Prologue entry for 11/17/23 (read on 11/30/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. Saint Gregory The Wonderworker, Bishop Of Neocaesarea
This man of God and powerful wonderworker was called a second Moses. Gregory was born of pagan, but eminent and wealthy, parents. He studied Hellenic and Egyptian philosophy and became aware of the meagerness and insufficiency of pagan philosophy. He then turned to Christian teachers, particularly Origen of Alexandria, with whom he studied for several years and from whom he received baptism. Pure in body and soul, he wanted to dedicate himself solely to Christ God, for which reason he withdrew to the wilderness, where he spent much time in rigorous asceticism. His fame spread everywhere. Bishop Phaedimus of Amasea wanted to consecrate him Bishop of Neocaesarea. The clairvoyant Gregory perceived Phaedimus’s intention and hid from the bishop’s emissaries in the wilderness. Finally, Phaedimus consecrated him in a strange way, and Gregory had to accept the office of bishop. The Most-holy Theotokos and St. John the Theologian appeared to him in a vision, and St. John, at the command of the Theotokos, gave him the Symbol of Faith that is known by Gregory’s name. Who can enumerate all the miracles of this second Moses? He had power over evil spirits, and over mountains and waters, healed every pain and infirmity, could become invisible to his persecutors, and clairvoyantly perceived distant events and men’s thoughts. He ended his earthly life in the year 270 A.D., in great old age. When he arrived in Neocaesarea as bishop, he found only seventeen Christians in that pagan city. When he departed this life, he left the city Christian, with only seventeen pagans, and received the wreath of glory from his Lord in the Heavenly Kingdom.
2. The Venerable Nikon Of Radonezh
Nikon was a disciple of St. Sergius of Radonezh, and his successor as abbot. When barbarians attacked Russia, Nikon prayed to God to remove this misfortune from the Russian people. Then St. Sergius appeared to him with St. Peter and St. Alexis (the reposed Metropolitans of Moscow) and told him not to grieve, for the assault was by God’s permission and was for their good, but would pass and peace would reign once more. Nikon renovated the Monastery of the Holy Trinity and served as an example to many of asceticism. He entered into rest on November 17, 1426 A.D.
3. The Venerable Gennadius Of Vatopedi
Gennadius was a monk of Vatopedi on Mount Athos, and had the obedience of being steward. During his time as steward an empty barrel was miraculously filled with oil. This miracle is ascribed to the Most-holy Theotokos, to whom the monastery is dedicated, and especially to her icon, which was nearby.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint Gregory The Wonderworker, Bishop Of Neocaesarea
St. Gregory, holy and glorious,
A shining light of the Church and an Orthodox hero,
Raised himself up to God by a very narrow path:
Through suffering and tears, he attained holiness.
He saved himself, and helped many.
By his exemplary life, words and miracles,
He helped the unbelievers to belief,
And believers to be pure and true to the Faith.
The heavens were open to him,
And he clearly penetrated the secrets of men.
He received mystical teachings from heaven;
As the heart of that teaching, he taught the Holy Trinity—
The Divine Trinity, one in Essence,
And Christ, the life-giving food and drink.
Just as pure dewdrops are full of sunlight,
Pure hearts are the dwelling place of the heavens.
With God's help, holy Gregory
Overcame the moonless night of idolatry,
And baptized pagans by the thousands;
Then he departed in peace, to stand with his King!
Holy Gregory, implore God
That the Orthodox Church overcome the adversary!
Let the following examples from the Life of St. Gregory show how God guards and saves the righteous from assaults. While he was still at the school of philosophy in Alexandria, St. Gregory preserved the purity of his soul and his body, as he preserved it to the end of his life. In this, he was an exception among the dissolute youth of that time. This evoked envy and hatred among his companions. In order to debase Gregory, they found a harlot to help them carry out an evil plan. Once, when Gregory was standing in the square with eminent teachers and philosophers, the foul woman approached him and loudly demanded that Gregory pay her the remainder due for impure relations with her. Some of the people present were scandalized, while others were angry at this shameless woman and began to chase her away; but she shouted even louder, demanding money. The innocent Gregory blushed, as any decent man would before such coarse slander, but he displayed neither anger nor hatred, and asked a friend to give her the amount that she sought so she would leave. The friend heeded Gregory, and gave her the money she wanted. But at that moment God let an evil spirit enter the woman and she fell to the ground and began writhing and convulsing, gnashing her teeth, and foaming at the mouth. Seeing this, everyone was terrified. But St. Gregory, innocent as a lamb, prayed to God for her, and the woman was healed and arose. Thus, instead of humiliation, Gregory acquired even greater glory. Another example: When a bitter persecution of Christians took place, St. Gregory counseled Christians to hide, and he and his deacon hid on a hill. But the imperial soldiers caught sight of them and pursued them. When they were almost upon them, Gregory prayed to God for help, and God rendered them invisible to their pursuers. The soldiers searched for them in vain, and finally left without them.
Contemplate the creation of the world (Genesis 1):
- How God created the greater and lesser lights on the fourth day;
- How He created the sun to shine during the day, and the moon and the stars to shine at night.
on the breadth, length, depth and height
That ye … may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height (Ephesians 3:17-18). Behold the fruits of faith and love! Behold the royal gifts that Christ the King confers when He dwells in a man’s heart: the understanding of salvific mysteries and the understanding of all that is important to a man’s life. This understanding is not personal or exceptional, and it is not individual or novel. It is in accordance with the understanding of the saints—for who are the saints, if not those that are rich in faith and love? They were given the understanding of the mysteries of God because of their faith and love. Therefore, test your understanding against their understanding, and if you see a difference, know that it is you who are not in the right. If, however, your understanding is in accordance with theirs, you have attained the measure of their faith and love, and that means that Christ dwells in your heart. If that is so, then you will comprehend the breadth of God’s love, by which He embraced both Jews and pagans in the plan of salvation, and the length of God’s providence by which, from time immemorial, He prepared and developed the plan of salvation through the Law, the Prophets and many miracles. You will also comprehend the depth of the humility of Christ, by which He personally descended into hades to save the souls of the righteous, and the height of the glory of Christ, which He received as a man after the completion of His saving work on earth. Breadth and length and depth and height stand like Christ’s Cross: embracing all, explaining all, inviting all, showing mercy to all, and exalting all. O Lord Jesus Christ, our gracious Lord, have mercy on us and save us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.