Venerable Isaac, The Confessor During the reign of Emperor Valens, the Arians, with the emperor’s assistance, vehemently persecuted the Orthodoxy. Hearing of this persecution, Isaac, a hermit somewhere in the east, left the wilderness and came to Constantinople to encourage the faithful and denounce the heretics. At the same time, the Emperor Valens departed to the north with his army against the Goths, who had come down from the Danube toward Thrace. Isaac came before the emperor and said to him: “O Emperor, open the churches of the Orthodox, and God will bless your path.” The emperor ignored the elder and proceeded on his way. The following day, Isaac ran out again before the emperor, and again he repeated his warning. The emperor almost heeded the elder, but a certain advisor of his, a follower of the Arian heresy, prevented him. Isaac ran out before the emperor on the third day, grabbed the emperor’s horse by the reins, begged the emperor to grant freedom to the Church of God, and threatened him with divine retribution if he acted contrary to his petition. The enraged emperor ordered that the elder be thrown into a chasm of mud and thorns. However, three angels appeared and pulled the elder out of the chasm. On the fourth day Isaac came before the emperor and prophesied a terrible death for him if he did not grant freedom to the Orthodox: “I am speaking to you, O Emperor: You will lead the army against the barbarians, but you will not be able to endure their attack. You will flee from them, but you will be captured and burned alive.” Thus, it happened. The barbarians cut down the Greek army like grass, but the emperor, with his Arian advisor, fled and hid in a basket. The barbarians arrived at that place and, learning where the emperor was, surrounded the basket and set it afire. Both the emperor and his advisor were burned alive. Following this, Theodosius the Great was crowned emperor. Theodosius, who heard about the prophecy of Isaac and its fulfillment, summoned Isaac and prostrated himself before him. Since peace reigned in the Church and the Arians were exiled, Isaac wanted to return to his wilderness, but he was persuaded to remain in Constantinople. An aristocrat, Saturninus by name, built a monastery for the Elder Issac, where he lived a life of asceticism until his death, working many miracles. The monastery overflowed with monks and became a great monastery. Before his death, Isaac appointed Dalmatus, his disciple, as abbot, after whom this monastery was later named. The God-pleasing Elder Isaac entered into eternity in the year 383 A.D., to rejoice in the vision of the face of God.
Saint Macrina Macrina was the grandmother of St. Basil the Great. She was exceptional for her intelligence and piety. She was a disciple of St. Gregory the Wonderworker of Neo-Caesarea. During the reign of Diocletian, Macrina abandoned her home, and she and her husband Basil hid themselves in the forests and wilderness. Their property was confiscated but they did not grieve over it. Deprived of everything except their love for God, they settled in a primeval forest, where they spent seven years. By God’s providence, goats descended from the mountains, providing them with food. They both died peacefully in the fourth century, following great suffering for the Faith of Christ.
Hymn Of Praise The Venerable Isaac The Confessor Isaac, like the Prophet Elias, Shines with virtue like the sun. The emperor he begs, the evil emperor he warns, Because the emperor defies the great God: "Against whom have you risen up, O my emperor? Desolate, your kingdom will be left, Because, against the Most-high God, you wage war. Under his feet, dust and ashes! With an army, against the cruel barbarians, you set out; In your own strength, O Emperor, you hope! Your strength is like that of a tiny ant; He who is with God, true strength has. Your foot has started out in two wars: Against men and against God. With poor men, everything will go easily, But make peace with the invincible God. Hold to Orthodoxy, heresy reject, For otherwise the cruel fire will burn you. The fire here, and the first yonder: Shamefully, both worlds you will forfeit." The warnings of the saint, the emperor does not heed. Into battle he enters; God he does not remember. Into battle he enters; from which he does not return. Like a foul smell, Valens was and passs away. But God, His Church frees, And Isaac, of Paradise, is made worthy. Reflection
The Word of God is food for the soul. The Word of God is both power and light for the soul. He who reads the Word of God gives food, power and light to his soul. He who can, should read the Word of God in Holy Scripture, and he who cannot should listen to him who reads Holy Scripture. All the saints emphasized the benefit of reading Holy Scripture. St. Seraphim of Sarov says: “The soul should be provided with the Word of God. For the Word of God, as Gregory the Theologian says, is the bread of angels, which feeds the soul that is hungry for God. But, above all, one should read the New Testament and the Psalter. From this proceeds illumination of the mind… It is very beneficial to read the Word of God in solitude and to read the entire Bible with understanding. The Lord gives His mercy to a man for endeavoring to do this, more than for other good deeds, and fills him with the gift of understanding. When a man provides his soul with the Word of God, then he is filled with the understanding of good and evil.”
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of the Priesthood [Holy Orders - Ordination]:
How grace sanctifies, illumines and enables a man to serve as shepherd and teacher;
How it empowers the priest to celebrate the other Mysteries.
About the Mystery of Ordination
“And when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them” (Acts of the Apostles 6:6).
By laying their hands on the chosen faithful, the apostles consecrated bishops, priests and deacons. It is apparent from this that the Christian Faith is not only a teaching but also a power. It is not enough merely to know; it is also necessary to have power. It is not enough merely to be chosen by men; one must also be confirmed by God. If power were not necessary for the priestly vocation, neither would the laying on of hands be necessary; only teaching passed from mouth to ear would be needed. The laying on of hands, therefore, signifies the transferring of authority and the descent of power on the chosen one. The power is in the grace of God, Who strengthens man, sanctifies and illumines him. Truly, the grace of God is that which teaches, leads, shepherds, and through the Mysteries [Sacraments] strengthens the flock of Christ. A priest is the vessel of this inexpressible, awesome and all sufficient power of grace. Blessed is that priest who understands what a precious treasury he has become! Blessed is he if the fear of God does not leave him day and night until his last breath! There is no greater honor on earth, no greater responsibility than the calling of the priesthood. By the laying on of hands by the bishop, the priest has come into contact with the heavenly and eternal source of grace and with the authority of the apostles. By this, the priest has become a companion in grace and a concelebrant with all the Orthodox priests from apostolic times until today, with the great hierarchs, with the countless number of saints, confessors, miracle-workers, ascetics and martyrs. He is gently adorned by their dignity, but he bears the burden of their merit, their example, and their reproach. O my brethren, great and most great is the ministry of a shepherd of Christ’s rational flock. He is responsible to pray to God for all, and all the faithful are required to pray to God for him. O Lord, Supreme Hierarch, sustain the Orthodox priests in strength, in wisdom, in purity, in zeal, in meekness and in every apostolic virtue by the grace of Your Holy Spirit. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.