Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Earliest Extant Sermon for New Years Day by Asterius of Amasea


Oration 4: Adversus Kalendarum Festum attacks the pagan customs and abuses of the New Years feast of the late 4th century, denying everything that Libanius had said supporting it. The sermon is an earnest protest against the evils into which New Year's festivals had drifted in his day. This is the earliest extant New Year's sermon, and in that respect it is unique. The strange customs portrayed in it make it peculiarly fascinating.

Oration 4

Against the Festival of the Calends

By Asterius of Amasea

January 1, 400 AD

Yesterday and today two feasts, not only unrelated and discordant, but wholly adverse and hostile to each other, have been celebrated. One is of the rabble without, gathering, in large sums, the money of mammon, and bringing in its train bargaining, vulgar and mean. The other is of holy and true religion, inculcating acquaintance with God, and the virtue of the purified life. And since many, preferring the luxury and absorption which arise from vanity, have left off going to church, come, let us with a discourse dispel from your souls this foolish and harmful delight, which as a sort of inflammation of the brain, with laughter and jesting, induces death. And in the treatment of the subject I may fittingly emulate Solomon. For in counseling young men to keep themselves from the snares of licentiousness, in order to make his own admonition cogent and effective, he personifies excess as an abandoned woman, and, by portraying all her wickedness, he thus exposes her to her dupes as deserving of their hatred.1 Wherefore I, too, after showing the vanity of the human heart in my discourse, will attempt to convert the lovers of pleasure from their misdirected zeal.

aster

The Cell and Tomb of Saint Melania the Younger in Jerusalem


Saint Melania the Younger was initially a wealthy matron from Rome, who came to Jerusalem in 417 to establish a convent near the Mount of Olives and live out the rest of her days in asceticism. When she arrived in Jerusalem with her mother and husband Pinianus, Melania with her mother took up her abode in a little cell of the common hospice for pilgrims, close to the Church of the Resurrection, while Pinianus, it seems, was separated from them, the men being lodged in a place apart from the women. Here, then, in the heart of Jerusalem, and flooded with the luminous rays from our Lord's Cross and Sepulchre, Melania's soul was consumed more and more with the fire of Divine Love. Buried in obscurity, and enjoying the most complete self-effacement, she found her delight in continual fasting, in unwearied prayer, in charity and assiduous study of the Holy Scriptures. Her brief rest was taken on the hard ground, covered only with little mats of rough hair-cloth. When the shadows of evening fell, and the custodians at the end of Vespers closed the gates of Constantine's Basilica, it was a beautiful and touching sight to behold Melania go forth alone from her little cell, and prostrate herself before the doors of the Sanctuary, there to pass the night in prayer and vigil until they were opened again at cock-crow in the morning. The severe and prolonged fasts, with other austerities, brought on an illness during which it was with great difficulty that the Saint was prevailed upon to accept a pillow upon which to rest her aching head.

How You Can Help the Mystagogy Resource Center This Christmas


Dear Readers:

With the Christmas season underway, we tend to lose focus on the true meaning of the holiday amid all the hustle and bustle. And the true meaning of the holiday is best arrived at through the prescription of the Church during the Advent Season, which is threefold - prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Giving is important during the Christmas season because we imitate God by doing so, Who gave us His Only Begotten Son. There are many ways we can give back to God in gratitude and to give to our fellow people, and we should take advantage of these opportunities as much as we can. Among these is to support a ministry that is beneficial to you and to thousands like you, such as the Mystagogy Resource Center.

Synaxarion of Saint Melania the Younger of Rome

St. Melania the Roman (Feast Day - December 31)

Verses

Not with a physical hand and ink Melania,
Did Christ record you among the living after death.
On the thirty-first Melania was taken away from life.

This Saint lived during the reign of Emperor Honorius (393-423), son of Theodosius the Great, and was from a wealthy and illustrious and glorious family. Because she loved the Lord with all her soul, she preferred to live a life of virginity. Her parents however joined her in marriage against her will with a man.* By this she became the mother of two children. Later the parents lost their children to death. For this reason the blessed one left the city of Rome, and went to live in its suburb, and there she pursued every form of asceticism and virtue.** She took care of the sick, received strangers who came to her, and visited those in prison or exile. After this she sold all her many belongings and properties, and gathered from them twelve myriads of gold, namely one hundred and twenty thousand florins. These she distributed to churches and monasteries.

Sunday After Christmas Resource Page

Sts. Joseph the Betrothed, James the Brother of God and David the Prophet
(Feast Day - Sunday After the Nativity of Christ)


Synaxarion for Joseph the Betrothed, James the Brother of God and David the Prophet

Sunday After Christmas: Joseph the Betrothed, James the Adelphotheos and King David

The Sunday After Christmas - Jesus Christ: The Eternal Victor

Saints and Feasts of December 31


On the thirty-first Melania was taken away from life.

Leavetaking of the Feast of the Nativity of Christ

Orthodox Christmas Resource Page


Venerable Melania the Roman

Synaxarion of Saint Melania the Younger of Rome

Saint Melania the Younger of Rome (Palladius of Helenopolis)

Life of Saint Melania the Younger of Rome (St. Dimitri of Rostov)

The Cell and Tomb of Saint Melania the Younger in Jerusalem


Holy Martyr Zotikos the Feeder of Orphans

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyr Zotikos the Feeder of Orphans

Saint Zotikos the Feeder of Orphans as a Model for our Lives


Venerable Gelasios

Life and Sayings of the Holy Abba Gelasios


Saint Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

Saint Theophylact of Ochrid


Saint George the Wonderworker, the so-called Macheromenos

Saint George the Wonderworker, the so-called Macheromenos

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Cave Chapel of the Flight Into Egypt at the Jordan River


The Cave Chapel of the Flight Into Egypt below the Monastery of Saint Gerasimos near the Jordan River is the traditional location where the Theotokos, Saint Joseph the Betrothed and the infant Jesus stopped for a night on their way to Egypt, after an Angel of the Lord warned them to flee before the coming massacre of Herod.

Holy New Venerable Martyr Gideon of Karakallou (+ 1818)

St. Gideon of Tyrnavos (Feast Day - December 30)

Verses

You shamed the enemy who wounded you of old,
You are shone to be Gideon the Venerable Martyr of Christ.
On the thirtieth the hands and feet of Gideon were severed by a sword.

The Saint was from the town of Kapourna near Makrynitsa of Pelion. He had pious parents, Avgerinos and Kyratza, and he was the first of eight children in the family. His baptismal name was Nicholas. Because of the heavy taxation imposed on the Christian population by the Ottomans, his father was forced to move the family to the village of Gierme, where he could save the money as needed. The Saint was then twelve years old.

The Cave With the Relics of the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem


Situated under the Basilica of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, beside the belfry, is the Cave of the Holy Innocents, containing the bones and skulls of the small children massacred by Herod the Great in an effort to eliminate the one Child he thought was to replace him as the "King of the Jews". The number of these children is traditionally numbered to 14,000. The Cave also contains the bones of Christians massacred in the slaughter of the Persians in 614. Despite the humidity of the Cave, there is always a beautiful fragrance there.

Saints and Feasts of December 30


On the thirtieth the side of Anysia was stabbed with a sword.

Holy Venerable Martyr Anysia of Thessaloniki

Synaxarion of Saint Anysia of Thessaloniki

Saint Anysia the Virgin-Martyr of Thessaloniki


Venerable Theodora of Caesarea

Saint Theodora of Caesarea


Holy New Venerable Martyr Gideon of Karakallou

Holy New Venerable Martyr Gideon of Karakallou (+ 1818)


Friday, December 29, 2017

Saint Athenodoros the Leper, Disciple of Pachomios the Great

St Athenodoros the Leper (Feast Day - December 29)

Verses

My gift to Athenodoros is a discourse,
For a divine man who is dead a discourse is fitting.

The following account comes from the Paralipomena of Saint Pachomios (ch. 16):

We ought to mention another holy man from among the brothers who practiced the life of virtues thoroughly and, for the sake of edification, to narrate a few facts of his life. This brother of blessed memory, being a leper in his body, had his cell separate from the brothers. All his life he lived only on bread and salt. He used to make one mat a day and often, when he was plaiting the ropes that go into the mats, his hands would be pierced by the rushes and covered with blood, so that the mats he was doing were stained with his blood. Although he had such an illness, he never missed the assemblies of the brothers and never slept in daytime until his departure from this life. And it was his habot to recite by heart some section from the Scriptures every night before going to sleep; and then he would sleep until the signal was given for the nightly assembly.

The Cruelty of Herod Toward the Infants and the Manner of his Death (Eusebius of Caesarea)


By Eusebius of Caesarea

Ecclesiastical History (Bk. 1, Ch. 8)

1. When Christ was born, according to the prophecies, in Bethlehem of Judea, at the time indicated, Herod was not a little disturbed by the inquiry of the magi who came from the east, asking where he who was born King of the Jews was to be found — for they had seen his star, and this was their reason for taking so long a journey; for they earnestly desired to worship the infant as God, — for he imagined that his kingdom might be endangered; and he inquired therefore of the doctors of the law, who belonged to the Jewish nation, where they expected Christ to be born. When he learned that the prophecy of Micah announced that Bethlehem was to be his birthplace he commanded, in a single edict, all the male infants in Bethlehem, and all its borders, that were two years of age or less, according to the time which he had accurately ascertained from the magi, to be slain, supposing that Jesus, as was indeed likely, would share the same fate as the others of his own age.

Sermon on the Feast of the Holy Innocents (St. Caesarius of Arles)


Sermon 222

ON THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS

By St. Caesarius of Arles (470-542)

1. Today, dearest brethren, we are celebrating the feast of those infants who, the Gospel text tells us, were killed by King Herod, and for this reason our land, the fruitful mother of heavenly soldiers and such great virtues, should rejoice with the greatest exultation. Behold, the wicked enemy could never have helped the blessed infants as much by submission as he did by his hatred. As today's most sacred feast shows us, the grace of benediction shone forth in the blessed infants as much as cruelty against them abounded. For we heard a little while ago that when King Herod was pursuing Christ, thousands of happy boys were killed. As the prophet said, "Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more" (Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:18). The blessed mother of the triumphant, the land of illustrious warriors, rich in children, for a short time seemed to the eyes of the foolish to be bereaved. But she never was in need of consolation, nor did she bewail the sons whom she acquired with enviable sorrows, even while she lost them. Blessed are you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, who suffered the cruelty of King Herod in the death of your sons, and at the same time merited to offer to God a white-clad group of peaceable, sinless infants.

Saints and Feasts of December 29


On the twenty-ninth the slaughtered infants called for pappa.

Holy Fourteen Thousand Infants Massacred at the Decree of Herod

Holy Innocents Resource Page


Commemoration of All Christians Who Died from Starvation, Thirst, Cold and the Sword

Commemoration of All Christians Who Died from Starvation, Thirst, Cold and the Sword


Venerable Markellos, Abbot of the Akoimeton Monastery

Saint Markellos, Abbot of the Monastery of the Unsleeping Ones (+ 485)

Saint Markellos of the Unsleeping Ones and the Demon Possessed


Venerable Benjamin of Nitria

Life and Sayings of Holy Abba Benjamin of Nitria


Venerable Athenodoros

Saint Athenodoros the Leper, Disciple of Pachomios the Great

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Holy Martyrs Gorgonios and Peter

Sts. Gorgonios and Peter the Martyrs (Feast Day - December 28)

Verses

The sea hides Gorgonios and Peter,
But their memory is not hidden with time.

Among the Holy Martyrs who escaped being burnt alive in the church at Nicomedia that killed 20,000 were Saints Gorgonios and Peter. They had been imprisoned with the Holy Martyr Indes, and all three received the same blessed martyric end. They were all cast into the sea with a millstone around their necks, and in this way departed to the Lord.

Holy Martyr Theophilos the Deacon

St. Theophilos the Deacon (Feast Day - December 28)

Verses

Taking stock of the continuous stones that wounded him,
Theophilos assembled as a friend of God.

Theophilos was a Deacon who stood before the emperor Maximian with Saints Dorotheos, Mardonios and Mygdonios. While the latter three were in prison, Bishop Anthimos had sent Deacon Theophilos with a message for them. Bishop Anthimos and Deacon Theophilos had been miraculously preserved from being burned alive when the church was set fire killing 20,000. They were spared to help build up and benefit the Church of Nicomedia.

Holy Martyr Zeno of Nicomedia

St. Zeno the Martyr (Feast Day - December 28)

Verses

The head of Zeno was cut off by a sword,
Unwilling to venerate the statue of Zeno (namely Zeus).

After the Emperor Maximian had 20,000 Christians burned alive in a church in Nicomedia a few days after the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord, he thought he had killed what was left of the Christians of the city. For this reason he called for a public festival to the goddess Demeter, and at this festival a large altar was set up for sacrifices to be offered.

Holy Martyrs Dorotheos, Mardonios and Mygdonios

Sts. Dorotheos, Mardonios and Mygdonios (Feast Day - December 28)

Verses

To Dorotheos.
Dorotheos says "my head,
Which has been cut off I carry as a gift to God."

To Mardonios.
And I know of one Mardonios the Martyr,
Having affection for Christ, and enduring the flames of fire.

To Mygdonios.
Mygdonios is thrown into a pit,
Who happens to be known by all as a Martyr.

Holy Martyr Glykerios the Presbyter

St. Glykerios the Presbyter (Feast Day - December 28)

Verses

Glykerios was cast into the fire,
Declaring "the manner of my end is sweet to me."

After Emperor Maximian called for a persecution of the Christians of Nicomedia following his return from a victorious campaign in Ethiopia, and the Christians refusal to participate in the imperially decreed sacrifices to the lifeless idols of all Roman citizens, the wise and fearless priest Glykerios openly addressed the emperor, saying among other things: "You boast of your triumphs over hordes of your enemies, but we who are small in number shall overcome with the help of the great God whose power you ought to have observed, O senseless and stone-like man, especially after those fearsome signs. Have you forgotten the terrifying thunder, lightning and hail, followed by the deaths of so many subjects and the ruin of the crops? These things took place on account of the blasphemies you pronounced. Therefore, entertain no hope in converting us. We fear not your threats."

Holy Martyr Indes the Eunuch


Verses

I hear in the life of Indes how he received his end,
Arriving at the furthest edge his end came in the depths.

Saint Domna, also commemorated on this day, was a priestess of the idols from a young age, and after coming across a copy of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, she inquired further into the Christian faith from a certain Christian maiden she knew. One night she secretly paid a visit to Bishop Cyril of Nicomedia, seeking Holy Baptism, and at the age of fourteen she was made a catechumen under Deacon Agapios. Returning to her palace, she concealed her prayer and fasting from others, except from Indes her eunuch, who was privy to her actions. Indes was of a barbarian race, but in his manner and deeds he was most noble. He joined Domna in his desire to become a Christian, and they were both baptized together by Bishop Cyril.

Saints and Feasts of December 28


On the twenty-eighth twenty thousand men were killed by burning.

Holy Twenty Thousand Martyrs of Nicomedia

Synaxarion of the 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia

The 20,000 Holy Martyrs of Nicomedia


Holy Martyr Domna

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyr Domna

Saint Domna as a Model for our Lives


Holy Martyr Indes the Eunuch

Holy Martyr Indes the Eunuch


Holy Martyrs Gorgonios and Peter

Holy Martyrs Gorgonios and Peter


Holy Martyr Glykerios the Presbyter

Holy Martyr Glykerios the Presbyter


Holy Martyrs Dorotheos, Mardonios and Mygdonios

Holy Martyrs Dorotheos, Mardonios and Mygdonios


Holy Martyr Zeno of Nicomedia

Holy Martyr Zeno of Nicomedia


Holy Martyr Theophilos the Deacon

Holy Martyr Theophilos the Deacon


Venerable Simon the Myrrhgusher, Founder of Simonopetra Monastery

Saint Simon the Myrrhgusher, Founder of Simonopetra Monastery

The Cave of Saint Simon the Myrrhgusher (photos)

An Old Seal of Simonopetra Monastery


Saints Mark the Grave-Digger and Theophilus the Weeper

Saints Mark the Grave-Digger and Theophilus the Weeper


Venerable Nephon the New Cenobiarch

Saint Nephon the New Cenobiarch (1736-1809)


Encomium for the Holy Protomartyr Stephen (St. Proclus of Constantinople)


Saint Stephen was once commemorated the day after Christmas on December 26 as the first martyr (protomartyr) of the Christian community, and as such became famous throughout the Christian Church. On 26 December 415 his relics were found and transferred to Jerusalem, where in c.438/9 a shrine was built and dedicated to him. Stephen also became a popular subject with patristic and Roman/Byzantine homilists. Patriarch Proclus of Constantinople (+ 447), who seems to have preached the following encomium the day after Christmas (today the Orthodox Church celebrates Saint Stephen on December 27th), in his characterization of Stephen as witness to and martyr of Christ, portrays the characters who are involved in the stoning of Stephen according to Acts 6-7, from a fourfold perspective: he firstly presents his audience with a portrait of Stephen, secondly moves on to the dispute between Stephen and the Jews and his arrest, thirdly the preacher employs invective against the Jews regarding their true attitude towards Moses, and finally crowns his encomium on Stephen by portraying Christ as judge who hands over the prize of victory to Stephen.

Encomium for the Holy Protomartyr Stephen

By St. Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople

The sensible sun, which rises above the earth, has beside it as attendants, the stars of the Dipper, Orion, Pleiades and even the Morning Star.

The Sun of Righteousness, however, who radiated by rising within the virginal womb, does not need assistance from the light of the stars, but has raised up the Protomartyr Stephen to shine beside His immortal rays.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Homily on the Nativity of Christ (St. Gregory of Nyssa)


By St. Gregory of Nyssa

“SOUND THE TRUMPET at the new moon,” says David, “even in the notable day of your feast.” The commandments of Divinely-inspired teaching are assuredly a law for those who hear them. Therefore, since the notable day of our feast is at hand, let us, too, fulfill the law and become heralds of the solemnity. The trumpet of the law, as the Apostle bids us understand, is the word. For the sound of the trumpet, he says, should not be uncertain, but its notes should be distinct so that the hearers may clearly perceive it. So let us produce a clear and audible sound, brethren, one that is no less noble than that of the trumpet. For the Law, prefiguring the truth in the shadowy types, enjoined the sounding of the trumpet at the Feast of Tabernacles. Now, the theme of the present Feast is the mystery of the true Tabernacle. For on this day did He Who vested Himself with humanity for our sake pitch His human tabernacle; on this day our tabernacles, which had disintegrated through death, are reconstituted by Him Who constructed our habitation from the very beginning. Let us utter the words of the Psalm, joining in chorus with the loud-voiced David: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” How does He come? He crosses over into human life, not by boat or by chariot, but through the incorruption of a Virgin. This is our God, this is our Lord, Who appeared to us to ordain a Feast with thick branches, even unto the horns of the altar.

Saint Fabiola of Rome (+ 399)

St. Fabiola of Rome (Feast Day - December 27);
Jean-Jacques Henner painted this portrait of Fabiola (in a classical Roman profile) in 1885;
this idealized rendition of the Saint was lost in 1912.

Saint Fabiola belonged to the patrician Roman family of the gens Fabia. She had been married to a man who led so vicious a life that to live with him was impossible. She obtained a divorce from him according to Roman law and, contrary to the ordinances of the Church, she entered upon a second union before the death of her first husband.

At the time of Saint Jerome's stay at Rome (382-84), Fabiola was not one of the ascetic circle which gathered around him. It was only later that, upon the death of her second consort, she decided to enter upon a life of renunciation and labor for others. On the day before Easter, following the death of her second consort, she appeared before the gates of the Lateran Basilica, dressed in penitential garb, and did public penance for her sin, which made a great impression upon the Christian population of Rome. The Pope received her formally again into full communion with the Church.

Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Constantinople (+ 687)

St. Theodore I of Constantinople (Feast Day - December 27)

Verses

Theodore was viewed as an excellent shepherd,
Being an imitator of the great Shepherd.

Our Holy Father Theodore was born and raised in Constantinople, and lived during the reign of Emperor Constantine IV Pogonatos (668-685). Due to his great piety and virtue, he was ordained Presbyter of the most holy Great Church of Hagia Sophia. He was then appointed to the positions of synkellos (an advisor and fellow-boarder of the Patriarch, who was usually viewed as his designated successor) and skevophylax (keeper and protector of the sacred liturgical vessels). After the then Patriarch Constantine (675-677) died, Theodore was constrained by the emperor and the entire senate, together with the entire Holy Synod of Bishops, to succeed him. Thus he was ordained Patriarch of Constantinople in 677.

Saints and Feasts of December 27


On the twenty-seventh Stephen is taken away by stones.

Holy Apostle and Archdeacon Stephen the Protomartyr

Saint Stephen the Protomartyr Resource Page



Venerable Theodore the Graptos

Saint Theodore the Graptos, Who Was Branded With Twelve Iambic Verses


Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Constantinople

Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Constantinople (+ 687)


Holy Martyrs Maurice, His Son Photinos and the Seventy Soldiers With Them

Holy Martyrs Maurice, His Son Photinos and the Seventy Soldiers With Them


Saint Fabiola of Rome

Saint Fabiola of Rome (+ 399)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Synaxarion of Saint Euthymios the Confessor, Bishop of Sardis

St. Euthymios of Sardis (Feast Day - December 26)

On this day we commemorate our Holy Father Euthymios the Bishop of Sardis and Confessor, or we should rather say, the Hieromartyr.

Verses

You stand before Christ, thrice-blessed Euthymios,
You have attained the fullness of unceasing cheerfulness.

This Saint lived during the reign of Constantine and Irene (780-797). At first he shined as a star in his solitary conduct. Later when he became a Bishop, he refuted by his authority the heretical Iconomachs at the Second Synod of Nicaea, namely the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (787). Seeing that he held his ground, the emperors sent him as an ambassador to various embassies. Because Nikephoros Staurakios took imperial authority in 802, and he lived his life lawlessly, the Saint rebuked him. Therefore he was exiled to Pantelleria in the West, together with other Orthodox Bishops. From then till the time of his confession, it was a period of twenty-nine years, during which the thrice-blessed one was unable to receive his Metropolis and sit in his see. When the emperors who held power were removed from within, and the beastly-named Leo became emperor, namely the Armenian, in 813, the Saint was brought back from exile, and he was questioned by him if he venerated the holy icons. Because the Saint applied his habitual boldness, and anathematized the emperor while standing before him, the tyrant became enraged, and exiled the Saint to Assos, which is also called Apollonia, and is located near Adramyttion.

Historicity of the Flight Into Egypt Traditions


Many Copts are absolutely convinced the traditions of Christ's travels throughout Egypt as a child is historical truth. They are convinced Jesus Christ indeed visited specific locations in Egypt that can still be visited today. The only first century source we have is the Gospel of Matthew, but Matthew doesn’t mention any specific location in Egypt. Those locations were only mentioned centuries later.

Westerners may call this tradition a legend but it is certainly an old one and one that is of tremendous importance for the Egyptian Copts. It would thus not be correct to brush it away because of lack of any historical and archaeological evidence that Jesus, Mary and Joseph visited specific locations.

Did Christ Perform Miracles as a Child? (St. John Chrysostom)


By St. John Chrysostom

(From Homily 21 on the Gospel of John)

"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee." (John 2:11)

Now if any say that this is not a sufficient proof that it was the "beginning of His miracles," because there is added simply "in Cana of Galilee," as allowing it to have been the first done there, but not altogether and absolutely the first, for He probably might have done others elsewhere, we will make answer to him of that which we have said before. And of what kind? The words of John (the Baptist): "And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come, baptizing with water."

Flight Into Egypt Resource Page


Verses

Coming towards you is He Who struck you with terror in days of old,
Egypt shudders understanding this to be God.

Synaxarion for the Synaxis of the Theotokos and Her Flight Into Egypt With Christ

The Flight of the Theotokos Into Egypt With Christ

Synaxis of the Theotokos Resource Page


Verses

Blamelessly giving birth without knowing a man in the marriage-bed,
As a blameless gift we welcome the words.
Dance and sing on the twenty-sixth for the most-pure birth-giving.

Synaxarion for the Synaxis of the Theotokos and Her Flight Into Egypt With Christ

The Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos

Saints and Feasts of December 26


Dance and sing on the twenty-sixth for the most-pure birth-giving.

Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos

Synaxis of the Theotokos Resource Page


The Flight of the Most Holy Theotokos Into Egypt With Christ

Flight Into Egypt Resource Page


Venerable Constantine the Jew

Synaxarion of Saint Constantine the Jew


Holy Hieromartyr Euthymios the Confessor, Bishop of Sardis

Synaxarion of Saint Euthymios the Confessor, Bishop of Sardis


Holy New Hieromartyr Constantios the Russian

Holy New Hieromartyr Constantios the Russian (+ 1743)


Synaxis of the Panagia of Bethlehem

The Miraculous Icon of the Panagia of Bethlehem

The Icon of the Panagia of Bethlehem and Her Appearance to a Muslim Man

Elder Paisios' Favorite Icon of the Panagia


Synaxis of Panagia Alexiotissa in Patras

Panagia Alexiotissa In Patras, Greece

Manger Scene at Panagia Alexiotissa in Patras, Greece

Monday, December 25, 2017

Oration on the Theophany or Birthday of Christ (St. Gregory the Theologian)


The title of this Oration has given rise to a doubt whether it was preached on Dec. 25, 380, or on Jan. 6, 381. The word Theophania is well known as a name for the Epiphany; which was originally a celebration both of the Nativity and the Baptism of our Lord. The two words seem both to have been used in the simplest sense of the Manifestation of God, and certainly were applied to Christmas Day. Thus Suidas says, "The Theophany is the Incarnation of the Savior;" and Epiphanius (Her. 53), "The Day of the Theophany is the day on which Christ was born according to the flesh." But St. Jerome applies the word to the Baptism of Christ, "The day of the Theophany is still venerable; not, as some think, on account of His Birth in the flesh; for then He was hidden, not manifested; but it agrees with the time at which it was said, 'This is My beloved Son'." There is also a Sermon, attributed to St. John Chrysostom, On the Baptism of Christ, in which it is expressly denied that the name Theophany applies to Christmas. The Oration itself, however, contains evidence to show that the Festival of our Lord's Birth was kept at the earlier date; for in c. 16 the Preacher says, "A little later you shall see Jesus submitting to be purified in the river Jordan for my purification." And another piece of evidence occurs in the oration In Sancta Lumina, c. 14, "At His Birth we duly kept festival, both I the leader of the feast, and you. Now we have come to another action of Christ and another Mystery."

Oration 38
On the Theophany or Birthday of Christ

By St. Gregory the Theologian

1. Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth; be exalted. Sing unto the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope. Christ of a Virgin; O you Matrons live as virgins, that you may be mothers of Christ. Who does not worship Him That is from the beginning? Who does not glorify Him That is the last?

Saints and Feasts of December 25


Mary the Virgin bore God on the twenty fifth.

The Nativity in the Flesh of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ

Synaxarion for the Nativity of Christ, the Veneration of the Magi and the Shepherds Who Beheld the Lord

Orthodox Christmas Resource Page


The Veneration of the Magi

Synaxarion for the Nativity of Christ, the Veneration of the Magi and the Shepherds Who Beheld the Lord

Orthodox Christmas Resource Page


The Shepherds Who Beheld the Lord

Synaxarion for the Nativity of Christ, the Veneration of the Magi and the Shepherds Who Beheld the Lord

Orthodox Christmas Resource Page

The Remarkable Christmas Homily of Kyros Panopolites


In the 440's a remarkable and unusual sermon was delivered on Christmas Day before a hostile congregation.

Kyros, a poet of some repute, came to Constantinople from his native Egypt and used his literary ability and the patronage of the empress Eudokia to become praefectus urbi about 435 and praefectus praetorio by 439. He held both offices simultaneously for about four years, but his career was ruined when Emperor Theodosius II accused him of being a pagan, removed him from power, and confiscated his property. Whether paganism was really the issue is difficult to say, as several sources claimed that the emperor's real motive was envy of Kyros' popularity among the people of Constantinople.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Holy Venerable Virgin Martyr Eugenia and Those With Her


Verses

To Eugenia.
Eugenia was crowned first for her labors,
Baptized dipped in dye by the sword.
On the twenty-fourth Eugenia submitted to the sword.

To Basilla.
Who will outrun you to be beheaded by the sword,
Martyr Basilla of divine solid faith?

To Philip.
A two-edged knife against error,
Philip slays with the knife of his mouth.

To Protas and Hyacinth.
Hyacinth and Protas were beheaded by the sword,
Alotted honor by God as first Martyrs.

Commemoration of Righteous Abel, Son of Adam


Verses

Your blood and soul apart cry out to God,
O first of the dead, and first of the saved.

According to Genesis 4:1-12:

'Adam knew his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering — fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Sunday Before the Nativity of Christ Resource Page

Sunday of the Genealogy of Christ (Feast Falls Between December 18 and 24)

Oikos

Seeing the dazzling radiance of your conceiving, O Virgin, Abraham the friend of God, noble Isaac, Jacob and the whole choir of saints chosen by God rejoice; and they bring creation to meet you with words of joy. For you appeared as the source of joy, since you conceived in your womb him who once appeared in Babylon and beyond all understanding preserved unburned the Youths unjustly cast into the furnace. And so they also raise the song as they hymn a Virgin who gives suck.

Synaxarion for the Sunday Before the Nativity of Christ

The Sunday Before the Nativity of Christ

Homily on the Genealogy of Christ (St. Gregory Palamas)

Saints and Feasts of December 24


On the twenty-fourth Eugenia submitted to the sword.

(Fasting Day)

Eve of the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

Dec. 24 - The Eve of the Nativity of the Lord

Orthodox Christmas Resource Page


Holy Venerable Virgin Martyr Eugenia

Holy Venerable Virgin Martyr Eugenia and Those With Her

Saint Eugenia the Martyr as a Model for our Lives


Holy Martyr Basilla, Martyred With Saint Eugenia

Holy Venerable Virgin Martyr Eugenia and Those With Her

Saint Eugenia the Martyr as a Model for our Lives


Holy Martyr Philip, Father of Saint Eugenia

Holy Venerable Virgin Martyr Eugenia and Those With Her

Saint Eugenia the Martyr as a Model for our Lives


Holy Martyrs Protas and Hyacinth the Eunuchs

Holy Venerable Virgin Martyr Eugenia and Those With Her

Saint Eugenia the Martyr as a Model for our Lives


The Beneficial Tale of Venerable Nicholas the Soldier

The Beneficial Tale of Saint Nicholas the Soldier


Venerable Antiochus Pandektos

Saint Antiochus Pandektos


Venerable Betimius

Sayings of Holy Abba Betimius


Holy New Martyr Ahmed the Calligrapher

Holy New Martyr Ahmed the Calligrapher (+ 1682)

Dec. 24 - The Eve of the Nativity of the Lord


In Orthodox practice, on the eve of the Nativity of the Lord, the liturgical services consist of the Royal Hours with the Typika, Vespers, and the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great. At Vigil in the evening, Great Compline is followed by Matins.

If the Nativity falls on Sunday, however, the Royal Hours with the Typika are read on the preceding Friday. On Friday evening, the office of the Forefeast, December 24. The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is served on Saturday morning. At Vigil in the evening, Great Compline is followed by Matins. On Sunday morning, the Liturgy of Saint Basil is celebrated.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Doesn't the Bible Suggest Christ Was Born in September Rather Than December?


The time of year that Jesus was born is a matter of some debate, and there are extra-biblical sources that make a strong case that he was indeed probably born around the traditional date of December 25th. However, if we were to look at the Bible alone for clues, alternative theories abound besides the traditional date, the most common being that Jesus was born sometime in September.

Those who propose that Jesus was born in September make their case using the following points: first, at the time of Jesus’ birth, there were shepherds in the fields watching their flocks (Luke 2:8). According to some sources, shepherds were not normally in the fields during December, due to the cold and wet conditions in Judea during that time of year. Therefore, Luke’s account suggests that Jesus may have been born in late summer or early fall (i.e., in September). The problem with this argument is that the average low temperature in Bethlehem in December is in the forties — the same as Jacksonville, Florida. Those who tend to make this argument falsely think that December in Judea is like England, Russia or Alaska. Bethlehem is situated at the latitude of 31.7. As Cornelius a Lapide (1567-1637) remarked during his lifetime, one could still see shepherds and sheep in the fields of Italy during late December, and Italy is at a higher latitude than Bethlehem. Even in our own days some shepherds watch their flocks in Bethlehem in December.

Christmas Origins Resource Page


"On the Day of the Birth of Our Savior Jesus Christ" by St. John Chrysostom

St. Nikodemos Explains How We Came to Celebrate Christmas on December 25th

Was Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist, a High Priest?

How Did the Church Determine Christ Was Born on December 25?

Doesn't the Bible Suggest Christ Was Born in September Rather Than December?

Saint Theoctist, Archbishop of Novgorod (+ 1310)

St. Theoctist of Novgorod (Feast Day - December 23)

Saint Theoctist (Feoktist), Archbishop of Novgorod, a good and humble man, prior to becoming a bishop, was abbot of the Annunciation Monastery near Novgorod. After the death of Archbishop Clement in the year 1300, the people of Novgorod chose him as their Archbishop, and Metropolitan Maximus with the bishops Simeon of Rostov and Andrew of Tver consecrated Saint Theoctist as Archbishop of Novgorod.

Saints and Feasts of December 23


On the twenty-third ten men from Crete were beheaded.

(Fasting Day)

Forefeast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ

Dec. 23 - The Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord

Orthodox Christmas Resource Page


Holy Ten Martyrs of Crete

The Holy Ten Martyrs of Crete and the Discovery of their Relics in 1898


Venerable Paul, Archbishop of Neocaesarea

Synaxarion of Saint Paul, Archbishop of Neocaesarea


Saint Nahum the Wonderworker, Enlightener and Missionary of Bulgaria

Synaxarion of Saint Nahum the Wonderworker and Enlightener of Bulgaria

Sacrilege at the Monastery of St. Naum of Ochrid


Venerable Nephon, Bishop of Constantia

Saint Nephon, Bishop of Constantia


Saint Theoctist, Archbishop of Novgorod

Saint Theoctist, Archbishop of Novgorod (+ 1310)


Commemoration of the Consecration of the Great Church of Christ (Hagia Sophia)

Commemoration of the Door Opening, Illumination and Consecration of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia

Dec. 23 - The Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord


The Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord begins on December 20. From then till Christmas, most of the liturgical hymns will be concerned with the birth of the Savior.

At Compline on this fourth day of the forefeast of the Nativity we sing, “Let us purify our nous, washing ourselves with the divine Mysteries; let us draw near in soul and body to Bethlehem, that we may behold the fearful dispensation of the birth of the Lord” (Ode Five of the Canon).

Friday, December 22, 2017

Holy Martyr Flavian, Former Prefect of Rome (+ 363)

St. Flavian of Rome (Feast Day - December 22)

In the year 363, Emperor Julian the Apostate made Apronianus the Prefect of Rome, replacing Flavian. Flavian, was discovered to be a Christian, so he was removed from his office, branded on the forehead as a slave and exiled to the village of Acquapendente in Tuscany of Italy. There Flavian was tortured and died of his wounds while in prayer.

The Secret Tunnel of Panagia Soumela Leading to a Previously Unknown Chapel


In the northern part of the monastery under the roof, the archaeologists found something they didn’t expect.

The countdown has already started so that in August 2018 the historic Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Trebizond will open again, since 2015, for the public and the whole project is expected to be ready at the end of next year.

The Adoption of Christmas in the Eastern Churches


By Thomas Talley

As with most other questions surrounding the festivals of Christmas and Epiphany, the dissemination of the December festival in the East (and, as we shall see, the reverse process in the West) has been surrounded by controversy that will not soon, it seems, yield to perfect agreement. In Syria a festal list in Apostolic Constitutions V.13 gives first place to a feast of the Nativity (Genethlion) on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, that month number repre­senting the Syrian acceptance of April as the paschal first month. That festival of the Nativity is followed, on the sixth day of the next month, by the feast called Epiphania, on which, the text says, “the Lord made to you a manifestation of his own deity”. That descrip­tion would fit either the baptism or the miracle at Cana, and may have reference to both. Here, in any case, the December festival is known as the Nativity and that in January retains the title of Epi­phany. The presence of both festivals here is a critical item in the difficult question of the date of Apostolic Constitutions. Funk, largely on that basis, assigned the collection to the turn of the century, ca. 400. Others (Altaner, Quasten) have favored a date some twenty years earlier.

Sermon 8 on the Fast of Advent (St. Leo the Great)


By St. Leo the Great

(Sermon 19: On the Fast of The Tenth Month, VIII)

I. Self-restraint leads to higher enjoyments

When the Savior would instruct His disciples about the Advent of God's Kingdom and the end of the world's times, and teach His whole Church, in the person of the Apostles, He said, "Take heed lest haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and care of this life" (Lk. 21:34). And assuredly, dearly beloved, we acknowledge that this precept applies more especially to us, to whom undoubtedly the day denounced is near, even though hidden. For the advent of which it behooves every man to prepare himself, lest it find him given over to gluttony, or entangled in cares of this life. For by daily experience, beloved, it is proved that the mind's edge is blunted by over-indulgence of the flesh, and the heart's vigor is dulled by excess of food, so that the delights of eating are even opposed to the health of the body, unless reasonable moderation withstand the temptation and the consideration of future discomfort keep from the pleasure. For although the flesh desires nothing without the soul, and receives its sensations from the same source as it receives its motions also, yet it is the function of the same soul to deny certain things to the body which is subject to it, and by its inner judgment to restrain the outer parts from things unseasonable, in order that it may be the oftener free from bodily lusts, and have leisure for Divine wisdom in the palace of the mind, where, away from all the noise of earthly cares, it may in silence enjoy holy meditations and eternal delights. And, although this is difficult to maintain in this life, yet the attempt can frequently be renewed, in order that we may the oftener and longer be occupied with spiritual rather than fleshly cares; and by our spending ever greater portions of our time on higher cares, even our temporal actions may end in gaining the incorruptible riches.

Saints and Feasts of December 22


Anastasia was violently burned in the fire on the twenty second.

(Fasting Day)

Forefeast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ

Dec. 22 - The Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord

Orthodox Christmas Resource Page


Holy Great Martyr Anastasia the Pharmakolitria

Saint Anastasia the Pharmakolitria Resource Page


Holy Martyr Chrysogonos

Saint Anastasia the Pharmakolitria Resource Page


Holy Martyr Theodoti and Her Three Children

Saint Anastasia the Pharmakolitria Resource Page


Holy Martyr Zoilos

Saint Anastasia the Pharmakolitria Resource Page


Holy Martyr Flavian, Former Prefect of Rome

Holy Martyr Flavian, Former Prefect of Rome (+ 363)


Commemoration of the Door Opening of the Great Church of Christ (Hagia Sophia)

Commemoration of the Door Opening, Illumination and Consecration of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia


Commemoration of the Illumination of the Great Church of Christ (Hagia Sophia)

Commemoration of the Door Opening, Illumination and Consecration of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia

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