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WEEKLY DIOCESAN BULLETIN

SUNDAY, JANUARY 8, 2017

Twenty-Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; Sunday after Nativity: The Holy God-bearing Fathers;
The Synaxis of the Most-holy Theotokos 

RESURRECTIONAL TROPARION - TONE FOUR:
When the women disciples of the Lord learned from the angel the joyous message of Thy Resurrection; they cast away the ancestral curse and elatedly told the apostles: Death is overthrown! Christ God is Risen, granting the world great mercy.

NATIVITY TROPARION - TONE FOUR:
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world the Light of Wisdom.  For by it, those who worshiped the stars were taught by a star to adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee the Orient from on high.  O Lord, glory to Thee!


TROPARION TO THE HOLY GOD-BEARING FATHERS - TONE TWO: Proclaim the wonder, O Joseph, to David, the ancestor of God: you saw a Virgin great with Child; you gave glory with the shepherds; you worshipped with the Magi; you received the news from the angel.  Pray to Christ God to save our souls.

RESURRECTIONAL KONTAKION - TONE FOUR: My Savior and my Redeemer as God rose from the tomb and delivered the earthborn from their chains. And He has shattered the gates of hell, and as Master, He has risen on the third day!

KONTAKION TO THE HOLY GOD-BEARING FATHERS – TONE THREE: Today godly David is filled with joy; Joseph and James offer praise.  The glorious crown of their kinship with Christ fills them with great joy.  They sing praises to the One ineffably born on earth, and they cry out: ‘O Compassionate One, save those who honor You!’

NATIVITY KONTAKION - TONE THREE: Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!  Angels, with shepherds, glorify Him!  The wise men journey with the star!  Since for our sake the eternal God was born as a little child.

SYNAXIS OF THE THEOTOKOS KONTAKION - TONE SIX:
He who was begotten of the Father, without mother, before the morning star, today on earth is made flesh of you, without a father, O Lady full of grace.  Therefore, a star announces the glad tidings to the magi.  Angels and shepherds sing the praises of your childbearing in a manner beyond understanding.   

INSTEAD OF “IT IS TRULY MEET…”:
Magnify, O my soul, the most pure Virgin Theotokos, more honorable and more glorious than the heavenly hosts.  I behold a strange, most glorious mystery!  Heaven – the cave!  The cherubic throne – the Virgin!  The manger – the place where Christ lay, the uncontainable God whom we magnify in song!

EPISTLE READING

The Prokimenon in the 4th Tone: 
O Lord, how manifold are Your works!  In wisdom You have made them all.

Sunday after Nativity: Galatians 1: 11-19 
Brethren, I make known to you that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.  For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.  And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.  Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.  But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

The Alleluia Verses:
Remember, O Lord, in David’s favor all the hardships he endured.  How he swore to the Lord and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob.

GOSPEL READING

Sunday after Nativity: Matthew 2: 13-23 
At that time when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”  When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”  Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”  Now when Herod was dead, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead.”  Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.  And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.  And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

FROM THE PROLOGUE

December 26/January 8 by St. Nikolai Velimirovic:

The Synaxis of the Most-holy Theotokos
On the second day of the Nativity, the Christian Church gives glory and thanksgiving to the Most-holy Theotokos, who gave birth to our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. This feast is called “the Synaxis” because on this day all of the faithful gather to glorify her, the Most-holy Theotokos, and to solemnly and universally celebrate a feast in her honor. In Ohrid, it has been the tradition from ancient times that, on the eve of the second day of Nativity, Vespers has been celebrated only in the Church of the Most-holy Theotokos called the Chieftain [Èelnica]. All the clergy with the people gather together to glorify the Most-pure Mother of God.

The Commemoration of the Flight into Egypt
The wise men (astrologers) from the East, having worshiped the Lord in Bethlehem, were directed to return to their home another way by command of an angel. Herod, that wicked king, planned to slaughter all the children in Bethlehem, but God saw Herod’s intention and sent His angel to Joseph. The angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream and commanded him to take the young Child and His Mother and flee to Egypt. Joseph did this. Taking the Divine Child and His Most-holy Mother, he traveled first to Nazareth (Luke 2:39), where he arranged his household matters, and then, taking his son James with them, went off to Egypt (Matthew 2:14). Thus the words of the prophet were fulfilled: Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt (Isaiah 19:1). In old Cairo today, the cave where the holy family lived can be seen. Likewise, in the village of Matarea near Cairo, the tree under which the Most-holy Theotokos rested with the Lord Jesus, as well as a miraculous spring of water under this tree, are visible. After having lived for several years in Egypt, the holy family returned to Palestine, again in response to a command of an angel of God. Thus another prophecy was fulfilled: Out of Egypt have I called my Son (Hosea 11:1). Herod was dead and his wicked son Archelaus—a worthy successor of him in evil—sat on his bloodstained throne. Hearing that Archelaus was reigning in Jerusalem, Joseph returned to Galilee, to his town of Nazareth, where he settled in his own home. Herod’s second son, Herod the Younger, who was somewhat less evil than his brother Archelaus, then reigned in Galilee.

The Venerable Evarestus
 Reading the works of St. Ephraim the Syrian, Evarestus left the diplomatic service and became a monk. He was very strict with himself: he wore chains over his body and ate dry bread only once a week. He lived for seventy-five years and took up his habitation with the Lord in about the year 825.

Saint Euthymius the Confessor, Bishop of Sardis
Euthymius attended the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 783 and spent about thirty years in exile for his veneration of icons. During the reign of Emperor Theophilus the Iconoclast, he was flogged with bullwhips, at which time he died a martyr’s death, in the year 840, and received a wreath of glory in heaven.

The Venerable Constantine of Synnada
Constantine was a Jew who converted to Christianity. During his baptism he touched a Cross to his head, and a miraculous imprint of the Cross remained on his head until his death. He died in Constantinople in the seventh century. Famous for his asceticism and many miracles, he prophesied the day of his death seven years beforehand.


HYMN OF PRAISE: The Synaxis of the Most-holy Theotokos

At the border between night and sunny day,
The dawn is rosy, pink and dewy.

The crimson dawn thou art, O Virgin given by God,
Precursor of the day, rosy and glorious.

Thou didst correct Eve and restore her to Paradise.

Do not withhold thy help from us sinners.

Israel crossed dry-shod over the Red Sea;
A cool spring flowed from the rock in the wilderness;
The bush burned but was not consumed—
As the dawn resembles the crimson eve,
So thou, O Virgin, dost resemble those foreshadowings.

O thou whom the Church calls the Mother of God,
Unknown to sin, not given to sin,
O Most-pure Mother of our Savior,
Because of thy purity thou wast chosen by God,
To bring down the Eternal Creator to earth.

That is why thou hast authority to pray for us,
And we have the joy of hymning and glorifying thee!

REFLECTION

A story of the Divine Christ-child: When the holy family fled before Herod’s sword to Egypt, robbers leapt out on the road with the intention of stealing something. The righteous Joseph was leading the donkey, on which were some belongings and on which the Most-holy Theotokos was riding with her Son at her breast. The robbers seized the donkey to lead it away. At that moment, one of the robbers approached the Mother of God to see what she was holding next to her breast. The robber, seeing the Christ-child, was astonished at His unusual beauty and said in his astonishment: “If God were to take upon Himself the flesh of man, He would not be more beautiful than this Child!” This robber then ordered his companions to take nothing from these travelers. Filled with gratitude toward this generous robber, the Most-holy Virgin said to him: “Know that this Child will repay you with a good reward because you protected Him today.” Thirty-three years later, this same thief hung on the Cross for his crimes, crucified on the right side of Christ’s Cross. His name was Dismas, and the name of the thief on the left side was Gestas. Beholding Christ the Lord innocently crucified, Dismas repented for all the evil of his life. While Gestas reviled the Lord, Dismas defended Him, saying: This man hath done nothing amiss. (Luke 23:41). Dismas, therefore, was the wise thief to whom our Lord said: Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43). Thus the Lord granted Paradise to him who spared Him in childhood.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the purity of the Most-holy Mother of God:

1. On the immaculate purity of her body: passionless and disciplined by fasting;

2. On the immaculate purity of her heart, in which a sinful desire never dwelt;

3. On the immaculate purity of her mind, in which a sinful thought never dwelt.

HOMILY
on the Most-holy Virgin, the Theotokos

And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord (Luke 1:38).

Here indeed, brethren, is a true handmaid of the Lord! If a handmaid is she who exchanges her will completely for the will of her Lord, then the Most-holy Virgin is the first among all of the Lord’s handmaids. If a handmaid is she who, with intent and with complete attention, beholds her Lord, then again the Most-holy Virgin is the first among the handmaids of the Lord. If a handmaid is one who meekly and quietly endures all insults and trials, awaiting only the reward of her Lord, then again and again the Most-holy Virgin is the first and most excellent of all the handmaids of the Lord. She did not care to please the world, but only God; nor did she care to justify herself before the world, but only before God. She herself is obedience; she herself is service; she herself is meekness. The Most-holy Virgin could in truth say to the angel of God: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. The greatest perfection, and the greatest honor that a woman can attain on earth, is to be a handmaid of the Lord. Eve lost this perfection and honor in Paradise without effort, and the Virgin Mary achieved this perfection and this honor outside Paradise with her efforts.

Through the prayers of the Most-holy Virgin Theotokos, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

 

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HRISTOS SE RODI!  
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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