Apodosis of the Nativity of Christ–Melania the Younger of Rome

Melania the Younger of Rome 4th Century

Wednesday January 13, 2021 / December 31, 2020

32nd Week after Pentecost. Tone six.
Sviatki. Fast-free

Apodosis of the Nativity of Christ. Venerable Melania the Younger, nun, of Rome (439). New Hieromartyr Michael priest (1937). Martyr Peter (1938). Holy Confessor Dositheus, metropolitan of Zagreb (1945). St. Peter Mogila, metropolitan of Kiev (1646

The Scripture Readings

James 3:11-4:6
Mark 11:23-26

The Monastic-Martyress Eugenia

Commemorated on December 24

Melania the Younter of Rome 4th Century

The Nun Melania

Commemorated on December 31

      The Nun Melania, the first of a series of Roman girls who “yearned from their youthful years for Christ, thirsting for bodily chastity and stung by Divine love”, – was born into a Christian family. Her parents, people of property and wealth, looked on their daughter as an heiress and continuant of their line. At fourteen years of age Melania was given, against her will, in marriage to the illustrious youth Apinian. From the very beginning of their married life, Saint Melania besought her spouse to live with her in chastity or else release her from the marriage, chaste in both body and soul. Apinian answered: “When through the will of the Lord we come to have two children as heirs to the property, then together we shall renounce the world”. Soon Melania gave birth to a daughter, whom the young parents dedicated to God. Continuing to live together in marriage, Melania in secret wore an hairshirt and spent her nights at prayer. The second time Melania gave birth, it was premature and with severe complications. A boy was born, they baptised him, and at once he expired to the Lord. Seeing the suffering of his spouse, Blessed Apinian besought the Lord to preserve Saint Melania alive, and he gave a vow to spend the rest of their life together in chastity. Recovering, Saint Melania did away once for all with her silken-like clothing. Soon also their daughter died. Amongst themselves, the parents of the Saints were against the desire of the young couple to devote themselves to God. It was only when the father of Saint Melania became deathly sick, that he asked forgiveness of them and gave his permission for them to follow their chosen path, meanwhile asking them to pray for him. The saints then quit the city of Rome, and a new life began for them, completely dedicated to the service of God. Apinian at this time was 24 years of age, and Melania – age 20. They began to visit the sick, to take in wanderers, and generously to help the indigent. They made the rounds of the prisons, places of those exiled and mine-convicts  and the destitute, held there in debtor’s prison. Having sold off estates in Italy and Spain, they generously rendered help to elders and monasteries by purchasing for the monasteries – lands in Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, Phoenicia and Palestine. By their assist was built many a church and sick-house. Churches of both West and East benefited from them. When in forsaking their native land, they set sail for Africa, a strong storm broke loose as they sailed. The sailors said, that this was from the wrath of God, but Blessed Melania said, that they had been given over in the ship to His unfathomable will. The waves carried the ship to an island, on which stood a city, besieged by barbarians. The besiegers demanded a ransom payment from the inhabitants, elsewise they threatened to lay waste the city. The saints supplied the necessary money, and thus saved the city and its people from destruction. Arriving then in Africa, they rendered help to all the needy there, and with the blessing of the local bishops they made offerings to churches and monasteries. During this while Saint Melania continued to humble her flesh by strict fasting, and she fortified her soul by constant reading of the Word of God, making copies of the sacred books and distributing them to those that lacked them. She herself sewed an hairshirt, and having donned it continued to wear it.
      In Africa the saints spent 7 years and then, freed of all their wealth, on the command of Christ, they set off to Jerusalem. Along the way, at Alexandria, they were welcomed by the bishop, Saint Cyril, and they met in church with the holy elder Nestorios, who was possessed of the gift of prophecy and healing. The elder turned to them, comforting and calling them to courage and patience in expectation of the Glory of Heaven. At Jerusalem the saints distributed to the destitute their remaining gold and then spent their days in poverty and prayer. After a short visit to Egypt, where the saints visited many of the desert fathers, Saint Melania secluded herself into a solitary cell on the Mount of Olives, and only occasionally saw Saint Apinian. Gradually around her cell there arose a monastery, where gathered eventually nine women. Saint Melania, out of humility, would not consent to be hegumeness, and as before lived and prayed in solitude. In her instructions Saint Melania urged the sisters to be vigilant and to pray, to disdain their own opinions and cultivate first of all love for God and for one another, to keep the holy Orthodox faith and purity both of soul and of body. In particular she exhorted them to be obedient to the will of God. Calling to mind the words of the Apostle Paul, she counselled them to keep the fasts “not with wailing nor from compunction: but in virtuous disposition bestown with love for God”. By her efforts in the monastery was built an oratory and altar, where they buried relics of saints: of the Prophet of God Zachariah, of the holy FirstMartyr Stephen, and of the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia. At about this time Saint Apinian expired to the Lord. Saint Melania buried his relics and there spent another four years in fasting and unceasing prayer.
      Saint Melania wanted to build a men’s monastery on the Mount of the Ascension of the Lord. The Lord blessed her intent, by sending a benefactor who provided the means for the monastery. Joyfully accepting it, Saint Melania finished the great work in a single year. In this monastery, saintly men began to lift up unceasing prayer in the church of the Ascension of Christ. Having finished her tasks, the saint left Jerusalem for Constantinople, to go to her pagan uncle in hope of saving his soul. Along the way she prayed at the relics of Saint Lawrence, at the place of his martyrdom, and received auspicious signs. Arriving in Constantinople, the saint found her uncle suffering in sickness, and she conversed with him. Under her influence the sick man gave up paganism and died a Christian. During this period many inhabitants of the capital were worked up over the heretical teaching of Nestorius. Saint Melania accepted anyone who turned to her for proper explanation. Many miracles were worked through the prayer of the saint. Returning then to her own monastery, the saint sensed the nearness of death, and declared this to the presbyter and the sisters. They listened to her final instructions in deep sorrow and with tears. Having asked their prayers and commanding them to preserve themselves in purity, and having communed the Holy Mysteries with joy and psalmody, Saint Melania calmly and in peace gave up her soul to the Lord. This occurred in the year 439.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE VENERABLE MELANIA THE ROMAN

The wealthy Melania possessed great gold.

She gave it to the poor, for the sake of Christ and her salvation.

He who trades wisely receives great value from his gold,

And with it quickly purchases the Heavenly Kingdom.

Melania, a devout woman, became poor;

She possessed nothing in the world except the Living God,

And without gold–but with the Living God–she became wealthy.

Melania said: “God alone is enough!”

Melania the physician healed pains,

Praising God until her last breath.

REFLECTION

How wisely holy men and women knew how to handle their wealth! How skillfully they purchased the eternal goods of heaven with their earthly goods. Oh, how little they valued earthly goods in themselves–as dust and smoke! When St. Melania visited the holy desert fathers in Egypt with the intention of giving them some financial help, she was astonished at seeing their extreme abhorrence of goods and riches. Thus, she visited one hermit, Ephestion, and saw nothing in his cell but mats, a bowl for water, a little dry bread, and a salt pot. Knowing beforehand that the elder would not take any gold from her, she seized the opportunity and placed several gold pieces in the salt pot. However, when she was on her way back, she heard the elder running after her, and at the top of his voice he was calling to her to stop. She stopped. The elder held the gold pieces in the palm of his hand and, handing them to Melania, said: “I do not need this, take what is yours!” Melania said to him: “If you do not need it, give it to someone else.” He replied: “No one in this place has any use for it.” When Melania refused to accept the gold, the elder swung his arm and threw the gold pieces into the river and then returned to his cell.

During an outbreak of plague in Constantinople, Emperor Constantius ordered that everyone infected be immediately thrown into the sea. St. Zoticus ransomed those who were infected and brought them to his home, and there he cared for them. When his money ran out, he went to the emperor and asked for money to purchase precious pearls for him. The emperor gave him money, and with this money Zoticus continued his work of ransoming the contagious ones and caring for them. One day, the emperor asked Zoticus for the promised pearls, and Zoticus brought him and showed him the infected men in his home, saying: “These, O Emperor, are the living pearls that I acquired with labor and money for your salvation.” The enraged emperor condemned Zoticus to death, but Zoticus entered into eternal life, and the emperor remained to atone and repent for his sins.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the assembly of penitents:

1. How they sinned, unknowingly or knowingly, against the Law of Christ;

2. How they repented, corrected their lives and fulfilled the Law of Christ;

3. How they now rejoice in Christ’s Kingdom and help us by their prayers.

HOMILY

on the victory of the Lamb

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them (Revelation 17:14).

Brethren, let us rejoice and be glad at the Lamb’s victory over all the beasts. Lions and tigers, wolves and foxes, hyenas and snakes–the Lamb shall overcome them! Who has seen and heard this? Our ears have heard this and our eyes have seen this. The Lamb is Christ the Lord, and the beasts are all His adversaries, visible and invisible. In our day the Lamb carries the victories; in the future the Lamb shall conquer, even to the last day. The Lamb conquered and conquers and shall conquer all the kings and rulers of the world with their bestial natures, their armies and their mercenaries, their glorifiers and their followers. Such power is possessed by the meek Lamb of God. O my poor brethren, be not afraid; be not frightened; be not doubtful. The greatest Victor is your Leader, your Helper and your Friend. He is called “the Lamb” in order to teach us that we should be like lambs: quiet, meek, guileless, patient, ready for the victory-bearing sacrifice, and devoted to the will of our Shepherd. When God is with the lamb, then the lamb is stronger than the wolf, mightier than the lion, craftier than the snake and the fox. However, justice cannot be recognized or the final victory be seen until both worlds are taken into account. O my brethren, when we take into account both worlds, we recognize eternal justice and immortal victory. The Lamb conquers, and only the Lamb.

O Lord Jesus, King of kings, Victor in all conflicts and battles, the Lamb of God, meek and merciful, make us to be victory-bearing lambs.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

The end and glory be to God!

Through the prayers of all Thy saints,
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us!
Amen.