Prologue entry for 12/10/23 (read on 12/23/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Holy Martyrs Menas, Hermogenes And Eugraphus
Both Menas and Hermogenes were born in Athens. They both lived in Byzantium, being held in great honor by the emperor and the people. Menas was known for his great learning and eloquence of speech and, although he acted outwardly as a pagan, he was a convinced Christian in his heart. Hermogenes was Eparch of Byzantium and acted as a pagan both inwardly and outwardly, but he was compassionate and performed many good deeds. When a dispute flared up between the Christians and the pagans in Alexandria, Emperor Maximin dispatched Menas to calm the disturbance and to root out the Christians from the city. Menas went and restored peace, but he declared himself a Christian and converted many pagans to the true Faith by his eloquence and many miracles. Hearing of this, the emperor sent Hermogenes to punish Menas and to smother Christianity. Hermogenes brought Menas to trial, cut off his feet and tongue, gouged out his eyes, and then cast him into prison. In prison, the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to Menas, healing and comforting His suffering servant. Seeing Menas miraculously healed, Hermogenes was baptized. He began to preach the powerful Christian Faith and was consecrated as Bishop of Alexandria. Then the enraged Maximin went to Alexandria himself and subjected Menas and Hermogenes to cruel tortures, which they courageously endured, helped by God’s grace. Beholding the bravery of these soldiers of Christ and the miracles of God upon them, Eugraphus, secretary and friend of St. Menas, appeared before the tribunal and cried out to the emperor’s face: “I too am a Christian!” The emperor became enraged, drew his sword and beheaded St. Eugraphus. Following this, the evil emperor ordered the executioner to behead St. Menas and St. Hermogenes. Their holy relics, thrown into the sea, miraculously floated to Constantinople, where the bishop, to whom this was revealed in a dream, solemnly met them and honorably buried them.
2. The Venerable Angelina And St. Jovan The Despot
Angelina was the daughter of the Albanian prince, George Skenderbeg, and the wife of Stefan, Despot of Serbia, who was the son of Despot George. She endured exile with her husband and shared with him all the bitterness of life in Serbia as well as in Albania and Italy. She raised her sons Maxim and Jovan in a truly Christian spirit. Following the death of her husband, she was tonsured a nun, devoting herself entirely to prayer, acts of charity and the building and restoring of holy churches. A faithful wife, an excellent mother and a perfect Christian, she in truth merited the title “Mother Angelina,” as the people call her even now. Her miracle-working relics, together with those of her righteous husband Stefan and her devoted sons Maxim and Jovan, rest in the Monastery of Krušedol (although some of the relics were destroyed by the Turks). She entered into rest and took up her habitation in the Immortal Kingdom at the beginning of the sixteenth century.
3. The Holy Martyr Gemellus
Gemellus was an honorable citizen of Ancyra. When Emperor Julian the Apostate came to this city, Gemellus came before him and openly denounced him for his apostasy. For this, he was tortured and crucified in the year 361 A.D. While in pain on the Cross, he heard a voice from heaven saying: “Blessed are you, Gemellus!”
4. The Venerable Thomas Defourkinos [Of Bithynia]
Thomas was a great ascetic, a conqueror of demons, and a seer. Emperor Leo the Wise wrote him a letter, and he replied without even opening it. He entered into rest in the Lord in great old age in the ninth century.
Hymn Of Praise
The Venerable Angelina
The God-pleaser, holy Angelina,
Holy in marriage and also as a nun,
Patient in suffering, merciful in doing good,
Full of sorrow for another's sorrow—
She looked to God, her Comforter,
And was calmed by the Cross of Christ the Savior.
She was a comfort to her husband, an example to her children;
And the children of the holy mother became saints.
Whoever invokes the name of Mother Angelina
Will see all his suffering quickly fade away.
In a time of gloom, when the empire collapsed,
When many harmed their souls by sin,
When the darkness of the Turks encompassed the land,
Angelina saved the souls of the Serbs
By pointing to heaven with her finger and her spirit,
Consoling them with Christ, healing them by the Cross.
And now she hastens to every aching soul,
And with greater power she both heals and consoles.
Whoever invokes the name of Mother Angelina,
Will see all his suffering quickly fade away.
In innumerable ways the Living Lord knows when to show mercy and when to chastise, when to deliver the faithful from temptations, when to turn unbelievers into believers, and when to punish incorrigible persecutors of the Faith. When the evil Maximin slew the wonderful martyrs of Christ, Menas, Hermogenes, and Eugraphus, he boarded a boat with his retinue and set sail from Alexandria for Byzantium. But suddenly he was blinded, being blind beforehand in soul and mind, and began to complain to those among his retinue of invisible hands that were harshly striking him. Shortly after that he died wickedly, just as he had lived. At the time of St. Ambrose the following incident occurred: The heretical Empress Justina had persuaded Euthymius, a landowner from Milan, to somehow seize the bishop, whom she hated, and to take him somewhere far away into exile. Euthymius prepared a cart and settled in a house near the church so that he could more easily catch sight of Ambrose alone and carry him off in the cart. And precisely on the day when he had arranged and prepared everything to seize Ambrose, an imperial order arrived that Euthymius immediately be exiled because of some crime. That day, the soldiers came, bound the malicious one, and took him off into exile in the very cart that he had prepared for Ambrose’s banishment. On another occasion, an Arian entered the church where St. Ambrose was celebrating, with the intention of hearing from his mouth something for which Ambrose could be denounced. Looking around, this heretic saw God’s saint instructing the people and beheld a shining angel alongside him, whispering words in his ear. Being greatly frightened by this, he became ashamed of himself, rejected the heresy and returned to Orthodoxy.
Contemplate the deluge of the world (Genesis 7):
- How there was a flood of corruption in the world before the water flooded the world;
- How the long-suffering God permitted the flood because of the sins of mankind, and how the water flooded the entire earth.
I … am but dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27). These are the words that the righteous Abraham spoke of himself. Brethren, ridiculous are those people who pride themselves on their association with worldly princes and noblemen and begin to think highly of themselves. Abraham was found worthy to converse with the Eternal and Almighty King. Nevertheless, he remained unwavering in his humility, calling himself dust and ashes. Who was this Abraham, that he was found worthy of so much of God’s favor in his lifetime and praise after his death, from the Apostle (Galatians 3, Hebrews 11), and even from the Lord Christ Himself (Luke 16:22, John 8:39)? He was a peasant who possessed all the virtues, living always according to the Law of God, a man with a firm faith in God, a lover of justice, hospitable, compassionate, courageous, obedient, pure and humble. However, Abraham is especially glorified for his faith, a powerful faith. Abraham was one hundred years old when God told him that his wife, barren until then, would bear a son, and he believed. And even before Sarah had given birth to Isaac, God said to Abraham: I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16). Abraham believed and doubted not. And when an only son was born to Abraham, God commanded him, as a test, to offer his only son as a sacrifice. Abraham was prepared to do this, had God not turned him from it at the last moment. How complete was this wonderful man’s faith and obedience to God! Therefore God blessed him and made him glorious on earth and in heaven. Brethren, blessed are they who, without hesitation, believe in God and fulfill His holy commandments. The blessing of God will accompany them in both worlds. O our Blessed Creator, bless us sinners also and number us among Thine elect, who have a share with Abraham in Thy Kingdom. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.