The Holy Apostle Aquila Aquila was one of the Seventy Apostles. A Jew, he first lived in Italy with his wife Priscilla. When Emperor Claudius decreed that all Jews be driven from Rome and Italy, Aquila settled in Cornith. There the Apostle Paul met him for the first time, remaining in his home for a year and a half and baptizing him and his wife. Burning with zeal for the Faith of Christ, Aquila and Priscilla accompanied Paul to Ephesus and assisted him in his apostolic labors. At Ephesus, Paul wrote his first Epistle to the Corinthians, in which he said: Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the Church that is their house (1 Corinthians 16:19). After the death of Emperor Claudius, the Jews were permitted to return to Italy, and so Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome. When the Apostle Paul later wrote the Epistle to the Romans from Cornith, he greeted his old friends and co-laborers: Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus; who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles (Romans 16: 3-4). We later find Aquila in Ephesus, where he labored with St. Timothy the Apostle. Chained in Rome, Paul wrote to Timothy in Ephesus: Salute Priscilla and Aquila (2 Timothy 4:19). As a bishop, Aquila baptized many and enlightened them with the Faith; he destroyed idols, built churches, ordained priests, and spread the glory of the Incarnate Son of God among men. He was finally murdered by wicked heathens, and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ.
The Venerable Hellius Hellius was an Egyptian monk of the fourth century. From his early youth, he dedicated himself to monastic asceticism in the wilderness. He elicited astonishment in both monks and the laity by his way of life and powerful miracles, and even though he fled the glory of men, he was unable to conceal himself. He had great struggles with delusions from the devil, especially during times of prolonged fasting. Sometimes the devil would offer him honey and sometimes delicious apples, but Hellius would not allow himself to be deceived. He was able to see into the hearts of men, discerning passions and thoughts, not to display his secret knowledge but to correct men’s faults.
Hymn Of Praise
Saints Aquila And Priscilla
The torch of light from the heavens descended
Into the hearts of the apostles first,
And so the apostles enlightened men,
And their own successors strengthened in grace.
With this same torch, Saint Aquila
Was illumined by the great Apostle Paul,
And likewise Blessed Priscilla, his faithful wife:
And their household was baptized by him and with power filled.
Malice and vain amusements they left behind,
And into the world, to the work of the Lord they went forth.
They attended to Paul, the solitary prisoner,
And readily helped the holy Apollos,
And brother Timothy, Paul’s child;
Together they greatly increased the flock of Christ.
Blessed are the sacrifices of Blessed Priscilla!
Blessed are the wounds of Saint Aquila!
Good fruit they bore and were glorified everywhere–
True laborers, and heirs of the Kingdom of God.
Christians must arm themselves against the seductions of this world. They must be armed against every attack and every temptation, so that every evil is repelled by them. Such armor is not made in a day or two, but is diligently and laboriously forged by a lengthy process. Of what value is all our virtue if we succumb to the first temptation? Speaking of this, Saint Gregory of Nyssa cites the example of a monkey in Alexandria. He says: “An animal trainer in Alexandria taught a monkey to skillfully impersonate a female dancer on stage. The spectators at the theatre praised the monkey, which was dressed as a female dancer and danced to the beat of the music. But while the viewers were occupied observing such a novel spectacle, some comedian decided to show everyone that a monkey is nothing more than a monkey. While they all shouted and applauded at the skill of the monkey, the comedian threw some sweets onto the stage that monkeys particularly like. As soon as the monkey saw the sweets, it forgot the dance, the applause, and the elaborate costume, and dashed around, groping with its paws for the sweets; and since its dress interfered, it began to tear it apart with its nails, attempting to remove it. And in place of praise and amazement, laughter broke out among the spectators.” For behind the torn mask of the “dancer,” a monkey was revealed.
To contemplate the just punishment which God sent upon Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16):
- How these three incited the people against Moses and Aaron, and sought to become their leaders;
- How the earth opened and swallowed up Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and others with them;
- How the earth of the flesh swallows up the souls of all those who think in a fleshly way and, thinking thus, rebel against the Law of God.
About the steadfastness of faith
“Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:9).
Brethren, the most important steadfastness of men’s souls is the steadfastness of faith. The devil vehemently attacks this steadfastness with all his arrows and all his wiles–for the impure and evil spirit knows that when this steadfastness is destroyed, he enslaves the soul of man forever. That is why the holy apostles entreated the Lord: Increase our faith (Luke 17:5). Brethren, let us also pray daily that the Lord will increase our faith; that He will endow it with power and strengthen. When the serpent is in danger it protects its head above all, which is why the Lord Himself called it wise. Let us also protect the head of our spiritual life, which is faith. Nothing in this world can replace faith in God: neither philosophy, nor science, nor treasure, nor glory, nor the entire world from one end to the other with all its transitory illusions. The devil knows this, and thus he especially attacks our faith, instilling doubt in us, causing us to waver, confusing our thoughts, and disturbing our hearts. Since the devil knows that faith is the main thing, it is all the more necessary that we should know it also. Because of us, Christ descended to earth; because of us, He suffered on the Cross and gave us the promise of saving faith. We can neither strengthen nor increase our faith except through suffering. That is why the much-suffering Apostle Peter says: The same afflictions [as yours] are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world(1 Peter 5:9). Out of humility, the apostle does not speak of his own afflictions, but of those of our brethren in Christ. Those who are one in faith are also one in afflictions. Brethren, you do not suffer alone for the true Faith, but your other brethren also suffer for the same Faith. May this assuage your suffering. But most of all, may you be comforted by the sufferings of the Firstborn in suffering, our crucified Lord Jesus Christ Himself. O Lord Jesus, Sufferer above sufferers, and Victor above victors, increase our faith, and strengthen us with the power of Your Grace, as you did strengthen Your holy apostles. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.