Wednesday March 17, 2021 / March 4, 2021
First Week of the Great Lent. Tone seven.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)
Venerable Gerasimus of the Jordan (475). Venerable Gerasimus, monk, of Vologda (1178). St. Daniel, prince of Moscow (1303). New Hieromartyr Alexander priest (1938). Blessed Basil (Basilko), prince of Rostov (1238). Saints of Pskov martyred by the Latins: Venerable Ioasaph of Snetogorsk Monastery and St. Basil of Mirozh Monastery (1299). Martyrs Paul, his sister Juliana, and Quadratus, Acacius, and Stratonicus, at Ptolemais in Syria (273). Venerable James the Faster of Phoenicia (Syria) (6th c.). Translation of the relics (938) of Martyr Wenceslaus, prince of the Czechs (935). St. Gregory, bishop of Constantia in Cyprus.
The Holy Martyrs Paul and his sister Juliania
Commemorated on March 4, August 17
The Holy Martyrs Paul and his sister Juliania were executed under the emperor Aurelian (270-275) in the Phoenician city of Ptolemaida. One time the emperor had occasion to journey to Ptolemaida. Among those meeting him was Paul, who signed himself with the Sign of the Cross, and this was noticed. They arrested him and threw him in prison. On the following day, when they brought him to trial, he openly and boldly confessed his faith in Christ, for which he was subjected to fierce tortures. Juliania, seeing the suffering of her brother, began in front of everyone to denounce the emperor for his injustice and cruelty, for which she was likewise subjected to torture. They beat the martyrs, tore at their bodies with iron hooks, scorched them over red-hot grates, but they were not able to break the wondrous endurance of the Lord’s confessors. Three soldiers torturing the saints were struck by the magnanimous spirit of the martyrs, and they in turn believed in Christ. These newly chosen of God were named Quadratus, Acacius and Stratonicus, and they were immediately executed. The tormentor tried to seduce Saint Juliania with a promise to take her in marriage, if she were to renounce Christ, but the saint refused the offer of the tempter and remained steadfast. By order of the emperor they gave the martyress over to an house of ill repute for defiling, but the Lord preserved her there also: anyone who tried to touch the saint lost their sight. Then the enraged emperor commanded that they again burn at the bodies of the saints. The people crowding about and seeing the suffering of the saints began to murmur loudly, and Aurelian gave orders to behead the martyrs immediately. With gladdened face the brother and sister went to execution singing: “For Thou (Lord) hath saved us from the vexatious and hath shamed those hating us” (Ps. 43 : 7).
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
HYMNS OF PRAISE
SAINT JAMES THE FASTER
He who falls from the greater height is injured more.
Whoever is lifted to the heights, let him cautiously shield himself.
The holy Apostle writes: “Whoever thinks that he is standing secure
Should take care lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12); let him fear God.
James the Faster was a giant according to the height of his soul,
But he slipped from the heights, and the devil toppled him.
One sin hastens to the other: fornication rushes to murder.
James the Faster punished himself, and God comforted him.
One sin is able to erode all the virtues;
Through one hole in the granary, all the wheat pours out.
A house filled with fragrances: one handful of filth
Empties it of redolence and fills it with stench.
One hundred victories and one hundred celebrations do not help
When in the final battle the head is lost.
The spiritual life is a struggle against the hordes of the devil;
In this battle the proud are defeated from the beginning.
Whoever invokes the name of God with profound humility
Will, in battle, be protected by God’s mercy.
If the philosophies of men were able to satisfy man, why did the philosophers Justin and Origen become Christians? Why did Basil, Chrysostom and Gregory, who in Athens studied all the philosophy of the Greeks, receive baptism? And why did Blessed Augustine, who knew the wisdom of both the Greeks and the Romans, throw away all and seek salvation and illumination in the Christian Faith? And St. Clement of Rome, who was very wealthy and very learned? And St. Catherine, who was from the royal house and knew all the worldly wisdom of the Egyptians? And the young Crown Prince Ioasaph in India, who knew all the Indian philosophies? And many, many more who, in philosophy, primarily sought explanations to the puzzles of the world and illumination for their souls, and afterward entered the Church and worshipped the Lord Christ?
Contemplate the Mystery of Communion as the presence of our Lord Jesus in the Church on earth:
1. As the fulfillment of His promise: Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:20).
2. As His constant support of the faithful, to whom He said: Without me, ye can do nothing (John 15:5).
on Pilate’s wavering
“From thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him… then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified” (John19:12,16).
From where does this contradiction in Pilate stem? From where is this dual will in one and the same man? While he stood under the radiant face of Christ, Pilate with all his heart wanted to release the Just Man. But when the darkness of the Jews overcame him, he agreed to the works of darkness. This is the seed fallen among the thorns. While the face of Christ shown on the seed, the seed took root, but as soon as the seed was left without this light, the darkness of the thorns smothered it. When the Lord Jesus authoritatively spoke to Pilate of the Heavenly Kingdom, saying to him, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above (John 19:11), Pilate then felt overcome by the fear of God. But when the masses of the Jews cried out to Pilate, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend (John 19:12), then Pilate was overcome with fear of the worldly king. His fear for his body overcame his fear for his soul, as sometimes happens even to this day. Pilate was a disciple of worldly wisdom. Worldly wisdom does not offer strength but instills fear. Worldly wisdom sustains not the soul but the body. Worldly wisdom does not instill fear for the soul but fear for the body and all that is physical. Here, in Pilate, we see an obvious and pathetic example of what type of men worldly wisdom produces and educates–disregarding God and opposing Christ. Pilate’s weak character and wavering soul is a picture, not only of pagans, but also of weak Christians. Certain Christians daily, imperceptibly, and more often unconsciously, would for a while like to free Christ from the darkened and evil Jewish instinct within themselves. Then at other times, they are ready, from that instinct, to abandon Him to crucifixion. This always happens when a Christian transgresses some of the commandments of Christ for the sake of fulfilling some of his own physical desires. For a moment, that commandment enlightens the heart of a wavering Christian, and again for a moment, the physical darkness overcomes him so much that he completely succumbs to it.
O Lord, long-suffering, do not turn away the radiance of Thy face from us even for one twinkling of an eye, so that the darkness does not overcome us. O Lord, help us that we will remain children of the light until the end.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.