Prologue entry for 12/24/23 (read on 01/06/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Venerable Martyr Eugenia And Others With Her
Eugenia was the daughter of Philip the Eparch of all Egypt and was born in Rome. At that time the Christians had been driven out of Alexandria and lived outside the city. The virgin Eugenia visited the Christians and accepted their Faith with her whole heart. Fleeing from her parents with two of her faithful eunuchs, she was baptized by Bishop Elias. Disguised in men’s clothing, she entered a men’s monastery where she received the monastic habit. So much did she cleanse her heart by voluntary asceticism that she received from God the grace of healing the sick. Thus, she healed a wealthy woman, Melanthia. After this, however, Melanthia wanted to lure Eugenia into bodily sin, not suspecting that Eugenia was a woman. Since she was adamantly rejected by Eugenia, out of revenge this evil woman went to the eparch and slandered Eugenia in the same manner as Potiphar’s wife had once slandered the chaste Joseph. The eparch ordered that all the monks be bound and cast into prison together with Eugenia. But when St. Eugenia was brought before the tribunal, she revealed herself to her father as his daughter. The overjoyed Philip was then baptized with his entire household, and he was chosen as Bishop of Alexandria. Hearing of this, the Roman emperor sent a wicked commander, Terentius, who came to Alexandria and secretly had Philip killed. St. Eugenia moved to Rome with her mother and brothers. In Rome she fearlessly and zealously converted pagans, especially maidens, to the true Faith, and thus she converted a beautiful maiden Basilla to the Faith. Shortly afterward, Basilla was beheaded for Christ as Eugenia had foretold to her. Then both eunuchs, Protus and Hyacinth, were beheaded. Finally, a martyr’s end came to St. Eugenia, whose presence had caused the collapse and destruction of the Temple of Diana. The torturers threw her first into water and then into fire, but God saved her. The Lord Jesus Himself appeared to her in prison and told her that she would suffer on the day of His Nativity. And so it was. She was beheaded by the sword on December 25, 262 A.D., in Rome. After her death, St. Eugenia appeared in great glory to her mother and comforted her.
2. The Venerable Nicholas The Commander
Some think this great saint was a Slav of Balkan ancestry. At the time of Emperor Nicephorus, Nicholas was a commander and had authority over a division of the army that went to war against the Bulgarians. Along the way, Nicholas spent the night in an inn, where he experienced a great temptation and had a strange dream. This dream fully came to pass in the war, where the Greeks were utterly defeated by the Bulgarians in the year 811 A.D. Nicholas was spared, and out of gratitude for God’s providence he left his military rank and became a monk. He lived a long life of asceticism and became so perfect that he became a great clairvoyant and God-pleaser. He died peacefully in the ninth century and took up his habitation in the Blessed Kingdom of Christ the Lord.1
1: In the Greek Synaxarion, the Venerable Antiochus, a monk of Palestine, is also commemorated. He was an eye-witness of the suffering of the Holy Fathers of St. Sava’s (May 16) and, as an eyewitness, described their suffering under the Saracens. He also compiled another book entitled Pandect. He wrote many prayers, of which the best-known is the one recited daily at Compline: “And grant us, O Master, as we go to sleep, rest of body and soul.”
The Holy New Martyr Ahmed, a Turk by birth and a stonecutter by profession, is also commemorated. He embraced the Christian Faith and laid down his life for it. He suffered at the hands of the Turks in Constantinople in the year 1682 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
The Venerable Martyr Eugenia
Eugenia, a glorious maiden, recognized God
And dedicated herself completely to His service.
She sacrificed this temporary life for the eternal and endless one;
To Christ the Eternal she betrothed her heart.
With patience she conquered the vice of evil
And gained the wondrous grace of God.
With the angels in heaven she now rejoices;
With the saints she gloriously celebrates the eternal feast.
Eugenia, beautiful virgin, God sanctified you.
Remember us sinners before God even now.
Victory over temptation is victory over death. This is shown by a wondrous experience of St. Nicholas the Commander. When this commander went off with King Nicephorus’s army against the Bulgarians, it happened that he spent the night in a wayside inn. The innkeeper had a daughter, a young girl, who, attracted by the imperial commander’s outward beauty, began to entice him into sin. Nicholas refused her once, saying to her that this was enticing him into a satanic act. Nevertheless, the shameless girl came a second and a third time to the commander’s room and again tempted him to an impure act. The commander refused both the second and third propositions even more decisively, counseling her to preserve her virginity and not to give her body and soul over to the devil. Finally, he said to her that he was a soldier and was going to war, and that it was unworthy and dangerous for a soldier to soil himself with such a misdeed, which would anger God and lead him to certain death. Thus, this God- loving man conquered temptation. The following day, he moved farther on with the army. The next night, he saw the following vision: He was standing in a spacious field and saw near him a powerful man sitting with his right leg crossed over his left. Before them stood two armies in the field, one facing the other, the Greeks and the Bulgarians. This powerful man told him to watch carefully what was about to happen. Nicholas looked and saw the following: As long as the powerful man kept his right leg crossed over the left, the Greek army overcame the Bulgarian army, and when he changed his position and placed his left leg over the right leg, the Bulgarians charged and ferociously cut down the Greeks. Then this powerful man brought the commander closer to the slaughtered Greek army. The entire field was covered with corpses, body beside body. Only in the middle of these corpses was there an empty space, large enough for the body of a man. Then the man said to Nicholas: “This place was appointed for your body, but since you defeated the devil’s temptations three times last night, you saved your body and soul from death.” That which Nicholas saw in his dream, he saw precisely in reality at the time of the battle. The entire Greek army perished on the battlefield, but Nicholas returned home alive, not to the barracks anymore, but to a monastery.
Contemplate the assembly of the forefathers, prophets and righteous ones in the heavens:
- How, before Christ, they fulfilled God’s law;
- How they foretold Christ the Lord both in word and in the image of their lives;
- How they now rejoice in the Kingdom of Christ.
on the righteous Joseph
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man … did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him (Matthew 1:19, 24). One must fear God more than men, and one must obey God more than men. This is the lesson from the life of the Righteous Joseph, the kinsman and guardian of the Holy Virgin Mary. He lived at the time of the juncture between the Law and grace, and was faithful to the Law until grace appeared; then, when the new grace of God appeared, he became faithful to grace. Obedient to the letter of the Law, he wanted to put the Holy Virgin away when she conceived the Savior of the world in her most pure body. But when an angel of God announced to him that Mary had conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20), he abandoned his intention and did not put her away, but did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him. He did not reason for himself, but obeyed the will of God. Therefore, God made him worthy of great glory, both on earth and in heaven. Quietly and secretly he served God, and God glorified him openly. Not only was he made worthy of the Kingdom of God but also his sons and daughters were. What father would want anything more than that his son would be an apostle of Christ? And Joseph had two sons who were apostles. Thus, God glorifies those who fear Him and obey Him. O great Lord, God of the righteous Joseph, help us sinners also to love Thy righteousness and to fear only Thee. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.