The Placing Of The Girdle (Robe) Of The All-Holy Birth-Giver Of God In The Church Of Blachernae In Constantinople In the time of Emperor Leo the Great (457-474 A.D.) and Empress Verina and Patriarch Gennadius, two noblemen from Constantinople, Galibus and Candidus, were traveling in the Holy Land to venerate the holy places. They stopped in Nazareth for a while, at the home of a Jewish maiden who kept the robe of the All-Holy Mother of God in a secret room. Many who were ill and in need received healing of their sufferings through prayer and by touching the robe. Galibus and Candidus brought this holy object to Constantinople and reported it to the emperor and patriarch. This brought about great joy in the imperial city. The robe was solemnly placed in the Church of Blachernae. (This church had been built by Emperor Marcian and Empress Pulcheria on the shore of an inlet, and was called Blachernae after Blacheran, a commander from Scetis, who had been slain there.) This feast was instituted in remembrance of the placing of the robe of the All-Holy Birth-giver of God in the Church of Blachernae.
Saint Juvenal, Patriarch Of Jerusalem Juvenal was a contemporary of the great illuminators of the Orthodox Church: Euthymius, Theodosius, Gerasimus, Simeon the Stylite, and others. He participated in two Ecumenical Councils: the Third Council in Ephesus [431 A.D.] and the Fourth Council in Chalcedon [451 A.D.]. With great power and zeal, he fought against the blasphemous heresies: in Ephesus, against Nestorius, who called the Birth-giver of God (Theotokos) the Birth-giver (Mother) of Christ and refused to call her the Mother of God, over-emphasizing Christ’s human nature; and in Chalcedon against Eutyches and Dioscorus, who taught that there was only one nature in Christ–a Divine Nature, without a human nature. Following the victory of Orthodoxy at both these councils, Juvenal returned to his throne in Jerusalem. But even though the heresies had been condemned, the heretics had not been eliminated. Through the intrigue and violence of one Theodosius, a friend of Dioscorus, Juvenal was banished from the patriarchal throne, and Theodosius elevated himself in Juvenal’s place. At first this heretic Theodosius was supported by Empress Eudocia, the widow of Theodosius the Younger, who had settled in Jerusalem. The indecisive and restless Eudocia finally went to see St. Simeon the Stylite, to ask him wherein lay the truth. This saint of God unmasked all the heretical teachings, and instructed the empress to adhere to the teachings of Orthodoxy as confirmed at the councils. The empress obeyed him, repented of her former actions, and denounced the false Patriarch Theodosius–whereupon Emperor Marcian and Empress Pulcheria, then reigning in Constantinople, sent a letter to the commander Athanasius [Eparch of Jerusalem], ordering him to banish Theodosius and reinstate Juvenal to his throne, which the commander quickly did. Juvenal guided the Church in Jerusalem for thirty-eight years as its hierarch. In great old age he reposed in the Lord, in the year 458 A.D. to receive from Him the reward for the great suffering and misery which he had endured for the truth. During the reign of St. Juvenal, the celebration of Christ’s Nativity was established on December 25.
Saint Photius, Metropolitan Of Moscow Photius was of Greek birth. He prudently governed the Russian Church for twenty years, and reposed in the year 1430 A.D. A week before his death, an angel of God appeared to him and informed him of the exact time of his departure from this world.
Hymn Of Praise
The Holy Theotokos [The Holy Birth-Giver Of God]
To the All-pure Virgin, we prostrate
And through her, the mercy of God we seek.
In eternal glory, she shines,
And to the Lord Christ, for us prays.
Full of power are her prayers–
Precious are the prayers of the Mother to the Son!
All whom her Son created She loves,
As a taper burns, her prayers shine forth!
And she searches out our needs in all places:
She is there to comfort, wherever sorrow poisons.
To the sick, her name is sweetness,
And to the demons, a scourge.
When we invoke Christ’s Cross and the name of the Theotokos,
Courage and new strength they give us.
To the All-pure Virgin, we prostrate,
And through Her, the mercy of God we seek.
Every device of which man boasts as an invention of his own mind is revealed as a manifestation of divine providence. Every invented device has a two-fold significance: one physical and one spiritual. Even the clock, a wonderful device, was not invented merely to tell us the time of day or night, but also to remind us of death–this is its spiritual significance. When the small hand completes its rounds of seconds and minutes, then the large hand arrives at the ordered hour, and the clock strikes. So will the clock of our lives strike, numbering the days, months and years of our lives. That is why St. Tikhon of Zadonsk counsels every Christian to reflect:
- How the time of our life continually passes;
- How it is impossible to bring back time that is past;
- How the past and future are not in our control, but only that time in which we are now living;
- How the end of our life is unknown;
- How we must be prepared for death–every day, every hour, and every minute;
- How, because of that, we must always be in the state of continual repentance;
- How at every hour we must be as repentant and spiritually disposed as we would wish to be at the hour of our death.
To contemplate the burning bush on Horeb (Exodus 3):
- How the bush was completely engulfed by flame, but was not consumed;
- How the All-pure Virgin, carrying the Lord within herself, also bore the divine fire–but was not consumed;
- How the grace of the divine fire also rejuvenates, heals and illumines my sinful soul.
About the trial of our faith
“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearance of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).
Brethren, our faith is tried more often than a reed is rocked by the winds. Trials are like the winds: they will uproot a weak faith, but a strong faith will be strengthened even more. Trials are also like the flame in which straw is burned and gold is purified. Man’s theorizings and suppositions also try our faith. These are often very strong and bitter winds, but we can overcome them–if we are willing to cling to the words of God, and if, in opposition to these theorizings, we are able to properly emphasize the teachings of the Faith of Christ. Our faith is further tried by fear and shame: fear of men who persecute the Faith, and shame toward men who arrogantly despise the Faith. These also are strong winds, which we must resist if we wish to remain alive. How will we resist them? By the fear of God, which should always be greater in our soul than the fear of men, and by shame before the apostles, saints and martyrs, who were not ashamed of their faith before the emperors, princes and sages of this world. Our faith is further tried by suffering and misery. This is the fire in which our faith is either burned like straw or tempered like pure gold. Our faith will survive these trials if we remember Christ crucified on the Cross for us, and the many thousands of martyrs for the Faith, who by endurance conquered all, emerging from the flames like gold, and continuing to shine down through the centuries among the angels and among men. Our faith is also tried by death–the death of our relatives and friends, and the death of mankind in general. This is the bitter fire in which the faith of many has been burned. Is death the end of everything? It is not–believe me! It is the beginning of everything, of a new and just life. Believe in the Resurrection of Christ, believe in life beyond the grave, and believe in the General Resurrection and the Dreadful Judgment. O Good Lord, strengthen the faith in us and have mercy on us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.