Holy Prophet Jeremiah
was born about six hundred years before Christ in the village of
Anathoth not far from Jerusalem. He began to prophesy at the age of
fifteen during the reign of King Josiah. He preached repentance to the
king and noblemen, false prophets and priests. During the reign of
King Josiah, Jeremiah barely escaped death from the murdering hands of
the enraged nobles. Concerning King Jehoiakim, he prophesied that the
king's burial would be like the burial of an ass, i.e., his dead body
would be tossed outside Jerusalem and that his body would be dragged
along the ground without benefit of burial: "He shall be buried
with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of
Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 22:18). Because of this, Jeremiah was cast
into a prison. Not being able to write in prison, Jeremiah invited
Baruch (the son of Neriah), who stood near the small window of the
prison and dictated to him. When this prophecy was read to the king,
the enraged king grabbed the paper and threw it into a fire. Divine
Providence saved Jeremiah from prison and the word of the prophet was
fulfilled in Jehoiakim. Concerning King Jeconiah (son of Jehoiakim,
King of Judah), Jeremiah prophesied that Jeconiah would be taken to
Babylon with his entire family and that he would die there. All of
which came about shortly: ". . . after that Nebuchadnezzar, king
of Babylon, had carried away captive Jeconiah, the son of Jehoiakim,
king of Judah" (Jeremiah 24:1). ". . . when he carried away
captive Jeconiah, the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah from
Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem"
(Jeremiah 27:20). Under King Zedekiah, Jeremiah placed a yoke around
his own neck and walked through Jerusalem prophesying the fall of
Jerusalem and bondage under the yoke of the Babylonians. "Thus
said the Lord to me; Make thee bonds and yokes and put them upon thy
neck" (Jeremiah 27:2). "I spoke also to Zedekiah, king of
Judah, according to all these words saying, bring your necks under the
yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and
live" (Jeremiah 27:12). To the Hebrew captives in Babylon,
Jeremiah wrote telling them not to hope for a speedy return to
Jerusalem for they would remain in Babylon for seventy years, which
came to pass. "This whole land shall be a ruin and a desert.
Seventy years these nations shall be enslaved to the king of
Babylon" (Jeremiah 25:11). In the valley of Topheth near
Jerusalem (the Valley of Slaughter), where the Jews offered children
as a sacrifice to the idols, Jeremiah took a potter's clay vessel in
his hands and shattered it before the people prophesying the impending
humbling of the kingdom of Judah. "Even so, I will break this
people and this city, as one breaks a potter's vessel that cannot be
made whole again" (Jeremiah 19:11). The Babylonians shortly
captured Jerusalem, slew King Zedekiah, plundered and destroyed the
city, and beheaded a great number of Jews in the Valley of Topheth on
the same spot where children were slaughtered for sacrifice to the
idols and where the Prophet Jeremiah smashed the potter's vessel of
clay. Jeremiah, with the Levites, removed the Ark of the Covenant from
the Temple to Mt. Nebo where Moses died and there he hid the Ark in a
cave. However, he hid the fire from the Temple in a deep well.
Jeremiah was forced by some Jews to accompany them to Egypt where he
lived for four years and was then stoned to death by his countrymen.
To the Egyptians, Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of their idols
and the arrival of the Virgin and the Christ-Child to Egypt. There is
a tradition which states that King Alexander the Great visited the
tomb of the Prophet Jeremiah. By order of King Alexander, the body of
Jeremiah was translated and buried in Alexandria.
Venerable Martyr Acacius, the sandal-maker
from the village of Neochorion near Thessalonica. Mistreated greatly
by his master craftsman in Serres, Acacius converted to Islam. Later (he
returned to the Faith) and as a penitent and monk, he lived in the
Monastery Hilendar (Mt. Athos). His needy and Christ-loving mother
counseled him: "As you willingly denied the Lord, so now you must
willingly and bravely accept martyrdom for the Sweet Jesus." The
son followed the advice of his mother and with the blessings of the
fathers of the Holy Mountain, Acacius traveled to Constantinople where
the Turks beheaded him on May 1, 1816 A.D. His head is preserved in a
reliquary in the Russian monastery, St. Panteleimon on Mt. Athos.
Venerable Paphnutius of Borovsk
the son of a Tartar nobleman, later embraced the Christian Faith. At
age twenty, Paphnutius was tonsured a monk and continued to live his
life in a monastery until his ninety-fourth year, when he reposed in
the Lord. Paphnutius was a virgin and an ascetic. Because of this, he
became a miracle-worker and discerner. He died in the year 1478 A.D.
Venerable Paphnutius of Borovsk said to his disciples that a man's
soul and his hidden works can be known by the look in his eyes. To his
disciples, this seemed unbelievable until this man of God confirmed
this in reality on more than one occasion. Discerning the fate of
others, Paphnutius also discerned his own fate. A week before, while
still in good health, he prophesied that he would depart from this
world on the following Thursday. When Thursday dawned, he cried out
rejoicefully: "Behold, the day of the Lord, rejoice O you people;
behold, the awaited day came!" Behold, this is how a man meets
death; a man who, during his entire life, contemplated about
separation from this world and about the encounter with God.
contemplate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus:
1. How two
angels appeared to the disciples while they were still gazing after
the ascended Lord;
2. How the
angels proclaim that the Lord will come in the same manner as the
disciples saw Him ascending into heaven.
power of the Lord's word
not My word like the fire, says the Lord, like a hammer shattering
rocks " (Jeremiah 23:29).
Your word is indeed like fire; like fire which warms the righteous and
burns the unrighteous. And, indeed, Your word is like a hammer; a
hammer which softens the stony hardness of the heart of a penitent and
pulverizes the hearts of the unrepentant sinners into dust.
not our heart burn within us while He talked with us" (St. Luke
24:32), the apostles asked after talking with the resurrected Lord?
When the heart in man is correct, it burns from the word of the Lord
and it melts from pleasure and expands with love. But, when the heart
in man is not correct and hardened by sin, then the heart bakes from
the word of the Lord and becomes even harder. "And pharaoh's
heart was hardened" (Exodus 8:19).
In vain do
sinners fortify themselves in the fortresses of stone, in their
fortresses of iron, in their fortresses of silver and gold and reject
the armor of God's justice. As a powerful and irresistible hammer,
such is the word of the Lord when He pronounces judgment upon these
fortresses of stone in which sinners fortify themselves.
does the unbeliever fortify his house with impregnable stones and the
statesman fortifies the State, hardened with the wisdom of the world,
and not hoping in the Living God. The word of the Lord comes down like
a hammer upon all that was built apart from God or against God; as a
powerful and irresistible hammer.
let us not trust in our creations of stone, neither of marble nor of
gold or of silver stones nor of the godless stones of our individual
thoughts. All of these are weaker before the power of God than dust
before the power of the wind.
Almighty, help us to receive Your word and, that on Your word, we may
build our entire life both in this world and in the next world.
Egyptians almost deified St. Jeremiah. That is why they buried him as
a king. Even after his death, they considered him a miracle-worker.
They removed dust from his tomb as a cure against snake bites. Even
today, many Christians invoke Jeremiah against serpents.
15th (New Style) • May 2nd (Old Style)
Holy Martyrs Hesperus, Zoe, Syriac and Theodulus
reign of Emperor Hardrian (117-138 A.D.), a pagan named Catallus
purchased as slaves Hesperus, his wife Zoe and their sons Cyriac and
Theodulus. Since they were steadfast Christians, they would not taste
anything of the sacrifices to the idols and, that which was offered to
them, they tossed to the dogs and they themselves hungered but
endured. Learning of this, Catallus became enraged and began to
cruelly torture his slaves. At first he tortured the children, but the
children remained unwavering in the Faith and, even more, sought
harsher torture from their persecutors. Finally, all four were thrown
into a fiery furnace where, after prayers of thanksgiving, they gave
up their souls to the Lord. Their bodies remained intact and were not
consumed by the fire.
Athanasius the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria
On this day
the translation of the relics of St. Athanasius, as well as the
miracles performed by his relics, is commemorated. The life and work
of this great saint is recorded on January 18.
Holy Martyrs, St. Boris and St. Gleb
Gleb were the sons of the great Prince Vladimir, the baptizer of the
Russian people. Until his baptism, Vladimir had numerous wives and
many children by them. Boris and Gleb were brothers of the same
mother. Before his death Vladimir divided up the State among all of
his sons. But, Svyatpolk his eldest son, the Prince of Kiev, also
desired to usurp the portions intended for Boris and Gleb. That is why
he dispatched men to murder Boris who was in one place and to murder
Gleb who was in another place. Both brothers were exceptionally pious
and, in all things, pleasing to God. They encountered death with
prayer and the uplifting of their hearts to God. Their bodies remained
uncorrupt and fragrant. Boris and Gleb were buried in Vishgorod where,
even today, a blessed power comes from their bodies, which heals men
from various diseases and sufferings.
Michael (Boris), the Bulgarian Tsar
born and educated as a pagan and was baptized under the influence of
his uncle Bojan and his sister. At baptism, he was given the name
Michael. Patriarch Photius sent him priests who gradually baptized all
the Bulgarian people. Many Bulgarian noblemen opposed this new Faith
but the new Faith conquered and the Cross glistened on many churches
built by the devout Tsar Michael. The Faith among the Bulgarians, as
among the Serbs, was especially established by the Five Followers, the
disciples of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, who preached to the people
the knowledge of Christ in the vernacular: the Slavonic language.
In his old
age Michael retreated to a monastery and was tonsured a monk. When his
son Vladimir began to destroy his father's work and to exterminate
Christianity, Michael again donned his military uniform, girded
himself with a sword, ousted Vladimir from the throne and installed
Simeon, his younger son, as Tsar. After that, he again clothed himself
in the monastic habit and retreated in silence where, in mortification
and prayer, he completed his earthly life "in the good faith; in
the correct confession of our Lord Jesus Christ; great, honorable and
devout," and took up habitation in the heavenly life on May 2,
Maksim, "fool for Christ," walked about unclad throughout
the streets of Moscow in winter. In response to the advice of men that
he dress and protect himself from the cold, Maxim was known to
respond: "Yes, it is bitterly cold, but Paradise is sweet!"
He also responded: "For patience, God grants salvation!"
When Christ Himself did not feel sorrow to give Himself over to
suffering and death, why should we feel sorry for ourselves because of
ourselves? He (Christ) prescribed a recipe for us; a diet for our
spiritual restoration to health and He called that "an easy
yoke." "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light"
(St. Matthew 11:30). The yoke which we impose upon ourselves is much
heavier, for this yoke pulls us down deeper and deeper into spiritual
illness. The earth seeks much greater sacrifices from us and does not
promise us any reward after death. The earth seeks that we sacrifice
even God, soul, conscience, mind and all of human and divine dignity
to it and, for this, it shows a dark and putrid grave as the end of
everything and reward for all. Christ seeks that we sacrifice only the
earth, our beastliness and sin, vice and all wickedness and, for that,
He promises resurrection and eternal life in Paradise. "Yes, it
is bitterly cold, but Paradise is sweet!"
contemplate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus:
1. How the
disciples worship Him;
2. How they
return to Jerusalem with great joy.
source of living water and the dry cistern
amazed at this, O heavens, and shudder with sheer horror, says the
Lord. Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken Me, the
sourceof living waters. They have dug, themselves cisterns, broken
cisterns that hold no water (Jeremiah 2: 12-13)."
spoken only for then or also for us today? Certainly for us today. Is
this spoken only for the Jewish people or also for our people?
Certainly for our people also. As it is said: Do not kill, do not
steal, do not bear false witness. It was said not only for that time
but also for all times and not only for the Jewish people but for all
peoples. And so this also. This is valid today and always, for all
peoples and for every man who turns his back on the source of living
water in his own backyard and digs a cistern and drinks rain water
of living water is the Lord Himself; inexhaustible, copius and sweet.
The cistern is the work of every man which is performed in opposition
to God and God's law and from which men expect progress, happiness and
satisfaction for their hunger and thirst. Such a cistern is godless,
avaricious, gluttonous, immoral, power-hungry, vain, idolatrous,
soothsaying and everything else which has the devil as an advisor, sin
as a digger and false hope for a water-carrier. "Be amazed at
this O heavens, and shudder with sheer horror" says the Lord as
to how man became senseless and began to forsake the living water and
to dig a cistern in hot live coals which inflames his thirst even
our people have also committed two evils for they forgot the Lord as
the source of every good and because they went to seek, for
themselves, good in evil and good through evil. Can water be found in
fire? Or wheat in sand? It cannot; cannot, brethren. Even less can
peace, happiness, joy and life or any other good be found in the
cisterns of sin and godlessness.
immortal source of every good which the heart of man can desire and
which the mind of man can imagine, have mercy on us sinners and
unworthy ones. With Your powerful right hand, turn us away from our
godless and vain works and quench us with Your sweet and living water.
16th (New Style) • May 3rd (Old Style)
Holy Martyrs Timothy and Maura (*)
The fate of
these two wonderful martyrs, husband and wife, is amazing! Because of
their Christian Faith and only twenty days following their marriage,
they were brought to court before Arrianus, the governor of Thebaid,
during the reign of Diocletian. Timothy was a lector in his local
church. The governor questioned him: "Who are you?" To that
Timothy responded: "I am a Christian and a lector of God's
Church." The governor further said to him: "Do you not see
these instruments prepared for torture surrounding you?" Timothy
replied: "And, do you not see all the angels of God who
strengthen me?" Then the governor ordered an iron rod be pierced
through his ears so that the pupils of his eyes protruded from pain.
After that, they hung him upside down and placed a piece of wood in
his mouth. At first, Maura was frightened because of Timothy's
sufferings, but when her husband encouraged her, she also confessed
her steadfast faith before the governor. The governor then ordered all
the hairs of her head pulled out and after that severed the fingers
from her hands. After many other tortures, from which they would have
succumbed had not the Grace of God strengthened them, they were both
crucified facing each other. Thus, hanging on the cross, they lived
for nine days counseling and encouraging each other in perseverance.
On the tenth day, they gave up their souls to their Lord for Whom they
endured death on a cross and so were made worthy of His kingdom. They
suffered honorably for Christ in the year 286 A.D.
Venerable Theodosius of the Caves in Kiev
early youth, Theodosius shunned laughter and rejoicing and dedicated
himself to godly-thoughts and prayers. Because of this, he was often
abused by his mother, especially one day, when his mother noticed an
iron belt around his naked body from which his shirt was bloodied.
Having once read the words of the Savior in the Gospel "He who
loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me" (St.
Matthew 10:37), Theodosius left the home of his parents and fled to
the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev to see the Venerable Anthony.
Anthony received him and, shortly afterwards, tonsured him a monk.
When his mother found him and asked him to return home, he counseled
his mother and she also entered a convent and was tonsured a nun.
Theodosius shortly surpassed all the monks by his mortification,
meekness and goodness, and became very dear to Anthony who installed
him as abbot of the monastery. During the time that he was abbot, the
brotherhood of the monastery greatly increased, churches and cells
were built and the Constitution (the Rule) of the Studite Monastery
was introduced in its entirety. God endowed Theodosius with abundant
grace because of his virginal purity, great labor in prayer, love
toward his fellow man and so this man of God possessed great power
over unclean spirits, healed diseases and discerned the fate of men.
Along with St. Anthony, Theodosius is considered the founder and
organizer of monasticism in Russia. He died peacefully in the year
1074 A.D. His healing relics repose next to the relics of Anthony.
John the Short asked the monks: "Who sold Joseph?" One monk
replied: "His brothers." To that, the elder replied:
"No brethren, rather his humility. Joseph could have said that he
is their brother and could have protested to being sold but he
remained silent. His humility, therefore, sold him. Afterward, this
same humility made him master over Egypt." In surrendering
ourselves to the will of God, we defend ourselves too much from
external unpleasantness, that is why we lose the good fruits which is
harvested at the end of unpleasantness endured with humility. Abba
Pimen wisely spoke: "We have abandoned the easy yoke, i.e.,
self-reproach and we have burdened ourselves with a heavy yoke, i.e.,
self-justification." The Christian accepts every unpleasantness
as deserving of their present or their past sins; seeking in all, the
will of God with faith and awaiting the end with hope.
contemplate the ascended Lord Jesus:
1. How He
began His saving work on earth as an ordinary humble worker;
2. How He
completed His saving work by His miraculous and glorious ascension
the idol-worshippers will be put to shame
the thief is ashamed when caught, so shall the house of Israel be
ashamed: They who say to a piece of wood, 'You are my father' and to a
stone 'You gave me birth:' They turn to Me their backs, not their
faces; yet in time of trouble they cry out, `Rise up and save us !'
" (Jeremiah 2: 26-27).
brethren, they will all be put to shame who do not see beyond wood and
stone and, who in their ignorance, say that man is composed entirely
of plants and minerals and the same thing occurs to him as with plants
and minerals. With their backs turned to the Creator, they are unable
to see anything other than creation and, forgetting the Creator, they
proclaim creation the Creator. They say that nature created and gave
birth to man, that is why man is lesser than nature, lower than
nature, the servant in the lap of nature, a slave on the chain of
nature and a dead man in the grave of nature. They who speak like that
will be shamed when they fall into misfortune and cry out to God:
"Rise up and save us!"
Why do they
cry out to God "Rise up" as though God is lying down? God is
not lying down, but stands; stands and waits to be of service to
everyone who, with faith and humility, request a favor from Him. But
those who have become enamored with wood and stone, while they have
trusted in their own power, have overturned Him in their lives and
excluded Him from their lives. That is why when they are pressured by
difficulties, they cry out to Him: "Rise up!"
Lord is meek and rises and comes to the aid of every penitent. Let the
sinner truly repent and casting off his sinful love, return to God in
love and God will help him. Let him turn his back on dead wood and
stone and turn his face to the Living God and God will redeem him. For
the Almighty is not vengeful and vindictive. Neither did He create man
for death, but for life.
let us not seek help in the helpless nor life in the lifeless. Let us
turn our heads toward our living Creator Who gave us a face more
radiant than the face of every earthly thing. Let us turn from the
western ways to the eastern path, for on this path is salvation. Just
let us hasten before our last day on earth is sunk into the darkness
of the west.
Lord, raise our minds to heaven. Cleanse them from the darkness and
unburden them of the earth, O our Light-bearing Creator.
name Maura(Mavra) means black. Therefore, in Macedonia, the feast day
of these two saints is referred to as Black's Day or Black Day. On the
island of Zacynthus, there exists a church dedicated to Saints Timothy
and Maura in which many miracles of healing took place.
17th (New Style) • May 4th (Old Style)
Holy Female Martyr Pelagia of Tarsus
born in the town of Tarsus of pagan but distinguished and wealthy
parents. Hearing about Christ and the salvation of souls from
Christians, she burned with love for the Savior and, in her soul, was
totally Christian. At that time there was a terrible persecution of
Christians. It so happened that the Emperor Diocletian stopped off at
Tarsus and during the time of his stay in Tarsus, his son, the crown
prince fell deeply in love with Pelagia and wanted to take her as his
wife. Pelagia replied through her nefarious mother that she had
already been betrothed to her heavenly Bridegroom, Christ the Lord.
Fleeing from the profane crown prince and her wicked mother, Pelagia
sought and found Bishop Linus, a man distinguished for his holiness.
He instructed Pelagia in the Christian Faith and baptized her. Then
Pelagia gave away her luxurious garments, much wealth, returned home
and confessed to her mother that she is already baptized. Learning of
this and having lost all hope that he will gain this holy virgin for
his wife, the crown prince stabbed himself with a sword and died. The
wicked mother denounced her daughter before the emperor and turned her
over to him for trial. The emperor was amazed at the beauty of this
young virgin and, forgetting his son, became inflamed with impure
passions toward her. But since Pelagia remained unwavering in her
faith, the emperor sentenced her to be burned alive in a metal ox,
glowing with a red-hot fire. When the executioner stripped her, St.
Pelagia made the sign of the cross and with a prayer of thanksgiving
to God on her lips, entered the glowing ox where, in the twinkling of
an eye, she completely melted like wax. Pelagia suffered honorably in
the year 287 A.D. The remains of her bones were acquired by Bishop
Linus and he buried them on a hill under a stone. At the time of
Emperor Constantine Copronymos (741-775 A.D) and, on that exact spot,
a beautiful church was built in honor of the holy virgin and martyr
Pelagia, who sacrificed herself for Christ in order to reign eternally
Priestly-Martyr Silvanus, Bishop of Gaza
Silvanus was in the military service but later, driven by the power of
his faith, entered into the spiritual service. Accused of converting
pagans to Christianity, at first, he was cruelly tortured and, after
that, was beheaded with forty other soldiers in the year 311 A.D.
Thus, they all became citizens of heaven.
Nicephorus was a Catholic and later embraced the Orthodox Faith. He
lived the life of an ascetic as a monk on Mt. Athos with the wise
Theoliptos. He was a teacher of the glorious Gregory Palamas and wrote
a work on mental prayer. He presented himself peacefully to the Lord
in the fourteenth century. Nicephorus taught: "Gather your mind
and force it to enter into the heart and remain there. When your mind
is established in the heart, it should not remain empty, but allow it
to continually perform this prayer: O LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD,
HAVE MERCY ON ME (THE JESUS PRAYER)! Never allow it to be silent.
Because of this, the entire chain of virtues will enter into you:
love, joy, peace and all others, because of which your every petition
to God will be fulfilled later."
A young and
inexperienced man in spiritual combat underlines his every good work
by self-praise. But the experienced soldier in the midst of struggles
with passions and demons minimizes his every deed and intensifies his
prayer for God's help. Abba Matoes used to say: "The closer a man
is to God, the more sinful he sees himself to be." He also was
known to say: "When I was young, I thought perhaps that I was
doing some good; and now when I am old, I see that I do not have any
good deed." Did not our Lord say: "No one is good but One,
that is God" (St. Matthew 19:17). Therefore, if only the one God
is good and the source of all good, how can a good deed be done that
is not from God? And, how can someone who does a good deed ascribe it
to himself and not to God? If this is so, with what then can mortal
man be praised? By nothing, except with God and the goodness of God!
contemplate the ascended Lord Jesus:
1. How, by
His ascension, He manifested His Divine Nature and His Divine Might;
2. How, by
His ascension into heaven, He manifests to man that there exists a
better, more loftier world and life: a heavenly world and heavenly
idolatry as adultery
as did Israel defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and
with wood" (Jeremiah 3:9).
of adultery was that which the people of Israel and Judah committed
with stones and wood? It was the worshipping of idols of stone and of
wood. Before this sin, they committed another sin; they turned away
from worshipping the True God, the Living God and the One God. Why is
their idolatry called adultery? Because, they were first bound by love
for the True God, the Living God, and the One God and afterwards they
betrayed this love and gave up their heart to strange idols of stone
and wood. That is why the Lord calls their idolatry, adultery.
reproach of God deserved only in ancient times and not in our own
time; and only by Israel and Judah and not by Christians?
Unfortunately, this reproach of God is completely deserving even today
by many Christians. In whomever love toward the True God, the Living
God and the One God has cooled off, and a lesser love enflamed toward
things of stone and wood, toward decaying things and mortal creatures,
that one commits adultery and that one brings down upon himself the
reproach of God. Then, that reproach of God is appropriate today as it
was then, for men sinned then without knowing Christ and now men sin
how long will this darkened idolatry be dragged over the earth? How
long will the earth reek from the adultery of mankind with their idols
of stone and wood, of silver and gold, of flesh and blood? Did not the
Almighty Christ destroy all idols into dust and ashes? Why do some now
stoop down and again make gods for themselves from that dust? Because
of the devil's lies and their own individual self-deception.
Lord into the highest heavens, protect us from the lies of the devil
and our own self-deception. Safeguard us from shameful adultery with
destroyed idols by Your honorable Cross. Help us O Lord, help us that
we, without ceasing, worship You the only True God, the Living God and
the One God.
18th (New Style) • May 5th (Old Style)
Holy Great Female Martyr Irene
in the Balkans during apostolic times in the town of Magedon. Her
father Licinius was of lesser royal nobility. Some think that she was
a Slav. Irene was born a pagan of pagan parents. Penelope was her
pagan name. She learned about the Christian Faith from her teacher
Appelianus. St. Timothy, the disciple of the Apostle Paul, baptized
her and her court attendants and provided her with the epistles of the
Apostle Paul to read. Refusing to marry, she enraged her father and he
wanted to torture her but, in a miraculous manner, she converted her
father to Christianity. Irene was subjected to various tortures by
four kings, not counting her father but, God through His angels,
spared her. King Sedechias buried her up to her neck in a ditch filled
with snakes and scorpions but an angel of God made these venomous and
repulsive creatures ineffective and saved the holy virgin from harm.
King Sedechias then wanted to saw her in half but the saw rebounded
from her body as from stone. After that, the same king tied her to a
wheel under a water mill and released the flow of water hoping, in
this manner, to kill her. But the water refused to flow, rather stood
still and the virgin remained alive and well. King Sapor, the son of
King Sedechias, shod her feet with nails, loaded a sack of sand on
her, harnessed her and ordered that she be led like an animal far
outside the town. "Truly, I am a beast before You, O Lord!"
said the holy martyr, running bridled behind her torturers. However,
an angel of God shook the earth and the earth opened up and swallowed
her torturers. Surviving all tortures, by which she converted a
countless number of pagans to Christianity, Irene entered the town of
Callipolis (Gallipoli) where she preached the Faith of Christ. The
local king Numerian wanted to kill her in this manner: he tossed her
into three flaming hot metal oxen; one after the other. But the virgin
was saved and remained alive. Many witnessed and believed. The Eparch (governor)
Vaudon took her to the town of Constantina where he thought to kill
her in this manner: he placed her on red-hot grates. But that did not
harm St. Irene and she converted many to the True Faith. Finally,
Irene arrived in the town of Mesembria where she was slain by King
Sapor but God restored her to life. The king, with many of the people,
upon witnessing this, believed in Christ and were baptized. Thus, St.
Irene, by her suffering and miracles converted over one-hundred
thousand pagans to the Faith of Christ. Finally, she lay down in a
grave and ordered Appelianus to close the grave. After four days, when
they opened the grave, she was not in the grave. Thus, God glorified
forever the virgin and martyr Irene, who sacrificed all and endured
all so that God may be glorified among men. (*)
Martin and St. Heraclius
Heraclius were both Slavs. They were persecuted by the Arian heretics
in Illyria. Banished into exile, these two knights of Orthodoxy
completed their earthly lives in the fourth century and took up
habitation with the Lord.
consisting of words alone does not help if the heart does not
participate in prayer. God hears only a fervent prayer. Abba Zoilus of
Thebaid was once returning from Mt. Sinai and met a monk who
complained to him, that they are suffering much from drought in the
monastery. Zoilus said to him: "Why don't you pray and implore
God?" The monk replied: "We have prayed and have implored,
but there is no rain." To this, Zoilus replied: "It is
evident that you are not praying fervently. Do you want to be
convinced that it is so?" Having said this, the elder raised his
hands to heaven and prayed. Abundant rain fell to the earth. Seeing
this, the astonished monk fell to the ground and bowed before the
elder, but the elder, fearing the glory of men, quickly fled. The Lord
Himself said: "Ask and it will be given you" (St. Luke
11:9). In vain are mouths full of prayer if the heart is empty. God
does not stand and listen to the mouth but to the heart. Let the heart
be filled with prayer even though the mouth might be silent. God will
hear and will receive the prayer. For God only listens to a fervent
contemplate the ascended Lord Jesus:
1. How, by
His Ascension, He signified the triumphant end of His entire work on
earth in the course of some thirty-three years;
2. How, by
His Ascension, He teaches us that we should direct all of our
aspirations toward heaven and not toward earth.
divine marriage of the souls of men
O backsliding children says the Lord; for I am married to you"
The soul of
man is the bride and the Living and All-powerful God is the bridegroom
of the soul of man. His bride, the soul, the Lord clothes in light and
nourishes it with His Grace. And the soul, from God the groom, gives
birth to good children and many children in the form of many and
beautiful virtuous works. The soul, on its own, cannot give birth to
one virtuous work. Only the soul made fertile by God, gives birth to
virtuous works. However, the soul, made fertile by the world, either
remains barren or produces sin and vice. That is why the Lord speaks
to men: "I am married to you", so that the soul of man may
know to whom it is betrothed and with whom it is wed in order that it
would not stray and by adultery deaden itself and turn itself into
God is a
faithful groom of the human soul of men. He never betrays the bride,
the soul. His love toward the soul never cools as long as the soul
does not turn away from Him and does not commit adultery. But, even
then, God does not abandon the soul immediately, but pursues it and
returns it from the path of destruction. "Turn O backsliding
children" the Lord then speaks to the souls of men. Repent and I
will forgive you. Return and I will receive you. Penitents would know
to say, how great is the mercy of God. They would be able to confirm
how persistent the love of God is toward sinners, even to the last
hour. God is faithful in His love and He is not swift to seek
vengeance on the adulterous soul. He constantly tries to restore to
the adulterous soul, the lost shame of sinning. Shame produces
repentance and repentance leads to restoration and restoration leads
to original love and fidelity.
All-powerful, help us, that from your eternal love our souls may
produce the good and abundant fruit.
Archbishop Philaret in his "Lives of the Saints" thinks that
St. Irene was of Serbian descent.
19th (New Style) • May 6th (Old Style)
Holy Righteous and Long-Suffering Job
Job was a
descendant of Esau the grandson of Abraham and lived in Arabia about
2,000 years before Christ. His father's name was Zareth and his
mother's name was Bosora. However, his full name was Jobab. Job was an
honorable, god-fearing man and very wealthy. In the seventy-ninth year
of his life, God permitted difficult temptations to befall him through
Satan as it is written in detail in the Book of Job. In one day, Job
lost all his enormous estates, his sons and his daughters. After that
a terrible disease befell him and his entire body was covered with
sores from his head to his feet and Job lay on the rubbish heap
outside the town and with a piece of potsherd scrapped away the pus
from his wounds. Job did not murmur against God, but patiently endured
all sufferings to the end. That is why God restored his health, gave
him much greater riches than that which he had before and seven sons
and three daughters were born to him as many as he previously had. Job
lived for a total of two-hundred forty-eight years always glorifying
and praising God. Job is considered to be the model of patient
endurance of every suffering which God sends upon us and Job is a
proto-type of the suffering of the Lord Jesus.
Holy Martyr Barbarus
was a soldier during the reign of Julian the Apostate. When the
emperor's commander Bacchus led the Roman army against the Franks,
Barbarus, who was secretly a Christian, was serving in the army. In
battle there appeared a certain hero on the side of the Franks,
similar to Goliath of old and he challenged the Romans to send one of
their men to come out to do battle. Commander Bacchus advised Barbarus
to go. Barbarus prayed in his heart to the Living Lord, went out and
defeated that giant. As a result, the Frankish army became confused
and fled. Then the commander prepared a great celebration and ordered
that sacrifices be offered to the idols. During the sacrificial
offerings, the commander learned that Barbarus kept himself apart.
When he was asked about that, Barbarus declared that he is a
Christian. The commander informed the emperor and the emperor ordered
that Barbarus be subjected to the most severe tortures. But Barbarus
endured all with rare courage and composure. During his tortures, many
miracles were manifested and many soldiers, witnessing this, accepted
the Faith of Christ. Among them was the Commander Bacchus along with
Callimachus and Dionysius. All three were beheaded for the Name of
Christ and, after them, Barbarus was also beheaded in the year 362
A.D. Their souls took up habitation in the kingdom of Christ the
Barbarus the Robber
having committed many crimes, Barbarus repented and at first condemned
himself to crawl on all fours for three years and to eat with dogs
and, second, to live twelve years in the forest without clothes,
without a roof and without food except grass and leaves. He received
news from the angels that his sins are forgiven. Some merchants
traveling through the forest and seeing Barbarus from afar thought
that it was an animal and not a man, aimed their arrows at him and
pierced him. Dying, Barbarus begged them to inform the nearest priest
about him. The priest arrived and buried him honorably. From his body
flowed healing myrrh (oil) which cured various diseases and pains of
said of himself: "I see myself resembling a horse wandering
around without a rider. Whoever finds him, sits on him and rides him
to his content. When one rider dismounts the horse, another saddles
him and does the same, and so with the third and so forth." This
great ascetic, about whom everyone spoke with amazement that he had
attained perfection, said this of himself either out of humility or
from remembrance of his time of imperfection. The main thing is that
these words are true in relation to every Christian who walks
spiritually unbridled and unrestrained. Just as soon as one passion
dismounted from him, another mounted him. Just as soon as one wearied
him and left him in despair, another mounted him with deluded hope
that it will make him happy. Such a man does not have a rider who
would direct him to the true path without digressing to the left or to
the right. The only friendly rider which should be greeted with a
welcome is the holy and powerful Christian spirit.
contemplate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus:
1. How He
first resurrected bodily and then ascended bodily;
2. How the
souls of righteous men after death first ascend into heaven while the
body awaits the general resurrection, general transfiguration and
power that God gave to the words of the prophets
I made My words in your mouth, a fire. And this people is the wood
that it shall devour!" (Jeremiah 5:14).
brethren, that the effect of the word of God is different according to
different people. The word of God is like fire, in whom the righteous
one rejoices, as one frozen in the cold of this world; and the word of
God is like fire which burns the unrighteous one whom this material
world has overly warmed. The experienced spiritual fathers have left
us proof that only the Name of Jesus brings power, joy and refreshment
to the faithful - and this Name consumes evil spirits as a living
fire. That is the way with every word of God. With some it creates
comfort, with others irritation, with some it quiets anger, with
others it increases anger, with some it provokes respect with fear and
with others scorn. To the healthy it is honey; to the unhealthy it is
the honey of wormwood.
should the people be as wood which will be consumed? For, are the
people to be blamed if the godless elders and false prophets lead them
astray? The people are not to blame to such a degree as their elders
and false prophets but nevertheless they are to blame to a certain
extent. For God also gave the people to know the right path through
conscience and through the preaching of God's word and the people
should not blindly follow their blind leaders when they lead them on
the false paths and distance them from God and God's law. Brethren,
God is Just and He knows the measure of everyone's faults, and He will
not permit the illiterate and the least to suffer as much as the
literate and the greatest.
All-seeing God, save us that we neither be blind leaders not blind
followers. Strengthen our hearts that, as leaders and as followers, we
will always be Your servants and only Your servants.
20th (New Style) • May 7th (Old Style)
of the appearance of the Honorable Cross over Jerusalem
reign of Emperor Constantius, the son of St. Constantine, and Cyril
the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Honorable Cross appeared about 9:00
a.m. stretching out from Golgotha to above the Mount of Olives. This
cross was brighter than the sun and more beautiful than the most
beautiful rainbow. All the people, both believing and unbelieving,
left their work and, in fear and amazement, observed this heavenly
sign. Many unbelievers converted to the Faith of Christ, and so also
did many Arian heretics abandon their evil heresy and returned to
Orthodoxy. About this sign Patriarch Cyril wrote a letter to Emperor
Constantius (337-361 A.D.) who leaned toward Arianism. This occurred
on May 7, 357 A.D. Thus, even on this occasion it was demonstrated
that the Christian Faith is not worldly theorizing, according to
sensual understanding of man, but rather in God's power, demonstrated
through numerous miracles and signs.
Holy Martyr Acacius
was a Roman officer during the reign of Emperor Maximian. Answering
for his faith in Christ at the trial he said that he inherited this
devout Faith from his parents and was strengthened in it by witnessing
the many miraculous healings from the relics of Christian saints.
After courageously enduring great tortures in the Thracian city of
Pyrrinthus, Acacius was taken to Byzantium where he endured new
tortures until he was finally beheaded. He suffered honorably and took
up habitation in the eternal kingdom of joy in the year 303 A.D.
Venerable Fathers of Georgia
sixth century and two hundred years after St. Nina preached the Good
News in Georgia, the All-Holy Mother of God appeared to John, an
Antiochian ascetic, and commanded that he select twelve of his
disciples and go to Georgia to strengthen the Faith of Orthodoxy. And
so he did. Arriving in Georgia, these twelve missionaries were
solemnly received by the prince of that country and the Catholicos
Eulalius and immediately began their work with zeal. The people
gathered around them in masses and they strengthened them in the Faith
with great wisdom and many miracles. The head of these Christ-loving
missionaries was St. John Zedazneli and the names of the others were:
Abidus, Anthony, David, Zeno, Thaddeus, Jesse, Isderius, Joseph,
Michael, Pyrrus, Stephen and Shio. With apostolic zeal they all
confirmed the Faith of Christ in Georgia, established many monasteries
and left many disciples after them. Thus, they were made worthy of
glory in the heavens and power on earth.
recognized that I was indebited more and that I was forgiven much. I
was called to the priesthood from juridical and public offices and
that is why I am afraid that I not be seen ungrateful if I would love
less than what was forgiven me." These are the words of St.
Ambrose who was unexpectedly called by God to change vocations from a
secular judge to become archbishop of Christ's Church. With these
words the saint demonstrated how the priestly calling is greater than
the secular calling; how to the priestly vocation he comes by God's
calling and how he who is called owes thanksgiving to God. The debt of
thanksgiving to God, all the saints considered as their main debt.
Without thanksgiving to God there can be no progress in the spiritual
life. Thanksgiving to God, without ceasing, is the fruitful seed from
which, if it is watered by the tears of continual repentance, a
beautiful fruit blossoms - love toward God.
contemplate the Descent of God the Holy Spirit upon the holy apostles:
1. How the
apostles stand in one mind at prayer;
suddenly, there came a sound from heaven as a rushing mighty wind.
by sins good is being turned back from man
sins have turned back these blessings from you" (Jeremiah 5:25).
If you do
not possess good in abundance, O people, that means you have sin in
abundance. Your sins have turned your good from you. O people, if you
wish good for yourself, reject sin and do not sin anymore and you will
travel toward good, and good will come to you and good will not depart
O man, if
you do not have good, it means that you have sin. Good cannot dwell in
the same house with sin just as light and darkness cannot exist in the
same place at the same time. When light departs, darkness settles in
and when the darkness departs, the light shines. Thus, sin and good
can be interchanged but they cannot dwell together.
brethren, "Your sins have turned back these blessings from
you." These words were not spoken by only one prophet, to one
people only, rather every true prophet spoke these words to his
people. False prophets flatter the sins of their people, and thus,
assist them even more to turn back good from their people. The true
prophets go against the sins of the people, for they go along with
good and cry out against sin, in order to be able to introduce good,
which is from God, in the souls of their people. If the beehive begins
to smell, will the honey carrying bees enter it and deposit their
honey in it? No! And when the irrational bees do not want to enter in
a putrid and smoke-ridden beehive, then how will the rational Spirit
of God enter a soul, putrid and smoke-ridden from sin? And the Spirit
of God is the possessor and the dispenser of all good gifts.
Holy Spirit, help Your people by Your irresistible power that they
drive away sin from their soul; so that You would be able to enter
inside with Your life-creating gifts.
21st (New Style) • May 8th (Old Style)
Holy Apostle and Evangelist John
day of this great apostle and evangelist is celebrated on September
26. This day (May 8) commemorates the miracle which appeared at his
grave. When John was over one hundred years old, he took seven of his
disciples, went outside the town of Ephesus and ordered them to dig a
grave in the form of a cross. After that, the elder went down into
this grave and was buried. Later on, when the faithful opened John's
grave, they did not find his body. On May 8 of every year, dust is
raised from his grave from which the sick are healed of various
Arsenius the Great
glorious saint was born of a patrician family in Rome and was well
educated in the secular sciences and philosophy as well as in
spiritual wisdom. Abandoning all the vanity of the world, he dedicated
himself to the service of the Church and was a deacon of the great
church in Rome. Unmarried, withdrawn, quiet and devout, Arsenius
thought to live that way his entire life. But the Providence of God
directed his path in life otherwise. Emperor Theodosius took him as a
tutor and teacher of his sons Arcadius and Honorius, and installed him
as a senator surrounding him with great wealth, honors and luxury. But
all of this burdened Arsenius' heart rather than pleasing him. It
happened that Arcadius committed a wrong and for that Arsenius
punished him. The offended Arcadius conceived a terrible revenge
against his teacher and when Arsenius found out he changed into the
clothes of a beggar, left for the seashore, boarded a boat and sailed
to Egypt. When he arrived at the renowned Scete, he became a disciple
of the glorious John Colobus (The Short) and dedicated himself to a
life of asceticism. He considered himself dead and when someone
informed him that a wealthy relative died and willed his entire estate
to him, Arsenius replied: "But I died before him, how is it
therefore that I could be his heir?" Withdrawn in a hermit's cell
as in a tomb, throughout the entire day, he wove baskets of palm
leaves, and at night, he prayed to God. He avoided men and all
conversations with them. Only on feast days did he leave his cell and
attend church to receive Holy Communion. In order not to become lazy,
he often asked himself the question: "Arsenius, why did you come
to the wilderness?" He remained in the wilderness for fifty-five
years as a "desert dweller" and for that entire time was a
model to the monks and a glory to monastics in general. In all,
Arsenius lived one hundred years and died peacefully in the year 448
A.D. after prolonged labor and voluntarily imposing hardships upon
himself and took up habitation in the kingdom of Christ the Lord, Whom
he loved with all his heart, all his mind and all his soul.
the mother of Saint Basil the Great. In her youth she desired to
remain a virgin for life but was forced into marriage. Emilia gave
birth to nine children and so inspired them with the Spirit of Christ
that five of them became Christian saints: Basil the Great, Gregory,
Bishop of Nyssa, Peter, Bishop of Sebaste, Macrina and Theosevia. In
her old age Emilia established a convent where she lived with Macrina
her daughter and where she died in the Lord on May 8, 375 A.D.
Arsenius the Lover of Labor
was a monk in the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. He never afforded
himself any rest but continually labored. He ate food only once a day,
after the setting of the sun. He lived a life of asceticism and died
in the fourteenth century.
complained to St. Arsenius that while reading Holy Scripture he does
not feel, neither the power of the words read nor gentleness in his
heart. To that the great saint will reply to him: "My child, just
read! I heard that the sorcerers of serpents, when they cast a spell
upon the serpents, the sorcerers are uttering the words, which they
themselves do not understand, but the serpents hearing the spoken
words sense their power and become tamed. An so, with us, when we
continually hold in our mouths the words of Holy Scripture, but even
though we do not feel the power of the words, evil spirits tremble and
flee for they are unable to endure the words of the Holy Spirit."
My child, just read! The Holy Spirit Who, through inspired men, wrote
these divine words, will hear, will understand and will hasten to your
assistance; and the demons will understand will sense and will flee
from you. That is: He Whom you invoke for assistance will understand,
and those whom you wish to drive away from yourself will understand.
And both goals will be achieved.
contemplate the Descent of God the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:
there appeared fiery tongues over the apostles, one on each of them;
2. How the
apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in various
tongues, as the Holy Spirit gives them utterance.
as the fruit of the thoughts of men
O earth: behold I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of
their thoughts, because they have not hearkened to my words, nor to my
law, but rejected it" (Jeremiah 6:19).
do you see where evil grows and where it ripens? Not in the bosom of
God, but in the thoughts of men. Evil is sown in the thoughts of men
by demonic powers or from the passions of the flesh. Evil grows in the
thoughts of men and spreads and multiplies itself, blossoms and bears
leaves and finally shows fruit. In due time, God warns men to break
from their evil thoughts so that evil would not ripen in the souls of
men and bring forth its bitter and deadly fruit. In due time, God
warned Cain but he did not want to heed the warning and permitted evil
thoughts against his brother to being forth evil fruit; fracticide.
the thoughts of evil? All those thoughts that are contrary to the law
of God; the word of God. Evil thoughts are the self-willed law of man
which man prescribes for himself against God and contrary to the law
of God. Therefore, if a man has resolutely decided to adhere to the
law of God, evil thoughts are then as weak as shadows which quickly
appear but, in the same way, quickly disappear. Then, a man is lord
over his thoughts for he feels God as the Lord over himself. Then the
law is the law of God and the evil thoughts of men, are nothing.
I will bring evil upon this people," said the Lord. What kind of
evil? "The fruit of their thoughts." That is: I will permit
them only to reap that which they sowed and nurtured, for evil is
neither My seed nor My harvest. The evil which I will permit upon
lawless men is the fruit of their own thoughts. According to their
thoughts, they should have estimated what kind of evil will befall
them as a sower estimates, according to his seeds, what he will
O Lord meek
and guileless, save us from our own evil which we alone, have nurtured
in ourselves. We pray to You, remove the evil fruit of evil crops, and
help us to pluck out the evil seed from our souls.