Wednesday May 20, 2020 / May 7, 2020
Apodosis of Prepolovenie. Tone four.
Fast. Fish AllowedCommemoration of the Apparition of the Sign of the Precious Cross over Jerusalem in 351 A.D. Martyr Acacius the Centurion at Byzantium (303). Repose of Venerable Nilus, abbot of Sora (1508). Venerable John of Zedazeni in Georgia, and 12 disciples: Venerables Shio Mgvime, David of Gareji, Anthony of Martq’ophi, Thaddeus of Urbnisi or Stepantsminda, Stephen of Khirsa, Isidore of Samtavisi, Michael of Ulumbo, Pyrrhus of Breta, Zenon of Iqalto, Jesse (Ise) of Tsilkani, Joseph of Alaverdi, and Abibus of Nekressi (6th c.) (Georgia). Uncovering of the relics (1815) of Venerable Nilus the Myrrh-gusher of Mt. Athos. Synaxis of All Holy Russian Sovereigns Commemorated on Athos. Icons of the Most Holy Theotokos “Zhirovits” (1470) and “Lubech” (11th c.).
The Scripture Readings
The Monk Nil of Sorsk
Commemorated on May 7
The Monk Nil of Sorsk, a great ascetic of the Russian Church, was descended from the Maikov boyar-noble line. He accepted monasticism at the monastery of the Monk Kirill (Cyril) of Belozersk (Comm. 9 June). Here he made use of the counsels of the pious starets-elder Paisii Yaroslavov, who was afterwards hegumen of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra. The Monk Nil journeyed much through the East, studying the monastic life in Palestine and at Athos. Returning to Rus’, he withdrew to the River Sora in the Vologda lands, he made himself a cell and a chapel, where there soon grew up a monastery with a new for that time in Rus’ skete monastic-rule, adopted from Athos by the Monk Nil. In accord with the command of the Monk Nil, the monks had to sustain themselves by the work of their own hands, to accept charity only in extreme need, and to shun the love of things and splendour even in church; women were not permitted in the skete monastery, monks was not allowed to leave the skete under any pretexts, and the possession of lands or estates was forbidden. Scattered about in the forest around the small church in honour of the Meeting (Sretenie) of the Lord, in separate cells of one or two but not more than three men, the skete-monks on the eve of Sundays and other feastdays gathered together a complete day for Divine-services, and the All-Night Vigil moreover, at which for each kathisma two or three readings from the holy fathers were put forth, and it indeed lasted the whole night. On other days each one prayed and worked in his own cell. The chief effort of the monk was devoted to the struggle with his own thoughts and passions, in result of which in his soul would be born peace, in his mind – clarity, in his heart – contriteness and love. In his written works – “A Tradition for my Student, Wishing to Live in the Wilderness”, and the “Ustav-Rule”, the Monk Nil in detail spells out the steps of this salvific mental activity.
The first step – is a renunciation from the world, in particular, from every worldly distraction; the second – is unceasing prayer, accompanied by the memory of death. In his own life the saint distinguished himself by his extreme non‑possessiveness and love for work. He himself dug out a pond and a well, the water of which had healing power. For his sanctity of life the Starets Nil was deeply venerated by the Russian hierarchs of his time. The monk participated in the Sobor-Councils of the years 1490 and 1503. Shunning the honours and glories of this world, before his death he bid his disciples either to cast out his body for devouring by beasts and birds or else bury it without honours at the place of his exploits. The saint died in his 76th year of life, on the day of 7 May 1508. His relics, buried in the monastery founded by him, were glorified by manifold mysteries. The Russian Church enumerated him to the rank of the Saints. [In English, fragments of his “Tradition” and “Ustav-Rule” may be found in G. Fedotov’s “Treasury of Russian Spirituality”.]
1. COMMEMORATION OF THE APPEARANCE OF THE HONORABLE CROSS OVER JERUSALEM
During the time of St. Constantine’s son, Emperor Constantius, and Patriarch Cyril of Jerusalem, the Honorable Cross appeared about 9:00 a.m. stretching from Golgotha to above the Mount of Olives. This Cross was brighter than the sun and more beautiful than the most beautiful rainbow. All the people, both believing and unbelieving, left their work and observed this heavenly sign in fear and amazement. Many unbelievers converted to the Christian Faith, and many Arian heretics abandoned their evil heresy and returned to Orthodoxy. About this sign, Patriarch Cyril wrote a letter to Emperor Constantius, who had inclinations toward Arianism. This occurred on May 7, 357 A.D. Thus, even on this occasion it was demonstrated that the Christian Faith is not worldly theorizing, according to the sensual understanding of man. Rather it is God’s power, demonstrated through numerous miracles and signs.
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE HOLY MARTYR ACACIUS
Acacius, soldier of the King Most-high,
Prepares for death,
His soul filled with the incense of prayer.
The godless judge asks him:
“Why does not Christ deliver the faithful?
Why does He not punish your tormentors,
When you call Him Almighty God?”
The martyr meekly replies to him:
“The Lord Christ is great in mercy,
Long suffering in mercy and in patience.
He awaits repentance from the sinner,
And patient suffering from the faithful.
If He immediately punished the sinners
How would He reveal His mercy?
And the righteous–if they would not suffer,
By what would they show the power of God?
By what would they shine before the world?”
Having said these words, Acacius is beheaded,
And his souls ascends to Paradise.
“I recognize that my debt was greater, and that more was forgiven me. I was called to the priesthood from juridical and public offices; and that is why I show myself ungrateful if I love less than the measure to which I am forgiven.” These are the words of St. Ambrose, who was unexpectedly called by God to change vocations and, having been a secular judge, to become an archbishop of Christ’s Church. With these words the saint demonstrated how the priestly calling is greater than the secular calling, how he came to the priestly vocation by God’s calling, and how he who is called owes thanksgiving to God. All the saints considered the debt of thanksgiving to God as their main debt. Without thanksgiving to God there can be no progress in the spiritual life. Ceaseless thanksgiving to God is the noble seed from which, if it is watered by the tears of unceasing repentance, a beautiful fruit grows–love for God.
Contemplate the descent of God the Holy Spirit upon the holy apostles:
1. How the apostles stood in one mind at prayer;
2. How, suddenly, there came a sound from heaven as a rushing mighty wind.
on how good is taken away from man by sin
“Your sins have turned back these blessings from you” (Jeremiah 5:25).
If you do not possess good in abundance, O people, that means you have sin in abundance. Your sins have turned your good from you. O people, if you wish good for yourselves, reject sin and sin no more. Then you will move toward good, good will come to you, and good will not depart from you.
O man, if you do not have good, it means that you have sin. Good cannot dwell in the same house with sin, just as light and darkness cannot exist in the same place at the same time. When light departs, darkness settles in, and when the darkness departs, the light shines. Thus, sin and good can be interchanged, but they cannot dwell together.
O my brethren, your sins have turned back these blessings from you. These words were not spoken by only one prophet to only one nation; rather, every true prophet spoke these words to his people. False prophets flatter their people with sins, and thus they assist even more in turning back good from their people. The true prophets oppose the sins of the people, for they consort with good and cry out against sin, so as to introduce the good from God into their people’s souls. If the beehive begins to stink, will the honey-bees enter and deposit their honey in it? No! And when irrational bees refuse to enter a putrid and smoke-ridden beehive, then how will the rational Spirit of God enter a soul that is putrid and smoke-ridden from sin? And the Spirit of God is the possessor and the dispenser of all good gifts.
O Lord, Holy Spirit, help Thy people by Thine irresistible power to drive away sin from their souls; so that Thou wouldst be able to enter inside with Thy life-creating gifts.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.