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Monthly Archives: March 2023
Daily Readings for Sunday, March 26, 2023
SUNDAY OF ST. JOHN CLIMACUS
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
Sunday of St. John Climacus, Synaxis in honor of the Archangel Gabriel, 26 Martyrs in Crimea, Irenaeus the Hieromartyr of Hungary
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 6:13-20
BRETHREN, when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore to himself, saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you." And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Men indeed swear by a greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
At that time, a man came to Jesus kneeling and saying: "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able." And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me." And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, "How long has he had this?" And he said, "From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us." And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!" And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again." And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" And he said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting." They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.
4th Sunday of Great Lent: St John Climacus (of the Ladder)
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to Saint John Klimakos, the author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent. In this book the Igoumen of Saint Katherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai bears witness to the great effort which is required for entry into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 10:12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is difficult since it is “not against flesh and blood, but against … the rulers of the present darkness … the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places …” (Ephesians 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, as the Lord has said, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
Saint John was born around the year 525, the son of devout and wealthy parents. He received a very good education, but at the age of sixteen, he forsook the world and went to Mount Sinai, subjecting himself to the spiritual guidance of Elder Martyrios. When he was nineteen years of age,1 his Elder reposed. Then Saint John entered the arena of hesychasm, visiting the monastic communities of Skḗtē and Tabénnisē in Egypt. For another forty years, he lived in a cell at Thora in the Sinai Desert, which was a two hour (5 mile) walk from the Monastery of Saint Katherine.
Aflame with indescribable longing for God, he ate everything that was permitted by the monastic Rule, but only in very small quantities, and not unto satiety. By so doing, he overcame the vice of pride; and by eating just a little food, he humbled the stomach, which always wants more. He raised his body from death and paralysis by the remembrance of death, and he overcame the tyranny of anger with the sword of obedience.
Who can describe the fountain of his tears, which is now to be seen in very few individuals? He slept only as much as was necessary to prevent his mind from being distracted. Before going to sleep he prayed a great deal, and he also wrote books. This was how he subdued despondency. His entire life was spent in unceasing prayer, and incomparable love for God.
After writing The Ladder at the request of Igoumen John of Raithu Monastery, and leading a God-pleasing life, Saint John fell asleep in the Lord when he was about seventy-five years old (ca. 603). He is also commemorated on March 30.
1 This was his monastic age. He was, in fact, thirty-five years old.
Leavetaking of the Annunciation
On the Leavetaking of the Feast of the Annunciation, the Church commemorates the Archangel Gabriel, who announced the great mystery of the Incarnation of Christ to the Virgin Mary. There is no period of Afterfeast due to Great Lent.
Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel
The Archangel Gabriel was chosen by the Lord to announce to the Virgin Mary about the Incarnation of the Son of God from Her, to the great rejoicing of all mankind. Therefore, on the day after the Feast of the Annunciation, the day on which the All-Pure Virgin is glorified, we give thanks to the Lord and we venerate His messenger Gabriel, who contributed to the mystery of our salvation.
Gabriel, the holy Archistrategos (Leader of the Heavenly Hosts), is a faithful servant of the Almighty God. He announced the future Incarnation of the Son of God to those of the Old Testament; he inspired the Prophet Moses to write the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament), he announced the coming tribulations of the Chosen People to the Prophet Daniel (Dan. 8:16, 9:21-24); he appeared to Saint Anna (July 25) with the news that she would give birth to the Virgin Mary.
The holy Archangel Gabriel remained with the Holy Virgin Mary when She was a child in the Temple of Jerusalem, and watched over Her throughout Her earthly life. He appeared to the Priest Zachariah, foretelling the birth of the Forerunner of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist.
The Lord sent him to Saint Joseph the Betrothed in a dream, to reveal to him the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God from the All-Pure Virgin Mary, and warned him of the wicked intentions of Herod, ordering him to flee into Egypt with the divine Infant and His Mother.
When the Lord prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before His Passion, the Archangel Gabriel, whose very name signifies “Man of God” (Luke. 22:43), was sent from Heaven to strengthen Him.
The Myrrh-Bearing Women heard from the Archangel the joyous news of Christ’s Resurrection (Mt.28:1-7, Mark 16:1-8).
Mindful of the manifold appearances of the holy Archangel Gabriel and of his zealous fulfilling of God’s will, and confessing his intercession for Christians before the Lord, the Orthodox Church calls upon its children to pray to the great Archangel with faith and love.
The Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Gabriel is also celebrated on July 13. All the angels are commemorated on November 8.
Hieromartyr Irenaeus, Bishop of Sirmium
Hieromartyr Irenaeus suffered during the persecution against Christians under the Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximian (284-305).
He was a presbyter, and he and his wife raised their children in Christian piety. Saint Irenaeus was greatly respected for his education and strict manner of life.
He was later made Bishop of Sirmium in Pannonia. Because of his fervent preaching of the Gospel he was arrested and brought before an official named Probus. Refusing to deny Christ and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, the saint was handed over for torture. Witnessing his torments were the saint’s parents, relatives and friends, who attempted to persuade him to submit, but the martyr remained steadfast.
After cruel tortures, the holy confessor spent a long time in prison. Probus tried to persuade the martyr, urging him to spare his life for the sake of his sons. Saint Irenaeus replied, “My sons believe in God, Who will care for them. As for me, nothing will force me to renounce my Christ.”
The governor ordered the saint to be thrown into a river. They led the martyr on the bridge crossing the River Savva, where he knelt and prayed to the Lord for his flock. Then they beheaded the Hieromartyr Irenaeus, and threw his body into the river.
26 Martyrs in the Crimea
Presbyter Bercus; Monk Arpilus; laymen and women Abibus, Agnus, Reasus, Igathrax, Iscoeus (Iskous), Silas, Signicus, Sonirilus, Suimbalus, Thermus, Phillus (Philgas), Bathusius, Anna, Alla, Larissa, Monco (Manca), Uirko (Virko), Animais (Animaida), Queen Gaatha, and Princess Duklida, were among twenty-six martyrs who were killed by the Goths around the year 375 under Jungerich, a persecutor of Christians. Ancient synaxaria of the Gothic Church recount the martyrdom of twenty-six Christians in the time of the emperors Valentinian, Valens, and Gratian. The historian Sozomen says that King Athanaric was enraged to see his subjects embracing Christianity because of the preaching of the Arian bishop Ulfilas. So, he ordered many of them to be tortured and executed, often without a trial.
King Athanaric’s ministers placed a statue in a chariot and paraded it before the tents which Christians used for church services. Those who worshiped the idol and offered sacrifice were spared, the rest were burned alive in the tent. Jungerich gave orders to burn down a church during divine services. In the fiery inferno 308 people perished, of whom only twenty-one are known by name. There was also an anonymous man who came to the tent and confessed Christ. He was martyred with the others. Different manuscripts give variants of their names.
In the reign of Valentinian and Theodosius (383-392), the Gothic king’s widow Gaatha (who was an Orthodox Christian) and her daughter Duclida gathered up the relics of the holy martyrs and brought them to Syria with the help of some priests and a layman named Thyellas. Gaatha later returned to her native land, where she was stoned and died as a martyr, along with her son Agathon.
The relics of the holy martyrs were left to Duclida, who went to Cyzicus in Asia Minor and gave some of the relics for the founding of a church. Saint Duclida died in peace.
The holy martyrs were commemorated on October 23 on the Gothic calendars.
Saint Malchus of Chalcis, Syria
Saint Malchus was the only son of a farmer, and lived near Antioch, Syria. Upon his attaining the age of maturity, his parents had arranged a marriage for him, but Malchus secretly left home and received monastic tonsure in one of the monasteries, where he fulfilled various obediences for many years.
Upon learning of the death of his father, he wished to visit his mother. The igumen of the monastery would not bless him to go, but Malchus disobeyed him. He joined a group of pilgrims, and set out for his native district.
Along the way, Saracens attacked them, and enslaved them. Malchus’ s master compelled him to marry one of his slaves. With the consent of his wife, Saint Malchus kept his vow of chastity, and eventually converted her to Christianity.
One day, Saint Malchus and his wife ran away. The master pursued them, but they hid in a cave, which proved to be the den of a lioness. The lioness did not harm the fugitives, but killed one of the pursuers who tried to enter the cave and capture them.
Saint Malchus sent his wife to a women’s monastery as she requested, while he returned to his own monastery. By then the igumen was no longer alive, and Saint Malchus never left the monastery again. For the edification of monks he often recounted his trials, which were the result of his disobedience. Saint Malchus labored in asceticism in the monastery until the end of his life. He died in peace in the fourth century.
Venerable Basil the New, Anchorite, Near Constantinople
Saint Basil the New left the world in his youth, and struggled in a desolate place. Once, courtiers of the Byzantine Emperor were passing by and saw him dressed in rags, and were alarmed by his strange appearance. Suspicious of the holy ascetic, they captured him and brought him to the city, where the patrician Samon questioned him. When asked who he was, the saint merely said that he was a stranger in the land.
They subjected the monk to terrible tortures, but he endured it in silence, not wishing to reveal the details of his ascetic life to them. Samon lost his patience and asked Saint Basil, “Impious one, how long will you hide, who are you, and from where do you come?”
The saint replied, “It is more appropriate to call impious those who, like yourself, lead a life of impurity.” After his public humiliation, Samon ordered his men to hang the saint upside down with his hands and feet tied. These torments were so cruel that those witnessing them murmured against Samon.
When they released the holy ascetic after three days of torture, they found him alive and unharmed. Samon attributed this miracle to sorcery and had Saint Basil thrown to a lion. However, the lion did not touch the saint, and lay peacefully at his feet. Samon ordered Saint Basil to be drowned in the sea, but two dolphins brought him to shore.
The saint went into the city, where he met a sick man named John, who was suffering from fever. Saint Basil healed the sick man in the name of the Savior, and accepted John’s invitation to stay in his home.
Numerous believers came to the saint for advice and guidance, and also to receive healing from sickness through his prayers. Saint Basil, endowed with the gift of discernment, guided sinners on the path of repentance, and he could predict future events.
Among those who visited Saint Basil was a certain Gregory, who became his disciple and later wrote a detailed Life of his teacher. Gregory once found an expensive sash at an inn, which had been dropped by the inn-keeper’s daughter. He hid it on his person, intending to sell it and give the money to the poor. On the way home, he lost the sash and some other things.
Saint Basil admonished him in a dream, showed him a broken pot and said, “If anyone steals such a worthless thing, they will be chastized four times over. You hid a valuable sash, and you will be condemned as a thief. You should return what you found.”
After the death of Saint Theodora, who had attended Saint Basil, Gregory very much wanted to learn about her life beyond the grave, and he often asked the holy ascetic to reveal this to him. Through the saint’s prayers, Gregory saw Saint Theodora in a dream. She told him how her soul underwent tribulations after death, and how the power of the prayers of Saint Basil had helped her (The Feast Day of Saint Theodora of Constantinople is December 30).
Saint Basil died in about the year 944 at the age of 110.
The Church calls him Basil the New to distinguish him from other ascetics of the same name.
Martyr Montanus the Presbyter of Singidunum, and his wife Maxima
Saint Maxima and her priest-husband, Saint Montanus, lived in Singidunum (present-day Belgrade) in the fourth century during the time of Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. The Emperor’s deputy, Galerius, issued an edict requiring Christians to offer sacrifices to the idols. The pious couple refused, and continued to conduct their lives according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They traveled to the west, to Sirmium, in order to distance themselves from the seat of power. However, in the year 304, they were seized by Roman soldiers and brought to stand trial before Governor Probus.
As they stood before the governor on a bridge overlooking the Savva River, the captives were given the choice of sacrifice to the idols or death. Saint Montanus showed great heroism and explained that if he were to sacrifice to the idols, it would be tantamount to rejecting Jesus Christ as God and Lord of heaven and earth, and he refused to comply.
Frustrated, Probus tried to persuade Saint Maxima to deny Christ. Much to the surprise of the crowd, her fidelity and apostolic courage proved to be as great, if not greater, than her husband’s. Saint Maxima defended her faith so convincingly and with such eloquent zeal that Probus cut the trial short, fearing mass conversions to Christianity.
Saints Maxima and Montanus were beheaded by the sword, and their remains were thrown into the Savva River. The faithful, and those converted by the zeal of the holy couple, willingly endangered their lives in order to rescue the bodies and heads of the martyrs from the river. The relics were transported to Rome and interred in the Catacombs of Saint Priscilla on the Salarian Way where they remained for 1,500 years.
New Martyr George of Sofia
Saint George came from Sofia, Bulgaria, and was a soldier who served in the Ottoman army along with some other Christians. In March of 1437, he was stationed in Adrianople, in Thrace. One day, when he took his bow to be repaired, he overheard some Muslim soldiers mocking Christ. George became angry and declared, “Only One is holy, One is Lord, only One is worshiped – Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. ” He also said some rather unflattering things about their beliefs.
Of course, this enraged the Muslims, who attacked George and punched him in the face. The saint did not keep
quiet, but repeated his previous statement in an even louder voice. He was seized by the Muslims, who tied a bow string around his neck. His hands were bound and then he was brought before the ruler.
When the ruler asked if he had said the things which his accusers had reported to him, George admitted that this was true, and then he said similar things to the ruler. After receiving a beating, George was sent to another official.
Once again, he was asked the same questions and he gave the same responses. The crowd became angry and demanded that George be punished. The martyr became somewhat apprehensive, but replied, “What good would it do to deny the truth? Yes, I did say all the things you heard. ”
One of the officials ordered him to take back what he said, and to become a Muslim, promising him honors and many gifts if he did. Courageously, George reiterated his faith in Christ and refused to convert. The crowd began to call for his death, but the ruler said that he would decide what to do with him. As George was led to the prison, he was beaten and spat upon, but he remained calm. When he arrived at the prison he was mocked and tortured, but he bore these things with great patience.
The next day some of their religious leaders arrived and ordered George to be brought before them. The saint did not seem to be afraid, but rather joyful, as he bore witness to Christ and mocked their faith. One of the leaders suggested that under their law George deserved to be beaten, but not put to death. The crowd began shouting for him burned by fire, so the frightened officials turned him over to the mob. A fire was prepared, and George approached it bravely, knowing that those who kill the body cannot kill the soul (Matthew 10:28).
Again they promised George great rewards if he would accept their faith, but he refused. He was placed into a basket and it was put on the fire. As the basket caught fire, someone stabbed him in the stomach with a spear so that his intestines fell out. More fuel was added to the flames, which burned from five o’clock in the afternoon until dawn. The saint’s body was almost completely reduced to dust, which the Muslims scattered so that the Christians would not be able to gather it. For some days following Saint George’s martyrdom, various forms of light appeared at the place of execution. This light took the form of a flame, a beam, etc.
The holy New Martyr George suffered for Christ on Tuesday March 26, 1437, at the age of thirty, thereby receiving an incorruptible crown of glory from Christ God, Who is worshiped and glorified together with the Father and the Holy Spirit throughout all ages. An eyewitness to these events has left a written account, which he declares is accurate and truthful, without any extraneous additions.
Great Vespers – Sat 3/25/23
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Orthros and Divine Liturgy for the Annunciation – Sat 3/25/23
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Daily Readings for Saturday, March 25, 2023
ANNUNCIATION OF THE THEOTOKOS
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, DAIRY, EGGS
Annunciation of the Theotokos
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 2:11-18
BRETHREN, he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, ‘I will proclaim thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee.’ And again, ‘I will put my trust in him.’ And again, ‘Here am I, and the children God has given me. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.
In those days, Elizabeth the wife of Zacharias conceived and for five months she hid herself, saying, "Thus the Lord had done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men." In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you! Blessed are you among women!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
4th Saturday of Great Lent: Memorial Saturday
Saturday is the day which the Church has set aside for the commemoration of Orthodox Christians departed this life in the hope of resurrection and eternal life. Since the Divine Liturgy cannot be served on weekdays during Great Lent, the second, third, and fourth Saturdays of the Fast are appointed as Soul Saturdays when the departed are remembered at Liturgy.
In addition to the Liturgy, kollyva (wheat or rice cooked with honey and mixed with raisins, figs, nuts, sesame, etc.) is blessed in church on these Saturdays. The kollyva reminds us of the Lord’s words, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).The kollyva symbolizes the future resurrection of all the dead. As Saint Simeon of Thessalonica (September 15) says, man is also a seed which is planted in the ground after death, and will be raised up again by God’s power. Saint Paul also speaks of this (I Cor. 15:35-49).
It is also customary to give alms in memory of the dead. The angel who spoke to Cornelius testifies to the efficacy of almsgiving, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4).
Memorial services for the dead may be traced back to ancient times. Chapter 8 of the Apostolic Constitutions recommends memorial services with Psalms for the dead. It also contains a beautiful prayer for the departed, asking that their voluntary and involuntary sins be pardoned, that they be given rest with the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles in a place where sorrow, suffering, and sighing have fled away (Isaiah 35:10). Saint John Chrysostom mentions the service for the dead in one of his homilies on Philippians, and says that it was established by the Apostles. Saint Cyprian of Carthage (Letter 37) also speaks of our duty to remember the martyrs.
The holy Fathers also testify to the benefit of offering prayers, memorial services, Liturgies, and alms for the dead (Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Saint John of Damascus, etc.). Although both the righteous and those who have not repented and corrected themselves may receive benefit and consolation from the Church’s prayer, it has not been revealed to what extent the unrighteous receive this solace. It is not possible, however, to transfer a soul from a state of evil and condemnation to a state of holiness and blessedness through the Church’s prayer. Saint Basil the Great points out that the time for repentance and forgiveness of sins is during the present life, while the future life is a time for righteous judgment and retribution (Moralia 1). Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory the Theologian, and other patristic writers concur with Saint Basil’s statement.
By praying for others, we bring benefit to them, and also to ourselves, because “God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love which you showed for His sake in serving the saints…” (Heb. 6:10).
The Annunciation of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
The Feast of the Annunciation is one of the earliest Christian feasts, and was already being celebrated in the fourth century. There is a painting of the Annunciation in the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome dating from the second century. The Council of Toledo in 656 mentions the Feast, and the Council in Trullo in 692 says that the Annunciation was celebrated during Great Lent.
The Greek and Slavonic names for the Feast may be translated as “good tidings.” This, of course, refers to the Incarnation of the Son of God and the salvation He brings. The background of the Annunciation is found in the Gospel of Saint Luke (1:26-38). The troparion describes this as the “beginning of our salvation, and the revelation of the eternal mystery,” for on this day the Son of God became the Son of Man.
There are two main components to the Annunciation: the message itself, and the response of the Virgin. The message fulfills God’s promise to send a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel.” The Fathers of the Church understand “her seed” to refer to Christ. The prophets hinted at His coming, which they saw dimly, but the Archangel Gabriel now proclaims that the promise is about to be fulfilled.
We see this echoed in the Liturgy of Saint Basil, as well: “When man disobeyed Thee, the only true God who had created him, and was deceived by the guile of the serpent, becoming subject to death by his own transgressions, Thou, O God, in Thy righteous judgment, didst send him forth from Paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken, yet providing for him the salvation of regeneration in Thy Christ Himself.”
The Archangel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth in Galilee. There he spoke to the undefiled Virgin who was betrothed to Saint Joseph: “Hail, thou who art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
In contrast to Eve, who was readily deceived by the serpent, the Virgin did not immediately accept the Angel’s message. In her humility, she did not think she was deserving of such words, but was actually troubled by them. The fact that she asked for an explanation reveals her sobriety and prudence. She did not disbelieve the words of the angel, but could not understand how they would be fulfilled, for they spoke of something which was beyond nature.
Then said Mary unto the angel, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34).
“And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: therefore also that which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1: 35-38)
In his Sermon 23 on the day of the Annunciation, Saint Philaret of Moscow boldly stated that “the word of the creature brought the Creator down into the world.” He explains that salvation is not merely an act of God’s will, but also involves the Virgin’s free will. She could have refused, but she accepted God’s will and chose to cooperate without complaint or further questions.
The icon of the Feast shows the Archangel with a staff in his left hand, indicating his role as a messenger. Sometimes one wing is upraised, as if to show his swift descent from heaven. His right hand is stretched toward the holy Virgin as he delivers his message.
The Virgin is depicted either standing or sitting, usually holding yarn in her left hand. Sometimes she is shown holding a scroll. Her right hand may be raised to indicate her surprise at the message she is hearing. Her head is bowed, showing her consent and obedience. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon her is depicted by a ray of light issuing from a small sphere at the top of the icon, which symbolizes heaven. In a famous icon from Sinai, a white dove is shown in the ray of light.
There are several famous icons of the Annunciation. One is in the Moscow Kremlin in the church of the Annunciation. This icon appeared in connection with the rescue of a prisoner by the Mother of God during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. Another is to be found in the Dormition Cathedral in Moscow (July 8). It was originally located in Ustiug, and was the icon before which Saint Procopius the fool (July 8) prayed to save the city from destruction in 1290. One of the most highly revered icons in Greece is the Tinos icon of the Annunciation (January 30).
The Annunciation falls during Lent, but it is always celebrated with great joy. The Liturgy of Saint Basil or Saint John Chrysostom is served, even on the weekdays of Lent. It is one of the two days of Great Lent on which the fast is relaxed and fish is permitted (Palm Sunday is the other).
Daily Readings for Friday, March 24, 2023
4TH FRIDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Forefeast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, Righteous Artemon, Bishop of Seleucia, Our Holy Father Theonas, Archbishop of Thessolonica, Zachariah the Recluse
And the Lord said: "Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote; therefore, behold, I will again do marvelous things with this people, wonderful and marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hid." Woe to those who hide deep from the LORD their counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, "Who sees us? Who knows us?" You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay; that the thing made should say of its maker, "He did not make me"; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"? Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. For the ruthless shall come to nought and the scoffer cease, and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off, who by a word make a man out to be an offender, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right. Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: "Jacob shall no more be ashamed, no more shall his face grow pale. For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves." So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
The simple believes everything, but the prudent looks where he is going. A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool throws off restraint and is careless. A man of quick temper acts foolishly, but a man of discretion is patient. The simple acquire folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge. The evil bow down before the good, the wicked at the gates of the righteous. The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. He who despises his neighbor is a sinner, but happy is he who is kind to the poor. Do they not err that devise evil? Those who devise good meet loyalty and faithfulness. In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to want. The crown of the wise is their wisdom, but folly is the garland of fools. A truthful witness saves lives, but one who utters lies is a betrayer. In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.
Forefeast of the Annunciation
The Feast of the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated on one day March 25, exactly nine months before the Nativity of Christ. There is one day of Prefeast (March 24), followed by the Feast itself. On March 26, we celebrate the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel.
Because the Feast of the Annunciation falls during Great Lent, there is no Postfeast of the Feast.
Venerable Zachariah the Recluse
Saint Zachariah the Recluse of Egypt because of his concern for the poor and homeless was called “to the outcast.” In the printed Menaion he is known as “our Monastic Father Zachariah,” and so he has been identified erroneously with Saint Zachariah the Monk.
Saint Artemon, Bishop of Seleucia
Saint Artemon, Bishop of Seleucia, was born and lived in Seleucia of Pisidia (Asia Minor). He was pious and virtuous, therefore when the holy Apostle Paul (June 29) came to Seleucia, he established Saint Artemon as the first bishop of this city, since he was the most worthy. Saint Artemon wisely nourished the flock entrusted to him and won glory as a comforter of the poor and oppressed. Saint Artemon died in great old age.
[In the ancient Slavonic Lives of the Saints “Seleucian” was written as “Seleoukinian” or “Seleunian.” However, in several of the Greek memorials the bishop was also called Solunian (i.e., of Thessalonica). Saint Artemon (or Menignus) was listed in the MENAIA as Seleucian or Solunian. In the second half of the eighteenth century, these two names were mistakenly applied to various persons.]
Venerable Zachariah the Ascetic of the Kiev Caves
Saint Zachariah the Faster of the Caves was an ascetic in the Far Caves in the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries. He fasted so strictly that he ate nothing baked nor boiled, and he consumed only greens once a day at the setting of the sun. Demons trembled at the mere mention of his name.
Often the monk saw angels, with which he deserved to live in Heaven.
Martyr Stephen of Kazan
The Holy Martyr Stephen of Kazan was a Tatar. For more than twenty years, he suffered from a weakness of the legs. After the capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible (1552), he believed in Christ and received healing. The saint was baptized by Archpriest Menignus of the Moscow cathedral, who had brought a letter from Metropolitan Macarius to the Russian army.
After the Russian army withdrew from Kazan, the Tatars chopped the martyr Stephen into pieces, scattered his body and plundered his house, because he remained faithful to Christ.
Martyr Peter of Kazan
The Holy Martyr Peter of Kazan was a newly-baptized Tatar who suffered because he converted to Christianity from Islam.
After the Russian army left Kazan, the inhabitants dragged Peter from his home by force, and addressed him by his former Moslem name, hoping that he would deny Christ. But to all flattery and persuasion Saint Peter answered, “My father and mother is God Who is glorified in Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If you believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, then you are my family. I was named Peter in holy Baptism, and I will not answer to the name by which you address me.”
Seeing that he would remain steadfast in the Faith, his family had him tortured. He endured fierce torments, but he did not cease to confess the Name of Christ, saying, “I am a Christian.” The holy martyr was buried in Kazan on the site where the church of the Resurrection of Christ later stood, at the Zhitny-Grain marketplace.
For the Lives of the holy martyrs Stephen and Peter of Kazan see: “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate,” 1977, No. 9, p. 79-80.
Icon of the Mother of God of “the Uncut Mount” or “Clouded Mountain”
About 250-300 years ago1 this icon was in one of the men’s monasteries of Tver and the Superior gave it to Cosmas Volchaninov in gratitude for his fine work in the Monastery church. The Icon was passed down from generation to generation, but an irreverent grandson of Cosmas took the darkened Icon and put it in the attic. His daughter-in-law had to endure many insults from her husband and his relatives. In desperation, she decided to commit suicide in a deserted bath-house. On her way there a monk appeared to her and said, “Where are you going, you unhappy woman? Go back, pray to the Theotokos of "The Clouded Mount," and you will live well, and in peace.”
The distressed woman returned home and revealed everything to her family, not concealing what she had intended to do. They searched for the monk, but they did not find him. No one saw him but her. This occurred on the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos.
They found the Icon in the attic, cleaned off the dirt, and put it downstairs, in a place of honor. In the evening, the parish priest served an All-night Vigil before the Icon. From that time, a Vigil was served in the house every year on this day.
For more than 150 years the Icon remained in the Volchaninov family. Katherine, the daughter of Basil, the last of the Volchaninov line, married George Ivanovich Konyaev, taking the Icon of the Mother of God with her as a precious inheritance. Molebens and All-night Vigils were served in the Konyaev house on March 24 and November 7 (perhaps this was the day when the Icon was brought from the monastery to the house of Cosmas Volchaninov).
In 1863, near a cemetery church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, it was decided to build a chapel in honor of Saint Tikhon and Saint Makarios of Kalyazin (March 17). The owner of the Icon, George Konyaev (who died in 1868 at the age of 97) wanted to donate the Icon of the Mother of God to the church. He asked the clergy to build another chapel for the wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God of "The Clouded Mountain.”
He also said, “I feel the very best place for it is in the temple of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, since formerly the place on which the church was built was called a Mount, because it was the highest place in the city. The inhabitants took their possessions to the Mount and saved themselves from ruin during a flood. Let the 'Clouded Mountain' Icon remain here on the Mount with your blessing, and may all who are buried here be protected by her mercy.” On July 15, 1866 the Icon was transferred into the new chapel, which was consecrated by Bishop Anthony of Staritsk the following day.
For three centuries before the Revolution, the "Clouded Mount" Icon of the Mother of God repeatedly worked several miracles. She was taken into the homes of pious citizens, and children were brought to her to be healed. Copies of the Icon were made, which also turned out to be miraculous.
According to the recollection of Father John Bogoslovsky, from the village of Buylovo, his mother brought him to the wonderworking Icon several times when he was a child. He had severe pain in his eyes, and every time he was anointed with oil from a lamp hanging before her Icon, he obtained relief, then finally the disease left him. Grateful worshippers adorned the Icon with a a silver riza, and later the riza was gilded. Unfortunately, the Icon disappeared after the Smolensk church was closed.
The memory of the "Clouded Mount" Icon did not fade, however. In 1993, with the blessing of Archbishop Victor of Tver and Kashin, a copy of the "Clouded Mount" Icon was painted, and veneration of the Icon resumed. The "Clouded Mount" Icon of the Mother of God is commemorated three times a year: on July 16, in honor of the consecration of the altar; on March 24 in honor of the Icon's first miracle; and on November 7 according to ancient custom. Now there is a venerated copy of the Icon in the Ascension Cathedral at Tver.
In the Icon, the Most Holy Theotokos is depicted standing on a semicircular elevation. In her right hand is a small mountain, the "stone cut out of a mountain without hands" (Daniel 2:44), on top of which a domed church with crosses. On her left arm the Divine Child blesses with His right hand. There is a crown on the head of the Mother of God.
We pray before this Icon when faced with desperate situations; when it seems that everyone around us opposes us; and for the correction of errant or fallen relatives.
1 This account is based on Eugene Poselyanin's book The Mother of God (published in 1914), and other sources.
Daily Readings for Thursday, March 23, 2023
4TH THURSDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
The Holy Righteous Martyr Nicon and His 199 Disciples, Anatolios & Protoleon the Martyrs converted by the martyrdom of St. George, Luke the New Martyr of Mytilene
Thus says the LORD, you scoffers, who rule this people in Jerusalem! Because you have said, "We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement; when the overwhelming scourge passes through it will not come to us; for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter"; therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 'He who believes will not be in haste.' And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plummet; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter." Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through you will be beaten down by it. As often as it passes through it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass through, by day and by night; and it will be sheer terror to understand the message. For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on it, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in it. For the LORD will rise up as on Mount Perazim, he will be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon; to do his deed – strange is his deed! and to work his work – alien is his work! Now therefore do not scoff, lest your bonds be made strong; for I have heard a decree of destruction from the Lord GOD of hosts upon the whole land.
These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations; and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood. Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul; but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Misfortune pursues sinners, but prosperity rewards the righteous. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous. The fallow ground of the poor yields much food, but it is swept away through injustice. He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want. Wisdom builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. He who walks in uprightness fears the LORD, but he who is devious in his ways despises him. The talk of a fool is a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them. Where there are no oxen, there is no grain; but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies. A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
Martyr Nikon and 199 disciples with him in Sicily
The Monk Martyr Nikon was born at Neapolis (Naples). His father was a pagan, and his mother a Christian. He was not baptized, but his mother secretly instructed him in the tenets of Christianity. Nikon was still a pagan when he reached adulthood. He served as a soldier, and showed unusual courage and strength.
Once, Nikon and his military company were surrounded by enemies. In deadly peril, he remembered the Christian precepts of his mother and, signing himself with the Sign of the Cross, he prayed to God, vowing to be baptized if he were saved. Filled with unusual strength, he killed many of the enemy, and put the rest to flight.
He managed to return home, giving thanks to God for preserving his life. With the blessing of his mother, he set off in search of a priest. This was no easy thing to do in a time of persecution. Saint Nikon took a ship to the island of Chios. He went up on a high mountain and spent eight days in fasting and prayer, entreating the Lord to help him.
An angel of God appeared to Saint Nikon in a dream, showing him the way. Saint Nikon went to Mount Ganos, where many monks were hidden, headed by Theodosius the Bishop of Cyzicus. Saint Nikon received from the bishop both the mystery of Baptism and the angelic schema (i.e., monastic tonsure). Living in the cave church, Saint Nikon became an example for all the brethren.
When Saint Nikon had lived on the mountain for three years, an angel revealed to the bishop that Saint Nikon should be consecrated bishop, and should move to the province of Sicily with all the monks. Bishop Theodosius obeyed the angel, and then died after he had entrusted the 190 monks to Saint Nikon. After he buried Bishop Theodosius, Saint Nikon sailed to Sicily with the brethren, and so was saved from approaching barbarians.
By God’s grace, Saint Nikon came to his native city Neapolis. He found his mother still alive, and he remained with her for the final day of her life. His mother collapsed on his chest with tears of joy and kissed him. Making a prostration to the ground, she said, “I give thanks to You, O Lord, for You have permitted me to see my son as a monk, and as a bishop. Now, my Lord, hear Your servant, and receive my soul.” When she had finished this prayer, the righteous woman died. Those present glorified God and buried her with psalmody.
Rumors of Saint Nikon’s arrival spread through the city, and ten soldiers, his former companions, came to see him. After conversing with the saint they believed and were baptized, and went with him to Sicily. Having arrived on the island, Saint Nikon settled with the monks in a desolate area, called Gigia, near the river Asinum.
Many years passed, and there was another persecution against Christians. Quintilian, the governor of Sicily, was informed that Bishop Nikon was living nearby with many monks. All 199 monks were seized and beheaded, but they left Saint Nikon alive in order to torture him.
They burned him with fire, yet he remained unharmed. They tied him to the tails of wild horses to be dragged over the ground, but the horses would not budge from the spot. They cut out the saint’s tongue, threw him off a high cliff, and finally beheaded him. The body of the hieromartyr Nikon was left in a field to be eaten by wild beasts and birds.
A certain shepherd, possessed by an evil spirit, went to that place, and finding the body of the saint, he immediately fell to the ground on his face. The unclean spirit, vanquished by the power of the saint, had thrown him to the ground and gone out from him with a loud shriek: “Woe is me, woe is me, where can I flee from Nikon?”
The healed shepherd related this to the people. The bishop of the city of Messina also learned of this, then he and his clergy buried the bodies of Saint Nikon and his disciples.
Venerable Nikon, Abbot of the Kiev Far Caves
Saint Nikon of the Kiev Caves was the first disciple and fellow-ascetic of Saint Anthony (July 10), the founder of the Kiev Caves monastery, to which he came as a priest. At the monastery he tonsured all the new monks, and among their number was Saint Theodosius of the Caves (May 3 and August 14).
For tonsuring the favorites of the Great Prince Izyaslav, Saints Barlaam (November 19) and Ephraim (January 28 ), Saint Nikon brought the wrath of the prince down upon himself, but he refused to force the new monks to leave the monastery. The princess calmed Izyaslav, and he left Saint Nikon in peace.
When the number of brethren in the monastery had increased, Saint Nikon desired to go into seclusion and live as a hesychast. He went to the Tmutarakan peninsula (on the eastern banks of the Kerchensk straits) and settled in an unpopulated spot. When news of his holy life and spiritual gifts spread throughout the region, many gathered about him, wishing to follow his example. Thus a monastery and a church were founded in the name of the Most Holy Theotokos.
When he returned to the Kiev Caves monastery, Saint Nikon was obedient to Saint Theodosius as his spiritual Father. According to Saint Nestor the Chronicler (October 27), when Saint Theodosius had to go somewhere, he entrusted all the brethren to the care of Saint Nikon. Sometimes he asked Saint Nikon to offer instruction to the brethren in place of himself. Often, when Saint Nikon was binding books, Saint Theodosius sat near him and spun the thread for the binding.
When Prince Svyatoslav drove out his brother Izyaslav from Kiev, Saint Nikon returned to the monastery he founded. He returned under the igumen Stephen. When Saint Stephen (April 27) left the Kiev Caves monastery, Saint Nikon was chosen as igumen of the monastery. He toiled much to adorn his monastery with spiritual books and icons. He died at a great old age (+ 1088) and was buried in the Near Caves of Saint Anthony.
Martyr Philetus the Senator, his wife and sons, and those with them in Illyria
Saint Philetus was a dignitary at the court of the emperor Hadrian (117-138), a persecutor of Christians. For openly confessing his faith in Christ the Savior, Saint Philetus was brought to trial with his wife Saint Lydia and their sons Macedonius and Theoprepius. By Hadrian’s order, Saint Philetus was sent with his family to Illyria to the military governor Amphilochius to be tortured.
Amphilochius gave orders to suspend them from a tree and to torture them with knives. After this, they were locked up in prison with the jailer Cronides, who believed in Christ and was also thrown in jail. An angel came to them by night and eased their sufferings.
On the following day the martyrs were plunged into a cauldron of boiling oil, but the oil cooled instantly, and the saints remained unharmed. The military governor Amphilochius was so astonished at this miracle that he himself believed in Christ and went into the boiling oil saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” and he remained unharmed. The tortures were repeated when the emperor Hadrian came to Illyria. They threw the holy martyrs into the boiling oil again and again, but by the power of God they remained alive.
The humiliated emperor returned to Rome, and the holy martyrs gave thanks to God, then they surrendered their holy souls to Him.
Righteous Basil of Mangazea in Siberia
Righteous Basil of Mangazea: Saint Basil was born in the town of Yaroslavl around 1587. His father was a merchant, but the family was very poor. As a child, Basil spent much of his time in church, praying fervently and participating in the divine services.
When he was twelve, the boy set out to earn his living. After a difficult journey through wild forests, he came to the Russian village of Mangazea in Siberia on the River Taz. This was an area inhabited by Mongols and indigenous peoples of Siberia.
After stopping to pray in the village church, Saint Basil found a job with a local merchant. The merchant was a person of low moral character and did not believe in God, so while he appreciated Basil’s work, he did not care for the boy’s religious inclinations. Soon the cruel merchant came to hate his clerk and began to mistreat him.
During the Matins of Pascha, thieves robbed the merchant’s shop. The merchant discovered the theft and went to the governor, accusing Basil of being one of the thieves. So great was the merchant’s hatred of Basil that he falsely accused the young man. The governor did not even bother to investigate the charges, but had Basil arrested and tortured to make him admit his guilt. In spite of unbearable tortures, the saint kept saying, “I am innocent.”
Enraged by Basil’s endurance and meekness, the merchant struck him in the head with a ring of keys. Saint Basil fell to the floor and surrendered his soul to God. The governor ordered that the saint’s body be placed in a coffin and buried in a swamp.
After several years, the servants who disposed of the body began to speak about the child’s murder. Soon all the residents of Mangazea knew that the saint’s relics were in the swamp. Because of many signs that took place, people began to address prayers to Saint Basil. Forty-two years after the unjust murder of the saint, his coffin was removed from the swamp and his holy relics were found to be incorrupt. A chapel was built over his grave, and in 1670 the relics were placed in the church of Holy Trinity Monastery near Turakhanov.
In 1719 the holy Metropolitan Philotheus of Siberia (May 31) sent a carved reliquary to the monastery. Many miracles took place there, and Saint Basil helped Metropolitan Philotheus on many occasions
A new stone church was built at Holy Trinity Monastery in 1787, and the relics were transferred there.
In iconography, Saint Basil is portrayed as a young man with light brown hair, bare-footed and wearing only a shirt. He is also depicted on the Abaletsk Icon “Of the Sign” (July 20, November 27).
Monastic Martyr Luke of Saint Anne’s Skete on Mount Athos and Odrin
No information available at this time.
Venerable Sergius (Srebryansky), the New Confessor of Tver
No information available at this time.
The Pre-Sanctified Liturgy – Wed 3/22/23
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Daily Readings for Wednesday, March 22, 2023
4TH WEDNESDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Basil the Holy Martyr of Ancyra, Kalliniki & Vassilisa the Martyrs, Euthemios the New Martyr
For behold, the LORD is coming forth out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed upon her, and will no more cover her slain. In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea. In that day: “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it! I, the LORD, am its keeper; every moment I water it. Lest any one harm it, I guard it night and day; I have no wrath. Would that I had thorns and briers to battle! I would set out against them, I would burn them up together. Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.” In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots, and fill the whole world with fruit. Has he smitten them as he smote those who smote them? Or have they been slain as their slayers were slain? Measure by measure, by exile thou didst contend with them; he removed them with his fierce blast in the day of the east wind. Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be expiated, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: when he makes all the stones of the altars like chalkstones crushed to pieces, no Asherim or incense altars will remain standing.
The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was peopled.
Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and became drunk, and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it upon both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, "Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers." He also said, "Blessed by the LORD my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave. God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave." After the flood Noah lived three hundred and fifty years. All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died. These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; sons were born to them after the flood.
A prudent man conceals his knowledge, but fools proclaim their folly. The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor. Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. A righteous man turns away from evil, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. A slothful man will not catch his prey, but the diligent man will get precious wealth. In the path of righteousness is life, but the way of error leads to death. A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. From the fruit of his mouth a good man eats good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence. He who guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. The soul of the sluggard craves, and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. A righteous man hates falsehood, but a wicked man acts shamefully and disgracefully. Righteousness guards him whose way is upright, but sin overthrows the wicked. One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man has no means of redemption. The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
Hieromartyr Basil of Ancyra
Hieromartyr Basil was a presbyter in Ancyra, Galatia. Fighting against the Arian heresy, he urged his flock to cling firmly to Orthodoxy. Because of this Saint Basil was deposed from his priestly rank by a local Arian council, but a Council of 230 bishops in Palestine reinstated him.
Saint Basil openly continued to preach and denounce the Arians. Therefore, he became the victim of persecution and was subjected to punishment as a man dangerous to the state. Two apostates, Elpidios and Pegasios, were ordered to turn Saint Basil from Orthodoxy. The saint remained unshakable, and was again subjected to tortures.
When the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363) arrived in the city of Ancyra, Saint Basil bravely confessed Christ before him at the trial, and denounced the emperor for his apostasy. Julian ordered that strips of skin be cut from the saint’s back. Saint Basil endured the gruesome torture with great patience.
When they began to beat his shoulders and stomach with red-hot rods, he fell down upon the ground from the torments and cried out, “O Christ, my Light! O Jesus, my Hope! Quiet Haven from the stormy sea. I thank You, O Lord God of my fathers, that You have snatched my soul from the pit of Hell and preserved Your Name in me unstained! Let me finish my life a victor and inherit eternal life according to the promise You gave my fathers. Now accept my soul in peace, remaining steadfast in this confession! For You are merciful and great is Your mercy, You Who live and sojourn throughout all the ages. Amen.”
Having made such prayer, and lacerated all over by the red-hot rods, the saint fell into a sweet slumber, giving up his soul into the hands of God. The Hieromartyr Basil died June 29, 362. His commemoration was transferred to March 22 because of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
This saint should not be confused with Saint Basil of Ancyra (January 1), a layman.
Martyr Drosίs, daughter of Emperor Trajan
The Holy Martyr Drosίs, and five Virgin Martyrs with her: Agalϊda (Αγλαϊδα), Apollinarίa (Ἀπολλιναρία), Daria (Δαρεία), Mamousa (Μαμούσα), and Thaϊs (Θαΐς).
Saint Drosίs was the daughter of Emperor Trajan (98-117), a fierce persecutor of Christians. In the year 99 he revived an earlier law which forbade secret gatherings, and applied it to the Christians. In the year 104 he issued a special edict against Christians.
Beginning in that year, the persecutions continued until the end of his reign. The bodies of martyred Christians often remained unburied in order to intimidate others. Five Christian virgins: Agalϊda, Apollinarίa, Daria, Mamousa, and Thaϊs, took upon themselves the task of burying such Christians. In secret, they took the Martyrs' bodies, anointed them with spices, wrapped them in shrouds, and buried them. When she learned of this, Drosίs, who was a secret Christian (but not yet baptized) asked the holy virgins to take her with them when they went to bury Christians.
Hadrian, an advisor to the Emperor, who was also the suitor of Drosίs, informed Trajan of the women's activities. A guard was posted over those who had been killed, with orders to arrest anyone who attempted to bury them. Saint Drosίs and the five virgins were caught on the very first night. Learning that one of the captives was his own daughter, Trajan ordered her to be held separately, hoping that she would change her mind.
The five Holy Virgin Martyrs were sentenced to burn in a furnace for melting copper. They went to their death courageously, and received their imperishable crowns of martyrdom. This copper, mingled with the ashes of the Martyrs, was used to make tripods for the new public bath which Trajan had built. As as long as these tripods stood in the bath, no one could enter it. Whoever crossed the threshold was struck dead at once. When the pagan priests realized why this was happening, they ordered the tripods to be removed and melted down. Then Hadrian suggested that the Emperor should have five bronze statues of naked virgins made to resemble the Martyrs, and place them before the entrance to the public bath.
When the statues were in place, Trajan saw in a dream five pure lambs pastured in Paradise, and the Shepherd who said to him, “O most wanton and wicked Caesar! Those whose images you placed there to be mocked have been taken away from you and brought here by the Good and Merciful Shepherd. In time your daughter, the pure lamb Drosίs, shall be here as well.”
When he awoke, Trajan was furious, and ordered two huge furnaces to be heated. Nearby, an imperial edict was posted: You who worship the Crucified one; save yourselves from a lot of suffering, and also spare us these labors. Offer sacrifice to the gods. If you do not wish to do this, however, then let each of you voluntarily cast himself into this furnace.”
Many Christians chose martyrdom.
When she heard of this, Saint Drosίs also decided to suffer martyrdom for Christ. She prayed in her prison, asking the Lord to set her free. God heard her prayer, and the guards fell asleep. Saint Drosίs went to the furnace, but she wondered: “How can I go to God without a wedding garment (i.e., without being baptized), for I am impure? But, O King of Kings, Lord Jesus Christ, for Your sake I give up my imperial rank, so that I might become the lowliest handmaiden in Your Kingdom. Baptize me Yourself by Your Holy Spirit.”
After praying in this manner, Saint Drosίs anointed herself with myrrh [chrism], which she had brought with her, and immersing herself in water three times, she said: “The handmaiden of God Drosίs is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Saint hid for seven days, spending her time in fasting and prayer. Some Christians found her and learned from her everything that had occurred. On the eighth day, the Holy Martyr Drosίs went to the furnace and cast herself into the fire.1
1 Some sources state that Saint Drosίs reposed in peace. According to the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church, however, she is listed as a martyr (Святая мученица Дросида).
Venerable Isaac the Confessor, Founder of the Dalmatian Monastery at Constantinople
Saint Isaac, the founder of the Dalmaton Monastery (Μονή Δαλμάτων) at Constantinople, lived during the IV century, in the reign of Emperor Valens (364-378), who was an adherent of the Arian heresy.
Saint Isaac was tonsured as a monk when he was young, and through his ascetical struggles in the desert, he acquired every virtue. He was also found worthy of receiving the gift of prophecy from God. When he learned that Orthodox Christians were being persecuted, and their churches were being closed or destroyed, he left the wilderness and went to Constantinople to console and encourage the Orthodox, and to oppose the heretics. At that time, the barbarian Goths along the Danube River were waging war against the Empire. They had captured Thrace and were advancing toward Constantinople.
As Emperor Valens was leaving the capital with his soldiers, Saint Isaac cried out, “Emperor, reopen the churches of the Orthodox, and then the Lord will help you!”
The Emperor ignored the Saint's words and continued on his way. The next day, Isaac ran out to warn the Emperor again. Valens, moved by Isaac's boldness and sincerity, was almost persuaded to do as he asked. However, one of his advisors (an Arian) convinced him not to grant the Saint's request. On the third day the Saint stood in Emperor's path and grabbed the bridle of his horse, repeating his request; sometimes in a pleading tone, and sometimes in a reproachful manner. He also threatened divine retribution if Valens did not honor his request. Offended by Isaac's audacity, Valens had him thrown into a deep pit filled with mud and thorns, from which it was impossible to escape.
With God’s help, however, Saint Isaac was able to get out of the pit. He overtook the Emperor and said, “You wanted to destroy me, but Angels pulled me out of the mire. Hear me! Reopen the churches for the Orthodox and you shall defeat the enemy. If you do not heed me, however, then you shall not return. You will be captured and burned alive. Learn from experience that it hurts you to kick against the goads" (Acts 26:14).1
The Emperor was astonished at the Saint's boldness and ordered his attendants Saturninus and Victor to seize the monk and keep him in prison until his return.
Saint Isaac’s prophecy was soon fulfilled. On August 9, 378 a fierce battle was fought near Adrianoupolis, during which the imperial army was defeated, and many excellent generals were killed. Valens and his chief of staff took refuge in a barn filled with straw, and the attackers set it ablaze. The two men were burnt alive, just as Isaac had foretold.
Back in Constantinople, some of the soldiers who survived the battle came to Isaac's prison cell and said to him, "Prepare to make your defense before the Emperor, who is coming to put you on trial."
Isaac replied, "The stench of his charred bones has assailed my nostrils for more than seven days."
When this event became known, the clergy and the people released Saint Isaac from prison. With great respect, they approached him in order to receive his blessing, Then the holy Emperor Theodosios the Great (379-395) came to the throne. On the advice of Saturninus and Victor, he summoned the Elder, according him much honor. Obeying his instructions, he banished the Arians from Constantinople and restored the churches to the Orthodox. Saint Isaac wanted to return to his desert, but Saturninus and Victor begged him not to leave the city, but to remain and protect it by his prayers.
Saint Isaac was present at the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 381, where he was responsible for much of its success because of his zeal in defending Orthodox doctrine.
Saturninus built a monastery for the Saint in Constantinople, where monks gathered around him. Saint Isaac was the monastery’s Igoumen and spiritual guide. He also nourished laypeople, and helped many of the poor and suffering.
Sensing his approaching death, Saint Isaac appointed Saint Dalmatios (August 3) to succeed him as the Igoumen. The monastery was later renamed for Saint Dalmatios (Δαλμάτιος).
Saint Isaac went to the Lord in the year 383. He is also commemorated with Saints Dalmatios and Faustos on August 3. In Greek usage, however, Saint Isaac is commemorated on May 30.
1 A Greek proverb signifying that resistance is futile. Examples may be found in the plays of Euripides (Bacchae); Aeschylus (Agamemnon & Prometheus); and in Pindar's second Pythian Ode).
Monastic Martyr Euthymius of Prodromou, Mount Athos
This holy New Martyr of Christ was born in Demitsana in the Peloponnesos. His parents were Panagiotes and Maria, and he was given the name Eleutherius in Baptism. Eleutherius was the youngest of five children (the others were George, Christos, John, and Katerina).
After attending school in Demetsana, Eleutherius and John traveled to Constantinople to enroll in the Patriarchal Academy. Later, they went to Jassy, Romania where their father and brothers were in business. Some time afterwards, Eleutherius decided to go to Mt. Athos to become a monk. Because of a war between Russia and Turkey, he was able to travel only as far as Bucharest. There he stayed with the French consul, then with an employee of the Russian consul.
Eleutherius began to pursue a life of pleasure, putting aside his thoughts of monasticism. When hostilities ceased, Eleutherius made his way to Constantinople in the company of some Moslems. On the way, he turned from Orthodoxy and embraced Islam. He was circumcised and given the name Reschid. Soon his conscience began to torment him for his denial of Christ. The other Moslems began to notice a change in his attitude, so they restricted his movements and kept a close watch on him.
One day Eleutherius was seen wearing a cross, so the others reported him to the master of the house, Rais Efendi. The master favored Eleutherius, which made the others jealous. He told them it was still too early for Eleutherius to give up all his Christian ways.
Rais Efendi and his household journeyed to Adrianople, arriving on a Saturday. Metropolitan Cyril, who later became Patriarch of Constantinople, was serving Vespers in one of the city’s churches. Eleutherius pretended to have letters for Metropolitan Cyril, but he sent someone else to receive them. When Eleutherius told this man that he wanted Christian clothes, he became suspicious and sent him away.
Back in Constantinople, Rais Efendi gave Eleutherius costly presents, hoping to influence him to remain a Moslem. Eleutherius, however, prayed that God would permit him to escape. He ran off at the first opportunity, seeking out a priest from the Peloponnesos who lived near the Patriarchate. After relating his story, Eleutherius asked the priest to help him get away. The priest refused to assist him, fearing reprisals if he should be caught. He gave Eleutherius some advice, then sent him away.
With some assistance from the Russian embassy, Eleutherius boarded a ship and sailed to Mt. Athos. At the Great Lavra Eleutherius was chrismated and received back into the Orthodox Church, and also became a monk with the name Euthymius.
Euthymius read the New Martyrologion of Saint Νikόdēmos (July 14), and was inspired by the example of the New Martyrs. He then became consumed with a desire to wipe out his apostasy with the blood of martyrdom.
Saint Euthymius went to Constantinople with a monk named Gregory, arriving on March 19, 1814. A few days later, on Palm Sunday, he received Holy Communion. Removing his monastic garb, he dressed himself as a Moslem and went to the palace of the Grand Vizier, Rusud Pasha. Saint Euthymius, holding palms in his hand, confessed that he was an Orthodox Christian, and wished to die for Christ. He denounced Mohammed and the Moslem religion, then trampled upon the turban he had worn on his head, which led the Vizier to believe that he was either drunk or crazy.
The valiant warrior of Christ assured the Vizier that he was in his right mind, and was not drunk. Euthymius was thrown into a dark cell and bound with chains. After an hour or so, they brought him out again. With flattery and promises of wealth, the Vizier tried to convince Euthymius to return to the Moslem faith. The saint boldly declared that Islam was a religion based on fables and falsehood, and that he would not deny Christ again even if he were to be tortured and slain.
The Grand Vizier ordered the saint to be beaten and returned to prison. After three hours, Saint Euthymius was brought before Rusud Pasha, who said to him, “Have you reconsidered, or do you remain stubborn?”
Euthymius replied, “There is only one true Faith, that of the Orthodox Christians. How can I believe in your false prophet Mohammed?”
Now the Vizier realized that he would never convince Euthymius to return to Islam, so he ordered him to be put to death by the sword. When the executioner attempted to tie the saint’s hands he said, “I came here voluntarily, so there is no need to bind my hands.Allow me to meet my death untied.”
Saint Euthymius was allowed to walk to the place of execution unbound. He went joyfully and unafraid, holding a cross in his right hand, and palms in his left. When they arrived at the site, Euthymius faced east and began to pray. He thanked God for making him worthy of martyrdom for His sake. He also prayed for his family and friends, asking God to grant all their petitions which are unto salvation.
Then Saint Euthymius kissed the cross he was holding, then knelt and bent his neck. The executioner struck a fierce blow with the sword, but this did not behead him. He struck again, and failed to kill him. Finally, he took a knife and slit the martyr’s throat.
Saint Euthymius was killed about noon on March 22, 1814 in Constantinople, thereby earning a place in the heavenly Kingdom where he glorifies the holy, consubstantial, and life-creating Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, forevermore.
The head of Saint Euthymius is in the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mt Athos.
Martyrs Kalliniki and Basilissa
Saints Basilissa (Βασίλισσα) and Kalliniki (Καλλίνικη) were from Galatia. Since Saint Basilissa was wealthy, she gave money to Saint Kalliniki to go to the prison and distribute it to the Christians who were confined there for their sustenance, and so they would pray for her. She wished to prepare them for martyrdom and to stand by them so that they would not lose their courage amid their tribulations.
One day Saint Kalliniki was arrested and they asked her why she was giving the prisoners money. Since she did not know how to lie, she admitted the truth. That is why they tied her up and handed her over to the ruler. Afterward, Saint Basilissa was arrested and was brought before him in court. Both women boldly confessed Christ and were subjected to various tortures, in an attempt to make them deny their faith and offer sacrifice to the idols.
Since they could not be persuaded to do so, their sacred heads were cut off with swords. In this manner they defeated the devil and rejoiced in the Kingdom of Heaven. The martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs Basilissa and and Kalliniki took place in the year 252, during the reign of Emperor Gallus (251-253).
March 26, 2023
Fourth Sunday of Great Lent
Commemoration of St. John Climacus
Self-denial for self-glory is equally as vain as any endeavor not directed toward divine love and the glory of God. In St. John Climacus, seventh-century hermit and ascetic, we have a model of sacrifice directed to the love of fellow men. St. John knew that emptying himself of the things of this world was the act of renouncing his own efforts and accepting God’s grace and mercy as true sustenance. The season of prayer and fasting is a time of true humility and complete submission to the Father’s will. We proceed to the Great Feast, following a path of reconciliation and contemplation, seeking the adoration of the Son and His sacrifice, and emphasizing leaving the things of this world to attain perfect submission.
Hebrews 6:13-20: Brethren, when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater by whom to swear, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Men indeed swear by one greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of His purpose, He interposed with an oath. So that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Mark 9:16-30: At that time, a man came to Jesus, kneeling down and saying unto him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked Thy Disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And Jesus answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to Me.” And they brought the boy to Him; and when the spirit saw Jesus, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if Thou canst do anything, have pity on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when Jesus had entered the house, His Disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And Jesus said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And Jesus would not have anyone know it; for He was teaching His Disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and after He is killed, He will rise on the third day.”
Troparion of the Resurrection: O compassionate One, thou didst descend from the heights; thou didst submit to the three-day burial, that thou might deliver us from passion. Thou art our Life and our Resurrection, O Lord, glory to thee.
Troparion of the Archangel Gabriel: Supreme Commander of the Hosts of the Heavens, we, the unworthy, importune and beseech thee that by thy supplications thou encircle us in the shelter of the wings of thine immaterial glory; guarding us who now fall down and cry to thee with fervor: Deliver us from dangers of all kinds, as the great marshal of the heavenly hosts on high.
Troparion of the Chains of St. Peter: O Holy Apostle, Peter, thou dost preside over the Apostles by the precious chains which thou didst bear. We venerate them with faith and beseech thee that by thine intercessions we be granted the great mercy.
Kontakion of the Sundays of Lent: To thee the champion leader, I thy servant offer thanks for victory, O Theotokos, thou who hast delivered me form terror. As thou hast power invincible, free me from every danger that I may cry unto thee: Rejoice, O bride without bridegroom.
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE: All services listed on the calendar will be available through streaming and webcast.
Sunday, March 26 (Commemoration of St. John Climacus)
8:50 a.m. — Orthros (webcast)
9:00 a.m. — Christian Education
10:00 a.m. — Divine Liturgy (webcast)
Monday, March 27
Father Herman off
Tuesday, March 28
Wednesday, March 29
6:30 p.m. — Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete with the Life of St. Mary of Egypt
Thursday, March 30
Friday, March 31
6:30 p.m. — Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos
Saturday, April 1 (St. Mary of Egypt)
8:30 a.m. — Ladies Brunch and Lenten Retreat at the Church
6:00 p.m. — Great Vespers
Sunday, April 2 (Commemoration of the St. Mary of Egypt)
8:50 a.m. — Orthros (webcast)
9:00 a.m. — Christian Education
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