8TH SUNDAY OF LUKE
8th Sunday of Luke, John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, Anthousa, the Mother of John Chrysostom, Damaskinos the New Martyr of Mount Athos
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 7:26-28; 8:1-2
Brethren, it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever. Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord.
At that time, a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise.
Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, one of the Three Hierarchs [January 30], was born at Antioch in about the year 347 into the family of a military commander. His father, Secundus, died soon after the birth of his son. His mother, Anthusa, widowed at twenty years of age, did not seek to remarry but rather devoted all her efforts to the raising of her son in Christian piety. The youth studied under the finest philosophers and rhetoricians. But, scorning the vain disciplines of pagan knowledge, the future hierarch turned himself to the profound study of Holy Scripture and prayerful contemplation. Saint Meletius, Bishop of Antioch (February 12), loved John like a son, guided him in the Faith, and in the year 367 baptized him.
After three years John was tonsured as a Reader. When Saint Meletius had been sent into exile by the emperor Valens in the year 372, John and Theodore (afterwards Bishop of Mopsuestia) studied under the experienced instructors of ascetic life, the presbyters Flavian and Diodorus of Tarsus. The highly refined Diodorus had particular influence upon the youth. When John’s mother died, he embraced monasticism, which he called the “true philosophy.” Soon John and his friend Basil were being considered as candidates for the episcopal office, and they decided to withdraw into the wilderness to avoid this. While Saint John avoided the episcopal rank out of humility, he secretly assisted in Basil’s consecration.
During this period Saint John wrote his “Six Discourses on the Priesthood,” a great work of Orthodox pastoral theology. The saint spent four years struggling in the wilderness, living the ascetic life under the guidance of an experienced spiritual guide. And here he wrote three books entitled, “Against the Opponents of Those Attracted to the Monastic Life”, and a collection entitled, “A Comparison of the Monk with the Emperor” (also known as “Comparison of Imperial Power, Wealth and Eminence, with the True and Christian Wisdom-Loving Monastic Life”), both works which are marked by a profound reflection of the worthiness of the monastic vocation.
For two years, the saint lived in a cave in complete silence, but was obliged to return to Antioch to recover his health. Saint Meletius, the Bishop of Antioch, ordained him deacon in the year 381. The following years were devoted to work on new theological writings: “Concerning Providence” (“To the Ascetic Stagirios”), “Book Concerning Virginity,” “To a Young Widow” (2 discourses), and the “Book of Saint Babylos, and Against Julian and the Pagans.”
In the year 386 Saint John was ordained presbyter by Bishop Flavian of Antioch. Saint John was a splendid preacher, and his inspired words earned him the name “Golden-Mouthed” (“Chrysostom”). For twelve years the saint preached in church, usually twice a week, but sometimes daily, deeply stirring the hearts of his listeners.
In his pastoral zeal to provide Christians with a better understanding of Holy Scripture, Saint John employed hermeneutics, an interpretation and analysis of the Word of God (i.e. exegesis). Among his exegetical works are commentaries on entire books of the Holy Scripture (Genesis, the Psalter, the Gospels of Matthew and John, the Epistles of the Apostle Paul), and also many homilies on individual texts of the Holy Bible, but also instructions on the Feastdays, laudations on the Saints, and also apologetic (i.e. defensive) homilies (against Anomoeans, Judaizers and pagans). As a priest, Saint John zealously fulfilled the Lord’s command to care for the needy. Under Saint John, the Antiochian Church provided sustenance each day to as many as 3,000 virgins and widows, not including in this number the shut-ins, wanderers and the sick.
Saint John began his commentary on Genesis at the beginning of Great Lent in 388, preaching thirty-two homilies during the forty day period. During Holy Week he spoke of how Christ was betrayed, and about the Cross. During Bright Week, his pastoral discourse was devoted to the Resurrection. His exegesis of the Book of Genesis was concluded only at the end of October (388).
At Pascha in the following year the saint began his homilies on the Gospel of John, and toward the end of the year 389 he took up the Gospel of Matthew. In the year 391 the Christians of Antioch listened to his commentary on the Epistles of the holy Apostle Paul to the Romans and to the Corinthians. In 393 he explained the Epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, Timothy, Titus, and the Psalms. In his homily on the Epistle to the Ephesians, Saint John denounced a schism in Antioch, “I tell you and I witness before you, that to tear asunder the Church means nothing less than to fall into heresy. The Church is the house of the heavenly Father, one Body and one Spirit.”
The fame of the holy preacher grew, and in the year 397 with the death of Archbishop Nectarius of Constantinople, successor to Saint Gregory the Theologian, Saint John Chrysostom was summoned from Antioch, and elected to the See of Constantinople. At the capital, the holy archpastor was not able to preach as often as he had at Antioch. Many matters awaited the saint’s attention, and he began with the most important — the spiritual perfection of the priesthood. He himself was the best example of this. The financial means apportioned for the archbishop were channeled by the saint into the upkeep of several hospices for the sick and two hostels for pilgrims. He fasted strictly and ate very little food, and usually refused invitations to dine because of his delicate stomach.
The saint’s zeal in spreading the Christian Faith extended not only to the inhabitants of Constantinople, but also to Thrace to include Slavs and Goths, and to Asia Minor and the Pontine region. He established a bishop for the Bosphorus Church in the Crimea. Saint John sent off zealous missionaries to Phoenicia, to Persia, and to the Scythians, to convert pagans to Christ. He also wrote letters to Syria to bring back the Marcionites into the Church, and he accomplished this. Preserving the unity of the Church, the saint would not permit a powerful Gothic military commander, who wanted the emperor to reward his bravery in battle, to open an Arian church at Constantinople. The saint exerted much effort in enhancing the splendor of the church services: he compiled a Liturgy, he introduced antiphonal singing for the all-night Vigil, and he wrote several prayers for the rite of anointing the sick with oil.
The saintly hierarch denounced the dissolute morals of people in the capital, especially at the imperial court, irrespective of person. When the empress Eudoxia connived to confiscate the last properties of the widow and children of a disgraced dignitary, the saint rose to their defense. The arrogant empress would not relent, and nursed a grudge against the archpastor. Eudoxia’s hatred of the saint blazed forth anew when malefactors told her that the saint apparently had her in mind during his sermon on vain women. A court was convened composed of hierarchs who had been justly condemned by Chrysostom: Theophilus of Alexandria, Bishop Severian of Gabala, who had been banished from the capital because of improprieties, and others.
This court of judgment declared Saint John deposed, and that he be executed for his insult to the empress. The emperor decided on exile instead of execution. An angry crowd gathered at the church, resolved to defend their pastor. In order to avoid a riot, Saint John submitted to the authorities. That very night there was an earthquake at Constantinople. The terrified Eudoxia urgently requested the emperor to bring the saint back, and promptly sent a letter to the banished pastor, beseeching him to return. Once more, in the capital church, the saint praised the Lord in a short talk, “For All His Ways.”
The slanderers fled to Alexandria. But after only two months a new denunciation provoked the wrath of Eudoxia. In March 404, an unjust council was convened, decreeing the exile of Saint John. Upon his removal from the capital, a fire reduced the church of Hagia Sophia and also the Senate building to ashes. Devastating barbarian incursions soon followed, and Eudoxia died in October 404. Even pagans regarded these events as God’s punishment for the unjust judgment against the saint.
In Armenia, the saint strove all the more to encourage his spiritual children. In numerous letters (245 are preserved) to bishops in Asia, Africa, Europe and particularly to his friends in Constantinople, Saint John consoled the suffering, guiding and giving support to his followers. In the winter of 406 Saint John was confined to his bed with sickness, but his enemies were not to be appeased. From the capital came orders to transfer Saint John to desolate Pityus in Abkhazia on the Black Sea. Worn out by sickness, the saint began his final journey under military escort, traveling for three months in the rain and frost. He never arrived at his place of exile, for his strength failed him at Comana.
At the crypt of Saint Basiliscus (May 22), Saint John was comforted by a vision of the martyr, who said, “Despair not, brother John! Tomorrow we shall be together.” After receiving the Holy Mysteries, the hierarch fell asleep in the Lord on September 14, 407. His last words were, “Glory to God for all things!”
The holy relics of Saint John Chrysostom were solemnly transferred to Constantinople in the year 438. The disciple of Saint John, the venerable Isidore of Pelusium (February 4), wrote: “The house of David is grown strong, and the house of Saul enfeebled. He is victor over the storms of life, and has entered into heavenly repose.”
Although he died on September 14, Saint John’s celebration was transferred to this day because of the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross. Saint John Chrysostom is also celebrated on January 27 and January 30.
Saint Nikēphóros, Antoninus, and Germanus were beheaded in Caesarea of Palestine during the reign of Maximian by the ruler Firmilian.
Saint Manetha was captured along with Saints Antoninus, Nikēphóros and Germanus. She suffered many tortures. She was led naked through the city, was mocked, and received the crown of martyrdom when she was burned alive.
Saint Damascene was a monk from Constantinople. His parents Kyriakos and Kyriake lived in the Galatea district of the city, and they named their son Diamantes.
Orphaned at a young age, and without parental guidance, the boy became rather undisciplined in his conduct. One day he was caught doing something unlawful, and in order to save himself he agreed to convert to Islam. Later he came to his senses and repented his denial of Christ. Fleeing to the Holy Mountain, he became a monk at the Lavra, receiving the name Damascene.
For twelve years he labored in prayer and asceticism, and was tonsured into the Great Schema. Finally, he revealed to his spiritual Father his desire for martyrdom. Receiving a blessing for this struggle, he cut his hair and dressed as a sailor.
In the church of Hagia Sophia, which had been turned into a mosque, the monk Damascene made the Sign of the Cross and proclaimed Christ as the true God. Since the Moslems did nothing to him, he went to the Sultan Mehmed mosque and repeated his confession of faith, calling the Moslems ignorant and deceived because they did not believe in Christ. Those who heard him thought he was insane.
The next day Saint Damascene went to the vizier’s courtyard and shouted at those he found there, “Your faith is not true. Christ is the true God, and only the faith of Christ is true.” Not surprisingly, he was seized and beaten, then chased away. He continued to proclaim Christ in other places, but everyone thought he was crazy, and they ignored him.
On a Sunday, the holy martyr went to the Tophana mosque, where many Moslems had gathered. Again he was seized and beaten. This time, however, he was sent to the kadi and then to the Grand Vizier, Kara Mustapha. Seeing that the saint would not change his mind and live as a Moslem, the Vizier sentenced him to death.
On November 13, 1681, Saint Damascene was led to the Phanar, where he was forced to kneel before the gates of the Patriarchate. Thanking God for allowing him to fulfill the exploit of martyrdom, he bent his neck and was beheaded. The relics of the holy New Martyr Damascene were taken to Chalki and enshrined in the church of the Holy Trinity.
The history of the Stockholm Icon of the Mother of God is closely connected with the sacred symbol of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God (June 26) which appeared in Russia in 1383, on the banks of the Tikhvinka River. The appearance of the Stockholm Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos occurred during the XVI-XVII centuries, which was a time of great strife between Russia and the Kingdom of Sweden.
Because of their collusion with the opponents of the Orthodox Faith, and for many other sins, the wrath of God fell upon the Russian people. Swedish troops occupied the fortresses of Ivangorod, Yam, Koporje, and Ladoga. After a long siege, Novgorod fell into the hands of the enemy. In 1613, Tikhvin became a battleground. The Swedish general Jakob Delagardi brought his troops to the Dormition Monastery and ordered them to destroy it. Three times the Swedes besieged the holy habitation, but the Queen of Heaven did not withdraw her mercy from the monks, striking fear into their enemies, who had been edging forward on every side.
On September 13, 1613, the eve of the Feast of the Elevation of the Honorable and Life-creating Cross of the Lord, the Swedish regiments retreated when a large Muscovite army appeared to defend the monastery. News of this miracle marked the beginning of the liberation of the entire Novgorod region from foreign troops. Soon the Stolbov Peace Treaty was signed between Russia and Sweden in the presence of the Tikhvin Icon. Thus, the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God has been the protector and patron of the Orthodox in their relations with the Swedes.
Under this Treaty many cities were annexed by Sweden, but the Russian population had to remain in those places. The Orthodox, however, could not accept these terms and, after a short time, a mass exodus of people began from the annexed lands to the territory of Russia. Attempts by the Swedish authorities to keep people in their places by promising to reduce fees and duties did not produce the desired results. The Russian landowners and peasants, who did not wish to live in Sweden, a Lutheran country, left the region because they longed for their homes. Among them were citizens of Tikhvin. They could not forget their city with the golden cupolas of its churches, the ringing of bells, and the icons of the saints, so dear to their hearts.
The exodus of the Orthodox from the lands conquered by the Swedes continued in the reign of the most devout Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (1645-1676), called "peace-loving" by the people because of his kindness. During his reign Russia acquired the Stockholm Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.
One day, when the Tikhvin merchants came to the Swedish merchant Phoka in order to purchase some supplies, they saw a familiar Icon, an Icon of the Theotokos which resembled the Tikhvin Icon, only smaller. They prayed fervently, gazing at the expensive Icon, and from that time they came often to Phoka.
Time passed, and a rumor reached Tikhvin that the Swedes in Stockholm had found a Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God. The soul of every man from Tikhvin was sorrowful at seeing this holy object in the hands of foreigners. They grieved to see their Patroness, the Most Holy Theotokos, in a foreign land. So the merchants decided to redeem the Icon.
It wasn't easy to persuade Phoka, but in the end, afraid of losing his profitable trade connections, he agreed to sell the Icon, asking for 100 gold coins. The matter was settled, and in the twenty-sixth year of the reign of the pious Sovereign Alexei Mikhailovich, the Tikhvin merchants started back again with the newly found holy object in the autumn of 1671. They carried with them the copy of the Tikhvin Icon, adorned with pearls and gemstones. which they had purchased in Stockholm.
On Lake Ladoga, they were caught in a terrible storm. For several days large waves tossed the ship from side to side. The water was covered with ice, and it was snowing. Just when it seemed that there was no hope, everyone on the ship fell to their knees before the Icon of the Theotokos and began to pray. Suddenly the helmsman shouted, "The Monastery! It is the Monastery of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker." The Stockholm Icon followed the same route as the original Tikhvin Icon three hundred years before, along the rivers Svir and Oyat, and then it was brought to Tikhvin by a shipping route.
The miraculous rescue of the merchants, and the fact that the Icon had traveled the same route as the Tikhvin Icon, was regarded as a sign of the wonderworking power of the Stockholm Icon. On November 13, it was placed in Tikhvin's Dormition Cathedral for veneration. In the city, the Icon was greeted by a Cross Procession, and all the churches rang their bells. Together with all the people, the Superior of the Great Monastery of the Dormition knelt before the Icon and exclaimed: "The Sovereign Lady has come! She has come, not to a foreign country, but to her own place, to great and glorious Russia, to this holy monastery, where the Angels brought her ancient Icon to dwell."
The Stockholm Icon of the Queen of Heaven has a beautiful pearl riza, with an embossed crown, and was placed to the left of the Royal Doors, in the main row of the iconostasis of the Savior-Transfiguration Cathedral, which was built on the site of the wooden church established during the reign of Tsar Peter Alekseevich (1696-1725).
In the reign of Tsar Alexander II (1855-1881) the Icon was transferred to a heated cathedral, built in 1870-1872.
Every year on November 13, there is a service in honor of the Stockholm Icon with a Cross Procession.
The last reliable information concerning the Icon dates back to 1928. It comes from a description of the items confiscated by the Soviet government. Since then, all traces of the Stockholm Icon have disappeared.
Some say that the wonderworking Icon was moved to the Russian Museum in the 1930s, but it is no longer there. It is now in the church of Saint Sergius in Stockholm. This church was founded by a group of Russian Orthodox people in the late 1980s, at that time many immigrants from the former Soviet Union were living in Stockholm, but there was not a single church associated with the Moscow Patriarchate. The Savior-Transfiguration Church in Stockholm is under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople.
The icons in the altar were painted in Russia, among them is an icon of Saint Sergius, the heavenly patron of the parish. On the walls are icons, both new and old, which were brought to Sweden with the first wave of Russian emigration. Among them there is a particularly revered Stockholm Icon of the Mother of God.