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JANUARY 14/27: ST. NINO, ENLIGHTENER OF GEORGIAAccording to pious tradition, Iberia, also called Georgia, is the particular province of the Immaculate Mother of God. Saint Stefan of the Holy Mountain relates that after our Lord's Ascension, as the Apostles and His most Holy Mother remained in Jerusalem awaiting the promised Comforter, they cast lots to determine in which country God desired each of them to preach the Gospel.

When, with fear and reverence, they cast for the holy Mother of God, the destiny of the most Pure One fell on the Iberian land. After the day of Pentecost She meant to set out for Iberia at once, but an Angel of God restrained Her, saying that She must remain in Jerusalem, for Her land would be enlightened with the light of Christ at a later time. These words were fulfilled three centuries later when the most Blessed Virgin Mother of God sent, the holy virgin Nina to preach in Iberia, promising Her blessing and help.

St. Nina was born in Cappadocia and was the only daughter of pious and noble parents—the Roman general Zabulon, a relative of the great martyr St. George, and Susanna, sister of the patriarch of Jerusalem. When St. Nina was twelve years old, she traveled with her parents to the holy city of Jerusalem. Here her father Zabulon obtained the patriarch's blessing and departed into the Jordan wilderness to serve God as a monk. Susanna was appointed by her brother the patriarch at a church to serve the poor and the sick, and Nina was given to a certain pious old woman, Nianfora, for upbringing.

The holy young girl had such outstanding abilities that in the course of two years, with the help of the grace of God, she had firmly assimilated the rules of faith and piety. Every day she prayerfully read the Holy Scripture, and her heart blazed with love for Christ, Who had endured the suffering of the Cross and death for the salvation of all. When, with tears, she would read the Gospel story of the Crucifixion of our Savior, her thoughts often rested on the fate of the Lord's robe. She asked her teacher about its present location, for she felt sure that such a holy object could not have been lost. Nianfora told St. Nina that to the northeast of Jerusalem was the country of Iberia, and in it the city Mtskheta, and that there, according to tradition, the Lord's robe had been taken by the soldier who had won it by lot at Christ's crucifixion. Nianfora added that the inhabitants of that country, the Kartlians, and also their neighbors the Armenians and many mountain tribes still remained enveloped in the darkness of pagan error and godlessness.

The old woman's words went deep into the heart of St. Nina, and many days and nights she spent in ardent prayer to the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God that she might be found worthy to see Iberia; to find and reverence the robe of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to preach the holy name of Christ to those peoples who did not know Him. And the most Blessed Mother of God heard the prayer of Her servant. She appeared to St. Nina in a dream and said:

"Go to Iberia and tell there the Good Tidings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and you will find favor before the Lord; and I will be for you a shield against all visible and invisible enemies. By the strength of this cross, you will erect in that land the saving banner of faith in My beloved Son and Lord."

When St. Nina awoke and saw in her hands the miraculous cross, she kissed it with tears of joy. Then, tying it in her hair, she went to see her uncle the patriarch. When the blessed patriarch heard that the Mother of God had appeared to St. Nina and had commanded her to go to Iberia to preach the Gospel of eternal salvation, he saw in this a clear expression of the will of God and did not hesitate to give the girl his blessing. When the time arrived for her departure, the patriarch led Nina into the church and up to the holy altar, and placing his hand on her head, he prayed in the following words:

Lord God, our Savior! As I let this young girl depart to preach Your Divinity, I commit her into Your hands: Condescend, O Christ God, to be her Companion and Teacher everywhere that she proclaims Your Good Tidings, and give her words such force and wisdom that no one will be able to oppose or refute them. And You, most Holy Virgin Mother of God, Helper and Intercessor for all Christians, clothe with Your strength against all enemies, visible and invisible, this girl whom You have chosen to preach the Gospel of Your Son and our God among the pagan nations. Be always for her a shield and an invincible protection, and do not deprive her of Your favor until she has fulfilled Your holy will!

St. Nina left Jerusalem with the princess Ripsimia, the princess’s teacher Gaiana, and a group of fifty-three virgins who were fleeing the persecutions of the Emperor, Diocletian. Diocletian wanted to marry Ripsimia, even though she had taken a vow of chastity to Christ, so she and her virgins fled to Vagarshapat the capital of Armenia. Diocletian soon learned that Ripsimia was hiding in Armenia and told the Armenian king Tiridat to take her for his own wife, for she was very beautiful. When Ripsimia remained faithful to her Heavenly Bridegroom, the enraged Tiridat, at that time still a pagan, had her and her companions cruelly tortured and put to death.

Only St. Nina was miraculously saved. Led by an unseen hand, she took refuge among some wild rose bushes that had not yet blossomed. Shaken by fear at the sight of her friends' fate, the Saint lifted up her hands to heaven in prayer for them and saw a radiant angel girded with a shining stole. With sweet-smelling incense in his hands and accompanied by a multitude of heavenly host, he came down from the celestial heights, and as if to meet him, the souls of the holy martyrs ascended from the earth, joined the throng of heavenly host, and rose together with them into Heaven.

On seeing this, St. Nina exclaimed, "O Lord, Lord! Why do You leave me alone among these vipers and serpents?

"In answer to this the angel said: "Do not grieve, but wait a little, for you also will be received into the Kingdom of the Lord of glory. This will occur when the prickly, wild rose that now surrounds you is covered with fragrant blossoms like a rose planted and cultivated in a garden. But now rise and go north, where a great harvest is ripening, but where there are no harvesters.

"In accordance with this command, St. Nina set out on a long journey and finally arrived at the bank of an unfamiliar river near the village of Khertvisi. This river was the Kura, which flows west to southeast, to the Caspian Sea, and waters all of central Georgia. On the riverbank St. Nina met some shepherds who gave her food to refresh her after the long and tiring journey. These people spoke Armenian, but St. Nina had learned this language from her teacher Nianfora. She asked one of the shepherds where the city of Mtskheta was located and if it was very far. He answered, "Do you see this river? On its banks a great distance down stands the great city of Mtskheta, where our gods hold power and our kings reign.

"Continuing on her way, on one occasion the holy pilgrim was overcome with fatigue, sat down on a rock, and began to wonder: where was the Lord leading her? What would be the fruits of her labors? And might not such a long and such a difficult pilgrimage be in vain? As she was considering these things, she fell asleep and had a dream: there appeared to her a man majestic in appearance. His hair fell to his shoulders, and in his hands he held scroll. He unrolled the scroll and gave it to Nina, commanding her to read it, and then suddenly became visible. On awakening from sleep and seeing in her hand the miraculous scroll, St. Nina read in it the following Gospel verses:

Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. (Matt.26:13).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal.3:28).

Then said Jesus unto them (the women), Be not afraid: go tell my brethren... (Matt.28:10).

He that receives you receives me, and he that receives me receives him that sent me (Matt.10:40).

For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist (Luke 21:15).

And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take no thought how or what thing you shall answer, or what you shall say: for the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what you ought to say (Luke 12:11-12).

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul... (Matt.10:28).
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matt.28:19-20).

Strengthened by this divine vision and consolation, St. Nina continued her journey with renewed fervor. Having overcome difficult labors, hunger, thirst, and fear of the wild animals, she reached the ancient Kartlian city of Urbnisi where she remained about a month, living in Jewish homes and studying the manners, customs, and language of a people new and unfamiliar to her.On one occasion, when all the men of that city as well as many from the surrounding areas were planning to go to the capital city of Mtskheta to worship their false gods, St. Nina decided to go with them. As they were approaching the city, they met the entourage of King Mirian and Queen Nana. Accompanied by a great crowd of people, they were making their way to a mountaintop opposite the city where they intended to worship the lifeless idol Armazi.

Till noon the weather remained clear. But this day, the first day of St. Nina's arrival at the city, which was the goal of her mission to save Iberia, was the last day of power for the pagan idol. Borne along by the crowd, St. Nina made her way to the place where the idol's altar was located. She caught sight of the chief idol Armazi. In appearance he resembled a man of unusually great height; cast of gilded copper, he was clad in a gold coat of mail with a gold helmet on his head. One eye was a ruby, the other an emerald, both of uncommon size and brilliance. To the right of Armazi stood another smaller gold idol by the name of Katsi, and to the left, a silver idol called Gaim.

The entire crowd of people together with their king stood in senseless reverence and trembling before their gods while the priests made preparations for the offering of blood sacrifices. And when finally the incense was burned, the sacrificial blood flowed, and trumpets and cymbals resounded, the king and his people prostrated themselves before the lifeless statues; then the heart of the holy young girl burned with the zeal of the prophet Elias. Sighing from the depths of her soul and in tears lifting up her eyes to heaven, she began to pray:

Almighty God! By Your great mercy, bring this people to the knowledge of Yourself, the One, True God. Scatter these idols as the wind blows dust and ashes from the face of the earth. Look down with mercy upon this people, whom You have created with Your almighty hand and whom You have honored with Your divine Image! And You, O Lord and Master, did so love Your creation that You gave even Your Only-begotten Son for the salvation of fallen humankind; deliver the souls also of these Your people from the destructive power of the prince of darkness, who has blinded the eyes of their understanding so that they do not see the true path to salvation. O Lord, grant me to see the final destruction of the idols standing here so proudly. So act that this nation and all the ends of the earth might comprehend the salvation given by You, that the North and the South together might rejoice in You, and that all nations might worship You, the One Eternal God, and Your Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom belongs glory forever.

The Saint had not yet finished this prayer when storm clouds suddenly arose from the west and rushed rapidly along over the river Kura. Realizing the danger, the king and his people turned to flight, and Nina hid herself in the cleft of a rock. A storm cloud burst with thunder and lightning over that place where the idol's altar stood. The idols, which had formerly stood lofty and proud, were beaten into dust, the walls of the temple were also reduced to dust, and then the floods of water plunged them over the precipice, and the river carried them away. Thus there remained not even a trace of the idols and the temple dedicated to them. And St. Nina, protected by God, stood unharmed in the cleft of the rock and quietly watched as the elements raged about her, and then once again the brilliant sun began to shine. All this took place on the day of the Lord's most glorious Transfiguration, when the true Light that shone on Tabor transformed for the first time on the mountains of Iberia the darkness of paganism into the light of Christ.

The next day the king and his people searched in vain for their gods, and when they could not find them, they were filled with dread and said:

The god Armazi is great; but there exists some other God, greater than he Who has overcome him. Is this not perhaps the Christian God Who disgraced the ancient Armenian gods and caused the lying Tiridat to become a Christian? But in Georgia no one has heard anything about Christ. What then will happen in the future?

Some time after this, St. Nina entered the city of Mtskheta as a pilgrim. As she was approaching the royal garden, the gardener's wife, Anastasia, rushed out to meet her as if she were a long awaited friend. She bowed down to the Saint and led her into her home. Having washed her feet and anointed her head with oil, she offered her bread and wine. Anastasia and her husband asked Nina to remain with them in their home as a sister because they were childless and were distressed by their loneliness. Later, at the desire of St. Nina, Anastasia's husband built her a small hut in the corner of the garden where to this day there stands a chapel in honor of St. Nina within the enclosure of the Samtauri's Convent. In this hut St. Nina placed the cross given her by the Mother of God, and spent days and nights there in prayer and the singing of psalms.

From this hut there spread abroad word of the deeds and miracles performed by St. Nina to the glory of Christ's Name. The very first converts to Christianity in Iberia were the upright couple who gave shelter to Christ's servant, St. Nina. Through St. Nina's prayers Anastasia was released from her childlessness and later became the mother of a large and happy family just as she also became the first woman in Iberia to believe in Christ, before any of the men. On one occasion a certain woman was carrying her dying child about the streets of the city with loud wailing and appealing to all for help. St. Nina took the sick child and laid him on her bed of leaves. Having prayed, she placed her cross of grapevines on the little one and then returned him to his mother alive and well. From that time on St. Nina began openly to preach the Gospel and to call the Iberian pagans and Jews to repentance and faith in Christ. Her pious, righteous, and chaste life was known to all and attracted the eyes, ears, and hearts of the people. Many, and especially the Jewish women began to come to Nina often to hear from her lips the new teaching about the Kingdom of God and eternal salvation, and they began secretly believing in Christ. Such were: Sidonia, the daughter of Abiathar, the high priest of the Kartlian Jews, and six other women, also Jews. Soon Abiathar himself believed in Christ after he had heard St. Nina's explanations of the ancient prophets about Jesus and how they were fulfilled in Him as the Messiah. Conversing frequently with this Abiathar, St. Nina heard from him the Following tale about the Lord's Robe:

I heard from my parents, and they heard from their fathers and grandfathers, that when Herod ruled in Jerusalem, the Jews living in Mtskheta and all Kartli received the news that Persian kings had come to Jerusalem seeking a newly-born male child of the lineage of David, born of a mother, but having no father, and they called him the King of the Jews. They found Him in the city of David called Bethlehem in a humble cave and brought Him gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense. Having worshipped Him, they returned to their own country.

Thirty years passed, and then my great-grandfather Elioz received from the high priest in Jerusalem, Annas, a letter which read as follows: “He Whom the Persian kings came to worship and offer their gifts, has reached a mature age and has begun to preach that He the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. Come to Jerusalem see His death, to which He will be delivered according to the law Moses.”

When Elioz, along with many others, was about to set out for Jerusalem, his mother, a pious old woman of the lineage of the high priest Elias, said to him: “Answer the king's call, my son, but I beg you, do not ally yourself with the impious against Him, Who they intend to kill; He is the One foretold by the prophets, a Riddle for the wise, s Secret hidden from the beginning of the ages, a Light for the nations and Eternal Life.”

Elioz, together with the Karenian Longinus, arrived in Jerusalem and was present at Christ's Crucifixion. His mother remained in Mtskheta. On the eve of Passover she suddenly felt in her heart something like the strokes of a hammer driving in nails, and she cried out: “Today the kingdom of Israel has perished, because it has condemned to death its Savior and Redeemer; from now on this people will be guilty of the blood of its Creator and Lord. It is my misfortune that I have not died before now, for then I would not have heard these terrifying blows! No more will I see on the earth the glory of Israel!”

And uttering these words, she died. Elioz, who was present at Christ's Crucifixion, obtained the Robe from the Roman soldier to whose lot it had fallen, and brought it to Mtskheta. Elioz's sister Sidonia, on greeting her brother with his safe return, told him of the wondrous and sudden death of their mother and of the words she had uttered just before she died. Then when Elioz, in confirmation of their mother's foreboding regarding the crucifying of Christ, showed his sister the Lord's Robe, Sidonia took it and began to weep and kiss it; then she pressed it to her breast and instantly fell down dead. And no human strength was able to wrest this holy garment from the arms of the dead girl. Elioz committed his sister's body to the earth and buried her with Christ's Robe, and he did this in secret so that even to this day no one knows Sidonia's burial place. Some surmise that it is located in the center of the royal garden, where from that time there grew up of its own accord and still stands a shady cedar. Believers flock to it from all directions, considering it to possess great power; and there beneath the cedar's roots, according to tradition, is Sidonia's grave.

Having heard about this tradition, St. Nina began to go at night to pray beneath the cedar tree; but she doubted whether the Lord's robe was actually concealed beneath its roots. However, mysterious visions which she had at that spot convinced her that the place was holy and in the future would be glorified. Thus, on one occasion, on the completion of her midnight prayers, St. Nina saw how from all the surrounding lands flocks of black birds flew down into the royal garden, and from there they flew to bathe in the river Aragvi. After a short time they rose into the air, but were as white as snow, and then, alighting on the cedar's branches, they filled the garden with their paradisiacal songs. This was a sign that the neighboring nations would be enlightened by the waters of Holy Baptism, and on the spot where the cedar stood would be built a church in honor of the True God, and in this church the Name of the Lord would be praised forever.

Assured by such signs that the Kingdom of God and the salvation of the Georgian nation was near, St. Nina unceasingly preached to the people the word of God. In telling the good news of Christ her disciples labored with her, especially Sidonia and her father Abiathar. The latter so zealously and insistently argued with his former co-religionists, the Jews, about Jesus Christ, that he suffered persecution from them and was condemned to be stoned; only King Mirian saved him from death. And the king himself began to ponder the Christian faith in his heart, for he knew not only that this faith was wide-spread in neighboring Armenia, but also that in the Roman Empire the Emperor Constantine, having conquered all his enemies by the Name of Christ and by the sign of His Cross, had become a Christian and the protector of Christians. Iberia was under Roman rule, and Mirian's son Bakar was at that time a hostage in Rome; therefore Mirian did not hinder St. Nina's preaching of Christ in his city. Only Mirian's wife, Queen Nana, harbored malice toward the Christians. A cruel woman, she fervently revered the lifeless idols and had placed a statue of the goddess Venus in Iberia. But the grace of God, "which heals all diseases and meets all needs," soon healed the sick soul of this woman also. The queen became extremely ill, and the greater the efforts of her doctors, the worse the illness grew. She was at death's door. The women who were intimate with her, recognizing the great danger, began to entreat her to summon the pilgrim Nina, who by means of prayer to the God she preached, healed all kinds of infirmities and diseases. The queen ordered this pilgrim to be brought to her. As a test of the queen's faith and humility, St. Nina said to the messenger, "If the queen wants to be well, let her come here to me in this hut, and I believe that she will receive healing here by the power of Christ, my God.

"The queen complied and ordered that she be carried on a litter to the Saint's hut. A multitude of people followed. St. Nina arranged for the sick queen to be placed on her own bed of leaves, knelt down and fervently prayed to the Lord, the Healer of souls and bodies. Then she took her cross and touched it to the sick woman's head, feet, and shoulders, thus making the sign of the cross on her. As soon as she had done this, the queen immediately arose completely well. Having given thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, there before St. Nina and the people, and afterwards at home before her husband King Mirian, the queen confessed aloud that Christ is the true God. She made St. Nina her intimate friend and constant companion in conversation, nourishing her soul with her holy instruction. Then the queen brought close to herself the wise elder Abiathar and his daughter Sidonia, and learned from them much concerning faith and piety.

But King Mirian still delayed in openly confessing Christ as God and strove, instead, to be a zealous idolater. On one occasion he even conceived the idea of exterminating the Christian confessors, and St. Nina along with them. This happened as follows: A close relative of the Persian king, a scholar and fervent follower of the Zoroastrian teaching, came to visit Mirian, and after some time fell prey to the serious malady of demon possession. Fearing the anger of the Persian king, Miriam sent envoys to plead with St. Nina to come and heal the prince. She had the sick man brought to the cedar tree that grew in the center of the royal garden, placed him facing the East with his hands raised, and instructed him to repeat three times: "I renounce you, Satan, and commit myself to Christ, the Son of God!

"When the possessed man said this, the demon at once, having shaken him threw him to the ground as if dead; but not having the power to resist the prayers of the holy virgin, he came out of the sick man. On his recovery, the prince believed in Christ and returned to his own country a Christian. This frightened Mirian even more than if the prince had died, for he feared that the Persian king, a fire-worshipper, would be extremely angry that his kinsman had been converted to Christ in the home of Mirian. He threatened to have St. Nina put to death for this and to annihilate all the Christians in the city.

Agitated in spirit by such hostile thoughts against the Christians, King Mirian set out for the Mukhrani forest to divert himself with hunting. While conversing with his companions, he said:

We have brought upon ourselves the terrible anger of our gods because we have allowed the sorcerer-Christians to preach their faith in our land. But soon I will destroy by the sword all those who bow down to the Cross and to Him Who was crucified on it. The queen, also, I will command to renounce Christ; and if she does not obey me, I will destroy her along with the rest of the Christians.

With these words, the king reached the summit of the steep mountain, Tkhoti (To this day on the summit of Mt. Tkhoti there stands a church built by King Mirian). Suddenly there arose a storm like the one that had cast down the idol Armazi. The gleam of lightning blinded the eyes of the king, and the thunder dispersed his companions. In despair the king began to appeal to his gods for help, but they were silent and did not hear. Then sensing above him the chastising hand of the Living God, the king cried out,

"O God of Nina! Dispel the gloom before my eyes, and I will confess and praise Your Name!"At once it grew light, and the storm died down. Marveling at the power of the Name of Christ alone, the king turned toward the East, lifted his arms to the heavens, and cried in tears:

O God, Whom Nina preaches! You alone are the true God above all gods. And now I see Your great mercy towards me, and my heart feels joy, consolation, and Your nearness to me, O blessed God! On this spot I shall erect a cross so that the sign which You have shown me today may be remembered for all time!

The king returned to the capital city and walked along the streets, loudly exclaiming, "Glorify, all my people, Nina's God, Christ, for He is the eternal God, and to Him alone belongs all glory forever!" The king was seeking St. Nina and asking, "Where is that pilgrim, whose God is my Redeemer?

"The Saint was at that time saying her evening prayers in her hut. The king and the queen, who had come to meet him accompanied by a throng of people, came to the hut. When they saw the Saint, they fell down at her feet, and the king exclaimed, "O my mother! Teach me and make one worthy to invoke the name of your great God, my Savior!"

In answer unrestrained tears of joy flowed from the eyes of St. Nina. On seeing her tears, the king and queen also began to weep, and after them all the people who had gathered there. A witness, who later described this occurrence, says: "Whenever I remember those sacred moments, tears of spiritual joy involuntarily flow from my eyes."

Karen Keck

The Saint Nina Quarterly

1/27/2014
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The Divine Liturgy at Nazareth House: 2 February.All are most welcome to our services, which are celebrated in Church Slavonic and English, according to the Julian Calendar. We enjoy a shared lunch in Newman Hall after Sunday Liturgy and hope that all of our worshipers will stay and take part, if only to have a chat and a cup of tea.

As Fr Mark will be out of the country in the coming week due to family circumstances, there will be no services on Friday and Saturday.

However, confession, the Hours and Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at the usual time on Sunday.

Sunday 2 February: 33rd Sunday after Pentecost. Venerable Euthymius the Great (473). Tone 8.

Confession: 09:00 Hours: 09:30 Divine Liturgy: 10:00

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/33-afterPentecost-Tone8_2020_Feb2_Eng_Rus.pdf

Воскресенье 2 февраля 2020: Неделя 33-я по Пятидесятнице. Прп. Евфимия Великого (473). Глас 8-й.

Исповедь: 09:00 Часы: 09:30 Божественная Литургия: 10:00

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/33-afterPentecost-Tone8_2020_Feb2_Eng_Rus.pdf
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MARTYR TATIANA OF ROME, AND THOSE WHO SUFFERED WITH HERCommemorated on January 12/25

Congratulations to our community’s Tatianas on the feast of their name-saint. May the Lord bless you and protect you, granting you many blessed years!

The Holy Virgin Martyr Tatiana was born into an illustrious Roman family, and her father was elected consul three times. He was secretly a Christian and raised his daughter to be devoted to God and the Church. When she reached the age of maturity, Tatiana decided to remain a virgin, betrothing herself to Christ. Disdaining earthly riches, she sought instead the imperishable wealth of Heaven. She was made a deaconess in one of the Roman churches and served God in fasting and prayer, tending the sick and helping the needy.

When Rome was ruled by the sixteen-year-old Alexander Severus (222-235), all power was concentrated in the hands of the regent Ulpian, an evil enemy and persecutor of Christians. Christian blood flowed like water. Tatiana was also arrested, and they brought her into the temple of Apollo to force her to offer sacrifice to the idol. The saint began praying, and suddenly there was an earthquake. The idol was smashed into pieces, and part of the temple collapsed and fell down on the pagan priests and many pagans. The demon inhabiting the idol fled screeching from that place. Those present saw its shadow flying through the air.

Then they tore holy virgin’s eyes out with hooks, but she bravely endured everything, praying for her tormentors that the Lord would open their spiritual eyes. And the Lord heard the prayer of His servant. The executioners saw four angels encircle the saint and beat her tormentors. A voice was heard from the heavens speaking to the holy virgin. Eight men believed in Christ and fell on their knees before Saint Tatiana, begging them to forgive them their sin against her. For confessing themselves Christians they were tortured and executed, receiving Baptism by blood.

The next day Saint Tatiana was brought before the wicked judge. Seeing her completely healed of all her wounds, they stripped her and beat her, and slashed her body with razors. A wondrous fragrance then filled the air. Then she was stretched out on the ground and beaten for so long that the servants had to be replaced several times. The torturers became exhausted and said that an invisible power was beating them with iron rods. Indeed, the angels warded off the blows directed at her and turned them upon the tormentors, causing nine of them to fall dead. They then threw the saint in prison, where she prayed all night and sang praises to the Lord with the angels.

A new morning began, and they took Saint Tatiana to the tribunal once more. The torturers beheld with astonishment that after such terrible torments she appeared completely healthy and even more radiant and beautiful than before. They began to urge her to offer sacrifice to the goddess Diana. The saint seemed agreeable, and they took her to the heathen temple. Saint Tatiana made the Sign of the Cross and began to pray. Suddenly, there was a crash of deafening thunder, and lightning struck the idol, the sacrificial offerings and the pagan priests.

Once again, the martyr was fiercely tortured. She was hung up and scraped with iron claws, and her breasts were cut off. That night, angels appeared to her in prison and healed her wounds as before. On the following day, they took Saint Tatiana to the circus and loosed a hungry lion on her. The beast did not harm the saint, but meekly licked her feet.

As they were taking the lion back to its cage, it killed one of the torturers. They threw Tatiana into a fire, but the fire did not harm the martyr. The pagans, thinking that she was a sorceress, cut her hair to take away her magical powers, then locked her up in the temple of Jupiter.

On the third day, pagan priests came to the temple intending to offer sacrifice to Jupiter. They beheld the idol on the floor, shattered to pieces, and the holy martyr Tatiana joyously praising the Lord Jesus Christ. The judge then condemned the valiant sufferer to be beheaded with a sword. Her father was also executed with her, because he had raised her to love Christ.

Troparion, tone 4: Thy lamb Tatiana, / calls out to Thee, O Jesus, in a loud voice: / “I love Thee, my Bridegroom, / and in seeking Thee, I endure suffering. / In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in Thee, / and I died so that I might live with Thee. / Accept me as a pure sacrifice, / for I have offered myself in love.” / Through her prayers save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

Kontakion, tone 4: Thou didst shine forth radiantly in thy suffering,/ O passion-bearer, adorned with thy blood,/ and like a beautiful turtle-dove hast thou soared aloft/ to the heavens, O Tatiana.// Wherefore, pray thou ever for those who honour thee.

The Orthodox Church in America orthochristian.com/100318.html

1/20/2017
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MARTYR ABO THE PERFUMER, OF TIBILISI, GEORGIA.Commemorated on January 8/21

In the 8th century a Saracen army tyrannized Kartli as a first step towards overturning the Georgian nation. The invaders were certain that the best way to conquer Georgia was to uproot the Christian Faith. The Georgian people were alarmed, and the clergy and the best sons of Kartli sought desperately for a resolution to this calamity. Much blood was shed in 766 when the Muslim invaders crushed an uprising in the eastern region of Kakheti.

In 772, Caliph Al Mansur (754-775), dissatisfied with the provincial governor of Kartli, Duke Nerse, summoned him to Baghdad. Nerse spent the following three years in captivity. During that time he became acquainted with a seventeen-year-old perfumer named Abo, and when he was released he brought Abo back with him to Georgia. Abo was amazed at the great piety of the Georgian people, and he began to learn the Georgian language, attend the divine services, and speak with local priests. Abo sought with all his heart to become a Christian, and he was eventually baptized in Khazaria, while in the company of Duke Nerse. Later, Abo accompanied the duke to Abkhazeti, to escape the Saracen raids. Discovering an entire population of Christians praising Jesus Christ with one heart and mouth, Abo gave great thanks to God for the opportunity to visit this area. Nerse later returned to Kartli, but Abo remained at the request of the Abkhaz king, who feared that the Saracens would torture Abo for his devout faith in Christ. Soon, however, Abo became restless and told the king, “Let me go, and I will freely declare my Christian Faith to those who hate Christ!”Abo labored in Tbilisi for three years, preaching the Christian Faith. Then his own former countrymen betrayed and captured him, but he was released soon after at the request of the duke Stepanoz.A new emir was appointed to rule in Tbilisi, and when the Christians heard that he was plotting to capture Abo, they begged him to conceal his identity. But Abo simply rejoiced and told them, “I am prepared not only to be tortured for Christ, but to die for His sake as well.” As predicted, the emir’s servants captured Abo and brought him before a judge. The judge tried in vain to entice Abo to return to the faith of his ancestors. Then, in a rage, he ordered that Abo be cast into prison and that his hands and feet be fettered in chains. But his suffering for Christ filled the blessed Abo with even greater love, and he asked his Christian brothers and sisters to sell his clothes and use the money earned to buy candles and incense for local churches.On the day of his execution Abo washed his face, anointed it with holy oil, partook of the Holy Gifts, and prepared for his death as though preparing for a feast. “Weep not, but rejoice, for I am going to my Lord. Pray for me, and may the peace of God protect you,” he cheerfully told the faithful Christians who surrounded him in his last hours.When his time had come, Saint Abo placed his arms on his breast in the form of a cross and joyously bowed his head beneath the sword. The executioners swung their swords three times in hopes of frightening Abo into denying Christ, but the blessed Abo stood unyielding until his last breath. Finally, convinced that all their efforts and cunning were in vain, the executioners were given a sign and they beheaded the holy Abo. Defeated and ashamed, Abo’s godless executioners tossed his body, his garments, and the earth that had been soaked with his blood into a sack, dragged it outside the city, and burned it near the Mtkvari River. Then they wrapped his ashes in sheepskin and cast them into the river.In the evening a sign was given from above. Next to the Metekhi Cliff, by the bridge, a shining star hung over the river with its bright light reflecting in the water where the remains of the saint rested. Later, a chapel was built in honor of Saint Abo on the left bank of the Mtkvari.

The Orthodox Church in America

1/17/2017
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Saint Isidore was priest of Saint Nicholas church in the city of Yuriev (Dorpat, at present Tartu in Estonia). According to the terms of a treaty concluded in 1463 between the Moscow Great Prince Ivan III and the Livonian knights, the latter were obligated to extend every protection to the Orthodox at Dorpat. But the Livonian knights (who were German Catholics) broke the treaty and tried to force the Orthodox to become Roman Catholics.

The priest Isidore bravely stood forth in defense of Orthodoxy, preferring to accept a martyr’s crown rather than submit to the Catholics. The Latin bishop and the Roman Catholic nobles of Yuriev had been told that Saint Isidore and the Orthodox population of the city had spoken against the faith and customs of the Germans.

When Saint Isidore and seventy-two of his parishioners went to bless the waters of the River Omovzha (or Emaiyga, now Emajogi) for the Feast of Theophany, they were arrested and brought before the Latin bishop Andrew and the civil judges of the city. Pressure was brought on them to convert to Catholicism, but the saint and his flock refused to renounce Christ or the Orthodox Faith. Enraged by this, the authorities had them thrown into prison.

Saint Isidore encouraged his flock to prepare themselves for death, and not to fear torture. He partook of the reserved Gifts he carried with him, then communed all the men, women, and children with the Holy and Life-Giving Mysteries of Christ.

Then the bishop and the judges summoned the Orthodox to appear before them once more, demanding that they convert to Catholicism. When they refused to do so, they were dragged back to the river and pushed through the hole in the ice that they had cut to bless the water. So they all suffered and died for Christ, Who bestowed on them crowns of unfading glory.

During the spring floods, the incorrupt bodies of the holy martyrs, including the fully-vested body of the hieromartyr Isidore, were found by Russian merchants journeying along the river bank. They buried the saints around the church of Saint Nicholas.
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Russian Orthodox services at Newman Hall and the University Church: 24-26 January 2020.All are most welcome to our services, which are celebrated in Church Slavonic and English, according to the Julian Calendar. We enjoy a shared lunch in Newman Hall after Sunday Liturgy and hope that all of our worshipers will stay and take part, if only to have a chat and a cup of tea.

Friday 24 January. The Little Oratory.

Compline: 18:00

Saturday 25 January. The University Church.

Vespers: 18:00: sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/32-afterPentecost-Tone7_Vespers_variables_2020_Jan26_E...

Sunday 26 January. Sunday after the Baptism of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. The University Church.

Confession: 09:00 / Hours: 09:30 / Divine Liturgy: 10:00

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/32-afterPentecost-Tone7_2020_Jan26_Eng_Rus.pdf
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Theophany: the Baptism of the Lord.Dear all - best wishes for a very happy and holy feast to you all. S prazdnikom!

How quickly the holy days of the svyatki have passed, with the coming of the feast of Theophany. Yet in this after-feast of the Lord’s Baptism we still keep festival, with the joy of the manifestation of the Holy Trinity in the events of the feast:

‘In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

(Mark 1:9-11)

The Son ascends from the waters of the Jordan as the Holy Spirit descends from Heaven and the Father’s voice is heard and - in the words of the troparion of the feast - ‘The worship of the Trinity was made manifest.’

And so, in these festal days, we glorify God in Trinity, in whose name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are baptised. We glorify the creator who needed no cleansing, but who in entering the Jordan as the God-Man, Jesus Christ, cleansed and sanctified the waters in which the faithful are baptised and in which we find sanctification, purification and the forgiveness of our sins:

‘The true Light hath appeared and gives enlightenment to all.
Christ, Who is above all in purity, is baptised with us;
He brings sanctification into the water
and it becomes the cleansing of our souls,
which is at once earthly and transcends the heavens.
Salvation comes through the laver,
and the Spirit comes through water.
Through immersion we ascend to God.
Wonderful are Thy works, O Lord: glory to Thee!’

(From the Praises of Theophany matins)

It was a great joy to further celebrate the feast with an actual baptism in the Little Oratory, which has come to serve as our baptistry in life at the chaplaincy. After trapeza, little Andrei-Florin was baptised and we congratulate his family and his godparents Stefan and Irina.

After the baptism, and a short journey to Llandaff, I had the honour of celebrating the Latinkic family slava service, in honour of the synaxis of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John - ending the prayers with the first Theophany house-blessing of the year.

Of course, before these services, we had the joyful services of the feast, having celebrated the vigil in the Little Oratory and the Liturgy and the Great Blessing of the Waters in the University Church. It was wonderful to welcome new visitors and to have our Georgian friends with us again and faithful from our sister parish in Cheltenham. Thanks to my fellow clergy, choir and servers,as well as to all who prepared the church and trapeza. Fr Luke has been a great help over the last few weeks giving so much assistance with confessions - continuing to confess parishioners and visitors in the early part of the Liturgy.

Holy water has been reserved for those who could not be with us on the feast. To be clear, again, we always drink Theophany water before we have eaten - in a state of abstinence. This is what we mean by fasting in this case. We approach it in a similar way to Holy Communion.

I now look forward to blessing the homes of the faithful across South Wales.

A blessing of water will be celebrated in Llanelli on Wednesday 22 January at 19:00, after which Fr Luke will perform house blessings in Lanelli and West Wales.

In Christ - Fr Mark
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On the meaning of Theophany as a Trinitarian feast ... Click Here To See MoreClick Here To See Less

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*** Compline Cancelled Tonight 17/01/2020 18:00 ***
Father Mark has been officiating a funeral today, unfortunately he will not be back in time to celebrate compline as planned. Apologies for the late update.
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3/16 JANUARY: ST EKVTIME (TAKAISHVILI)Source: orthochristian.com/75710.html

Saint Ekvtime (Euthymius) Taqaishvili, called the “Man of God,” was born January 3, 1863, in the village of Likhauri, in the Ozurgeti district of Guria, to the noble family of Svimeon Taqaishvili and Gituli Nakashidze. He was orphaned at a young age and raised by his uncle.

From early childhood St. Ekvtime demonstrated a great passion for learning. Having completed his studies at the village grammar school, he enrolled at Kutaisi Classical High School. In 1883 he graduated with a silver medal and moved to St. Petersburg to continue his studies in the department of history-philology at St. Petersburg University. In 1887, having successfully completed his studies and earned a degree in history, St. Ekvtime returned to Georgia and began working in the field of academia. His profound faith and love for God and his motherland determined his every step in this demanding and admirable profession.

In 1895 Ekvtime married Nino Poltoratskaya, daughter of the famous Tbilisi attorney Ivan Poltoratsky, who was himself a brother in-law and close friend of St. Ilia Chavchavadze the Righteous. From the very beginning of his career St. Ekvtime began to collect historical-archaeological and ethnographical materials from all over Georgia. His sphere of scholarly interests was broad, including historiography, archaeology, ethnography, epigraphy, numismatics, philology, folklore, linguistics, and art history. Above all, St. Ekvtime strove to learn more about Georgian history and culture by applying the theories and methodologies of these various disciplines to his work.

In 1889 St. Ekvtime established the Exarchate Museum of Georgia, in which were preserved ancient manuscripts, sacred objects, theological books, and copies of many important frescoes that had been removed from ancient churches. This museum played a major role in rediscovering the history of the Georgian Church.

In 1907 St. Ekvtime founded the Society for Georgian History and Ethnography. Of the many expeditions organized by this society, the journey through Muslim (southwestern) Georgia was one of the most

meaningful. Having witnessed firsthand the aftermath of the forced isolation and Islamization of this region, St. Ekvtime and his fellow pilgrims acquired a greater love for the Faith of their forefathers and

became more firmly established in their national identity. Though they no longer spoke the Georgian language, the residents of this region received the venerable Ekvtime with great respect, having sensed from his greeting and kindness that he had come from their far-off motherland.

There was not a single patriotic, social or cultural movement in Georgia during the first quarter of the 20th century in which St. Ekvtime did not actively take part. Among his other important achievements, he was one of the nine professors who founded Tbilisi University in 1918. St. Ekvtime also vigorously advocated the restoration of the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

On March 11, 1921, the Georgian government went into exile in France. The government archives and the nation’s spiritual and cultural treasures were also flown to France for protection from the Bolshevik danger. St. Ekvtime was personally entrusted to keep the treasures safe, and he and his wife accompanied them on their flight to France. St. Ekvtime bore the hardships of an emigrant’s life and the horrors of World War II with heroism, while boldly resisting the onslaught of European and American scholars and collectors and the claims of other Georgian emigrants to their “family relics.”

In 1931 St. Ekvtime’s wife, Nino, his faithful friend and companion, died of starvation. The elderly widower himself often drew near to the brink of death from hunger, cold, and stress, but he never faltered in his duty before God and his motherland—he faithfully protected his nation’s treasures.

The perils were great for St. Ekvtime and the treasures he protected: British and American museums sought to purchase the Georgian national artifacts; a certain Salome Dadiani, the widow of Count Okholevsky, declared herself the sole heir of the Georgian national treasure; during World War II the Nazis searched St. Ekvtime’s apartment; even the French government claimed ownership of the Georgian treasures.

Finally, the Soviet victory over fascist Germany created conditions favorable for the return of the national treasures to Georgia. According to an agreement between Stalin and De Gaulle, the treasures and their faithful protector were loaded onto an American warplane and flown back to their motherland on April 11, 1945. When he finally stepped off the plane and set foot on Georgian soil, St. Ekvtime bowed deeply and kissed the earth where he stood. Georgia greeted its long-lost son with great honor. The people overwhelmed St. Ekvtime with attention and care, restored his university professorship, and recognized him as an active member of the Academy of Sciences. They healed the wounds that had been inflicted on his heart.

Exhausted by the separation from his motherland and the woes of emigration, St. Ekvtime rejoined society with the last of his strength. But mankind’s enemy became envious of the victory of good over evil and rose up against St. Ekvtime’s unshakable spirit. In 1951 the Chekists arrested his stepdaughter, Lydia Poltoratskaya. St. Ekvtime, who by that time was seriously ill, was now left without his caregiver.

In 1952, without any reasonable explanation, St. Ekvtime was forbidden to lecture at the university he himself had helped to found, and he was secretly placed under house arrest. The people who had reverently greeted him upon his return now trembled in fear of his persecution and imminent death. Many tried to visit and support St. Ekvtime, but they were forbidden. On February 21, 1953, St. Ekvtime died of a heart attack, and three days later a group of approximately forty mourners accompanied the virtuous prince to his eternal resting place.

On February 10, 1963, the centennial of St. Ekvtime’s birth, his body was reburied at the Didube Pantheon in Tbilisi. When his grave was uncovered, it was revealed that not only his body, but even his clothing and footwear had remained incorrupt. St. Ekvtime’s relics were moved once again, to the Pantheon at the Church of St. Davit of Gareji on Mtatsminda, where they remain today.

The body of Nino Poltoratskaya-Taqaishvili was brought from Leville (France) and buried next to St. Ekvtime on February 22, 1987.

The Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church canonized St. Ekvtime on October 17, 2002, and joyously proclaimed him a “Man of God.”
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St Genevieve Troparion, Tone 1

O Shepherdess who guardest the sheep at Nanterre against the horde of wolves and the Scourge of God, / thou dost protect the city of the Parisians. / O St Genevieve, do not forget to guard thy spiritual sheep even now, / from heaven where thou livest after death.
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January 3/16: Saint Genevieve

Saint Genevieve was born of wealthy parents in Gaul (modern France) in the village of Nanterre, near Paris, around 422. Her father’s name was Severus, and her mother was called Gerontia. According to the custom of the time, she often tended her father’s flocks on Mt. Valerien.

When she was about seven years old, Saint Germanus of Auxerre (July 31) noticed her as he was passing through Nanterre. The bishop kissed her on the head and told her parents that she would become great in the sight of God, and would lead many to salvation. After Genevieve told him that she wished to dedicate herself to Christ, he gave her a brass medal with the image of the Cross upon it. She promised to wear it around her neck, and to avoid wearing any other ornaments around her neck or on her fingers.

When it was reported that Attila the Hun was approaching Paris, Genevieve and the other nuns prayed and fasted, entreating God to spare the city. Suddenly, the barbarians turned away from Paris and went off in another direction.

Years later, when she was fifteen, Genevieve was taken to Paris to enter the monastic life. Through fasting, vigil and prayer, she progressed in monasticism, and received from God the gifts of clairvoyance and of working miracles. Gradually, the people of Paris and the surrounding area regarded Genevieve as a holy vessel (2 Tim. 2:21).

Saint Genevieve considered the Saturday night Vigil service to be very important, since it symbolizes how our whole life should be. “We must keep vigil in prayer and fasting so that the Lord will find us ready when He comes,” she said. She was on her way to church with her nuns one stormy Saturday night when the wind blew out her lantern. The nuns could not find their way without a light, since it was dark and stormy, and the road was rough and muddy. Saint Genevieve made the Sign of the Cross over the lantern, and the candle within was lit with a bright flame. In this manner they were able to make their way to the church for the service.

There is a tradition that the church which Saint Genevieve suggested that King Clovis build in honor of Saints Peter and Paul became her own resting place when she fell asleep in the Lord around 512 at the age of eighty-nine. Her holy relics were later transferred to the church of Saint Etienne du Mont in Paris. Most of her relics, and those of other saints, were destroyed during the French Revolution.

In the Middle Ages, Saint Genevieve was regarded as the patron saint of wine makers.
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The message of St Seraphim.Central to Seraphim's approach to the faith was the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, which he called the "true goal of the Christian life." He gave his life over to this acquisition through prayer and discipline and he urged the same practice on his visitors. His most remembered saying is, "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved." Prayer, ascetic discipline and acts of mercy achieve this, over a long time. Seraphim said, "Only deeds performed for Christ give us the fruits of the Holy Spirit." ... Click Here To See MoreClick Here To See Less

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1/14 January: Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in CappadociaSource: www.oca.org/saints/lives/2019/01/01/100003-saint-basil-the-great-archbishop-of-caesarea-in-cappad...

Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, “belongs not to the Church of Caesarea alone, nor merely to his own time, nor was he of benefit only to his own kinsmen, but rather to all lands and cities worldwide, and to all people he brought and still brings benefit, and for Christians he always was and will be a most salvific teacher.” Thus spoke Saint Basil’s contemporary, Saint Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium.

Saint Basil was born in the year 330 at Caesarea, the administrative center of Cappadocia. He was of illustrious lineage, famed for its eminence and wealth, and zealous for the Christian Faith. The saint’s grandfather and grandmother on his father’s side had to hide in the forests of Pontus for seven years during the persecution under Diocletian.

Saint Basil’s mother Saint Emilia was the daughter of a martyr. On the Greek calendar, she is commemorated on May 30. Saint Basil’s father was also named Basil. He was a lawyer and renowned rhetorician, and lived at Caesarea.

Ten children were born to the elder Basil and Emilia: five sons and five daughters. Five of them were later numbered among the saints: Basil the Great; Macrina (July 19) was an exemplar of ascetic life, and exerted strong influence on the life and character of Saint Basil the Great; Gregory, afterwards Bishop of Nyssa (January 10); Peter, Bishop of Sebaste (January 9); and Theosebia, a deaconess (January 10).

Saint Basil spent the first years of his life on an estate belonging to his parents at the River Iris, where he was raised under the supervision of his mother Emilia and grandmother Macrina. They were women of great refinement, who remembered an earlier bishop of Cappadocia, Saint Gregory the Wonderworker (November 17). Basil received his initial education under the supervision of his father, and then he studied under the finest teachers in Caesarea of Cappadocia, and it was here that he made the acquaintance of Saint Gregory the Theologian (January 25 and January 30). Later, Basil transferred to a school at Constantinople, where he listened to eminent orators and philosophers. To complete his education Saint Basil went to Athens, the center of classical enlightenment.

After a four or five year stay at Athens, Basil had mastered all the available disciplines. “He studied everything thoroughly, more than others are wont to study a single subject. He studied each science in its very totality, as though he would study nothing else.” Philosopher, philologist, orator, jurist, naturalist, possessing profound knowledge in astronomy, mathematics and medicine, “he was a ship fully laden with learning, to the extent permitted by human nature.”

At Athens a close friendship developed between Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzus), which continued throughout their life. In fact, they regarded themselves as one soul in two bodies. Later on, in his eulogy for Basil the Great, Saint Gregory the Theologian speaks with delight about this period: “Various hopes guided us, and indeed inevitably, in learning... Two paths opened up before us: the one to our sacred temples and the teachers therein; the other towards preceptors of disciplines beyond.”

About the year 357, Saint Basil returned to Caesarea, where for a while he devoted himself to rhetoric. But soon, refusing offers from Caesarea’s citizens who wanted to entrust him with the education of their offspring, Saint Basil entered upon the path of ascetic life.

After the death of her husband, Basil’s mother, her eldest daughter Macrina, and several female servants withdrew to the family estate at Iris and there began to lead an ascetic life. Basil was baptized by Dianios, the Bishop of Caesarea, and was tonsured a Reader (On the Holy Spirit, 29). He first read the Holy Scriptures to the people, then explained them.

Later on, “wishing to acquire a guide to the knowledge of truth”, the saint undertook a journey into Egypt, Syria and Palestine, to meet the great Christian ascetics dwelling there. On returning to Cappadocia, he decided to do as they did. He distributed his wealth to the needy, then settled on the opposite side of the river not far from his mother Emilia and sister Macrina, gathering around him monks living a cenobitic life.

By his letters, Basil drew his good friend Gregory the Theologian to the monastery. Saints Basil and Gregory labored in strict abstinence in their dwelling place, which had no roof or fireplace, and the food was very humble. They themselves cleared away the stones, planted and watered the trees, and carried heavy loads. Their hands were constantly calloused from the hard work. For clothing Basil had only a tunic and monastic mantle. He wore a hairshirt, but only at night, so that it would not be obvious.

In their solitude, Saints Basil and Gregory occupied themselves in an intense study of Holy Scripture. They were guided by the writings of the Fathers and commentators of the past, especially the good writings of Origen. From all these works they compiled an anthology called Philokalia. Also at this time, at the request of the monks, Saint Basil wrote down a collection of rules for virtuous life. By his preaching and by his example Saint Basil assisted in the spiritual perfection of Christians in Cappadocia and Pontus; and many indeed turned to him. Monasteries were organized for men and for women, in which places Basil sought to combine the cenobitic (koine bios, or common) lifestyle with that of the solitary hermit.

During the reign of Constantius (337-361) the heretical teachings of Arius were spreading, and the Church summoned both its saints into service. Saint Basil returned to Caesarea. In the year 362 he was ordained deacon by Bishop Meletius of Antioch. In 364 he was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea. “But seeing,” as Gregory the Theologian relates, “that everyone exceedingly praised and honored Basil for his wisdom and reverence, Eusebius, through human weakness, succumbed to jealousy of him, and began to show dislike for him.” The monks rose up in defense of Saint Basil. To avoid causing Church discord, Basil withdrew to his own monastery and concerned himself with the organization of monasteries.

With the coming to power of the emperor Valens (364-378), who was a resolute adherent of Arianism, a time of troubles began for Orthodoxy, the onset of a great struggle. Saint Basil hastily returned to Caesarea at the request of Bishop Eusebius. In the words of Gregory the Theologian, he was for Bishop Eusebius “a good advisor, a righteous representative, an expounder of the Word of God, a staff for the aged, a faithful support in internal matters, and an activist in external matters.”

From this time church governance passed over to Basil, though he was subordinate to the hierarch. He preached daily, and often twice, in the morning and in the evening. During this time Saint Basil composed his Liturgy. He wrote a work “On the Six Days of Creation” (Hexaemeron) and another on the Prophet Isaiah in sixteen chapters, yet another on the Psalms, and also a second compilation of monastic rules. Saint Basil wrote also three books “Against Eunomius,” an Arian teacher who, with the help of Aristotelian concepts, had presented the Arian dogma in philosophic form, converting Christian teaching into a logical scheme of rational concepts.

Saint Gregory the Theologian, speaking about the activity of Basil the Great during this period, points to “the caring for the destitute and the taking in of strangers, the supervision of virgins, written and unwritten monastic rules for monks, the arrangement of prayers [Liturgy], the felicitous arrangement of altars and other things.” Upon the death of Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea, Saint Basil was chosen to succed him in the year 370. As Bishop of Caesarea, Saint Basil the Great was the newest of fifty bishops in eleven provinces. Saint Athanasius the Great (May 2), with joy and with thanks to God welcomed the appointment to Cappadocia of such a bishop as Basil, famed for his reverence, deep knowledge of Holy Scripture, great learning, and his efforts for the welfare of Church peace and unity.

Under Valens, the external government belonged to the Arians, who held various opinions regarding the divinity of the Son of God, and were divided into several factions. These dogmatic disputes were concerned with questions about the Holy Spirit. In his books Against Eunomios, Saint Basil the Great taught the divinity of the Holy Spirit and His equality with the Father and the Son. Subsequently, in order to provide a full explanation of Orthodox teaching on this question, Saint Basil wrote his book On the Holy Spirit at the request of Saint Amphilochius, the Bishop of Iconium.

Saint Basil’s difficulties were made worse by various circumstances: Cappadocia was divided in two under the rearrangement of provincial districts. Then at Antioch a schism occurred, occasioned by the consecration of a second bishop. There was the negative and haughty attitude of Western bishops to the attempts to draw them into the struggle with the Arians. And there was also the departure of Eustathius of Sebaste over to the Arian side. Basil had been connected to him by ties of close friendship. Amidst the constant perils Saint Basil gave encouragement to the Orthodox, confirmed them in the Faith, summoning them to bravery and endurance. The holy bishop wrote numerous letters to the churches, to bishops, to clergy and to individuals. Overcoming the heretics “by the weapon of his mouth, and by the arrows of his letters,” as an untiring champion of Orthodoxy, Saint Basil challenged the hostility and intrigues of the Arian heretics all his life. He has been compared to a bee, stinging the Church’s enemies, yet nourishing his flock with the sweet honey of his teaching.

The emperor Valens, mercilessly sending into exile any bishop who displeased him, and having implanted Arianism into other Asia Minor provinces, suddenly appeared in Cappadocia for this same purpose. He sent the prefect Modestus to Saint Basil. He began to threaten the saint with the confiscation of his property, banishment, beatings, and even death.

Saint Basil said, “If you take away my possessions, you will not enrich yourself, nor will you make me a pauper. You have no need of my old worn-out clothing, nor of my few books, of which the entirety of my wealth is comprised. Exile means nothing to me, since I am bound to no particular place. This place in which I now dwell is not mine, and any place you send me shall be mine. Better to say: every place is God’s. Where would I be neither a stranger and sojourner (Ps. 38/39:13)? Who can torture me? I am so weak, that the very first blow would render me insensible. Death would be a kindness to me, for it will bring me all the sooner to God, for Whom I live and labor, and to Whom I hasten.”

The official was stunned by his answer. “No one has ever spoken so audaciously to me,” he said.

“Perhaps,” the saint remarked, “ that is because you’ve never spoken to a bishop before. In all else we are meek, the most humble of all. But when it concerns God, and people rise up against Him, then we, counting everything else as naught, look to Him alone. Then fire, sword, wild beasts and iron rods that rend the body, serve to fill us with joy, rather than fear.”

Reporting to Valens that Saint Basil was not to be intimidated, Modestus said, “Emperor, we stand defeated by a leader of the Church.” Basil the Great again showed firmness before the emperor and his retinue and made such a strong impression on Valens that the emperor dared not give in to the Arians demanding Basil’s exile. “On the day of Theophany, amidst an innumerable multitude of the people, Valens entered the church and mixed in with the throng, in order to give the appearance of being in unity with the Church. When the singing of Psalms began in the church, it was like thunder to his hearing. The emperor beheld a sea of people, and in the altar and all around was splendor; in front of all was Basil, who acknowledged neither by gesture nor by glance, that anything else was going on in church.” Everything was focused only on God and the altar-table, and the clergy serving there in awe and reverence.

Saint Basil celebrated the church services almost every day. He was particularly concerned about the strict fulfilling of the Canons of the Church, and took care that only worthy individuals should enter into the clergy. He incessantly made the rounds of his own church, lest anywhere there be an infraction of Church discipline, and setting aright any unseemliness. At Caesarea, Saint Basil built two monasteries, a men’s and a women’s, with a church in honor of the Forty Martyrs (March 9) whose relics were buried there. Following the example of monks, the saint’s clergy, even deacons and priests, lived in remarkable poverty, to toil and lead chaste and virtuous lives. For his clergy Saint Basil obtained an exemption from taxation. He used all his personal wealth and the income from his church for the benefit of the destitute; in every center of his diocese he built a poor-house; and at Caesarea, a home for wanderers and the homeless.

Sickly since youth, the toil of teaching, his life of abstinence, and the concerns and sorrows of pastoral service took their toll on him. Saint Basil died on January 1, 379 at age 49. Shortly before his death, the saint blessed Saint Gregory the Theologian to accept the See of Constantinople.

Upon the repose of Saint Basil, the Church immediately began to celebrate his memory. Saint Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium (November 23), in his eulogy to Saint Basil the Great, said: “It is neither without a reason nor by chance that holy Basil has taken leave from the body and had repose from the world unto God on the day of the Circumcision of Jesus, celebrated between the day of the Nativity and the day of the Baptism of Christ. Therefore, this most blessed one, preaching and praising the Nativity and Baptism of Christ, extolling spiritual circumcision, himself forsaking the flesh, now ascends to Christ on the sacred day of remembrance of the Circumcision of Christ. Therefore, let it also be established on this present day annually to honor the memory of Basil the Great festively and with solemnity.”

Saint Basil is also called “the revealer of heavenly mysteries” (Ouranophantor), a “renowned and bright star,” and “the glory and beauty of the Church.” His honorable head is in the Great Lavra on Mount Athos.

In some countries it is customary to sing special carols today in honor of Saint Basil. He is believed to visit the homes of the faithful, and a place is set for him at the table. People visit the homes of friends and relatives, and the mistress of the house gives a small gift to the children. A special bread (Vasilopita) is blessed and distributed after the Liturgy. A silver coin is baked into the bread, and whoever receives the slice with the coin is said to receive the blessing of Saint Basil for the coming year.
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The after-feast of Christmas in Cheltenham.Although we have passed from the Christmas feast into the intermediate days between the Nativity and Theophany, I would like to share the joy of our Christmas celebration in Cheltenham, where we celebrated the Divine Liturgy and our children’s party on Saturday.

Our Cheltenham mission is small, but one in which there is great warmth - a warmth which is felt by all who pass over the threshold of our new(ish) home in All Saints Pittville.

The determination to publicly and liturgically celebrate Orthodox life in Gloucestershire is one which demands great devotion and much hard work from those who give their time, energy and resources to the life of the mission, with its weekly services in the Lady Chapel in All Saints.

Last Saturday’s celebration was the first time in which Fr Deacon Mark has celebrated there, and it was good to have Alla and Yuriy with us, with our former parishioners Alex, Monika, Seraphima and Timofey journeying from Leicester to join the celebration.

We were unusually thin on singers, but we chanted together, offering the Liturgy with a quiet joy. It was lovely to have new faces among the congregation, as well as our supporters from Wales and the East Midlands.

Fr Mark, Natalia and I were able to make a home visit with Holy Communion, whilst the children enjoyed art and crafts and cake decorating, raising £30 from their cake sale!

We look forward to next month’s Liturgy when we will celebrate the meeting of the Lord with a procession and the blessing of candles in addition to our festal Liturgy.

***ALL PHOTOGRAPHS PUBLISHED WITH PARENTAL PERMISSION***
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1/14 January: the feast of the circimcision of the Lord.Source: ww1.antiochian.org/node/22776

Every male of you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. A child who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised … and my covenant shall be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant (Genesis, 17:10-13).

When our forefather in faith Abraham was ninety-nine years of age, the eternal Son and Word of God came to him and made covenant with him. He commanded that, as the defining “sign” of that covenant, Abraham and his seed be circumcised. Throughout succeeding centuries, Israel dutifully kept this Law and even took it as a cause for boasting (Galatians 6:14).1

It was to fulfill this divine commandment that our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ was circumcised on the eighth day after His birth according to the flesh from His pure and ever-virgin Mother Mary. This event receives but passing notice in the Gospel:

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb (Luke 2:21).

Yet, laden with great significance, Christ’s circumcision proved to be both the fulfillment of God’s commandment in the Law and a prophetic sign of future events.

The Savior’s circumcision was the occasion of the first shedding of His precious blood. The Cross overshadowed the Lord Jesus even while He lay in a crib by swaddling bands bound. The knife which cut the Lord’s flesh on that day foreshadowed the centurion’s spear which would pierce His side, releasing the saving torrent, the blood and water (John 19:34). That torrent drowned the Law’s type and shadow and gave birth to the font. Circumcision prefigured the saving stream of holy baptism through which we Christians enter the new and eternal covenant of salvation as St. Paul proclaimed:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2:11-12)

In circumcision a blade wielded by the hand of man cut away flesh; in baptism the blade of the Holy Spirit cuts away sin. The Spirit-blade cuts deep, rooting out the sin of our forefather. In the blood of Christ’s Passion sin is drowned together with death’s might and Hades (Hosea 13:14; I Corinthians 15:55). Through the water from His side a fertile seed of immortal life and incorruptibility is firmly planted in the soul and flesh of each one who issues from the font. The metal blade of circumcision marked the flesh of Jewish males; the Spirit-blade of baptism marks the soul and body of each and every Christian with the “Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Before this new and mighty “sign,” the cherubim with fiery sword who guard lost Paradise, which of old was in Eden (Genesis 3:25), give way that the children of the new Covenant may, like the Good Thief (Luke 23:43), pass within to rest until the final consummation of God’s eternal plan.

Of old God in the Law commanded Israel: “circumcise your hardheartedness, and be stiff-necked no longer” (Deuteronomy 10:16).

Now we who have undergone the very real surgery of baptism, must circumcise our hearts as well. St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria (+444), says that we, the faithful, who have been established in grace through holy baptism, must cut away and mortify the tumultuous risings of carnal pleasures and passions by the sharp surgery of faith and by ascetic labors; not cutting the body, but purifying the heart, and being circumcised in the Spirit, and not in the letter [according to the letter of Mosaic Law]; whose praise, as the divine Paul testifies (Romans 2:29), needs not the sentence of any human tribunal, but depends upon the decree from above.”2

Thus we learn the significance of Christ the Savior’s eighth-day circumcision, that “Name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9) was given: His fulfillment of the Mosaic law; the foreshadowing of His saving Passion and of our participation therein through holy baptism; the taking up of the cross and (Luke 9:23), the daily circumcision of our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit through ascetic effort.

The all-good God was not ashamed to be circumcised with the circumcision of the flesh, but provided Himself as an example and pattern for all, for their salvation; for the Creator of the Law fulfilled the prescriptions of the Law and the predictions of the Prophets concerning Himself. O Lord, who holdest all things in the palm of Thy hand and was wrapped in swaddling-clothes, glory to Thee .

(from aposticha of the feast)

The unworthy servant of Christ, the priest Daniel Griffith, Pastor, St. Michael’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, Geneva.
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Forthcoming Russian Orthodox services at Newman Hall and the University Church.All are most welcome to our services, which are celebrated in Church Slavonic and English, according to the Julian Calendar. We enjoy a shared lunch in Newman Hall after Sunday Liturgy and hope that all of our worshipers will stay and take part, if only to have a chat and a cup of tea.

Friday 17 January. The Little Oratory.
Compline: 18:00

Saturday 18 January. The University Church. Theophany Vigil: 18:00

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/Theophany_Jan_19_Vigil_Eng_Rus.pdf

Sunday 19 January. The Baptism of the Lord: Theophany. The University Church. Confession: 08:30 / Hours: 09:00 / Divine Liturgy & Great Blessing of the Waters: 09:30

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/Theophany_Jan_19_Liturgy_Eng_Rus.pdf

Great Blessing of the Waters

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/Theophany_Blessing_of_the_water_Eng_Rus.pdf

Sunday January 26 January. Sunday after the Baptism of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. The University Church.
Confession: 09:00 / Hours: 09:30 / Divine Liturgy: 10:00
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St Basil: calling all bakers!As we celebrate St Basil today, I would like to invite the bakers amongst our parishioners to shock the ethno-purists of the community and bake vasilopita in honour of the saint. Not only do we celebrate his feast this week, but on Sunday, we will celebrate his liturgy for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

It would be wonderful to bless the traditional St Basil’s cake on Friday, when we will chant the canon to St Basil after the supplicatory canon to the Mother of God. It would also be good to enjoy vasilopita in trapeza after St Basil’s Liturgy and the Great Blessing of the Waters on Sunday.

Here is one recipe, but I will trust people to Google and find one that suits them.

www.bowlofdelicious.com/vasilopita-greek-new-years-bread/
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Greetings on the Leave-Taking of Christmas.Greetings to you all, as we take leave of the Lord’s Nativity and look forward the celebration of His baptism at Theophany.

The celebration of the Nativity was wonderful in bringing so many people together in our community; wonderful in the selfless giving of time and talents; a season of working together and cooperation. We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated choir, starosta and sisterhood, and the benefit of three clergy.

Our thanks go to them all... and, of course, to the brothers of the parish who work equally hard.

Looking forward to next weekend, please remember that our Sunday services will be a half hour earlier. REMEMBER TO BRING A BOTTLE FOR THEOPHANY WATER!

Friday 17 January. The Little Oratory. Compline: 18:00

Saturday 18 January. The University Church. Theophany Vigil: 18:00

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/Theophany_Jan_19_Vigil_Eng_Rus.pdf

Sunday 19 January. The Baptism of the Lord: Theophany. The University Church. Confession: 08:30 / Hours: 09:00 / Divine Liturgy & Great Blessing of the Waters: 09:30

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/Theophany_Jan_19_Liturgy_Eng_Rus.pdf

Great Blessing of the Waters

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/Theophany_Blessing_of_the_water_Eng_Rus.pdf
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Celebrating the repose of St Seraphim in Llanelli.Next Wednesday, on the feast of the repose of St Seraphim of Sarov (15 January new-style), the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated in the Chapel of St David and St Nicholas in Llanelli.

Confession: 09:00 / Hours: 09:30 / Divine Liturgy and moleben: 10:00 / Akathist to St Seraphim: 19:00

Do not expect to see onion-domes or a recognisable Russian Orthodox building! The chapel is in the rear garden of the house, which is a mid-terrace cottage.

Address:

The Chapel of St David and St Nicholas, 11 New Rd, Dafen, Llanelli, Carms, SA14 8LS (Do not be shy. Walk through the house into the garden and follow the path).
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Девета пјесма Канона на Божић.
Први канон је дјело Преподобног Козме Мајумског, а други Преподобног Јована Дамаскина.
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December 27 ‘old-style’: the Holy Protomartyr and Archdeacon StephenGreetings to the Fathers Stephen in Oxford as the parish celebrates a double clerical name-day, and greetings to the indefatigable Steven Lacey. Many blessed years to you all!

The Holy Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen was the eldest of the seven deacons, appointed by the Apostles themselves, and therefore he is called “archdeacon.” He was the first Christian martyr, and he suffered for Christ when he was about thirty. In the words of Asterias, he was “the starting point of the martyrs, the instructor of suffering for Christ, the foundation of righteous confession, since Stephen was the first to shed his blood for the Gospel.”

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Saint Stephen preached Christianity and defeated Jewish teachers of the Law in debate. The Jews maligned Saint Stephen, saying that he had uttered blasphemy against God and against Moses. Saint Stephen came before the Sanhedrin and the High Priest to answer these charges. He gave a fiery speech, in which he recounted the history of the Jewish nation, and denounced the Jews for persecuting the prophets, and also for executing the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ (Acts ch. 7).

During his speech, Saint Stephen suddenly saw the heavens opened and Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God. The Jews shouted and covered their ears, and rushed at him. They dragged him out of the city and stoned him, but the holy martyr prayed for his murderers. Far off on the heights stood the Mother of God with the holy Apostle John the Theologian, and She prayed fervently for the martyr. Before his death Saint Stephen said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. O Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Then he joyfully gave up his pure soul to Christ.

The body of the holy Protomartyr Stephen, left to be eaten by beasts, was secretly taken up by the Jewish teacher Gamaliel and his son Habib, who buried Stephen on his estate. They both believed in Christ, and later received holy Baptism.

Saint Stephen is also commemorated on August 2 (Translation of his relics) and on September 15 (Uncovering of his relics in the year 415).

Protomartyr & Archdeacon Stephen, Troparion, Tone 4: Thou didst fight the good fight, and, didst denounce the impiety of the tyrants,/ O protomartyr and apostle of Christ;/ for, stoned at the hands of the iniquitous,/ thou hast received from on high a crown from the right hand of the Lord,// and didst exclaim to God, crying aloud: O Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!

Kontakion of the Protomartyr, Tone 3: Yesterday the Master came to us in the flesh,/ and today his servant departeth from the flesh./ Yesterday He that reigneth over the flesh was born,/ and today his servant is slain by stoning.// For His sake the godly protomartyr Stephen doth meet his end.
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Christ is Born! Christmas Greetings.Dear Brothers, Sisters and friends.

After the busyness of the last few days, this is my first chance to turn to Facebook to send greetings for the Nativity of the Lord. Christ is Born! Glorify Him! Христос рождается - славите!

I’ve just returned from the garden chapel at Fr Luke’s house, where we celebrated compline tonight, with the chanting of the akathist to the Lord’s Nativity and the slavlenie of Christmas before the festal icon.

Earlier in the day, we celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Synaxis of the Mother of God - a very quiet celebration, with just a few of us, in great contrast to the Christmas Liturgy at the chaplaincy.

How forty five adults and children fitted in and around the Little Oratory, I really don’t know (a surprise on a work day), but I hope that we can agree that it was an intimate and warm place in which to celebrate the Christmas services - particularly when lit by lamps and candles for the vigil. It was lovely to spend so much time together at the Christmas trapeza between the Liturgy and vespers.

We now look forward to the festal Liturgy on Sunday, with our main parish Christmas meal after the service. It would be lovely to see some of the Cardiff faithful at Cheltenham on Saturday for the Christmas celebration and children’s party: Confessions: 09:30 / Hours 10:00 / Liturgy 10:30.

Many thanks to all who have worked so hard, particularly the choir. The chanting at the Liturgy was particularly joyful and festive, with great enthusiasm evident in the singing of koliadky especially ‘Nebo i zemlya.’ More carol singing on Sunday!

Let us hold on to the joy of Christ’s birth, not only during the sviatki - the Christmas festal period - but at all times, in all places and all circumstances, For God is with us! Яко с нами Бог!

С праздником!

In Christ - Fr Mark
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The Nativity Icon ExplainedSource: www.orthodoxroad.com/nativity-icon-explained/

Below, is the nativity icon of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is full of beautiful symbolism with great theological depth. In this blog, I would like to explain the meaning of the icon. Several elements of this icon can be found in the extra-biblical book called the Protevangelium of James, which I highly recommend. It is a second century document (written in the 100s) that contains some of the oldest verbal tradition that was passed down in the first few generations of the Church.

Icons are images of reality – they show us how the world exists. They are not just a photo of an event since not everything depicted happened all at once. In this way, they reveal the inner meaning of an event. Symbolic significance in icons is more important than being literal; the Church is making us into theologians, not historical critics. It’s teaching us the meaning of history, not just listing the facts.

CENTER

In the center is the infant Christ lying in a manger. The Virgin Mary (Theotokos) is beside Him, and an ox and an ass are behind Him. Christ being born in a cave is not in the Bible, but it is an ancient tradition, dating back to the first and second centuries. He is dressed in burial clothes to foreshadow His death. His location in a cave also foreshadows the grave in which He would be buried and where He would resurrect.

When Adam and Even were first created, they were clothed in the glory of God. That was their natural state. But when they fell into sin, they lost this clothing of glory and became aware of their nakedness. Clothed in animals skins (which represent death), they went into exile outside of the Garden. Christ likewise condescended from His state of glory to become one of us, wrapping Himself in the mortal flesh’s sin and death, as Scripture states, God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

BOTTOM LEFT

Unlike most icons that feature both Christ and the Virgin Mary, she is not looking at Him. Instead, she is looking at her husband Joseph, interceding for him. After the birth of Jesus, he walked out of the cave, battling doubts. The figure next to him is supposed to be the devil who is, of course, is filling his mind with all sorts of doubts and probably angry thoughts.

We may sing “What Child is This?” but Joseph’s question was “Whose child is this?!” since he knew he was certainly not the father. Yet Joseph has a halo, which indicates his sanctity.

Sometimes when God shows up in our lives, it raises questions and doubts. God bestows His grace upon us, but then He seems to withdraw a little bit, allowing difficulties to test and deepen our faith. We may wonder why things happen the way they do. But if we persevere, we have a doubting saint to whom we can look as our example.

TOP & MIDDLE

At the very top is a blue shape sometimes called a mandorla. It signifies the presence and the glory of God. It beams from the heavens, pointing to the Christ child, which shows His descent from heaven to the earth.

On the left, the three kings (magi) are traveling from afar, following the star in the sky.

Angels appear in the heavens above and tell the good news to the shepherds (on the right) in the field so that they can see this divine child born in the little town of Bethlehem.

I sometimes wonder if the shepherds and angelic chorus appeared after Jesus’ birth more for Joseph’s sake than anything else. These divine interventions affirmed the dream that God granted Joseph, and helped Him to trust God. Our Church’s hymns mention this struggle and Joseph’s victory over doubt:

Joseph, when he beheld the greatness of this wonder, thought that he saw a mortal wrapped as a babe in swaddling clothes; but from all that came to pass he understood that it was the true God, who grants the world great mercy. – Vespers of the Forefeast of the Nativity of Christ.

May we be comforted in the fact that our Savior has come into this world to heal every messy, doubting, sinful part of us. There is nothing a repentant heart has done that will permanently push God away from it. And there is nothing that you have done that he has not already helped someone else through, someone else who is considered a saint.

BOTTOM RIGHT

The women at the bottom right are midwives who display that the Son of God was truly born as a human, and did not merely appear to be human as some early heretics claimed. There is a fountain that they are about to wash the Christ child in because He had, in some sense, an ordinary, messy birth.

FURTHER DEVELOPING THE SYMBOLISM

THE OX AND ASS

The ox and ass are two of the most ancient symbols that appear in nativity icons and sculptures.

In the ancient Church, the ox symbolized the Jews, for it was a clean, kosher animal that they could eat. It could also be easily trained to pull a plow and assist in various ways. The Jews had the Law of Moses and it helped keep them clean and obedient to God.

The ass, on the other hand, is a stubborn and wilder animal. It is unclean and not kosher, therefore, it represents the Gentiles who did not have the Law of Moses to guide them away from their pursuit of indecent and immoral behavior.

In Christ, these two seemingly opposed groups came together to form one people. As the Bible says, For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14).

MEETING IN THE CENTER

Above are the angels, below are the shepherds, midwives, and people. To the left are the three wise men, the three kings, the magi who travel a great distance bearing expensive gifts. To the right are simple, poor, uneducated shepherds. In the center is Christ, who brings all of these different people together in Himself. He unites heaven and earth, rich and poor, wise and simple, educated and uneducated, locals and foreigners, obedient and rebellious men, the confident and doubters; all of these find their place in Christ.

THE CAVE AND THE HEART

Christ was the mystery hidden throughout all ages – just as his coming in the cave was hidden from most people. But the glory of this mystery is Christ in you. In this way, the cave became an icon of every heart that opens itself to Christ (cf. Col. 1:26-27).

Caves, with all of their mystery and darkness, hidden chambers and secret places, are truly a reflection of the dark, mysterious heart within each one of us. But like the cave the Christ entered on Christmas day, our hearts can become the dwelling place of His majestic glory. Like the ox and ass, we have the clean and unclean in our hearts – the things that are good and not so good. We have the devil whispering doubts or evil things to us. But we also have the Theotokos praying for us.

All of the distractions in our lives pull us outside of our hearts. Because of that, we have terrible self-awareness. But when we enter into our hearts, we find that Christ is there. But what does that mean?

Imagine Joseph getting up and walking away from the devil, saying, “I’m tired of listening to you and your lies.” He prays to God to help him; he gets up and walks to the cave where Christ and the Mother of God are. That is the beginning of descending into the heart. Of finding the mystery hidden from all eternity, dwelling within our hearts as He once dwelt in a cave near the little town of Bethlehem.

Nativity; Troparion, Tone IV: Thy nativity, O Christ our God,/ hath shone forth the light of knowledge upon the world;/ for therein those who worship the stars/ have been taught by a star to worship Thee,/ the Sun of righteousness,/ and to know Thee the Orient from on high.// O Lord, glory be to Thee!

Kontakion, Tone 3: Today the Virgin giveth birth unto the Transcendent One,/ and the earth offereth a cave to the unapproachable One./ Angels and shepherds give glory,/ the magi journey with the star.// For unto us a Child is born, the preeternal God.
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Saturday 4 January, 19:00: Moleben to the Mother of God, in honour of her Walsingham Icon.A service of supplication will be chanted in the University Church at 19:00, with the chanting of the Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God, in honour of her Walsingham icon. During Advent, the icon of Our Lady of Walsingham -commissioned some years ago by Chevalier, Dr David Woolf, and painted by Leon Liddament of the Brotherhood of St Seraphim - was blessed in our worship in the Little Oratory. We will gather before this icon to serve our moleben with the akathist to the Walsingham icon.

At the beginning of the civil year, we will be joined by the Knights Military and Hospitaller of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, praying for the Lord’s blessing upon the Nazareth-Newman communities, of which both we and the Order of St Lazarus are a part.

There will be no celebration of vespers at 18:00, as Hieromonk Mark and Deacon Mark will be travelling back from diocesan business in London during the afternoon.
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At 9pm UK time today our friends in St Elizabeths convent in Minsk will be celebrating a Midnight Liturgy for the New Year.

You can watch Live or watch later with the following link

m.youtube.com/watch?v=w8L3gdYuF00&feature=share
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The Holy Martyr Sebastian was born in the city of Narbonum in Gaul (modern France), and he received his education at Mediolanum (now Milan). Under the co-reigning emperors Diocletian and Maximian (284-305) he occupied the position of head of the imperial guards. Saint Sebastian was respected for his authority, and was loved by the soldiers and those at court. He was a brave man filled with wisdom; his word was honest, his judgment just. He was insightful in advice and faithful in his service and in everything entrusted to him. He was a secret Christian, not out of fear, but so that he could provide help to the brethren in a time of persecution.

The noble Christian brothers Marcellinus and Mark had been locked up in prison, and at first they firmly confessed the true Faith. But under the influence of the tearful entreaties of their pagan parents (Tranquillinus and Marcia), and also their own wives and children, they began to waver in their intent to suffer for Christ. Saint Sebastian went to the imperial treasurer, at whose house Marcellinus and Mark were held in confinement, and addressed the brothers who were on the verge of yielding to the entreaties of their family.

“O valiant warriors of Christ! Do not cast away your everlasting crowns of victory because of the tears of your relatives. Do not remove your feet from the necks of your enemies who lie prostrate before you, lest they regain their strength and attack you more fiercely than before. Raise your banner high over every earthly attachment. If those whom you see weeping knew that there is another life where there is neither sickness nor death, where there is unceasing gladness and everything is beautiful, then assuredly they would wish to enter it with you. Anyone who fears to exchange this brief earthly life for the unending joys of the heavenly Kingdom is foolish indeed. For he who rejects eternity wastes the brief time of his existence, and will be delivered to everlasting torment in Hades.”

Then Saint Sebastian said that if necessary, he would be willing to endure torment and death in order to show them how to give their lives for Christ.

So Saint Sebastian persuaded the brothers to go through with their act of martyrdom, and his speech stirred everyone present. They saw how his face shone like that of an angel, and they saw how seven angels clothed him in a radiant garment, and heard a fair Youth say, “You shall be with Me always.”

Zoe, the wife of the jailer Nicostratus, had lost her ability to speak six years previously. She fell down at the feet of Saint Sebastian, by her gestures imploring him to heal her. The saint made the Sign of the Cross over the woman, and she immediately began to speak and she glorified the Lord Jesus Christ. She said that she had seen an angel holding an open book in which everything Saint Sebastian said was written. Then all who saw the miracle also came to believe in the Savior of the world. Nicostratus removed the chains from Marcellinus and Mark and offered to hide them, but the brothers refused.

Mark said, “Let them tear the flesh from our bodies with cruel torments. They can kill the body, but they cannot conquer the soul which contends for the Faith.” Nicostratus and his wife asked for Baptism, and Saint Sebastian advised Nicostratus to serve Christ rather than the Eparch. He also told him to assemble the prisoners so that those who believed in Christ could be baptized. Nicostratus then requested his clerk Claudius to send all the prisoners to his house. Sebastian spoke to them of Christ, and became convinced that they were all inclined to be baptized. He summoned the priest Polycarp, who prepared them for the Mystery, instructing them to fast in preparation for Baptism that evening.

Then Claudius informed Nicostratus that the Roman eparch Arestius Chromatus wanted to know why the prisoners were gathered at his house. Nicostratus told Claudius about the healing of his wife, and Claudius brought his own sick sons, Symphorian and Felix to Saint Sebastian. In the evening the priest Polycarp baptized Tranquillinus with his relatives and friends, and Nicostratus and all his family, Claudius and his sons, and also sixteen condemned prisoners. The newly-baptized numbered 64 in all.

Appearing before the eparch Chromatus, Nicostratus told him how Saint Sebastian had converted them to Christianity and healed many from sickness. The words of Nicostratus persuaded the eparch. He summoned Saint Sebastian and the presbyter Polycarp, and was enlightened by them, and became a believer in Christ. Nicostratus and Chromatus, his son Tiburtius and all his household accepted holy Baptism. The number of the newly-enlightened increased to 1400. Upon becoming a Christian, Chromatus resigned his office of eparch.

During this time the Bishop of Rome was Saint Gaius (August 11). He blessed Chromatus to go to his estates in southern Italy with the priest Polycarp. Christians unable to endure martyrdom also went with them. Father Polycarp went to strengthen the newly-converted in the Faith.

Tiburtius, the son of Chromatus, desired to accept martyrdom and he remained in Rome with Saint Sebastian. Of those remaining, Saint Gaius ordained Tranquillinus as a presbyter, and his sons Marcellinus and Mark were ordained deacons. Nicostratus, his wife Zoe and brother Castorius, and Claudius, his son Symphorian and brother Victorinus also remained in Rome. They gathered for divine services at the court of the emperor together with a secret Christian named Castulus, but soon the time came for them to suffer for the Faith.

The pagans arrested Saint Zoe first, praying at the grave of the Apostle Peter. At the trial she bravely confessed her faith in Christ. She died, hung by her hair over the foul smoke from a great fire of dung. Her body then was thrown into the River Tiber. Appearing in a vision to Saint Sebastian, she told him about her death.

The priest Tranquillinus was the next to suffer: pagans pelted him with stones at the grave of the holy Apostle Peter, and his body was also thrown into the Tiber.

Saints Nicostratus, Castorius, Claudius, Victorinus, and Symphorian were seized at the riverbank, when they were searching for the bodies of the martyrs. They were led to the eparch, and the saints refused his command to offer sacrifice to idols. They tied stones to the necks of the martyrs and then drowned them in the sea.

The false Christian Torquatus betrayed Saint Tiburtius. When the saint refused to sacrifice to the idols, the judge ordered Tiburtius to walk barefoot on red-hot coals, but the Lord preserved him. Tiburtius walked through the burning coals without feeling the heat. The torturers then beheaded Saint Tiburtius, and his body was buried by unknown Christians.

Torquatus also betrayed the holy Deacons Marcellinus and Mark, and Saint Castulus (March 26). After torture, they threw Castulus into a pit and buried him alive, but Marcellinus and Mark had their feet nailed to the same tree stump. They stood all night in prayer, and in the morning they were stabbed with spears.

Saint Sebastian was the last one to be tortured. The emperor Diocletian personally interrogated him, and seeing the determination of the holy martyr, he ordered him taken out of the city, tied to a tree and shot with arrows. Irene, the wife of Saint Castulus, went at night in order to bury Saint Sebastian, but found him alive and took him to her home.

Saint Sebastian soon recovered from his wounds. Christians urged him to leave Rome, but he refused. Coming near a pagan temple, the saint saw the emperors approaching and he publicly denounced them for their impiety. Diocletian ordered the holy martyr to be taken to the Circus Maximus to be executed. They clubbed Saint Sebastian to death, and cast his body into the sewer. The holy martyr appeared to a pious woman named Lucina in a vision, and told her to take his body and bury it in the catacombs. This she did with the help of her slaves. Today his basilica stands on the site of his tomb.Holy Martyr Sebastian pray to God for us!
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Our weekend at the chaplaincyYesterday’s Liturgy was something of a personal milestone for our newly ordained deacon, Fr Mark, as he took up Slavonic in the Liturgy, much to the delight of the congregation. We look forward to the services of the festal season with the ministrations of a deacon adding to solemnity of services in the parish. Our thanks go to Alla for her diligence in preparing her husband for Slavonic celebration and we look forward to the future - though the use of English in our parish is to be equally encouraged.

It was also a very great delight to have the blessing of Olga ‘from Peru’ in the choir, adding to the beautiful singing that is making a great impression on the visitors to the University Church. We are very blessed to have such a dedicated choir who snatch every opportunity to practice and develop their choral repertoire. Sadly, Olga will be leaving for Belarus, so we will miss her voice during the Christmas services. The choir worked hard yesterday, practicing festal music, as we know they will over the coming week.

It is encouraging that more people are asking a blessing for various obediences and we welcome the support everyone can give. Our sisterhood are now coordinating their activities using social media - including catering, floral arrangements and church decoration. Anyone is welcome to join the chat-group - brothers of the parish, as well as sisters, and it is good to see things being streamlined as social media is used positively, for the benefit of the parish.

We congratulate our senior altarnik Mark, on his eighteenth birthday and thank him for his dedication and hard work from the very start of the parish. Many blessed years! Многая и благая лета!

Our pre-festal services start next weekend, though there will no be a celebration of vespers on Saturday afternoon, as I have to be at the cathedral during the day. However, at the request of the Military and Hospitaller Knights of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, there will be a moleben in the University Church at 19:00. I hope that members of the community will be able to attend as we pray for the Lord’s blessing at the beginning of the civil year.

Your prayers are asked for the newly departed servant of God, Aleksej, a member of the notable and celebrated Woronin Cossack family and ataman of the Don Cossacks. A litia was celebrated in his memory on Saturday and his funeral will be celebrated in the next few weeks. May his memory be eternal.

We also ask your prayers for the newly departed, Leslie, father of Fr Sebastian, and Brother Michael, a resident of Nazareth House - both of whom have departed in the last week. May the Lord remember them in His Kingdom.

Our prayers and thoughts are with their families and the Nazareth House community.

As always, our thanks go to all who worked so hard over the weekend: altarniky, singers, cooks, cleaners and chauffeurs who make the movements of the clergy and parishioners so much easier. Everything counts. Spasi Gospodi!
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Services at Nazareth House & the University Church for Christmas and the Festal season.Saturday January 4, 2020. The University Church. Moleben: 19:00

Sunday January 5, 2020. Sunday before the Nativity. The University Church. Confession: 09:00 / Hours: 09:30 / Divine Liturgy: 10:00

Monday 6 January. The Little Oratory, Newman Hall. Vigil: 18:30

Tuesday 7 January. The Little Oratory, Newman Hall. Confession: 09:00 in the refectory of Newman Hall. Hours: 09:30 / Divine Liturgy: 10:00 / Vespers: 15:00

(LLANELLI - Wednesday 8 January. Synaxis of the Mother of God: Hours: 09:30 / Divine Liturgy: 10:00)

(CHELTENHAM -Saturday January 11 January. Confessions 09:30/ Hours 10:00 / Liturgy 10:30. Childrens party after Liturgy)

Sunday January 12 January. The University Church. Confession: 09:00 / Hours: 09:30 / Divine Liturgy: 10:00

Saturday January 18 January. The University Church. Theophany Vigil: 18:00

Sunday January 19 January. The Baptism of the Lord: Theophany. The University Church. Confession: 08:30 / Hours: 09:00 / Divine Liturgy and Great Blessing of the Waters: 09:30

Additional services may be announced, so please keep an eye on Facebook and your email inbox.
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December 15/28: St Stephen of Sourozh & the synaxis of all saints of Crimea.On the feast of St Stephen of Sourozh, we congratulate the faithful of the diocese of Sourozh on this feast of their diocesan patron.

Saint Stephen the Confessor, Archbishop of Surrentium (Sourozh), was a native of Cappadocia and was educated at Constantinople. After receiving the monastic tonsure, he withdrew into the wilderness, where he lived for thirty years in ascetic deeds.

Patriarch Germanus of Constantinople (May 12) heard of Stephen’s humility and virtuous life, and wished to meet him. He was so impressed with Stephen that he consecrated him bishop of the city of Surrentium (presently the city of Sudak in the Crimea). Within five years, Saint Stephen’s ministry was so fruitful that no heretics or unbaptized pagans remained in Surrentium or its environs.

Saint Stephen opposed the iconoclasm of the emperor Leo III the Isaurian (716-741). Since he refused to obey the orders of the emperor and the dishonorable Patriarch Anastasius to remove the holy icons from the churches, he was brought to Constantinople. There he was thrown into prison and tortured. He was released after the death of the emperor. Already quite advanced in years, he returned to his flock in Surrentium, where he died.

There is an account of how the Russian prince Bravlin accepted Baptism at the beginning of the ninth century during a campaign into the Crimea, influenced by miracles at the saint’s crypt.

Troparion, Tone 4: O solitary dweller with the bodiless hosts, thou didst take the Cross as thy weapon and didst stand firm against the iconoclasts, who would not honour the icon of Christ our God. But thou didst cut out all wicked heresies, then, having won the martyr’s crown, thou didst deliver your city, of Sourozh, from all enemies. And now we implore thee, O Stephen: Deliver us from temptation and eternal torment!

Kontakion, Tone 3: Strengthened by the power of the Most High God, thou didst overcome the iconoclasts of the royal house. Today thy relics are the glory of Sourozh and joy for the faithful, and the bodiless hosts bear them triumphantly, glorifying thee with hymns of praise, O great Hierarch Stephen!
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Happy St Spyridon’s Day!As we celebrate the feast of St Spyridon the Wonderworker, we send greetings to you all and congratulate Fr Spryridon on his nameday! Dear Father, may God bless you and your family, granting you many blessed years.

For those of you who don’t know him, Fr Spyridon serves our ROCOR parish in Telford and assists our chancellor, Fr Paul in Wallasey. He is well known for his books and podcasts.

St Spyridon is a saint for whom we have a great devotion in Llanelli, where we celebrated a moleben in his honour this morning.

Happy feast! Καλή γιορτή!

Akathist to St Spyridon the Wonderworker of Tremithus.

Kontakion 1: O holy hierarch and wonderworker Spyridon, who hast been glorified by the Lord! Celebrating now thy most honoured memory, with tenderness we cry out to thee, as one who art able greatly to assist us with Christ Who hath glorified thee: From all misfortunes and evil deliver us, that we may cry out to thee in thanksgiving: Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Ikos 1: Adorned from thy youth with all the virtues, and emulating the angels of Christ in thy life, O holy hierarch Spyridon, thou didst truly show thyself to be His friend. And beholding thee, the heavenly man and earthly angel, we cry out to thee with tenderness:

Rejoice, mind contemplating the mysteries of the All-Holy Trinity; Rejoice, thou who hast been enriched by the all-radiant splendour of the Spirit!
Rejoice, beacon of great brilliance; Rejoice, thou who didst enlighten thy mind with dispassion!
Rejoice, thou who didst love true simplicity and serenity from childhood;
Rejoice, adornment of chastity!
Rejoice, inexhaustible torrent of love;
Rejoice, for thou didst emulate the hospitality of Abraham!
Rejoice, for in an abundance of love thou didst open the doors of thy house to all;
Rejoice, intercessor for the poor!
Rejoice, thou before whom men offer reverence; Rejoice, for thou art the abode of the All-Holy Spirit! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 2: Beholding thine incorrupt relics, from which abundant healings flow, the island of Cyprus and all Christian lands rejoice, O holy hierarch; and, honouring thee as a fountain overflowing with grace sent down upon us from on high, we cry out to the ultimate Bestower of the good things of heaven and earth: Alleluia!

Ikos 2: Possessing divine understanding, while yet a shepherd of dumb sheep thou wast chosen to be the shepherd of the reason-endowed sheep by the providence of Christ the Chief Shepherd. And, understanding thee to be a good shepherd who showest untiring care for thy flock, the faithful cried out:

Rejoice, O high priest of God Most High, who received divine grace in abundance at thy consecration;
Rejoice, most luminous lamp, burning and shedding light!
Rejoice, faithful husbandman in the garden of Christ; Rejoice, shepherd who nurtured thy flock on the meadow of faith and piety!
Rejoice, thou who hast illumined the world with the rays of thy virtues; Rejoice, thou who offered the divine sacrifice at the throne of Christ!
Rejoice, hierarch adorned with the understanding of Orthodoxy; Rejoice, thou who art full of the teaching of the apostles, giving drink to the faithful with the streams of the doctrine of salvation!
Rejoice, for thou didst shed light upon the wise;
Rejoice, for thou didst make new the hearts of the simple!
Rejoice, glory of the Orthodox and unshakeable foundation of the Church; Rejoice, adornment of the Faith, glory and boast of reverent priests! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 3: Thou wast shown to be divinely wise by the power of the Most High which overshadowed thee, O holy hierarch Spyridon; and, grasping a tile in thy hand, thou didst manifestly demonstrate to all the Trinity of Persons in the Godhead. Wherefore, the philosophers of false knowledge assembled at the Council were stricken with awe, but the faithful glorified our unfathomable God Who made thee wise unto salvation, crying out to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 3: All the Fathers of the Council, considering thee to be a simple man, unskilled in book learning, begged thee, O father Spyridon, not to enter in debate with the rhetor whom they thought to be wise. Yet, aflame with zeal for God, O holy hierarch, and believing that the preaching of Christ lieth not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the manifestation of the Spirit and of power, thou didst most wisely reprove and admonish him, and didst guide him to the way of truth. And seeing this wonder, all cried out:

Rejoice, light of Orthodox wisdom;
Rejoice, for thou didst put to shame the disputers who were said to be wise! Rejoice, abundant wellspring of grace;
Rejoice, unshakable tower holding fast those who are in the Faith!
Rejoice, thou who dost cast most pernicious heresy into darkness; Rejoice, thou by whom foolishness was trampled underfoot!
Rejoice, for in thy hands the dust of the earth proclaimed the Holy Trinity; Rejoice, for from the tile thou didst bring forth fire and water to confirm the dogma of the Holy Trinity! Rejoice, for thou didst enlighten the people to glorify the Word Who is truly of one Essence with the all-unoriginate Father; Rejoice, for thou didst crush the serpent’s head of the pernicious heresy of Arius!
Rejoice, for by thee was enmity slain;Rejoice, thou who didst convert to the true Faith the unbelieving wise man who disputed with thee! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontation 4: Leading thy life in poverty and want, thou wast a nurturer and helper of the poor and unfortunate; thou didst transform a serpent into gold in thy love, and didst give it to one who asked thine aid. And marvelling at this miracle, we cry out to God in thanksgiving: Alleluia!

Ikos 4: It hath been heard by all and in every place, that the holy hierarch Spyridon is a habitation of the Holy Trinity; for God the Father, God the Word, and God the Holy Spirit dwelt within him. Wherefore, by word and deed thou hast preached the true incarnate God to all Christians, who cry out:

Rejoice, initiate of the mysteries of the words of God; Rejoice, thou who hast made clear God’s blueprint for the salvation of the world!
Rejoice, for thou didst teach us not to test that which transcendeth the knowledge and wisdom of man; Rejoice, thou who didst show forth the unfathomable power of God which worketh within thee!
Rejoice, for through thy mouth God Himself spake; Rejoice, for all heeded thee, to their delight!
Rejoice, thou who didst drive away the gloom of idolatry; Rejoice, for thou didst lead many to the true Faith!
Rejoice, for thou didst crush the heads of invisible serpents;
Rejoice, for through thee is the Christian Faith glorified!
Rejoice, for thou dost splendidly illumine all who call thee blessed; Rejoice, champion of the Christian Faith and Orthodoxy! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 5: Thou wast full of the divine Spirit, O holy hierarch Spyridon, because of thy virtuous life; for thou wast meek, merciful, pure of heart, patient, not mindful of the evils done thee, and hospitable. Wherefore, the Creator hath shown thee to be most glorious in miracles; and, glorifying God Who hath glorified thee, we cry out to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 5: We see Spyridon, the great wonderworker, as an equal of the angels. For once the land was stricken with drought and suffered greatly from the lack of water; and there was famine and contagion, and a multitude of men perished. But by the supplications of the holy hierarch rain fell from heaven upon the earth, and the people, delivered from this misfortune, cried out in gratitude:

Rejoice, thou who didst emulate the great Prophet Elijah;
Rejoice, for in due season thou didst bring down rain, dispelling famine and affliction! Rejoice, for again by thy supplications thou didst close the sky up again; Rejoice, for thou didst punish the pitiless merchant with the deprivation of his possessions! Rejoice, for thou didst give food in abundance unto those who asked; Rejoice, for thou didst move God to loving compassion for the people!
Rejoice, thou who takest away the weakness of the infirm;
Rejoice, helper of men, full of the grace of God! Rejoice, thou who grantest health to the sick; Rejoice, thou before whom the demons tremble! Rejoice, wellspring of countless miracles; Rejoice, fountain gushing forth the grace of God!
Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 6: The veil of the Old Testament tabernacle covered the ark, the manna and the tablets of the law in the Holy of Holies. And thy temple, O holy hierarch Spyridon, hath thy shrine as its ark, thy holy relics as manna, and thy heart as tablets of divine grace, whereon we see graven the hymn: Alleluia!

Ikos 6: Once, because iniquity had increased, the Lord punished the people of Cyprus. causing their land to become barren. When a farmer known to the holy Spyridon came, begging help, the saint gave him gold. But when the misfortune had passed, and that farmer returned the gold to the saint, – O, the wonder! – the gold turned into a serpent! Glorifying God, Who is wondrous in His saints, let us cry out:

Rejoice, for thou didst emulate Moses, who miraculously transformed his staff into a snake;
Rejoice, loving pastor, who deliverest the reason-endowed sheep of thy flock from misfortunes! Rejoice, thou who dost abundantly enrich all with every good thing; Rejoice, thou who, like Elijah, didst feed the poor! Rejoice, thou who movest the pitiless to mercy; Rejoice, example of love for men living in the world to emulate!
Rejoice, consolation of both believers and the unbelieving amid tribulations; Rejoice, tree of goodly foliage, overshadowing our city and land! Rejoice, glory and boast of Kerkyra;
Rejoice, thou who, by the grace of God, hast dominion over wet and dry weather, heat and cold! Rejoice, thou who didst alter the laws of earth by thy prayer; Rejoice, thou who didst foresee things to come as though they were in the present! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 7: Thou wast shown to be a mediator for all before the Lord, O holy hierarch Spyridon. Wherefore, we flee beneath thy shelter, seeking salvation; for we all have thee as our helper amid all necessity, during famine, deadly plague and all manner of misfortunes and trials. For this cause we cry out to God with thanksgiving: Alleluia!

Ikos 7: A new and magnificent wonder did we see, O father, when, going forth to deliver the man condemned to death though innocent, thou didst find a rushing torrent barring thy path; but thou didst command it to halt in the name of God Almighty, and didst cross the river with thy companions as though it were dry land. The fame of this miracle spread far and wide, and all glorified God, crying out to thee:

Rejoice, thou who didst cross the river, as once Joshua, son of Nun, crossed Jordan;
Rejoice, thou who didst tame the rushing of the river by thy voice alone!
Rejoice, for, moved by compassion, thou didst undertake a difficult journey; Rejoice, for thou didst expose the slander and deliver the innocent man from the bonds of imprisonment and a violent death! Rejoice, good fellow labourer in the Godly life; Rejoice, defender of those unjustly oppressed!
Rejoice, thou who didst alter the laws of the nature of water; Rejoice, for thou didst admonish the judge and save the innocent from execution! Rejoice, true correction of souls; Rejoice, wondrous power which restrained the torrent! Rejoice, thou who dost make sweet the hearts of those who have recourse unto thee; Rejoice, emulator of Abraham’s love for man! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 8: A stranger and sojourner wast thou on earth, as are all men. Yet from thy mother’s womb the Omniscient One showed thee forth to be a great favourite and wonderworker, O holy hierarch Spyridon; for thou expellest demons, healest every illness and wound, and perceivest the thoughts of men. Wherefore, thou art shown to be wondrous among the saints. And sending up supplication to God, the Benefactor of all, we cry out to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 8: The whole world was seized with great awe when it heard that death giveth up the dead from the tombs at the sound of thy voice; and it cried out:

Rejoice, thou who recalled to life thine own dead daughter, to allow her to reveal the location of the treasure that the widow has entrusted to her;
Rejoice, thou who didst console the grieving widow who had given gold into thine daughter’s care! Rejoice, thou who didst restore the dead boy to life; Rejoice, thou who didst revive his mother, who had died suddenly in her joy!
Rejoice, for thou didst emulate Elijah, who by his supplications returned to life the son of the woman of Zarepath; Rejoice, for thou didst also emulate Elisha, who roused a boy from death!
Rejoice, pastor who truly loved men; Rejoice, thou who, in the name of God, didst absolve the sins of the harlot who washed thy feet with her tears!
Rejoice, thou who didst acquire the holy zeal of the pre-eminent apostle; Rejoice, for, at thy word, the unrepentant sinful woman died in her grievous sins!
Rejoice, thou who in thine entreaties didst ask that the land yield abundant fruit; Rejoice, firm assurance of the resurrection of men! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 9: Thou wast illumined with the radiance of the divine Spirit, O Spyridon, for thou didst possess the spirit of wisdom, since, by thy wise words, thou didst show the mindless ones to be foolish in the midst of the Fathers didst confirm the Faith. Thou didst also possess the spirit of understanding, in that thou didst enlighten the minds of the benighted, and didst likewise have the spirit of the fear of God, for thou didst continually purify thy soul with God-pleasing works. Wherefore, standing before the throne of the Most High, with the assembly of the angels thou dost chant unto Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 9: Receiving from the Lord Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, the staff of a shepherd of reason-endowed sheep, O holy Spyridon thou did not alter thy manner of life. Unacquisitive, meek, bearing all things for the sake of love, thou were not ashamed to care also for thine flock of dumb sheep. All of these things move us to glorify God and cry out to thee:

Rejoice, thou who disdained the glory of this world as vain;
Rejoice, thou who hast acquired great reward in the heavens!
Rejoice, thou who didst consider the beautiful things of this word to be as dung;
Rejoice, vessel of the good things of heaven! Rejoice, most holy pasture of the inhabitants of Cyprus; Rejoice, for, for thy sake, God bound with invisible bonds those who attempted to steal thy sheep! Rejoice, thou who didst give fatherly admonition to the thieves; Rejoice, thou who, in thy lovingkindness, didst make a present of a ewe-lamb to them after they had spent a night without sleep!
Rejoice, thou who didst, by the disobedience of the goat, reprove the merchant who consciously concealed the full payment for thereof;
Rejoice, thou who didst bring to repentance the man who hid thy silver coins!
Rejoice, for thou didst cure him of the passion of love of gain by thine exhortation! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 10: O holy hierarch Spyridon, who savest the souls of the flock entrusted to thee by God, by the providence of God thou wast called to show forth thine own glory, and all the moreso the glory of the true God, even in other lands, that the name of God may be glorified everywhere by those who cry: Alleluia!

Ikos 10: The holy Spyridon, the speedy helper and aid amid every necessity and sorrow, travelled to the city of Antioch with the other pastors, where the Emperor Constantius was held fast by sickness. The holy hierarch touched his head and restored his health; and we, marvelling at this miracle, cry out to thee:

Rejoice, thou whom an angel revealed in a dream to the emperor as a healer; Rejoice, thou who, in thine old age, didst undertake a difficult journey for the sake of the love of God!
Rejoice, thou who, following the Saviour’s commandment, didst turn thine other cheek to the servant of the emperor who struck thee;
Rejoice, pillar of humility!
Rejoice, thou who by thy supplications healed the emperor who besought thee with tears; Rejoice, for by thine own meekness thou didst admonish the servant and change his unmerciful character! Rejoice, for thou didst teach the emperor piety and loving kindness;
Rejoice, for, despising the treasures of earth, thou didst not accept the emperor’s gold! Rejoice, for thou didst turn thine own disciple, Tryphillius, away from passion for earthly goods and didst make of him a vessel of the grace of God; Rejoice, for at thine arrival in Alexandria the idols toppled! Rejoice, thou to whom even the demons submit; Rejoice, for thou didst convert many from idolatry! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 11: Angelic chanting was audible when thou didst offer up thine evening prayers in church, O holy hierarch Spyridon, yet there was none serving with thee. And the inhabitants of the city, hearing this marvellous chanting, entered the church and, seeing no one, chanted with the heavenly hosts: Alleluia!

Ikos 11: Thou wast a radiant sun for the world and a conversor with angels on earth, O holy hierarch Spyridon. Surrendering thy soul into the hands of God, thou didst depart for the mansions of heaven, where thou prayest for the world before the throne of the Master. And we who live on earth cry out to thee:

Rejoice, for, while yet alive, thou didst serve with the angels;
Rejoice, thou who didst listen to the hymnody of the archangels!
Rejoice, visible image of our transfiguration;
Rejoice, for, when there was not enough oil in church, God filled the lamps with an abundance thereof for thy sake! Rejoice, lamp of divine radiance; Rejoice, vessel of the grace of God, which, like oil, filleth thy soul to overflowing!
Rejoice, wellspring which can never dry up, who ever pourest forth torrents of grace upon all;
Rejoice, thou at whom even the angels are amazed!
Rejoice, thou who chastised the disobedience of the deacon in church;
Rejoice, thou who deprived of voice and speech one who was enamored of his own voice! Rejoice, for, during the burning heat, a dew which suddenly descended from on high cooled thy sacred head;
Rejoice, thou who didst foresee the approach of thy repose in this sign! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 12: The protection and refuge of all the faithful during thy lifetime, O holy hierarch, thou hast not left us orphans since thy repose; for God, abrogating the laws of nature, hath preserved thy holy relics incorrupt for the strengthening of the Orthodox Faith and piety, and as a token of immortality. And glorifying Him, we cry out: Alleluia!

Ikos 12: We hymn thee, O holy hierarch of God, for thou has astonished the world with the miracles which flow from thy holy relics. For all who approach them and kiss them with faith receive the goodly things for which they ask. And glorifying God Who hath given thee strength, hath crowned thee with the wreath of incorruption, and worketh through thee, we cry out to thee:

Rejoice, thou who in time of famine didst appear to the ship-captains and didst command them to supply the people with food;
Rejoice, thou who gavest sight to the blind who approached thy holy relics with faith!
Rejoice, thou who healed the youth of his incurable ailment; Rejoice, thou who didst drive the demon from a woman, making her well! Rejoice, chosen general of Kerkyra;
Rejoice, for thou expelled the horde of muslim infidels and didst sink their ships in the deep!
Rejoice, thou whom they beheld surrounded by a crowd of angels, holding a sword in thy right hand, and who caused the enemy to tremble; Rejoice, thou who didst prevent the governor from building a church for himself in which to have mass celebrated with unleavened bread!
Rejoice, thou who didst bring upon the Venetian governor a cruel death; Rejoice, thou who by lightning didst cause his portrait to burn in his palace in Venice! Rejoice, thou who hast put to shame the apostasy and false teaching of the West; Rejoice, thou who hast confirmed for men that only the Orthodox Faith is true and leads to salvation!

Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 13: Accepting this our entreaty, O all-wondrous holy hierarch of Christ, father Spyridon, deliver us from all tribulations and assaults, strengthen the hierarchy of our Church against all heresies and schisms, grant us remission of our transgressions, and rescue from everlasting death all who for thy sake cry out to God: Alleluia!

The above kontakion is said three times, then continue:

Ikos 1: Adorned from thy youth with all the virtues, and emulating the angels of Christ in thy life, O holy hierarch Spyridon, thou didst truly show thyself to be His friend. And beholding thee, the heavenly man and earthly angel, we cry out to thee with tenderness:

Rejoice, mind contemplating the mysteries of the All-Holy Trinity; Rejoice, thou who hast been enriched by the all-radiant splendour of the Spirit! Rejoice, beacon of great brilliance; Rejoice, thou who didst enlighten thy mind with dispassion! Rejoice, thou who didst love true simplicity and serenity from childhood; Rejoice, adornment of chastity! Rejoice, inexhaustible torrent of love; Rejoice, for thou didst emulate the hospitality of Abraham! Rejoice, for in an abundance of love thou didst open the doors of thy house to all; Rejoice, intercessor for the poor! Rejoice, thou before whom men offer reverence; Rejoice, for thou art the abode of the All-Holy Spirit! Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Kontakion 1: O holy hierarch and wonderworker Spyridon, who hast been glorified by the Lord! Celebrating now thy most honoured memory, with tenderness we cry out to thee, as one who art able greatly to assist us with Christ Who hath glorified thee: From all misfortunes and evil deliver us, that we may cry out to thee in thanksgiving: Rejoice, O Spyridon, most miraculous wonderworker!

Prayer

O all-blessed and holy hierarch Spyridon, thou great favourite of Christ and most glorious wonderworker! Standing in heaven with the choirs of angels before the throne of God, look down with merciful gaze upon the people who stand here before thee and beseech thy mighty aid. Entreat the compassion of God Who loveth mankind, that He judge us not according to our iniquities, but that He deal with us according to His mercy. Ask for us of Christ our God a peaceful and undisturbed life, health of soul and body, bounty from the earth and abundance and prosperity in all things; and that we turn not the good things given us by our compassionate God to evil, but rather to His glory and the glorification of thine aid. Deliver all who approach God with unwavering faith from all retribution and from the assaults of the demons. Be thou a comforter for the grieving, a physician for the afflicted, a helper amid temptations, a shelter for the naked, an aid to the widowed, a defender of the orphaned, a nourisher of infants, a strengthener of the aged, a guide to travellers; and beg thou for all who are in need of thy mighty help all things which conduce to salvation, that, guided and protected by thy prayers, we may attain unto everlasting rest and with thee may glorify God Who is worshiped in the Holy Trinity: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
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Saint Spyridon of Tremithus was born towards the end of the third century on the island of Cyprus. He was a shepherd, and had a wife and children. He used all his substance for the needs of his neighbors and the homeless, for which the Lord rewarded him with a gift of wonderworking. He healed those who were incurably sick, and cast out demons.

After the death of his wife, during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337), he was made Bishop of Tremithus, Cyprus. As a bishop, the saint did not alter his manner of life, but combined pastoral service with deeds of charity.

According to the witness of Church historians, Saint Spyridon participated in the sessions of the First Ecumenical Council in the year 325. At the Council, the saint entered into a dispute with a Greek philosopher who was defending the Arian heresy. The power of Saint Spyridon’s plain, direct speech showed everyone the importance of human wisdom before God’s Wisdom: “Listen, philosopher, to what I tell you. There is one God Who created man from dust. He has ordered all things, both visible and invisible, by His Word and His Spirit. The Word is the Son of God, Who came down upon the earth on account of our sins. He was born of a Virgin, He lived among men, and suffered and died for our salvation, and then He arose from the dead, and He has resurrected the human race with Him. We believe that He is one in essence (consubstantial) with the Father, and equal to Him in authority and honor. We believe this without any sly rationalizations, for it is impossible to grasp this mystery by human reason.”

As a result of their discussion, the opponent of Christianity became the saint’s zealous defender and later received holy Baptism. After his conversation with Saint Spyridon, the philosopher turned to his companions and said, “Listen! Until now my rivals have presented their arguments, and I was able to refute their proofs with other proofs. But instead of proofs from reason, the words of this Elder are filled with some sort of special power, and no one can refute them, since it is impossible for man to oppose God. If any of you thinks as I do now, let him believe in Christ and join me in following this man, for God Himself speaks through his lips.”

At this Council, Saint Spyridon displayed the unity of the Holy Trinity in a remarkable way. He took a brick in his hand and squeezed it. At that instant fire shot up from it, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in the hands of the wonderworker. “There was only one brick,” Saint Spyridon said, “but it was composed of three elements. In the Holy Trinity there are three Persons, but only one God.”

The saint cared for his flock with great love. Through his prayers, drought was replaced by abundant rains, and incessant rains were replaced by fair weather. Through his prayers the sick were healed and demons cast out.

A woman once came up to him with a dead child in her arms, imploring the intercession of the saint. He prayed, and the infant was restored to life. The mother, overcome with joy, collapsed lifeless. Through the prayers of the saint of God, the mother was restored to life.

Another time, hastening to save his friend, who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death, the saint was hindered on his way by the unanticipated flooding of a stream. The saint commanded the water: “Halt! For the Lord of all the world commands that you permit me to cross so that a man may be saved.” The will of the saint was fulfilled, and he crossed over happily to the other shore. The judge, apprised of the miracle that had occurred, received Saint Spyridon with esteem and set his friend free.

Similar instances are known from the life of the saint. Once, he went into an empty church, and ordered that the lampadas and candles be lit, and then he began the service. When he said, “Peace be unto all,” both he and the deacon heard from above the resounding of a great multitude of voices saying, “And with thy spirit.” This choir was majestic and more sweetly melodious than any human choir. To each petition of the litanies, the invisible choir sang, “Lord, have mercy.” Attracted by the church singing, the people who lived nearby hastened towards it. As they got closer and closer to the church, the wondrous singing filled their ears and gladdened their hearts. But when they entered into the church, they saw no one but the bishop and several church servers, and they no longer heard the singing which had greatly astonished them.

Saint Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9), the author of his Life, likened Saint Spyridon to the Patriarch Abraham in his hospitality. Sozomen, in his Church History, offers an amazing example from the life of the saint of how he received strangers. One time, at the start of the Forty-day Fast, a stranger knocked at his door. Seeing that the traveller was very exhausted, Saint Spyridon said to his daughter, “Wash the feet of this man, so he may recline to dine.” But since it was Lent there were none of the necessary provisions, for the saint “partook of food only on certain days, and on other days he went without food.” His daughter replied that there was no bread or flour in the house. Then Saint Spyridon, apologizing to his guest, ordered his daughter to cook a salted ham from their larder. After seating the stranger at table, he began to eat, urging that man to do the same. When the latter refused, calling himself a Christian, the saint rejoined, “It is not proper to refuse this, for the Word of God proclaims, ‘Unto the pure all things are pure’” (Titus 1:15).

Another historical detail reported by Sozomen, was characteristic of the saint. It was his custom to distribute one part of the gathered harvest to the destitute, and another portion to those having need while in debt. He did not take a portion for himself, but simply showed them the entrance to his storeroom, where each could take as much as was needed, and could later pay it back in the same way, without records or accountings.

There is also the tale by Socrates Scholasticus about how robbers planned to steal the sheep of Saint Spyridon. They broke into the sheepfold at night, but here they found themselves all tied up by some invisible power. When morning came the saint went to his flock, and seeing the tied-up robbers, he prayed and released them. For a long while he advised them to leave their path of iniquity and earn their livelihood by respectable work. Then he made them a gift of a sheep and sending them off, the saint said kindly, “Take this for your trouble, so that you did not spend a sleepless night in vain.”

All the Lives of the saint speak of the amazing simplicity and the gift of wonderworking granted him by God. Through a word of the saint the dead were awakened, the elements of nature tamed, the idols smashed. At one point, a Council had been convened at Alexandria by the Patriarch to discuss what to do about the idols and pagan temples there. Through the prayers of the Fathers of the Council all the idols fell down except one, which was very much revered. It was revealed to the Patriarch in a vision that this idol had to be shattered by Saint Spyridon of Tremithus. Invited by the Council, the saint set sail on a ship, and at the moment the ship touched shore and the saint stepped out on land, the idol in Alexandria with all its offerings turned to dust, which then was reported to the Patriarch and all the bishops.

Saint Spyridon lived his earthly life in righteousness and sanctity, and prayerfully surrendered his soul to the Lord. His relics repose on the island of Corfu (Kerkyra), in a church named after him (His right hand, however, is located in Rome).Hierarch of Christ Spyridon pray to God for us!
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Services at Nazareth House & the University Church: 28-29 DecemberSaturday, 28 December (in the University Church).

Vespers: 18:00 sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/28-afterPentecost-Tone3_VESPERS_variables_2019_Dec29.pdf

Sunday, 29 December (in the University Church): 28th Sunday after Pentecost. Tone 3. Sunday of the Holy Forefathers.

Confession: 09:00 Hours: 09:30 Divine Liturgy: 10:00

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/28-afterPentecost-Tone3_2019_Dec29_Eng_Rus.pdf

Суббота 28 декабря (в университетской церкви).

Вечерня: 18:00 sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/28-afterPentecost-Tone3_VESPERS_variables_2019_Dec29.pdf

Воскресенье 29 декабря (в университетской церкви). Неделя 28-я по Пятидесятнице. Неделя святых праотец. Глас 3-й.

Исповедь: 09:00
Часы: 09:30
Божественная Литургия: 10:00

sergei.synology.me/text/readings-variables/28-afterPentecost-Tone3_2019_Dec29_Eng_Rus.pdf
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Posted 1 month ago

Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Cardiff : Kazan Icon of the Mother of God

Conception of Theotokos, Gospel about healing the ten lepers. ... Click Here To See MoreClick Here To See Less

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