FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
Beginning of the Nativity Fast
Gurias, Samonas, & Avivos, Martyrs & Confessors of Edessa
Thomas, Archbishop of Constantinople
Ἀπό σήμερον ἄρχεται ἡ νηστεία τῶν Χριστουγέννων.
Τῶν Ἁγίων Μαρτύρων καί Ὁμολογητῶν Γουρία, Σαμωνᾶ καί Ἀβίβου.
Τοῦ ἐν Ἁγίοις πατρός ἡμῶν Θωμᾶ Β΄, Πατριάρχου Κωνσταντινουπόλεως.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians 1:6-10
BRETHREN, you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit; so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us what a welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
Πρὸς Θεσσαλονικεῖς α' 1:6-10
Ἀδελφοί, ὑμεῖς μιμηταὶ ἡμῶν ἐγενήθητε καὶ τοῦ κυρίου, δεξάμενοι τὸν λόγον ἐν θλίψει πολλῇ μετὰ χαρᾶς πνεύματος ἁγίου, ὥστε γενέσθαι ὑμᾶς τύπους πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ καὶ τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ. Ἀφʼ ὑμῶν γὰρ ἐξήχηται ὁ λόγος τοῦ κυρίου οὐ μόνον ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ καὶ ἐν τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν ἡ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἐξελήλυθεν, ὥστε μὴ χρείαν ἡμᾶς ἔχειν λαλεῖν τι. αὐτοὶ γὰρ περὶ ἡμῶν ἀπαγγέλλουσιν ὁποίαν εἴσοδον ἔσχομεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, καὶ πῶς ἐπεστρέψατε πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων, δουλεύειν θεῷ ζῶντι καὶ ἀληθινῷ, καὶ ἀναμένειν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν, ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦν, τὸν ῥυόμενον ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τῆς ὀργῆς τῆς ἐρχομένης.
The Reading is from Luke 14:25-35
At that time, great multitudes accompanied Jesus; and he turned and said to them, "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build, and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill; men throw it away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 14.25-35
Τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ, συνεπορεύοντο δὲ αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοί· καὶ στραφεὶς εἶπε πρὸς αὐτούς· εἴ τις ἔρχεται πρός με καὶ οὐ μισεῖ τὸν πατέρα ἑαυτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τὰς ἀδελφάς, ἔτι δὲ καὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ψυχήν, οὐ δύναταί μου μαθητὴς εἶναι. καὶ ὅστις οὐ βαστάζει τὸν σταυρὸν ἑαυτοῦ καὶ ἔρχεται ὀπίσω μου, οὐ δύναται εἶναί μου μαθητής. τίς γὰρ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θέλων πύργον οἰκοδομῆσαι, οὐχὶ πρῶτον καθίσας ψηφίζει τὴν δαπάνην, εἰ ἔχει τὰ πρὸς ἀπαρτισμόν; ἵνα μήποτε, θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον καὶ μὴ ἰσχύσαντος ἐκτελέσαι, πάντες οἱ θεωροῦντες ἄρξωνται αὐτῷ ἐμπαίζειν, λέγοντες ὅτι οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἤρξατο οἰκοδομεῖν καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἐκτελέσαι; ἢ τίς βασιλεύς, πορευόμενος συμβαλεῖν ἑτέρῳ βασιλεῖ εἰς πόλεμον, οὐχὶ πρῶτον καθίσας βουλεύεται εἰ δυνατός ἐστιν ἐν δέκα χιλιάσιν ἀπαντῆσαι τῷ μετὰ εἴκοσι χιλιάδων ἐρχομένῳ ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν; εἰ δὲ μήγε, ἔτι πόρρω αὐτοῦ ὄντος πρεσβείαν ἀποστείλας ἐρωτᾷ τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην. οὕτως οὖν πᾶς ἐξ ὑμῶν, ὃς οὐκ ἀποτάσσεται πᾶσι τοῖς ἑαυτοῦ ὑπάρχουσιν, οὐ δύναται εἶναί μου μαθητής. Καλὸν τὸ ἅλας· ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἀρτυθήσεται; οὔτε εἰς γῆν οὔτε εἰς κοπρίαν εὔθετόν ἐστιν· ἔξω βάλλουσιν αὐτό. ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ ΙΕ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Μνήμη τῶν Ἁγίων Μαρτύρων καὶ Ὁμολογητῶν Γουρία, Σαμωνᾶ καὶ Ἀβίβου.
Ξίφος τελειοῖ Σαμωνᾶν καὶ Γουρίαν,
Καὶ φλὸξ Ἄβιβον, οἷς χαρὰ φλὸξ καὶ ξίφος.
Πῦρ πέμπτῃ δεκάτῃ, Ἄβιβον πέφνε, χαλκὸς ἑτάρους.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρὸς ἡμῶν Κυντιριανοῦ, Ἐπισκόπου Σελευκείας, καὶ μνήμη τῶν εὐσεβῶν βασιλέων, Ἰουστίνου καὶ Θεοδώρας, καὶ τοῦ Ἁγίου Θωμᾶ, Πατριάρχου Κωνσταντινουπόλεως τοῦ νέου.
Ζωὴν ὁ Θωμᾶς ἐκλιπὼν μετρουμένην,
Ζωὴν πρεπόντως εὗρεν οὐ μετρουμένην.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, μνήμη τῶν Ἁγίων Μαρτύρων, Ἐλπιδίου, Μαρκέλλου, Εὐστοχίου, καὶ τῶν σὺν αὐτοῖς.
Πῦρ, Ἐλπίδιε, σὺν δυσὶ στέγειν φίλοις,
Ἡ τῶν ἐπάθλων ἐλπὶς ἠρέθιζέ σε.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου Μάρτυρος Δημητρίου.
Ὁ Δημήτριος, χειρὶ τμηθεὶς δημίου,
Δήμοις ἀθλητῶν συγχορεύει Κυρίου.
Ταῖς αὐτῶν ἁγίαις πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
Of these most illustrious Martyrs of the city of Edessa in Syria, Gurias and Samonas contested during the reign of Diocletian, in 288; after many tortures, they were cast into prison, then beheaded. Saint Avivos, a deacon, contested in the days of Licinius, in the year 316, and was burned alive; he was buried with Saints Gurias and Samonas. The three have one common feast, and it is always together that they are portrayed in icons and invoked by the faithful.On account of a renowned miracle they worked, they are invoked for help in marital difficulties. A certain Goth had come with the Roman army to Edessa and was quartered in the house of a pious widow named Sophia. The Goth asked Sophia for the hand of her daughter, Euphemia; after resisting for a long time, Sophia at last agreed. When it was time for the army to return home, Sophia made the Goth vow by the power in the holy Martyrs Samonas, Gurias, and Avivos, to keep Euphemia as the apple of his eye. As he was nearing his home, however, the treacherous man revealed to Euphemia that he already had a wife. Euphemia was compelled to serve the Goths wife, who dealt with her mercilessly. After extreme sufferings, which included being sealed alive in a tomb and left there to die, Euphemia was miraculously conveyed to Edessa, to the very shrine of the holy Martyrs whose surety they had taken, and was reunited with her mother through their holy prayers.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Τά θαύματα τών Αγίων σου Mαρτύρων, τείχος ακαταμάχητον ημίν δωρησάμενος, Χριστέ ό Θεός, ταίς αυτών ικεσίαις, βουλάς εθνών διασκέδασον, τής βασιλείας τά σκήπτρα κραταίωσον, ως μόνος αγαθός καί φιλάνθρωπος.
Since Thou hast given us the miracles of Thy holy Martyrs as an invincible battlement, by their entreaties, scatter the counsels of the heathen, O Christ our God, and strengthen the faith of Orthodox Christians, since Thou alone art good and the Friend of man.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Ἐξ ὕψους σοφοί, τὴν χάριν κομισάμενοι, τῶν ἐν πειρασμοῖς, προΐστασθε πανεύφημοι· διὸ κόρην Ἅγιοι, ἐκ θανάτου πικροῦ ἐῤῥύσασθε· ὑμεῖς γὰρ ὄντως ὑπάρχετε, Ἐδέσσης ἡ δόξα, καὶ τοῦ κόσμου χαρά.
Ye gained from on high * much grace, O wise, all-lauded Saints; * and thus, ye protect * all them found in ordeals and trials; * for this cause, O Martyrs, did ye save a young woman from bitter death, * in that ye are in very truth * the glory of Edessa and joy of all.
"Άθραυστοι ποιναίς αικισμών εμείνατε, Μάρτυρες...", ψάλλει η Εκκλησία με θαυμασμό, εμπρός στα φοβερά βασανιστήρια και την καρτερία των αγίων Μαρτύρων. Κι εμείς, σαν σήμερα που γιορτάζομε την μνήμη των αγίων Μαρτύρων και Ομολογητών Γουρία, Σαμωνά, και Αβίβου, δεν θαυμάζομε μόνο την καρτερία των Αγίων του Θεού, αλλά και την θηριωδία των οργάνων του Διαβόλου. Ανημερώτερο θηρίο από τον άνθρωπο δεν υπάρχει. Πολλές φορές τα θηρία στον ιππόδρομο σεβάστηκαν τους Μάρτυρας. Οι βασανισταί τους ποτέ δεν τους λυπήθηκαν. Υπήρξαν πάντα σατανικοί σε εφευρετικότητα βασανιστηρίων και ανυπέρβλητοι σε ψυχική σκληρότητα απέναντι των συνανθρώπων τους. Δυστυχώς οι άνθρωποι είναι πάντα οι ίδιοι· γυμνοί από τη θεία χάρη, έχουν μέσα τους όχι μόνο τα ένστικτα του ζώου, αλλά και τα πάθη της αμαρτίας. Θηρία ανήμερα! Δεν είναι πολλά χρόνια που εζήσαμε άγριες σκηνές μαρτυρίων και σκληρότητος.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Γουρίας, Σαμωνᾶς καὶ Ἄβιβος οἱ Ὁμολογητὲς (Ἀρχίζει ἡ νηστεία τῶν Χριστουγέννων)
Ὁ Γουρίας καὶ ὁ Σαμωνᾶς, ἀγωνιζόμενοι τὸν ἱερὸ ἀγῶνα τῆς χριστιανικῆς πίστης, συνελήφθησαν ἀπὸ τὸν ἡγεμόνα Ἀντωνῖνο, κατὰ τὸ διωγμὸ ἐπὶ Διοκλητιανοῦ. Καὶ ἀφοῦ ὑπέστησαν μὲ θαυμαστὴ ὑπομονὴ πολλὰ βάσανα, ἀποκεφαλίσθηκαν. Ὁ Ἄβιβος ἔζησε λίγα χρόνια ἀργότερα καὶ ἦταν ἀπὸ ἕνα χωριὸ τῆς Ἔδεσσας ποὺ ὀνομαζόταν Ἀποθελσαία. Τότε βασιλιὰς ἦταν ὁ Λικίνιος, ὁ γνωστὸς ἀντίπαλος τοῦ Μ. Κωνσταντίνου. Ὁ Ἄβιβος, λοιπόν, προχειρίσθηκε ἱεροδιάκονος καὶ διακρινόταν γιὰ τὴν μεγάλη εὐσέβειά του καὶ τὸν πολὺ ζῆλο γιὰ τὸ ὑπούργημά του. Ἰδιαίτερα, ὅμως, διακρινόταν γιὰ τὴν θερμὴ ἀγάπη του στὸ ἱερὸ κήρυγμα, τηρῶντας τὸ θεόπνευστο λόγο τῆς Ἁγίας Γραφῆς, ποὺ λέει: «Κήρυξαν τὸν λόγον, ἐπιστήθι εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως, ἔλεγξαν, ἐπιτίμησαν, παρακάλεσαν, ἐν πάσῃ μακροθυμίᾳ καὶ διδαχῇ». Κήρυξε, δηλαδή, τὸ λόγο τοῦ Θεοῦ, στάσου ἐπιτηρητὴς καὶ καθοδηγὸς στοὺς ἀκροατές σου, ὄχι μόνο σὲ κατάλληλες περιστάσεις, ἀλλὰ καὶ σ᾿ ἐκεῖνες ποὺ φαίνονται ἀκατάλληλες περιστάσεις, ἔλεγξε, ἐπίπληξε, παρηγόρησε μὲ κάθε μακροθυμία καὶ μὲ κάθε μέθοδο διδασκαλίας. Ὁ ἡγεμόνας Λυσανίας, ὅταν εἶδε τὸν Ἄβιβο νὰ προσελκύει πολλοὺς εἰδωλολάτρες μὲ τὸ θερμό του κήρυγμα, τὸν συνέλαβε. Καὶ ἀφοῦ τὸν κρέμασε σὲ στύλο καὶ τὸν ἔσχισε μὲ σιδερένια νύχια, ἔπειτα τὸν ὁδήγησε ἔξω ἀπὸ τὴν πόλη, ὅπου τὸν ἔριξε μέσα στὴ φωτιά, καὶ ἔτσι ὁ Ἄβιβος παρέδωσε τὸ πνεῦμα του στὸ Θεό.
Μνήμη τῶν εὐσεβῶν βασιλέων Ἰουστίνου καὶ Θεοδώρας
Ἐδῶ τὰ πράγματα εἶναι λίγο συγκεχυμένα. Ἄλλες πῆγες ἀναφέρουν αὐτὴ τὴν μέρα τὴν μνήμη Ἰουστινιανοῦ καὶ Θεοδώρας καὶ ἄλλες Ἰουστίνου καὶ Εὐφημίας. Πάντως ὅσο ἀφορᾷ τὸν Ἰουστίνο, καταγόταν ἀπὸ τὴν Θρᾴκη καὶ προηγουμένως ἦταν βοσκὸς προβάτων καὶ χοίρων. Κατόπιν ἔγινε στρατιώτης, ἔπειτα κόμης καὶ στὸ τέλος βασιλιὰς τὸ 518. Εἶχε δὲ γυναῖκα κάποια Λουπικία, ποὺ τὴν ἔκανε Αὐγούστα καὶ μετονόμασε Εὐφημία. Ὅταν πέθανε ἡ γυναῖκα του αὐτή, πῆρε ἄλλη μὲ τὸ ὄνομα Θεοδώρα. Ὁ Ἰουστίνος, ἂν καὶ ἀγράμματος, συμμάζεψε καὶ νοικύρεψε τὸ κράτος καὶ ὑπῆρξε πολὺ εὐσεβὴς χριστιανὸς βασιλιάς, βοηθῶντας παντοιοτρόπως τὴν Ἐκκλησία. Βασίλευσε ἐννέα χρόνια καὶ 33 ἡμέρες.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Ἐλπίδιος, Μάρκελλος καὶ Εὐστόχιος
Ὁ Ἐλπίδιος, μέλος τῆς Συγκλήτου, ἔζησε ὅταν αὐτοκράτορας ἦταν ὁ Ἰουλιανὸς ὁ παραβάτης (361 μ.Χ.). Ὁ ὁποῖος ἀφοῦ τὸν ἔπιασε, τοῦ εἶπε νὰ διαλέξει μεταξὺ τῆς ἄρνησης τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ τοῦ μαρτυρικοῦ θανάτου. Ὁ Ἐλπίδιος χωρὶς περιστροφὲς διάλεξε τὸ δεύτερο. Μαζὶ μ᾿ αὐτὸν συμβάδισαν πρὸς τὸ μαρτύριο καὶ δυὸ συνάδελφοι φίλοι του, ὁ Μάρκελλος καὶ ὁ Εὐστοχίας. Ἀφοῦ στὶς σάρκες τους ἔριξαν καυτὸ νερό, κατόπιν ἔσπασαν τὰ ἄκρα τῶν σωμάτων τους μὲ βαρειὰ σιδερένια ῥαβδιά. Καὶ ἡ μανία τῶν ἀπίστων δὲν σταμάτησε ἐδῶ. Ἀλλὰ καὶ σ᾿ αὐτὴν τὴν κατάσταση ποὺ βρίσκονταν, τοὺς ἔριξαν στὴ φωτιὰ καὶ ἔτσι παρέδωσαν τὸ πνεῦμα τους, μαρτυρικὰ ὁλοκαυτώματα ὑπὲρ τῆς ἁγίας πίστης.
Our Venerable Father Paisius Velichkovsky (1794)
He was born in Ukraine in 1722, one of the many children of a priest. He attended the Ecclesiastical Academy in Kiev, but was disappointed by the worldliness, love of ease and western theological climate that he found there.
After four years he left the school and embarked on a search for a spiritual father and a monastery where he could live in poverty. He eventually found wise spiritual guides in Romania, where many of the Russian monks had fled after Peter the Great's reforms. From there he traveled to the Holy Mountain. Spiritual life was at a low ebb there also, and Plato (the name he had been given as a novice) became a hermit, devoting his days to prayer and reading the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers. After four years, a visiting Elder from Romania tonsured him a monk under the name Paisius, and advised him to live with other monks to avoid the spiritual dangers of taking up the solitary life too soon. A few brethren from Romania arrived, seeking to make him their spiritual father, but as he felt unworthy to take on this task, all of them lived in poverty and mutual obedience. Others joined them from Romania and the Slavic countries, and in time they took up the cenobitic life, with Paisius as their reluctant abbot.
In 1763 the entire community (grown to sixty-five in number) left the Holy Mountain and returned to Romania. They were given a monastery where they adopted the Athonite rule of life. Abbot Paisius introduced the Jesus Prayer and other aspects of hesychasm to the monastic life there: before this time, they had been used mostly by hermits. The services of the Church were conducted fully, with the choirs chanting alternately in Slavonic and Romanian. The monks confessed to their Elder every evening so as not to let the sun go down on their anger, and a brother who held a grudge against another was forbidden to enter the church, or even to say the Lord's Prayer, until he had settled it.
The monastic brotherhood eventually grew to more than a thousand, divided into two monasteries. Visitors and pilgrims came from Russia, Greece and other lands to experience its holy example.
St Paisius had learned Greek while on Mt Athos, and undertook to produce accurate Slavonic translations of the writings of many of the Fathers of the Church. The Greek Philokalia had been published not long before, and St Paisius produced a Slavonic version that was read throughout the Slavic Orthodox world. (This is the Philokalia that the pilgrim carries with him in The Way of a Pilgrim).
The Saint reposed in peace in 1794, one year after the publication of his Slavonic Philokalia. The Synaxarion summarizes his influence: "These translations, and the influence of the Saint through the activity of his disciples in Russia, led to a widespread spiritual renewal, and to the restoration of traditional monastic life there which lasted until the Revolution of 1917."
The Holy Martyrs and Confessors Gurias, Samon and Habib: During the time of persecution against Christians under the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311), two friends were arrested in the city of Edessa, the Christians Gurias and Samon, preachers of the Word of God. At the demand to offer sacrifice to the gods the saints answered with a decisive refusal and confessed their faith in Christ. For this they were subjected to cruel tortures: they beat them, hung them up by their hands, tied heavy weights to their feet, and cast them into a stifling prison. The martyrs endured everything with firmness and a prayer to the Lord, which one of the witnesses to the martyrs wrote down: "O Lord my God, without Whose will not a single sparrow falleth into the snare. Thou it was, Who wast diffused in the heart of David in sorrow, Who proved the Prophet David stronger than lions, and granted for a child of Abraham to be victor over torture and flames. Now also Thou knowest, O Lord, the infirmity of our nature, Thou beholdest the struggle set afront us. For the enemy striveth to tear away from Thee the work of Thy right-hand and to deprive (us) from the essence of Thine Glory. But do Thou, with Thine compassionate eye watching over us, preserve in us the inextinguishable light of Thy Commandments. By Thine light guide our steps, and grant us to delight in Thine bliss, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages". By night they took the martyrs out beyond the city and beheaded them (+ 299-306). Christians buried their holy bodies.
After some years the last pagan emperor Licinius (311-324) began a persecution against Christians. A deacon of the Edessa Church by the name of Habib, whom the emperor ordered to be arrested for his zealous spreading of the true faith, presented himself before the executioners, since he did not want other Christians to suffer because of the search for him. The saint confessed his faith in Christ and was sentenced to burning. The martyr went willingly into the fire and with prayer gave up his soul to the Lord (+ 322). When the fire went out, the mother and kinsmen of the saint found his body unharmed. They buried the martyr next to Saints Gurias and Samon.
After the death of the saints, numerous miracles were wrought by them for those who with faith and love entreated their help. Thus, one time a certain Gothic-soldier, sent for service at Edessa, took as his spouse the pious maiden Euphymia. Before this he vowed to her mother Sophia at the graves of the Martyrs Gurias, Samon and Habib, -- that he would do his spouse no harm, and would never insult her, but would always love and cherish her. At the completion of his service in Edessa, he took Euphymia with him back to his native land. Afterwards it turned out, that he had deceived her: in his native-land he already had a wife, and Euphymia became her slave. Euphymia had to suffer much abuse and humiliation. When she gave birth to a son, the jealous Goth woman then poisoned him. Euphymia turned with prayer to the holy Martyrs Gurias, Samon and Habib -- witnesses to the oath of the deceiver, and the Lord delivered Euphymia from her suffering and miraculously returned her to Edessa, where she was welcomed by her mother. After a certain while the Gothic oath-breaker was again sent for service to Edessa. All the city learned about his misdeeds after his denunciation by Sophia, and by order of the governor of the city the Goth was executed.
Glorifying the holy martyrs in an akathist, Holy Church addresses them: "Hail, Gurias, Samon and Habib, Heavenly Patrons of honourable marriage".
The Holy Martyrs Elpidias, Marcellus and Evstochius suffered under the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). Saint Elpidias was an important dignitary at the imperial court. They tried him on charges of being a Christian, afront the imperial judge. The martyrs endured many terrible torments and they died, thrown into a fire. At the place where Christians buried the remains of the saints occurred a miraculous appearance of Christ with an host of Angels, and the Lord resurrected Elpidias. Then the emperor again gave orders to arrest the holy martyr. During the time of torture, idols standing not afar off crumbled into dust through the prayer of the saint. More than six thousand pagans, having witnessed this miracle, were converted to Christ. Saint Elpidias was burned again.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. The Holy Martyrs Gurias, Samonas and Abibus
Gurias and Samonas were prominent citizens of Edessa. During one of the persecutions of Christians, they hid outside the city and lived in fasting and prayer, encouraging true believers who came to them for counsel. However, they were captured and brought before the judge, who threatened them with death if they did not submit to the imperial decree demanding idol worship. These holy martyrs of Christ answered him: ``If we submit to the imperial decree, we will perish, even if you don't kill us.'' After cruel torture, they were thrown into prison, where they remained from August 1 to November 10, enduring hunger, darkness and pain. They were then led out and again tortured, but since they remained unwavering in the Christian Faith, they were condemned to death and beheaded in the year 322, during the reign of the wicked Emperor Licinius. Later Abibus, a deacon in Edessa, suffered tortures for Christ his Lord and gave his spirit to God while in the flames. His mother took his body, miraculously intact, from the fire and buried it in a grave with the relics of St. Gurias and St. Samonas. When the persecution ceased, Christians built a church in honor of the three martyrs, Gurias, Samonas and Abibus, and placed their miracle-working relics in a common reliquary. Of the numerous miracles of these wonderful saints of God, the following is especially outstanding: A widow in Edessa had a young daughter who was to marry a Gothic soldier serving in the Greek army. As the mother feared for her daughter's safety if she were to live far away, the Goth swore on the grave of the holy three martyrs that he would do no evil to the maiden, but would take her as his lawful wife, as he had already sworn that he was not already married. In reality, he did have a wife, and when he took the young maiden to his country he kept her, not as his wife but as a slave, until his lawful wife died. He then agreed with his kinsmen to bury his living slave with his dead wife. The girl tearfully prayed to the three holy martyrs to save her, and they appeared to her in the grave, and took her in an instant from the land of the Goths to Edessa, to their church. The following day when the church was opened, they found the young maiden by the tomb of the saints of God, and learned of her miraculous deliverance.
2. The Holy Martyrs Elpidius, Marcellus and Eustochius
They suffered for Christ at the time of Julian the Apostate. Elpidius was a senator. Witnessing the torture and miracles of Elpidius, six thousand pagans came to believe in Christ the Lord.
3. The Feast of the Icon of the Holy Theotokos of Kupyatich
This icon first appeared to a maiden named Anna in the village of Kupyatich, in the province of Minsk, in the year 1182. Tending her flock, Anna saw a light in the forest. When she approached this light she beheld a medium-size cross on a tree, bearing the image of the Most-holy Theotokos. Anna brought this cross home, then returned to her flock. However, to her great amazement, she saw the same cross on the tree in the same place. She took it, placed it in her bosom and brought it home. When she tried to show her father the cross, she reached into her bosom, but the cross was not there. She related everything to her father and went out with him, saw the cross in the forest, and took it home. The next day, the cross was not in the house. They alerted the whole village, and all the villagers went and beheld the cross and venerated it. The people soon built a church there, and numerous miracles were manifested by this cross bearing the image of the Theotokos. This icon is now to be found in the Church of Holy Wisdom in Kiev.
HYMN OF PRAISE
To the Most-holy Theotokos
O Most-holy Mother of God, Bride of God,
Thou wast the Bodily Throne of Christ God,
Thou didst bear the King of Glory in thy body,
Thou gavest birth to Him Who gavest life to a dead world.
By His Blood, His holy Blood, He redeemed the world,
Gloriously glorifying Himself and thee, O Virgin.
But thy true glory shines in heaven,
Where thou sittest on the right hand of Christ Himself.
And the rays of thy glory descend to earth,
And shine at night on the path of the sojourners.
Glory to thee, Mother of God, throughout the ages,
The first Temple, the wonderful Temple of the glory of Christ!
God most often gives victory in battle to the peacemakers. One example of this is the great Emperor Justinian, and another example is the holy King Stefan of Deèani. Following the death of his father King Milutin, Stefan removed the bandage from his eyes and was joyfully proclaimed as king both by the nobles and by the people. However, Constantine-son of Simonida and Stefan's younger brother on his father's side-raised up an army against Stefan. Stefan then wrote him in the following manner: “You have heard what has happened to me (that is, how I received my sight) by God's providence, that works in all for the good. Shown mercy by God, I have inherited the throne of my parents, to rule over the people in the fear of God and with justice, according to the example of my forefathers. Abandon your undertaking, and come, let us meet with one another; assume the second place in the kingdom as the second son, and do not rise up with foreigners against your fatherland. Our spacious land is sufficient for both you and me. I am not Cain, the slayer of his brother, but a friend of Joseph, the lover of his brethren. In the words of the latter, I say to you: You intended evil against me but God intended it for good (Genesis 50:20).” Thus wrote the holy king, but Constantine did not take heed and was defeated in battle by Stefan. Defeated also was Vladislav, Dragutin's son, another pretender to the Serbian throne. However, Michael Shishman, the Bulgarian king, fared worst of all. Stefan wrote to him: “Reflect on the meaning of Christian love, calm your wrath, let there be love between us as there was between our parents. Cease to shed Christian blood. Turn your weapons against the enemies of the name of Christ and not on Christians. Remind yourself of how hard it will be to answer for innocent blood. Know this also, that he who takes what belongs to others loses what is his.” Michael scoffed at this letter from the holy king and was utterly defeated at Velbuzd in 1330. “God is with the righteous, not with the mighty.”
on the revelation of the wisdom of God to the heavenly powers
… To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10).
Brethren, are the angels all-knowing? They are not; for if they were all-knowing, they would be gods. God is one, brethren, and the angels are God's beautiful servants. The mystery of the Incarnation was not known to the angels before it took place. And all the other mysteries connected with the mystery of the Incarnation were also unknown to the angels until they saw them revealed in the Church. Therefore the Church is a new revelation, even for the holy angels. The Church is a new revelation of the wisdom and power of God and of His love for man. On the other hand, it is also a new revelation of man's love for God, and man's struggle. Even the angels themselves did not foresee how much God would humble Himself or how much man would be uplifted. This was shown in the Church, and through the Church it was proclaimed to the angels. The Apostle speaks of this to the Ephesians in the words quoted above: the principalities and powers-in other words, not even to the chiefs of the angels was everything known beforehand. The manifold wisdom of God is that wisdom that was not revealed earlier, and was unknown to the angels and now, in the Church, is shown in countless forms, situations and circumstances.
O my brethren, the two greatest works of God that have been revealed up to now are the creation of the world and the creation of the Church. In both works, brethren, man is the main object of God's love. Let us be thankful with our every breath to the Most-gracious God.
O Gracious God, O Compassionate God, to Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.