Prologue entry for 01/17/23 (read on 01/30/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Venerable Anthony The Great
Anthony was an Egyptian and was born in about the year 250 A.D. in the village of Koman near Heraclea. Following the death of his noble and wealthy parents, he divided the inherited estate with his sister, who was a minor, and made sure that she was cared for by some relatives. Anthony distributed his half of the estate to the poor, and in his twentieth year he dedicated himself to the ascetic life for which he had yearned from his childhood. In the beginning, Anthony lived a life of asceticism in the proximity of his village, but in order to flee the disturbances of people he withdrew into the wilderness on the shore of the Red Sea. There he spent twenty years as a recluse, not associating with anyone except God. Through constant prayer, reflection and contemplation, he patiently endured unspeakable temptations from the devil. His fame spread throughout the entire world, and many disciples gathered around him, whom he set on the path of salvation by his example and words. During the eighty-five years of his ascetic life, only twice did he go to Alexandria: the first time to seek martyrdom during a time of persecution of the Church, and the second time at the invitation of St. Athanasius the Great, in order to refute the accusation of the Arians that he too was an adherent of the Arian heresy. Anthony reposed in the 105th year of his life, leaving behind an entire army of disciples and emulators. Even though Anthony was not a scholar, he was nevertheless a counselor and teacher of the most learned men of his time, as was St. Athanasius. When certain Greek philosophers tempted him with literary wisdom, Anthony shamed them with the question: “Which is older, the understanding or the book? Which of these two was the cause of the other?” Ashamed, the philosophers dispersed, for they perceived that they only had literary knowledge without understanding, whereas Anthony had understanding. Here is a man who attained perfection insofar as man, in general, can attain on earth. Here is an instructor to instructors and a teacher of teachers, who for a full eighty-five years perfected himself; and it was only in that way that he was able to perfect many others. Filled with many years of life and great works, Anthony reposed in the Lord in the year 356 A.D.
2. The Holy Emperor Theodosius The Great
This glorious emperor, zealous in the Faith, reigned from 379 to 395 A.D. Constantine the Great banned the persecution of Christians, but Theodosius the Great went one step further: he outlawed the offering of idolatrous sacrifices in his realm. He assisted in the strengthening and spreading the Christian Faith throughout the world.
3. The Holy New Martyr George Of Ioannina
George was an Albanian. He was born in the village of Churkli, Albania, of very impoverished farmer parents. The Turks used force in attempting to persuade George to embrace Islam, but he remained steadfast in the Christian Faith, for which he was hanged in Ioannina on January 17, 1838 A.D. Even unto today, George is a great miracle-worker and healer.
Hymn Of Praise
St. Anthony The Great, St. Theodosius The Great And St. George The New Martyr
Above all divisions, above all classes,
God stands passionless: the Lord above armies.
The wealthy He does not despise, nor of the poor is He ashamed.
Of the powerful He is not afraid, and to the sinful He beckons: Come!
Saints from everywhere, for Himself, He recruits:
This one who begs and that one who rules.
Like a cherry-picker who plucks only the sweet cherries,
Caring not whether the branches are coarse or smooth,
Into one beautiful wreath, the Lord weaves all,
Only when souls are repentant and holy.
The wondrous Anthony, throughout his life, fasted,
Theodosius treated the whole world with the love of Christ,
And George of Ioannina she his blood for Christ.
All three the Lord loved, eternally.
The Lord does not have loathing toward His crops,
Nor toward weaknesses of the created world.
Toward all He is the same, but toward Him all are not.
To everyone He is of service; to everything He is merciful.
Always, above everything and above all classes,
Always, the passionless God—the Lord above armies.
St. Anthony teaches: “Learn to love humility, for it will cover all your sins. All sins are repulsive before God, but the most repulsive of all is pride of the heart. Do not consider yourself learned and wise; otherwise, all your effort will be destroyed, and your boat will reach the harbor empty. If you have great authority, do not threaten anyone with death. Know that, according to nature, you too are susceptible to death, and that every soul sheds its body as its final garment.” In Byzantium there existed an unusual and instructive custom during the crowning of the emperors in the Church of the Divine Wisdom [Hagia Sophia]. The custom was that, when the patriarch placed the crown on the emperor’s head, he also handed him a silk purse filled with earth from a grave, so that even the emperor would recall death, avoid all pride and become humble.
Contemplate the persecution of the Lord Jesus for righteousness sake:
- His persecution as a child by Herod;
- His persecution as a man and as Messiah by the Jewish scribes and elders;
- His persecution as God by many of our contemporary scribes and elders, both Jewish and Christian.
on two different types of wisdom
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). This is one of the great tidings that Christianity proclaims to the world. Wisdom according to God and from God is one thing, while the wisdom according to the world and from the world is another. Wisdom according to God is from the Holy Spirit. The apostles were filled with such wisdom when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Wisdom according to the world is from the senses and from the material realm, and it is true foolishness before God, if it is not seasoned and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. All worldly wisdom which is guided only by the physical senses, without regard for the Holy Spirit, is foolishness before God and before God’s angels. Such a wisdom does not perceive either the spirit or the purpose of this world; rather, it knows this world only as ashes from without and ashes from within– as ashes which the wind of chance piles up and strews at one moment this way, and at another moment that way. All the wisdom of man, directed only by the senses and by physical conceptions and fantasies, is foolishness before God and the angels and saints of God, for it does not know man as man, that is, as a spiritual being related to God; rather, it knows man only as a body from without and as a body from within–as a body according to form and as a body according to essence. It is the same as if a monkey, looking at an iron locomotive, described it and said: “This is iron on the outside and iron on the inside–iron which heats it and iron which operates it, iron which gives it direction and iron which stops it!” Brethren, who is able to be filled with the wisdom of God except he who first empties himself of the foolishness of the world? With God’s help, each one of us can do this. However, in response to our desires and to our efforts, God’s help infallibly comes to meet us–for God alone is Goodness, Wisdom and Holiness. O Good Lord, wise and holy, fill us with Thy life-creating wisdom. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.