St. Theophan the Recluse and the Prologue of Ohrid on Today’s Scriptures and Saints. Nov. 8/Oct. 26
23rd Week after Pentecost. Tone 5. Fast Day
Holy and Glorious Great-martyr Demetrius the Myrrh-gusher, of Thessalonica (306). Commemoration of the Great Earthquake at Constantinople in 740 (740).Martyr Lupus, slave of St. Demetrius of Thessalonica (306). St. Athanasius of Medikion Monastery (814). St. Theophilus of the Kiev Caves, archbishop of Novgorod (1482). St. Demetrius of Basarabov in Bulgaria (1685). St. Anthony, bishop of Vologda (1588). St. Alexander (Okropiridze), bishop of Guria and Mingrelia, Georgia (1907). St. Cedd, bishop of Lastingham (664). St. Eata, bishop of Hexham and abbot of Lindisfarne (686). New Martyr Ioasaph, monk, of Mt. Athos, disciple of St. Niphon, patriarch of Constantinople (1536). Repose of Hieroschemamonk Nilus of Kryuchi (1924), Elder Ignatius the Bulgarian, of Mt. Athos (1927), and Matushka Olga (A’rrsamquq) Michael of Kwethluk, Alaska (1979).
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness-God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!
St. Theophan the Recluse on Today’s Scriptures:
Wednesday. [I Thess. 2:1-8; Luke 11:9-13]
The Lord convinces us to pray with the promise of His hearing, explaining this promise as the soft-heartedness of a natural father, favourably disposed to the petitions of his children. But here He hints at the reason why sometimes our prayers and petitions are not heard or are not fulfilled. A father will not give His children a stone instead of bread, or a serpent instead of a fish. If a natural father does not do this, how much more will the Heavenly Father not do it? And yet our petitions not infrequently are similar to petitions for a serpent and a stone. It seems to us that we are asking for bread and fish; while the Heavenly Father sees that what is requested will be for us a serpent and a stone—and does not give us what we ask for. A father and mother pour out before God heartfelt prayers for their son, that He arrange for him what is best, but in addition they express what they consider to be better for their son, that is, that he be alive, healthy and happy. The Lord hears their prayer and arranges for their son what is best, not according to the understanding of those asking, but as it is in reality for their son: He sends a disease from which their son dies. Those who think that everything ends with the present life will feel that the Lord has not heard them, but rather did the opposite of what they asked, or left the person about whom they pray to his own fate. But those who believe that the current life is only a preparation for the other life have no doubt that the son for whom they prayed fell sick and died precisely because their prayer was heard and because it was better for him to leave here than to remain here. You will say: then why pray? No, you must pray; but in prayers for specific things you must always keep in mind the condition: “if, O Lord, Thou Thyself deem this to be saving.” Saint Isaac the Syrian advises to shorten all prayer to this: “Thou knowest, O Lord, what is needful for me: do unto me according to Thy will.”
Prologue of Ohrid:
1. The Holy Great-martyr Demetrius
This glorious and wonderworking saint was born in Thessalonica of noble and devout parents. Implored of God by childless parents, Demetrius was their only son, and so was raised and educated with great care. Demetrius’s father was a commander in Thessalonica. When his father died, Emperor Maximian appointed Demetrius as commander in his place. As he appointed him, Maximian, an opponent of Christ, particularly recommended that he persecute and exterminate the Christians in Thessalonica. Demetrius not only disobeyed the emperor but openly confessed and preached the Lord Jesus Christ in the city of Thessalonica. When the emperor heard of this he became furious with Demetrius. Then, when he was returning from battle against the Sarmatians, Maximian stopped at Thessalonica to investigate the matter. The emperor summoned Demetrius and questioned him about his faith. Demetrius openly acknowledged his Christian Faith to the emperor and also denounced the emperor’s idolatry. Maximian cast Demetrius into prison. Knowing what was awaiting him, Demetrius gave all his goods to his faithful servant Lupus to distribute to the poor, and joyfully awaited his imminent suffering for Christ the Lord. An angel of God appeared to him in prison, saying: “Peace be to you, O sufferer of Christ; be brave and be strong!” After several days, the emperor sent soldiers to the prison to kill Demetrius. The soldiers found the saint of God at prayer and ran him through with lances. Christians secretly took his body and honorably buried it. Healing myrrh flowed from the body of the martyr of Christ, curing many of the sick. Soon, a small church was built over his relics. An Illyrian nobleman, Leontius, was afflicted with an incurable illness. He hastened, with prayer, to the relics of St. Demetrius and was completely healed. In thanksgiving, Leontius erected a much larger church on the site of the old church. The saint appeared to him on two occasions. When Emperor Justinian wanted to translate the relics of the saint from Thessalonica to Constantinople, flaming sparks sprang from the tomb and a voice was heard: “Stop, and do not touch!” And thus, the relics of St. Demetrius have remained for all time in Thessalonica. As the protector of Thessalonica, St. Demetrius has appeared many times, and on many occasions has saved Thessalonica from great calamity. His miracles are without number. The Russians considered St. Demetrius to be the protector of Siberia, which was conquered and annexed to Russia on October 26, 1581. The Holy Great-martyr Demetrius (icon in Hilandar Monastery, 1631-32)
2. The Venerable Martyr Ioasaph
Ioasaph was a disciple of St. Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople, and labored in asceticism on the Holy Mountain. He had so great a love for Christ that all of his ascetic works seemed inadequate, and from love he desired to suffer for his Lord. For that reason he went to Constantinople, where he openly confessed to the Turks his faith in the Holy Trinity and the Son of God. The enraged Turks beheaded him on October 26, 1536.
3. The Commemoration of the Great Earthquake of Constantinople
In the year 740, during the reign of Emperor Leo the Isaurian, there was a terrifying and prolonged earthquake in Constantinople. The people considered this a punishment from God for their sins, and prayed with great repentance to the Most-holy Theotokos and St. Demetrius, until God showed mercy and the earthquake ceased. HYMN OF PRAISE The Holy Great-martyr Demetrius Thessalonica glorifies its wonderful saint— St. Demetrius, servant of the Most-high God. Demetrius, the commander, Servant of the Creator and Lord. St. Paul bedewed Thessalonica with tears, Demetrius watered it with his blood. Demetrius, the commander, Servant of the Creator and Lord. The tears of the apostle and the blood of the martyr Are the glory, salvation and pride of Thessalonica. Demetrius, the commander, Servant of the Creator and Lord. Let us also glorify Christ’s soldier, The myrrh-gushing saint and courageous martyr. Demetrius, the commander, Servant of the Creator and Lord.
A miracle of St. Demetrius of Thessalonica: Demetrius was a commander of Thessalonica during his life and remained so after his repose. People have felt his presence in Thessalonica, especially in times of great calamities. He protects the city, wards off misfortunes, repels invaders, and helps all who invoke his name. Here is a wonderful example of his unusual aid to people in need. Once, the barbarians attacked Thessalonica and were unable to overtake it. Infuriated at this, they pillaged the countryside and bound and carried off two beautiful maidens whom they gave as a gift to their prince. These maidens knew how to embroider well. When the prince saw their handiwork, he said to them: “I hear that there is a great god in your land, Demetrius, and that he works great miracles. Embroider his face on this linen.” The maidens told him that St. Demetrius was not a god but rather God’s servant and the helper of Christians. At first, they refused to embroider the face of the saint, but when the prince threatened them with death, they carried out the command and completed the task by St. Demetrius’s Day. On the eve of the feast, they looked at their embroidery and wept sorrowfully, as they had to spend the feast day in slavery and had to give that embroidered image of their beloved saint to an impious barbarian. Both maidens prayed to St. Demetrius to forgive them. Then St. Demetrius appeared to them and took them both away, as an angel had once taken the Prophet Habakkuk. He brought them to Thessalonica and set them in his church. A solemn all-night vigil was being celebrated, and many people were there. When they learned of the miraculous rescue of these Christian maidens, all glorified God and St. Demetrius, His great servant and commander.
Contemplate the miraculous deliverance of Peter from prison (Acts 12):
1. How Peter was sleeping in the prison bound with two chains;
2. How the faithful prayed to God for Peter;
3. How a radiant angel appeared in the prison, freed the shackled Peter, and led him out.
HOMILY on the heart ready for God
My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready (Psalm 57: 7) Brethren, blessed is he who is able to speak like this to his Lord! Blessed is he whose heart is completely ready to follow the will of God. The readiness of the heart of man lies in this: to joyfully follow the will of God and not be confused by one’s own thoughts and desires. At first, the repentant King David had followed his own sinful thoughts and desires, and was like a boat on a stormy sea. However, when he realized that the storm was going to drown him, he turned to God with great repentance and tears, and turned the boat of his life entirely over to God. My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready! he cried out with great peace of soul, for he knew that he had given his boat into the hands of the Most-skilled Helmsman. The storm still raged and the winds and waves still assaulted him, but he was not afraid, convinced that nothing could smash his boat, and that his boat would sail safely to a calm harbor. A “ready heart” means a heart cleansed of pride and humbled before the majestic power and wisdom of God. A “ready heart” means a heart emptied of all worldly desires and illusions, and filled with nothing but aspirations toward God and love for God. A “ready heart” means a heart that is healed of all restlessness, cares and fears, and is quieted and encouraged by the presence of God’s grace. I will sing and give praise in my glory (Psalm 57: 7), continues the Psalmist. This shows that his heart is truly ready— he is not proud of his royal glory but ascribes it to God. He humbled himself before God as nothing, and now his sole pleasure is to magnify and glorify God. His personal glory only gives him a reason for glorifying His All-glorious God. O my brethren, let us endeavor that our hearts be ready before God: ready to hear the word of God, ready to follow the will of God, ready to glorify the Living God. O Lord God, our immortal Creator, help us to ready our hearts, that they may be vessels of Thy life-giving grace. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.