5TH FRIDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
The Holy Apostles of the Seventy Herodion, Agabus, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, and Hermes, The Holy New Martyr John the Ship-Builder who was martyred in Kos, Rufus the Obedient of the Kiev Caves, Celestine, Pope of Rome
Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Will you question me about my children, or command me concerning the work of my hands? I made the earth, and created man upon it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. I have aroused him in righteousness, and I will make straight all his ways; he shall build my city and set my exiles free, not for price or reward, ” says the LORD of hosts. Thus says the LORD: “The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours, they shall follow you; they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. They will make supplication to you, saying: ‘God is with you only, and there is no other, no god besides him.'” Truly, thou art a God who hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior. All of them are put to shame and confounded, the makers of idols go in confusion together. But Israel is saved by the LORD with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity.
After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the ass; I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father! “And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place The LORD will provide; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A man without sense gives a pledge, and becomes surety in the presence of his neighbor. He who loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction. A man of crooked mind does not prosper, and one with a perverse tongue falls into calamity. A stupid son is a grief to a father; and the father of a fool has no joy. A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones. A wicked man accepts a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice. A man of understanding sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him. To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good; to flog noble men is wrong. He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
He who is estranged seeks pretexts to break out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. When wickedness comes, contempt comes also; and with dishonor comes disgrace. The words of a man's mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a gushing stream. It is not good to be partial to a wicked man, or to deprive a righteous man of justice.
Saints Herodion (Rodion), Agabus, Asyncritus, Rufus, Phlegon and Hermes were among the Seventy Apostles, chosen by Christ and sent out by Him to preach (Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles: January 4).
The holy Apostle Herodion was a relative of Saint Paul, and his companion on many journeys. When Christianity had spread to the Balkan Peninsula, the Apostles Peter and Paul established Saint Herodion as Bishop of Patara. Saint Herodion zealously preached the Word of God and converted many of the Greek pagans and Jews to Christianity.
Enraged by the preaching of the disciple, the idol-worshippers and Jews with one accord fell upon Saint Herodion, and they began to beat him with sticks and pelt him with stones. One of the mob struck him with a knife, and the saint fell down. But when the murderers were gone, the Lord restored him to health unharmed.
Saint Herodion continued to accompany the Apostle Paul for many years. When the holy Apostle Peter was crucified (+ c. 67), Saint Herodion and Saint Olympos were beheaded by the sword at the same time.
The holy Apostle Agabus was endowed with the gift of prophecy. He predicted (Acts 11:27-28) the famine during the reign of the emperor Claudius (41-52), and foretold the suffering of the Apostle Paul at Jerusalem (Acts 21:11). Saint Agabus preached in many lands, and converted many pagans to Christ.
Saint Rufus, whom the holy Apostle Paul mentions in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 16:11-15), was bishop of the Greek city of Thebes. Saint Asyncritus (Rom. 16:14) was bishop in Hyrcania (Asia Minor). Saint Phlegon was bishop in the city of Marathon (Thrace). Saint Hermes was bishop in Dalmatia (there is another Apostle of the Seventy by the name of Hermas, who was bishop in the Thracian city of Philippopolis).
All these disciples for their intrepid service to Christ underwent fierce sufferings and were found worthy of a martyr’s crown.
Saint Niphon was a monk of the Kiev Caves Monastery, where he struggled in asceticism. In imitation of the Holy Fathers, he uprooted the passions through fasting, vigil, and prayer, and adorned himself with every virtue. He was chosen as Bishop of Novgorod when Bishop John retired to a monastery after twenty-five years of episcopal service. Saint Niphon was consecrated bishop in Kiev by Metropolitan Michael and other hierarchs.
Saint Niphon embraced his archpastoral duties with great zeal, strengthening his flock in the Orthodox Faith, and striving to prevent them from becoming separated from the Church, which is the same as being separated from Christ Himself.
The saint was also zealous in building and repairing churches. He built a new stone church in the center of Novgorod, dedicating it to the Most Holy Theotokos. He repaired the roof of the church of Holy Wisdom (Christ, the Wisdom of God), and adorned the interior with icons.
When war broke out between Novgorod and Kiev, Saint Niphon showed himself to be a peacemaker. Meeting with the leaders of both sides, he was able to pacify them and avert the war. In the same way, he always tried to settle arguments and to reconcile those who were at enmity.
He instructed his flock in the law of God, preaching to them, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting them patiently and with sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:2) so that they might obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10).
When the people of Novgorod drove away their prince, Vsevolod, they invited Prince Svyatslav to govern them. The new prince wanted to enter into a marriage which was against the Church canons. Not only did Saint Niphon refuse to perform the ceremony, he also told his clergy to regard this betrothal as unlawful. Prince Svyatoslav brought priests in from elsewhere to perform the wedding, and the holy hierarch was not afraid to denounce his behavior.
After the death of Metropolitan Michael of Kiev, the Great Prince Isaiaslav wished to have the schemamonk Clement succeed him. However, he wanted to have Clement consecrated without the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople.
At a council of bishops, Saint Niphon declared that he would not approve the consecration without the permission of the Patriarch of Constantinople. He reminded the other bishops that this was contrary to the tradition of the Russian Church, for Russia had received the Orthodox Faith from Constantinople. Starting in 1448, however, the Russian Church began to elect its own primate without seeking confirmation from Constantinople.
The uncanonical consecration took place despite the objections of Saint Niphon. Metropolitan Clement tried to force the saint to serve the Divine Liturgy with him, but he refused. He called Clement a wolf rather than a shepherd, for he had unjustly assumed an office which he did not deserve. Saint Niphon refused to serve with Clement, or to commemorate him during the services.
In his fury, Clement would not permit Saint Niphon to return to Novgorod. Instead, he had the saint held under house arrest at the Kiev Caves Monastery. When Isaiaslav was defeated by Prince George, Saint Niphon returned to Novgorod, where the people welcomed him with great joy.
The Patriarch of Constantinople sent a letter praising Saint Niphon for his steadfast defense of church teachings. He also sent Metropolitan Constantine to Rus in order to depose Metropolitan Clement, and to assume the see of Kiev himself.
Saint Niphon again took up residence in the Kiev Caves Monastery, where he became ill. Thirteen days before his death, he revealed to the brethren that he had had a wondrous dream. Saint Theodosius (May 3) appeared to him and announced his imminent departure from this world.
Saint Niphon reposed in peace on April 8, 1156. Now he stands before the throne of God, interceding for us before the All-Holy Trinity, to Whom be all glory, honor, and worship forever.
Saint Rufus the Obedient, Hermit of the Caves, lived at the Kiev Caves monastery during the fourteenth century. He was distinguished for his obedience and glorified as a lover of labor and fasting. He was buried in the Far Caves. He is celebrated a second time on August 28, the Synaxis of the Fathers of the Far Caves.
The Holy Martyr Pausilippus suffered under the emperor Hadrian (117-138). Denunced by the pagans, he was brought to trial before the emperor and staunchly declared himself a Christian.
They beat him with iron rods and handed over to the governor named Precius, who for a long time attempted to make the martyr offer sacrifice to idols. The martyr remained steadfast, and finally the governor gave orders to fetter him and execute him.
Along the way, Saint Pausilippus prayed fervently that the Lord would spare him from the hand of the executioner and grant him a quick death. The Lord heard him. The martyr, beaten up and weak, was suddenly filled with such strength that he shattered the iron fetters and freed himself. Tossing them aside, Saint Pausilippus thought to escape, but he died as he fled. Christians buried the body of the martyr with reverence.
Saint Celestine, Pope of Rome (422-432), a zealous champion of Orthodoxy, lived during the reign of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450). He received an excellent education, and he knew philosophy well, but most of all he studied the Holy Scripture and pondered over theological questions.
The virtuous life of the saint and his authority as a theologian won him the general esteem and love of the clergy and people. After the death of Saint Boniface (418-422), Saint Celestine was chosen to be the Bishop of Rome.
During this time, the heresy of Nestorius emerged. At a local Council in Rome in 430, Saint Celestine denounced this heresy and condemned Nestorius as a heretic. After the Council, Saint Celestine wrote a letter to Saint Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria (January 18), stating that if Nestorius did not renounce his false teachings after ten days, then he should be deposed and excommunicated.
Saint Celestine also sent a series of letters to the churches in Constantinople and Antioch, in which he unmasked and denounced the Nestorian heresy.
For two years after the Council, Saint Celestine proclaimed the true teaching about Christ the God-Man, and he died in peace on April 6, 432.
The Spanish Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, which is one of the Panachranta type, depicts the Mother of God seated upon a throne.