Prologue entry for 01/16/23 (read on 01/29/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. Saint Peter The Apostle [The Chains Of St. Peter]
St. Peter is commemorated on this day because of the chains with which he was shackled by the lawless Herod and which fell from him during the appearance of an angel in prison: Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ The chains fell from his wrists (Acts of the Apostles 12:7). The chains were preserved by Christians as much for the memory of this great apostle as for their healing power, for many of the sick were healed by touching them, as was the case with the apron of the Apostle Paul: then when the face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them (Acts 19:12). St. Juvenal, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, gave these chains as a gift to the Empress Eudocia, the exiled wife of the Emperor Theodosius the Younger. She divided them into two and sent one half to the Church of the Holy Apostle in Constantinople and the other half to Rome, to her daughter, Empress Eudoxia, the wife of Valentian. Eudoxia built the Church of St. Peter and placed these chains in it, together with those chains with which Peter was shackled before his death under Emperor Nero.
2. The Holy Martyrs Speusippus, Eleusippus, Meleusippus And Their Grandmother
Leonilla. The three brothers, triplets, Speusippus, Eleusippus, Meleusippus all suffered for Christ in France during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161 - 180 A.D.). At first only Leonilla was a Christian, while her grandsons were heathens. After prolonged counseling on the part of their pious grandmother and the local priest, these three brothers received baptism. Having been baptized, they began with youthful zeal to live a life devoted to their Faith, and with this fervor they destroyed all the idols in the whole vicinity. Accused and brought before the tribunal, they acknowledged their act and openly confessed their faith in Christ. The judge had them thrown into prison, summoned their grandmother Leonilla, and directed her to go to the prison and counsel her grandsons to deny Christ and worship the idols. Without a word, Leonilla went to the prison–but instead of counseling her grandsons to deny the true Faith, she began to encourage them not to waver, but to endure all torments to the end and to die for Christ. When the judge again questioned them and realized their strengthened steadfastness in the Faith, he condemned them to death. At first, all three of them were hanged on a tree, where they hung “as strings on a harp,” after which they were flogged and finally burned in fire. A certain woman, Jovilla, heartened at the courage of these martyrs, cried out: “I too am a Christian!” The pagans immediately apprehended and beheaded her, together with the elderly Leonilla.
3. The Venerable Martyr Damaskin Of Gabrovo
Damaskin led a life of asceticism at Hilandar Monastery, where he became the abbot. When he sought of a debt due to the monastery from some Turks, they persuaded a Moslem woman to enter the house where Damaskin lived. Then those Turks came and, finding this woman, dragged Damaskin before the Cadi [Moslem Judge], who then proposed to him: either be hanged or convert to Islam. To this Damaskin responded decisively: “It would be insanity if I, for this transient life, were to purchase eternal death.” He was hanged in the year 1771 A.D. in Svishtov. Thus, Damaskin sacrificed his body in order to save his soul. But God’s punishment immediately befell his murderers. While they set out to cross the Danube River in a row boat, a storm arose and capsized the boat, and they drowned.
4. The Venerable Romil
Romil was born in Vidin. He was a disciple of St. Gregory of Sinai. He lived a life of asceticism in several monasteries. Constantine Tsamblak lived together with him in the Monastery of Ravanica [Serbia]. St. Romil reposed in the Lord in about the year 1375 A.D., at Ravanica Monastery.
Hymn Of Praise
Leonilla, grandmother aged,
By the Spirit was made as powerful as a lioness.
When she had prepared her grandsons for God,
She herself, a martyr, became.
To Leonilla, the tribune screamed,
Hissing with bitter anger:
"Go, Grandmother, to the dungeon
And counsel your grandsons.
Counsel them to deny
The so-called Christ God.
Either they renounce Christ
Or they renounce their young lives."
Leonilla, in the dungeon,
To her grandsons spoke:
"Of worldly powers, do not be afraid,
Even though they burn you alive.
Cleave to the glorious Christ
And His Gospel.
For you He has prepared
An eternity of radiance and joy.
Of bitter wounds, do not be afraid,
For they shall pass. Neither be afraid of death—
Death can neither hide nor annihilate
Those who are faithful to Christ."
Three grandsons, in the midst of the fire,
To God offered up praise,
While the evil one beheaded
Their dear grandmother Leonilla.
Nothing crushes human pride as does habitual obedience toward elders. In ancient Sparta, obedience was considered a great virtue. It is said that a Spartan soldier, who was rushing into battle armed with a sword, caught up with his enemy. At the precise moment when the Spartan was about to slay him, the trumpet sounded to end the fighting, and he replaced his sword in the sheath. When someone who saw this asked him, “Why did you not slay the enemy?” he replied, “It is better to obey the commander than to slay the enemy.” Christian obedience differs from this Spartan obedience in that it is voluntary and has as its goal the salvation of the soul, i.e., it is not for the preservation of an earthly kingdom but rather for obtaining the Heavenly Kingdom. St. John the Dwarf began his ascetic life with a certain elder of Thebes. In order to teach his disciple obedience, the elder planted a withered tree in the ground and ordered his disciple to water it daily. For three years, and without murmuring, John watered this withered tree until it finally turned green and brought forth fruit. This is the fruit of unmurmuring obedience. The Crucified Lord Himself became obedient unto death (Philippians 2:8).
Contemplate the peace of the Lord Jesus:
- The peace which He carried in His soul–the only perfect Peace-bearer;
- The peace which He created among men–the only perfect Peacemaker;
- The peace which He gave to His disciples–the only perfect Peace-giver.
on how we are all free only if we are slaves of Christ
“For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant (I Corinthians 7:22). The great news that Christianity daily announces to the world is that a thing is evaluated at its full value not according to its external appearance, but by its essence. Evaluate things not according to their color and shape but according to their meaning. Evaluate a man not by his position and property but by his heart–in which his feelings, his reason and his will are united. According to this (which is always a new teaching for the world), he who is outwardly enslaved is not a slave, and he who possesses outward physical freedom is not free. According to worldly understanding, a slave is one who enjoys the world the least, and a free man is one who enjoys the world the most. According to Christian understanding, a slave is one who enjoys the least from the living Christ, while a free man is one who enjoys the most from the living Christ. Further, according to worldly understanding, a slave is one who carries out his own will less frequently and the will of others more frequently, while a free man is one who carries out his own will more often and the will of others less often. However, according to Christian understanding, a slave is one who carries out his own will more often and the will of God less often, while a free man is one who carries out the will of God more frequently and his own will less frequently. To be a slave of the Lord is the only true and worthy freedom of man–and to be a slave to the world and to one’s self, to sin and vice, is the only fatal slavery. A man might thinbk of kings on their thrones: are there any men on earth more free? Yet, many kings were the most base and the most unworthy slaves of the earth. Of shackled Christians in the dungeons, a man might think: are there any slaves on earth more miserable? However, the Christian martyrs in the prisons felt like free men, and they were filled with spiritual joy! They chanted Psalms and raised up prayers of gratitude to God. Freedom that is tied to grief and sorrow is not freedom, but slavery. Only freedom in Christ is tied to unspeakable joy. Lasting joy is the mark of true freedom. O Lord Jesus, the only Good Lord, Who grantest us freedom when Thou bindest us more strongly to Thyself, make us Thy slaves as soon as possible, that we would cease to be slaves of cruel and unmerciful masters. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.