1. The Hieromartyr [Priestly-Martyr] Blaise Blaise was born in the province of Cappadocia. From his early childhood he was God-fearing and meek. Because of his great virtues, he was chosen as bishop of the city of Sebaste [in Armenia]. Blaise was a great spiritual and moral beacon in this pagan city. During a grave persecution of Christians, St. Blaise encouraged his flock and visited the martyrs of Christ in prison. Foremost among them was the eminent and glorious Eustratius. When the city of Sebaste was completely emptied of Christians–some were slain and others fled–the elderly Blaise withdrew to Mount Argeos and settled there in a cave. Wild beasts recognized the holy man and gathered around him, and he tenderly caressed them. But the persecutors found the saint in this remote place and brought him to trial. Along the way, Blaise cured a young boy who had a bone caught in his throat. At the plea of a poor widow whose pig had been snatched by a wolf, the saint, by the power of his prayer, made the wolf return it. The sinister judges tortured Blaise severely, flogging him and scrapping him with an iron comb. By his steadfastness in the Christian Faith, Blaise converted many pagans to the Faith. Seven women and two children languished in prison with him. The women were beheaded first, and afterward the wonderful Blaise was beheaded with the two children. He suffered and was glorified in the year 316 A.D. People pray to St. Blaise for the well-being of their domestic livestock and for protection against wild beasts. In the west, he is also invoked against diseases of the throat.

  2. The Holy Martyr George Of Kratovo By origin, George was a Serb from the town of Kratovo. He was a silversmith by trade, and in his heart and soul he was a convinced and devout Christian. George was eighteen years old when the Turks tried to convert him to Islam, but George remained as firm as a diamond in his faith. The Turks tortured him with many cruel tortures and finally burned him at the stake. He suffered for the beautiful Faith of Christ on February 11, 1515 A.D., in Sofia, Bulgaria, during the reign of Sultan Selim, and was glorified with unfading glory in the heavens.

  3. Saint Theodora Theodora, a Greek empress, was the wife of the nefarious Emperor Theophilus the Iconoclast. After the death of Theophilus, Theodora became the ruling empress and reigned together with her son Michael Iii. At the Council in Constantinople in 842 A.D., she immediately restored the veneration of icons. On this occasion the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy was instituted, which is still celebrated today on the First Sunday of Great Lent. This holy and praiseworthy woman of the Church gave up her soul to God on February 11, 867 A.D. By the divine and wonderful providence of God, it was at the time of the solemn triumph of Orthodoxy over all heresies that Saints Cyril and Methodius were sent as Christian missionaries to the Slavs.

Hymn Of Praise The Veneration Of Icons To what do you, my Christian, bow, When you, O my Christian, venerate the icons? “Before the Living God, the Creator, I am bowing down, With all my soul, heart and mind, I bow down to Him. Mortal am I, and I am unable upon Him to gaze; Therefore, before His image I bow.” What do you, my Christian, so fervently reverence, When you kiss the icon, O my Christian? “I am kissing Christ, God and Savior, The choirs of angels, the saints and the Mother of God. Mortal am I, and therefore I am unable to touch them, But when I kiss their images my heart is at peace.”

Reflection Matter is not evil of itself, as certain Christian heretics (i.e., the Manicheans) and other philosophers have taught. Not only is matter not evil, but matter is not the sole conduit of evil. In the same way that matter is a conduit of evil, so also is the spirit. Every material thing is miserable and even fearful because of man’s sins, but matter is not evil. Matter is corruptible, weak and insignificant in comparison with the immortal spirit, but it is not evil of itself. If it were evil, would our Lord Christ have instituted Holy Communion of bread and wine and would He call the bread and the wine His Body and His Blood? If matter of itself were evil, how then could men be baptized with water? How could the Apostle James have commanded that the sick be anointed with oil? How could holy water remain fresh and have miracle- working properties? How could the Cross of Christ have power? How could the garment of Christ transmit the Savior’s healing power, by which the woman with the issue of blood was healed? How could icons and the relics of the saints have performed so many miracles and conveyed to people so much good from the Kingdom of grace? How then could good come to man through evil? No, no: matter is never evil of itself alone.

Contemplation Contemplate the Lord Jesus as a Good Merchant, Who came into this world as to a market to give and to take:

  1. To give His labor and to receive the numerous fruits of joy from that labor;
  2. To give Himself to be humiliated, spat upon, smitten, bruised, pierced and crucified, in order to usher the army of His faithful into His eternal glory;
  3. To give His Body, in order to redeem numerous souls from among the multitudes.

Homily on judging according to the flesh and according to the spirit “Ye judge after the flesh” (John 8:15). Thus spoke the Omniscient Lord to the wicked Jews: Ye judge after the flesh. They had caught a woman in adultery and wanted to stone her because of her fleshly sin. But the Lord, perceiving the soul of the woman and seeing that she could still be saved and changed, brought her to repentance and released her. For even though she committed the act of adultery, her soul was not totally adulterous. The Pharisees, on the other hand, constantly bore the sin of adultery in their hearts, but they skillfully concealed that sin. They did not condemn adultery in the heart, but only the act of fleshly adultery of those whom they caught doing this. Spiritual men judge by the spirit and physical men judge by the flesh. Even today, the Jews, punished and dispersed throughout the whole world, are unable to think spiritually and judge spiritually. They still think and judge only by the flesh and only externally, according to the ordinances of the law written on paper or in nature, but still never according to the spirit. For if they had learned to judge men and deeds according to the spirit, they would have immediately recognized the Lord Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. Let us be on guard, O Christians, that we judge not only according to the flesh. Let us be on guard that we be not too quick to judge him who, because of his ineptness, slips into misdeeds; nor to praise him who behaves skillfully and does not slip before men, but who with his heart is already completely in the abyss of sin. Let us be on guard from error, that we not judge men and nature according to sensual impressions but strive to judge everything spiritually, that is, by the spirit. Behold, we are the children of the spirit and light, for we are baptized. O Lord Jesus, teach us and guide us, that we neither think nor judge according to the flesh, but rather by the spirit. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.