FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
The Conception by St. Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos
Hanna the Prophetess
Narses the Martyr of Persia
Ἡ Σύλληψις τῆς Ἁγίας Ἄννης, Μητρός τῆς Ὑπεραγίας Θεοτόκου καί τῆς Ἁγίας Προφήτιδος Ἄννης.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians 4:22-27
BRETHREN, Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, "Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in travail; for the children of the desolate one are many more than the children of her that is married."
Πρὸς Γαλάτας 4:22-27
Ἀδελφοί, Ἀβραὰμ δύο υἱοὺς ἔσχεν· ἕνα ἐκ τῆς παιδίσκης, καὶ ἕνα ἐκ τῆς ἐλευθέρας. Ἀλλʼ ὁ μὲν ἐκ τῆς παιδίσκης κατὰ σάρκα γεγέννηται, ὁ δὲ ἐκ τῆς ἐλευθέρας διὰ τῆς ἐπαγγελίας. Ἅτινά ἐστιν ἀλληγορούμενα· αὗται γάρ εἰσιν δύο διαθῆκαι· μία μὲν ἀπὸ ὄρους Σινᾶ, εἰς δουλείαν γεννῶσα, ἥτις ἐστὶν Ἅγαρ. Τὸ γὰρ Ἅγαρ Σινᾶ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Ἀραβίᾳ, συστοιχεῖ δὲ τῇ νῦν Ἱερουσαλήμ, δουλεύει δὲ μετὰ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς. Ἡ δὲ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλὴμ ἐλευθέρα ἐστίν, ἥτις ἐστὶν μήτηρ πάντων ἡμῶν· γέγραπται γάρ, Εὐφράνθητι, στεῖρα, ἡ οὐ τίκτουσα· ῥῆξον καὶ βόησον, ἡ οὐκ ὠδίνουσα· ὅτι πολλὰ τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἐρήμου μᾶλλον ἢ τῆς ἐχούσης τὸν ἄνδρα.
The Reading is from Luke 8:16-21
The Lord said, "No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away."
Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you." But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."
Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 8.16-21
Εἶπεν ὁ Κύριος· Οὐδεὶς δὲ λύχνον ἅψας καλύπτει αὐτὸν σκεύει ἢ ὑποκάτω κλίνης τίθησιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπὶ λυχνίας ἐπιτίθησιν, ἵνα οἱ εἰσπορευόμενοι βλέπωσι τὸ φῶς.οὐ γάρ ἐστι κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ φανερὸν γενήσεται, οὐδὲ ἀπόκρυφον ὃ οὐ γνωσθήσεται καὶ εἰς φανερὸν ἔλθῃ.βλέπετε οὖν πῶς ἀκούετε· ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν ἔχῃ, δοθήσεται αὐτῷ, καὶ ὃς ἐὰν μὴ ἔχῃ, καὶ ὃ δοκεῖ ἔχειν ἀρθήσεται ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ. Παρεγένοντο δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡ μήτηρ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύναντο συντυχεῖν αὐτῷ διὰ τὸν ὄχλον.καὶ ἀπηγγέλη αὐτῷ λεγόντων· ἡ μήτηρ σου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί σου ἑστήκασιν ἔξω ἰδεῖν σε θέλοντες.ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπε πρὸς αὐτούς· μήτηρ μου καὶ ἀδελφοί μου οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀκούοντες καὶ ποιοῦντες αὐτόν.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ Θ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, ἡ Σύλληψις τῆς Ἁγίας Ἄννης, μητρὸς τῆς ὑπεραγίας Θεοτόκου.
Οὐχ ὥσπερ Εὔα καὶ σὺ τίκτεις ἐν λύπαις.
Χαρὰν γὰρ Ἄννα ἔνδον κοιλίας φέρεις.
Τῇ δ' ἐνάτῃ Μαρίην Θεομήτορα σύλλαβεν Ἄννα.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τῆς Ἁγίας Προφήτιδος Ἄννης, τῆς μητρὸς Σαμουηλ τοῦ Προφήτου.
Τὶ σοι ἐπαινέσειεν, Ἄννα, τις πλέον;
Τὸ καρτερόφρον ἢ τὸ τῆς εὐτεκνίας;
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρὸς ἡμῶν Στεφάνου τοῦ νεολαμποῦς, τοῦ ἐν τῷ Ἁγίῳ Ἀντίπα κειμένου.
Ἐξήγαγες γῆς τὸν στέφανον καὶ βίου·
Στέφει δὲ δόξης ἐστεφάνωσας Λόγε.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τῶν Ἁγίων Μαρτύρων Σωσιθέου, Ναρσοῦ καὶ Ἰσαάκ, διὰ ξίφους τελειωθέντων.
Σωσίθεον σωθεῖσιν ἐγγράφει λόγος,
Ὑπὲρ Θεοῦ σῴζοντος ἐκτετμημένον.
Πέρσης κάραν σοι, Χριστέ, Ναρσῆς προσφέρει,
Κρεῖττόν γε δῶρον σμυρνοχρυσολιβάνου.
Πάθους τὸ λεῖπον Ἰσαὰκ Σάρρας τέκνου,
Σφαγεὶς ἀνεπλήρωσεν Ἰσαὰκ νέος.
Ταῖς αὐτῶν Ἁγίαις πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον, καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
According to the ancient tradition of the Church, since Saint Anna, the Ancestor of God, was barren, she and her husband Joachim remained without children until old age. Therefore, sorrowing over their childlessness, they besought God with a promise that, if He were to grant them the fruit of the womb, they would offer their offspring to Him as a gift. And God, hearkening to their supplication, informed them through an Angel concerning the birth of the Virgin. And thus, through God's promise, Anna conceived according to the laws of nature, and was deemed worthy to become the mother of the Mother of our Lord (see also Sept. 8).
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Σήμερον τής ατεκνίας δεσμά διαλύονται, τού Ιωακείμ γάρ καί τής Άννης εισακούων Θεός, παρ' ελπίδα τεκείν αυτούς σαφώς, υπισχνείται θεόπαιδα, εξ ής αυτός ετέχθη ο απερίγραπτος, βροτός γεγονώς, δι' Αγγέλου κελεύσας βοήσαι αυτή, Χαίρε Κεχαριτωμένη, ο Κύριος μετά σού.
Today the bonds of childlessness are loosed; for God hearkened to Joachim and Anna. And though it was beyond hope, He clearly promised them that they should bear a divine child, from whom was born the Uncircumscribable One Himself Who became a mortal, and through an Angel commanded them to cry unto her: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace; the Lord is with thee.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Εορτάζει σήμερον, η οικουμένη, τήν τής Άννης σύλληψιν, γεγενημένην εν Θεώ, καί γάρ αυτή απεκύησε, τήν υπέρ λόγον, τόν Λόγον κυήσασαν.
Today the world rejoices in the conception of Anna, wrought by God. For she bore the One who beyond comprehension
Σήμερα η Εκκλησία γιορτάζει την μνήμη δύο αγίων γυναικών, που ενώ απέχουν πολλά χρόνια η μία από την άλλη συνδέονται μεταξύ τους με πολλά κοινά χαρακτηριστικά. Έχουν πρώτα το ίδιο όνομα, είναι η Άννα, μητέρα της Θεοτόκου και η Άννα, μητέρα του Προφήτου Σαμουήλ. Και οι δύο ήσαν σε περασμένη ηλικία και δεν είχαν παιδιά, και οι δύο εγέννησαν κατά θαυμαστό τρόπο, και των δύο τα παιδιά στάθηκαν ξεχωριστά και μεγάλα. Η Μαρία είναι η "προορισθείσα και εκλεχθείσα εκ πασών των γενεών", για να γίνη μητέρα του Θεού. Ο Σαμουήλ είναι ο θεοδώρητος καρπός, που μεγάλωσε μέσα στο ναό κοντά στον ιερέα, ο Προφήτης που έχρισε βασιλέα τον Σαούλ κι ύστερα τον Δαβίδ. Η Εκκλησία τιμά σήμερα τις δύο συνώνυμες Άγιες, όχι μόνο γιατί απ' αυτές γεννήθηκαν η Θεοτόκος κι ο Προφήτης, μα και γιατί, σαν άγιες μητέρες, και γέννησαν και ανάθρεψαν άγια τέκνα.
Ἡ Σύλληψις τῆς Θεοτόκου
Ὑπὸ τῆς Ἁγίας Ἄννης Μητέρας τῆς Ὑπεραγίας Θεοτόκου. Γιὰ τὴν μητέρα τῆς Θεοτόκου Ἄννα δὲν ἀναφέρουν τίποτα σχετικὸ τὰ Εὐαγγέλια, οὔτε τὰ ὑπόλοιπα βιβλία τῆς Καινῆς Διαθήκης. Ὅτι ξέρουμε γι᾿ αὐτή, τὸ γνωρίζουμε ἀπὸ τὰ λεγόμενα ἀπόκρυφα Εὐαγγέλια. Σύμφωνα μὲ τὴν διήγηση αὐτή, ποὺ συμφωνεῖ μὲ τὴν παράδοση τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ὁ Ἱερέας Ματθᾶν, κάτοικος τῆς Βηθλεέμ, ἀπέκτησε τρεῖς θυγατέρες: τὴν Μαρία, τὴν Σοβὴ καὶ τὴν Ἄννα. Ἡ Μαρία, ἀφοῦ παντρεύτηκε στὴ Βηθλεέμ, γέννησε ἐκεῖ τὴν Ἐλισάβετ, τὴν μητέρα τοῦ Ἰωάννη τοῦ Βαπτιστῆ. Ἡ Ἄννα παντρεύτηκε τὸν Ἰωακεὶμ ἀπὸ τὴν Γαλιλαῖο. Μετὰ ἀπὸ πολλὰ χρόνια ἀτεκνίας, ἀπέκτησε κόρη, τὴν Παρθένο Μαρία. Ἡ παράδοση ἀναφέρει ὅτι οἱ γονεῖς της τὴν ἀφιέρωσαν στὴν ὑπηρεσία τοῦ Ναοῦ τῆς Ἱερουσαλήμ, σὲ ἡλικία τριῶν ἐτῶν. Αὐτοὶ δὲ μετὰ ἀπὸ λίγα χρόνια πέθαναν. Τὴν Ἁγία Ἄννα τιμοῦσαν ἀπὸ τὰ ἀρχαία χρόνια. Τὸ συμπεραίνουμε αὐτὸ ἀπὸ διάφορους Πατέρες τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀπὸ ἀρχαίους ἐκκλησιαστικοὺς ὕμνους, ποὺ ὑπάρχουν πρὸς τιμὴν τῆς μητέρας τῆς Θεοτόκου. Ἐπίσης, τὸ ἔτος 550, ὁ αὐτοκράτωρ Ἰουστινιανός, ἀφιέρωσε ναὸ στὴν Κωνσταντινούπολη πρὸς τιμὴν τῆς Ἁγίας Ἄννας. Ἂς ζητᾶμε λοιπὸν τὶς πρεσβεῖες τῆς Ἁγίας Ἄννας πρὸς τὸ Θεό, γιὰ τὴν ἐνδυνάμωση τῆς ψυχῆς μας καὶ τὴν τελικὴ σωτηρία της.
Ἡ Ἁγία Ἄννα ἡ προφήτιδα, Μητέρα τοῦ προφήτη Σαμουὴλ
Ἦταν στεῖρα γιὰ πολλὰ χρόνια καὶ βυθίστηκε σὲ μεγάλη θλίψη. Ἡ ψυχή της ποθοῦσε νὰ σφίξει στὴν ἀγκαλιά της ἕνα δικό της παιδί. Ἀλλ᾿ ὁ καιρὸς περνοῦσε καὶ ἡ στείρωση παρέμενε. Παρ᾿ ὅλα αὐτὰ ὅμως ἡ Ἄννα, ποὺ ἦταν σύζυγος τοῦ Ἐλκανᾶ γιοῦ τοῦ Ἱερεμεήλ, ἀπὸ τὴν Ἀρμαθαίμ, εἶχε συνεχῆ ἐλπίδα στὸ Θεό. Καὶ κάθε χρόνο, ἀνέβαινε στὸν οἶκο τοῦ Κυρίου στὴ Σηλῶ καὶ προσευχόταν μὲ δάκρυα καὶ νηστεῖες. Ὁ καλός της σύζυγος Ἐλκανά, προσπαθοῦσε νὰ τὴν παρηγορήσει, ἀλλ᾿ ἡ Ἄννα ἦταν ἀπαρηγόρητη καὶ συνεχῶς προσευχόταν στὸν Θεὸ νὰ τῆς χαρίσει παιδὶ καὶ αὐτὴ θὰ τὸ ἀφιέρωνε σ᾿ Αὐτόν. Ἡ θερμὴ προσευχή της εἰσακούστηκε καὶ ἡ Ἄννα συνέλαβε. Ἔκανε γιὸ καὶ τὸν ὀνόμασε Σαμουήλ. Μετὰ τὴν ἀπογαλάκτιση τοῦ παιδιοῦ, οἱ δυὸ γονεῖς ἀνέβηκαν στὴ Σηλῶ μαζὶ μὲ τὸν Σαμουὴλ καὶ μὲ ὅ,τι ὅριζε ὁ νόμος σ᾿ αὐτὲς τὶς περιστάσεις. Ἐκεῖ ἡ εὐσεβὴς Ἄννα ἔφερε τὸ παιδάκι της στὸν Ἱερέα Ἠλί, γιὰ νὰ τὸ ἀφιερώσει στὴν ὑπηρεσία τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ Κυρίου. Καὶ γεμάτη χαρὰ καὶ ἐνθουσιασμὸ εἶπε τὸν ὑπέροχο ὕμνο: «Ἐστερεώθη καρδία μου ἐν Κυρίῳ, ὑψώθη κέρας μου ἐν Θεῷ μου, ἐπλατύνθη ἐπ᾿ ἐχθρούς μου τὸ στόμα μου, εὐφράνθην ἐν σωτηρίᾳ σου... κλπ.». Μετὰ ἀπ᾿ αὐτό, ἡ θεία χάρη εὐλόγησε τὴν πίστη καὶ τὴν εὐσεβῆ ἀφοσίωση τῆς Ἄννας ἀκόμη περισσότερο. Τῆς χάρισε τρεῖς ἀκόμα γιοὺς καὶ δυὸ θυγατέρες. Καὶ πραγματοποιήθηκε ἔτσι ἡ προφητική της ἐνόραση, κατὰ τὴν ὁποία εἶπε: «στείρα ἔτεκεν ἑπτά, καὶ ἡ πολλὴ ἐν τέκνοις ἠσθένησεν». Γιὰ τὴν Ἄννα αὐτή, ὁ Χρυσόστομος ἀφιέρωσε πολλὲς καὶ λαμπρὲς ὁμιλίες.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Στέφανος ὁ νεολαμπὴς «ὁ ἐν τῷ Ἁγίῳ Ἀντίπᾳ κειμένου»
Γεννήθηκε στὴν Κωνσταντινούπολη καὶ ἔζησε τὸν 8ο αἰῶνα μ.Χ. Ἀνατράφηκε μὲ εὐσέβεια ἀπὸ τοὺς γονεῖς του Ζαχαρία καὶ Θεοφανῶ καὶ ἀγωνίστηκε γιὰ τὴν Ὀρθοδοξία θερμότατα, στὰ χρόνια ποὺ βασίλευε ὁ Θεόφιλος ὁ εἰκονομάχος. Ὅταν ἐπὶ βασιλίσσης Θεοδώρας ἦλθε ὁ θρίαμβος τῆς Ὀρθόδοξης πίστης, ὁ Πατριάρχης Μεθόδιος χειροτόνησε τὸν Στέφανο πρεσβύτερο καὶ τὸν κατάταξε στὸν κλῆρο τῆς ἀρχιεπισκοπῆς Κωνσταντινουπόλεως. Μετὰ τὸν θάνατο τοῦ πατέρα του Ζαχαρία, κληρονόμησε μεγάλη περιουσία, τὴν ὁποία διαμοίρασε σὲ φιλανθρωπικὰ ἱδρύματα καὶ ὁ ἴδιος ἀφοσιώθηκε στὶς ὑποχρεώσεις τῆς ἱερῆς διακονίας, φωτίζοντας καὶ ἐνισχύοντας μὲ τὴν διδασκαλία του ψυχές. Κατοικοῦσε δὲ στὴν περιοχὴ τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἀντίπα, ὅπου προσέρχονταν πολλοὶ καὶ ἀπὸ ὅλες τὶς τάξεις, ἑλκυσμένοι ἀπὸ τὴν φήμη τῆς ἀρετῆς καὶ τῆς διδακτικότητάς του. Ὁ Ὅσιος Στέφανος πέθανε εἰρηνικὰ σὲ ἡλικία 73 ἐτῶν, ποὺ ὅλα πέρασαν στὴν ὑπηρεσία τοῦ Θεοῦ.
The Conception of the Most Holy Mother of God
"In accordance with the eternal purpose of God, who willed to prepare a most pure habitation for Himself in order to take flesh and dwell among men, Joachim and Anna were prevented from having children for many years. Their barren old age was symbolic of human nature itself, bowed down and dried up under the weight of sin and death, yet they never ceased begging God to take away their reproach. Now when the time of preparation determined by the Lord had been fulfilled, God sent an Angel to Joachim in solitude on a mountain, and to Anna in her affliction weeping in her garden, to tell them that the ancient prophecies were soon to be fulfilled in them: a child would be born to them, who was destined to become the veritable Ark of the new Covenant, the divine Ladder, the unburnt Bush, the living Temple where the Word of God would take up his abode. Through the conception of Saint Anna, the barrenness of human nature itself, separated from God by death, has on this day been brought to an end; and by the wondrous birth-giving of her who had remained childless until the age when women can no longer bear fruit, God announced and testified to the more astonishing miracle of the Conception without seed, and of the immaculate coming to birth of Christ within the heart and the womb of the Most Holy Virgin and Mother of God.
"Even though the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary took place through a miraculous action of God, she was conceived by the union of man and woman in accordance with the laws of our human nature, which has fallen through Adam's transgression and become subject to sin and corruption (cf. Gen. 3:16). As the chosen Vessel and precious Shrine prepared by God since the beginning of time, she is indeed the most pure and the most perfect of mankind, but even so, she has not been set apart from our common inheritance nor from the consequences of the sin of our first parents. Just as it was fitting that Christ, in order to deliver us from death by his own voluntary death (Heb. 2:14), should by His Incarnation be made like to men in all things except sin; so it was meet that His Mother, in whose womb the Word of God would unite with human nature, should be subject to death and corruption like every child of Adam, lest we not be fully included in Salvation and Redemption. The Mother of God has been chosen and preferred among all women, not arbitrarily, but because God foresaw that she would preserve her purity and keep it perfect: conceived and born like all of us, she has been worthy to become the Mother of the Son of God and the mother of us all. So, in her tenderness and compassion, she is able to intercede for us with her Son, that He may have mercy upon us.
"Just as the Lord Jesus Christ was the fruit of the virginity of the holy Mother of God, so she herself was the fruit of the chastity of Joachim and Anna. And by following the same path of chastity we too, monks and Christian married people, can bring Christ to be born and grow in us." (Synaxarion)
In the Latin church, this day is called the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, reflecting the erroneous Latin view of the conception of the Holy Theotokos.
"The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception proclaimed by the Roman Catholics in 1858 is rejected by the Orthodox Church, but without in any way detracting from the dignity of the Mother of God. In fact, according to the Fathers, the inheritance from Adam consists not in a personal responsibility of all men for original sin, but simply in the inheritance of the consequences of sin: death, corruption and the passions (including procreation and fleshly union). Hence the Orthodox have no difficulty in recognizing that the Mother of God was heir, like us, of all the consequences of Adam's sin — Christ alone was exempt — but at the same time pure and without personal sin, for she freely kept herself from all attraction for the world and for the passions, and she voluntarily co-operated in God's purpose by obeying His will with docility: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word, she replied to the Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:38)" (Synaxarion)
St Hannah (Anna), the Prophetess, the mother of the Prophet Samuel (12th c. BC)
Her story opens the First Book of Samuel. Though barren, she kept all the commandments and prayed with fervor that her reproach might be taken from her, vowing that if God granted her a son she would dedicate him to God's service. When her prayers were answered, she brought her child Samuel to live with Eli the High Priest as soon as he was weaned. Her beautiful song of praise and thanks (1 Sam. 2:1-10) has become the third Biblical Ode of the Matins Canon; today it is only sung in full in monasteries during Lent. Despite her age, God granted her three sons and two daughters. She reposed in peace.
St Stephen the New Light (Neolampes) of Constantinople (912)
He seems to have lived in Constantinople for his entire life, but lived there as if in the desert, devoting himself entirely to solitude, fasting and prayer. For most of his adult life he ate only a few vegetables without salt once or twice a week; by his prayers many miracles were wrought in the City.
In time he was made a priest and served in the church of St Antipas, where he lived in seclusion. When the church was destroyed in the earthquake of 879, he withdrew to a dank pit in the ruins where the air was so unwholesome that he lost his hair and teeth and was almost paralyzed. He only emerged from this ascesis after twelve years. Thereafter he served the Divine Liturgy only on Feasts of the Lord, allowing himself some water and fruit after the service; otherwise he spent his time alone in silent prayer. He reposed in peace in 912 at the age of seventy-three.
The Conception by Saint Anna, of "Whence is Conceived the Holy Mother of God": Saint Anna, the mother of the MostHoly Mother of God, was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She entered into marriage with Saint Joakim (their mutual memory is made 9 September), who was a native of Galilee. For a long time Saint Anna was childless, but after a span of some 20 years, through the fervent prayer of both spouses, an Angel of the Lord announced to them the Conception of a Daughter, Who would bring blessing to all the human race. The Conception by Saint Anna took place at Jerusalem, where also was born the MostHoly Virgin Mary by name. The majority of icons, dedicated to the Conception by Saint Anna, portray the MostHoly Virgin trampling underfoot the serpent. "Down the icon, along its sides, Saints Joakim and Anna are depicted usually with upraised hands prayerfully folded; their eyes also are directed upward and hey contemplate the Mother of God, Who as it were soars in the air with outstretched hands; under Her feet is portrayed an orb wound round with a serpent symbolising the devil, which in the face of fallen forefathers strives to conquer with its power all the universe".
There also exist icons, upon which Saint Anna holds on her left arm the MostHoly Virgin at an infant age. Upon the face of Saint Anna is portrayed a special reverence. An ancient icon of large size, written on canvas, is located in the village of Minkovetsa in the Dubensk district of Volynsk diocese. And from ancient times this feast was especially venerated in Russia by pregnant women.
The Holy Prophetess Anna (Hannah) dwelt in marriage with Elkanah, but she was childless. Elkanah took to himself another wife, Phennana, who bore him children. Anna grieved strongly over her misfortune, and every day she prayed for a solution to her childlessness, and she made a vow to dedicate the child to God. One time, when she prayed fervently in the Temple, the priest Elias decided that she was drunk, and he began to reproach her. But the saint poured out her grief, and having received a blessing, she returned home. After this Anna conceived and gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel (which means "Besoughten of God"). When the child reached the age of boyhood, the mother herself presented him to the priest Elias, and with him Samuel remained to serve before the Tabernacle (1 Kings (1 Samuel) 1; 2: 1-21).
The Monk Sophronios, Archbishop of Cyprus, was born into a Christian family on Cyprus, and he studied many a science, but most of all he devoted himself to the reading of Holy Scripture. He became so accomplished in piety and good works, that he was vouchsafed of the Lord the gift of wonderworking. Following the death of the bishop of the Cypriot Church, Saint Damian, the Monk Sophronios, at the wish of all the people, was ordained in place of the deceased. In occupying the bishop's cathedra-chair, he proved himself a true father to his flock.
The Monk Stephen the New-Radiant was born at Constantinople and received a fine education. Under Patriarch Methodios (82-846) Stephen accepted monastic tonsure and entered amongst the clergy at one of the Constantinople churches. Later he went into seclusion and over a span of 50 years he constantly increased his ascetic efforts. Towards the end of his life the monk acquired from the Lord a great grace, shining in the constellation of the Saints like to the ancient ascetics of the Orthodox Church of old, so that he came to be called the "New-Radiant". According to the prologue-accounts of the Saints, he died in the year 912.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. The Conception of the Most-holy Theotokos by Saint Anna
The righteous Joachim and Anna were childless for fifty years of their married life. In their old age the Archangel Gabriel appeared to each one of them separately, telling them that God had heard their prayers and that they would give birth to a daughter, Mary. Then St. Anna conceived by her husband and after nine months bore a daughter blessed by God and by all generations of men: the Most-holy Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. (For more details, see September 9.)
2. Saint Hannah, Mother of the Prophet Samuel
Hannah was the wife of Elkanah from Ramathaim Zophim or Arimathea (I Samuel 1:1-2). Hannah had not given birth to any children because she was barren, and this caused her to weep and grieve bitterly. But the Merciful God showed pity on her and removed her barrenness because of her ceaseless sighs and prayers. Hannah bore a son, Samuel, and dedicated him to God from his childhood. Samuel was a great leader of the nation of Israel and a prophet, who anointed two kings, Saul and David. St. Hannah sang a hymn of thanksgiving to God, a hymn wonderful both in its wisdom and its beauty, which is used even to this day in the services of the Church (I Samuel 2:1).
3. The Venerable Stephen the New Light
This God-pleaser was born and brought up in Constantinople in the home of his parents, Zacharias and Theophano. His father was a priest of the Great Church at the time of Patriarch Methodius. While carrying him in her womb, his mother fed only on bread and water, and when the child was born a cross of light shone on his chest. Because of this and because of his pure and God-pleasing life, he is called the "New Light." At the age of eighteen Stephen enclosed himself in a cell near the Church of St. Peter the Apostle, and there he gave himself up to the ascetic labor of fasting and prayer. Once St. Peter appeared to him and said: "Peace be to you, my child. You have made a good beginning. May the Lord strengthen you." Following this, he lived for many years in a cell by the Church of the Holy Martyr Antipas. This saint also appeared to him and encouraged him with the words: "Know that I will not abandon you." Stephen imposed even greater and greater hardships upon himself. He ate only twice a week and then only unsalted vegetables. This holy man lived a life of asceticism for fifty-five years for the sake of Christ's Kingdom and entered into rest in the Lord in the year 829, at the age of seventy-three.
4. Saint Sophronius, Archbishop of Cyprus
Sophronius was born and brought up in Cyprus. Because of his great spiritual learning and his many virtues, especially compassion, he was appointed archbishop following St. Damian. Having faithfully served the Church and pleased God, Sophronius died peacefully in the sixth century.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Conception of the Most-holy Theotokos by Saint Anna
O Most-glorious God, wonderful and marvelous,
Kind and merciful toward all creation,
The proud dost Thou overturn, the humble dost Thou raise;
Thou Who dost extinguish, Thou Who makest to live,
According to Thy plan, O Creator, Thou canst do all,
According to Thy plan, eternal and divine.
With Thy blessing, the fertile earth brings forth fruit;
By Thy holy word, Thou settest a seal upon the barren.
From one who gives birth, Thou canst take away,
And for the barren one, Thou canst bring forth good fruit.
Thou madest fertile the barren Anna;
Thou didst grant her a holy and noble daughter.
That which was the subject of mockery, Thou didst crown with glory;
The dream of a childless woman Thou didst openly surpass.
The aged woman prayed; her prayer Thou didst accept.
The seal of barrenness Thou didst remove from her body;
Her dead body Thou didst fill with life;
Thou gavest her a Virgin, wondrous in beauty,
And a daughter was born, the Most-holy Virgin,
A Daughter, a Mother, and the Mother of God!
According to Thy plan, O Creator, Thou canst do all,
According to Thy plan, eternal and divine.
Fear of God drives all fear from the hearts of men. In every great hierarch of the Orthodox Church, we see meekness and fearlessness wonderfully united. St. Nicholas grabbed the sword of the executioner and pulled it away so that innocent men would not be beheaded. St. Chrysostom reproached the Empress Eudoxia for her misdeeds without consideration for the unpleasantness and danger to his own life, to which he was exposed as a result. And there are many, many other examples similar to this: Emperor Valentinian the Elder, upon hearing of Ambrose's stern criticism of him, said: "I knew of your fearlessness; that is why I helped you to be chosen as bishop. Correct our faults as the Law of God teaches, and heal our unrighteousness." When Valentinian the Younger, at the instigation of his mother Justina, an Arian, ordered that the cathedral church in Milan be yielded to the heretics, Ambrose shut himself in the church with the faithful and would not come out for three days. He sent a message to the emperor and empress that, if they desired his death, he was prepared at any moment ``here in the church to be run through either by the sword or spear.'' Hearing this, the emperor and empress withdrew their decree. When a riot occurred in Thessalonica, at which time about seven thousand people were beheaded by the decree of Emperor Theodosius the Great, Ambrose became so enraged at the emperor that, when the emperor visited Milan and wished to enter the church, the saint forbade him. The emperor said to Ambrose: "Even David sinned and was not deprived of God's mercy." To this the bishop replied: "As you have imitated David in sin, imitate him also in repentance." The emperor was ashamed, turned back and repented bitterly of the sin he had committed.
Contemplate the righteousness of the righteous Noah (Genesis 6):
1. How all men were corrupt and wicked;
2. How, amidst universal corruption, Noah alone remained righteous and lived according to the will of God.
Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9).
To be righteous among the righteous is a great and praiseworthy deed, but how far greater and more praiseworthy a deed it is to be righteous among the unrighteous. Noah lived among men who were filled with unrighteousness and evil; he lived among them for five hundred years and remained righteous before God: Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8). The Most-high Judge, who looks at all the works of mankind and evaluates them without prejudice and without error, valued the labors of Noah because, in the midst of a corrupt and perverse generation, he remained in the righteousness of God; and God rewarded him with His grace. Assuredly, Noah endured much misery and bitterness from his evil neighbors. Assuredly, he was unable to have a friend among them. The greatest satisfaction for a sinner is to drag a righteous man down into his own mire and to share his sin with him. But Noah did not allow himself to be dragged down or misled. Noah favored God's friendship over that of unrighteous men. It was dearer to him to walk with God without men, than to walk with men without God. Fear of God, the Creator and Judge, preserved him from the worldwide corruption; and he was not only righteous but also perfect in his generations. That is, he did not allow himself, even in the least, to be contaminated by the common evil, but rather he cleaved to God's righteousness. The allurement of sin and the ridicule of the sinners: everything merely served to separate him all the more from them. When the universal flood befell the human race, God did not abandon his faithful Noah to perish with the others. Instead, He saved him and glorified him, making him the progenitor of a new generation of men. Brethren, this shining example of Noah teaches that each one of us can please God even in the midst of sinners, if only we want to.
O Righteous and Long-suffering God, uphold us on the path of Thy righteousness.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.