Prophet Zaphaniah

Prophet Zaphaniah 7th century BC

Wednesday December 16, 2020 / December 3, 2020

28th Week after Pentecost. Tone two.
Nativity (St. Philip’s Fast). Food with Oil

Prophet Zephaniah (Sophonias) (635 B.C.). Venerable Sabbas, abbot of Zvenigorod, disciple of St. Sergius of Radonezh (1406). New Hieromartyr Andrew priest (1920). New Hieromartyr Nicholas priest (1930). St. Gregory confessor (1960). Venerable Theodulus, eparch of Constantinople (440). Venerable John the Silent of St. Sabbas’ monastery (558). Hieromartyr Theodore, archbishop of Alexandria (606). Venerable Gregory of Chernik (Romania

The Scripture Readings

2 Timothy 4:9-22
Luke 20:1-8

The Prophet Sophonias (or Zephaniah)

Commemorated on December 3

      The Prophet Sophonias (or Zephaniah) was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Prophetess Oldama. He was of illustrious lineage [from the tribe of Simeon, and was the 9th of the Twelve Minor Prophets of the Old Testament]. The prophet lived at the royal court, where he preached repentance and helped king Josiah extirpate idol-worship.
      He prophesied about the calamities that were to come for the people of Judea and the surrounding regions: Gaza, Ascalon, Crete, and against the Moabites, the Ammonites and the Ninevites.

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

Hieromartyr Theodore of Alexandria
7th century

Hieromartyr Theodore, Archbishop of Alexandria (606-609), suffered for Christ in Alexandria by idolaters who placed a crown of thorns on the head of St. Theodore and, after abusing him, beheaded him.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT JOHN THE SILENT

John the Silent, God’s laborer,

Walked through the wilderness as a lonely hermit,

Until someone cried out: “The barbarians are coming!

Behold how the dust rises up on the road!

They are near, very near; rise up, rise!”

“Let them be near, but God is nearer!”

John said to him, and did not move.

And when misfortune sought to overtake him,

A lion appeared, sent by God,

And began to fiercely roar at the enemy.

The horde fled; John did not move.

He competed with the severe wilderness,

He competed with her in stillness,

And in dryness and solitude.

“Pascha is coming, how shall we greet it?

What shall we eat on the feast, Father?”

The disciple asked. And John said to him:

“To every creature, God gives food.”

When the Radiant Feast of Christ dawned,

An angel suddenly appeared as a man before the saint;

Bread, wine and honey he brought.

The disciple, when he beheld the miracle,

Wept at his lack of faith,

And glorified God and God’s saint.


REFLECTION

God hears the prayers of the righteous and fulfills them, sometimes immediately and completely, and at other times only later, at the appropriate time and according to the needs of the Church. In other words, in fulfilling the prayers of the righteous man, God has in mind either the man’s salvation or the good of the whole Church. St. John the Silent prayed to God to reveal to him how the soul separates from the body at death. While still at prayer, he was taken outside himself and had the following vision: A good man died in front of a church in Bethlehem, and angels took his soul from his body and carried it to heaven with sweet singing. Coming to himself out of his ecstasy, John immediately set out on the road from the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified to Bethlehem. When he reached Bethlehem, he saw the dead body of the man exactly as he had seen it in his vision.

When the great St. Sava the Sanctified died, John grieved and wept. Sava appeared to him in a vision and said: “Do not grieve, Father John, for even though I am separated from you in the body, nevertheless I am with you in the spirit.” Then John begged him: “Father, pray to the Lord to take me with you.” To this Sava replied: “For now, this cannot be. A great trial has yet to befall the Lavra, and God wants you to remain in the body to comfort and strengthen the faithful against the heretics.” At first, John did not know what kind of heretics the holy father had spoken of, but he found out later, when the heresy of Origen began to shake the Church of God.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the sinful fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3):

1. How, seeing themselves naked, they covered their nakedness with fig leaves;

2. How, even now, all unrepentant sinners, when they lose a virtue, feel naked and cover their nakedness with some sort of lie or fantasy.

HOMILY

on the two worlds

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

Brethren, whatever God desires to reveal to men is revealed, and whatever He does not desire to reveal remains concealed. Moses, the one who beheld God, could say nothing more about heaven than that in the beginning God created it. Having said that, he continued to describe in detail the creation of the earth. Why does Moses not speak in detail about the creation of heaven? Because God did not want to reveal any more to him, since the men of his time were neither mature enough nor capable of understanding heavenly matters beyond their senses. Only when many centuries had passed and God’s New Testament had come to men, did God reveal much more of the heavenly world to His faithful and chosen ones. Only Christians began to see the heavens opened. St. John the Theologian bears witness to this: After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven (Revelation 4:1). St. Stephen the Protomartyr witnesses: Behold, I see the heavens opened (Acts 7:56). The Apostle Paul, who was caught up to the third heaven … and heard unspeakable words (II Corinthians 12:2, 4), speaks of the angelic choirs, about the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers, and says: All things were created by Him, and for Him (Colossians 1:16). His disciple, St. Dionysius, describes the celestial hierarchy in as great a detail as Moses describes the earthly world at its creation. This is how the unfathomable wisdom of God wanted it; that which God did not wish to reveal to Moses, He revealed to the apostles and their followers. What could not be told to children is told to mature men. The revelation of mysteries came through spiritual maturity.

Here is a beautiful lesson for us all. Let us be diligent in seeking the truth, still more diligent in purifying our hearts, patient in waiting, and unwavering in faith that God will give us everything in due time, in the way and to the measure necessary for our salvation. 

O Lord most-wise and man-loving, Who teaches us and leads us to salvation without rushing and without delay, to Thee, O Gracious One, be glory and praise.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.