Prologue entry for 01/25/23 (read on 02/07/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. St Gregory The Theologian, Archbishop Of Constantinople
Gregory was born in Nazianzus of a Greek father [who later became a Christian and a bishop] and a Christian mother. Before his baptism, he studied in Athens with Basil the Great and Julian the Apostate. Gregory often prophesied that Julian would become an apostate and a persecutor of the Church, and this actually happened. Gregory’s good mother, Nonna, had an especially great influence on him. When he had completed his studies Gregory was baptized. St. Basil consecrated him as Bishop of Sasima, and Emperor Theodosius the Great summoned him to fill the vacant archepiscopal throne of Constantinople. He wrote numerous works, the most famous of which are those on theology, for which he is called The Theologian. Especially known, because of its depth, is his work Homilies on The Holy Trinity. Gregory wrote against the heretic Macedonius, who erroneously taught that the Holy Spirit is a creation of God. He also wrote against Apollinarius, who erroneously taught that Christ did not have a human soul, but that His divinity was in lieu of His soul. Additionally Gregory wrote against Emperor Julian the Apostate, his one-time fellow student. In 381 A.D., when a debate began regarding his election as archbishop, he withdrew on his own and issued a statement: “Those who deprive us of our archepiscopal throne cannot deprive us of God.” Afterward he left Constantinople and went to Nazianzus, and there he lived a life of solitude and prayer, writing beneficial books. Although he was in poor health throughout his entire life, Gregory nevertheless lived to be eighty years old. His relics were later transferred to Rome. A reliquary containing his head reposes in the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow. He was, and remains, a great and wonderful light of the Orthodox Church, as much by his meekness and purity of character as by the unsurpassable depth of his mind. He reposed in the Lord in the year 390 A.D.
2. The Venerable Publius
At first Publius was a senator. Recognizing the light of Christ, he left his worldly honors, distributed his possessions to the poor, and devoted himself to a life of asceticism in the proximity of his town, Zeguma, on the Euphrates River. He established two monastic communities and reposed in the year 380 A.D.
3. The Venerable Mares
Mares was distinguished by physical beauty and a sweet-sounding voice. He withdrew from the world and lived in a hut for thirty-seven years, in fasting and cleansing the heart of impure thoughts. Mares reposed in the Lord at the age of ninety, in the year 430 A.D.
4. The Holy Female Martyr Felicitas And Her Seven Sons
As a Christian, Felicitas was condemned to death with her seven sons during the reign of Emperor Antoninus, in the year 164 A.D. She implored God only that she not be killed before her sons and that she might be able to encourage them during their torture and death, so that they would not deny Christ. According to God’s providence, it so happened. With joy, this superb mother accompanied her sons one by one, until she had witnessed the death of all seven. Then she herself, with gratitude to God, received a martyr’s death. She and her sons suffered in Rome, where their relics are now.
Hymn Of Praise
Felicitas prayed to God:
"I have a crown of seven pearls,
I wish to wrap them in purple,
And in purple to present them to Thee.
O dear Lord, receive these gifts!"
Seven sons, seven pearls;
And purple, the blood of the martyrs.
The prayer of the mother ascended,
And as incense reached unto God.
The Roman emperor sentenced her sons
To bitter death and bitter tortures;
The mother was happy—and all were amazed at her!
Felicitas encouraged her sons:
"This is why I gave birth to you, my children;
This is why I nursed you, my children,
So that I can make a gift of you to God.
For God gave you to me."
This having been said, the executioner began his work:
The first fell, the mother bowed;
The second fell, the mother bowed twice;
The third fell, the mother bowed thrice;
With the fourth, four times she bowed;
The fifth fell, five times she bowed;
The sixth fell, six times she bowed;
The seventh fell, seven times she bowed;
The mother, bowing, gave thanks to God.
The eighth time, she bowed for herself,
And on the block she rested her head.
The sword gleamed, her head was severed—
The mother kissed her children in Paradise.
They deceive themselves who speak self-confidently that they know men well enough, and that they do not allow themselves to be deceived. Who can know what kind of spirit is in a man–except only God, Who knows the secrets of the heart? Even the great saints were mistaken about people. For example: for a long time St. Basil considered a certain hypocritical heretic to be a holy man, and he defended him from many attackers until, finally, convinced of the heretic’s falseness, Basil was bitterly disappointed. St. Gregory the Theologian baptized a certain philosopher, Maximus by name, and liked him so much that he kept the philosopher in his home, sharing his table with him. However, this Maximus was as dangerous and cunning as a serpent. After a period of time, through intrigue and bribes, Maximus convinced numerous Constantinopolians to recognize him as patriarch in place of St. Gregory. When, after great confusion, this trial was removed, some rebuked Gregory for having kept his greatest enemy with him. The saint replied: “We are not to blame if we do not discern someone’s evil. God alone knows the inner secrets of a man. And we are told by the commandments to open our hearts with fatherly love to all who come to us.” A good man cannot easily understand the malice of a malevolent man.
Contemplate the Lord Jesus as King:
- As Ruler over nature, which He tames and places in service to Himself;
- As Ruler over demons, over disease and over death;
- As Ruler over the Immortal Kingdom of angels and saints.
on Who Christ is
“Who do men say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). Brethren, it is almost two-thousand years from that day when our Lord Jesus posed this question to His disciples. From then until today, this question has been put to every generation of men, to every bright day and every dark night. And every generation of men–and every bright day and every dark night–has had to give an answer to this question. This question is the question of life or death, and the answer to it is life-bearing or death-bearing. Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16), the Apostle Peter responded. And that reply was approved and praised by the Lord Jesus. “Who is Christ?” men ask today. Some say, along with the Jews, that He is a destroyer of the Law and a self-styled Messiah. Others say, along with Pilate, that on the whole they cannot arrive at the truth about this man. The third say, along with the apostles, that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Savior, the Redeemer of the human race from sin and death, the Resurrected and the Resurrector, the Living One and the Giver of Life. And all of us, who are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, agree with the apostles and the Holy Apostolic Church, which with her universal voice thus confesses Christ the Lord. O Lord, Only-begotten Son of God, help us, that we may all the days of our life believe in Thee in our hearts and confess Thee with our lips, as our God and our Savior, as the power of God and the wisdom of God (I Corinthians 1:24).
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.