FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
Barbara the Great Martyr
John the Righteous of Damascus
New Hieromartyr Seraphim, bishop of the Phanar in Greece
Juliana the Martyr of Heliopolis
Alexander Hotovitzky, New Hieromartyr of Russia, Missionary to America
Τῆς Ἁγίας Μεγαλομάρτυρος Βαρβάρας, τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρός ἡμῶν Ἰωάννου τοῦ Δαμασκηνοῦ καί τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἱερομάρτυρος Σεραφείμ, Ἐπισκόπου Φαναρίου.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from Mark 16:9-20
At that time, Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, and he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.
Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.
Κατὰ Μᾶρκον 16.9-20
᾿Αναστὰς δὲ πρωῒ πρώτῃ σαββάτου ἐφάνη πρῶτον Μαρίᾳ τῇ Μαγδαληνῇ, ἀφ᾿ ἧς ἐκβεβλήκει ἑπτὰ δαιμόνια. ἐκείνη πορευθεῖσα ἀπήγγειλε τοῖς μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ γενομένοις, πενθοῦσι καὶ κλαίουσι. κἀκεῖνοι ἀκούσαντες ὅτι ζῇ καὶ ἐθεάθη ὑπ᾿ αὐτῆς, ἠπίστησαν. Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα δυσὶν ἐξ αὐτῶν περιπατοῦσιν ἐφανερώθη ἐν ἑτέρᾳ μορφῇ, πορευομένοις εἰς ἀγρόν. κἀκεῖνοι ἀπελθόντες ἀπήγγειλαν τοῖς λοιποῖς· οὐδὲ ἐκείνοις ἐπίστευσαν. ῞Υστερον ἀνακειμένοις αὐτοῖς τοῖς ἕνδεκα ἐφανερώθη, καὶ ὠνείδισε τὴν ἀπιστίαν αὐτῶν καὶ σκληροκαρδίαν, ὅτι τοῖς θεασαμένοις αὐτὸν ἐγηγερμένον οὐκ ἐπίστευσαν. καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· πορευθέντες εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἅπαντα κηρύξατε τὸ εὐαγγέλιον πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει. ὁ πιστεύσας καὶ βαπτισθεὶς σωθήσεται, ὁ δὲ ἀπιστήσας κατακριθήσεται. σημεῖα δὲ τοῖς πιστεύσασι ταῦτα παρακολουθήσει· ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου δαιμόνια ἐκβαλοῦσι· γλώσσαις λαλήσουσι καιναῖς· ὄφεις ἀροῦσι· κἂν θανάσιμόν τι πίωσιν, οὐ μὴ αὐτοὺς βλάψει· ἐπὶ ἀρρώστους χεῖρας ἐπιθήσουσι, καὶ καλῶς ἕξουσιν. ῾Ο μὲν οὖν Κύριος μετὰ τὸ λαλῆσαι αὐτοῖς ἀνελήφθη εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ Θεοῦ. ἐκεῖνοι δὲ ἐξελθόντες ἐκήρυξαν πανταχοῦ, τοῦ Κυρίου συνεργοῦντος καὶ τὸν λόγον βεβαιοῦντος διὰ τῶν ἐπακολουθούντων σημείων. Ἀμήν.
The Reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-5
BRETHREN, before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Πρὸς Γαλάτας 3:23-29; 4:1-5
Ἀδελφοί, πρὸ τοῦ δὲ ἐλθεῖν τὴν πίστιν, ὑπὸ νόμον ἐφρουρούμεθα, συγκεκλεισμένοι εἰς τὴν μέλλουσαν πίστιν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι. Ὥστε ὁ νόμος παιδαγωγὸς ἡμῶν γέγονεν εἰς χριστόν, ἵνα ἐκ πίστεως δικαιωθῶμεν. Ἐλθούσης δὲ τῆς πίστεως, οὐκέτι ὑπὸ παιδαγωγόν ἐσμεν. Πάντες γὰρ υἱοὶ θεοῦ ἐστε διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Ὅσοι γὰρ εἰς χριστὸν ἐβαπτίσθητε, χριστὸν ἐνεδύσασθε. Οὐκ ἔνι Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἕλλην, οὐκ ἔνι δοῦλος οὐδὲ ἐλεύθερος, οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ· πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς εἷς ἐστε ἐν χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς χριστοῦ, ἄρα τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ σπέρμα ἐστέ, καὶ κατʼ ἐπαγγελίαν κληρονόμοι. Λέγω δέ, ἐφʼ ὅσον χρόνον ὁ κληρονόμος νήπιός ἐστιν, οὐδὲν διαφέρει δούλου, κύριος πάντων ὤν· ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ ἐπιτρόπους ἐστὶν καὶ οἰκονόμους, ἄχρι τῆς προθεσμίας τοῦ πατρός. Οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς, ὅτε ἦμεν νήπιοι, ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου ἦμεν δεδουλωμένοι· ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου, ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ, γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός, γενόμενον ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον ἐξαγοράσῃ, ἵνα τὴν υἱοθεσίαν ἀπολάβωμεν.
The Reading is from Luke 13:10-17
At that time, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your infirmity." And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day." Then the Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 13.10-17
Τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ,῏Ην δὲ διδάσκων ἐν μιᾷ τῶν συναγωγῶν ἐν τοῖς σάββασι. καὶ ἰδοὺ γυνὴ ἦν πνεῦμα ἔχουσα ἀσθενείας ἔτη δέκα καὶ ὀκτώ, καὶ ἦν συγκύπτουσα καὶ μὴ δυναμένη ἀνακῦψαι εἰς τὸ παντελές.ἰδὼν δὲ αὐτὴν ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς προσεφώνησε καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ· γύναι, ἀπολέλυσαι τῆς ἀσθενείας σου· καὶ ἐπέθηκεν αὐτῇ τὰς χεῖρας· καὶ παραχρῆμα ἀνωρθώθη καὶ ἐδόξαζε τὸν Θεόν. ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ ἀρχισυνάγωγος, ἀγανακτῶν ὅτι τῷ σαββάτῳ ἐθεράπευσεν ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς, ἔλεγε τῷ ὄχλῳ· ἓξ ἡμέραι εἰσὶν ἐν αἷς δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι· ἐν ταύταις οὖν ἐρχόμενοι θεραπεύεσθε, καὶ μὴ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ σαββάτου. ἀπεκρίθη οὖν αὐτῷ ὁ Κύριος καὶ εἶπεν· ὑποκριτά, ἕκαστος ὑμῶν τῷ σαββάτῳ οὐ λύει τὸν βοῦν αὐτοῦ ἢ τὸν ὄνον ἀπὸ τῆς φάτνης καὶ ἀπαγαγὼν ποτίζει; ταύτην δέ, θυγατέρα ᾿Αβραὰμ οὖσαν, ἣν ἔδησεν ὁ σατανᾶς ἰδοὺ δέκα καὶ ὀκτὼ ἔτη, οὐκ ἔδει λυθῆναι ἀπὸ τοῦ δεσμοῦ τούτου τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ σαββάτου; καὶ ταῦτα λέγοντος αὐτοῦ κατῃσχύνοντο πάντες οἱ ἀντικείμενοι αὐτῷ, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἔχαιρεν ἐπὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ἐνδόξοις τοῖς γινομένοις ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ Δ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Ἄθλησις τῆς Ἁγίας Μεγαλομάρτυρος Βαρβάρας.
Ξίφει πατὴρ θύσας σε, Μάρτυς Βαρβάρα,
Ὑπῆρξεν ἄλλος Ἀβραὰμ διαβόλου.
Βαρβάρα ἀμφὶ τετάρτῃ χερσὶ τοκῆος ἐτμήθη.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρὸς ἡμῶν, Ἰωάννου Μοναχοῦ καὶ πρεσβυτέρου τοῦ Δαμασκηνοῦ.
Πλήσας μελῶν γῆν ἡδέων Ἰωάννης,
Κἂν οὐρανοῖς ἄνεισι συνθεῖναι μέλη.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσίου πατρὸς ἡμῶν, Ἰωάννου, Ἐπισκόπου Πολυβότου, τοῦ θαυματουργοῦ.
Ἐπισκοπὴν γῆς ἐκλιπὼν Ἰωάννης,
Ἐπισκοποῦντος πάντα τέρπεται θέᾳ,
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ἡ Ἁγία Ἰουλιανὴ ξίφει τελειοῦται.
Ἰουλιανὴν ὡς περιστερὰν δέχου,
Εἰμὴ τάχει τέμνοιτο, τρίζουσαν Λόγε.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, οἱ Ἅγιοι Χριστόδουλος καὶ Χριστοδούλη ξίφει τελειοῦνται.
Συνωνυμὼν σοι, παρθένε Χριστοδούλη,
Ὁ Χριστόδουλος, καὶ συναθλεῖ σοι ξίφει.
Ὁ ἅγιος νέος Ἱερομάρτυς Σεραφεὶμ ὁ Φαναρίου ἐπίσκοπος, ὁ μαρτυρήσας ἐν ἔτει 1601, σούβλῃ διαπαρεὶς τελειοῦται.
Ὁ γῆς Σεραφεὶμ Θετταλῶν φὺς ὡς κλάδος,
Θεῷ Λόγῳ πρόσεισι ῥείθροις αἱμάτων.
Ταῖς αὐτῶν ἁγίαις πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον, καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
Saint Barbara was from Heliopolis of Phoenicia and lived during the reign of Maximian.
She was the daughter of a certain idolater named Dioscorus. When Barbara came of age, she was enlightened in her pure heart and secretly believed in the Holy Trinity. About this time Dioscorus began building a bath-house; before it was finished he was required to go away to attend to certain matters, and in his absence Barbara directed the workmen to build a third window in addition to the two her Father had commanded. She also inscribed the sign of the Cross with her finger upon the marble of the bath-house, leaving the saving sign cut as deeply into the marble as if it had been done with an iron too. (When the Synaxarion of Saint Barbara was written, the marble of the bath-house and the cross inscribed by Saint Barbara were still preserved, and many healings were worked there.) When Dioscorus returned, he asked why the third window had been added; Barbara began to declare to him the mystery of the Trinity. Because she refused to renounce her faith, Dioscorus tortured Barbara inhumanely, and after subjecting her to many sufferings he beheaded her with his own hands, in the year 290.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Βαρβάραν τὴν Ἁγίαν τιμήσωμεν, ἐχθροῦ γὰρ τὰς παγίδας συνέτριψε, καὶ ὡς στρουθίον ἐρρύσθη ἐξ αὐτῶν, βοηθεία καὶ ὅπλω τοῦ Σταυροῦ ἡ Πάνσεμνος.
Let us honour Saint Barbara, for she hath broken the snares of the enemy; and like a sparrow, she, the all-modest maiden, was delivered out of them by the help and weapon of the Cross.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Τώ εν Τριάδι ευσεβώς υμνουμένω, ακολουθήσασα σεμνή Αθληφόρε, τά τών ειδώλωνέλιπες σεβάσματα, μέσον δέ τού σκάμματος, εναθλούσα Βαρβάρα, τυράννων ου κατέπτηξας, απειλάς ανδρειόφρον, μεγαλοφώνως μέλπουσα αεί, Τριάδα σέβω τήν μίαν θεότητα.
O noble Champion, following God who is reverently praised in Trinity, you abandoned the temples of idols. Struggling amid suffering, O Barbara, you were not overwhelmed by the threats of the tyrants, O brave One, even singing aloud, "I worship the Trinity, the one Godhead."
Saint John was born in Damascus about the year 675, the son of wealthy and pious parents, of the family of Mansur. He was reared together with Saint Cosmas (see Oct. 14), who had been adopted by John's father Sergius, a man of high rank in the service of the Caliph of Damascus. Both of these young men were instructed by a certain monk, also named Cosmas, who had been taken captive in Italy by the Arabs and later ransomed by John's Father. Saint John became a great philosopher and enlightener of the age in which he lived, and was honoured by the Caliph with the dignity of counsellor.
When Emperor Leo the Isaurian (reigned 717-741) began his war on the holy icons, John wrote epistles defending their veneration. Since the Saint, being under the Caliph of Damascus, was beyond Leo's power, the Iconoclast Emperor had a letter forged in John's handwriting which invited Leo to attack Damascus, saying the city guard was then weak; Leo then sent this letter to the Caliph, who in his fury punished John's supposed treason with the severing of his right hand. The Saint obtained the Caliph's Permission to have his severed hand again, and that night prayed fervently to the most holy Theotokos before her icon. She appeared to him in a dream and healed his hand, which, when he awoke, he found to be healed in truth. This Miracle convinced the Caliph of his innocence, and he restored John to his office as counsellor. The Saint, however, with many pleadings obtained his permission to withdraw from the world to become a monk. He assumed the monastic habit in the Monastery of Saint Sabbas. Then he had as elder a very simple and austere monk who commanded him neither to write to anyone, nor to speak of the worldly knowledge he had acquired, and John faithfully obeyed. A monk grieving over his brother's death, however, after insisting vehemently, prevailed upon John to write a funeral hymn to console him for his brother's death. When John's elder learned of his transgression of the rule he had given him, he cast him out of his cell, and would only accept him back after John had humbly, with much self-condemnation and without murmuring consented to clean all the latrines in the lavra. After his elder had received him back, our Lady appeared to the elder and sternly charged him not to hinder John any longer from his writings and composition of hymns.
In his writings he fought courageously against the Iconoclasts Leo the Isaurian and his son Constantine Copronymus. He was also the first to write a refutation of Islam. The time he had spent as a counsellor in the courts of the Moslems of Damascus had given him opportunity to learn their teachings at first hand, and he wrote against their errors with a sound understanding of their essence. Saint John was surnamed Chrysorroas ("Golden-stream") because of the eloquence of his rhetorical style and the great abundance of his writings; this name - Chrysorroas was also the name of the river that flows by Damascus. In his writings he set forth the Orthodox Faith with exactness and order. In his old age, after his foster-brother Cosmas had been made Bishop of Maiuma, John also was ordained presbyter by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Having lived eighty-four years, he reposed in peace in 760. In addition to his theological writings, he adorned the Church of Christ with metrical and prose hymns and composed many of the prosomia used as the models for the melodies of the Church's liturgical chant; he also composed many of the sacred hymns for the feasts of the Lord Saviour and the Theotokos. The life of Saint John of Damascus was written by John, Patriarch of Jerusalem. See also June 28.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Ορθοδοξίας Οδηγέ, ευσεβίας διδάσκαλε καί σεμνότητος, τής οικουμένης ο φωστήρ, αρχιερέων θεόπνευστον εγκαλλώπισμα, Ιωάννη σοφέ, ταίς διδαχαίς σου πάντας εφώτισας, λύρα τού Πνεύματος, πρέσβευε Χριστώ τώ Θεώ, σωθήναι τάς ψυχάς ημών
Guide of Orthodoxy, teacher of piety and holiness, luminary of the world, God-inspired adornment of monastics, O wise John, by thy teachings thou hast enlightened all, O harp of the Spirit. Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Δαμάσας πολλοίς, ιδρώσι τής ασκήσεως, τό σώμα τό σόν, εις ύψος ουράνιον, ευπετώς ανέδραμες, όπου μέλη θείά σοι δίδονται, ά τρανώς εμελώδησας, τοίς φίλοις Κυρίου Πάτερ Όσιε.
Come, O ye faithful, let us praise the hymn-writer, the Church's luminary and wise instructor, the hallowed John, who cast down all her enemies; for since he took up the Cross of the Lord as a weapon, he drave off the heresies, with their every delusion. And as our fervent champion with God, he granteth all the forgiveness of trespasses.
Η Εκκλησία σήμερα, μαζί με την αγία Βαρβάρα, τιμά και τον άγιο Ιωάννη τον Δαμασκηνό. Ο άγιος Ιωάννης ο Δαμασκηνός, είναι από τους πιο γνωστούς ομολογητάς, θεολόγους και υμνογράφους της Εκκλησίας. Αγωνίστηκε με θάρρος και σθένος κατά τον διωγμό της Εικονομαχίας και υποστήριξε με θεολογική επιχειρηματολογία την προσκύνηση των ιερών εικόνων. Είναι ο πρώτος συστηματικός θεολόγος της Εκκλησίας, που συγχρόνως διεκρίθη και ως ποιητής και μουσικός. Ο Ιωάννης ο Δαμασκηνός καθώρισε τους οκτώ ήχους της εκκλησιαστικής ψαλμωδίας, σύμφωνα με την αρχαία ελληνική μουσική παράδοση και ποίημα δικό του είναι ολόκληρη σχεδόν η Οκτώηχος, καθώς και πολλοί Κανόνες των δεσποτικών εορτών, όπως το "Αναστά-σεως ημέρα..." του Πάσχα. Ο άγιος Ιωάννης ο Δαμασκηνός είναι από τους Αγίους, που με τον βίο και το έργο τους δικαιώνουν το μοναστικό ιδεώδες στην Εκκλησία.
Ἡ Ἁγία Βαρβάρα ἡ Μεγαλομάρτυς
Ἀποτελεῖ κόσμημα τῶν μαρτύρων τοῦ 3ου αἰῶνα μ.χ. Ὁ πατέρας της ἦταν ἀπὸ τοὺς πιὸ πλούσιους εἰδωλολάτρες τῆς Ἠλιουπόλεως καὶ ὀνομαζόταν Διόσκορος. Μοναχοκόρη ἡ Βαρβάρα, διακρινόταν γιὰ τὴν ὀμορφιὰ τοῦ σώματός της, τὴν εὐφυΐα καὶ σωφροσύνη της. Στὴ χριστιανικὴ πίστη κατήχησε καὶ εἵλκυσε τὴν Βαρβάρα μία εὐσεβὴς χριστιανὴ γυναῖκα. Τὴ ζωή της μέσα στὸ εἰδωλολατρικὸ περιβάλλον ἡ Βαρβάρα περνοῦσε «ἐν πάσῃ εὐσεβείᾳ καὶ σεμνότητι», δηλαδὴ μὲ κάθε εὐσέβεια καὶ σεμνότητα. Ὅμως τὸ γεγονὸς αὐτό, δὲν ἔμεινε γιὰ πολὺ καιρὸ μυστικό. Ὁ Διόσκορος ἔμαθε ὅτι ἡ κόρη του εἶναι χριστιανὴ καὶ ἐκνευρισμένος διέταξε τὸν αὐστηρὸ περιορισμό της. Ἀλλὰ ἡ Βαρβάρα κατόρθωσε καὶ δραπέτευσε. Ὁ πατέρας της τότε ἐξαπέλυσε ἄγριο κυνηγητὸ μέσα στὶς σπηλιὲς καὶ τὰ δάση, ὅπου κρυβόταν ἡ κόρη του. Τελικά, κατόρθωσε καὶ τὴν συνέλαβε. Ἀλλὰ ὁ ἄσπλαχνος καὶ πωρωμένος εἰδωλολάτρης πατέρας, παρέδωσε τὴν κόρη του στὸν ἡγεμόνα Μαρκιανό. Αὐτός, ἀφοῦ στὴν ἀρχὴ δὲν κατόρθωσε μὲ δελεαστικοὺς τρόπους νὰ μεταβάλει τὴν πίστη της, διέταξε καὶ τὴν μαστίγωσαν ἀνελέητα. Κατόπιν τὴν φυλάκισε, ἀλλὰ μέσα ἐκεῖ ὁ Θεὸς θεράπευσε τὶς πληγὲς τῆς Βαρβάρας καὶ ἐνίσχυσε τὸ θάῤῥος της. Τότε ὁ ἡγεμόνας θέλησε νὰ τὴν διαπομπεύσει δημόσια γυμνή. Ἀλλὰ ἐνῷ ἔβγαζαν τὰ ῥοῦχα της, ἄλλα ὡραιότερα ἐμφανίζονταν στὸ σῶμα της. Ὁ ἡγεμόνας βλέποντας τὸ θαῦμα, διέταξε νὰ ἀποκεφαλισθεῖ. Χωρὶς καθυστέρηση, ὁ ἴδιος ὁ κακοῦργος πατέρας της, ἀνέλαβε καὶ τὴν ἀποκεφάλισε.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Σεραφεὶμ ὁ Νέος Ἱερομάρτυρας
Γεννήθηκε στὸ χωριὸ Μπεζούλια τῆς ἐπαρχίας Ἀγράφων καὶ ἀνατράφηκε κατὰ Χριστὸν ἀπὸ τοὺς θεοσεβεῖς γονεῖς του, Σωφρόνιο καὶ Μαρία. Ἀγάπησε τὴν μοναχικὴ ζωὴ καὶ πῆγε στὴ Μονὴ τῆς Ὑπεραγίας Θεοτόκου, τὴν ἐπονομαζόμενη Κορῶνα ἢ Κρύα Βρύση καὶ ἐπιδόθηκε στὴν ἄσκηση τῆς ἀρετῆς. Διακρίθηκε γιὰ τὴν ἄσκησή του καὶ ἔγινε ἡγούμενος τῆς Μονῆς. Ἀργότερα χειροτονήθηκε Ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Φαναριοῦ καὶ Νεοχωρίου. Κατηγορήθηκε ὅτι πῆρε μέρος στὴν ἐπανάσταση τοῦ Διονυσίου Φιλοσόφου, συνελήφθη ἀπὸ τοὺς Τούρκους, ποὺ μάταια προσπάθησαν νὰ τὸν ἐξισλαμίσουν. Ἐξαγριωμένοι οἱ Τοῦρκοι μπροστὰ στὴ σταθερότητα τῆς πίστης τοῦ ἱερομάρτυρα, ὑπέβαλαν σ᾿ αὐτὸν φρικτὰ βασανιστήρια, τὰ ὁποῖα μεγάλωναν, ἐφ᾿ ὅσον ὁ Σεραφεὶμ διαρκῶς ἀρνιόταν νὰ προδώσει τὴν ἑλληνοχριστιανικὴ πίστη του. Ἀφοῦ τοῦ ἔκοψαν τὴν μύτη καὶ ἐπανειλημμένα τὸν παρουσίασαν στὸν κριτή, ἀρνούμενος νὰ ἀλλαξοπιστήσει, τὸν ἐκτέλεσαν στὶς 4 Δεκεμβρίου 1601 μὲ σουβλισμὸ καὶ κατ᾿ ἄλλους μὲ ἀπαγχονισμό. Ἡ τίμια κεφαλή του ἐναποτέθηκε στὴ Μονὴ τῆς Κρύας Βρύσης, ὅπου εἶχε μονάσει ὁ Ἅγιος.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός
Διαπρεπέστατος θεολόγος καὶ ποιητὴς τοῦ 8ου αἰῶνα καὶ μέγας πατὴρ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας. Γεννήθηκε στὴ Δαμασκὸ στὰ τέλη τοῦ 7ου αἰῶνα καὶ ἔτυχε ἐπιμελημένης ἀγωγῆς ἀπὸ τὸν πατέρα του Σέργιο, ποὺ ἦταν ὑπουργὸς οἰκονομικῶν τοῦ ἄραβα χαλίφη Ἀβδοὺλ Μελὶκ τοῦ Α´. Δάσκαλός του ἦταν κάποιος πολυμαθὴς καὶ εὐσεβέστατος μοναχός, ποὺ ὀνομαζόταν Κοσμᾶς καὶ ἦταν ἀπὸ τὴν Σικελία. Ὁ Σικελὸς μοναχὸς πράγματι ἐκπαίδευσε τὸν Ἰωάννη καὶ τὸν θετό του ἀδελφὸ Κοσμᾶ τὸν Μελῳδό, ἄριστα σ᾿ ὅλους τοὺς κλάδους τῆς γνώσης. Ὅταν πέθανε ὁ Σέργιος, ὁ γιός του Ἰωάννης διορίστηκε, χωρὶς νὰ τὸ θέλει, πρωτοσύμβουλος τοῦ χαλίφη Βελιδᾶ (705-715). Ἀργότερα, ὅταν ὁ χαλίφης Ὀμὰρ ὁ Β´ ἐξήγειρε διωγμὸ κατὰ τῶν χριστιανῶν, ὁ Ἰωάννης μαζὶ μὲ τὸν θετό του ἀδελφὸ Κοσμᾶ (τὸν ἔπειτα ἐπίσκοπο Μαϊουμᾶ), ἔφυγαν ἀπὸ τὴν Δαμασκὸ καὶ πῆγαν στὴν Ἱερουσαλήμ. Ἐκεῖ ὁ Ἰωάννης ἔγινε μοναχὸς στὴν περίφημη Μονὴ τοῦ ἁγίου Σάββα, ὅπου ἔμεινε σ᾿ ὅλη του τὴ ζωή, μελετῶντας καὶ συγγράφοντας. Στὸ διωγμὸ κατὰ τῶν ἁγίων εἰκόνων, ἐπὶ Λέοντος τοῦ Ἰσαύρου (726), πῆρε ἐνεργὸ μέρος καὶ ἐξαπέλυσε κατὰ τοῦ ἀσεβοῦς αὐτοκράτορα τοὺς τρεῖς γνωστοὺς λόγους ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁγίων εἰκόνων, πρᾶγμα ποὺ θορύβησε τὸν Λέοντα. Ὁ Ἰωάννης κατανάλωσε ὅλην του τὴ ζωὴ γιὰ τὴν δόξα τῆς Ἐκκλησίας καὶ ἄφησε σὲ μᾶς θησαυροὺς ἀνυπολόγιστης ἀξίας. Ἔζησε μὲ ὁσιότητα πάνω ἀπὸ ἑκατὸ χρόνια καὶ κοιμήθηκε εἰρηνικὰ τὸ 749. Τάφηκε στὴ Μονὴ τοῦ ἁγίου Σάββα.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Ἰωάννης ἐπίσκοπος Πολυβότου, ὁ Θαυματουργός
Ἔζησε στὰ τέλη τοῦ 7ου καὶ στὶς ἀρχὲς τοῦ 8ου αἰῶνα μετὰ Χριστόν. Ἀπὸ παιδὶ ἔμεινε καθαρὸς καὶ ἀκηλίδωτος σ᾿ ὅλη του τὴ ζωή. Ἐπίσης ὑπῆρξε ἐγκρατής, φιλέσπλαγχνος, φιλελεήμων καὶ γνώστης τῶν ἁγίων Γραφῶν. Ἔτσι στὴν ἀρχὴ ἔγινε ἀναγνώστης, κατόπιν ὑποδιάκονος, διάκονος καὶ μετὰ πρεσβύτερος. Στὸ ἀξίωμα αὐτό, διακρίθηκε γιὰ τὸ συστηματικὸ κήρυγμα τοῦ θείου λόγου καὶ γιὰ τὴν πρακτικότητα τῶν ὁμιλιῶν του. Ἀργότερα μὲ κοινὴ γνώμη λαοῦ καὶ κλήρου, ἀναδείχτηκε ἐπίσκοπος Πολυβότου (ἀρχαία πόλη τῆς Μικρᾶς Ἀσίας στὴ Φρυγία Σαλουτάρια, κοντὰ στὶς Συννάδες. Ἐρείπιά της σῴζονται στὸ σημερινὸ Μπουλβαντίν, κοντὰ στὸ Ἀφιὸν Καρὰ Χισάρ). Ἀπὸ τὴν θέση αὐτὴ ὁ Ἰωάννης ὑπῆρξε ἄγρυπνος καὶ φιλόστοργος ποιμένας. Τὴν ἐποχὴ ποὺ ὁ βασιλιὰς Λέων ὁ Ἴσαυρος κίνησε πόλεμο κατὰ τῶν ἁγίων εἰκόνων, ὁ ἐπίσκοπος Ἰωάννης διακρίθηκε γιὰ τὰ ὀρθόδοξα φρονήματά του καὶ τὸ θάῤῥος του, παρὰ τὶς κακοποιήσεις ποὺ δέχτηκε ἀπὸ τὰ βασιλικὰ ὄργανα. Ὅταν κάποτε στὸ Ἀμόριο τῆς Φρυγίας οἱ Ἀγαρηνοὶ ἅρπαξαν ἀρκετοὺς αἰχμαλώτους ἀπὸ τὸ ποίμνιό του, ὁ Ἰωάννης δὲν δίστασε νὰ πάει στὸ στρατόπεδό τους καὶ νὰ ζητήσει τοὺς αἰχμαλώτους. Αὐτοὶ δὲν δέχτηκαν, ἀλλὰ βαρειὲς ἀσθένειες ἄρχισαν νὰ πέφτουν στὸ στρατόπεδο καὶ τότε μὲ τὴν προσευχή του ὁ Ἰωάννης κατάφερε νὰ σταματήσει τὸ κακὸ καὶ ἔτσι οἱ Ἀγαρηνοὶ πρὸς ἀνταπόδοση, ἐλευθέρωσαν τὸ ποίμνιο τοῦ ἐπισκόπου Ἰωάννη. Τὸ τέλος τοῦ ἄξιου αὐτοῦ Ἱεράρχη ὑπῆρξε ἥσυχο καὶ εἰρηνικό. Τὸ δὲ τίμιο λείψανό του ἔγινε αἰτία πολλῶν θαυμάτων.
Holy Great Martyr Barbara (290)
'Saint Barbara was from Heliopolis of Phoenicia and lived during the reign of Maximian. She was the daughter of a certain idolater named Dioscorus. When Barbara came of age, she was enlightened in her pure heart and secretly believed in the Holy Trinity. About this time Dioscorus began building a bath-house; before it was finished he was required to go away to attend to certain matters, and in his absence Barbara directed the workmen to build a third window in addition to the two her father had commanded. She also inscribed the sign of the Cross with her finger upon the marble of the bath-house, leaving the saving sign cut as deeply into the marble as if it had been done with an iron tool. When the Synaxarion of Saint Barbara was written, the marble of the bath-house and the cross inscribed by Saint Barbara were still preserved, and many healings were worked there. When Dioscorus returned, he asked why the third window had been added; Barbara began to declare to him the mystery of the Trinity. Because she refused to renounce her faith, Dioscorus tortured Barbara inhumanly, and after subjecting her to many sufferings he beheaded her with his own hands, in the year 290.' (Great Horologion)
Our Righteous Father John of Damascus (760)
This divinely-enlightened Harp of the Spirit was at the same time one of the Church's greatest hymnographers and one of Her greatest theologians and defenders of the Faith.
The city of Damascus in Syria fell to the Muslims in 635. At the time of the Caliph Abdul-Malik, responsibility for government of the Christian population was given to Sergius Mansur, a prominent Christian of the city. This Sergius strove to govern in a godly way under the many disabilities imposed by the Caliph, and devoted his wealth to almsgiving and to ransoming Christian prisoners. His son John was born in 675, and along with his adoptive brother Cosmas (October 14) was brought up to love and serve Christ.
John, whose exceptional education included a perfect knowledge of both Greek and Arabic, entered the civil administration and eventually succeeded to his father's position under the Caliph. When the Emperor Leo the Isaurian began to attack the holy icons, Saint John undertook a spirited defense of the Faith through letters to correspondents throughout the Empire. Normally the Emperor would have killed or exiled the Saint directly, but since he lived in Muslim lands the Emperor could not touch him (an interesting example of Islam unwittingly contributing to the defense of the Christian faith). So the wicked Emperor circulated a forged letter which made it appear that John was plotting against the Caliph. When this letter fell (as planned) into the Caliph's hands, he was furious, and ordered that the Saint's right hand be cut off. That evening John placed his severed hand before the icon of the Mother of God and prayed with tears that it might be restored. On awaking he found that his hand had been miraculously restored to him. The miracle convinced the Caliph of his counselor's innocence, and John was restored to favor; but now John wanted nothing more of worldly honor and wished only to be a monk. Giving up his position, he distributed his fortune among the poor and left for Jerusalem to become a monk at the Monastery of St Sabas.
The Abbot of the monastery put John under an Elder who ordered him to have nothing to do with philosophy, science, poetry, chanting or reading, but to give himself uncomplainingly to menial tasks so as to advance in humility. This the Saint did. Some time later, however, a monk grieving over his brother's death persuaded John to write a funeral hymn for his consolation. Out of compassion, John wrote the hymn which is used to this day in the Funeral Service. For his disobedience, John was given the job of cleaning all the latrines of the monastery by hand, which, again, he did without complaint. A few days later the Theotokos appeared to the Elder and told him to allow John to compose hymns and poems, which, she told, him, would surpass the Psalms of David in beauty and grace.
Thus the monk John began to write the large body of inspired hymns which grace the Church's services. Among these are the Canon chanted at the Pascha Service, as well as most of the Resurrectional hymns of the Octoechos.
Saint John's poetical gifts were matched by his gifts for expressing the Church's theology: he composed a powerful defense of the icons (in print under the title On the Holy Images), a complete exposition of the Orthodox Faith (On the Orthodox Faith), and the first written refutation of Islam, which he had come to understand well while serving in the Caliph's court.
In old age, John was ordained a priest by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. He reposed in peace in 760 at the age of eighty-four.
Saint Gennadius, Archbishop of Novgorod (1505)
He was of noble birth, but entered monastic life at Valaam. He lived as a hermit on the island of Solovki from 1430 until 1447, when he was appointed abbot of the Chudov Monastery in Moscow. In 1484 he became Bishop of Novgorod. He found that the Tatar invasions had so disrupted the Church that a complete text of the Holy Scriptures could hardly be found in all of Russia. He ordered and oversaw the publication of the first printed Slavonic edition of the Holy Scriptures, set up schools for the instruction of the clergy, re-established order in the divine services, and fought various heresies. His devotion earned him enemies, and he resigned his episcopate to withdraw once again to a monastery. He reposed in peace in 1505.
The Holy GreatMartyress Barbara lived and suffered during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-311). Her father, the pagan Dioskoros, was a rich and illustrious man in the city of Phoenician Heliopolis; early left a widower, he concentrated all his attention in tender devotion to his only daughter. Seeing the extraordinary beauty of Barbara, Dioskoros decided to raise her concealed from the eyes of strangers. For this he built a tower, where besides Barbara, there were present only her pagan teachers. From the tower heights there opened up a view of God's world of hills stretching into the distance. By day she was able to gaze upon the wooded hills, the swiftly flowing rivers, and on the meadows covered with a gayly mottled blanket of flowers; by night the harmonious and majestic vault of the heavens twinkled and provided a spectacle of inexpressible beauty. Soon the maiden began to ask herself questions about the Primal Cause and Creator of so harmonious and splendid a world. Gradually she became convinced of the idea, that the soul-less idols -- were but only the work of human hands, and though her father and teachers offered them worship, the idols were not sufficiently clever and august enough to have made the surrounding world. The desire to know the True God so consumed the soul of Barbara, that she decided to devote all her life to this and to spend her life in virginity.
But the fame of her beauty spread throughout the city, and many sought for her hand in marriage. But despite the endearing entreaties of her father, she refused. Barbara cautioned her father, that his persistence might end tragically and separate them forever. Dioskoros decided, that the temperament of his daughter had been affected by her life of seclusion. He therefore permitted her to leave the tower and gave her full freedom in her choice of friends and acquaintances. The maiden thus encountered in the city youthful confessors of faith in Christ, and they revealed to her teachings about the Creator of the world, about the Trinity, and about the Divine Logos. Through the Providence of God, after a certain while there arrived in Heliopolis from Alexandria a priest in the guide of a merchant. He performed the sacrament of Baptism over Barbara.
During this while at the house of Dioskoros a luxuriant bath was being built. By his orders the workers prepared to put into it two windows on the south side. But Barbara, availing herself of her father's absence, asked them to make a third window, in the form of a Trinity of Light. Over the entrance of the bath-house Barbara patterned a cross, which was durably set into stone. On the stone steps of the bath-house there later remained the imprint of her feet, while within the water-spring had dried up, appearing later on with great healing power, -- all which Simeon Metaphrastes in writing about the sufferings of the holy martyress, compares with the life-creating power of the stream of Jordan and the Pool of Siloam. When Dioskoros returned and expressed dissatisfaction about the change of his plan of construction, his daughter told him about her knowledge of the Triune God, about the saving power of the Son of God, and about the futility of worshipping idols. Dioskoros went into a rage, grabbed a sword and was on the point of striking her. The maiden fled from her father, and he rushed after her in pursuit. His way became blocked by an hill, which opened and concealed the saint in a crevice. On the other side of the crevice was an entrance upwards. Saint Barbara managed then to conceal herself in a cave on the opposite slope of the hill. After a long and fruitless search for his daughter, Dioskoros saw two shepherds on the hill. One of them pointed out the cave to him, where the saint had hidden. Dioskoros beat his daughter terribly, and then locked her under watch and tried to wear her down with hunger. Finally he handed her over to the governor of the city, named Martianus. They beat Saint Barbara fiercely: they struck at her with ox thongs, and ground into her wounds with an hair-shirt. By night the holy maiden prayed fervently to her Heavenly Bridegroom, and the Saviour Himself appeared and healed her wounds. Then they subjected the saint to new, and even more cruel torments.
Amidst the crowd standing near the place of torture of the martyress was the Christian Juliania, an inhabitant of Heliopolis. Her heart was filled with sympathy for the voluntary martyrdom of the beautiful and illustrious maiden. Juliania likewise wanted to suffer for Christ. She began loudly to denounce the torturers, and they seized hold of her. For a long while they tortured both holy martyresses: they lacerated and tore at their bodies with hooks and then led them stripped through the city amidst derision and jeers. Through the prayers of Saint Barbara the Lord sent an Angel, which covered the bareness of the holy martyresses with splendid garb. The steadfast confessors of faith in Christ, Saints Barbara and Juliania, were then beheaded. Dioskoros himself executed Saint Barbara. The wrath of God was not slow to punish both torturers, Martianus and Dioskoros: they were struck down by bolts of lightning.
In the VI Century the relics of the holy GreatMartyress Barbara were transferred to Constantinople. In the XII Century the daughter of the Byzantine emperor Alexis Comnenes, the princess Barbara, having entered into marriage with the Russian prince Mikhail Izyaslavich, transferred them to Kiev. They rest even now at the Kiev Vladimir cathedral.
The Monk John Damascene was born in about the year 680 at the capital of Syria, Damascus, into a Christian family. His father, Sergios Mansuros, was a treasurer at the court of the caliph. John had also a foster brother, the orphaned lad Cosmas, whom Sergios had taken into his own home. When the children were growing up, Sergios concerned himself over their education. At the Damascus slave market he ransomed from captivity the learned monk Cosmas of Calabria and entrusted to him the teaching of his children. The boys displayed uncommon ability and readily mastered their courses of the secular and spiritual sciences. After the death of his father, John at court occupied ministerial posts and became city-governor.
During these times at Byzantium there had arisen and quickly spread about the heresy of Iconoclasm, supported by the emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717-741). Rising up in defense of Orthodox Icon-Veneration (Ikonodoulia), Saint John wrote three treatises entitled, "Against the Revilers of Holy Icons". The wise and God-inspired writings of Saint John enraged the emperor. But since the author was not a Byzantine subject, the emperor was unable to lock him up in prison, or execute him. The emperor thereupon resorted to slander. By his command there was composed a counterfeit letter under the name of John, in which the Damascus official was supposed to have offered his help towards the conquest of the Syrian capital. This letter and its hypocritically-flattering answer was sent off by Leo the Isaurian to the caliph. The caliph immediately ordered that Saint John be removed from his post, and that his right hand be cut off and then led through the city in chains. That same evening they returned the cut-off hand to Saint John. The saint began to pray to the MostHoly Mother of God for healing. Having fallen asleep, he beheld an icon of the Mother of God and heard Her voice telling him that he had been healed, and together with this commanded him to toil unceasingly with his healed hand. Awakening, he saw that his hand was intact.
Having learned of the miracle, which witnessed to the innocence of John, the caliph asked his forgiveness and wanted to restore him to his former office, but the saint refused. He distributed away his riches and together with his step-brother and comrade in learning, Cosmas, he set off to Jerusalem, where as a simple novice he entered the monastery of the Monk Sava the Sanctified. It was not easy for him to find a spiritual guide. Among the monastic brethren there consented to this only one very experienced monastic elder, skilled to nourish in a student the spirit of obedience and humility. Before anything the elder forbade John to write, on the supposition that success in this area might present a source of pride. One time he sent the monk to Damascus to sell baskets, made at the monastery, and commanded him to sell them at a certain inflated price, more than their real value. And here, passing by on the tormenting path under the searing sun, the former dignitary of Damascus was now to be found at the marketplace in the ragged garb of an humble basket-vendor. But Saint John was recognised by his former house steward, who bought up all the baskets at the entrusted price.
One time at the monastery, one of the monks chanced to die and the brother of the deceased besought Saint John to write down something by way of consolation. Saint John for a long time refused, but out of pity he yielded to the petition of the grief-stricken, and wrote his reknown funeral tropari. For this disobedience the elder banished him from his cell. All the monks began to plead for John. The elder thereupon assigned him one of the worst and most unpleasant tasks -- to remove the wastes from the monastery. And even in this the monk was a model of obedience. After a certain while, the elder was commanded in a vision by the All-Pure and MostHoly Mother of God to allow Saint John again to write. The Jerusalem Patriarch learned of the monk: he ordained him priest and made him a preacher at his cathedral. But the Monk John soon returned to the Laura of the Monk Sava, where until the end of his days he spent his time in the writing of spiritual books and church song. He left the monastery only to denounce the iconoclasts at the Constantinople Council of 754. They subjected him to imprisonment and torture, but he endured everything and through the mercy of God he remained alive. He died in about the year 780, at perhaps over age 100.
[trans. note: It is extremely deplorable that this and several other Russian accounts of Saint John of Damascus, Saint John Damascene, gloss over and ignore his great significance within the area of dogmatic theology. Saint John is generally considered to represent the close of the classical Patristic age, and his great work, "Exposition on the Orthodox Faith" ("De Fide Orthodoxa"), presents a collection and summary of the dogmatic teachings of the fathers. The "Exposition on the Orthodox Faith" is part of a larger work, the "Fount of Wisdom" ("Pege Gnoseos"), which includes "Philosophic Chapters" and an "History of Heresies", reviewing the teaching and examining the defect of thought in all the heresies up to his time. Saint John Damascene, when he was "discovered" in the West during the Medieval period, exerted an enormous influence within Western Christianity, and was highly esteemed and used by Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics. For Eastern Orthodoxy too, Saint John Damascene's work serves, and should serve, as a dogmatic primer and summation of Patristic thought. Its sad neglect, East and West, points to the religious and dogmatic slumber of our times].
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. The Holy Great-martyr Barbara
This glorious follower of Christ was betrothed to Christ from early childhood. Her father Dioscorus was a pagan and was renowned for his position and wealth in the city of Heliopolis in Egypt. Dioscorus locked up his only daughter Barbara, brilliant in mind and of beautiful countenance, in a high tower. He surrounded her with every comfort, gave her female servants, erected idols for worship, and built her a bathing room with two windows. Looking through the window at the earth below and the starry heavens above, Barbara's mind was opened by the grace of God. She recognized the One True God, the Creator, despite the fact that she did not have a human teacher to bring her to this knowledge. Once, while her father was away from the city, she came down from the tower and, according to God's providence, met some Christian women who revealed the true Faith of Christ to her. Barbara's heart became inflamed with love for Christ the Lord. She ordered that a third window be cut open in the bath so that the three windows would represent the Holy Trinity. On one wall she traced a Cross with her finger, and the Cross etched itself deep in the stone as if cut by a chisel. A pool of water sprang forth from her footprints on the floor of the bath, which later gave healing of diseases to many. Learning of his daughter's faith, Dioscorus beat her severely and drove her from the tower. He pursued her in order to kill her, but a cliff opened up and hid Barbara from her brutal father. When she appeared again, her father brought her to Martianus, the magistrate, who handed her over for torture. They stripped the innocent Barbara and flogged her until her entire body was covered with blood and wounds, but the Lord Himself appeared to her in prison with His angels and healed her. A certain woman, Juliana, upon seeing this, desired martyrdom for herself. Both women were severely tortured and with mockery were led through the city. Their breasts were cut off and much blood flowed from them. They were finally led to the place of execution, where Dioscorus himself slaughtered his daughter, and Juliana was slain by the soldiers. That same day, lightning struck the house of Dioscorus, killing him and Martianus. St. Barbara suffered in the year 306. Her miracle-working relics rest in Kiev. Glorified in the Kingdom of Christ, she has appeared many times even in our own day, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of the Most-holy Theotokos.
2. Saint John Damascene
John was first the chief minister to Caliph Abdul-Malik and later a monk in the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified. Because of his ardent defense of the veneration of icons during the reign of the iconoclastic Emperor Leo the Isaurian, John was maligned by the emperor to the Caliph, who cut off his right hand. John fell down in prayer before the icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, and his hand was rejoined and miraculously healed. Seeing this miracle the Caliph repented, but John no longer desired to remain with him as a nobleman. Instead, he withdrew to a monastery, where, from the beginning, he was a model to the monks in humility, obedience and all the prescribed rules of monastic asceticism. John composed the Funeral Hymns and compiled the Octoechos (The Book of Eight Tones), the Irmologion, the Menologion and the Paschal Canon, and he wrote many theological works of inspiration and profundity. A great monk, hymnographer, theologian and soldier for the truth of Christ, Damascene is numbered among the great Fathers of the Church. He entered peacefully into rest in about the year 776 at the age of 104.
3. Saint Gennadius, Archbishop of Novgorod
Gennadius was a distinguished writer, a champion of truth, and one who suffered for the truth of Christ. He gathered the various books of Sacred Scripture into one book and compiled the key for determining the date of Pascha (the Paschalion) for the next 532 years. He entered into rest in the Lord in the year 1505. His miracle-working relics rest in the Chudov Monastery in Moscow.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Saint John Damascene
O wondrous trumpet of the Orthodox Faith,
O glorious monk of a glorious cenobium,
John the poet, champion of the Faith,
Holy sufferer for the holy icons,
Having glorified God you are now glorified;
Immortal trumpeter of eternal life,
You left the world for the sake of the Living Christ.
Having humbled yourself, you are glorified the more.
You took upon yourself the path of asceticism;
Through tears you beheld the heavenly mysteries;
By prayer and faith you performed miracles;
You conversed with the Mother of God.
The Faith-who could better expound it?
Who could glorify God with a sweeter hymn?
O harp of eternal truth, there is none like you,
No one like you, glorious Father Damascene.
Oh, raise even now your pure mouth,
And implore the Life-giving Christ for us,
That His mercy accompany us until death,
That we with you may glorify Him.
Obedience, coupled with humility, is the foundation of the spiritual life, the foundation of salvation and the foundation of the overall structure of the Church of God. The great John Damascene-great in every good thing-as a monk left a deep impression on the history of the Church by his exceptional example of obedience and humility. Testing him one day, his elder and spiritual father handed him woven baskets and ordered him to take them to Damascus and sell them there. The elder established a very high price for the baskets, thinking that John would not be able to sell them at that price but would have to return with them. John, therefore, firstly had to go on a long journey; secondly, he had to go as a poor monk to the city where he, at one time, had been the most powerful man after the Caliph; thirdly, he had to seek a ridiculously high price for the baskets; and fourthly, should he not sell the baskets, he would have made this enormous journey, there and back, for nothing. In this way, the elder wished to test the obedience, humility and patience of his famous disciple. John silently prostrated before the elder and, without a word, took the baskets and started on his journey. Arriving in Damascus, he stood in the market place and awaited a buyer. When he told the interested passers-by the price of his goods, they laughed at and mocked him as a lunatic. He stood there the whole day, and the whole day he was exposed to derision and ridicule. But God, Who sees all things, did not abandon His patient servant. A certain citizen passed by and looked at John. Even though John was clad in a poor monk's habit and his face was withered and pale from fasting, this citizen recognized in him the one-time lord and first minister of the Caliph, in whose service he had also been. John also recognized him, but they both began to deal as strangers. Even though John named the all-too-high price of the baskets, the citizen purchased and paid for them without a word, recalling the good that John Damascene had once done for him. As a victor, holy John returned to the monastery rejoicing, and brought joy to his elder.
Contemplate the sinful fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3):
1. How Adam and Eve, having sinned, hid themselves from God;
2. How, hearing the voice of God, they fled and hid themselves among the trees;
3. How, even now, every sin estranges us from God;
4. How a sinner, hearing the voice of God through his conscience, hides himself in irrational nature.
on how everything is good that is of God
And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25).
Brethren, only good works proceed from the good Creator. Therefore, let all those who say that both good and evil proceed from God be silent. After His every act, God Himself affirms that it is good. Six times He repeated that what He created was good, and finally, the seventh time, when He saw all in its entirety, He pronounced His judgment that all He had created was very good (Genesis 1:31). Therefore, in total He repeated seven times that everything was good that came into existence by His holy will. Is it not a great wonder that some people come up with the godless assertion that both good and evil equally proceed from God? God, as if He knew that such slanders would be cast against Him-or, better to say, that such slanders would be cast throughout the centuries-gave His defense in advance and repeated it seven times, for all times and for all generations. Evil comes from sin, and there is no sin in God. Therefore, God can do no evil. He is called the Almighty because He is powerful to do every good. Wicked and twisted are the commentators on God who claim that God is "Almighty" because He can do both good and evil. God is the source of good and is darkened by nothing, and nothing can proceed from Him that is contrary to good. It is obvious to every normal man that evil is contrary to good. Know, brethren, that those who speak of duality in God, in the eternal Source of good, are those in whom is found the duality of good and evil. However, all those who love good, follow the path of goodness, and yearn for good have a clear revelation within themselves that God is good, and only good.
O our God, our Creator, Thou art the Creator of all good, and all Thy works are good.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.