Prologue entry for 01/18/23 (read on 01/31/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. Saint Athanasius The Great, Archbishop Of Alexandria
Athanasius was born in Alexandria in the year 296 A.D., and from his early childhood had an inclination to the spiritual life. He was a deacon to Archbishop Alexander and accompanied him to the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.]. It was at this Council that Athanasius became renowned for his knowledge of, devotion to, and zeal for Orthodoxy. He contributed greatly to the destruction of the heresy of Arius and the strengthening of Orthodoxy. He wrote the Symbol of Faith [The Creed] which was adopted at the Council. Following the death of Alexander, Athanasius was elected Archbishop of Alexandria. He remained in his calling as Archbishop of Alexandria for forty years, although not for the entire time on the archepiscopal throne. With few exceptions, he was persecuted by heretics throughout his life. Of the emperors, he was persecuted the most by Constantius, Julian and Valens; of the bishops, by Eusebius of Nicomedia and many others; and of the heretics in general, by Arius and his followers. Athanasius was forced to hide from his persecutors at various times: once in a well, once in a grave, and sometimes in private homes or in the deserts. Twice he was forced to flee to Rome. Only for a while before his death did he live peacefully, as a good shepherd among his good flock, who truly loved him. Few are the saints who were so mercilessly slandered and so criminally persecuted as was St. Athanasius. His great soul patiently endured all for the love of Christ and, in the end, emerged victorious from this entire terrible and long-lasting struggle. For counsel, for comfort and for moral support, Athanasius often visited St. Anthony the Great, whom he respected as his spiritual father. A man who formulated the greatest truth, Athanasius had much to suffer for that truth–until the Lord gave him repose in His kingdom as His faithful servant, in the year 373 A.D.
2. Saint Maxim, Archbishop Of Wallachia
Maxim was the son of the Serbian Despot [Prince] Stefan the Blind and his wife, Despotica [Princess] Angelina. He was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of Manasija. Pressured by the Turks, he fled to Romania, where he was consecrated to the vacant throne of the Archbishop of Wallachia. He negotiated a truce between the warring commanders Radul and Bogdan and averted a war between them. In his later years, he returned to Krušedol, where he built a monastery and, after a lengthy ascetic life, reposed on January 18, 1546 A.D. His incorrupt and miracle-working relics repose, even now, in this monastery.
Hymn Of Praise
Christ As The Measure Of All Things
Through Athanasius, wisdom shown,
And the truth of God enlightened men.
That wisdom is not bitter, the people recognized,
But, to all who drink it to the bottom, it is sweet;
To all who suffer for it, it is dear.
Whoever in the world feels all hope extinguished,
Whoever walks through the world as over an old cemetery,
Whoever thinks about human life as about weak slavery,
Whoever thinks about the five earthly continents as about five threshing
Whoever thinks about five oceans as about five puddles—
To him, let Christ be the measure by which eternity is measured;
Let him adhere to that measure, and be confirmed in faith.
Whoever recognizes this measure will never abandon it;
He will find no other measure by which to understand the mysteries of the
All other measures, in spite of exertion,
Do not reach to the Alpha or the Omega:
They are as deceiving as the moon that crawls over the water,
But appears to reach the bottom of the water.
Christ surpasses both ends of the world,
Where the drama ends and where it began.
Of all the mysteries, the greatest mystery is Him.
From His Nativity to His Crucifixion on the Cross,
From His Crucifixion on the Cross to His Resurrection—He is the
true measure of all God's creation.
Through Him, measuring suffering in the midst of worldly tumult,
The saints of God suffered—without pain.
To the question, “Why did the Son of God appear on earth in a human body and not in another form of creation?” the brilliant St. Athanasius replied in this manner: “If they ask why did He not appear in some other, better form of creation–for example, as the sun or the moon, or the stars or fire, or the wind–but just as a man, let them know that the Lord did not come to show Himself, but to heal and teach sufferers. For to reveal Himself only to amaze the viewers would mean to come for a show. It was necessary for the Healer and the Teacher, not only to come, but to serve for the benefit of the suffering ones, and to reveal Himself in such a way that this revelation would be bearable for the sufferers. Not one single creature was in error in the eyes of God, except man alone: neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the sky, nor the stars, nor the water, nor the wind betrayed their ranks. On the contrary, knowing their Creator and their King–the Word–they all remained as they were created. Only human beings separated themselves from good and replaced truth with deceit; and the honor belonging to God (as well as the knowledge about Him) they transferred to devils and to men carved out of stone [idols]. What, therefore, is so unbelievable in this, that the Logos appeared as a man to save mankind?” Indeed, we also ask the unbelievers of our day: “In what form would you wish God to appear, if not as a man?”
Contemplate the Lord Jesus, burdened by slander and shame for the sake of our salvation:
- Burdened by slander and shame from the Jewish scribes and elders;
- Burdened by slander and shame from the many contemporary scribes and elders;
- Burdened by slander and shame from every one of us who has been baptized in His name and who has not fulfilled His commandments.
“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning” (Luke 12:35). This is the commandment of Him Who knows the weaknesses of our being, and Who desires our good more than our father and mother do. This is the commandment of our man-loving Lord. When man is ungirded, does not his entire body droop? When he girds himself, does not his entire body become as erect as a candle? As a candle stands, so must our soul stand, erect before God. How will our souls stand erect before God if unrestrained physical earthly passions and lusts weigh them down? Behold, in the loins is the nest of the main physical passions. To gird one’s loins means to tighten oneself with restraint and not to give in to passions at will. But to gird one’s physical loins is not the goal, but the means that we utilize to easily gird our mind, our heart and our will. Physical restraint is the primary school of our Christian character; after it comes a higher school, in which we learn restraint of the mind, restraint of the heart and restraint of the will. If we gird our mind, then lustful thoughts will be unable to find a place in its narrowness. If we gird our heart, then lustful desires will be unable to find a place in it. If we gird our will, then the evil, beastly and demonic desires will be unable to find a place in it. Brethren, by a narrow path can one enter into the Kingdom of God. Only in the narrowness of the mind, the heart and the will, can the candles of the virtues be lighted, the flames of which rise toward God. By the image of the lighted candles, we should understand Christian virtues. O Lord, pure and sinless, the seat of all virtues, help us to gird ourselves with restraint and to walk the narrow path to Thee with the lighted candles that Thou hast brought into the world. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.