Prologue entry for 12/30/23 (read on 01/12/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Holy Martyr Anysia
Anysia was born in Thessalonica of eminent and wealthy parents and was brought up in the Christian Faith. She was orphaned at an early age and gave herself completely to godly thoughts and prayer in her own home. Fervent in her love for Christ, she often said: “Oh, how false is the life of youth, for you either scandalize or are scandalized. Better is old age; but sorrow overcomes me because of the length of time that separates me from heaven.” She sold all her possessions, distributed the proceeds to the poor, and lived from the labors of her own hands. She kept a strict fast, slept very little, and constantly shed tears at prayer. When sleep overcame her she would say to herself: “It is dangerous to sleep while my enemy keeps vigil.” At that time, the wicked Emperor Maximian issued a decree that anyone could kill Christians when and where he encountered them, without trial or sentence. This holy virgin once went out into the streets to attend church. That day was a pagan feast of the sun. A soldier saw her beautiful countenance, and he approached her with an impure desire, asking for her name. She made the sign of the Cross and said to him: “I am Christ’s handmaid, and I am going to church.” When the impudent soldier came closer and began to speak to her insanely, she shoved him away and spat in his face. The soldier struck her with his sword below the ribs and ran her through. This holy virgin suffered in the year 298 A.D. She was honorably buried by Christians and was crowned with the wreath of glory by God in the Heavenly Kingdom. A church was built over her grave.
2. The Venerable Theodora Of Constantinople
Theodora was a nun and servant of St. Basil the New (March 26). After her death, she appeared to St. Gregory, a disciple of Basil, and described for him all twenty toll-houses through which her soul had passed until, through the prayers of St. Basil, she had entered into eternal rest. Theodora presented herself to the Lord on December 30, 940 A.D.
3. The Holy Apostle Timon
Timon was one of the Seven Deacons and one of the Seventy Apostles (Acts 6:5). He was appointed Bishop of Bostra in Arabia. There he preached the Gospel and endured much ill-treatment at the hands of the pagans. He was thrown into fire but remained unharmed. He finally died, being crucified, and entered into the Kingdom of Christ.
4. The Venerable Theodora Of Caesarea
After many ascetic labors in the convent of St. Anna, she entered peacefully into rest in the year 755 A.D.
5. The Venerable Martyr Gideon
Gideon was a Greek by birth, of very poor parents. In his youth he was forced to embrace Islam. Repentant, he fled to the Holy Mountain, where he received the monastic tonsure in the Monastery of Karakallou. Desiring martyrdom for Christ, he received the blessing of his spiritual father and returned to the same place where he had become a Moslem. There, before the Turks, he openly confessed the Christian Faith and denounced Mohammed as a false prophet. The Turks shaved his head, placed him upside-down on a donkey, and led him through the town, but he rejoiced at this ridicule for the sake of Christ. They then chopped off all his fingers and toes with an axe, as they had once done to St. James the Persian (November 27). Finally they threw him into a place filled with excrement, where he gave up his holy soul to God in the year 1818 A.D., in Trnovo in Thrace. His miracle-working relics are preserved in the Church of the Holy Apostles in the village of Trnovo, and a part of his relics can be found in the Karakallou Monastery.
Hymn Of Praise
The Holy Martyr Anysia
Holy Anysia prays to God,
Continually kneeling and shedding tears:
"O Jesus, God and Lord,
The Source of eternal life,
The Treasury of incorruptible goods:
Help me, O God, help me,
To remain a virgin until death,
As a virgin to enter into rest,
And to become worthy of Thy Kingdom.
Grant me, O Savior, Thy grace,
To be able to suffer for Thee,
To sacrifice myself for Thee.
I desire to be a sacrifice to my God—
Oh, help me to gain what I desire!"
God heard the virgin Anysia,
And gave her His grace
To be able to suffer for Him.
Holy Anysia, now in Paradise,
Shines as a star among the stars,
Shines as an angel among the angels,
Praying for us to the Immortal Christ.
Here are two more examples of how the Merciful God helps those in misfortune who hope in Him with faith. Blessed Theodora of Caesarea was born into a noble house and then entrusted to the Convent of St. Anna for her education. There Theodora was not only educated but also lived a life of asceticism, preparing herself to receive the monastic tonsure. Emperor Leo the Isaurian took her from the convent by force and betrothed her to one of his commanders. Theodora protested this marriage with all her soul, but was as powerless as a lamb in the paws of a wolf. She lamented and prayed constantly in her heart to God that He would not forsake her. On the day of the marriage, while the guests were feasting, news unexpectedly came to the emperor that the Scythians had attacked his empire. The emperor ordered his commander to go out immediately against the Scythians. The commander went and never returned, for he was killed in battle. Thus, by God’s help, St. Theodora was freed. As a pure maiden she returned to her convent, where she received the monastic tonsure and, as a nun, became famous for her rare asceticism. A second example: In the Monastery of the “Sleepless Ones,” there was great want during a year of famine. St. Marcellus, the abbot, received some poor men one day, refreshed them, and then wanted to give them some money for their journey. Marcellus asked the steward of the monastery how much money they had altogether. The steward told him they had ten silver coins. The abbot ordered that all ten silver coins be given to these poor men. However, the steward did not give them all ten; instead he gave them nine and kept one for the needs of the monastery. The steward was very concerned about the monastery, for it was in extreme poverty. A rich man suddenly visited the monastery and brought the abbot ninety talents of gold. Then the discerning Marcellus summoned the steward and said to him: “Behold, God wanted to send us one hundred talents through this devout man, but because you disobeyed me and withheld one silver coin, the Provider of all deprived us of ten talents.”
Contemplate the assembly of ascetics and virgins, both male and female:
- How they, out of love for Christ, renounced everything and gave themselves up to voluntary suffering;
- How they conquered themselves, the world and the devil by their persevering endurance;
- How they now rejoice in the Kingdom of Christ and help us by their prayers.
on the Kingdom of the saints
But the saints of the most High shall take the Kingdom and possess the Kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever (Daniel 7:18). Abased and oppressed in the kingdoms of the world, the saints will reign eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven. The last on earth, they will rejoice as the first in heaven. Hungry, thirsty, barefoot and naked in the transitory kingdoms, they will be like king’s sons, satisfied and clothed in royal raiment in the enduring Kingdom. Strangers in the kingdoms of decay, they will be lords in their Kingdom, the Kingdom of Incorruption. This is the final Kingdom; in truth, the only kingdom that can be called a kingdom. All others are transitory, temporary schools of deceit and vanity. For the Eternal Kingdom, the saints were recruited on earth from the citizens of all earthly kingdoms through the ages. They are the sons and daughters of Christ the Savior, the children of the Living God. They are those who have passed from this life to the other life and who now reign. But all the splendor and all the majesty of their reign has not yet been revealed. This will be displayed after the Second Coming of Christ, the Judge of the living and the dead. Then will all the splendor and all the majesty of the Kingdom of the saints be shown. This is the Eternal Kingdom of Christ our God. Of this Kingdom there will be neither change nor end for ever, even for ever and ever. O Lord Jesus, the Builder of the Kingdom of the saints, have mercy on us sinners and prepare us for the Eternal Kingdom of Thy saints. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.