Daily Readings for Monday, May 22, 2023



6th Monday after Pascha, Basiliscus the Martyr, Bishop of Comana, Holy New Martyrs Demetrius and Paul of Tripoli, John-Vladimir, Ruler of Serbia


IN THOSE DAYS, when the apostles had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them; and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard this. And when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

JOHN 11:47-54

At that time, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our place and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death.
Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but went from there to the country near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim; and there he stayed with the disciples.

Martyr Basiliscus, Bishop of Comana

The Holy Martyr Basiliscus was a nephew of the Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit (February 17), and he suffered together with his brothers Eutropius and Kleonikos during the persecution of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). The holy martyrs Kleonikos and Eutropius (March 3) were crucified, but the martyr Basiliscus was sent to Comana where he was detained in prison.

The governor Agrippa arrived in the city of Amasea, and started a persecution against Christians. Saint Basiliscus in prison prepared himself for his impending ordeal. The Lord appeared to him in a dream, promising the martyr His help, and foretold his martyric death at Comana. Saint Basiliscus asked the prison guards to let him go to his native village to bid his relatives farewell. They let him go, since they respected him for his holy life and working of miracles. Arriving home, Saint Basiliscus saw his family one last time, and urged them to stand firmly in the Faith.

When Agrippa learned that Saint Basiliscus had gone to see his relatives, he went into a rage. He chastized the prison guards, and he sent a detachment of soldiers after the martyr, headed by a cruel magistrianum (adjutant of the governor). Meeting Saint Basiliscus, who was actually on his way back, the magistrianum placed heavy chains on him, and shod him with metal sandals with nails driven into the soles, and set off to Comana.

Arriving at a certain village during the hot afternoon, the travellers stayed at the house of a woman named Troana. The soldiers went into the house to relax and refresh themselves with food, and they tied the martyr Basiliscus to a dry tree. Standing in the heavy chains beneath the scorching sun, the saint prayed to God. Suddenly a Voice was heard from above, “Fear not, for I am with you.”

The earth shook, and a spring of water came forth from the resulting fissure. The magistrianum, the soldiers and Troana, rushed out of the house, frightened by the earthquake. Shaken by the miracle which had taken place, they set the martyr free. Sick people from the village came to the holy martyr and received healing through his prayers.

When the saint finally stood before Agrippa, he was commanded to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. He replied, “I offer to God a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving every hour.” They led him into a pagan temple. In an instant fire came down from Heaven, which burned the temple, and reduced the idols to dust. Then in a blind rage Agrippa gave orders to behead Saint Basiliscus and throw his body into the river. The death of the martyr occurred in the year 308.

Christians quickly gathered the remains of the holy martyr, and buried them by night in a ploughed field. Upon this spot a church was built in honor of Saint Basiliscus, into which they transferred his relics. Through the prayers of the holy martyr healings began to occur. The saint appeared in a dream to Saint John Chrysostom (November 13) before his death at Comana and said to him, “Tomorrow we shall be together.” Saint Eusignius (August 5) was an eyewitness to his sufferings and told the world about the struggles of Saint Basiliscus.

Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council

The Second Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 381 and consolidated the victory of Orthodoxy attained in the year 325 at the First Ecumenical Council.

During the difficult years which passed after the acceptance of the Nicene Symbol of Faith (Creed), the Arian heresy developed new offshoots. Under the guise of struggle against the Sabellian heresy, which taught about a blending of the Hypostatic Persons of the Father and the Son [as mere aspects or modalities within the Trinity], Macedonius began to employ the word “homoiousios” “of similar essence” [in contrast to the Orthodox teaching of “homoousios”, “of the same essence”] regarding the essence of the Son and that of the Father.

This formula still presented a danger because Macedonius presented himself as a struggler against the Arians, who used the term “like the Father.” Besides this, the Macedonians, being semi-Arians, depending on conditions and advantages of the moment, sometimes inclined towards Orthodoxy, sometimes towards Arianism. They blasphemed the Holy Spirit by suggesting that He was not “of the same essence” with the Father and the Son.

A second heretic, Aetius, introduced the concept “anomoion” (“different in essence.”) He said that the Father has a completely different essence from that of the Son. His disciple Eunomios taught a hierarchical subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Holy Spirit to the Son. Everyone who came to him was rebaptized into the “death of Christ,” denying Baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which is commanded us by the Savior Himself (Mt. 28:19).

A third heresy arose from the teachings of Valentius and Ursacius at the Arimonian Council. They attempted to deceive the Orthodox bishops, proclaiming that the Son of God is from God, and is in the likeness of God the Father, and is not a created being as the Arians taught. The heretics did not wish to use the term “one in essence” in describing the relation of the Son to the Father, saying that the word “essence” is not found within the Holy Scripture. Besides these three main heresies, there were also many other false teachings. The heretic Apollinarios said, “The flesh of the Savior did not have a human soul or reason. The Word of God took the place of the absent soul; and Divinity remained dead for three days.”

In order to refute these heretical opinions, the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) convened an Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, at which 150 bishops were present. Upon investigation by the Holy Fathers it was proposed that a Creed which holy Pope Damasus had sent to Bishop Paulinus of Antioch should be read. This appears to be the so-called Sirmean Creed, drawn up by Potamius of Lisbon, who participated in a pro-Arian Council at Sirmium in 357, but changed his opinions two years later. The document was a vain attempt to please everyone by not mentioning the terms ousia (essence, or substance), homoousios (identical in essence, or substance), and homoiousion (similar in essence, or substance), "by which the minds of many are perturbed." It said that there "ought to be no mention of any of them at all, nor any exposition of them in the Church." By not defining the Church's teaching clearly, the document is ambiguous, neither endorsing the various heresies it contained, nor the teaching of the Church.

An Ecumenical Synod is convened primarily to deal with false teachings and refute them by proclaiming the faith handed down to us by the Apostles and the Holy Fathers. To use the definition of St. Vincent of Lérins: "that which has been believed everywhere, always, by everyone." There can be no compromise between truth and falsehood.

After the document was read aloud, the Holy Fathers rejected the false teaching of Macedonius, and unanimously affirmed the Apostolic teaching that the Holy Spirit is not a creature, but is rather the Life-Creating Lord, Who proceeds from the Father, and is worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. In order to combat other heresies, of the Eunomians, Arians and Semi-Arians, the Holy Fathers reaffirmed the Nicene Symbol of Faith.

In the Symbol (Creed), accepted by the First Ecumenical Council, the divine nature of the Holy Spirit was not addressed, since at that earlier time [in 325] heresies against the Holy Spirit had not become widespread. Therefore, the holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council added to the Nicean Symbol its eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth sections. They definitively formulated and affirmed the Nicene-Constantinople Symbol of Faith, which is used even now by all the Orthodox Churches.

The Second Ecumenical Council also established the norms for ecclesiastical courts [Canon VI], and it decided to receive those repentant heretics who were properly baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity through Chrismation, but those baptized with a single immersion were to be received as pagans.

Saint John-Vladimir, Prince of Bulgaria, Greatmartyr, and Miracle-worker

The Holy Martyr John-Vladimir, a Serbian prince, was born in the tenth century. From his childhood he was raised in piety, and at maturity he wisely governed his holdings Illyria and Dalmatia, preserving the holy Faith in purity.

The noble prince was married to Kosara, a daughter of the Bulgarian Tsar Samuel. Summoned for talks with the Bulgarian Tsar John-Vladislav, he was treacherously murdered by the Tsar on May 22, 1015, at the entrance to a church. Kosara, the pious spouse of the holy prince, entered a women’s monastery that she built, and where also she died, not leaving the church until the very end of her life. The relics of the holy prince are located near Elbosan.

Monastic Martyr Paul of the Lavra, Mount Athos

No information on the life of this saint is available at this time.

Icon of the Mother of God of Cyprus

The Cyprus Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is also commemorated on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Pentecost Monday, April 20 and July 9.

Blessed James of Borovichi, Wonderworker of Novgorod

No information available at this time.

Righteous Melchizedek, King of Salem

The Righteous Melchizedek was the King of Salem (Jerusalem). He was both a king and a priest, laying the foundations of the city where the Messiah would appear. According to Mar Jacob of Serugh, Melchizedek was a Canaanite, asserting that the very site of his kingdom bears witness to this. Therefore, his genealogy is not recorded. He must have been born, and he must have died, but the Scriptures deliberately conceal both events, assigning him neither beginning nor end, so that he might be called a priest forever. Melchizedek (who appears in the Scriptures suddenly, and then disappears) is regarded as a type of Christ (Hebrews 5:6, 10; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:2). He did not receive his priesthood from any other priest, nor did he pass on his priesthood to anyone else. In his homily "On Melchizedek, Priest of the Most High God," Mar Jacob of Serugh states that the priests of the past shed the blood of animals when offering sacrifices to God. By contrast, Melchizedek was made a priest "by the sacrifices of his soul," and did not sacrifice animals, nor did he offer anything but himself to God. Melchizedek did not adorn himself with splendid robes as Aaron did; and instead of offering bulls and rams, Melchizedek offered his holy prayers from a pure heart. The Son of God also resembles Melchizedek, because there is no beginning or end to His priesthood, and He offered Himself to the Father as a perfect sacrifice. As Priest, Christ brought Himself to the place of sacrifice, placing His body on the altar of the Cross, and shedding His blood for us.

In chapter 7 of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Righteous Melchizedek is called the King of Salem, and also a "priest of the Most High God." By the interpretation of his name, he is called the King of righteousness and the King of Salem, in other words, "the King of peace" (Hebrews 7:2).

Melchizedek met the Patriarch Abraham as he was returning from his victory over the kings (Genesis 14:18-24). He brought bread and wine to Abraham and blessed him, saying: "Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, Who made heaven and earth, and blessed be the Most High God, Who delivered thine enemies into thy power." By offering Abraham bread and wine, Melchizedek foreshadows the Church's Liturgy.

Thus, the Righteous Melchizedek was shown to be greater than Abraham, because he blessed Abraham. Abraham, the lesser of the two, did not presume to bless one who was greater than himself (Homily of Mar Jacob, line 299). Abraham accepted the blessing and offered him a tithe of his spoils, and he also showed him reverence (Homily, line 310).

The priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the priesthood of Aaron, because Melchizedek blessed Abraham. By giving Melchizedek a tithe, Abraham, the ancestor of Aaron, showed that he recognized him as a priest. Through Abraham, Levi's tribe offered first fruits to the image of the Son of God which was seen in Melchizedek. Nevertheless, the Lord did not choose to come forth from the tribe of Levi, but from the family of Kings.

Melchizedek did not serve "according to the priesthood that was to be dissolved, but according to that which unto the ages abides spiritually; and since his priesthood was never annulled, with respect to service; behold how he is spoken of as living, through his priesthood." (Homily, lines 361-364).

The Holy Prophet-King David speaks of him as a priest who would never die (Psalm 109/110:4). When he thought about the Messiah, in order to compare Him to someone whom He ought to resemble, he did not think of anyone from the priesthood of Aaron. Instead, he selected Melchizedek, who provided for his liturgy without any sacrificial victims. The spiritual ministry of this man, who was in the likeness of the Son, is incomprehensible. He wore two crowns, one hidden, and the other manifest. He had authority in two different realms. He was an earthly King who never engaged in battles with those on his borders, because of his peacefulness (Homily, line 538). He desired nothing but peace and righteousness (Homily, line 542).

The Church recalls Melchizedek at the beginning of Great Lent: "Imitate that Priest of God and solitary King (Hebrews 7:3), who was an image of the life of Christ in the world among men." (Thursday of the first week of Great Lent, the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode 3).

The Righteous Melchizedek is also commemorated on the Sunday of the Forefathers.