4TH TUESDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
James the Confessor, Thomas I, Patriarch of Constantinople, Philemon and Domninos
O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. For thou hast made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt. Therefore strong peoples will glorify thee; cities of ruthless nations will fear thee. For thou hast been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the blast of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place. Thou dost subdue the noise of the aliens; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled. On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”
A man is commended according to his good sense, but one of perverse mind is despised. Better is a man of humble standing who works for himself than one who plays the great man but lacks bread. A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits has no sense. The strong tower of the wicked comes to ruin, but the root of the righteous stands firm. An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble. From the fruit of his words a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man's hand comes back to him. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent man ignores an insult. He who speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure for ever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan good have joy. No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble. Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.
Saint James the Confessor, Bishop of Catania
Saint James, Bishop and Confessor was inclined toward the ascetic life from his early years. Saint James left the world and entered the Studite monastery, where he was tonsured. He led a strict life, full of works, fasting and prayer. Pious and well-versed in Holy Scripture, Saint James was elevated to the bishop’s throne of Catania (Sicily).
During the reign of the iconoclast emperor Constantine V Copronymos (741-775), Saint James was repeatedly urged not to venerate the holy icons. They exhausted him in prison, starved him, and beat him, but he bravely endured all these torments. Saint James died in exile.
Saint Cyril, Bishop of Catania
Saint Cyril was born in Antioch. He was a disciple of the Apostle Peter (June 29, January 16), who installed him as Bishop of Catania in Sicily. Saint Cyril wisely guided his flock; he was pious, and the Lord granted him the gift of wonderworking. By his prayer the bitter water in a certain spring lost its bitterness and became drinkable. This miracle converted many pagans to Christianity. Saint Cyril died in old age and was buried in Sicily.
Saint Thomas, Patriarch of Constantinople
Saint Thomas, Patriarch of Constantinople, was at first a deacon, and later under the holy Patriarch John IV the Faster (582-595) he was made “sakellarios” [sacristan] in the Great Church (Hagia Sophia). After the death of holy Patriarch Cyriacus (595-606), Saint Thomas was elevated to the Patriarchal throne in 607. The saint concerned himself in every possible way about the spiritual needs of his flock.
During the patriarchate of Saint Thomas, an ominous portent appeared in the land of Galatia (Asia Minor). The heavy crosses which were carried during church processions began to shake and to strike against each other. The clairvoyant Elder, Saint Theodore Sykeotes (April 22), explained the meaning of this portent. He said that discords and disasters awaited the Church, and the state was in danger of barbarian invasion. Hearing this, the saint became terrified and asked Saint Theodore to pray that God would take his soul before these predictions were fulfilled.
After the death of the holy Patriarch Thomas in 610, disorders started in the Church. Saint Thomas’s successor, Patriarch Sergius (610-638), fell into the Monothelite heresy. Through God’s dispensation, war broke out with Persia, which proved grievous for Byzantium. The Greek regions of Asia Minor were completely devastated, Jerusalem fell, and the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord was captured and taken to Persia. Thus, all the misfortunes portended by the miracle during the church procession came to pass.
Venerable Seraphim of Vyritsa
Basil Muraviev (the future Saint Seraphim) was born in 1865 in the town of Cheremovsky in the Yaroslavl province. His parents, Nicholas and Chione, were peasants. When Basil was ten years old, his father died, and he was left to care for his ailing mother and his sister Olga.
A kind neighbor took Basil with him to Saint Petersburg, and found him a job as a store clerk. The boy had a secret desire to become a monk, so one day he went to the Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra to speak to one of the Elders about this. The Elder advised him to remain in the world and raise a family, then after their children had grown, he and his wife were to serve God in the monastic life.
Basil accepted these words as the will of God, and so he lived his life as the Elder had directed. Returning to the store, Basil continued to work and send money home to his family. When he was twenty-four years old, Basil married his wife Olga.
He started his own business as a furrier, and became very wealthy. He had a son, Nicholas and a daughter, Olga. After their daughter’s death, Basil and his wife agreed to live together as brother and sister from that time forward.
When he was around thirty, Basil gave away most of his wealth, donating money to various monasteries. When Nicholas was grown, Basil and Olga went to monasteries to serve God. Olga was tonsured in 1919 with the name Christina, and lived in the Resurrection-New Divyevo Monastery in Saint Petersburg. Later, she was tonsured into the schema and was given the name Seraphima. She died in 1945.
We do not know where Basil received monastic tonsure (some say it was on Mt Athos), nor the new name he was given at that time.
In 1927, he arrived at the Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra, where he became Father Confessor to the monks. There he was tonsured into the schema with the name Seraphim. Soon it became apparent that Saint Seraphim had received from God the gifts of clairvoyance and healing, and many people came to him seeking his help and advice.
Bishop Alexei (Shimansky) of Novgorod came to the Elder in 1927 to ask if he should leave Russia, since many bishops and priests were facing arrest and execution under the Communist yoke. Before the bishop could utter a word, Saint Seraphim said, “Many now wish to leave Russia, but there is nothing to fear. You are needed here. You will become Patriarch and will rule for twenty-five years.”
A time of trial came for the Lavra. Monks were arrested, exiled, and sent to labor camps. Many of them were executed. Beginning in 1929, the Elder was arrested fourteen times. He continued his priestly ministry in the prison camps, where he strengthened and encouraged his fellow-prisoners.
In 1933, the Elder returned from the camps and settled in Vyritsa. This was a very beautiful place with forests and a river, and it was known for its healthy climate. Saint Seraphim’s health had deteriorated in the prison camps, and he had been beaten many times.
A wooden church in honor of the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos had been built in Vyritsa in 1913 to commemorate the three hundredth anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The upper church has two altars: one dedicated to the Kazan Icon, the other to Saint Nicholas. The lower church was dedicated to Saint Seraphim of Sarov.
After he had recovered somewhat, Father Seraphim began to receive visitors who came seeking advice and comfort from him. Many of those afflicted with illness received healing by his prayers. The authorities soon noticed the great numbers of people who came to him. His cell was searched many times, usually at night. Once, the police came to arrest the Elder, but a doctor told them that Father Seraphim would not survive the trip because of his many infirmities. They decided to leave him alone, and so the Lord preserved the life of His servant.
The Germans entered Vyritsa in September of 1941, but no one was harmed, and there was no looting. During the War, Father Seraphim became weak and now served only rarely in the chapel of Saint Seraphim. Starting in 1945, Father Alexei Kibardin began serving in the Kazan church.
By the spring of 1949, Saint Seraphim was very weak and had to remain in bed. Still, he permitted visitors to come to him as before.
Shortly before his death, the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to Saint Seraphim and told him to receive Holy Communion every day. Father Alexei Kibardin would bring him Communion at 2 AM, but once he overslept and did not come until 4 AM. He apologized to the Elder for his tardiness, and noticed that there was a certain radiance around the saint. The Elder said, “Father, do not worry. The holy angels have already brought me Communion.” Seeing his face, Father Alexei knew that this was absolutely true!
The Elder told Father Alexei to go to Moscow and inform Patriarch Alexei I that he would depart to the Lord in two weeks. When Father Alexei relayed the message, the Patriarch turned to the holy icons and crossed himself. When he turned around again, tears were streaming down his cheeks. “I have been Patriarch for four years,” he said. “Twenty-one years remain to me. This is what the holy Elder told me.” Patriarch Alexei died in 1970, just as Saint Seraphim foretold.
Saint Seraphim departed to the Lord on March 21, 1949 (April 3 N.S.). In the hours before his death, he asked that the Akathists to the Most Holy Theotokos, to Saint Seraphim of Sarov, and to Saint Nicholas be read. For a week after his blessed repose, a sweet fragrance permeated Vyritsa.
Saint Seraphim was buried in the cemetery next to the church of the Kazan Icon in Vyritsa. Great throngs of people came for the funeral, and Vyritsa became a place of pilgrimage.
The schemamonk Saint Seraphim was glorified by the Church of Russia in August of 2000.
Saint Serapion, Bishop of Thmuis in Lower Egypt
Saint Serapion lived in Egypt during the fourth century. He is known as “the Sindonite” because wore only rough linen clothing (sindona). From the time of his youth he lived like the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26). He had no shelter, and for several days at a time he would eat no food, because he did not have money to buy bread. When he saw a beggar shivering from the cold, he gave him his sindon, and was left half-naked. He proved to be a prime example of philanthropy and mercy, distributing his own wealth, and whatever his faithful visitors gave him for himself, to the poor. Then he became a monk and lived in the desert of Sketis. He was dedicated to spreading the Word of God in many different ways.
Once he fell into the hands of a bandit, and by his powers of persuasion he managed to turn the tables on him, and made this robber a servant of God. He also managed to convert the Manichean heretic Lakedaimon to Orthodoxy.
A certain Greek philosopher, who wanted to test the monk’s honesty, gave him a gold coin and began to watch him. The Saint went to a bread merchant, took one loaf and gave the gold coin to the merchant, walking away with no idea of the coin’s value.
Saint Serapion led many people to the path of salvation in special ways. Once he sold himself into slavery to a Greek actor who wanted to convert to Christ. The actor was astonished by the righteous one’s holy life, and so he believed and was baptized with his family. He implored Saint Serapion to remain with him, not as a slave, but as a mentor and friend. The monk left, however, without taking the money that was offered to him.
Departing for Rome, Saint Serapion boarded a ship, but did not pay the sailors anything for his passage. At first, they began to reproach him for this, but when they saw that the Elder did not eat anything for five days, they began to feed him for the sake of God, and thereby fulfilled the commandment of the Lord. In Rome, the monk continued to travel, going from house to house, having nothing, gathering only spiritual riches for himself and for his neighbor.
Later he was made Bishop of Thmuis in Lower Egypt. He had been a disciple of Saint Anthony the Great (January 17), and later he wrote A Letter on the Death of Saint Anthony. He was also a friend and supporter of Saint Athanasios of Alexandria (January 18 & May 2). At the end of the nineteenth century a collection of liturgical texts, ascribed to Saint Serapion, was discovered.
In the end he returned to his beloved desert, where he reposed peacefully in deep old age in the year 370, an example for all the monks.