Prologue entry for 12/14/23 (read on 12/27/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. The Holy Martyrs Thyrsus, Leucius And Callinicus
Saints Thyrsus and Leucius were honorable citizens of Caesarea of Bithynia, the former being baptized and the latter being a Christian catechumen. Callinicus, however, was a pagan priest. When Emperor Decius’s heir, Cumbricius, began to mercilessly torture and murder Christians, the fearless Leucius appeared before him and, reproaching him, said: “Why have you waged war against your own soul, O Cumbricius?” The enraged judge ordered that he be flogged, tortured and finally beheaded. The tortured Leucius went to his beheading as joyfully as if he were going to a wedding. Witnessing the death of the courageous Leucius, blessed Thyrsus, inflamed with divine zeal like that of Leucius, also appeared before the judge and reproached him for his evil crimes and for his unbelief in the One True God. He also was flogged and cast into prison. The invisible hand of God healed him of his wounds, opened the prison door and led him out. Thyrsus immediately went to Phileas, the Bishop of Caesarea, to be baptized by him. After his baptism, he was again seized and tortured, but he endured the tortures, bearing them as though in a dream and not in reality. By the power of his prayer, many idols fell down. The pagan priest Callinicus, upon seeing this, converted to the Christian Faith, and both he and Thyrsus were condemned to death. Callinicus was beheaded, and they placed Thyrsus in a wooden coffin to be sawn in half. However, the power of God would not permit this, and the saw was unable to cut into the wood. Then St. Thyrsus arose from the coffin and prayed to God, rendering Him thanks for the tortures, and he peacefully gave up his soul to his Lord. At the end of the fourth century, the Emperor Flavian built a church to St. Thyrsus near Constantinople and placed his holy relics in it. The saint appeared in a vision to Empress Pulcheria and counseled her to bury the relics of the Forty Martyrs alongside his.
2. The Holy Martyrs Philemon, Apollonius, Arianus And Others
During the reign of Diocletian, a certain judge Arianus cruelly persecuted the Christians of Egypt. He seized Apollonius and threatened him with tortures. Apollonius, afraid of the tortures, bribed a certain well-known pagan musician, Philemon, to offer sacrifices to the idols in his place, disguised in his clothes. When Philemon appeared before the idols, the light of the Christian Faith suddenly shone in his heart, and he made the sign of the Cross. After he came out of the temple, he began to shout: “I am a Christian! A servant of Christ the Living God!” Hearing this, the judge laughed, thinking that Philemon was mocking the Christians. Later, Philemon endured horrible tortures. Rain fell from heaven and baptized him. Finally, Philemon and Apollonius were beheaded by Arianus the judge. Then, because his blind eye was healed in a miraculous manner at Philemon’s grave, Arianus himself became a Christian. Arianus was condemned to death by Emperor Diocletian and was slain with four soldiers who likewise declared themselves Christians.
Hymn Of Praise
The Holy Martyrs Thyrsus, Leucius, And Callinicus
You knew the Faith, you acknowledged Christ,
You gave your bodies to save your souls:
For this your names shine in the heavens,
And an unquenchable fire glows in the Church.
Immortal heroes, pray for us,
That sinful clouds be turned away from us.
Blessed Leucius and noble Thyrsus,
Glorious Callinicus and worthy Philemon,
And the others in order, who endured grievous torments—
Now you are citizens of a better universe.
O beautiful beacons, pray for us;
Martyrs of God, pray for the Church.
You knew love, a heavenly possession,
The earth knew it not, not even its true name;
You saw it wholly in the Son of God,
In the sign of the Crucifixion and in His bloody brow.
Now, you are near to God and behold His face.
You cover our sins by your prayers.
There are three types of praiseworthy zeal: zeal in cleansing oneself of sinful desires and thoughts, zeal for the truth of the Faith, and zeal for God’s justice among men. All three of these filled the soul of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker to perfection. He showed zeal in purifying himself throughout his life, vigilantly guarding over his heart. He especially showed zeal for the truth of the Faith at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea  when he entered into a fearful confrontation with Arius. His zeal for God’s justice among men was seen particularly in two notable events, when on each occasion he saved three innocent men from the punishment of death. Once, in his absence from the city of Myra, the avaricious commander Eustathius condemned three men to be beheaded, receiving a bribe for this from some of their enemies. Informed of this, St. Nicholas returned to Myra with the greatest haste. The condemned men had already been brought to the place of execution, and the executioner had already raised the sword over the innocent men. At that moment, Nicholas grabbed the sword, pulled it out of the executioner’s hand, and freed the condemned men. Afterward, he rebuked the commander Eustathius and brought him to shame and repentance. In a similar way, three imperial commanders–Nepotian, Ursus and Herpylion–were slandered before Eulavius the Eparch of Constantinople and before the emperor himself. The emperor signed their death sentence. On the eve of their execution, the three commanders prayed to God, saying: “O God of Nicholas, deliver us innocent ones from death!” That night, St. Nicholas appeared to both the emperor and the eparch in a dream, rebuked them for this injustice, and ordered them to free the three commanders from prison immediately. The next day, the emperor and eparch each related to the other the same dream and they immediately freed the commanders, both from the death sentence and from prison.
Contemplate Abraham’s obedience:
- How Abraham obeyed God when He ordered him to go out from his country, his kindred and his father’s house (Genesis 12);
- How He obeyed God when He commanded him to offer his only son as a sacrifice (Genesis 22).
For I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved (Genesis 32:30). The God of Abraham and Isaac is also the God of Jacob the faithful, the obedient, the merciful and the meek. The meek beholder of God, Jacob, can be called the “one who saw God.” For in truth he was meek, and he saw God and spoke with God, and he saw the angels of God and the ladder from earth to heaven. By his meekness he defeated Laban his father-in-law, and Esau his brother; by his meekness he made peace between his wives, Leah and Rachel; for his meekness he was even dear to pharaoh. Jacob’s meekness is a prefiguration of the meekness of Christ. Blessed are the meek, said the Lord, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). These words were also realized in Jacob. He inherited the land of his fathers; his descendants were delivered from Egypt and inherited the Promised Land; through Christ the Lord, his descendant according to the flesh, he inherited the whole earth, that is, the Church of God which spread over the entire world. I have seen God face to face. Jacob saw God in the form of man but not as true man. And even this vision was only a prefiguring of the true Incarnation of God as man. And my life is preserved. His soul was preserved from fear and from every unrighteousness. If Jacob was preserved by only seeing a vision of God, how much easier is it for us to be preserved who know God as true man and as the God-man. O meek Lord, the strength and glory of the meek, as Thou didst preserve Jacob by Thy vision, preserve us also by Thy true Body and Blood. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.