Wednesday August 25, 2021 / August 12, 2021
10th Week after Pentecost. Tone eight.
Dormition (Theotokos) Fast. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)
Martyrs Anicetus and Photius (Photinus) of Nicomedia (305). New Hieromartyrs Barlaam abbot of Belogor St. Nicholas monastery and brotherhood: hieromonks Sergius, Ilia, Viacheslav, Iosaph, John, Anoty, hierodeacons Mikhey, Bessarion, Mathew, Euphemia, monks Barnabas, Demetrius, Sabbas, Hermogenus, Arcadius, Euphemia, btothers John, Jacob, Peter, another Jacob, Alexander, Theodore, another Peter, Sergius, Alexis (1918). New Hieromartyr Basil priest (1918). New Hieromartyrs Leonidas, John and Nicholas priests (1937). Hieromartyr Alexander, bishop of Comana (3rd c.). Martyrs Pamphilus and Capito
The Martyrs Anicetas and Photios
Commemorated on August 12
The Martyrs Anicetas and Photios (his nephew) were natives of Nicomedia. Anicetas, a military official, denounced the emperor Diocletian (284-305) for having set up in the city square an implement of execution for frightening Christians. The enraged emperor ordered Saint Anicetas to be tortured, and later condemned him to be devoured by wild beasts. But the lions they set loose became gentle and fondled up to him. Suddenly there began a strong earthquake, resulting in the collapse of the pagan temple of Hercules, and many pagans perished beneathe the crumbled city walls. The executioner took up a sword to cut off the saint’s head, but he himself fell down insensible. They tried to break Saint Anicetas on the wheel and burn him with fire, but the wheel stopped and the fire went out. They threw the martyr into a furnace with boiling tin, but the tin got cold. Thus the Lord preserved His servant for the edification of many. The martyr’s nephew, Saint Photios, saluted the sufferer and turn to the emperor, remarking: “O idol-worshipper, thine gods – be nothing!” The sword, held over the new confessor, instead struck the executioner himself. Then the martyrs were thrown into prison. After three days Diocletian began to urge them: “Worship our gods, and I shalt give ye glory and riches”. The martyrs answered: “Perish thou with thine honour and riches!” Then they tied them by the legs to wild horses, but the saints, dragged along the ground, remained unharmed. They did not suffer either in the heated up bath-house, which tumbled apart. Finally Diocletian ordered a great furnace to be fired up, and many Christians, inspired by the deeds of Saints Anicetas and Photios, went in themselves with the words: “We are Christians!” They all died with prayer on their lips. The bodies of Saints Anicetas and Photios were not harmed by the fire, and even their hair remained whole. seeing this, many of the pagans came to believe in Christ. This event happened in the year 305.
Saints Anicetus and Photius are mentioned in the prayers for the Blessing of Oil and the Lesser Blessing of Water (BOOK OF NEEDS, 1987, p. 230).
The Monk Maximos the Confessor
Commemorated on August 13, January 21
The Monk Maximos the Confessor was born in Constantinople in about the year 580 and raised in a pious Christian family. In his youth he received a very diverse education: he studied philosophy, grammatics, rhetoric, he was well-read in the authors of antiquity and he mastered to perfection theological dialectics. When Saint Maximos entered into government service, the scope of his learning and his conscientiousness enabled him to become first secretary to the emperor Heraclius (611-641). But court life vexed him, and he withdrew to the Chrysopoleia monastery (on the opposite shore of the Bosphorus – now Skutari), where he accepted monastic tonsure. By the humility of his wisdom he soon won the love of the brethren and was chosen hegumen of the monastery, but even in this dignity, in his own words, he “remained a simple monk”. But in 633 at the request of a theologian, the future Jerusalem Patriarch Saint Sophronios (Comm. 11 March), the Monk Maximos left the monastery and set off to Alexandria.
Saint Sophronios was known in these times as an implacable antagonist against the Monothelite heresy. The Fourth OEcumenical Council (year 451) had condemned the Monophysite heresy, which confessed in the Lord Jesus Christ only one nature (the Divine, but not the Human nature, of Christ). Influenced by this erroneous tendency of thought, the Monothelite heretics introduced the concept that in Christ there was only “one Divine will” (“thelema”) and only “one Divine effectuation or energy” (“energia”), – which sought to lead back by another path to the repudiated Monophysite heresy. Monotheletism found numerous adherents in Armenia, Syria, Egypt. The heresy, fanned also by nationalist animosities, became a serious threat to church unity in the East. The struggle of Orthodoxy with the heresies was particularly complicated by the fact, that in the year 630 three of the Patriarchal thrones in the Orthodox East were occupied by Monothelites: at Constantinople – by Sergios, at Antioch – by Athanasias, and at Alexandria – by Cyrus.
The path of the Monk Maximos from Constantinople to Alexandria led through Crete, where indeed he began his preaching activity. He clashed there with a bishop, who adhered to the heretical opinions of Severus and Nestorius. At Alexandria and its surroundings the monk spent about 6 years. In 638 the emperor Heraclius, together with the patriarch Sergios, attempted to downplay the discrepancies in the confession of faith, and the issued an edict: the so-called “Ecthesis” (“Ekthesis tes pisteos” – “Exposition of Faith), – which ultimately decreed that there be confessed the teaching about “one will” (“mono-thelema”) operative under the two natures of the Saviour. In defending Orthodoxy against this “Ecthesis”, the Monk Maximos recoursed to people of various vocations and positions, and these conversations had success. “Not only the clergy and all the bishops, but also the people, and all the secular officials felt within themselves some sort of invisible attraction to him, – testifies his Vita.
Towards the end of 638 the patriarch Sergios died, and in 641 – the emperor Heraclius also died. The imperial throne came to be occupied by the cruel and coarse Constans II (642-668), an open adherent of the Monothelites. The assaults of the heretics against Orthodoxy intensified. The Monk Maximos went off to Carthage and he preached there and in its surroundings for about 5 years. When the successor of patriarch Sergios, patriarch Pyrrhos, arrived there in forsaking Constantinople because of court intrigues, and being by persuasion a Monothelite, – there occurred between him and the Monk Maximos an open disputation in June 645. The result of this was that Pyrrhos publicly acknowledged his error and even wanted to put into writing to Pope Theodore the repudiation of his error. The Monk Maximos together with Pyrrhos set off to Rome, where Pope Theodore accepted the repentance of the former patriarch and restored him to his dignity.
In the year 647 the Monk Maximos returned to Africa. And there, at a council of bishops Monotheletism was condemned as an heresy. In the year 648, in place of the “Ecthesis”, there was issued a new edict, commissioned by Constans and compiled by the Constantinople patriarch Paul, the “Typus” (“Tupos tes pisteos” – “Pattern of the Faith”), which overall forbade any further deliberations, whether if be about “one will” or about “two wills”, as regarding the acknowledged “two natures” of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Monk Maximos thereupon turned to the successor of the Roman Pope Theodore, Pope Martin I (649-654), with a request to examine the question of Monotheletism at a conciliar consideration by all the Church. In October of 649 there was convened the Lateran Council, at which were present 150 Western bishops and 37 representatives of the Orthodox East, amongst which was also the Monk Maximos the Confessor. The Council condemned Monotheletism, and its defenders – the Constantinople patriarchs Sergios, Paul and Pyrrhos, were consigned to anathema.
When Constans II received the determinations of the Council, he gave orders to arrest both Pope Martin and the Monk Maximos. This summons took 5 years to fulfill, in the year 654. They accused the Monk Maximos of treason to the realm and locked him up in prison. In 656 he was sent off to Thrace, and again later brought back to a Constantinople prison. The monk, together with two of his students, was subjected to the cruellest torments: for each they cut out the tongue and cut off the right hand. Then they were sent off to Colchis. But here the Lord worked an inexplicable miracle: all three of them found the ability to speak and to write. The Monk Maximos indeed foretold his own end (+ 13 August 662). On the Greek Saints-Prologue (Calendar), 13 August indicates the Transfer of the Relics of Saint Maximos to Constantinople, but possibly it might apply to the death of the saint. Or otherwise, the establishing of his memory under 21 January may be connected with this – that 13 August celebrates the Leavetaking of the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Over the grave of the Monk Maximos shone three miraculously-appearing lights, and there occurred many an healing.
The Monk Maximos has left to the Church a large theological legacy. His exegetical works contain explanations of difficult places within the Holy Scripture, also Commentary on the Prayer of the Lord and on the 59th Psalm, various “scholia” (“marginalia” or text-margin commentaries) on treatises of the PriestMartyr Dionysios the Areopagite (+ 96, Comm. 3 October) and Sainted Gregory the Theologian (+ 389, Comm. 25 January). To the exegetical works of Saint Maximos belongs likewise his explication of Divine-services, entitled “Mystagogia” (“Introduction concerning the Mystery”).
To the dogmatic works of the Monk Maximos belong: the Exposition on his dispute with Pyrrhos, and several tracts and letters to various people. In them are contained expositions of the Orthodox teaching of the Divine Essence and about Hypostatic-Persons of the Holy Trinity, about the Incarnation of God, and about the “theosis” (“deification”, “obozhenie”) of human nature.
“Nothing in theosis is the product of human nature, – the Monk Maximos writes in a letter to his friend Thalassios, – since nature cannot comprehend God. It is only but the mercy of God that has the capacity to endow theosis unto the existing… In theosis man (the image of God) becomes likened to God, he rejoices in all the plenitude that does belong to him by nature, since the grace of the Spirit doth triumph within him and because God doth act within him” (Letter 22).
To the Monk Maximos belong also works concerning the anthropologic (i.e. concerning man). He deliberates on the nature of the soul and its consciously-personal existence after the death of a man. Among his moral compositions, especially important is his “Chapters on Love”. The Monk Maximos the Confessor wrote likewise three hymns in the finest traditions of church hymnography, following the lead of Saint Gregory the Theologian.
The theology of the Monk Maximos the Confessor, based on the spiritual experience of the knowledge of the great Desert-Fathers, and utilising the skilled art of dialectics worked out by pre-Christian philosophy, was continued and developed upon in the works of the Monk Simeon the New Theologian (+ 1021, Comm. 12 March), and Sainted Gregory Palamas (+ c. 1360, Comm. 14 November).
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
SAINT ALEXANDER, BISHOP OF COMANA
Men look upon the clothes and the face,
But God looks at the soul and the heart.
The glorious Alexander, a charcoal-burner, was;
His body was blackened by soot,
Which water easily washes away.
A sinner’s heart is blackened,
And only the fire of faith can cleanse it–
The fire of faith, and the lament of repentance!
It is easier to cleanse the skin of a charcoal-burner
Than the blackened heart of a sinner.
Alexander, with humility, was covered,
Like a flame hidden in a cave.
An object of derision for the credulous world, he was.
The world did not see, but Gregory saw,
And with spiritual acumen saw through the charcoal-burner,
And in him, found a saint!
In the dark cave, a beautiful flame:
Behind the mask of foolishness, great wisdom;
Beneath the grime and soot, a pure heart:
A royal soul in rotting rags.
Light to be hidden, the Lord does not allow–
At the appointed time, the light is proclaimed,
For the benefit and salvation of men.
All God’s judgments are wondrous.
Learn to respect and love lowly and simple people. Such are the most blessed on earth, and such are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. In them there is no pride–indeed, pride is the prevalent madness afflecting the rich and the powerful of this world. The lowly carry out their duty in this world perfectly; and yet, when someone praises them for it, it seems unearned to them–while the self-seeking men of this world seek praise for all their work, and often it is imperfectly done. St. Alexander was an eminent philosopher, yet he left everything, hid himself from exalted society and the praise of the world, and mingled with the lowliest and the simplest of men–a charcoal-burner among charcoal-burners. Instead of yearning for his former praises and honors, he rejoiced that children ran after him, laughing at him because of his sooty skin and ragged clothes. Even so, Alexander was not the only one who desired to live with the lowly and simple. Many kings and princes, learning of the sweetness of the Christian Faith, have removed the crowns from their heads and fled from aristocratic vanity, to be among simple people. Did not the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the King of Kings, appear among shepherds and fishermen? St. Zeno counsels: “Do not choose a glorious place for living, and do not associate with men of prominence.”
To contemplate the wondrous providence of God, in the choice of Saul as king (1 Samuel 9 [also known as 1 Kings 9]):
1. How Saul went out to seek the lost asses;
2. How Samuel, to whom God revealed that Saul should be accepted as the King of Israel, met him;
3. How the providence of God directs men, and sometimes gives them that which they do not envision.
About the awesome vision of the Prophet Isaiah
“I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1).
Here is the vision of visions! Here is the glory of glories and the majesty of majesties! God showed great mercy to all of mankind, in that He gave them to see the great starry firmament, the work of His hands. He showed an even greater mercy in allowing some to see the eternal and wondrous angelic world. He showed the greatest mercy to a small number of His chosen ones, whom He allowed to see Himself–the Lord Sabaoth, the Only Uncreated One, and Creator of both worlds. How can mortal man see the Immortal God? Did not God Himself say to Moses: For there shall no man see me and live (Exodus 33:20)? And does not the Gospel say: No man has seen God at any time (John 1:18)? Truly, no mortal can see the face of God–His essence. But, by His condescension and infinite goodness and power, God can reveal–to some extent and in some form–how accessible He is to men. In a particular form and appearance, He appeared to Moses, Elias, Daniel and John the Theologian. He did not reveal His Essence, but a particular form and appearance. Isaiah saw Him on a throne high and lifted up–as the Judge raised above all the judges and all the earthly courts. The six-winged Seraphim stood around Him and cried one to another: Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts (Isaiah 6:3). The Lord did not allow Himself to be seen alone, but rather as the King in His Invisible Kingdom, surrounded by the most exalted of beings, who were created by His power. Around Him are the foremost orders of the heavenly hierarchy, the chief commanders of His innumerable immortal hosts, the foremost lampstands of His light and His unendurable radiance.
This is the wondrous vision of Isaiah, the Son of Amos, the prophet of God.
O Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord–Thrice Holy–have mercy on us and save us, impure and sinful as we are.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.