Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 28, 2012 - 30th Friday After Pentecost (15th of Luke)


FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:

20,000 Martyrs burned in Nicomedia
Holy Martyr Glycerus
Simon the Myrrhbearer, Founder of Simonopetra, Monastery of Mount Athos
Afterfeast of the Nativity

Τῶν Ἁγίων Δισμυρίων Μαρτύρων τῶν ἐν Νικομηδείᾳ καέντων.
Τοῦ Ἁγίου Μάρτυρος Γλυκερίου.
Τοῦ Ὁσίου Σίμωνος τοῦ Μυροβλύτου, κτήτορος τῆς ἐν τῷ Ἄθῳ Ἱερᾶς Μονῆς Σιμωνοπέτρας.

READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:

St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews 11:8-16
Prokeimenon. Grave Mode.
Psalm 98.9,1
Exalt the Lord our God.
Verse: The Lord reigns; let the people tremble.
BRETHREN, by faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Πρὸς Ἑβραίους 11:8-16
Προκείμενον. Ἦχος βαρύς.
ΨΑΛΜΟΙ 98.9,1
Ὑψοῦτε Κύριον τὸν Θεὸν ἡμῶν.
Στίχ. Ὁ Κύριος ἐβασίλευσεν, ὀργιζέσθωσαν λαοί.
Ἀδελφοί, πίστει καλούμενος Ἀβραὰμ ὑπήκουσεν ἐξελθεῖν εἰς τὸν τόπον ὃν ἤμελλεν λαμβάνειν εἰς κληρονομίαν, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν μὴ ἐπιστάμενος ποῦ ἔρχεται. Πίστει παρῴκησεν εἰς γῆν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας, ὡς ἀλλοτρίαν, ἐν σκηναῖς κατοικήσας μετὰ Ἰσαὰκ καὶ Ἰακώβ, τῶν συγκληρονόμων τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τῆς αὐτῆς· ἐξεδέχετο γὰρ τὴν τοὺς θεμελίους ἔχουσαν πόλιν, ἧς τεχνίτης καὶ δημιουργὸς ὁ θεός. Πίστει καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν, καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας ἔτεκεν, ἐπεὶ πιστὸν ἡγήσατο τὸν ἐπαγγειλάμενον. Διὸ καὶ ἀφʼ ἑνὸς ἐγεννήθησαν, καὶ ταῦτα νενεκρωμένου, καθὼς τὰ ἄστρα τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τῷ πλήθει, καὶ ὡς ἡ ἄμμος ἡ παρὰ τὸ χεῖλος τῆς θαλάσσης ἡ ἀναρίθμητος. Κατὰ πίστιν ἀπέθανον οὗτοι πάντες, μὴ λαβόντες τὰς ἐπαγγελίας, ἀλλὰ πόρρωθεν αὐτὰς ἰδόντες, καὶ ἀσπασάμενοι, καὶ ὁμολογήσαντες ὅτι ξένοι καὶ παρεπίδημοί εἰσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. Οἱ γὰρ τοιαῦτα λέγοντες ἐμφανίζουσιν ὅτι πατρίδα ἐπιζητοῦσιν. Καὶ εἰ μὲν ἐκείνης ἐμνημόνευον ἀφʼ ἧς ἐξῆλθον, εἶχον ἂν καιρὸν ἀνακάμψαι. Νῦν δὲ κρείττονος ὀρέγονται, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν, ἐπουρανίου· διὸ οὐκ ἐπαισχύνεται αὐτοὺς ὁ θεός, θεὸς ἐπικαλεῖσθαι αὐτῶν· ἡτοίμασεν γὰρ αὐτοῖς πόλιν.

The Gospel of Mark 12:1-12
The Lord said this parable, "A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture: 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?" And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away.

Κατὰ Μᾶρκον 12.1-12
Εἶπεν ὁ Κύριος τήν παραβολαῖς λέγειν· ἀμπελῶνα ἐφύτευσεν ἄνθρωπος καὶ περιέθηκε φραγμὸν καὶ ὤρυξεν ὑπολήνιον καὶ ᾠκοδόμησε πύργον, καὶ ἐξέδοτο αὐτὸν γεωργοῖς καὶ ἀπεδήμησε.καὶ ἀπέστειλε πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς τῷ καιρῷ δοῦλον, ἵνα παρὰ τῶν γεωργῶν λάβῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ καρποῦ τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος.καὶ λαβόντες αὐτὸν ἔδειραν καὶ ἀπέστειλαν κενόν.καὶ πάλιν ἀπέστειλε πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἄλλον δοῦλον· κἀκεῖνον λιθοβολήσαντες ἐκεφαλαίωσαν καὶ ἀπέστειλαν ἠτιμωμένον.καὶ πάλιν ἄλλον ἀπέστειλε· κἀκεῖνον ἀπέκτειναν, καὶ πολλοὺς ἄλλους, οὓς μὲν δέροντες, οὓς δὲ ἀποκτέννοντες.ἔτι οὖν ἕνα υἱὸν ἔχων, ἀγαπητὸν αὐτοῦ, ἀπέστειλε καὶ αὐτὸν ἔσχατον πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων ὅτι ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἱόν μου.ἐκεῖνοι δὲ οἱ γεωργοί, θεασάμενοι αὐτὸν ἐρχόμενον, πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς εἶπον ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος· δεῦτε ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτόν, καὶ ἡμῶν ἔσται ἡ κληρονομία.καὶ λαβόντες ἀπέκτειναν αὐτὸν καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος.τί οὖν ποιήσει ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος; ἐλεύσεται καὶ ἀπολέσει τοὺς γεωργοὺς τούτους, καὶ δώσει τὸν ἀμπελῶνα ἄλλοις.οὐδὲ τὴν γραφὴν ταύτην ἀνέγνωτε, λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες,οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας· παρὰ Κυρίου ἐγένετο αὕτη,καὶ ἔστι θαυμαστὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν; Καὶ ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν κρατῆσαι, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν τὸν ὄχλον· ἔγνωσαν γὰρ ὅτι πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὴν παραβολὴν εἶπε. καὶ ἀφέντες αὐτὸν ἀπῆλθον.

READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:

Τῇ ΚΗ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Μνήμη τῶν Ἁγίων Δισμυρίων, τῶν ἐν Νικομηδείᾳ καέντων.
Ὡς προσφοραὶ σοι Σῶτερ ἐξωπτημέναι,
Οἱ Δισμύριοι τοῦ νεὼ κεῖνται μέσον.
Ἀνέρας ὀγδοάτῃ κτάνεν εἰκάδι Δισμυρίους πῦρ.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τῶν ἁγίων Μαρτύρων, τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς Συγκλήτου, ἔξω τῆς πυρᾶς ἀπολειφθέντων, καὶ τελειωθέντων.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Ἴνδης, ἐν τῇ θαλάσση βληθείς, τελειοῦται.
Ἴνδην ἀκούω τοῦ βίου λαβεῖν πέρας,
Ἄκρον καταντήσαντα πρὸς βυθοῦ πέρας.
Οἱ ἅγιοι Γοργόνιος καὶ Πέτρος ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ τελειοῦνται.
Πόντος καλύπτει Γοργόνιον καὶ Πέτρον,
Μνήμη δὲ τούτων οὐ καλύπτεται χρόνῳ.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Μάρτυς Ζήνων ξίφει τελειοῦται.
Ζήνων κεφαλὴν τέμνεται διὰ ξίφους,
Μὴ προσκυνεῖν ἄγαλμα τοῦ Ζηνὸς θέλων.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Μάρτυς Μαρδόνιος πυρὶ τελειοῦται.
Καὶ Μαρδόνιον Μαρτύρων ἔγνων ἕνα,
Στέργοντα Χριστόν, καὶ στέργοντα πῦρ φλέγον.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Δωρόθεος, ὁ Πρεπόσιτος, ξίφει τελειοῦται.
ὁ Δωρόθεος, τὴν κεφαλήν μου, λέγει,
Δῶρον κομίζω τῷ Θεῷ τετμημένην.
Ὁ ἅγιος Θεόφιλος ὁ Διάκονος λιθοβοληθεὶς τελειοῦται.
Ἀπόγραφε βληθέντα συχνοῖς τοῖς λίθοις,
Καὶ Θεόφιλον συλλόγῳ Θεοῦ φίλων.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Μυγδόνιος βόθρῳ ἐγχωσθείς, τελειοῦται.
Κἂν χωννύηται Μυγδόνιος ἐν βόθρῳ
Ἐγνωσμένος τοῖς πᾶσι Μάρτυς τυγχάνει.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Γλυκέριος, ὁ Πρεσβύτερος, πυρὶ τελειοῦται.
Ὁ Γλυκέριος, εἰς τὸ πῦρ βεβλημένος,
Ἔφη, Γλυκὺς μοι τῆς τελευτῆς ὁ τρόπος.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ἡ Ἁγία Δόμνα, ξίφει τμηθεῖσα, τῷ πυρὶ τελειοῦται.
Ἕκτην συνάπτω ταῖς φρονίμοις Παρθένοις,
Τὴν ψευδόμωρον Δόμναν ἐκτετμημένην.
Ταῖς αὐτῶν ἁγίαις πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον, καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.

All these Saints, some 20,000 in number, were burned alive in the year 303, while they were gathered in church. This came to pass during the reign of Diocletian and Maximian. According to the Synaxarion, this took place on the day of Christ's Nativity. Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. VIII, 6) says that, of the Christians then living in Nicomedia, all were slain by imperial decree - some by the sword, and others by fire, and that, because of their divine and inexpressible ardour, both men and women cast themselves into the fire. Besides those burned in church. the following, who were slain in the same Persecution, are commemorated today. Indus, Gorgonius, and Peter were cast into the sea; Glycerius the Presbyter and Mardonius were burned; Dorotheus the Prefect and Zeno were beheaded; Theophilus the Deacon was stoned; Mygdonius was buried alive; and Domna, who had been a priestess of the idols, believed in Christ, and was baptized, was beheaded and cast into the fire. See also the account of Saint Anthimus on September 3.

Apolytikion in the Second Tone
Ἀθλοφόροι Κυρίου, μακαρία ἡ γῆ, ἡ πιανθεῖσα τοὶς αἵμασιν ὑμῶν, καὶ ἅγιαι αἱ σκηναί, αἱ δεξάμεναι τὰ πνεύματα ὑμῶν, ἐν σταδίῳ γὰρ τὸν ἐχθρὸν ἐθριαμβεύσατε, καὶ Χριστὸν μετὰ παρρησίας ἐκηρύξατε, αὐτὸν ὡς ἀγαθὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἱκετεύσατε, σωθῆναι δεόμεθα τὰς ψυχὰς ἡμῶν.
Blessed is the earth that drank your blood, O prizewinners of the Lord, and holy are the tabernacles that received your spirit; for in the stadium ye triumphed over the enemy, and ye proclaimed Christ with boldness. Beseech Him, we pray, since He is good, to save our souls.

Kontakion in the First Tone
Στράτος εν αριθμώ, δισμυρίων Μαρτύρων, ώς άδυτος φυστήρ, ανατέλλει φωτίζων καρδίας κάι νοήματα, ευσεβών διά πίστεως, εξαρθέντες γάρ, θεία στοργή τού Δεσπότου, τέλος άγιον, διά πυρός οι γενναίοι, προθύμως εδέξαντο.
A twenty-thousand numbered battalion of Martyrs ariseth like an unwaning star great with brightness, enlight'ning by faith the hearts and the minds of all godly folk. For, enkindled with divine love unto the Master, this courageous host received a sanctified ending when eagerly burned with fire.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Ἡ γέννησίς σου Χριστὲ ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, ἀνέτειλε τῶ κόσμω, τὸ φῶς τὸ τῆς γνώσεως, ἐν αὐτῇ γὰρ οἱ τοὶς ἄστροις λατρεύοντες, ὑπὸ ἀστέρος ἐδιδάσκοντο, σὲ προσκυνεῖν, τὸν Ἥλιον τῆς δικαιοσύνης, καὶ σὲ γινώσκειν ἐξ ὕψους ἀνατολήν, Κύριε δόξα σοί.
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined the light of knowledge upon the world; for thereby they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee.

Για την αγία Μάρτυρα Δόμνα, της οποίας η Εκκλησία σήμερα τιμά την μνήμη, διασώζεται η εξής ευσεβής παράδοση. Κάπου βρήκε τις Πράξεις των Αποστόλων και τις Επιστολές του Παύλου, διάβασε τον λόγο του Θεού, φωτίσθηκε η ψυχή της από το φως της θείας αλήθειας και πίστεψε στον Χριστό. Την μεταστροφή της επισφράγισε στο τέλος με μαρτυρικό θάνατο και συναριθμήθηκε, σαν έκτη, στις πέντε φρόνιμες παρθένους, έτσι όπως το θέλει ο εγκωμιαστικής στο ιαμβικό δίστιχο: "Έκτην συνάπτω ταις φρονίμοις παρθένοις / την ... Δόμναν εκτετμημένην". Ας σκεφθούμε πόση εσωτερική δύναμη και πόση δραστικότητα έχει ο θείος λόγος, για να επιφέρη τέτοια θαυμαστή αλλοίωση και ριζική μεταβολή στις συνειδήσεις των ανθρώπων. Είναι "αλλοίωσις της δεξιάς του υψίστου", που επικυρώνει κάθε φορά τα λόγια του αγίου Παύλου, ότι ο λόγος του Θεού είναι "ζων και ενεργής και τομώτερος υπέρ πάσαν μάχαιραν δίστομον...".

Οἱ Ἅγιοι δισμύριοι (20.000) Μάρτυρες ποὺ κάηκαν στὴ Νικομήδεια
Τὸν 4ο αἰῶνα μ.Χ., ἐπὶ Διοκλητιανοῦ καὶ Μαξιμιανοῦ, οἱ χριστιανοὶ τῆς Νικομήδειας ἦταν ἀρκετὰ πολυπληθεῖς. Ὁ ἐπίσκοπος Ἄνθιμος, ἄνδρας ἄξιος καὶ μὲ αὐταπάρνηση, κοπίαζε νύχτα-μέρα γιὰ τὶς ψυχὲς τῶν πιστῶν. Ἡ πρόοδος αὐτὴ τῶν χριστιανῶν κέντρισε τὸ φθόνο τῶν εἰδωλολατρῶν ἀρχόντων καὶ θέλησαν νὰ ἐξοντώσουν τὴ χριστιανικὴ Ἐκκλησία, προπάντων στὰ μεγαλύτερα καὶ πολυπληθέστερα κέντρα της. Σχεδίασαν λοιπόν, ἀνήμερα Χριστούγεννα νὰ κάνουν γενικὴ σφαγὴ τῶν χριστιανῶν τῆς Νικομήδειας. Οἱ χριστιανοὶ εἶχαν μαζευτεῖ καὶ πανηγύριζαν τὸ κοσμοσωτήριο γεγονὸς τῆς γεννήσεως τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Ὁ ἐπίσκοπος, μόλις πληροφορήθηκε ὅτι τοὺς εἶχαν περικυκλώσει στρατὸς καὶ ὄχλος εἰδωλολατρῶν μὲ ὅπλα καὶ ῥόπαλα, διέταξε νὰ γίνει γρήγορα ἡ κοινωνία τῶν ἀχράντων Μυστηρίων. Ἔπειτα, βάπτισε τοὺς κατηχουμένους, γιὰ νὰ ἔχουν ἀσφαλῆ ἐφόδια στὴν αἰώνια σωτηρία. Τότε οἱ εἰδωλολάτρες ἔβαλαν φωτιὰ στὸ ναό, μὲ ἀποτέλεσμα νὰ καοῦν χιλιάδες πιστοί. Τὸ τραγικὸ αὐτὸ γεγονός, ἀντὶ νὰ μειώσει τὸν ἀριθμὸ τῶν μελῶν τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ἀντίθετα τὸν πολλαπλασίασε καὶ χαλύβδωσε ἀκόμα περισσότερο τὸ ἠθικὸ τῶν πιστῶν. Ἔτσι καὶ στὴν περίπτωση αὐτὴ ἀποδείχθηκε περίτρανα αὐτὸ ποὺ εἶπε ἡ κεφαλὴ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας Ἰησοῦς Χριστός: «καὶ πύλαι ᾅδου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς». Ὁ θάνατος δηλαδὴ καὶ οἱ ὀργανωμένες δυνάμεις τοῦ κακοῦ, δὲ θὰ ὑπερισχύσουν, οὔτε θὰ κατανικήσουν τὴν Ἐκκλησία, ποὺ εἶναι αἰώνια καὶ ἀθάνατη. (Συναξαριακὴ πηγή, μαζὶ μὲ τὴν μνήμη τῶν πιὸ πάνω Μαρτύρων, ἀναφέρει καὶ τὴν μνήμη τῶν Ἁγίων Δημοσθένους, Δημοκλέους καὶ Δημοκρίτου. Ἡ ὕπαρξη ὅμως τῶν Ἁγίων αὐτῶν εἶναι ἀμφίβολη, διότι τὰ ὀνόματά τους καθὼς καὶ βιογραφικὰ στοιχεῖα γι᾿ αὐτοὺς δὲν ἀναφέρονται ἀπὸ καμία Ἁγιολογικὴ πηγή. Ἴσως εἶναι οἱ ἴδιοι καὶ συγχέονται μὲ τοὺς ὁμώνυμούς τους Μάρτυρες τῆς 10ης Ἀπριλίου).

Μνήμη τῶν Ἁγίων συγκλητικῶν, Ἴνδη, Γοργονίου, Πέτρου, Ζήνωνος, Δωροθέου τοῦ Πραιποσίτου Μαρδονίου, Γλυκερίου τοῦ Πρεσβύτερου, Θεοφίλου τοῦ Διακόνου καὶ Μυγδονίου
Αὐτοὶ ἀπέμειναν ἔξω ἀπὸ τὸν Ναὸ ποὺ κάηκε μὲ προσταγὴ τοῦ Μαξιμιανοῦ στὴ Νικομήδεια, ὅπου κάηκαν ζωντανοὶ οἱ 20.000 χριστιανοί. Αὐτοὶ λοιπόν, ποὺ ἦταν συγκλητικοί, συνελήφθησαν καὶ οἱ μὲν τρεῖς πρῶτοι μαρτύρησαν διὰ πνιγμοῦ μέσα στὴ θάλασσα, οἱ ἑπόμενοι δυὸ μαρτύρησαν διὰ ἀποκεφαλισμοῦ, οἱ ἄλλοι δυὸ μαρτύρησαν διὰ πυρός, ὁ Θεόφιλος διὰ λιθοβολισμοῦ καὶ ὁ Μυγδόνιος θανατώθηκε μέσα σὲ βόθρο.

Ἡ Ἁγία Δόμνα
Ἡ Ἁγία Δόμνα ἦταν ἱέρεια τῶν εἰδώλων ἐπὶ Μαξιμιανοῦ στὴ Νικομήδεια καὶ συγκεκριμένα στὸν ναὸ τοῦ Δωδεκάθεου. Οἱ ἐπιστολὲς τοῦ Ἀποστόλου Παύλου ἄνοιξαν τὰ πνευματικά της μάτια καὶ βαπτίστηκε χριστιανή, μαζὶ μὲ τὸν ὑπηρέτη της Ἴνδη, ἀπὸ τὸν ἐπίσκοπο Νικομήδειας Κύριλλο. Ἀπὸ τότε ἔκανε συνειδητὴ χριστιανικὴ ζωή, μοιράζοντας στοὺς φτωχοὺς ὅ,τι εἶχε ἀπὸ τὴν περιουσία της, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅ,τι ἔπαιρνε ἀπὸ τὸ παλάτι. Κάποτε ὅμως, τὸ ἔμαθε αὐτὸ ὁ ἀρχιυπηρέτης τοῦ παλατιοῦ καὶ ὅταν ἦταν νὰ τιμωρήσει τὴν Δόμνα, αὐτὴ ἔκανε τὴν τρελὴ καὶ στάλθηκε στὸν ἐπίσκοπο γιὰ θεραπεία. Ἔπειτα γιὰ νὰ μὴ συλληφθεῖ, ντύθηκε ἀνδρικὰ καὶ ἔθαβε τὰ λείψανα τῶν μαρτύρων. Ὅταν ὅμως ἐπέστρεψε ὁ Μαξιμιανὸς στὴ Νικομήδεια, ζήτησε τὴν Δόμνα καὶ ὅταν ἔμαθε ὅτι ἔγινε χριστιανή, διέταξε νὰ τὴν συλλάβουν. Ἐπειδὴ ὅμως δὲν τὴν βρῆκε, διέταξε τὸν γενικὸ φόνο τῶν χριστιανῶν, μεταξὺ τῶν ὁποίων ἀναγνωρίστηκε καὶ ἡ Δόμνα καὶ ἔτσι τὴν ἀποκεφάλισαν. (Συναξαριακὴ πηγή, μαζὶ μὲ τὴν μνήμη τῆς Ἁγίας Δόμνας, ἀναφέρει καὶ τὴν μνήμη τῶν Ἁγίων Θεοφίλης τῆς Παρθένου καὶ Ἀγάπης τῆς Προεστώσας).

Ὁ Ἅγιος Σεκοῦνδος
Φωτιστῆ τῶν Ἰσπανῶν θὰ μποροῦσαμε νὰ χαρακτηρίσουμε τὸν ἅγιο Σεκοῦνδο. Ἔζησε τὸν πρῶτο αἰῶνα μετὰ Χριστόν. Καὶ κατὰ τὴν παράδοση, στάλθηκε ἀπὸ τοὺς ἀποστόλους στὴν Ἱσπανία γιὰ νὰ κηρύξει ἐκεῖ τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο τοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Μετὰ ἀπὸ ἕνα εὐχάριστο ταξίδι, ἀποβιβάστηκε στὴν πόλη, ποὺ σήμερα λέγεται Κάδιξ. Ἐκεῖ, ἀπὸ τὸ ἕνα μέρος μὲ τὸ κήρυγμα καὶ τὴν ἀρετή του, ἀπὸ τὸ ἄλλο μὲ τὰ θαύματα, ποὺ ἡ θεία χάρη ἐνεργοῦσε μέσῳ αὐτοῦ, πολλοὶ ἀπὸ τοὺς κατοίκους πίστεψαν στὸ Χριστό. Στὴ συνέχεια ὁ Σεκοῦνδος πῆγε καὶ σὲ ἄλλες πόλεις τῆς Ἱσπανίας, μιμούμενος καὶ σ᾿ αὐτὸ τὸ παράδειγμα τῶν ἀποστόλων, οἱ ὁποῖοι ὡς γνωστόν, πήγαιναν ἀπὸ πόλη σὲ πόλη καὶ κήρυτταν παντοῦ τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο καὶ ἵδρυσαν νέες Ἐκκλησίες. Τοὺς τελευταίους κόπους καὶ ἀγῶνες τοῦ Σεκούνδου, στεφάνωσε μαρτυρικὸς θάνατος.

Ὁ Ὅσιος Σίμων Μυροβλύτης κτήτορας τῆς Ἱ. Μονῆς Σιμωνόπετρας
Δὲν ὑπάρχουν σαφῆ καὶ συγκεκριμένα στοιχεῖα γιὰ τὴ ζωή του. Μόνο ὅτι ἔζησε ἀσκητικὰ καὶ ὑπῆρξε κτήτορας τῆς Ἱερᾶς Μονῆς Σιμωνόπετρας Ἁγίου Ὄρους. Ἀπεβίωσε εἰρηνικά. Κάποιες λεπτομέρειες (μερικὲς ἴσως καὶ φανταστικές), βλέπε στὸν «Μέγα Συναξαριστή» τοῦ Ματθαίου Λαγγῆ τόμος 12ος, σελ. 724, ἔκδοση 1993. Ἡ Ἀκολουθία τοῦ συγκεκριμένου Ὁσίου, κυκλοφόρησε τὸ 1924 ἀπὸ τὸν ἡγούμενο τῆς Σίμωνος Πέτρας Ἱερώνυμο.

Ὁ Ὅσιος Στέφανος ὁ θαυματουργός
Πρόκειται γιὰ τὸ ἴδιο πρόσωπο μ᾿ αὐτὸ τῆς 31ης Μαρτίου. Ἐλάχιστα μηνολόγια τοποθετοῦν ἐδῶ τὴν μνήμη του. Στὸν Παρισινὸ Κώδικα 1623 φ. 1436 βρίσκονται ἀπομεινάρια τῆς Ἀκολουθίας του. Ἀπ᾿ αὐτὴ γίνεται φανερό, ὅτι ἦταν ἀσκητής, ἄγνωστο ποὺ καὶ πότε, ὅτι εὐαρέστησε τὸν Θεὸ καὶ πέθανε ὁσιακά. Ὁ δὲ Σ. Εὐστρατιάδης εἰκάζει ὅτι καθόλου ἀπίθανο νὰ πρόκειται γιὰ τὸν Ἅγιο Στέφανο τὸν Σαββαΐτη τὸν θαυματουργό, ποὺ ἡ μνήμη του ἑορτάζεται τὴν 28ηὈκτωβρίου.

The Twenty Thousand Martyrs burned to death in their church in Nicomedia (~304).
During a fierce persecution by the Emperor Maximian of all who would not worship the idols, the Christians of Nicomedia were subjected to especially savage treatment. (Eusebius writes that every Christian in the city was killed.) Along with many others put to the sword or otherwise butchered there, we especially commemorate the large company who, despite all danger, gathered in the church to commemorate Christ's Nativity. The Emperor, hearing of this, sent troops to surround the building so that no-one could escape, and piled heaps of timber and brush around it. Criers then gave notice that any who wished to save their lives must come out and make sacrifice to the pagan gods.
"As this announcement penetrated the church, a divine zeal, more fiery than any flame in the world, seized the deacon Agapius, who rushed to the pulpit and cried out, 'Brethren, remember how often we have praised and extolled the Three Young Men who, when they were thrown into the Babylonian furnace, called on the whole of Creation to sing the glory of God, and how the All-Creating Word then came down in bodily appearance, to assist them and to render them invulnerable by surrounding them with a moist whistling wind. The time has now come for us to imitate them. Let us offer ourselves to a temporary death for love of our Master, in order to reign everlastingly with Him!' The whole congregation with one voice then answered Maximian's criers, 'We believe in Christ God and we will give up our lives for Him!'
"As the soldiers began to set fire to the piles of wood outside, Saint Anthimus [bishop of the city, commemorated September 3] told his deacons to assemble those who were still catechumens, and he baptized and anointed them with the holy Myron. He then served the divine Liturgy, at which all present communicated in the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Armed with divine strength and closely united in a single body by Christ who dwelt in them, the holy Martyrs felt no fear as they saw the flames leap up everywhere and thick smoke begin to fill the church. With gladness they sang in unison the Song of the Three Young Men: Bless the Lord, all works of the Lord, sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever (Dan. 3 LXX) until the last among them suffocated and gave up his soul.
"The conflagration lasted for five days. Those who then ventured into the smouldering ruins anticipating the odour of charred flesh, found instead a heavenly scent pervading the air and the place surrounded by a brilliant light. The Saints who were glorified at this time are said to have numbered twenty thousand. Saint Anthimus himself miraculously escaped death, and so was able by his teaching to lead a large number of souls to salvation and to the new birth of holy Baptism before, in his turn, fulfilling his union with Christ by martyrdom." (Synaxarion)

Our Holy Father Simon the Outpourer of Myrrh, Founder of Simonopetra Monastery, Mt Athos (1287)
He lived during the years when Constantinople was held in captivity by the Crusaders, adn the Imperial government was in exile in Nicaea. Simon fled the world at a young age and travelled to the Holy Mountain, where he submitted himself to a strict but wise Elder for many years. In time, seeking greater seclusion, he moved to a small cave on the western side of Mt Athos, near a cliff that towered a thousand feet above the sea. One night, a few days before the Feast of the Nativity, he saw a star move across the sky and come to rest above the cliff near his cave. Taking this as a demonic delusion, he ignored it; but on the Eve of Nativity, the star once again took its place above the cliff, and Simon heard a voice from heaaven saying 'Be in no doubt, Simon, faithful servant of my Son! See this sign, and do not leave this spot in search of greater solitude as you have in mind, for it is here that I want you to establish your monastery, for the salvation of many souls.' Soon afterward, three young monks from wealthy Macedonian families, who had heard of the Saint's holiness, came and laid their wealth at his feet, asking that he accept them as disciples. Simon sent for builders and ordered them to construct a monastery on the very edge of the precipitous cliff. The builders at first refused, saying the work was much too dangerous; but, persuaded by a miracle worked through the Saint's prayers, they were convinced. As soon as the building was finished, the monastic community began to grow rapidly.
In his own lifetime St Simon was the source of many miracles, prophecies and healings. Once the monastery was attacked by Saracen pirates. Simon went to meet them with gifts, hoping to dissuade them from attacking. When the pirates attacked him, they were blinded, and the arm of one of them was paralyzed when he attempted to strike the Saint. All of them were healed when the holy man prayed for them, and at this wonder they all repented, received Baptism and became monks.
Saint Simon reposed in peace. A fragrant, healing balm afterwards flowed from his tomb in great quantities, so that he came to be called Myroblytis, 'Myrrh-gusher' or 'Outpourer of Myrrh.' In subsequent years, the monastery was destroyed an rebuilt more than once, and no trace now remains of the tomb.

Menologion 3.0
The Holy 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia: At the beginning of the IV Century the emperor Maximian (284-305) gave orders to destroy Christian churches, to burn Divine-service books, and to deprive all Christians of rights and offices of citizenship. At this time the bishop of the city of Nicomedia was Saint Cyril, who by his preaching and life contributed to the spread of the Christian faith, such that many of the dignitaries of the emperor were themselves secretly Christian.
At the Nicomedia court of the emperor lived the pagan-priestess, Domna. In the absence of Maximian she read through the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul. Her heart burned with the desire to become acquainted with the Christian teaching. With the help of some young Christian, Domna went secretly to the bishop, Cyril, in the company of a faithful servant, the eunuch Indysos. Saint Cyril catechised them, and afterwards both received holy Baptism. Domna began to help the poor: she distributed her valuables with the assistance of Indysos, and she distributed also food from the imperial kitchen. Having learned about the unusual manner of life of Domna and Indysos, the head of the eunuchs -- who was in charge of the imperial table, locked up both of them to exhaust them with hunger, but they received support from an Angel and did not suffer. In order to no longer live amidst the pagans, Saint Domna feigned insanity. Then she and Indysos managed to leave the court, and she went to the women's monastery of the hegumeness Agathia. The hegumeness quickly dressed her in men's clothing, cut her hair and sent her off from the monastery.
During this time the emperor happened to return and gave orders to seek out everywhere for the former pagan-priestess Domna. The soldiers dispatched for this purpose found the monastery and destroyed it. The sisters were thrown into prison, subjected to torture and abuse, but not one of them suffered violation. Sent off to an house of iniquity, Saint Theophila with the help of an Angel of the Lord there also preserved her virginity: the Angel removed her from the profligacy.
At this time the emperor set up in the city square an offering of sacrifice to the pagan gods. When they began sprinkling the crowd with the blood of the sacrificial animals, Christians started to leave the square. Seeing this, the emperor became enraged, but he did not give vent to his anger, since suddenly the earth quaked. A certain while later Maximian having located the church entered it and demanded a renunciation of Christ from all; for refusal he promised to burn the church and kill its Christians. The Christian presbyter Glykerios answered him, that Christians never renounce their faith, even under the threat of torture. Hiding his anger, the emperor exited the church, and after a certain while commanded the presbyter Glykerios be arrested for trial. The executioners tortured the martyr, who ceased not to pray and to call on the Name of the Lord. Not being able to wring a renunciation of Christ out of Saint Glykerios, Maximian ordered him to be burned to death.
On the feastday of the Nativity of Christ in the year 302, when about 20,000 Christians had assembled at the Nicomedia cathedral church, the emperor sent into the church an herald -- who proclaimed the emperor's command to exit the church and offer sacrifice to idols; otherwise, he threatened to burn the church together with those praying in it. But all those present refused to worship idols. While the tormentors prepared to set fire to the church, Bishop Anthymos (Comm. 3 September; a related account is under this day), having completed Divine-services, baptised all the catechumens and communed all with the Holy Mysteries. All 20,000 of those praying died in the fire. Among them were the hegumeness Agathia and Saint Theophila who had been saved by a miracle from the den of iniquity. Bishop Anthymos however managed to escape the fire.
Maximian reckoned that he had finished off all the Christians of Nicomedia. But he soon learned that there were many more, and that they all as before would confess their faith and were prepared to die for Christ. The emperor pondered over how to deal with them. By his command they arrested the regimental-commander Zinon, who openly before the people was criticising the emperor for impiety and cruelty. Zinon was fiercely beaten and finally beheaded. They locked up in prison the eunuch Indysos, formerly a priest to idols, for his refusal to participate in a pagan feastday.
Amidst all this, Saint Domna concealed herself within a cave and nourished herself eating plants. The persecution against Christians continued. In the locale elsewhere, in Italy, there were thrown into prison Dorotheus, Mardonius, Migdonius the Deacon and some dignitaries. Bishop Anthymos encouraged them, sending epistles to them. One of the messengers, the deacon Theophilos, was captured. Interrogating him about the bishop, they subjected him to torture, but the holy martyr endured all the tortures, revealing nothing. Then together with him they executed those, whom the bishop had addressed in his letter.
When Saint Domna returned to the city, she cried for a long time at the burnt-out ruins, regretting that she was not found worthy to die with her sisters. Then she went along the sea shore. At that moment fishermen pulled out of the water with their nets the bodies of the martyrs Indysos, Gorgonios and Peter. Saint Domna was still dressed in men's clothing, and she helped the fishermen to draw in their nets. They left her the bodies of the martyrs. With reverence she looked after the holy remains; in particular, she was gladdened that she saw the body of her spiritual friend -- the Martyr Indysos. After the burial, she did not depart these graves so dear to her heart, but daily made incensing before them. When the emperor was told about an unknown youth who paid respects at the graves of executed Christians, he gave orders to behead the youth. Together with Domna was executed also the Martyr Euthymios.

The Monk Ignatii of Lomsk and Yaroslavsk: The circumstances of his life while still in the world are unknown. He started his ascetic path at the Saviour Prilutsk monastery at Vologda, and he took monastic vows at the Kirillo-Beloezersk monastery. The Monk Ignatii then departed to the environs of the city of Lom and there founded a wilderness monastery, which gradually attracted disciples, after which he withdrew to a forested skete and there pursued asceticism in quietude. He earned his livelihood (just like the Monk Joakim, who lived three versts from him) by the plaiting of bast-shoes, which he left along the roadside. Passers-by took the bast-shoes in exchange for bread. In this locale the Monk Ignatii constructed a temple in honour of the Pokrov (Protection) of the MostHoly Mother of God, alongside which was founded the Vadoissk Mother of God wilderness monastery. In the XVIII Century it became deserted, and there remained only the church of the Saviour at Lom, in which rested the relics of the Monk Ignatii, glorified by wonderworking. The holy ascetic died in 1591.

THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:

1. The Twenty Thousand Holy Martyrs of Nicomedia
During the reign of the wicked Emperor Maximian Hercules, the Christian Faith flourished in Nicomedia and increased day by day. At one time the emperor, staying in this city, learned of the large number of Christians and the progress of the Christian Church, and he became greatly embittered and conceived a plan of how to kill them all. The Feast of the Nativity of Christ approached, and the emperor, knowing that all the Christians gathered in the church for this feast, ordered that on that day the church be surrounded by soldiers and set afire. When all the Christians had gathered in the church after midnight and began the solemn celebration, the soldiers surrounded the church and would not permit anyone to leave. The emperor's envoy entered the church and announced to the Christians the emperor's command that they immediately offer sacrifices to the idols or be burned alive. Then the archdeacon, a heroic soldier of Christ, inflamed with divine zeal began to encourage the people, reminding the faithful of the Three Children in the furnace in Babylon. "Behold, brethren," he said, "the table of oblation in the sanctuary of the Lord, and understand that our true Lord and God was just now sacrificed for us on it; should we not then lay down our lives for Him in this holy place?" The people were filled with zeal to die for Christ, and all the catechumens were baptized and chrismated. The soldiers then set fire to the church on all sides, and the Christians, twenty thousand of them in number, were burned in the flames while singing praises to God. The church burned for five days; and smoke with an intoxicating and wonderful fragrance rose from it. A certain marvelous, golden-rayed light manifested itself over this place. Thus, numerous men, women and children gloriously died and received the wreath of eternal glory in the Kingdom of Christ. They suffered and were glorified in the year 302.

2. The Venerable Simon, the Myrrh-gusher
Simon was the founder of the Simonospetra Monastery on the Holy Mountain. He was glorified because of his asceticism, visions and miracles. He entered peacefully into rest and went to Christ in the year 1257.

3. The Holy Martyr Domna
Domna was a virgin and priestess of the foul idols at the court of Emperor Maximian. Reading the Acts of the Apostles, which she had obtained from somewhere, she came to believe in Christ and was baptized by Bishop Cyril in Nicomedia, together with the eunuch Indes. St. Cyril directed her to a convent, where Blessed Agatha was the abbess. When the emperor began to search for her, Agatha dressed her in men's clothing and sent her to a men's monastery. This was at the time when twenty thousand Christians were burned in the church by Emperor Maximian. Immediately after this, by the emperor's command, Saints Indes, Gorgonius and Peter were thrown into the sea with millstones around their necks; Commander Zeno, who had openly denounced the emperor for his idolatry, was beheaded; St. Theophilus, the deacon of Bishop Anthimus, was slain by stoning and by arrows; Abbess Agatha, the nun Theophila and the nobles Dorotheus, Mardonius, Migdonius and Euthymius were also slain for the sake of Christ. One night, Domna was walking along the seashore and saw fishermen casting their nets into the sea. At that time she was especially grieving for St. Indes. Called by the fishermen to help them, she assisted them and by God's providence drew out three human bodies in the net. Domna recognized in them Saints Indes, Gorgonius and Peter, and she took their bodies and reverently buried them. When the emperor learned that a young man was caring for and censing the graves of the Christian martyrs, he ordered that the young man be beheaded. Thus, St. Domna was seized and beheaded, and she was crowned with the wreath of glory in the Heavenly Kingdom with the other martyrs.

HYMN OF PRAISE
The Twenty Thousand Holy Martyrs of Nicomedia
Holy Martyrs, your sufferings have passed,
Your tears wiped away, your wounds healed.
But more suffering still comes, it has not all arrived
Upon God's Church and upon her faithful.
Holy Martyrs, to you we pray:
By your prayers, watch over the Church.
Holy Martyrs, wonderful conquerors,
Against you have risen all the diabolical legions.
As great soldiers, you were without fear;
Your adversaries fell into the abyss.
You now clearly behold the Holy Trinity;
In His light you rejoice.
Holy Martyrs, we praise you for your wounds,
And for your tears and for your pure blood.
You became a fortress of defense for the Church.
Pray for us to the Savior Christ,
To make us worthy to call you brothers,
O honorable knights, children of grace!

REFLECTION
A story of the Divine Christ-child: When the Most-holy Virgin, with her Divine Child and the righteous Joseph, drew near to the city of Hermopolis [Cairo], they saw a tree before the gate of the city. The travelers from afar were weary from their journey and approached this tree to rest a while, even though the tree was very tall and did not offer adequate shade. The Egyptians called this tree "Persea" and worshiped it as a god, for they believed that some divinity was hidden in the tree. In reality, an evil spirit dwelt in this tree. As the holy family approached the tree, the tree shook fiercely, and the evil spirit, terrified by the approaching Christ-child, fled. Then the tree bent its top down to the ground and worshiped its Creator like a rational creature. Thus the bent tree cast a great shadow, under which the weary travelers rested. From that day, the tree received miraculous healing powers from Christ the Lord to heal every infirmity of men. Afterward, the holy sojourners went to the village of Matarea. Near the village they saw a fig tree, and, while Joseph went into the village on business, the Most-holy Virgin took refuge under the fig tree with the Lord. And, oh, what a miracle: the tree lowered its crown down to the ground to create a shadow for the travelers, and its lower half split open in such a way that the Mother with the Child could enter and rest. And what is even more miraculous: a living spring of water suddenly opened up near the fig tree. Joseph found a hut in the vicinity, where they settled. There they lived and drank water from that miraculous spring. This was the only spring of living water to be found in Egypt, for all the other water in Egypt comes from the Nile River, which branches off into innumerable canals. And thus, like brought forth like: the Lord Jesus, the Immortal and Heavenly Spring of living water, by His presence called forth this spring of living water from the earth.

CONTEMPLATION
Contemplate the assembly of Christ's holy martyrs:
1. How they endured sufferings and did not deny Christ;
2. How, out of love for Christ the Lord, they went to their sufferings and death as if to a feast;
3. How they now rejoice in the Kingdom of Christ and help us by their prayers.

HOMILY
on the Most-holy Virgin, the Theotokos
His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it (John 2:5).
Here is joy for all the faithful: she who is closest to Christ the Savior in heaven, as she had been on earth, cares for the faithful, appears to them, helps them and advises them, Whatsoever He, my Son and my God, saith unto you, do it. Thus, she advised the servants at the marriage in Cana, and the servants obeyed her and saw a miracle. From those few words of the Most-holy Virgin, God's Bride, recorded in the Gospel, we receive a precious instruction, truly the one and only Gospel instruction that she gave to mankind during her life on earth. Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it! As though she wanted to say: "He knows all; He can do all; He loves you all; therefore, you should look neither here nor there, but hear Him and obey Him." She comprehended the responsibility in this world of living for Him and directing others to Him as the Source of life, and she voluntarily continues carrying out this responsibility even from heaven. Throughout the Church's entire history, she has taught the faithful to do whatsoever He said. And even today, from her heavenly glory, she mystically descends among the faithful to counsel them to do that which He has commanded. That is her Gospel-the Gospel of the Most-holy Virgin, the Theotokos. It consists not of the Four Gospels but of four words: Do whatsoever He saith. O my brethren, let us obey her! Let us obey her as a mother and more than our mother, for she desires the greatest good for us-to reign in the Eternal Kingdom of her Son.
O Most-holy Virgin, help us to fulfill His words.
To Thee and to Him be glory and praise forever. Amen.

December 27, 2012 - 30th Thursday After Pentecost

FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:

Stephen, Archdeacon & First Martyr
Theodore the Confessor
Brothers Theophanes and Poietus
Afterfeast of the Nativity

Τοῦ Ἁγίου Πρωτομάρτυρος καί Ἀρχιδιακόνου Στεφάνου, καί τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρός ἡμῶν καί Ὁμολογητοῦ Θεοδώρου τοῦ Γραπτοῦ, αὐταδέλφου Θεοφάνους τοῦ Ποιητοῦ.
Τοῦ ἐν Ἁγίοις Πατρός ἡμῶν Θεοδώρου, Πατριάρχου Κωνσταντινουπόλεως.

READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:

Acts of the Apostles 6:8-15; 7:1-5, 47-60
Prokeimenon. Mode 4.
Psalm 18.4,1
Their voice has gone out into all the earth.
Verse: The heavens declare the glory of God.
IN THOSE DAYS, Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated men, who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us." And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
And the high priest said, "Is this so?" And Stephen said: "Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, 'Depart from your land and from your kindred and go into the land which I will show you.' Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living; yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him in possession and to his posterity after him, though he had no child.
"But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands; as the prophet says, 'Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool. What house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?'
"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it."
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων 6:8-15;7:1-5,47-60

Προκείμενον. Ἦχος δ.
ΨΑΛΜΟΙ 18.4,1
Εἰς πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν ἐξῆλθεν ὁ φθόγγος αὐτῶν.
Στίχ. Οἱ οὐρανοὶ διηγοῦνται δόξαν Θεοῦ.
Ἐν ταῖς ἡμεραῖς ἐκείναις, Στέφανος δὲ πλήρης πίστεως καὶ δυνάμεως ἐποίει τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα μεγάλα ἐν τῷ λαῷ. Ἀνέστησαν δέ τινες τῶν ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς τῆς λεγομένης Λιβερτίνων, καὶ Κυρηναίων, καὶ Ἀλεξανδρέων, καὶ τῶν ἀπὸ Κιλικίας καὶ Ἀσίας, συζητοῦντες τῷ Στεφάνῳ. Καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυον ἀντιστῆναι τῇ σοφίᾳ καὶ τῷ πνεύματι ᾧ ἐλάλει. Τότε ὑπέβαλον ἄνδρας λέγοντας ὅτι Ἀκηκόαμεν αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ῥήματα βλάσφημα εἰς Μωϋσῆν καὶ τὸν θεόν. Συνεκίνησάν τε τὸν λαὸν καὶ τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους καὶ τοὺς γραμματεῖς, καὶ ἐπιστάντες συνήρπασαν αὐτόν, καὶ ἤγαγον εἰς τὸ συνέδριον, ἔστησάν τε μάρτυρας ψευδεῖς λέγοντας, Ὁ ἄνθρωπος οὗτος οὐ παύεται ῥήματα βλάσφημα λαλῶν κατὰ τοῦ τόπου τοῦ ἁγίου καὶ τοῦ νόμου· ἀκηκόαμεν γὰρ αὐτοῦ λέγοντος ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος οὗτος καταλύσει τὸν τόπον τοῦτον, καὶ ἀλλάξει τὰ ἔθη ἃ παρέδωκεν ἡμῖν Μωϋσῆς. Καὶ ἀτενίσαντες εἰς αὐτὸν ἅπαντες οἱ καθεζόμενοι ἐν τῷ συνεδρίῳ, εἶδον τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ πρόσωπον ἀγγέλου. Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ ἀρχιερεύς, Εἰ ἄρα ταῦτα οὕτως ἔχει; Ὁ δὲ ἔφη, Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοὶ καὶ πατέρες, ἀκούσατε. Ὁ θεὸς τῆς δόξης ὤφθη τῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν Ἀβραὰμ ὄντι ἐν τῇ Μεσοποταμίᾳ, πρὶν ἢ κατοικῆσαι αὐτὸν ἐν Χαρράν, καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἔξελθε ἐκ τῆς γῆς σου καὶ ἐκ τῆς συγγενείας σου, καὶ δεῦρο εἰς γῆν ἣν ἄν σοι δείξω. Τότε ἐξελθὼν ἐκ γῆς Χαλδαίων κατῴκησεν ἐν Χαρράν· κἀκεῖθεν, μετὰ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ, μετῴκισεν αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν γῆν ταύτην εἰς ἣν ὑμεῖς νῦν κατοικεῖτε· καὶ οὐκ ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ κληρονομίαν ἐν αὐτῇ, οὐδὲ βῆμα ποδός· Σολομῶν δὲ ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτῷ οἶκον. Ἀλλʼ οὐχ ὁ ὕψιστος ἐν χειροποιήτοις ναοῖς κατοικεῖ, καθὼς ὁ προφήτης λέγει, Ὁ οὐρανός μοι θρόνος, ἡ δὲ γῆ ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν μου· ποῖον οἶκον οἰκοδομήσετέ μοι; λέγει κύριος· ἢ τίς τόπος τῆς καταπαύσεώς μου; Οὐχὶ ἡ χείρ μου ἐποίησεν ταῦτα πάντα;
Σκληροτράχηλοι καὶ ἀπερίτμητοι τῇ καρδίᾳ καὶ τοῖς ὠσίν, ὑμεῖς ἀεὶ τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ ἀντιπίπτετε· ὡς οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν, καὶ ὑμεῖς. Τίνα τῶν προφητῶν οὐκ ἐδίωξαν οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν; Καὶ ἀπέκτειναν τοὺς προκαταγγείλαντας περὶ τῆς ἐλεύσεως τοῦ δικαίου, οὗ νῦν ὑμεῖς προδόται καὶ φονεῖς γεγένησθε· οἵτινες ἐλάβετε τὸν νόμον εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων, καὶ οὐκ ἐφυλάξατε. Ἀκούοντες δὲ ταῦτα, διεπρίοντο ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν, καὶ ἔβρυχον τοὺς ὀδόντας ἐπʼ αὐτόν. Ὑπάρχων δὲ πλήρης πνεύματος ἁγίου, ἀτενίσας εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, εἶδεν δόξαν θεοῦ, καὶ Ἰησοῦν ἑστῶτα ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ εἶπεν, Ἰδού, θεωρῶ τοὺς οὐρανοὺς ἀνεῳγμένους, καὶ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκ δεξιῶν ἑστῶτα τοῦ θεοῦ. Κράξαντες δὲ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, συνέσχον τὰ ὦτα αὐτῶν, καὶ ὥρμησαν ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἐπʼ αὐτόν· καὶ ἐκβαλόντες ἔξω τῆς πόλεως, ἐλιθοβόλουν· καὶ οἱ μάρτυρες ἀπέθεντο τὰ ἱμάτια παρὰ τοὺς πόδας νεανίου καλουμένου Σαύλου. Καὶ ἐλιθοβόλουν τὸν Στέφανον, ἐπικαλούμενον καὶ λέγοντα, Κύριε Ἰησοῦ, δέξαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου. Θεὶς δὲ τὰ γόνατα, ἔκραξεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, Κύριε, μὴ στήσῃς αὐτοῖς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ταύτην. Καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἐκοιμήθη.

The Gospel of Matthew 21:33-42
The Lord said this parable, "There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.' And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it was marvelous in our eyes?'"

Κατὰ Ματθαῖον 21.33-42
Εἶπεν ὁ Κύριος τήν παραβολὴν ταύτην· ῎Αλλην παραβολὴν ἀκούσατε. ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν οἰκοδεσπότης, ὅστις ἐφύτευσεν ἀμπελῶνα καὶ φραγμὸν αὐτῷ περιέθηκε καὶ ὤρυξεν ἐν αὐτῷ ληνὸν καὶ ᾠκοδόμησε πύργον, καὶ ἐξέδοτο αὐτὸν γεωργοῖς καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν.ὅτε δὲ ἤγγισεν ὁ καιρὸς τῶν καρπῶν, ἀπέστειλε τοὺς δούλους αὐτοῦ πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς λαβεῖν τοὺς καρποὺς αὐτοῦ.καὶ λαβόντες οἱ γεωργοὶ τοὺς δούλους αὐτοῦ ὃν μὲν ἔδειραν, ὃν δὲ ἀπέκτειναν, ὃν δὲ ἐλιθοβόλησαν.πάλιν ἀπέστειλεν ἄλλους δούλους πλείονας τῶν πρώτων, καὶ ἐποίησαν αὐτοῖς ὡσαύτως.ὕστερον δὲ ἀπέστειλε πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ λέγων· ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἱόν μου.οἱ δὲ γεωργοὶ ἰδόντες τὸν υἱὸν εἶπον ἐν ἑαυτοῖς· οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος· δεῦτε ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτὸν καὶ κατάσχωμεν τὴν κληρονομίαν αὐτοῦ.καὶ λαβόντες αὐτὸν ἐξέβαλον ἔξω τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος, καὶ ἀπέκτειναν.ὅταν οὖν ἔλθῃ ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος, τί ποιήσει τοῖς γεωργοῖς ἐκείνοις;λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· κακοὺς κακῶς ἀπολέσει αὐτούς, καὶ τὸν ἀμπελῶνα ἐκδώσεται ἄλλοις γεωργοῖς, οἵτινες ἀποδώσουσιν αὐτῷ τοὺς καρποὺς ἐν τοῖς καιροῖς αὐτῶν.λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· οὐδέποτε ἀνέγνωτε ἐν ταῖς γραφαῖς, λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες,οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας·παρὰ Κυρίου ἐγένετο αὕτη,καὶ ἔστι θαυμαστὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν;

READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:

Τῇ ΚΖ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἀποστόλου Πρωτομάρτυρος καὶ Ἀρχιδιακόνου Στεφάνου, ἑνὸς τῶν ἑπτὰ Διακόνων.
Λόγων στεφάνοις, οἷα τιμίοις λίθοις,
Στέφω Στέφανον, ὃν προέστεψαν λίθοι.
Εἰκάδι λαΐνεος Στέφανον μόρος ἑβδόμῃ εἷλεν.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρὸς ἡμῶν Θεοδώρου τοῦ Γραπτοῦ, ἀδελφοῦ Θεοφάνους τοῦ Ποιητοῦ.
Αὐχεῖν ἔχει τι καὶ Θεόδωρος μέγα,
Ἐκ γῆς ἀπαίρων· ὡς μέγα, στίξις θέας.

Saint Stephen was a Jew, by race, and, as some say, a disciple of Gamaliel, the teacher of the Law mentioned in Acts 5:34 and 22:3. He was the first of the seven deacons whom the Apostles established in Jerusalem to care for the poor, and to distribute alms to them. Being a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, he performed great signs and wonders among the people. While disputing with the Jews concerning Jesus, and wisely refuting their every contradiction, so that no one was able to withstand the wisdom and the spirit whereby he spake, he was slandered as a blasphemer and was dragged off to the Sanhedrin of the elders. There with boldness he proved from the divine Scriptures the coming of the Just One (Jesus), of Whom they had become the betrayers and murderers, and he reproved their faithless and hardheartedness. And finally, gazing into Heaven and beholding the divine glory, he said: "Lo, I see the Heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." But when they heard this, they stopped up their ears, and with anger cast him out of the city and stoned him, while he was calling out and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then, imitating the long-suffering of the Master, he bent his knees and prayed in a loud voice for them that were stoning him, and he said, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge," And saying this, he fell asleep (Acts 6, 7), thus becoming the first among the Martyrs of the Church of Christ.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Βασίλειον διάδημα, εστέφθη σή κορυφή, εξ άθλων ών υπέμεινας, υπέρ Χριστού τού Θεού, Μαρτύρων πρωτόαθλε, σύ γάρ τήν Ιουδαίων, απελέγξας μανίαν, είδές σου τόν Σωτήρα, τού Πατρός δεξιόθεν, Αυτόν ούν εκδυσώπει αεί, υπέρ τών ψυχών ημών.
For the struggles you endured for Christ God, a royal diadem crowns your head, O First Champion of Martyrs. For you refuted the folly of the Jews and beheld your Savior on the right of the Father. Ever beseech Him, therefore, for our souls.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Ὁ Δεσπότης χθὲς ἡμῖν, διὰ σαρκὸς ἐπεδήμει, καὶ ὁ δοῦλος σήμερον, ἀπὸ σαρκὸς ἐξεδήμει, χθὲς μὲν γάρ, ὁ Βασιλεύων σαρκὶ ἐτέχθη, σήμερον δέ, ὁ οἰκέτης λιθοβολεῖται, δι' αὐτὸν καὶ τελειοῦται, ὁ Πρωτομάρτυς καὶ θεῖος Στέφανος.
Yesterday the Master arrived in the flesh, today the servant departs from the flesh. Yesterday He who reigns was born. Today the servant dies for Him by stoning, the Protomartyr, the divine Stephen.

Saint Theophanes, the brother of Saint Theodore the Branded, was a Palestinian by race. Both were monks at the Monastery of Saint Sabbas. They were called "the Branded" because Theophilus, the last of the Iconoclast emperors, had twelve iambic verses branded by hot irons on their foreheads and then sent them into exile, where Theodore died in the year 838. After the death of Theophilus in 842, Theophanes was elected Bishop of Nicaea. Both brothers composed many canons and hymns, thereby adorning the services of the Church.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Ορθοδοξίας Οδηγέ, ευσεβίας διδάσκαλε καί σεμνότητος, τής οικουμένης ο φωστήρ, αρχιερέων θεόπνευστον εγκαλλώπισμα, Θεόδωρε σοφέ, ταίς διδαχαίς σου πάντας εφώτισας, λύρα τού Πνεύματος, πρέσβευε Χριστώ τώ Θεώ, σωθήναι τάς ψυχάς ημών.
You are a guide of Orthodoxy, a teacher of piety and modesty, a luminary of the world, the God inspired pride of monastics. O wise Theodore, you have enlightened everyone by your teachings. You are the harp of the Spirit. Intercede to Christ our God for the salvation of our souls.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Τού Χριστού σεβόμενος, πανευσεβώς τήν Εικόνα, διωγμούς υπέμεινας, καί κακουχίας καί θλίψεις, όθεν δή, Ορθοδοξίας άγαλμα θείον, γέγονας, ως αριστεύσας κατά τής πλάνης, διά τούτο σε τιμώμεν, Ιερομύστα Πάτερ Θεόδωρε.
Thou didst piously revere the sacred icon of Christ God, for Whose sake thou didst endure all persecutions and hardships; so didst thou become a pillar of Orthodoxy, having triumphed over every manner of error. Hence, O Theodore, we honour and magnify thee as a great champion of faith.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Ορθοδοξίας Οδηγέ, ευσεβίας διδάσκαλε καί σεμνότητος, τής οικουμένης ο φωστήρ, αρχιερέων θεόπνευστον εγκαλλώπισμα, Θεόφανες σοφέ, ταίς διδαχαίς σου πάντας εφώτισας, λύρα τού Πνεύματος, πρέσβευε Χριστώ τώ Θεώ, σωθήναι τάς ψυχάς ημών.
You are a guide of Orthodoxy, a teacher of piety and modesty, a luminary of the world, the God inspired pride of monastics. O wise Theophanes, you have enlightened everyone by your teachings. You are the harp of the Spirit. Intercede to Christ our God for the salvation of our souls.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Ἡ γέννησίς σου Χριστὲ ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, ἀνέτειλε τῶ κόσμω, τὸ φῶς τὸ τῆς γνώσεως, ἐν αὐτῇ γὰρ οἱ τοὶς ἄστροις λατρεύοντες, ὑπὸ ἀστέρος ἐδιδάσκοντο, σὲ προσκυνεῖν, τὸν Ἥλιον τῆς δικαιοσύνης, καὶ σὲ γινώσκειν ἐξ ὕψους ἀνατολήν, Κύριε δόξα σοί.
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined the light of knowledge upon the world; for thereby they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee.

Μέσα στην εορτή των γενεθλίων του Χριστού, εορτάζεται σήμερα η "γενέθλιος ημέρα" του αγίου Πρωτομάρτυρος και Πρωτοδιακόνου Στεφάνου. Ο Στέφανος, ο "πλήρης πίστεως και δυνάμεως", είναι το πρώτο θύμα, μετά τον "άμωμον" που πέθανε στο Σταυρό. "Πρώτος εν διακόνοις, πρώτος και εν μάρτυσιν", όπως ψάλλει η Εκκλησία. Ο Ευαγγελιστής Λουκάς στις Πράξεις των Αποστόλων μας δίνει το πρώτο "μαρτύριον" της Εκκλησίας - την δραματική απολογία και τον θάνατο του Πρωτομάρτυρος, την πρώτη μαρτυρία για τον Ιησού και την ανάσταση, επισφραγισμένη με την θυσία και το αίμα του Μάρτυρος. Η τελευταία λέξη στο "μαρτύριον", εμπνευσμένη στον Ευαγγελιστή από το Άγιον Πνεύμα, είναι το "εκοιμήθη", γεμάτη παρηγοριά κι ελπίδα. Γι' αυτό ψάλλει η Εκκλησία, κάνοντας ύμνο τα λόγια του Μεγάλου Βασιλείου: "Πανεύφημοι Μάρτυρες, υμάς ουχ η γη εκάλυψεν, αλλ' ουρανός υπεδέξατο...".

Ὁ Ἅγιος Στέφανος ὁ Πρωτομάρτυρας καὶ Ἀρχιδιάκονος
Ἦταν ἕνας ἀπὸ τοὺς πιὸ διακεκριμένους μεταξὺ τῶν ἑπτὰ διακόνων, ποὺ ἐξέλεξαν οἱ πρῶτοι χριστιανοὶ γιὰ νὰ ἐπιστατοῦν στὶς κοινὲς τράπεζες τῶν ἀδελφῶν, ὥστε νὰ μὴ γίνονται λάθη. Ἂν καὶ κουραστικὴ ἡ εὐθύνη τοῦ ἐπιστάτη γιὰ τόσους ἀδελφούς, παρ᾿ ὅλα αὐτὰ ὁ Στέφανος ἔβρισκε καιρὸ καὶ δύναμη γιὰ νὰ κηρύττει τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Καὶ ὅπως ἀναφέρει ἡ Ἁγία Γραφή, «Στέφανος πλήρης πίστεως καὶ δυνάμεως ἐποίει τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα μεγάλα ἐν τῷ λαῷ». Δηλαδὴ ὁ Στέφανος, ποὺ ἦταν γεμάτος πίστη καὶ χάρισμα εὐγλωττίας δυνατό, ἔκανε μεταξὺ τοῦ λαοῦ μεγάλα θαύματα, ποὺ προκαλοῦσαν κατάπληξη καὶ ἀποδείκνυαν τὴν ἀλήθεια τοῦ χριστιανικοῦ κηρύγματος. Οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ὅμως, καθὼς ἦταν προκατειλημμένοι, ἐξαπέλυσαν συκοφάντες ἀνάμεσα στὸ λαό, ποὺ διέδιδαν ὅτι ἄκουσαν τὸ Στέφανο νὰ βλασφημεῖ τὸ Μωϋσῆ καὶ τὸ Θεό. Μὲ ἀφορμὴ λοιπὸν αὐτὲς τὶς συκοφαντίες, ποὺ οἱ ἴδιοι εἶχαν ἐνσπείρει, ἅρπαξαν μὲ μῖσος τὸ Στέφανο καὶ τὸν ὁδήγησαν μπροστὰ στὸ Συνέδριο, τάχα γιὰ νὰ ἀπολογηθεῖ. Ἡ ἀπολογία τοῦ Στεφάνου ὑπῆρξε πρότυπο τόλμης καὶ θάῤῥους. Χωρὶς νὰ φοβηθεῖ καθόλου, ἐξαπέλυσε λόγια-κεραυνοὺς ἐναντίον τῶν Ἰουδαίων. Καὶ ἀπὸ ὑπόδικος, ὀρθώθηκε θυελλώδης ἐλεγκτὴς καὶ κατήγορος. Τότε, ἀκράτητοι ἀπὸ τὸ μῖσος οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, τὸν ἔσυραν ἔξω ἀπὸ τὴν πόλη, ὅπου τὸν θανάτωσαν μὲ λιθοβολισμό. Ἐκεῖ φάνηκε καὶ ἡ μεγάλη συγχωρητικότητα τοῦ Στεφάνου πρὸς τοὺς ἐχθρούς του μὲ τὴν φράση του, «Κύριε, μὴ στήσης αὐτοῖς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ταύτην». Κύριε, μὴ λογαριάσεις σ᾿ αὐτοὺς τὴν ἁμαρτία αὐτή.

Ὁ Ἅγιος Θεόδωρος ὁ Γραπτός
Ἦταν γιὸς τοῦ Ἰωανᾶ, ἀπὸ τὴν Παλαιστίνη, καὶ ὑπῆρξε μαθητὴς μαζὶ μὲ τὸν ἀδελφό του Θεοφάνη, στὴ μονὴ τοῦ ἁγίου Σάββα. Στὰ χρόνια τοῦ βασιλιᾶ Λέοντα τοῦ Ε´ ἦλθαν στὴν Κωνσταντινούπολη, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ δυὸ γιὰ τὸ ζήτημα τῶν ἁγίων εἰκόνων, περιορίστηκαν σὲ κάποια Μονὴ στὸ Στόμιο τῆς Μαύρης Θάλασσας. Ὁ βασιλιὰς Μιχαὴλ ὁ Τραυλὸς τοὺς ἐπανέφερε, ἀλλὰ αὐτοὶ δὲν θέλησαν νὰ ἐξαγοράσουν τὴν ἡσυχία τους μὲ ἀδιαφορία στὰ ἐκκλησιαστικὰ ζητήματα καὶ νὰ νεκρώσουν τὶς ἱερὲς πεποιθήσεις τους. Γι᾿ αὐτὸ ἐκδήλωσαν μὲ θάῤῥος τὰ φρονήματά τους καὶ ἔτσι πάλι περιορίστηκαν ἀπὸ τὸν βασιλιά, σὲ κάποιο τόπο κοντὰ στὸ Σωσθένιο. Ἀργότερα ἐπὶ Θεοφίλου τοῦ Εἰκονομάχου, στάλθηκαν στὴν Ἀφουσία. Ἂν καὶ ἐκεῖ εἶχαν μείνει πολλὰ χρόνια καὶ εἶχαν αὐστηρὴ ἐπιτήρηση, αὐτοὶ ἐξακολουθοῦσαν νὰ φωνάζουν κατὰ τῆς εἰκονομαχίας. Τότε ὁ Θεόφιλος, γεμάτος θυμό, τοὺς ἔφερε στὴν Κωνσταντινούπολη, ὅπου τοὺς μαστίγωσε ἀνελέητα. Καὶ κατόπιν χάραξε στὰ μέτωπά τους μὲ πυρακτωμένο σίδερο, δώδεκα στίχους γιὰ νὰ τοὺς στιγματίσει. Ἀπ᾿ αὐτὴ τὴν αἰτία ὀνομάστηκαν καὶ οἱ δυὸ Γραπτοί. Ἐπὶ δὲ τοῦ Πατριάρχου Ἰωάννου Ζ´ (836 ἢ 837), ἐξορίστηκαν πάλι στὴν Ἀπάμεια τῆς Βιθυνίας, ὅπου ὁ Θεόδωρος πέθανε καὶ τάφηκε ἀπὸ τὸν ἀδελφό του Θεοφάνη. Ἀργότερα τὸ λείψανό του μεταφέρθηκε στὴ Χαλκηδόνα. Ὁ ἑορτασμός του μᾶς ὑπενθυμίζει πόσους ἀγῶνες κίνησαν οἱ πιστοί, γιὰ νὰ διαφυλαχτεῖ ἡ ὀρθόδοξη διδασκαλία καὶ λατρεία. Καὶ γιὰ τ᾿ ἀδέλφια δίνει λαμπρὸ μάθημα, γιὰ τὸ ὅτι δὲν ὑπάρχει τίποτα συγκινητικότερο καὶ τιμητικότερο, ἀπὸ τὸ νὰ ζοῦν ἀφοσιωμένοι μέχρι θανάτου γιὰ τὴν νίκη τῆς ὀρθόδοξης Ἐκκλησίας.

Ὁ Ἅγιος Θεόδωρος ὁ Α´ Ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Κωνσταντινουπόλεως
Ὁ Ἅγιος αὐτὸς ἦταν γέννημα καὶ θρέμμα τῆς Κωνσταντινουπόλεως καὶ ἔζησε στὰ χρόνια τοῦ Βασιλιᾶ Κωνσταντίνου Δ´ τοῦ Πωγωνάτου (668-685). Λόγω τῆς μεγάλης του ἀρετῆς καὶ εὐλάβειας, χειροτονήθηκε Πρεσβύτερος τῆς Ἁγίας Σοφίας καὶ κατόπιν ἔγινε σύγκελλος καὶ σκευοφύλακας αὐτῆς. Ἐπειδὴ δὲ ὁ τότε Πατριάρχης Κωνσταντῖνος πέθανε, ἀπὸ τὸν βασιλιὰ καὶ τὴν σύγκλητο, ἀναγκάστηκε νὰ χειροτονηθεῖ Πατριάρχης ὁ Θεόδωρος. Θεάρεστα ἀφοῦ διακυβέρνησε τὴν Ἐκκλησία γιὰ δυὸ χρόνια καὶ τρεῖς μῆνες, ἀπομακρύνθηκε τοῦ θρόνου (678) ἀπὸ τὸν βασιλιὰ Κωνσταντίνο Πωγωνᾶτο. Ἡ ἀπομάκρυνση αὐτὴ δὲν μάρανε τὸν θεῖο ζῆλο τοῦ Πατριάρχη Θεοδώρου καὶ ἀφοῦ πέρασε τὸ ὑπόλοιπό της ζωῆς του ἐπίσης θεάρεστα, ἀπεβίωσε εἰρηνικά. (Ἄλλες Συναξαριακὲς πηγὲς ἀναφέρουν, ὅτι ὁ Ἁγ. Θεόδωρος, ἐπανῆλθε στὸν θρόνο του μετὰ τὸν θάνατο τοῦ πατρ. Γεωργίου Α´ καὶ πατριάρχευσε ἀπὸ τὸ 683 ἕως τὸ 686).

Ὁ Ἅγιος Μαυρίκιος, ὁ γιός του Φωτεινὸς καὶ οἱ Ἅγιοι 70 Μάρτυρες
Αὐτοὶ μαρτύρησαν στὰ χρόνια τοῦ βασιλιᾶ Μαξιμιανοῦ (286-305) καὶ ἦταν στρατιῶτες ποὺ διέμεναν στὴν Ἀπάμεια τῆς Βιθυνίας τοῦ Πόντου. Ὅταν πέρασε ἀπὸ ἐκεῖ ὁ Μαξιμιανός, καταγγέλθηκαν ὅτι ἦταν χριστιανοί. Ὅταν τοὺς κάλεσε ὁ βασιλιάς, οἱ Ἅγιοι ὁμολόγησαν καὶ μπροστά του ὅτι ἦταν χριστιανοὶ καὶ ἀμέσως τότε τοὺς ἀφαιρέθηκαν οἱ στρατιωτικὲς ζῶνες καὶ τοὺς ἔριξαν στὴ φυλακή. Ὅταν μετὰ τρεῖς μέρες ῥωτήθηκαν καὶ πάλι, ἔμειναν ἀμετάθετοι στὸ φρόνημά τους καὶ ἔτσι τοὺς κρέμασαν καὶ τοὺς ξέσχισαν τὶς πλευρές. Ὁ δὲ Μαξιμιανός, γιὰ νὰ κάνει πικρότερο τὸ μαρτύριο τοῦ Μαυρικίου, ἀποκεφάλισε μπροστά του τὸν γιό του Φωτεινό. Αὐτοὺς δέ, τοὺς πῆγε σὲ τόπο μὲ βρώμικα βαλτόνερα, ὅπου τοὺς ἔδεσε γυμνοὺς σὲ πασσάλους καὶ τοὺς ἄλειψε μὲ μέλι. Οἱ μάρτυρες, ἔμειναν ἔτσι δεμένοι ἐπὶ 10 ἡμέρες, τελικὰ ὅμως, ἀπὸ τὰ τσιμπήματα τῶν ἐντόμων, παρέδωσαν μαρτυρικὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τους στὸ Θεό.

Holy First Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen
A kinsman of the Apostle Paul, the Holy Stephen was one of the seven deacons (with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas) first appointed by the Church to minister to the people; and it pleased God to receive him as the Church's first Martyr for Christ. Read the long, beautiful and edifying account of his witness in the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 6-8. When Stephen, "full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people," (Acts 6:8), some members of a synagogue in Jerusalem came to dispute with him and, enraged by his proclamation of Christ, stoned him to death. In his death St Stephen revealed Christ's erasure of the boundary between heaven and earth, and the new communion between man and God: his face shone with the light of the Transfiguration, and he was granted a vision of Christ enthroned at the Father's right hand. His dying words were "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60).
  According to holy tradition, the martyrdom of St Stephen occurred exactly a year after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. His body was taken and secretly buried by Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhendrin and secretly a Christian.
  Saint Stephen's relics were discovered by the priest Lucian in 415 following a vision. They were translated to the church built for them in Jerusalem by the Empress Eudocia, and later taken to Constantinople.
  The Saint's missionary speech before his death (like that of the deacon St Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch) reminds us that those appointed to serve the Church materially are not barred, or even excused, from proclaiming the glorious Gospel of Christ.

Menologion 3.0
The Holy Disciple (from the Seventy) First-Martyr and ArchDeacon Stephen was the eldest among the Seven Deacons, established by the Apostles themselves, and therefore he is called "archdeacon". He was the Christian First-Martyr, and he suffered for Christ at about age 30. In the words of Asterias, he was "the starting-point of the martyrs, the instructor of suffering for Christ, the foundation of righteous confession, in that Stephen was first to shed his blood for the Gospel".
Being filled of the Holy Spirit, Saint Stephen with daring persuasively preached the Christian teaching and defeated Jewish teachers of the Law in disputation. For this the Jews maligned Saint Stephen, saying that he had uttered blasphemy against God and against Moses. Under such charges, Saint Stephen came before the Sanhedrin and the high-priest. He spoke a fiery speech, in which he expounded the history of the Jewish nation, and he boldly denounced the Jews for persecuting the prophets and also the execution by them of the awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. During the time of his speaking, Saint Stephen suddenly saw the heavens opened and Jesus Christ in glory, standing at the right side of God. He exclaimed loudly about this. Then the Jews, covering over their ears, rushed upon him, dragged him out of the city and stoned him, but the holy martyr prayed for his murderers. Afar off on the heights stood the Mother of God with the holy Apostle John the Theologian, and She prayed fervently for the martyr. Before death Saint Stephen uttered: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, wherein O Lord, impute this not to them in sin", -- and then with joy he gave up his pure soul to Christ. The body of the holy First-Martyr Stephen, left for devouring by beasts, was secretly taken up by the illustrious Jewish teacher Gamaliel and his son Habib, and given burial on his estate. And afterwards these both believed in Christ and accepted holy Baptism.

The Monk Theodore the Confessor, and his brother the Confessor Theophanes the Lettered-Upon, were born in Jerusalem of Christian parents. The elder was Theodore. From early childhood he shunned childish amusements and loved to visit church services. Together with his younger brother Theophanes (Comm. 11 October), he was sent for education to the presbyter at the Laura-monastery of Saint Sava. Both brothers accepted monasticism. Saint Theodore was raised to the dignity of presbyter.
When the iconoclast emperor, Leo V the Armenian (813-820), expelled and replaced the pious ruler Michael I Rangabes (811-813), he began to patronise the Iconoclast heresy. The Patriarch of Jerusalem sent both brothers to Constantinople for the defense of Orthodoxy. Arriving in the Byzantine capital, the holy confessors boldly entered into the defense of Icon-Veneration. In a contest of words Leo was humiliated. He gave orders to beat both brothers mercilessly, and then had them sent off into exile, strictly forbidding anyone to help them in any way.
Under the subsequent emperors, Michael II (820-829), and particularly under the harsh iconoclast Theophilos (829-842), both brothers returned from exile, and again they were urged to concur with the Iconoclast heresy, but they firmly and bravely endured all the tortures, and again they were sent off into exile. But later they again returned. This time they were subject to fierce torture, and finally, there was done upon them an unprecedented torment. With red-hot needles they marked branding upon their faces the writing as it were of their disgrace -- 12 poetic lines, in which it described the holy confessors as "vessels of superstitious errors". Hence the title ascribed to the holy brothers: "the Lettered-Upon" ("Nachertanni", "Graptoi"). Before torture the city official asked Saint Theodore to take communion with iconoclasts, -- for which they promised him freedom. But the holy martyr replied: "It is all the same, as they say: 'We shall only cut off thy head, and then go whither thou willest'". After torture the holy brothers were imprisoned in the locality of Apameia, where Saint Theodore died in about the year 840. Saint Theophanes survived the ending of the Iconoclast heresy, and died in the dignity of Bishop of Nicea. The Monk Theophanes was author of many compositions in defense of Orthodoxy. The relics of the MonkMartyr Theodore were transferred to Chalcedon, where healings were done by them.

Sainted Theodore, Archbishop of Constantinople, was a native of Constantinople, led a pious life, was raised to the dignity of presbyter and served in the cathedra of Saint Sophia, where also he was the keeper of vessels. In the year 676 he was chosen Patriarch of Constantinople, although after two years he was deposed through slander. But the truth triumphed, and Saint Theodore in 683 was again raised onto the Patriarchal throne, and he then guided the Constantinople Church to the very end of his life. He died in about the year 686.

THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:

1. The Holy Protomartyr Stephen the Archdeacon
Stephen was a kinsman of the Apostle Paul and one of those Jews who lived in the Hellenic provinces. Stephen was the first of the seven deacons whom the holy apostles ordained and appointed to the service of assisting the poor in Jerusalem. For this, he is called the archdeacon. By the power of his faith, Stephen worked great miracles among the people. The wicked Jews disputed with him, but they were always defeated by his wisdom and the power of the Spirit, Who acted through him. Then the shameful Jews, accustomed to calumnies and slander, incited the people and the elders of the people against the innocent Stephen, slandering him as though he had blasphemed against God and against Moses. False witnesses were quickly found who confirmed this. Stephen then stood before the people, and all saw his face as it had been the face of an angel (Acts 6:15), that is, his face was illumined with the light of grace as was once the face of Moses when he spoke with God. Stephen opened his mouth and enumerated the many good works and miracles that God had performed in the past for the people of Israel, as well as the many crimes and opposition to God on the part of this people. He especially rebuked them for the killing of Christ the Lord, calling them betrayers and murderers (Acts 7:52). And while they gnashed their teeth, Stephen beheld and saw the heavens open and the glory of God. That which he saw, he declared to the Jews: Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God! (Acts 7:56). Then the malicious men took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Among his persecutors was his kinsman Saul, later the Apostle Paul. At that time, the Most-holy Theotokos, standing on a rock at a distance with St. John the Theologian, witnessed the martyrdom of this first martyr for the truth of her Son and God, and she prayed to God for Stephen. This occurred one year after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. Gamaliel, a prince of the Jews and a secret Christian, clandestinely took St. Stephen's body and buried it on his own estate. Thus, this first among the Christian martyrs gloriously reposed and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ God.

2. The Venerable Martyrs Theodore and Theophanes the Branded
Theodore and Theophanes were blood brothers, born in Palestine and well educated in both secular and spiritual wisdom. They were monks in the community of St. Sava the Sanctified and later were ordained presbyters. They suffered harshly for their defense of icons under three emperors: Leo the Armenian, Michael Balbus and Theophilus. The demented Theophilus beat them with his own hands and ordered that they be branded with iron on their faces with derisive verses, for which they were called "the Branded." They were cast into prison in the town of Apamea in Bithynia. Theodore died there from his pains and wounds. Theophanes, freed at the time of the Emperors Theodore and Michael, was consecrated Metropolitan of Nicaea by Patriarch Methodius. St. Theodore died in the year 833. These two wonderful brothers suffered for Christ and received a wonderful reward from Him in the Immortal Kingdom of Light.

HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Protomartyr Stephen the Archdeacon
Upon Stephen, illumined by the Spirit,
The Jewish murderers rushed.
Bloody Stephen knelt
And in a loud voice cried out to God:
"O Lord, Who from the Cross forgave
The greatest sin to ever shake the earth,
The greatest sin that heaven ever beheld,
Thou forgavest Thy murderers.
Now, O Most-gracious One, forgive mine also!
This crime-what is it compared to that one?
And I, what am I, compared to my Lord?"
Saying this he gave his spirit to God.
The angry elders, ugly cowards,
ispersed after they killed him.
Then from heaven angels flew down
Around the body of the Protomartyr.
They chanted a hymn in chorus to him
And carried his paradisal soul to Paradise.

REFLECTION
A story of the Divine Christ-child: Both great prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, prophesied that the Lord would come to Egypt and that His presence would shake the pagan temples and destroy the idols. Isaiah wrote: Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at His presence (Isaiah 19:1, cf. Jeremiah 43:12-13). When the divine refugees came to the city of Hermopolis (Cairo), they approached a pagan temple, and all the idols in that temple suddenly fell down and were shattered. St. Palladius writes of this in his Lausiac History: "We saw the pagan temple there, in which all the carved idols fell to the ground at the coming of the Savior." In a certain place called Sirin there were 365 idols. When the Most-holy Virgin entered that temple with the Divine Child in her arms, all these idols fell down and were shattered. All the idols throughout Egypt fell in the same manner. The Holy Prophet Jeremiah, living in Egypt in old age, had prophesied to the pagan priests of Egypt that all the idols would fall and all the graven images would be destroyed at the time when a Virgin Mother with a Child, born in a manger, would come to Egypt. The pagan priests remembered well this prophecy. In accordance with it, they carved out a representation of a Virgin as she lay on a bed and, next to her in a manger, her young Child wrapped in swaddling clothes; and they venerated this representation. King Ptolemy asked the pagan priests what this representation meant, and they replied that it was a mystery, foretold by a prophet to their fathers, and that they were awaiting the fulfillment of this mystery. And, indeed, this mystery was fulfilled, and revealed not only in Egypt but also in the entire world.

CONTEMPLATION
Contemplate the wisdom of the Most-holy Virgin Mary:
1. How she spoke wisely with the angel of God (Luke 1:28-38);
2. How she pondered in her heart all that had happened at the birth of the Lord Jesus and all that was said of Him;
3. How, at Cana, she wisely told the servants to do whatever He told them.

HOMILY
on the Most-holy Virgin, the Theotokos
My soul doth magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46).
Brethren, we have in total only a few words spoken by the Most-holy Theotokos recorded in the Gospels. All of her words pertain to the magnification of God. She was silent before men but her soul conversed unceasingly with God. Every day and every hour, she found a new reason and incentive to magnify God. If only we were able to know and to record all her magnifications of God throughout her whole life, oh, how many books would it take! But, even by this one magnification, which she spoke before her kinswoman Elizabeth, the mother of the great Prophet and Forerunner John, every Christian can evaluate what a fragrant and God-pleasing flower was her most holy soul. This is but one wonderful canticle of the soul of the Theotokos, which has come down to us through the Gospel. However, such canticles were without number in the course of the life of the Most-blessed One. Even before she heard the Gospel from the lips of her Son, she knew how to speak with God and to glorify Him in accordance with the teaching of the Gospel. This knowledge came to her from the Holy Spirit of God, whose grace constantly poured into her like clear water into a pure vessel. Her soul magnified God with canticles throughout her whole life, and therefore God magnified her above the Cherubim and the Seraphim. Likewise, small and sinful as we are, the same Lord will magnify in His Kingdom us who magnify her, if we exert ourselves to fill this brief life with the magnification of God in our deeds, words, thoughts and prayers.
O Most-holy, Most-pure and Most-blessed Theotokos, cover us with the wings of thy prayers.
To thee and thy Son and our Lord be glory and praise forever. Amen.