Prologue entry for 01/31/23 (read on 02/13/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. Cyrus And John, Unmercenaries And Miracle-Workers
These charitable and glorious saints were not blood brothers, but were brothers in the spirit. Cyrus began in Alexandria, and as a physician he healed people by the power of Christ and by his knowledge of medicine. Learning that sickness mostly befalls man because of sin, Cyrus always directed the sick to purify their souls from sin through repentance and prayer, and thereby to restore health to their bodies. When Diocletion’s persecution against Christians began, Cyrus withdrew to Arabia, where he received the monastic tonsure. He became as famous in Arabia as he had been in Alexandria, so that people there also resorted to him for assistance. Hearing about Cyrus, John–then a Roman officer in Edessa–came to Arabia to see him. Upon meeting, they loved one another as a brother loves a brother, and remained together to live a life of asceticism. At that time, a certain Christian woman named Anastasia and her three daughters were tortured by the persecutors in the town of Canopus. Hearing of this, Cyrus and John came to Canopus to encourage the mother and her daughters not to abandon the Faith. Truly, thanks to the counsel of these saints, Anastasia endured all tortures, and with her daughters she was martyred for Christ. The daughters of Anastasia were: Saints Theoctista, age fifteen; Theodora, age thirteen; and Eudocia, age eleven. The tormentors then captured Cyrus and John, who were beheaded after imprisonment and torture in the year 311 A.D. Numerous miracles were wrought by these martyrs, both during their lives and after their deaths. Their relics were translated to Rome during the reign of Emperor Arcadius. These saints are invoked for assistance, especially during the Blessing of Water, in the Sacrament of Holy Unction, and by those suffering from insomnia.
2. The Holy Martyr Tryphaena
Tryphaena willingly and courageously endured many tortures for Christ. Because she did not want to deny her Faith, a wild ox was goaded to attack her, and gored her to death. This occurred in the first century. St. Tryphaena is invoked by mothers who are unable to nurse their children.
3. The Venerable Nicetas Of The Monastery Of The Kiev Caves
As a monk in disobedience to his superior, Nicetas left the monastery and closed himself in a cell. Because of his disobedience, God permitted great temptations to befall him. Once, when Nicetas was at prayer, the devil appeared to him under the guise of a radiant angel and said to him: “Do not pray anymore, but rather read books and I will pray for you!” Nicetas obeyed, ceased to pray, and began to read books. He only read the Old Testament. He was unable to open the New Testament, for the power of the devil prevented him from doing so. With the help of the devil, Nicetas prophesied–but only about crimes, thefts, arson and other evil deeds which are known to the devil and in which he participates. Finally, the Holy Fathers of the Caves realized that Nicetas had fallen into demonic delusion, and they began to pray to God for him. Nicetas returned to the monastery, realized the state of ruin he was in, repented bitterly over his disobedience and pride, and directed himself on the right path. After prolonged repentance and many tears, God forgave him and bestowed upon him the gift of miracle-working. He reposed in the year 1108 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint Nicetas Of The Kiev Caves
Nicetas, to the Creator, prayed
That the Creator make him worthy
To be able to see the Creator.
"Appear to me, O God, O God!"
O Nicetas, sin is pursuing you,
If this, from God, you implore!
Make yourself worthy and you will see
The All-eternal One in eternity.
The Immortal God does not allow
That mortal eye upon Him gaze.
Even to the celestial world it is frightful
To gaze upon the Almighty.
To us is given this life
In which to prepare ourselves,
That we become worthy, only after death,
To gaze upon the eternal Light.
But Nicetas implored and prayed
That the Creator make him worthy
To be able to see the Creator:
"Appear to me, O God Most-high."
Then, to him, the devil appeared:
"Bow down before me!" said he.
And Nicetas, as quickly as possible,
Bent the knee before him!
He thought it was an angel,
But it was the devil all aglow
With the glow of falsehood,
Which filled Nicetas's entire cell.
O my brother, do not tempt God:
This age is the age of preparation.
In this age is faith;
In that age, however, is vision.
First the battle, then the victory;
First the pain, then delight;
All occurs in its own time.
Although the Holy Fathers praised monasticism as the angelic state, and although many of the greatest saints lived their lives and attained perfection in the soundless and lifeless desert, nevertheless, the Orthodox Church does not recommend the tonsure to all the faithful. “Neither were all those in the desert saved nor were all those in the world lost,” said one saint. To a city dweller who, with no inclination for monasticism, desired to enter the monastery, St. Niphon said: “My child, a place neither saves nor destroys a man, but deeds save or destroy. For him who does not fulfill all the commandments of the Lord, there is no benefit from a sacred place or from a sacred rank. King Saul lived in the midst of royal luxury and he perished. King David lived in the same kind of luxury and he received a wreath. Lot lived among the lawless Sodomites and he was saved. Judas was numbered among the apostles and he went to hades. Whoever says that it is impossible to be saved with a wife and children deceives himself. Abraham had a wife and children, 318 servants and handmaidens and much gold and silver, but, nevertheless, he was called the Friend of God. Oh, how many servants of the Church and lovers of the desert have been saved! How many aristocrats and soldiers! How many artisans and field-workers! Be pious and be a lover of men, and you will be saved!”
Contemplate the Lord Jesus, as the Host in His house:
- How He walks about this world as One Who has authority, commanding nature and expelling demons;
- How He diligently laborers over each man with whom He encounters, as a Host over the members of His household;
- How He acts in the Temple as a Host in His house, cleansing the Temple of the money-changers.
against mediocrity and on fulfilling all the laws of God
“These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Luke 11:42). The Law and mercy are referred to in this text. In the souls of the Pharisees and sectarians, the Law and mercy do not stand together; that is, they are unable both to fulfill the regulations of the Law and to show mercy–but they argue about which is more important of these two: one they omit and to the other they adhere. The Pharisees observed the letter of the Law literally, but they completely abandoned mercy and love for men. Likewise, sectarians flatter themselves that they adhere to God’s justice, but they totally reject the prescriptions of the Church laws. Orthodoxy represents the fullness of the Faith. The Church commands that we do this, and not omit that. The Church is careful about external prescriptions of the Faith, as a man walking among clay vessels is careful not to break them. The Church is even more careful about the justice and mercy of God, as a man who, walking among the clay vessels, values them and protects them–not because of the earth from which the vessels are made, but because of the priceless contents within them. Empty vessels that are never filled with any drink are as worthless as the empty legal formalisms of the Pharisees. On the other hand, a drink, when poured into the wind, is spilled and wasted, because it is not poured into the vessels designated for it. And so, in Orthodoxy there is no one-sidedness, as there is none in the Lord Jesus. The Lord says to John the Baptist, who breathes with the justice and mercy of God, that it is necessary to fulfill the Law; but to the Pharisees– empty legalists without the justice and mercy of God–He says: For it is mercy that I desire, not sacrifice! (Hosea 6:6). It is evident that that which ye ought to have done is more important than that other that should not be left undone. But it does not mean that what is less important is unnecessary. In the human organism, there are many important organs and many organs of lesser importance, but together they constitute the body of man. O Lord, all encompassing, do not allow us to become one-sided, but help us to fulfill Thine entire will. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.