Wednesday November 25, 2020 / November 12, 2020
25th Week after Pentecost. Tone seven.
Fast. Food with Oil
St. John the Merciful, patriarch of Alexandria (620). Venerable Nilus the Faster of Sinai (451). New Hieromartyr Alexander priest (1918). New Hieromartyrs Constantine, Vladimir, Alexander, Matthew, Demetrius priests (1937). Blessed John “the Hairy,” fool-for-Christ at Rostov (1580). Prophet Ahijah (Achias) (960 B.C.). St. Nilus the Myrrh-gusher of Mt. Athos (1651). “The Merciful” Icon of the Mother of God.
The Scripture Readings
Sainted John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria
Commemorated on November 12
Sainted John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria, was born on Cyprus in the VII Century into the family of the illustrious dignitary Epiphanios. At the wish of his parents he entered into marriage and had children. When the wife and the children of the saint died, he became a monk: strict at fasting, prayer and love for brother.
His spiritual exploits gain him reknown, and when the Patriarchal cathedra-seat at Alexandria fell vacant, the emperor Heraclius and all the clergy besought Saint John to occupy the Patriarchal throne.
The saint worthily assumed his archpastoral service, concerning himself over the moral and dogmatic welfare of his flock. During his time as patriarch he denounced and drove out from Alexandria the heresy of the Antioch Monophysite Phyllonos.
But his chief task he considered to be charity and beneficence towards all those in need. At the beginning of his patriarchal service he ordered an accounting of all the poor and downtrodden in Alexandria, which turned out to be over seven thousand men. To all these unfortunates the saint daily distributed food, gratis and for free. Twice during the week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, he emerged from the doors of the Patriarchal cathedral, and sitting on the church portico, he received everyone in need: he settled quarrels, aided the wronged, and distributed alms. Three times a week he visited in the sick-houses, and rendered help to the suffering. It was during this period that the emperor Heraclius led a tremendous army against the Persian emperor Chosroes II. It resulted with the Persians ravaging and burning Jerusalem, and taking a multitude of captives. The holy Patriarch John gave over a large portion of the church treasury for their ransom.
The saint never refused suppliants. One time along the road to the sick-house he encountered a beggar and commanded that he be given 6 silver coins. The beggar, having made a change of clothes, ran on ahead of the Patriarch and again began to entreat alms. Saint John again gave him 6 silver coins. When however the beggar a third time besought charity, and the servants began to thrust away the obtrusive fellow, the Patriarch ordered that he be given 12 pieces of silver, saying: “Is Christ not indeed putting me to the test?” Twice the saint gave money to a merchant that had suffered shipwreck, and a third time gave him a ship belonging to the Patriarchate and filled with grain, with which the merchant had a successful journey and repaid his obligations.
Saint John the Merciful was known for his gentle attitude towards people. One time the saint was compelled because of some offense to remove from the Church a certain clergyman. This fellow was angry at the Patriarch, and so the saint wanted to summon him and talk it out, but it slipped his mind. But when he was celebrating the Divine Liturgy, the saint was suddenly reminded by the words of the Gospel: when thou bringest forth thine gift to the altar and do recollect, that thine brother hath something against thee, leave hold thine gift and first make peace with thine brother (Mt. 5: 23-24). The saint came out of the altar, called over the offending clergyman to him, and falling down on his knees before him, in front of all the people he asked forgiveness. The clergyman, shaken with surprise, repented his doings and afterwards became a pious priest.
Likewise there was a time when a certain citizen insulted George, a nephew of the Patriarch. George asked the saint to avenge the wrong. The saint promised to reward the offender, in a manner that all Alexandria would see. This calmed George down, and Saint John began to instruct him, speaking about the necessity of meekness and humility, and then, having summoned the insulter, he declared, that he would release him from payment of a church tax on his land. Alexandria indeed was amazed by such a “revenge”, and George learned the lesson in the teaching of his uncle.
Saint John, a strict ascetic and man of prayer, was always mindful of his soul, and of death. He commissioned for himself a crypt-coffin, but he did not bid the master-craftsmen to finish it off, instead each feastday he would have them come and ask, if it was time to finish the work.
Shortly before his death, Saint John through illness was compelled to resign his cathedra and set off to the island of Cyprus. On the ship-journey the saint in his illness had a sign: in a sleep-vision a resplendent man appeared to him and said: “The King of kings doth summon thee unto Himself”. The vision announced the impending death of the Patriarch. Having arrived at Cyprus, in his native city of Amaphunteia, the saint in peace expired to the Lord (616-620).
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE VENERABLE NILUS OF SINAI
St. Nilus of Sinai spoke to the monks:
“Repeat the name of Jesus in your heart!
Exercise your heart in innocence,
And your body in purity and abstinence.
If you are insulted, endure the insult,
And thus the insulter will feel the injury.
Weep for the sinner, even when he advances:
He is on an eternal journey to meet justice.
If you endure misfortunes, they will serve you–
Misfortunes are thorns on which roses grow.
Whenever you pray to God, ask not for pleasant things,
But for that which brings benefit to the soul!
Fear not death, but await the death of the body;
Feel shame before the angels, before you feel the shame of men.
Avoid temptation and do not seek it,
But when it comes of its own accord, show yourself a hero.
He who often partakes of Communion with the gracious Christ
Is a temple in which Christ abides.
Speak little and rarely with men,
But speak more and more often with God.”
Thus, did Nilus of Sinai teach the monks,
And his deeds bore witness to his words.
Their time of death and the necessity of preparation for it was revealed beforehand to many holy men and women. This is a great gift from heaven, but as we do not expect this gift, we unworthy ones need daily repentance to prepare for our departure. One can flee from men, but never from God. When St. John the Merciful fled Egypt from the Persians, a gloriously radiant man with a golden sceptre in his hand appeared to him on the boat and said: “The King of kings is calling you to Himself.” John understood these words and began to prepare for his repose, which came soon. The holy King Stefan of Dečani’s beloved St. Nicholas often appeared to him, and did so before Stefan’s repose, saying: “Stefan, prepare for your departure, for soon you will appear before the Lord.” Both saints were very similar in their compassion. Despite the immeasurable wealth that St. John had at his disposal as Patriarch of Alexandria, he personally had only one-third of a dinar at his repose, and he willed even that to the poor. When St. Stefan of Dečani was in the Monastery of the Pantocrator in Constantinople, a generous Serbian nobleman secretly sent him a substantial sum of money. “I give thanks to the good gentleman for his love,” replied Stefan to the bearer, “but he would give me greater joy if he would distribute this money, intended for me, to the poor.”
Contemplate the courage of the Apostle Paul (Acts 28):
1. How he sat in chains for two years in Rome;
2. How he freely preached the Gospel to the pagans and Jews, not fearing anyone;
3. How neither chains nor prison nor death could turn him away from preaching the Gospel.
on how strangers become members of the household
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19).
Before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, it seemed that only the Jews were close to God and that the pagans were farther away from God. But as a matter of fact, the Jews and the pagans were equally estranged from God, and from true reverence for Him. Then He came, Christ the Savior, and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh (Ephesians 2:17) and by that, brought both Jews and pagans by one Spirit unto the Father (Ephesians 2:18). In the new creation, or the new man, or the Church of God, the Spirit is one; and everyone who enters the Church of God receives this Spirit, so that no matter how much the Church increases in members, there always remains the one Spirit of God; and no matter how many nations or tribes or races enter the Church of God, the Spirit does not change, but remains forever and ever, one and the same Spirit. That is why pagans are not strangers and foreigners in the Church, but are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, as are all other members of the Church. For the Church is founded on holiness, and her cornerstone is the Saint above saints, and according to the plan, all of her members should be holy. All those who lived before Christ but expected Christ and hoped in Him, as well as those who lived after Christ, and who recognized Christ as Lord, Son of God, Savior, Redeemer, Resurrector and Judge, are also called saints. Sin separates and alienates from God, but through the Lord Jesus Christ, division and alienation have vanished, and all the faithful–whether former Jews or pagans–became members of the household of God, by and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
O my brethren, the Lord Jesus Christ gave us something greater and more precious than this life: He gave us peace and friendship with God, and this is greater and more precious than life in alienation from God.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of Peace and Giver of Peace, sustain us to the end in peace with God.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.