FRIDAY OF THE 14TH WEEK
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Forefeast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Ten Martyrs of Crete, Paul, Archbishop of Neo-Caesarea, Rememberance of the Founding of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, Naoum the Illuminator of The Bulgarians, Nicholas & John the New Martyrs
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO TITUS 1:15-16; 2:1-10
Titus, my son, to the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed.
But as for you, teach what befits sound doctrine. Bid the older men be temperate, serious, sensible, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderous or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited. Likewise urge the younger men to control themselves. Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say to us. Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to be refractory, nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
The Lord said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for these who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." Peter began to say to him, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many that are first will be last, and the last first." And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.
The Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord begins on December 20. From now on, most of the liturgical hymns will be concerned with the birth of the Savior.
At Compline on this fourth day of the prefeast of the Nativity we sing, “Let us purify our minds, washing ourselves with the divine Mysteries; let us draw near in soul and body to Bethlehem, that we may behold the fearful dispensation of the birth of the Lord” (Ode Five of the Canon).
The Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Saturninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evaristus suffered for Christ during the third century under the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of Crete, also named Decius, fiercely persecuted the Church, and arrested anyone who believed in Christ. Once, ten Christians were brought before him from various cities of Crete, who at the trial steadfastly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to worship idols.
For thirty days they were subjected to cruel tortures, and with the help of God they all persevered, glorifying God. Before their death they prayed that the Lord would enlighten their torturers with the light of the true Faith. Since pain did not influence them, the saints were beheaded.
Saint Paul of Constantinople (November 6) visited Crete about a hundred years later. He took the relics of the holy martyrs to Constantinople to serve as a protection for the city, and a source of blessings for the faithful.
Saint Theoctistus, Archbishop of Novgorod, prior to becoming a bishop, was igumen of the Annunciation monastery near Novgorod. After the death of Archbishop Clement in the year 1300, the people of Novgorod chose him as their Archbishop, and Metropolitan Maximus with the bishops Simeon of Rostov and Andrew of Tver consecrated Saint Theoctistus as Archbishop of Novgorod.
One of Saint Theoctistus’ concerns was the renovation and building of churches. He consecrated cathedrals in the name of Saints Boris and Gleb, and in the name of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. The monastery of Valaam was set in good order during his time.
In the year 1307, because of poor health, the saint withdrew to the Annunciation monastery, where he lived until his death, devoting himself to the ascetic deed of silence. Saint Theoctistus was glorified in 1664, because of the miraculous healings at his relics. In 1786, the relics of the saint were transferred to Yuriev, where Archimandrite Photius built a chapel in his honor at the local cathedral.
Saint Nḗphon, the Bishop of Constantia on the island of Cyprus, was born in Paphlagonia in the IV century, and was educated in Constantinople. As a child, he was gentle and kind, and he often attended Church Services. But in in his youth, he began to lead a wild and sinful life. Sometimes, when he came to his senses, he was horrified at the extent of his fall, but believing that he was lost and could not be forgiven, he continued his wicked life.
One day he met a friend who gazed at his face for a long time in astonishment. When Nḗphon asked why he was staring, the friend replied, “I have never seen your face like this before. It is black, like that of an Ethiopian.” These words made Nḗphon realize how far he had fallen, and he began to cry out to the Mother of God, asking for her intercession.
After praying for a long time, he saw that the face of the Mother of God on the Icon had become radiant, and she smiled. From that time, Nḗphon prayed incessantly to the Queen of Heaven. If he fell into sin, the face of the Mother of God turned away from him, but after he prayed with fervent tears of repentance, she seemed to show mercy and she looked at him again.
Finally, Nḗphon completely turned his life around, and he began to spend his time in prayer and repentance. After an illness, from which he was healed by the Mother of God, he partook of the Holy Mysteries. Then he was tonsured as a monk and intensified his ascetical labors, exhausting his body in his struggle with the passions.
That struggle lasted several years, and Saint Nḗphon was attacked many times by demons, but with God's help he was able to overcome them. Furthermore, he received from the Lord the gift of discerning the machinations of evil spirits, and how to defeat them. He was even able to see the departure of souls after death.
When he was already an old man, he journeyed to Alexandria. At that time a delegation from Constantia was in the city to ask Patriarch Alexander (May 29) to consecrate a new Bishop for them, because their Bishop Christopher had reposed.
That night Saint Paul appeared to Saint Alexander in a vision and told him to go to the church the next day with his clergy. The Apostle said, "When you see someone who resembles me (except for being bald), consecrate him as the Bishop of Christ's flock, even if he does not wish it."
In the morning Patriarch Alexander told Nḗphon that he must not refuse to do what the Lord had appointed for him. Nḗphon protested that he was not worthy to be a Hierarch, yet he did not dare to oppose God's will. Preparations were made and Nḗphon was ordained as a deacon, then shortly afterward he was ordained to the priesthood; and finally, he was consecrated as a Bishop. Three days later, he set out for his diocese.
After governing his flock for a short time, Saint Nḗphon foresaw that he would die in three days. Before his repose he was visited by Saint Athanasios the Great. On his deathbed, he was accounted worthy to behold the Holy Angels and various Saints: Martyrs, Prophets, Priests, Monks, and the Most Holy Theotokos.
When his flock learned of their Bishop's death there was weeping and lamentation throughout the city. The Patriarch asked them to give thanks to God instead, for letting them have such a holy man as their Bishop. After the funeral, Saint Nḗphon was laid to rest in the church of the Holy Apostles, and then everyone glorified God, Who is wondrous in His Saints.
Saint Paul, Bishop of Neocaesarea, suffered under the emperor Licinius (311-324). At his trial he firmly confessed his faith, and was subjected to beatings. They tortured him also with hunger, but he remained steadfast. Then they scorched his hands with red-hot iron and locked him in a prison at the banks of the Euphrates.
After Licinius was executed in the year 324, when Saint Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire, and Christians in prison received their freedom, Saint Paul returned to his flock. He was a participant at the First Ecmenical Council at Nicea, convened in the year 325, at which the Arian heresy was condemned and the Symbol of Faith adopted. At the end of the Council, the Emperor Constantine solemnly received the Council participants and kissed Saint Paul’s burned hand. After long years of guiding his flock, Saint Paul peacefully fell asleep in the Lord.
Saint Nahum was a disciple of Saints Cyril and Methodius (May 11), one of their coworkers known as the Five Followers.
Saint Nahum was a man of great learning, and he spoke several languages. After a visit to Rome, he settled on the shores of Lake Ochrid. There he built a monastery at the time when Saint Clement of Ochrid (July 27) was serving as a bishop.
Many monks gathered around Saint Nahum, who was known as a great wonderworker and a man of prayer. He also labored to translate the Holy Scriptures from Greek into Slavonic.
Saint Nahum fell asleep in the Lord in 910, and his holy relics continue to work miracles of healing for those who venerate them in faith.