The Venerable Bessarion Bessarion was born and educated in Egypt. He dedicated himself to the spiritual life at an early age and “did not stain the spiritual garment in which he was clothed at baptism.” He visited St. Gerasimus by the Jordan and learned from St. Isidore of Pelusium. He subdued his body through extreme fasting and vigils, but concealed his asceticism from men as much as possible. He once stood at prayer for forty days, neither eating nor sleeping. He wore one garment in both summer and winter. He possessed the great gift of miracle- working. He did not have a permanent dwelling place but lived in the mountains and forests until deep old age. He healed the sick and worked many other miracles for the benefit of the people and to the glory of God. He died peacefully in the year 466 A.D.() () In the Greek Prologue, St. Bessarion is commemorated on February 20.
The Venerable Hilarion The New Hilarion was the abbot of the Dalmatian monastery in Constantinople. He was a disciple of Gregory of Decapolis and an imitator of the life of Hilarion the Great, whose name he took. Hilarion was powerful in prayer, persevering and courageous in suffering. He suffered much for the sake of the icons at the time of the evil iconoclastic emperors, Leo the Armenian and others. Later the Emperor Leo was slain by his own soldiers in the same church and on the same spot where he had first mocked the holy icons and from which he had removed the first icon. St. Hilarion was then released from prison, but only for a short time. Again he was tortured and detained in prison, until the reign of the right-believing Empress Theodora. Hilarion was clairvoyant and had the gift of insight. He saw the angels of God as they were taking the soul of St. Theodore the Studite to heaven. Having pleased God, he fell asleep and entered the Kingdom of Heaven in the year 845 A.D., in his seventieth year.
The Venerable Female Martyrs Archelais, Thecla And Susanna As pure and virginal nuns, Archelais, Thecla and Susanna lived lives of asceticism in an unknown monastery near Rome. When the persecution of Christians began under the evil Emperor Diocletian, they fled to Campania and settled near the town of Nola. They could not conceal their holy lives, and people from the surrounding settlements began to come to them, seeking advice, instruction and assistance in various difficulties and infirmities. But they were finally captured by the pagans and brought to trial. They openly and freely confessed their faith in Christ. When Leontius, the judge, asked St. Archelais about the Faith of Christ, she replied: “By the power of Christ I trample on the power of the devil, and I instruct the people in understanding, that they might know the One True God. And by the Name of the Lord, my Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, through me, His handmaid, health is given to all who are sick.” All three virgins were flogged, had boiling pitch poured over them, were exhausted by hunger in prison, and were finally beheaded. When they were being led to the scaffold an angel appeared to them, and some of the executioners saw him, which so frightened them that they could not raise their swords against the holy virgins. However, the holy virgins encouraged the executioners to carry out their duty. And thus, as lambs, they were slain in the year 293 A.D. and entered the Kingdom of Christ, that they might rest and take delight in gazing upon the face of God in eternity.
Hymn Of Praise
Bessarion holy, without roof and bread,
From childhood to the grave, his virginity preserved:
Purity of body and purity of mind.
Therefore, with power and understanding, was he filled,
Divine understanding and power divine.
Joyful in spirit, without sadness or sorrow,
Without sadness or sorrow and without darkened thoughts,
A pure and clairvoyant mind as clear as crystal.
When Divine Love in his heart flared up,
He, many and glorious miracles, performed.
On water he walked as on dry land,
And a terrible scourge was he, to every dark spirit;
He stopped the sun and delayed evening,
And all he said with his mouth became a deed.
In him the power of God worked,
For he, to God in everything, was obedient.
Wonderworking saint, help even us
By your prayers before the throne of God!
Malicious joy is a sordid garment which our spirit sometimes dons with great satisfaction. The very moment that you rejoice in the sinful fall of your brother, you too have fallen, to the joy of the devil, who with one hook has snared two fish. Brotherhood according to the flesh is a great bond, but brotherhood according to the spirit is even greater. When you are grieved by the sin of a brother according to the flesh, why then does the sin of a brother according to the spirit not grieve you? When you conceal the sin of a brother according to the flesh, why do you with malevolent joy proclaim the sin of your brother according to the spirit? Who are your brothers according to the spirit? All Christians–all those who receive with you from the one and the same Chalice the one and the same life. Oh, how great were the saints in their brotherly love! Oh, how far away from them was malicious joy! The following is said about St. Bessarion: on one occasion all the monks were gathered in church for prayer. The abbot approached a monk who had committed a sin and ordered him to leave the church. The monk started to leave and Bessarion followed him, saying: “I also am the same kind of sinner!”
To contemplate the miraculous resurrection of Jarius’s daughter: While He was saying these things to them, an official came forward, knelt down before Him, and said, ‘My daughter has just died. But come, lay Your hand on her, and she will live.’ Jesus rose and followed him, and so did His disciples. A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the tassel on His cloak. She said to herself, ‘If only I can touch His cloak, I shall be cured.’ Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, ‘Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.’ And from that hour the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, He said, ‘Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they ridiculed Him. When the crowd was put out, He came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land (St. Matthew 9:18-26):
- How the Lord assured the people that the maiden was not dead but sleeping;
- How He took her by the hand and the maiden arose alive;
- How the Lord can resurrect my soul, dead from sin, by one touch of His Holy Life-giving Spirit.
About the guarding of the heart
“With closest custody, guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
In the heart is the will, in the heart is love, in the heart is understanding, in the heart is the face of the All-holy and Divine Trinity. The heart is the home of the Father, the altar of the Son, and the workshop of the Holy Spirit. God wants the heart: My Son, give me your heart (Proverbs: 23:26). O my brethren, above all that is guarded, guard your heart! Let the mountains be overturned; let the seas dry up; let your friends abandon you; let your wealth fail you; let your body be consumed by worms; let the world pour upon you all the ridicule that it has–but be not afraid. Only guard your heart; guard it and affix it to the Lord; give it to the Lord. From the heart comes life; but from where does life in the heart come if there does not dwell in it the breath of the Lord and Source of Life–the breath of God? A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things (St. Matthew 12: 35). These are the words of the Lord, Who fills the treasury of your heart with His riches. Who is this “good man?” He who has the good treasure of the heart. Who is this “evil man?” He who has the evil treasure of the heart. For out of the heart [of an evil man] proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (St. Matthew 15:19) and from the good heart proceed love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). Do you see how great a storehouse is the heart of man? Do you see all that can fit in the heart of man? O brother, God the Holy Spirit Himself, when it pleases Him, can fit in the heart of man. He not only can, but He will. He only waits for you to prepare your heart for Him, to turn it into a temple, for God the Holy Spirit will only dwell in a temple. Just as a serpent protects its head, so you, son, guard your heart. Above everything that is guarded, son, guard your heart! For into the heart enters life and from it proceeds life, life from the Living God. O Life-giving Lord, help us to guard our heart for You, for You, the Lord! To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.