Daily Readings for Thursday, April 20, 2023



Renewal Thursday, Theodore the Trichinas, Zacchaeus the Apostle of Caesaria, Gregory & Anastasios, Patriarchs of Antioch, Athanasios, Founder of the Monastery of Meteora


In those days, Peter said to the people, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

JOHN 3:1-15

At that time, there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nikodemos, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nikodemos said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The Spirit blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, and you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nikodemos said to him, "How can this be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Bright Thursday

On Bright Thursday the Gospel reading is John 3:1-15, which mentions the Pharisee Νikόdēmos who came by night to speak to Christ. The Lord told him that a man could not see the Kingdom of God unless he were born again. Νikόdēmos, taking Him much too literally, could not understand how such a thing was possible.

The Savior then clarified His words, saying that one must be born “of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5), referring to Baptism. Νikόdēmos, however, still found it difficult to understand Him.

The Lord said, “If I have told you of earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:12).

The reading from Acts 2:38-41 also speaks of Baptism. Saint Peter told the crowd, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you… and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

The main focus of today’s readings is on Baptism, but they also point to other things. We are to raise our mind and understanding from earthly to heavenly things, and to seek the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Venerable Theodore Trichinas “the Hair-Shirt Wearer” and Hermit Near Constantinople

Saint Theodore Trichinas was born in Constantinople, the son of wealthy and pious parents. From childhood Saint Theodore was inclined toward monasticism, so he left his home, family, and former life in order to enter a monastery in Thrace. There he began his arduous ascetic struggles. He dressed in a hair-shirt, from which he derived the name “Trichinas,” (or “Hair-Shirt Wearer”). He even slept on a stone in order avoid bodily comfort, and to prevent himself from sleeping too much.

His life was adorned with miracles, and he had the power to heal the sick. He reposed at the end of the fourth century, or the beginning of the fifth century. A healing myrrh flows from his relics.

The name of Saint Theodore Trichinas is one of the most revered in the history of Orthodox monasticism. Saint Joseph the Hymnographer (April 4) has composed a Canon to the saint.

Venerable Alexander, Abbot of Oshevensk

Saint Alexander of Oshevensk (+ 1479) was the founder of the Oshevensk Dormition Monastery and enlightener of the Kargopol area, and was tonsured in the White Lake Monastery. He appeared to Saint Diodorus of George Hill (November 27) in the seventeenth century when his Holy Trinity Monastery ran out of supplies, and the brethren complained because there was nowhere to buy food in the wilderness. Saint Alexander reminded Diodorus of how the Lord had fed the five thousand in the wilderness, and ordered him to go fishing. Saint Diodorus, fearing that the vision was a demonic delusion, ignored it. When Saint Alexander appeared a third time, Diodorus, wishing to test him, asked him to say a prayer. Saint Alexander recited “It is Truly Meet,” and his face shone with a radiant light. The saint revealed himself as Alexander, the igumen of Oshevensk Dormition Monastery, and repeated his order to go fishing. Obeying this command, the monks went out and caught many fish.

Childmartyr Gabriel of Bialystok

Child Martyr Gabriel of Bialystok (+ 1690) was killed in Poland when he was only six years old. One day when his parents were not home, he was lured out of his house by a man named Schutko, and then killed. After thirty years, the martyred child’s body was found to be incorrupt.

Blessed Gregory, Patriarch of Antioch

No information available at this time.

Venerable Anastasius, Abbot of Sinai

Saint Anastasius of Sinai lived in the seventh century, and was one of the great ascetics who flourished on Mt. Sinai.

From his youth, he was raised in great piety and love for God. When he reached manhood, Saint Anastasius left the world and entered a monastery to take upon himself the yoke of Christ (Mt.11:29). Wishing to perfect himself in virtue, he went to Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai, where Saint John of the Ladder (March 30) was abbot. There he profited from the example of many holy men who were proficient in monasticism.

Because of his humility, Saint Anastasius received wisdom and spiritual discernment from God. He wrote the Lives of several holy Fathers, as well as other spiritually instructive books. In time, he was found worthy of ordination to the holy priesthood.

Following Saint John and his brother George, Saint Anastasius became abbot of Sinai. He was most zealous in his opposition to heresy, exposing it, refuting it, and covering its adherents with shame. He even traveled to Syria, Egypt, and Arabia to uproot heresy and strengthen the Church of Christ.

Saint Anastasius taught that God gives each Christian an angel to care for him throughout his life. However, we can drive our Guardian Angel away by our sins, just as bees are driven away by smoke. While the demons work to deprive us of the heavenly Kingdom, the holy angels guide us to do good. Therefore, only the most foolish individuals would drive away their Guardian Angel from themselves.

After a long life of faithfully serving God, Saint Anastasius fell asleep in the Lord in the year 685. He and the other ascetics of Mt. Sinai are also commemorated on Bright Wednesday, the Synaxis of the Monastic Fathers of Sinai.

Saint Betran, Bishop of Lesser Scythia

No information available at this time.

Saint Theotimus, Bishop of Lesser Scythia

Saint Theotimus the Scythian was Bishop of Tomis in Scythia. He was a native of Dacia Pontica, and was part Roman. He is believed to have been the teacher of Saint John Cassian (February 29) and Saint Germanus, because he was once living in the same monastery as they were.

Somewhere between 385-390, Saint Theotimus succeeded Saint Germanus as Bishop of Tomis. Saint Jerome mentions him in his book ON ILLUSTRIUS MEN. He describes Saint Theotimus as a good pastor, a wise theologian, and a talented writer. He also says that Saint Theotimus used to write short works in the form of dialogues, which reveal his training in rhetoric and philosophy.

In his writings, Saint Theotimus speaks of the role of the mind and the heart in prayer. Perhaps because of this he is considered to be the Father of the Romanian PHILOKALIA.

Saint Theotimus sometimes endured hardships from wandering barbarians, but he impressed them with the holiness of his life and the miracles he performed. He also had close ties with Saint John Chrysostom, and visited Constantinople at least twice.

Sometime around 410, Saint Theotimus fell asleep in the Lord. Ancient historians also refer to him as “the Philosopher.”

Translation of the relics of Saint Nikolai of Zhicha

No information available at this time.

Saint Joseph of Serbia

No information available at this time.

Apostle Zacchaeus

The holy Apostle Zacchaeus was a rich publican at Jericho. Since he was short of stature, he climbed a sycamore tree in order to see the Savior passing by. After the Ascension of the Lord, Saint Zacchaeus accompanied Saint Peter on his travels. Tradition says he became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, where he died in peace.

The Gospel (Luke 19:1-10) describing Zacchaeus’ encounter with Christ is read on the Sunday before the Triodion begins.

Saint Athanasius of Meteora

Saint Athanasios, the son of wealthy parents, was born in 1302 at Hypátē, the well-known medieval town of New Patras, and was named Andronikos in Holy Baptism. His mother died during childbirth, and after a short time his father also reposed. Thus, young Andronikos lost both of his parents in a very early age. Then he found sympathy, affection, and love from his father's brother, who saw to his education, taking care of all his needs, and taught him to read and write.

After the capture of his hometown by the Catalans in 1318/19, the chief of the Franks took Andronikos into his home. At the first opportunity, Andronikos escaped and was free. He hastened to rejoin his uncle, who had been banished to a distant place. Andronikos found him, and the two booked passage on a ship bound for Thessaloniki. The godly uncle suffered from a chronic joint disease, however, and after some time, he reposed at Akapniou Monastery.

Andronikos then went to live with the imperial secretary of the military command, who became his guardian for a short time. Andronikos wanted to be trained in secular learning and classical studies. Since he had no money to pay the instructors, he would stand outside and listen while the students were being taught. Some of the school's philosophers noticed his love of learning and his eagerness, so they they taught him without asking for a fee.

After benefitting from his teachers' knowledge, Andronikos became quite educated and cultured. Then he decided to go on pilgrimage. When he was seventeen years old, Andronikos traveled to Mount Athos, where he conversed with many holy Fathers, seeking their prayers and blessings. The Athonite Fathers, however, refused to allow the boy to remain, since he was still a beardless youth.

Andronikos made his way to Constantinople, visiting churches, and venerating the relics of the Saints. While there he met several prominent and virtuous Fathers, such as Gregory of Sinai, the future Ecumenical Patriarch Isidore (1347-1350), who supported Saint Gregory Palamas, and then made him Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, Daniel the Hesychast, and other notable persons of the monastic community. With their help he was initiated into the secrets of the hesychastic life and, like a bee, he gathered whatever was useful and necessary to acquire virtue.

He traveled to Crete in 1325 where he stayed for a certain time and lived as an ascetic, receiving hospitality from a virtuous and charitable Cretan man. When he noticed this man was trying to lure him back into the world in order to marry his daughter, he decided to forsake the world. Therefore, he returned to Mount Athos in 1332, by which time he was approximately thirty years old. At Milea on the Holy Mountain he was accepted as a novice by two virtuous anchorites, Gregory and Moses, who had attained the heights of virtue. Subsequently, he was tonsured by Hieromonk Gregory, taking the name Anthony. He quickly distinguished himself and then received his new monastic name of Athanasios when he was tonsured into the Great Schema.

However, the predatory incursions of the Turks and the unfavorable circumstances prevailing at that time forced Saint Athanasios to leave Mount Athos together with his Spiritual Father Gregory, and another disciple, Gabriel. At Thessaloniki and Beroia many important men were willing to give them hospitality, but the two monks did not consent to stay because Athanasios had a great aversion to secular society and to the noise of the city.

So on the advice of Bishop Jacob of Servia (a city between northern Thessaly and southern Macedonia), they went to the Thessalian rocks of Stagoi, which the biographer of Athanasios describes as "the largest and highest rocks created by God since the beginning of the world." Following the bishop's advice they found the rocks, but there was nothing living on them but vultures and crows.

Hieromonk Gregory and Saint Athanasios settled on the rock of Stylos, which today is called the Rock of the Holy Spirit. Gregory remained there for an entire decade. After a certain period of time, Father Athanasios withdrew, with his mentor’s blessing, to a cave in the rock. There in prayer and solitude, he spent his time weaving baskets so that he was never idle, and so he was kept safe from the danger of falling into temptation.

Seeking even more seclusion and serenity, always with Elder Gregory’s blessing, he selected another rock, “a place for anchorites, a rock which rose high into the skies,” where he went around the year 1340, this time for good. The rock is the so-called Platylithos (Wide Rock), which Athanasios himself called Meteoron, a name that was preserved through the centuries, and applied, in general, to the whole complex of the surrounding monasteries which became famous far beyond the borders of Greece.

Equipped with the wings of the Holy Spirit, and with unwavering will and faith, the humble monk Athanasios almost flew, and at last stepped onto this sun-drenched rock, hitherto touched only by the rays of the sun, as it is mentioned in a sigillion (April 1580) of the Ecumenical Patriarch Mētrophánēs III: “Motivated by divine love, the holy monk Athanasios, taking the wings of the Holy Spirit, first flew to this sun-drenched rock which dominated in Stagoi, and justifiably called Meteoron, being the highest of all. There he found a holy place, a true paradise containing, instead of fruit-bearing trees, men who bore the divine fruits of the Holy Spirit."

There Athanasios built his ascetic refuge and organized the first systematic monastic community with a strict cenobitic Rule which he formulated himself. The brotherhood under Athanasios had fourteen members. Initially, the holy anchorite built the church of the Mother of God, to whom he also dedicated the Monastery, as he himself said to his fellow ascetics shortly before his death: “I entrust you to the protection of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, to whom this Monastery is dedicated.” He built another church in honor of the Transfiguration of Christ, which later became the katholikon of the Monastery and gave it its final name of Transfiguration Monastery, which is preserved until today.

Saint Athanasios made this steep and inaccessible rock into an easy path to our Lord, Who is the Cornerstone of our Church: "This hard stone, Father, you labored hard to make it a path to the Cornerstone."

Today as one climbs up the rocky stairway to the monastery, on the left just before the entrance, one can see the Hermitage of Saint Athanasios within the natural crevice in the rock arranged as a humble and basic dwelling with a small chapel. Here, according to tradition, the holy hermit first lived alone after he had climbed the Wide Rock, and before he built a church on the rocky ledge, with cells for the monks who began to gather there.

As humble as Athanasios had been all his life, he remained an ordinary monk. Perhaps due to his great humility, he did not leave any written texts, although he was very knowledgeable and well educated.

According to his biographer, he reposed peacefully after a brief illness (gall bladder and liver) at the age of seventy-eight, probably in the year 1380, on April 20th. Shortly before his death, Saint Athanasios chose Hieromonk Makarios to be the Spiritual Father of the Great Meteoron after his death: “I command that you have Hieromonk Makarios as the Protos and Spiritual Father. This is because, from the beginning, before I became ill, I entrusted him with the supervision of the daily and practical needs of the Monastery. Now it would be beneficial for him to guide and regulate your spiritual conduct."

Yet this only lasted a short time, since by November 1381 the former king John Urosh, and now the monk Joasaph, assumed the role as successor to Saint Athanasios, with his blessing while alive and with the mutual consent of the entire brotherhood, he became the second founder and builder of the Great Meteoron.