Prologue entry for 12/03/23 (read on 12/16/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Holy Prophet Zephaniah
Zephaniah was a native of Mount Sarabatha, from the tribe of Simeon. He lived and prophesied in the seventh century before Christ, at the time of Josiah the pious king of Judah. Zephaniah was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremiah. Having great humility and a pure mind raised to God, he was found worthy of discerning the future. He prophesied the day of the wrath of God and the punishment of Gaza, Ashkalon, Ashdod, Ekron, Nineveh, Jerusalem and Egypt. He saw Jerusalem as a filthy and polluted, … oppressing city… Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; … her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the Law (Zephaniah 3:1-4). Foreseeing the advent of the Messiah, he enthusiastically exclaimed: Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem (Zephaniah 3:14). This seer of mysteries entered into rest at his birthplace to await the General Resurrection and his reward from God.
2. Saint John The Silent [The Hesychast]
John was a native of Nicopolis in Armenia and was the son of Encratius and Euphemia. He was tonsured a monk at the age of eighteen and lived a strict and resolute life of asceticism, cleansing his heart by his many tears, fasting and prayer. After ten years, he was appointed bishop of Colonia. By his example, he attracted his brother Pergamius and his uncle Theodore–both distinguished men at the imperial courts of Emperors Zeno and Justinian–to a God-pleasing life. Seeing the malice and intrigues of this world and his inability to put matters right, he abandoned his episcopal throne. He disguised himself as a simple monk and went to the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified near Jerusalem. There he remained unknown for many years, conscientiously and capably completing every task that the abbot ordered him to do. For this, St. Sava recommended to Patriarch Elias that he ordain him a presbyter. When the patriarch wanted to ordain John, he confessed that he already possessed the rank of bishop. Then St. John closed himself in a cell and spent years and years in silence and prayer. Afterward he spent nine years in the wilderness feeding himself only on wild vegetables, and then he returned to the monastery. He turned the faithful away from the heresy of Origen and contributed greatly to the condemnation and elimination of this heresy. He clearly discerned the spiritual world and healed people from sickness. Having conquered himself, he easily conquered demons. Great in humility, might and divine wisdom, this servant of God entered peacefully into rest in the year 558 A.D. at the age of 104.
3. The Hieromartyr Theodore, Archbishop Of Alexandria
After functioning as patriarch for two years, Theodore was ridiculed and tortured by the pagans. They placed a crown of thorns on his head and finally beheaded him for his Faith in the year 606 A.D.
4. The Venerable Theodulus
Theodulus was an eminent patrician at the court of Theodosius the Great. After the death of his wife, he renounced the vanity of the world and withdrew from Constantinople to a pillar near Ephesus, where he lived a life of asceticism for thirty years.
5. The Venerable Sava Of Zvenigorod
Sava was a disciple of St. Sergius of Radonezh and a great miracle-worker. Following his death, he appeared to many as though he were alive, at times teaching them, at times reproaching them and at times healing them. He passed from this life to a better life in the year 1406 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint John The Silent
John the Silent, God's laborer,
Walked through the wilderness as a lonely hermit,
Until someone cried out: "The barbarians are coming!
Behold how the dust rises up on the road!
They are near, very near; rise up, rise!"
"Let them be near, but God is nearer!"
John said to him, and did not move.
And when misfortune sought to overtake him,
A lion appeared, sent by God,
And began to fiercely roar at the enemy.
The horde fled; John did not move.
He competed with the severe wilderness,
He competed with her in stillness,
And in dryness and solitude.
"Pascha is coming, how shall we greet it?
What shall we eat on the feast, Father?"
The disciple asked. And John said to him:
"To every creature, God gives food."
When the Radiant Feast of Christ dawned,
An angel suddenly appeared as a man before the saint;
Bread, wine and honey he brought.
The disciple, when he beheld the miracle,
Wept at his lack of faith,
And glorified God and God's saint.
God hears the prayers of the righteous and fulfills them, sometimes immediately and completely, and at other times only later, at the appropriate time and according to the needs of the Church. In other words, in fulfilling the prayers of the righteous man, God has in mind either the man’s salvation or the good of the whole Church. St. John the Silent prayed to God to reveal to him how the soul separates from the body at death. While still at prayer, he was taken outside himself and had the following vision: A good man died in front of a church in Bethlehem, and angels took his soul from his body and carried it to heaven with sweet singing. Coming to himself out of his ecstasy, John immediately set out on the road from the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified to Bethlehem. When he reached Bethlehem, he saw the dead body of the man exactly as he had seen it in his vision. When the great St. Sava the Sanctified died, John grieved and wept. Sava appeared to him in a vision and said: “Do not grieve, Father John, for even though I am separated from you in the body, nevertheless I am with you in the spirit.” Then John begged him: “Father, pray to the Lord to take me with you.” To this Sava replied: “For now, this cannot be. A great trial has yet to befall the Lavra, and God wants you to remain in the body to comfort and strengthen the faithful against the heretics.” At first, John did not know what kind of heretics the holy father had spoken of, but he found out later, when the heresy of Origen began to shake the Church of God.
Contemplate the sinful fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3):
- How, seeing themselves naked, they covered their nakedness with fig leaves;
- How, even now, all unrepentant sinners, when they lose a virtue, feel naked and cover their nakedness with some sort of lie or fantasy.
on the two worlds
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Brethren, whatever God desires to reveal to men is revealed, and whatever He does not desire to reveal remains concealed. Moses, the one who beheld God, could say nothing more about heaven than that in the beginning God created it. Having said that, he continued to describe in detail the creation of the earth. Why does Moses not speak in detail about the creation of heaven? Because God did not want to reveal any more to him, since the men of his time were neither mature enough nor capable of understanding heavenly matters beyond their senses. Only when many centuries had passed and God’s New Testament had come to men, did God reveal much more of the heavenly world to His faithful and chosen ones. Only Christians began to see the heavens opened. St. John the Theologian bears witness to this: After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven (Revelation 4:1). St. Stephen the Protomartyr witnesses: Behold, I see the heavens opened (Acts 7:56). The Apostle Paul, who was caught up to the third heaven … and heard unspeakable words (Ii Corinthians 12:2, 4), speaks of the angelic choirs, about the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers, and says: All things were created by Him, and for Him (Colossians 1:16). His disciple, St. Dionysius, describes the celestial hierarchy in as great a detail as Moses describes the earthly world at its creation. This is how the unfathomable wisdom of God wanted it; that which God did not wish to reveal to Moses, He revealed to the apostles and their followers. What could not be told to children is told to mature men. The revelation of mysteries came through spiritual maturity. Here is a beautiful lesson for us all. Let us be diligent in seeking the truth, still more diligent in purifying our hearts, patient in waiting, and unwavering in faith that God will give us everything in due time, in the way and to the measure necessary for our salvation. O Lord most-wise and man-loving, Who teaches us and leads us to salvation without rushing and without delay, to Thee, O Gracious One, be glory and praise. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.