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May 31, 2017

The Tradition of Unbaptized Dead Infants in Crete

In many places of Crete we encounter churches where the locals once buried their unbaptized babies, called "telonia" by Cretans. In other places, such as mountainous west Crete, instead of burying them they dropped them in caves. What is interesting about the churches where they used to bury the unbaptized children is that they usually honor the name of Saint Paraskevi. It has not been established why Saint Paraskevi has been associated with the telonia, therefore this requires more research.

One of the most important churches used for burying telonia is located near Kritsa, in the area of Koulbado. This church, commonly known as the Church of Saint Paraskevi at the Telonia, is also very important as it is a single-aisle church, probably built in the Byzantine Era (indicated by the typical ceramic bricks encountered in Byzantine churches) prior to the Venetian rule of Crete.

On the Proper Reading of the Song of Songs by Solomon

The Song of Songs can be seen as a sublime wedding song, written by Solomon in his infinite wisdom, that portrays the love of a bride and a bridegroom, and from this perspective it has no corporeal or fleshly meaning. The bride is the Church and the bridegroom is Christ, and this book is an expression of the mutual divine eros between them. It is spiritual, not literal, or as Augustine writes, "it is a rapture veiled in allegory." Spiritually it is also a story of the individual soul with the Word of God.

Gregory of Nyssa says that Christ used Solomon as an instrument to speak to us through his voice first in Proverbs, then in Ecclesiastes, and lastly in the Song of Songs. By these three books Solomon reveals the ascent to perfection in an orderly fashion. Proverbs leads us through purification by helping to cleanse us of our passions, Ecclesiastes illumines us to see everything in the world as it is after we have been purified, and the Song of Songs is an expression of our subsequent sacred union and secret intercourse with Christ after our purification and illumination, which is our glorification. Each subsequent book is loftier than the other.

May 30, 2017

Holy Virgin Martyr Petronilla of Rome

St. Petronilla of Rome (Feast Day - May 31)

Saint Petronilla is traditionally identified as the daughter of Saint Peter the Apostle, though this may stem simply from the similarity of names. It is believed she may have been a convert of the Apostle (and thus a "spiritual daughter"), or a follower or servant. It is said that Saint Peter cured her of palsy. Not knowing the details of her life, she is commonly believed to have been a virgin martyr from Rome.

Almost all the sixth and seventh century lists of the tombs of the most highly venerated Roman martyrs mention Saint Petronilla's grave as situated in the Via Ardeatina near Saints Nereus and Achilleus. These notices have been completely confirmed by the excavations in the Catacomb of Domitilla. One topography of the graves of the Roman martyrs, Epitome libri de locis sanctorum martyrum, locates on the Via Ardeatina a basilica of Saint Petronilla, in which Saints Nereus and Achilleus, as well as Petronilla, were buried.

Holy Martyr Hermias of Comana in Cappadocia


To Hermias.
As a seal dipped in your blood,
Hermias, you were beheaded - O indelible dye!
On the thirty-first Hermias was slain by the sword.

To the Magician.
Tasting your noetic potion O Word,
He vomits the poison of error and is slain by the sword.

The Holy Martyr Hermias suffered for Christ in the city of Comana during the persecution of either the emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) or Marcus Aurelius (161-180). He was a soldier by profession, though elderly with white hair. The governor Sebastian, who was in Cappadocia to arrest Christians, urged the Saint to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, promising him honors and mercy from the emperor.

Saint Isaac the Confessor, Founder of Dalmatoi Monastery

St. Isaac of Dalmatoi (Feast Day - May 30 & February 3)


By the election of God he entered a divine land,
After Isaac departed the earthly land.
On the thirtieth Isaac departed the earth after a glorious death.

Our Venerable Father Isaac is believed to have been a Greek-speaking Syrian, though this is not certain. What is known is that he was a Greek-speaking eastern hermit who lived in the wilderness. His hagiographies begin with his appearance before the emperor Valens in the year 378. Valens had aided the Arians of Constantinople in their persecutions of the Orthodox, which included expelling Orthodox bishops and closing certain churches while giving others to the Arians. At the time of his encounter with Isaac in Constantinople, Valens and his army were on their way to fight an army of Goths which had marched down from the Danube toward Thrace. The historian Theodoret then says the following:

Saint Emmelia, Mother of Saint Basil the Great

St. Emmelia (Feast Day - Slav. Jan. 1; Gr. May 30)

Saint Emmelia (also Emily, Emilia, Emelia), was part of a holy family and most famous for being the mother of Saint Basil the Great. There are very few descriptions of Saint Emmelia’s life. She was the daughter of a martyr and the daughter-in-law of Saint Macrina the Elder (260-340). Along with her husband, Saint Basil the Elder (+ 349), she gave birth to nine or ten children. She instilled the Orthodox faith in her children, teaching them to pray and devote their lives to the service of the Church. Among these were Saint Basil the Great (+ 379), his sister Saint Macrina the Younger (c.330–379) and his brothers Saints Gregory of Nyssa (334-394), Naukratios of Mount Nitria (332-358), and Peter of Sebaste (345/7-392). It is also a widely held tradition that Saint Theosevia (c. 335-c.385) was his youngest sister (though some claim she was the spouse of Saint Gregory of Nyssa), who is also a saint in the Church. There are also about four or five other girls, unknown sisters of Saint Basil. Therefore, Saint Emmelia is often called “the mother of saints.”

When her son, Naukratios, suddenly died at the age of twenty-seven, she was consoled by her eldest daughter, Macrina. Macrina reminded her that it was not befitting to a Christian to “mourn as those who have no hope” and inspired her to hope courageously in the resurrection bequeathed to us by the saving passion of the Lord.

After her children left home, Emmelia was persuaded by Macrina to forsake the world. Together they founded a monastery for women. Emmelia divided the family property among her children. Retaining only some meager possessions, she and Macrina withdrew to a secluded family property in Pontus, picturesquely located on the banks of the Iris River and not far from Saint Basil’s wilderness home. A number of liberated female slaves desired to join the pair, and a convent was formed. They lived under one roof and held everything in common: they ate, worked, and prayed together. They were so eager to advance in virtue that they regarded fasting as food and poverty as riches. The harmony of this model community of women was unspoiled by anger, jealousy, hatred, or pride. Indeed, as the Church sings of monastics, they lived like angels in the flesh.

Living in this manner for many years, Emmelia reached old age. When an illness signaled her departure from this world, her son Peter came to her side. Together with Macrina, he tended to his mother in her last days. As the oldest and the youngest, Macrina and Peter held a special place in Emmelia’s heart.

Before committing her soul to the Lord, she raised her voice to heaven, saying, “To you, O Lord, I give the first fruits and the tithe of the fruit of my womb. The first fruit is my first-born daughter, and the tithe is this, my youngest son. Let these be for you a rightly acceptable sacrifice, and let your holiness descend upon them!” Saint Emmelia reposed in 375 and was buried as she had requested, beside her husband in the chapel at their estate in Annesi, where Naukratios had also been laid.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Having lived your life prudently before God, you finished your course beforehand with revered Basil, all-revered Emmelia, and in the wilderness, you mutually went with your children, towards that which you longed for above, wherefore Christ most-glorified your household.

Saint Barlaam the Hermit, Who Converted Prince Joasaph

St. Barlaam the Hermit (Feast Day - May 30)


The extreme ends of the earth knew Barlaam,
Living in extreme asceticism until he entered the earth.

In the time of Constantine the Great there lived in India a pagan king named Abenner, who had only one son, Joasaph. When the Prince was born, astrologers and wise men were called to prophesy the Prince's destiny as king. All of them said the same: that he would be a wise and powerful king. But one dared to tell the truth: the Prince would become Christian and give up his throne. The King was furious. He ordered every Christian to be killed or banned from the kingdom, and he put the Prince in a private, guarded castle to shield him from any possible Christian influence.

May 29, 2017

Synaxarion of the Holy Venerable Martyr Theodosia of Constantinople (+ 730)

St. Theodosia of Constantinople (Feast Day - May 29)


Killed with the horn of an ox, Theodosia,
You are perceived as the new horn of Amalthea.

Saint Theodosia lived during the reign of Theodosios of Atramyttion [715-717] and was the daughter to pious parents. Her father died when she was seven years old, and her mother took the child and had her tonsured in one of the convents of Constantinople. Then her mother also died, bequeathing her entire fortune to the blessed Theodosia. After commissioning three holy icons of Christ, the most holy Theotokos, and the holy martyr Anastasia of gold and silver, she distributed the remainder of her inheritance to the poor and the orphaned.

Holy Virgin Martyr Theodosia of Tyre (+ 306)

St. Theodosia the Virgin (Feast Day - May 29)


For April 2.

Theodora is adorned with majesty and beauty,
A well-pleasing gift to the Lord.*

For May 29.

Theodosia is drowned in the waters of the sea,
Christ cherishes her in refreshing water.
On the twenty-ninth Theodosia was struck by the current of the sea.

The History of the Martyrs in Palestine

By Eusebius of Caesarea

The Confession of Theodosia, a Virgin of God

In the Fifth Year of the Persecution in our Days (306 A.D.)

Holy Ethno-Hieromartyr Euthymios, Bishop of Zela (+ 1921)

St. Euthymios of Zela (Feast Day - May 29; Sunday Before September 14)

Saint Euthymios of Zela the Ethno-Hieromartyr, born Eustratios Agritellis in 1876, was the last resident Bishop of the Diocese of Zela in Amasya, Western Pontus, which he served from June 12, 1912 until his death on May 29, 1921, during the period of the Greek genocide.1

Early life

Saint Euthymios was born on July 6, 1876 in the village of Parakoula on Lesvos island, where he started his education. At the age of nine he entered the 'Leimonias school', located within the Leimonos Monastery, from where he graduated in 1892.2

May 29, 1453 - Fall of Constantinople Resource Page


May 28, 2017

Sunday of the 318 Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod in 325


O ye light-bearing stars of the spiritual firmament,
Enlighten my mind with your rays.

Verses Against Arius

Calling the Son a stranger to the Father’s essence,
Arius proved to be a stranger to God’s glory.

On the seventh Sunday of Pascha, we commemorate the holy God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod.

The Commemoration of the First Ecumenical Synod has been celebrated by the Church of Christ from ancient times. The Lord Jesus Christ left the Church a great promise, “I will build My Church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). Although the Church of Christ on earth will pass through difficult struggles by the enemy of salvation, it will emerge victorious. The holy martyrs bore witness to the truth of the Savior’s words, enduring suffering and death for confessing Christ, buecause the persecutor’s sword is shattered by the Cross of Christ.

Though the Church has always been persecuted by outside forces, heresies have also risen from within the Church itself to destroy it through poisonous doctrines. One of the most pernicious of these heresies was Arianism. Arius, a priest of Alexandria, was a man of immense pride and ambition. In denying the divine nature of Jesus Christ and His equality with God the Father, Arius falsely taught that the Savior is not consubstantial (of one essence) with the Father, but is only a created being.

A local Synod, convened with Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria presiding, condemned the false teachings of Arius. However, Arius would not submit to the authority of the Church. He wrote to many bishops, denouncing the decrees of the local Synod. He spread his false teaching throughout the East, receiving support from certain Eastern bishops.

Investigating these dissensions, the holy emperor Constantine (May 21) consulted Bishop Hosios of Cordova (Aug. 27), who assured him that the heresy of Arius was directed against the most fundamental dogma of Christ’s Church, and so he decided to convene an Ecumenical Synod. In 325, 318 bishops representing local Christian Churches from various lands gathered together at Nicaea. Among the assembled bishops were many confessors who had suffered during the persecutions, and who bore the marks of torture upon their bodies.

With Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria came his deacon, Athanasius (who later became Patriarch of Alexandria). He is called “the Great,” for he was a zealous champion for the purity of Orthodoxy. In the Sixth Ode of the Canon for today’s Feast, he is referred to as “the thirteenth Apostle.”

The emperor Constantine presided over the sessions of the Synod. In his speech, responding to the welcome by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, he said, “God has helped me cast down the impious might of the persecutors, but more distressful for me than any blood spilled in battle of a soldier, is the internal strife in the Church of God, for it is more ruinous.”

Arius, with seventeen bishops among his supporters, remained arrogant, but his teaching was repudiated and he was excommunicated from the Church. In his speech, the holy deacon Athanasius conclusively refuted the blasphemous opinions of Arius. The heresiarch Arius is depicted in iconography sitting on Satan’s knees, or in the mouth of the Beast of the Hell (Rev. 13).

The Fathers of the Synod declined to accept a Symbol of Faith (Creed) proposed by the Arians. Instead, they affirmed the Orthodox Symbol of Faith. Saint Constantine asked the Synod to insert into the text of the Symbol of Faith the word “consubstantial,” which he had heard in the speeches of the bishops. The Fathers of the Synod unanimously accepted this suggestion.

In the Nicene Creed, the Holy Fathers set forth and confirmed the Apostolic teachings about Christ’s divine nature. The heresy of Arius was exposed and repudiated as an error of haughty reason. After resolving this chief dogmatic question, the Synod also issued Twelve Canons on questions of ecclesiastical administration and discipline. Also decided was the date for the celebration of Holy Pascha. By decision of the Synod, Holy Pascha should be celebrated by Christians on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox (which occurred on March 22 in 325).

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Most glorified art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast established our Fathers as luminous stars upon the earth, and through them didst guide us all to the true Faith. O Most Merciful One, glory be to Thee.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The Preaching of the Apostles and the doctrines of the Fathers confirmed the one Faith in the Church. And wearing the garment of truth woven from the theology on high, she rightly divideth and glorifieth the great mystery of piety.

Gospel Commentary for the Seventh Sunday of Pascha (St. Theophylact of Ochrid)

Seventh Sunday of Pascha:
The Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod

John 17:1-13

From the Explanation of the Gospel of St. John

By Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

1–3. These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour is come: Glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee; as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent."

Having encouraged the disciples to face bravely the coming tribulations, Christ raised their spirits again, this time by prayer. By praying, He teaches us that when temptations assail us we should put everything else aside and flee to God. However, one could say that Jesus was not actually praying, but rather conversing with the Father. Do not be surprised that it is said elsewhere that Jesus did pray, kneeling on the ground (see Mt. 26:39). For the Lord came, not only to reveal Himself to us, but to teach us every virtue by His own example, as a good instructor. Showing us that He goes willingly to His crucifixion, He says, "Father, the hour is come." See how He longs for the Passion, and embraces it. He calls it His glory, and His Father’s glory, for indeed, by the Passion both were glorified. Before the crucifixion, He was practically unknown, even to the Jews: "Israel does not know Me" (Is. 1:3), He said. Afterwards, the whole world flocked to Him.

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod Resource Page

On this day, the seventh Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the First Ecumenical Synod, of the three hundred and eighteen God-bearing Fathers, which took place in Nicaea.


O ye light-bearing stars of the spiritual firmament,
Enlighten my mind with your rays.

Verses Against Arius

Calling the Son a stranger to the Father’s essence,
Arius proved to be a stranger to God’s glory.

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod
Saint Agatharchos, Bishop of Lefkada, 
and the Holy Five God-bearing Fathers 
First Ecumenical Synod 


Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod 

May 27, 2017

Venerable Bede the Confessor, Hieromonk of Wearmouth-Jarrow Abbey (+ 735)

St. Bede the Venerable (Feast Day - May 27)

Saint Bede was a church historian who recorded the history of Christianity in England up to his own time. He was probably born around 673 in Northumbria. We do not know exactly where he was born, but it is likely that it was somewhere near Jarrow.

When he was seven, Bede was sent to Saint Benedict Biscop (Jan. 12) at the Monastery of Saint Peter at Wearmouth to be educated and raised. Then he was sent to the new monastery of Saint Paul founded at Jarrow in 682, where he remained until his death. There he was guided by the abbot Saint Ceolfrith (Sept. 25), who succeeded Saint Benedict in 690, ruling both Wearmouth and Jarrow.

Synaxis of All Saints of Boeotia

Synaxis of All Saints of Boeotia (Feast Day - Last Saturday of May)

The Saints of Boeotia have been honored since 26 January 2002, when the right aisle of the Church of Saint Nicholas the New was dedicated to them, and on the Second Sunday of Great Lent that same year Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Halkida consecrated the silver-covered icon on the icon screen of the church with holy myrrh.

May 26, 2017

Saint Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 604)

St. Augustine of Canterbury (Feast Day - May 26)

Saint Augustine was from Italy, a disciple of Bishop Felix of Messana, and a Benedictine monk. He is considered the "Apostle to the English" and a founder of the English Church. Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome (Mar. 12), chose him to lead a mission of forty monks to evangelize the people of Britain in the year 595. He had been an abbot of a monastery in Rome prior to this. They arrived at Ebbsfleet (on the isle of Thanet) in Kent in 597.

Holy Apostle Carpos of the Seventy

St. Carpos the Apostle of the Seventy (Feast Day - May 26)


The Lord received the fruits you produced O Carpos,
Which you brought every hour till the end as a harvest.
On the twenty-sixth Carpos flew away from the earth to a distant place.

Saint Carpos was among the Seventy Apostles of the Lord, who ministered to the Apostle Paul in the preaching of the gospel, and delivered his epistles. He taught many pagans to revere Christ. Some sources say he was Bishop of Varna in Thrace, while others say he was Bishop of Berroia in Macedonia. As a shining star he illumined the universe with his teachings. Daily he worked great miracles and banished evil spirits from the possessed.

Holy Apostle Alphaeus of the Seventy with his son Abercius and daughter Helen

Holy Apostle Alphaeus, with Sts. Abercius and Helen (Feast Day - May 26)


To Alphaeus.
The mouth of the divine Alphaeus covered by the bitter grave,
The Word of God on his gaping mouth.

To Abercius.
Abercius was exposed as food to the bees,
Food perceived as the honeycomb of the Lord.

To Helen.
Your honor were the stones Martyr Helen,
By which you are perceived as seemly for the Bridegroom.

Our Ascended Lord: The Saving Swallow Who Opened the Way to the Eternal Spring

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

When swallows run short of food and the cold weather is coming, they set off to warm climates, where there is plenty of sun and food. One swallow flies ahead, testing the air and showing the way, while the rest of the flock follows after.

When our souls run short of food in the material world, and when the cold of death draws near — ah, is there a swallow like that one, to take us to a warm place, where there is plenty of spiritual warmth and food? Is there such a place? Is there, oh, is there such a swallow?

Outside the Christian Church, there is no one who can give any sort of reliable answer to this. The Church alone knows, and knows with certainty. It has seen that part of Paradise for which our souls yearn in the frozen twilight of this earthly existence. It has also seen this blessed swallow, the first to fly to that yearned-for place, dispersing the darkness and cutting through the heavy atmosphere between earth and Heaven with its powerful wings, opening the way to the flock behind it. Apart from this, the Church on earth can tell one of innumerable flocks of swallows that have followed the first Swallow and flown off with it to that blessed land, a land abounding with all good things — the land of eternal Spring.

May 25, 2017

Ascension and Pentecost in Fourth Century Jerusalem According to Nun Egeria

Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives

Egeria was a nun who authored a detailed account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the early 380s, making it the earliest of the kind. Regarding the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, she writes:

Easter to Pentecost

Now, from Easter to the fiftieth day, that is, to Pentecost, no one fasts here, not even those who are apotactitae.* During these days, as throughout the whole year, the customary things are done at the Anastasis** from the first cockcrow until morning, and at the sixth hour and at vespers likewise. But on the Lord's Days the procession is always to the Martyrium,*** that is, to the great church, according to custom, and they go thence with hymns to the Anastasis. On the fourth and sixth weekdays, as no one fasts during those days, the procession is to Sion,**** but in the morning; the dismissal is made in its due order.

Homily on the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

Gregory of Nyssa's brief homily on the Ascension is perhaps the most ancient witness of this feast's existence, and he does not hesitate to call it the "great celebration". The literal reading of the title is "Concerning that festive day which is said to be consecrated in the region of the Cappadocians: the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ." On the other hand, there is little allusion to Christ's ascension into heaven; the homily turns out to be more a commentary on Psalms 22 and 23. Because of this it is not difficult to see that Gregory's sermon was most likely composed about the same time as his Commentary on the Inscriptions of the Psalms.

History of the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord

The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church. On this day we commemorate the completion of Christ’s work for our salvation, the glorious entry of our Lord in His human nature into heaven, His seating at the right hand of the Father, as well as His promise of our own glorification with Him.

The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the fortieth day after Easter Sunday, since in Scripture we read that Jesus, after His glorious resurrection, continued to appear to His disciples for “forty days,” talking to them about the “kingdom of God.” On the fortieth day our Lord took His disciples to the summit of the Mount of Olives, from where He ascended to His heavenly glory as predicted by the Prophet Zechariah: “On that day His feet shall rest upon the Mount of Olives, which is opposite Jerusalem to the east” (14:4).

What it Means That Christ Sits at the Right Hand of the Father (St. John of Damascus)

By St. John of Damascus

After Christ was risen from the dead He laid aside all His passions, I mean His corruption or hunger or thirst or sleep or weariness or such like. For, although He did taste food after the resurrection [Luke 24:43], yet He did not do so because it was a law of His nature (for He felt no hunger), but in the way of economy, in order that He might convince us of the reality of the resurrection, and that it was one and the same flesh which suffered and rose again. But He laid aside none of the divisions of His nature, neither body nor spirit, but possesses both the body and the soul intelligent and reasonable, volitional and energetic, and in this wise He sits at the right hand of the Father, using His will both as God and as man in behalf of our salvation, energizing in His divine capacity to provide for and maintain and govern all things, and remembering in His human capacity the time He spent on earth, while all the time He both sees and knows that He is adored by all rational creation. For His Holy Spirit knows that He is one in substance with God the Word, and shares as Spirit of God and not simply as Spirit the worship accorded to Him. Moreover, His ascent from earth to heaven, and again, His descent from heaven to earth, are manifestations of the energies of His circumscribed body. For He shall so come again to you, says he, in like manner as you have seen Him go into Heaven [Acts 1:11].

May 24, 2017

Ascension of Christ Resource Page

On this day, the Thursday of the sixth week of Pascha, we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ.


Thou didst sit at the right hand of the Father, O Word,
Granting unto Thine initiates a most steadfast faith.
Feast of the Ascension of our Lord

The Holy Georgian Martyrs of Persia

The Holy Georgian Martyrs of Persia (+ 1616)

Holy New Martyr Pachomios

Holy New Martyr Pachomios (+ 1730)

Synaxis of Panagia Arvanitissa in Chios

Synaxis of Panagia Arvanitissa in Chios

Synaxis of Panagia Chrisopigi of Sifnos

Synaxis of Panagia Chrisopigi of Sifnos

Synaxis of the Wonderworking Icon of 
Saint Anna in Boeotia

The Miraculous Icon of Saint Anna in Boeotia

Synaxarion of Saint Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain

St. Symeon the New Stylite of the Wondrous Mountain (Feast Day - May 24)


Beforehand Symeon you inhabited the land of Wondrous Mountain,
Now you dwell on the all-wondrous mountain in the heavens.
On the twenty-fourth Symeon you entered where noetic beings are all around.

The Venerable and Wonderworking Symeon, lived during the reign of Emperor Justin II (565-574). He was born in Antioch of Syria, whose father was named John and was from Edessa, and mother was named Martha who was raised in Antioch. All that is written of him is wondrous, and higher than the boundaries of human nature, both those things which took place through him with the help of God, and those things he himself did. He was conceived through prayer, and before he was conceived the great Forerunner and Baptist John testified of him regarding his future virtue, and he foretold the perfection to his mother that her son was to receive. Having been born, he never breastfed from the left breast of his mother. By this she considered her child would be eager towards good impulse, and that he would not participate in the wicked works of the left. When he was six years old, although not of a mature age, he did not care for childish things, and was not easily led towards that which is vulgar, therefore this divinely-wise child turned away from all these earthly things of leisure, and he went to the mountain, where he immediately undertook such a harsh life and dwelling, which only by forcing himself was he able to acquire after many years a habit towards, this even by aged men. Thus through such eagerness and life, he beheld many divine and angelic appearances and visions, which taught him all that he was to do, namely to always honor that which is good and virtuous, and to flee and hate wickedness and sin.

Saint Vincent of Lerins (+ 445)

St. Vincent of Lerins (Feast Day - May 24)

Saint Vincent was born in Toulouse, Gaul. He was the brother of Saint Lupus, Bishop of Troyes, who was a companion of Saint Germanus of Auxerre. Saint Vincent was first a soldier, and he informs us that having been some time tossed about in the storms of a bustling military life, he began seriously to consider the dangers with which he was surrounded, and the vanity and folly of his pursuits. He desired to take shelter in the harbor of religion, which he calls the safest refuge from the world. His view in this resolution was, that he might strenuously labor to divest his soul of its ruffling passions, of pride and vanity, and to offer to God the acceptable sacrifice of a humble and Christian spirit, and that being further removed from worldly temptations, he might endeavor more easily to avoid not only the wrecks of the present life, but also the burnings of that which is to come. Thus by avoiding the concourse and crowds of cities, he could follow without distraction the Psalmist's admonition, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The place he chose for his retirement was in a small remote island (today known as Isle Saint-Honorat), sheltered from the noise of the world, the renowned Monastery of Lerins. There he was tonsured a monk and ordained a priest.

He considered that true faith is necessary to salvation no less than virtue, and that the former is the foundation of Christian virtue; and he grieved to see the Church at that time pestered with numberless heresies, which sucked their poison from their very antidote, the Holy Scriptures, and which, by various wiles, spread on every side their dangerous snares. To guard the faithful against the false and perplexing false teachers, and to open the eyes of those who had been already seduced by them, he, with great clearness, eloquence, and force of reasoning, wrote a book, which he titled, A Commonitory Against Heretics, which he composed in 434, three years after the Third Ecumeincal Synod of Ephesus had condemned the Nestorians. He had chiefly in view the heretics of his own times, especially the Nestorians and the Apollinarians, but he confuted them by general, clear principles, which overturn all heresies to the end of the world. Together with the ornaments of eloquence and erudition, the inward beauty of his mind, and the brightness of his devotion, sparkle in every page of his book. Out of humility, he disguised himself in this book under the name of Peregrinus, to express the quality of being a pilgrim or stranger on earth, and one by his monastic state, in a more particular manner, estranged from the world. He styles himself "The least of all the servants of God, and less than the least of all the saints, unworthy to bear the holy name of a Christian."

Without identifying by name Augustine the Bishop of Hippo, Saint Vincent condemns his doctrine of grace and predestination, calling it heresy to teach of "a certain great and special and altogether personal grace of God [which is given to the predestined elect] without any effort, without any industry, even though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock" (Commonitory, ch. 26). Saint John Cassian wrote his refutations before, and Saint Vincent after, the condemnation of Nestorius at the Third Synod in 431, and the death of Augustine in 430. Saint Vincent reposed in peace about the year 445. His relics are preserved at Lérins.

Isle Saint-Honorat

He wrote the Commonitory as an aid to distinguish the true teachings of the Church from the confusions of heretics; his most memorable saying is that all Christians must follow that faith which has been believed "everywhere, always, and by all." The title Commonitory means "Remembrance", insinuating that the work is intended as a memory aid, a work that one may consult quickly for the purpose of refreshing one's memory, as the Saint himself notes in his introductory comments. In his great work, the Saint tells us that we may discover the truth first through reading Holy Scripture, for that is the basis of everything. Yet, he points out men may differ in their interpretation of Holy Scripture. How may we know which interpretation is the correct one? We know by consulting the writings of authorities within the Church, the great Saints and Church Fathers, and this we do carefully. Vincent offers three tests of accurate, Orthodox scripture interpretation:

1. Universality, meaning the entire Church adheres to the teaching;

2. Antiquity, meaning the Ecumenical Synods determined the teaching to be Orthodox; and

3. Consent, meaning that bishops harmoniously consulting one another agree the teaching is true.

Saint Vincent observes that souls which have lost the anchorage of the Catholic faith, "are tossed and shattered with inward storms of clashing thoughts, that by this restless posture of mind they may be made sensible of their danger; and taking down the sails of pride and vanity which they have unhappily spread before every gust of heresy, they may make all the sail they can into the safe and peaceful harbor of their holy mother the Catholic Church; and being sick from a surfeit of errors, may there discharge those foul and bitter waters to make room for the pure waters of life. There they may unlearn well what they have learned ill; may get a right notion of all those doctrines of the church they are capable of understanding, and believe those that surpass all understanding."

He further explains: "In ancient times, our forefathers sowed the seeds of the wheat of faith in that field which is the Church. It would be quite unjust and improper if we, their descendants, gathered, instead of the genuine truth of wheat, the false tares of error. On the contrary, it is logically correct that the beginning and the end be in agreement, that we reap from the planting of the wheat of doctrine the harvest of the wheat of dogma. In this way, none of the characteristics of the seed is changed, although something evolved in the course of time from those first seeds and has now expanded under careful cultivation. What may be added is merely appearance, beauty, and distinction, but the proper nature of each kind remains."

His defense of the traditions of the Fathers and his condemnation of innovation and novelty in the Church are as appropriate today as they were in his time:

"The Church of Christ, zealous and cautious guardian of the dogmas deposited with it, never changes any phase of them. It does not diminish them or add to them; it neither trims what seems necessary, nor grafts things superfluous; it neither gives up its own nor usurps what does not belong to it. But it devotes all its diligence to one aim: to treat tradition faithfully and wisely; to nurse and polish what from old times may have remained unshaped and unfinished; to consolidate and to strengthen what already was clear and plain; and to guard what already was confirmed and defined. After all, what have the synods brought forth in their decrees but that what before was believed plainly and simply might from now on be believed more diligently; that what before was preached rather unconcernedly might be preached from now on more eagerly."

By teaching in this way, Saint Vincent remained in the spirit of the Apostle Paul: "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to your trust" (1 Tim. 6:20).

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
With wisdom hast thou made plain to all the Orthodox faith as that which alone hath been believed and honored by all men, always and everywhere, also showing heresy to be innovation, groundless and unstable as a gust in a tempest. O Vincent, thine invincible prayers shelter the Church of God.

Apolytikion in the Second Tone
We bring to you our honor Saint Vincent of Lérins. You set the standard by which we now are blessed. The faith of old, and that of Divine assent; that which always and everywhere received consent. These ancient truths revealed to us in Scripture the faith you received to us you impart. We humbly beg you, O holy man of God, your intercessions as we seek the path you trod.