Saint Nikolai Velimirovic
14th - 21st (New Style) • January 1st - 8th (Old
14th (New Style) • January 1st (Old Style)
Circumcision of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ
eighth day following His birth, the Divine Child was presented in
the Temple and circumcised according to the Law existing in Israel
since the time of Abraham. On this occasion, He was given the name
Jesus, which the Archangel Gabriel announced to the All-Holy Virgin
Mary. The Old Testament circumcision was the proto-type of the New
Testament baptism. The circumcision of our Lord shows that He
received upon Himself the true body of man and not just seemingly,
as was later taught of Him by heretics. Our Lord was also
circumcised because He wanted to fulfill the entire Law which He
Himself gave through the prophets and forefathers. In fulfilling the
written Law, He replaced it with Baptism in His Holy Church as was
proclaimed by the Apostle Paul: "For neither does circumcision
mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new
creation" (Galatians 6:15). (In the cycle of the liturgical
calendar of the Church, this Feast of the Lord's Circumcision has
neither a Forefeast nor an Antefeast).
Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea
was born during the reign of Emperor Constantine. While still
unbaptized, Basil spent fifteen years in Athens where he studied
philosophy, rhetoric, astronomy and all other secular sciences of
that time. His colleagues at that time were Gregory the Theologian
and Julian, later the apostate emperor. In his mature years he was
baptized in the river Jordan along with Euvlios his former teacher.
He was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia for almost ten years and
completed his earthly life fifty years after his birth. He was a
great defender of Orthodoxy, a great light of moral purity, a
religious zealot, a great theological mind, a great builder and
pillar of the Church of God. Basil fully deserved the title
"Great." In liturgical services, he is referred to as the
"bee of the Church of Christ which brings honey to the faithful
and with its stinger pricks the heretics." Numerous works of
this Father of the Church are preserved; they include theological,
apologetical, ascetical and canonical writings as well as the Holy
and Divine Liturgy named after him. This Divine Liturgy is
celebrated ten times throughout the year: the First of January, his
feast day; on the eve of the Nativity of our Lord; on the eve of the
Epiphany of our Lord; all Sundays of the Honorable Fast [Lenten
Season], except Palm Sunday; on Great and Holy Thursday and on Great
and Holy Saturday. St. Basil died peacefully on January 1, 379 A.D.,
and was translated into the Kingdom of Christ.
it necessary to listen to the Church and not listen to one man who
thinks against the Church, even though he might be called the
greatest thinker? Because the Church was founded by the Lord Jesus
Christ, and because the Church is guided under the inspiration of
the Spirit of God. Because the Church represents the realm of the
Holy, a grove of cultivated fruit trees. If one rises up against the
realm of the Holy, it means that he is unholy and why then listen to
him? "The Church is an enclosure," says the all-wise John
Chrysostom. "If you are within, the wolf does not enter; but if
you leave, the beasts will seize you. Do not distance yourself from
the Church; there is nothing mightier that the Church. The Church is
your hope. The Church is your salvation. The Church is higher than
the heavens. The Church is harder than stone. The Church is wider
than the world. The Church never grows old but always renews
contemplate the Circumcision of the Lord Jesus Christ:
glory in the heavenly kingdom where Cherubim serve Him in fear and
lowliness and His humility in the ritual of circumcision intended
contemplate my heart: how much have I circumcised sinful thoughts,
vices and passions from it.
how we should depart from evil and do good
from evil, and do good" (Psalm 34:15).
these words are expressed all our effort by which we should labor
here on earth and in the earth, i.e., on this material earth and in
this physical body. Therefore, of what then should our labor
consist? To achieve two habits: First, to avoid evil and Second, to
do good. Concerning that which is good and that which is evil, our
conscience tells us incompletely and unclearly because our
conscience is darkened by sin; but the teaching of Christ tells us
completely and clearly that which is good and that which is evil.
what does our Lord ask of us? He asks, that as our altars are always
facing the east, so should our souls also be turned toward good. To
leave evil behind us; to leave evil in the shadow; to leave evil in
the abyss of oblivion; to leave evil in the darkness of the past,
that we, from year to year, from day to day, extend ourselves toward
good: to think about good; to yearn for good; to speak about good;
to do good. The Lord is seeking builders and not destroyers. For
whoever builds good, with that alone, he destroys evil. However, he
who turns away from destroying evil, quickly forgets how to build
good and is transformed into an evildoer.
apostle of Christ teaches us, "Hate what is evil, hold on to
what is good" (Romans 12:9). Hate evil but do not hate the man
who commits evil for he is sick. If you can, heal the sick person
but do not kill him with your hatred. Adhere to good and only good;
for good is from God; for God is the treasury of all good.
and All-good Lord, teach us to avoid evil and to do good for the
sake of Your glory and for the sake of our salvation.
15th (New Style) • January 2nd (Old Style)
Sylvester, Bishop of Rome
was born in Rome and from his early youth was learned in worldly
wisdom and in the Faith of Christ. He always conducted his life
according to the Gospel commandments. He benefited much from the
instruction of Timothy the priest whose death for the Faith
Sylvester himself witnessed and, observing the example of the heroic
sacrifice of his teacher, was imbued with such a spirit throughout
his entire life. At age thirty, he became the Bishop of Rome. He
amended the customs of Christians. For example, he dispensed the
fast on Saturdays, which was practiced by many Christians up to that
time, and ordered that fasting be observed only on Holy and Great
Saturday as well as on those Saturdays that fall within the fasting
seasons. By his prayers and miracles Sylvester assisted in bringing
Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena into the True Faith. They
were later baptized. He participated with the Empress Helena in
finding the Honorable Cross. He governed the Church of God for
twenty years. His earthly life ended honorably and he was translated
into the heavenly Kingdom.
Venerable Seraphim of Sarov
was one of the greatest Russian ascetics, discerners and
miracle-workers. He was born in 1759 A.D and died in 1833 A.D.
Seraphim was distinguished by great humility. When the entire world
praised him, he referred to himself as "the wretched
was the mother of the brothers Cosmas and Damian, the Unmercenaries
and Miracle-workers. Theodota lived a God-pleasing life and in such
a life she instructed her sons.
was a great ascetic of the fifth century. He was the abbot of the
Tabennesiote Monastery in Upper Egypt. Three thousand monks lived
the ascetical life under his direction. He possessed the abundant
gift of miracle-working and discernment. Once when a monk asked him
for advice, he said to him, "Be like a convict in prison, as he
continually asks: when will the judge come, and so should you ask
you respond to those who say that Christ the Miracle-worker cannot
fit in our logic? Simply reply: You fit into His logic. In His
logic, all eternity fits and all the nobleness of time and, then, if
you wish, a place will be found even for you. If a barrel cannot fit
into a thimble, you can fit a thimble into a barrel. Blessed Clement
of Alexandria says; "Philosophers are children until they
become men though Christ. For truth is never thinking only."
Christ came to correct man and, therefore, men's logic. He is our
Logos and our Logic. That is why we must direct our reason toward
Him and not Him toward our reason. He is the corrector of our
reason. The sun is not regulated according to our clock, but our
clock is regulated according to the sun.
contemplate the Lord Jesus as the Divine Word [The Logos]:
the Triune God created everything by His Word, i.e., by Christ the
senseless is every man, who distances himself from Christ, the Word
of God, and in whom there is no Christ.
goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall"
that exists on the four corners of the earth, what, O mortal man,
can make us proud except stupidities and demonic illusions. Did we
not enter into the world naked and wretched and are we not going to
depart this world in the same manner? Everything that we have, did
we not borrow it; and by our death, are we not going to return
everything? Oh, how many times has this been said and overheard? The
wise apostle says, "For we have brought nothing into the world,
just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it" (I
Timothy 6:7). And, when we offer sacrifice to God of ordinary bread
and wine, we say, "Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto
Thee" (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). For nothing that
we have in this world is ours: not even a crumb of bread nor a drop
of wine; nothing that is not of God. In truth, pride is the daughter
of stupidity, the daughter of a darkened mind, born of evil ties
with the demons.
is a broad window through which all of our merits and good works
evaporate. Nothing makes us so empty before men and so unworthy
before God as does pride. When the Lord is not proud, why should we
be proud? Who has more reason to be proud than the Lord, Who created
the world and Who sustains it by His power? And behold, He humbles
himself as a servant, a servant to the whole world: a servant even
to the death, to the death on the Cross!
humble Lord, burn up within our hearts the devil's sowing of pride
with the fire of Your Holy Spirit, and plant within it the noble
sowing of humility and meekness.
16th (New Style) • January 3rd (Old Style)
was the last of the prophets in time. He was born after the return
of the Hebrews from the Babylonian Captivity in 538 B.C. He was
unusually handsome in countenance. According to legend, the people
called him an angel, perhaps because of his external beauty or
because of his spiritual purity, or even, perhaps because of his
association with an angel of God. On many occasions he spoke face to
face with an angel. When this occurred, others heard the voice of an
angel; but they were not worthy to see the face of the angel. That
which the angel proclaimed, the young Malachi prophesied. He cried
out against ungrateful Israel and against the lawless priests. Five
hundred years before Christ, Malachi clearly prophesied the coming
and the mission of John the Baptist: "Lo, I am sending my
messenger to prepare the way before me" (Malachi 3:7). Mainly,
he is the prophet of the day of the Dreadful Judgment. "Before
the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day" (Malachi
3: 23-24). He presented himself to the Lord while still young.
Following him, there were no more prophets in Israel until John the
was born in Caesarea of Cappadocia. He was an officer in the Roman
army during the reign of Emperor Licinius. When a terrible
persecution of the Christians broke out, Gordius left the army and
his rank and withdrew to the wilderness of Sinai. Alone on Mount
Horeb, Gordius spent his time in prayer and contemplation on the
mysteries of heaven and earth. He especially contemplated on vanity
and the worthlessness of all over which men strive and fight for on
earth, and, finally, he wished to die and to be translated into the
eternal and incorruptible life. With this desire he descended into
the town at the time of certain pagan races and games. Gordius
presented himself to the mayor of that town, declaring that he was a
Christian. In vain did the mayor of the town try, through flatteries
and threats, to dissuade him from the Faith. Gordius remained
unwavering and firm as a diamond, saying: "Is it not sheer
folly to purchase with this short-lived life, a life of eternal
torment and spiritual death." Being condemned to death, he
joyfully hurried to the scaffold and along the way spoke to the
executioners about the glorious and sweet teachings of Christ. With
the name of Christ on his lips Gordius offered his young body to the
sword and his righteous soul to God in the year 320 A.D.
is the Patroness of the city of Paris. Through fasting, prayer and
almsgiving she was made worthy of the Kingdom of God and died on
January 3, 512 A.D., in the eighty-ninth year of her life.
permits humiliation and ruin to befall a proud man when he thinks
that his strength is secured forever. When the pernicious Roman
Eparch [Governor] Tarquinius beheaded Blessed Timothy, he summoned
St. Sylvester and threatened him with death if he did not reveal
Timothy's inheritance and in addition immediately offer sacrifice to
the idols. Without fear and trembling, this discerning saint
responded to the eparch with the Evangelical words: "You fool,
this night your life will be demanded of you" (St. Luke 12:20),
"and that with which you boast that you will bring to me (i.e.
death) will occur to you." The proud eparch shackled Sylvester
in chains and threw him into a dungeon intending to kill him
shortly. Having done this, the eparch sat down to eat lunch, but a
fish bone caught in his throat. From noon to midnight, the
physicians struggled to save his life but all was in vain. At
midnight, Tarquinius gave up his proud soul in greatest torments.
And so the prophecy of St. Sylvester was fulfilled, as also were the
Biblical words: "Pride goes before disaster" (Proverbs
contemplate the Guardian Angel:
he stands at my right side upholding me in everything until I depart
from the law of God;
2. How I
have offended him on numerous occasions and how I drove him away
from me transgressing the law of God.
how the Kingdom of God is gained with the heart and not with the
everyone who says, `Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of
Heaven" (St. Matthew 7:21).
one does not gain the Kingdom of God with the tongue, but with the
heart. The heart is the treasury of those riches by which the
kingdom is purchased; the heart and not the tongue! If the treasury
is full with the riches of God, i.e., a strong faith, good hope,
vivid love and good deeds, then the messenger of those riches, the
tongue, is faithful and pleasant. If the treasury is void of all
those riches, then its messenger [the tongue] is false and impudent.
The kind of heart, the kind of words. The kind of heart, the kind of
deeds. All, all depends on the heart.
is helpless before men, and is even more helpless before God.
"If then I am a father," says the Lord through the Prophet
Malachi, "If then I am a father where is the honor due to
me?" And If I am a master, where is the reverence due to
me?" (Malachi 1:6). That is, I hear you call me father, but I
do not see you honoring me with your heart. I hear you call me
master, but I do not see fear of me in your hearts.
prayer: "Lord! Lord!" is beautiful and beneficial only
when it emerges from a prayerful heart. The Lord Himself commanded
that we pray unceasingly, but not only with the tongue to be heard
by men, but rather enclosed in the cell of the heart so that the
Lord could hear and see us.
majestic and wonderful, deliver us from hypocrisy and pour Your fear
into our hearts so that our hearts could stand continually upright
in prayer before You.
17th (New Style) • January 4th (Old Style)
Synaxsis of the Seventy Holy Apostles
the Twelve Greater Apostles, the Lord chose Seventy Lesser Apostles
and sent them to preach the Gospel, "After these things the
Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before
his face into every city and place He intended to visit, He said to
them, ` The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the
master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.' Go on
your way: behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no
money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into
whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace be to this household'
" (St. Luke 10:1-5). But, as Judas, one of the Twelve, fell
away from the Lord, so it was with some of the Seventy who abandoned
the Lord not with the intention of betrayal but because of human
weakness and faintheartedness. "As a result of this, many of
His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer
accompanied Him" (St. John 6:66). As Judas' place was filled by
another apostle, "So they [The Apostles] proposed two, Joseph
called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then
they prayed, `You, Lord, Who know the hearts of all, show which one
of these two You have chosen to take the place in this apostolic
ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place'. Then
they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was
counted with the eleven apostles" (Acts of the Apostles
1:23-26); so also were the places of these lesser apostles filled by
others that were chosen. These Seventy Lesser Apostles labored at
the same work as did the Twelve Great Apostles; they were co-workers
with the Twelve in spreading and establishing the Church of God in
the world. They endured many sufferings and malevolent acts from men
and demons, but their strong faith and fervent love for the
resurrected Lord made them victors over the world and inheritors of
the Kingdom of Heaven.
Archbishop of the Serbs
was born in the district of Budim of God-fearing parents. As a young
man he was tonsured a monk in Zeta; then he entered a higher form of
asceticism in the Monastery Hilendar [Mt. Athos]. In time,
Eustathius became the abbot of Hilendar. As abbot, he was elected
Bishop of Zeta and after a certain period of time was elected
Archbishop of the Serbs. Eustathius was a man of great charity who
governed Christ's flock with zeal and love. He died peacefully in
the year 1279 A.D. In his old age he cried out before his death:
"Into Your hands, O Lord I give my soul." His relics are
interred under the flooring in the Church at the Patriarchate of Pec.
Eunuch of Queen Candace
Apostle Philip baptized this black man, a eunuch. Following his
baptism the eunuch returned to his home and began to preach Christ.
He was the first Apostle of Faith among the blacks in Ethiopia.
"Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, get up and head
south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert
route. So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch,
a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the
Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to
Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home. Seated in his chariot,
he was reading the Prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, `Go
and join up with the chariot.' Philip ran up and heard him reading
Isaiah the Prophet and said, `Do you understand what you are
reading?' He replied, `How can I, unless someone instructs me?"
So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. This was the
scripture passage he was reading: `Like a sheep he was led to the
slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened
not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who will
tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from earth.' Then the
eunuch said to Philip in reply, `I beg you, about whom is the
prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?' Then
Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage,
he proclaimed Jesus to him. As they traveled along the road they
came to some water, and the eunuch said, `Look, there is water. What
is to prevent my being baptized?' Then he ordered the chariot to
stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and
he baptized him. When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the
Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but
continued on his way rejoicing. Philip came to Azotus, and went
about preaching the good news to all the towns until he reached
of the Apostles 8: 26-40). The eunuch died a martyr and became
worthy of the Kingdom of God.
Venerable Martyr Onuphrius of Hilendar Monastery on Mt. Athos
youth, Onuphrius became angry with his parents and declared before
the Turks that he was going to convert to Islam. Immediately
following that, he repented because of these words and went to
Hilendar where he was tonsured a monk. Tormented by his conscience,
Onuphrius decided for martyrdom. Because of his determination and
with the blessing of his spiritual father, he departed for Trnovo,
Bulgaria where he reported to the Turks, proclaimed himself a
Christian, and ridiculed Muhammad. Because of that, Onuphrius was
beheaded on January 4, 1818, in his thirty-second year. The body of
this spiritual knight is not preserved for the Turks tossed it into
hears the prayers of the just. This is clearly seen from the lives
of Moses, Elijah, and the other Old Testament righteous ones and
prophets as well as from the lives of the apostles and saints. While
St. Genevieve, as a nun, lived a life of asceticism in Paris, it so
happened that Attila with his savage Huns surrounded Paris. Fear and
terror overcame the entire population of Paris who, at any moment,
awaited the capture of the city by the enemy. Then, St. Genevieve
called upon the people to fast and to pray to God and then the
calamity will be averted. Many men and women responded to the call
of this saint and began to fast and pray to God. Genevieve herself
fasted the most and prayed most ardently to God. After a short while
the enemy turned away from Paris without any visible reason and
departed for another place. That which the sword of many sinners
cannot do, the prayer of the righteous person can.
contemplate the richness of God's power, wisdom and love:
richness of that power, wisdom and love is manifested in created
richness of that power, wisdom and love is revealed to the world
through the Lord Jesus Christ.
the citizens of the other world
do not belong to the world anymore than I belong to the world"
(St. John 17:16).
the Lord is not of this world rather only in the vesture of this
world. That is the Commander [Christ] clad in the clothing of a
slave to save the captive enslaved by sin, matter and Satan. As is
the commander, so are his soldiers. Even they, according to the
spirit, are not of this world: They are not captives but free, they
are not slaves but masters; they are not corruptible but immortal;
they are not fallen but are saved. Such are all those who Christ
recruited and who tasted immortal life willingly, rejected the world
and united themselves with Him and remained faithful to Him until
the end of their lives on earth. Abba Moses said, "No one can
enter the army of Christ if he were not totally as fire; if he does
not abhor honors and comfort, if he does not sever all bodily
desires; and if he does not keep all of God's commandments."
Judas was recruited but he fell away and loved prison more than the
royal court, slavery more than freedom, corruption more then
immortality, and destruction more than salvation. But the other
apostolic recruits, great and small, remained faithful to Him
[Christ] to the end, achieved victory for which they are glorified
on earth among men and in heaven among the angels. That is why they
are glorified and blessed both on earth and in heaven. All who are
glorified by the world perish with the world, but those who are
glorified by Christ are saved by Christ. The glory of the world is
death, but the glory of Christ is life, life eternal and without
Immortal Lord, even though we are of the world according to the body
and sin, recruit us into Your army, the army according to the
spirit, power, wisdom and love which is not of this world. So, even
when we die to the world, we may live in Your immortal kingdom with
the angels, apostles and saints because of the love and prayers of
Your holy apostles.
18th (New Style) • January 5th (Old Style)
Priest-Martyr Theopempos and the Martyr Theonas
Diocletian began his persecution of the Christians, Theopempos,
Bishop of Nicomedia, was among the first to suffer martyrdom for
Christ. Theopempos was brought before the emperor who threatened him
with punishment of death if he did not deny Christ. To that threat,
the courageous bishop responded to the emperor: "It stands
written, `Do not be afraid of those who kill the body' (St. Luke
12:4), `but cannot kill the soul' (St. Matthew 10:28). O Emperor,
you have authority over my body; do with it what pleases you."
Theopempos was severely beaten, suffered from hunger and tortured in
various ways. Finally, the emperor summoned a certain magician,
Theonas by name, to outwit this godly man through magic. Theonas
dissolved the most potent poison in water and gave it to Theopempos
to drink. Theopempos traced the sign of the cross over the glass and
drank the poison. Theonas, upon seeing that the poison had no effect
on Theopempos, turned to the emperor and shouted, " I, too, am
a Christian and bow down before the Crucified One." Both were
sentenced to death in the year 298 A.D.; Theopempos was beheaded and
Theonas was buried alive. They honorably suffered and became
citizens of the Kingdom of Christ.
Holy Prophet Micah the First
[Micah] was a contemporary of the Prophet Elijah. He foretold the
death of the pernicious King Ahab in battle against the Assyrians (I
Kings, Chapter 22, II Chronicles, Chapter 18). Micaiah [Micah]
prophesied everything orally and did not put anything down in
writing. However the other Prophet Micah was the one who prophesied
the birth of the Lord in Bethlehem. "But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
too small to be among the clans of Judah; From you shall come forth
for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of
old, from ancient times" (Micah 5:1). He also authored one of
the prophetic books.
Venerable Mother Syncletica
was of Macedonian descent. She was educated in Alexandria. As a
wealthy and distinguished maiden she had many suitors, but she
rejected them all and fled from her parents' home to a convent.
Undergoing the greatest of self-restraints, vigils and prayer,
Syncletica lived to her eightieth year. Her counsels to the nuns
have always been considered a true spiritual pearl, for this
righteous one did not attain the heights of wisdom through books but
through sufferings, pains, daily and nightly contemplation, and
spiritual communication with the higher world of the Divine. With
her soul, she took up habitation in that higher world in the year
350 A.D. Among other things, St. Syncletica was known to say,
"If it is the season for fasting, do not dismiss fasting,
allegedly because of illness for, behold, even those who do not
fast, succumb to the same illness." She further spoke, "As
when uncovered treasure is quickly seized, so it is with virtue;
when it is made public becomes eclipsed and becomes lost."
was the daughter of Anthemius, the regent of the adolescent Emperor
Theodosius the Younger. She was the eldest daughter of Anthemius
whose younger daughter was insane. Apollinaria, who did not wish to
marry because in her heart she was betrothed to Christ, withdrew
into the Egyptian wilderness. In men's attire and under the
masculine name of Dorotheus, Apollinaria entered a monastery for
men, where she lived an ascetical life, uplifting her spirit
continuously toward God and burning with love toward her Creator.
Someone advised the imperial regent Anthemius to send his insane
daughter to the ascetics to have prayers said for her. According to
the Providence of God, it so happened that the elder sister through
the power of prayer healed her insane sister. Only when Apollinaria
died was her secret revealed that she was not a man, but a woman.
The valiant bravery of this holy virgin remained as an example and
stimulus to many throughout the ages who contemplate their
salvation. She died in the year 470 A.D.
fruit, and only fruit does the Lord seek from every living tree,
which is called man. Good fruit is a God-loving heart and an evil
fruit is a self-loving heart. Everything else that a man possesses
and enjoys - position, authority, honor, health, money and knowledge
- are but the leaves on the tree. "Therefore every tree that
does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the
fire" (St. Matthew 3:10). Even the non-Christian peoples valued
good deeds more than fine words. How much more must it be the rule
for the followers of Christ. At a council of the Athenians, at which
were present representatives of the Spartans, a certain elderly man
moved from bench to bench, seeking a place to sit. The Athenians
mocked him and did not relinquish a seat to him. When the old man
approached the Spartans, everyone rose to their feet and offered him
a seat. Upon seeing this, the Athenians, in eloquent terms praised
the Spartans. To this, the Spartans replied:
Athenians know what is good but they do not do good." Whoever
performs good deeds resembles the tree which brings forth good fruit
for his householder. The source of goodness in man is a good,
contemplate the perfection of Adam, the first man:
closeness to God;
strength, wisdom and beauty from God;
voluntary submission of the whole of nature to the authority of the
our helplessness without Christ the Lord
without me you can do nothing" (St. John 15:5).
Lord did not have the habit of speaking in terms of exaggeration. No
words in this world are weighed more than His words. When He says
that we can do nothing without Him, then that must be taken and
understood literally. Here, He speaks of good and not of evil. We
can do no type of good work without Christ, aside from Christ and
contrary to Christ. He is the proprietor, the giver and the inspirer
for all good. No type of good stands outside Him, likewise no type
of evil is contained in Him. Our Lord said, " I am the Vine,
you are the branches" (St. John 15:5). What can the branches do
without the vine? Can they grow and bring forth fruit? No, they can
do nothing but become firewood.
can think as hard as he wants, but he cannot conceive of one
truthful good which is not in Christ and which does not stem from
Christ. If someone were to say that he does good and humane works
outside of Christ, you know that those, his works, are spoiled to
the core and are corroded, be it from vanity or be it from hidden
selfishness. Man, without Christ, is the same as branches without
the vine. He Himself told us this. The vine is hidden and unseen,
but the branches are seen. Nevertheless, the grapes on the branch
and the branch itself depends on the vine. The vine of
all-encompassing good grows from the heart of God the Father and is
watered by the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. O Triune Lord God, have
mercy on us and save us!
be glory and thanks always. Amen.
19th (New Style) • January 6th (Old Style)
Epiphany of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
our Lord reached thirty years from His physical birth, He began His
teaching and salvific work. He Himself signified this
"beginning of the beginning" by His baptism in the Jordan
river. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says, " The beginning of the
world - water; the beginning of the Good News - Jordan." At the
time of the baptism of the Lord in water, that mystery was declared
to the world: that mystery which was prophesied in the Old
Testament; the mystery about which in ancient Egypt and India was
only fabled; i.e., the mystery of the Divine Holy Trinity. The
Father was revealed to the sense of hearing; the Spirit was revealed
to the sense of sight, and in addition to these, the Son was
revealed to the sense of touch. The Father uttered His witness about
the Son, the Son was baptized in the water, and the Holy Spirit in
the form of a dove hovered above the water. When John the Baptist
witnessed and said about Christ, "Behold, the Lamb of God, Who
takes away the sins of the world"
John 1:29), and when John immersed and baptized the Lord in the
Jordan, the mission of Christ in the world and the path of our
salvation was shown. That is to say: The Lord took upon Himself the
sins of mankind and died under them [immersion] and became alive
again [the coming out of the water]; and we must die as the old
sinful man and become alive again as cleansed, renewed and
regenerated. This is the Savior and this is the path of salvation.
The Feast of the Epiphany [Theophany in Greek] is also called the
Feast of Illumination. For us, the event in the Jordan river
illuminates, by manifesting to us God as Trinity, consubstantial and
undivided. That is one way. And, the second: everyone of us through
baptism in water is illumined by this, that we become adopted by the
Father of Lights through the merits of the Son and the power of the
time, the fables of the heretics plagued the Church of God and now
the Church is plagued by the fables of the apostates from God. By
perseverance in the Faith, by diligence in prayer, by confession of
the Faith and even martyrdom for the Faith, the Church remained
undefeated until now. Only by these methods will these neo-plagues
be defeated. The Church of God, the Vessel of Divine Truth will
triumph in the end, "The enemies are ruined completely
forever" (Psalm 9:7). Blessed Clement of Alexandria said about
heretics who left the Church, "He who has fallen into heresy
travels through an arid desert, abandoning the One True God.
Alienated from God, he seeks water in dry places, he gathers barren
fruit with his hands and enters into an uninhabited and thirsty
land." This also can be said today about the many hypothecators
and theoreticians who are led by their imaginations and not by the
truth of God.
contemplate the event of the Baptism of the Lord:
humble coming to the Jordan river unknown to all, except John;
immersion in the water; the hovering of the Dove over Him; and the
Voice from on High.
the mystery of [Heavenly] Divine Trinity
there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and
the Holy Spirit: and these three are one. And there are three that
bear witness in earth, the spirit and the water and the blood: and
these three are together" (I John 5: 7-8).
we read Holy Scripture, we should be alert to keep an eye on every
word. To the rapid reader, for example, this distinction which the
Evangelist draws between the Heavenly Trinity and the earthly
trinity will not become apparent. Concerning the Heavenly Trinity,
he says, "And these three are one;" and concerning the
earthly trinity, he says, "And these three are together."
There is an enormous difference between "being one" and
"being together." The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are
One, whereas the spirit, water and blood are only together and are
not one. Even enemies could be together as one, but are not one. All
the people on earth are together, but they are not one. Water and
blood constitute the body and the spirit is the spirit. "For
the flesh has desires against the spirit and the spirit against the
flesh" (Galatians 5:17). However, they are not one, but they
are still together. When man dies the union is broken apart and
ceases to exist. Blood and water go to one side and the spirit goes
to another side. Whereas the [Heavenly] Divine Trinity in the
heavens not only are they together but they are also one.
is also another trinity in the inner heaven of man which should be,
not only a unity, but a oneness so that man could be blessed in this
world and in the other world. That is the union of the mind, heart
and will. As long as these three are only in togetherness, man will
be at war with himself and with the Heavenly Trinity. However, when
these three become one, so that neither one rules and that neither
one is enslaved, then man becomes filled with "the peace of God
that surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), man's
every word, every explanation, every fear and every sorrow. Then the
small heaven in man begins to resemble that great heaven of God, and
the "image and likeness of God" becomes apparent in man.
Triune God, help us to resemble, at least, those who resemble You.
be glory and thanks always. Amen.
20th (New Style) • January 7th (Old Style)
John the Baptist
John's main role in his life was played out on the day of the
Epiphany (Theophany), the Church from earliest times dedicated the
day following Epiphany to his memory. To this feast is also linked
the incident with the hand of the Forerunner. The Evangelist Luke
desired to remove the body of John from Sebaste, where the great
prophet was beheaded by Herod, to Antioch his place of birth. He
succeeded though, in acquiring and translating only one hand which
was preserved in Antioch until the tenth century after which it was
transferred to Constantinople from where it disappeared during the
time of the Turks.
of St. John are celebrated several times throughout the year, but
this day, January 7, has the most Svecara. [That is, those Orthodox
Serbs who honor St. John the Baptist as their Krsna Slava - Patron
Saint. The Krsna Slava is the day that the Orthodox Serbs
commemorate the baptism of their ancestors into Christianity]. Among
the Gospel personalities who surround the Savior, John the Baptist
occupies a totally unique place by the manner of his entry into the
world as well as by the manner of his life in this world, by his
role in baptizing people for repentance and for his baptizing the
Messiah and, finally, by his tragic departure from this life. He was
of such moral purity that, in truth, he could be called an angel
[messenger] as Holy Scripture calls him rather than a mortal man.
St. John differs from all other prophets especially in that he had
that privilege of being able, with his hand, to show the world Him
about Whom he prophesied.
said that every year on the feast of the saint, the bishop brought
the hand of St. John before the people. Sometimes the hand appeared
open and other times the hand appeared clenched. In the first case
it signified a fruitful and bountiful year and, in the second case,
it meant a year of unfruitfulness and famine.
Holy Martyr Athanasius
martyr of Christ was a simple and poor man but rich in faith and
wise through the Spirit of God. Once, unintentionally, Athanasius
entered into a debate about the Faith with a certain Turk. The Turk
was educated and adroit with words, but Athanasius endeavored with
all his strength to emphasize and to establish the truth of and
preference for the Christian Faith over Islam. After that, they
departed. The next day Athanasius was summoned before the judge.
This Turk stood there as his accuser. When the judge called upon
Athanasius to deny the Faith of Christ, as he allegedly made known
to his companions a day earlier and to embrace Islam, Athanasius
cried out: "I would rather die a thousand deaths before I would
renounce the Faith of Christ." For that he was condemned to
death and beheaded in the year 1700 A.D. in Smyrna. His body was
buried in the Church of St. Parasceve in the same city.
Basil the Great said, "Man is not something visible." Just
as a house resembles a house, so the outward man resembles the
outward appearance of a man. To the house is given honor according
to the one who dwells in the house; so it is to man according to the
spirit that dwells in him. In the physical sense it is obvious that
the house is not the master but just a house in which the master
dwells, but in the spiritual sense it is obvious that the body is
not the man but only the house in which the man dwells.
contemplate the departure of the Lord to the Mount of Temptation:
How, after His baptism, He immediately directs Himself to fasting
and to prayer;
to a baptized man, the devil creates intrigue, especially during the
time of fasting and of prayer;
He, meek as a lamb, yet decisively as the master rejects all the
temptations of the devil.
submission to the Will of God
will be done, on earth as in heaven" (St. Matthew 6:10).
be John the Baptist, for he fulfilled the Good News before the
arrival of the Good News! Going into the wilderness, he gave himself
up completely to the will of God, both body and soul. The will of
God was carried out in his body on earth as well as in the heaven of
his soul. Neither hunger nor wild beasts did harm his body
throughout the many years that he spent in the wilderness. Neither
was his soul harmed by despair because of loneliness, nor pride
because of heavenly visions. He did not seek from man either bread
or knowledge. God granted him everything that was necessary for him
because he gave himself up completely to the will of God.
did he direct his footsteps in the wilderness nor away from the
wilderness. An invisible rudder from on high steered his life. For
when it was necessary for him to depart the wilderness and go out to
meet the Lord, it is said: "The Word of God came to John"
(St. Luke 3:2). As an innocent youth, in this manner John spoke
simply about his communication with the powers of heaven: "And
I did not know Him [Christ] but the One Who sent me to baptize with
water told me, `On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
He is the One Who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' Now I have
seen and testified that He is the Son of God"
John 1: 33-34). How tenderly and simply he speaks about heavenly
things! How he is as awesome as a lion when he speaks out against
the injustice of men, against Herod and Herodias! The lamb and the
lion dwell in him together. Heaven is as close to him as a mother is
to her child. The will of God is as accessible and clear to him as
the angels in heaven.
Lord, Most-wise, direct the lives of us sinners in the wilderness of
this life according to Your will as You directed the life of St.
John the Baptist.
be glory and thanks always. Amen.
21st (New Style) • January 8th (Old Style)
Holy Martyrs Julian and Basilissa
and Basilissa were of noble and wealthy parents. United in marriage,
they vowed to live chastely as brother and sister. They distributed
all of their property to the poor and both were tonsured. Julian
founded a monastery and Basilissa founded a convent. Julian had
about ten-thousand monks and Basilissa about a thousand nuns. When a
terrible persecution began under Diocletian, Basilissa implored God
that none of her nuns would become frightened of the tortures and
would not fall away from the Orthodox Faith. The Lord heard the
prayers of His worthy handmaiden and, in the course of six months,
received unto Himself all the nuns, one by one and finally their
abbess Basilissa. Before her death, Basilissa had a vision of her
sisters [nuns] from the other world. To her, all of them appeared to
her radiant and joyful as angels of God and beckoned their spiritual
mother to come to them as soon as possible. Unlike Basilissa's
convent, Julian's monastery was set ablaze by the persecutors and
Julian was inhumanly tortured and died from the most difficult
sufferings. During his tortures, the Lord watched over him and
strengthened him so that he heroically endured, preserved his Faith
and glorified the Name of Christ. Beheaded along with Julian were
Celsus and Maronilla, the son and wife of the tormentor Marcian, who
witnessing Julian's heroism in suffering and torture, were
themselves converted to the Faith of Christ. Also beheaded were
twenty Roman soldiers; seven brothers from that town; the presbyter
Anthony; and a certain Anastasius, whom Julian at the time of his
torture, resurrected from the dead by prayer. All suffered honorably
for Christ and became citizens of the heavenly kingdom about the
year 313 A.D.
George the Chozibite
lived an ascetical life in the seventh century in Choziba Monastery
in Jericho on the road from Jerusalem, the monastery where the
Venerable John Chozibite first led an ascetical life.
the reign of Emperor Theodosius, Domnica, unbaptized, came from
Carthage to Constantinople with four other pagan maidens. Patriarch
Macarius baptized them and gave his blessing to them to live as
nuns. With great zeal, St. Domnica gave herself up to a life of
asceticism and in that zeal did not waver until her death in extreme
old age. She died in the Lord about 474 A.D. She was so enlightened
by the Holy Spirit that she was able to discern events in the future
and through prayer to work miracles.
Gregory Bishop of Ohrid
was a devout teacher and shepherd of Christ's flock. He died in the
year 1012 A.D. In one of the inscriptions in the Church of St.
Sophia in Ohrid, he is referred to as "Gregory, the
of the stones in the Church of St. Sophia, the following words were
engraved: "Wash your sins, not only your face." Whoever
entered this glorious church read this inscription and remembered
that the Christian Faith requires of him moral purity: purity of the
soul, purity of the heart and purity of the mind. Just as in the
heart of man is concentrated the complete spiritual man, this is
what the Lord also said, "Blessed are the pure of heart"
(St. Matthew 5:8). Total external cleanliness does not help at all
in gaining the kingdom of heaven. Oh, if only we would invest as
much effort in washing ourselves from sins as we invest daily in
washing our faces, then God would truly be seen in our hearts as
though in a mirror!
contemplate the three temptations by which Satan tempted the Lord
Gluttony: The temptation with bread;
Vainglory: Lifting Him above the Temple;
Avarice: Offering Him the possession of the entire world.
the needed caution for those who think that they are secure
whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to
fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).
apostle who gives such advice knew human nature perfectly and all
its weakness. Day after day, this experience is confirmed: that as
soon as man straightens up from the mud of sin, he then sways and
falls again. As soon as he is cured of the sin of avarice, he falls
into the vice of vainglory. Or, as soon as he extends his hand to
help a poor man, pride then topples him to the other side. Or, as
soon as he becomes accustomed to prayer, he then opens wide his
mouth to degrade those who are not yet accustomed to prayer. Or, as
soon as he felt that the Spirit of God is directing him to the path
of salvation, he then immediately sets himself up as a teacher to
the entire world until unfortunately by that he completely drives
away the Spirit from within himself.
the Lord foretold to His disciples that they would all deny Him and
flee, then Peter confident in his stability cried out: "Though
all may have their faith in You shaken, mine will never be"
(St. Matthew 26:33). Discerning his very heart only and seeing him
already fallen into self-conceit and pride, the Lord responded to
him, "This very night before the cock crows, you will deny Me
three times" (St. Matthew 26:34). And when such a fall happened
to the apostle in the immediate proximity of the Lord, why would it
not happen to us? This is why, brethren, when we rise and turn from
a certain sin and stand erect, we should ascribe this to the power
and mercy of God and not to ourselves and we should be very vigilant
to protect ourselves and to implore God that we, again, do not fall,
be it to one side or the other side, but walk on the upright path of
All-seeing Lord, help us to stand straight before You by the Spirit,
and when we become erect, uphold us that we do not fall anymore.