Leavetaking of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple
Nicephoros the Martyr of Antioch
Markellos, Philagrios, & Pankratios the Hieromartyrs
Ἀπόδοσις τῆς Ἑορτῆς τῆς Ὑπαπαντῆς τοῦ Κυρίου.
Τοῦ Ἁγίου Μάρτυρος Νικηφόρου.
Μαρκέλλου, Ἐπισκόπου Σικελίας. Φιλαγρίου, Ἐπισκόπου Κύπρου. Παγκρατίου, Ἐπισκόπου Ταυρομενίου.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from St. John's First Universal Letter 1:8-10; 2:1-6
Brethren, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says "I know him" but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Ἰωάννου α' 1:8-10;2:1-6
Ἀδελφοί, ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔχομεν, ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν, καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν. Ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, πιστός ἐστιν καὶ δίκαιος ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας, καὶ καθαρίσῃ ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας. Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν, ψεύστην ποιοῦμεν αὐτόν, καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν. Τεκνία μου, ταῦτα γράφω ὑμῖν, ἵνα μὴ ἁμάρτητε. Καὶ ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ, παράκλητον ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν δίκαιον· καὶ αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστιν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν· οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου. Καὶ ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐγνώκαμεν αὐτόν, ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν. Ὁ λέγων, Ἔγνωκα αὐτόν, καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ μὴ τηρῶν, ψεύστης ἐστίν, καὶ ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν· ὃς δʼ ἂν τηρῇ αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον, ἀληθῶς ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ τετελείωται. Ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐσμέν· ὁ λέγων ἐν αὐτῷ μένειν ὀφείλει, καθὼς ἐκεῖνος περιεπάτησεν, καὶ αὐτὸς οὕτως περιπατεῖν.
The Reading is from Mark 13:31-37: 14:1-2
The Lord said to his disciples, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore -- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning -- lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch." It was now two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth, and kill him; for they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult of the people."
Κατὰ Μᾶρκον 13.31-37. 14.1
Εἶπεν ὁ Κὐριος τοῖς ἑαυτοῦ μαθηταῖς· Ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ παρελεύσονται, οἱ δὲ ἐμοὶ λόγοι οὐ μὴ παρελεύσονται. Περὶ δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης ἢ τῆς ὥρας οὐδεὶς οἶδεν, οὐδὲ οἱ ἄγγελοι ἐν οὐρανῷ, οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός, εἰ μὴ ὁ πατήρ. Βλέπετε, ἀγρυπνεῖτε καὶ προσεύχεσθε· οὐκ οἴδατε γὰρ πότε ὁ καιρός ἐστιν. ὡς ἄνθρωπος ἀπόδημος, ἀφεὶς τὴν οἰκίαν αὐτοῦ, καὶ δοὺς τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ τὴν ἐξουσίαν, καὶ ἑκάστῳ τὸ ἔργον αὐτοῦ, καὶ τῷ θυρωρῷ ἐνετείλατο ἵνα γρηγορῇ. γρηγορεῖτε οὖν· οὐκ οἴδατε γὰρ πότε ὁ κύριος τῆς οἰκίας ἔρχεται, ὀψὲ ἢ μεσονυκτίου ἢ ἀλεκτοροφωνίας ἢ πρωΐ· μὴ ἐλθὼν ἐξαίφνης εὕρῃ ὑμᾶς καθεύδοντας. ἃ δὲ ὑμῖν λέγω, πᾶσι λέγω· γρηγορεῖτε. Ἦν δὲ τὸ πάσχα καὶ τὰ ἄζυμα μετὰ δύο ἡμέρας. καὶ ἐζήτουν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς πῶς αὐτὸν ἐν δόλῳ κρατήσαντες ἀποκτείνωσιν.ἔλεγον δὲ μὴ ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ, μήποτε θόρυβος ἔσται τοῦ λαοῦ.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ Θ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου Μάρτυρος Νικηφόρου.
Τὸν ἐκ παλαιοῦ κλητικὸν Νικηφόρον,
Τμηθέντα γνῶθι πρακτικὸν Νικηφόρον.
Φασγάνῳ ἀμφ' ἐνάτῃ Νικηφόρε, δειροτομήθης.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ ὁσίου Πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ῥωμανοῦ τοῦ Κίλικος.
Λήθην βαθεῖαν εἶχε καὶ ζῶν τοῦ βίου,
Ῥωμανὸς οὗτος, ὃς μετέστη τοῦ βίου.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τῶν Ἁγίων Μαρτύρων Μαρκέλλου Ἐπισκόπου Σικελίας, Φιλαγρίου Ἐπισκόπου Κύπρου, καὶ Παγκρατίου Ἐπισκόπου Ταυρομενίου.
Λυθέντες ἄνδρες σαρκικῶν τρεῖς ἁμμάτων (δεσμῶν δηλ.),
Τῶν τῆς Ἐδὲμ μετέσχον ἐντρυφημάτων.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ Ἅγιος Ἱερομάρτυς Πέτρος ὁ Δαμασκηνὸς ξίφει τελειοῦται.
Ὁ διελέγξας τοὺς παραπλῆγας Πέτρος,
Θνῄσκει μονοπλὴξ τῷ διὰ ξίφους τέλει.
Ταῖς αὐτῶν ἁγίαις πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Χαῖρε κεχαριτωμένη Θεοτόκε Παρθένε, ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ ἀνέτειλεν ὁ Ἥλιος τῆς δικαιοσύνης, Χριστὸς ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, φωτίζων τοὺς ἐν σκότει. Εὐφραίνου καὶ σὺ Πρεσβύτα δίκαιε, δεξάμενος ἐν ἀγκάλαις τὸν ἐλευθερωτὴν τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν, χαριζόμενος ἡμῖν καὶ τὴν Ἀνάστασιν.
Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, O Virgin Theotokos, for from thee hath risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, enlightening those in darkness. Rejoice, thou also, O righteous Elder, as thou receivest in thine arms the Redeemer of our souls, Who also granteth unto us the Resurrection.
Kontakion in the First Tone
Ὁ μήτραν παρθενικὴν ἁγιάσας τῶ τόκω σου, καὶ χείρας τοῦ Συμεὼν εὐλογήσας ὡς ἔπρεπε, προφθάσας καὶ νὺν ἔσωσας ἡμᾶς Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός. Ἀλλ' εἰρήνευσον ἐν πολέμοις τὸ πολίτευμα, καὶ κραταίωσον Βασιλεῖς οὓς ἠγάπησας, ὁ μόνος φιλάνθρωπος.
Your birth sanctified a Virgin's womb and properly blessed the hands of Symeon. Having now come and saved us O Christ our God, give peace to Your commonwealth in troubled times and strengthen those in authority, whom You love, as only the loving One.
This Martyr, who was from Antioch in Syria, contested during the reign of Gallienus, about the year 260. Through the working of the evil one, his friendship with a certain Christian priest named Sapricius was turned to bitter hatred. Nicephoros, repenting of his enmity, tried both through intermediaries and in person to be reconciled with Sapricius, but to no avail. Later, when the persecution broke out under Valerian and Gallienus, Sapricius was seized as a Christian. When Saint Nicephoros learned that Sapricius had been arrested by the pagans and was enduring torments for Christ, he sent intermediaries to Sapricius, begging his forgiveness; but Sapricius would not forgive him. Later, as Sapricius was being taken to beheading, Nicephoros, hoping that Sapricius, at his end, in such a holy hour, would at last forgive him, met him on the way, fell before him, and fervently asked his forgiveness; but Sapricius forgave him not. Wherefore, though Sapricius had passed through many sufferings, and the crown of martyrdom was now awaiting him, because he disdained the chief commandments of love and forgiveness, the grace of God, which had been strengthening him in his torments, departed from him, and he told his executioners he would sacrifice. Nicephoros immediately confessed Christ before them, and being himself beheaded, took the crown that Sapricius had cast away.
Should the Apodosis of the Feast of the Meeting in the Temple fall on this day the service to Saint Nicephoros is chanted on the 8th.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Ο Μάρτυς σου Κύριε, έν τή αθλήσει αυτού, τό στέφος εκομίσατο τής αφθαρσίας, εκ σού τού Θεού ημών, έχων γάρ τήν ισχύν σου, τούς τυράννους καθείλεν, έθραυσε καί δαιμόνων, τά ανίσχυρα θράση, αυτού ταίς ικεσίαις Χριστέ, σώσον τάς ψυχάς ημών.
Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Πτερωθείς Αοίδιμε, τή τού Κυρίου αγάπη, καί τόν τούτου ένδοξε, Σταυρόν επ' ώμων βαστάσας, ήσχυνας τού διαβόλου τάς μεθοδείας, ήθλησας μέχρι θανάτου καί αληθείας, διά τούτο ανεδείχθης, οπλίτης μύστης, Θεού τής Χάριτος.
Bound fast with chains of love, thou didst mightily sunder the wickedness of hatred with manifest courage, and hence, O Nicephoros, when the sword had cut off thy head, thou wast shown to be a godly Martyr of Jesus, our Incarnate Saviour; pray Him for us who honor thy glorious memory.
Τα περιστατικά του μαρτυρίου του αγίου Νικηφόρου, τον οποίον σήμερα γιορτάζει η Εκκλησία, μας φέρνουν στην μνήμη τα λόγια του αποστόλου Παύλου στην πρώτη προς Κορινθίους επιστολή "και εαν παραδώ το σώμά μου ίνα καυθήσομαι, αγάπην δε μη έχω, ουδέν ωφελούμαι". Άλλ' όχι μόνο τίποτα δεν ωφελείται, όταν και το μαρτύριο υποστεί κανείς χωρίς αγάπη, μα ούτε καν φθάνει στο μαρτύριο όποιος δεν έχει αγάπη. Γιατί η δύναμη που οδηγεί τους Αγίους στο μαρτύριο δεν είναι μόνο η πίστη στο Θεό, μα κι η αγάπη προς τον άνθρωπο. Μέσα στην αγάπη είναι η πίστη κι όποιος έχει την αγάπη του Ευαγγελίου, την "καινήν εντολήν", έχει το πλήρωμα, και την πίστη και την ελπίδα. Ξεκίνησαν άνθρωποι με πίστη για το μαρτύριο κι επειδή δεν είχαν την αγάπη δεν άντεξαν και ξεκίνησαν άλλοι με αγάπη, όπως ο Νικηφόρος, και βρήκαν την πίστη και την δύναμη να αποθάνουν.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Νικηφόρος
Ὁ Θεὸς εἶναι ἀγάπη. Καὶ ὁποῖος δὲν τὴν ἔχει, ματαιοπονεῖ, ἔστω καὶ ἂν εἶναι χριστιανὸς καὶ λέει ὅτι ἀγωνίζεται ἐν Χριστῷ. Ὅταν τὸ 257 μ.Χ. (ἐπὶ Οὐαλεριανοῦ καὶ Γαληΐνου) δόθηκε διαταγὴ διωγμοῦ κατὰ τῶν χριστιανῶν, ἔπιασαν πολλοὺς ἐπισκόπους καὶ Ἱερεῖς, μὲ σκοπὸ νὰ τοὺς βασανίσουν γιὰ νὰ ἀρνηθοῦν τὸ Χριστό. Ὁ Νικηφόρος, χριστιανὸς εὐσεβέστατος, εἶδε μεταξὺ αὐτῶν τῶν Ἱερέων καὶ ἕναν, ὀνομαζόμενο Σαπρίκιο (πρεσβύτερο Ἀντιοχείας). Αὐτὸς ἔτρεφε μεγάλο μῖσος κατὰ τοῦ Νικηφόρου, πιστεύοντας ἴσως στὰ λόγια κάποιου συκοφάντη. Χωρὶς νὰ χάσει στιγμὴ ὁ Νικηφόρος, τρέχει ἀνάμεσα στοὺς δήμιους, πέφτει στὰ πόδια του καὶ παρακαλεῖ νὰ τὸν συγχωρέσει, ἔστω καὶ ἂν ἔκανε κάτι ποὺ δὲν τὸ κατάλαβε. Μάταια ὅμως. Ὁ Σαπρίκιος ἔκανε πὼς δὲν τὸν ἄκουγε. Ἔπειτα, μετὰ τὸ μαστίγωμα ποὺ δέχθηκε ὁ Σαπρίκιος, ὁ Νικηφόρος τὸν ἐπαναπλησιάζει, ἀσπάζεται τὶς πληγές του καὶ ζητάει νὰ τοῦ δώσει, ἔστω καὶ τὴν τελευταία στιγμή, τὴν εὐλογία του. Ὁ Σαπρίκιος, ἀνένδοτος, τὸν διώχνει καὶ ὁδηγεῖται γιὰ ἀποκεφαλισμό. Ὅμως ὁ Θεὸς δὲ θέλησε τὴν θυσία του. Διότι μὲ τὸ στόμα τοῦ Ἀποστόλου Παύλου λέει: «Καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμα μου ἵνα καυθήσομαι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι». Καὶ ἄν, δηλαδή, δώσω τὸ σῶμα μου γιὰ νὰ καῶ, δὲν ἔχω ὅμως ἀγάπη, δὲν ὠφελοῦμαι τίποτα ἀπ᾿ τὴν θυσία αὐτή. Καὶ ἔτσι ἔγινε. Ὁ Σαπρίκιος τὴν τελευταία στιγμὴ δείλιασε καὶ ἀρνήθηκε τὸ Χριστό! Μόλις τὸ ἄκουσε ὁ Νικηφόρος τὸν παρακαλεῖ νὰ ἀνακαλέσει τὴν ἄρνησή του. Τότε ἐκνευρισμένοι οἱ δήμιοι, ἀποκεφαλίζουν αὐτόν. Ἔτσι, ὁ Νικηφόρος πῆρε τὸ στεφάνι τοῦ μαρτυρίου καὶ ὁ Σαπρίκιος τὸ στίγμα τῆς ἀτιμίας.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Ῥωμανὸς ὁ Κίλικας ὁ θαυματουργός
Ἡ καταγωγὴ τοῦ Ὁσίου αὐτοῦ ἦταν ἀπὸ τὴν Κιλικία, καὶ συγκεκριμένα ἀπὸ τὴν πόλη Ῥῶσο (ἀρχαία πόλη τῆς Συρίας στὸν Ἰσσικὸ κόλπο - Ἀλεξανδρέτας - ποὺ βρίσκεται κοντὰ στὶς Κιλικίες Πύλες). Ὁ πνευματικός του ὅμως ἀγῶνας ἔγινε στὰ μέρη τῆς Ἀντιόχειας. Ἐκεῖ, στοὺς πρόποδες ἑνὸς βουνοῦ ἔκτισε ἕνα μικρὸ κελί, ποὺ τοῦ χρησίμευε σὰν μελετητήριο καὶ συγχρόνως σὰν ἀσκητήριο. Ἦταν τύπος ἐγκρατὴς καὶ στοὺς τρόπους του ἁπλός, γεμάτος ταπεινοφροσύνη καὶ πραότητα. Ἡ φήμη τῆς ἁγιότητάς του καὶ φρονήσεώς του ἔφερε πρὸς αὐτὸν πλήθη, ποὺ τοῦ ἐκδήλωναν τὴν ἐκτίμηση καὶ τὸν σεβασμό τους. Ἀλλὰ ἐκεῖνος, σὲ καμιὰ στιγμὴ δὲν αἰσθάνθηκε τὸν ἄνεμο τῆς ὑπερηφάνειας. Δὲν ἔβλεπε πόσο προόδευε, ἀλλὰ μόνο πόσο καθυστεροῦσε νὰ προοδεύσει. Συχνὰ μάλιστα ἔλεγε τὸν λόγο τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου, ὅτι, ὁποῖος νομίζει ὅτι στέκεται πνευματικά, ὀφείλει νὰ προσέχει μὴ πέσει. Ὁ Θεὸς τὸν προίκισε καὶ μὲ τὸ χάρισμα νὰ θεραπεύει ἀσθένειες. Ἀλλ᾿ αὐτός, γιὰ νὰ εἶναι προσγειωμένος, ἔλεγε καὶ πάλι τὸ λόγο τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου, ὅτι, τὸ νὰ κάνει κανεὶς θαύματα δὲν εἶναι τίποτα. Τὸ σπουδαῖο εἶναι νὰ ἐργάζεται τὴν ἀρετὴ καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνη. Μετὰ ἀπὸ τέτοια ἀληθινὰ ἁγία ζωή, ὁ Ὅσιος Ῥωμανός, ἀπεβίωσε εἰρηνικά.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Μάρκελλος ἐπίσκοπος Σικελίας, Φιλάγριος ἐπίσκοπος Κύπρου καὶ Παγκράτιος ἐπίσκοπος Ταυρομενίου
Ἔζησαν καὶ οἱ τρεῖς κατὰ τὸν πρῶτο μετὰ Χριστοῦ αἰῶνα. Ὁ Μάρκελλος, πατέρας τοῦ Παγκρατίου, ἦταν προηγουμένως ὀπαδὸς τοῦ Σίμωνα τοῦ Μάγου. Ἦλθε ὅμως στὴν ἀληθινὴ πίστη, μέσῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας καὶ τῶν θαυμάτων τοῦ ἀποστόλου Πέτρου, τὸν ὁποῖο καὶ ἀκολούθησε ἀπὸ τότε μὲ τὸ γιό του Παγκράτιο. Καὶ ὁ μὲν Μάρκελλος ἔγινε κατόπιν ἐπίσκοπος στὶς Συρακοῦσες τῆς Σικελίας, ὅπου ἔφερε πολλοὺς εἰδωλολάτρες στὴν ἀληθινὴ θρησκεία. Ὁ δὲ Παγκράτιος ἔγινε ἐπίσκοπος Ταυρομενίου (σημερινὴ Ταορμίνα) τῆς Σικελίας. Ὁ Φιλάγριος διέπρεψε σὰν ἐπίσκοπος τῆς Κύπρου. Καὶ οἱ τρεῖς δὲ πέθαναν, ἀφοῦ ὑπέστησαν πολλὲς δοκιμασίες στὴν ἐκτέλεση τῶν ποιμαντικῶν καθηκόντων τους, καὶ ζωὴ καθημερινοῦ μαρτυρίου. (Ἡ μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγ. Παγκρατίου, ἐπαναλαμβάνεται καὶ τὴν 9η Ἰουλίου).
Ὁ Ἅγιος Πέτρος ὁ Δαμασκηνός
Ἦταν Ἱερέας μὲ πλήρη συνείδηση τῶν ὑποχρεώσεών του πρὸς τὸν Χριστὸ καὶ τὸν λαό. Μὲ τὸ προσωπικό του παράδειγμα, ἄμεμπτο καὶ διδακτικότατο, φώτιζε καὶ κατάρτιζε τοὺς πιστούς με τὰ τακτικὰ καὶ πρακτικότατα κηρύγματά του. Αὐτὸς μάλιστα εἶναι καὶ ὁ συγγραφέας τῆς Νηπτικῆς βίβλου, ποὺ ἐμπεριέχεται στὴ Φιλοκαλία. Τὴν ἀγάπη του πρὸς τὸν Χριστό, δὲν τὴν ἔδειχνε μόνο σὲ καιροὺς εἰρηνικούς, ἀλλὰ καὶ σὲ δύσκολους. Καὶ τὴν ζωή του στεφάνωσε, ἀφοῦ πρόθυμα ἔδωσε τὸ κεφάλι του στὸν θάνατο διὰ ξίφους, γιὰ νὰ μείνει πιστὸς στὴν ὁμολογία τοῦ Χριστοῦ.
Holy Martyr Nicephorus (~257)
Sapricius the priest and the layman Nicephorus lived in Antioch of Syria. Though they were the closest of friends, a disagreement between them led to estrangement and then to outright enmity. In time, Nicephorus came to himself and realized that reconciliation and love among brethren are precious in the sight of the Lord, and he sent to Sapricius to ask his forgiveness for Christ's sake. But his messengers were turned away, and Sapricius coldly refused any reconciliation. At the same time he violated the Lord's commandment by continuing to serve at the altar without seeking to make peace. Nicephorus finally went in person and threw himself at Sapricius' feet, but even this had no effect.
Soon, persecution of Christians broke out, and Sapricius was arrested. When he confessed Christ without fear or hesitation, and refused to make sacrifice to the idols even under torture, he was condemned to be beheaded. Nicephorus was distressed that Sapricius might give his life in Christ's name while still at enmity with a brother; and that he himself would lose his chance to make peace. As Sapricius was being led to the place of execution, Nicephorus went on his knees before him and cried 'Martyr of Christ, forgive me the offences for which you are angry with me!' Still, Sapricius coldly spurned his former friend's pleas. For this reason, as the executioner was raising his sword, and the crown of martyrdom was only seconds away, God withdrew his grace from the priest, who turned to the executioner and declared his readiness to adore the idols. Nicephorus, who was among the witnesses, begged him not to apostatise, but his words were of no effect. Nicephorus then turned to the executioner and shouted 'I am a Christian! I believe in our Lord Jesus Christ whom he has just denied. Let him go and put me to death in his place!'
The Governor agreed, and ordered the release of Sapricius and the execution of Nicephorus. The Martyr laid his neck on the block joyfully and claimed the crown that Sapricius had thrown away. The Synaxarion concludes:
'When he departed for heaven to receive the crown of glory, Saint Nicephorus left to us Christians a vivid illustration of these words uttered by the Holy Spirit: If I deliver my body to be burned but have no love, I gain nothing (1 Cor. 13:3). If you do not forgive men their trespasses neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses... For the measure you give will be the measure you get (Matt. 6:15; 7:2).'
Hieromartyr Peter of Damascus, bishop of Damascus (~776)
"Saint Peter was Bishop of Damascus during the reign of Constantine Copronymus (c. 776) and a contemporary of Saint John of Damascus. He was arrested on the orders of the Caliph Walid for castigating the heretical doctrines of the Muslims and the Manichaeans. His tongue was cut out and he was exiled to South Arabia (Arabia Felix), where he continued to teach the true Faith and to serve the holy Mysteries until he entered into the reward of his labours in heaven.' (Synaxarion)
Peter of Damascus, Hesychast (12th c.)
Little is known of him except by his writings in the Philokalia . Saint Nikodemos, compiler of the Philokalia, writes that his work is 'a recapitulation of holy watchfulness... a circle within a circle, a concentrated Philokalia within the more extendedPhilokalia.'
he Holy Martyr Nicephoros lived in the city of Syrian Antioch. In this city lived also the presbyter Sapricios, with whom Nicephoros was very friendly, such that they were considered like kindred brothers. Through the onset of a disagreement they quarreled, and their former love changed into enmity and hate. After a certain while Nicephoros came to his senses, repented of his sin and more than once through mutual friends asked forgiveness of Sapricios, who did not wish to forgive him. Nicephoros then went himself to his former friend and fervently asked forgiveness, but Sapricios was adamant. At this time the emperors Valerian (253-259) and Gallius (260-268) started up persecutions against christians, and one of the first taken before the judgement court was presbyter Sapricios. He firmly confessed himself a Christian, underwent tortures for his faith and was condemned to death by beheading with a sword. When they took him to execution, Nicephoros tearfully entreated his forgiveness, calling on him as an holy martyr who would soon stand before the Lord and receive of Him a crown.
But presbyter Sapricios remained hardened of heart and even before death he refused to forgive his brother-christian. Because of this the Lord withheld His blessing from Sapricios, having formerly strengthened him during the time of enduring torture; but now, having nearly reached the blessed end of his ordeal, he suddenly became afraid of death and consented to offer sacrifice to idols. In vain did Saint Nicephoros tearfully urge on Sapricios, that he not destroy himself by apostasy, since already he was standing at the threshold of the Heavenly Kingdom. Saint Nicephoros then said to the executioner: "I am a Christian and I believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom Sapricios hath recanted. Execute me in place of Sapricios". The executioners reported about this to the governor. He issued an edict: to free Sapricios, and in place of him to behead Nicephoros with a sword. Thus did Saint Nicephoros receive his martyr's crown.
Sainted Innokentii, Bishop of Irkutsk. The account about him is located under 26 November.
The Monk Gennadii of Vazheozersk was the son of rich parents but, having given away everything, he became a disciple and novice under the monk Alexander of Svir' and pursued asceticism with him as an hermit at the river Svira. Afterwards, with blessing of the monk Alexander, he went to Vazheozersk, located 12 versts from the Svir' monastery. And here, having built a cell, he spent his solitary ascetic life with two of his disciples.
Before death the monk Gennadii told his disciple: "At this place shalt be a church and monastery". The ascetic reposed on 8 January 1516.
The Monk Nikiphor of Vazheozersk came to the monk Alexander of Svir' (Comm. 17 April) in the year 1510 and was warmly received by him. In 1518 he made a visit, with the blessing of his mentor, to Kirill of Novoezersk (Comm. 4 February). When Nikiphor approached New-Lake (ie. Novo-ezero), he was fatigued by his long journey and laid down in the darkness and fell asleep. Saint Kirill through his perspicacity hastened by boat to row across the lake and awoke him. The monk Nikiphor spent eight days in spiritual conversation with the saint. Nikiphor then journeyed to Kiev to venerate the relics of the Pechersk saints.
Upon his return, and with the blessing of the monk Alexander, he settled at Vazheozersk, -- there where the monk Gennadii pursued asceticism. Saint Nikiphor raised up the Church of the Transfiguration and a monastery there, in which he established community life, and pursued asceticism until his own death.
In the second half of the XIX Century in the Zadne-Nikiforovsk wilderness was built a church in the name of the monks Nikiphor and Gennadii of Vazheozersk. The relics of the saints were put to rest under a concealed place in the monastery established by them.
The PriestMartyrs Marcellus, Philagrios and Pankratios were disciples of the holy Apostle Peter and were made bishops by him: Saint Marcellus -- of Sicily, Philagrios -- of Cyprus, and Pankratios -- of Tauromeneia. For spreading the faith of Christ amongst the pagans they received a martyr's end.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. THE HOLY MARTYR NICEPHORUS
The biography of this martyr Nicephorus clearly demonstrates how God rejects pride and crowns humility and love with glory. There lived in Antioch two close friends, the learned priest Sapricius and the simple ordinary citizen Nicephorus. Somehow, their friendship turned into a terrible hatred for each other. The God-fearing Nicephorus attempted on many occasions to make peace with the priest. However, at no time did Sapricius desire to be reconciled. When the persecution of Christians began, the presbyter Sapricius was condemned to death and brought to the place of execution. The sorrowful Nicephorus followed after Sapricius beseeching him along the way to, at least, forgive him before his death that they might depart in peace.
"I beseech you, O martyr of Christ," said Nicephorus, "forgive me if I have sinned against you!" Sapricius did not even want to look at his opponent but quietly and arrogantly walked toward his death. Upon seeing the hardness of the priest's heart, God did not want to accept the sacrifice of his martyrdom and to crown him with a wreath but He mysteriously withheld His grace. At the last moment, Sapricius denied Christ and declared before the executioners that he would bow down before the idols. So it is with blind hatred! Nicephorus implored Sapricius not to deny Christ saying: "O my beloved brother, do not do that; do not deny our Lord Jesus Christ; do not forfeit the heavenly wreath!" But, all was in vain. Sapricius remained adamant. Then, Nicephorus cried out to the executioners: "I, also, am a Christian; behead me in place of Sapricius!" The executioners informed the judge of this and he ordered the release of Sapricius and, in his place, beheaded Nicephorus. Nicephorus joyfully lowered his head on the block and was beheaded. Thus, he was made worthy of the kingdom and was crowned with the immortal wreath of glory. This occurred in the year 260 A.D. during the reign of Gallienus.
2. THE PRIEST-MARTYR PETER DAMASKIN
Some think that Peter Damaskin lived in the eighth century and others think he lived in the twelfth century. This difference of thought comes from the face that there were two Peter Damaskins. The one about whom we are speaking was a great ascetic. He was unselfish beyond measure. Peter Damaskin did not even possess one book; rather, he borrowed books and read them. He read assiduously, gathering wisdom as a bee gathers honey. For a while, he was a bishop in Damascus but when he spoke out against Islam and the Manichean heresy, the Arabs severed his tongue and banished him into exile deep in Arabia. However, God granted him the power of speech so that, even in exile, he preached the Good News [Gospel] and converted many to the Faith of Christ. He compiled and bequeathed to his posterity a precious book about the spiritual life. He died as a confessor and martyr and took up habitation in the kingdom of Christ.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT PETER DAMASKIN
Damaskin numbers eight types of knowledge
For men of spiritual and divine background:
The knowledge of sorrow and all temptations,
The knowledge of the sum of one's transgressions,
one's transgressions and God's forgiveness.
The knowledge of horror, pain and fear,
Before death, in death and after separation,
when before the righteous judgement, the soul stands.
The knowledge of Christ, the Savior,
His life and all the saints,
Of the saints; their deeds, patience and words,
Which, like a silver bell resounds throughout the ages.
The knowledge of natural attributes,
Of physical phenomenon; variation and change.
The knowledge of forms and things,
Natural phantoms and all sensory beings.
The knowledge of the world; rational and spiritual
The angelic world and the world of Hades; both good and evil.
The knowledge of God,
The One, Holy, Mighty and Immortal.
This knowledge is called Theology
To it, few are rarely elevated;
The greatest purity, a theologian needs
For the impure heart, to hea ven does not reach,
Damaskin, the seven elementary knowledges appropriates
And to the eighth, to the knowledge of God he reached.
And the eighth is given by God and by God bestowed,
This is neither learned nor deserved.
Saint Peter Damaskin writes about the general and particular gifts of God and says: "The general gifts consist of four elements and all which result from them, as all the wonderful and awesome works of God outlined in Holy Scripture. The particular gifts are those gifts which God bestows upon every man individually whether it be riches for the sake of charity or poverty for the sake of patience with humility; whether it be authority for the sake of justice and the strengthening of virtues or subjugation and slavery for the sake of the expeditious salvation of the soul; be it health for the sake of helping the infirm or illness for the sake of the wreath of patience; be it understanding and skill in gain for the sake of virtue or weakness and lack of skill for the sake of submissive humility. All of this, even though it appears contrary to one another, nevertheless, it is by its purpose very good." In conclusion, St. Peter Damaskin says that we are obligated to give thanks to God for all gifts and with patience and hope to endure all tribulations and evil consequences. For all of that which God gives us or permits to befall us, benefits our salvation.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as the Source of Joy:
1. In the tribulations of life which only He is able to replace with joy;
2. In the bondage of passions which only He can replace with the joy of freedom;
3. In death, from which he alone can resurrect us.
About the word of God which is mightier than death
"Whoever keeps My word willnever taste death" (St. John 8:52).
As long as a candle burns in a room, there will not be darkness as long as the candle burns and emits light. If food is seasoned with salt, it will be preserved from spoiling. If someone keeps the word of Christ in his soul, that one keeps salt and light in his soul and life will abide in him. Such a soul will not become dark in this life neither will it taste decaying death.
Whoever keeps the word of Christ in himself, the word of Christ sustains him from within and feeds him and enlightens him and enlivens him. Whether he is in the body or outside the body, he feels equally alive from the word of Christ, i.e., from the undying eternal life. The death of the body will give to his Life-bearing soul only a freer enthusiasm in embracing Christ, the Beloved Life-giver.
But, what does it mean, brethren, to keep the word of Christ within ourselves? That means; First: to keep the word of Christ in our mind, thinking about it; Second: to keep the word of Christ in our heart, loving it; Third: to keep the word of Christ in our will, fulfilling it in deeds; Fourth: to keep the word of Christ on our tongue, openly confessing it when it is necessary to do so. Thus, to keep the word of Christ means to fill ourselves with it and to fulfill it. Whoever would keep the word of Christ in this manner, truly, he will never taste of death.
O our Lord, Mighty Lord, mightier than death, give us strength and understanding to keep Your holy word to the end; that we do not taste of death and that death does not taste of us; that decay does not touch our soul. O Lord All-merciful be merciful to us.