December 6, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Memory of our Father among the Saints, Nicholas the Wonderworker,
Archbishop of Myra in Lycia. (Fourth century)
This holy bishop lived in the time of Emperors Diocletian and Maximian. After having led the monastic life for a while, he was promoted to the episcopal dignity for his exceptional and eminent virtue. Because he defended the interests of Christians and courageously preached the true religion, he was seized by the city’s magistrates and thrown into prison in company with other Christians, after he was overpowered by assaults and inflicted with all kinds of tortures. When the great and pious Constantine took possession of the Roman Empire by a Providential decree, all the prisoners in fetters were released. Thus set at liberty, Saint Nicholas returned to Myra and took part in the Council of Nicaea held sometime after by Emperor Constantine in 325.
He died at a very old age leaving his holy body to the faithful as a source of balm and healing. He remains as if living after his death, having received from heaven the gift of miracles. His relics are preserved in Bari, Italy. His power as a wonderworker gave birth to a marvelous legend which is the origin of traditional children’s festivals in the East as well as the West.
–From the Synaxarion
At Myra, which is the metropolis of Lycia, the birthday of St. Nicholas, bishop and confessor, of whom it is related, among other miracles, that, while at a great distance from Emperor Constantine, he appeared to him in a vision and moved him to mercy so as to deter him from putting to death some persons who had implored his assistance.
–From the Roman Martyrology
December 5, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Memory of our venerable and God-bearing Father Sabbas the Sanctified (439-532).
Saint Sabbas was born in 439 in Mutalascus in Cappadocia. While still very young, he embraced religious life in the monastery of Flvinia in Cappadocia. In 457, at the age of eighteen, he went to the monastery of Passarion in Jerusalem. Saint Euthymius, who had remarked about him for his eminent virtue and called him the “young old man,” directed him to Saint Theoktistos in 458. After Saint Euthymius’ unexpected death in 473, he spent five years in solitude. He then went to take up his abode in 478 in a grotto on the left bank of the Cedron River opposite the monastery which today bears his name. As several monks came to place themselves under his direction, he erected a tower on the right bank of the torrent and made the water gush forth over this arid land by his prayer. A vast grotto transformed into a church was blessed in 491 by Sallustos, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who conferred priestly ordination upon Saint Sabbas at the same time and named him the archimandrite of all the hermits of Palestine. The Saint undertook upon the request of the Patriarchs of Jerusalem two ambassadorships to Emperors Anastasius I, in 512, and Justinian, in 531. Reaching a great old age, he died on December 5, 532, at the age of ninety-three. The Typikon of Ecclesiastical Offices and the Typikon of Monastic Life which were preserved in his name still come from his famous laura. Pope Paul VI returned Saint Sabbas’ relics to the monastery of Massaba in Jordan on October 24, 1965.
–From the Synaxarion
December 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Memory of the holy Great martyr Barbara (?).
Our venerable Father John Damascene (+749?)
According to the legend in the Greek Menaia, Saint Barbara lived under Emperor Maximian. Her father was a pagan named Dioscorus. Jealous of his daughter’s remarkable beauty, Dioscorus kept her imprisoned in a tower, for he was not unaware that she was a virgin and already won over to Christianity. He was still further convinced of it, when, having arranged for two windows to be put into a bath which he was building, his daughter ordered three windows. Questioned concerning her reasons, she answered: “So that it be in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” At these words, Dioscorus wanted to immediately behead her with his own sword, but she escaped from falling into his hands. He lunged at her from behind a rock, but she fled to the mountains. Having been advised of it, her father followed her, found her, and delivered her over to the governor of the province, before whom she confessed Christ and scorned the idols. Then she was cruelly beaten, her body was torn open by pin punctures, her sides were burned, and her head was battered by large stones. Then she was stripped and led through the entire city. She was further overpowered by assaults. At last, she ended her martyrdom, beheaded by the hands of her own father. It is told that this wretched man was struck by lightning when he came down from the mountain where he had killed his daughter.
Saint John Damascene was born in Damascus, in an illustrious family, the son of Sergius, the son of Mansour, the general administrator of Caliph Abdalmalik (685-705). He received a complete education, thanks to his virtuous father, and he probed the depths of the Holy Scriptures. Impelled on by his faith, he abandoned his paternal riches and embraced monastic life in the laura of Saint Sabbas, in the company of Saint Cosmas, the future Bishop of Maiuma. Under divine inspiration, they both composed a considerable number of troparia and canons in praise of God, the Theotokos, and the Saints. Ordained a priest, without doubt by his teacher John, the Patriarch of Jerusalem (706-734), he courageously combatted the ungodly Iconoclast heresy by the vigor of his discourses and the irrefutable arguments which he knew how to pull out of Scripture. He left behind him a great number of works, comprising almost wholly and in perfect clarity the whole body of required knowledge. He died at the Laura, in old age. It is believed that this occurred on December 4, 749. His body still reposes in the holy monastery where he lived. In his life, which was written in the Tenth century by Patriarch John of Jerusalem, it is said that he was condemned by his adversaries, the Iconoclasts, to have his right hand cut off but that it was miraculously healed by the Virgin. This legend does not seem to be historically founded.
–From the Synaxarion
November 29, 2011 § Leave a Comment
One of the most basic devotional practices in the Orthodox Church is to follow the Church’s cycles of fasting/feasting, saints’ days, and prescribed daily readings of the Church. There are many print and digital resources to help the faithful in following these cycles, but a personal favorite of mine is the Daily Reading Mobile app. Prepared by the Department of Internet Ministries of the Greek Archdiocese, this app allows iPhone, Android, and Nokia users to access on the go the fasting rules, readings, and saints for a given day. No more need to consult calendars, look things up in books, search the Internet, etc.!
November 26, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Thanksgiving: The National Holy-Day
by Fr. George Morelli
For all practical purposes, Thanksgiving Day is the closest we come to a National Holyday in the United States. Historically, it has been celebrated with everything from religious thankfulness, food, frolic and of course modern commercialism. Despite this, it is still a time for many Americans to ‘count their blessings’ and get together with family and/or friends.
Sometimes our approach to life stops us from ‘counting our blessings and giving thanksgiving to God. Psychologists call this pessimism. It is the belief that “bad events will undermine everything they do.” (Seligman, 1990). It is like always seeing the cup ‘half empty’. Those with optimism, confronted with “hard knocks” approach them as a challenge and try harder. Optimists tend to see the cup ‘half full’. They are thankful for what they have and work harder.
Common to our American national heritage is the action of our first president, George Washington who in 1789 declared a national thanksgiving holiday honoring the newly ratified Constitution, proclaiming: the people could thank God for “affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Thanksgiving is part of many religious traditions: St. Paul told the Romans (14:5-6): ”One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God;” The psalmist tells us: “All thy works shall give thanks to thee, O Lord, and all thy saints shall bless thee! (Ps 145:10). The Koran states: “And He gives you all that ye ask for. But if you count the favors of God, never would you be able to number them” (14:34). A Native American Iroquois thanksgiving prayer ends with the words: “we return thanks to the Great Spirit, in whom is embodied all goodness, and who directs all things for the good of his children.”
Some have taken the words of Deuteronomy (26:10) “I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which thou, O Lord, hast given me. And you shall set it down before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God”, and applied this as an offering to God of themselves. They forgo being with family and friends and give themselves to others in need, serving in food kitchens and the like.
However we commemorate this Holyday, let us see the fullness of the cup of gifts God has given us, and be thankful praying: “Glory to thee, who hast called me to life, … revealed to us the beauty of the universe … Glory to thee O God in ages!” (Akathist of Thanksgiving, Metropolitan Tryphon of Turkestan).
Seligman, M.E.P. (1990). Learned Optimism. NY: Pocket Books.
November 25, 2011 § Leave a Comment
As we noted in yesterday’s entry, St. Catherine of Alexandria may be celebrated on either November 24 or 25, depending upon whether the church calendar is in one of the Slavic or Greek traditions–November 24 as the more ancient practice still observed in Slavic liturgical traditions and November 25 in more contemporary Greek/Byzantine traditions.
This begs a question–who is the saint on the other day that gets shifted around as well? St. Clement of Rome, who is commemorated on November 25 in Slavic traditions and November 24 in Byzantine traditions.
For the life of St. Clement of Rome, see here.
November 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
This question came up this past weekend. I remembered that there were two ways we commemorate St. Catherine in the Orthodox Church. The more ancient practice is to commemorate her on November 24, which is still done according to Slavic practice. The more contemporary practice is to celebrate her feast on November 25, which is done in Greek (and by extension, Antiochian) churches. So, depending upon who publishes your church calendar, you might find different dates.
For an excellent treatment of this, as well as St. Catherine’s life, look here.
July 6, 2011 § Leave a Comment
On July 10 in the Holy Orthodox Church we commemorate the holy, glorious and right-victorious New Hieromartyr Joseph Mouhana al-Haddad and his Companions. Saint Joseph of Damascus, as he is commonly known, was a weaver by trade. After he was married and ordained to the priesthood, Joseph was assigned Great Economos of the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos (al-Mariamiyeh) in the heart of the Old City of Damascus. On Monday, July 9, 1860, the brutal massacre of Christians which began in the Lebanese mountains spread to Damascus. Some Damascenes (including Michael Hawaweeny and his young wife Mariam who was bearing in her womb a son, the future Saint Raphael), fled the city for Beirut. The majority, however, took refuge in al-Mariamiyeh. Joseph took up his communion kit containing the Reserved Sacrament, left his home and began to make his way to the Cathedral by jumping from rooftop to rooftop in the Old City. As he went, he stopped to confess and commune the aged and infirm who could not flee their homes. On the morning of Tuesday, July 10, the Cathedral was surrounded, pillaged and burned. Those inside perished in the flames, while only a few, including Father Joseph, survived. He searched the narrow streets for survivors who needed confession and communion, but was surrounded by the enemies of Christ. Saint Joseph took out his communion kit and consumed what remained of the Eucharist. The persecutors savagely attacked and killed him with axes. Joseph and his Companions were glorified by the Holy Synod of Antioch in 1993.
–From the Synaxarion
December 11, 2010 § Leave a Comment
We remember all the holy Patriarchs of the Old Testament who prefigured or foretold Christ: Adam the first Father, Enoch, Melchizedek, Abraham, the friend of God, Isaac, the fruit of the Promise, Jacob and the twelve patriarchs. We then commemorate those who lived under the Law: Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David, and the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; the twelve minor prophets; Elijah, Elisha, Zachariah, and John the Baptist; and finally the Virgin Mary, the intermediary between mankind and her divine Son. Indeed, the Lord Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to redeem humanity which bemoaned the weight of evil since Adam; to realize the promise made to Abraham; to change the Law of Fear into the Law of Love; and to give Resurrection and Life to mankind. This feast prepares us for the Nativity of Jesus Christ, placing before us the anticipation and hope for His coming among us.
(From the Synaxarion)
November 24, 2010 § Leave a Comment
From the Prolog of Ohrid:
Catherine was the daughter of King Constus. After the death of her father, she lived with her mother in Alexandria. Her mother was secretly a Christian who, through her spiritual father, brought Catherine to the Christian Faith. In a vision, St. Catherine received a ring from the Lord Jesus Himself as a sign of her betrothal to Him. This ring remains on her finger even today. Catherine was greatly gifted by God and was well educated in Greek philosophy, medicine, rhetoric and logic. In addition to that, she was of unusual physical beauty. When the iniquitous Emperor Maxentius offered sacrifices to the idols and ordered others to do the same, Catherine boldly confronted the emperor and denounced his idolatrous errors. The emperor, seeing that she was greater than he in wisdom and knowledge, summoned fifty of his wisest men to debate with her on matters of faith and to put her to shame. Catherine outwitted and shamed them. In a rage, the emperor ordered all fifty of those men burned. By St. Catherine’s prayers, all fifty confessed the name of Christ and declared themselves Christians before their execution. After Catherine had been put in prison, she converted the emperor’s commander, Porphyrius, and two hundred soldiers to the true Faith, as well as Empress Augusta-Vasilissa herself. They all suffered for Christ. During the torture of St. Catherine, an angel of God came to her and destroyed the wheel on which the holy virgin was being tortured. Afterward, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared to her and comforted her. After many tortures, Catherine was beheaded at the age of eighteen, on November 24, 310. Milk, instead of blood, flowed from her body. Her miracle-working relics repose on Mount Sinai.