Prologue entry for 12/19/23 (read on 01/01/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Holy Martyr Boniface
Martyrdom for Christ makes a saint out of a sinner. The example of St. Boniface shows this. At first, he was a servant in Rome to a wealthy and immoral woman, Aglaida, and had impure and unlawful relations with her. They were both pagans. Once, Aglaida desired to have the relics of a martyr in her house as an amulet to protect against evil, so she sent her servant to Asia to find and purchase what she desired. Boniface took several slaves with him and a large amount of money. Before parting with Aglaida, he said to her: “If I cannot find a martyr, but instead they bring you back my body martyred for Christ, will you receive it with honor, my lady?” Aglaida laughed and called him a drunkard and a sinner, and then they parted. Coming to the city of Tarsus, Boniface saw many Christians undergoing torture: some with their legs cut off, others with their hands severed, others with their eyes plucked out, still others on the gallows, and so forth. Boniface’s heart was changed, and he repented of his sinful life and wept. He cried out among the Christian martyrs: “I too am a Christian!” The judge took him for interrogation and ordered that he be harshly flogged, then that boiling lead be poured into his mouth, and–since this did him no harm– that he be beheaded. The slaves then took his body and carried it to Rome. An angel of God appeared to Aglaida and said: “Receive the one who was once your slave but now is our brother and fellow servant; he is the guardian of your soul and the protector of your life.” The awestruck Aglaida came out to meet them, received the body of Boniface, built a church for him, and placed the relics of the martyr in it. She then repented, gave away her goods to the poor, withdrew from the world, and lived for fifteen more years in bitter repentance. St. Boniface suffered in the year 290 A.D.
2. Saint Gregory (Grigentius), Bishop Of Omir
At first, Gregory was a deacon in a church in Mediolanum [Milan] and had many visions. By God’s providence he was taken to Alexandria. There Patriarch Proterius, according to a heavenly revelation, consecrated him bishop of the land of Omir in southern Arabia, which St. Elesbaan the King (October 24) had just freed from the tyranny of Dunaan the Jew. He was a good shepherd and great miracle-worker. He organized the Church in Omir with the help of the Christ- loving King Abramius, built many churches, and baptized many Jews. By his prayers he performed great and awesome miracles, even bringing about a revelation of Christ the Lord before the unbelieving Jews, which led to their baptism. He governed the Church for thirty years and entered peacefully into life eternal in the year 552 A.D.
3. Saint Boniface The Merciful, Bishop Of Ferentino
From his childhood, Boniface was unusually kind, so much so that his mother scolded him for this. However, aided by prayer, Boniface received a hundredfold from the Lord. He died peacefully in Italy in the sixth century.
4. The Venerable Elias Of Murom
Elias was a monk of the Monastery of the Kiev Caves. He died in the year 1188 A.D., and his incorrupt relics are miracle-working. Even until now, three fingers on his right hand remain placed together for prayer, showing that he died at prayer. This is a reproach to those who do not make the sign of the Cross with three fingers.
Hymn Of Praise
The Holy Martyr Boniface
A sinful soul was in Boniface,
A sinful soul oppressed by sin.
He repented and, through Christ, began to shine,
And a hundred times he sighed.
He beheld the suffering of the holy martyrs;
He beheld the sufferings, and melted like wax.
He wept, and by his tears he was sanctified,
Repenting for all his sins.
What is life? It is intended for sacrifice:
Either to the devil or to the Creator.
The first sacrifice stinks like a dead corpse,
The second ascends to the Savior.
Repentance means restoration to life,
And it was restoration for Boniface.
For the salvation of his soul, he sacrificed his body;
He purchased the Kingdom with a sack of bones.
The distance from a sinner to a penitent,
And from a penitent to a martyr,
Is no further than one finger is from another,
Is no further than the earth is from the Cross.
Can faith move mountains? (Matthew 17:20). Without a doubt it can, and it can do even more than that: by faith, God Himself can be moved to mercy toward us sinners. In the Omirian town of Safar, the majority of the inhabitants were Jews. St. Gregory endeavored to convert them to Christianity. Then the Jews suggested to St. Gregory and to King Abramis that they should have a debate about faith with the assurance that if they [the Jews] were defeated then all of them would enter the Christian Faith. This debate lasted several days in the presence of several thousand people, both Jews and Christians. The Jews, seeing that they would be defeated by Gregory’s irrefutable reasons and proofs, sought from Gregory that, in some way, he show them Christ alive so that they might see Him with their own eyes and then they would believe. Having great boldness before the Lord because of the purity of his heart, St. Gregory knelt facing east and, before everyone, began to pray to God. When he had finished his prayer, the earth quaked, thunder clapped, and the heavens opened in the east. A cloud, glowing with a flaming fire and shining rays, moved from the east and then slowly descended to the earth toward that place where the assembly of people had gathered. In the midst of the cloud there stood a man of inexpressible beauty, with a face of extraordinary brightness and in a vesture that appeared to be woven of lightning. He moved upon the cloud until He came over Bishop Gregory himself. Everyone saw Him in unsurpassable glory and beauty, and in fear fell to the ground on their faces. Gregory cried out: “One is Holy, One is the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.”
Contemplate the humility of Moses before God:
- How Moses always emphasized God and never himself;
- How he looked for all strength, for all good, and for all help from God only, and not from anyone else;
- How, in all labor, he humbly turned to God for help and leadership.
For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord (I Samuel 1:27-28). Besought of God and dedicated to God, Samuel was a prophet and leader of the people of Israel. The blessed Hannah, his childless mother, besought him from God with tears and sacrifices. And she gave him, her one and only greatest blessing, to the service of the Lord from his infancy. A wise mother does not consider her children as her own, but rather as God’s. They are God’s both when God gives them and when He takes them, but they are mostly God’s when a mother herself dedicates them to Him. God’s gift is returned to Him as a reciprocal gift, for we have nothing of our own to give to Him but only that which we receive from Him. The young Samuel lived in the Temple among the iniquitous sons of Eli the high priest, and he did not become corrupt. The Lord would not reveal Himself to the sinful elders, but He appeared to this pure child: for Samuel did the will of God, and did let none of his words fall to the ground (I Samuel 3:19). Samuel was a judge of the people of Israel from his youth to old age and committed nothing wrong either before God or before the people. God gave him the power to prophesy and work miracles. He defeated all of God’s enemies and the enemies of the people, and he anointed two kings, Saul and David. When he grew old, he called the people together and asked them if he had ever committed any violence against anyone or accepted a bribe from anyone. And the people replied with one voice: Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand (I Samuel 12:4). Behold, such a man was he, who was given by God and given to God as a reciprocal gift, and who grew up with the blessing of God and the blessing of his mother. Let mothers benefit from the example of the blessed Hannah; let judges and rulers of the people benefit from the example of the righteous Samuel. O Holy and Most-holy Lord, gracious and most gracious, open our souls to see Thy holiness and Thy goodness, that we may repent of our evils. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.