Prologue entry for 12/23/23 (read on 01/05/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Ten Holy Martyrs Of Crete
They suffered for Christ the Lord during the persecution of Decius in the year 250 A.D. Their names were Theodulus, Saturnicus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompeius, Agathopous, Basilides and Evaristus. They were all eminent and honored citizens, the best among the best. When they were brought to the place of execution they were elated, and they discussed among themselves which of them would be the first to be beheaded, for each one of them wanted to be the first to go to his beloved Christ. Then they prayed: “O Lord, forgive Thy servants and accept our blood, which is about to be shed, as an offering on our behalf and for our kinsmen and friends and for all of our fatherland, that all may be freed from the darkness of ignorance and may know Thee, the True Light, O Eternal King!” They were beheaded and entered into the Kingdom of Glory to rejoice eternally.
2. Saint Niphon The Wonderworker
Niphon was born in Paphlagonia and brought up in Constantinople at the court of a commander [Sabbatius]. Falling into evil company, the young Niphon became dissolute and gave himself over to many sins and vices. Because of his sin, he could not even pray to God. By the mercy of the Most-holy Theotokos, he was brought back to the path of righteousness and was tonsured a monk. He had numerous visions of the heavenly world, and for four years he endured a difficult struggle with a demon, who constantly whispered to him: “There is no God! There is no God!” But, when the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to him alive on an icon, Niphon received great power over evil spirits and was freed from these grievous temptations. He was such a great seer that he saw angels and demons around men just as clearly as he saw men themselves, and he knew the thoughts of men. He often spoke with angels and disputed with demons. He built a church to the Most-holy Theotokos in Constantinople, gathered monks together, and saved many souls. Alexander, the Archbishop of Alexandria, according to a revelation from heaven, consecrated him bishop of the town of Constantia on Cyprus. At that time St. Niphon was already old. He governed well the Church of God for a short time and took up his habitation in Christ’s Eternal Kingdom. Before his death he was visited by St. Athanasius the Great, then the archdeacon of the Church in Alexandria, and after his death he was seen by Athanasius, his face shining as the sun.
3. The Venerable Nahum, Wonderworker Of Ohrid
Nahum was a disciple of Saints Cyril and Methodius and one of the Five Companions who most zealously labored with these Apostles to the Slavs. St. Nahum traveled to Rome, where he became well known for his miracle-working power as well as his great learning. He was knowledgeable in many languages. After his return from Rome, he and his companions settled on the shores of Lake Ohrid with the help of King Boris Michael. While St. Clement labored as bishop in Ohrid, St. Nahum founded a monastery on the southern shore of the lake. The monastery even today adorns that shore, just as the name of St. Nahum adorns the history of Slavic Christianity and has been a source of miraculous power and a refuge for the sick and the unfortunate through the ages. Many monks from throughout the Balkans gathered around St. Nahum. St. Nahum was a wise teacher, a unique leader of monks, a resolute ascetic, a miracle-working intercessor, and a spiritual father. A tireless worker, St. Nahum labored especially on the translation of the Sacred Scriptures and other ecclesiastical books from the Greek language into the Slavonic. He worked miracles both during his life and after his death. His miracle-working relics, to this day, amaze many with numerous miracles, healing grave illnesses, especially insanity. Nahum entered into rest in the first half of the tenth century and took up his habitation in the joy of his beloved Christ.1
1: In the Greek Synaxarion, Saints Clement and Nahum are called the new Moses and Aaron, and this miracle is told of them: The heretics in Germany chained them and threw them into prison. By God’s providence, however, the prison shook, the chains fell from them, the doors of the prison opened and they walked out freely.
Hymn Of Praise
The Venerable Nahum, Wonderworker Of Ohrid
Venerable Nahum, Apostle to the Slavs,
Was completely illumined with the Light of Christ.
Unshakable in spirit, like a firm rock,
By grace he subjugated the flesh to the spirit.
Fasting and prayers and all-night vigils
Cleansed his soul of evil passions,
And he became like unto the mighty angels.
God granted him heavenly powers.
The Lord subjected to him all the powers of nature,
And also the evil demons and the darkened passions.
He won over people and nations to Christ,
Healing infirmities by words and miracles.
He died, but died not; he is a citizen of the heavens.
St. Nahum even now gazes upon this world;
In body and spirit, he performs miracles,
And even now preaches Christ to all peoples.
O Holy Nahum, the pride of the Balkans,
God-pleaser and friend of the angels:
Great is your power, given by God.
O help us all to serve the Lord.
While still living in the flesh, the saints had great revelations from God and visions of both heavenly and infernal powers. All of their revelations and visions confirm the Orthodox Faith in all of her teachings. The saints are a joy, a great joy to the faithful. St. Niphon saw the Theotokos and the Lord Christ alive in glory; he saw men’s souls leaving the body; and he saw the guardian angels of certain men! He spoke openly with angels and disputed with demons. The Church teaches that the sincere repentance of a sinner, even in the last hour, saves the soul of the penitent. St. Niphon saw the soul of one such repentant sinner in the last moment; he saw how the angels defended that soul from the aggressive demons and carried it to Paradise. The Church teaches that suicide is a mortal sin. St. Niphon saw the soul of a suicide as the devils were dragging it to hell. The guardian angel of that soul went off and wept bitterly for that soul. This was the soul of a servant who had committed suicide because his master was merciless, and who did not want to endure to the end in order to be saved.
Contemplate God’s reward to the penitent David:
- How God glorified the penitent David and gave him the gift of His Holy Spirit to compile the wondrous Psalter;
- How God made the penitent David the ancestor of many good kings and righteous seers;
- How God made him the ancestor, according to the flesh, of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
on Daniel the Prophet
… And the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:35). Suffering, brethren, can weaken a man’s character; however, luxury can weaken it even more. Daniel, the man of God, could not be weakened either by suffering or by luxury. In both instances he remained the same, and in both instances he was equally the messenger of the one Living God and a clairvoyant revealer of God’s mysteries. He lived in royal luxury and then in a lions’ den. In both instances, he remained unchanged: in royal luxury he fasted, and in the lions' den he did not hunger. The Most-high God rewarded his faithful servant with the great gift of prophecy. The main subject of his prophecies is Christ the Lord. Christ will come and will destroy idol worship throughout the whole earth. He will fill the earth with Himself like no man clothed in the flesh has ever done. He is the One to Whom will be given dominion and glory and a Kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve Him (Daniel 7:14). Daniel, the great prophet of God, prophesied the time, the exact time, of the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world. How we Christians must be ashamed before this Daniel! We see all the promises fulfilled in Christ, and yet we are lax in our faith and in our love for Christ. All was not revealed to Daniel as it is revealed to us who are baptized; nevertheless, he did not turn away from God, not once. O Lord God of Daniel, strengthen us, give us repentance, and have mercy on us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.