1. Saint Mark, Confessor And Bishop Of Arethusa In Syria We are told about Mark’s suffering by St. Gregory the Theologian and by Blessed Theodoretus. According to these reports, during Emperor Constantine’s reign, Mark destroyed a pagan temple and converted many to the Christian Faith. When Julian ascended the throne and shortly thereafter apostatized from the Faith of Christ, some citizens of Arethusa also denied Christ and reverted to paganism. Then they rose up against Mark because he had destroyed their temple, seeking that he either rebuild the temple or pay a large sum of money. Since the aged Mark refused to do either of the two, he was flogged, mocked and dragged through the streets. After that they severed his ears with a fine but strong thread. They then stripped him, smeared him with honey, and left him tied to a tree in the heat of summer to be bitten by wasps, mosquitoes, and hornets. The martyr of Christ endured all without complaint. Mark was very old, but his countenance shone like an angel. The pagans reduced the price for their temple even more and finally sought from Mark an insignificant sum. This he could have easily given, but he refused to give even one coin for this purpose. His patience made an enormous impression on the citizens, gaining him their admiration and pity. They then lowered the cost of the temple to practically nothing, in order to allow him to live. Finally they permitted him to go free, and one by one they all received instruction from him and returned to the Christian Faith. At the same time, in the city of Heliopolis at the foot of Mount Lebanon, the deacon Cyril suffered for a similar act. During the time when Christianity enjoyed freedom, Cyril destroyed some idols, and was later brutally tortured under Julian the Apostate. So embittered were the pagans against him that, when they killed him, they ripped him open with their teeth and tore out his entrails. The same day on which St. Cyril suffered, many others also suffered. The spiteful pagans carved their bodies into pieces, mixed them with barley and fed them to the swine. Punishment reached them swiftly: all of their teeth fell out and an unbearable stench came forth from their mouths.

  2. The Venerable John The Hermit John was the son of Juliana, a Christian woman in Armenia. As a young boy, he left his mother and withdrew into the wilderness, completely aflame with love for Christ the Lord. In the wilderness, he first surrendered himself to the guidance of a spiritual director, Pharmutius, who had been found so worthy before God that an angel brought him bread daily. Later, the young John departed and withdrew into solitude. He lowered himself into a dry well, where he spent ten years in fasting, prayer and vigils. St. Pharmutius brought bread from the angel and gave it to him. So that the young John would not become proud, the angel of God did not give bread to him personally, but rather through his spiritual father Pharmutius. After ten years of difficult ascetic labors in the well, St. John reposed in the Lord. His relics revealed themselves to be wonderworking. He lived and was glorified by God and men in the fourth century.

Hymn Of Praise The Lord, Hero Of Heroes The Heroic Lord gathers all heroes, All who can maintain the Faith And remain faithful to God unto death, And who can endure sufferings, Offering thanksgiving to God, Being proud of their sufferings; And who can forgive others, And receive insults as praise; And who can still instruct others To return from the sinful path to righteousness With a sorrowful, compassionate soul; And who can be merciful, And rejoice in the joy of others, And cry with a weeping heart; And who can restrain themselves From evil deeds, words and thoughts, From over-indulging in drink and food; Who do not please their bodies, But consider them to be temporary chariots From which they struggle on the battlefield, To preserve their God-given souls, To preserve the Christian Faith, So that they might enter the city of Paradise, Wherein is the Kingdom of the Lord of Heroes, Wherein, with heroes, the Hero reigns, With heroes not of this world.

Reflection Spiritists of our day accept every manifestation from the spiritual world as though sent by God, and immediately they boast that God has been “revealed” to them. I knew an eighty-year-old monk whom everyone respected as a great spiritual director. To my question, “Have you ever in your life seen anything from the spiritual world?” the monk answered me, “No, never, praise be to God’s mercy.” Seeing that I was astonished at this, he said: “I have constantly prayed to God that nothing would appear to me, so that I would not have occasion to fall into deception and receive a fallen devil as an angel. Thus far, God has heard my prayers.” The following recorded example shows how humble and cautious the elders were. The devil, clothed in the light of an angel, appeared to a certain monk and said to him: “I am the Archangel Gabriel, and I am sent to you.” To this the brother responded: “Think–were you not sent to someone else? For I am not worthy to see an angel.” The devil instantly became invisible and vanished.

Contemplation Contemplate the Lord Jesus in death:

  1. How darkness encompassed everything;
  2. How fear entered into everyone present beneath the Cross;
  3. How the frightened centurion on guard cried out: Truly this was the Son of God!(Matthew 27:54);
  4. How the prophecy of our Lord’s death was fulfilled.

Homily on the miraculous opening of the graves “The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose” (Matthew 27:52). Oh, what a great sign! The dead bodies of holy men and women recognized Him, Who had died in torment on the Cross–but the dead souls of the Jewish elders did not recognize Him. The whole of creation trembled, but only the criminal souls of Ananias, Caiphas and Herod did not tremble. Dead saints showed themselves more sensitive than living sinners. How could the dead saints remain indifferent toward their Creator on the Cross when even the dead stones could not remain indifferent? How could it be that during this event, which caused the earth to quake and the sun to hide its rays, that the bodies of the righteous could sleep in the graves–they who had fulfilled His Dispensation of old, who had hoped in Him for life, who had prophesied about Him and had closed their eyes in the hope of His coming? Oh, what a great sign! Oh, what a great comfort it is for us who hope in the Resurrection! For according to our weakness and little faith, we could say: “Truly, Christ is Risen, but will we also be resurrected? Christ resurrected by His own power, but how shall we resurrect? Who knows if God will resurrect us by His own Power?” Here is consolation, here is proof: The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. This means that death was unable to annihilate even ordinary man. This means that those who are much lower than Christ are not dead like stones, but are alive like angels. This means that one day even our bodies will rise from the tombs; that we will live also. All that our Lord said is confirmed by an outpouring of countless proofs. Knowing the weakness of our faith, He proved the prophecy of the resurrection not only by His particular Resurrection, but also by His raising many bodies from the tombs at the time of His own death. O brethren, not one of us will have the least excuse for not believing in life after death. O Lord All-merciful, confirm the faithful in the Faith and convert the unbelieving to the Faith. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.