Prologue entry for 02/04/23 (read on 02/17/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Venerable Isidore Of Pelusium
Isidore was an Egyptian by birth, the son of a prominent family, and the kinsman of the Alexandrian Patriarchs Theophilus and Cyril. Having studied all the secular disciplines, he renounced worldly riches and glory, and for the love of Christ he devoted himself completely to the spiritual life. He was a great and ardent defender and interpreter of the Orthodox Faith. According to the historian Nicephorus, St. Isidore wrote more than ten thousand letters to various individuals. In these he reproached some, counseled others, and comforted and instructed still others. In one letter St. Isidore wrote: “It is more important to teach by a life of doing good than to preach in eloquent terms.” In another, he said: “If one desires that his virtues appear great, let him consider them small, and they will surely manifest themselves as great.” The first and basic rule for St. Isidore was this: “First do and then teach, according to the example of our Lord Jesus.” At the time of the persecution of St. John Chrysostom, when the entire population was divided into two camps–one for him and one against him–St. Isidore, this great pillar of Orthodoxy, sided with St. John Chrysostom. He wrote to Patriarch Theophilus that Chrysostom was a great light of the Church, and begged him to avoid rancor toward him. Isidore lived long and accomplished much, glorifying Christ God with his life and his writings. Isidore took up habitation in the Kingdom of Christ in about the year 436 A.D.
2. The Venerable Nicholas The Confessor
This saint was from the Island of Crete. He went to Constantinople to visit his kinsman, Abbot Theodore of the Studite Monastery. There he remained and was tonsured a monk. As a monk, Nicholas undertook ascetic labors for the sake of the salvation of his soul. During the persecution of the Church by Leo the Armenian, Theodore and Nicholas were cruelly tortured, humiliated, beaten with bullwhips, and finally thrown into prison. There they were imprisoned for three years. After the death of St. Theodore, Nicholas became abbot of the Studite Monastery. Even during his lifetime, he worked many miracles through the power and grace of God. Nicholas healed Eudocia, the wife of Emperor Basil, as well as Helen, the wife of the patrician Manuel. Nicholas blessed the newly born daughter of Theophilus Melisenus, a prominent nobleman whose other children had not survived birth, and he prophesied that she would live and be very fruitful. This prophecy came to pass, to the joy of the parents. On the very day of his death, Nicholas gathered the monastic brotherhood and asked them what they lacked. “Wheat,” answered the monks. Then the dying man said: “He Who fed Israel in the wilderness will send you an ample supply of wheat within three days.” And indeed, on the third day a boat full of wheat sent by Emperor Basil arrived below the monastery. Nicholas took up his habitation in the Heavenly Kingdom on February 4, 868 A.D., in the seventy-fifth year of his life.
3. The Holy New Martyr Joseph
Joseph was born in Allepo. Pressured by the Turks to embrace Islam, Joseph not only rejected this but also began to expose the falsehoods of Islam and to praise the Faith of Christ. For this, Joseph was tortured and beheaded in the year 1686 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
A Sacrifice Of Thanksgiving
Render sacrifice to God, a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
O you who are wealthy by God's mercy!
He who is wealthy, with what he has, let him barter.
Let each with his own gifts the Kingdom acquire.
Whoever is overflowing with money, let him offer money;
Whoever has a bounty of wheat, let him distribute wheat;
Whoever is given wisdom, let him teach others;
Whoever's hands are strong, let him perform service;
Whoever knows a trade, let him honorably uphold it.
Let him conscientiously consider himself as a debtor to God.
Let him who knows how to sing, praise God.
Only he is small who does not know God.
With whatever one receives, with that let him serve;
With mercy toward men, let him repay God.
Not all are the same, nor do all possess the same,
But a pure heart, everyone can offer to God.
O purity of heart, a sacrifice worthy of wonder,
For salvation, you are the crucial virtue,
And on your sacrificial altar, your incense ascends,
Arriving more swiftly than anything before the Lord.
Impose upon yourself some form of penance [Epitimija] for the sins of others. If you have judged or punished someone, impose upon yourself a form of penance. You should also suffer voluntarily for the sins of sinners. This is pleasing to God. This mystery was known by the saints, who condemned themselves for the sins of others. Even non-Christian peoples perceived this mystery. There exists this custom in China: When an executioner beheads a criminal who is sentenced to death, he then approaches the judge and informs him that the verdict was carried out. The judge reimburses him with a silver coin because he has executed a criminal, and then he orders that he be given forty lashes for having killed a man. Christian saints profoundly understood the mystery of sin and human injustice. For the saints, every human sin has a history as long as the distance from Adam to us.
Contemplate the Lord Jesus as Joy:
- As Joy that refreshes the whole spirit of man;
- As Joy that enlivens and strengthens in man all power toward good;
- As Joy from His name, Joy from His words, Joy from His works and Joy from His Spirit.
on the good fortune of Zacchaeus of little stature
“Today is salvation come to thy house” (Luke 19:9). Thus spoke He Whose word is life, joy and the restoration of the righteous. Just as the bleak forest clothes itself in greenery and flowers through the breath of spring, so every man–regardless of how arid and darkened he is by sin–becomes fresh and youthful from the nearness of Christ. For the nearness of Christ is like the closeness of some life-giving and fragrant balsam that restores health, increases life, and gives fragrance to the soul, to the thoughts and to the words of man. In other words, distance from Christ means decay and death, and nearness to Him means salvation and life. Today is salvation come to thy house, said the Lord upon entering the house of Zacchaeus the sinner. Christ was the salvation that came, and Zacchaeus was the house that He entered. Brethren, each one of us is a house in which sin dwells as long as Christ is distant, and to which salvation comes when Christ approaches. Nevertheless, will Christ approach my house and your house? That depends on us. Behold, He did not arbitrarily enter the house of the sinner Zacchaeus, rather He entered as a most desired guest. Zacchaeus of little stature climbed into a tree in order to see the Lord Jesus with his own eyes. Zacchaeus therefore sought him; Zacchaeus desired Him. We must also seek Him in order to find Him, and desire Him in order that He would draw nearer to us. Then, with our spirit, we must climb high in order to encounter His glance. Then He will visit our house as He visited the house of Zacchaeus, and with Him salvation will come. Draw near to us, O Lord; draw near and bring to us Thine eternal salvation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.