Prologue entry for 11/23/23 (read on 12/06/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. Saint Amphilochius, Bishop Of Iconium
Amphilochius was a fellow countryman, companion and friend of St. Basil the Great and other great saints of the fourth century. Amphilochius left the uproar of the world early in life and withdrew to a cave where, as a hermit, he lived in asceticism for forty years. It then happened that the episcopal throne in Iconium was vacated, and Amphilochius, in a wondrous manner, was chosen and consecrated Bishop of Iconium. He was a splendid shepherd and a great defender of the purity of the Orthodox Faith. He took part in the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 A.D. He fought zealously against the impious Macedonius, the Arians and the Eunomians. He personally begged Theodosius the Great to expel all the Arians from every city in the empire, but the emperor did not heed him. A few days later, Amphilochius came before the emperor again. When the bishop was led into the reception chamber, the emperor was sitting on his throne, and on his right sat his son Arcadius, whom Theodosius had taken as his co-emperor. Entering the chamber, St. Amphilochius bowed to Emperor Theodosius but paid no attention to Arcadius, the emperor’s son, as if he were not there. Greatly enraged at this, Emperor Theodosius ordered that Amphilochius be immediately expelled from the court. The saint then said to the emperor: “Do you see, O Emperor, how you do not tolerate disrespect to your son? So too, God the Father does not tolerate disrespect to His Son, and is disgusted with the corruptness of those who blaspheme Him and is angered at all those adherents of that cursed (Arian) heresy.” Hearing this, the emperor then understood why Amphilochius had not given honor to his son, and was amazed at his wisdom and daring. Among many other works, St. Amphilochius wrote several books on the Faith. He entered into rest in great old age in the year 395 A.D. and took up his habitation in eternal life.
2. Saint Gregory, Bishop Of Agrigentum
Gregory was born of devout parents, Chariton and Theodota in Sicily near the town of Agrigentum, where he was later bishop. His entire life was imbued with God’s wonderful miracles. In a miraculous manner, he went to Jerusalem; in a miraculous manner, he was chosen as bishop; and in a miraculous manner, he was saved from slander. He himself was a great miracle-worker, for he was a great God-pleaser, a great spiritual father and an ascetic. He participated at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 553 A.D. After difficult trials he reposed peacefully near the end of the sixth century or the beginning of the seventh.
3. Saint Alexander Nevsky
Alexander was the son of Prince Yaroslav. From childhood, his heart was directed to God. He defeated the Swedes on the river Neva on July 15, 1240 A.D., for which he received the appellation “Nevsky” [“of the Neva”]. On that occasion, Saints Boris and Gleb appeared to one of Alexander’s commanders and promised their help to the great prince, who was their kinsman. Once, among the Golden Horde of the Tartars, he refused to bow down to idols or to pass through fire. Because of his wisdom, physical strength and beauty, even the Tartar Khan respected him. He built many churches and performed countless works of mercy. He entered into rest on November 14, 1263 A.D. at the age of forty-three. On this day, November 23, the translation of his relics to the town of Vladimir is commemorated.
4. Saint Mitrophan, Bishop Of Voronezh
Mitrophan was a glorious Russian hierarch, ascetic and patriot. He was a friend, and later a critic, of Peter the Great. He entered into rest on November 23, 1703 A.D. His wonderworking relics were uncovered in the year 1832 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint Alexander Nevsky
A knight of Christ, St. Alexander,
A prince of the people and servant of the Lord—
Ruler on earth and slave of the Almighty—
This was the life of Nevsky.
On the outside opulence, on the inside weeping;
On the outside struggle, on the inside serenity;
On the outside illusion, on the inside truth.
Christ was the prize of this hero,
Both in war and deceptive peace.
In torment, Christ was his joy,
In suffering, Christ was his assurance,
In victory, Christ was the victor,
And in death, Christ was his Resurrector!
To him, in both worlds, all was Christ!
He was the end; He was the living goal.
The pious prince was an exemplar to his people,
Of how one should serve the Lord.
O holy Prince, help us also,
By your brilliant power, by your holy prayers!
God permits misfortune to befall the righteous, that He might glorify them more greatly. The overcoming of misfortune reveals both the glory of God and the glory of the righteous. St. Gregory of Agrigentum was, in all things, righteous and pleasing to God. But God permitted misfortune to befall him, similar to that misfortune that once overtook St. Athanasius and St. Macarius. Two priests, Sabinus and Crescens, for whom Gregory had done much good, could not at all tolerate Gregory’s virtuousness. For such is the nature of vice, that it cannot tolerate virtue. Consequently, Sabinus and Crescens found a notorious prostitute and bribed her to malign Gregory by saying that he had had immoral relations with her. So it was that when Gregory was in church, the woman crept into his bedroom, and just as Gregory came out of church with the people, she emerged from his room. The two priests began to revile Gregory as a libertine. However, Gregory was composed and prepared for every suffering. They confined him in prison and then transferred him to Rome. The pope believed the slanderers and kept Gregory in prison for two and a half years, without a trial or a verdict. A council was then convened to try Gregory’s case, but God judged before man could judge. The woman went insane and was brought mad before the council. She was unable to answer any questions. Gregory, the miracle-worker, prayed to God for her and she was healed, for the evil spirit came out of her. Then, through her tears, she confessed that she had been bribed to malign the man of God, and that immediately after she had committed the slander, the evil spirit had entered her and held her in its power. Sabinus and Crescens, along with the other maligners—more than a hundred in number—found their faces suddenly turned as black as coal, and they were punished with exile. St. Gregory was returned to his diocese and was received with great exultation by his people.
Contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 2):
- How God gave the first people all the plants and all the fruitful trees for food;
- How He forbade them to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest they die.
on grace and gifts
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ (Ephesians 4:7). Here is the beginning of distinctions among Christians. At first, the Apostle enumerated that which unites us, that is, one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5-6). Nevertheless, here he emphasizes that which makes us unwillingly different. The measure of the gift of Christ makes us different, the measure according to which the grace of the Holy Spirit is given. Christ is the Head of the great body that is called the Church. He creates that body and, individually, every member of that body; He is the Builder and He is the only One who knows the plan of that building. He does not allow one member in this building to be disproportionally great or small. He gives the proper measure to everything and everyone. Thus, He gives one five talents, another two, and another one. He measures, and the Holy Spirit pours out His grace accordingly. No one should be angry or envious. No one should be angry, for if he has received less, he will have less to answer for. No one should be envious, for if someone has received more, it is not his, but God’s. If he has much, much will be asked of him, as it is said in the divine parable of the talents. O my brethren, let every one of us be conscious of the measure of our gift and our responsibility. Let us respect our gift and the gift of our neighbor, for all gifts are from God and are God’s. O Lord Jesus, the great Giver of diverse gifts, to Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.