Prologue entry for 11/25/23 (read on 12/08/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Hieromartyr Clement, Bishop Of Rome
Clement was born in Rome of royal lineage and was a contemporary of the holy apostles. His mother and two brothers, traveling on the sea, were carried by a storm to different places. His father then went to find his wife and two sons and he, too, became lost. Clement, being twenty-four years old, then set out for the east to seek his parents and brothers. In Alexandria, he made the acquaintance of the Apostle Barnabas and, afterward, joined the Apostle Peter whom his two brothers, Faustinus and Faustinian, were already following. By God’s providence, the Apostle Peter came upon Clement’s mother as an aged beggar woman, and then found his father as well. Thus, the whole family was united, and all returned to Rome as Christians. Clement did not separate himself from the great apostle, who appointed him as bishop before his death. After Peter’s martyrdom, Linus was Bishop of Rome, then Cletus—both of them for a short time—and then Clement. Clement governed the Church of God with flaming zeal, and from day to day brought a great number of unbelievers to the Christian Faith. In addition, he ordered seven scribes to write the lives of the Christian martyrs who were suffering at that time for their Lord. The Emperor Trajan banished him to Cherson, where Clement found about two thousand exiled Christians. All were occupied with the difficult job of hewing stones in a waterless land. The Christians received Clement with great joy and he was a living source of comfort to them. By his prayer, he brought forth water from the ground and converted so many of the unbelieving natives to Christianity that, in one year, seventy-five churches were built there. To prevent his spreading the Christian Faith even more, the authorities condemned Clement to death, and drowned him in the sea with a stone around his neck in the year 101 A.D. His miracle-working relics were removed from the sea only in the time of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
2. The Hieromartyr Peter, Archbishop Of Alexandria
Peter was a disciple and successor of St. Theonas, Archbishop of Alexandria, and was for a time a teacher at Origen’s famous school of philosophy. He ascended the archiepiscopal throne in the year 299 A.D., and died a martyr’s death in 311 A.D., beside the grave of the Holy Apostle Mark. He governed the Church in a most difficult era, when assaults were being made against the faithful by unbelievers from without, and by heretics from within. During his time, 670 Christians suffered in Alexandria. Often, whole families were led to the scaffold and executed. At the same time, the ungodly Arius was confusing the faithful with his false teaching. St. Peter cut him off from the Church and anathematized him, both in this world and in the next. The Lord Himself visited this great and wonderful saint in prison.
3. The Venerable Paphnutius
Paphnutius never drank wine. Once, bandits seized him, and their leader forced him to drink a cup of wine. Seeing Paphnutius’s kind nature, the chief of the bandits repented, and abandoned his brigandage.
Hymn Of Praise
The Hieromartyr Clement, Bishop Of Rome
The aristocrat Clement, of noble birth,
Became a zealous servant of the Living Lord.
Scorning the vanity of opulent Rome,
He elevated his spirit above all illusion.
Spiritual kinship with Peter bound him,
And loosened his fleshly kinship to the emperor.
He shone in Rome as a radiant star,
Dispelling dense darkness with the Honorable Cross;
He adorned and strengthened the Apostolic Church,
And embittered the weak powers of the demons.
A tempest arose from demonic powers
Seeking to slay the saint of God.
His body they killed; his soul then fled to Paradise.
At the bottom of the waters of the sea, his holy body remained.
After eight centuries solid iron would have wasted away,
But not the body of this knight of Christ.
He gloriously manifested many miracles,
And through Christ God Clement was glorified.
O holy Clement, help even us
By your prayers before the throne of God.
It is said of St. Peter of Alexandria that he never climbed the steps and sat on the patriarchal throne in church, but rather stood or sat before the steps of the throne. When the faithful complained that their hierarch did not sit in his place, he replied: “Whenever I approach the throne, I see a heavenly light and power upon it, and that is why I do not dare climb and sit on it.” Beside this vision, St. Peter had another, yet more wondrous vision. While he was in prison, the impious heretic Arius hypocritically pretended that he had repented of his heresy, and sent word to the captive Peter that he had renounced his heresy, with an appeal to Peter to receive him into the Church again. Arius did this only because he thought that Peter would be martyred, and he could then acquire the patriarchal throne and disseminate and strengthen his heresy. Before he gave any reply, Peter prayed to God in the prison. During prayer, a mystical light illumined the prison, and the Lord Jesus appeared to him as a twelve-year-old boy, shining brighter than the sun, so that it was not possible to look at Him directly. The Lord was clothed in a white tunic, rent down the front from top to bottom. He clutched the garment around Himself with His hands, as though to hide His nakedness. At this, St. Peter was in great fear and horror. He cried out: “Who, O Savior, has torn Thy garment?” The Lord replied: “The madman Arius. He tore it, for he alienated My people from Me, whom I acquired by My Blood. Be careful not to receive him in communion with the Church, for he has cunning and diabolical thoughts against Me and My people.” At this, St. Peter sent word to his priests, Achilles and Alexander, that he could not receive Arius’s petition, for it was false and cunning; and the saint pronounced a curse on Arius in both worlds. He also prophesied that Achilles, and then Alexander, would succeed him as patriarch, and so it was.
Contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 2):
- How God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam and took one of his ribs;
- How the Lord God made the woman Eve from Adam’s rib and brought her to Adam;
- How this is the foundation and reason for the mysterious attraction and unity of husband and wife.
on the apportionment of functions and callings
And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). As the various organs in a man’s body have different functions but all work in harmony for the good of the entire body, so the Lord instituted various organs with different functions in the Church, which is His Body. In the first place came the apostles, to whom was given not just one honor, but rather all honors; not one function, but rather all functions; not just one gift, but rather all the gifts of grace. The apostles were simultaneously apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The apostolic calling is not given anymore. Of the Great Apostles, there were twelve, the thirteenth being the Apostle Paul; and of the Lesser Apostles, there were seventy. The prophets are those who received the gift of prophecy from the Holy Spirit. Here, it is not the Old Testament prophets that are being discussed, but rather the New Testament prophets (Acts 11:27, 21:10, 13:1). The prophets were, and still are, prophets regardless of their class and position. The evangelists were firstly those who wrote the Gospels, and then missionaries who spread Christ’s teaching among the unbelievers and, finally, the interpreters of Holy Scripture who in their writings presented the Christian truth for each and all. Pastors and teachers— these are actually one and the same calling, for it is difficult to imagine a pastor who is not a teacher at the same time. The pastors are limited to a certain place and a certain number of faithful whom they lead to salvation, and they govern the Church of God. So, the Lord ordained all of this through His holy apostles. Blessed is he who knows his function and gift received from the Spirit, and who serves according to his designation to the end. Just as the Holy Spirit now apportions His gifts, so the Lord, in His time, will apportion rewards. O Lord, Holy Spirit, true God, help us to use Thy gifts to the end of our lives in humility, for the well-being of Christ’s Church and for our eternal salvation. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.