Prologue entry for 01/11/23 (read on 01/24/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Venerable Theodosius The Great [The Cenobiarch]
Theodosius was the first founder and organizer of the cenobitic way of monastic life. He was born in the province of Cappadocia in the village of Mogarisses, of devout parents. As a child, he visited St. Simeon the Stylite, who blessed him and prophesied great and spiritual glory for him. Carrying a censer in which he placed unlit charcoal and incense, Theodosius sought out a place where he could settle and establish his monastery, and he stopped when the charcoal began to burn on its own. There he settled and began to live the ascetic life. He soon gathered around him many monks of various nationalities. He built a church for each nationality, so that services and hymns were offered to God in Greek, Armenian, Georgian, and other tongues at the same time. But on the day of Holy Communion all the brotherhood gathered in the great church, in which the Greek language was used. There was a common table for all, common property, common penance, common labor, common endurance and, not rarely, common hunger. Theodosius was an exalted model of life to all the monks–an example in labor, prayer, fasting, watchfulness and all Christian virtues. God granted him the gift of working miracles, by which he was able to heal the sick, appear to people in distant places and help them, tame wild beasts, discern the future, and cause bread and wheat to multiply. Prayer was on his lips day and night. He reposed peacefully in the Lord in the year 529 A.D., the 105th year after his birth.
2. Blessed Michael The Fool-For-Christ
Blessed Michael was a Russian of a princely family. He made himself appear foolish so as to conceal his virtues from the world and to avoid the praise of men. Thus he prepared himself for praise before God. He reposed in the year 1453 A.D. in the Klops Monastery near Novgorod, where his relics still lie.
Hymn Of Praise
Those who, with fear, stand before God,
Those who fear the Living God alone,
They, only they can witness
That the righteous one receives that for which he prays to God.
When people truly pray, God acts on their behalf.
The dawn shines on the one who turns to the dawn.
Saint Theodosius, by his prayers,
Helped many and also helps us.
For he lives even now, as he once did,
And works miracles now, even as he once did.
The Lord gave him power, because of his faith
And his love for God—love without measure.
Wonderful Theodosius, zealot for truth,
Marvelous director of the monastic life:
Let us praise him who is glorified by God,
Now a glorious citizen of the Kingdom of Christ.
To be bribable means to not be a Christian. The Orthodox Fathers of the Church were not given to bribery or intimidation. Bribery in matters of the Faith is equal to Judas’s betrayal of Christ for money. Such bribery was characteristic only of certain heretics. When Emperor Anastasius succumbed to the heresy of Euthychius, he rose up against the decisions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council [Chalcedon, 451 A.D] and wanted to outlaw those decisions. In order to win over the most distinguished representatives of the Church for himself, the emperor began to send them various gifts. St. Theodosius was the most renowned man in all of Palestine. The emperor sent him thirty liters of gold as a gift, supposedly for the needs of the monastery. By this, Theodosius immediately understood that the emperor wanted to bribe him. How wisely this saint of God acted! He did not want to keep the money for the monastery, even though it was in great need; neither did he want to return it to the emperor, lest the emperor become more embittered against Orthodoxy; thus he immediately distributed all the gold to the poor in the emperor’s name. This charity strengthened his prayer to God for the emperor’s correction and his return to the true path.
Contemplate the weeping of the Lord Jesus:
- His weeping and sorrow over the lifeless Lazarus, as well as over the fate of Jerusalem;
- His weeping and sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane because of man’s bondage to sin, the devil and death.
on the gradual nature of spiritual development
“For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14).
Those who feed on the food of the milk of sensual reflection cannot easily distinguish between good and evil. They usually come to the conclusion that all faiths are equally the same in value; that sin is the indispensable shadow of virtue; and that evil, in general, is the unavoidable companion of good. A true Christian cannot come to such erroneous conclusions. A true Christian is a mature person who is not fed on milk, but who is distrustful of the senses, and who judges much more finely and makes a finer distinction between the value of all that is and all that has been. The Christian, indeed, is given clear directions for distinguishing good from evil by God’s Revelation; nevertheless, long and laborious study is necessary in order that the Christian, striving for perfection, might in every given case know what is good and what is evil. This knowledge should pass over into feeling in order to be trustworthy and without error. Both good and evil wish to touch the heart of man. That is why man should be trained, by the feeling of the heart, to immediately recognize what approaches him–in the same manner as, with his tongue, he immediately senses the salty and the unsalty, the sweet and the bitter.
Brethren, let us endeavor every day and every moment to purify our hearts, so that our hearts might always be able to distinguish good and evil. For in everything that happens to us, the question is posed: “What is good and what is evil?” This is precisely why it does happen to us: so that we can realize what is good and follow after good. We face temptations a hundred times a day. He who has eyes to see, let him see.
O Lord, Lover of mankind, warm our hearts with good which is from Thee. Make us wise, O Lord, to be able to distinguish good from evil. O Master, strengthen us, that we might always embrace good and discard evil for the sake of Thy glory, O Lover of mankind, and for the sake of our salvation. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.