Daily Readings for Wednesday, May 24, 2023



Apodosis of Pascha, Symeon the Stylite of the Mountain, Saint Vincent of Lerins, Meletios the Commander & his Companion Martyrs, Gregory, Archbishop of Novgorod


IN THOSE DAYS, when Paul had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesos. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

JOHN 12:36-47

The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light. When Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

Leavetaking of Pascha

On Wednesday of the sixth week of Pascha, we celebrate the Leavetaking of the Feast. While most Feasts have their Leavetaking on the eighth day, Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, has its Leavetaking on the thirty-ninth day. The fortieth day is the Feast of the Lord’s Ascension, which marks the end of the Lord’s physical presence on earth. He does not abandon us, however. He has promised to be with us always, even until the end of the age (MT 20:28). As we sing in the Kontakion for Ascension, “Thou didst ascend in glory, O Christ our God, not being parted from those who love Thee, but remaining with them and crying: I am with you and no one will be against you.” There is a similar thought expressed in the Troparion for the Dormition: “In falling asleep, you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.”

The services today are celebrated just as on the day of Pascha itself. The daily readings from Holy Scripture, of course, will differ. After the Dismissal at Liturgy, the paschal hymns are no longer sung. The prayer “O Heavenly King” is not said or sung until Pentecost.The Winding Sheet (Plaschanitsa) is taken from the altar and is put in its proper place. Even though today is a Wednesday, fish, wine, and oil are permitted.

Today we also commemorate the Finding of the Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Meeting” in Kalamata in the Peloponnesus.

Venerable Simeon Stylites the Younger of Wonderful Mountain

Saint Simeon the Stylite was born in the year 521 in Antioch, Syria of pious parents John and Martha. From her youth Saint Martha (July 4) prepared herself for a life of virginity and longed for monasticism, but her parents insisted that she marry John. After ardent prayer in a church dedicated to Saint John the Forerunner, the future nun was directed in a vision to submit to the will of her parents and enter into marriage.

As a married woman, Saint Martha strove to please God and her husband in everything. She often prayed for a baby and promised to dedicate him to the service of God. Saint John the Forerunner revealed to Martha that she would have a son who would serve God. When the infant was born, he was named Simeon and baptized at two years of age.

When Simeon was six years old, an earthquake occurred in the city of Antioch, in which his father perished. Simeon was in church at the time of the earthquake. Leaving the church, he became lost and spent seven days sheltered by a pious woman. Saint John the Baptist again appeared to Saint Martha, and indicated where to find the lost boy. The saint’s mother found her lost son, and moved to the outskirts of Antioch after the earthquake. Already during his childhood the Lord Jesus Christ appeared several times to Saint Simeon, foretelling his future exploits and the reward for them.

The six-year-old child Simeon went into the wilderness, where he lived in complete isolation. During this time a light-bearing angel guarded and fed him. Finally, he arrived at a monastery, headed by the igumen Abba John, who lived in asceticism upon a pillar. He accepted the boy with love.

After a time, Saint Simeon asked the Elder John to permit him also to struggle upon a pillar. A new pillar was raised by the brethren of the monastery with the blessing of the igumen, near his pillar. Having completed the initiation of the seven-year-old boy into monasticism, Abba John placed him upon this pillar. The young ascetic, strengthened by the Lord, quickly grew spiritually, in his efforts surpassing even his experienced instructor. For his efforts, Saint Simeon received from God the gift of healing.

The fame of the young monk’s deeds began to spread beyond the bounds of the monastery. Monks and laypeople began to come to him from various places, desiring to hear his counsel and receive healing from their infirmities. The humble ascetic continued to pursue asceticism with instructions from his spiritual mentor Abba John.

When he was eleven, Simeon decided to pursue asceticism upon a higher pillar, the top of which was forty feet from the ground. The bishops of Antioch and Seleukia came to the place of the monk’s endeavors, and ordained him as a deacon. Then they permitted him to ascend the new pillar, on which Saint Simeon labored for eight years.

Saint Simeon prayed ardently for the Holy Spirit to descend upon him, and the holy prayer of the ascetic was heard. The Holy Spirit came upon him in the form of a blazing light, filling the ascetic with divine wisdom. Along with oral instructions, Saint Simeon wrote letters about repentance, monasticism, about the Incarnation of Christ, and about the future Judgment.

After the death of his Elder, Saint Simeon’s life followed a certain pattern. From the rising of the sun until mid-afternoon he read books and copied Holy Scripture. Then he rose and prayed all night. When the new day began, he rested somewhat, then began his usual Rule of prayer.

Saint Simeon concluded his efforts on the second column, and by God’s dispensation, settled upon the Wonderful Mountain, having become an experienced Elder to the monks in his monastery. The ascent to Wonderful Mountain was marked by a vision of the Lord, standing atop a column. Saint Simeon continued his efforts at this place where he saw the Lord, at first upon a stone, and then upon a pillar.

Future events were revealed to Saint Simeon, and so he foretold the death of Archbishop Ephraim of Antioch, and the illness of Bishop Domnus, which overtook him as punishment for his lack of pity. Finally, Saint Simeon predicted an earthquake for the city of Antioch and urged all the inhabitants to repent of their sins.

Saint Simeon established a monastery on Wonderful Mountain,where the sick people he healed built a church in gratitude for the mercy shown them. The saint prayed for a spring of water for the needs of the monastery, and once during a shortage of grain, the granaries of the monastery were filled with wheat by his prayers.

In the year 560 the holy ascetic was ordained to the priesthood by Dionysius, Bishop of Seleukia. At age seventy-five Saint Simeon was warned by the Lord of his impending end. He summoned the brethren of the monastery, instructed them in a farewell talk, and peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in the year 596, having toiled as a stylite for sixty-eight years.

After death, the saint worked miracles just as he had when alive. He healed the blind, the lame and the leprous, saving many from wild beasts, casting out devils and raising the dead.

Venerable Niketas the Stylite, Wonderworker of Pereyaslavl, Zalesski

Saint Niketas (Nikḗtas) the Stylite of Pereyaslavl was a native of the city of Pereyaslavl-Zalessky, and he was in charge of collecting taxes. In 1152, Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy founded the city of Pereyaslavl and built a stone church dedicated to the All-Merciful Savior in that new place. Because of the cost of building the city and the church, more taxes had to be collected from the residents of the city. Niketas mercilessly overcharged people, keeping a large portion of the money for himself. This went on for many years. But the merciful Lord, Who desires that all sinners might be saved, led Niketas to repentance.

One day, he went to church and heard the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "Wash, and make yourselves clean, remove the iniquities from your souls before my eyes; cease your wickedness, learn to do good; diligently seek judgment; deliver those who suffer wrongs; defend the orphan, and obtain justice for the widow" (Isaiah 1:16-17).

He was shaken, as if by thunder, by these words which penetrated into the depths of his heart. Niketas did not sleep all night, remembering the words: "Wash, and make yourselves clean." In the morning, however, he decided to invite some friends to his home for some cheerful conversation, and to forget the horrors of the previous night. Once again, the Lord called Niketas to repentance. While his wife was preparing a meal for their guests, suddenly she saw some things rising to the surface in the boiling pot: blood, human heads, hands, and feet. Horrified, she called out to her husband, and Niketas saw the same thing. Suddenly, his sleeping conscience was awakened, and he realized that by overcharging people he was acting like a robber and a murderer. "Alas," he cried, "I have sinned much! O God, lead me on Your path!" With these words, he ran out of the house.

Three versts from Pereyaslavl there was a monastery dedicated to the Great Martyr Niketas (September 15) where Niketas went, shaken by the terrible vision. With tears he fell at the feet of the Igoumen saying: "Save a perishing soul."

Then the Igoumen decided to test the sincerity of his repentance, giving him his first obedience: to stand at the monastery gates for three days, confessing his sins to everyone who passed. With profound humility, Niketas fulfilled his first obedience. Three days later, the Igoumen remembered him and sent a monk to see what he was doing at the monastery gates. But the monk did not find Niketas there. He found him lying in a swamp, covered with mosquitoes and midges, and he was bleeding from their bites. Then the Igoumen came to the sufferer and said, "My son! what are you doing to yourself?"

"Father! Save a perishing soul," Niketas replied.

The Igoumen clothed Niketas in a hair shirt, received him into the monastery, and tonsured him as a monk. Embracing the monastic vows with all his heart, Saint Niketas spent his days and nights in prayer, chanting Psalms, and reading the Lives of the holy ascetics. With the Igoumen's blessing, he wore heavy chains, and there in the place of his monastic struggles, he dug two deep wells. Soon he increased his struggles. He dug a deep round pit and there he placed a stone upon which he stood, becoming a man of ardent prayer, like the ancient stylites. Only the blue sky and the night stars saw him at the bottom of his pillar-well, but there was a narrow underground passage beneath the wall of the church, and through it Niketas went to church for the Services.

Thus, by struggling well in the monastery of the Great Martyr Niketas , the Venerable Niketas also ended his life with a martyr's death. One night, some of the Saint's relatives came to him for his blessing, and were attracted by the glitter of his chains and crosses. They mistook them for silver, and decided to steal them. On the night of May 24, 1186, they removed part of the roof, killed the ascetic, took his crosses and chains, wrapped them in a rough canvas, and then ran away.

Before Matins, the sacristan, who came to Saint Niketas for the blessing, found the damaged roof and reported it to the Igoumen. The Igoumen and the brethren hurried to the Venerable Stylite and saw that he had been murdered, and his body was fragrant.

Meanwhile the killers stopped on the banks of the Volga River, and decided to divide their loot, but they were astonished to see that it was not made of silver but of iron, and threw the chains into the Volga. The Lord glorified these visible signs of the Saint's hidden struggles and works.

That night Simeon, a pious Elder of the Yaroslavl Monastery of Saints Peter and Paul, saw three bright rays of light over the Volga. He informed the Igoumen of the Monastery and the city officials. The assembled priests and numerous townspeople, who had come down to the river, saw three crosses and chains floating in the waters of the Volga. With reverence and prayers they were brought to the Monastery of the Great Martyr Niketas and laid on the grave of Saint Niketas . At the same time, there were miracles of healing.

Around 1420 – 1425, Saint Photios, the Metropolitan of Kiev (July 2), gave his blessing to uncover the relics of Saint Niketas. The Igoumen of the Monastery served a Moleben with the brethren, and then he opened the coffin, in which was an incorrupt body. Suddenly, the grave filled up with earth, and the relics remained in the ground.

Between 1511-1522 a chapel was built in honor of the Monastic Martyr Niketas, and in the XIX century Archpriest A. Svirelin composed an Akathist to the Saint.

Martyr Meletius Stratelates who suffered in Galatia, and those with him

Saint Meletius the General, Stephen, John, Serapion the Egyptian, Callinicus the Sorcerer, Theodore, Faustus and 1218 soldiers, women and children with them.

The holy martyr Meletius was a military commander of the Galatia district of Asia Minor during the reign of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161). He was a Christian and he prayed fervently that the Lord would put an end to the pagan error. Terrified by his prayer, the devils inhabiting the pagan temples entered into dogs, which frightened the inhabitants of the district with their howling.

Saint Meletius and his soldiers got rid of the mad dogs, and destroyed the temples. He was arrested and brought to trial before the governor Maximian. Since he refused to offer sacrifice to idols, Saint Meletius was tortured and he died confessing his faith in Christ. The tribunes of his regiment, the holy martyrs Stephen and John, were beheaded for their confession of Christ as true God.

The remaining soldiers of the regiment, also declaring themselves Christians, were beheaded by the sword, together with their wives and children. One thousand, two hundred eighteen men perished, although some historians put the number at 11,000.

The holy martyrs Theodore and Faustus were burned along with many others. Among the women and children who suffered are the holy martyrs Marciana, Susanna, Palladia, and the infants Kyriakos and Christian. Saint Callinicus, a former sorcerer, also suffered martyrdom. The names of some of the soldiers, and of the twelve tribunes are known: the holy martyrs Faustus, Festus, Marcellus, Theodore, Meletius, Sergius, Marcellinus, Felix, Photinus, Theodoriscus, Mercurius and Didymus.

The holy martyr Serapion was born in Egypt. He had come to Galatia and witnessed the martyrdom of Saint Meletius and his comrades. Seeing the bravery with which those who believed in Christ died for Him, Saint Serapion also believed, for which he was imprisoned. An angel of God visited Saint Serapion in prison and made him a bishop.

Saint Vincent of Lerins

Born in the late fourth century in Toulouse in Gaul, Saint Vincent initially served in the military, but later left the world to become a monk at the renowned Lérins Monastery, where he was ordained to the priesthood. He is widely known for his work, Commonitorium, which he wrote around the year 434 AD, in which he differentiated between the Church's teachings and the heresies of his time. He is remembered for writing that Christians must follow the true faith that has been held “everywhere, always, and by all.” He also defended the term “Theotokos” with regard to the Mother of God in opposition to the teachings of Nestorius that were condemned at the Third Ecumenical Council.

Saint Vincent died peacefully in 456 AD. His relics are preserved at Lérins.