Saints Cosmas and Damian

Saints Cosmas and Damian were twins born to Christian parents in Arabia, in the third century. They lived in the region around the border between modern day Turkey and Syria. …[The brothers] were physicians who were renowned for their skill as well as their refusal to charge for their services. Before beside manner was a “thing”, they had a loving and respectful way, and for this reason, they were called by the Church “unmercenary physicians” (Anargyroi in Greek).

Their charity and Christian witness won many converts to the faith and earned them a place of prominence in the Christian communities of Asia Minor. Therefore, when the Diocletian persecutions began in the latter half of the third century they were of some of the first to be sought out for execution.

Holy Prophet Amos

The Holy Prophet Amos is known as the prophet of doom, the third of the Twelve Minor Prophets who lived during the eighth century before Jesus Christ. Amos accurately foretold the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel due to the unfaithfulness of the Israelites. That is, the tribes of Israel were governed by an idol-worshipper and the people joined in that worship of a golden calf (a false god) instead of the One, Living God. Thus, they rejected the God of Israel.

Biographically, little is known about his life and what we known comes from his book in the Bible, the first to be named after a Hebrew prophet.

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.

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)

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)”

St Mary Magdalene

The Church recalls the memory of the holy myrrhbearer and equal of the apostles, Mary Magdalene.

There are several Marys mentioned in the New Testament. The surname Magdalene distinguishes this Mary as the one from the town of Magdala. Luke’s gospel mentions that Jesus relieved her of seven devils, which could have simply been some kind of physical or mental illness. Scripture gives evidence of her life as a devoted follower of Christ whose loyalty remained firm when even the faith of the other twelve apostles wavered.

It is most likely that the unnamed woman who washed Christ’s feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and then anointed them was Mary Magdalene, as depicted in many icons of her.

Sts Peter and Paul

“The feast of Peter and Paul and the Birth of John the Baptist are ranked as great feasts, after those of Christ and the Theotokos. Icons of the apostles grouped at the Ascension or at Pentecost always picture Peter and Paul at the head of the assembly, although, historically, Paul was not present at either.

The rapid spread of the early Church is due mainly to these two apostles. Peter was crucified in Rome during the time of Nero in 61 AD. He was married and worked as a fisherman with his brother Andrew in Galilee. When the Twelve were called, Peter took up the role of senior. He openly acknowledged Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah. Although he faltered during Christ’s passion, he still remained first. Peter called for an election to replace Judas. He was the first to preach on Pentecost, and the first to heal and to raise the dead. Peter was, above all, a man of great faith. This earned for him the name Rock, and the assurance from Christ that the Church would be built on such faith.

Martyrs of Sebaste, Armenia

Together let us honor that 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. The they entered into refreshment and pray for those who cry: Glory Him who has strengthened you; glory to Him who has crowned you; glory to Him who has made you wonderful, O holy Forty Martyrs. (Apolytikion)

Today, the Churches of the Constantinopolitan Tradition (as a point of comparison, the Armenian Apostolic Church commemorates liturgically these martyrs on March 21) recalls the forty holy martyrs who perished on the ice of Lake Sebaste in Armenia in AD 320.

St Ephrem the Syrian

Today, the Church liturgically recalls the life and work of Our Holy Father Ephrem the Syrian.

As we have seen, the theology of Syrian was a fountain of teaching about the incarnation of our Lord, especially his baptism in the Jordan. The feast of Theophany was the foremost manifestation of the Triune God. Among the Syrian theologians, none was most important than St. Ephrem.

Born of pagan parents, he found the Christian faith, was baptized and eventually ordained a deacon. His life was marked by asceticism, as he imitated our Lord in the desert. He had the ascetic gift of tears, sorrow for sin and joy in the salvation of our Lord. His Troparion begins, “Your abundant tears made the wilderness sprout and bloom, and your deep sighings made your labor fruitful a hundredfold. “His theology was equal to the greatest fathers, but his style was entirely different. He wrote in verse, so that it might be sung in hymns, and so he is called the “Harp of the Holy Spirit.”

St Gregory the Theologian

Today the Church liturgically commemorates one the greats: St Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople. The Troparion for this feast reads:

The sweet-sounding shepherd’s pipe of your theology overpowered the trumpeting of the orators; for having searched the depths of the Spirit eloquence was also bestowed upon you. Pray to Christ God, Father Gregory, that our souls may be saved.

St Gregory said,

“If someone asked us, what is it that you worship and respect, we should readily reply, love, for in the Holy Spirit’s own words our God Is Love. This is in fact the name that God cherishes above all others. “What is the sum of the law and the prophets?” This is the only answer that the evangelist would accept. Why in the world then do we the disciples of Love hate one another so? Why do we do disciples of peace engage in wars which do not admit of treaty or truce?”