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WEEKLY DIOCESAN BULLETIN

Sunday, December 11, 2016

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST:
THE HOLY MONK-MARTYR & CONFESSOR STEPHEN THE NEW;
THE HOLY MARTYR CHRISTO

RESURRECTIONAL TROPARION - TONE EIGHT:
Thou didst descend from on high, O Merciful One! Thou didst accept the three day burial to free us from our sufferings! O Lord, our Life and Resurrection: Glory to Thee!

TROPARION TO SAINT STEPHEN THE NEW – TONE FOUR:
Trained in asceticism on the mountain, with the weapon of the Cross you destroyed the spiritual assaults of the hostile powers, all-blessed one; again you bravely prepared for combat and slew Copronymus with the sword of faith; for both struggles you have been crowned by God, monk-martyr Stephen of eternal memory.

RESURRECTIONAL KONTAKION - TONE EIGHT: 
By rising from the tomb You raised the dead and resurrected Adam. Eve exults in Your Resurrection, and the world celebrates Your rising from the dead, O greatly Merciful One!

KONTAKION TO SAINT STEPHEN THE NEW – TONE EIGHT: Lovers of the feasts, from the heart with hymns let us praise in faith godlike Stephen the lover of the Trinity, for he honored the fair icon of the Master and of His Mother. Now let us rejoice together and cry out to him with love: ‘Rejoice, ever glorious Father.’

HYMN TO THE MOTHER OF GOD - TONE SIX:
Steadfast Protectress of Christians and constant advocate before the Creator, do not despise the cry of us sinners; but in your goodness come speedily to help us who call on you in faith. Hasten to hear our petition and to intercede for us, O Theotokos, for you always protect those who honor you!

 EPISTLE READING

 THE PROKIMENON IN THE 8TH TONE: Pray and make your vows before the Lord our God.

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST:
EPHESIANS 4: 1-6
Brethren, I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

THE ALLELUIA VERSES:
Come let us rejoice in the Lord! Let us make a joyful noise to God our Savior! Let us come before His face with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with psalms!

GOSPEL READING

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST:
LUKE 10: 25-37
At that time, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’, and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

FROM THE PROLOGUE
NOVEMBER 28/DECEMBER 11 BY ST. NIKOLAI VELIMIROVIC:

The Venerable Martyr Stephen the New
As at one time Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed to God to give her a son, so did Anna, the mother of Stephen. Praying thus in the Church of Blachernae before the icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, a light sleep overcame her, and she saw the Most-holy Virgin as radiant as the sun, and heard a voice from the icon: “Woman, depart in peace. In accordance with your prayer, you have a son in your womb.” Anna indeed conceived and gave birth to a son, the holy Stephen. At sixteen, Stephen received the monastic tonsure on Mount Auxentius near Constantinople, from the elder John who also taught him divine wisdom and asceticism. When John entered into rest in the Lord, Stephen remained on the mountain in a life of strict asceticism, taking upon himself labor upon labor. His holiness attracted many disciples to him. When Emperor Constantine Copronymus was persecuting icons more ferociously than his foul father, Leo the Isaurian, Stephen showed himself a zealous defender of the veneration of holy icons. The demented emperor accepted various obscene slanders against Stephen and personally plotted intrigues to break Stephen and get him out of the way. Stephen was banished to the island of Proconnesus, then taken to Constantinople, chained and cast into prison, where he was met by 342 monks, brought from all over and imprisoned for their veneration of the icons. There, in prison, they carried out the whole church typicon as in a monastery. Then the wicked emperor condemned Stephen to death. The saint foresaw his death forty days in advance, and asked forgiveness of the brethren. The emperor’s servants dragged him from prison and, beating and pulling him, dragged him through the streets of Constantinople calling upon all those loyal to the emperor to stone this “enemy of the
emperor.” One of the heretics struck the saint on the head with a piece of wood, and the saint gave up his soul. As St. Stephen the Protomartyr suffered at the hands of the Jews, so this Stephen suffered at the hands of the iconoclastic heretics. This glorious soldier of Christ suffered in the year 767 at the age of fifty-three, and was crowned with unfading glory.

The New Martyr Christos
Christos was an Albanian Christian living in Constantinople and a gardener by trade. As he was selling his vegetables one day, he offended a Turk, who then slandered him before a judge, saying that Christos had promised to become a Moslem and then recanted. After interrogation, he was chained and cast into prison. In prison, someone offered him food, which Christos refused, saying: “It is better that I appear before my Christ hungry.” After that, he pulled out some money he had concealed under his belt and gave it to one of his fellow prisoners, requesting that the money be used for several Liturgies to be celebrated for his soul. He was beheaded by the Turks in the year 1748, and was glorified forever in the Kingdom of Christ God.

The Venerable Anna
Anna was a woman of noble birth who, after her husband’s death, was tonsured into monasticism by St. Stephen the New. Emperor Constantine Copronymus urged her to say that she had engaged in illicit physical relations with St. Stephen, in order to humiliate him before the people. However, this holy woman refused to join in the emperor’s intrigue against the saint, whom she venerated as her spiritual father. For that, she was whipped and then cast into prison, where she gave up her holy soul to God.
The Holy and Devout Emperor Maurice
Maurice was murdered with his six sons by Emperor Phocas in the year 602 (see “Reflection” below).

HYMN OF PRAISE:
The Venerable Martyr Stephen the New

Of the same name as the first Stephen,
Stephen the New gave his life in battle, too.

The proud heretical emperor, coarse power incarnate,
Was armed to the teeth with earthly weapons.

Stephen’s weapon was power not of a physical source,
A spiritual weapon, heavenly truth.

The emperor had soldiers, defenders of falsehood,
While Stephen was set at ease by the invisible God.

Serene as heaven, Stephen awaited torture,
Death and eternal life beyond this age.

While in his rage, the emperor roared
And signed the order for death and torment for the righteous man.

Stephen was not dismayed, though beaten and pressed,
Bound as he was by spirit and prayer to the heavens.

The emperor, stronger than the saint’s body, crushed his body;
Yet the saint was stronger in spirit, and finished in victory.

O Saint Stephen, spiritual knight,
Help us avoid the nets of the devil,
And to venerate the holy icons with honor,
And that we might always follow your wondrous example.

REFLECTION
Reading the examples of perseverance in the Faith and generosity of the saints of God, we also become persevering in the Faith and generous. When Copronymus’s men urged St. Stephen to reject the veneration of icons to please the iconoclastic emperor, Stephen extended his hand, clenched his fist and said: “If I had in myself only a fist full of blood, I would shed it for the icon of Christ.”
Emperor Maurice had six sons of which the sixth and youngest was not yet weaned. For this youngest son, the emperor kept a special wet-nurse at court who fed it. A terrible fate came upon Emperor Maurice: Phocas ousted him from the throne and condemned him to death together with all of his six sons. Before Maurice’s eyes, his sons were slain, one after the other. When the wet-nurse had to hand over the emperor’s sixth son to be slain, she genuinely felt sorrow over the fate of the unfortunate emperor and his children, and in a moment, decided to save the life of at least one of the emperor’s sons. So, when they sought the emperor’s son from her breast, she gave them her own young son and he was beheaded. Finally, the Emperor Maurice was beheaded. The emperor’s youngest son grew up believing his wet-nurse to be his mother. However, when the wet-nurse revealed the secret to him, he became very serious, then resolutely left the world and withdrew to Mount Sinai, where he was tonsured a monk and dedicated himself to God. He did this to requite that innocent young child who was put to death in his place.

CONTEMPLATION
Contemplate God’s wonderful Paradise (Genesis 2):
1. How it was a kingdom of innocence, purity and righteousness;
2. How there was not a trace of sickness or death, for there was not even a thought of sin.

HOMILY on how the faithful must grow
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ (Ephesians 4:15).
Brethren, here is all that is asked of us on this earthly journey: that we hold to the truth and that we live in love. Truth is revealed by Christ the Lord, and the example of love is given in Christ the Lord. Neither can one come to the truth apart from Christ the Lord nor find an example of true love apart from Him. Seeing this only true path to light and salvation in the confusion of many false paths, the Apostle Paul reminds us beforehand: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). Only God can reveal the truth; only God can show true love. One man can know more than another man, but only God can reveal the truth. Thoughts come to man like the wind, and illusions can seem to be truth to him. Deluded by his own thoughts, one man deludes another; deceived by illusions, one man then deceives another; but truth is in God and of God. Brethren, Christ is our whole truth and our whole love. When we think of Christ, we think of truth; when we act according to Christ, we act correctly; when we love Christ, we love Love itself. By Christ we live, by Christ we grow, by Christ we become immortal and are glorified. He is our Head—not merely the titular head of a group, but the actual head of a living body, of which we are members. Adhering to truth and love, we are made worthy to dwell eternally in this Body of Christ.
O Lord Christ, our most wonderful truth and our endearing love, enter into us and receive us into Thyself.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.


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