St. Theophan the Recluse and the Prologue of Ohrid on Today’s Scriptures and Saints Oct. 19/Oct 6
20th Week after Pentecost. Tone 2. No fast.
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region. Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" When the men had come to Him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?' " And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me. When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings' courts. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.' For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.
St. Theophan the Recluse on Today’s Scriptures
Thursday. [Phil. 3:1-8; Luke 7:17-30] - Saint John the Forerunner sends his disciples to ask the Lord: is He the One That should come? Or should they look for another? He did not ask this for himself but for his disciples, for he knew precisely who Jesus Christ was, being informed about this from heaven. The disciples sought an answer to this question not out of empty inquisitiveness, but out of a sincere desire to know the truth. To such as these there is no need to say much; the Lord does not speak, only indicates what had been accomplished by Him at that time. Divine deeds witnessed to His divinity. It was so obvious, that the questioners no longer questioned. This is the way it always is. The power of God lives in the Church; a sincere seeker of the truth immediately feels it and is sure of this truth. This sureness through experience puts an end to all questions and completely soothes. He who does not want to believe, and, having lost his faith, begins to seek in the Church and Christianity not the foundations of faith, but grounds to justify his unbelief, will find no indications satisfactory. He considers his unbelief well-grounded, although its foundations are petty and insignificant. His heart wants this—that is why it is all tolerable.
From the Prologue of Ohrid:
1. The Holy Apostle Thomas
Thomas was one of the Twelve Apostles. Through his doubt in the Resurrection of Christ the Lord, a new proof was given of that wonderful and saving event. The resurrected Lord appeared to His disciples a second time, in order to convince Thomas. The Lord said to Thomas: Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas replied: My Lord and my God (John 20: 27– 28). After the descent of the Holy Spirit, when the apostles cast lots to see where they would each go to preach, the lot fell to Thomas to go to India. He was a little saddened that he had to go so far away, but the Lord appeared to him and encouraged him. In India, St. Thomas converted many, both aristocrats and poor, to the Christian Faith, and established the Church there, appointing priests and bishops. Among others, Thomas converted two sisters to the Faith— Tertiana and Migdonia— both wives of Indian princes. Because of their faith, both sisters were ill-treated by their husbands, with whom they no longer wanted to live after their baptism. Eventually, they were allowed to go. Being freed of marriage, they lived God-pleasing lives until their repose. Dionysius and Pelagia were betrothed, but when they heard the apostolic preaching they did not marry, but devoted themselves to the ascetic life. Pelagia ended her life as a martyr for the Faith, and Dionysius was ordained a bishop by the apostle. Prince Mazdai, Tertiana’s husband, whose son, Azan, was also baptized by Thomas, condemned the apostle to death. Mazdai sent five soldiers to kill Thomas. They ran him through with their five spears, and thus the Holy Apostle Thomas rendered his soul into the hands of Christ. Before his death, he and the other apostles were miraculously brought to Jerusalem for the burial of the Most-holy Theotokos. Arriving too late, he wept bitterly, and the tomb of the Holy Most-pure One was opened at his request. The Theotokos’ body was not found in the tomb: the Lord had taken His Mother to His heavenly habitation. Thus, in his tardiness St. Thomas revealed to us the wondrous glorification of the Mother of God, just as he had once confirmed faith in the Resurrection of the Lord by his unbelief. St. Apostle Thomas (icon in Hilandar Monastery, 14th c.)
2. The Venerable New Martyr Macarius
Macarius was born in the town of Kios, in Bithynia. His parents, Peter and Anthusa, were Christians, and he was baptized with the name of Manuel. In his youth, he was sent to learn tailoring as a trade. In the meantime, his father embraced Islam and moved to Brussa. There came a time when Manuel came to Brussa on business, and his father found him and exerted great pressure on him to become a Moslem. Manuel resisted in vain: the Turks circumcised him by force. Manuel then fled to the Holy Mountain and was tonsured a monk in the Skete of St. Anna. His monastic name was Macarius. For twelve years he was an excellent monk, but he never had peace of soul. Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven (Matthew 10: 33)— Christ’s words continually echoed in Macarius’s mind. Finally, with the blessing of his elder, he went to Brussa and openly confessed his Faith in Christ before the Turks, calling Mohammed a false prophet. After being flogged for 130 days and enduring other harsh tortures, he was beheaded there, on October 6, 1590. A part of his miracle-working relics is preserved in the Skete of St. Anna on Mount Athos.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Apostle Thomas The Apostle Thomas, by his unbelief, Strengthened his faith: the Lord appeared to him. Thomas witnessed Him and rejoiced, And joyfully glorified Christ. India became Thomas’s vineyard, And he cultivated that land with the Cross: Preaching Christ to the mighty and the lowly, Preaching His wisdom and His works. O wise sons of India, Your wisdom is but a snake in the grass. Lo, true Wisdom has descended from heaven for you— The Wisdom of God has appeared in the flesh! Thomas spoke and worked miracles, And a multitude of people followed him, In hearing his wisdom, and beholding the wonders That Thomas worked in the name of the Lord. Thomas endured great torments, But shattered the gates of the darkness of idolatry, And suffered, like Christ, five cruel wounds, Which he received in his body for the sake of the truth. Five bitter wounds, for the number of the senses— Which is a lesson in mystical wisdom: He who subdues not all his senses Will taste of no spiritual sweetness.
We have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (II Corinthians 5: 1), says the discerning Apostle Paul. All our efforts for God on earth have this purpose: to merit, according to our power, this eternal house in the heavens not made by hands. The Indian King Gundafor decided to build himself a magnificent palace, unlike any other on earth. When Abban, his envoy, sought a skilled craftsman to build the king’s palace, he met the Apostle Thomas by God’s providence. St. Thomas told him that he was a craftsman, and that no one else could build what the king wanted. Thomas therefore received much gold from the king for the building of this palace. As soon as he departed from the king, he distributed all the gold to the poor. The palace site was some distance from the king’s capital, and after two years the king sent servants to ask Thomas if the palace was completed. Thomas replied: “Everything is ready except the roof,” and he sought more money from the king; and the king gave it to him. Again, Thomas distributed it all to the poor, and went throughout the kingdom doing his work, preaching the Gospel. The king, learning that Thomas had not even begun to build the palace, seized him and threw him into prison. That night, the king’s brother died, and the king fell into great sorrow. An angel took the soul of the deceased and, leading him through Paradise, showed him a magnificent palace, such as the mind of man could not imagine. The soul of the deceased wished to enter that palace, but the angel told him that he could not, for it was his brother’s palace, which the Apostle Thomas had built with his alms. Then the angel returned the brother’s soul to his body. When he came to himself, he said to the king: “Swear to me that you will give me anything I ask.” And the king swore. Then the brother said: “Give me the palace that you have in the heavens.” The king was amazed that he had a palace in the heavens. When the brother described everything in detail, the king believed and immediately released Thomas from prison. Then, when he heard the apostle’s preaching of salvation and eternal life, the king and his brother were baptized. King Gundafor undertook new works of charity, and built an even more magnificent palace in the heavens for himself.
Contemplate the injustice of King Amon and God’s punishment of him (II Chronicles 33):
1. How Amon, the son of Manasseh, turned from God and did that which is evil in the sight of the Lord;
2. How he reigned for only two years, and was slain by his servants.
HOMILY on the king’s repentance
I am weary with my groaning; all night I wash my bed; I water my couch with my tears (Psalms 6: 6) Day replaces night, and night replaces day. Let our daily repentance be succeeded by nightly repentance, and our nightly repentance by daily repentance. Daily repentance is shown primarily in good works; and nightly repentance in prayer, sighing and weeping. Thus, we repay our debt both day and night, by filling them with that which is most worthwhile before the Lord, and that which will go with us to the Judgment of God. Look at King David and behold an example of true repentance. It is not enough to confess one’s sin before a priest and consider it forgiven. Behold, even David acknowledged his sin before the Prophet Nathan, saying: I have sinned against the Lord (II Samuel 12: 13). However, the great king did not consider this enough, but continually sighed in prayer before God, and washed away his sin every night with tears of repentance. Even lying in bed did not serve as rest for him, but as exhaustion from tearful repentance and tearful sighing. Do not say: “David committed murder and adultery, and therefore he had much to repent for.” Do you not kill men by your hatred, and commit adultery by your impure thoughts and desires? Brethren, this life is not to justify ourselves but to condemn ourselves. Blessed is he whom God will justify at the Dread Judgment. Repentance is not a matter for one hour or for one day. Repentance should be our inner occupation to the end of life. All night I water my couch, said King David. That does not mean that there is no need for repentance during the day, but that the outpouring of spiritual repentance is more suited to the night than the day. In the stillness of the night, both our sins and God’s judgment come more clearly into focus. Doesn’t the night remind us more clearly of death than the day? Doesn’t the bed remind us of the nearness of the grave? O Lord, just and wonderful, truly we cannot repent without Thy help. Help us, O All-good One, that we might see our sinful wounds, and smell the stench from them, and weep over ourselves— before our kinsmen begin to weep over our dead bodies, and before our guardian angels begin to weep over the carrion of our souls, when they are cast into the unquenchable fire. Help us and save us, O our God. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.