Prologue entry for 11/13/23 (read on 11/26/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. Saint John Chrysostom, Patriarch Of Constantinople
John was born in Antioch in the year 354 A.D. His father, Secundus, was an imperial commander and his mother’s name was Anthusa. Studying Greek philosophy, John became disgusted with Hellenic paganism and adopted the Christian Faith as the one and all-embracing truth. Meletius, Patriarch of Antioch, baptized John, and his parents also subsequently received baptism. Following his parents’ repose, John was tonsured a monk and lived a strict life of asceticism. He then wrote a book, On the Priesthood, after which the Holy Apostles John and Peter appeared to him, and prophesied that he would have a life of great service, great grace and great suffering. When he was to be ordained a priest, an angel of God appeared simultaneously to John and to Patriarch Flavian (Meletius’s successor). While the patriarch was ordaining John, a shining white dove was seen hovering over John’s head. Glorified for his wisdom, asceticism and power of words, John was chosen as Patriarch of Constantinople at the behest of Emperor Arcadius. As patriarch, he governed the Church for six years with unequalled zeal and wisdom. He sent missionaries to the pagan Celts and Scythians and eradicated simony in the Church, deposing many bishops guilty of this vice. He extended the charitable works of the Church and wrote a special order of the Divine Liturgy. He shamed the heretics, denounced Empress Eudoxia, interpreted Holy Scripture with his golden mind and tongue, and bequeathed the Church many precious books of his homilies. The people glorified him, the envious loathed him, and the Empress, on two occasions, sent him into exile. John spent three years in exile, and reposed as an exile on the Feast of the Elevation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, September 14, 407 A.D., in the town of Comana in Georgia. Before his repose, the Holy Apostles John and Peter appeared to him again, as did the Holy Martyr Basiliscus (May 22) in whose church he received Communion for the last time. His last words were, “Glory be to God for all things,” and with that, the soul of the golden-mouthed patriarch was taken into Paradise. Chrysostom’s head reposes in the Church of the Dormition in Moscow, and his body reposes in the Vatican in Rome.
2. The Holy Martyrs Antoninus, Nicephorus, Germanus And Manetha
The first three were watching the pagans worshiping idols with shouts and dancing at one of their feasts. Fearlessly, they went before the crowd and preached the One God in Trinity. Firmilian—the eparch of Palestinian Caesarea, where this occurred—was so enraged at the action of these three Christians that he commanded their immediate beheading. Manetha was a Christian maiden who followed the martyrs as they were being led to the place of execution. She too was arrested, and after cruel tortures, was burned to death. They all suffered in the year 308 A.D. and entered into the eternal joy of the Eternal God.
3. The Venerable Martyr Damascene
Damascene was born in Galata in Constantinople and at first was called Diamantis. In his youth he lived immorally, and even became a Moslem. Then bitter repentance ensued, and he went to the Holy Mountain, where he lived a life of strict asceticism for twelve years, as a monk in the Lavra of St. Athanasius. But, desiring martyrdom to expiate his sins, Damascene went to Constantinople and visited the mosques, making the sign of the Cross and shouting that the Turks’ faith was false and that Jesus Christ is God and Lord. He was beheaded before the gate of the Phanar1 on November 13, 1681 A.D. His relics repose on Halki, in the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
1: Phanar: a city district, where the Ecumenical Patriarchate is now situated. —Trans.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint John Chrysostom
The Church glorifies St. John
The "Golden-mouth," blessed by God,
Christ's great soldier,
Who is the adornment and boast of the Church:
Profound of heart and mind,
And a golden-stringed harp of words.
He plumbed the depths of mysteries,
And found the pearl that shines as the stars.
Exalted in mind to heaven's height,
He expounded divine truth;
And his vision is true throughout history.
He gave all to the Son of God.
He revealed to us the horrors of sin,
And the virtues that adorn a man;
He showed us the most precious mysteries,
And all the sweet richness of Paradise.
Evangelist, interpreter of the Gospel
And bearer of spiritual joy,
Zealous for Christ like an apostle,
He would accept no injustice.
He was tormented like any martyr,
And received his torment as a pledge of salvation.
This servant of Christ showed himself true;
Therefore, the Church glorifies Chrysostom.
Punishment and reward! Both of these are in the hands of God. But, as this earthly life is only a shadow of the true life in the heavens, so punishment and reward here on earth are only a shadow of true punishment and reward in eternity. The principle persecutors of the saint of God Chrysostom were Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria and Empress Eudoxia. After Chrysostom’s martyric death, bitter punishment befell them both. Theophilus went mad, and Eudoxia was banished from the imperial court by Emperor Arcadius. Eudoxia soon became ill with an incurable disease—wounds opened up all over her body, and worms came out of her wounds. Such was the stench that she gave off, that it was not easy for a person on the street to pass by her house. Physicians used all the most powerful perfumes and incense if only to overcome the stench from the wicked empress, but had little success. The empress finally died in corruption and agony. Even after death, the hand of God lay heavy on her. The coffin containing her body shook day and night for a full thirty-four years until Emperor Theodosius translated the relics of St. John Chrysostom to Constantinople. But what happened to Chrysostom after his repose? Reward—such reward as only God can give. Adeltius, the Arabian bishop who received the exiled Chrysostom into his home in Cucusus, prayed to God after Chrysostom’s repose that He reveal to him where John’s soul was to be found. Adeltius then had a vision while at prayer. It was as though he were out of himself, and was led through the heavens by a radiant youth who showed him the hierarchs, pastors and teachers of the Church in order, calling each of them by name—but he did not see John. Then that angel of God led him to the passage out of Paradise, and Adeltius was downcast. When the angel asked him why he was sad, Adeltius replied that he was sorry that he had not seen his beloved teacher, John Chrysostom. The angel replied: “No man who is still in the flesh can see him, for he is at God’s throne with the Cherubim and Seraphim.”
Contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 1):
- How, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth;
- How the earth was without form and void;
- How the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
on the foundation and the cornerstone
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:20). Brethren, the foundation of the apostles and prophets is their life and work: the Old and the New Testaments. Who unites the apostles and the prophets? Christ the Lord. Without Him, the prophets would not understand the apostles, nor would the apostles understand the prophets. Therefore, He is the fulfillment of the prophets and witness of the apostles. Thus, He is the Cornerstone that ties the prophets and the apostles together, as a cornerstone holds the walls together. The Old and New Testaments are united in Him, have their meaning in Him, revolve around Him, were inspired by Him and are upheld by Him, the Lord Jesus Christ. Where would the pagans and Jews meet, and where would they understand one another, if not in Jesus Christ the Lord? Nowhere, except in Him. In Him and through Him they are united in one new man, in one immortal body, in One, Holy and Catholic Church. Only through the Lord Jesus Christ are the body and the soul united in a loftier and holier friendship. The bonds between the soul and body were at enmity until His coming in the flesh, and that enmity led to the destruction of the soul. He reconciled and sanctified them both. Thus, He became the Cornerstone of every immortal and God-pleasing edifice—be that edifice an individual man or family or nation or the entire race of man—either in the present, in the past, or in the future; of the Old Covenant or the New Covenant. He is the Chief Cornerstone in every building, as He is the Head of the Body, God’s Church. O Lord Jesus Christ, our Cornerstone of salvation, have mercy on us and save us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.