Daily Devotional for January 23 – 29
**This week from St Nikolai’s Prologue
The wicked one fears imminent death, the thief fears the burglar, the murderer fears the sword, the proud one fears shame, the abductor fears hunger, the glutton fears sickness, and the slanderer fears the judgment of truth. That which the wicked one fears is what will befall him. The righteous one desires a pure conscience, good thoughts, peace, charity, love, truth, justice and meekness. God gives these to him even while he is here on earth. The righteous one desires the Kingdom of God, Paradise, the company of the angels and saints, and to reflect upon the face of God in life eternal. God gives all these to him when He calls him to Himself. Oh, how just is the Lord toward the wicked one and how beneficent He is toward the righteous one! That which the wicked one fears, the Lord permits to befall him; and that which the righteous one fears, the Lord removes from him. Of what is the righteous one afraid? Only sin. God removes sin from the righteous one and directs his feet on the path to virtue; and God protects the righteous one from evil spirits, the sowers of sin, and, by His grace, waters the seeds of virtues in his heart.
This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad therein.
One night a monk was reading the Canon to the Mother of God and was singing “More honorable than the Cherubim” in his cell in the Monastery of the Pantocrator, now called “Axion Estin” after the icon. His elder had gone to Karyes. Suddenly a man appeared in church and began to sing “It Is Truly Meet.” Until then that hymn had been unknown in the Church. Upon hearing this hymn, the monk became enraptured, as much by its contents as by the beautiful heavenly singing. “Among us, we sing it in this manner,” said the stranger to the monk. The monk wanted to have this hymn written down, and brought a stone tablet on which the stranger wrote the hymn with his finger as though upon wax. Suddenly he vanished. This stranger was the Archangel Gabriel. The tablet was taken to Constantinople, and the hymn has endured in the Church even to this day.
It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos,
ever blessed and most blameless and the Mother of our God:
More honourable than the Cherubim,
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
who without corruption gave birth to God the Word,
true Theotokos, we magnify thee.
Blessed by the name of the Lord from henceforth and forever more.
A true friend prays to God for his friend. A true friend is concerned for the salvation of the soul of his friend. To dissuade a friend from false paths and to direct him on the path of truth—that is precious friendship. The saints of God are mankind’s greatest friends. Two youths, Barnabas and Paul, were friends while they were together attending the school of Gamaliel. When Barnabas became a Christian, he persistently and tearfully prayed to God that He would also enlighten Paul’s mind and turn his heart in order that he might become a Christian. Barnabas often spoke to Paul about Christ the Lord, but Paul ridiculed him and considered him as one led astray. However, the Good Lord did not leave the prayers of Barnabas without fruit. The Good Lord appeared to Paul and turned him from the path of falsehood to the path of truth. The converted Paul then fell before the feet of his friend and cried out: “O Barnabas, teacher of truth, I am now convinced that everything you said to me about Christ is the truth!” Barnabas wept with joy and embraced his friend. The friend saved the soul of his friend by his fervent prayer. If Barnabas had succeeded in establishing Paul as emperor of Rome, he would have done less for him than he did in bringing him to the truth by prayer.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning it is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
God’s love for men transcends the love of men for men as the heaven transcends the earth, and yet the man-loving God chastises men. God chastises men, not in order to destroy them, but to correct and save them. O blessed chastisement which emanates from love! For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth (Hebrews 12:6). With what does God chastise? With a rod! What kind of rod? The rod of sickness, the rod of misfortune, the rod of loss, the rod of hunger, the rod of crop failure, the rod of drought, the rod of floods, the rod of the death of relatives and friends, and the rod of evil demons when He permits them authority over men. These are the rods of God by which God chastises His children in order that He may correct them, bring them back to their senses, enlighten them, and save them. Why should the parent not chastise his children if he truly loves them? The rod is a tool of great love and concern. If a child is not sensitive to spiritual chastisement, he is sensitive to the rod. The more insensitive a child is to the spirit and conscience, the more sensitive he is to the body. The body was not given to man in order that it have meaning by itself; rather, the body is to be a servant of the spirit, to help the spirit and benefit the spirit. If corporal punishment awakens the spirit in man, and the spirit awakens the conscience, then the body has completely fulfilled its duty toward the spirit, its master. If the master is asleep, then the servants are struck in order to arouse the master. If the servants awaken their master in the hour of danger, they will not lament the blows that they have received, for they have saved their master. And the awakened and saved master will know how to repay his servants. Hence, in truth, He who spareth the rod hateth his son. Whosoever spares the servant, betrays the master.
Create in me a clean heart of God and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not from thy presence nor take thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and by thy governing spirit establish me.
Great and wonderful is the Mystery of Holy Communion. Even anchorites and hermits craved for nothing so much as to be given the possibility to receive Holy Communion. St. Mary of Egypt begged St. Zosimas to bring her the Holy Mysteries by the Jordan and commune her. Returning from visiting St. Onuphrius, the Venerable Paphnutius found a humble community of four young ascetics in the desert. When Paphnutius asked them whether and how they received Holy Communion, they replied that an angel of God visited them every Saturday and Sunday and gave them Holy Communion. Paphnutius remained until the following Saturday and was personally convinced. When Saturday dawned the entire community was filled with an indescribable, wonderful fragrance, and while they were at prayer, an angel of God in the form of a handsome young man, as bright as lightning, appeared with the All-pure Mysteries. Paphnutius became frightened and fell to the ground in fear. But they raised him up and brought him to the angel, so that he, along with them, received Communion from the hand of the angel. According to his own testimony, St. Onuphrius received Holy Communion from the hand of an angel, as did many other anchorites and hermits. Therefore, it is completely erroneous to think that solitaries and hermits did not receive Holy Communion. God, Who provided for their bodily nourishment, did not leave them without the life-giving nourishment of the Body and Blood of Christ the Lord.
Prayer: O give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.
The palace of Herod lies in ruins, but the cave of the Child of Bethlehem remains. The crowns of the caesars have been lost, but the bones of the martyrs have been preserved. The palaces of the pagan kings have been transformed into piles of stone and dust, but the caves of the ascetics have grown into most beautiful churches. The golden idols have been scattered into nothing, but the chains of the Apostle Peter are preserved as a holy relic. The powerful Roman Empire is now only a tale of the dead, while the hut of Christianity, the Holy Church, is today the most powerful realm in the world. Where are the Jews, the murderers of God? They are dispersed throughout the world. Where are the powerful Romans? In the grave. Where is the power of bloody Nero? Where is the power of the evil Diocletian and the depraved Maximian? Where is the success of Julian the Apostate? Where are those high towers? They are where the Tower of Babel is—beneath dust and ashes, beneath shame and damnation. Go about your own city and inquire how many homes of the godless are excavated. How many huts of the righteous have grown into beautiful houses? Brethren, heaven and earth are founded on justice, on God’s steadfast justice. That is why all the pagan creations are like arrogant bubbles, which burst and are trampled on by passers-by. The palaces of the pharaohs and the Babylonians are like trampled bubbles, while the tent of the righteous Abraham flourishes and blossoms in eternity. O my brethren, how all-powerful and long lasting is justice, and how noisy and transient is injustice, like a storm on a summer’s day!
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
From St. Patrick’s ‘Breastplate’
Meekness and kindness adorned our saints and gave them strength and understanding to not return evil for evil. When Emperor Constantius, the son of the Emperor Constantine the Great, became ill in Antioch, he summoned St. Spyridon to offer prayers for him. St. Spyridon, in the company of Triphyllius, his deacon, departed Cyprus and arrived in Antioch before the imperial palace. Spyridon was clad in poor clothing. He wore a simple woven cap on his head, in his hand was a staff from a palm tree, and on his breast he bore an earthen vessel containing oil from the lamp that burned before the Precious Cross (which at that time was the custom of Christians in Jerusalem to wear). Dressed in this way and, in addition, exhausted by fasting, prayer, and the long journey, in no way did the saint betray his rank and dignity. When he wished to set foot in the imperial palace, one of the emperor’s servants, thinking him to be an ordinary beggar, struck him with his fist on the cheek. The meek and kind saint turned the other cheek to him. When, with great difficulty, he succeeded in reaching the emperor, Spyridon touched the head of the emperor and the emperor recovered.
We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for thy great glory.