SUNDAY OF THE CANAANITE
Sunday of the Canaanite, Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople, Bucolus, Bishop of Smyrna, Barsanuphius the Great and John of Gaza, Afterfeast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple, Ilyan of Homs
ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 6:16-18; 7:1
Brethren, you are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.
At that time, Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon." But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
The paschal season of the Church is preceded by the season of Great Lent, which is also preceded by its own liturgical preparation. The first sign of the approach of Great Lent comes five Sundays before its beginning. On this Sunday the Gospel reading is about Zacchaeus the tax-collector. It tells how Christ brought salvation to the sinful man, and how his life was changed simply because he “sought to see who Jesus was” (Luke 19:3). The desire and effort to see Jesus begins the entire movement through Lent towards Pascha. It is the first movement of salvation.
Our lenten journey begins with a recognition of our own sinfulness, just as Zacchaeus recognized his. He promised to make restitution by giving half of his wealth to the poor, and by paying to those he had falsely accused four times as much as they had lost. In this, he went beyond the requirements of the Law (Ex. 22:3-12).
The example of Zacchaeus teaches us that we should turn away from our sins, and atone for them. The real proof of our sorrow and repentance is not just a verbal apology, but when we correct ourselves and try to make amends for the consequences of our evil actions.
We are also assured of God’s mercy and compassion by Christ’s words to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation is come to this house” (Luke 19:9). After the Great Doxology at Sunday Matins (when the Tone of the week is Tone 1, 3, 5, 7) we sing the Dismissal Hymn of the Resurrection “Today salvation has come to the world,” which echoes the Lord’s words to Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was short, so he climbed a tree in order to see the Lord. All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). We are also short in our spiritual stature, therefore we must climb the ladder of the virtues. In other words, we must prepare for spiritual effort and growth.
Saint Zacchaeus is also commemorated on April 20.
The fourth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 6.
Saint Bucolus, Bishop of Smyrna, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, and became the first Bishop of Smyrna (Asia Minor).
By the grace of God, Saint Bucolus converted many of the pagans to Christ and baptized them. As a wise and experienced guide, he defended his flock from the darkness of heresy.
He died in peace between the years 100-105. He entrusted his flock to Saint Polycarp (February 23), one of the Apostolic Fathers, who was also a disciple of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. At the grave of Saint Bucolus grew a myrtle tree, which healed the sick.
Saint Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, “the Church’s far-gleaming beacon,” lived during the ninth century, and came from a family of zealous Christians. His father Sergius died as a martyr in defense of holy icons. Saint Photius received an excellent education and, since his family was related to the imperial house, he occupied the position of first state secretary in the Senate. His contemporaries said of him: “He so distinguished himself with knowledge in almost all the secular sciences, that it rightfully might be possible to take into account the glory of his age and compare it with the ancients.”
Michael, the young successor to the throne, and Saint Cyril, the future Enlightener of the Slavs, were taught by him. His deep Christian piety protected Saint Photius from being seduced by the charms of court life. With all his soul, he yearned for monasticism.
In 857 Bardas, who ruled with Emperor Michael, deposed Patriarch Ignatius (October 23) from the See of Constantinople. The bishops, knowing the piety and extensive knowledge of Photius, informed the emperor that he was a man worthy to occupy the archpastoral throne. Saint Photius accepted the proposal with humility. He passed through all the clerical ranks in six days. On the day of the Nativity of Christ, he was consecrated bishop and elevated to the patriarchal throne.
Soon, however, discord arose within the Church, stirred up by the removal of Patriarch Ignatius from office. The Synod of 861 was called to end the unrest, at which the deposition of Ignatius and the installation of Photius as patriarch were confirmed.
Pope Nicholas I, whose envoys were present at this council, hoped that by recognizing Photius as patriarch he could subordinate him to his power. When the new patriarch proved unsubmissive, Nicholas anathematized Photius at a Roman council.
Until the end of his life Saint Photius was a firm opponent of papal intrigues and designs upon the Orthodox Church of the East. In 864, Bulgaria voluntarily converted to Christianity. The Bulgarian prince Boris was baptized by Patriarch Photius himself. Later, Saint Photius sent an archbishop and priests to baptize the Bulgarian people. In 865, Saints Cyril and Methodius were sent to preach Christ in the Slavonic language. However, the partisans of the Pope incited the Bulgarians against the Orthodox missionaries.
The calamitous situation in Bulgaria developed because an invasion by the Germans forced them to seek help in the West, and the Bulgarian prince requested the Pope to send his bishops. When they arrived in Bulgaria, the papal legates began to substitute Latin teachings and customs in place of Orthodox belief and practice. Saint Photius, as a firm defender of truth and denouncer of falsehood, wrote an encyclical informing the Eastern bishops of the Pope’s actions, indicating that the departure of the Roman Church from Orthodoxy was not only in ritual, but also in its confession of faith. A council was convened, censuring the arrogance of the West.
In 867, Basil the Macedonian seized the imperial throne, after murdering the emperor Michael. Saint Photius denounced the murderer and would not permit him to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Therefore, he was removed from the patriarchal throne and locked in a monastery under guard, and Patriarch Ignatius was restored to his position.
The Synod of 869 met to investigate the conduct of Saint Photius. This council took place with the participation of papal legates, who demanded that the participants sign a document (Libellus) condemning Photius and recognizing the primacy of the Pope. The Eastern bishops would not agree to this, and argued with the legates. Summoned to the council, Saint Photius met all the accusations of the legates with a dignified silence. Only when the judges asked him whether he wished to repent did he reply, “Why do you consider yourselves judges?” After long disputes, the opponents of Photius were victorious. Although their judgment was baseless, they anathematized Patriarch Photius and the bishops defending him. The saint was sent to prison for seven years, and by his own testimony, he thanked the Lord for patiently enduring His judges.
During this time the Latin clergy were expelled from Bulgaria, and Patriarch Ignatius sent his bishops there. In 879, two years after the death of Patriarch Ignatius, another council was summoned (many consider it the Eighth Ecumenical Council), and again Saint Photius was acknowledged as the lawful archpastor of the Church of Constantinople. Pope John VIII, who knew Photius personally, declared through his envoys that the former papal decisions about Photius were annulled. The council acknowledged the unalterable character of the Nicean-Constantinople Creed, rejecting the Latin distortion (“filioque”), and acknowledging the independence and equality of both thrones and both churches (Western and Eastern). The council decided to abolish Latin usages and rituals in the Bulgarian church introduced by the Roman clergy, who ended their activities there.
Under Emperor Basil’s successor, Leo, Saint Photius again endured false denunciations, and was accused of speaking against the emperor. Again deposed from his See in 886, the saint completed the course of his life in 891. He was buried at the monastery of Eremia.
The Orthodox Church venerates Saint Photius as a “pillar and foundation of the Church,” an “inspired guide of the Orthodox,” and a wise theologian. He left behind several works, exposing the errors of the Latins, refuting soul-destroying heresies, explicating Holy Scripture, and exploring many aspects of the Faith.
Saints Barsanuphius the Great and John the Prophet lived during the sixth century during the reign of the emperor Justinian I (483-565). They lived in asceticism at the monastery of Abba Seridus in Palestine, near the city of Gaza.
Saint Barsanuphius was born in Egypt (the year of his birth is unknown). From his youth, he began to lead an ascetic life. Arriving at the cenobitic monastery of Abba Seridus, he built a small cell outside the monastery. Here he lived in solitude.
Later, Saint John, disciple of Saint Barsanuphius, lived in this cell for eighteen years until his death. Saint John imitated his teacher in silence, ascetic deeds and in virtue. Because of his gift of clairvoyance, he was known as “the Prophet.”
After a certain time, Saint Barsanuphius built another cell near the monastery. At the beginning of his solitude, the monastery sent him only three loaves of bread per week. He dwelt for fifty years in work and ascetic deeds.
When Patriarch Eustochios of Jerusalem heard about the ascetical life of Saint Barsanuphius, it seemed unbelievable to him. He wanted to see Barsanuphius for himself, so he and his companions tried to dig under the wall, and to enter the monk’s cell from beneath. Those attempting to enter were almost burned by flames suddenly bursting forth from the cell.
In his hermitage Saint Barsanuphius devoted himeself entirely to prayer, and he attained a high degree of spiritual perfection. We have manuscript accounts about the life, the deeds and talents of Saints Barsanuphius and John. During the lifetime of Saint Paisius Velichkovsky (November 15), they were translated into the Moldavian and Slavonic languages. The publication of these manuscripts, and also their translation into the Russian language, was done in the nineteenth century by the Elders of Optina’s Entry of the Theotokos Monastery.
The precepts of Saints Barsanuphius and John clearly show the degree of their moral perfection, and their love for people, but contain scant facts about their lives. We do not know exactly when Saint Barsanuphius died. Some sources say the year of his death was 563, others say more cautiously before the year 600.
After spending a long time in seclusion, Saint Barsanuphius thereafter and until the death of Saint John the Prophet began to serve others by instructing them on the path to salvation, as Abba Dorotheus (June 5) testifies. Saint Barsanuphius replied to questioners through Saint John, sometimes instructing him to give the answers, or even through Abba Seridus (August 13), who wrote down the saint’s answers.
In the answers of Saints Barsanuphius and John the Prophet, who were guides in the spiritual life not only for their contemporaries, but also for succeeding generations, it is clearly possible to see the monks’ gradual spiritual ascent “from strength to strength.”
By deeds of fasting, silence, guarding the heart, and unceasing prayer, Saint Barsanuphius attained the heights of humility, reasoning and fiery love. The Lord gave him the gifts of discernment, clairvoyance, and wonderworking. By the power of his prayers, he was able to free the souls of people from sins. Sometimes, he took the sins of others upon himself.
The venerable one knew the dispositions of hearts, therefore he gave advice according to the spiritual state of each person. In the Name of the Lord he raised the dead, he cast out demons, and healed incurable illnesses. Things that he blessed received divine power and grace (for example, kukol or furrow-weed took away a monk’s headache). Even the name of Abba Barsanuphius, when invoked mentally, gave help to those who called upon it.
Through the prayers of Saint Barsanuphius, God sent rain upon the earth, withdrawing His wrath from the multitudes of the people. The saint’s predictions always came true. Thus, he predicted that a certain monk, the Elder Euthymius the Silent, would be placed with him in a single grave, which indeed came to pass.Saint Barsanuphius acquired these gifts after many years of patiently enduring great temptations and illness.
(Besides the Orthodox ascetic Barsanuphius the Great, there was another Barsanuphius, a Monophysite heretic. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, anathematized him in his “Confession of Faith,” sent to the Sixth Ecumenical Council).
We do not know when Saint Barsanuphius arrived at the monastery of Abba Seridus, nor anything about the home and family of Saint John the Prophet. Following the instructions of Saint Barsanuphius, John attained the heights of perfection, and became like his teacher in all things. Out of humility, he sent those who came to him with questions to Abba Barsanuphius.
Saint John foresaw and predicted many things, even his own death a week after the death of Abba Seridus. Abba Elian, the young igumen of this monastery, begged John to remain with him for two more weeks, in order to teach him the Rule and how to govern the monastery. Saint John fulfilled his request and died after two weeks.
Saint Barsanuphius the Great survived his disciple and friend, but after St. John's death embraced complete silence and refused to give answers to anyone. These two ascetics have left the soul-profiting book, GUIDANCE TOWARD SPIRITUAL LIFE: ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS OF DISCIPLES by the Holy Monastic Fathers Barsanuphius and John as their spiritual legacy. This book was known to many saints who lived at a later time, as evidenced by the wrings of Saint Theodore the Studite (November 11 and January 26), the hieromonk Nikon Chernogorets (+ 1060), Saint Simeon the New Theologian (March 12), and other Orthodox ascetics and writers.
The Holy Martyr Dorothy, the Martyrs Christina, Callista and the Martyr Theophilus lived in Caesarea of Cappadocia and suffered under the emperor Diocletian in either the year 288 or 300.
Saint Dorothy was a pious Christian maiden, distinguished by her great beauty, humility, prudence, and God-given wisdom, which astonished many. Arrested upon orders of the governor Sapricius, she steadfastly confessed her faith in Christ and was subjected to tortures.
Failing to break the will of the saint, the governor sent to her two women, the sisters Christina and Callista, who once were Christians, but fearing torture, they renounced Christ and began to lead impious lives. He ordered them to get Saint Dorothy to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, but just the reverse happened. Saint Dorothy convinced them that the mercy of God is granted to all who repent, so they corrected themselves and returned to Christ. The tormentors tied them back to back and burned them in a vat of tar. Through martyrdom, Christina and Callista atoned for their sin of apostasy, receiving from God not only forgiveness, but crowns of victory.
Saint Dorothy was again subjected to tortures, but she gladly endured them and accepted the death sentence. She cried out with joy, thanking Christ for calling her to Paradise and to the heavenly bridal chamber. As they led the saint to execution Theophilus, one of the governor’s counselors, laughed and said to her, “Bride of Christ, send me an apple and some roses from the Paradise of your Bridegroom.” The martyr nodded and said, “I shall do that.”
At the place of execution, the saint requested a little time to pray. When she finished the prayer, an angel appeared before her in the form of a handsome child presenting her three apples and three roses on a pure linen cloth. The saint requested that these be given to Theophilus, after which she was beheaded by the sword.
Having received the gracious gift, the recent mocker of Christians was shaken, and he confessed Christ as the true God. His friends were astonished, and wondered whether he were joking, or perhaps mad. He assured them he was not joking. Then they asked the reason for this sudden change. He asked what month it was. “February,” they replied. “In the winter, Cappadocia is covered with ice and frost, and the trees are bare of leaves. What do you think? From where do these apples and flowers come?” After being subjected to cruel tortures, Saint Theophilus was beheaded with a sword.
The relics of Saint Dorothy are in Rome in the church dedicated to her, and her head is also at Rome, in a church of the Mother of God at Trastevero.
The Holy Martyr Julian was a native of the Phoenician city of Emesa, and he suffered in the year 312 under the emperor Maximian. He was a skilled physician, and healed illnesses not only of the body but also of the soul, and he converted many people to faith in Christ the Savior.
When they led away the holy Martyrs Bishop Silvanus, Deacon Luke and the Reader Mocius (February 29) to be eaten by wild beasts, Julian encouraged them and urged them not to fear death for the Lord. He was also arrested and put to death. His head, hands and feet were pierced with long nails.
The holy virgin martyrs Martha and Mary were sisters who lived in Asia Minor, and fervently desired to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ. Once, a pagan military commander marched past their house. The sisters went out to him and loudly declared that they were Christians. At first the commander paid no attention to them, but they persistently shouted after him, repeating their confession.
They were arrested together with their brother Lykarion. All three were crucified, and during the execution their mother came to them, encouraging them in their sufferings for Christ. The sisters were pierced with spears, and Lykarion was beheaded by the sword.
Saint Arsen of Iqalto was a translator, researcher, compiler of manuscripts, hymnographer, philosopher, and a great defender of the Georgian Christian Faith. His father was Ibadi Vachnadze, a wise, learned man and a fluent speaker of the Greek language. He directed the academy at Iqalto Monastery and was an instructor of Holy King Davit the Restorer.
Few details about the life of Saint Arsen have been preserved, but we know that he lived in the 11th and 12th centuries and was a younger contemporary of Saint Eprem the Lesser. He received both his primary and higher education in Byzantium, at Mangana Monastery, which had been founded by the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1055). At the academy he completed one of his most important projects: a translation of the Byzantine historian George Hamartolus’ Chronicle. Hamartolus’ work is a nine-volume account of history from Adam to the year A.D. 842. Also at Mangana, Arsen translated a volume of dogmatic-polemical writings into Georgian and called his work Dogmatikon. In the years that followed, works translated by other authors were added to the book.
After completing his studies at Mangana Monastery, Arsen moved to the Black Mountains near Antioch to continue his labors under the guidance of Saint Eprem the Lesser. Following Saint Eprem’s repose, he returned to Mangana Monastery to continue his translations. In 1114 King Davit the Restorer summoned Arsen back to Georgia, to the Gelati Academy in the west. It was there that he translated The Nomocanon (a Byzantine collection of ecclesiastical law) from the original Greek into Georgian. Arsen later returned to Kakheti in eastern Georgia, where he founded an academy at Iqalto Monastery. He also participated in the Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi, which had been convened by King Davit the Restorer. One of King Davit’s biographers writes that he invited “Arsen of Iqalto, translator and interpreter of the Greek and Georgian languages and enlightener of many churches.”
Arsen was present at the repose of King Davit the Restorer, and it is believed that he composed the king’s epitaph:
I fed seven kings with my wealth,
Drove the Turks, Persians, and Arabs from our borders,
Moved the fish from one river to another,
And, having accomplished all these things,
Lay my hands upon my heart to die.
The “theologian, philosopher, physicist, anatomist, writer of allegories and verses, epic poet, and compiler of Church typika” Arsen was buried in Iqalto next to Saint Zenon, the founder of Iqalto Monastery.
No information available at this time.