Saint Anna, The Mother Of The All-Holy Birth-Giver Of God Today is the commemoration of the falling asleep of St. Anna, but her principal feast is celebrated on September 9, on which date her life is written. Anna was from the tribe of Levi, and was the daughter of Matthan the priest. After a long and God-pleasing life, she died in extreme old age.
Saint Olympias [Olympiada], The Deaconess Olympias was born in Constantinople of very distinguished parents. Her father, Anysius Secundus, was a senator, and her mother was the daughter of the famous nobleman Eulavius, who is mentioned in the life of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. When Olympias reached maturity, she was betrothed to a nobleman who died before the marriage took place. The emperor and her other relatives pressured Olympias to marry another, but in vain. She in no way desired this, and devoted herself to a God-pleasing life, giving great offerings to the churches and alms to the needy from her inherited estate. She served as a deaconess in the Church during the time of Patriarch Nectarius and, after his death, during the time of St. John Chrysostom. When Chrysostom was exiled, he counseled Olympias to remain in the church and to serve as before, regardless of who the patriarch after him would be. Immediately after the banishment of this great saint, someone started a fire in the Great Church [The Church of the Divine Wisdom, Hagia Sophia], and the fire consumed many prominent buildings in the capital. The enemies of St. John Chrysostom accused this holy woman of maliciously starting the fire. Olympias was banished from Constantinople to Nicomedia, where she died in the year 410 A.D. She had requested in her last testament that her body be placed in a box and cast into the sea, and that she was to be buried wherever the waves brought it ashore. The coffin was cast ashore in the city of Vrochthoi, where there was a church dedicated to the Apostle Thomas. Throughout the centuries, her relics have had the power of great healing miracles. The exiled Chrysostom wrote beautiful letters to the exiled Olympias, which even today serve as a great comfort to all those who suffer for the sake of God’s justice. Among other things, Chrysostom wrote to Olympias: “Now I am very happy, not only because you have been delivered from infirmity, but even more because you are nobly enduring all difficulties, referring to them as trivialities, which is characteristic of a soul full of strength and abounding in the rich fruits of courage. For not only are you courageously enduring misfortune, but you do not even notice it when it comes and, without exertion, without labor and disturbance, do not even inform others, but rejoice and triumph over it. This serves as proof of the greatest wisdom” (Letter Vi).
The Venerable Female Eupraxia [Euphrasia] The Virgin Eupraxia was the daughter of Antigonus, a nobleman of Constantinople and a relative of Emperor Theodosius the Great. She and her mother, a young widow, settled in Egypt. There they visited the monasteries, distributed alms and prayed to God. In accordance with her fervent desire, the seven-year-old Eupraxia was tonsured a nun. The older she became, the more she imposed heavy ascetic burdens upon herself. She once fasted for forty days. She reposed in 413 A.D, in her thirtieth year. She possessed great grace from God, and healed the most serious illnesses.
The Commemoration Of The Fifth Ecumenical Council This Council was convened in Constantinople during the reign of Emperor Justinian the Great in the year 553 A.D. All the various heresies of Monophysitism were condemned at this Council, as well as the heretical writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Origen’s teaching (against the resurrection of the dead).
Hymn Of Praise
Saint Eupraxia (Euphrasia)
Eupraxia, the young virgin,
For the sake of Christ, a hermitess became,
And though of proud and royal birth,
She bore God in her soul.
Avoiding all honors as burdens,
As well as her riches and her royal family,
To God she prayed day and night,
In fasts and all-night vigils, exhausting herself.
To His servant, God hearkened–
The tearful virgin Eupraxia
Who many tears had shed,
And by tears inflamed her prayers.
On her God bestowed wondrous gifts:
Both the young and the old to help,
Wicked demons to cast out,
Of every infirmity, to heal the sick.
To God, with a most pure soul, she went,
And for herself, in heaven, found a home
Built of faith and deeds,
And with much patience purchased.
A home radiant with God Himself:
There, St. Eupraxia went to dwell–
In joy amidst eternal good–
To reign with the Immortal Christ.
“As virginity is better than marriage, so a first marriage is better than the second.” Thus wrote St. John Chrysostom to the young widow of Tarasius, a deceased nobleman of Constantinople, counseling her not to enter into marriage for the second time. The Church blesses first marriages with joy, but second marriages with sorrow. Eupraxia the elder, the mother of St. Eupraxia, and a relative of Emperor Theodosius the Great, was left a young widow following the death of her husband Antigonus–with whom she had lived as husband and wife for only two years and three months, then one more year as brother and sister by mutual vow. The emperor and empress counseled her to enter into marriage with another nobleman. She would not hear of it, but took her child Eupraxia and fled to Egypt. What then shall we say about St. Olympias and St. Eupraxia the younger? Like St. Macrina, not only were they betrothed as maidens, but when their betrothed died, they considered themselves widows, and would not even permit the thought of entering into marriage. What purity of heart! What fidelity to their betrothed! What fear of God! What clear faith in the future life, in which a betrothed maiden hopes to see her betrothed!
To contemplate the miraculous standing still of the sun and the moon (Joshua 10):
- How Joshua, in order to complete the victory over the Gibeonites, ordered the sun and moon to stand still in their courses;
- How God heard the voice of the righteous man, and by His power caused the sun and moon to stand still;
- How God created even nature to serve man, and how God acts according to the will of the righteous.
About slaves who preach freedom
“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants (slaves) of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2:19).
The apostle continues to speak of “the impure,” “the shameless,” and the “self- willed,” reminding the faithful to beware of their misleading great swelling words of vanity (2 Peter 2:18). He first said about them that they speak evil of dignities of the glory of God, and second: that they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness (2 Peter 2:18). Now he further speaks about how they promise freedom, which they themselves do not possess– for, being overcome by impure passions, they are slaves to their own passions, submissive slaves to the most terrible tyrant of this world. O my brethren, how relevant to us are these apostolic words, written over nineteen hundred years ago! Behold how everywhere around us, those who do not have even a little bit of freedom, are obsessed with proclaiming freedom! Hear the cries of the despairing slaves of passions and vices–how, being deceived, they deceive others; how, being blinded, they preach illumination. Passions are a net, woven by the devil to ensnare mankind. Captured in this net, these prisoners call other men slaves and themselves freemen–to the laughter of the devil, who silently gathers in the net, drawing it toward his shore. O brethren, guard yourselves from those desperate ones who call themselves the heralds of liberty, even as they serve their master, the devil, day and night. They call their poverty wealth, and the true wealth of others they call poverty; just as a fool calls the rest of the world ignorant, and himself intelligent. Thus, those who are least free call others enslaved. They call service in the spirit of love to God and our neighbor slavery, yet they call service to the devil liberty. They are malicious toward both God and men, as the devil himself is malicious toward God and men. Whenever you hear anyone speak to you of liberty, question him well first, to see whether he is a slave of some passion or vice. By the impurity of his life, and his shamelessness and self-will, you will recognize a false teacher of liberty. The apostle reminds you of this. O Lord, the only Giver of true liberty, safeguard us from the net of all those who are malicious toward You and us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.