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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Thirty-second Sunday after Pentecost; Sunday before Theophany; Holy Cross Day; Holy Hieromartyr Theopemptus and Martyr Theonas

RESURRECTIONAL TROPARION - TONE SEVEN:
By Your Cross, You destroyed death!  To the thief, You opened Paradise!  For the myrrh bearers, You changed weeping into joy!  And You commanded Your disciples, O Christ God, to proclaim that You are risen, granting the world great mercy!

THE PRE-FEAST OF THEOPHANY TROPARION - TONE FOUR:
The river Jordan once turned back before the mantle of Elisha, after Elijah had been taken up into heaven, and the waters were divided on this side and on that: the stream became a dry path before him, forming a true figure of the baptism whereby we pass over the changeful course of life. Christ has appeared in the Jordan to sanctify the waters.

RESURRECTIONAL KONTAKION - TONE SEVEN:
The dominion of death can no longer hold man captive, for Christ descended, shattering and destroying its powers!  Hell is bound, while the prophets rejoice and cry:  The Savior has come to those in faith!  Enter you faithful into the Resurrection.

THE PRE-FEAST OF THEOPHANY KONTAKION - TONE TWO:
O Christ of all, who has tenderheartedly removed a multitude of our transgressions, out of immeasurable compassion, You go to be baptized like man in Jordan’s waters; thus clothing me, terribly naked, with the robe of the original glory.

EPISTLE READING


The Prokimenon in the 6th Tone: 
O Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance.

Sunday before Theophany: 2 Timothy 4: 5-8

My son Timothy, you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.  For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

The Alleluia Verses:

May God be gracious to us and bless us, and make His face to shine upon us.

EPISTLE READING

Sunday before Theophany: Mark 1: 1-8      

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’”  John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.  Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  And he preached, saying: “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.  I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Spiritual Articles

From The Prologue for January 5/18 by
St. Nikolai Velimirovic:

The Hieromartyr Theopemptos and the Martyr Theonas
When Diocletian began his persecution of Christians, Theopemptos, Bishop of Nicomedia, was among the first to suffer martyrdom for Christ. Theopemptos was brought before the emperor, who threatened him with the punishment of death if he did not deny Christ. To that threat, the courageous bishop responded to the emperor: “It stands written: Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul (Matthew 10:28). O Emperor, you have authority over my body; do with it as you please.” Theopemptos was severely beaten, starved and tortured in various ways. Finally, the emperor summoned a certain magician, Theonas by name, to outwit this godly man through magic. Theonas dissolved the most potent poison in water and gave it to Theopemptos to drink. Theopemptos traced the sign of the Cross over the glass and drank the poison. On seeing that the poison had no effect on Theopemptos, Theonas turned to the emperor and shouted: “I too am a Christian, and I bow down before the Crucified One.” Both were sentenced to death in the year 298; Theopemptos was beheaded and Theonas was buried alive. They suffered honorably and became citizens of the Kingdom of Christ.

The Holy Prophet Micah the First
Micah was a contemporary of the Prophet Elias. He foretold the death of the pernicious King Ahab in battle against the Assyrians (I Kings 22; II Chronicles 18). Micah prophesied orally and did not put anything into writing. He is to be distinguished from the other Prophet Micah (August 14), who prophesied the birth of the Lord in Bethlehem and authored one of the prophetic books.

The Venerable Mother Syncletica
Syncletica was of Macedonian descent and was educated in Alexandria. As a wealthy and distinguished maiden she had many suitors, but she rejected them all and fled from her parents’ home to a convent. In great self-restraint, vigil and prayer, Syncletica lived to her eightieth year. Her counsels to the nuns have always been considered true spiritual pearls, for this righteous one did not attain the heights of wisdom through books but through sufferings, pains, daily and nightly contemplation, and spiritual communication with the higher world of the Divine. Her soul took up its habitation in that higher world in the year 350. Among other things, St. Syncletica was known to say: “If it is the season for fasting, do not dismiss fasting, claiming illness, for behold, even those who do not fast succumb to the same illness.” She further said: “As a treasure, when uncovered, is quickly seized, so it is with virtue: when it is made public it becomes eclipsed and is lost.”

The Venerable Apollinaria
Apollinaria was the daughter of Anthemius, the regent of the adolescent Emperor Theodosius the Younger. She was her father’s elder daughter. His younger daughter was insane. Apollinaria did not wish to marry because in her heart she was betrothed to Christ, and she withdrew into the Egyptian wilderness. In men’s attire and under the masculine name of Dorotheus, Apollinaria entered a monastery for men, where she lived an ascetic life, lifting up her spirit continuously toward God and burning with love toward her Creator. Someone advised the imperial regent, Anthemius, to send his insane daughter to the ascetics to have prayers said for her. According to the providence of God, it so happened that the elder sister healed her insane sister through the power of prayer. Only when Apollinaria reposed was her secret revealed—that she was not a man but a woman. The bravery of this holy virgin has remained an example and stimulus to many throughout the ages who contemplate their salvation. She reposed in the year 470.

HYMN OF PRAISE: Saints Apollinaria and Syncletica

These innocent virgins, for the sake of God and their souls,
Became faithful followers of Christ.

Pleasures, luxuries and laughter they abandoned,
And lifted up their souls to the angelic world.

In their weak bodies were lighted torches;
By the Holy Spirit their souls were wondrously illuminated,
Shining for centuries and showing the way,
Rejoicing in heaven with the holy angels.

O Apollinaria and Syncletica!
In your hearts the Holy Spirit glows.

He strengthens you, leads and teaches you;
He has wedded you and betrothed you to Christ.

Pray for us, O wondrous ascetics,
Heroines brave, immortal virgins.


REFLECTION
Fruit, fruit, and only fruit does the Lord seek from every living tree which is called a man. Good fruit is a God-loving heart, and evil fruit is a self-loving heart. Everything else that a man possesses and enjoys—position, authority, honor, health, money and knowledge—are but the leaves on the tree. Therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire (Matthew 3:10). Even the non-Christian peoples valued good deeds more than fine words. How much more must it be the rule for the followers of Christ. At a council of the Athenians, at which were present representatives of the Spartans, a certain elderly man moved from bench to bench, seeking a place to sit. The Athenians mocked him and did not relinquish a seat to him. When the old man approached the Spartans, everyone rose to their feet and offered him a seat. Upon seeing this, the Athenians praised the Spartans in eloquent terms. To this the Spartans replied: “The Athenians know what is good, but they do not do good.” Whoever performs good deeds resembles a tree that brings forth good fruit for its householder. The source of goodness in man is a good, God-loving heart.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the perfection of Adam, the first man:

1. His closeness to God;

2. His strength, wisdom and beauty, given by God;

3. The voluntary submission of the whole of nature to the authority of the sinless Adam.


HOMILY
on our helplessness without Christ the Lord

For without Me ye can do nothing (John 15:5).

Our Lord did not have the habit of exaggerating in His speech. No words in this world are weighed more than His words. When He says that we can do nothing without Him, this must be taken and understood literally. Here, He speaks of good and not of evil. We can do no good without Christ, aside from Christ or contrary to Christ. He is the Proprietor, the Giver, and the Inspirer of all good. No type of good stands outside Him; likewise, no type of evil is contained in Him. Our Lord said: I am the Vine, ye are the branches (John 15:5). What can the branches do without the Vine? Can they grow and bring forth fruit? No, they can do nothing but become firewood. Man can think as hard as he wants, but he cannot conceive of one true good that is not in Christ and that does not stem from Christ. If someone were to say that he does good and humane works outside of Christ, know that his works are spoiled to the core and corroded, be it from vanity or from hidden selfishness. Man without Christ is the same as branches without the vine. He Himself told us this. The Vine is hidden and unseen, but the branches are seen. Nevertheless, the grapes on the branch and the branch itself depend on the Vine. The Vine of all-encompassing good grows from the heart of God the Father and is watered by the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. O Triune Lord God, have mercy on us and save us! To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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