Monday, December 18, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Sebastian

Holy Martyr Sebastian (287 A.D.)
This glorious saint was born in Italy and brought up in the city of Milan. While still young, he dedicated himself to military service. Being educated, handsome and courageous, he received the favor of Emperor Diocletian, who appointed him captain of his imperial guard.

Secretly he confessed the Christian Faith and prayed to the Living God. As an honorable, just and merciful man, Sebastian was greatly beloved by his soldiers. Whenever he could, he saved Christians from torture and death, and, when he was unable to do so, he exhorted them to die for Christ the Living God without turning back.

Two brothers, Marcus and Marcellinus, who had been imprisoned for Christ and were already on the verge of denouncing Him and worshiping idols, were confirmed in the Faith by Sebastian, who strengthened them for martyrdom. As he spoke with them, encouraging them not to fear death for Christ, his face was illumined. Everyone saw his shining face, like that of an angel of God.

Sebastian also confirmed his words by miracles: he healed Zoe, the jailer Nicostratus’s wife, who had been mute for six years; he brought her, Nicostratus and his entire household to baptism; he healed the two ailing sons of Claudius the commander and brought him and his household to baptism; he healed Tranquillinus, the father of Marcus and Marcellinus, of gout and pains in his legs which had troubled him for eleven years, and brought him to baptism together with his entire household; he healed the Roman eparch Chromatius of the same illness and brought him and his son Tiburtius to baptism.

The first of them to suffer was St. Zoe, whom they seized at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, where she was praying to God. After torturing her, they threw her into the Tiber River. They then seized Tiburtius, and the judge placed live coals before him, telling him to choose between life and death, that is, either to cast incense on the coals and to cense the idols or to stand barefoot on the hot coals. St. Tiburtius made the sign of the Cross, stood barefoot on the hot coals, and remained unharmed. After this, he was beheaded.

Nicostratus was killed with a stake, Tranquillinus was drowned, and Marcus and Marcellinus were tortured and pierced with spears.

Then Sebastian was brought before Emperor Diocletian. The emperor rebuked him for his betrayal, but Sebastian said: “I have always prayed to my Christ for your health and for the peace of the Roman Empire.” The emperor ordered that he be stripped naked and shot through with arrows. The soldiers shot him through with arrows until the martyr was so completely covered with arrows that his body was not seen because of them. When all thought that he was dead, he appeared alive and completely healthy.

Then the pagans killed him with staves. He suffered gloriously for Christ his Lord and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ in the year 287 at the time of Diocletian the Emperor and Gaius the Bishop of Rome.

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Monday, October 16, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Longinus

St. Longinus the Centurion (early first century)

The soldier that was in charge of crucifying our Lord became a Christian and is known as St. Longinus.  Here is his story from the October 16 entry of the Prologue.

The divine Matthew the Evangelist, in describing the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ, says: Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54).

That centurion was this blessed Longinus, who with two other of his soldiers came to believe in Jesus, the Son of God. Longinus was chief of the soldiers who were present at the Crucifixion of the Lord on Golgotha, and was also the chief of the watch that guarded the tomb. When the Jewish elders learned of the Resurrection of Christ, they bribed the soldiers to spread the false news that Christ did not resurrect, but rather that His disciples stole His body. The Jews also tried to bribe Longinus, but he did not allow himself to be bribed. Then the Jews resorted to their usual strategy: they decided to kill Longinus. Learning of this, Longinus removed his military belt, was baptized with his two companions by an apostle, secretly left Jerusalem and moved to Cappadocia with his companions.

There, he devoted himself to fasting and prayer and, as a living witness of Christ's Resurrection, converted many pagans to the true Faith by his witness. After that, he withdrew to a village on the estate of his father. Even there, however, the malice of the Jews did not leave him in peace. Due to the calumnies of the Jews, Pilate dispatched soldiers to behead Longinus. St. Longinus foresaw in the spirit the approach of his executioners and went out to meet them. He brought them to his home, not telling them who he was. He was a good host to the soldiers, and soon they lay down to sleep.

But St. Longinus stood up to pray, and prayed all night long, preparing himself for death. In the morning, he called his two companions to him, clothed himself in white burial clothes, and instructed the other members of his household to bury him on a particular small hill. He then went to the soldiers and told them that he was that Longinus whom they were seeking. The soldiers were perplexed and ashamed, and could not even contemplate beheading Longinus, but he insisted that they fulfill the order of their superior. Thus, Longinus and his two companions were beheaded. The soldiers took Longinus's head to Pilate, and he turned it over to the Jews. They threw it on a dung heap outside the city.

HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Martyr Longinus

St. Longinus stood beneath the Cross
When, on the Cross, Christ breathed His last.
Longinus beheld the wrath of the mild sky,
Witnessed the earth as it shook,
And the bright sun as it lost its rays
And clothed the whole world in darkness.
The tombs of many were opened,
And many of the dead appeared alive.
Brave Longinus was filled with fear,
And exclaimed with a remorseful sigh:
``This Man was the Son of God!
Sinful men have crucified the Innocent One!''
Next to him, two other soldiers
Echoed the exclamation of their centurion.
Longinus was a witness of the Resurrection,
And he could attest to His humiliation as well.
An eyewitness, a true witness,
Longinus desired to not conceal the truth,
But proclaimed it everywhere he went,
And glorified the resurrected Christ God!
To his death he remained Christ's soldier;
And for Christ, Longinus gave his head.

The first appearance of the Holy Martyr Longinus was as follows: Much time had passed since his martyrdom when it happened that a widow in Cappadocia became blind. The doctors were unable to do anything at all for her. Suddenly, the thought came to her to go to Jerusalem and venerate the holy places there, hoping that she might find help.
She had an only son, a boy, who served as her guide, but as soon as they arrived in Jerusalem, her son died of an illness. Oh, how immeasurable was her sorrow! Having lost her eyes, she now lost her only son, whose eyes had guided her. But in her pain and sorrow, St. Longinus appeared to her and comforted her with the promise that he would restore her sight and reveal to her the heavenly glory in which her son now dwelt. Longinus told her everything about himself, and told her to go outside the city walls to the dung heap, and there to dig up his head, and that she herself would see what would happen next.

The woman arose and, stumbling, somehow managed to get out of the city. She cried out for someone to lead her to the dung heap and to leave her there. When she was led to the dung heap, she bent down and began to dig with her hands, having a strong faith that she would find that for which the saint asked. As she was digging, she touched the holy martyr's buried head, and her eyes were opened, and she saw a man's head beneath her hands. Filled with gratitude to God and great joy, she took the head of St. Longinus, washed it, censed it, and placed it in her home as the most precious treasure on earth.

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Friday, August 4, 2000

Warrior Series: The Seven Holy Youths of Ephesus

THE SEVEN HOLY YOUTHS OF EPHESUS 
( 250 A.D. and then again in 450 A.D!!!)


(August 4) There was a great persecution of Christians during the reign of Decius. The emperor himself came to Ephesus and there arranged a boisterous and noisy celebration in honor of the lifeless idols as well as a terrible slaughter of Christians. Seven young men, soldiers, refrained from the impure offering of sacrifices and they earnestly prayed to the one God to save the Christian people. They were the sons of the most influential elders of Ephesus and their names were Maximilian, Jamblichus, Martin [Martinian], John, Dionysius, Exacustodianus, and Antonin [Antoninus].

When they were accused before the emperor, they retreated to a hill outside Ephesus called Celion and there they hid in a cave. When the emperor learned of this, he commanded that the cave be sealed off. However, God according to His far-reaching Providence caused a miraculous and long-lasting sleep to fall upon the young men. The imperial courtiers, Theodore and Rufinus, secret Christians, built in that wall a copper sarcophagus with lead plaques on which were written the names of these young men and their martyr's death during the reign of Emperor Decius.

More than two hundred years then passed. During the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450 A.D.), there was a great dispute about the resurrection. There were some that doubted the resurrection. Emperor Theodosius was in great sorrow as a result of this dispute among the faithful and prayed to God that He, in some way, would reveal the truth to men. At that time of turmoil in the Church some sheepherders of Adolius, who owned the hill Celion began to build folds for the sheep and removed stone after stone from that cave. The youths then awakened from their sleep young and healthy, the same as when they fell asleep.

The news of this miracle was spread abroad on all sides so that even Theodosius himself came with a great entourage and with delight conversed with the youths. After a week, they again fell into the sleep of death to await the general resurrection. Emperor Theodosius wanted to place their bodies in gold sarcophagi but they appeared to him in a dream and told him to leave them in the earth as they were laid out.

HYMN OF PRAISE
THE SEVEN HOLY YOUTHS OF EPHESUS
When the last rays of the sun turned the west bloody red,
Seven Youths, to God prayed,
That, on the morrow again find themselves alive and healthy,
Before Emperor Decius, brought forth to torture
And lay down to sleep a long dream a deep dream,
Time walked by a wide step
One morning, from the east, the sun dawned
And the Seven from their deep sleep awakened.
And Jamblichus the youngest, to Ephesus hurried
To see, to hear, about everything he inquired
Does Decius, even them, seek to slaughter
And bread to buy for the Seven of them.
But behold, what kind of miracle: this is not the gate!
And even the town is totally different!
Everywhere, beautiful churches, domes, crosses,
Jamblichus asks himself: are those not dreams?
Nowhere a familiar face, nowhere kinsmen,
There are no persecutions; there are no martyrs.
Tell me brethren, the name of this town,
And tell me the name of the emperor, who now reigns?
Thus Jamblichus inquires. The people, at him, look,
And about him, everyone judges differently.
This town is Ephesus, now and before,
In Christ, reigns Emperor Theodosius
This Antipater [The Consul] heard and [Martin] the graying bishop,
The entire town was perplexed,
Everyone, to the cave hurries.
And saw the miracle, glorified God,
And the resurrected servants of Christ the Resurrected One.

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Saturday, July 8, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Procopius

Holy Great Martyr Saint Procopius (303 A.D.)

Procopius was born in Jerusalem of a father who was a Christian and a mother who was a pagan. At first, his name was Neanias. Following the death of his father, the mother raised her son completely in the spirit of Roman idolatry. When Neanias matured, Emperor Diocletian saw him and, at once, took a liking to him and brought him to his palace for military service. When this nefarious emperor began to persecute Christians, he ordered Neanias to go to Alexandria with a garrison of soldiers and there to exterminate the Christians. But, on the road, something happened to Neanias similar to that which happened to Saul [Paul].

In the third hour of the night there was a strong earthquake and, at that moment, the Lord appeared to him and a voice was heard: "Neanias, where are you going and against whom are you rising up?" In great fear, Neanias asked: "Who are You Lord? I am unable to recognize You." At that moment, a glowing cross as if of crystal appeared in the air and from the cross there came a voice saying: "I am Jesus, the crucified Son of God." And further, the Lord said to him: "By this sign that you saw, conquer your enemies and My peace will be with you."

That experience completely turned him around and changed the life of Commander Neanias. He issued an order to make the same kind of cross which he saw and instead of going against the Christians he, with his soldiers, turned against the Agarians who were attacking Jerusalem. He entered Jerusalem as a victor and declared to his mother that he is a Christian. Being brought before the court, Neanias removed his commander's belt and sword and tossed them before the judge thereby showing that he is only a soldier of Christ the King.

After great tortures he was cast into prison where the Lord Christ, again, appeared to him, baptized him and gave him the name Procopius. One day twelve women appeared before his prison window and said to him: "We too are the servants of Christ." Accused of this they were thrown into the same prison where St. Procopius taught them the Faith of Christ and particularly about how they will receive the martyr's wreath. For that reason in the marriage ritual of the betrothed, St. Procopius is mentioned along with the God-crowned Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena. After this, those twelve women were brutally tortured.

Witnessing their suffering and bravery, the mother of Procopius also believed in Christ and all thirteen were slain. When St. Procopius was led to the scaffold, he raised his hands toward the east and prayed to God for all the poor and misfortunate, orphans and widows and especially for the Holy Church that it may grow and spread and that Orthodoxy shine to the end of time. And to Procopius there was a reply from heaven that his prayers were heard after which he joyfully laid his head under the sword and went to his Lord in eternal joy. St. Procopius honorably suffered in Caesarea in Palestine and was crowned with the glorious wreath of immortality on July 8, 303 A.D.
 _____________________________________

Hymn of Praise

When it is the will of the Omniscient God,
Persecutors become His servants,
Haters, wonderful apostles
Pagans, zealots for the Faith.
By God's will, Saul became Paul
Neanias Saint Procopius
Procopius, against Christ went,
As a Christian, to his mother came.
Tortures prepare and himself received tortures,
All of a sudden, the truth he recognized
Before the Son of God, bowed down,
The earthly king, ceased to serve
To the heavenly King, a servant became.
The King of Heaven to him a gift bestowed
The gift of might, the afflicted to help
As at that time, so it is today:
By Procopius, the afflicted are comforted
For today as one time, he helps.

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Sunday, June 18, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Leontius

THE HOLY MARTYR LEONTIUS (73 A.D.)


(June 18) Leontius was a Roman commander in Tripoli in Phoenicia during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. He was born in Hellas [Greece] "of great physical stature, powerful, strong and brave in battles." Hadrian, the imperial deputy, sent a military detachment to arrest Leontius, for Hadrian was a fierce adversary and persecutor of Christians. Hypatius, the senior officer of this detachment, became ill enroute with a bitter fever because of which the detachment had to slow down their march. One night an angel of God appeared to Hypatius and said to him: "If you want to be well, cry out three times toward heaven with all your soldiers: 'O God of Leontius help me!' "

Hypatius informed his companions of his vision and all in unison cried out as the angel instructed and immediately Hypatius became well. This miracle astonished all but especially Theodulus. Hypatius and Theodulus then went ahead of the other soldiers to seek Commander Leontius. Leontius received them graciously and served them. When he expounded his faith in Christ to them, their hearts burned with love for Christ and, at that moment, a bright cloud descended upon Hypatius and Theodulus and dew from a cloud descended upon them. That was the Holy Spirit of God Himself baptizing these converted souls and St. Leontius, at that moment, spoke these words: "In the name of the All-holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit." The evil Hadrian, learning that Hypatius and Theodulus became Christians, ordered that they be scourged without mercy and following that to be beheaded with an axe. And so, these two spiritual children of Leontius died.

Then Hadrian prescribed cruel tortures for Leontius but Leontius remained unwavering in his holy faith. His entire body was covered with wounds but he diligently prayed to God not to abandon him. In the midst of the cruelest torments, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, encouraged and comforted him. Finally, they knocked the martyr Leontius to the ground and beat him until he gave up his soul to God. The sufferings of St. Leontius was personally witnessed by Kir Notarius who recorded all that he saw on lead tablets and placed them in the martyr's grave. St. Leontius suffered honorably in the year 73 A.D.


HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT LEONTIUS
Leontius, the heart of a lion,
A lion's heart and name,
Of his God, he was not ashamed
But, before all, confessed Christ,
The Savior of the world, Christ the God.
Youth, strength and commandership scorned
For the sake of the truth of the Crucified Christ
And [Who] from death, resurrected gloriously.
Flattered, hosted, glorified and favored with gifts,
He, his God did not deny,
Flogged, spat upon, scraped and crucified,
He, his God, did not deny,
But, the greater the torment and ridicule
The flame of faith greater and brighter.
The Roman Empire and all the powers of Hades
Against him had turned,
But he knew that alone, he was not.
For, beside him, stood Christ.
A pillar of stone, amidst the angry reeds,
A pillar of fire among the slaves of darkness.
By his faith, he amazed the people,
To live eternally, his life he gave.

Monday, June 12, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Peter

VENERABLE PETER THE ATHONITE (734 A.D.)

Peter was a Greek by birth and a soldier by profession. Once, in battle against the Arabs, Peter was captured, bound by chains and cast into prison. Peter remained imprisoned a long time in the town of Samara on the Euphrates river and he constantly prayed that God free him from prison and take him to some wilderness where he would dedicate himself completely to a life of prayerful asceticism. St. Simeon, the Receiver of God, with St. Nicholas appeared to him in prison, touched his iron chains with his staff and they melted like wax and Peter suddenly found himself in a field outside the town. He immediately set out for Rome where he was tonsured a monk by the pope himself at the tomb of St. Peter.

After this he again departed by boat for the east. The All-Holy Birth-giver of God along with St. Nicholas appeared to him in a dream and the Birth-giver of God said to St. Nicholas that she designated Mt. Athos for a life of asceticism for Peter. Up to this time, Peter had never heard of the Holy Mt. Athos. Disembarking, therefore, on the Holy Mountain, Peter settled in a cave where he remained for fifty-three years in difficult mortifications, in a struggle with hunger and thirst, with heat and cold and mostly with the powers of the demons until he overcame all with the help of God.

After he endured the first temptations and successfully passed the first difficult tests before God, an angel of God began to bring him bread every forty days. On several occasions, the tempting devil appeared to him under the guise of an angel of light but Peter repelled him with the sign of the cross and the name of the All-Holy Birth-giver of God. About a year before his death he was discovered by a deer hunter around Athos and from the mouth of the saint heard his life story. He died in the year 734 A.D. His relics were translated to Macedonia.

HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT PETER OF ATHOS
Saint Peter in the awesome wilderness,
Of all earthly riches, deprived
And the rich illusions of the devil,
Through tearful prayers, overcame all,
The heart he harnessed and to God raised it,
The mind he straightened and to heaven uplifted it,
Immobile as a rock among the cliffs,
Wearied by hunger and all-night vigils,
Directed himself toward every good
As bodiless in an earthly body.
On Mt. Athos, half a century
In prayer speaks only with God,
From age he turned as white as snow,
Neither man he saw, neither wanted he to.
To him, God revealed the window of heaven,
Countless miracles, Peter saw,
The Mother of God, God's angels.
And the all-wonderful saints of God.
To him the Lord an angel sent,
To him, gave Holy Communion from heaven,
Until, a spiritual giant Peter of himself created
As a certain city on a high mountain.
To be a teacher throughout the ages,
To the holy monks, a wonderful example. 


REFLECTION
Great and wonderful is the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Communion. Even the anchorites [recluses] and hermits craved for nothing else as much as to be given the possibility to receive Holy Communion. St. Mary the Egyptian begged St. Zosimus to bring her the Holy Mystery on the Jordan and to communicate her. Returning from visiting St. Onuphrius, Venerable Paphnutius found a humble community of four young ascetics in the desert. When Paphnutius asked them whether and how do you receive Holy Communion, they replied that an angel of God visits them every Saturday and Sunday and administers them Holy Communion. Paphnutius remained until the first following Saturday and was personally convinced. When Saturday dawned, the entire community was filled with an indescribable wonderful fragrance and while they were at prayer, an angel of God in the form of a handsome young man, as bright as lightning, appeared with the All-pure Mysteries. Paphnutius became frightened and out of fear fell to the ground. But they raised him up and brought him to the angel that he, along with them, receive Communion from the hand of the angel.

According to his own testimony, St. Onuphrius received Holy Communion from the hand of an angel as did many other anchorites and hermits. Therefore, it is completely erroneous to think that solitaries and hermits did not receive Holy Communion. God Who provided for their bodily nourishment did not leave them without the Life-giving nourishment of the Body and Blood of Christ the Lord.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Hermias

THE HOLY MARTYR HERMIAS (166 A.D.)

Hermias grew old as an imperial soldier and in his old age suffered for Christ the King. Since the evil judge tried in vain to dissuade him from the Faith of Christ and counseling him to offer sacrifices to the idols, the judge then gave orders that his teeth be knocked out with a stone and the skin peeled from his face with a knife. After that they threw him into a fiery furnace but, by the Grace of God, he was saved and stood up. Following that, by order of the judge he drank a bitter poison which was given to him by a magician, but the poison did him no harm.

Witnessing this, the magician was so amazed that he openly confessed Christ for which he was immediately beheaded. Afterwards, they gouged out both of Hermias' eyes but he did not grieve and cried out to the judge: "Take for yourself these bodily eyes that gaze upon the vanity of the world. I have eyes of the heart by which I clearly see the light of the truth." He was hung then by the feet upside down and those who did this to him were blinded and staggered around him.

St. Hermeas beckoned them to come to him, laid his hands on them and, by prayer to the Lord, restored their sight. Witnessing all of this, the judge became as enraged as a lion, drew a knife and severed the head of this godly-man. Christians secretly removed the body of Hermeas and honorably buried it. His relics gave healing to all the sick and to the afflicted. St. Hermeas suffered in the year 166 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Antoninus.


HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT HERMEAS AND THE MAGICIAN

The old and evil magician, poisoner and liar,
In everything very small, but great in fear,
Bitter poison, to the holy Hermeas, he gave,
From this poison, even the serpents would hide!
Hermeas, the poison drank: death did not claim him,
And the old magician, saw and trembled all over,
O that wonderful miracle, aloud he cried out,
Over the soldier of God, the poison has no power!
Let be hidden, the darkened days of my life,
Let be erased, the years of my shameful life!
To dumb deceits, my entire life I dedicated,
My entire life, in the service of these idols dumb.
And just today, in great fear, I see:
The One and the True God, the God of Hermeas is.
Crucified as Christ, the Lord from the heavens
His only, are the miracles truthful.
From now on, Christ's I am: O Christ, forgive me
For the least servant, You, O Good One, receive me.
Forgive me my all too many sins, forgive me,
For You, I will sacrifice, body and lifeless bones!
Bitterly repentant, that, the elder uttered,
At once cleansed, of falsehood and fears,
Among Christians, himself, he openly numbered
The sword over him flashed and with blood, baptized him.

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Sunday, April 23, 2000

Warrior Series: St. George

Great Martyr George (303 A.D.)

One of the most famous and celebrated of all Christian soldiers is of course St. George.  From the Prologue entry on April 23 we find the following:

This glorious and victorious saint was born in Cappadocia the son of wealthy and virtuous parents. His father suffered for Christ and his mother then moved to Palestine. When George grew up, he entered the military, where in his twentieth year, attained the rank of a Tribune and as such was in the service of the Emperor Diocletian.

When Diocletian began the terrible persecution against Christians, George came before him and courageously confessed that he is a Christian. The emperor had him thrown into prison and ordered that his feet be placed in a stockade of wooden hobbles and that a heavy stone be placed on his chest. After that, the emperor commanded that George be tied to a wheel under which was a board with large nails and he was to be rotated until his entire body became as one bloody wound. After that, they buried him in a pit with only his head showing above the ground and there they left him for three days and three nights. Then George was given a deadly poison to drink by some magician.

But, through all of these sufferings, George continuously prayed to God and God healed him instantly and saved him from death to the great astonishment of the people. When he resurrected a dead man through his prayer, many then accepted the Faith of Christ. Among these also was Alexandra, the wife of the Emperor Athanasius, the chief pagan priest and the farmers: Glycerius, Valerius, Donatus and Therinus.

Finally the emperor ordered George and his wife Alexandra beheaded. Blessed Alexandra died on the scaffold before being beheaded. St. George was beheaded in the year 303 A.D. The miracles which have occurred over the grave of St. George are without number. Numerous are his appearances, either in dreams or openly, to those who have invoked him and implored his help from that time until today.

Inflamed with love for Christ the Lord, it was not difficult for this saintly George to leave all for the sake of this love: rank, wealth, imperial honor, his friends and the entire world. For this love, the Lord rewarded him with the wealth of unfading glory in heaven and on earth and eternal life in His kingdom. In addition, the Lord bestowed upon him the power and authority to assist all those in miseries and difficulties who honor him and call upon his name.

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Thursday, March 23, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Nicon

THE HOLY PRIESTLY-MARTYR NICON (249 A.D.)
 
Nicon was born in Naples of a pagan father and Christian mother. Nicon was a Roman officer in Naples and was not baptized, even though his mother tutored him secretly from his father in the Faith of Christ.

Once, when Nicon was sent into battle with his troops, his mother counseled him to make the sign of the cross and to call upon Christ for help if any misfortune would befall him. And, indeed, while in battle, Nicon's troops were completely surrounded; and, toward the end of the battle, Nicon made the sign of the cross in his heart and cried out to Christ. Immediately, he was filled with unusual strength and pursued his enemies. Some he slew and others he forced to flee. Returning to his home, Nicon continuously cried out in amazement, "Great is the Christian God."

Since he had made his mother happy with the news of his victory with the help of the Cross of Christ, he secretly sailed to Asia where Theodosius the Bishop of Cyzicus baptized him. Following his baptism, he secluded himself in a monastery where he devoted himself to study and asceticism.

Before his death Theodosius had a vision in which he was told to ordain Nicon as his successor. Immediately the aged Theodosius summoned Nicon and ordained him a deacon; after that, a priest, and then, a bishop. Shortly thereafter, according to God's Providence, Nicon came to Naples where he discovered that his mother was still living. Following his mother's death, Nicon, with nine disciples, his former war companions, withdrew to Sicily and there dedicated himself to preaching the Gospel.

However, at that time there was a terrible persecution of Christians. Prince Quintianus captured Nicon with his companions and inflicted great pain and suffering upon them. His one-hundred ninety disciples and companions were beheaded. The tormentor tied Nicon to the tail of a horse, hurled him from a steep wall into a gorge, beat him, and skinned him; but Nicon survived all of these tortures. Finally, he was beheaded and took up habitation with the Lord. His body was left in the fields to be devoured by the birds.

A certain herdsman, with a rabid evil spirit, tripped and fell over the dead body of Christ's martyr and immediately the herdsman was healed. Proclaiming the news about Nicon's body, Christians came forth and honorably buried the body of Nicon. St. Nicon suffered during the reign of the Emperor Decius.



HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT NICON
In the dungeon, Nicon languished,
And day and night he prayed to God.
For his defense, did not pray to God,
Nor to revenge Quintianus, the wicked,
But for strength, to endure sufferings.
Nicon's sighings, God heard.
One time Nicon dreamed in prayer:
To him, the Virgin appeared in light,
Than the sun, more beautiful and brighter.
Than a lamb, whiter and gentler,
At her side, two archangels are,
Their faces, radiant and joyful,
With their height, to the heavens they reach,
The river they point out, one to the other:
That is the wavy river Psimif!
Then, one archangel to the Virgin says,
To Quintianus, were we sent to slay
In the waves of the raging Psimif.
But, behold, we are looking over the river
And nowhere Quintianus do we see?
As honey flowing from her mouth, the Virgin spoke:
To the river, soon, he will come,
Through the waves, he will attempt to cross,
But, beneath him, his horse will become enraged,
His face, by his teeth, will he disfigure,
Him, the river will drown,
And thus, your task, you will complete.
That is the end of the evil torturer of Nicon, my saint.
All of this took place as the Virgin said,
Everything that Nicon dreamed became a reality.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Maurice

THE HOLY MARTYR MAURICE AND THE SEVENTY SOLDIERS WITH HIM (305 A.D.)
During the reign of Emperor Maximian there was a great persecution of Christians. In the Syrian town of Apamsea, Maurice was superior of the local army. The pagans reported him to the emperor as being a Christian and a sower of the Christian Faith among the soldiers.

The emperor himself came and conducted an investigation. Along with Maurice seventy Christian soldiers were also brought before the emperor among whom was Photinus, the son of Maurice. Neither the emperor’s flattery nor threats could sway these heroes.

To the threats of the emperor, they replied: “O Emperor, there is no fear in the sound and powerful souls of those who love the Lord!” When the emperor ordered and removed their military belts and garments, they said to him: “Our God will clothe us with incorruptible garments and belts and eternal glory!”

When the emperor rebuked them because they despised the military honor given to them by him, they replied: “Your honor is without honor, for you have forgotten God Who gave you imperial authority!”

Then the emperor commanded and the executioner beheaded Maurice’s son Photinus before his eyes to instill fear in the father and in the others. But, Maurice said: “You have fulfilled our wish O torturer and have sent Photinus, the soldier of Christ before us.”

Then the emperor sentenced them to a most inhuman death: they were brought to a muddy place, stripped, bound to trees and rubbed them with honey, in order to be bitten by mosquitoes, wasps and hornets. After ten days under the most painful sufferings, they gave up their souls to God and departed to rejoice eternally with the holy angels in heaven. Christians secretly removed their bodies and honorably buried them. These courageous soldiers of Christ suffered about the year 305 A.D.

HYMN OF PRAISE

ST. MAURICE AND SAINT PHOTINUS, SOLDIERS OF CHRIST
Of noble root - of noble vine
The young Photinus; to God a sacrifice, beautiful and well-pleasing.
The father witness as they beheaded his son,
As streams of red blood poured out
Maurice, the father courageous; his heart overcome,
Neither screamed he, nor sorrowed nor a tear shed.
To me dear God, you gave him, he said:
O Good One, for all of your love what better could I give?
Of death, make me worthy as You did Photinus,
You Who, for us, sacrificed Your only Son!
Maurice, of the heavenly kingdom, glorious soldier,
Does not receive a gift from earthly rulers,
But, his company, legion of pride, he encourages;
Before the soul-less idols not to bend,
His company into death he leads and through death to life,
To express this rare beauty, the tongue is too weak.
On our flesh, let the wasps and hornets feed,
Nevertheless, we are not defeated; we are not, O soldiers.
Our blood, let the mosquitoes suck; let them be fed,
On that other side, O my brothers, we shall soon be,
Where all of those reign who fought for the Cross,
We did not betray You! To Christ the God, we shall say.

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Thursday, February 17, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Theodore the Tyro

Holy Great Martyr Theodore the Tyro (300 A.D.)

Saint Theodore, the fourth century martyr, is one of the most famous soldier-saints of the East. He was from Amasia of Pontus. When he entered the army, the persecution of Christians began under the Emperor Maximian (286-305). Theodore was called “tyro,” from the Latin tiro meaning “recruit” because he was newly enlisted.
When it was reported that he was a Christian, he boldly confessed Christ. The ruler, hoping that he would repent, gave him time to consider the matter more completely and then give answer. Theodore gave answer by setting fire to the temple of Cybele, the “mother of the gods.”
Legend has it that he was thrown into prison and left to die of starvation. While in prison, the Lord appeared to Theodore and encouraged him saying:
“Fear not, I am with you. Do not partake of earthly food and drink anymore, for you will be with Me in the other world in the heavens – eternal and everlasting.”
There then appeared a multitude of angels in the prison. The guards seeing the angels became terrified. Saint Theodore was taken out, tortured and condemned to death. He suffered a martyr’s death by fire.

HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT THEODORE TIRO
"Do not be afraid of the world for I have overcome the world."
These are holy words both then and now.
For all who suffer, that is the true balm,
Mostly for the glorious martyrs of God.
Why should you, of the more fearful ones, be afraid?
Of its own shadow, the world is afraid!
The powerful and the ruling ones, why fear?
And of dying things, constantly dying?
Who is with the Householder is not afraid of the house,
The Householder sees everything that is in the house,
And nothing there is, that He would not know,
And His servant, what should he be afraid of?
And yet when he hears the Lord as He says:
"Do not be afraid of the world!" What more do you desire?
"Do not be afraid of the world for I have overcome the world!"
Our Lord reigns and rules over the world.
At the fire and death, Theodore smiled,
For that, wreaths he received, that never fades.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Theodore

THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR THEODORE STRATELATES (319 A.D.)

There are martyrdoms more precious than precious. The preciousness of martyrdom depends upon the greatness of the good which a Christian abandons and in lieu of that, accepts suffering; and still, it depends upon the greatness of the suffering which he endures for Christ’s sake.

St. Theodore, a Roman commander in the army of Emperor Licinius and mayor of the town of Heraclea, scorned his youth, handsome appearance, military rank and the good graces of the emperor. In place of all that, he accepted horrible tortures for the sake of Christ. At first, Theodore was flogged and received six-hundred lashes on his stomach. After this, he was raised on a cross and was completely pierced with lances. Finally, Theodore was beheaded.

Why all of this? Because, St. Theodore loved Christ the Lord above all else in the world. He abhorred the stupid idolatry of the superstitious Emperor Licinius. He smashed the idols of silver and gold and distributed pieces of them to the poor. He converted many to the Faith of Christ and called upon Emperor Licinius himself to reject idolatry and to believe in the One Living God.

During the entire time of his tortures, St. Theodore said repeatedly: “Glory to You my God, glory to You! St. Theodore suffered on February 8, 319 A.D., at 3:00 p.m. and entered into the kingdom of Christ. St. Theodore is considered the Protector of Soldiers who call upon him for assistance. His miracle-working relics were translated from Euchaita to Constantinople and interred in the church of Balchernae.

Sunday, January 9, 2000

Warrior Series: St. Nearchus

Holy Martyrs Nearchus and Polyeuctus (259 A.D.)


The January 9 prologue entry has the story of the Holy Martyrs Nearchus and Polyeuctus who were both Roman soldiers in Armenia.  They stood up for what was right and paid for it with their lives:

The Armenian city of Melitene was drenched with the blood of Christians as was the entire country of Armenia. The first blood shed for Christ in this city was that of Saint Polyeuctus in the year 259 A.D. during the reign of Valerian.

In this city [Melitene] were two friends: both Nearchus and Polyeuctus were officers, Nearchus baptized and Polyeuctus unbaptized. When the command of the emperor was sent out concerning the persecution of the Christians, Nearchus prepared for death; but he was in great sorrow because he had not succeeded in converting his friend Polyeuctus to the True Faith.

When Polyeuctus learned of the reason for Nearchus' sorrow, he promised to embrace the Faith. The following day Polyeuctus related his dream to Nearchus: the Lord Himself appeared to him in light, removed Polyeuctus' old clothes from him and dressed him in radiant new clothes and sat him in the saddle of a winged horse.

After this, Polyeuctus went to town, shredded the emperor's decree concerning the torturing of Christians, and destroyed many statues of the idols. He was tortured and was condemned to death. When he was brought to the place of execution, he looked at Nearchus in the throng of people and joyfully cried out to him: "Save yourself my dear friend! Remember the vow of love confirmed between the two of us!" Later, Saint Nearchus died as a martyr for Christ by fire. The commemoration of the feast of St. Nearchus is April 22.

HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINTS NEARCHUS AND POLYEUCTUS
Nearchus and Polyeuctus, soldiers of Caesar,
Became soldiers of the Heavenly King,
One baptized with water, the other by his blood,
The second surpassed the other and became the first.
Oh, blessed be this competition,
This heroic rushing to Christ's' kingdom!
Polyeuctus rejected all by which the earth spoils
Everything, as a wind that comes; as the wind, passes,
And for these urgent sufferings, purchased the everlasting kingdom;
This trade, for him, turned out radiant:
For eternal life, let the grass be mowed!
For transitory suffering, eternal glory!
Pray for us, O soldier of Christ,
That, not one of your souls perish!

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