August 22nd - August 29th (New Style) August 9th - 16th (Old Style)
The Holy Apostle Matthias
Matthias was born in Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah. He studied with St. Simeon the "Receiver of God" in Jerusalem. When the Lord went out to preach about the Kingdom of God Matthias then joined the others who loved the Lord, for he himself loved Him with all his heart and with delight did he hear His words and witnessed His works. In the beginning, Matthias was numbered among the Seventy Lesser Disciples of Christ but following the resurrection of the Lord, since the place of Judas was vacated, the apostles, by drawing lots, chose this Matthias in place of Judas as one of the Twelve Great Apostles. "And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus and Matthias. And they prayed and said: 'You Lord, who knows the hearts of all men, show which of these two You have chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell that he might go to his own place' " (Acts 1:23-26). Receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Matthias set out to preach the Gospel, first of all in Judea and after that in Ethiopia where he endured great tortures for the sake of Christ. It is held that he preached throughout Macedonia where they wanted to blind him but he became invisible to his torturers and thus escaped danger. Being in prison, the Lord appeared to him, encouraged him and freed him. Finally, he returned again to his work in Judea. There he was accused and brought to court before the high priest Ananias before whom he fearlessly witnessed for Christ. Ananias, the same Ananias, who before that, slew the Apostle James, condemned Matthias to death. They led Matthias out, stoned him to death and, after that, decapitated him with an axe (this was the Roman manner of killing a person who was sentenced to death and the hypocritical Jews applied this method on the dead man so as to show the Romans that the slain person was an enemy of Rome). Thus, this great apostle of Christ died and took up habitation in the eternal joy of his Lord.
The Holy Martyr Anthony
Anthony was a citizen of Alexandria. Brought before the pagan prince, he freely confessed his faith and was tortured, flogged and scrapped but he would not deny Christ. Finally, he was thrown into a fire and, from the midst of the fire, he spoke to the people: "My beloved brethren, do not be a slave to the body but rather concern yourself more about the soul which is given to you by God and is kindred to God and to the heavenly hosts." And so, instructing his people and burning in the fire, Anthony gave up his holy soul to God.
The Holy Martyrs Julian and Marcian and others with them
They all suffered at the hands of the wicked Emperor Leo the Isaurian in defense of icons in the year 716 A.D. and were crowned with unfading glory.
To take another's sin upon one's self, that is one form of martyrdom and the sign of one's overwhelming love for one's fellow man. As death is the consequence of sin, to take another's sin on one's self means to add to your own death still another death, "And sin, when it is finished, brings forth death" (St. James 1:15). However, God rewards with resurrection those who, out of love, take another' s death upon themselves. There are many examples how the saints took upon themselves the sins of their fellow men. Thus, it is said of St. Ammon: a brother fell into sin and came to Ammon and said to him that because of the sin he committed, he must leave the monastery and return to the world. Ammon said to the brother that he will take his sin upon himself and counseled the brother to remain in the monastery. The brother remained in the monastery and the elder Ammon proceeded to offer repentance and prayers to God. After a short time, the elder Ammon received a revelation from God that that sin is forgiven because of his love for the brother. When St. Macarius, St. Simeon the "fool for Christ", St. Theodora and others were accused of promiscuity, they did not defend themselves but, taking upon themselves the sin of others, received the weighty punishment for sin and patiently endured all until God revealed their innocence to men.
To contemplate the punishment of God upon the people of Israel for the sins of the sons of Eli, the judge and high priest (1 Samuel 4 1 Kings 4):
1. How the sons of the high priest (Hophni and Phinehas) sinned openly and secretly in Shiloh before the Ark of the Covenant;
2. How God gave the victory in battle to the Philistines over Israel in which many thousands of Israelites were slain, together with the sons of the high priest and the Ark of the Covenant was seized;
3. How, because of the sins of the elders of the people, God permits suffering on the entire nation.
About the nothingness of the sinful before the majesty of God
"Enter into the rock and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of the Lord and for the glory of His majesty" (Isaiah 2:10).
This is a bitter sneer of the prophet to his people, an idolatrous people. The people had rejected the faith in the one true God and began to worship idols of stone and earth. What will you do, O evil people, when "the fear of the Lord" appears? Where will you flee, when the "glory of His majesty" appears? Flee into the rocks from which you have made a god for yourselves! Flee into the dust, from which you have made a god for yourselves! O, how terrifying is the sneer of this discerning prophet! Who can enter into a rock and hide themselves? Who can flee into the dust and conceal himself from the Most High?
However, brethren let us leave the idolatry of the Jews for which they have been punished enough and, for a moment, let us look at the idolatry among us Christians. What is amassed gold, if not idol? What are gleaned fields other than an idol of dust? What are luxurious clothes other than an idol made from the skins and hairs of animals? Where will the idolaters of our generation hide when "the fear of the Lord" appears and when "the glory of his majesty" appears? Flee to gold, worshippers of gold! Flee to the earth, worshippers of the earth! Hide in the skins of animals and bury yourself with the hairs of foxes and the fibers of the dead silk worm, O, you idolators! O bitter irony! All of this will be burned in the Day of the Lord, on that Dreadful Day. And man will stand face to face with the only Majestic and Eternal One. All the idols of mankind will be destroyed by fire before men and the Immortal Judge will ask the idolators: "Where are your gods?"
Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of God, lived on earth a long time ago but his vision, even today, is dreadful, beneficial and, again, dreadful.
To You, the only One, the only living Lord, do we worship! All else is passing dust. Help us Lord, help us that our mind and heart does not adhere to the passing dust but to You, only to You, the only Living One.
August 23rd (New Style) August 10th (Old Style)
The Holy Martyrs Lawrence and Sixtus, Pope of Rome, and others with them
When Pope Stephen was slain (August 2), then St. Sixtus, who was an Athenian by birth, was appointed in his place. At first, Sixtus was a philosopher and, after that, a Christian. At that time, the Bishops of Rome were slain one after the other, so that, to become Bishop of Rome meant to be taken out to death. Emperor Decius was determined to destroy Christianity and Pope Sixtus was quickly brought to trial with two of his deacons, Felicicius and Agapitus. As they were led to prison, Lawrence said to the pope: "Where are you going Father, without your son? Where O bishop, without your Archdeacon?" The pope consoled him, prophesying to Lawrence that he will undergo even greater tortures for Christ and that he (Lawrence) will shortly follow him (Sixtus). And indeed, as soon as they had beheaded Sixtus and his two deacons, Lawrence was apprehended. Beforehand, Lawrence had placed all of his affairs and the affairs of the church in order. As treasurer and Oikonomos (steward) of the church, he removed all of the church's valuables to the home of the widower, Cyriacus. On that occasion, he healed Cyriacus of a terrible head pain by the touch of his hand and restored the sight of a blind man, Crescention. Thrown into prison, even there Lawrence healed Lucillus, a prisoner of many years, of blindness and after that baptized him. Witnessing this Hippolytus, the jailer, was also baptized, and later suffered for Christ (August 13). Since Lawrence did not want to deny Christ but, on the contrary, advised Emperor Decius to reject his false gods, he was beaten on the face with stones and beaten on his entire body with a scorpion (a whip, curved at the end like the tail of a scorpion) i.e., by a chain with sharp teeth. Romanus, a soldier present at the torture, believed in Christ and was immediately beheaded. Finally, they placed Lawrence naked on a gridiron and lighted a fire. Roasting in the fire, St. Lawrence thanked God and mocked the emperor for his paganism. After Lawrence gave up his pure and heroic soul to God, his body was removed at night by Hippolytus and taken, at first, to the home of Cyriacus and afterwards to a cave where Hippolytus honorably buried him. St. Lawrence, with the others, suffered in the year 258 A.D.
Hiron was a Christian philosopher. He is mentioned by St. Gregory the Theologian in his books. He died peacefully and took up habitation with the Lord.
How can we overcome the enmity of our enemies? By renunciation, meekness and prayer. Renunciation in everything, except in faith and purity of life, meekness and prayer, always and always. St. Ambrose writes: "This is the weapon of the righteous ones that in retreating they conquer, just as the skillful archers have the custom that by fleeing, they shoot those stronger than themselves." A brother was offended by his friend but, nevertheless, desiring peace with him, went to him to be reconciled. However, his friend did not even want to open the door for him and scolding him from within, chased him away from his house. The brother then complained to a spiritual father who said to him: "Going to your friend to be reconciled, all along the way, you condemned him in your thoughts and justified yourself. I counsel you, even though your friend sinned against you, establish the thought in yourself that you have sinned against him and, in this manner, go to him and in your thoughts justify him and condemn yourself." Thus, the brother proceeded. And what happened? Just as the brother approached the house of his friend, he opened wide the door, ran up to him and embraced the offended brother and made peace with him.
To contemplate the misery, which overcame the Philistines because of the captured Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 5:6 1 Kings 5:6):
1. How the people were afflicted with emerods (hemorrhoids) and mice in the crops wherever the Philistines set down the Ark of the Covenant;
2. How the frightened Philistines themselves returned the Ark of the Covenant to the land of Israel;
3. How the sacred thing of God punishes those who keep it (the Ark) in an unclean land of idols or in a heart, unclean by passions.
About the weakness of sinful ones
"As for my people, children are their oppressors and women rule over them" (Isaiah 3:12).
All that is of God is most beautiful and most wise. Everything created by God travels obediently along the path for which God has ordained it. The stars move, animals live and the atmospheric currents conform - all according to the order established by God. Only man, the most intelligent creature, frequently falls into ignorance and leaving the path of God, invents new paths according to his thinking. Because of that, it could happen that instead of the elders, children become leaders and instead of the husbands, wives begin to rule. When children rule oppression reigns and when women rule, disorder usually reigns. When this is permitted by God because this does not occur without the sin of a people and without the permission of God then the people find themselves under punishment for their sins, in the same way as when war comes and the enemy subdues the land, for all oppression is war and every disorder is a punishment for sin.
Just as oppression and disorder are able to reign in a nation so, in the same way, they are able to reign in the soul of man. Immature and impious thoughts represent children and physical sensual theorizing, represent women. When immature and impious thoughts prevail, then they oppress man and drag him from evil to evil as when children judge; and when physical theorizing prevails over the spiritual, masculine wisdom, which is from God, then they rule over man as an evil woman. Under "women", the prophet understands not only females, but also men with women's weaknesses.
So that children's ignorance and women's whims do not overtake man, or a nation, it is necessary to strictly adhere to the law of God, prescribed by God for men as all created things adhere to the law of God, prescribed for them by God.
O Lord, Creator and our Lawgiver, illumine us and strengthen us. Illumine us with the grace of the Spirit that we may always know Your law and strengthen us with the power of the Spirit to always adhere to Your law.
August 24th (New Style) August 11th (Old Style)
The Holy Martyr Euplus
Euplus was a deacon in Catania, Sicily. Emperor Diocletian dispatched Commander Pentagurus to Sicily to exterminate any Christians he found there. Pentagurus did not find a single Christian, for the few that were there, hid from the persecutor and did not reveal themselves. Then someone accused St. Euplus of taking a book to secret Christians and reading to them. This book was the Holy Gospel. They soon brought him to court, hung that book around his neck and led him to prison. After seven days of imprisonment and hunger Euplus was handed over for torture. While they were beating him with iron rods, Euplus, mockingly said to the torturing judge: "O ignorant one, do you not see that because of God's help, these tortures are for me as a cobweb? If you can, find other harsher tortures, for all of these are as toys." Finally, they led the martyr of Christ out to the scaffold. Then St. Euplus opened the Holy Gospel and read from it to the people for a long time. Many converted to the Faith of Christ. St. Euplus was beheaded in the year 304 A.D. and took up habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven. His miracle-working relics repose in a village near Naples called Vico della Batonia.
The Holy Female Martyr Susanna the Virgin, and others with her
Susanna was the daughter of a Roman presbyter Gavinius and the niece of Pope Gaius. Gaius and Gavinius were of royal lineage and kinsmen to the then Emperor Diocletian. Emperor Diocletian had an adopted son Maximian Galerius, whom he (Diocletian) wanted to marry Susanna. But Susanna, completely dedicated to Christ the Lord, did not want to hear at all about marriage and particularly not about marriage with an unbaptized man. Those who asked her to marry the emperor's son, the aristocrats, Claudia and Maxima, Susanna converted to the Christian Faith along with their entire household. Enraged by this, the emperor ordered that the executioners take Claudia and Maxima, with their families to Ostia where they were burned alive and their ashes thrown into the sea. However, Susanna was beheaded in the home of Gavinius. The emperor's wife Serena, secretly a Christian, removed Susanna's martyred body at night and honorably buried it, and Pope Gaius converted that house where Susanna was slain into a church and celebrated services there. Shortly following the suffering of this bride of Christ, her father Gavinius and her uncle Pope Gaius also suffered. They all suffered honorably for the Lord and received the wreath of glory in the years 295 A.D. and 296 A.D.
Saint Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople
Niphon was born in Greece. He was tonsured a monk in his youth and, at first, lived a life of asceticism outside the Holy Mountain (Athos) and, after that, on the Holy Mountain in various monasteries, remaining the longest in Vatopedi and Dionysiou. He was loved by all the holy Agiorites as much for his rare wisdom, as well as for his unusual meekness. He became the Bishop of Thessalonica against his will. Two years later, he journeyed to Constantinople on business and there, was elected to the vacant throne of the partiarchate. He was banished by the Sultan to Jedrene where he lived in exile. The Wallachian (Romanian) Prince Radul besought him from the Sultan and named Niphon as archbishop of the Wallachians. Because of Radul's transgressions, Niphon departed Wallachia and returned to Mount Athos to the community of Dionysiou where he lived a life of asceticism until his ninetieth year, when he took up habitation in the Kingdom of God in the year 1460 A.D. He composed the "Prayer of Absolution" read at the Burial Service:
O Lord Jesus Christ, by His divine grace, as also by the gift and power vouchsafed unto His holy Disciples and Apostles, that they should bind and Loose the sins of men: (For He said to them: Receive you The Holy Spirit: whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted; and whosoever sins you retain they are retained. And whatsoever you shall bind or loose upon earth shall be bound or loosed also in Heaven. By the same power, also, transmitted to us from them, this my spiritual child, (Name), is absolved through me, unworthy though I be, from all things wherein, as mortal (He-She) have sinned against God, whether in word or deed or thought and with all (His-Her) senses, whether voluntary or involuntary; whether with knowledge or through ignorance. If (He-She) be under the ban or excommunication of a bishop or if a priest; or has sinned by any oath; or has been bound, as a man, by any sins whatsoever, but has repented him thereof, with contrition of heart: (He-She) is now absolved from all those faults and bonds. May all those things which have proceeded from the weakness of (His-her) mortal nature be consigned to oblivion and be remitted to (Him-Her): Through His loving-kindness; through the prayers of our Most-holy and Blessed and Glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary; of all the holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostles and all of the Saints. Amen.
The Venerables Basil and Theodore of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev
Both Basil and Theodore died by violence at the hands of the avaricious (money-loving) Prince Istislav in the year 1098 A.D. The hagiography of St. Theodore is especially instructive for the avaricious. Theodore was very wealthy and distributed all of his wealth to the poor and was tonsured a monk. After that, he repented and grieved for his wealth and was greatly tempted by the evil spirit of avarice from which St. Basil freed him.
If a man sets off on the path of righteousness let him walk only by the path of righteousness with both feet and let him not step with one foot on the righteous path and, with the other foot on the unrighteous path. For God said through the prophet about the righteous who commit unrighteousness: "All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he has trespassed and in his sins that he has sinned, in them shall he die" (Ezekiel 18:24). The Wallachian Prince Radul was a just man and performed many good deeds. He brought St. Niphon out of bondage in Jedrene and made him the Archbishop of Bucharest. But suddenly, Radul committed a dreadful transgression: he gave his sister to be the wife of the corrupt Prince Bogdan of Moldavia while Bogdan's wife was still living. Radul did not heed the protests of Niphon. Niphon prophesied an evil end for Radul, publicly excommunicating him from the Church and departed from Wallachia. Shortly thereafter, there was a drought and a great famine in Wallachia and Radul fell into an incurable illness and his entire body was covered with sores. And because of the stench, no one was able to approach him. When Radul was buried, his grave shook for three days, as once did the grave of Empress Eudoxia, the persecutor of St. John Chrysostom.
To contemplate the self-will of the Jewish people (1 Samuel 8 1 Kings 8):
1. How the Jews sought of Samuel that he appoint a king for them;
2. How Samuel protested this in the name of the Lord Who proclaimed that He is the only King;
3. How the people remained stubborn, rejecting the will of God and the counsels of Samuel.
About how ugliness comes with sin
"Instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness and burning instead of beauty" (Isaiah 3:24).
This is the word about extravagant and wayward women, about the daughters of Zion who have become haughty and "walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go and making a tinkling with their feet" (Isaiah 3:16). What was it that made the Hebrew women proud? Was it virtue? Virtue never made anyone proud for, in fact, virtue is a cure against pride. Was it the strength of a people and the stability of the State? No, on the contrary, the prophet exactly foretells the imminent bondage of the people and the destruction of the State. And, as one of the main causes for slavery and destruction, the prophet cites vain extravagance, spiritual nothingness and wayward women. What, therefore, made them so proud and haughty? Ornaments and embroideries stranded beads and necklaces, trinkets and hairpins, garters and girdles, perfumes and rings, quivers and mirrors. Behold, this is what made them proud and haughty! Exactly, all of this is an expression of their ignorant pride but the true cause of their pride is spiritual nothingness. From spiritual nothingness comes pride and that external melange (mixture) of colors which women drape over their bodies is only an obvious manifestation of their ignorant pride. What will become of all this in the end? Stench, disheveledness, baldness and burning. This will occur when the people fall into bondage. As usually happens: first, the spirit is enslaved by the body and then the body is enslaved by an external enemy.
Thus, that will be even then when the inescapable conqueror of our bodies comes death. Sweet smells will not help in the grave, the kingdom of stench. Neither will there be a need for girdles for a naked spine (skeleton). Neither will braided hair save the skull from baldness nor all the beauty from the black remains of burning. This is the inescapable fate of the most beautiful, the healthiest the wealthiest and the most extravagant women. But this is not the greatest misfortune. The greatest misfortune is that the souls of these women with their stench, disheveledness, baldness, and burning will come before God and before the heavenly hosts of the most beautiful of God's angels and righteous ones. For the stench of the body connotes the stench of the soul from depraved vices; a disheveled body connotes the insatiability of the soul for bodily pleasures; the baldness of the body connotes the baldness of the soul of good works and pure thoughts; burning of the body connotes the burning of the conscience and the mind.
O, how dreadful is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos; dreadful then and even dreadful today; dreadful, because it is true.
O, Lord Holy and All-pure, help the women who make the sign with Your Cross, that they may remember their souls and to cleanse their souls before Your Righteous Judgment, so that their souls, together, with their bodies do not become eternal stench.
August 25th (New Style) August 12th (Old Style)
The Holy Martyrs Anicetas and Photius
Emperor Diocletian once visited the city of Nicomedia with the evil intention to completely exterminate the Christians. But when he began his merciless torture of Christians, St. Anicetas, one of the high ranking officials of the city, boldly confessed before the emperor his faith in Christ the Lord, God incarnate in the flesh for our salvation. Along with this, Anicetas also denounced the idols as deaf and dumb stones and the worship of which is unworthy of a rational man. The emperor ordered his tongue to be severed but Anicetas, by the power of God, continued to speak. They then released a lion against him but the lion cuddled around him. At that moment the temple of Hercules collapsed. Photius, a kinsman of Anicetas, seeing the miracles and endurance of Anicetas, kissed him, declared himself a Christian and cried out to the emperor: " O idolator, be ashamed, your gods are nothingness!" The emperor then ordered that Anicetas immediately be beheaded. However, the executioner, raising his hand against holy Photius, struck himself with the sword and died. After prolonged tortures, both Anicetas and Photius were cast into prison where they languished for three years. Then they were brought out, a fire was lighted in an enormous furnace and they cast them into the fire. Many other Christians, men, women and children, willingly followed them into the fire. From the fire was heard the prayer of the Christians who were praising God for the death of martydom. They all suffered about the year 305 A.D. "Saint Anicetas and Saint Photius are invoked in the prayers in the Sacrament of Anointing with Oil (Holy Unction) and in the Blessing of Water."
(The Sacrament of Holy Unction, anointing with holy oil).
O holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, who did send Your Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who heals every infirmity and delivers from death. Heal Thou, also Your servant (Name) from the ills of body and soul which do hinder (Him Her) and quicken (Him Her) by the grace of Your Christ: through the prayers of our Most Holy Lady, the Birth-giver of God and Ever-virgin Mary; through the intercession of the honorable Bodiless Powers of Heaven; through the might of the precious and Life-giving Cross, through the protection of the honorable, glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John; of the glorious and all-laudable Apostles; of the holy, glorious and right-victorious Martyrs; of our venerable and God-bearing Fathers; of the holy and healing, unmercenaries, Cosmas and Damian, Cyrus and John, Pantaleon and Hermolaus, Samson and Diomedes, Photius and Anicetas of the holy righteous Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna; and all the Saints.
For You are the Fountain of healing, O our God, and unto You do we ascribe glory, together with Your Only-begotten Son and Your Spirit, one in essence, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
The Priestly-Martyr Alexander, Bishop of Comana
As a simple charcoal-burner, Alexander lived in the town of Comana near Neo-Caesarea. When the bishop of Comana died, St. Gregory the miracle-worker and Bishop of Neo-Caesarea (November 17) was then called to preside at a council to elect a new bishop. Both clergy and laymen alike were present at the council. However, the electors were unable to agree on one person. At the time of evaluating a candidate, they all primarily paid attention to the points of his externals: external dignity and behavior. St. Gregory then said that they need not look so much at the external characteristics as much as at the spirit and spiritual capabilities. Then some jesters mocking cried out: then we should elect Alexander the charcoal-burner as our bishop! General laughter then ensued. St. Gregory asked: "Who is this Alexander?" And, thinking that his name was not mentioned at this council without God's Providence, Gregory ordered that Alexander be brought before the council. As a charcoal-burner, he was completely soiled and in rags. His appearance again evoked laughter in the council. Gregory then took Alexander aside and made him take an oath to speak the truth concerning himself. Alexander said that he was a Greek philosopher and that he enjoyed great honor and position but that he rejected all, humbled himself and made himself to be a "fool for the sake of Christ" from the time when he had read and understood Holy Scripture. Gregory ordered Alexander bathed and clothed in new attire and, with him, entered the council and before all began to examine Alexander in Holy Scripture. All were amazed at Alexander's wisdom and words of grace and could hardly recognize in this wise man, the former quiet charcoal-burner. Alexander was unanimously elected bishop. By his sanctity, wisdom and goodness, he gained the love of his flock. Alexander died a martyr's death for Christ during the reign of Diocletian.
Learn to respect and to love the lowly and simple people. Such as these are the most on earth: such as these are the most in the Kingdom of Heaven. In them, there is no pride, i.e., the basic madness from which the souls of the rich and the powerful of this world suffer. They carry out their duty in this world perfectly and yet it appears to them amusing when someone praises them for it, while the self-seeking men of this world seek praise for all their work and often, it is imperfectly completed. St. Alexander was an eminent philosopher and he left everything, hid himself from exalted society, the praise of the world and mingled with the lowliest and the simplest of men, as a charcoal-burner among charcoal-burners. Instead of former praises and honors, he endured with rejoicing that children ran after him and laughed at him because of his sootiness and raggedness. However, Alexander was not the only one who liked to live with the lowly and simple. Many kings and princes, learning of the sweetness of Christ's Faith, removed the crowns from their heads and fled from aristocratic vanity to be among the simple people. Did not He alone, the King of Kings, the Lord our Christ appear among shepherds and fishermen? St. Zeno counsels: "Do not choose a glorious place for living and do not associate with a man of a prominent name."
To contemplate the wondrous Providence of God at the election of Saul as king (1 Samuel 9 1 Kings 9):
1. How Saul went out to seek the lost asses;
2. How Samuel, to whom God revealed that Saul should be accepted as the king of Israel, met him;
3. How the Providence of God directs men and sometimes gives them that which they do not envision.
About the awesome vision of the Prophet Isaiah
"I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6:1).
Here is the vision of visions! Here is the glory of glories and the majesty above majesties! God showed great mercy to all of mankind in that He gave them to see this great starry world to see, the work of His hands. Yet, He showed a yet greater mercy to those to whom He gave the eternal and wondrous angelic world to see. However, He showed the greatest mercy to a small number of His chosen ones, to whom He gave Himself to see, the Lord Sabaoth, the Only Uncreated One and Creator of both worlds. But, how can mortal man see the Immortal God? Did not God Himself say to Moses: "For there shall no man see me and live" (Exodus 33:20)? And, does not the Gospel say: "No man has seen God at any time" (St. John 1:18). Truly, no mortal one can see the face of God, i.e., the essence of God. But, by His condescension and infinite goodness and might, God can reveal to men, to some extent, and in some form, how accessible He is to men. In a particular form and appearance, He appeared to Moses, Elijah, Daniel and to John the Theologian not in His essence but in a particular form and appearance. Isaiah saw Him on a throne "high and lifted up" i.e., as the Judge raised above all the judges and all the earthly courts. The six-winged Seraphim stood around Him and cried one to another: "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts" (Isaiah 6:3). The Lord, therefore, is not alone but rather He is the King in His Invisible Kingdom surrounded by the most exalted of beings, who were created by His power. Around Him are the foremost orders of the heavenly hierarchy, the chief-commanders of His innumerable immortal hosts, the foremost lampstands of His light and His unendurable radiance.
This is the wondrous vision of Isaiah, the Son of Amos, the prophet of God.
O, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, Thrice Holy, have mercy on us and save us, impure and sinful.
August 26th (New Style) August 13th (Old Style)
The Holy Martyr Hippolytus
Hippolytus was a military leader and the overseer of the prisons in Rome. He was born and raised a pagan. When St. Lawrence the archdeacon was thrown into prison, Hippolytus was ordered by the emperor to especially watch over this prisoner. Hippolytus saw with his own eyes how Lawrence restored the sight of the blind man Lucillus and how Lawrence cured many others who were sick and he (Hippolytus) believed in Christ. When Lawrence baptized him, Hippolytus had a heavenly vision and said: "I saw innocent souls in great happiness, i.e., in the heavens." He then took Lawrence into his own home and Lawrence baptized all the members, who with the old governess Concordia, numbered nineteen. When Lawrence was slain for Christ, Hippolytus took the body of the martyr at night, wrapped it in a winding sheet and honorably buried it. However, this somehow came to the ears of Emperor Decius and on the third day following the death of Lawrence, Hippolytus was arrested, brought before the emperor and refusing to deny the True Faith, he was stuck on the mouth with stones. After that, the emperor ordered Hippolytus to be stripped naked and flogged. Naked before the emperor, he said: "You have not stripped me but rather you have begun to clothe me!" Then they stretched him out on the ground and beat him mercilessly but Hippolytus only cried out: "I am a Christian." The emperor upon hearing that all of Hippolytus' household are Christians, he ordered that they all be brought in. The aged Concordia said: "We desire more to die honorably with our master in the Faith of Christ than to live dishonorably with you, who are unclean." Concordia was the first to be slain and, after her, the remaining eighteen were slain, all before the eyes of Hippolytus. Finally, they tied Hippolytus to a wild horse and dragged him here and there until the martyr gave up his soul to God.
Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk or Voronezh
Tikhon was born in a simple peasant family in the village of Korotsk in the providence of Novgorod in the year 1724 A.D. He received the monastic tonsure at age thirty-four and because of his mortifications and great spiritual wisdom, soon received greater and greater service until finally he was consecrated as the Bishop of Voronezh. His episcopacy lasted for almost five years and, because of frail health, he withdrew and took up residence in the monastery of Zadonsk. He died peacefully in the year 1783 A.D. in Zadonsk where his miracle-working relics now repose. He was a great ascetic of the Russian Church, rare shepherd, intercessor and an author of the most beautiful spiritual works. By his wisdom, holiness and asceticism, Tikhon can be equated among the great fathers of the Orthodox Church of ancient times. Because of the many witnessed miracles over his relics, he was proclaimed a saint, at first, by the people and after that by the official church in the year 1861 A.D.
The Venerable Empress Irene, in Monasticism called Xenia (Ksenia)
Irene was the wife of Emperor John Comnenus II, 1118-1143 A.D., called Calojohn (Caloyan), John the Good. In addition to her monastic mortifications and many good works, Irene is also famous because she built the Monastery of the Almighty (the Pantocrator) one of the most glorious and most beautiful monasteries in Constantinople. Later on, St. Stephen of Decani lived a life of asceticism in this monastery.
The Venerable Seridus
Seridus was renowned as the founder of the famous community near Gaza in Palestine. Such glorious fathers as: St. Barsanuphius, John, Abba Dorotheus, Dositheus and others lived a life of asceticism in this community. St. Seridus died in the sixth century and took up habitation in the eternal joy of his Lord.
"Give thanks to the Lord but do not forget His great men, the poor and the needy, for they can accomplish much with God the Lord." These are the words of the illustrious Russian ascetic of the nineteenth century, Father Nazariah, the abbot of Valamo (Valaam)Monastery. He spoke these words to the wife of a high-ranking official in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) who fell into disfavor with the Tsar because of certain serious accusations. The accused official became ill from worry and lay in bed. Hearing that Father Nazariah arrived in Petrograd, the wife of this official hurriedly sought him out and related the misfortune which had befallen them and implored him to pray to the Lord for her husband. "Do you have any copper or silver coins in change?" Father Nazariah asked her. The woman brought the coins and gave them to him. And so, Father Nazariah left. The same evening Nazariah again returned and gladdened the wife with this news: "Glory to God, all those close to the Tsar (God, the King) have promised to pray for you." Naturally, the wife thought of Tsar Alexander Pavlovitch and his courtiers, while the spiritual father was thinking about the beggars on the streets to whom he had distributed the coins and sent them to pray to God for the husband of this woman. And suredly the news arrived that the emperor ordered that the matter concerning this official be taken up again and reviewed. And, it was just what the official wanted. When the woman began to thank Father Nazariah, he said: "Give thanks to the Lord but do not forget His great men, the poor and the needy, for they can accomplish much with God the Lord."
To contemplate the wondrous might of prophesying (1 Samuel 10 1 Kings 10):
1. How Samuel prophesied to Saul all that will happen to him one day;
2. How the Spirit of God came upon Saul and he also prophesied.
About the chief prophesy of the Prophet Isaiah
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).
This glorious prophecy concerning the birth of the Lord by a virgin was spoken by Isaiah, the prophet who saw God, at the moment of the greatest despair which befell Jerusalem. The multitudinous army of Syrians and Ephriams had surrounded the city, around the very walls of the city. King Ahaz, with neither an army nor weapons and the inhabitants of Jerusalem were in mortal fear. "The heart of the king (Ahaz) and the heart of the people trembled, as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind" (Isaiah 7:2). In that final hour of the king's despair, Isaiah came before the king and by command of God said to him: "Fear not neither be fainthearted" (Isaiah 7:4). Then Isaiah prophesied that the enemies would not take Jerusalem. Seeing that King Ahaz did not believe him, Isaiah told the king to ask for a sign, a miracle, be it from heaven or from earth. However, the unbelieving king did not want to ask but remained obstinate in his doubt. The prophet then said that God would give them a sign, even though they did not seek it. This sign refers to distant times and concerns the universal salvation of the mankind. "A virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel" which is to say: "God is with us." Why did not the prophet immediately give a sign so that the king would believe? Because, that prophecy about the salvation of Jerusalem, in the hour when the king thought that all had fallen, was sufficient enough to show both the power of God and the unbelief of the king. Why did the prophet, at that very moment and under such circumstances, foretell the prophecy of the birth of the Savior? Because mankind, at the time of the coming of the Savior, will be in the same kind of despair, pressured by and surrounded by the powers of the demons, as was Jerusalem at that moment. Did the prophet explicitly say Virgin and not a Woman? Naturally, he mentioned a Virgin. For if the prophesy were spoken of a woman, what kind of miracle would it be; what kind of sign? Are not all men born of women? All the weight of emphasis is on the word "Virgin."
Thus, the All-seeing God knows how to tie in the near with the distant and that, by fulfilling one prophecy in the present, He confirms a second prophecy in the future. "Emmanuel God is with us" - He saved Jerusalem then as an invisible God. "Emmanuel God is with us" He will save mankind in similar dangers later on as the Incarnate God, as God-Man, born of the All-Pure Virgin and the Holy Spirit.
O Lord, Who gave power to the prophets to see the truth as it comes from afar, give us the power to embrace that truth which has already come.
August 27th (New Style) August 14th (Old Style)
The Holy Prophet Micah (Michea)
Micah was of the tribe of Judah and from the village of Morasth for which he is called the "Morasthite." He was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah, Amos, Hosea and the Jewish kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Micah rebuked the vices of his people and rebuked the false prophets who prophesied "of wine and of strong drink" (Micah 2:11). He foretold the destruction of Samaria. He also foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, which will come because their leaders accept bribes, the priests teach for lucre and its prophets tell fortunes for money. "Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field and Jerusalem shall become as heaps" (Micah 3:12). But, of all his prophecies, the most important prophecy is that of the Messiah, especially the place of His birth. He mentioned Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah, "Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2). It is not known exactly whether this prophet was slain by the Jews or whether he died a peaceful death. "Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah and spoke to all the people of Judah saying, Thus said the Lord of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field and Jerusalem shall become heaps and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? Did he not fear the Lord and besought the Lord and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls" (Jeremiah 26:18-19). However, it is known that he was buried in his village and his relics were found, together with the relics of the Prophet Habakkuk, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Great according to a mysterious revelation, which Bishop Zevin of Eleutheropolis received.
The Priestly-Martyr Marcellus, the Bishop of Apamaea
Marcellus was born on Cyprus of wealthy and eminent parents and he was highly- educated. He entered into marriage and had children. When his wife died, Marcellus withdrew to the monastic life in Syria, leaving his children to the Providence of God. He became famous because of his compassion, meekness and spiritual knowledge because of which the Ampamaens elected him as their bishop. As a bishop, Marcellus zealously labored to convert pagans to the Christian Faith. When an idolatrous temple was burned the idolaters seized Marcellus, supposedly as the one who had caused the fire, and burned him in fire about the year 389 A.D. Especially instructive in the life of St. Marcellus is that the blessing of water and the use of blessed water is mentioned there.
Beware of a parent's curse for a parental curse is a dreadful thing. Appreciate and seek a parental blessing for it will accompany you throughout your entire life. The all-wise Sirach speaks: "For the blessing of the father establishes the houses of children but curse of the mother rooteth out foundations" (Sirach 3:9 Ecclesiasticus 3:9). The curse by which Noah cursed the descendants of Ham still follows the unfortunate Hamites today. However, to the sons of Jacob, it was the same as their father blessed them in their life. St. Sergius, as a young man, begged his parents for their blessing in order for him to become a monk. But, the aged parents begged their son to wait awhile and to labor around them until their death and after that to become tonsured a monk. Sergius obeyed his parents and was blessed until his death. Bishop Hermogenes relates an incident how a son mistreated his wife. When his mother, with tears, began to scold him because of this, the son attacked his mother, beat her and smashed her head against a wall. The sorrowful mother cried out: "Lord, may my son be cursed and may he not have my blessing nor Your blessing." That same day, the son began to tremble throughout his entire body and for thirteen years he lived in this state of trembling not even able to raise a spoon to his mouth. After thirteen years, he made his confession and received the Sacrament of Holy Communion which made it somewhat easier for him and soon after that he died.
To contemplate the wondrous assistance of God to Saul in battle with the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11 1 Kings 11):
1. How the powerful Nahash (Naas), the leader of the Ammonites, threatened to pluck out the right eye of all the Israelites;
2. How the people of Israel wept before the Lord;
3. How Saul and Samuel, with God's help, destroyed the Ammonites for the Spirit of God was upon Saul and Samuel.
About the prophesied light in darkness
"The people that walked in the darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Isaiah 9:2).
There where it is the darkest, the prophet fortells there will appear the light-bearing Messiah. The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali were considered as the darkest lands. There, the pagans were intermingled with the Jews; the yoke of external and internal slavery is the most difficult; the darkness of the pagans and the darkness of the Pharisees covered the people with the shadow of death. The Light of Heaven shown first in Bethlehem Christ the Lord was born there. That Light was seen from afar by eastern Magi and, in the vicinity, by the shepherds of Bethlehem. But that Light was driven out of Bethlehem by the bloody sword of Herod and the Light withdrew to Egypt. After that, the Light shown in full radiance in this land of darkness and the shadow of death, in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this land, alongside the lake, there lived fishermen whom our Lord chose for His disciples. In this land is the Mount of the Beatitudes from which the Lord proclaimed His first great sermon about the blessed. There, also, is Cana of Galilee where the Lord worked His first miracle. There, He began His work for the salvation of mankind by His powerful word and by His powerful deeds. Men saw this great Light and were astonished. Many were scandalized at the Lord and many mocked Him. But these men of darkness did not kill Him. There was another darker spot in the land of the Jews, which raised its hand against the Creator and killed Him. That is the same spot from which Herod, thirty-three years earlier, raised his bloody sword, to extinguish this great Light by blood, i.e., Jerusalem. Of all the darkness, the darkness of Jerusalem was the darkest. Perhaps the darkest because she (Jerusalem) named herself as the light.
O Lord, our Great and All-great Light, encompass us by Your light in this short period of time and receive us after death into Your Light, glorious and immortal.
August 28th (New Style) August 15th (Old Style)
The Dormition (The Falling Asleep - The Assumption) of the Most-Holy Birth-Giver of God
The Lord Who, on Mt. Sinai, commanded by His Fifth Commandment: "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12), showed by His own example how one should respect one's parent. Hanging on the Cross in agony, He remembered His mother and indicating to the Apostle John, said to her: "Woman behold your son" (St. John 19:26). After that, He said to John: "Behold your mother" (St. John 19:27). And so providing for His mother, He breathed His last. John had a home on Zion in Jerusalem in which the Theotokos settled and remained there to live out the end of her days on earth. By her prayers, gentle counsels, meekness and patience, she greatly assisted the apostles of her Son. Primarily, she spent her entire time in Jerusalem often visiting those places which reminded her of the great events and of the great works of her Son. She especially visited Golgotha, Bethlehem and the Mount of Olives. Of her distant journeys, her visit to St. Ignatius the Theophorus (God-bearer) in Antioch is mentioned, as well as her visit to Lazarus (whom our Lord resurrected on the fourth day), the Bishop of Cyprus, her visit to the Holy Mountain (Athos) which she blessed and her stay in Ephesus with St. John the Evangelist (The Theologian) during the time of the great persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. In her old age, she often prayed to the Lord and her God on the Mount of Olives, the site of His Ascension, that He take her from this world as soon as possible. On one occasion, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and revealed to her that within three days she will find repose. The angel gave her a palm-branch to be carried at the time of her funeral procession. She returned to her home with great joy, desiring in her heart once more to see in this life, all of the apostles of Christ. The Lord fulfilled her wish and all of the apostles, borne by angels in the clouds, gathered at the same time at the home of John on Zion. With great rejoicing, she saw the holy apostles, encouraged them, counseled them and comforted them. Following that, she peacefully gave up her soul to God without any pain or physical illness. The apostles took the coffin with her body from which an aromatic fragrance emitted and, in the company of many Christians, bore it to the Garden of Gethsemane to the sepulcher of (her parents), Saints Joachim and Anna. By God's Providence, they were concealed from the evil Jews by a cloud. Anthony, a Jewish priest, grabbed the coffin with his hands with the intention of overturning it but, at that moment, an angel of God severed both his hands. He then cried out to the apostles for help and was healed since declaring his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Thomas was absent, again according to God's Providence, in order that a new and all-glorious mystery of the Holy Theotokos would again be revealed. On the third day, Thomas arrived and desired to venerate (kiss) the body of the Holy All-pure one. But when the apostles opened the sepulcher, they found only the winding sheet and the body was not in the tomb. That evening, the Theotokos appeared to the apostles surrounded by a myriad of angels and said to them: "Rejoice, I will be with you always". It is not exactly known how old the Theotokos was at the time of her Falling Asleep but the overwhelming opinion is that she was over sixty years of age.
Each one of the faithful can learn much, indeed very much, from the life of the Virgin Theotokos. However, I would like to mention here only two things. First, she had the habit to frequently on Golgotha, on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, to go to Bethlehem and to other places famous because of her Son. At all of these places, especially Golgotha, she prayed on bended knees. By this, she gave the first example and incentive to the faithful to visit the holy places out of love toward Him Who, by His presence and by His passion and glory, made these places holy and significant. Second, we learn how she, in her prayer, prayed for a quick departure from this life that her soul, at the time of her separation from the body, not see the prince of darkness and his horrors, and hidden from the dark regions not encounter the power of Satan. Do you see how terrible it is for the soul to pass through the toll-gates (mitarstva)! When she, who gave birth to the Destroyer of Hades and, who herself has frightening power over demons prayed thusly, what then is left for us? Out of very great humility, she commended herself to God and did not trust in her own deeds. So much less should we trust in our deeds and even more we should commend ourselves into the hands of God, crying out for His mercy, especially for mercy at the time of the departure of the soul from the body.
To contemplate the wondrous proof by which Samuel confirmed his words before the people (1 Samuel 12 - 1 Kings 12):
1. How Samuel told the people it is evil before the Lord that they seek a king for themselves beside the Lord, the King;
2. How for the confirmation of his words, he called upon God to permit thunders and rain;
3. How the thunders and rain descended and how the people were frightened of God and of Samuel.
About the most glorious Child
"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
Upon whom of mortal man, in human history could all of these titles, all of this authority, all of this glory apply? There is no one. That is why St. Chrysostom says: "It is impossible to understand this in regard to any other man but only in reference to Christ." The prophet here clearly expresses two natures in the Savior of the world: the Human and the Divine. "A Child is born," this signifies a purely human nature. "Unto us a Son is given," this unites the two natures in one person: the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin in the person of the Incarnate Lord. However, the remaining titles signify the divine nature of the Lord Jesus. His government is "upon His shoulder," i.e., the government is His. His own government and is not borrowed. "Mighty Counseller," is this not the Holy Trinity? The angel or messenger and herald of this Triune Counsel is the Son of God, the Pre-eternal Word. "Wonderful Counseller," for all that is wonderful, all that is an amazement, all that is new which came to mankind is from Him and through Him.
"The Mighty God," what would Arius and his modern adherents, who deny the divinity of the Lord Jesus, say to this? "The Prince of Peace," for from Him is lasting peace; outside Him is war, without and within. "The Everlasting Father," (the Father of future times) as He is the Lord of the past, so also is He the Lord of the future. Furthermore, He is also the Father of the Church, the Creator of the new world, the Founder of the Kingdom of God.
Isaiah himself, the son of Amos, saw this wonderful and true vision some seven hundred years before it was revealed to the entire universe.
O Lord Jesus, You are to the prophets the most glorious prophecy and to the faithful, the most glorious revelation. Unlock our mind that the wonderful glory of Your majesty can enter into it and unlock our heart so that it would be filled by Your life-creating love.
August 29th (New Style) August 16th (Old Style)
The Icon of the Lord Jesus Christ, "Not Made with Hands"
At the time when our Lord preached the Good News and healed every illness and infirmity of men, there lived in the city of Edessa on the shore of the Euphrates Prince Abgar who was completely infected with leprosy. He heard of Christ, the Healer of every pain and disease and sent an artist, Ananias, to Palestine with a letter to Christ in which he begged the Lord to come to Edessa and to cure him of leprosy. In the event that the Lord was unable to come, the prince ordered Ananias to portray His likeness and to bring it to him, believing that this likeness would be able to restore his health. The Lord answered that He was unable to come, for the time of His passion was approaching took a towel, wiped His face and, on the towel, His All-pure face was perfectly pictured. The Lord gave this towel to Ananias with the message that the prince will be healed by it, but not entirely, and later on, He would send him a messenger who would erase the remainder of his disease. Receiving the towel, Prince Abgar kissed it and the leprosy completely fell from his body but a little of it remained on his face. Later, the Apostle Thaddaeus, preaching the Gospel, came to Abgar and secretly healed and baptized him. The prince then destroyed the idols which stood before the gates of the city and above the gates he placed the towel with the likeness of Christ attached to wood, framed in a gold frame and adorned with pearls. Also, the prince wrote beneath the icon on the gates: "O Christ God, no one will be ashamed who hopes in You." Later, one of Abgar's great grandsons restored idolatry and the bishop of Edessa came by night and walled up that icon over the gates. Centuries have passed since then. During the reign of Emperor Justinian, the Persian King Chozroes attacked Edessa and the city was in great hardship. It happened that Eulabius, the Bishop of Edessa, had a vision of the All-Holy Theotokos who revealed to him the mystery of the sealed wall and the forgotten icon. The icon was discovered and, by its power, the Persian army was defeated.
The Holy Martyr Diomedes (Diomidius)
Diomedes was of prominent birth and a physician from Tarsus. Healing the people, Diomedes taught them about the Faith of Christ. Emperor Diocletian ordered him beheaded in Nicaea in the year 298 A.D. Those who beheaded him and brought his head to the emperor were blinded and when they returned the head to the body and prayed, they were made whole again.
The Venerable Joachim Osogovsk
Joachim lived a life of asceticism in the second half of the eleventh century on the Osogovsk mountain in a cave at a place called Sarandopor. Later, in this place, another ascetic, Theodore from the Field of Sheep, to whom St. Joachim appeared in a dream, built a church. Throughout the centuries, many miracles occurred over the relics of the Venerable Joachim and still do today.
The Holy Martyr Stamatius
Stamatius was a peasant born in Volos in Thessaly. When an inhuman Agha (Aga) collected the royal tribute from the people and greatly mistreated them, Stamatius departed for Constantinople with several of his companions to complain to the Vizir (Vizier). By his sharp criticisms of the Agha, Stamatius offended the sultan's noblemen and they arrested him. At first, they wanted to convert him to Islam by flattery, promising him riches, glory and honor. But the martyr cried out: "My riches, glory and honor; that is my Christ." Then the Turks tortured him and finally, before the Church of the Divine Wisdom (Hagia Sophia), Stamatius was beheaded in the year 1680 A.D. That is how this soldier of Christ was crowned with the martyr's wreath.
The Orthodox Church surpasses all other Christian groups in the richness of her Tradition. The Protestants want only to adhere to Holy Scripture. But, not even Holy Scripture can be interpreted without Tradition. The Apostle Paul himself commands: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The tradition of Prince Abgar, without doubt, is of Apostolic Tradition even though the apostles do not mention him in their writings. The Apostle Thaddaeus, did not write anything at all and, according to Protestant thinking, did not say anything and neither did he teach the faithful. According to what then was he an apostle of Christ? St. John Damascene (Damaskin) mentions the tradition of Prince Abgar in his defense of the veneration of icons. How wonderful and touching is the letter of Abgar to Christ. And since he previously wrote that he heard of His miraculous power, that He cures the sick and since he implored Him to come and to heal him, Abgar further writes: "I also hear that the Jews hate You and that they are preparing some evil against You. I have a city, not large, but beautiful and bountiful in every good: come to me and live with me in my city, which is sufficient for the both of us for every need." Thus wrote a heathen prince while the princes of Jerusalem were preparing death for the Lord, the Lover of Mankind.
To contemplate God's wondrous help to Jonathan, the son of Saul (1 Samuel 13-14 1 Kings 13-14):
1. How the Philistines rose up against the Jews and the army of the Philistines was: "as the sand which is on the sea shore" (1 Samuel 13:5 - 1 Kings 13:5);
2. How Jonathan with his young man that bore his armor (armorbearer), attacked the Philistines, trusting in God and how he confused and defeated them;
3. How even we should know the truthfulness of Jonathan's words: "It may be the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6 1 Kings 14:6).
About the divine branch from the root of Jesse
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (Isaiah 11:1).
With such clear prophesies about Christ the Lord, why did not the Jews believe in Him as the Messiah? Because of their insane pride and because of their insane crimes against holy and righteous men. Who is that rod from the stem of Jesse other than the Lord Christ? Jesse was the father of King David and the Messiah was expected from the lineage of David. He appeared from the lineage of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David. The "rod out of the stem of Jesse" signifies the physical descent of the Lord through the Virgin Mary, a descendant of Jesse and David, and the "branch out of his roots" Jesse's roots signifies the revealed righteousness in Him which was trampled down by the many kings from the house of David. Trampled down righteousness is like a dry tree stump. But from the root of such a tree stump, a green branch sometimes sprouts. The Lord Jesus will be such a self-sprouting branch. From His mother, He will be of the lineage of David, by righteousness from the lineage of David but by His Divine Conception, He will be of the Holy Spirit. In eternity from the Father without a mother, in time from a mother without a father. In eternity, the concept of becoming man (incarnation) remained hidden under the covering of Divinity; in time, His Divinity therefore remained hidden under the covering of humanity. Pilate gazed in vain at this "rod from the stem of Jesse" and cried out: "Behold the Man!" (St. John 19:5), the same as when one looks at a wire conveying electrical current among many ordinary wires and cries out: "Behold the wire!" Neither does he recognize electrical current in a wire nor did that one (Pilate) recognize God in man.
O Lord Jesus, Mankind- loving God-man, make us to love God and save us.
Republication of The Prologue from Ochrid is forbidden without written
consent from the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox