Prologue entry for 09/07/23 (read on 09/20/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Holy Martyr Sozon
Sozon was born in Lyconia. He was a shepherd and kept all of God’s laws, instructing his peers and friends in his pious Faith. In a vision he was shown that he would suffer martyrdom for Christ. This was in the time of Maximian, magistrate of Cilicia, who perpetrated a terrible persecution of Christians in the nearby city of Pompeiopolis. In that city there was a certain golden idol which the pagans worshiped. Sozon left his flock, went to the city, entered the pagan temple and broke the arm off the golden idol. He crumbled it into bits and distributed it to the poor. There was a great uproar because of this, and the pagans sought out the guilty one. So that no one else would suffer for his deed, Sozon went to the magistrate and declared himself to be a Christian and the perpetrator of that act. His torturers first beat him, then suspended him from a tree and scraped his body with iron combs. When he was nearly dead, they cast him into a fire, where St. Sozon gave up his holy soul to God. He suffered in about the year 304. St. Sozon’s relics were miracle-working, and a church in his name was built over them.
2. The Holy Apostles Euodus And Onesiphorus
Euodus and Onesiphorus were apostles of the Seventy. St Ignatius the God-bearer mentions Euodus with great praise in his Epistle to the Antiochians. Euodus was a disciple of the Apostle Peter, and his successor as Bishop of Antioch. The Apostle Peter himself consecrated him. Euodus wrote a work on the Holy Theotokos, in which he related how the Holy Virgin Mary was brought to the Temple at the age of three, and remained in the Temple for eleven years; how, on entering her fifteenth year, she was entrusted to St. Joseph for protection; and how, at age fifteen, she gave birth to the Lord. Euodus also wrote another work entitled “The Beacon.” However, both of these works were destroyed during the persecution of Christians. He was slain for Christ during Emperor Vespasian’s persecutions in Antioch. The Apostle Paul mentions St. Onesiphorus as his sincere friend and helper (Ii Timothy 1:16-18). St. Onesiphorus suffered for Christ in Colophon, where he was bishop. It is said that he was tied to wild horses and pulled apart. Thus, these faithful soldiers of Christ honorably served on earth, and entered into the joy of their Lord.
3. The Holy Martyr Eupsychius
Eupsychius was the son of Dionysius, a senator. He was severely tortured for Christ, being beaten and scraped, and was thrown half-dead into prison, where an angel of God came to him and healed him. Released from prison, he distributed all of his possessions–some to the poor and some to his slanderers. He was arrested again, and his body was scraped until he gave up his soul to God. Instead of blood, milk and water flowed from his wounds. He suffered in the time of Emperor Hadrian.
4. Saint John, Archbishop Of Novgorod
John was a priest who was ordained Bishop of Novgorod in 1163. He built seven churches during his lifetime. He had a vision of the Holy Theotokos, and had unusual power over demons, whom he even forced to serve him. He miraculously saved Novgorod from an attack by seventy-two princes. He suffered from diabolical temptations, but by the power of the Cross and much prayer he overcame them all. In old age, he withdrew to a monastery and received the great schema. He reposed peacefully in the Lord on September 7, 1185.
Hymn Of Praise
The Holy Martyr Sozon
The young Sozon, a right-believing hero,
Stood erect before the unbelievers—
He stood straight, fearing nothing,
Holding his mind immersed in God,
Standing with his mind firm in heaven.
The tormentor subjected him to torture
For breaking the arm of the golden idol.
"I broke it," Sozon replied,
"To see if it would rebuke me,
But the idol's two arms are lifeless.
In vain do you offer sacrifices.
The lifeless idol said not a word to me,
And had no power to keep me from breaking its arm.
This dead thing was mute, as it has no spirit in it,
Nor understanding, nor sight, nor hearing.
I took the arm, not for theft
But to distribute bread to the poor.
O pagans, it was for your salvation
That I distributed this dead stone,
To bring some light into your souls,
That you might recognize the Living Christ as God."
Sozon knelt, and prayed to God,
And shed his blood for truth.
Sozon, the wonderful, unsurpassable hero,
Whose limitless source of strength was God.
Victory over anger is one of the greatest victories of a soldier of Christ. We generally become angry either at those we wish to turn back from sin, or at those who slander us. However, in doing so we forget that anger is a mortal sin, and in desiring the salvation of others we lose our own, according to the words of St. Macarius. Anger against our enemies is usually tied to another evil impulse, the desire for revenge. St. Eupsychius so overcame the passion of anger in himself, that before his death, he gave one portion of his great estate to the poor and another portion to his slanderers, because of whom he was being tortured and slain. He considered his slanderers as his benefactors. St. John Chrysostom writes: “Let us clip the wings of anger, and evil will not rise high. Anger is an evil sickness that can destroy our souls… Anger is a terrible fire which devours everything… If an angry man could see himself at the moment of his anger, he would need no other counsel not to become angry– because there is nothing more unpleasant than an angry face.” Abba Ammon confessed of himself: “I spent fourteen years in Scetis, praying to God day and night, to give me victory over anger.”
Contemplate Solomon’s honoring of his mother (I Kings 2):
- How his mother went to her son to ask something of him;
- How he stood up, met his mother and bowed before her–even though he was king;
- How, when he sat down on his throne, he placed his mother at his right hand.
on spiritual food
My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me (John 4:34). Behold, here is love! Behold, here is instruction! Behold, here is humility! Behold, here is an example! As there is in good bread all that is needed for our body, so in every word of the Lord Jesus Christ there is all that is needed for our soul. The divine unity of the nature of the Father and the Son is expressed in the love of the Father for the Son, and the Son for the Father. He who loves, obeys. If you want to know how great your love for God is, measure your obedience to the will of God and you will know immediately. A lack of obedience is a sure sign of the lack of love. He who loves, fulfills the will of his beloved. The Son of God loves His Father so much that He regarded fulfilling the Father’s will as the sweetest food. What is the will of the Father? The salvation of mankind. Our Lord, the Son of God, felt the insatiable hunger to fulfill the Father’s will. When He saved someone, He felt as if nourished with the sweetest food. Do you see how exalted Christ’s spirituality is? His disciples brought Him food from the city and urged Him: Master, eat! At that moment He was too occupied with His main work, the saving of human souls. There was the Samaritan woman, ready to embrace the teaching of salvation; there was the entire city of Sychar, already drawn to the Kingdom of God; and there was the great field ready for the harvest of salvation. For Christ this was food sweeter than all physical food and worldly sweetness. The body is a vehicle in which man, the king, rides. When the king performs his royal duty– ransoming his heirs from bondage–the vehicle must be put aside and not interfere in the work of the king. The king is so focused on saving his beloved heirs, that this mission is his food, drink, reward, sole satisfaction and dignity. O my brethren, if you could know how much Christ the Lord hungers, even today, for our salvation! If we did, then we would give Him the food that He likes most! Who is a greater guest, closer relative, or more sincere friend than He? When we host far lesser guests, more distant relatives and less sincere friends, we give them the food that we know they like. Then, why do we not host our Lord with the only food that is pleasing to Him? Let us embrace the salvation that He offers us–that, for Him, is the most pleasant food. He turns His head away from all other food. O Lord Jesus, insatiable Lover of our salvation, have mercy on us and save us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.