The Holy Great Martyr Marina was born in Asia Minor, in the city of Antioch of Pisidia (southern Asia Minor), into the family of a pagan priest. In infancy she lost her mother, and her father gave her into the care of a nursemaid, who raised Marina in the Orthodox Faith. Upon learning that his daughter had become a Christian, the father angrily disowned her. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), when she was fifteen years old, Saint Marina was arrested and locked up in prison. With firm trust in the will of God and His help, the young prisoner prepared for her impending fate.
The governor Olymbrios, charmed with the beautiful girl, tried to persuade her to renounce the Christian Faith and become his wife. But the saint, unswayed, refused his offers. The vexed governor gave the holy martyr over to torture. Having beaten her fiercely, they fastened the saint with nails to a board and tore at her body with tridents. The governor himself, unable to bear the horror of these tortures, hid his face in his hands. But the holy martyr remained unyielding. Thrown for the night into prison, she was granted heavenly aid and healed of her wounds. They stripped her and tied her to a tree, then burned the martyr with fire. Barely alive, the martyr prayed: “Lord, You have granted me to go through fire for Your Name, grant me also to go through the water of holy Baptism.”
Hearing the word “water”, the governor gave orders to drown the saint in a large cauldron. The martyr besought the Lord that this manner of execution should become for her holy Baptism. When they plunged her into the water, there suddenly shone a light, and a snow-white dove came down from Heaven, bearing in its beak a golden crown. The fetters put upon Saint Marina came apart by themselves. The martyr stood up in the fount of Baptism glorifying the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Marina emerged from the fount completely healed, without any trace of burns. Amazed at this miracle, the people glorified the True God, and many came to believe. This brought the governor into a rage, and he gave orders to kill anyone who might confess the Name of Christ. 15,000 Christians perished there, and the holy Martyr Marina was beheaded. The sufferings of the Great Martyr Marina were described by an eyewitness of the event, named Theotimos.
Up until the taking of Constantinople by Western crusaders in the year 1204, the relics of the Great Martyr Marina were in the Panteponteia monastery. According to other sources, they were located in Antioch until the year 908 and from there transferred to Italy. Now they are in Athens, in a church dedicated to the holy Virgin Martyr. Her venerable hand was transferred to Mount Athos, to the Batopedi monastery.
The economy of our salvation is accomplished! The operation of the Most Holy Trinity have now come into effect to accomplish it. What God the Father has willed, the Son of God fulfilled in Himself, and the Holy Spirit has now descended in order to impart it to the faithful. For our salvation is according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:2). For this sake we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, obliged, to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19–20). Those who do not confess the Most Holy Trinity cannot participate in the saving action of Its Hypostases and thus receive salvation. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence and undivided, granting us confession of Itself! “O Father Almighty, and Word, and Spirit, one nature united in three Hypostases, transcendent and extremely divine! Into Thee have we been baptized, and Thee shall we bless throughout all ages.”
„Thoughts for Each Day of the Year“ by St. Theophan the Recluse
The Synaxis of the Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Twelve Apostles of Christ appears to be an ancient Feast. The Church honors each of the Twelve Apostles on separate dates during the year, and has established a general commemoration for all of them on the day after the commemoration of the Glorious and First-Ranked among the Apostles Peter and Paul. All Apostoles, with the exception of St. John The Theologian, were martyred. The Church unites them in a common celebration
The Sven Caves Icon of the Mother of God was painted by Saint Alypius. On the icon the Mother of God is depicted sitting upon a throne, and with the Divine Infant on Her knees. Saint Theodosius is on the right side of the throne, and Saint Anthony of the Caves on the left. Until the year 1288 it was in the Kiev Caves monastery, where it was glorified by miracles. In 1288 it was transferred to the Briansk-Svensk monastery, which is dedicated to the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
Prince Roman of Chernigov, then at Briansk, became blind. Hearing about the miracles worked by the icon of Saint Alypius, the prince sent a courier to the monastery requesting that the icon be sent to him at Briansk. They sent a priest with the icon along the River Desna. After the voyage the boat landed on the right bank of the River Svena. After lodging for the night they went to the boat to pray before the icon, but they did not find it there. They saw it on a hill on the opposite bank, resting in the branches of an oak tree. News of this reached Prince Roman, and they led him to the icon on foot.
The prince prayed fervently before the icon and vowed to build a monastery on that spot, donating all the land which could be seen from the hill. After the prayer the prince regained his sight. First he saw the footpath, then nearby objects, and finally all the surroundings.
After making a shrine for the icon, the prince had a Molieben served, and then they laid the foundations for a wooden church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. The tree on which the icon rested was cut up and used as wood for other icons. The icon was glorified by healings of the blind and of the possessed, and has long been regarded as a protector from enemies.
What is most important on the holy day of Pascha is our Communion with the Risen Christ, which is principally manifest in the reception of the Holy Mysteries at the holy service, and for which we repeatedly pray in the services of Great Lent.
Leaving the Paschal service before the end of Liturgy is a sin — or the result of a lack of understanding of the Church service.
If one is compelled to do so by unavoidable necessity, then an egg, which is merely a symbol of resurrection, cannot take the place of actually partaking of the Resurrection in the Divine Liturgy, and the distribution of eggs before the Liturgy would be an act of disdain for the Divine Mystery and a deception of the faithful.
The Church canons strictly forbid bringing to the altar anything besides the bread and wine which are to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, likewise oil for the lamps and incense. A cleric who violates this canon is deposed according to the third rule of the Apostolic Canons.
I call up all to fully participate in the Divine banquet of the Risen Christ — the Holy Liturgy, and then, at its conclusion, to announce the good news of Christ’s Resurrection and greet one another with this symbol of the Resurrection.
St. John the Wonderworker
Attached is the schedule of upcoming Evening Services that will be served by all Orthodox clergy in Calgary. Please join us in those prayers.
Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Gusher, King of Serbia Stephen Nemanya was the Great Zhupan of Serbia, and lived during the twelfth century. The saint toiled much for his fatherland: he united a large portion of the Serbian lands, and strove for the political independence of his country from the Byzantine Empire. In his zeal for the Orthodox Church, he defended his nation against heresy and false teaching.
At the age of eighty, Stephen went to Mt. Athos, where his son Saint Sava (January 12), was glorified by the holiness of his life. Together they restored the desolate Hilandar monastery, to which monks from various lands began to gather.
Saint Simeon was a great ascetic and wise guide for the monks. He died on February 13, 1200, and his relics began to exude myrrh. Saint Sava transported his father’s relics back to Serbia, and placed them in a church of the Most Holy Theotokos at the River Studenitsa. Saint Simeon had richly adorned this church while he was still ruler of Serbia.
At this Meeting the Lord is surrounded on the one side by Simeon — righteousness which awaits salvation, but not of itself, and Anna — a life of strict fasting and prayer, made alive by faith; and on the other side by essential, comprehensive and steadfast purity — the Virgin Mother of God, and by humble, silent submission and devotion to the will of God — Joseph the Betrothed.
Transfer all of these spiritual attitudes to your heart and you will meet the Lord; not carried to you, but coming to you Himself. You will take Him into the embrace of your heart, and you will sing a hymn which will pass throughout the heavens and gladden all the angels and saints.
Saint Theophan the Recluse
A great son of the Orthodox Church, King Milutin saved the Balkans from Uniatism. At that time in history when the Byzantine emperor's conscience was weakened, this noble and God-bearing Slavic king rose up decisively and, with God's help, saved Orthodoxy and not only in his own land, but also in all the lands of the Balkans. Everyone who closely examines the life of the holy King Milutin will understand why God gave him success after success in all his works throughout his life. When Milutin ascended the throne, he immediately vowed to God that he would build a church for each year that he would reign. He reigned forty-two years and built forty-two churches. Next to some of the churches-for example, in Thessalonica and Constantinople-he also built hospitals for the indigent, where the poor would receive everything free of charge. Beyond that, he especially loved to give alms to the needy from his own enormous wealth. Oftentimes, this powerful and wealthy king dressed in the clothes of a poor man and, with two or three of his servants, walked among the people at night and asked about their misfortunes, and gave to them abundantly. He lived a very simple, familial life, even in the midst of his great wealth-though he never seemed that way to foreigners. He had become accustomed to a simple life while still at the home of his father, King Uro I. It is told how Emperor Michael Palaeologus sent his daughter Anna with a retinue to the court of King Uro , as an offering to Milutin, in order to lure the Serbian king into union with Rome. But King Uro , seeing the foolish extravagance of the princess and her retinue, said: ``What is this, and what is it for? We are not used to such a life.'' And pointing to a Serbian princess with a distaff in her hand, he said: ``Behold, this is the kind of clothing we expect our daughter-in-law to wear.''
The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Two events in connection with the Honorable Cross of Christ are commemorated on this day: first, the finding of the Honorable Cross on Golgotha and second, the return of the Honorable Cross from Persia to Jerusalem. Visiting the Holy Land, the holy Empress Helena decided to find the Honorable Cross of Christ. An old Jewish man named Judah was the only one who knew where the Cross was located, and, constrained by the empress, he revealed that the Cross was buried under the temple of Venus that Emperor Hadrian had built on Golgotha. The empress ordered that this idolatrous temple be razed and, having dug deep below it, found three crosses. While the empress pondered on how to recognize which of these was the Cross of Christ, a funeral procession passed by. Patriarch Macarius told them to place the crosses, one by one, on the dead man. When they placed the first and second cross on the dead ma
n, the dead man lay unchanged. When they placed the third cross on him, the dead man came back to life. By this they knew that this was the Precious and Life-giving Cross of Christ. They then placed the Cross on a sick woman, and she became well. The patriarch elevated the Cross for all the people to see, and the people sang with tears: ``Lord, have mercy!'' Empress Helena had a silver case made and set the Honorable Cross in it. Later, the Persian Emperor Chozroes conquered Jerusalem, enslaved many people, and took the Lord's Cross to Persia. The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years. In the year 628 the Greek Emperor Heraclius defeated Chozroes and, with much ceremony, returned the Cross to Jerusalem. As he entered the city Emperor Heraclius carried the Cross on his back, but suddenly was unable to take another step. Patriarch Zacharias saw an angel preventing the emperor from bearing the Cross on the same path that the Lord had walked barefoot and humiliated. The patriarch communicated this vision to the emperor. The emperor removed his raiment and, in ragged attire and barefoot, took up the Cross, carried it to Golgotha, and placed it in the Church of the Resurrection, to the joy and consolation of the whole Christian world.
The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Your nativity, O Virgin Theotokos, has proclaimed joy to the whole universe; for from You has shone forth Christ our God, the Sun of righteousness, Who having annulled the curse, has given His blessing, and having abolished death, has granted us eternal life.
Mary has chosen that good part (Luke 10:42). The Dormition of the Mother of God represents a good end to such a choice. The Saviour Himself received her soul in His arms at her Dormition. Many saints were made worthy of the same. In various ways and degrees, all those who choose that good part meet with this. At the time this choice is made, the saints foresaw this end through hope, and even felt it to a certain degree; but then come labours, struggle and forcing oneself, shrouding the chosen path. The good end of that good part remains as a guiding star. It is as a faraway shining light for a traveller who is overtaken by darkness. Hope is the stimulator of energy and the maintainer of patience and constancy in what was begun, while hope itself is strong through faith. People make their choice according to faith, and through hope they are firm in their choice; while through patience they attain that good end.
„Thoughts for Each Day of the Year“ by St. Theophan the Recluse
On the Transfiguration a voice from heaven uttered only hear Him (Matt. 17:5). Why is this so? Because the fruit of obedience was being shown to them. It was as if the Heavenly Father were saying: Do you want to attain this? Hear what He will suggest and command you. If you go on His path, you will undoubtedly enter into the realm of light, which will embrace you not from without, but will come forth from within, and always keep you in a state in which all of your bones will utter: it is good for us to be this way. You will be filled with the light of joy, the light of good will, the light of knowledge; all sorrows will pass by, the dissonance of the passions will disappear, falsehood and delusion will disperse. On the earth you will become heavenly; from among the earthly-born, you will become Godly-born; from amidst the perishable you will become eternally blessed. Then all will be yours, because you yourselves will become Christ’s. He who loves Christ the Lord is beloved of the heavenly Father, and They come to him and make their abode with him. This is the light of the Transfiguration.
„Thoughts for Each Day of the Year“ by St. Theophan the Recluse
Saint Paul expresses the power of the Lord’s Ascension in this manner: When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men (Eph. 4:8). Having satisfied God’s righteousness, the Lord opened for us all the treasures of God’s goodness. This is indeed a capturing or taking of spoils after victory. The beginning of the distribution of these spoils to people is the descent of the Holy Spirit, Who, having descended, always abides in the Church and gives everyone that which he needs, receiving all from that captive captivity (cf. Eph 4:8). Come everyone and take. But prepare for yourself guardian of that treasure, which is a pure heart; have hands to take it, which is unreflecting faith. Then step forth searching hopefully, and praying relentlessly.
„Thoughts for Each Day of the Year“ by St. Theophan the Recluse
Equal to the apostles and teachers of the Slavs, divinely-wise Cyril and Methodius, pray to the Vladika of all to strengthen all Slavonic nations in Orthodoxy and unity of mind, to convert and reconcile the world to God and to save our souls.
Troparion (Tone 4)
Let us honor our two holy enlighteners, who by translating the Holy Scripture have poured forth for us a wellspring of divine knowledge from which we still draw unceasingly today; we call you blessed, o, Cyril and Methodius as you stand before the throne of the Most-high and pray for our souls.
Kontakion (Tone 3)
May the great day of the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem remind us of His tears and sacred wrath, that we might never forget His bitter tears and words, directed not only to Jerusalem, but also to each one of us! Let us place it as a goal of our life to follow Christ, for He Himself said, If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be (Jn. 12:26). Let us follow Christ, through the straight gate and narrow way—and we shall find rest in the place where shines the eternal glory of the Holy Trinity.
St. Luke, Archibishop of Crimea
Speaking about the spread and celebration of Christmas, St. John Chrysostom says: " Magnificent and noble trees when planted in the ground shortly attain great heights and become heavily laden with fruit; so it is with this day." So it is with the day of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple. In the beginning this day was discussed among Christians but the solemn celebration began from the period of the great Emperor Justinian. During the reign of this emperor, a great pestilence afflicted the people in Constantinople and vicinity so that about five-thousand or more people died daily. At the same time a terrible earthquake occurred in Antioch. Seeing the weakness of man's ability to prevent these misfortunes the emperor, in consultation with the patriarch, ordered a period of fast and prayer throughout the entire empire. And, on the day of the Meeting [The Presentation] itself, arranged great processions throughout the towns and villages that the Lord might show compassion on His people. And truly, the Lord did show compassion; for the epidemic and earthquake ceased at once. This occurred in the year 544 A.D. Following this and from that time one, the Feast of the Presentation [Meeting] began to be celebrated as a major feast of the Lord. The tree, in time, grew and began to bring forth-abundant fruit.
St. Nikolai Velimirovic, Prologue from Ochrid - Reflection
Sava was born in 1169 A.D. He was the son of Stephen [Stefan] Nemanja the Grand Zupan of the Serbs. As a young man, Sava yearned for the spiritual life for which he fled to the Holy Mountain [Mt. Athos] where he was tonsured a monk and with rare zeal lived according to the ascetical rule. Stefan Nemanja followed the example of his son and came to the Holy Mountain where he was tonsured a monk and died as Simeon, the monk.
Sava obtained the independence of the Serbian Church from the [Byzantine] emperor and patriarch and became the first Archbishop of the Serbs. Together with his father, he built the Monastery Hilendar and, after that, many other monasteries, churches and schools throughout the Serbian lands. On two occasions, he made a pilgrimage to the sacred places in the Holy Land. He restored peace between his two brothers who were estranged because of a struggle for power. He restored peace between the Serbs and their neighbors.
In establishing the Serbian Church, he was, through that, establishing the Serbian State and culture. He instilled peace between all the Balkan peoples and worked for the benefit of all for which he was loved and respected by all the Balkan peoples. To the Serbian people he gave a Christian soul which did not perish with the collapse of the Serbian State.
Sava died in Trnovo, Bulgaria, during the reign of Emperor Asen, having become ill following the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 12, 1236 A.D. King Vladislav translated his body to the Mileshevo Monastery from which Sinan Pasha removed it and burned it on Vracar in Belgrade, April 27, 1595 A.D.
Homily about the visions of the invisible world
"We look not to what is seen but to what is unseen"(2 Corinthians 4:18).
We see this material and transient world, but we look to that spiritual and immortal world.
We see earthly joy, often interrupted by tears and sighs and, in the end, always concluded in death; but we look to spiritual joy among the angels and saints of God in the heavens, to joy uninterrupted and eternal.
We see sufferings and failures of the righteous in this life; but we look at their glory and celebration in that world.
We see many successes, glory and honor of the unrighteous in this life, but we see their defeat, condemnation and indescribable torment in eternity.
We see the Church of God often humiliated and persecuted in this world, but we look to the final victory of the Church over all of her enemies and adversaries both visible and invisible.
Brethren, we often see tyrants and abductors as rulers and wealthy men in this age, and we see saints as poor, dejected and forgotten, but we look at the other kingdom, the Kingdom of God, eternal, sinless and immortal in which the saints will reign without one, no, not one tyrant or abductor.
O Lord, most patient and most merciful, open our spiritual vision that we may see that which awaits us after this short-lived life and that we endeavor to fulfill Your law.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
Prologue from Ohrid by Saint Nikolai Velimirovic
Blessed be John the Baptist, for he fulfilled the Gospel before the arrival of the Gospel! Going into the wilderness, he gave himself up completely to the will of God, both body and soul. The will of God was carried out in his body on earth as well as in the heaven of his soul. Neither hunger nor wild beasts did harm his body throughout the many years that he spent in the wilderness. Neither was his soul harmed by despair because of loneliness, nor pride because of heavenly visions. He did not seek from man either bread or knowledge. God granted him everything that was necessary for him because he gave himself up completely to the will of God.
Neither did he direct his footsteps in the wilderness nor away from the wilderness. An invisible rudder from on high steered his life. For when it was necessary for him to depart the wilderness and go out to meet the Lord, it is said: "The word of God came to John" (St. Luke 3:2). As an innocent youth, in this manner John spoke simply about his communication with the powers of heaven: "And I did not know Him [Christ] but the One Who sent me to baptize with water told me, `On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, He is the One Who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God" (St. John 1: 33-34). How tenderly and simply he speaks about heavenly things! How he is as awesome as a lion when he speaks out against the injustice of men, against Herod and Herodias! The lamb and the lion dwell in him together. Heaven is as close to him as a mother is to her child. The will of God is as accessible and clear to him as the angels in heaven.
O Lord, Most-wise, direct the lives of us sinners in the wilderness of this life according to Your will as You directed the life of St. John the Baptist.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
From The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
At the First Council in Nicaea, Holy Hierarch Saint Spyridon gave the Arians a graphic proof of the Unity within the Holy Trinity.
He took a brick into his hands, and squeezed it. Immediately, flame shot up from it, water poured down from it, and clay remained in the hands of the miracle worker. Then Saint Spyridon said, “Here are three elements, but one brick. So it is with the Most Holy Trinity: Three Faces, but One Divinity.”
In icons of Saint Nicholas, the Lord Savior is usually depicted on one side with a Gospel in His hands, and the Most-Holy Theotokos - on the other side with an episcopal omophorion in her hands. This has a twofold historical significance: first, it signifies the calling of Nicholas to the hierarchical office, and second, it signifies his release from the condemnation that followed his confrontation with Arius.
St. Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople, writes: ``One night St. Nicholas saw our Savior in glory, standing by him and extending to him the Gospel, adorned with gold and pearls. On his other side, he saw the Most-Holy Theotokos placing the episcopal omophorion on his shoulders''. Shortly after this vision, John the Archbishop of Myra died and Saint Nicholas was appointed archbishop of that city. That was the first event.
The second event occurred at the time of the First Council in Nicaea. Unable to stop Arius through reason from espousing the irrational blasphemy against the Son of God and His Most-Holy Mother, Saint Nicholas struck Arius on the face with his hand. The Holy Fathers at the Council, protesting such an action, banned Nicholas from the Council and deprived him of all emblems of the episcopal rank. However, that same night, several of the Holy Fathers saw an identical vision: how the Lord Savior and the Most-Holy Theotokos were standing around Saint Nicholas - on one side the Lord Savior with the Gospel, and on the other side the Most-holy Theotokos with an omophorion, presenting the saint with the episcopal emblems that had been removed from him. Seeing this, the fathers were awestruck and quickly returned to Nicholas all that had been removed. They began to respect him as a great chosen one of God, and they interpreted his actions against Arius not as an act of unreasonable anger, but rather an expression of great zeal for God's truth.
Saint Nikolai Velimirovich
From time immemorial, the Church has celebrated the Most-Holy Theotokos as the patroness and protectress of the Christian people, Who, by Her intercessory prayers, implores God's mercy for us sinners. The help of the Most-holy Mother of God has been clearly shown numerous times, to individuals and to nations, in peace and in war, in monastic deserts and in densely populated cities. The event that the Church commemorates and celebrates today confirms the Theotokos' consistent protection of Christian people. On October 1, 911, during the reign of Emperor Leo the Wise, there was an all-night vigil in the Blachernae Church of the Mother of God in Constantinople. The church was full of people. St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ was standing in the rear of the church with his disciple Epiphanius. At four o'clock in the morning, the Most-holy Theotokos appeared above the people, holding her omophorion outstretched as a protective covering for the faithful. She was clothed in gold-encrusted purple, and shone with an ineffable radiance, surrounded by apostles, saints, martyrs and virgins. St. Andrew said to Blessed Epiphanius: ``Do you see, brother, the Queen and Lady of all praying for the whole world?'' Epiphanius replied: ``I see, Father, and am struck with amazement!'' The Feast of the Protection was instituted to commemorate this event, and to remind us that we can prayerfully receive the unceasing protection of the Most-holy Theotokos in any time of difficulty.
The Most-holy Theotokos has often appeared to holy men in need: sometimes to encourage them in asceticism, or to heal them from sickness, or to reveal a certain mystery to them. Two similar, wonderful events took place in the Great Lavra on the Holy Mountain. In Great Lent, during the chanting of the Great Akathist, St. John Koukouzelis was tired and sat down, facing the icon of the Theotokos. As he sat, he fell asleep. And just then, the Holy Most-pure One appeared to him in heavenly light and said: ``Rejoice, O John! Chant and do not stop chanting, and for this I will not abandon you''. With this, she placed a gold coin in his hand. When he awoke from sleep, the gold coin was still in his hand. After this, many wonderful miracles were worked from the icon of the Theotokos, as well as from the gold coin. The second incident involved St. Gregory the monk, who, like John Koukouzelis, was a church cantor. Patriarch Kallistos had established that in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, “All Creation Rejoices in Thee'' be sung in place of ``It Is Truly Meet.'' His successor, Patriarch Philotheus, rescinded this, reinstating ``It Is Truly Meet'' because of its brevity. But then, on the eve of the Theophany, and in the presence of Patriarch Gregory of Alexandria, St. Gregory sang ``All Creation Rejoices in Thee'' instead. Immediately after this, the Holy Most-pure One appeared to him, and, as she had done to John Koukouzelis, placed a gold coin in his hand. She said: ``I am very grateful for your singing in my honor.'' Because of this, it was instituted that all Liturgies of St. Basil would thereafter include ``All Creation Rejoices in Thee.''
The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Herod Antipas, son of the elder Herod, who was the slayer of the children of Bethlehem at the time of the birth of the Lord Jesus, was ruler of Galilee at the time when John the Baptist was preaching. This Herod was married to the daughter of Aretas, an Arabian prince. But Herod, an evil sprout of an evil root, put away his lawful wife and unlawfully took unto himself Herodias as his concubine, the wife of his brother Philip, who was still living. John the Baptist stood up against this lawlessness and strongly denounced Herod who then cast John into prison.
At the time of a banquet in his court in Sebastia in Galilee Salome, the daughter of Herodias and Philip, danced before the guests. The drunken Herod was so taken by this dance that he promised Salome that he would give her whatever she asked of him, even though it be half of his kingdom. Being persuaded by her mother, Salome asked for the head of John the Baptist. Herod gave the order and John was beheaded in prison and his head brought to him on a platter. John's disciples took the body of their teacher by night and honorably buried it and Herodias pierced the tongue of John with a needle in many places and buried the head in an unclean place.
What later happened to John the Baptist's head can be read on February 24. However, God's punishment quickly befell this group of evil doers. Prince Aretas, in order to cleanse his daughter's honor, attacked Herod with his army and defeated him. The defeated Herod was sentenced by the Roman Caesar, Caligula, to exile at first to Gaul and later to Spain. As exiles, Herod and Herodias lived in poverty and humiliation until the earth opened up and swallowed them. Salome died an evil death on the Sikaris (Sula) river. The death of St. John occurred before the Pascha [Passover] but its celebration on August 29 was established because, on that day, a church which had been built over his grave in Sebastia by Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena was consecrated. In this church the relics of John's disciples, Eliseus and Audius, were also placed.
If you observe how men die, you would see that the death of a man usually resembles his sin. As it is written: "For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (St. Matthew 26:52). Every sin is a knife and men usually are slain by that sin which they most readily committed. An example of this is given to us by Salome, the foul daughter of Herodias who asked for and received from Herod the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Living in Spain in the town of Lerida [Loredo] with the exiled Herod and Herodias, Salome set out one day across the frozen river Sikaris. The ice broke and she fell into the water up to her neck. Icebergs squeezed around her neck and she wiggled, dancing with her feet in the water as she once danced at the court of Herod. However, she was unable either to raise herself up or to drown until a sharp piece of ice severed her head. The water carried her body away and her head was brought to Herodias on a platter as was the head of John the Baptist at one time. Behold how terrible a death resembles the sin committed.
St. Nikolai of Zica, Prologue from Ochrid
Today, in glorifying that great and glorious first Apostle, first Martyr, first Evangelist, Precursor to all true Christians of all time, we bow down before his joyous suffering for Christ’s Truth and His Holy Gospel, before him as Apostle and Martyr. Consider, that for already 2,000 years, the One who allowed the lawless king to behead him, has been working countless miracles in the earthly realm, living in it alongside the Lord Jesus Christ. For 2,000 years he has been ceaselessly working miracles for all those who turn to him in prayer.
St. Justin Popovic
Forty days before He was delivered to an ignominious death for our sins, our Lord revealed to three of His disciples the glory of His Divinity.
“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matt. 17:1-2). This was the event to which our Lord was referring when He said: “there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.” (Matt. 16:28). By this means the faith of the disciples was strengthened and prepared for the trial of our Lord’s approaching sufferings and death; and they were able to see in it not mere human suffering, but the entirely voluntary passion of the Son of God.
The disciples saw also Moses and Elijah talking with our Lord, and thereby they understood that He was not Himself Elijah or another of the prophets, as some thought, but Someone much greater: He Who could call upon the Law and the Prophets to be His witnesses, since He was the fulfillment of both.
The three parables of the feast concern the appearance of God to Moses and Elijah on Mount Sinai, and it is indeed appropriate that the greatest God-seers of the Old Testament should be present at the glorification of the Lord in His New Testament, seeing for the first time His humanity just as the disciples were seeing for the first time His Divinity.
Orthodox theology sees in the Transfiguration a prefigurement of our Lord’s Resurrection and His Second Coming, and more than this—since every event of the Church calendar has an application to the individual spiritual life—of the transformed state in which Christians shall appear at the end of the world, and in some measure even before then. In the foreshadowing of future glory which is celebrated in this Feast, the Holy Church comforts her children by showing them that after the temporary sorrows and deprivations with which this earthly life is filled, the glory of eternal blessedness will shine forth; and in it even the body of the righteous will participate.
It is a pious Orthodox custom to offer fruits to be blessed at this feast; and this offering of thanksgiving to God contains a spiritual sign, too. Just as fruits ripen and are transformed under the action of the summer sun, so is man called to a spiritual transfiguration through the light of God’s word by means of the Sacraments. Some saints, (for example - Saint Seraphim of Sarov), under the action of this life-giving grace, have shone bodily before men even in life with this same uncreated Light of God’s glory; and that is another sign to us of the heights to which we, as Christians, are called and the state that awaits us - to be transformed in the image of Him Who was transfigured on Mount Tabor.
Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose)
The Holy Church commemorates Saints every day. But because there have been God-pleasers who struggled in obscurity and were not revealed to the Holy Church, the Church has set a day on which we praise all those who have pleased God throughout the ages, that they all might be glorified by the Church.
The Church instituted this commemoration immediately after the descent of the Holy Spirit, because all saints have been made and are being made saints by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Holy Spirit brings repentance and the forgiveness of sins; it leads one into battle with the passions and lusts, and crowns this labor with purity and passionlessness. And thus a new creature appears, fit for a new heaven and new earth.
Let us be zealous to follow the saints of God. Today’s Gospel reading teaches us how to do this: it demands fearless confession of faith in the Lord, particular love toward Him, raising the cross of self-denial, and heartfelt renunciation of everything. Let us place a beginning according to these instructions.
Thoughts for Each Day of the Year by St. Theophan the Recluse
Ascension. Saint Paul expresses the power of the Lord’s Ascension in this manner: When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men (Eph. 4:8). Having satisfied God’s righteousness, the Lord opened for us all the treasures of God’s goodness. This is indeed a capturing or taking of spoils after victory. The beginning of the distribution of these spoils to people is the descent of the Holy Spirit, Who, having descended, always abides in the Church and gives everyone what he needs, receiving all from that captive captivity (cf. Eph 4:8).
Come everyone and take. But prepare for yourself guardian of that treasure, which is a pure heart; have hands to take it, which is unreflecting faith. Then step forth searching hopefully, and praying relentlessly.
By St. Theophan the Recluse, “Thoughts for Each Day of the Year”
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling death by death, and bestowing life to those in the tombs!
Resurrection Matins at Midnight and Divine Liturgy at 10 A.M.