Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24, 2012 - Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee: Triodion Begins Today
1st & 2nd Finding of the Head of the Forerunner
Romanos, Prince of Uglich

READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:

The Gospel of Luke 24:13-35
At that time, two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 24.13-35
Καὶ ἰδοὺ δύο ἐξ αὐτῶν ἦσαν πορευόμενοι ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ εἰς κώμην ἀπέχουσαν σταδίους ἑξήκοντα ἀπὸ ῾Ιερουσαλήμ, ᾗ ὄνομα ᾿Εμμαούς. καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡμίλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους περὶ πάντων τῶν συμβεβηκότων τούτων. καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ὁμιλεῖν αὐτοὺς καὶ συζητεῖν καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἐγγίσας συνεπορεύετο αὐτοῖς· οἱ δὲ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτῶν ἐκρατοῦντο τοῦ μὴ ἐπιγνῶναι αὐτόν.εἶπε δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· τίνες οἱ λόγοι οὗτοι οὓς ἀντιβάλλετε πρὸς ἀλλήλους περιπατοῦντες καί ἐστε σκυθρωποί; ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ εἷς, ᾧ ὄνομα Κλεόπας, εἶπε πρὸς αὐτόν· σὺ μόνος παροικεῖς ἐν ῾Ιερουσαλὴμ καὶ οὐκ ἔγνως τὰ γενόμενα ἐν αὐτῇ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις; καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ποῖα; οἱ δὲ εἶπον αὐτῷ· τὰ περὶ ᾿Ιησοῦ τοῦ Ναζωραίου, ὃς ἐγένετο ἀνὴρ προφήτης δυνατὸς ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ λόγῳ ἐναντίον τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ, ὅπως τε παρέδωκαν αὐτὸν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες ἡμῶν εἰς κρῖμα θανάτου καὶ ἐσταύρωσαν αὐτόν. ἡμεῖς δὲ ἠλπίζομεν ὅτι αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ μέλλων λυτροῦσθαι τὸν ᾿Ισραήλ· ἀλλά γε σὺν πᾶσι τούτοις τρίτην ταύτην ἡμέραν ἄγει σήμερον ἀφ᾿ οὗ ταῦτα ἐγένετο. ἀλλὰ καὶ γυναῖκές τινες ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξέστησαν ἡμᾶς γενόμεναι ὄρθριαι ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον, καὶ μὴ εὑροῦσαι τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ ἦλθον λέγουσαι καὶ ὀπτασίαν ἀγγέλων ἑωρακέναι, οἳ λέγουσιν αὐτὸν ζῆν. καὶ ἀπῆλθόν τινες τῶν σὺν ἡμῖν ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον, καὶ εὗρον οὕτω καθὼς καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες εἶπον, αὐτὸν δὲ οὐκ εἶδον. καὶ αὐτὸς εἶπε πρὸς αὐτούς· ὦ ἀνόητοι καὶ βραδεῖς τῇ καρδίᾳ τοῦ πιστεύειν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἐλάλησαν οἱ προφῆται! οὐχὶ ταῦτα ἔδει παθεῖν τὸν Χριστὸν καὶ εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ; καὶ ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ Μωϋσέως καὶ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν προφητῶν διηρμήνευεν αὐτοῖς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς γραφαῖς τὰ περὶ ἑαυτοῦ. Καὶ ἤγγισαν εἰς τὴν κώμην οὗ ἐπορεύοντο, καὶ αὐτὸς προσεποιεῖτο πορρωτέρω πορεύεσθαι· καὶ παρεβιάσαντο αὐτὸν λέγοντες· μεῖνον μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν, ὅτι πρὸς ἑσπέραν ἐστὶ καὶ κέκλικεν ἡ ἡμέρα. καὶ εἰσῆλθε τοῦ μεῖναι σὺν αὐτοῖς. καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ κατακλιθῆναι αὐτὸν μετ᾿ αὐτῶν λαβὼν τὸν ἄρτον εὐλόγησε, καὶ κλάσας ἐπεδίδου αὐτοῖς. αὐτῶν δὲ διηνοίχθησαν οἱ ὀφθαλμοί, καὶ ἐπέγνωσαν αὐτόν· καὶ αὐτὸς ἄφαντος ἐγένετο ἀπ᾿ αὐτῶν. καὶ εἶπον πρὸς ἀλλήλους· οὐχὶ ἡ καρδία ἡμῶν καιομένη ἦν ἐν ἡμῖν, ὡς ἐλάλει ἡμῖν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ καὶ ὡς διήνοιγεν ἡμῖν τὰς γραφάς; Καὶ ἀναστάντες αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ὑπέστρεψαν εἰς ῾Ιερουσαλήμ, καὶ εὗρον συνηθροισμένους τοὺς ἕνδεκα καὶ τοὺς σὺν αὐτοῖς, λέγοντας ὅτι ἠγέρθη ὁ Κύριος ὄντως καὶ ὤφθη Σίμωνι. καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐξηγοῦντο τὰ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ καὶ ὡς ἐγνώσθη αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου.

St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians 4:6-15
Prokeimenon. Grave Mode.
Psalm 63.11,1
The righteous shall rejoice in the Lord.
Verse: Oh God, hear my cry.
Brethren, it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke," we too believed, and so we speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Πρὸς Κορινθίους β' 4:6-15
Προκείμενον. Ἦχος βαρύς.
ΨΑΛΜΟΙ 63.11,1
Εὐφρανθήσεται δίκαιος ἐν Κυρίῳ.
Στίχ. Εἰσάκουσον, ὁ Θεός, τῆς φωνῆς μου.
Ἀδελφοί, ὁ θεὸς ὁ εἰπὼν ἐκ σκότους φῶς λάμψαι, ὃς ἔλαμψεν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν πρὸς φωτισμὸν τῆς γνώσεως τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν προσώπῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Ἔχομεν δὲ τὸν θησαυρὸν τοῦτον ἐν ὀστρακίνοις σκεύεσιν, ἵνα ἡ ὑπερβολὴ τῆς δυνάμεως ᾖ τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ μὴ ἐξ ἡμῶν· ἐν παντὶ θλιβόμενοι, ἀλλʼ οὐ στενοχωρούμενοι· ἀπορούμενοι, ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐξαπορούμενοι· διωκόμενοι, ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐγκαταλειπόμενοι· καταβαλλόμενοι, ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἀπολλύμενοι· πάντοτε τὴν νέκρωσιν τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῷ σώματι περιφέροντες, ἵνα καὶ ἡ ζωὴ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῷ σώματι ἡμῶν φανερωθῇ. Ἀεὶ γὰρ ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες εἰς θάνατον παραδιδόμεθα διὰ Ἰησοῦν, ἵνα καὶ ἡ ζωὴ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ φανερωθῇ ἐν τῇ θνητῇ σαρκὶ ἡμῶν. Ὥστε ὁ μὲν θάνατος ἐν ἡμῖν ἐνεργεῖται, ἡ δὲ ζωὴ ἐν ὑμῖν. Ἔχοντες δὲ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πίστεως, κατὰ τὸ γεγραμμένον, Ἐπίστευσα, διὸ ἐλάλησα, καὶ ἡμεῖς πιστεύομεν, διὸ καὶ λαλοῦμεν· εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ ἐγείρας τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ ἡμᾶς διὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐγερεῖ, καὶ παραστήσει σὺν ὑμῖν. Τὰ γὰρ πάντα διʼ ὑμᾶς, ἵνα ἡ χάρις πλεονάσασα διὰ τῶν πλειόνων τὴν εὐχαριστίαν περισσεύσῃ εἰς τὴν δόξαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

The Gospel of Luke 18:10-14
The Lord said this parable, "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 18.10-14
Εἶπεν ὁ Κύριος τήν παραβολὴν ταύτην· Ἄνθρωποι δύο ἀνέβησαν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν προσεύξασθαι, ὁ εἷς Φαρισαῖος καὶ ὁ ἕτερος τελώνης. ὁ Φαρισαῖος σταθεὶς πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ταῦτα προσηύχετο· ὁ Θεός, εὐχαριστῶ σοι ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ ὥσπερ οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἅρπαγες, ἄδικοι, μοιχοί, ἢ καὶ ὡς οὗτος ὁ τελώνης· νηστεύω δὶς τοῦ σαββάτου, ἀποδεκατῶ πάντα ὅσα κτῶμαι. καὶ ὁ τελώνης μακρόθεν ἑστὼς οὐκ ἤθελεν οὐδὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν ἐπᾶραι, ἀλλ᾿ ἔτυπτεν εἰς τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ λέγων· ὁ Θεός, ἱλάσθητί μοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ. λέγω ὑμῖν, κατέβη οὗτος δεδικαιωμένος εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ ἢ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος· ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὑψῶν ἑαυτὸν ταπεινωθήσεται, ὁ δὲ ταπεινῶν ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται.

READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:

Τῇ ΚΔ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Μνήμη τῆς εὑρέσεως τῆς τιμίας κεφαλῆς τοῦ Ἁγίου Προφήτου, Προδρόμου καὶ Βαπτιστοῦ Ἰωάννου.
Ἐκ γῆς προφαίνει Πρόδρομος σεπτὴν Κάραν,
Καρποὺς παραινῶν ἀξίους ποιεῖν πάλιν.
Ὁ Βαπτίσας πρὶν ὑδάτων πηγαῖς ὄχλους,
Γῆθεν φανεὶς βάπτιζε πηγαῖς θαυμάτων.
Εἰκοστὴν Προδρόμοιο φάνη Κάρη ἀμφὶ τετάρτην.
Ταῖς τοῦ σοῦ Προδρόμου πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεὸς ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.

Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρα τῆς τοῦ Τελώνου καὶ τοῦ Φαρισαίου ἐκ τοῦ Ἱεροῦ Εὐαγγελίου τοῦ Εὐαγγελιστοῦ Λουκᾶ ιη' 10 - 14 παραβολῆς μνείαν ποιούμεθα.
Φαρισαΐζων, Ἱεροῦ μακρὰν γίνου,
Χριστὸς γὰρ ἔνδον, ᾧ ταπεινὸς δεκτέον.
---Ἕτεροι εἰς τὸ τριῴδιον
Ὁ δημιουργὸς τῶν ἄνω καὶ τῶν κάτω,
Τρισάγιον μὲν ὕμνον ἐκ τῶν Ἀγγέλων,
Τριῴδιον δὲ καὶ παρ' ἀνθρώπων δέχου.

Ταῖς τῶν Ἁγίων πάντων, μεγαλουργῶν σου πρεσβείαις, Χριστέ, ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν ἐλέησον καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.

The Pharisees were an ancient and outstanding sect among the Jews known for their diligent observance of the outward matters of the Law. Although, according to the word of our Lord, they "did all their works to be seen of men" (Matt. 23:5), and were hypocrites (ibid. 23: 13, 14, 15, etc.), because of the apparent holiness of their lives they were thought by all to be righteous, and separate from others, which is what the name Pharisee means. On the other hand, Publicans, collectors of the royal taxes, committed many injustices and extortions for filthy lucre's sake, and all held them to be sinners and unjust. It was therefore according to common opinion that the Lord Jesus in His parable signified a virtuous person by a Pharisee, and a sinner by a Publican, to teach His disciples the harm of pride and the profit of humble-mindedness.
Since the chief weapon for virtue is humility, and the greatest hindrance to it is pride, the divine Fathers have set these three weeks before the Forty-day Fast as a preparation for the spiritual struggles of virtue. This present week they have called Harbinger, since it declares that the Fast is approaching; and they set humility as the foundation for all our spiritual labors by appointing that the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee be read today, even before the Fast begins, to teach, through the vaunting of the Pharisee, that the foul smoke of self-esteem and the stench of boasting drives away the grace of the Spirit, strips man of all his virtue, and casts him into the pits of Hades; and, through the repentance and contrite prayer of the Publican, that humility confers upon the sinner forgiveness of all his wicked deeds and raises him up to the greatest heights.

Resurrectional Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Τὸν συνάναρχον Λόγον Πατρὶ καὶ Πνεύματι, τὸν ἐκ Παρθένου τεχθέντα εἰς σωτηρίαν ἡμῶν, ἀνυμνήσωμεν πιστοὶ καὶ προσκυνήσωμεν, ὅτι ηὐδόκησε σαρκί, ἀνελθεῖν ἐν τῷ σταυρῷ, καὶ θάνατον ὑπομεῖναι, καὶ ἐγεῖραι τοὺς τεθνεῶτας, ἐν τῇ ἐνδόξῳ Ἀναστάσει αὐτοῦ.
Let us worship the Word who is unoriginate * with the Father and the Spirit, and from a Virgin was born * for our salvation, O believers, and let us sing His praise. * For in His goodness He was pleased * to ascend the Cross in the flesh, and to undergo death, * and to raise up those who had died, * by His glorious Resurrection.

Seasonal Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Φαρισαίου φύγωμεν ὑψηγορίαν, καὶ Τελώνου μάθωμεν, τὸ ταπεινὸν ἐν στεναγμοῖς, πρὸς τὸν Σωτῆρα κραυγάζοντες· Ἵλαθι μόνε ἡμῖν εὐδιάλλακτε.
Let us flee from the boasting of the Pharisee and learn through our own sighs of sorrow the humility of the Publican. Let us cry out to the Savior, "Have mercy on us, for through You alone are we reconciled."

The first finding came to pass during the middle years of the fourth century, through a revelation of the holy Forerunner to two monks, who came to Jerusalem to worship our Saviour's Tomb. One of them took the venerable head in a clay jar to Emesa in Syria. After his death it went from the hands of one person to another, until it came into the possession of a certain priest-monk named Eustathius, an Arian. Because he ascribed to his own false belief the miracles wrought through the relic of the holy Baptist, he was driven from the cave in which he dwelt, and by dispensation forsook the holy head, which was again made known through a revelation of Saint John, and was found in a water jar, about the year 430, in the days of the Emperor Theodosius the Younger, when Uranius was Bishop of Emesa.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Εκ γής ανατείλασα η τού Προδρόμου κεφαλή, ακτίνας αφίησι τής αφθαρσίας, πιστοίς τών ιάσεων, άνωθεν συναθροίζει, τήν πληθύν τών Αγγέλων, κάτωθεν συγκαλείται, τών ανθρώπων τό γένος, ομόφωνον αναπέμψαι, δόξαν Χριστώ τώ Θεώ.
The Forerunner's sacred head, having dawned forth from the earth, doth send incorruption's rays unto the faithful, whereby they find healings of their ills. From on high he gathereth the choirs of the Angels and on earth he summoneth the whole race of mankind, that they with one voice might send up glory to Christ our God.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Προφήτα Θεου, καί Πρόδρομε τής χάριτος, τήν Κάραν τήν σήν, ως ρόδον Ιερώτατον, εκ τής γής ευράμενοι, τάς ιάσεις πάντοτε λαμβάνομεν, καί γάρ πάλιν ως πρότερον, εν κόσμω κηρύττεις τήν μετάνοιαν.
Since we have obtained thy head as a most sacred rose from out of the earth, O Forerunner of grace divine, we receive sure healing in every hour, O Prophet of God the Lord; for again, now as formerly, thou preachest repentance unto all the world.

Κάθε φορά που η Εκκλησία γιορτάζει και τιμά, όπως καί σήμερα, τον Πρόδρομο και Βαπτιστή Ιωάννη, μας έρχεται στην μνήμη, η αυστηρή μορφή του κήρυκος της ερήμου, για τον οποίον ο Ιησούς Χριστός είπε το μεγαλύτερο εγκώμιο· "ουκ εγήγερται εν γεννητοίς γυναικών μείζων Ιωάννου του Βαπτιστού". Ο Ιωάννης ο Βαπτιστής είναι ο τελευταίος και "σεβασμιώτερος" από τους Προφήτας, τις θρησκευτικές εκείνες προσωπικότητες της Παλαιάς Διαθήκης, που το κήρυγμά τους, ηχηρό και μεγαλόπνοο, είναι η φωνή του Θεού, που ξυπνά συνειδήσεις, που καλεί σε μετάνοια, που στηλιτεύει την ανομία, που προμηνά την κρίση και την τιμωρία της θείας δικαιοσύνης. Ο Ιωάννης ο Πρόδρομος δεν έπαυε να ελέγχη την παρανομία του Ηρώδη και τότε μόνο σιώπησε, όταν η τιμία κεφαλή του έπεσε, με την αναιδή αξίωση μιας αμαρτωλής γυναίκας και για την μωρία ενός φαύλου και ακόλαστου άνδρα.

Ἡ Α´ καὶ Β´ Εὕρεσις τῆς Τιμίας Κεφαλῆς τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἰωάννου Προδρόμου
Ἡ πρώτη εὕρεση ἔγινε στὴ Μαχαιροῦντα, γύρω ἀπὸ τὸ χῶρο ποὺ ἦταν τὸ ἀνάκτορο τοῦ Ἡρῴδη. Ἀφοῦ ἡ Ἡρῳδιὰς πῆρε τὴν ἀποτρόπαια εὐχαρίστηση, νὰ δεῖ ἐπὶ πίνακι τὴν αἱμόφυρτη κεφαλὴ τοῦ γενναίου προμάχου τῆς ἠθικῆς καὶ τῆς ἀλήθειας, διέταξε νὰ τὴν θάψουν σ᾿ ἕνα μέρος ἐκεῖ κοντά, τὸ ὁποῖο πήγαινε καὶ καταπατοῦσε ἀπὸ καιρὸ σὲ καιρό, γιὰ νὰ ἱκανοποιεῖ τὸ ἄσβεστο πάντοτε μῖσος της. Στὸν τόπο ἐκεῖνο ἔμεινε θαμμένη, ὥσπου τὴν ἀνακάλυψαν δυὸ μοναχοὶ ἀπὸ τὴν Ἀνατολή, στοὺς ὁποίους ἐπανειλημμένα φάνηκε σὲ ὄνειρο ὁ Πρόδρομος. Μετὰ τὸ θάνατο τῶν μοναχῶν αὐτῶν, ἀπὸ χέρι σὲ χέρι χάθηκε. Βρέθηκε ὅμως πάλι, ἐπὶ αὐτοκράτορα Οὐαλεντινιανοῦ. Ὅπως βλέπουμε, τῶν ἐπιφανῶν ἀνθρώπων τοῦ μηνύματος τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου, ὄχι μόνο οἱ ψυχὲς δὲν χάνονται καὶ πηγαίνουν ἐκεῖ ποὺ ἡ οὐράνια δόξα τὶς καλεῖ, ἀλλὰ ὁ Κύριός μας, οὔτε τὰ κόκκαλα τῶν σωμάτων τους δὲν ἀφήνει νὰ χαθοῦν. Διότι μὲ τὴν ἁγία τους ζωή, ἁγίασαν ἀκόμα καὶ αὐτὴ τὴν ὕλη τοῦ σώματος, ποὺ πρέπει νὰ εἶναι τὸ καθαρότατο δοχεῖο τῆς ψυχῆς.

Ὁ Ἅγιος Boisil (Σκωτσέζος)
Λεπτομέρειες γιὰ τὴν ζωὴ αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἁγίου τῆς ὀρθοδοξίας, μπορεῖ νὰ βρεῖ ὁ ἀναγνώστης στὸ βιβλίο «Οἱ Ἅγιοι τῶν Βρεττανικῶν Νήσων», τοῦ Χριστόφορου Κων. Κομμοδάτου, ἐπισκόπου Τελμησσοῦ, Ἀθῆναι 1985.

Ὁ Ἅγιος Ethelbert (Ἀγγλος)
Λεπτομέρειες γιὰ τὴν ζωὴ αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἁγίου τῆς ὀρθοδοξίας, μπορεῖ νὰ βρεῖ ὁ ἀναγνώστης στὸ βιβλίο «Οἱ Ἅγιοι τῶν Βρεττανικῶν Νήσων», τοῦ Χριστόφορου Κων. Κομμοδάτου, ἐπισκόπου Τελμησσοῦ, Ἀθῆναι 1985.

First (4th c.) and Second (9th c.) Findings of the Precious Head of St John the Baptist
After the Forerunner was beheaded at the order of Herod and his illicit wife Herodias, his head was discarded in what the Synaxarion calls "an unseemly location," presumably a privy. According to some, it was secretly recovered by Joanna, one of the Myrrhbearing women, and given honorable burial near Jerusalem. There it was found, through a revelation of the Forerunner, by two monks who had come to Jerusalem to worship at the tomb of our Savior (the first finding). Putting the head in a bag, the monks returned home. On the way, they met an indigent potter from Emesa. That night the Forerunner appeared to the poor man and instructed him to make off with the relic. He returned with it to Emesa and immediately began to prosper in his business. Just before he died, he put the holy relic in a chest, which he left to his sister with these instructions: never to open it without instructions from the one hidden inside it; and to pass it on to a pious man beloved of God. Thus the Head of the Baptist passed through many generations, eventually being concealed in a cave near a monastery founded during the reign of Marcian (450-457), whose abbot was the godly Marcellus.
  The blessed Forerunner appeared several times to Marcellus, embracing him and once even giving him a pot of honey. The Baptist ordered Marcellus to follow a star which led him to the cave and came to rest in front of a niche in the wall. Marcellus dug there and came upon a marble slab, under which was a large jar containing the precious Head. The holy relic was taken with rejoicing to the cathedral in Emesa,where it worked many wonders. In the reign of Michael III (842-867), it was taken to Constantinople. It was at this translation that the present Feast was instituted.
  The version given here is that of St Symeon Metaphrastes. Other sources give substantially different accounts.
  The Prologue observes: "It is important and interesting to note that, while he was alive, John did not work a single miracle (Jn 10:41), but to his relics was given the blessed power of working miracles."

Saint Aethelberht (Ethelbert), first Christian King of Kent (616)
In 597, a party of forty missionary monks, led by St Augustine of Canterbury (May 28), was sent to Britain by the holy Pope Gregory the Great, to bring the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ to the English people. Aethelberht, who had been King of Kent for thirty-six years, received the monks favorably, allowed them to preach in his kingdom, and invited them to establish their headquarters in Canterbury, his capital city, which already contained a small, ruined church dedicated to St Martin of Tours in Roman times.
  The king himself was converted and received holy Baptism at the hands of St Augustine; a crowd of his subjects followed his example. When St Augustine was consecrated bishop, Aethelberht allowed him to be made Archbishop of Canterbury and gave his own palace to serve as a monastery. The king worked steadily for the conversion of the neighboring kindoms, and in 604 established an episcopal see in London. Unlike some Christian rulers, he refused to see anyone converted forcibly.
  Saint Aethelberht reposed in peace in 616, after reigning for fifty-six years. He was buried in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, which he had established. Many miracles were worked at his tomb, where a lamp was kept lit perpetually until the monastery was disbanded by the protestants in 1538.

Menologion 3.0

After the cutting off of the Head of the Prophet, ForeRunner and Baptist John (Comm. 29 August), his body was buried by disciples in the Samarian city of Sebasteia, and the venerable head was hidden by Herodias in an unclean place. Pious Joanna, wife of king Herod's steward Chuza (there is made mention about him by the holy evangelist Luke -- Lk 8: 3), secretly took the holy head and placed it into a vessel and buried it on the Mount of Olives -- in one of the properties of Herod. After many years this property passed into the possession of the dignitary Innocentius, who began to build a church there. When they dug a trench for the foundation, the vessel with the venerable head of John the Baptist was uncovered. Innocentius recognised the great holiness of it from the signs of grace occurring from it. Thus occurred the First Discovery of the Head. Innocentius preserved it with great piety, but before his own death, fearful so that the holy relic should not be abused by unbelievers, he again hid it in that same place, where it was found...Upon his death the church fell into ruin and was destroyed.
During the days of Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great (+ 337, Comm. 21 May), when the Christian faith began to flourish, the holy ForeRunner himself appeared twice unto two monks journeying to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places, and he revealed the location of his venerable head. The monks uncovered the holy relic and, placing it into a sack of camel-hair, they proceeded homewards. Along the way they encountered an un-named potter and gave him to carry the precious burden. Not knowing what he was carrying, the potter continued on his way. But the holy ForeRunner himself appeared to him and ordered him to flee from the careless and lazy monks, together with that which was in his hands. The potter concealed himself from the monks and at home he preserved the venerable head with reverence. Before his death he sealed it into a water-carrying vessel and gave it over to his sister. From that time the venerable head was successively preserved by pious christians, until the priest Eustathios infected with the Arian heresy -- came into possession of it. He seduced a multitude of the infirm, healed by the holy head, adding abundance to the heresy. When his blasphemy was uncovered, he was compelled to flee. Having buried the holy relic in a cave, near Emessus, the heretic intended to afterwards return and again take possession of it for disseminating falsehood. But God did not permit this. Pious monks settled into the cave, and then at this place arose a monastery. In the year 452 Saint John the Baptist in a vision to the archimandrite of this monastery Marcellus indicated the place of concealment of his head. This became celebrated as the Second Discovery. The holy relic was transferred to Emessus, and later to Constantinople.

The Monk Erasm of Pechersk -- Sainted Simon, bishop of Vladimir (+ 1226, Comm. 10 May), wrote about him to his friend the Monk Polykarp (+ 1182, Comm. 24 July): "There was at Pechersk the black-robed (chernorizets) Erasm. He acquired a legacy of fame in that everything he possessed he used for the adornment of the Pechersk church: he mounted many an icon, which even now are over the altar. But with him there occurred suchlike a temptation, that when he came to be impoverished, he then came to be disdainful. The spirit of evil then began to suggest to him: "It gaineth thee naught, that thou squandered possessions upon the church, yea better were it that thou used it on the poor". Not having made proper sense about such thoughts, Erasm went into despondency and began to live carelessly. Because of his virtue the Gracious and Merciful God saved him. He brought upon him a grievous illness. In this sickness Erasm lay numb with closed eyes for seven days, hardly breathing. On the eighth day the brethren came to him and, seeing his terrible gasping, said: "Woe, woe to the soul of this brother, squandered in idleness. It beholds thee something and rebels, not leaving the body". And here Erasm suddenly stood up, as though healthy, and said: "Fathers and brethren! I am exactly a sinner, and a sinner not having repented, as ye said, but here not have appeared to me our monastic fathers Antonii and Theodosii, and said: "We have prayed for thee, and the Lord hath given thee time for repentance. Then beheld I the All-Pure Mother of God with Christ Son of God on Her arms, and She saith to me: "Erasm, since thou did adorn My Church with icons, I likewise adorn thee in the Kingdom of my Son! Arise, repent, put on the angelic form, and on the third day I shalt take thee to Myself as one having loved the magnificence of My home". Having said this, Erasm began to confess his sins before all without shame, then went to church and was envested in the schema, and on the third day he died" (+ c. 1160). The Monk Erasm was buried in the Nearer Caves. His memory is also 28 September and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.

THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:

1. THE FINDING OF THE HEAD OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
The great and glorious Baptist John was beheaded according to the wish and instigation of the wicked Herodias, the wife of Herod. When John was beheaded, Herodias ordered that his head not be buried with his body for she feared that this awesome prophet, somehow, would resurrect. Therefore, she took his head and buried it deep in the ground in a secluded and dishonorable place. Her maidservant was Johanna, the wife of Chuza a courtier of Herod. The good and devout Johanna could not tolerate that the head of the Man of God remain in this dishonorable place. Secretly she unearthed it, removed it to Jerusalem and buried it on the Mount of Olives. Not knowing of this, King Herod, when he learned of Jesus and how He worked great miracles, became frightened and said: "This is John whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead" (St. Mark 16:16). After a considerable period of time, an eminent landowner believed in Christ, left his position and the vanity of the world and became a monk, taking the name, Innocent. As a monk, he took up abode on the Mount of Olives exactly in the place where the head of the Baptist was buried. Wanting to build himself a cell for himself, he dug deep and discovered an earthen vessel and in it a head, which was mysteriously revealed to him, to be the head of the Baptizer. He reverenced it and reburied it in the same spot. Later, according to God's Providence, this miracle-working relic [The head of St. John] traveled from place to place, sunk into the darkness of forgetfulness and again was rediscovered. Finally, during the reign of the pious Empress Theodora, the mother of Michael and the wife of Theophilus and at the time of Patriarch Ignatius it was translated to Constantinople. Many miraculous healings occurred from the relic of the Forerunner [Precursor]. It is important and interesting to note that while he was still alive, "John did no miracles" (St. John 10:41), however, his relics have been endowed with miraculous power.

2. THE VENERABLE ERASMUS
Erasmus was a monk in the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. He inherited great wealth from his parents and spent all on adoring churches, especially on silver-plating and gilding icons. When he had become impoverished and remained without anything, he was despised by all. The devil whispered to him that he squandered his estate in vain; instead of distributing his wealth among the poor, he gave it for the adornment of churches. Erasmus succumbed to this temptation and believed it for which he despised himself and fell into a state of despair and began to live aimlessly and lawlessly. When the hour of his death approached the brethren assembled around him and discussed his sins which he himself was not conscious of. All at once, he straightened up in bed and said: "Fathers and brothers, it is as you say; I am sinful and unrepentant, but behold St. Anthony and St. Theodosius appeared to me and after that, the All-Holy Mother of God told me that the Lord gave me more time for repentance." The Mother of God also spoke these encouraging words to him: "The poor you have with you in every place and my churches you do not." Erasmus lived for three more days, repented and fell asleep in the Lord. This teaches us that zeal for the Church and adornment of the churches is a task pleasing to God. St. Erasmus died in the year 1160 A.D.

HYMN PF PRAISE
SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
To John, let us pray,
The Baptizer, glorious
Of the Savior, the trumpet,
Of the Creator, the servant,
By God, sent,
To help us
How he can.
To John, let us pray,
Awesome and holy,
Through him, so that,
God the Most High, would help us.
Help us O John
Wherever danger threatens!
The Faith to be preserved
O John, help us,
And for us to be bread
In all days and to the end,
That in every sheaf, we may see,
In every sheaf, the footstep of God!
When night falls, let it dawn
O John, help us,
Sinners, that we may repent,
Before the end, we reach
Before the Day of Judgment dawns
O John, help us(*)

REFLECTION
They are neither our good teachers nor our good friends who do everything for us according to our will. Venerable John Moschus writes about a prominent woman of a senatorial family who visited the Holy Land. Arriving in Caesarea, she decided to remain there and turned to the bishop with this request: "Give me a maiden to teach me the fear of God." The bishop introduced her to a humble virgin. After a period of time, the bishop met that woman and asked her: "How is the virgin to whom I introduced you?" "She is good," replied the woman, "but she is of little benefit to my soul because she is humble allows me to do my own will. For me it is required that she reproach me and not allow me to do whatever I want." The bishop then gave her another girl, of a very coarse character, who began to rebuke the woman, calling her a senseless rich woman and the like. After sometime, the bishop again asked the woman: "And that maiden, how does she conduct herself with you?" "She truly benefits my soul," replied the senator's wife. And so she became very meek. (Excerpt from the Spiritual Meadow by John Moschus)

CONTEMPLATION
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as a stumbling block:
1. For sinful self-conceit (vanity) i.e., for the perverted mind of mankind which thinks sensually and fleshy and opposes the mind of Christ;
2. For sinful self-love i.e., for the perverted heart of man which does not accept in itself neither the love of God nor the love of man;
3. For sinful self-will i.e., for the perverted will of man, which, as such, opposes the will of God.

HOMILY
About repentance and the forgiveness of sins
"And that repentance andremission of sins should be preached in His Name"(St. Luke 24:47).
This is the final instruction of the Savior to the holy apostles. In these words as in the shell of a walnut, is contained the gospel of reconciliation between God and men. What does God seek from men and what does God give them? He seeks repentance and He grants forgiveness of sins. He seeks little but He gives all. Let men only repent for committed sins and let men cease to sin and men will receive all from God; all; not only all that their hearts could desire rather even more, much more. In truth, to the righteous everything is promised. The righteous will be the inheritors of the Kingdom of God, they will be the sons of God, and they will be the children of light, the children of immorality, companions to the angels, brothers of Christ. The righteous will have an abundant life, an abundance of peace, an abundance of wisdom, an abundance of power and an abundance of joy. The righteous will have all, for all has been promised to them.
Let men only repent and they will receive all. Let the beggar only cleanse himself, bathe himself and clothe himself in purity before the doors of the royal court and he will be immediately ushered into the royal court and he will be met and embraced by the king and he will have all. He will live with the king, sit at the royal table; he will have all, all, all!
O my brethren, these are not only words rather this is the living and holy truth. For we know that many penitents, both female and male, received all of this, which was promised. Many have appeared from the other world and have proved the truth of these words, witnessing how they now live as royal sons and daughters. But they repented promptly; and there remains time for us to repent if we desire to be together with them as the heirs of the kingdom.
O Merciful Lord, help us that we may repent before death in order that we may live eternally.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
(*) Traditional Serbian toast honoring St. John the Baptist.