FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
The Holy Apostle Thaddaeus
The Holy Martyr Bassa and Her Sons; Theognis, Agapius, and Pistus
Afterfeast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians 5:15-21
BRETHREN, Christ died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Πρὸς Κορινθίους β' 5:15-21
Ἀδελφοί, Χριστός ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν ἵνα οἱ ζῶντες μηκέτι ἑαυτοῖς ζῶσιν, ἀλλὰ τῷ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀποθανόντι καὶ ἐγερθέντι. Ὥστε ἡμεῖς ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν οὐδένα οἴδαμεν κατὰ σάρκα· εἰ δὲ καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν κατὰ σάρκα Χριστόν, ἀλλὰ νῦν οὐκέτι γινώσκομεν. Ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις· τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδού, γέγονεν καινὰ τὰ πάντα. Τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, τοῦ καταλλάξαντος ἡμᾶς ἑαυτῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, καὶ δόντος ἡμῖν τὴν διακονίαν τῆς καταλλαγῆς· ὡς ὅτι θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ, μὴ λογιζόμενος αὐτοῖς τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, καὶ θέμενος ἐν ἡμῖν τὸν λόγον τῆς καταλλαγῆς. Ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ οὖν πρεσβεύομεν, ὡς τοῦ θεοῦ παρακαλοῦντος διʼ ἡμῶν· δεόμεθα ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ, καταλλάγητε τῷ θεῷ. Τὸν γὰρ μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ.
The Reading is from Mark 3:13-21
At that time, Jesus went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons: Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaios, and Thaddaios, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, "He is beside himself."
Κατὰ Μᾶρκον 3.13-21
Τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ, ἀνέβη ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὸ ὄρος, καὶ προσκαλεῖται οὓς ἤθελεν αὐτός, καὶ ἀπῆλθον πρὸς αὐτόν. καὶ ἐποίησε δώδεκα, ἵνα ὦσι μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἵνα ἀποστέλλῃ αὐτοὺς κηρύσσειν καὶ ἔχειν ἐξουσίαν θεραπεύειν τὰς νόσους καὶ ἐκβάλλειν τὰ δαιμόνια· καὶ ἐπέθηκεν ὄνομα τῷ Σίμωνι Πέτρον, καὶ ᾿Ιάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου καὶ ᾿Ιωάννην τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ ᾿Ιακώβου· καὶ ἐπέθηκεν αὐτοῖς ὀνόματα Βοανεργές, ὅ ἐστιν υἱοὶ βροντῆς· καὶ ᾿Ανδρέαν καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον καὶ Ματθαῖον καὶ Θωμᾶν καὶ ᾿Ιάκωβον τὸν τοῦ ᾿Αλφαίου καὶ Θαδδαῖον καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν Κανανίτην καὶ ᾿Ιούδαν ᾿Ισκαριώτην, ὃς καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτόν. Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς οἶκον· καὶ συνέρχεται πάλιν ὄχλος, ὥστε μὴ δύνασθαι αὐτοὺς μηδὲ ἄρτον φαγεῖν. καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐξῆλθον κρατῆσαι αὐτόν· ἔλεγον γὰρ ὅτι ἐξέστη.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ ΚΑ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἀποστόλου Θαδδαίου.
Θαδδαῖε! ποῖον ἄλλο σοι πλέξω στέφος,
Ἤ αὐτόπτην λέγειν σε, καὶ μύστην Λόγου;
Εἰκάδι πρώτῃ Θαδδαῖος βιότοιο ἀπέπτη.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, μνήμη τῆς Ἁγίας μάρτυρος Βάσσης, καὶ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς Θεογνίου, Ἀγαπίου καὶ Πιστοῦ.
Μητρὸς μιᾶς κάλλιστα παιδία τρία,
Σὺν μητρὶ Βάσσῃ πρὸς τομὴν ψυχὴ μία.
Βάσσαν σὺν τοκέεσσι τάμε ξίφος εἰκάδι πρώτῃ.
Ταῖς τῶν Ἁγίων σου πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
The Apostle Thaddaeus was from Edessa, a Jew by race. When he came to Jerusalem, he became a disciple of Christ, and after His Ascension he returned to Edessa. There he catechized and baptized Abgar (see Aug. 16). Having preached in Mesopotamia, he ended his life in martyrdom. Though some call him one of the Twelve, whom Matthew calls "Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus" (Matt. 10:3), Eusebius says that he is one of the Seventy: "After [Christ's] Resurrection from the dead, and His ascent into Heaven, Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles, inspired by God, sent Thaddaeus, one of the seventy disciples of Christ, to Edessa as a preacher and evangelist of Christ's teaching" (Eccl. Hist. 1: 13).
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Απόστολε Άγιε Θαδδαίε, πρέσβευε τώ ελεήμονι Θεώ ίνα πταισμάτων άφεσιν, παράσχη ταίς ψυχάς ημών.
O Holy Apostle Thaddeus, intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Εορτή χαρμόσυνος, τού Αποστόλου επέστη, ευφροσύνως σήμερον, επιτελέσωμεν ταύτην, νέμει γάρ, τοίς αυτόν πίστει αεί τιμώσι, λύτρωσιν αμαρτημάτων, καί ρώσιν θείαν, καί γάρ έχει παρρησίαν, ως θείος μύστης Χριστού τής χάριτος.
The Apostle's joyous feast is come with radiant splendour; let us keep it on this day with jubilation and gladness. For to them who ever honour him in sincere faith, it doth grant their sins' forgiveness and true divine health; for he hath great boldness as a divine initiate of Christ's omnipotent grace.
Εορτή χαρμόσυνος, τού Αποστόλου επέστη, ευφροσύνως σήμερον, επιτελέσωμεν ταύτην, νέμει γάρ, τοίς αυτόν πίστει αεί τιμώσι, λύτρωσιν αμαρτημάτων, καί ρώσιν θείαν, καί γάρ έχει παρρησίαν, ως θείος μύστης Χριστού τής χάριτος.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Θαδδαῖος ὁ Ἀπόστολος
Ἑβραῖος ἀπὸ τὴν Ἔδεσσα ὁ Θαδδαῖος καὶ πολὺ μορφωμένος στὶς θεῖες Γραφές, εἶχε ἀνεβεῖ στὴν Ἱερουσαλὴμ γιὰ προσκύνημα τὴν ἐποχὴ τοῦ Ἰωάννου τοῦ Βαπτιστοῦ. Ὅταν ἄκουσε τὸ κήρυγμά του καὶ εἶδε τὴν ἀγγελική του ζωή, τόσο πολὺ ἐντυπωσιάστηκε, ὥστε ἐπεδίωξε καὶ βαπτίστηκε ἀπ᾿ αὐτόν. Μετὰ ὅμως, ὅταν ἄκουσε τὴν διδασκαλία καὶ εἶδε τὰ θαύματα τοῦ Κυρίου μας Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, τὸν ἀκολούθησε μέχρι τὸ σωτήριο Πάθος. Μετὰ τὴν Ἀνάληψη τοῦ Κυρίου, ἐπέστρεψε στὴν πατρίδα του Ἔδεσσα. Ἐκεῖ καθάρισε ἀπὸ τὴν λέπρα τὸν τοπάρχη Αὔγαρο καὶ κατόπιν τὸν βάπτισε χριστιανό. Ἀφοῦ δίδαξε καὶ φώτισε μὲ τὸ λόγο τῆς ἀληθείας πολλοὺς καὶ ἵδρυσε πολλὲς ἐκκλησίες στὶς πόλεις τῆς Συρίας, ἔφθασε στὴ Βηρυττό. Ὁ Θαδδαῖος καὶ ἐκεῖ μὲ τὴν χάρη τοῦ Θεοῦ δίδαξε τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο καὶ βάπτισε πολλούς. Τελικά, ἐκεῖ παρέδωσε εἰρηνικὰ τὸ πνεῦμα του, ἀφοῦ στὴ ζωή του ἐφάρμοσε πλήρως τὴν ἐντολὴ ποὺ ἔδωσε ὁ Κύριος στοὺς μαθητές Του: «Πορευθέντες μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντας αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος». Πηγαίνετε, δηλαδή, καὶ κάνετε μαθητές σας ὅλα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντας αὐτοὺς στὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος.
Ὁ Μ. Γαλανός, γιὰ τὸν Ἀπόστολο αὐτὸ ἀναφέρει: «Μερικοὶ ὑποθέτουν, ὅτι πρόκειται γιὰ ἕναν ἀπὸ τοὺς 70 ἀποστόλους, ποὺ καταγόταν ἀπὸ τὴν Ἔδεσσα, ἦταν ὅμως Ἰουδαῖος. Ἀλλὰ βέβαιο μπορεῖ νὰ θεωρηθεῖ, ὅτι ὁ ἀπόστολος Θαδδαῖος εἶναι ὁ ὑπὸ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτὸ φερόμενος μεταξὺ τῶν 12. Ὀνομαζόταν δὲ ἀλλιῶς καὶ Λεββαῖος καὶ ἦταν ἀδελφὸς τοῦ Ἰακώβου τοῦ μικροῦ. σ᾿ αὐτὸν ἀνήκει καὶ ἡ ἐπιστολὴ Ἰούδα στὸ Εὐαγγέλιο. Διότι καθ᾿ αὐτὸ Ἰούδας ὀνομαζόταν, τὰ δὲ ἄλλα δυὸ ὀνόματα ἦταν πρόσθετα, ὅπως συμβαίνει πάντοτε στοὺς Ἰουδαίους μέχρι καὶ σήμερα. Ὁ Θαδδαῖος κήρυξε τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο στὴ Μεσοποταμία, ὅπου καὶ ἔλαβε μαρτυρικὸ θάνατο».
Ἡ Ἁγία Βάσσα καὶ τὰ παιδιά της Θεόγνιος, Ἀγάπιος καὶ Πίστος
Ἡ ἁγία Βάσσα ἔζησε στὰ χρόνια τοῦ Διοκλητιανοῦ, καὶ κατοικοῦσε στὴν Ἔδεσσα (τὸ πιθανότερο τῆς Μακεδονίας). Εἶχε παντρευτεῖ εἰδωλολάτρη ἱερέα, τὸν Οὐαλέριο, ἀπὸ τὸν ὁποῖο ἀπέκτησε τρεῖς γιούς, τὸν Θεόγνιο, τὸν Ἀγάπιο καὶ τὸν Πίστο. Στὴ Βάσσα ὅμως, ψυχὴ ποὺ ἀγαποῦσε τὴν ἀλήθεια καὶ τὴν ἀρετή, δόθηκε ἡ εὐκαιρία νὰ διδαχθεῖ καὶ νὰ προσέλθει στὴ χριστιανικὴ πίστη. Μαζί της ἔφερε καὶ τοὺς τρεῖς γιούς της, ποὺ τὴν ἀγαποῦσαν μὲ ὅλη τους τὴν καρδιά. Ὅταν πληροφορήθηκε αὐτὸ τὸ πρᾶγμα ὁ Οὐαλέριος, προσπάθησε μὲ ποικίλα τεχνάσματα νὰ τοὺς ἐπαναφέρει στὴν εἰδωλολατρία. Μάταια ὅμως. Διότι ἀντίθετα ἡ Βάσσα, ἀγωνιζόταν αὐτὴ νὰ διαφωτίσει τὸν εἰδωλολάτρη ἄντρα της. Ἐξοργισμένος τότε ὁ Οὐαλέριος, κατάγγειλε καὶ τοὺς τέσσερις στὸν ἀνθύπατο Βικάριο, ποὺ ἀμέσως διέταξε τὴν σύλληψή τους. Καὶ ὁ μὲν πρωτότοκος Θεόγνιος, ὅταν ὁμολόγησε τὸν Ἰησοῦ ἀμέσως πέθανε, ἀφοῦ τοῦ ἔσχισαν τὰ στήθη καὶ τὶς πλευρές. Οἱ δὲ ὑπόλοιποι ρίχτηκαν στὴν φυλακή. Ἀλλ᾿ ἐπειδὴ δὲν κάμφθηκε τὸ φρόνημά τους, τὸν μὲν Ἀγάπιο τὸν σκότωσαν, ἀφοῦ τοῦ ἔγδαραν τὸ δέρμα ἀπὸ τὸ κεφάλι μέχρι τὸ στῆθος καὶ κατόπιν ἔκαψαν τὸ γδαρμένο σῶμα. Τὸ μαρτύριο ἦταν φρικτό, ἀλλ᾿ ὁ νεαρὸς ἀθλητὴς φώναξε: «οὐδὲν οὕτως ἡδύ, ὡς τὸ πάσχειν ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ». Τὸν δὲ τρίτο γιό, τὸν Πίστο, τὸν ἀποκεφάλισαν. Τὴ μητέρα τὴν ἄφησαν ἐλεύθερη. Κατόπιν ὅμως τὴν συνέλαβε ὁ ἔπαρχος Κυζίκου, καὶ ἀφοῦ τῆς ἔσπασε πόδια καὶ χέρια, τὴν ἀποκεφάλισε.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Ἀλέξανδρος «ὁ ἐν Ἰκονίῳ»
Ἡ μνήμη του ἀναγράφεται στὸ Σιναϊτικὸ κώδικα 631.
Apostle Thaddeus of the Seventy (44)
He was by birth a Jew from Edessa; it was he who instructed king Avgar in the Faith and baptised him (see August 16). According to Eusebius he is not the Thaddeus who was one of the Twelve (Mt 10:3), but was one of the Seventy. After Christ's Resurrection, he preached the Gospel in Mesopotamia and ended his life in martyrdom.
Holy Martyrs Bassa and her sons Theognis, Agapios, and Pistis (4th c.)
"Bassa was the wife of a pagan priest, but she was secretly a Christian and brought her sons up in a Christian spirit. Her husband hated her for her faith, and handed her over to the judge for torture, together with her sons. After harsh torture, her sons were beheaded (it is thought, in Edessa in Macedonia). Bassa was filled with joy to see her sons thus gloriously finish their martyr's course for Christ, and herself went with yet greater desire from torture to torture. When she was thrown into the sea, angels appeared to her and took her to an island in the Sea of Marmara, where she was slain with the sword under Maximian. Thus holy Bassa was in a twofold manner made worthy of the Kingdom of
Christ: as a martyr and as the mother of martyrs." (Prologue)
Holy Forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
They are also commemorated on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, before Nativity.
The Disciple from the Seventy Thaddeus was by descent an Hebrew, and he was born in the Syrian city of Edessa. (The holy Disciple from the Seventy Thaddeus mustneeds be distinguished from the Apostle from the Twelve, Jude, also called Thaddeus or Levi, Comm. 19 June). Having come to Jerusalem for a feastday, he heard the preaching of John the Forerunner and, having received from him baptism in Jordan, he remained in Palestine. In beholding the Saviour, he became His follower, and was chosen by the Lord amidst the number of the Seventy Disciples, which He sent by twos for preaching to the cities and locales, which He intended to visit (Lk. 10: 1). After the Ascension of the Saviour to Heaven, the Disciple Thaddeus preached the good-news in Syria and Mesopotamia. He came preaching the Gospel to Edessa and he converted to Christ king Abgar, the people and the pagan-priests. He backed up his preaching with many miracles (about which Abgar wrote to the Assyrian emperor Nerses); he established there priests and built up the Edessa Church. Prince Abgar wanted to reward the Disciple Thaddeus with rich gifts, but he refused and went preaching to other cities, converting many pagans to the Christian faith. Having arrived preaching in the city of Berit (Beirut), he founded there the Church, and it was in this city that he peacefully died in the year 44. (This place for his death is indicated in the Slavonic Meneion, but according to other sources he died in Edessa. According to an ancient Armenian tradition, the Disciple Thaddeus after various tortures was beheaded by the sword on 21 December in the Artaz region in the year 50).
The Martyress Bassa with her sons Theognios, Agapios and Pistos, lived in the city of Macedonian Edessa and she was married to a pagan-priest. From childhood she had been raised in the Christian faith, which she passed on to her sons. During the time of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311), the husband reported to the governor on his wife and children. All of them, in spite of threats, refused to offer sacrifice to idols. They took the eldest son, Theognios, and tore at him with iron claws. They flayed the skin of the lad Agapios from head to chest, but the martyr did not utter a sound. Finally, they began to torture also the youngest son Pistos. The mother did not hesitate to encourage them to endure the suffering for Christ. Then they beheaded the lads. (By one account, the three martyred brothers suffered at Edessa in Macedonia; by another account -- at Larissa in Thessaly their homeland). They locked up Saint Bassa in prison and exhausted her with hunger, but an Angel strengthened her with heavenly food. Under successive tortures she remained unharmed from fire, water and beasts. When they brought her to a pagan temple, she shattered the statue of Zeus. Then they threw the martyress into a whirlpool in the sea. But to everyone's surprise a ship sailed up, and three radiant men pulled her up (the Monk Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain suggested, that these were her children, martyred earlier). After 8 days Saint Bassa came by ship to the governor of the island of Alona, not far from Kyzika, in the Prepontid or Marmora Sea. After a beating with canes they beheaded her.
It is known, that around the year 450 there already existed at Chalcedon a church in honour of the holy Martyress Bassa.
The Monk Avraamii (Abraham) of Smolensk, a preacher of repentance and the impending Dread Last Judgement, was born in the mid-XII Century at Smolensk of rich parents, who before him had 12 daughters, and they besought God for a son. From childhood he grew up in the fear of God, he was often in church and had the opportunity to read books. The parents hoped that their only son would enter into marriage and continue their illustrious lineage, but he sought after a different life. After the death of his parents, having given away all his wealth to monasteries, to churches and to the destitute, the saint walked through the city in rags, beseeching God to show him the way to salvation.
He accepted tonsure in a monastery of the MostHoly Mother of God, five versts from Smolensk, at the locale of Selischa. Having passed through various obediences there, the monk fervently occupied himself with the copying of books, culling spiritual riches from them. The Smolensk prince Roman Rostislavich (+ 1170) started a school in the city, in which they taught not only in Slavonic, but also out of Greek and Latin books. The prince himself had a large collection of books, which the Monk Avraamii made use of. He had asceticised for more than 30 years at the monastery, when in the year 1198 the hegumen persuaded him to accept the dignity of presbyter. Every day he made Divine Liturgy and fulfilled the obedience of clergy not only for the brethren, but also for the laypeople.
Soon the monk became widely known. This aroused the envy of the brethren, and then of the hegumen also, and 5 years later the monk was compelled to transfer to the Cross-Exaltation monastery in Smolensk itself. From the offerings by the devout he embellished the cathedral church of the poor monastery with icons, and with curtains and candle-stands. He himself inscribed two icons on themes, which most of all concerned him: on the one he depicted the Dread Last Judgement, and on the other -- the suffering of the trials of life. Lean and pale from extreme toil, the ascetic in priestly garb resembled in appearance Saint Basil the Great. The saint was strict both towards himself, and towards his spiritual children. He preached constantly in church and to those coming to him in his cell, conversing with rich and poor alike.
The city notables and the clergy demanded of Bishop Ignatii to bring the monk to trial, accusing him in the seduction of women and the tempting of his spiritual children. But even more terrible were the accusations against him, of heresy and the reading of forbidden books. For this they proposed to drown or burn the ascetic. At the trial by the prince and the bishop, the monk answered all the false accusations, but despite this, they forbade him to serve as a priest and returned him to his former monastery in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God. A terrible drought occurred in consequence of God's wrath over the unjust sentence, and only when Sainted Ignatii put forth a pardon of the Monk Avraamii permitting him to serve and preach, did the rain again fall on the Smolensk lands.
The bishop Saint Ignatii built a new monastery, in honour of the Placing of the Robe of the MostHoly Mother of God, and he entrusted the guidance of it to the Monk Avraamii, and he himself settled into it, having retired because of age from the diocese. Many were desirous to enter under the guidance of the Monk Avraamii, but he examined them very intensely and only after great investigation, so that at his monastery there were but 17 brethren. The Monk Avraamii, after the death of Saint Ignatii, having become his spiritual friend, -- even moreso than before urged the brethren to reminisce about death and to pray day and night, that they be not condemned in the Judgement by God.
The Monk Avraamii died after the year 1224, having spent 50 years in monasticism. Already at the end of the XIII Century there had been compiled a service to him, conjointly with his student the Monk Ephrem. The terrible Mongol-Tatar invasion, seen as the wrath of God for sin, not only did not stifle the memory of the Monk Avraamii of Smolensk, but rather was a reminder to people of his calling to repentance and recollection of the dread Last Judgement.
The Monk Kornilii of Paleostrovsk died about the year 1420. The account about him is located under 19 May.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. THE HOLY APOSTLE THADDAEUS
Thaddaeus was one of the Seventy Apostles but not the Thaddaeus who was one of the Twelve Apostles. St. Thaddaeus first saw and heard John the Baptist and received baptism from him and after that he saw the Lord Jesus and followed Him. The Lord numbered him among the seventy lesser apostles whom He sent two by two before His face, "After these things, the Lord appointed other seventy also and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place where He Himself would come" (St. Luke 10:1). After His glorious Resurrection and Ascension, the Lord sent Thaddaeus to Edessa, Thaddaeus' birthplace, according to the promise He gave to Prince Abgar at the time when He sent the towel with His face on it. By kissing the towel, Abgar was healed of leprosy but not completely. A little leprosy still remained on his face. When St. Thaddaeus appeared to Abgar, he received him with great joy. The apostle of Christ instructed him in the true faith and after that baptized him. When the baptized Abgar came out of the water, the remaining leprosy fell from him and he was completely healed. Glorifying God, Prince Abgar also wanted that his people should know the true God and to glorify Him. The prince assembled all the citizens of Edessa before the holy Apostle Thaddaeus to hear teaching about Christ. Hearing the words of the apostle and seeing their prince miraculously healed, the people rejected the idols, unclean living, embraced the Faith of Christ and were baptized. Thus, the city of Edessa was illumined by the Faith of Christ. Prince Abgar brought much gold and offered it to the apostle but Thaddaeus said to him: " Since we left our own gold, how can we receive the gold of others?" St. Thaddaeus preached the Gospel throughout Syria and Phoenicia. He reposed in the Lord in the Phoenician city of Beirut.
2. THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYR BASSA AND HER CHILDREN: THEOGNIUS, AGAPIUS AND PISTUS
Bassa was the wife of an idolatrous pagan priest but also was secretly a Christian. She educated her sons in the spirit of Christianity. Her husband hated her because of her faith and handed her, along with her, sons, over to the judge for torturing. After harsh tortures, her sons were beheaded (thought to be Edessa in Macedonia). Bassa was completely overjoyed when she saw how her sons honorably ended their martyr's heroic deed for Christ and she herself, with even greater eagerness, went from torture to torture. When they tossed Bassa into the sea, angels appeared to her and brought her to an island in the Sea of Marmara where she was beheaded at the time of Maximian. Thus, was St. Bassa, in a two-fold manner, was made worthy of the Kingdom of Christ, as a martyr and as a mother of martyrs.
3. VENERABLE ABRAHAM OF SMOLENSK
Abraham was born in the town of Smolensk in answer to his parent's prayers. He entered the monastic life at an early age and gave himself to austere asceticism, emulating the ancient fathers of the desert. Later, he established the monastery of the Holy Cross near Smolensk. He endured many temptations both from demons and men with great patience and thanksgiving to God. During the time of a great drought, Abraham brought forth rain by his prayers. Living fifty years in the monastic order, Abraham peacefully died in the Lord about 1220 A.D.
4. THE HOLY FOREFATHERS ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are also commemorated on the Sunday of the Forefathers before Christmas as the righteous and chosen ones of God.
HYMN OF PRAISE
VENERABLE ABRAHAM OF SMOLENSK
The candle burns and incense smells,
Day and night, Abraham prays
His neighbors, he loves as himself.
Withered body of St. Abraham
From fasting and prostrations,
Heart trembling, from the Name of God -
On the pages of time, eternity he writes
Of the sinner, sinners are not afraid
But, the righteous ones, they bitterly fear,
Sinful men, Abraham mock
Envious ones, Abraham accuse.
Mocked and accused, Abraham endures,
For his foes, the mercy of God he implores.
Abraham his heart conceals
Secretly kneeling, secretly shedding tears;
God does not judge as men judge,
The judgment of man desires to harm
But God desires salvation for all,
The aristocrat and the helpless slave.
In God, the saint places all his hope
Abraham, God eternally glorified.
Magnanimous forgiveness of slanderers and prayer for them is a characteristic of Christian saints who do not ascribe all the slanders against themselves to men but rather to demons, the main instigators of every slander as well as every sin in general. St. Abraham of Smolensk was slandered by envious priests to the prince and the bishop as a deceiver, magician and hypocrite. The slanders sought nothing less than to have him burned. The prince and the bishop believed the slanderers and Abraham was banished from Smolensk and was forbidden to exercise his priestly functions. During the entire time of his investigation and trial, Abraham repeated the prayer of St. Stephen, the first martyr: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts of the Apostles 7:60). Later it was established that all of the accusers against Abraham lied and slandered. The infuriated prince wanted to severely punish the slanderers and the bishop wanted to excommunicate them from the Church but the holy Abraham fell on his knees before the bishop and, with tears, begged him to forgive them. Abraham did not want to return to his monastery nor to begin again to exercise his priestly functions until his slanderers were shown mercy and released.
To contemplate David and Saul, a man with the spirit of God and a man without the spirit of God (1 Samuel 18 1 Kings 18):
1. How Saul feared David because of his virtues and how David was obedient to Saul in everything;
2. How Saul hypocritically rewarded David but sent him among the Philistines so that he would be killed;
3. How an apostate from God always fears the most godly man.
About the wondrous stone in Zion
"Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation: he that believes in it shall not be ashamed" (Isaiah 28:16).
Brethren, this wondrous stone is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. For if the prophet thought of it as an ordinary stone, he would not have mentioned faith in it [the stone], otherwise he would have prophesied idolatry. The Prophet Daniel also speaks about a stone which rolled down the hill and smashed the great idol and grew as a great mountain and filled the whole earth: "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were made of iron and clay and broke them into pieces…and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:34-35). The prophecy about the stone in Daniel is for pagans and the prophecy about the stone in Isaiah is for Jews. The Lord Jesus Christ is that stone which is laid first, in the foundation of God's entire creation, for He is the Word of God and the Wisdom of God; second, as the foundation of the Old Testament as the preparation and third, as the foundation of the New Testament as the fulfillment. The "corner-stone", that is the firmest and the strongest stone which connects and joins other stones and holds the walls of various directions [angels] in oneness and in wholeness. If we observe the Lord Christ within us, He is the "corner-stone" which binds and ties our various spiritual capabilities in unity and wholeness so that all work toward one goal, in the direction of God and the Kingdom of God. If we observe Christ the Lord in the history of mankind, He is the "corner-stone" which ties and binds Judaism and paganism in one House of God, in the Church of God. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 3:11) says the apostle of the New Testament in agreement with the prophet of the Old Testament. Whoever has, until now, believed in that Stone of Salvation was not ashamed. Neither will anyone ever be ashamed who would believe in it. For this stone is a "sure foundation" and truly a "chosen stone", a "precious and honorable stone".
O Lord Jesus, our Stone of Salvation, strengthen the faith in us, that holy and salvatory faith in You, our only Savior.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.