St Nicholas the wonderworker

Our father among the saints, Nicholas, archbishop of Myra in Lycea, the wonderworker.

There is probably more folklore surrounding St Nicholas than any other saint on the calendar, though actual biographical facts are few. He was bishop in Myra, in what is now Turkey, during the first part of the fourth century. He probably attended the first ecumenical council in Nicea.

Within two centuries of his death, his renown was such that the Emperor Justinian built a church in his honor in Constantinople. In the eleventh century his relics were stolen and taken to Bari in southern Italy, where they remain to this day. A portion, however, was presented to the Greek Church in North America in 1972.

Nicholas was the model pastor: he was a father to orphans and a protector of the oppressed; his openness and generosity to children reflect the gospel image of Christ; and finally his concern for travelers and intervention in the cause of justice are facets of divine love. In the eyes of the Church, every bishop should be an icon of this love. (NS)

Erastus, Olympus, Rodion, and companions –Apostles

On the Byzantine liturgical calendar today we commemorate the holy apostles, Erastus, Olympus, Rodion, and their companions. Remembered as apostles and little heard of unless you are a student of sacred Scripture.

When St Paul wrote his letter to the Romans he was staying in Corinth. Erastus was the treasurer of that city and a supporter of St Paul. Rodion, or Herodion, is greeted by Paul as a compatriot in the same letter. Olympus is another of the saints singled out for a special greeting. He and his companions were the core of the Church in Rome. (NS).

Erastus, Olympus, Rodion, and their companions, pray for us.

Synaxis for the archangels

The Church commemorates today the Synaxis for the archangels, Michael and Gabriel, and all the bodiless powers of heaven.

“The role of angels, or spiritual powers, is evident from their appearance in both the old and the new testament. St Paul says: “They are all spirits, whose work is service, sent to help those who will be the heirs of salvation.”

“While the Church honors these divine ministers as guardians and messengers each Monday, today we feast especially Michael and Gabriel. Michael, whose name means “one like God,” was revered in the Old testament. In the book of Revelation he is depicted as the captain of the angelic army” (NS).

James Michael Thompson writes of today’s feast: “The Synaxis of the Chief of the Heavenly Hosts, Archangel Michael and the Other Heavenly Bodiless Powers: Archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selaphiel, Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Jeremiel was established at the beginning of the fourth century at the Council of Laodicea, which met several years before the First Ecumenical Council. The 35th Canon of the Council of Laodicea condemned and denounced as heretical the worship of angels as gods and rulers of the world, but affirmed their proper veneration.

A Feastday was established in November, the ninth month after March (with which the year began in ancient times) since there are Nine Ranks of Angels. The eighth day of the month was chosen for the Synaxis of all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven since the Day of the Dread Last Judgment is called the Eighth Day by the holy Fathers. After the end of this age (characterized by its seven days of Creation) will come the Eighth Day, and then “the Son of Man shall come in His Glory and all the holy Angels with Him” (Mt. 25:31).”

Commanders of the heavenly hosts,
we who are unworthy beseech you,
by your prayers encompass us
beneath the wings of your immaterial glory,
and faithfully preserve us who fall down and cry to you:
“Deliver us from all harm,
for you are the commanders of the powers on high!” –Troparion – Tone 4

We Christians invoke St Michael for protection from invasion by enemies and from civil war, and for the defeat of adversaries on the field of battle. He conquers all spiritual enemies.

St Theodosius of the caves at Kiev

Our venerable father, Theodosius, abbot of the mon­astery of the caves at Kiev, called the initiator of the common life in ancient Rus.

Theodosius lived two centuries before St. Francis, in Kievan Russia, where the Gospel had only recently been preached for the first time. Like Francis, Theodosius was filled with compassion for the poor and longing for a life of simplicity. He, too, experienced violent opposition from his parents, and eventually took refuge with the hermit, An­thony, in a cave near Kiev.

In time-honored scenario, their life of solitude soon attracted so many followers that by 1062, there were built monastic buildings above ground to house the large community now headed by Theodosius. Adding his own vision to the mo­nastic precepts he learned from Anthony, he tempered Greek and Syrian severity with Slavic compassion. His rule stressed obedience, mutual love, meekness, and simplicity. Above all, in his dealings with monks, peasants, and princes, he reflected the kenosis, or self-emptying, of Christ. Chronicles of the time recount how Theodosius participated in all the labors of the monastery, and was often mistaken by visi­tors for the cook or the gardener. The respect he earned from princes and nobles prompted a flow of wealth into the monastery, which Theodosius used to feed, clothe, and nurse the poor and imprisoned. By the time he died in 1074, Russia had an important and thriving center of monastic life less than 100 years after its conversion. (NS)

More on St Theodosius may be read here.

St George

“You were true to your name, O warrior George, * for you took the cross of Christ upon your shoulders. * You ploughed well the land made barren by the deceits of the devil; * you rooted out the weeds of idol worship * and planted the vine of the true faith. * Therefore, your healing overflows to the faithful throughout the whole world, * and you have shown yourself to be the righteous gardener of the Trinity. * Pray for peace in the world and salvation for our souls.”

Today is a very special day for Englishmen, Georgians, Ethiopians, Maltese, Aragonese, Catalonians, and the burgesses of Nizhyn, Ukraine!

Blessed name day of our pastor, Father Iura!

Blessed feast of Saint George!

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew

At the beginning of the Fast before Christmas, we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew, who wrote one of the Gospels of the birth of our Lord. (St. Luke is the other.) St. Matthew’s purpose was to show how the prophecies of the Covenant were fulfilled in Jesus. Therefore, he is the son of Abraham and the Son of David. He fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that a virgin would give birth, the prophecy of Micah that he would be born in Bethlehem, the prophecy of Jeremiah that the innocents would die, and that he would be called a Nazorean. Matthew tells us of the visit of the Magi, the massacre of the innocents, and the flight into Egypt. It is also Matthew who presents to us the model figure of St. Joseph. Just as the Joseph of the Old Testament saved his people in Egypt, so the Joseph of the New Testament saves the hope of the people, Jesus, by taking him to Egypt. We have no better model of human fatherhood. Joseph is a righteous man (Matthew 1:19), who is open to God’s revelation through his messenger angel that the child of Mary is of God, a faith that goes beyond human knowledge. It is Joseph who protects the child, his foster son, so that Jesus, the Savior, could someday fulfill the plan of the heavenly Father. It is Joseph who re-orders his whole life for the sake of his beloved child. Joseph, then, is a model of divine fatherhood, “from whom every fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named. (Ephesians 3:15)”

In Christmas, we must be filled with the righteous of the holy Joseph.

Troparion at Glory …, Ode 3 of the Feast of St. Matthew:

Matthew, the divinely-minded trumpet made the teachings about God resound. He has poured out the radiant life of the Trinity upon the peoples as he revealed to them the Incarnation of the Word in you, O pure Virgin.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Blessed Theodore Romzha

Today we honor the memory of Blessed Theodore Romzha, a martyr for Christian faith.

Though the godless poured poison into your veins, your heart still beats with love for Christ, O bishop Theodore, martyred father, who now raise your prayers before the Throne of God.

The Holy Prophet and Saint, Micah

Today, on the Vigil of the Dormition, the commemorates the memory of the holy prophet, Micah.

Micah prophesied between 750 and 687 bc. He was a contemporary of Amos and Isaiah.

Micah’s words were an indictment against the rich, the avaricious money lenders, swindling merchants, families divided by rivalry, and all petty tyrants and bureaucrats, whether dressed as judges or rulers, priests or prophets. There were the very antithesis of the divine ideal he preached, namely, “to deal justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with God.”

Failure to do these things, Micah warned, will bring punishment. He specified the destruction of Samaria and the fall of Jerusalem, but he also held out a hope for the faithful remnant. He described the birth of a peaceful king who will pasture the flock of the Lord. Micah foretold that this event would take place in Bethlehem of Ephratah, which was known as “the least of the clans of Judah.” (NS)

Saints Boris and Gleb

Our Church liturgically commemorates the holy protomartyrs of Rus’, Boris and Gleb, in baptism named Roman and David.

Righteous passion-bearers and true fulfillers of the Gospel of Christ, Chaste Boris and guileless Gleb, You did not resist the attacks of your brother, the enemy, When he killed your bodies but could not touch your souls. Therefore, let the evil lover of power mourn. While you rejoice with the angels standing before the Holy Trinity. Pray that those who honor your memory may be pleasing to God, And that all Orthodox Christians may be saved. (Troparion)

When the first Christian prince in the Rus’ lands, St Vladimir, died in 1015, his eldest son, Svyatopolk, attempted to consolidate his own position by eliminating his two half-brothers, Boris and Gleb. When Boris heard of his brother’s plans, he refused to defend himself and faced his death without fear or hatred. His younger brother also accepted his assassination without opposition.

Such murders were typical of the extremes of political struggle for power in a pagan society. Boris and Gleb sincerely believed that the good news of Christ, so recently preached in their own land, must change all of this. Thus, by their voluntary sacrifice to their brother’s lust for power, they bore witness to the command of Christ to love one another. The impact of their witness deeply affected the character of what has become the Kievan Rus’ spirituality. (NS)

Boris and Gleb are the first saints of the Rus’ Church.

May ask Ste. Boris and Gleb to ask the Lord for the grace to forgive and love our enemies, even those who are close to us.

Blessed Basil Hopko

The Byzantine Church recalls the memory of a 20th century martyr for the faith, Basil Hopko (April 24, 1904—July 23, 1976) was a priest and bishop of the Slovak Greek Catholic Church. Hopko was beatified by Pope John Paul II for his martyrdom under Communist occupation.

Having contemporary models of holiness is important to us because it reminds us that it is possible to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A brief biography can be read here.

Here is a hymn for our holy father and confessor Basil (Hopko), Bishop of Medila composed by James Michael Thompson.

The Church of God with angel ranks
Combines to sing the praise
Of Basil, shepherd of the flock
Who served Christ all his days!
With no regard for life or wealth
He preached the Word most true;
As he so bravely lived and died,
May we thus also do!

A scholar from his early youth,
He heard Your priestly call,
And from his ordination day,
He gave to You his all.
By pastoring and teaching, too,
His patient, faithful life
Became a shining model for
His Church in times of strife.

When vicious persecution came,
Upon him, hands were laid,
And he was made a bishop then,
A leader firm and staid.
Though seized, imprisoned, sick and worn,
He never turned away,
And through his good example, helped
All those who thought to stray.

O Father, lover of us all,
O Christ, our Master true,
O Spirit, holy Paraclete:
All praise we sing to You!
O Triune God, O One-in-Three,
We give you thanks today:
As blessed Basil followed You,
Help us to walk his way!

(Tune: Pod tvoj pokrov/We Hasten to Your Patronage)
(c) 2005, J. Michael Thompson