Prologue entry for 12/11/23 (read on 12/24/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Venerable Daniel The Stylite
Daniel was born in the village of Bethara near the city of Samosata in Mesopotamia of Christian parents, Elias and Martha. Through her tearful prayers, his barren mother received him from God, and as an only son he was dedicated to God from early childhood. Daniel embraced the monastic rank at the age of twelve, visited Simeon the Stylite, and was blessed by him. Desirous of solitude, Daniel left the monastery and withdrew to an abandoned pagan temple on the shore of the Black Sea. There he endured countless assaults from demons, but he conquered them all by perseverance, prayer and the sign of the Cross. Afterward he climbed up on a pillar. There he remained until his death, enduring both heat and cold, and attacks from both men and demons. Many disciples gathered around his pillar, and he directed them to eternal life by his example and his words. God rewarded His faithful servant with abundant grace while in this life, and he performed many miracles beneficial to men and prophesied future events. People from all parts crowded beneath his pillar, seeking help and counsel from the saint of God. Emperors and patriarchs as well as ordinary people came to him. Emperor Leo the Great brought his foreign guests, princes and nobles, and showed them St. Daniel on the pillar, saying to them: “Behold, the wonder in my kingdom!” Daniel foretold the day of his own death, instructed his disciples as a father to his sons, and took leave of them. At the time of his death, his disciples beheld angels, prophets, apostles and martyrs above his pillar. Having lived for eighty years, this holy angelic man entered into rest and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ in the year 489 A.D.
2. The Venerable Luke The Stylite
Luke lived in Constantinople at the time of Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. As a soldier, he participated in the war against the Bulgarians, in which he witnessed the death of many thousands of people, and from that war he emerged alive and unharmed. Seeing the finger of God in his deliverance, Luke scorned the vanity of the world and withdrew to a pillar near Chalcedon. There he lived a life of asceticism for forty-five years, cleansing his soul of all sinful desires and thoughts. Pleasing God, he entered into rest sometime between the years 970 and 980 A.D. and took up his habitation in a better life.
3. The Venerable Nicon The Dry
As a monk in the Monastery of the Kiev Caves, he was enslaved by the Tartars. He lived for three years in captivity: shackled, tortured and mocked. When his kinsmen brought the money to ransom him from his master, he refused, saying: “If the Lord had wanted me to be free, He would not have delivered me into the hands of these lawless men.” Once he told his master that Christ would free him in three days. The Tartar thought that this meant that his slave was going to escape, so he severed his tendons below the knees. However, on the third day, Nicon was indeed instantly carried to Kiev by an invisible hand. After a period of time, the Tartar came to Kiev and recognized Nicon, his former slave. He repented and was baptized. The former master became the servant and disciple of his former slave. Nicon was called “the Dry” because of the great austerity of his bodily fasting, and he was a great clairvoyant and miracle-worker. He entered peacefully into rest in the Lord on December 11, 1101 A.D.
4. The Holy Martyr Mirax
Mirax was an Egyptian. Deceived by a Moslem Emir, he embraced Islam. He later repented and entered a mosque with a cross. There he declared himself a Christian, calling upon the Moslems to forsake their falsehood and to accept the truth. He was tortured and beheaded in about the year 640 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
The Venerable Daniel The Stylite
When holy Daniel desired to die
He taught his disciples thus:
"My dear children, the fruit of my labor,
Affix your heart to the Living God,
Contemplate in spirit the Heavenly Father.
Glorify the wondrous Creator with praise.
Let humility be the first of your virtues;
The humble in heaven are God's noblemen.
Then show obedience, such as befits the humble.
These are two adornments of every true believer.
The humble and the obedient keep hospitality:
Be hospitable and magnanimous.
These are three virtues, and still more I will say:
Fasting, vigils, poverty—the path to eternal happiness.
Here are six candles in the earthly darkness,
And the seventh is love, the greatest of all."
Thus the saint spoke, and imparted his blessings,
Then rendered his holy soul to the Lord.
O holy Daniel, inhabitant of heaven,
Implore Christ for the needs of us sinners.
The Lord preserveth all them that love him (Psalm 145:20). The lives of the saints confirm this as clearly as the sun. Certain envious priests complained to Patriarch Anatolius about St. Daniel, slandering him and saying that he was a magician. In essence, they were envious of the exceedingly young ascetic, who surpassed them in all the virtues and attracted many people to himself by his way of life. The patriarch summoned Daniel and examined him regarding his faith and his way of life. When Daniel told him everything, the patriarch rose from his seat, embraced him, praised him, and dismissed him in peace. Several days later, Patriarch Anatolius became ill, summoned Daniel and asked him to pray to God for his recovery. Daniel prayed to God, and the patriarch was immediately restored to health. Since the patriarch wanted to reward Daniel somehow, the young saint begged him to forgive his slanderers as his reward. To this the patriarch replied: “How can I not forgive them when they are the authors of so much good, namely, that I now know you and have received healing through you?” Truly, the Lord preserves all who love Him, and He turns to their good the evil that men conceive against them. While St. Nicon the Dry was a slave among the Tartars, his master became sick and was at the point of death. Seeing that he would soon die, he ordered his sons to crucify Nicon at the head of his grave after his death. St. Nicon, discerning the future, saw that his cruel master would be baptized and prayed to God for his restoration to health. Contrary to all expectations, the Tartar recovered. Thus, by prayer, Nicon saved himself from physical death and his master from spiritual death.
Contemplate the covenant that God made with the righteous Noah (Genesis 9):
- How God blessed Noah and his sons after the flood;
- How He promised that there would never again be a universal flood;
- How He established the rainbow as a sign of that covenant.
And Lot … said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly (Genesis 19:7). Lot, a righteous man among the unrighteous, lived in Sodom with his wife and two daughters. The faithful Abraham asked God: Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? (Genesis 18:23). God answered the faithful Abraham that not only would He not destroy the righteous, but if there were to be found ten righteous in that city, he would spare the entire city because of those ten. However, only one righteous man was found in Sodom–Lot–and he was a stranger. Just as before the flood there was only one righteous man in the world, Noah, so before the destruction of Sodom there was only one righteous man in that city, Lot. Lot was similar to his uncle Abraham in every virtue, notably in his obedience to God and his hospitality. The Sodomites hated him as a stranger and even more as a righteous man. Brethren, do not so wickedly, Lot exhorted them. He called the corrupt people his brethren in order to calm them and to remind them not to commit evil, in order to save them. But his brotherly words provoked them to even greater wrath. Lot was found worthy to have the angels of God visit him and deliver him from that corrupt city whose sins cried out to God. And the reprobates attacked the home of Lot to defile the sanctity of hospitality. Brethren, do not so wickedly, Lot implored them. But why would these brutes listen to a man if they did not fear God? That is why the angels of God punished them with blindness: And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great (Genesis 19:11). Then the angels led Lot from the city of the unrighteous and let loose a storm of brimstone and fire upon the city. Thus, the evil city perished, and the one righteous man in the city was saved. Better is one righteous man than a thousand sinners (Sirach 16:3). O righteous God, Who never abandonest the righteous man, correct our unrighteousness and save us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.