The Feast Of The Cincture (Girdle) Of The Holy Theotokos After her Dormition [Falling-asleep], the Holy Theotokos gave her cincture [sash] to the Apostle Thomas. That cincture was later brought to Constantinople and kept in a sealed reliquary in the Church of the Mother of God at Blachernae, founded by the royal foundation [Zaduzbina] of Empress Pulcheria. This reliquary was not opened until the time of Emperor Leo the Wise (886-912 A.D.). Leo’s wife, Empress Zoe, became mentally ill and, in accord with a heavenly vision, she desired that the girdle of the Most-holy Theotokos be placed on her. The emperor implored the patriarch, and the reliquary was opened. Then the girdle was removed and placed on the ailing empress. The empress was healed immediately. Today’s feast was instituted in commemoration of that miracle. Currently, one part of the girdle is to be found in Zugdidi, Georgia, because the daughter of Emperor Romanus was healed by the aid of this girdle–and when her father married her to the Georgian Emperor Abuchaz, she took part of the girdle with her. By order of the Russian Emperor Alexander I, a special church was built in Mingrelia, in Zugdidi, where that relic of the miracle-working garment of the Most-holy Theotokos is kept.
Saint Gennadius, Patriarch Of Constantinople Gennadius succeeded St. Anatolius as patriarch. He was a contemporary of St. Marcian (January 10) and St. Daniel the Stylite (December 11). During his time, the glorious Studite monastery was founded. It was named for the Roman Senator Studius, who came to Constantinople and, with the blessing of Patriarch Gennadius, built the Church of St. John the Forerunner and the monastery beside it. Gennadius was very gentle and restrained. He refused to ordain those who did not know the Psalter by heart. He presided at a local council in Constantinople, at which simony in the Church was anathematized. He worked miracles, and had a vision that foretold his death. Gennadius governed the Church for thirteen years, and peacefully presented himself to the Lord in the year 471 A.D.
The Priestly-Martyr Cyprian Cyprian was born of unbelieving parents, and was himself educated in polytheism. He became famous in Carthage as a teacher of philosophy and rhetoric. He was married, but when he became a Christian he ceased to live with his wife, dedicating himself to the constant study of Holy Scripture and to spiritual perfection. Because of his unusual virtues, he was chosen as a presbyter and soon after that as a bishop. He was as merciful toward Christians as he was firm toward heretics. Guided by the Holy Spirit, he wrote many works of instruction. He wrote against idolatry, Judaism and the Novatian heresy with especial vehemence. Hi works on virginity are especially beautiful and sweet, as are also his writings on martyrdom, charity, patience, the Lord’s Prayer and other edifying themes. He was martyred, and reposed in the time of Valerian, in the year 258 A.D. Before his death he prayed to God, blessed the people, and left twenty-five gold coins to be given to the executioner who would behead him–the astonishing greatness and generosity of a true Christian!
Saint John, Metropolitan Of Kiev John was a Bulgarian by birth. He came to Kiev in the year 1080 A.D. and immediately attained such esteem that he was soon elevated to the throne of the Metropolitan See. John governed the Church for eight years. He wrote an epistle to Pope Clement, in which he reprimanded him for the innovations that had been introduced by the Roman Church. He died peacefully in the year 1089 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
The Holy Priestly-Martyr Cyprian
Adornment of the Church and pride of Carthage,
Before and after his repose, Cyprian the priest,
In word and deed, the faithful, he instructed,
The pure and chaste, especially praising.
“Chastity,” said he, “is the sanctification of the members.
From the chains of passion, it is freedom,
And the source of purity, the adornment of morality!
It is the dignity of the body and the cincture of modesty;
Chastity is the peace of the home, the crown of harmony,
Chastity is silence, and the absence of tension.
When, from the body, the spirit of man retreats,
And, into its own realm, enters,
And knows the lasting consolation of inner peace,
It does not let the body intrude
With insane passions and varied desires,
Excessive cares and vapid luxuries.
For us, a bejewelled woman does not signify luxury,
But proclaims an impure soul and its sinfulness.”
O golden freedom from vain desires–
Precious treasure of a saint!
Chastity is freedom, chastity is silence:
These are gifts from the Son of God!
O Son of God, O Good Lord,
Grant us the glory of chastity and freedom.
Christians do not believe in kismet–fate or destiny. Even if God determines the main outlines of our life, He can change them according to our prayers and merit. Thus, He prolonged King Hezekiah’s life for fifteen years: Go and say to Hezekiah, thus said the Lord, the God of David Your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears: behold I will add unto your days fifteen years (Isaiah 38:5), and He prolonged the Venerable Dius’s life (July 19) for fifteen years. St. Basil the Great prayed to God, and God granted that Basil’s life be extended for one day so that he could baptize his physician, Joseph the Jew. Yet, even as God can prolong life at the prayerful behest of the righteous, He can also shorten life because of sin. Emperor Anastasius adhered to the heresy of the Severians (also called the acephalites, or “headless ones”), who spread the foolishness that the Church does not need bishops and priests, and insisted that everyone is a bishop and a priest unto himself, and that everyone has the right to interpret Holy Scripture according to his own understanding, and teach others as he understands and believes! In vain, St. John the Patriarch counseled the emperor to return to the truth of Orthodoxy. The emperor did not simply reject the patriarch’s counsel, but ill-treated the patriarch in various ways and considered having him banished. One night, the emperor had a dream of an awesome man on an exalted throne, who held a book in his hand. This man opened the book, found the emperor’s name in it, and said: “I have wanted to let you live for a while longer, but–because of your heresy–behold, I am erasing fourteen years from your life.” And the awesome figure erased something from the book. Terrified, the emperor leaped out of bed and related his dream to his followers. A few days later, lightning struck the imperial court and killed Emperor Anastasius.
To contemplate the David’s rejoicing in the Lord (2 Samuel 6 [also known as 2 Kings 6]):
- How David transferred the Ark of the Covenant from Baal of Judah to Jerusalem, and how he danced with joy before the Ark;
- How Michal, his wife, despised David for dancing shamelessly before the Ark in the sight of women;
- How God punished Michal with barrenness for her capricious judgment, so that Michal had no offspring to the day of her death.
About the power and the mission of Christ, as prophesied by Isaiah
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61: 1-2).
The Lord Jesus read this great and detailed prophecy before the Jews in Nazareth, at the beginning of His saving work. Having read this, He sat down and said: Today is this scripture fulfilled (Luke 4: 16-21). Think of that: He read one of the most obscure prophecies for the Jewish scribes and priests, closed the book and said: Today is this scripture fulfilled. None of the Jews dared to approach this prophecy, for no one knew to whom this prophecy pertained. Seven centuries had passed since this prophecy was made, and no one knew to whom it pertained. And when that One [Christ]–about whom this prophecy was written–arrived, He read it and applied it to Himself. Thus our great Lord justified His prophet, and presented Himself to the world. The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. Why does He say that, when He is as equal to the Spirit as He is to the Father? As St. Chyrsostom interprets, it is for the sake of witnessing to the people. He does not say “The grace of the Spirit [is upon Me],” for the grace of the Spirit is upon all the faithful people, but the Spirit Himself is upon Him, as was manifested in the Jordan River. The Spirit is the witness of the Son, and the Son was never without the Spirit. The Lord Jesus often speaks of the Father and the Holy Spirit, out of infinite love for the Father and the Spirit (as love always ascribes its own to others), and for the sake of teaching the proud not to boast of their own qualities, but rather to honor those equal to themselves. The Lord fulfilled everything else that was said in this wonderful prophecy, word for word. He came primarily to proclaim the mercy of God to men, and also to proclaim the Dread Judgment to those who would despise and reject that mercy. This is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos, a prophet of God, the true prophet. Brethren, let us venerate Isaiah, whose God-inspired mouth foretold the Savior and our salvation; and let us worship without ceasing our wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We worship You, our Lord and Savior, and we give You thanks for Your omnisciently wise plan for our salvation. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.