Prologue entry for 11/11/23 (read on 11/24/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Holy Great-Martyr Menas
Menas was an Egyptian by birth and a soldier by profession. As a true Christian, he was not able to witness the abominable sacrificial offerings to the idols and left the army, the town, the people and everything else, and went to a deserted mountain, for it was easier for him to live among the wild beasts than with pagans. One day Menas clairvoyantly discerned a pagan celebration in the town of Cotyaeus. He descended into the town and openly declared his faith in Christ the Living God. He denounced idolatry and paganism as falsehood and darkness. Pyrrhus, eparch of that town, asked Menas who he was and where he was from. The saint replied: “My fatherland is Egypt, my name is Menas. I was an officer, but witnessing the worship of idols, I renounced your honors. I now come before you all to proclaim my Christ as the true God, that He may proclaim me as His servant in the Heavenly Kingdom.” Hearing this, Pyrrhus subjected St. Menas to severe tortures. They flogged him, scraped him with iron claws, burned him with torches, and tortured him by various other means, and finally beheaded him with the sword. They threw his body into a fire so that Christians would not be able to retrieve it, but Christians recovered several parts of his body from the fire nevertheless. They reverently buried those remains, which were later transferred to Alexandria and buried there, where a church was built over them. St. Menas suffered in about the year 304 A.D. and went to the Kingdom of Christ. He was and remains a great miracle-worker, both on earth and in heaven. Whoever glorifies St. Menas and invokes his help with faith, receives his help. The saint has often appeared as a warrior on horseback, arriving to help the faithful or punish the unfaithful.
2. The Holy Martyr Stefan Of Dečani, King Of Serbia
Stefan was the son of King Milutin and father of Tsar Dušan. By the command of his ill-informed father, Stefan was blinded, and at the command of his capricious son (Dušan), was strangled in his old age. When he was blinded, St. Nicholas appeared to him in the church at Ovče Polje (Field of the Sheep) and showed him his eyes saying: “Stefan, be not afraid: behold your eyes in my palm. In due time, I will return them to you.” Stefan spent five years in Constantinople as a prisoner in the Monastery of the Pantocrator. By his wisdom and asceticism, his meekness and piety, his patience and benevolence, Stefan not only surpassed all the monks in his monastery, but all monks in Constantinople. When five years had passed, St. Nicholas again appeared to him and said: “I came to fulfill my promise.” He then traced the sign of the Cross on the blind king, and Stefan received his sight. In thanksgiving to God, Stefan built the Church of Dečani, one of the most marvelous works of Byzantine artistic beauty, and one of the most famous monuments of Serbian piety. The holy King Stefan, with St. Sava and the holy Prince Lazar, constitute a most glorious trinity of holiness, nobility and self-sacrifice—the gift of the Serbian people. St. Stefan lived his earthly life as a martyr, and died as a martyr in the year 1336 A.D., receiving the wreath of immortal glory from the Almighty God Whom he had faithfully served.
3. The Holy Martyrs Victor And Stephanida
Victor was a soldier of Roman birth. He was tortured for Christ during the reign of Emperor Antoninus. At the time of his torture a young woman, Stephanida, declared that she too was a Christian. Victor was beheaded and Stephanida was pulled apart by having her legs bound to the tops of two palm trees.
4. The Holy Martyr Vincent The Deacon
Vincent was from the diocese of Saragossa in Spain. He was cruelly tortured for the Lord Jesus Christ, then burned on an iron grid. He gave up his soul to God in the year 304 A.D. His body reposes in Rome in the church bearing his name.
5. The Venerable Theodore The Studite
Theodore was the famous abbot of the Studite monastery (the Studium). He suffered greatly for the holy icons, and was a wise organizer of the monastic life, a divinely inspired teacher of Orthodoxy and a wonderful ascetic. He entered into rest in Constantinople, in the year 826 A.D. at the age of sixty- eight.
6. Saint Urošica, Prince Of Serbia
Urošica was the son of King Dragutin. He preserved his purity and chastity in marriage. Myrrh flowed from his grave.
Hymn Of Praise
The Holy Martyr Stefan Of Dečani, King Of Serbia
Tortured and persecuted, Holy King Stefan of Dečani
Endured pains and persecutions as a true Christian.
And when it seemed he was defeated by all,
He was actually victorious, powerful and unscathed.
He defeated his father by patient endurance,
And Cantacuzene by profound wisdom.
With silence he overcame malicious Simonida,
And with trust in God he overcame King Shishman.
He was even more powerful than his mighty son—
For those who do not sin are always more powerful.
Earthly power always ends without a glimmer,
But there is no end to heavenly power.
King Stefan of Dečani, meek and beloved,
Drew his strength from heavenly power:
His power and glory were from Christ,
And from Christ was his life, throne and sovereignty.
Stefan understood this, and this he confessed;
That is why he defeated all adversaries in the end.
Pray for us, O wondrous king,
That God may grant us salvation and mercy.
If ever there was a holy king who sat on the throne of an earthly kingdom, that was the holy King Stefan of Dečani. The Greeks, who otherwise considered the Slavs barbarians, were amazed at the beauty of St. Stefan’s soul as one of the rarest wonders of the time. When the Emperor Cantacuzene sent the abbot of the Monastery of the Pantocrator to Milutin on some official business, King Milutin inquired about his son Stefan. “O King, are you asking me about the second Job?” the abbot replied. “Be assured that his poverty stands above your royal greatness.” For his part, the Byzantine emperor acted very cruelly toward the blind Stefan: he confined him to one area of the court and forbade everyone access to him. After that, he sent him to the Monastery of the Pantocrator, hoping that the monastery would force him into strict monastic asceticism, and that he would become weak and perish there. But God preserved the Blessed Stefan and he endured the ascetic labor of fasting and prayer like the best of monks. They began to speak of his wisdom throughout all of Constantinople, and the emperor began to respect him and often sought advice from him. For example, St. Stefan contributed to the defeat of the infamous heresy of Barlaam, against which St. Gregory of Palamas fought.1 Barlaam then resided in Constantinople, and by skillful intrigue, had won over many high-ranking clerics and civil officials to his way of thinking. In perplexity, the emperor summoned Stefan and asked him what he should do. The wise Stefan replied with the words of the Psalmist: Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? (Psalm 139:21), and also said: “Dangerous men must be banished from society.” Heeding this, Emperor Cantacuzene drove Barlaam from the capital with dishonor.
1: Refer to the Synaxarion, the Second Sunday in Lent.
Contemplate the wonderful healing power of the Apostle Paul (Acts 28):
- How Paul prayed and laid his hand on Publius’s father and healed him of dysentery;
- How he also healed many others in that place in the same manner.
on the Creator of the new man
… for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace (Ephesians 2: 15). When He came to earth, the Lord, the Lover of Mankind, came to all men, not just to some. The Jews awaited a messiah; He came as the Messiah. The pagans awaited a redeemer; He came as the Redeemer. He came with equal love for both the Jews and the pagans. There was no other group on earth—only the Jews and the pagans. The Jews were the only ones in the world who believed in one God, whereas the pagans worshiped idols. But the Jews had obscured their faith by their transgressions and, therefore, knew nothing. Thus, both the Jews and the pagans had become equal in their ignorance and equal in the curse of sin with which Adam had burdened the benighted earth. As of old Adam did not belong to the Jews exclusively, but also to the pagans, for they both descended from him, so Christ, the new Adam, did not belong to one or the other, but to both, for He saved both. The Lord Jesus could not side with the Jewish kingdom of empty legal formalism, or the Hellenic kingdom (including paganism in general) of naturalistic fables and demonic divinations and sorcery. Rather, He healed them both. He took both of these sick ones and he created the new man. And this is the Church of God. Thus, the Lord annulled and cast out both Judaism and Hellenism, and created His Holy Church. O Lord Jesus, All-good and All-wise, everything Thou hast done is good and wise beyond words. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.