Prologue entry for 01/10/23 (read on 01/23/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. Saint Gregory, Bishop Of Nyssa
Gregory was the brother of Basil the Great. At first he was only a presbyter, since he was married; but when his wife, Blessed Theosevia, reposed, Gregory was chosen and consecrated Bishop of Nyssa. He was distinguished by his great secular learning and spiritual experience. He participated at the Second Ecumenical Council [Constantinople, 381 A.D.]. It is thought that he composed the second half of the Symbol of Faith [the Creed]. He was a great orator, an interpreter of Holy Scripture and a theologian. Because of their defeat, the Arians especially attacked him as their worst enemy, so that during the reign of Emperor Valens–their ally of the same mind–they succeeded in ousting Gregory from the episcopal throne and sent him into exile. This Holy Father spent eight years in exile, patiently enduring all miseries and all humiliations. He finally reposed in old age toward the end of the fourth century, and entered into the Kingdom of God, remaining throughout the ages as a great beacon of the Church on earth.
2. The Venerable Ammon, Epyptian Ascetic
For fourteen years, Ammon prayed to God and struggled to conquer anger within himself. He attained such perfection of goodness that he was not even conscious that evil existed in the world. He was particularly knowledgeable in Holy Scripture. He reposed at the beginning of the fifth century.
3. Saint Marcian
Marcian was born in Rome. After being ordained a presbyter, he lived the remainder of his life in Constantinople, during the greater part of the reign of Emperor Marcian and Empress Pulcheria. Inheriting enormous wealth from his parents, Marcian generally spent it on two goals–building or restoring churches, and charity for the poor. He built two new churches in Constantinople, both famous for their beauty and sacredness, dedicated to St. Anastasia and St. Irene. When he was asked: “Why do you spend so much on churches?” he replied: “If I had a daughter and wanted to marry her to a nobleman, would I not spend much gold in order to adorn her as a worthy bride? And here I am adorning the Church, the Bride of Christ.” As generous as this wonderful man was toward the churches and the indigent, so was he austere, very austere, toward himself, following the apostolic exhortation: Having food and raiment let us be therewith content(1 Timothy 6:8). It is written about him: “He was totally in God and God in him.” And he departed to God, in fullness of years and good works, in the year 471 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint Gregory And Saint Marcian
The Spirit possesses the gifts, the Spirit imparts the gifts:
To some, blessed mercy; to some, bold understanding;
To some, a special virgin's purity;
To some, a living love or a sound mind.
According to the strength of one's faith, new gifts the Spirit adds.
If faith grows, which moves mountains,
Then the treasury of the Spirit is opened,
And gift upon gift, like rain, descends upon the faithful one.
St. Gregory, because of his great faith,
To spiritual heights, like an eagle soared.
St. Marcian, because of his great faith,
With heavenly mercy was illuminated.
The light of theology, to Gregory, was imparted.
To Marcian was given grace, the oil of praise.
O Heavenly Spirit, Lord and King,
Thy wondrous gifts from us, do not withhold,
But, through the prayers of Thy chosen vessels,
On the day of the Dreadful Judgment, from condemnation, save us.
Vanity over clothing is taking on a particular momentum in our time. He who has nothing else of which to be proud, becomes proud of his attire. Yet he who has something more costly than clothes of which to be proud, does not become proud. Just as gold is not found on the surface of the earth, so it is that the spiritual worth of a man does not show outwardly. It is said that a certain distinguished philosopher saw a young man who took pride in his clothing. He approached the young man and whispered in his ear: “The same fleece was previously worn by a ram; nevertheless, he was still a ram!” To be a Christian and to display pride in clothing is more insane than to be an emperor and to be proud of the dust under one’s feet. While St. Arsenius wore clothes of gold in the royal court, no one called him Great. He was called Great only when he unselfishly gave himself over completely to God–and dressed in rags.
Contemplate the lowliness of the Lord Jesus:
- The lowliness of the King, Who was born in a cave;
- The lowliness of the Most-wealthy One, Who hungered and thirsted;
- The lowliness of the Almighty in relating to the lowly on earth.
on contentment with that which is most necessary to us
“Having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8). The apostles of God taught others that which they themselves fulfilled in their own lives. When they had food and clothing, they were content. Even when it happened that they had neither food nor clothing, they were content, for their contentment did not emanate from the outside but from within. Their contentment was not so cheap as the contentment of an animal, but costly–more costly and more rare. Internal contentment, the contentment of peace and love of God in the heart–that is the contentment of greater men, and that was the apostolic contentment. In great battles, generals are dressed and fed as ordinary soldiers: they do not seek contentment in food or in clothes but in victory. Victory is the primary contentment of those who battle. Brethren, Christians are constantly in battle–in battle for the victory of the spirit over the material, in battle for the victory of the higher over the lower, and in battle for the victory of man over his beastly nature. Is it not, therefore, absurd to engage in battle and concern oneself not with victory but with external decorations and ornaments? Is it not foolish to give to one’s enemies the marks of identification? Our invisible enemy, Satan, rejoices at our vanity and supports us in every vain thought. The invisible enemy occupies us with every possible unreasonable pettiness and idleness, only to impose upon our minds the heavy forgetfulness of that for which we are here on earth. The invisible enemy presents to us the worthless as important, the irrelevant as essential, and the detrimental as beneficial, only in order to achieve victory over us and to destroy us forever. O Lord, Holy, Mighty and Immortal, Who created us from the mud and breathed the living soul into mud; do not, O Lord, allow the mud to overcome us! Help our spirit, that it always be stronger than the earth. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.