FIRST MONDAY OF LENT – CLEAN MONDAY
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Procopius the Confessor of Decapolis, Ephraim of Katounakia, Raphael of Brooklyn, Stephen the Monk, Gelasios the Actor and Martyr of Heliopolis, Nesios the Martyr
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzzi'ah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezeki'ah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: "Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master's crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.
Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.
Why will you still be smitten, that you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they are not pressed out, or bound up, or softened with oil.
Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by aliens. And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.
If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomor'rah.
Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomor'rah! "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats.
When you come to appear before me, who requires of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies — I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth." And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight, receive instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; that prudence may be given to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — the wise man also may hear and increase in learning, and the man of understanding acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and reject not your mother's teaching; for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us wantonly ambush the innocent; like Sheol let us swallow them alive and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with spoil; throw in your lot among us, we will all have one purse" — my son, do not walk in the way with them, hold back your foot from their paths; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird; but these men lie in wait for their own blood, they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of all who get gain by violence; it takes away the life of its possessors.
Wisdom cries aloud in the street; in the markets she raises her voice.
Beginning of Great Lent
In the Orthodox Church, the last Sunday before Great Lent—the day on which, at Vespers, Lent is liturgically announced and inaugurated—is called Forgiveness Sunday. On the morning of that Sunday, at the Divine Liturgy, we hear the words of Christ:
“If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses…” (Mark 6:14-15).
Then after Vespers—after hearing the announcement of Lent in the Great Prokeimenon: “Turn not away Thy face from Thy child, for I am afflicted! Hear me speedily! Draw near unto my soul and deliver it!”, after making our entrance into Lenten worship, with its special melodies, with the prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, with its prostrations—we ask forgiveness from each other, we perform the rite of forgiveness and reconciliation. And as we approach each other with words of reconciliation, the choir intones the Paschal hymns, filling the church with the anticipation of Paschal joy.
What is the meaning of this rite? Why is it that the Church wants us to begin the Lenten season with forgiveness and reconciliation? These questions are in order because for too many people Lent means primarily, and almost exclusively, a change of diet, the compliance with ecclesiastical regulations concerning fasting. They understand fasting as an end in itself, as a “good deed” required by God and carrying in itself its merit and its reward. But the Church spares no effort in revealing to us that fasting is but a means, one among many, towards a higher goal: the spiritual renewal of man, his return to God, true repentance and, therefore, true reconciliation. The Church spares no effort in warning us against a hypocritical and pharisaic fasting, against the reduction of religion to mere external obligations. As a Lenten hymn says:
“In vain do you rejoice in not eating, O soul!
For you abstain from food,
But from passions you are not purified.
If you persevere in sin, you will perform a useless fast!”
Now, forgiveness stands at the very center of Christian faith and of Christian life because Christianity itself is, above all, the religion of forgiveness. God forgives us, and His forgiveness is in Christ, His Son, whom He sends to us so that by sharing in His humanity we may share in His love and be truly reconciled with God. Indeed, Christianity has no other content but love. And it is primarily the renewal of that love, a growth in it, that we seek in Great Lent, in fasting and prayer, in the entire spirit and the entire effort of that season. Thus, truly forgiveness is both the beginning of, and the proper condition for, the Lenten season.
One may ask, however: Why should I perform this rite when I have no “enemies?” Why should I ask forgiveness from people who have done nothing to me, and whom I hardly know? To ask these questions is to misunderstand the Orthodox teaching concerning forgiveness. It is true that open enmity, personal hatred, real animosity may be absent from our life, though if we experience them, it may be easier for us to repent, for these feelings openly contradict Divine commandments. But the Church reveals to us that there are much subtler ways of offending Divine Love. These are indifference, selfishness, lack of interest in other people, of any real concern for them—in short, that wall which we usually erect around ourselves, thinking that by being “polite” and “friendly” we fulfill God’s commandments. The rite of forgiveness is so important precisely because it makes us realize—be it only for one minute—that our entire relationship to other men is wrong, makes us experience that encounter of one child of God with another, of one person created by God with another, makes us feel that mutual “recognition” which is so terribly lacking in our cold and dehumanized world.
On that unique evening, listening to the joyful Paschal hymns we are called to make a spiritual discovery: to taste of another mode of life and relationship with people, of life whose essence is love. We can discover that always and everywhere Christ, the Divine Love Himself, stands in the midst of us, transforming our mutual alienation into brotherhood. As I advance towards the other, as the other comes to me—we begin to realize that it is Christ who brings us together by His love for both of us.
And because we make this discovery—and because this discovery is that of the Kingdom of God itself: the Kingdom of Peace and Love, of reconciliation with God and, in Him, with all that exists—we hear the hymns of that Feast, which once a year “opens to us the doors of Paradise.” We know why we shall fast and pray, what we shall seek during the long Lenten pilgrimage.
Forgiveness Sunday: the day on which we acquire the power to make our fasting—true fasting; our effort—true effort; our reconciliation with God—true reconciliation.
—Father Alexander Schmemann
Repose of Saint Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn
Saint Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn (+1915)
Proclamation on the Glorification of Our Holy Father Bishop RAPHAEL (30-Apr-2000)
Our holy Father Raphael was born in Syria in 1860 to pious Orthodox parents, Michael Hawaweeny and his second wife Mariam, the daughter of a priest of Damascus. The exact date of Raphael’s birth is not known, but he estimated it to be on or near his Name Day, the Synaxis of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven (November 8). Due to the violent persecution of Christians, at which time their parish priest, Saint Joseph of Damascus (July 10) and his companions were martyred, the Hawaweeny family was forced to flee to Beirut for their safety. It was here that the future saint first saw the light of day, and not in the city of his parents. Indeed, as the child’s life unfolded, it was evident that he would have no continuing city in this world, but would seek the city which is to come (Heb 13:14).
On the Feast of Theophany in 1861, he was baptized with the name Rafla, and later that spring the family was able to return to Damascus. The child attended elementary school, where he did very well, but in 1874 it appeared that Michael Hawaweeny would no longer be able to afford his son’s tuition. Fortunately, help came from Deacon Athanasius Atallah (later Metropolitan of Homs), who recommended to Patriarch Hierotheus of Antioch that Rafla be accepted as a student of the Patriarchate in preparation for the priesthood.
He was such a good student that he was selected to be a substitute teaching assistant in 1877. The following year he was appointed as a teacher of Arabic and Turkish. On March 28, 1879 he was tonsured as a monk by Patriarch Hierotheus, and served as His Beatitude’s personal attendant.
Since the Balamand Seminary had been closed in 1840, Patriarch JOACHIM III of Constantinople invited the Patriarch of Antioch to send at least one deserving student to study on scholarship at the School of Theology at Halki, and Saint Raphael was the one who was selected to go.
On December 8, 1885, he was ordained to the diaconate at the school chapel. In July of 1886, the young deacon received his Certificate of Theology, and returned to his homeland in the hope of serving the Church there. Patriarch Gerasimus of Antioch was impressed with Deacon Raphael, and often took him along on his pastoral visitations of his parishes. When His Beatitude could not be present, Deacon Raphael was asked to preach the Word of God to the people.
Deacon Raphael was not satisfied with the extent of his knowledge, and thirsted to learn even more. This did not stem from personal pride or ambition, but came from his fervent desire to benefit others. Truly, the words of King Solomon could be applied to Saint Raphael: “Give an opportunity to a wise man, and he will be wiser; instruct a just man, and he will receive more instruction” (Proverbs 9:9). Therefore, he asked Patriarch Gerasimus to permit him to do graduate studies at a school in Russia, promising to return and serve as the Patriarch’s Russian-language secretary. The Patriarch gave his blessing, and Deacon Raphael was accepted as a student at the Theological Academy of Kiev.
In 1889 Patriarch Gerasimus ordered the young deacon to take over as head of the Antiochian representation church in Moscow. He was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop SYLVESTER, the rector of the Academy, at the request of Patriarch Gerasimus. A month later, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite by Metropolitan IOANNIKII of Moscow, and was confirmed as head of the Antiochian representation church. After two years, Archimandrite Raphael was able to reduce the representation’s 65,000 ruble debt by 15,000 rubles. He also arranged for twenty-four Syrian students to come to Russia to further their education, hoping that they would return to Syria and teach others.
When Patriarch Gerasimus resigned in order to accept the See of Jerusalem, Archimandrite Raphael regarded this as an opportunity to free the Church of Antioch from its domination by foreign hierarchs. Burning with love for the Church of Antioch, and wishing to restore the administration of the church to its own native clergy and people, Archimandrite Raphael began a campaign of writing letters to some Antiochian bishops and influential laymen. He also wrote articles in the Russian press, drawing attention to the plight of Antioch. His courageous efforts did not meet with success, however, and there was a price to pay for his outspoken criticism.
In November of 1891 Metropolitan SPYRIDON, a Greek Cypriot, was elected as Patriarch of Antioch. Many Arabs believed that he had purchased the election by distributing 10,000 lira to several notable people in Damascus. Archimandrite Raphael refused to commemorate the new Patriarch during services at the representation church. As a result, he was suspended from his priestly functions by Patriarch SPYRIDON. Saint Raphael accepted his suspension, but continued to write articles in Russian newspapers in defense of the Antiochian cause. The Patriarchs of Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Jerusalem successfully petitioned the Tsar to forbid Russian newspapers from publishing his articles. With this door closed to him, Saint Raphael began to publish his writings in book form.
Eventually, Patriarch SPYRIDON wrote to the Assistant Overprocurator of Russia, a friend of Saint Raphael’s, asking him to persuade Father Raphael to ask for the Patriarch’s forgiveness. He did so, and the suspension was lifted. Saint Raphael was allowed to transfer from the jurisdiction of Antioch to the Church of Russia, and to remain there. He went to Kazan, taking a position as instructor in Arabic studies at the theological academy. He remained there until 1895 when he was invited by the Syrian Orthodox Benevolent Society of New York to come to that city to be the pastor of the Arab Orthodox community.
When the holy Apostle Paul had a vision of a man entreating him to come to Macedonia to help them (Acts 16:10), he set off on a great missionary journey. When Saint Raphael heard of the needs of his countrymen who were scattered in a strange land, he crossed the ocean to labor in yet another foreign country.
Archimandrite Raphael arrived in New York on November 2, 1895, and was welcomed by a delegation of Arab Christians who were awaiting their leader from Russia. On November 5, his first Sunday in America, he assisted Bishop NICHOLAS in serving the Divine Liturgy at the Russian church in New York city. Less than two weeks after his arrival, Archimandrite Raphael found a suitable place in lower Manhattan to set up a chapel, and furnished it with ecclesiastical items that he had brought with him from Russia. Bishop NICHOLAS blessed the new chapel, which was dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra.
This zealous pastor remained in New York teaching, preaching, and celebrating the divine services for his parishioners. It was not long, however, before he heard of smaller communities of Arab Christians scattered throughout the length and breadth of North America. Since these Arab immigrants had no pastor to care for them, it was not surprising that some should turn to other Christian traditions, or completely neglect their religious duties. This was an ongoing concern for Saint Raphael throughout the course of his ministry. Although he was not opposed to dialogue with non-Orthodox Christians, nor to friendly relations based on shared beliefs, Saint Raphael never lost sight of the clear line of distinction that exists between the Orthodox and the heterodox. He always insisted that any church unity must be based on the teachings of the seven Ecumenical Councils.
The Orthodoxy of Saint Raphael’s life and teaching was demonstrated over and over again by his words and his actions. He always upheld and defended the spotless Faith which was “delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Although at first he did not understand the teachings of the heterodox, he later discovered how far removed they were from Orthodox doctrine. When he realized this, he took steps to protect his flock from harmful influences. He directed his people not to attend heterodox services lest they become confused by “divers and strange doctrines” (Heb 13:9). He believed it would be preferable for the head of the household to read the Hours at home from the Service Book when it was not possible to attend an Orthodox church.
In the summer of 1896, Saint Raphael undertook the first of several pastoral journeys across the continent. He visited thirty cities between New York and San Francisco, seeking out the Master’s lost sheep in cities, towns, and on isolated farms. He fed the spiritually hungry people with the Word of God in each place where he stopped. He performed marriages, baptisms, heard confessions, and celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the homes of the faithful where there was no church building. In other words, he zealously fulfilled his ministry as a preacher of the Gospel, enduring many hardships and afflictions, and he was watchful in all things concerning the care of his flock (2 Tim 4:5).
In 1898, with the blessing of Bishop Nicholas, Saint Raphael produced his first book in the New World — an Arabic language Service Book called The Book of True Consolation in the Divine Prayers. This book of liturgical services and prayers was very useful to priests in celebrating the divine services, and also to the people in their personal prayer life. The English version published by Archimandrite Seraphim Nassar is still being used today.
Between May-November 1898, Saint Raphael set off on his second pastoral tour. During this trip he became convinced of the need for Arabic-speaking priests to serve in the new churches he had established. When he returned to New York, he made a report to Bishop NICHOLAS expressing these concerns. With Bishop NICHOLAS’s blessing Saint Raphael was able to bring qualified priests from Syria. He also sought out educated laymen whom he could recommend for ordination. Both as an archimandrite and later as bishop, Saint Raphael would appoint pastors only after obtaining the blessing of the Russian hierarch who headed the American Mission.
This was the normal state of affairs in America at the time. Archimandrite Raphael welcomed Bishop Tikhon when the latter replaced Bishop NICHOLAS as the ruling bishop in America. On December 15, Saint Tikhon came to serve the Liturgy at the Syrian church of Saint Nicholas. Raphael told his people that their new Archpastor was one who “has been sent here to tend the flock of Christ — Russians, Slavs, Syro-Arabs, and Greeks — which is scattered across the entire North American continent.” At that time, of course, there were no parallel jurisdictions based on nationality. The Church united those of diverse backgrounds under the omophorion of the Russian Archbishop. This was the norm until the Russian Revolution disrupted church life in Russia, and also in America.
In March of 1899, Saint Raphael received permission from Bishop Tikhon to start collecting funds for a cemetery, and for building a new church to replace the chapel which was located in an old building on a dirty street. In the spring he left on another pastoral tour of forty-three cities and towns. Traveling by land and sea, and undeterred by the obstacles and difficulties before him, he spent seven months in the northeastern, southern, and midwestern regions of the United States. Saint Raphael ministered to Greeks and Russians as well as Arabs, performing weddings and baptisms, and regularizing the weddings of Orthodox people who had been married by non-Orthodox clergy. He also chrismated some children who had been baptized by Catholic priests.
In Johnstown, PA he reconciled those whose personal enmity threatened to divide the Arabic community. Although civil courts had been unable to make peace, Saint Raphael restored calm and put an end to the bitter feud. While in Johnstown, he received a telegram informing him that Metropolitan Meletios (Doumani), had been elected Patriarch of Antioch. With great joy Saint Raphael told his people that for the first time in 168 years, a native Arab had been chosen as primate of the Antiochian Church.
After the new Patriarch had been installed, Archimandrite Raphael was proposed to succeed Meletios as Metropolitan of Latakia. The Patriarch, however, stated that the Holy Synod could not elect Father Raphael because of his important work in America. In 1901, Metropolitan GABRIEL of Beirut wrote to Archimandrite Raphael asking him to be his auxiliary bishop, but he declined, saying that he could not leave his American flock. First, he wanted to build a permanent church, and to acquire a parish cemetery. The latter goal was achieved in August of 1901 when Father Raphael purchased a section of Mt Olivet cemetery on Long Island.
In December of 1901 Archimandrite Raphael was elected as Bishop of Zahleh. Patriarch Meletios sent a telegram congratulating him and asking him to return. Father Raphael thanked the Patriarch, but again declined higher office. He said that he wished to complete the project of building a temple for the Syrian community in New York. The following year, he bought an existing church building on Pacific Street in Brooklyn, and had it remodeled for Orthodox worship. Bishop Tikhon consecrated the church to the great joy of the faithful in attendance. Thus, Saint Raphael’s second major project was finished.
Since the number of parishes within the Diocese of North America was growing, Bishop Tikhon found it impossible to visit all of them. The diocese had to be reorganized in order to administer it more efficiently. Therefore, Bishop Tikhon submitted a plan to the Russian Holy Synod which would transfer the See from San Francisco to New York because most parishes and individuals were concentrated in the east. Since various ethnic groups required special attention and pastoral leadership, Bishop Tikhon proposed that Archimandrite Raphael be made his second vicar bishop (the Bishop of Alaska would be his first).
In 1903, the Holy Synod of Russia unanimously elected Archimandrite Raphael to be the Bishop of Brooklyn while retaining him as head of the Syro-Arab Orthodox Mission in North America. The Holy Synod announced the election to Patriarch Meletios, who was pleased by their decision. Bishop Tikhon wrote to Saint Raphael to inform him of his election, and Father Raphael sent him a letter of acceptance. Meanwhile, Father Innocent Pustynsky was consecrated as Tikhon’s first auxiliary bishop at Saint Petersburg’s cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan.
On the third Sunday of Lent in 1904, Saint Raphael became the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated on American soil. Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Innocent performed the service at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn. The new bishop’s vestments were a gift from Tsar Nicholas II. Following his consecration, Bishop Raphael continued his pastoral labors, ordaining priests and assigning them to parishes, and helping Bishop Tikhon in the administration of the diocese.
At the end of 1904, Bishop Raphael announced his intention to publish a magazine called Al-Kalimat (The Word) as the official publication of the Syro-Arab mission. This would help to link the people and parishes of his diocese more closely together. Bishop Raphael knew that he could not visit all Orthodox Christians across North America in person, but through the ministry of the printed word, he could preach the word of salvation even to people he would never meet. The content was to be spiritual, moral, and churchly so that the magazine could reinforce people in their Faith. The Word would focus on five primary topics: dogmatic truths, ethical teaching, historical and contemporary ecclesiastical subjects, a chronicle of baptisms, weddings, etc., and official pronouncements. The first issue was printed in January 1905, and Saint Raphael considered this milestone as one equal in importance to the acquisition of Saint Nicholas Cathedral and the parish cemetery.
In July of 1905 Bishop Raphael consecrated the grounds for Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and blessed the orphanage at South Canaan, PA. Three days later, he presided at a conference of diocesan clergy at Old Forge, PA, because Archbishop Tikhon was in San Francisco. Among the clergy in attendance were three who would also be numbered among the saints: Father ALEXIS Toth, Father Alexander Hotovitzky, and Father John Kochurov (the last two would die as martyrs in Russia).
For the next ten years Bishop Raphael tended his growing flock. With the growth of his New York community came an increase in the number of children, and he was concerned about their future. He wanted to establish an evening school to educate them in a Christian atmosphere, because the future of the Church in this country depended upon the instruction of the youth. Children who did not speak Arabic were already going to non-Orthodox churches where Sunday school classes were conducted in English. Bishop Raphael saw the absolute necessity for using English in worship and in education for the future progress of the Syro-Arab Mission.
Taking heed of Saint Paul’s words to pray in a language that people understood (1 Cor.14:15-19), Saint Raphael recommended the use of the Service Book of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church (translated by Isabel Hapgood) in all of his parishes.
In March of 1907 Saint Tikhon returned to Russia and was replaced by Archbishop PLATON. Once again Saint Raphael was considered for episcopal office in Syria, being nominated to succeed Patriarch GREGORY as Metropolitan of Tripoli in 1908. The Holy Synod of Antioch removed Bishop Raphael’s name from the list of candidates, citing various canons which forbid a bishop being transferred from one city to another.
On the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1911, Bishop Raphael was honored for his fifteen years of pastoral ministry in America. Archbishop PLATON presented him with a silver-covered icon of Christ and praised him for his work. In his humility, Bishop Raphael could not understand why he should be honored merely for doing his duty (Luke 17:10). He considered himself an “unworthy servant,” yet he did perfectly the work that fell to him (Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians).
Toward the end of 1912, Bishop Raphael became ill while working in his office. Doctors diagnosed him with a heart ailment that eventually caused his death. After two weeks he felt strong enough to celebrate the Liturgy in his cathedral.
In 1913-1914 this missionary bishop continued to make pastoral visitations to various cities. In 1915 he fell ill again and spent two months at home, bearing his illness with patience. At 12:40 AM on February 14/27 he rested from his labors. They called him, but he did not answer. They shook him, but he was gone.
From his youth, Saint Raphael’s greatest joy was to serve the Church. When he came to America, he found his people scattered abroad, and he called them to unity. He never neglected his flock, but traveled throughout America, Canada, and Mexico in search of them so that he might care for them. He kept them from straying into strange pastures, and he protected them from spiritual harm. During twenty years of faithful ministry he nurtured them and helped them to grow. At the time of his death, the Syro-Arab Mission had thirty parishes with 25,000 faithful.
He was also a scholar, and the author of several books. He wrote many, if not most, of the articles that appeared in The Word. He served his own Arabic community, and also reached out to Greeks and Russians, speaking to them in their own language. He became fluent in English, and encouraged its use in church services and educational programs.
Saint Raphael came into contact with all sorts of people, and was a gentle father to them. He gained their love and respect by first loving them, and also through his charming personality and excellent character. He was always kind and merciful to others, but was strict with himself. He accomplished many good things during his earthly life, and now he joins the holy angels in offering ceaseless prayer and praise to God.
Through the prayers of the holy Bishop Raphael, may we also be made worthy of the heavenly Kingdom. Amen.
Venerable Prokopios the Confessor of Decapolis
Saint Prokopios lived during the VIII century in the region of Dekapolis, east of the Sea of Galilee. Forsaking the vainity of this world, Prokopios was tonsured in a certain monastery, where he labored for his salvation, devoting himself to a life of prayer and fasting. As he grew experienced in ascetical labors, he was adorned with virtue and purity of soul, so that other ascetics began to notice him. Meanwhile, about this time, the heresy of iconoclasm appeared. Prokopios was distressed by the policies of the wicked Emperor Leo the Isaurian, who regarded the Holy Icons as idols, and those who venerated them as idolaters.
The righteous Prokopios, together with other zealots of Orthodoxy, fought against the wicked heresy of the iconoclasts. He refuted their mindless madness and defeated them by declaring that Orthodox Christians do not worship icons, we venerate them, and that veneration passes to the original prototype. This brought upon him the wrath and disfavor of the Emperor. At his command, Saint Prokopios was arrested and subjected to cruel torments: he was flogged, beaten with rods, and raked with iron claws, and then was thrown into a dank dungeon. There Saint Prokopios and Saint Basil (February 28), his co-struggler in the monastic liife, languished until the death of Emperor Leo, when the Holy Confessors were released.
Saint Prokopios the Decapolite spent the remainder of his life in peace, guiding many on the path of virtue and salvation. He reposed at an advanced age, around the year 750.
Venerable Titus the Presbyter of the Kiev Near Caves
Saint Titus, Presbyter of the Near Caves, lived in great friendship with the deacon Evagrius, which later turned into a strong dislike and hostility. Although Hieromonk Titus tried several times to make peace with his former friend, the deacon Evagrius refused to be reconciled (Compare the story of the Martyr Nikēphóros on February 9).
When Saint Titus fell ill with a grievous illness and began to prepare himself for death, he asked for Evagrius to be brought to him in order to ask his forgiveness. The brethren brought Evagrius to the sickbed by force. Saint Titus tearfully begged him for forgiveness, but Evagrius remained obstinate. He declared that he would not forgive Titus in this world, nor in the world to come. As he said this, he fell dead, struck down by an angel. At that very instant, Saint Titus was healed, and got up out of bed. He revealed that the demons were all around him until he forgave Evagrius. When he had done so, the demons left him and attacked Evagrius, while radiant angels surrounded Saint Titus.
After this, Saint Titus increased his ascetic struggles, and received from God the gift of working miracles. He was also known for his great humility.
Saint Titus reposed around 1190. His memory is celebrated also on September 28 at the Synaxis of the Fathers of the Near Caves.
Venerable Titus the Soldier, of the Kiev Caves
Saint Titus was a soldier who was known for his bravery. One day, he was seriously wounded in battle. An illness caused by his wound forced him to leave the military service, so he entered the Kiev Caves Monastery. There he spent the rest of his life in prayer and repentance, and attained the heavenly Kingdom.
Venerable Thalelaeus the Hermit of Syria
Saint Thalelaeus lived during the fifth century. He was a native of Cilicia (Asia Minor), became a monk at the monastery of Saint Savva the Sanctified, and was ordained presbyter there. Later on, he moved to Syria, not far from the city of Habala, where he found a dilapidated pagan temple surrounded by graves, and he settled there in a tent. This place had a rough reputation, since the unclean spirits residing there frightened travellers and caused them much harm.
Here the monk lived, praying day and night in total solitude. The demons often assailed the saint, trying to terrify him with sights and sounds. But by the power of God the saint ultimately gained victory over the power of the Enemy, after which he was troubled no more. He then intensified his efforts even more: he built a hut, so cramped that it was just possible to get into it, and only with an effort was it possible to raise his head. He lived there for about ten years.
The Lord granted to the ascetic the gift of wonderworking, and his miracles helped him to enlighten the pagan inhabitants. With the help of the inhabitants he converted to Christianity, he demolished the pagan temple, building a church where there were daily services.
Saint Thalelaeus died in old age in about the year 460. In the book entitled Leimonarion or Pratum [The Meadow], a composition of the Greek monk John Moschus (+ 622), Saint Thalelaeus is mentioned: “Abba Thalelaeus was a monk for sixty years and with tears never ceased saying, ‘Brethren, God has given us this time for repentance, and we must seek after Him’” (Ch. 59).
Saints Asclepius and James of Syria
Saints Asclepius and James were Syrian ascetics, and lived during the fifth century. Theodoret of Cyrrhus speaks of them. Saint Asclepius led an ascetic life of temperance in his native village and was not hindered by constant association with many people.
He had many imitators and followers. One of them was Saint James, who secluded himself in a small dwelling near the village of Nimuza. Up until the end of his life, the ascetic did not leave his hermitage, but spoke to visitors through a small aperture in the wall, cut at a angle so that no one was able to see him. He never kindled a fire or lit a lamp.
Saint Stephen of Constantinople
Saint Stephen, formerly a courtier under the emperor Mauricius (582-602), left his service, founded a hospice for the elderly at Armatia [Constantinople], and devoted himself totally to taking in strangers. He died peacefully in 614.
Martyrs Julian, Eunos, Beza, and Mekaro of Alexandria
The Holy Martyrs Julian, Eunos [Kronion] his servant, Beza [Bisos] the soldier and Mekaros suffered at the beginning of the reign of Decius (249-251) at Alexandria. Saint Julian, a very old man, suffered from gout and could neither stand nor get about. He was carried to the trial by his servants, one of whom, (Eunos) bravely confessed his faith in Christ, even though a second servant recanted.
They took Julian and Eunos through the city on camels, subjecting them to the jeering of pagans, and finally burned them in a fire. The soldier Saint Beza also suffered with them. Because he tried to defend the holy martyrs from insult, he was beheaded by the sword. Saint Mekaros of Lebanon was also burned.
Saint Leander of Seville
Saint Leander, the Bishop of Seville, teacher of the Church, and enlightener of Spain, lived in the VI century, and was the scion of an aristocratic family. his father Severian was a duke and belonged to an illustrious Byzantine clan, while his mother was the eldest daughter of the Visigoth King Levigid, who reigned in Seville, the capital of the Visigoth Kingdom. At a young age he entered a monastery, and was distinguished for his education and virtues. Therefore, the Church made him a Bishop in the year 579.
He founded a theological school with the aim of spreading Orthodoxy, but also for cultivating the sciences and the arts in general, for the people of that barbaric kingdom. The two royal children Hermenegὶld and Rekared, his nephews on his mother's side, were among the disciples of Saint Leander. Hermenegild was raised in the wellsprings of Orthodoxy. His faith in the Church was strengthened, thanks to his pious wife Ingard, the daughter of Sigebert, the King of the Franks. When his father transferred his capital to Toledo, he chose Seville as his home when a persecution of the Orthodox broke out. The heretic Levegild came into conflict with the Orthodox son of Hermenegild. Such was the intensification of the persecution and the fury of the heretics, as it has been written, that it did not leave anyone free anywhere. Both men, and the land itself, lost their former fertility. The heretical king besieged Seville and threw his son into a dark prison, where he strangled him on the Feast of Pascha in 586.
During this time, shortly before he was exiled along with other confessors of Orthodoxy, Saint Leander fled to Constantinople seeking the Emperor's help. It was there that he met Saint Gregory Dialogus (March 12) and was united to him by strong ties of friendship. When the persecution of the Orthodox reached its peak, King Levegild, afflicted with a fatal illness, changed his attitude, inviting Saint Leander to his deathbed and after he repented, he begged him to bring his successor Rekarὲd to the true Orthodox Faith. The new king, who heeded his former teacher, was converted and immediately undertook to convene the Third Council of Toledo, where he read to everyone the confessions of faith and the decisions of the Ecumenical Synod of Nicaea, and announced that the united peoples of the Goths and Suevians were returning to the unity of the Church. Saint Leander, who presided at the Council of Toledo, then decided to devote the remainder of his life to instructing his flock, first by his own example, and also through his inspired writings. He also prepared his brother, Saint Isidore, to succeed him as Bishop of Seville, and the Church of Spain. He even helped his sister, Saint Florentia, to become the founder and Igoumeness of forty monasteries and thousands of nuns, composing for them a monastic Typikon which was called "The Canons of Saint Leander." He also organized the Divine Services of the Church of Spain, which were called "Mozarabic."
The Holy Bishop of Seville, after enduring many adversities and trials, surrendered his holy soul to the Lord on February 27, 600 (or 601). His scroll reads: "The Orthodox Faith defined by the Council of Nicea is the weapon of the Church against the thorns of heresy."