FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
Procopius the Confessor of Decapolis
Raphael of Brooklyn
Stephen the Monk
Τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρός ἡμῶν Προκοπίου τοῦ Δεκαπολίτου.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
St. Peter's Second Universal Letter 3:1-18
Prokeimenon. Mode 3.
Luke 1: 46-48
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
Verse: For he has regarded the humility of his servant.
Beloved, this is now the second letter that I have written to you, and in both of them I have aroused your sincere mind by way of reminder; that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation." They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago, and an earth formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist have been stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Πέτρου β' 3:1-18
Προκείμενον. Ἦχος γ.
Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν Κύριον, καὶ ἠγαλλίασε τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου.
Στίχ. Ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ.
Ἀγαπητοί, ταύτην ἤδη, ἀγαπητοί, δευτέραν ὑμῖν γράφω ἐπιστολήν, ἐν αἷς διεγείρω ὑμῶν ἐν ὑπομνήσει τὴν εἰλικρινῆ διάνοιαν, μνησθῆναι τῶν προειρημένων ῥημάτων ὑπὸ τῶν ἁγίων προφητῶν, καὶ τῆς τῶν ἀποστόλων ὑμῶν ἐντολῆς τοῦ κυρίου καὶ σωτῆρος· τοῦτο πρῶτον γινώσκοντες, ὅτι ἐλεύσονται ἐπʼ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐμπαῖκται, κατὰ τὰς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας αὐτῶν πορευόμενοι, καὶ λέγοντες, Ποῦ ἐστὶν ἡ ἐπαγγελία τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ; Ἀφʼ ἧς γὰρ οἱ πατέρες ἐκοιμήθησαν, πάντα οὕτως διαμένει ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως. Λανθάνει γὰρ αὐτοὺς τοῦτο θέλοντας, ὅτι οὐρανοὶ ἦσαν ἔκπαλαι, καὶ γῆ ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ διʼ ὕδατος συνεστῶσα, τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ λόγῳ, διʼ ὧν ὁ τότε κόσμος ὕδατι κατακλυσθεὶς ἀπώλετο· οἱ δὲ νῦν οὐρανοὶ καὶ ἡ γῆ τῷ αὐτοῦ λόγῳ τεθησαυρισμένοι εἰσίν, πυρὶ τηρούμενοι εἰς ἡμέραν κρίσεως καὶ ἀπωλείας τῶν ἀσεβῶν ἀνθρώπων. Ἓν δὲ τοῦτο μὴ λανθανέτω ὑμᾶς, ἀγαπητοί, ὅτι μία ἡμέρα παρὰ κυρίῳ ὡς χίλια ἔτη, καὶ χίλια ἔτη ὡς ἡμέρα μία. Οὐ βραδύνει ὁ κύριος τῆς ἐπαγγελίας, ὥς τινες βραδυτῆτα ἡγοῦνται· ἀλλὰ μακροθυμεῖ εἰς ἡμᾶς, μὴ βουλόμενός τινας ἀπολέσθαι, ἀλλὰ πάντας εἰς μετάνοιαν χωρῆσαι. Ἥξει δὲ ἡ ἡμέρα κυρίου ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτί, ἐν ᾗ οἱ οὐρανοὶ ῥοιζηδὸν παρελεύσονται, στοιχεῖα δὲ καυσούμενα λυθήσονται, καὶ γῆ καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ ἔργα κατακαήσεται. Τούτων οὖν πάντων λυομένων, ποταποὺς δεῖ ὑπάρχειν ὑμᾶς ἐν ἁγίαις ἀναστροφαῖς καὶ εὐσεβείαις, προσδοκῶντας καὶ σπεύδοντας τὴν παρουσίαν τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμέρας, διʼ ἣν οὐρανοὶ πυρούμενοι λυθήσονται, καὶ στοιχεῖα καυσούμενα τήκεται; Καινοὺς δὲ οὐρανοὺς καὶ γῆν καινὴν κατὰ τὸ ἐπάγγελμα αὐτοῦ προσδοκῶμεν, ἐν οἷς δικαιοσύνη κατοικεῖ. Διό, ἀγαπητοί, ταῦτα προσδοκῶντες, σπουδάσατε ἄσπιλοι καὶ ἀμώμητοι αὐτῷ εὑρεθῆναι ἐν εἰρήνῃ. Καὶ τὴν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν μακροθυμίαν σωτηρίαν ἡγεῖσθε, καθὼς καὶ ὁ ἀγαπητὸς ἡμῶν ἀδελφὸς Παῦλος κατὰ τὴν αὐτῷ δοθεῖσαν σοφίαν ἔγραψεν ὑμῖν· ὡς καὶ ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐπιστολαῖς, λαλῶν ἐν αὐταῖς περὶ τούτων· ἐν οἷς ἐστιν δυσνόητά τινα, ἃ οἱ ἀμαθεῖς καὶ ἀστήρικτοι στρεβλοῦσιν, ὡς καὶ τὰς λοιπὰς γραφάς, πρὸς τὴν ἰδίαν αὐτῶν ἀπώλειαν. Ὑμεῖς οὖν, ἀγαπητοί, προγινώσκοντες φυλάσσεσθε, ἵνα μή, τῇ τῶν ἀθέσμων πλάνῃ συναπαχθέντες, ἐκπέσητε τοῦ ἰδίου στηριγμοῦ. Αὐξάνετε δὲ ἐν χάριτι καὶ γνώσει τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα καὶ νῦν καὶ εἰς ἡμέραν αἰῶνος. Ἀμήν.
The Gospel of Mark 13:24-31
The Lord said to his disciples, "In those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."
Κατὰ Μᾶρκον 13.24-31
Εἶπεν ὁ Κὐριος τοῖς ἑαυτοῦ μαθηταῖς· Ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις, μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν ἐκείνην ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται, καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς, καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες ἔσονται ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πίπτοντες, καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις αἱ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς σαλευθήσονται. καὶ τότε ὄψονται τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐρχόμενον ἐν νεφέλαις μετὰ δυνάμεως πολλῆς καὶ δόξης. καὶ τότε ἀποστελεῖ τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐπισυνάξει τοὺς ἐκλεκτοὺς αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῶν τεσσάρων ἀνέμων, ἀπ' ἄκρου τῆς γῆς ἕως ἄκρου τοῦ οὐρανοῦ. ᾿Απὸ δὲ τῆς συκῆς μάθετε τὴν παραβολήν. ὅταν αὐτῆς ὁ κλάδος ἤδη γένηται ἁπαλὸς καὶ ἐκφύῃ τὰ φύλλα, γινώσκετε ὅτι ἐγγὺς τὸ θέρος ἐστίν· οὕτω καὶ ὑμεῖς, ὅταν ἴδητε ταῦτα γινόμενα, γινώσκετε ὅτι ἐγγύς ἐστιν ἐπὶ θύραις. ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη μέχρις οὗ πάντα ταῦτα γένηται. ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ παρελεύσονται, οἱ δὲ ἐμοὶ λόγοι οὐ μὴ παρελεύσονται.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ ΚΖ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρὸς ἡμῶν, καὶ ὁμολογητοῦ Προκοπίου τοῦ Δεκαπολίτου.
Οὐδέν, Δεκαπολῖτα, γῆς πᾶσαι πόλεις,
Πρὸς τὴν νοητήν, ἔνθα περ τάττῃ, πόλιν.
Εἰκάδι ἑβδομάτῃ Προκοπίῳ τέρμα φαάνθη.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου Μάρτυρος Γελασίου, ὃς τὸ Βάπτισμα κελευσθεὶς διαπαῖξαι παρὰ τοῦ, Ἄρχοντος, βαπτίζεται ἀληθῶς, καὶ ξίφει τελειοῦται.
Φώτισμα μέλλων ἐκγελᾶν, γελᾷς πλάνην,
Πλυθεὶς δὲ Γελάσιε, ἐκτέμνῃ κάραν.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρὸς ἡμῶν Θαλλελαίου.
Ὁ Θαλλέλαιος φαιδρῶς, ἥκει πρὸς πόλον,
Θαλλοῖς ἐλαιῶν, ἀρεταῖς ἐστεμμένος.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ Ὅσιος Στέφανος, ὁ συστησάμενος τὸ γηροκομεῖον τοῦ Ἁρματίου, ἐν εἰρήνῃ τελειοῦται.
Γήρει Στέφανος πρύτανις ζωῆς πόρου,
Ὃν περ θανόντα Πρύτανις στέφους στέφει.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ Ἅγιος Νήσιος βουνεύροις τυπτόμενος, τελειοῦται.
Νεύροις βοείοις Νήσιος πάσχων φέρει·
Νευρούμενος γὰρ τῶν πόνων λήθην ἔχει.
Οἱ Ὅσιοι πατέρες ἡμῶν Ἀσκληπιὸς Ἰάκωβος καὶ Τιμόθεος οἱ ἐν Καισαρείᾳ ἐν εἰρήνῃ τελειοῦνται.
Ταῖς τῶν Ἁγίων σου πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεὸς ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
Saints Procopius and Basil, fellow ascetics, lived about the middle of the eighth century, during the reign of Leo the Isaurian (717-741), from whom they suffered many things for the sake of the veneration of the holy icons. They ended their lives in the ascetical discipline.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Ταίς τών δακρύων σου ροαίς, τής ερήμου τό άγονον εγεώργησας, καί τοίς εκ βάθους στεναγμοίς, εις εκατόν τούς πόνους εκαρποφόρησας, καί γέγονας φωστήρ, τή οικουμένη λάμπων τοίς θαύμασι, X Πατήρ ημών, Όσιε, Πρέσβευε Χριστώ τώ Θεώ, σωθήναι τάς ψυχάς ημών.
With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O Prokopios, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Εωσφόρον σήμερον, ἠ Ἐκκλησία, κεκτημένη ἄπασαν, κακοδοξίας τὴν ἀχλύν, διασκεδάζει τιμῶσά σε, οὐρανομύστα Προκόπιε ἔνδοξε.
O renowned Procopius, having obtained thee as a morning star this day, the Church dispelleth all the gloom of evil doctrine, while hon'ring thee, O thou initiate of Heaven and man of God.
Δύο οσίους Ασκητάς γιορτάζει σήμερα η Εκκλησία, τον όσιο Προκόπιο τον Δεκαπολίτη και τον όσιο Θαλλέλαιο. Κι οι δύο, ο καθένας χωριστά και με τον τρόπο του, αρνήθηκαν το σώμα για χάρη της ψυχής. Όχι πως και το σώμα δεν είναι του Θεού και δεν έχομε χρέος για τη συντήρηση και την περίθαλψή του, μα γιατί μετά την πτώση έχθρα και πόλεμος υπάρχει μεταξύ της ψυχής και του σώματος. Στον πόλεμο αυτόν οι Άγιοι κάνουν και πάσχουν τα πάντα, για να νικήση η ψυχή. Σήμερα που στη ζωή μας επικρατούν υλιστικές αντιλήψεις, όχι μόνο δεν καταλαβαίνομε μα και κατηγορούμε τον ασκητισμό, σαν αχρήστευση δήθεν της ανθρωπίνης δραστηριότητος. Ας μη φοβώμαστε· ποτέ δεν θα λείψουν χέρια για την εγκόσμιο δραστηριότητα. Είναι όμως πάντα εξαγιασμός της γης να υπάρχουν κι άνθρωποι που σηκώνουν τα χέρια τους σε προσευχή, όταν μέσα στον κόσμο πολλά χέρια κινούνται στην ανομία.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Προκόπιος ὁ Δεκαπολίτης, ὁ Ὁμολογητής
Ἔζησε κατὰ τὸν ὄγδοο αἰῶνα, ἐπὶ Λέοντος Γ´ τοῦ Ἰσαύρου. Διακρίθηκε σὰν γενναῖος τῆς πίστης στρατιώτης καὶ ὑπέρμαχος. Δὲν ἔθαψε τὸν ἑαυτό του στὴ μόνωση τοῦ κελλιοῦ του, ἀλλ᾿ ἀπὸ ἐκεῖ ὁρμώμενος, ἔδινε τὴν μάχη στὶς κρίσιμες περιστάσεις καὶ μέσα στὸ κοινωνικὸ στάδιο, πάντα μὲ θάῤῥος, ὑπὲρ τῆς ὀρθόδοξης ἀλήθειας. Ἐνθαῤῥυνόμενος, βέβαια, ἀπὸ τὴν φωνὴ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ποὺ λέει: «Ἀνδρίζου καὶ ἴσχυε, μὴ φοβοῦ μηδὲ πτοηθῇς». Δηλαδή, προχώρει μὲ ἀποφασιστικότητα σὰν γενναῖος ἄνδρας καὶ ἔχε θάῤῥος· μὴ φοβηθεῖς καὶ μὴ δειλιάσεις. Πρὸ πάντων ὁ Προκόπιος διέπρεψε στὸν ἔλεγχο κατὰ τῶν αἱρετικῶν Μονοφυσιτῶν. Ἐπίσης, ὑποστήριξε τὴν τιμητικὴ προσκύνηση τῶν εἰκόνων. Ἐπειδὴ ὁ Λέων ὁ Ἴσαυρος ἦταν σφοδρὸς εἰκονομάχος, προέβη σὲ διωγμοὺς καὶ βασανιστήρια ἐναντίον τῶν φίλων τῶν εἰκόνων. Σ᾿ αὐτοὺς τοὺς διωγμοὺς ὁ Προκόπιος ἐπισφράγισε τὶς πεποιθήσεις του ὑπὲρ τῶν εἰκόνων μὲ τὰ πολλά του παθήματα.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Γελάσιος ὁ μῖμος (ἠθοποιός)
Αὐτὸς ἀφοῦ ἀναπαράστησε τὸ Ἅγιο Βάπτισμα, βαπτίσθηκε ἀληθινά, ὁμολόγησε τὸν Χριστὸ καὶ μαρτύρησε διὰ ξίφους.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Θαλλελαῖος
Καταγόταν ἀπὸ τὴν Κιλικία καὶ ἀσκήτευε ἔξω ἀπὸ τὴν πόλη Γάβαλα τῆς Συρίας. Ἐκεῖ ὑπῆρχε εἰδωλολατρικὸς ναός, ποὺ συνέῤῥεαν πολλοί. Ὁ Θαλλελαῖος αὐτὸ τὸ ἐκμεταλλεύτηκε, ἐργαζόμενος γιὰ τὴν διαφώτιση καὶ τὴν προσέλκυση στὴ χριστιανικὴ πίστη πολλῶν εἰδωλολατρῶν. Ἦταν γεμάτος ταπεινοφροσύνη καὶ ποτὲ δὲν ὑπερηφανεύτηκε γιὰ τὰ πνευματικά του κατορθώματα. Ἦταν ὅμως καὶ φοβερὰ πολυμήχανος, προκειμένου νὰ φέρει ψυχὲς κοντὰ στὸ Χριστό. Κάποτε μάλιστα, εἶχε κατασκευάσει ἕνα ἰδιόῤῥυθμο κρεμαστὸ κρεβάτι. Αὐτὸ διαδόθηκε σ᾿ ὅλη τὴν περιοχή, μὲ ἀποτέλεσμα νὰ τὸν ἐπισκέπτονται πολλοὶ εἰδωλολάτρες. Ἀπὸ ἐκεῖ ψηλὰ λοιπὸν ὁ Θαλλελαῖος, ἄρχιζε συζήτηση μαζί τους καὶ ἔτσι ἔριχνε τὰ πνευματικά του δίχτυα, ποὺ ἔπιαναν πολλὲς ψυχὲς καὶ τὶς ἔσῳζε. Μ᾿ αὐτὸν τὸν τρόπο κατόρθωσε νὰ ἐκχριστιανίσει μία ὁλόκληρη πόλη, τὰ Γάβαλα, καὶ νὰ γίνει πνευματικός της πατέρας μὲ τὴν χάρη τοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Στέφανος
Ἵδρυσε τὸ Γηροκομεῖο τοῦ Ἁρματίου καὶ ἀπεβίωσε εἰρηνικά.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Νίσιος (ἢ Νήσιος)
Μαρτύρησε ἀφοῦ μαστιγώθηκε μέχρι θανάτου μὲ μαστίγια ἀπὸ νεῦρα βοδιοῦ.
Οἱ Ὅσιοι Ἀσκληπιὸς καὶ Ἰάκωβος
Καὶ οἱ δυὸ αὐτοὶ Ὅσιοι Πατέρες ἀγωνίστηκαν ἀσκητικὰ στὶς ἔρημους τῆς Συρίας, στὰ χρόνια του ἐπισκόπου Κύρου Θεοδώρητου (393-458). Ὁ Ἀσκληπιὸς στὴν ἀρχὴ ἔζησε σὲ κοινόβιο, ἀργότερα συνέχισε τὸν ἀσκητικό του ἀγῶνα μόνος του σὲ ἐρημητήριο. Ὁ Ἰάκωβος, κλεισμένος σ᾿ ἕνα μικρὸ κελλί, κοντὰ στὸ χωριὸ Νιμουζά, δὲν ἄναβε καθόλου φῶς καὶ ἄνθρωπος δὲν τὸν ἔβλεπε ποτέ. Ἀποκρινόταν διὰ μέσου ἑνὸς πλάγιου σκαμμένου τόπου. Ἂν καὶ ἦταν πάνω ἀπὸ 90 χρονῶν δὲν βγῆκε καθόλου ἀπὸ τὸ κελλὶ ἐκεῖνο. Ἔτσι ὅσια ἀφοῦ καὶ οἱ δυὸ ἔζησαν, ἀπεβίωσαν εἰρηνικά.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Τιμόθεος ὁ ἐν Καισαρείᾳ
Ἀπεβίωσε εἰρηνικά. (Ὁρισμένοι Συναξαριστὲς ἐδῶ ἀναφέρουν δυὸ Ὁσίους Τιμοθέους. Ὅμως, λόγω ἔλλειψης στοιχείων δὲν μποροῦμε νὰ ποῦμε μετὰ βεβαιότητας ὅτι εἶναι δυὸ διαφορετικοὶ ὅσιοι ἢ ἕνας, ποὺ εἶναι καὶ τὸ πιθανότερο).
Ὁ Ἅγιος Ἠλίας νεομάρτυρας ὁ Τραπεζούντιος
Ὁ νεομάρτυρας αὐτὸς καταγόταν ἀπὸ τὸ χωριὸ Κρυονέρι τῆς Τραπεζοῦντας. Συνελήφθη ἀπὸ τοὺς Τούρκους καὶ βασανίστηκε σκληρά. Τελικὰ τὸν κρέμασαν στὸ Μόλο τῆς Τραπεζοῦντας (Μουμ-χανέ) τὸ 1749. Τὸ ἅγιο λείψανό του ἔθαψαν μὲ τιμὲς οἱ Χριστιανοὶ στὴ Μονὴ Θεοσκεπάστου.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Ἀβουδάντιος (ἢ Ἀβούνδιος ἢ Ἀβούδιμος), Κάλανος, Ἰανουάριος, Ἀλέξανδρος, Ἀντίγονος, Φουρτουνᾶτος, Μακάριος, Τιτιανὸς καὶ Σεβηριανός
Μαρτύρησαν στὴ Θεσσαλονίκη ἐπὶ Διοκλητιανοῦ.
Our Holy Father Procopius of Decapolis (9th c.)
He was from Decapolis near the Sea of Galilee, and entered monastic life as a youth. When the Emperor Leo the Isaurian began his persecution of the holy icons, Procopius, who had previously spent his life in hiddenness and silence, boldly stood forth to defend the true Orthodox veneration of the icons. For this he was cruelly tortured and imprisoned. When the cruel Leo died and the icons were restored to the churches, Procopius returned to his monastery, where he lived in peace to a great old age. The Prologue concludes, 'In old age, he entered into God's Kingdom, where he beheld with joy the living angels and saints whose images were on the honoured icons on earth.'
St Raphael, bishop of Brooklyn (1915)
He was born in Syria in 1860, in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. In his childhood, his family took refuge in Lebanon after their parish priest, St Joseph of Damascus (July 10) was martyred; but they later returned to Damascus. In 1879 he was tonsured a monk and entered into the service of Patriarch Hierotheos of Antioch. The Balamand Seminary had been closed since 1840, but the young monk was offered a scholarship at the Constantinople Patriarchate's seminary at Halki. Returning to Syria with a theological degree, St Raphael became assistant to Gerasimos, the new Patriarch of Antioch, traveling and preaching on his behalf. After further studies in Kiev, he transferred to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow and for a time was professer of Arabic studies at the Theological Academy in Kazan. (At that time the downtrodden Orthodox of the Middle East received considerable aid and theological training from the Tsar and from the Church in Russia).
In 1895 he was sent to the United States to shepherd the Arab Orthodox Community in New York, which was without a church or a priest. He quickly consecrated a chapel and with great energy set about the work of shepherding his flock there; but he was concerned not only for them but for the Arab Christian immigrants scattered through North America, most of whom were without a pastor and in danger of falling into heterodoxy or abandoning religious life. He traveled widely throughout the continent, visiting, counseling and serving Arab Christians, preaching, celebrating marriages and baptisms, receiving confessions and celebrating the Divine Liturgy, usually in private houses. In 1898 he published the first Orthodox prayer book in Arabic to appear in the New World. In 1899, he made a seven-month journey through forty-three American cities, seeking out the "scattered sheep" of the Church in America. His services were attended not only by Arabs but by Russians and Greeks, all of whom at that time depended on the Russian mission to North America. During this entire period, he held the official rank of Archimandrite, though his work and duties exceeded those of most bishops.
In 1901, Patriarch Meletios was elected to the see of Antioch, the first Arab to occupy the patriarchal throne for 168 years. Several proposals were made to elect Archimandrite Raphael to a see in Syria; but he refused all such offers, pointing out the Orthodox people's great and little-met needs in North America. In 1904, the Moscow Patriarchate made him Bishop of Brooklyn, the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated on American soil. He redoubled his already impressive pastoral work, ordaining priests to the many new parishes that he had founded, and assisting Saint Tikhon (then Bishop of North America) in the care of his huge diocese. In 1905 he laid the foundation of the Monastery of St Tikhon in Pennsylvania.
The bishop saw the importance of integrating the faithful into the life of their new homeland, and was an early advocate of the use of English in American Church services. When Isabel Hapgood's Service Book — the first useful English translation of the Church's services — was published in 1906, he advocated its use in all his parishes.
In 1912, St Raphael was found to be suffering from heart disease, but continued his exhausting pastoral work for two more years. In 1915 he was finally unable to continue, and reposed after two months' illness.
When his relics were transported in 1998 from Brooklyn to Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA, they were found to be incorrupt, and in 2000 he became the most recently glorified Saint of North America.
In North America St Raphael is commemorated on the anniversary of his repose: February 27 on the Civil/New Calendar, February 14 on the Julian Calendar. He is also commemorated with the Synaxis of Saints of North America on the Second Sunday after Pentecost. The Patriarchate of Antioch also commemorates him, but on Saturday before the Synaxis of the Archangels (November 8).
Our Venerable Father Titus of the Lavra of the Kiev Caves (1190)
Titus and Evagrius, two monks in the famed Kiev Caves Lavra, were dear friends who, through the instigation of the demons, allowed a disagreement to descend into mutual enmity. Despite the efforts of their brother monks to reconcile them, their mutual hatred grew, to the extreme that when one of them censed the church, the other would turn and walk out.
Titus fell gravely ill and, feeling that his end was near, at last repented and asked that Evagrius come and be reconciled with him. Evagrius was unwilling, but the other monks brought him by bodily force to his brother's bedside. Titus fell at his feet and said 'Forgive me for having offended and wounded you in my anger. Bless me!' Evagrius, unmoved, shouted 'I will never forgive him, neither in this world nor in the next!' As soon as he had uttered these words he suddenly fell down dead. Titus, on the other hand, rose up, completely cured of his illness. He told his brethren that he had seen a spear come down from heaven and strike Evagrius, and that the spear had then touched and healed him; and that the swarms of demons who had been terrifying him as he lay dying, vanished at the moment he asked Evagrius to forgive him. Saint Titus spent the rest of his days in repentance and love, and fell asleep in peace around 1190.
Our Holy Father Leander, Bishop of Seville and Apostle of Spain (600)
He was born to an aristocratic Roman family living in Spain: his father Severian was Duke of Cartagena. Saint Leander embraced monastic life as a young man in Seville, capital of the Visigoths, who had embraced Arianism and caused the Arian heresy to dominate throughout Spain. Leander became a leading figure in the struggle to restore his land to Orthodoxy, founding a school in Seville to promote the Orthodox faith. In 583 he travelled to Constantinople to seek the Emperor's support for the Spanish Orthodox; while there he met St Gregory the Great (the future Pope of Rome), with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. On his return to Spain, Leander was made Bishop of Seville.
One of the holy bishop's converts was Hermengild, one of the sons of the Arian king Leovigild. When Hermengild rose up against his father in the name of Orthodoxy, Leovigild launched a violent persecution of the Orthodox throughout his kingdom. (Leovigild had his son imprisoned, then executed on Pascha Day of 586.) By God's grace, at the very height of the persecution Leovigild fell mortally ill, repented, and embraced the true Faith; at his urging his son and successor Recared converted to Orthodoxy and convened the Third Council of Toledo in 589, at which he proclaimed that the Gothic and Suevic peoples were returning to the unity of the One Church. Saint Leander presided at the Council, and devoted the rest of his life to educating the (mostly) newly-Orthodox people of Spain in the Faith. It was he who established the early form of the Mozarabic Liturgy. He reposed in peace on March 13, 600. (He is venerated on this day because his name was incorrectly placed on February 27 in the Roman Martyrology.
The Monk Prokopios Dekapolites lived during the VIII Century in the region of Dekapolis (Mk. 7: 31), to the east of Lake Galilee. And there also he devoted himself to salvation, occupied with monastic deeds.
Saint Prokopios, together with his co-ascetic Saint Basil (Comm. 28 February) and others zealous for holy Orthodoxy, rose up against the Iconoclast heresy that had arisen in those times. By order of the emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741), the Monk Prokopios was arrested, subjected to a fierce scourging and thrown into prison. Here he languished together with the Monk Basil until the very death of the oppressive emperor, after which the holy confessors were set free. The Monk Prokopios spent the rest of his life peacefully at monastic deeds, guiding many on the way of virtue and salvation. He died in old age, in about the year 750.
The Monk Tito, Presbyter of Pechersk, in the Near Caves, lived in great friendship with the deacon Evagrii, which afterwards turned into a strong dislike and hostility. When the Presbyter Tito fell ill with a grievous illness and began to ready himself for death, he sent to Evagrii to implore forgiveness, but Evagrii would not be reconciled. The Pechersk brethren by force brought Evagrii to the sick-bed. The Monk Tito with tears begged him for forgiveness, but Evagrii remained obstinate. He declared that he would forgive Tito neither at present nor in the future. Having said this, he himself fell down dead, struck with a spear by an Angel, and at that very instant Tito received healing.
The Monk Tito increased his efforts, became known for especial humility, and became a wonderworker.
The Monk Tito reposed not earlier than 1190. His memory, besides 27 February, is celebrated also on 28 September with the Sobor-Assembly of the Monks of the Nearer Caves.
The Monk Thalaleos lived during the V Century. He was a native of Cilicia (Asia Minor), accepting monasticism at the monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified, and was ordained presbyter there. Later on, having relocated to Syria, not far from the city of Habala, he found a dilapidated pagan temple surrounded by graves, and he settled there in a tent. This place had a rough reputation, since the unclean spirits residing there frightened travellers and caused them much harm.
And here the monk lived, praying day and night in total solitude. The demons often assailed the saint, trying to terrify him with sights and sounds. But by the power of God the monk gained victory over the power of the enemy ultimately, after which he was troubled no more. The monk then intensified his efforts even more: he built himself an hut, so very cramped that it was just possible to get into it, and only with an effort was it possible to keep up his head, and there he dwelt for about 10 years.
The Lord granted the ascetic the gift of wonderworking: miracles helped him to enlighten the surrounding inhabitants, who were pagans. And with the help of the inhabitants converted by him to Christianity, he demolished the idolous temple, building in its place a church and bringing into it daily Divine-services. The Monk Thalaleos died in old age in about the year 460. In the book entitled "Leimonarion", or "Pratum" ("The Meadow"), -- a composition of the Greek monk John Moskhos (+ 622), -- it speaks thus about the Monk Thalaleos: "Abba Thalaleos was a monk for sixty years and with tears never ceased saying: God hath given us, brethren, this time for repentance, and if we perish, we then shalt be severely judged".
The Monks Asklepios and James, Syrian Ascetics, lived during the V Century. Blessed Theodorit of Cyr speaks of them. The Monk Asklepios led an ascetic life of temperance in his native village and did not suffer hindrance by constant association with many people. He had many imitators and followers. One of them was Blessed James, who secluded himself into a small dwelling near the village of Nimuza. Up until the end of his 90 years of life, the ascetic did not exit his hermitage, giving answer to those who came through a small aperture, made on a slant in the wall, such that no one was able to see him. He never prepared a fire nor lighted a lamp.
The Monk Stephen, formerly a courtier under the emperor Maurice (582-602), left his service, and founded an hospice for the elderly at Armatia (Constantinople), and devoted himself totally to the effort of taking in strangers. He died peacefully somewhat beyond age 61.
The Holy Martyrs Julian, Eunos (Kronion) his servant, Beza (Bisos) the soldier and Mekaros suffered at the beginning of the reign of Decius (249-251) at Alexandria. Saint Julian, a very old man, suffered from gout and could neither stand nor get about. He was carried to the trial by his servants, one of whom, one of whom by the name of Eunos bravely confessed faith in Christ, even though a second servant recanted. They took Julian and Eunos through the city on camels, subjecting them to the jeering of pagans, and finally burnt them in a bon-fire. The soldier Saint Beza also suffered together with them. For trying to defend the holy martyrs from insult, he was beheaded by the sword. And then also Mekaros of Lebanon was burnt.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. THE VENERABLE PROCOPIUS - DECAPOLIT
This saint was from Decapolis [Ten Cities] surrounding the Sea of Galilea for which he was called "Decapolit." In his youth, he devoted himself to a life of asceticism and accomplished all prescribed efforts, by which the heart is purified and the spirit elevated to God. When a persecution began by the nefarious Emperor Leo Isaurian regarding icons, Procopius rose up in defense of icons showing that the veneration of icons is not idolatry; for Christians know that honoring icons they do not either bow down or honor lifeless material but rather honor living saints who are depicted on the icons. Because of that, Procopius was arrested, brutally tortured, flogged and scrapped with an iron brush. When the wicked Emperor Leo was slain in the body, [for he had lost his soul earlier], icons were restored in the churches and Procopius returned to his monastery where he spent the remainder of his days in peace. In old age, he was translated into the kingdom of God where he gazes with joy upon the living angels and saints, whose images on icons he honored on earth. He died peacefully in the ninth century.
2. THE VENERABLE THALELAEUS
Thalelaeus was a Syrian ascetic. At first he resided in the Monastery of St. Sabas the Sanctified near Jerusalem but later he settled in a pagan cemetery known for the apparitions of evil spirits and frightening things. In order to conquer fear within himself through faith in God, Thalelaeus settled in this cemetery where he lived for many years enduring many assaults from evil spirits both day and night. Because of his great faith and love for God, God endowed him with the gift of working miracles by which he did much good for the sick and suffering people. He died about the year 460 A.D.
3. VENERABLE TITUS OF THE CAVES IN KIEV
Titus was a presbyter and had a sincere Christian love for Deacon Evgarius as a brother for a brother. As much as their love in the beginning was true, later it became a mutual blood-feud and hatred sown by the devil. They hated each other so much that when one was censing in the church, the other turned around and walked out of the church. Titus attempted many times to reconcile with his opponent but in vain. Titus became ill and everyone thought that he was going to die. He begged them to bring Evgarius to him in order to forgive him. Forcefully, they dragged Evgarius to the bedside of Titus, but Evgarius broke free and fled saying that he will not forgive Titus either in this world or the other world. As soon as he said this, he fell to the ground and died. Titus arose from his bed healthy and related how the demons were hovering around him until he forgave Evgarius and when he forgave him, the demons fled and attached Evgarius and angels of God surrounded Titus. He died in the year 1190 A.D.
4. THE VENERABLE STEPHEN
At first, Stephen was a palace clerk of Emperor Maurice. After that he resigned his palace duties and, driven by love for Christ, Stephen built a hospice of charity for the aged in Constantinople. He died peacefully in the year 614 A.D.
5. THE HOLY MARTYR JULIAN
Julian suffered severely from gout so much so that he was neither able to stand nor walk. Because of his faith in Christ, he was brought on a pallet before the judge. He was burned alive at the stake in Alexandria with his disciple Cronyon during the reign of Emperor Decius.
HYMN OF PRAISE
That God forgives us, let us forgive men,
As temporary guests, we are on this earth.
Prolonged fasting and prayer, in vain is
Without forgiveness and without true mercy.
God is the true Physician; sins are leprosy,
Whoever God cleanses, God also glorifies.
God rewards with mercy, every mercy of men,
That one perishes without mercy, who returns sin with sin,
With pus from pus - infected wounds, pus is not cleansed,
Neither is darkness from the dungeon dispelled by darkness,
But pure balm heals the wound of pus,
But the darkness of the dungeon, a light disperses.
To the seriously wounded, mercy is like a balm,
As a torch, in her [mercy] everyone rejoices.
This the ignorant says: I have no need of mercy!
But, when he is overcome by misery, he cries out for mercy!
Men bathe upon the mercy of God,
That mercy of God awakes us to life!
That God forgives us, let us forgive men,
As temporary guests, we are all on this earth.
Whenever we are outside the Grace of God, we are outside of ourselves and, compared with our Grace-filled nature, we do not find ourselves in a better condition than an insane man in comparison to a so-called healthy man. Only a blessed man is a natural man, i.e., a man of higher and unspoiled nature, in which the Grace of God rules and governs. St. Simeon the New Theologian says: "A lamp, even if it is filled with oil and possesses a wick, remains totally dark if it is not lighted with fire. So it is with the soul in appearance adorned with all virtues, if it does not have a light and the Grace of the Holy Spirit it, is extinguished and dark." (Homily, Number 59). As the great apostle also says: "But by the Grace of God I am what I am"
(1 Corinthians 15:10). However to be without grace means to be alienated from God and alienated from the reality of our own individual being. Our being, our personality, confirms our reality and receives its fullness only in the nearness of God and by God. That is why we must look at sinners as we look upon the sick: as weak shadows, without reality and without a mind.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as the Vine "I am the true Vine" (St. John 15:1):
1. As the Vine from which sprouted numerous fruitful branches in the images of the saints;
2. As the Vine Who with His sap, His blood, waters and feeds all the branches on Himself;
3. As the Vine from Whom the Divine Church branched out on earth and in the heavens;
4. As the Vine from Whom, even I should not separate the branch of my life.
About the power of the Resurrector of the body
"Destroy this temple, anin three days I will raiseit up" (St. John 2:19).
Here our Lord speaks about the temple of His body. Destroy this body and in three days I will raise it up! Thus speaks One Who knows His might and Who, according to His might, fulfilled His words. For His body was destroyed, broken, pierced, buried and covered with darkness for three days. And the third day, He raised it; raised it not only from the grave on earth but raised it up to the heavens. And so, He spoke the word and His word came true.
The Lord gave a sign to the Jews, for they sought a sign from Him. And when He gave them a sign, such as no one else before Him was able to give, they did not believe Him but, confused and frightened, bribed the guards from Golgotha to swear falsely and to proclaim the lie that this miraculous sign did not occur, but that His disciples stole His body from the tomb!
No sign whatsoever helps those do not want to believe. The Jews, with their own eyes witnessed the many miracles of Christ, but nevertheless did not want to believe but, they spoke about justifying their unbelief saying that He performs these miracles "by the help of the prince of the demons!" (St. Matthew 9:34). Whoever does not want to believe in good, all the signs which heaven can give will not help him. A heart filled with evil is harder than granite. A mind, darkened by sin, cannot be illuminated by all the light of heaven, whose light is greater than one-thousand suns.
When man expels evil from his heart and saves his mind from the darkness of sin, then he sees the numerous signs which God gives to those who want to believe - to see and to believe.
O, my brethren, let us not sin against the mercy of God and let us not succumb to the evil of the Jews. O, my brethren, all the signs have already been given, and they all glitter as the stars in the heavenly firmament, to all who have a good heart and a right-thinking mind.