FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
Stephen, Archdeacon & First Martyr
Theodore the Confessor
Brothers Theophanes and Poietus
Afterfeast of the Nativity
Τοῦ Ἁγίου Πρωτομάρτυρος καί Ἀρχιδιακόνου Στεφάνου, καί τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρός ἡμῶν καί Ὁμολογητοῦ Θεοδώρου τοῦ Γραπτοῦ, αὐταδέλφου Θεοφάνους τοῦ Ποιητοῦ.
Τοῦ ἐν Ἁγίοις Πατρός ἡμῶν Θεοδώρου, Πατριάρχου Κωνσταντινουπόλεως.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from Acts of the Apostles 6:8-15; 7:1-5, 47-60
IN THOSE DAYS, Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated men, who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us." And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
And the high priest said, "Is this so?" And Stephen said: "Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, 'Depart from your land and from your kindred and go into the land which I will show you.' Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living; yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him in possession and to his posterity after him, though he had no child.
"But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands; as the prophet says, 'Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool. What house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?'
"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it."
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων 6:8-15;7:1-5,47-60
Ἐν ταῖς ἡμεραῖς ἐκείναις, Στέφανος δὲ πλήρης πίστεως καὶ δυνάμεως ἐποίει τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα μεγάλα ἐν τῷ λαῷ. Ἀνέστησαν δέ τινες τῶν ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς τῆς λεγομένης Λιβερτίνων, καὶ Κυρηναίων, καὶ Ἀλεξανδρέων, καὶ τῶν ἀπὸ Κιλικίας καὶ Ἀσίας, συζητοῦντες τῷ Στεφάνῳ. Καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυον ἀντιστῆναι τῇ σοφίᾳ καὶ τῷ πνεύματι ᾧ ἐλάλει. Τότε ὑπέβαλον ἄνδρας λέγοντας ὅτι Ἀκηκόαμεν αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ῥήματα βλάσφημα εἰς Μωϋσῆν καὶ τὸν θεόν. Συνεκίνησάν τε τὸν λαὸν καὶ τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους καὶ τοὺς γραμματεῖς, καὶ ἐπιστάντες συνήρπασαν αὐτόν, καὶ ἤγαγον εἰς τὸ συνέδριον, ἔστησάν τε μάρτυρας ψευδεῖς λέγοντας, Ὁ ἄνθρωπος οὗτος οὐ παύεται ῥήματα βλάσφημα λαλῶν κατὰ τοῦ τόπου τοῦ ἁγίου καὶ τοῦ νόμου· ἀκηκόαμεν γὰρ αὐτοῦ λέγοντος ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος οὗτος καταλύσει τὸν τόπον τοῦτον, καὶ ἀλλάξει τὰ ἔθη ἃ παρέδωκεν ἡμῖν Μωϋσῆς. Καὶ ἀτενίσαντες εἰς αὐτὸν ἅπαντες οἱ καθεζόμενοι ἐν τῷ συνεδρίῳ, εἶδον τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ πρόσωπον ἀγγέλου. Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ ἀρχιερεύς, Εἰ ἄρα ταῦτα οὕτως ἔχει; Ὁ δὲ ἔφη, Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοὶ καὶ πατέρες, ἀκούσατε. Ὁ θεὸς τῆς δόξης ὤφθη τῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν Ἀβραὰμ ὄντι ἐν τῇ Μεσοποταμίᾳ, πρὶν ἢ κατοικῆσαι αὐτὸν ἐν Χαρράν, καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἔξελθε ἐκ τῆς γῆς σου καὶ ἐκ τῆς συγγενείας σου, καὶ δεῦρο εἰς γῆν ἣν ἄν σοι δείξω. Τότε ἐξελθὼν ἐκ γῆς Χαλδαίων κατῴκησεν ἐν Χαρράν· κἀκεῖθεν, μετὰ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ, μετῴκισεν αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν γῆν ταύτην εἰς ἣν ὑμεῖς νῦν κατοικεῖτε· καὶ οὐκ ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ κληρονομίαν ἐν αὐτῇ, οὐδὲ βῆμα ποδός· Σολομῶν δὲ ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτῷ οἶκον. Ἀλλʼ οὐχ ὁ ὕψιστος ἐν χειροποιήτοις ναοῖς κατοικεῖ, καθὼς ὁ προφήτης λέγει, Ὁ οὐρανός μοι θρόνος, ἡ δὲ γῆ ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν μου· ποῖον οἶκον οἰκοδομήσετέ μοι; λέγει κύριος· ἢ τίς τόπος τῆς καταπαύσεώς μου; Οὐχὶ ἡ χείρ μου ἐποίησεν ταῦτα πάντα;
Σκληροτράχηλοι καὶ ἀπερίτμητοι τῇ καρδίᾳ καὶ τοῖς ὠσίν, ὑμεῖς ἀεὶ τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ ἀντιπίπτετε· ὡς οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν, καὶ ὑμεῖς. Τίνα τῶν προφητῶν οὐκ ἐδίωξαν οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν; Καὶ ἀπέκτειναν τοὺς προκαταγγείλαντας περὶ τῆς ἐλεύσεως τοῦ δικαίου, οὗ νῦν ὑμεῖς προδόται καὶ φονεῖς γεγένησθε· οἵτινες ἐλάβετε τὸν νόμον εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων, καὶ οὐκ ἐφυλάξατε. Ἀκούοντες δὲ ταῦτα, διεπρίοντο ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν, καὶ ἔβρυχον τοὺς ὀδόντας ἐπʼ αὐτόν. Ὑπάρχων δὲ πλήρης πνεύματος ἁγίου, ἀτενίσας εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, εἶδεν δόξαν θεοῦ, καὶ Ἰησοῦν ἑστῶτα ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ εἶπεν, Ἰδού, θεωρῶ τοὺς οὐρανοὺς ἀνεῳγμένους, καὶ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκ δεξιῶν ἑστῶτα τοῦ θεοῦ. Κράξαντες δὲ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, συνέσχον τὰ ὦτα αὐτῶν, καὶ ὥρμησαν ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἐπʼ αὐτόν· καὶ ἐκβαλόντες ἔξω τῆς πόλεως, ἐλιθοβόλουν· καὶ οἱ μάρτυρες ἀπέθεντο τὰ ἱμάτια παρὰ τοὺς πόδας νεανίου καλουμένου Σαύλου. Καὶ ἐλιθοβόλουν τὸν Στέφανον, ἐπικαλούμενον καὶ λέγοντα, Κύριε Ἰησοῦ, δέξαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου. Θεὶς δὲ τὰ γόνατα, ἔκραξεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, Κύριε, μὴ στήσῃς αὐτοῖς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ταύτην. Καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἐκοιμήθη.
The Reading is from Matthew 21:33-42
The Lord said this parable, "There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.' And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it was marvelous in our eyes?'"
Κατὰ Ματθαῖον 21.33-42
Εἶπεν ὁ Κύριος τήν παραβολὴν ταύτην· ῎Αλλην παραβολὴν ἀκούσατε. ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν οἰκοδεσπότης, ὅστις ἐφύτευσεν ἀμπελῶνα καὶ φραγμὸν αὐτῷ περιέθηκε καὶ ὤρυξεν ἐν αὐτῷ ληνὸν καὶ ᾠκοδόμησε πύργον, καὶ ἐξέδοτο αὐτὸν γεωργοῖς καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν.ὅτε δὲ ἤγγισεν ὁ καιρὸς τῶν καρπῶν, ἀπέστειλε τοὺς δούλους αὐτοῦ πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς λαβεῖν τοὺς καρποὺς αὐτοῦ.καὶ λαβόντες οἱ γεωργοὶ τοὺς δούλους αὐτοῦ ὃν μὲν ἔδειραν, ὃν δὲ ἀπέκτειναν, ὃν δὲ ἐλιθοβόλησαν.πάλιν ἀπέστειλεν ἄλλους δούλους πλείονας τῶν πρώτων, καὶ ἐποίησαν αὐτοῖς ὡσαύτως.ὕστερον δὲ ἀπέστειλε πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ λέγων· ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἱόν μου.οἱ δὲ γεωργοὶ ἰδόντες τὸν υἱὸν εἶπον ἐν ἑαυτοῖς· οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος· δεῦτε ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτὸν καὶ κατάσχωμεν τὴν κληρονομίαν αὐτοῦ.καὶ λαβόντες αὐτὸν ἐξέβαλον ἔξω τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος, καὶ ἀπέκτειναν.ὅταν οὖν ἔλθῃ ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος, τί ποιήσει τοῖς γεωργοῖς ἐκείνοις;λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· κακοὺς κακῶς ἀπολέσει αὐτούς, καὶ τὸν ἀμπελῶνα ἐκδώσεται ἄλλοις γεωργοῖς, οἵτινες ἀποδώσουσιν αὐτῷ τοὺς καρποὺς ἐν τοῖς καιροῖς αὐτῶν.λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· οὐδέποτε ἀνέγνωτε ἐν ταῖς γραφαῖς, λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες,οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας·παρὰ Κυρίου ἐγένετο αὕτη,καὶ ἔστι θαυμαστὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν;
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ ΚΖ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἀποστόλου Πρωτομάρτυρος καὶ Ἀρχιδιακόνου Στεφάνου, ἑνὸς τῶν ἑπτὰ Διακόνων.
Λόγων στεφάνοις, οἷα τιμίοις λίθοις,
Στέφω Στέφανον, ὃν προέστεψαν λίθοι.
Εἰκάδι λαΐνεος Στέφανον μόρος ἑβδόμῃ εἷλεν.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρὸς ἡμῶν Θεοδώρου τοῦ Γραπτοῦ, ἀδελφοῦ Θεοφάνους τοῦ Ποιητοῦ.
Αὐχεῖν ἔχει τι καὶ Θεόδωρος μέγα,
Ἐκ γῆς ἀπαίρων· ὡς μέγα, στίξις θέας.
Saint Stephen was a Jew, by race, and, as some say, a disciple of Gamaliel, the teacher of the Law mentioned in Acts 5:34 and 22:3. He was the first of the seven deacons whom the Apostles established in Jerusalem to care for the poor, and to distribute alms to them. Being a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, he performed great signs and wonders among the people. While disputing with the Jews concerning Jesus, and wisely refuting their every contradiction, so that no one was able to withstand the wisdom and the spirit whereby he spake, he was slandered as a blasphemer and was dragged off to the Sanhedrin of the elders. There with boldness he proved from the divine Scriptures the coming of the Just One (Jesus), of Whom they had become the betrayers and murderers, and he reproved their faithless and hardheartedness. And finally, gazing into Heaven and beholding the divine glory, he said: "Lo, I see the Heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." But when they heard this, they stopped up their ears, and with anger cast him out of the city and stoned him, while he was calling out and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then, imitating the long-suffering of the Master, he bent his knees and prayed in a loud voice for them that were stoning him, and he said, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge," And saying this, he fell asleep (Acts 6, 7), thus becoming the first among the Martyrs of the Church of Christ.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Βασίλειον διάδημα, εστέφθη σή κορυφή, εξ άθλων ών υπέμεινας, υπέρ Χριστού τού Θεού, Μαρτύρων πρωτόαθλε, σύ γάρ τήν Ιουδαίων, απελέγξας μανίαν, είδές σου τόν Σωτήρα, τού Πατρός δεξιόθεν, Αυτόν ούν εκδυσώπει αεί, υπέρ τών ψυχών ημών.
The crown of the Kingdom hath adorned the brow of thy head because of the contests that thou hast endured for Christ God, thou first of the martyred Saints; for when thou hadst censured the Jews' madness, thou sawest Christ thy Saviour standing at the right hand of the Father. O Stephen, ever pray Him for us, that He would save our souls.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Ὁ Δεσπότης χθὲς ἡμῖν, διὰ σαρκὸς ἐπεδήμει, καὶ ὁ δοῦλος σήμερον, ἀπὸ σαρκὸς ἐξεδήμει, χθὲς μὲν γάρ, ὁ Βασιλεύων σαρκὶ ἐτέχθη, σήμερον δέ, ὁ οἰκέτης λιθοβολεῖται, δι' αὐτὸν καὶ τελειοῦται, ὁ Πρωτομάρτυς καὶ θεῖος Στέφανος.
Yesterday the Master arrived in the flesh, today the servant departs from the flesh. Yesterday He who reigns was born. Today the servant dies for Him by stoning, the Protomartyr, the divine Stephen.
Saint Theophanes, the brother of Saint Theodore the Branded, was a Palestinian by race. Both were monks at the Monastery of Saint Sabbas. They were called "the Branded" because Theophilus, the last of the Iconoclast emperors, had twelve iambic verses branded by hot irons on their foreheads and then sent them into exile, where Theodore died in the year 838. After the death of Theophilus in 842, Theophanes was elected Bishop of Nicaea. Both brothers composed many canons and hymns, thereby adorning the services of the Church.
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Θείοις στίγμασι, σεσημασμένος, δώρον έμψυχον, τώ Ζωοδότη, προσηνέχθης θεοφόρε Θεόδωρε, ασκητικαίς δωρεαίς γάρ κοσμούμενος, ομολογίας αγώσι διέλαμψας. Πάτερ Όσιε, Χριστόν τόν Θεόν εκέτευε, δωρήσασθαι ημίν τό μέγα έλεος.
Guide of Orthodoxy, teacher of piety and holiness, luminary of the world, God-inspired adornment of monastics, O wise Theodore, by thy teachings thou hast enlightened all, O harp of the Spirit. Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Τού Χριστού σεβόμενος, πανευσεβώς τήν Εικόνα, διωγμούς υπέμεινας, καί κακουχίας καί θλίψεις, όθεν δή, Ορθοδοξίας άγαλμα θείον, γέγονας, ως αριστεύσας κατά τής πλάνης, διά τούτο σε τιμώμεν, Ιερομύστα Πάτερ Θεόδωρε.
Thou didst piously revere the sacred icon of Christ God, for Whose sake thou didst endure all persecutions and hardships; so didst thou become a pillar of Orthodoxy, having triumphed over every manner of error. Hence, O Theodore, we honour and magnify thee as a great champion of faith.
Μέσα στην εορτή των γενεθλίων του Χριστού, εορτάζεται σήμερα η "γενέθλιος ημέρα" του αγίου Πρωτομάρτυρος και Πρωτοδιακόνου Στεφάνου. Ο Στέφανος, ο "πλήρης πίστεως και δυνάμεως", είναι το πρώτο θύμα, μετά τον "άμωμον" που πέθανε στο Σταυρό. "Πρώτος εν διακόνοις, πρώτος και εν μάρτυσιν", όπως ψάλλει η Εκκλησία. Ο Ευαγγελιστής Λουκάς στις Πράξεις των Αποστόλων μας δίνει το πρώτο "μαρτύριον" της Εκκλησίας - την δραματική απολογία και τον θάνατο του Πρωτομάρτυρος, την πρώτη μαρτυρία για τον Ιησού και την ανάσταση, επισφραγισμένη με την θυσία και το αίμα του Μάρτυρος. Η τελευταία λέξη στο "μαρτύριον", εμπνευσμένη στον Ευαγγελιστή από το Άγιον Πνεύμα, είναι το "εκοιμήθη", γεμάτη παρηγοριά κι ελπίδα. Γι' αυτό ψάλλει η Εκκλησία, κάνοντας ύμνο τα λόγια του Μεγάλου Βασιλείου: "Πανεύφημοι Μάρτυρες, υμάς ουχ η γη εκάλυψεν, αλλ' ουρανός υπεδέξατο...".
Ὁ Ἅγιος Στέφανος ὁ Πρωτομάρτυρας καὶ Ἀρχιδιάκονος
Ἦταν ἕνας ἀπὸ τοὺς πιὸ διακεκριμένους μεταξὺ τῶν ἑπτὰ διακόνων, ποὺ ἐξέλεξαν οἱ πρῶτοι χριστιανοὶ γιὰ νὰ ἐπιστατοῦν στὶς κοινὲς τράπεζες τῶν ἀδελφῶν, ὥστε νὰ μὴ γίνονται λάθη. Ἂν καὶ κουραστικὴ ἡ εὐθύνη τοῦ ἐπιστάτη γιὰ τόσους ἀδελφούς, παρ᾿ ὅλα αὐτὰ ὁ Στέφανος ἔβρισκε καιρὸ καὶ δύναμη γιὰ νὰ κηρύττει τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Καὶ ὅπως ἀναφέρει ἡ Ἁγία Γραφή, «Στέφανος πλήρης πίστεως καὶ δυνάμεως ἐποίει τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα μεγάλα ἐν τῷ λαῷ». Δηλαδὴ ὁ Στέφανος, ποὺ ἦταν γεμάτος πίστη καὶ χάρισμα εὐγλωττίας δυνατό, ἔκανε μεταξὺ τοῦ λαοῦ μεγάλα θαύματα, ποὺ προκαλοῦσαν κατάπληξη καὶ ἀποδείκνυαν τὴν ἀλήθεια τοῦ χριστιανικοῦ κηρύγματος. Οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ὅμως, καθὼς ἦταν προκατειλημμένοι, ἐξαπέλυσαν συκοφάντες ἀνάμεσα στὸ λαό, ποὺ διέδιδαν ὅτι ἄκουσαν τὸ Στέφανο νὰ βλασφημεῖ τὸ Μωϋσῆ καὶ τὸ Θεό. Μὲ ἀφορμὴ λοιπὸν αὐτὲς τὶς συκοφαντίες, ποὺ οἱ ἴδιοι εἶχαν ἐνσπείρει, ἅρπαξαν μὲ μῖσος τὸ Στέφανο καὶ τὸν ὁδήγησαν μπροστὰ στὸ Συνέδριο, τάχα γιὰ νὰ ἀπολογηθεῖ. Ἡ ἀπολογία τοῦ Στεφάνου ὑπῆρξε πρότυπο τόλμης καὶ θάῤῥους. Χωρὶς νὰ φοβηθεῖ καθόλου, ἐξαπέλυσε λόγια-κεραυνοὺς ἐναντίον τῶν Ἰουδαίων. Καὶ ἀπὸ ὑπόδικος, ὀρθώθηκε θυελλώδης ἐλεγκτὴς καὶ κατήγορος. Τότε, ἀκράτητοι ἀπὸ τὸ μῖσος οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, τὸν ἔσυραν ἔξω ἀπὸ τὴν πόλη, ὅπου τὸν θανάτωσαν μὲ λιθοβολισμό. Ἐκεῖ φάνηκε καὶ ἡ μεγάλη συγχωρητικότητα τοῦ Στεφάνου πρὸς τοὺς ἐχθρούς του μὲ τὴν φράση του, «Κύριε, μὴ στήσης αὐτοῖς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ταύτην». Κύριε, μὴ λογαριάσεις σ᾿ αὐτοὺς τὴν ἁμαρτία αὐτή.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Θεόδωρος ὁ Γραπτός
Ἦταν γιὸς τοῦ Ἰωανᾶ, ἀπὸ τὴν Παλαιστίνη, καὶ ὑπῆρξε μαθητὴς μαζὶ μὲ τὸν ἀδελφό του Θεοφάνη, στὴ μονὴ τοῦ ἁγίου Σάββα. Στὰ χρόνια τοῦ βασιλιᾶ Λέοντα τοῦ Ε´ ἦλθαν στὴν Κωνσταντινούπολη, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ δυὸ γιὰ τὸ ζήτημα τῶν ἁγίων εἰκόνων, περιορίστηκαν σὲ κάποια Μονὴ στὸ Στόμιο τῆς Μαύρης Θάλασσας. Ὁ βασιλιὰς Μιχαὴλ ὁ Τραυλὸς τοὺς ἐπανέφερε, ἀλλὰ αὐτοὶ δὲν θέλησαν νὰ ἐξαγοράσουν τὴν ἡσυχία τους μὲ ἀδιαφορία στὰ ἐκκλησιαστικὰ ζητήματα καὶ νὰ νεκρώσουν τὶς ἱερὲς πεποιθήσεις τους. Γι᾿ αὐτὸ ἐκδήλωσαν μὲ θάῤῥος τὰ φρονήματά τους καὶ ἔτσι πάλι περιορίστηκαν ἀπὸ τὸν βασιλιά, σὲ κάποιο τόπο κοντὰ στὸ Σωσθένιο. Ἀργότερα ἐπὶ Θεοφίλου τοῦ Εἰκονομάχου, στάλθηκαν στὴν Ἀφουσία. Ἂν καὶ ἐκεῖ εἶχαν μείνει πολλὰ χρόνια καὶ εἶχαν αὐστηρὴ ἐπιτήρηση, αὐτοὶ ἐξακολουθοῦσαν νὰ φωνάζουν κατὰ τῆς εἰκονομαχίας. Τότε ὁ Θεόφιλος, γεμάτος θυμό, τοὺς ἔφερε στὴν Κωνσταντινούπολη, ὅπου τοὺς μαστίγωσε ἀνελέητα. Καὶ κατόπιν χάραξε στὰ μέτωπά τους μὲ πυρακτωμένο σίδερο, δώδεκα στίχους γιὰ νὰ τοὺς στιγματίσει. Ἀπ᾿ αὐτὴ τὴν αἰτία ὀνομάστηκαν καὶ οἱ δυὸ Γραπτοί. Ἐπὶ δὲ τοῦ Πατριάρχου Ἰωάννου Ζ´ (836 ἢ 837), ἐξορίστηκαν πάλι στὴν Ἀπάμεια τῆς Βιθυνίας, ὅπου ὁ Θεόδωρος πέθανε καὶ τάφηκε ἀπὸ τὸν ἀδελφό του Θεοφάνη. Ἀργότερα τὸ λείψανό του μεταφέρθηκε στὴ Χαλκηδόνα. Ὁ ἑορτασμός του μᾶς ὑπενθυμίζει πόσους ἀγῶνες κίνησαν οἱ πιστοί, γιὰ νὰ διαφυλαχτεῖ ἡ ὀρθόδοξη διδασκαλία καὶ λατρεία. Καὶ γιὰ τ᾿ ἀδέλφια δίνει λαμπρὸ μάθημα, γιὰ τὸ ὅτι δὲν ὑπάρχει τίποτα συγκινητικότερο καὶ τιμητικότερο, ἀπὸ τὸ νὰ ζοῦν ἀφοσιωμένοι μέχρι θανάτου γιὰ τὴν νίκη τῆς ὀρθόδοξης Ἐκκλησίας.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Θεόδωρος ὁ Α´ Ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Κωνσταντινουπόλεως
Ὁ Ἅγιος αὐτὸς ἦταν γέννημα καὶ θρέμμα τῆς Κωνσταντινουπόλεως καὶ ἔζησε στὰ χρόνια τοῦ Βασιλιᾶ Κωνσταντίνου Δ´ τοῦ Πωγωνάτου (668-685). Λόγω τῆς μεγάλης του ἀρετῆς καὶ εὐλάβειας, χειροτονήθηκε Πρεσβύτερος τῆς Ἁγίας Σοφίας καὶ κατόπιν ἔγινε σύγκελλος καὶ σκευοφύλακας αὐτῆς. Ἐπειδὴ δὲ ὁ τότε Πατριάρχης Κωνσταντῖνος πέθανε, ἀπὸ τὸν βασιλιὰ καὶ τὴν σύγκλητο, ἀναγκάστηκε νὰ χειροτονηθεῖ Πατριάρχης ὁ Θεόδωρος. Θεάρεστα ἀφοῦ διακυβέρνησε τὴν Ἐκκλησία γιὰ δυὸ χρόνια καὶ τρεῖς μῆνες, ἀπομακρύνθηκε τοῦ θρόνου (678) ἀπὸ τὸν βασιλιὰ Κωνσταντίνο Πωγωνᾶτο. Ἡ ἀπομάκρυνση αὐτὴ δὲν μάρανε τὸν θεῖο ζῆλο τοῦ Πατριάρχη Θεοδώρου καὶ ἀφοῦ πέρασε τὸ ὑπόλοιπό της ζωῆς του ἐπίσης θεάρεστα, ἀπεβίωσε εἰρηνικά. (Ἄλλες Συναξαριακὲς πηγὲς ἀναφέρουν, ὅτι ὁ Ἁγ. Θεόδωρος, ἐπανῆλθε στὸν θρόνο του μετὰ τὸν θάνατο τοῦ πατρ. Γεωργίου Α´ καὶ πατριάρχευσε ἀπὸ τὸ 683 ἕως τὸ 686).
Ὁ Ἅγιος Μαυρίκιος, ὁ γιός του Φωτεινὸς καὶ οἱ Ἅγιοι 70 Μάρτυρες
Αὐτοὶ μαρτύρησαν στὰ χρόνια τοῦ βασιλιᾶ Μαξιμιανοῦ (286-305) καὶ ἦταν στρατιῶτες ποὺ διέμεναν στὴν Ἀπάμεια τῆς Βιθυνίας τοῦ Πόντου. Ὅταν πέρασε ἀπὸ ἐκεῖ ὁ Μαξιμιανός, καταγγέλθηκαν ὅτι ἦταν χριστιανοί. Ὅταν τοὺς κάλεσε ὁ βασιλιάς, οἱ Ἅγιοι ὁμολόγησαν καὶ μπροστά του ὅτι ἦταν χριστιανοὶ καὶ ἀμέσως τότε τοὺς ἀφαιρέθηκαν οἱ στρατιωτικὲς ζῶνες καὶ τοὺς ἔριξαν στὴ φυλακή. Ὅταν μετὰ τρεῖς μέρες ῥωτήθηκαν καὶ πάλι, ἔμειναν ἀμετάθετοι στὸ φρόνημά τους καὶ ἔτσι τοὺς κρέμασαν καὶ τοὺς ξέσχισαν τὶς πλευρές. Ὁ δὲ Μαξιμιανός, γιὰ νὰ κάνει πικρότερο τὸ μαρτύριο τοῦ Μαυρικίου, ἀποκεφάλισε μπροστά του τὸν γιό του Φωτεινό. Αὐτοὺς δέ, τοὺς πῆγε σὲ τόπο μὲ βρώμικα βαλτόνερα, ὅπου τοὺς ἔδεσε γυμνοὺς σὲ πασσάλους καὶ τοὺς ἄλειψε μὲ μέλι. Οἱ μάρτυρες, ἔμειναν ἔτσι δεμένοι ἐπὶ 10 ἡμέρες, τελικὰ ὅμως, ἀπὸ τὰ τσιμπήματα τῶν ἐντόμων, παρέδωσαν μαρτυρικὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τους στὸ Θεό.
Holy First Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen
A kinsman of the Apostle Paul, the Holy Stephen was one of the seven deacons (with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas) first appointed by the Church to minister to the people; and it pleased God to receive him as the Church's first Martyr for Christ. Read the long, beautiful and edifying account of his witness in the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 6-8. When Stephen, "full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people," (Acts 6:8), some members of a synagogue in Jerusalem came to dispute with him and, enraged by his proclamation of Christ, stoned him to death. In his death St Stephen revealed Christ's erasure of the boundary between heaven and earth, and the new communion between man and God: his face shone with the light of the Transfiguration, and he was granted a vision of Christ enthroned at the Father's right hand. His dying words were "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60).
According to holy tradition, the martyrdom of St Stephen occurred exactly a year after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. His body was taken and secretly buried by Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhendrin and secretly a Christian.
Saint Stephen's relics were discovered by the priest Lucian in 415 following a vision. They were translated to the church built for them in Jerusalem by the Empress Eudocia, and later taken to Constantinople.
The Saint's missionary speech before his death (like that of the deacon St Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch) reminds us that those appointed to serve the Church materially are not barred, or even excused, from proclaiming the glorious Gospel of Christ.
The Holy Disciple (from the Seventy) First-Martyr and ArchDeacon Stephen was the eldest among the Seven Deacons, established by the Apostles themselves, and therefore he is called "archdeacon". He was the Christian First-Martyr, and he suffered for Christ at about age 30. In the words of Asterias, he was "the starting-point of the martyrs, the instructor of suffering for Christ, the foundation of righteous confession, in that Stephen was first to shed his blood for the Gospel".
Being filled of the Holy Spirit, Saint Stephen with daring persuasively preached the Christian teaching and defeated Jewish teachers of the Law in disputation. For this the Jews maligned Saint Stephen, saying that he had uttered blasphemy against God and against Moses. Under such charges, Saint Stephen came before the Sanhedrin and the high-priest. He spoke a fiery speech, in which he expounded the history of the Jewish nation, and he boldly denounced the Jews for persecuting the prophets and also the execution by them of the awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. During the time of his speaking, Saint Stephen suddenly saw the heavens opened and Jesus Christ in glory, standing at the right side of God. He exclaimed loudly about this. Then the Jews, covering over their ears, rushed upon him, dragged him out of the city and stoned him, but the holy martyr prayed for his murderers. Afar off on the heights stood the Mother of God with the holy Apostle John the Theologian, and She prayed fervently for the martyr. Before death Saint Stephen uttered: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, wherein O Lord, impute this not to them in sin", -- and then with joy he gave up his pure soul to Christ. The body of the holy First-Martyr Stephen, left for devouring by beasts, was secretly taken up by the illustrious Jewish teacher Gamaliel and his son Habib, and given burial on his estate. And afterwards these both believed in Christ and accepted holy Baptism.
The Monk Theodore the Confessor, and his brother the Confessor Theophanes the Lettered-Upon, were born in Jerusalem of Christian parents. The elder was Theodore. From early childhood he shunned childish amusements and loved to visit church services. Together with his younger brother Theophanes (Comm. 11 October), he was sent for education to the presbyter at the Laura-monastery of Saint Sava. Both brothers accepted monasticism. Saint Theodore was raised to the dignity of presbyter.
When the iconoclast emperor, Leo V the Armenian (813-820), expelled and replaced the pious ruler Michael I Rangabes (811-813), he began to patronise the Iconoclast heresy. The Patriarch of Jerusalem sent both brothers to Constantinople for the defense of Orthodoxy. Arriving in the Byzantine capital, the holy confessors boldly entered into the defense of Icon-Veneration. In a contest of words Leo was humiliated. He gave orders to beat both brothers mercilessly, and then had them sent off into exile, strictly forbidding anyone to help them in any way.
Under the subsequent emperors, Michael II (820-829), and particularly under the harsh iconoclast Theophilos (829-842), both brothers returned from exile, and again they were urged to concur with the Iconoclast heresy, but they firmly and bravely endured all the tortures, and again they were sent off into exile. But later they again returned. This time they were subject to fierce torture, and finally, there was done upon them an unprecedented torment. With red-hot needles they marked branding upon their faces the writing as it were of their disgrace -- 12 poetic lines, in which it described the holy confessors as "vessels of superstitious errors". Hence the title ascribed to the holy brothers: "the Lettered-Upon" ("Nachertanni", "Graptoi"). Before torture the city official asked Saint Theodore to take communion with iconoclasts, -- for which they promised him freedom. But the holy martyr replied: "It is all the same, as they say: 'We shall only cut off thy head, and then go whither thou willest'". After torture the holy brothers were imprisoned in the locality of Apameia, where Saint Theodore died in about the year 840. Saint Theophanes survived the ending of the Iconoclast heresy, and died in the dignity of Bishop of Nicea. The Monk Theophanes was author of many compositions in defense of Orthodoxy. The relics of the MonkMartyr Theodore were transferred to Chalcedon, where healings were done by them.
Sainted Theodore, Archbishop of Constantinople, was a native of Constantinople, led a pious life, was raised to the dignity of presbyter and served in the cathedra of Saint Sophia, where also he was the keeper of vessels. In the year 676 he was chosen Patriarch of Constantinople, although after two years he was deposed through slander. But the truth triumphed, and Saint Theodore in 683 was again raised onto the Patriarchal throne, and he then guided the Constantinople Church to the very end of his life. He died in about the year 686.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. The Holy Protomartyr Stephen the Archdeacon
Stephen was a kinsman of the Apostle Paul and one of those Jews who lived in the Hellenic provinces. Stephen was the first of the seven deacons whom the holy apostles ordained and appointed to the service of assisting the poor in Jerusalem. For this, he is called the archdeacon. By the power of his faith, Stephen worked great miracles among the people. The wicked Jews disputed with him, but they were always defeated by his wisdom and the power of the Spirit, Who acted through him. Then the shameful Jews, accustomed to calumnies and slander, incited the people and the elders of the people against the innocent Stephen, slandering him as though he had blasphemed against God and against Moses. False witnesses were quickly found who confirmed this. Stephen then stood before the people, and all saw his face as it had been the face of an angel (Acts 6:15), that is, his face was illumined with the light of grace as was once the face of Moses when he spoke with God. Stephen opened his mouth and enumerated the many good works and miracles that God had performed in the past for the people of Israel, as well as the many crimes and opposition to God on the part of this people. He especially rebuked them for the killing of Christ the Lord, calling them betrayers and murderers (Acts 7:52). And while they gnashed their teeth, Stephen beheld and saw the heavens open and the glory of God. That which he saw, he declared to the Jews: Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God! (Acts 7:56). Then the malicious men took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Among his persecutors was his kinsman Saul, later the Apostle Paul. At that time, the Most-holy Theotokos, standing on a rock at a distance with St. John the Theologian, witnessed the martyrdom of this first martyr for the truth of her Son and God, and she prayed to God for Stephen. This occurred one year after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. Gamaliel, a prince of the Jews and a secret Christian, clandestinely took St. Stephen's body and buried it on his own estate. Thus, this first among the Christian martyrs gloriously reposed and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ God.
2. The Venerable Martyrs Theodore and Theophanes the Branded
Theodore and Theophanes were blood brothers, born in Palestine and well educated in both secular and spiritual wisdom. They were monks in the community of St. Sava the Sanctified and later were ordained presbyters. They suffered harshly for their defense of icons under three emperors: Leo the Armenian, Michael Balbus and Theophilus. The demented Theophilus beat them with his own hands and ordered that they be branded with iron on their faces with derisive verses, for which they were called "the Branded." They were cast into prison in the town of Apamea in Bithynia. Theodore died there from his pains and wounds. Theophanes, freed at the time of the Emperors Theodore and Michael, was consecrated Metropolitan of Nicaea by Patriarch Methodius. St. Theodore died in the year 833. These two wonderful brothers suffered for Christ and received a wonderful reward from Him in the Immortal Kingdom of Light.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Protomartyr Stephen the Archdeacon
Upon Stephen, illumined by the Spirit,
The Jewish murderers rushed.
Bloody Stephen knelt
And in a loud voice cried out to God:
"O Lord, Who from the Cross forgave
The greatest sin to ever shake the earth,
The greatest sin that heaven ever beheld,
Thou forgavest Thy murderers.
Now, O Most-gracious One, forgive mine also!
This crime-what is it compared to that one?
And I, what am I, compared to my Lord?"
Saying this he gave his spirit to God.
The angry elders, ugly cowards,
ispersed after they killed him.
Then from heaven angels flew down
Around the body of the Protomartyr.
They chanted a hymn in chorus to him
And carried his paradisal soul to Paradise.
A story of the Divine Christ-child: Both great prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, prophesied that the Lord would come to Egypt and that His presence would shake the pagan temples and destroy the idols. Isaiah wrote: Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at His presence (Isaiah 19:1, cf. Jeremiah 43:12-13). When the divine refugees came to the city of Hermopolis (Cairo), they approached a pagan temple, and all the idols in that temple suddenly fell down and were shattered. St. Palladius writes of this in his Lausiac History: "We saw the pagan temple there, in which all the carved idols fell to the ground at the coming of the Savior." In a certain place called Sirin there were 365 idols. When the Most-holy Virgin entered that temple with the Divine Child in her arms, all these idols fell down and were shattered. All the idols throughout Egypt fell in the same manner. The Holy Prophet Jeremiah, living in Egypt in old age, had prophesied to the pagan priests of Egypt that all the idols would fall and all the graven images would be destroyed at the time when a Virgin Mother with a Child, born in a manger, would come to Egypt. The pagan priests remembered well this prophecy. In accordance with it, they carved out a representation of a Virgin as she lay on a bed and, next to her in a manger, her young Child wrapped in swaddling clothes; and they venerated this representation. King Ptolemy asked the pagan priests what this representation meant, and they replied that it was a mystery, foretold by a prophet to their fathers, and that they were awaiting the fulfillment of this mystery. And, indeed, this mystery was fulfilled, and revealed not only in Egypt but also in the entire world.
Contemplate the wisdom of the Most-holy Virgin Mary:
1. How she spoke wisely with the angel of God (Luke 1:28-38);
2. How she pondered in her heart all that had happened at the birth of the Lord Jesus and all that was said of Him;
3. How, at Cana, she wisely told the servants to do whatever He told them.
on the Most-holy Virgin, the Theotokos
My soul doth magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46).
Brethren, we have in total only a few words spoken by the Most-holy Theotokos recorded in the Gospels. All of her words pertain to the magnification of God. She was silent before men but her soul conversed unceasingly with God. Every day and every hour, she found a new reason and incentive to magnify God. If only we were able to know and to record all her magnifications of God throughout her whole life, oh, how many books would it take! But, even by this one magnification, which she spoke before her kinswoman Elizabeth, the mother of the great Prophet and Forerunner John, every Christian can evaluate what a fragrant and God-pleasing flower was her most holy soul. This is but one wonderful canticle of the soul of the Theotokos, which has come down to us through the Gospel. However, such canticles were without number in the course of the life of the Most-blessed One. Even before she heard the Gospel from the lips of her Son, she knew how to speak with God and to glorify Him in accordance with the teaching of the Gospel. This knowledge came to her from the Holy Spirit of God, whose grace constantly poured into her like clear water into a pure vessel. Her soul magnified God with canticles throughout her whole life, and therefore God magnified her above the Cherubim and the Seraphim. Likewise, small and sinful as we are, the same Lord will magnify in His Kingdom us who magnify her, if we exert ourselves to fill this brief life with the magnification of God in our deeds, words, thoughts and prayers.
O Most-holy, Most-pure and Most-blessed Theotokos, cover us with the wings of thy prayers.
To thee and thy Son and our Lord be glory and praise forever. Amen.