you.” The saint realized that this was a prediction of his martyric end. He returned to Alexandria and concealed himself in a baptistry.
The insolent heretics broke into this refuge and killed the Patriarch and six men who were with him. The fact that it was Holy Saturday and the Canon of Pascha was being sung did not stop them. In their insane hatred they tied a rope to the body of the murdered Patriarch, and dragged it through the streets. They beat and lacerated it, and finally they burned it, scattering the ashes to the wind.
The Orthodox reported this to the holy Emperor Leo (457-474) and Saint Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople (July 3). An army arrived at Alexandria, the rebellion was crushed, and Menignus was brought to trial and exiled.
Regarding the death of the Hieromartyr Proterius, four Thracian bishops of his time wrote: “We consider His Holiness Proterius to be in the ranks and choir of the saints, and we beseech God to be compassionate and merciful to us through his prayers.”
The Hieromartyr Nestor, Bishop of Magydos in Pamphylia During a persecution against Christians under the emperor Decius (249-251), he was arrested while praying in his home. He learned of the suffering awaiting him through a peculiar vision. He saw a lamb prepared for sacrifice.
The ruler of the city of Magydos sent him for trial to Perge. On the way there Saint Nestor was strengthened in spirit when he heard a Voice from Heaven, after which an earthquake occurred. After cruel tortures at Perge the hieromartyr was crucified in the year 250.
Saints Marina (Marana) and Kyra (Cyra), sisters by birth, lived during the fourth century in the city of Veria (or Berea) in Syria. Their parents were illustrious and rich, but the sisters left home and departed the city when they had reached maturity.
Having cleared off a small plot of land, the holy virgins sealed up the entrance to their refuge with rocks and clay, leaving only a narrow opening through which food was passed to them. Their little hut had no roof, and so they were exposed to the elements.
On their bodies they wore heavy iron chains and patiently endured hunger. During a three year period, they ate food only once every forty days. Their former servants came to them, wanting to join their ascetic life. The saints put them in a separate hut next to their own enclosure and they spoke to them through a window, exhorting them to deeds of prayer and fasting.
The life of the holy ascetics Marana and Kyra was described by Bishop Theodoret of Cyrrhus in his Religiosa Historica. Out of respect for his hierarchical dignity, the holy virgins allowed him into their dwelling. Theodoret conversed with them and persuaded them to remove the heavy chains they wore under their clothing. Kyra, who was weak in body, was always stooped under their weight and was unable to sit upright. Once he left, however, they resumed wearing the chains.
So they lived in asceticism for forty years. They disturbed their solitude only to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pray at the Sepulchre of the Lord. During their journey (which took twenty days) they ate no food until they had prayed at the Holy Places. On the way back, they also went without eating. They did the same thing at another time, when they journeyed to the grave of the Protomartyr Thekla (September 24) at Seleucia, Isauria.
Saints Marana and Kyra died in about the year 450. Their ascetical life equaled that of the great male ascetics of the desert, and they received the same crown of victory from Christ the Savior.
Saint Domnica (Domnina) was a Syrian nun, and a companion of Saints Marana and Kyra.
Saint John Cassian the Roman was born around 360, probably in Lesser Scythia (in Dacia Pontica). His pious Christian parents gave him an excellent classical education, and also instructed him in the Holy Scriptures and in the spiritual life.
Saint John entered a monastery in the diocese of Tomis, where his friend and relative Saint Germanus labored as an ascetic. In 380, desiring to venerate the Holy Places, Saint John went to Jerusalem with his sister and his friend Saint Germanus. The two monks stayed at a Bethlehem monastery, not far from where the Savior was born.
After five years at the monastery, Saints John and Germanus traveled through the Thebaid and the desert monasteries of Sketis for seven years, drawing upon the spiritual experience of countless ascetics. The Egyptian monks taught them many useful things about spiritual struggles, prayer, and humility. Like honeybees they journeyed from place to place, gathering the sweet nectar of spiritual wisdom. The notes Saint John made formed the basis of his book called CONFERENCES WITH THE FATHERS in twenty-four chapters.
Returning to Bethlehem for a brief time, the spiritual brothers lived for three years in complete solitude. Then they went back to Egypt and lived there until 399. Because of the disturbances caused by Archbishop Theophilus of Alexandria to the monasteries along the Nile, they decided to go to Constantinople, after hearing of the virtue and holiness of Saint John Chrysostom. The great hierarch ordained Saint John Cassian as a deacon and accepted him as a disciple. John and Germanus remained with Saint John Chrysostom for five years, learning many profitable things from him.
When Chrysostom was exiled from Constantinople in 404, Saints John Cassian and Germanus went to Rome to plead his case before Innocent I. Cassian was ordained to the holy priesthood in Rome, or perhaps later in Gaul. After Chrysostom’s death in 407, Saint John Cassian went to Massilia [Marseilles] in Gaul (now France). There he established two cenobitic monasteries in 415, one for men and another for women, based on the model of Eastern monasticism.
At the request of Bishop Castor of Aptia Julia (in southern Gaul), Cassian wrote THE INSTITUTES OF CENOBITIC LIFE (De Institutis Coenobiorum) in twelve books, describing the life of the Palestinian and Egyptian monks. Written between 417-419, the volume included four books describing the clothing of the monks of Palestine and Egypt, their schedule of prayer and services, and how new monks were received into the monasteries.The last eight books were devoted to the eight deadly sins and how to overcome them. Through his writings, Saint John Cassian provided Christians of the West with examples of cenobitic monasteries, and acquainted them with the asceticism of the Orthodox East.
Cassian speaks as a spiritual guide about the purpose of life, about attaining discernment, about renunciation of the world, about the passions of the flesh and spirit, about the hardships faced by the righteous, and about prayer.
Saint John Cassian also wrote CONFERENCES WITH THE FATHERS (Collationes Patrum) in twenty-four books in the form of conversations about the perfection of love, about purity, about God’s help, about understanding Scripture, about the gifts of God, about friendship, about the use of language, about the four levels of monasticism, about the solitary life and cenobitic life, about repentance, about fasting, about nightly meditations, and about spiritual mortification. This last has the explanatory title “I do what I do not want to do.”
Books 1-10 of the CONFERENCES describe Saint John’s conversations with the Fathers of Sketis between 393-399. Books 11-17 relate conversations with the Fathers of Panephysis, and the last seven books are devoted to conversations with monks from the region of Diolkos.
In 431 Saint John Cassian wrote his final work, ON THE INCARNATION OF THE LORD, AGAINST NESTORIUS (De Incarnationem Domini Contra Nestorium). In seven books he opposed the heresy, citing many Eastern and Western teachers to support his arguments.
In his works, Saint John Cassian was grounded in the spiritual experience of the ascetics, and criticized the abstract reasoning of Saint Augustine (June 15). Saint John said that “grace is defended less adequately by pompous words and loquacious contention, dialectic syllogisms and the eloquence of Cicero (i.e. Augustine), than by the example of the Egyptian ascetics.” In the words of Saint John of the Ladder (March 30), “great Cassian reasons loftily and excellently.” His writings are also praised in the Rule of Saint Benedict.
Saint John Cassian lived in the West for many years, but his spiritual homeland was the Orthodox East. He fell asleep in the Lord in the year 435. His holy relics rest in an underground chapel in the Monastery of Saint Victor in Marseilles. His head and right hand are in the main church.
Saint John, called Barsanuphius, was a native of Palestine. He was baptized when he was eighteen years old, and later became a monk. Because of his ascetic life, Saint John was consecrated Archbishop of Damascus. Because of his love for the solitary life, Saint John gave up his position as hierarch and secretly withdrew to Alexandria, calling himself Barsanuphius. Then he went into the Nitrian desert, arrived at a monastery, and begged the igumen to accept him into the monastery to serve the Elders. He conscientiously fulfilled this obedience by day, and spent his nights in prayer.
Theodore of Nitria saw the monk, and knew that he was a bishop. Saint John concealed himself again and withdrew into Egypt, where he lived in asceticism until the end of his days.
The Holy Martyr Theokteristus, Igumen of the Pelekete monastery, suffered for the holy icons under the impious emperor Constantine Copronymos (741-775). Also subjected to tortures were Saint Stephen the New (November 28), and other pious monks. Saint Theokteristus was burned with boiling tar.
The holy martyr was a spiritual writer, and composed a Canon to the Mother of God “Sustainer in Many Misfortunes.”
Saint Leo of Cappadocia fulfilled the commandment to love his neighbor by suggesting to the Saracens, who had captured three sickly monks, that he take the place of these infirm captives with himself, since he was healthy and able to work.
While journeying in the desert, Saint Leo weakened and was not able to go any farther. He was beheaded with the sword, thereby laying down his life for his neighbor.
The name of Meletios Leontovich, Archbishop of Khar'kov and Akhtyrsk, who reposed righteously on February 29, 1840 was deeply respected and honored by his former flock. The residents of Khar'kov faithfully visit his grave in the Cave Church of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos Monastery. Here Memorial Services are offered for his soul, and at the same time, they ask for his prayers for themselves and their relatives. The memory of his saintly life, his love for the poor, and his meekness, still live among his contemporaries who call him "The Unmercenary Vladika." There are many stories about the meek way he governed his diocese.
The Most Reverend Meletios (Michael, in the world)1 was a teacher of the Greek language in 1814. He was transferred to the (Mogilev) Seminary in Kiev in 1817 as its director, and later became rector of the Kiev Academy. In 1826, he was consecrated as vicar bishop of the Metropolitan of Kiev, and then transferred to Irkutsk in Siberia. He came to Kharkov in 1835, the diocese which he governed for 5 and one half years.
We have the following narrative by a parish priest, concerning Vladika's all night prayer and abstinence. While visiting parishes of his Diocese, the Archbishop stopped for the night in the village of Preobrazhensk, in the Zmievsk region. The local priest, in whose house he was to stay, wanted to do his best for the comfort of his important guest. He prepared a room, furnishing it with rugs and soft furniture for the Archbishop's rest.
After the usual welcome and evening service, His Eminence retired to the room which had been prepared for him. As it later turned out, however, he was not concerned about rest for his body, but for the benefit of the soul, which finds rest in prayer and conversation with God. It happened that the door of the room had a small opening in it, so that by the light of the lampada, the priest who occupied the next room was able to see everything that happened in the Archbishop's room.
Unable to sleep, the priest heard a muffled noise in the next room and, with all possible caution, walked over to the opening in the door and looked. He saw the Archbishop clothed in just a cassock, with his head uncovered, kneeling and fervently praying with his hands raised. After watching him for a long time, the priest finally went to lie down, but some sort of fear would not allow him to go to sleep.
After a while, he went to the door again and saw the same thing. The Archbishop's prayerful conversation with God continued for almost the whole night. Only toward morning did the man of prayer remove his cassock and roll it up to use as a pillow. He lay on the floor and fell asleep, mussing the bedclothes somewhat to make it appear that he had slept in the bed all night. When the priest awoke at dawn, he rushed to the door again and saw the Archbishop at prayer, just as before.
His Father Confessor, Father Sergius, always remembered Vladika's humility and purity of heart. According to his words, the Archbishop's Confession was most touching, detailed, and sincere. Like many children, he regarded his smallest sins as very grave, and humbly repented of them. He confessed every month, and each Confession lasted for a long time. The Archbishop gave an account of all his deeds, and of his most secret thoughts. He would always weep after Confession, when he knelt and received absolution. After this Mystery, his face always shone with unearthly joy.
Once, the Father Confessor was touched by Vladika's great humility, and told him so. "Do you think it is easy to acquire this inner humility?" Archbishop Meletios asked with a meek smile.
In his relationships with everyone, the Archbishop was most welcoming and cordial. His conversations were absorbing, and brought untold pleasure to his listeners. Everyone, the wealthy dignitary, the poor clerk, the wretched widow, all received the same welcome from him.
To the rich he spoke mostly about the incorruptible treasures of everlasting life, and of the perishable nature of earthly treasures. He advised them to exchange worldly goods for the eternal good things.
He comforted the poor worker with the promise of a heavenly reward for his labors. He told the widow that God Himself is the Father of orphans and widows. While comforting everyone with his words, he also extended his hand to the needy with material help. He used up all his income for this purpose.
Vladika himself lived in utter want, even though he appeared before his visitors in garb suited to his rank, usually in something purple (his favorite color). After his death, only eight rubles in paper money and change was found.
Once, during the Divine Liturgy, a young man, who was inclined to piety, was amazed by Archbishop Meletios's reverence and prayerful spirit as he offered the Bloodless Sacrifice. Mentally, he recognized him as a righteous man, and thought to himself: "How fortunate those people who serve such a man must be."
At the end of the Holy Liturgy a monk came up to the young man and asked him to come with him, as the Archbishop had ordered. Amazed, he obeyed. The monk took him to Vladika's reception room, and then left. Soon Archbishop Meletios himself entered. Vladika warmly greeted the confused young man with great love and questioned him in detail. Suddenly, he asked him to become his cell attendant. Shocked by Vladika's clairvoyance, the young man fell at his feet and readily accepted the offer. Afterward, by his way of life, he fully proved the correctness of Vladika's choice, and later still, when he was a monk, he remembered this decisive event in his life with much tenderness.
During his last illness, Archbishop Meletios was so weak that he was unable to stand up to pray, so he performed his Rule of prayer while sitting on his bed, supported on all sides by pillows. Three days before his death, while seated in this position, Archbishop Meletios ordered his cell attendant to lie down in the same room with him, something he had never done before.
The cell attendant himself said later that he felt some sort of fear, and was unable to fall asleep. Noticing this, Vladika told him to cover himself with his (the Archbishop's) rasson, saying, "Now you will not be afraid, and perhaps you will soon fall asleep." Instantly, the cell attendant fell asleep.
While asleep, he had a vision foretelling the Archbishop's death. When the vision ended, the attendant's whole body shook, and he woke up. Before him he saw the Archbishop lying on his back, with his eyes raised up toward Heaven. His face shone with an unearthly radiance. Archbishop Meletios called the now awakened cell attendant to him and said in a quiet voice that he would die in three days, asking him not to say anything about this to anyone. The repose of Archbishop Meletios took place exactly three days later, on February 29, 1840, soon after he received the Holy Mysteries, and his departure was most peaceful and calm.
His much-laboring body rested in the church so the faithful could give him the last kiss, until the Bishop of Kursk could get there for the funeral. At this time, according to the testimony of his Father Confessor Father Sergius, Vladika's body was so soft that, when he came to wash him with rose water, he found it flexible. Noticing that the omophorion had been pushed to one side, Father Sergius bowed to the Archbishop as if he were still alive, then lifted the body and sat it down. After rearranging the omophorion, he laid the body down again, to the great amazement of those who were present.
Archbishop Meletios's body is buried in a crypt located under the lower church of the Protection Monastery. Now, in that section, there is a church dedicated to the Three Hierarchs (January 30), where Memorial Services were being conducted for the Archbishop's soul, as requested by pilgrims. Above the coffin there is an icon with a lampada before it. Now the peace is broken only rarely, by the footsteps of a pilgrim.
Saint Meletios of Khar'kov is also commemorated on February 12 (his Name Day).
1 He was born on November 6, 1784 in the Ekaterinoslav region, and received the name Michael in Holy Baptism. His father died when the child was quite young.
Saint Germanus the Daco-Roman was born in the mid-fourth century, probably on the borders of Cassian and the Caves in the diocese of Tomis (in what is now Romania), and was related to Saint John Cassian (February 29). Saint Germanus, who was older than Saint John, was tonsured at one of the local monasteries when he was still a young man. The holy bishop Saint Theotimus I (April 20) may have been his Spiritual Father.
In turn, Saint Germanus became the Spiritual Father, friend, and teacher of Saint John Cassian, instructing him in monastic perfection. They both lived at one of the monasteries of Dacia Pontica for a short time, and then worked together in Bethlehem from 380-385. Later, they traveled to Egypt and visited some of its cenobitic monasteries. They also visited the hermits of Nitria and Mount Sinai, seeking to benefit from their holy example and wise counsel.
Saints Germanus and John went to Constantinople in 399 in order to be near Saint John Chrysostom (November 13), and around this time Germanus was deemed worthy of ordination to the holy priesthood. When Chrysostom was deposed and exiled in 404, the two saints journeyed to Rome in order to plead his case before Pope Innocent I.
Saint Germanus completed the course of his life in the early fifth century, perhaps at the monastery estabished by Saint John Cassian at Marseilles, or in one of the monasteries of Dacia Pontica.
The inscription on the saint’s scroll is an abbreviated quotation from Psalm 17/18:1. It reads: The Lord is my strength and deliverer.
This Icon appeared on February 29, 1392. One of the oldest shrines of the Devpeteruv (Девпетерувская) Icon of the Mother of God is now located in the Nikolaev church of the village of Batyushkova, or Batatkova, Dmitrovsky district of Moscow Province. In this image, the child Jesus is shown resting on the Virgin’s right shoulder; His left hand is on His Mother’s left shoulder, and her right hand is on His right shoulder.
In Tambov's Transfiguration Cathedral, above the tomb of St. Pitirim (July 28), there is another list of the miracles of the Devpeteruv Icon of the Mother of God. This image once belonged to St. Pitirim, and before it, he offered his fervent prayers to the Lord God. The Icon became especially famous in 1833 after a miracle took place.
A certain woman, whose husband was falsely accused of a crime and sent to prison, once saw an Elder whom she did not know in a dream. This Elder ordered her to search the cathedral for the Icon from St. Pitirim's cell, and to have a Moleben served before it. He also showed her the Icon itself. The woman found the Saint's Icon and asked for a Moleben to be served before it. Shortly afterward, her husband was acquitted and released from prison.
JUDGMENT SUNDAY (MEATFARE SUNDAY)
Judgment Sunday (Meatfare Sunday), Procopius the Confessor of Decapolis, Raphael of Brooklyn, Stephen the Monk, Gelasios the Actor and Martyr of Heliopolis, Nesios the Martyr
Brethren, food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol's temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
The Lord said, “When the Son of man comes in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Today’s Gospel reading is Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the Last Judgment. It reminds us that while trusting in Christ’s love and mercy, we must not forget His righteous judgment when He comes again in glory. If our hearts remain hardened and unrepentant, we should not expect the Lord to overlook our transgressions simply because He is a good and loving God. Although He does not desire the death of a sinner, He also expects us to turn from our wickedness and live (Ezek. 33:11). This same idea is expressed in the prayer read by the priest after the penitent has confessed his or her sins (Slavic practice).
The time for repentance and forgiveness is now, in the present life. At the Second Coming, Christ will appear as the righteous Judge, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). Then the time for entreating God’s mercy and forgiveness will have passed.
As Father Alexander Schmemann reminds us in his book GREAT LENT (Ch. 1:4), sin is the absence of love, it is separation and isolation. When Christ comes to judge the world, His criterion for judgment will be love. Christian love entails seeing Christ in other people, our family, our friends, and everyone else we may encounter in our lives. We shall be judged on whether we have loved, or not loved, our neighbor. We show Christian love when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit those who are sick or in prison. If we did such things for the least of Christ’s brethren, then we also did them for Christ (Mt.25:40). If we did not do such things for the least of the brethren, neither did we do them for Christ (Mt.25:45).
Today is the last day for eating meat and meat products until Pascha, though eggs and dairy products are permitted every day during the coming week. This limited fasting prepares us gradually for the more intense fasting of Great Lent.
Saint Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn (+1915)
Proclamation on the Glorification of Our Holy Father Bishop RAPHAEL (30-Apr-2000)
Our holy Father Raphael was born in Syria in 1860 to pious Orthodox parents, Michael Hawaweeny and his second wife Mariam, the daughter of a priest of Damascus. The exact date of Raphael’s birth is not known, but he estimated it to be on or near his Name Day, the Synaxis of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven (November 8). Due to the violent persecution of Christians, at which time their parish priest, Saint Joseph of Damascus (July 10) and his companions were martyred, the Hawaweeny family was forced to flee to Beirut for their safety. It was here that the future saint first saw the light of day, and not in the city of his parents. Indeed, as the child’s life unfolded, it was evident that he would have no continuing city in this world, but would seek the city which is to come (Heb 13:14).
On the Feast of Theophany in 1861, he was baptized with the name Rafla, and later that spring the family was able to return to Damascus. The child attended elementary school, where he did very well, but in 1874 it appeared that Michael Hawaweeny would no longer be able to afford his son’s tuition. Fortunately, help came from Deacon Athanasius Atallah (later Metropolitan of Homs), who recommended to Patriarch Hierotheus of Antioch that Rafla be accepted as a student of the Patriarchate in preparation for the priesthood.
He was such a good student that he was selected to be a substitute teaching assistant in 1877. The following year he was appointed as a teacher of Arabic and Turkish. On March 28, 1879 he was tonsured as a monk by Patriarch Hierotheus, and served as His Beatitude’s personal attendant.
Since the Balamand Seminary had been closed in 1840, Patriarch JOACHIM III of Constantinople invited the Patriarch of Antioch to send at least one deserving student to study on scholarship at the School of Theology at Halki, and Saint Raphael was the one who was selected to go.
On December 8, 1885, he was ordained to the diaconate at the school chapel. In July of 1886, the young deacon received his Certificate of Theology, and returned to his homeland in the hope of serving the Church there. Patriarch Gerasimus of Antioch was impressed with Deacon Raphael, and often took him along on his pastoral visitations of his parishes. When His Beatitude could not be present, Deacon Raphael was asked to preach the Word of God to the people.
Deacon Raphael was not satisfied with the extent of his knowledge, and thirsted to learn even more. This did not stem from personal pride or ambition, but came from his fervent desire to benefit others. Truly, the words of King Solomon could be applied to Saint Raphael: “Give an opportunity to a wise man, and he will be wiser; instruct a just man, and he will receive more instruction” (Proverbs 9:9). Therefore, he asked Patriarch Gerasimus to permit him to do graduate studies at a school in Russia, promising to return and serve as the Patriarch’s Russian-language secretary. The Patriarch gave his blessing, and Deacon Raphael was accepted as a student at the Theological Academy of Kiev.
In 1889 Patriarch Gerasimus ordered the young deacon to take over as head of the Antiochian representation church in Moscow. He was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop SYLVESTER, the rector of the Academy, at the request of Patriarch Gerasimus. A month later, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite by Metropolitan IOANNIKII of Moscow, and was confirmed as head of the Antiochian representation church. After two years, Archimandrite Raphael was able to reduce the representation’s 65,000 ruble debt by 15,000 rubles. He also arranged for twenty-four Syrian students to come to Russia to further their education, hoping that they would return to Syria and teach others.
When Patriarch Gerasimus resigned in order to accept the See of Jerusalem, Archimandrite Raphael regarded this as an opportunity to free the Church of Antioch from its domination by foreign hierarchs. Burning with love for the Church of Antioch, and wishing to restore the administration of the church to its own native clergy and people, Archimandrite Raphael began a campaign of writing letters to some Antiochian bishops and influential laymen. He also wrote articles in the Russian press, drawing attention to the plight of Antioch. His courageous efforts did not meet with success, however, and there was a price to pay for his outspoken criticism.
In November of 1891 Metropolitan SPYRIDON, a Greek Cypriot, was elected as Patriarch of Antioch. Many Arabs believed that he had purchased the election by distributing 10,000 lira to several notable people in Damascus. Archimandrite Raphael refused to commemorate the new Patriarch during services at the representation church. As a result, he was suspended from his priestly functions by Patriarch SPYRIDON. Saint Raphael accepted his suspension, but continued to write articles in Russian newspapers in defense of the Antiochian cause. The Patriarchs of Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Jerusalem successfully petitioned the Tsar to forbid Russian newspapers from publishing his articles. With this door closed to him, Saint Raphael began to publish his writings in book form.
Eventually, Patriarch SPYRIDON wrote to the Assistant Overprocurator of Russia, a friend of Saint Raphael’s, asking him to persuade Father Raphael to ask for the Patriarch’s forgiveness. He did so, and the suspension was lifted. Saint Raphael was allowed to transfer from the jurisdiction of Antioch to the Church of Russia, and to remain there. He went to Kazan, taking a position as instructor in Arabic studies at the theological academy. He remained there until 1895 when he was invited by the Syrian Orthodox Benevolent Society of New York to come to that city to be the pastor of the Arab Orthodox community.
When the holy Apostle Paul had a vision of a man entreating him to come to Macedonia to help them (Acts 16:10), he set off on a great missionary journey. When Saint Raphael heard of the needs of his countrymen who were scattered in a strange land, he crossed the ocean to labor in yet another foreign country.
Archimandrite Raphael arrived in New York on November 2, 1895, and was welcomed by a delegation of Arab Christians who were awaiting their leader from Russia. On November 5, his first Sunday in America, he assisted Bishop NICHOLAS in serving the Divine Liturgy at the Russian church in New York city. Less than two weeks after his arrival, Archimandrite Raphael found a suitable place in lower Manhattan to set up a chapel, and furnished it with ecclesiastical items that he had brought with him from Russia. Bishop NICHOLAS blessed the new chapel, which was dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra.
This zealous pastor remained in New York teaching, preaching, and celebrating the divine services for his parishioners. It was not long, however, before he heard of smaller communities of Arab Christians scattered throughout the length and breadth of North America. Since these Arab immigrants had no pastor to care for them, it was not surprising that some should turn to other Christian traditions, or completely neglect their religious duties. This was an ongoing concern for Saint Raphael throughout the course of his ministry. Although he was not opposed to dialogue with non-Orthodox Christians, nor to friendly relations based on shared beliefs, Saint Raphael never lost sight of the clear line of distinction that exists between the Orthodox and the heterodox. He always insisted that any church unity must be based on the teachings of the seven Ecumenical Councils.
The Orthodoxy of Saint Raphael’s life and teaching was demonstrated over and over again by his words and his actions. He always upheld and defended the spotless Faith which was “delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Although at first he did not understand the teachings of the heterodox, he later discovered how far removed they were from Orthodox doctrine. When he realized this, he took steps to protect his flock from harmful influences. He directed his people not to attend heterodox services lest they become confused by “divers and strange doctrines” (Heb 13:9). He believed it would be preferable for the head of the household to read the Hours at home from the Service Book when it was not possible to attend an Orthodox church.
In the summer of 1896, Saint Raphael undertook the first of several pastoral journeys across the continent. He visited thirty cities between New York and San Francisco, seeking out the Master’s lost sheep in cities, towns, and on isolated farms. He fed the spiritually hungry people with the Word of God in each place where he stopped. He performed marriages, baptisms, heard confessions, and celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the homes of the faithful where there was no church building. In other words, he zealously fulfilled his ministry as a preacher of the Gospel, enduring many hardships and afflictions, and he was watchful in all things concerning the care of his flock (2 Tim 4:5).
In 1898, with the blessing of Bishop Nicholas, Saint Raphael produced his first book in the New World — an Arabic language Service Book called The Book of True Consolation in the Divine Prayers. This book of liturgical services and prayers was very useful to priests in celebrating the divine services, and also to the people in their personal prayer life. The English version published by Archimandrite Seraphim Nassar is still being used today.
Between May-November 1898, Saint Raphael set off on his second pastoral tour. During this trip he became convinced of the need for Arabic-speaking priests to serve in the new churches he had established. When he returned to New York, he made a report to Bishop NICHOLAS expressing these concerns. With Bishop NICHOLAS’s blessing Saint Raphael was able to bring qualified priests from Syria. He also sought out educated laymen whom he could recommend for ordination. Both as an archimandrite and later as bishop, Saint Raphael would appoint pastors only after obtaining the blessing of the Russian hierarch who headed the American Mission.
This was the normal state of affairs in America at the time. Archimandrite Raphael welcomed Bishop Tikhon when the latter replaced Bishop NICHOLAS as the ruling bishop in America. On December 15, Saint Tikhon came to serve the Liturgy at the Syrian church of Saint Nicholas. Raphael told his people that their new Archpastor was one who “has been sent here to tend the flock of Christ — Russians, Slavs, Syro-Arabs, and Greeks — which is scattered across the entire North American continent.” At that time, of course, there were no parallel jurisdictions based on nationality. The Church united those of diverse backgrounds under the omophorion of the Russian Archbishop. This was the norm until the Russian Revolution disrupted church life in Russia, and also in America.
In March of 1899, Saint Raphael received permission from Bishop Tikhon to start collecting funds for a cemetery, and for building a new church to replace the chapel which was located in an old building on a dirty street. In the spring he left on another pastoral tour of forty-three cities and towns. Traveling by land and sea, and undeterred by the obstacles and difficulties before him, he spent seven months in the northeastern, southern, and midwestern regions of the United States. Saint Raphael ministered to Greeks and Russians as well as Arabs, performing weddings and baptisms, and regularizing the weddings of Orthodox people who had been married by non-Orthodox clergy. He also chrismated some children who had been baptized by Catholic priests.
In Johnstown, PA he reconciled those whose personal enmity threatened to divide the Arabic community. Although civil courts had been unable to make peace, Saint Raphael restored calm and put an end to the bitter feud. While in Johnstown, he received a telegram informing him that Metropolitan Meletios (Doumani), had been elected Patriarch of Antioch. With great joy Saint Raphael told his people that for the first time in 168 years, a native Arab had been chosen as primate of the Antiochian Church.
After the new Patriarch had been installed, Archimandrite Raphael was proposed to succeed Meletios as Metropolitan of Latakia. The Patriarch, however, stated that the Holy Synod could not elect Father Raphael because of his important work in America. In 1901, Metropolitan GABRIEL of Beirut wrote to Archimandrite Raphael asking him to be his auxiliary bishop, but he declined, saying that he could not leave his American flock. First, he wanted to build a permanent church, and to acquire a parish cemetery. The latter goal was achieved in August of 1901 when Father Raphael purchased a section of Mt Olivet cemetery on Long Island.
In December of 1901 Archimandrite Raphael was elected as Bishop of Zahleh. Patriarch Meletios sent a telegram congratulating him and asking him to return. Father Raphael thanked the Patriarch, but again declined higher office. He said that he wished to complete the project of building a temple for the Syrian community in New York. The following year, he bought an existing church building on Pacific Street in Brooklyn, and had it remodeled for Orthodox worship. Bishop Tikhon consecrated the church to the great joy of the faithful in attendance. Thus, Saint Raphael’s second major project was finished.
Since the number of parishes within the Diocese of North America was growing, Bishop Tikhon found it impossible to visit all of them. The diocese had to be reorganized in order to administer it more efficiently. Therefore, Bishop Tikhon submitted a plan to the Russian Holy Synod which would transfer the See from San Francisco to New York because most parishes and individuals were concentrated in the east. Since various ethnic groups required special attention and pastoral leadership, Bishop Tikhon proposed that Archimandrite Raphael be made his second vicar bishop (the Bishop of Alaska would be his first).
In 1903, the Holy Synod of Russia unanimously elected Archimandrite Raphael to be the Bishop of Brooklyn while retaining him as head of the Syro-Arab Orthodox Mission in North America. The Holy Synod announced the election to Patriarch Meletios, who was pleased by their decision. Bishop Tikhon wrote to Saint Raphael to inform him of his election, and Father Raphael sent him a letter of acceptance. Meanwhile, Father Innocent Pustynsky was consecrated as Tikhon’s first auxiliary bishop at Saint Petersburg’s cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan.
On the third Sunday of Lent in 1904, Saint Raphael became the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated on American soil. Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Innocent performed the service at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn. The new bishop’s vestments were a gift from Tsar Nicholas II. Following his consecration, Bishop Raphael continued his pastoral labors, ordaining priests and assigning them to parishes, and helping Bishop Tikhon in the administration of the diocese.
At the end of 1904, Bishop Raphael announced his intention to publish a magazine called Al-Kalimat (The Word) as the official publication of the Syro-Arab mission. This would help to link the people and parishes of his diocese more closely together. Bishop Raphael knew that he could not visit all Orthodox Christians across North America in person, but through the ministry of the printed word, he could preach the word of salvation even to people he would never meet. The content was to be spiritual, moral, and churchly so that the magazine could reinforce people in their Faith. The Word would focus on five primary topics: dogmatic truths, ethical teaching, historical and contemporary ecclesiastical subjects, a chronicle of baptisms, weddings, etc., and official pronouncements. The first issue was printed in January 1905, and Saint Raphael considered this milestone as one equal in importance to the acquisition of Saint Nicholas Cathedral and the parish cemetery.
In July of 1905 Bishop Raphael consecrated the grounds for Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and blessed the orphanage at South Canaan, PA. Three days later, he presided at a conference of diocesan clergy at Old Forge, PA, because Archbishop Tikhon was in San Francisco. Among the clergy in attendance were three who would also be numbered among the saints: Father ALEXIS Toth, Father Alexander Hotovitzky, and Father John Kochurov (the last two would die as martyrs in Russia).
For the next ten years Bishop Raphael tended his growing flock. With the growth of his New York community came an increase in the number of children, and he was concerned about their future. He wanted to establish an evening school to educate them in a Christian atmosphere, because the future of the Church in this country depended upon the instruction of the youth. Children who did not speak Arabic were already going to non-Orthodox churches where Sunday school classes were conducted in English. Bishop Raphael saw the absolute necessity for using English in worship and in education for the future progress of the Syro-Arab Mission.
Taking heed of Saint Paul’s words to pray in a language that people understood (1 Cor.14:15-19), Saint Raphael recommended the use of the Service Book of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church (translated by Isabel Hapgood) in all of his parishes.
In March of 1907 Saint Tikhon returned to Russia and was replaced by Archbishop PLATON. Once again Saint Raphael was considered for episcopal office in Syria, being nominated to succeed Patriarch GREGORY as Metropolitan of Tripoli in 1908. The Holy Synod of Antioch removed Bishop Raphael’s name from the list of candidates, citing various canons which forbid a bishop being transferred from one city to another.
On the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1911, Bishop Raphael was honored for his fifteen years of pastoral ministry in America. Archbishop PLATON presented him with a silver-covered icon of Christ and praised him for his work. In his humility, Bishop Raphael could not understand why he should be honored merely for doing his duty (Luke 17:10). He considered himself an “unworthy servant,” yet he did perfectly the work that fell to him (Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians).
Toward the end of 1912, Bishop Raphael became ill while working in his office. Doctors diagnosed him with a heart ailment that eventually caused his death. After two weeks he felt strong enough to celebrate the Liturgy in his cathedral.
In 1913-1914 this missionary bishop continued to make pastoral visitations to various cities. In 1915 he fell ill again and spent two months at home, bearing his illness with patience. At 12:40 AM on February 14/27 he rested from his labors. They called him, but he did not answer. They shook him, but he was gone.
From his youth, Saint Raphael’s greatest joy was to serve the Church. When he came to America, he found his people scattered abroad, and he called them to unity. He never neglected his flock, but traveled throughout America, Canada, and Mexico in search of them so that he might care for them. He kept them from straying into strange pastures, and he protected them from spiritual harm. During twenty years of faithful ministry he nurtured them and helped them to grow. At the time of his death, the Syro-Arab Mission had thirty parishes with 25,000 faithful.
He was also a scholar, and the author of several books. He wrote many, if not most, of the articles that appeared in The Word. He served his own Arabic community, and also reached out to Greeks and Russians, speaking to them in their own language. He became fluent in English, and encouraged its use in church services and educational programs.
Saint Raphael came into contact with all sorts of people, and was a gentle father to them. He gained their love and respect by first loving them, and also through his charming personality and excellent character. He was always kind and merciful to others, but was strict with himself. He accomplished many good things during his earthly life, and now he joins the holy angels in offering ceaseless prayer and praise to God.
Through the prayers of the holy Bishop Raphael, may we also be made worthy of the heavenly Kingdom. Amen.
Saint Procopius the Dekapolite lived during the eighth century in the region of Decapolis (Mark 7:31), to the east of Lake Galilee. There he labored for his salvation, struggling in asceticism.
Saint Procopius, his fellow ascetic Saint Basil (February 28), and others zealous for holy Orthodoxy rose up against the Iconoclast heresy of those times. By order of the emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741), Saint Procopius was arrested, subjected to a fierce scourging and thrown into prison. Here he languished together with Saint Basil until the very death of the oppressive emperor, after which the holy confessors were set free.
Saint Procopius spent the rest of his life in peace, guiding many on the way of virtue and salvation. He died in old age, around the year 750.
Saint Titus, Presbyter of the Near Caves, lived in great friendship with the deacon Evagrius, which later turned into a strong dislike and hostility. Although Hieromonk Titus tried several times to make peace with his former friend, the deacon Evagrius refused to be reconciled (Compare the story of the Martyr Nikēphóros on February 9).
When Saint Titus fell ill with a grievous illness and began to prepare himself for death, he asked for Evagrius to be brought to him in order to ask his forgiveness. The brethren brought Evagrius to the sickbed by force. Saint Titus tearfully begged him for forgiveness, but Evagrius remained obstinate. He declared that he would not forgive Titus in this world, nor in the world to come. As he said this, he fell dead, struck down by an angel. At that very instant, Saint Titus was healed, and got up out of bed. He revealed that the demons were all around him until he forgave Evagrius. When he had done so, the demons left him and attacked Evagrius, while radiant angels surrounded Saint Titus.
After this, Saint Titus increased his ascetic struggles, and received from God the gift of working miracles. He was also known for his great humility.
Saint Titus reposed around 1190. His memory is celebrated also on September 28 at the Synaxis of the Fathers of the Near Caves.
Saint Titus was a soldier who was known for his bravery. One day, he was seriously wounded in battle. An illness caused by his wound forced him to leave the military service, so he entered the Kiev Caves Monastery. There he spent the rest of his life in prayer and repentance, and attained the heavenly Kingdom.
Saint Thalelaeus lived during the fifth century. He was a native of Cilicia (Asia Minor), became a monk at the monastery of Saint Savva the Sanctified, and was ordained presbyter there. Later on, he moved to Syria, not far from the city of Habala, where he found a dilapidated pagan temple surrounded by graves, and he settled there in a tent. This place had a rough reputation, since the unclean spirits residing there frightened travellers and caused them much harm.
Here the monk lived, praying day and night in total solitude. The demons often assailed the saint, trying to terrify him with sights and sounds. But by the power of God the saint ultimately gained victory over the power of the Enemy, after which he was troubled no more. He then intensified his efforts even more: he built a hut, so cramped that it was just possible to get into it, and only with an effort was it possible to raise his head. He lived there for about ten years.
The Lord granted to the ascetic the gift of wonderworking, and his miracles helped him to enlighten the pagan inhabitants. With the help of the inhabitants he converted to Christianity, he demolished the pagan temple, building a church where there were daily services.
Saint Thalelaeus died in old age in about the year 460. In the book entitled Leimonarion or Pratum [The Meadow], a composition of the Greek monk John Moschus (+ 622), Saint Thalelaeus is mentioned: “Abba Thalelaeus was a monk for sixty years and with tears never ceased saying, ‘Brethren, God has given us this time for repentance, and we must seek after Him’” (Ch. 59).
Saints Asclepius and James were Syrian ascetics, and lived during the fifth century. Theodoret of Cyrrhus speaks of them. Saint Asclepius led an ascetic life of temperance in his native village and was not hindered by constant association with many people.
He had many imitators and followers. One of them was Saint James, who secluded himself in a small dwelling near the village of Nimuza. Up until the end of his life, the ascetic did not leave his hermitage, but spoke to visitors through a small aperture in the wall, cut at a angle so that no one was able to see him. He never kindled a fire or lit a lamp.
Saint Stephen, formerly a courtier under the emperor Mauricius (582-602), left his service, founded a hospice for the elderly at Armatia [Constantinople], and devoted himself totally to taking in strangers. He died peacefully in 614.
The Holy Martyrs Julian, Eunos [Kronion] his servant, Beza [Bisos] the soldier and Mekaros suffered at the beginning of the reign of Decius (249-251) at Alexandria. Saint Julian, a very old man, suffered from gout and could neither stand nor get about. He was carried to the trial by his servants, one of whom, (Eunos) bravely confessed his faith in Christ, even though a second servant recanted.
They took Julian and Eunos through the city on camels, subjecting them to the jeering of pagans, and finally burned them in a fire. The soldier Saint Beza also suffered with them. Because he tried to defend the holy martyrs from insult, he was beheaded by the sword. Saint Mekaros of Lebanon was also burned.
No information available at this time.
SATURDAY OF SOULS
Saturday of Souls, Porphyrius, Bishop of Gaza, The Holy Great Martyr Photine, the Samaritan Women, Holy Martyr Theocletus, John Claphas the new Martyr
But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.
The Lord said, “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once. And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.”
On the day before Meatfare Sunday, on which we remember the Last Judgment, the Orthodox Church prays for those of its members who may have died unexpectedly because of wars, plagues, starvation, or any other sort of death while they were in a foreign country, or while they were traveling by sea, by land, or by air. The Church also prays for the poor, or for those who may not have received a proper burial, or who had no one to request Memorial Services to be offered for them.
We pray for the departed on this Saturday because the Orthodox Church has established Saturday as the proper day of the week for remembering the dead. On this day before we hear the Gospel about the Last Judgment, we should pause to recall our own inescapable death when we shall appear before Christ to give an account of our lives. May we have "an acceptable defense before His dread Judgment Seat."
As we prepare for the spiritual struggles of the Great Fast, we should remember that we have been given this present life for repentance and for entreating God's mercy. When Christ comes in glory to judge the world, it will be too late then to say that we repent, or to ask for mercy. Therefore, we should make the most of the time that has been given us in order to struggle against every sinful impulse which separates us from God, to confess our sins, to correct ourselves, and to pursue a life of virtue and holiness.
During the week leading up to Meatfare Sunday, we do not sing "Alleluia" in place of "God is the Lord," at Matins. "Alleluia" is appointed to be sung on the Wednesday and Friday of Cheesefare Week, and also during Great Lent. See the TYPIKON or the OCA rubrics book for information about the structure of the pre-Lenten and Lenten services.
Saint Porphyrius, Archbishop of Gaza, was born about the year 346 at Thessalonica. His parents were people of substance, and this allowed Saint Porphyrius to receive a fine education. Having the inclination for monastic life, he left his native region at twenty-five years of age and set off for Egypt, where he lived in the Nitrian desert under the guidance of Saint Macarius the Great (January 19). There he also met Saint Jerome (June 15), who was then visiting the Egyptian monasteries. He went to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places, and to venerate the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord (September 14), then he moved into a cave in the Jordanian wilderness for prayer and ascetic deeds.
After five years, Saint Porphyrius was afflicted with a serious malady of the legs. He decided to go to the holy places of Jerusalem to pray for healing. As he lay half-conscious at the foot of Golgotha, Saint Porphyrius fell into a sort of trance. He beheld Jesus Christ descending from the Cross and saying to him, “Take this Wood and preserve it.”
Coming out of his trance, he found himself healthy and free from pain. Then he gave away all his money to the poor and for the adornment of the churches of God. For a time he supported himself by working as a shoemaker. The words of the Savior were fulfilled when the saint was forty-five years old. The Patriarch of Jerusalem ordained Saint Porphyrius to the holy priesthood and appointed him custodian of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord.
In 395 the bishop of the city of Gaza (in Palestine) died. The local Christians went to Caesarea to ask Metropolitan John to send them a new bishop who would be able to contend against the pagans, which were predominant in their city and were harassing the Christians there. The Lord inspired the Metropolitan to summon the priest Porphyrius. With fear and trembling the ascetic accepted the office of bishop, and with tears he prostrated himself before the Life-Creating Wood and went to fulfill his new obedience.
In Gaza there were only three Christian churches, but there were a great many pagan temples and idols. During this time there had been a long spell without rain, causing a severe drought. The pagan priests brought offerings to their idols, but the woes did not cease. Saint Porphyrius imposed a fast for all the Christians; he then served an all-night Vigil, followed by a church procession around the city. Immediately the sky covered over with storm clouds, thunder boomed, and abundant rains poured down. Seeing this miracle, many pagans cried out, “Christ is indeed the only true God!” As a result of this, 127 men, thirty-five women and fourteen children were united to the Church through Holy Baptism, and another 110 men soon after this.
The pagans continued to harass the Christians. They passed them over for public office, and burdened them with taxes. Saint Porphyrius and Metropolitan John of Caesarea journeyed to Constantinople to seek redress from the emperor. Saint John Chrysostom (September 14, January 27 and 30) received them and assisted them.
Ss. John and Porphyrius were presented to the empress Eudoxia who was expecting a child at that time. “Intercede for us,” said the bishops to the empress, “and the Lord will send you a son, who shall reign during your lifetime”. Eudoxia very much wanted a son, since she had given birth only to daughters. Through the prayer of the saints an heir was born to the imperial family. As a result of this, the emperor issued an edict in 401 ordering the destruction of pagan temples in Gaza and the restoration of privileges to Christians. Moreover, the emperor gave the saints money for the construction of a new church, which was to be built in Gaza on the site of the chief pagan temple.
Saint Porphyrius upheld Christianity in Gaza to the very end of his life, and guarded his flock from the vexatious pagans. Through the prayers of the saint numerous miracles and healings occurred. The holy archpastor guided his flock for twenty-five years, and reposed in 420 at an advanced age.
Saint Sebastian of Sokhota, Poshekhonye, founded a monastery in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord, located at the River Sokhota, 90 versts from the city of Romanov (now Tutaev) in the Yaroslav district. The monks of the monastery themselves cultivated the soil and ate through the work of their own hands. The founder of the monastery taught the ascetics this by his own example and guidance. Saint Sebastian reposed about the year 1500.
The Transfiguration monastery on the River Sokhota was later annexed to the Cherepovets Ascension monastery, and in 1764 closed down. In the mid-nineteenth century a stone church was built over the relics of Saint Sebastian. The saint is also commemorated on December 18. .
Saint Christodoulos was martyred with swords. We have no other details about his life. He is mentioned only in the Synaxaristes of Saint Νikόdēmos of the Holy Mountain.
The Holy New Martyr John Kalphes (the Apprentice) lived in a suburb of Constantinople, called Galata. He was a cabinetmaker by profession, and he had acquired great skill in his craft, so that important officials made use of his services. He was entrusted with the inner adornment of the sultan’s palace.
Saint John Kalphes was distinguished for his Christian charity, he provided for orphans and those locked up in prison, and many turned to him for help. One time a certain dignitary asked Saint John to take on his nephew as an apprentice. He agreed, and the youth received an honorable position at court upon the completion of his apprenticeship.
Once, encountering his former teacher and benefactor, he asked Saint John what it says in the Christian books about their “prophet” Mohammed. Saint John did not want to answer his question, but because of the persistent demands of the youth, he declared that Mohammed was a mere mortal, an uneducated man who did not perform a single miracle during his lifetime. He went on to say that Mohammed was no prophet, but rather an adversary of God. The youth, devoted to Islam, reported to his fellow Moslems that the cabinetmaker had insulted Mohammed.
Saint John was brought to trial, where they demanded that he renounce Christ, but he bravely confessed his faith in Christ. After torture, they sent the holy martyr off to penal servitude, where he spent six months. Then, for the next three months they beat him in the prison. Seeing that they could not coerce him into submitting to their will, they beheaded him in the crowded city square in Ergat-Bazara, near the Bedestan (a covered bazaar) on February 26, 1575.
The suffering of the holy Martyr John Kalphes were recorded by Father Andrew, the Chief Steward (Megas Oikonomos) of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who communed him with the Holy Mysteries in prison.
The wonderworking Mezhetsk (Межецкая) or Mezhitsk (Межетская) Icon of the Mother of God appeared near Kiev in 1492 and became renowned because of the numerous miracles which took place when people prayed before it. We have no other details concerning the Icon.
The Mother of God is depicted with a crown on her head and the Child on her left hand.
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ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, Reginos, Bishop of Skopelos, Holy Martyr Alexander of Thrace, Markellos, Bishop of Apamea
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us for ever:
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love.
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children following the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. And now I beg you, lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we follow his commandments; this is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you follow love. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward. Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son. If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; for he who greets him shares his wicked work.
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.
At that time, the soldiers took Jesus and led him out to be crucified. And they brought him to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And it was the third hour, when they crucified him. And when the sixth hour had come there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah. ” And one ran and, filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus cried out and breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God! There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome who, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered to him; and also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
Saint Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople was of illustrious lineage. He was born and raised in Constantinople, where he received a fine education. He was rapidly promoted at the court of the emperor Constantine VI Porphyrogenitos (780-797) and Constantine’s mother, the holy Empress Irene (August 7), and the saint attained the rank of senator.
During these times the Church was agitated by the turmoil of the Iconoclast disturbances. The holy Patriarch Paul (August 30) although he had formerly supported Iconoclasm, later repented and resigned his office. He withdrew to a monastery, where he took the schema. When the holy Empress Irene and her son the emperor came to him, Saint Paul told them that the most worthy successor to him would be Saint Tarasius (who at this time was still a layman).
Tarasius refused for a long time, not considering himself worthy of such high office, but he then gave in to the common accord on the condition, that an Ecumenical Council be convened to address the Iconoclast heresy.
Proceeding through all the clerical ranks in a short while, Saint Tarasius was elevated to the patriarchal throne in the year 784. In the year 787 the Seventh Ecumenical Council was convened in the city of Nicea, with Patriarch Tarasius presiding, and 367 bishops attending. The veneration of holy icons was confirmed at the council. Those bishops who repented of their iconoclasm, were again received by the Church.
Saint Tarasius wisely governed the Church for twenty-two years. He led a strict ascetic life. He spent all his money on God-pleasing ends, feeding and giving comfort to the aged, to the impoverished, to widows and orphans, and on Holy Pascha he set out a meal for them, and he served them himself.
The holy Patriarch fearlessly denounced the emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos when he slandered his spouse, the empress Maria, the granddaughter of Saint Philaretos the Merciful (December 1), so that he could send Maria to a monastery, thus freeing him to marry his own kinswoman. Saint Tarasius resolutely refused to dissolve the marriage of the emperor, for which the saint fell into disgrace. Soon, however, Constantine was deposed by his own mother, the Empress Irene.
Saint Tarasius died in the year 806. Before his death, devils examined his life from the time of his youth, and they tried to get the saint to admit to sins that he had not committed. “I am innocent of that of which you accuse me,” replied the saint, “and you falsely slander me. You have no power over me at all.”
Mourned by the Church, the saint was buried in a monastery he built on the Bosphorus. Many miracles took place at his tomb.