Daily Readings for Friday, December 16, 2022



The Holy Prophet Aggaeus (Haggai), Modestos, Archbishop of Jerusalem, Our Righeous Mother Blessed Empress Theophania, Nicholas Chrysoberges, Patriarch of Constantinople, Memnonus, Archbishop of Ephesus


Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my beloved child:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, and among them Phygelos and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphoros, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me – may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day – and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesos.

MARK 9:33-41

At that time, Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.”

Prophet Haggai

The Holy Prophet Haggai was the tenth of the Twelve Minor Prophets. He was of the Tribe of Levi and he prophesied during the times of the Persian emperor Darius Hystaspis (prior to 500 B.C.). Upon the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity, he persuaded the people to build the Second Temple at Jerusalem, and he proclaimed that the Messiah would appear in this Temple in the last times.

It is believed that Haggai was buried with the priests at Jerusalem, since he was descended from Aaron.

Martyr Marinus of Rome

The Martyr Marinus was a soldier who suffered in Caesarea of Palestine in the third century. When he was about to be promoted to centurion, he refused to swear the customary oath invoking the pagan gods, or to offer sacrifice to idols. Saint Marinus was beheaded after cruel tortures, and buried by Saint Asterius (August 7).

Saint Theophanó the Wonderworker, wife of Emperor Leo the Wise

Saint Theophanó was a pious and virtuous Empress, who was greatly praised by the chroniclers of her time because of her evangelical life, her almsgiving, and her exceptional piety. She born in Constantinople, the daughter of Constantine Martinakios and his wife Anna, who raised their daughter with diligence. When she was of a marriageable age, Emperor Basil the Macedonian chose her to be the wife of his son Leo the Wise (886 – 912), with whom she dwelt in marital fidelity for twelve years.

The Holy Empress Theophanó and her husband Leo were imprisoned for three years, because Leo was falsely accused of plotting to assassinate his father, Emperor Basil. After obtaining her freedom,Theophanó spent her life in prayer and fasting, earnestly struggling for her salvation. She was recognized as a Saint and a wonderworker, even during her lifetime, because of the many good works which she performed out of love for her neighbor.

Though she lived in the world, she renounced everything worldly, and became a benefactor of the poor. She also built churches and monasteries, or restored those in need of repair. She was a true mother to her subjects, caring for widows and orphans, and consoling the sorrowful.

Despite all the grandeur and wealth surrounding her, she preserved her customary humility and modesty. She preferred to dress in simple clothing so that she would not recognized. Accompanied by two trusted servants, she would visit the homes of the poor and the persecuted, offering her assistance. Her faith was such that she was found worthy of the gift of performing miracles. When medical science gave up on a patient because it could not heal him, Saint Theophanó restored him to health. In spite of all the bitterness she had experienced in her life, Saint Theophanó could still sing praises to the Lord, according to the words of the Prophet King David: "Sing praises to the Lord, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises" (Psalm 46/47:6).

Saint Theophanó reposed circa 893-894. Even before her death, her husband started to build a church, intending to dedicate it to Theophanó, but she forbade him to do so. It was Emperor Leo who decreed that the Sunday after Pentecost be dedicated to All Saints. Believing his wife to be one of the righteous, he knew that she would also be honored whenever the Feast of All Saints was celebrated.

The incorrupt relics of Saint Theophanó are preserved in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George, at the Phanar in Constantinople. A particle from her relics is in Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos.

Venerable Sophia of Suzdal, the Wonderworker

Saint Sophia (in the world Great Princess Solomonia Yurievna) was born around 1490, the daughter of the noble Yuri Saburov. Her mother died when she was young, and she was raised by her aunt Eudokia (her father's sister). In the year 1505 she was chosen as the bride of the heir to the throne, the future Great Prince Basil III. She was selected from among 500 girls from all over the country, who were presented at court for this purpose.

The wedding of Prince Basil and Solomonia took place on September 4, 1505, in the presence of the groom's father, Ivan III. Metropolitan Simon blessed the couple at the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. When she married Basil, her father was raised to the rank of boyar. For the first time in Moscow's history, a Great Prince took neither a foreign princess nor a Russian princess as his wife, but a bride who came from a boyar family.

After twenty years, it became apparent that Solomonia was unable to conceive a child. Basil understood perfectly that if he died childless his brothers would inherit the throne. In order to preclude that possibility, they were imprisoned or forbidden to marry until his own son was born. In the end, this led to the extinction of the Rurikid dynasty, and to the succession crisis known as the Time of Troubles.

Despite her radiant beauty, exemplary morals, and mild character, Solomonia's failure to produce an heir must have weighed upon Basil's relations with his wife, who turned to foreign doctors for help. In 1525, the Great Prince decided to divorce Solomonia, with the approval of Metropolitan Daniel and the boyars, although other Church authorities declared the divorce was unlawful.

In order to obtain an heir, Great Prince Basil decided to marry Elena Glinska, the daughter of the Lithuanian prince Basil Glinsky. This action of the Great Prince Basil was condemned by all the Patriarchs, and Patriarch Mark of Jerusalem even predicted that of this second marriage a "cruel child" would be born, who would fill Russia with blood and horrors. Ivan the Terrible was born in 1530, and Basil's second son, Yuri, was feeble-minded. All the best Russian people of that time stood up for the blameless and miserable Great Princess: i.e. Metropolitan Barlaam, Saint Maximos the Greek (January 21) and others. But all their protests were in vain. For the first time in Russian history, a Great Prince removed a Metropolitan from office and imprisoned him in a monastery. Saint Maximos was not allowed to serve, and others were persecuted as well. Prince Andrew Kurbsky called Princess Solomonia "innocent and holy."

On November 25, 1525 Basil ordered Solomonia to become a nun. Forcibly tonsured with the name Sophia, she was sent under guard to the Nativity Monastery in Moscow. Later, she was moved to the Protection Monastery in Suzdal, one of the many churches established by Basil and his wife, where prayers were offered for the birth of an heir.

Through her ascetical struggles, Saint Sophia banished all worldly thoughts from her heart, and dedicated herself entirely to God. She reposed on December 18, 1542, after living as a nun for seventeen years.

Rumors concerning Sophia's holiness quickly spread throughout Russia. In a letter to Tsar Ivan, Prince Andrew Kurbsky calls the Right-believing Princess “a Monastic Martyr.” In a manuscript of the Lives of the Saints she is called “Holy Venerable Princess Sophia the Nun, the Wonderworker, who dwelt in the Protection Monastery.” In the reign of Tsar Theodore (the son of Ivan the Terrible) she was revered as a Saint. Tsaritsa Irene sent to Suzdal, “to the Great Princess Solomonia, also called Sophia, a velvet veil depicting the Savior and other Saints.” Patriarch Joseph wrote to Archbishop Serapion of Suzdal instructing him to have Panikhidas and Molebens served for the Nun Sophia.

The sacristan Ananias of Suzdal speaks of several miraculous cures at her grave. In 1609, during an invasion by the Poles, she saved Suzdal from destruction, appearing in a frightful form to the Polish military commander Lisovsky. Paralyzed with fear, he swore to spare the city and monastery. In 1610 a peasant woman named Theodosia was healed after being afflicted with blindness for a year and a half. In 1646 a girl, Irene Popova, was healed after being paralyzed for several years. That same summer a woman named Juliana was cured of amnesia. The Nun Theodora was healed in 1647 after being blind for two and a half months. That same year Julitta Ivanova, a resident of the village of Kideksha, was healed after being deaf for two years. Febronia of Suzdal was healed of paralysis in 1648 after several years. In 1649 the Nun Alexandra (Trusov) of the Protection Monastery was healed after losing her sight. Many other miracles took place, and continue to take place, through the intercession of Saint Sophia.

In 1650, Patriarch Joseph told the Archbishop of Suzdal to permit her local veneration as a Saint. In the middle of the XVIII century, the question of her canonization arose. Her icon, painted in the XVII century, has survived to this day and is considered a wonderworking icon. Finally, with the blessing of the Holy Synod, her name was included in the Orthodox Church Calendar in 1916. In 2007, her Church-wide veneration took place, and her Service was included in the Menaion.

Saint Sophia's tomb in the Protection Monastery was highly revered. On August 14, 1995, the solemn uncovering of her relics took place. On that day, a Moleben was served at her tomb. With the blessing of Metropolitan Eulogios, the Church Archaeological Commission made excavations, and the Saint's relics were found and transferred to the Protection Cathedral.

Saint Sophia is also commemorated on June 23, the Synaxis of the Saints of Vladimir.