FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
Saturday before Epiphany
Apodosis of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
Melania the Younger, Nun of Rome
Holy Father Zoticus, the Priest of Orphanotrophus
Ἀπόδοσις τῆς Ἑορτῆς τῶν Χριστουγέννων.
Τῆς Ὁσίας Μητρός ἡμῶν Μελάνης τῆς Ρωμαίας καί τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρός ἡμῶν Ζωτικοῦ Πρεσβυτέρου, τοῦ Ὀρφανοτρόφου.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
Letter to Timothy 3:13-16; 4:1-5
TIMOTHY, my son, those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion:
God was manifested in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen by angels,
preached among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
Πρὸς Τιμόθεον α' 3:13-16;4:1-5
Τέκνον Τιμόθεε, οἱ καλῶς διακονήσαντες βαθμὸν ἑαυτοῖς καλὸν περιποιοῦνται, καὶ πολλὴν παρρησίαν ἐν πίστει τῇ ἐν χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Ταῦτά σοι γράφω, ἐλπίζων ἐλθεῖν πρὸς σὲ τάχιον· ἐὰν δὲ βραδύνω, ἵνα εἰδῇς πῶς δεῖ ἐν οἴκῳ θεοῦ ἀναστρέφεσθαι, ἥτις ἐστὶν ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος, στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας. Καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα ἐστὶν τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον· θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί, ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι, ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις, ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν, ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ, ἀνελήφθη ἐν δόξῃ. Τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ῥητῶς λέγει, ὅτι ἐν ὑστέροις καιροῖς ἀποστήσονταί τινες τῆς πίστεως, προσέχοντες πνεύμασιν πλάνοις καὶ διδασκαλίαις δαιμονίων, ἐν ὑποκρίσει ψευδολόγων, κεκαυτηριασμένων τὴν ἰδίαν συνείδησιν, κωλυόντων γαμεῖν, ἀπέχεσθαι βρωμάτων, ἃ ὁ θεὸς ἔκτισεν εἰς μετάληψιν μετὰ εὐχαριστίας τοῖς πιστοῖς καὶ ἐπεγνωκόσιν τὴν ἀλήθειαν. Ὅτι πᾶν κτίσμα θεοῦ καλόν, καὶ οὐδὲν ἀπόβλητον, μετὰ εὐχαριστίας λαμβανόμενον· ἁγιάζεται γὰρ διὰ λόγου θεοῦ καὶ ἐντεύξεως.
The Reading is from Matthew 3:1-6
At that time, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. " Now John wore a garment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Κατὰ Ματθαῖον 3.1-6
Τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ, παραγίνεται ᾿Ιωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς κηρύσσων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῆς ᾿Ιουδαίαςκαὶ λέγων· μετανοεῖτε· ἤγγικε γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ῥηθεὶς ὑπὸ ῾Ησαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος· φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ,ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν Κυρίου,εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ. Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ ᾿Ιωάννης εἶχε τὸ ἔνδυμα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τριχῶν καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, ἡ δὲ τροφὴ αὐτοῦ ἦν ἀκρίδες καὶ μέλι ἄγριον.Τότε ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν ῾Ιεροσόλυμα καὶ πᾶσα ἡ ᾿Ιουδαία καὶ πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ ᾿Ιορδάνου,καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἐν τῷ ᾿Ιορδάνῃ ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ ΛΑ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Μνήμη τῆς Ὁσίας Μητρὸς ἡμῶν Μελάνης της Ῥωμαίας.
Οὐχ ὑλικὴ σε χεὶρ Μελάνη καὶ μέλαν,
Θεὸς δέ, κἂν τέθνηκας, ἐν ζῶσι γράφει.
Πρώτη ἐν τριακοστῇ ἀπῆρε βίοιο Μελάνη.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου Μάρτυρος καὶ Πρεσβυτέρου Ζωτικοῦ τοῦ Ὀρφανοτρόφου.
Πώλων συρόντων, Ζωτικὸς σκιρτῶν τρέχει,
ᾯ βαλβὶς ἡ γῆ, τέρμα δὲ δρόμου πόλος.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ Ἅγιος Γελάσιος ἐν εἰρήνῃ τελειοῦται.
Ὁ Γελάσιος, ἄχρι καὶ τέλους βίου,
Τὸν ἄξιον γέλωτος ἦν γελῶν βίον.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, αἱ Ἅγιαι δέκα Παρθένοι, αἱ ἐν Νικομηδείᾳ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς διατρηθεῖσαι καὶ τὰς πλευρὰς ξεσθεῖσαι, τελειοῦνται.
Διπλοῦν τὸν ἆθλον, τρῆσιν εἶτα καὶ ξέσιν,
Χοροῦ γινώσκω διπλοπενταπαρθένου.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Ἡ ἁγία Μάρτυς Ὀλυμπιοδώρα πυρὶ τελειοῦται.
Ἀγῶνι πρὸς πῦρ τῆς Ὀλυμπιοδώρας,
Ὕμνος τὸ δῶρον, οὐκ Ὀλυμπίων πίτυς.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Ὁ Ἅγιος Γάϊος ἐν εἰρήνῃ τελειοῦται.
Πολλοὺς ἀνέτλη Γάϊος θεῖος πόνους,
Καὶ νῦν τὰ λαμπρὰ τῶν πόνων ἔχει γέρα.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Μάρτυρες Βούσιρις, Γαυδέντιος καὶ Νέμη ξίφει τελειοῦνται.
Ταῖς αὐτῶν ἁγίαις πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεὸς ἐλέησον, καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
Saint Melania the Younger, who was born in 388, was the grand-daughter of Saint Melania the Elder (see June 8). Her father Publicola was an Eparch of Rome. She was joined in wedlock to a husband and became the mother of two children, both of which she lost shortly thereafter. Thus, having agreed with her husband to pass the rest of their lives in abstinence and chastity, and taking her mother Albina with her, she went off to Africa. They ransomed 8,000 captives; furthermore, they built two monasteries - one for men and one for women - in the city of Tagaste, which was in the district of Tunis. After seven years they moved to Jerusalem. Thereafter Melania shut herself up in a small and narrow hermitage by the Mount of Olives, and wearing away her body away with fasting and vigil, she reposed in 434.
Because of the Apodosis of the Feast of the Nativity on the 31st of this month, the hymns of Saint Melania the Younger are transferred to December 30th along with the Martyr Anysia.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Εν σοί Μήτερ ακριβώς διεσώθη τό κατ' εικόνα, λαβών γάρ τόν σταυρόν, ηκολούθησας τώ Χριστώ, καί πράττων εδίδασκες, υπεροράν μέν σαρκός, παρέρχεται γάρ επιμελείσθαι δέ ψυχής, πράγματος αθανάτου, διό καί μετά Αγγέλων συναγάλλεται, οσία Μελάνη τό πνεύμά σου.
In thee the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother; for taking up thy cross, thou didst follow Christ, and by thy deeds thou didst teach us to overlook the flesh, for it passeth away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal. Wherefore, O righteous Melania, thy spirit rejoiceth with the Angels.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Καταυγασθεῖσα τὴν ψυχὴν φρυκτωρίαις, τοῦ ἀναλάμψαντος ἡμῖν ἐκ Παρθένου, ἐν ἀρεταῖς διέλαμψας Πανεύφημε, πλοῦτον γὰρ σκορπίσασα, ἐπὶ γὴν ἐφθαρμένον, ἐναπεθησαύρισας, τὸν οὐράνιον πλοῦτον, καὶ ἐν ἀσκήσει ἔλαμψας φαιδρώς, Ὅθεν Μελάνη, σὲ πόθω γεραίρομεν.
As a doubly-shining lamp * of truly mystical brightness * do ye shine upon the Church * like a high-towering beacon: * thou with beams of martyr's glory, * O Anysia; * thou with rays of great ascetic deeds, O Melania. * Now together ye are honoured * by Christ your Bridegroom * for your travails in His Name.
Η οσία Μελάνη η Ρωμαία, της οποίας η Εκκλησία σήμερα τιμά την μνήμη, είναι από τις εξοχώτερες μορφές του γυναικείου ασκητικού βίου. Το παράδειγμά της είναι ασφαλής οδηγός σε κείνες, που ξεκινούν να ακολουθήσουν έναν δρόμο έξω από τα μέτρα της ανθρωπίνης φύσεως. Γιατί δεν είναι σπάνιο τέτοιες γυναίκες να άγωνται από έναν επιπόλαιο θρησκευτικό συναισθηματισμό, να πιστεύουν πως αφήκαν τον κόσμο και πως κέρδισαν κι όλα τον ουρανό, ενώ κινδυνεύουν να τάχουν χαμένα και τα δύο. "Εφιέμεναι του άρχειν και το υπακούειν απαναινόμεναι", γίνονται "επιστήμονες κατά της εαυτών σωτηρίας". Ο εγωισμός και η φιλαρχία ακολουθούν τους ανθρώπους παντού κι αλλοίμονο σε κείνους, που ξεκινούν στον δρόμο της τελειότητος έξω από την ιερή τάξη της Εκκλησίας. Μα ας ξαναγυρίσουμε στην οσία Μελάνη κι ας κλείσουμε τον Μικρό Συναξαριστή με τα τελευταία λόγια της Οσίας, από τον Ιώβ: "Ως τω Κυρίω έδοξεν, ούτω και εγένετο".
Ἡ Ὁσία Μελάνη ἡ Ῥωμαία
Ἔζησε στὰ χρόνια ποὺ βασιλιὰς ἦταν ὁ Ὀνώριος, δεύτερος γιὸς τοῦ Μεγάλου Θεοδοσίου. Οἱ γονεῖς της, εὐγενεῖς καὶ πλούσιοι, τὴν πάντρεψαν σὲ μικρὴ ἡλικία καὶ ἀπέκτησε δυὸ παιδιά. Ὅμως μεγάλες δοκιμασίες τὴν περίμεναν. Τὴν μητρική της καρδιὰ σπάραξε ὁ θάνατος τῶν δυὸ παιδιῶν της. Μετὰ ἀπὸ λίγο καὶ ἐντελῶς ξαφνικά, πέθανε ὁ σύζυγός της. Καὶ γιὰ νὰ γεμίσει τὸ πικρὸ ποτήρι τῆς λύπης, χάνει καὶ τοὺς γονεῖς της. Οἱ στιγμὲς δύσκολες. Ποιὸς θὰ τὴν παρηγορήσει; Μὰ ποιὸς ἄλλος; Ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ, ποὺ λέει: «τῇ ἐλπίδι χαίροντες, τῇ θλίψει ὑπομένοντες, τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτεροῦντες». (Ἀπολυτίκιον, τὸ ἴδιο μὲ αὐτὸ τῆς Ἁγίας Ἀνυσίας, 30 Δεκεμβρίου). Δηλαδή, ἡ ἀκλόνητη ἐλπίδα σας στὰ μέλλοντα ἀγαθά, νὰ σᾶς γεμίζει χαρὰ καὶ νὰ σᾶς ἐνισχύει γιὰ νὰ δείχνετε ὑπομονὴ στὴ θλίψη. Καὶ νὰ ἐπιμένετε στὴν προσευχή, συνεχίζει ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἀπὸ τὴν ὁποία θὰ λαμβάνετε σπουδαία βοήθεια στὶς δύσκολες περιστάσεις τῆς ζωῆς σας. Ἔτσι καὶ ἡ Μελάνη, ἀδιάφορη γιὰ τὶς κοσμικὲς ἀπολαύσεις, ἀποσύρθηκε σὲ ἕνα ἐξοχικό της κτῆμα, ὅπου ἀφοσιώθηκε στὴ μελέτη καὶ τὴν προσευχή. Ἐκεῖ ἐπίσης καλλιγραφοῦσε ἱερὰ βιβλία καὶ τὰ ἔδινε νὰ τὰ διαβάζουν οἱ πιστοί. Διέθεσε ὅλη της τὴν περιουσία γιὰ τὴν ἀνακούφιση τῶν φτωχῶν καὶ ἀσθενῶν. Καὶ ἀφοῦ ἐπισκέφθηκε πολλοὺς τόπους βοηθῶντας τοὺς πάσχοντες, κατέληξε στὴν Ἱερουσαλήμ, ὅπου καὶ πέθανε ἀπὸ πλευρίτιδα. Ὁ δὲ Σ. Εὐστρατιάδης γράφει τὰ ἑξῆς γιὰ τὴν Ἁγία αὐτή: »...Αὐτὴ ἣν ἐπὶ τῆς βασιλείας Ὀνωρίου (395-423) Ῥωμαία πλουσία καὶ ἐκ γένους περιφανοῦς καὶ ἐνδόξου. Συζευχθεῖσα παρὰ τὴν θέλησιν αὐτῆς, ἀπεσύρθη μετὰ τὸν θάνατον τοῦ ἀνδρὸς καὶ τῶν δυὸ αὐτῆς τέκνων εἰς ἓν προάστιον τῆς Ῥώμης, ἐπιμελουμένη τῶν πτωχῶν, ὑποδεχόμενη τοὺς ξένους, ἐπισκεπτόμενη τοὺς ἐξόριστους καὶ ἐν φυλακαῖς καὶ θεραπεύουσα τοὺς νοσοῦντας. Μετὰ τὴν ἐκποίησιν τῶν κτημάτων αὐτῆς καὶ διανομὴν τῶν προσόντων εἰς μονὰς καὶ ἐκκλησίας, διὰ τῆς Ἀφρικῆς καὶ Ἀλεξανδρείας κατέλαβε τὰ Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ ἐνεκλείσθη εἰς πενιχρὸν κελλίον ἐκεῖ ἔκτισε καὶ μονὴν εἰς ἣν συνήγαγεν ἐνενήκοντα παρθένους, ἐξ ἰδίων διὰ τὴν διατροφὴν αὐτῶν δαπανῶσα· μικρὸν ἀσθενήσασα ἐκ πλευρίτιδας, μετέλαβε τῶν ἀχράντων μυστηρίων ἐκ τῶν χειρῶν τοῦ ἐπισκόπου Ἐλευθερουπόλεως καὶ ἀνεπαύθη ἐν Κυρίῳ».
Ὁ Ἅγιος Ζωτικός ὁ Ὀρφανοτρόφος
Γεννήθηκε καὶ ἀνατράφηκε στὴ Ῥώμη, ἀπὸ εὐγενῆ οἰκογένεια, μὲ πολλὴ εὐλάβεια καὶ παιδεία. Τὸν στόλιζε πολλὴ φιλανθρωπία καὶ τὸν διέκρινε ἡ εἰλικρινὴς προσπάθεια στὸ νὰ ὑπηρετεῖ τὸν Χριστό, πράττοντας τὶς ἐντολές Του. Γι᾿ αὐτά του τὰ χαρίσματα, ὁ Ζωτικὸς ἦταν πολὺ ἀγαπητὸς στὸν Μεγάλο Κωνσταντῖνο (330 μ.Χ.). Ὁ ὁποῖος, ἀφοῦ ἔκτισε τὴν Κωνσταντινούπολη καὶ τὴν ἀνέδειξε πρωτεύουσα τοῦ κράτους του, προσκάλεσε σ᾿ αὐτὴ τὸν Ζωτικό με ἄλλους εὐσεβεῖς ἄνδρες, γιὰ νὰ τοὺς ἔχει ἐκεῖ πολύτιμους ἐργάτες τῆς χριστιανικῆς ἀγάπης. Ὁ Ἅγιος Ζωτικὸς διακρίθηκε κυρίως στὴν περιποίηση τῶν λεπρῶν. Τοὺς ὁποίους πλησίαζε χωρὶς φόβο, δίνοντας σ᾿ αὐτοὺς βοηθήματα καὶ παρηγοροῦσε τὴν δυστυχία τους μὲ ἀδελφικὴ ἀφοσίωση. Μετὰ τὸ θάνατο τοῦ Μεγάλου Κωνσταντίνου, ὁ γιός του Κωνστάντιος ἀκολούθησε ἄλλους δρόμους καὶ κακομεταχειρίστηκε τὸν Ζωτικό. Μὲ ἀποτέλεσμα ὁ φιλάνθρωπος αὐτὸς ἄνδρας νὰ πεθάνει ἀπὸ τὶς κακουχίες καὶ τὶς ταλαιπωρίες. Ἀλλ᾿ ὁ θάνατός του κίνησε τὴν μετάνοια τοῦ Κωνσταντίου. Ἀφοῦ μεταμελήθηκε, τίμησε τὴν μνήμη του κτίζοντας ἕνα λεπροκομεῖο γιὰ τὴν περίθαλψη τῶν λεπρῶν. Καὶ τὸ προίκισε μὲ πολλὰ κτήματα καὶ εἰσοδήματα. Ἀπὸ τότε, πολλοὶ αὐτοκράτορες, ὅπως ὁ Κωνσταντῖνος Ζ´ ὁ Πορφυρογέννητος (945), ὁ Ἰωάννης ὁ Τσιμισκὴς (963-976), ὁ Ῥωμανὸς ὁ Γ´ (1028-1034), ἐξασφάλιζαν τὴν καλὴ λειτουργία του καὶ ἐξυπηρετοῦσε πλῆθος λεπρῶν, χάρη στὴν ἀρχικὴ φιλανθρωπικὴ ἐνέργεια τοῦ ἁγίου Ζωτικοῦ.
Our Holy Mother Melania the Younger of Rome (439)
She was born in 383 in Rome, to a very wealthy family with large estates in Italy, Africa, Spain and even Britain. She was the grand- daughter of St Melania the Elder (June 8) and a pious disciple of Christ from a young age. She was married against her will at the age of fourteen, to a relative named Ninian. They had two children, both of whom died in early childhood. Henceforth Melania and her husband dedicated themselves entirely to God. They had both dreamt of a high wall that they would have to climb before they could pass through the narrow gate that leads to life, and soon began to take measures to dispose of their wealth. This aroused opposition from some of the Senate, who were concerned that the selling off of such huge holdings would disrupt the economy of the State itself.
With the support of the Empress, though, Melania was able to free 8000 of her slaves and give each a gift of three gold pieces to begin life as freedmen. She employed agents to help fund the establishment of churches and monasteries throughout the Empire, donated many estates to the Church, and sold many more, giving the proceeds as alms. When Rome fell to the Goths under Alaric in 410, Melania and Ninian moved to Sicily, then to Africa, where they completed the sale of their propery, donating the proceeds to monasteries and to aiding victims of the barbarians.
In Africa Melania, now aged about thirty, took up a life of the strictest asceticism: she kept a total fast on weekdays, only eating on Saturday and Sunday; she slept two hours a night, giving the rest of the night to vigil and prayer. Her days were spent in charitable works, using the remainder of her wealth to relieve the poor and benefit the Church. After seven years in Africa, Melania, her mother and her husband left on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There they founded a monastery on the Mount of Olives, which grew to a community of ninety nuns. Melania'smother died in 431, then her husband and spiritual brother Pinian; she buried them side by side.
Save for one visit to Constantinople, Melania continued to live in reclusion in a small cave on the Mount of Olives; she became an advisor to the Empress Eudocia, who sought her expert counsel on her gifts to churches and monasteries.
Melania fell ill keeping the Vigil of Nativity in 439, and fell asleep in the Lord six days later; her last words were 'As it has pleased the Lord, so it has come to pass.' Her monastery was destroyed in 614 by the Persians, but her cave hermitage on the Mount of Olives is still a place of pilgrimage and veneration.
Saint Zoticus, Cherisher of the Poor and Servant of Lepers (4th c)
He was born in Rome, and as a young man was chosen by the Emperor Constantine to assist in the foundation of his new capital at Byzantium. An outbreak of leprosy in the new City became so severe that the Emperor ordered that all lepers, whatever their rank, be driven from the city or drowned in the sea. Zoticus, moved by compassion for these people, went to the Emperor and asked him for a large amount of gold to buy gems and pearls to enhance the glory of the city, 'For, as Your Majesty knows, I am well-qualified in this field.' The Saint then used the gold to ransom all those being led into exile or to drowning, and to establish for them a camp on the hill of Olivet on the opposite shore of the Bosphorus. There he brought the sick and provided for their care.
In 337 Constantius, an Arian heretic, took the throne upon the death of his father. Some of Zoticus' enemies at court, seeing an opportunity, denounced Zoticus to the new Emperor, saying that he not only held subversive views, but had misappropriated public money. When he learned of these charges, Zoticus presented himself to the Emperor, finely dressed, and offered to take Constantius to see the gems and pearls that he had bought on his behalf. When they reached the hill of Olivet, Constantius was astonished to see a company of lepers coming to greet him with lighted candles, honoring and praising him and their patron Zoticus. Then the holy Zoticus said to the Emperor, 'These are the precious stones and brilliant pearls that give luster to the crown of the heavenly Kingdom that you will inherit by their prayers. I bought them for the salvation of your soul.'
Instead of being grateful, the heartless Emperor ordered that Zoticus be tied behind wild mules and dragged until dead. The mules ran down the hill, breaking the Saint's body upon the rocks an brush. Then, of their own accord, they returned to the top of the hill, still dragging the body, and, like Balaam's ass (Numbers ch. 22), spoke and proclaimed that the Martyr must be buried on that hill. The astonished and repentant Emperor ordered the Martyr buried with honor, and commanded that a hospital for lepers be built there, staffed by the best physicians and caretakers.
Saint Zoticus is also called Orphanotrophos, 'Cherisher of Orphans,' because in later years a large orphanage was added to the leprosarium. The orphanage included a general hospital and a home for the aged. The Saint was honored throughout Byzantine history as the patron of the orphanage.
St Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid (~1126)
He was born on the island of Euripos and, after being educated in Constantinople, became one of the clergy of the Great Church there. He was consecrated a bishop and sent, against his will, to Ochrid, where he shepherded the Church in Bulgaria for twenty-five years. An inspired theologian and orator, he has left many homilies and, most important, a commentary on the whole New Testament, which has been has been treasured by Orthodox Christians ever since. In his last years he moved to Thessalonica, where he reposed in peace.
The Nun Melania, the first of a series of Roman girls who "yearned from their youthful years for Christ, thirsting for bodily chastity and stung by Divine love", -- was born into a Christian family. Her parents, people of property and wealth, looked on their daughter as an heiress and continuant of their line. At fourteen years of age Melania was given, against her will, in marriage to the illustrious youth Apinian. From the very beginning of their married life, Saint Melania besought her spouse to live with her in chastity or else release her from the marriage, chaste in both body and soul. Apinian answered: "When through the will of the Lord we come to have two children as heirs to the property, then together we shall renounce the world". Soon Melania gave birth to a daughter, whom the young parents dedicated to God. Continuing to live together in marriage, Melania in secret wore an hairshirt and spent her nights at prayer. The second time Melania gave birth, it was premature and with severe complications. A boy was born, they baptised him, and at once he expired to the Lord. Seeing the suffering of his spouse, Blessed Apinian besought the Lord to preserve Saint Melania alive, and he gave a vow to spend the rest of their life together in chastity. Recovering, Saint Melania did away once for all with her silken-like clothing. Soon also their daughter died. Amongst themselves, the parents of the Saints were against the desire of the young couple to devote themselves to God. It was only when the father of Saint Melania became deathly sick, that he asked forgiveness of them and gave his permission for them to follow their chosen path, meanwhile asking them to pray for him. The saints then quit the city of Rome, and a new life began for them, completely dedicated to the service of God. Apinian at this time was 24 years of age, and Melania -- age 20. They began to visit the sick, to take in wanderers, and generously to help the indigent. They made the rounds of the prisons, places of those exiled and mine-convicts and the destitute, held there in debtor's prison. Having sold off estates in Italy and Spain, they generously rendered help to elders and monasteries by purchasing for the monasteries -- lands in Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, Phoenicia and Palestine. By their assist was built many a church and sick-house. Churches of both West and East benefited from them. When in forsaking their native land, they set sail for Africa, a strong storm broke loose as they sailed. The sailors said, that this was from the wrath of God, but Blessed Melania said, that they had been given over in the ship to His unfathomable will. The waves carried the ship to an island, on which stood a city, besieged by barbarians. The besiegers demanded a ransom payment from the inhabitants, elsewise they threatened to lay waste the city. The saints supplied the necessary money, and thus saved the city and its people from destruction. Arriving then in Africa, they rendered help to all the needy there, and with the blessing of the local bishops they made offerings to churches and monasteries. During this while Saint Melania continued to humble her flesh by strict fasting, and she fortified her soul by constant reading of the Word of God, making copies of the sacred books and distributing them to those that lacked them. She herself sewed an hairshirt, and having donned it continued to wear it.
In Africa the saints spent 7 years and then, freed of all their wealth, on the command of Christ, they set off to Jerusalem. Along the way, at Alexandria, they were welcomed by the bishop, Saint Cyril, and they met in church with the holy elder Nestorios, who was possessed of the gift of prophecy and healing. The elder turned to them, comforting and calling them to courage and patience in expectation of the Glory of Heaven. At Jerusalem the saints distributed to the destitute their remaining gold and then spent their days in poverty and prayer. After a short visit to Egypt, where the saints visited many of the desert fathers, Saint Melania secluded herself into a solitary cell on the Mount of Olives, and only occasionally saw Saint Apinian. Gradually around her cell there arose a monastery, where gathered eventually nine women. Saint Melania, out of humility, would not consent to be hegumeness, and as before lived and prayed in solitude. In her instructions Saint Melania urged the sisters to be vigilant and to pray, to disdain their own opinions and cultivate first of all love for God and for one another, to keep the holy Orthodox faith and purity both of soul and of body. In particular she exhorted them to be obedient to the will of God. Calling to mind the words of the Apostle Paul, she counselled them to keep the fasts "not with wailing nor from compunction: but in virtuous disposition bestown with love for God". By her efforts in the monastery was built an oratory and altar, where they buried relics of saints: of the Prophet of God Zachariah, of the holy FirstMartyr Stephen, and of the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia. At about this time Saint Apinian expired to the Lord. Saint Melania buried his relics and there spent another four years in fasting and unceasing prayer.
Saint Melania wanted to build a men's monastery on the Mount of the Ascension of the Lord. The Lord blessed her intent, by sending a benefactor who provided the means for the monastery. Joyfully accepting it, Saint Melania finished the great work in a single year. In this monastery, saintly men began to lift up unceasing prayer in the church of the Ascension of Christ. Having finished her tasks, the saint left Jerusalem for Constantinople, to go to her pagan uncle in hope of saving his soul. Along the way she prayed at the relics of Saint Lawrence, at the place of his martyrdom, and received auspicious signs. Arriving in Constantinople, the saint found her uncle suffering in sickness, and she conversed with him. Under her influence the sick man gave up paganism and died a Christian. During this period many inhabitants of the capital were worked up over the heretical teaching of Nestorius. Saint Melania accepted anyone who turned to her for proper explanation. Many miracles were worked through the prayer of the saint. Returning then to her own monastery, the saint sensed the nearness of death, and declared this to the presbyter and the sisters. They listened to her final instructions in deep sorrow and with tears. Having asked their prayers and commanding them to preserve themselves in purity, and having communed the Holy Mysteries with joy and psalmody, Saint Melania calmly and in peace gave up her soul to the Lord. This occurred in the year 439.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. The Venerable Melania the Roman
Melania was born in Rome of devout and very wealthy parents. She was forced by them to enter into marriage with a young nobleman, Apinianus. She became gravely ill in giving birth to her second child, and she told her husband that she would be healed only if he vowed before God to live with her in the future as a brother with a sister. Her husband vowed, and Melania, out of spiritual joy, was physically restored to health. When it was pleasing to God to take both of their children to Himself, they decided to sell all their possessions and distribute the proceeds to the poor, the churches and the monasteries. They traveled through many lands and cities, doing good works everywhere with their wealth. They visited famous spiritual fathers in Upper and Lower Egypt, learned much and were inspired by them. During that entire time, Melania lived an ascetic life of strict fasting, fervent prayer, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures. Melania had the custom of reading the entire book of the Holy Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, three times every year. She lived with her husband as with a brother and fellow-ascetic. Coming to Alexandria, they received the blessing of the Patriarch, St. Cyril. After that, they traveled to Jerusalem and settled on the Mount of Olives. There Melania closed herself off and devoted herself to divine contemplation, fasting and prayer. Thus, she lived for fourteen years, after which she came out to help others to salvation. She founded a monastery for men and a convent for women. At the invitation of her kinsman, Senator Volusian, a pagan, she went to Constantinople and converted him to the Christian Faith (which even Blessed Augustine himself was unable to do). She then returned to the Mount of Olives, where she presented herself to God in the year 439 at the age of fifty-seven.
2. The Holy and Righteous Joseph, King David, and James the Brother of the Lord
They are all commemorated on the Sunday after the Nativity of Christ. One can learn all about King David, the son of Jesse, in the Book of Kings, and for St. James see October 23. Joseph the Righteous is called in the Gospel a righteous man (Matthew 1:19), and because of this God designated him to protect the Most-holy Virgin and imparted to him great honor in the plan of the salvation of mankind. Although Joseph was of the royal lineage of David, he was a humble carpenter in Nazareth. At the age of eighty, he took to himself the Most-holy Virgin from the Temple in Jerusalem into his home. He entered into rest at the age of 110.
3. The Venerable Martyr Zoticus, the Feeder of Orphans (Benefactor of the Poor)
Zoticus was eminent both in birth and in rank. He moved to Constantinople, rejected all worldly things, and received ordination to the priesthood. He founded a home for the poor, in which he housed those who had contagious diseases and ministered to them. He was a personal acquaintance of Emperor Constantine the Great. Because of the gold Zoticus had received from the emperor and had spent on the victims of disease, Constantine's son Constantius had him tied to a wild ass, which was driven until St. Zoticus died of his wounds. He suffered in the fourth century.
4. The Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ohrid
Theophylact was born on the island of Euripos and educated in Constantinople by the most eminent teachers of that time. As a priest of the Great Church, he was chosen bishop and sent, against his will, to Ohrid, where he remained about twenty-five years (from about 1082 to 1108). Chromatianus of Ohrid calls him ``the wisest archbishop.'' A man of enormous learning, both secular and theological, of refined Byzantine tastes, melancholy and sensitive, Theophylact felt among the Slavs in Ohrid like an exile among barbarians. He wrote commentaries on the Four Gospels and other books of the New Testament. These are the best works of their kind after that of St. Chrysostom, and are read even today with great benefit. His other known works include his Letters and the Life of St. Clement of Ohrid. In old age, St. Theophylact withdrew from Ohrid to Thessalonica, where it is thought he finished his earthly life and took up his habitation in blessed eternity.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Venerable Melania the Roman
The wealthy Melania possessed great gold.
She gave it to the poor, for the sake of Christ and her salvation.
He who trades wisely receives great value from his gold,
And with it quickly purchases the Heavenly Kingdom.
Melania, a devout woman, became poor;
She possessed nothing in the world except the Living God,
And without gold-but with the Living God-she became wealthy.
Melania said: ``God alone is enough!''
Melania the physician healed pains,
Praising God until her last breath.
How wisely holy men and women knew how to handle their wealth! How skillfully they purchased the eternal goods of heaven with their earthly goods. Oh, how little they valued earthly goods in themselves-as dust and smoke! When St. Melania visited the holy desert fathers in Egypt with the intention of giving them some financial help, she was astonished at seeing their extreme abhorrence of goods and riches. Thus, she visited one hermit, Ephestion, and saw nothing in his cell but mats, a bowl for water, a little dry bread, and a salt pot. Knowing beforehand that the elder would not take any gold from her, she seized the opportunity and placed several gold pieces in the salt pot. However, when she was on her way back, she heard the elder running after her, and at the top of his voice he was calling to her to stop. She stopped. The elder held the gold pieces in the palm of his hand and, handing them to Melania, said: ``I do not need this, take what is yours!'' Melania said to him: ``If you do not need it, give it to someone else.'' He replied: ``No one in this place has any use for it.'' When Melania refused to accept the gold, the elder swung his arm and threw the gold pieces into the river and then returned to his cell.
During an outbreak of plague in Constantinople, Emperor Constantius ordered that everyone infected be immediately thrown into the sea. St. Zoticus ransomed those who were infected and brought them to his home, and there he cared for them. When his money ran out, he went to the emperor and asked for money to purchase precious pearls for him. The emperor gave him money, and with this money Zoticus continued his work of ransoming the contagious ones and caring for them. One day, the emperor asked Zoticus for the promised pearls, and Zoticus brought him and showed him the infected men in his home, saying: ``These, O Emperor, are the living pearls that I acquired with labor and money for your salvation.'' The enraged emperor condemned Zoticus to death, but Zoticus entered into eternal life, and the emperor remained to atone and repent for his sins.
Contemplate the assembly of penitents:
1. How they sinned, unknowingly or knowingly, against the Law of Christ;
2. How they repented, corrected their lives and fulfilled the Law of Christ;
3. How they now rejoice in Christ's Kingdom and help us by their prayers.
on the victory of the Lamb
These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them (Revelation 17:14).
Brethren, let us rejoice and be glad at the Lamb's victory over all the beasts. Lions and tigers, wolves and foxes, hyenas and snakes-the Lamb shall overcome them! Who has seen and heard this? Our ears have heard this and our eyes have seen this. The Lamb is Christ the Lord, and the beasts are all His adversaries, visible and invisible. In our day the Lamb carries the victories; in the future the Lamb shall conquer, even to the last day. The Lamb conquered and conquers and shall conquer all the kings and rulers of the world with their bestial natures, their armies and their mercenaries, their glorifiers and their followers. Such power is possessed by the meek Lamb of God. O my poor brethren, be not afraid; be not frightened; be not doubtful. The greatest Victor is your Leader, your Helper and your Friend. He is called ``the Lamb'' in order to teach us that we should be like lambs: quiet, meek, guileless, patient, ready for the victory-bearing sacrifice, and devoted to the will of our Shepherd. When God is with the lamb, then the lamb is stronger than the wolf, mightier than the lion, craftier than the snake and the fox. However, justice cannot be recognized or the final victory be seen until both worlds are taken into account. O my brethren, when we take into account both worlds, we recognize eternal justice and immortal victory. The Lamb conquers, and only the Lamb.
O Lord Jesus, King of kings, Victor in all conflicts and battles, the Lamb of God, meek and merciful, make us to be victory-bearing lambs.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.