The Holy Apostle Thaddaeus This Thaddaeus was one of the Seventy Apostles, but was not the Thaddaeus who was one of the Twelve Apostles. St. Thaddaeus first encountered John the Baptist and received baptism from him; then he found the Lord Jesus and followed Him. The Lord numbered him among the Seventy Lesser Apostles, whom He sent out two by two before His face: After these things, the Lord appointed other seventy also and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place where He Himself would come (Luke 10:1). After His glorious Resurrection and His Ascension, the Lord sent Thaddaeus to Edessa, Thaddaeus’s birthplace, according to the promise He gave to Prince Abgar when He returned Abgar’s towel with the image of His face on it (the Icon of the Lord “Not Made With Hands,” August 16). By kissing the towel, Abgar was healed of leprosy, but not completely. [A little leprosy still remained on his face.] When St. Thaddaeus appeared to Abgar, he received him with great joy. The apostle of Christ instructed him in the true Faith, and after that baptized him. When Abgar arose out of the baptismal water, he was completely healed. Glorifying God, Prince Abgar also determined that his people should know the true God and glorify Him. The prince assembled all the citizens of Edessa before the holy Apostle Thaddaeus to hear his teaching about Christ. Hearing the words of the apostle and seeing their prince miraculously healed, the people rejected their former idolatry and unclean living, embraced the Christian Faith, and were baptized. Thus the city of Edessa was illumined by the Christian Faith. Prince Abgar brought much gold and offered it to the apostle, but Thaddaeus said to him: " Since we left our own gold, how can we receive the gold of others?" St. Thaddaeus preached the Gospel throughout Syria and Phoenicia. He reposed in the Lord in the Phoenician city of Beirut.
The Holy Female Martyr Bassa And Her Children: Theognius, Agapius And Pistus Bassa was the wife of an idolatrous pagan priest, but was secretly a Christian. She educated her sons in Christianity. Her husband hated her because of her faith, and gave her and her sons over to the judge for torture. After harsh tortures, her sons were beheaded (it is believed that this occurred at Edessa, in Macedonia). Bassa was joyful when she saw her sons honorably completing their heroic martyrdoms for Christ; and she, with even greater eagerness, went from torture to torture. When they threw Bassa into the sea, angels appeared to her and brought her to an island in the Sea of Marmara, where she was later beheaded during the rule of Maximian. Thus St. Bassa was made worthy of the Kingdom of Christ in a twofold manner–as a martyr, and as a mother of martyrs.
Venerable Abraham Of Smolensk Abraham was born in the Russian town of Smolensk, in answer to his parent’s prayers. He entered the monastic life at an early age and gave himself over to austere asceticism, emulating the ancient fathers of the desert. Later he established the Monastery of the Holy Cross near Smolensk. He endured many temptations both from demons and men with great patience and thanksgiving to God. During a great drought, Abraham brought forth rain by his prayers. Living fifty years as a monk, Abraham peacefully died in the Lord, in about 1220 A.D.
The Holy Forefathers Abraham, Isaac And Jacob Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are also commemorated on the Sunday of the Forefathers before the Nativity, as righteous ones and God-pleasers.
Hymn Of Praise
Venerable Abraham Of Smolensk
A candle burns and clouds of incense rise:
Day and night, Abraham prays.
His neighbors, he loves as himself.
St. Abraham’s body is withered
From fasting and prostrations;
His heart trembles from the name of God–
On the pages of time, eternity writes.
Sinners do not fear a sinner,
But, a righteous one, they bitterly fear.
Sinful men mock Abraham;
The envious censure him.
Mocked and censured, Abraham endures,
And for his foes, the mercy of God he implores.
Abraham guards his heart–
Kneeling in secret, shedding secret tears.
God does not judge as men judge;
The judgment of man desires to cause harm;
But God desires salvation for all–
The aristocrat and the helpless slave.
On God, St. Abraham sets all his hope,
And God glorifies him eternally.
Magnanimous forgiveness of slanderers, and prayer for them, are characteristics of Christian saints. These do not ascribe the slanders against themselves to men, but rather to demons, the main instigators of every slander, as well as every sin in general. St. Abraham of Smolensk was slandered by the envious to the prince and the bishop, as a deceiver, magician and hypocrite. The slanderers sought nothing less than to have him burned. The prince and the bishop believed the slanderers, and Abraham was banished from Smolensk and forbidden to exercise his priestly functions. During the entire time of his investigation and trial, Abraham repeated the prayer of St. Stephen, the first martyr: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (Acts of the Apostles 7:60). Later it was proven that all of the accusers against Abraham had lied. The infuriated prince wanted to severely punish the slanderers, and the bishop wanted to excommunicate them from the Church, but the holy Abraham fell on his knees before the bishop and tearfully begged him to forgive them. Abraham did not want to return to his monastery, or to exercise his newly restored priestly functions, until his slanderers were shown mercy and released.
To contemplate David and Saul–one who had the Spirit of God, and one who had lost the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 18 [also known as 1 Kings 18]):
- How Saul feared David because of his virtues, yet how David was obedient to Saul in everything;
- How Saul hypocritically rewarded David, and sent him among the Philistines so that he would be killed;
- How an apostate from God always fears a godly man.
About the wondrous stone in Zion
“Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation: he that believes in it shall not be ashamed” (Isaiah 28:16).
Brethren, this wondrous Stone is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. For if the prophet thought of it as an ordinary stone, he would not have exhorted faith in it, for thus he would have prophesied idolatry. The Prophet Daniel also speaks of a stone that was cut from a mountain, and smashed the great idol, and grew into a great mountain that filled the whole earth: Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were made of iron and clay and broke them into pieces…and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:34-35). The prophecy about the stone in Daniel is for pagans, and the prophecy about the stone in Isaiah is for Jews. The Lord Jesus Christ is that Stone which is laid: first, as the foundation of God’s entire creation–for He is the Word of God and the Wisdom of God; second, as the foundation of the preparation–the Old Testament; and third, as the foundation of the fulfillment–the New Testament. The cornerstone is the firmest and strongest stone in the building; it connects and joins the other building-stones, and binds the walls in their various directions [angles], in oneness and in wholeness. If we observe the Lord Christ within us, He is the Cornerstone that binds and ties our various spiritual capabilities in unity and wholeness, so that all work toward one goal, toward God and the Kingdom of God. If we observe Christ the Lord throughout the history of mankind, He is the Cornerstone that ties and binds Judaism and paganism into one House of God–the Church of God. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11), says the Apostle of the New Testament, in agreement with the prophet of the Old Testament. Whoever has believed in that Stone of Salvation has not been ashamed. Neither will anyone ever be ashamed who will believe in it. For this Stone is a sure foundation and truly a chosen stone, a precious and honorable stone. O Lord Jesus, our Stone of Salvation, strengthen in us that holy and salvific faith in You, our only Savior. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.