The holy Vladimir the Great, grand prince of Kiev and equal of the apostles, in baptism named Basil.
Vladimir descended from the Slavic-Viking line of Rurik. He began his princely career in Novgorod, and eventually, by cunning as much as by prowess, he took over his older brother’s inheritance and became Grand Prince of Kiev and the whole land of Rus’. His motives for becoming Christian were complex, but must have included the example of his grandmother, Olga, the conversion of a Viking cousin who proved Christianity could be a manly religion, and the prospects of allying himself to the Byzantine Empire through marriage. Nonetheless his decision was a momentous one, for it affected his entire domain. The sincerity of his reception of the Gospel is borne out by the effect it had on his rule. At a time when Europe and even the Byzantines were barbaric in punishing criminals, and even slight offenders, Vladimir outlawed torture, mutilation, and capital punishment. He sent food from his own stores to the poor and the sick, and organized social services unknown to any other city in Europe.
Much of the prince’s life was embellished by the legends of the early chronicles and epics have colored the liturgical texts. Tradition relates that he sent envoys to observe the organized religions of his prominent neighbors. What they experienced in Constantinople has remained a by-word for Orthodox liturgy. After attending services in Hagia Sofia, they reported to Vladimir: “We did not know whether we were in heaven or on earth!” In 988 a mass baptism was held in the Dnieper river by command of the prince, and Greek and Bulgarian missionaries began to spread the Gospel throughout Kievan Rus’.
Russians and Ukrainians have celebrated the millennium of this event, and our own church in America can trace its roots to that first taste of “heaven on earth.”
Vladimir died on this date in 1015 with a prayer on his lips. By mid-thirteenth century he was honored as a saint. In 1313 the first church was dedicated to him, in Novgorod, where he was first prince.
Meditation by New Skete Monks
Today is the feast of The Holy Apostle Jude
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (John 14:21-23).
Have we ever been mid-identified to our embarrassment? The Apostle Jude has one line in the Gospels, “Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” but in asking this question he is identified by who he is not: “Judas, not the Iscariot.” Perhaps then it is fitting that Jesus answered Judas with words of God’s love, that to those who love him by keeping his commandments, “my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
In every Liturgy, we pray that we not “give you a kiss as did Judas,” but that we not be like Judas Iscariot, but like Judas, the Lord’s faithful brother, that God may dwell in us. We must hear the words written by the disciple who did not betray Jesus, “But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude 20-21).
Meditation by Archpriest David Petras
Today we celebrate the forty martyrs of Sebaste, witnesses to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
In the year 320, 40 young men (likely around 20 years old) were executed for refusing to sacrifice to idols and to obey the Emperor’s command. These young men had been conscripted to serve in the army in present day Armenia. When it came time for them to sacrifice to idols, they refused. According to one version, there were originally 39 Christians who refused to obey this order, and upon seeing their bravery, a fortieth man, who was a pagan, threw down his weapons and his military belt (a capital offense, for its disrespect to the profession) and declared that he was to die with the Christians. They were martyred by being thrown naked in a lake.
The Troparion for the feast day
Together let us honor the holy company united by faith,
Those noble warriors of the Master of all.
They were divinely enlisted for Christ,
And passed through fire and water.
Then they entered into refreshment praying for those who cry:
Glory to him who has strengthened you!
Glory to him who has crowned you!
Glory to him who has made you wonderful, O holy Forty Martyrs!
A blessed new year to all of you! Christ is born! Happy 2019!!!
On January 1, in addition to Circumcision of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, we remember one of the great Fathers of the Church, St. Basil the Great. He is known as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs; Basil’s life and writings inspire the work we do in the Church. Pray for the Parish through the intercession of St. Basil, that God may bless our work in 2019.
From a biography by St. Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue of Ohrid:
St Basil was born in the reign of the Emperor Constantine, in about 330. While still unbaptised, he spent fifteen years in Athens studying philosophy, rhetoric, astronomy and other contemporary secular disciplines. Among his fellow-students were Gregory the Theologian and Julian, later the apostate emperor. When already of mature years, he was in the Jordan together with his former tutor Ebulios. He was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia for nearly ten years, and died at the age of fifty.
A great champion of Orthodoxy, a great torch of moral purity and zeal for the Faith, a great theological mind, a great builder and pillar of the Church of God, Basil fully deserved his title “the Great”. In the Office for his Feast, he is referred to as a bee of the Church of Christ, bringing honey to the faithful but stinging those in heresy. Many of the writings of this Father of the Church have survived – theological, apologetic, on asceticism and on the Canons. There is also the Liturgy that bears his name. This Liturgy is celebrated ten times in the year: on January lst, on the Eves of Christmas and the Theophany, on every Sunday in the Great Fast with the exception of Palm Sunday, and on the Thursday and Saturday in Great Week.
St Basil departed this life peacefully on January l, 379, and entered into the Kingdom of Christ.