Prologue entry for 01/13/23 (read on 01/26/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Holy Martyrs Hermylas And Stratonicus
The Emperor Licinius raised a great persecution against Christians. St. Hermylas, a Christian and a deacon in the Church, was arrested and brought to trial. When Hermylas was informed that he was being led away to be tortured, he greatly rejoiced. In vain did the emperor threaten him. Hermylas openly confessed his faith in Christ and responded to all the threats of the emperor, saying: The Lord is with me; I fear not; What can man do against me? (Psalm 118:6). Following excruciating tortures, Hermylas was thrown into a dungeon. The guard was Stratonicus, a secret Christian, who sympathized with the suffering of Hermylas with all his heart. When it was reported to the emperor that Stratonicus was also a Christian, the emperor ordered that both of them be drowned in the Danube River. Then the executioners tied Hermylas and Stratonicus in a net, and both were drowned. Three days later, their bodies washed ashore. Christians discovered their bodies and buried them about eighteen miles from Belgrade. These glorious martyrs suffered for Christ and were glorified in the year 315 A.D.
2. Saint James, Bishop Of Nisibis
As a hermit, James lived in an open field in the summer, while in winter he lived in a cave. On one occasion, he went down to the town of Nisibis to see how the Christian Faith was prospering and how the Christians live. There he was elected bishop. He participated in the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.] and defended Orthodoxy against the Arian heresy. It once happened that the infidel Persians with their armies attacked Nisibis. St. James came in a procession before the ramparts of the town. Alone, he climbed and walked along the rampart, not fearing the arrows aimed at him by the adversary. As he walked, he prayed to God to preserve the town and the faithful by sending a plague of flies and mosquitoes on the Persians, thereby causing them to flee from the walls of the town. James did not seek the death of his enemies, nor did he seek some kind of catastrophe and defeat–but rather, one small vexation which would cause them to flee from Nisibis. God heard the prayers of His saint and sent a plague of flies and mosquitoes upon the Persians, driving them away. Thereby, the town of Nisibis was spared. St. James lived long and honorably. He reposed peacefully in old age, in the year 350 A.D.
3. The Venerable Maximus Kapsokalyvia
He lived in the fourteenth century. Maximus led an ascetic life as a monk on Mount Athos in his own unique way. That is to say, he pretended to be a little crazy and constantly changed his dwelling place. His place of abode consisted of a hut made from branches. He built these huts one after another, and then burned them: for this he was called “of Kapsokalyvia,” i.e., “of the burned huts.” He was considered insane until the arrival on Mount Athos of St. Gregory of Sinai, who discovered in Maximus a unique ascetic, a wonder-working intercessor and “an angel in the flesh.” Venerable Maximus reposed in the Lord in the year 1320 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
Prayer in the heart beats like a heart,
Prayer in the heart, together with breathing,
Internal prayer is a light from within.
On Athos this was manifested by Maximus.
Like a spirit without a body, Maximus was lifted up.
Through prayer he was utterly infused with Light,
Through prayer he was filled with joy,
Through prayer he was filled with satisfaction,
Through prayer he saw the heavens opened.
Through prayer the human being was glorified,
Through prayer he sensed the nearness of Christ.
The Holy All-pure One openly appeared to him.
The soul of Maximus was sated with heaven.
Gregory of Sinai once asked him:
"Tell me, O righteous Maximus, whence do you know
That you have good and not evil visions,
And that all of these are not illusions of the devil,
False temptations and Satan's deceptions?"
"From this, I know," said he, "that they are not lies:
These visions console the spirit and body,
My spirit always yearns after them,
And, at the sign of the Cross, they will not vanish.
Because of sweet joy I know it is not delusion—
Because of blessed joy that warms me completely."
A good deed done in silence is worth more than a good deed done with an explanation, and is worth incomparably more than the most spiritual explanation without a good deed. From St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia no words have remained, but his deeds have remained. On three occasions, without any explanation, he came at night to the home of a poor man and secretly threw a bag of gold through the window. A certain elder of a Scetis in Egypt became very ill and desired to eat a little fresh bread, for the bread that the monks ate at that time was dried in the sun and kept for months. Upon hearing this, one of the monks, without saying anything to anyone, departed the Scetis and went to a distant town, where he purchased fresh bread for the ailing elder. Learning about the effort of this monk, the elder did not want the bread, saying: “This is the blood of my brother!” (That is to say, the brother provided it with great difficulty, with great effort). Then the other monks implored the elder to eat, saying to him: “Do not despise the sacrifice of the brother.” What kind of explanation and what words of brotherly love are able to replace this simple and silent act of brotherly love?
Contemplate the hunger and thirst of the Lord Jesus for justice:
- How He came into the world to restore distorted justice;
- How He proclaimed God’s justice and unmasked injustice;
- How He hastened to do numerous acts of justice in order to leave us an example.
on the Kingdom of God which is within
“The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). All that belongs to God carries the seal of immortality. And the Kingdom of God is immortal. If we desire to breathe the air of immortality, we must enter within ourselves, within our hearts, within the Kingdom of God. Outside of ourselves is the air of time, the air of transitoriness and decay, in which the soul breathes with difficulty. The kingdom of nature is the sensual kingdom; hence, it is a kingdom foreign to our souls–our souls being of our inner kingdom. Why do men love to reside for a long, long time in a foreign land? Why do they rarely and reluctantly enter into their own home? Whenever we think about the world, we are thinking about that foreign land. Whenever we converse about the sensual world, we are conversing about a foreign land. Living by the senses, we are similar to a man who rushes around all day to the homes of strangers and only at night returns to his own home to sleep. And so we dedicate our waking time to death and our sleep to immortality! We come to ourselves, we return to ourselves only in sleep. But even our sleep is dreaming of our waking life, i.e., even when we are in our own home, in an unconscious state, we dream of foreign homes. Our dreams are sensual, for our consciousness is sensual. And so we are in a foreign land; we are strangers in reality and in dreams. We are constantly outside ourselves. The Lord wants to return us to ourselves, to His home and to His homeland. For us, the Kingdom of God is within us; outside of ourselves is a foreign land. In order to escape from a foreign land and find our true home, in which we directly encounter God, we must enter within ourselves, into our hearts. There is the King; there also is the Kingdom. O Lord, King of the angels and saints, show us the riches and the light of Thy Kingdom within us, that we may love Thy kingdom more than we love the foreign land of the sensual–the kingdom of change and transitoriness. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.