St. Theophan the Recluse on Today’s Scriptures and Saints Oct. 5/Sept 22
18th Week after Pentecost. Tone 8.
Prophet Jonah (8th c. b.c.).
Hieromartyr Phocas, bishop of Sinope (117).
Martyr Phocas the Gardener, of Sinope (320). St. Peter of Constantinople, tax collector in Africa (6th c.). St. Jonah, founder of the Yashezersk Annunciation Monastery (Karelia) (1589-1592). St. Macarius, founder of Zhabyn Monastery (Belev) (1623). Hieromartyr Theodosius of Brazi Monastery, metropolitan of Moldavia (1694). Synaxis of the Saints of Tula.
New Hieromartyr Benjamin (Voskresensky), bishop of Romanov (1931).
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “She Who Is Quick to Hear.”
Martyrs Maurice and the Theban Legion, including the officers Candidus and Exuperius, at Agaunum (Gaul) (ca. 287). Hieromartyr Emmeram, bishop in Gaul, at Regensburg (Bavaria) (652). 26 Martyrs of Zographou Monastery, Mt. Athos, martyred by the Latins (see October 10th) (1284). St. Cosmas, desert-dweller of Zographou, Mt. Athos (1323).
Repose of Abbot Innocent of Valaam (1828).
Thursday. [Phil 1:20-27; Luke 6:12-19]
And He continued all night in prayer to God. Here is the foundation and beginning of Christian all-night Vigils. A prayerful heat chases away sleep, and exhilaration of the spirit does not allow one to notice the passing of time. True men of prayer do not notice this; it seems to them that they had just begun to pray, meanwhile day has already appeared. But until one reaches such perfection, he must take on the labour of vigils. Solitaries have borne this and bear it; cenobitic monastics have borne this and bear it; reverent and God-fearing laypeople have borne this and bear it. But though vigil comes with difficulty, its fruit remains in the soul, directly and constantly present — peace of soul and contrition, with weakening and exhaustion of the body. It is a state very valuable for those who are zealous about prospering in the spirit! That is why in places where vigils are established (on Athos), they do not want to give them up. Everyone realizes how difficult it is, but nobody has a desire to rescind this order, for the sake of the profit which the soul receives from vigils. Sleep, more than anything, relaxes and feeds the flesh; vigils more than anything humble it. One who sleeps abundantly is burdened by spiritual deeds and is cold towards them; he who is vigilant is quick in movement, like an antelope, and burns in the spirit. If the flesh must be taught to be good, like a slave, then there is no better way to succeed in this than through frequent vigils. Here the flesh fully feels the power of the spirit over it, and learns to submit to it; while the spirit acquires the habit of reigning over the flesh.
according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For[a] I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again. Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,
Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor. And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases, as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.
Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD." Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?"
From the Prologue of Ohrid
1. The Hieromartyr Phocas, Bishop of Sinope
Phocas exercised himself in all the Christian virtues from his youth. As bishop in his birthplace, the town of Sinope on the shores of the Black Sea, he strengthened the faith of the true believers by his example and divine words and converted many idol-worshipers to the true Faith. The hard-hearted pagans were filled with rage against holy Phocas. Through a vision granted him by the Lord, he foresaw his martyrdom: Phocas saw a white dove fly down from heaven carrying a beautiful wreath of flowers in its beak, and lowered the wreath onto his head. And Phocas heard a voice, saying: “Your cup is full and you should drink it!” From this vision the God-pleaser realized that he was soon to suffer for Christ. He was not afraid, but with gratitude toward God prepared himself for suffering. Soon after, a certain prince, Africanus, took Phocas for interrogation, and subjected him to harsh tortures. The torturers beat and wounded his whole body, and after a time of imprisonment threw him into boiling water, where this brave soldier of Christ ended his earthly life and settled in the joy of his Lord. Phocas suffered during the reign of Emperor Trajan.
2. The Holy Prophet Jonah
Jonah lived more than eight hundred years before Christ. It is said that he was that son of the widow of Zarephath in Sidon whom the Prophet Elias had raised from the dead. By his three-day sojourn in the belly of the whale, he prefigured the three days that Christ lay in the tomb; and, by his deliverance from the belly of the whale, he prefigured the Lord’s Resurrection from the dead. Everything else concerning this wonderful prophet can be read in the Book of Jonah. The Holy Prophet Jonah (Menologion of Basil II, 11th c.)
3. The Holy Martyr Phocas the Gardener
Phocas was a compatriot of the Hieromartyr Phocas. He had a garden in Sinope, near the Black Sea, that he himself cultivated. He treated all passers-by with the fruits of his garden, not missing an opportunity to feed their souls with the word of God. But a certain prince who persecuted Christians heard of him, and sent soldiers to kill him. Phocas treated the soldiers so cordially that they hesitated to kill him. However, by his own insistent request, they carried out the command and beheaded him. In that place, over his miracle-working relics, a church was soon built in his name. St. Phocas is especially venerated by sailors, and is invoked for help by all who travel by sea. Phocas suffered in the year 320. St. Phocas the Gardener (fresco in Studenica Monastery, 1315)
4. The Venerable Cosmas of Zographou
Cosmas was of a noble family from Bulgaria. When his parents wanted him to marry, Cosmas fled to Mount Athos. He was a hermit and miracle-worker. He labored ascetically in a cave near the Monastery of Zographou. The Holy Theotokos appeared to him on more than one occasion. He is known as the greatest ascetic and miracle-worker of Zographou. The formidable cell in which Cosmas labored in silence and struggled with demons exists even today to the northwest of the Monastery of Zographou. With spiritual sight and clairvoyance, he described events in distant times and places. He died in old age, on September 22, 1323, and after a life of much labor took up his habitation in the joy of his Lord. The Venerable Cosmas of Zographou (fresco in Ksiropotam Monastery, Mount Athos, 18th c.)
5. Saint Peter the Merciful Peter was a God-pleaser of the sixth century. (See “Reflection” below.)
6. Saint Jonah the Presbyter
Jonah was the father of St. Theophanes, the writer of canons, and St. Theodore the Branded. Jonah was a miracle-worker and died in the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified in the ninth century.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Prophet Jonah Nineveh! Nineveh resounds with sin, And God sends Jonah to heal Nineveh. Jonah does not want to, and flees from God! Oh, where will you go, Jonah, to hide from the Most High? Jonah sleeps; he sleeps and the tempest rises. God moves slowly, but He will find you in time. Hurled into the waves, swallowed by the whale, “From whom did I flee?” Jonah asks himself. “I fled from Him, from Whom one cannot hide!” God chastises Jonah and yet delivers him, And, by His providence, glorifies him forever. Jonah, you do not want to speak to the Ninevites, But through your punishment you will prophesy the immortal Christ. You do not want to by words? Then you must, by deeds, Prophesy Christ and the death and resurrection of the body! Your deeds, Jonah, will not fade away, And Christ the Lord will speak of you to men, That, through you, the mercy of the Living God might be revealed, By which you will be saved, as well as Nineveh. Through you, the power of repentance shall be revealed— The power of repentance and God’s forgiveness. You pitied the gourd, and God pitied men. Help us to repent, O God, and save us from condemnation.
When a man clearly senses God’s mercy toward him, he is startled, as from a dull and senseless dream, and becomes ashamed of his long blindness to God’s unceasing compassion. In the time of Emperor Justinian, the chief imperial tax collector in Africa was a certain Peter, a very wealthy but very hard and merciless man. The beggars grumbled among themselves, that not one of them had ever received alms from Peter. Then, one of them bet that he would succeed in getting alms from Peter. He persistently begged alms of the miser until Peter, in a rage, hit him with a loaf of bread, since he had nothing else close at hand. Joyfully the beggar took the bread and fled. Immediately after this Peter became seriously ill and had this vision: He was being interrogated by demons in the other world. There was a scale, and on one side of it, the demons heaped Peter’s sins, making that side extremely heavy. On the other side— which was empty— angels stood, sorrowing that they had not even one good deed in Peter’s life to help balance the scale. One of them said: “We have nothing to place on the scale except one loaf of bread, with which he struck a beggar the day before yesterday.” The angels placed this one loaf of bread on the empty side of the scale, and that loaf of bread outweighed the other side of the scale, laden with all of Peter’s sins. When the vision was over Peter said to himself: “Indeed, this was not an apparition but the living truth, for I saw all my sins from my youth. And when I can be helped so much by one loaf of bread that I threw at a beggar, how much help would I receive from many deeds of almsgiving, performed from the heart and with humility?” And from that time, Peter became the most compassionate man in his town. He distributed all of his possessions to the poor, and when he had finished distributing his possessions, he sold himself into slavery for thirty gold pieces and distributed even his own price as a slave to the poor as alms in the name of Christ. He was, thereafter, called Peter the Merciful.
Contemplate the wrath of God against King Jehoshaphat (II Chronicles 18-20):
1. How Jehoshaphat allied himself with the apostate King Ahab, and almost perished;
2. How he allied himself with King Ahaziah, and again suffered a great loss;
3. How God does not wish the faithful to unite with unbelievers.
HOMILY on God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter
And I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever (John 14: 16) Brethren, where there is love, there are no commands; requests take the place of commands. Among those who love one another, a request has greater power than does a command among those who do not love. The Holy Trinity represents the supreme kingdom and majesty of love. Isaiah refers to the Holy Trinity as Mighty Counsel (Isaiah 9: 6) and the Incarnate Son of God as Angel of Great Counsel— that is, messenger. How does this counsel relate to the unity of God? You yourself are one being, but you still take counsel with yourself. Your mind asks your will, “Can you?” and asks your heart, “Do you want to?” And the will and the heart ask your mind: “Do you know how?” And, yet, even with this internal counseling with yourself, you are still one— one man, one person. Naturally, this is but a pale illustration and shadow of the Holy Trinity and Their perfect counsel, for there is complete equality and harmony of Persons in the Holy Trinity. That which the Father wills, the Son and the Holy Spirit immediately will. And He shall give you another Comforter. See how confident the Son of God is— that whatever He would request and counsel would immediately be confirmed in the great Divine Counsel? The Father will agree to send, and the Spirit will agree to be sent. The Son of God does not say: “I will pray to the Father to give you, and I believe that He will give you.” Rather, He says: “I will pray and He will give you.” He knows in advance that the Father will give what He asks. He knows this— if it can be thus said— from His own eternal experience. For through all eternity harmony reigns, has reigned and will reign between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He shall give you another Comforter. By these words, the complete equality of the Son and the Holy Spirit is revealed. In other words, “The Father will send you another Comforter— equal in power with Me, of one Essence with Me and equal in honor with Me. He will be able to fully act for Me in His way in accordance with His Divine Person, which is uniquely different from My Person as the Son.” O my brethren, do you see how the undivided Holy Trinity participates in our salvation? Do you see Whose we are? Do you see what dignity is given to us mortal and sinful ones? O Most-holy and Most-glorious Trinity our God, have mercy on us and save us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.