The Advent Journey With the Saints: the Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer

Sunday, December 20 /January 2: Forefeast of the Nativity and the Commemoration of the Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer

The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, as was also St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (February 23). St Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch, and successor to Bishop Euodius, Apostle of the Seventy (September 7).

Tradition suggests that when St Ignatius was a little boy, the Saviour hugged him and said: “Unless you turn and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 18:3). The saint was called “God-Bearer” (Theophoros), because he bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him. He also had this name because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.

St Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John the Theologian, together with St Polycarp of Smyrna. As Bishop of Antioch, St Ignatius was zealous and spared no effort to build up the church of Christ. To him is attributed the practice of antiphonal singing (by two choirs) during church services. He had seen a vision of the angels in heaven alternately singing praises to God, and divided his church choir to follow this example. In the time of persecution he was a source of strength to the souls of his flock, and was eager to suffer for Christ.

In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians, ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods, and to put to death any Christians who refused to worship the idols. In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch. Here they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ, and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity.

St Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor, so as to avert persecution of the Christians in Antioch. St Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of the emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols. The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts. St Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him. His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses, who accompanied St Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.

On the way to Rome, the ship sailed from Seleucia stopped at Smyrna, where St Ignatius met with his friend Bishop Polycarp. Clergy and believers from other cities and towns thronged to see St Ignatius. He exhorted everyone not to fear death and not to grieve for him.

In his Epistle to the Roman Christians, he asked them to assist him with their prayers, and to pray that God would strengthen him in his impending martyrdom for Christ: “I seek Him Who died for us; I desire Him Who rose for our salvation… In me, desire has been nailed to the cross, and no flame of material longing is left. Only the living water speaks within me, saying, ‘Hasten to the Father.’”

From Smyrna, St Ignatius went to Troas. Here he heard the happy news of the end of the persecution against Christians in Antioch. From Troas, St Ignatius sailed to Neapolis (in Macedonia) and then to Philippi.

On the way to Rome St Ignatius visited several churches, teaching and guiding the Christians there. He also wrote seven epistles: to the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna. He also addressed a letter to St Polycarp, who mentions a collection of the letters of St Ignatius in his letter to the Philippians (Ch. 13). St Irenaeus of Lyons quotes from St Ignatius’s letter to the Romans (AGAINST HERESIES 5:28:4). All these letters have survived to the present day.

The Roman Christians met St Ignatius with great joy and profound sorrow. Some of them hoped to prevent his execution, but St Ignatius implored them not to do this. Kneeling down, he prayed together with the believers for the Church, for love between the brethren, and for an end to the persecution against Christians.

On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led St Ignatius into the arena, and he turned to the people: “Men of Rome, you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime, but because of my love for God, by Whose love I am embraced. I long to be with Him, and offer myself to him as a pure loaf, made of fine wheat ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts.”

After this the lions were released and tore him to pieces, leaving only his heart and a few bones. Tradition says that on his way to execution, St Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ. When they asked him why he was doing this, St Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart, and that he confessed with his lips Him Whom he always carried within. When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched. When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters: “Jesus Christ.” After his execution St Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer for the city of Rome.

Hearing of the saint’s great courage, Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians. The relics of St Ignatius were transferred to Antioch (January 29), and on February 1, 637 were returned to Rome and placed in the church of San Clemente.

Source: The Orthodox Church in America


Canon of the forefeast, the acrostic whereof is: “Chanted are these hymns of the forefeast”, the composition of Joseph, in Tone I:

Ode 1, Irmos: Let us all chant a triumphant hymn unto God * Who wrought wondrous miracles * with His upraised arm, * and saved Israel, * for He hath been glorified.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

Let us begin today to celebrate the forefeast of the nativity of Christ Who was born in the flesh from the Virgin Mother in the cave of Bethlehem in His surpassing loving-kindness.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

The pre-eternal God, Who is seen as a babe, is wrapped in swaddling bands and laid in a manger, releasing me from the bonds of sin. Glory be to His might!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

 Eden is opened to Thee Who in the flesh wast born in Bethlehem from the divine Virgin Maiden, O Master; we hymn Thine awesome dispensation.

Canon of the hieromartyr, the composition of Andrew of Crete, in the same tone.

Same Irmos: Let us all chant a triumphant hymn unto God …,

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Celebrating with splendour, let us form ourselves into ranks; in a sacred manner the martyr Ignatius doth summon the Church of Christ to his much-hymned suffering.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

O Ignatius, as the most radiant luminary of the Church thou hast enlightened all the ends of the earth, and having arrived from the East, thou hast shone upon the lands of the West.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Emulating the tribulations of Paul in the cities and towns while thou wast a prisoner, O Ignatius, thou wast in nowise troubled, making steadfast the Churches of Christ by thy frequent epistles.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

O all-blessed Ignatius, we all hymn thy glorious memory, and with hymns we honour Him Who crowned thy most precious head, O thou who art blessed of God.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

“Let my flesh be lacerated, let my blood flow forth! In my desire I make haste, ready for the wild beasts, adorned for crushing, for the fire, for the sword, for being devoured!” the martyr cried aloud.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Adorn thyself, O Eden, for Ephratha hath been made ready for the Creator, Who is to be born from the Virgin Mother in the cave of Bethlehem, in His surpassing loving-kindness.

Ode III, Canon of the Forefeast, Irmos: The stone which the builders have rejected, * the same hath become the cornerstone: * this is the rock upon which Christ hath established the Church, * which He hath redeemed from among the nations.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

Let all creation chant the hymns of the forefeast unto Him Who was begotten of the Father before the morning-star, and hath now shone forth ineffably from the Virgin, and is born in the flesh in Bethlehem, in His surpassing loving-kindness.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

A star hath shone forth from the tribe of Judah, which the kings have recognized. They make a journey from the lands of the East, and hasten to arrive, that they might gaze upon Christ Who is born in the flesh in Bethlehem.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Perceiving the incarnation of Christ, Isaiah manifestly prophesieth in the Holy Spirit, saying: “The Lord is born from a Virgin as a babe, for our regeneration! His government is upon His shoulders!”

Canon of the Hieromartyr, Irmos: The stone which the builders have rejected …,

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

O father, thou hast been shown forth as a model of sacred suffering, a tower of endurance, a rule of courage, a pillar of the Church, the confirmation of the Faith, a sign of virtue: having been crowned with honoured sufferings in Christ.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Truly wast thou called the God-bearer, O father, for held in the arms of the Lord while yet a babe, thou wast set forth by Him Who saith to us: “Be ye for Me like unto this child!”

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

“I am the pure wheat of God,” thou didst cry, O father; “and I hasten to be ground by the wild beasts, that my body may be crushed, that my members may be devoured, that I may become food for the beasts, that I may be shown to be pure bread for God!”

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Thou didst complete the strange contest of martyrdom with endurance, and didst show forth wondrous courage surpassing all who suffered before thee, consumed with love of unremitting zeal which, like fire, set thy soul aflame.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Ever burning in spirit, the hieromartyr cried out with love in the midst of his afflictions: “I press on toward Christ, rejoicing! I am crucified with Christ! I no longer live myself, but Christ alone liveth within me!” said he.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Come forth, O Isaiah, and cry aloud: “Behold! a Virgin will conceive in her womb the Redeemer of the world, and will give birth in a cave! And the name of Him Who will be born is Jesus, God is with us, Emmanuel, Sabaoth!”

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Kontakion of the forefeast, in Tone III: Spec. Mel.: “Today the Virgin …”: Today the Virgin cometh to ineffably give birth * to the pre-eternal Word in the cave. * Having heard this dance O world, * and with the angels and shepherds glorify the pre-eternal God, ** Who is to appear as a little babe.

Ikos: O truly awesome wonder past all telling! He Who giveth existence to all, in His goodness hath entered the womb of the holy Virgin, and cometh to be born in the cave, and to be laid in a manger. And His star is a herald from on high to the magi who come to do Him homage with gifts, drawing from afar those who zealously follow the prophecy of Balaam, who said: “A star will proclaim beforehand the little babe, the pre-eternal God!”

Sessional Hymn of the hieromartyr, in Tone III: Spec. Mel.: “Awed by the beauty of thy virginity …”: Guided by Christ God, thou didst make bright thy sacred vesture, having truly received witness, O God-bearer; for thou didst provoke the wild beasts to separate thee from the world, emulating the wondrous Apostle Paul. Wherefore, in Rome, O father, thou didst finish thy martyrdom as is meet.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Another Sessional Hymn of the hieromartyr, in Tone VIII: Spec. Mel.: “Of the Wisdom …”: Shining forth like a star from the East, thou didst illumine the world, resplendent in the rays of thy discourses; thou didst drive away the darkness, and like Paul didst valiantly finish the race, enduring tribulations among the nations and in the cities. Wherefore, like wheat thou wast ground by the teeth of wild beasts, as an offering for thy Lord, O blessed God-bearer Ignatius. Entreat Christ God, that He grant remission of sins to those who honour thy holy memory with love.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Sessional Hymn of the forefeast, in the same tone & melody: The Word of God, Who shone forth without commingling from the bosom of the Father before time began, and within time came forth seedlessly from thy womb, O most pure one, lifting up him who of old had grievously stumbled, raising him up to his primal beauty. The armies of the incorporeal beings come forth for His nativity
and mystically send forth hymns of victory to mortals, crying: Glory to God Who hath given us peace, breaking down the middle wall of enmity, as is His good pleasure!

Ode IV, Canon of the Forefeast, Irmos: Foreseeing in the Spirit O Prophet Habbakuk, * the incarnation of the Word, * thou didst proclaim, crying aloud: * When the years draw nigh, Thou shalt be known; * when the season cometh, Thou shalt be shown forth! * Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

O ye mountains and hills, ye groves of woods, ye rivers and seas, and every living creature, leap up in gladness! For Jesus our salvation cometh to be born of the Virgin in the city of Bethlehem!

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

Take up thy psaltery, O Prophet David, and chant openly, inspired by the Holy Spirit; for Christ God, the Lord of glory, Who without commingling shone forth from the bosom of the Father before the morning-star, is to be born from the Virgin!

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

How can the least of caves, exceedingly poor, receive Thee Who art born in the flesh, O Word? How art Thou wrapped in swaddling-bands, Who clothest the sky in clouds? How dost Thou lie in a manger of dumb beasts as a babe.

Canon of the Hieromartyr, Irmos: Foreseeing in the Spirit …,

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

As a prisoner thou dost illumine the earth with the effulgence of thy sufferings, O sacred Ignatius; for making thy transit like the sun, shedding rays of martyrdom, thou didst enlighten the whole evening, shining forth from the East.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Bound like Paul between irrational beasts, thou didst hasten to Rome, O wise Ignatius; yet even though thou wast chained thou didst not cease to make the Church steadfast, sending epistles to all the cities, that all the hierarchs of Christ be of good cheer.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

“I hasten to become Christ’s! I desire Christ alone, for I am wholly Christ’s!”, thou didst cry out, O spiritual athlete. “I press onward toward Him; I strive, that I might reach Him! Wherefore, I endure fire, the sword and wild beasts, that I may receive life!”

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

“Sweet to me is affliction, and lovely are the chains I bear for Him Whom I desire!”, thou didst cry, O spiritual athlete; “Persecutions are sweeter to me than my homeland, as is my being broken sweeter than any gladness; my pangs are dearer to me than all the health of my body.”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

“Let the mouths of the wild beasts be my death and their bellies my tomb!”, thou didst cry, O spiritual athlete; “Let no one hinder, let no one break my might; for I hasten to be ground like wheat, that God may find me to be pure bread!”

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

As God, O Good One, Thou wast well-pleased to be born for our sake in a cave of the earth, abasing Thyself in embracing our low estate in Thy lovingkindness, issuing forth, incarnate, from the Virgin, yet remaining the only Son of the Father and Thy Mother.

Ode V, Canon of the Forefeast, Irmos: Grant us Thy peace, O Son of God, * for we know no other God than Thee, * and we call upon Thy Name, * for Thou art the God of the living and the dead.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

Rejoicing let the clouds drop forth sweetness; for the Lord draweth nigh already to be born as a babe of the pure Virgin in an earthen cave.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

O ye divine prophets of God, leap up! For Christ the Truth cometh to fulfil your divine words, being born as a babe.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

O Eden which wast locked against me of old, open thyself from henceforth, beholding Christ Who is become a babe in the flesh, for He hath been well-pleased to be born in the city of Bethlehem from the Virgin Maiden.

Canon of the Hieromartyr, Irmos: Grant us Thy peace, O Son of God …,

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

“Such a hierarch hath become for us; wise, venerable, faithful, undefiled and innocent,” cried Paul, describing beforehand the hallowed image of thy sacred character.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Bound and led forth as a hierarch and prisoner of Christ, O Ignatius, thou didst write to the Churches and cities, confirming all in confession.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Piously emulating the corrections of Paul, thou didst endure all tribulations, O right wondrous hieromartyr, thou radiance of the East and star of the evening.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Moved to contend by the desire of Paul, with chains on thy hands thou didst travel the world, O hieromartyr, that by thy sacred sufferings thou mightest be right manifest to all.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

We hymn thy struggles, we honour thy fetters with censing and psalms, we venerate the dust of thy relics as rendered redolent of myrrh by thy sacred sufferings.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Becoming like unto mankind through thee, God is born as a babe for our sake, O Bride of God, yet remaineth wholly immutable. God, having become man, is seen in the flesh.

Ode VI, Canon of the Forefeast, Irmos: Emulating the Prophet Jonah, I cry aloud: * Free Thou my life from corruption, O Good One; * and save me who crieth out: * O Saviour of the world, Glory be to Thee!

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

To the astrologers doth heaven now shine forth on earth in the city Of David: the King of heaven, Who is born for our sake.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

Manifestly doth the prophet speak forth with eloquence, crying out: “O Bethlehem, thou house of Ephratha, wherein God appeareth from the Virgin, leap up and dance!”

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

In the cave of Bethlehem the Virgin manifestly giveth birth to the Lord and Creator of all, and, having wrapped Him as babe in swaddling bands, she now layeth Him in the manger.

Canon of the Hieromartyr, Irmos: Emulating the Prophet Jonah …,

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Truly loving Him Whom thou didst unwaveringly desire, and having noetically kindled a fire for Him, O Ignatius, thou didst have in thee the water which liveth and speaketh.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Fulfilling the testimony of thy conscience, thou wast not dissuaded at the sight of the wild beasts, nor wast thou affrighted, for thou didst desire to be ground like wheat by their jaws.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

O hieromartyr, thy long torments and unbroken bonds, thy rending asunder in Rome, and the fire of the torturers, which thou didst endure for thy Creator, thou didst reckon as naught.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Burning greatly with the love of Christ, O spiritual athlete, thou didst tread upon the fire of thy trials as upon the morning dew, that thou mightest attain Him Who loveth thee thereby.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Even though, thirsting, thou didst drain the cup of Christ, yet didst thou ever prefer to suffer rather than to live; and thou didst cry out: “These things are to me nothing more than the means whereby I may attain life!”

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Adorn thyself, O Bethlehem! Prepare thyself, O Ephratha! For He who was begotten of the Father without mother is carried in the womb by a Mother without father, and is born thereby saving us.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Kontakion, in Tone III: Spec. Mel.: “Today the Virgin …”: The luminous day of thy radiant struggles proclaimeth to all beforehand * Him Who hath been born in the cave; * for thirsting to delight in His love, * thou didst hasten to be devoured by the wild beasts. ** Wherefore, thou hast been called the God-bearer, O all-wise Ignatius.

Ikos: Once Abraham sacrificed his son, prefiguring the slaying of Him Who sustaineth all things; and thou, O divinely wise one, hast offered thy whole self to Him as a sacrifice, becoming food for the wild beasts, and showing thyself to be pure wheat for thy Creator, truly abiding forever in the granaries of heaven, delighting Him by thy zeal. Having forsaken the whole world for His sake, thou hast been called the God-bearer, O all-wise Ignatius.

Ode VII, Canon of the Forefeast ,Irmos: Thy children who were in the furnace O Saviour, * were neither touched nor troubled by the fire. * Whereupon the three sang, as with a single mouth * Thy praises and blessed Thee, saying: * ‘O God of our fathers, Blessed art Thou.’

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

Showing forth the advent of Christ in the flesh, Jeremiah cried aloud: “God hath appeared on earth, incarnate; and He hath found every path of knowledge, being born of His Mother in Bethlehem.”
Lo! from the root of Jesse a rod hath sprung forth producing Christ as its flower.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

On Him Who is now born thereon in the cave doth the Spirit of understanding, counsel and divine vision rest.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

Let us listen to the sacred words: the Lord is born as a babe for our sake. His government is upon His shoulders, and He is called the Angel of the great Counsel of the great Father, Christ, the Prince of peace!

Canon of the Hieromartyr, Irmos: Thy children who were in the furnace O Saviour …,

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Thou didst have within thee none of the fire which loveth fuel, O Ignatius, but rather the living water which speaketh, the water which crieth aloud: “Come thou to the Father!”, the water which runneth from life to the life which transcendeth us.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

“Let the fangs of the wild beasts be for me a sword, weapons and slaughter; let the bellies of the lions be for me a tomb; and let the fire devour me before corruption devoureth my remains!” said Ignatius.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

“To me death is sweet,” he said; “to me all the pangs of my labours are sweet: the wild beasts are delightful, and this fire is like dew unto me, if it doth not withhold Life from me. Wherefore, I hasten to die, that I may live with Christ!”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

“I prefer not to live in the body, for I desire to live in spirit. A thing of divine love is it for me to live for Christ. To Him do I go; Him. do I love, and Him do I hope to receive!”, he said.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

He Who was foretold by the prophet of old approacheth me as a babe born from the Virgin; Adam rejoiceth, and Eve, our first mother, is released from her pangs. And David, the father of her who giveth birth, danceth with her.

Ode VIII, Canon of the Forefeast, Irmos: Him of whom the angels and all the hosts of heaven are in awe * as their Lord and Creator, * ye priests hymn, ye children praise, * ye peoples bless and supremely exalt * throughout all ages.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

The Lord manifestly cometh to His own by a strange birth, let us receive Him, that, being born in the cave, He may again make His own those who were exiled from the sweetness of paradise.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

Lo! our Restoration cometh! With zeal let us give voice to hymns of joy and let us chant the songs of the forefeast, unto Him Who is to be contained by the least of caves.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

That which the Lord hath promised, He hath already fulfilled, having given us His Virgin Mother from the seed of David. From her hath a Babe been born in the flesh in the city of Bethlehem, in a manner past all telling.

Canon of the Hieromartyr, Irmos: Him of Whom the angels …,

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Hymned be Ignatius, the godly hierarch, twice crowned, as martyr and pastor; for, having suffered for the love of God, desiring to be desired, he was not dissuaded from suffering.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

With journeys of faith, like the sun from the heavens thou didst valiantly pass over the ends of the earth; and having passed without waning, from the earth to Christ, thou illuminest the world with the light of incorruption.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Thirsting for the cup of the suffering of Christ, thou didst hasten, bound, O wise Ignatius; and having reached the arena, thou didst not pause, crying aloud: “I thirst for Christ with an eternal thirst!”

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

O the love and ardour of divine zeal! He is crucified to the desires that he might live for Him Who loveth. He thirsteth for Him Who thirsted and loveth Him Who loveth, preferring to die, that He might live forever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Putting aside the flesh, he immaterially furnished wings to his mind; to soar aloft to Him Who Is, desiring Him Who loveth; for He is truly eternal Desire, Wisdom, the Life of those who have existed.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Christ, the Star, hath shone forth out of Jacob, and the magi hasten to the city of Bethlehem, to hymn, worship and honour Him Who was born from the womb of the pure Theotokos.

Ode IX, Canon of the Forefeast, Irmos: The ever-flowing wellspring of life, * light-bearing candlestick of grace, * the animate temple, and most pure cloud, * wider than the heavens and the
earth, * the Theotokos do we the faithful magnify.

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

With the patriarchs and all the righteous, and with the holy prophets let us leap up. The Lord Jesus, our Deliverance, Enlightenment, Life and Salvation, is now born from the Virgin in the city of David!

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

Already the outer gates of the incarnation of the divine Word have manifestly been opened unto all! Rejoice, O ye heavens! Ye angels, leap up! Let the earth be glad in the Spirit with the shepherd and magi!

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee.

As a noetic phial the Virgin holdeth Christ as though He were ointment which hath not been poured forth; and He cometh forth to be manifestly poured out by the Spirit in the cave, that He might fill our souls with His sweet fragrance.

Canon of the Hieromartyr, Irmos: The ever-flowing wellspring of life …,

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Ignatius, the seer of things afar off, the minister of the highest mysteries, performing the immaculate service, as a priest hath made himself a sacrifice through martyrdom, and prepareth himself for the wild beasts and the fire.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

Desiring to clothe thyself in the image of God, thou didst remove the ancient image. Wherefore, receiving the pristine beauty of man’s primal appearance through that which is new, not that which is old, thou dwellest together with Christ.

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

By thy sufferings thou didst make thy sacred vesture yet more sacred, O most sacred one; wherefore, having received a twofold crown, with the martyrs and pastors thou dost hymn Christ our God, O Hieromartyr.  

Holy hieromartyr, Ignatius, pray to God for us.

“I am the pure wheat of God,” thou didst say; “and I am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that in sanctity I may be made into pure bread for God Who loveth mankind; and, loving Him, I do not refuse to die.”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Illumined with light unapproachable, and dwelling in the mansions on high, O sacred Ignatius, praying continually to God thy Creator on behalf of thy flock, cease thou never in thy supplications.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Rejoice, O pure one, thou animate city of God, wherein God was well-pleased to make His abode! For, without leaving the highest, He descended within thee, like rain upon the earth, O Birthgiver of God, and is born as a babe in the city of Bethlehem.

Troparion of the forefeast, in Tone IV: Make ready, O Bethlehem! * Open unto all, O Eden! * Adorn thyself, O Ephratha! * For the Tree of life hath blossomed forth from the Virgin in the cave. * Her womb is shown to be a noetic paradise, * wherein lieth a divine garden, * eating from whence we live, not dying like Adam. * Christ is born to raise up His image ** which before was fallen.

Troparion of the hieromartyr, in Tone IV: As thou didst share in the ways of the apostles * and didst occupy their throne, * thou didst find thine activity to be a passage to divine vision, * O divinely inspired one. * Wherefore, ordering the word of truth, * thou didst suffer for the Faith even to the shedding of thy blood, ** O hieromartyr Ignatius, entreat Christ God, that our souls be saved.

Hymns for the Sunday of the Holy Fathers

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the elect of the patriarchs, the fathers before the Law, have shone forth like beacons, for all the prophets and the righteous shone forth from them like radiant lamps. With rays of honourable prophecy have they illumined all creation; and they earnestly pray to God in behalf of the world.

Rejoice, ye honourable prophets who dedicated yourselves well to the Law of the Lord, and by faith revealed yourselves as unshaken and unbreakable pillars of Christ; and, having passed on to heaven, ye beseech Him to grant peace to the world and to save our souls.

Lift up thy voice, O Zion, Thou truly divine city, and proclaim the divine memory of the fathers, honouring Abraham, Isaac and the ever-memorable Jacob; for, lo! we all magnify Judah and Levi, the great Moses and the wondrous Aaron, and we honour David, Joshua and Samuel. And weaving divine hymns into godly praise on the forefeast of Christ’s nativity, we ask that we receive grace from Him, and that He grant the world great mercy.

O Elijah, who once rode upon a divine chariot of fire, come thou forth, and thou, O divinely wise Elisha; and joining with Ezekiel and Hosea, rejoice! O ye honoured and divinely inspired twelve prophets, join chorus, and all ye righteous, chant in hymns unto the nativity of Christ; ye most blessed youths that quenched the flame of the furnace with the dew of the Spirit, entreat Christ on our behalf, that He send down upon our souls great mercy.

Most blessed art thou, O Virgin Theotokos, for through Him Who became incarnate of thee is hades led captive, Adam recalled, the curse annulled, Eve set free, death slain, and we are given life. Wherefore, we cry aloud in praise: Blessed is Christ God. O Thou Who hast been so pleased, glory to Thee.

New Year Greetings: Поздравления с Новым годом!

Dear brothers and sisters, 

Поздравления с Новым годом! Καλή χρονιά!

Greetings as we mark the civil new year – mindful of the spiritual opportunities that each new day, each month and each year afford us, as a gift from God. 

Those who have had a year of spiritual successes and victories should thankfully accept the year ahead as a gift from God to further build upon the foundations and progress of the year – not resting on past achievements, but seeking greater labours and spiritual achievements for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

For those of us for whom the old year was marred by spiritual failures and defeats, the new year is the Merciful Lord’s gift to us, as a time for repentance and amendment. Though life may seem dark, we hold on to hope, and struggle towards Christ, seeking Him as Life and Light. That which we have built may be shoddy and dangerous, and we may need to pull it down and start again, spiritually-rebuilding with care and attention, with Christ and His Gospel as our level and measure. 

Those who have gained spiritual victories in the last year, should fight on, continuing to arm themselves with prayer, fasting, and works of mercy and compassion – not resting on the laurels of past victories, lest the enemy ambush them in the year ahead, taking them by surprise and attacking in the dark night of complacency. The soldier for Christ must remain fit, active and vigilant. 

Those who have faced spiritual defeat should not allow themselves to flounder in the dark gloom of loss and failure, mourning and dwelling on injuries and mistakes, but rise to action knowing that though battles may have been lost, spiritual warfare continues and future victories beckon.

Cleaning, dressing and binding our wounds, strengthening ourselves with prayer, fasting, and the medice of the Holy Mysteries, we must arm ourselves and resume the battle with hope in the Grace of God, knowing that the Saviour is the Vanquisher of death. We may have fallen, but Christ is risen, and reaches down to raise us up, if only we will take His hand. Led forward by Christ the Victor, with the help of the Mother of God, the ‘champion-leader’, battle-scarred and limping, the vanquished may yet become the vanquishers and the defeated the victors. 

For most of us. the old year will have been a mixture of the positive and negative, success and failure, but whether victorious or defeated, successful or at a loss, jubilant or sad, we must all look forward with hope and joy, reflecting on the last year with sobriety and a spiritually-critical eye: knowing what is to be continued and built upon; resolute on what must be changed; thankful for what we have received; practicing what we have learned; repenting for the mistakes we have made; trusting in the Lord, and appreciating every blessing He gives – with this new year as a great gift, with opportunities to seize, to the glory of God.

I received a message today in which the sender said that they hoped the new year will bring “all you want and hope for.” I must say that I do not wish this, but rather pray that we may all be granted what each of us needs for the spiritual life – and that which the Lord knows to be good and salvific for each of us – whether what He sends us is easy or difficult; bitter or sweet; what we want or what we would not choose of our own volition. May His will be done in each of us, and let each of us say to Him, “O Lord, let it be as Thou willest and as Thou knowest. O Lord, as Thou dost wish. may Thy will be done in me – Thine O Lord, not mine.” 

May God grant us that which is needful for the salvation of our souls and the eternal joy of the Kingdom, and let us all invest in the year ahead, heeding the words of St Seraphim by making it spiritually profitable and beneficial, gaining imperishable riches for ourselves in the age to come. 

“Acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit also by practicing all the other virtues for Christ’s sake. Trade spiritually with them; trade with those which give you the greatest profit. Accumulate capital from the superabundance of God’s grace, deposit it in God’s eternal bank which will bring you immaterial interest, not four or six per cent, but one hundred per cent for one spiritual rouble, and even infinitely more than that. For example, if prayer and watching gives you more of God’s grace, watch and pray; if fasting gives you much of the spirit of God, fast; if almsgiving gives you more, give alms. Weigh every virtue done for Christ’s sake in this manner.” 

May God bless you, your families and loved ones.  

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark 

The Advent Journey With the Saints: the Holy Martyr Boniface

Saturday, December 19 / January 1: the Holy Martyr Boniface at Tarsus, in Cilicia.

The Holy Martyr Boniface was the slave of a rich young Roman woman named Aglaida and he dwelt with her in an iniquitous cohabitation. But they both felt the sting of conscience and they wanted somehow to be cleansed of their sin. And the Lord granted them the possibility to wash away their sin with their blood and to finish their life in repentance.

Aglaida learned that whoever keeps relics of the holy martyrs in the home and venerates them receives great help in gaining salvation. Under their influence, sin is diminished and virtue prevails. She arranged for Boniface to go to the East, where there was a fierce persecution against Christians, and she asked him to bring back the relics of some martyr, who would become a guide and protector for them.

As he was leaving, Boniface laughed and asked, “My lady, if I do not find any relics, and if I myself suffer for Christ, will you accept my body with reverence?” Aglaida scolded him, saying that he was setting off on a sacred mission, but he was not taking it seriously. Boniface pondered her words, and during the whole journey he thought that he was unworthy of touching the bodies of the martyrs.

Arriving at Tarsus in Cilicia, Boniface left his companions at the inn and proceeded to the city square, where they were torturing Christians. Struck by the beastly horrible torments, and seeing the faces of the holy martyrs radiant with the grace of the Lord, Boniface marvelled at their courage. He embraced them and kissed their feet, asking them to pray that he might be found worthy to suffer with them.

The judge asked Boniface who he was. He replied, “I am a Christian,” and then refused to offer sacrifice to idols. They stripped him and hung him upside down, beating him so hard that the flesh fell from his body, exposing the bone. They stuck needles under his nails, and finally they poured molten tin down his throat, but by the power of the Lord he remained unharmed. The people who witnessed this miracle shouted, “Great is the God of the Christians!” Then they began to throw stones at the judge, and then they headed for the pagan temple, in order to cast down the idols.

On the following morning, when things had quieted down somewhat, the judge directed that the holy martyr be thrown into a cauldron of boiling tar, but this also caused the sufferer no harm. An angel come down from Heaven and bedewed him as he stepped into the cauldron. The tar overflowed the cauldron, splattering and burning the torturers themselves. Saint Boniface was then sentenced to beheading by the sword. Blood and a milky fluid flowed from his wounds. Beholding such a miracle, about 550 men believed in Christ.

Saint Boniface’s companions, waiting for two days at the inn for him in vain, began searching for him, thinking that he had gotten drunk somewhere. At first their search was without success, but finally they came across a man who had been an eyewitness to the martyr’s death. The man also led them to the place where the decapitated body lay. Saint Boniface’s companions tearfully begged his forgiveness for their unseemly thoughts about him. After they ransomed the martyr’s remains, they brought them back to Rome.

On the eve of their arrival an angel appeared to Aglaida in her sleep and told her to prepare herself to receive her former slave, now the brother and fellow-servant of the angels. Aglaida summoned the clergy, and she received the holy relics with great reverence. Then she built a church on the site of his grave and dedicated it to the holy martyr. There she enshrined his relics, glorified by numerous miracles. After distributing all her wealth to the poor, she withdrew to a monastery, where she spent fifteen years in repentance, then fell asleep in the Lord. She was buried beside Saint Boniface. The sins of the one were washed away by his blood, the other was purified by her tears and asceticism. Both were found worthy to appear unsullied before our Lord Jesus Christ, Who desires not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn from his wickedness and live (Ezek. 33:11).

The canon of the martyr, with 4 Troparia, the acrostic whereof is: “With faith I hymn thee, O most radiant martyr”, the composition of Joseph, in Tone IV:

Ode I, Irmos: O Thou who wast born of the Virgin, * drown I implore Thee, in the depth of dispassion * the triune nature of my soul, * as Thou didst the mighty strongholds of the warriors, * that in the mortality of my flesh * as on a timbrel * I may chant a hymn of victory.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Emulating the feats of the valiant spiritual athletes with zealous intent, thou didst suffer mightily; and didst slay the serpent with thy life-bearing sufferings, O spiritual athlete Boniface, converser with the angels.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Beholding the delusion of the enemy cruelly poured forth on the earth, O valiant passion-bearer, and, having enkindled thy soul with divine desire, thou didst enter the arena with fearless resolve, O thrice-blessed one.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Illumined with divine wisdom, O blessed one, thou didst make foolish the unwise foe, proclaiming Christ, Who made Himself like us in the coarseness of the flesh, whereby He desired to become manifest, O much-suffering martyr Boniface.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

All of us, the faithful, hymn the pure Mary with oneness of mind: the mountain of God, which Daniel foresaw, the noetic tabernacle, the sanctuary of glory, the table which held the divine Bread.

Ode III, Irmos: Likened to a barren woman * the Church from among the nations hath given birth, * and the assembly abundant in children, hath grown weak. * Let us cry out to our wondrous God: * Holy art Thou, O Lord!

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

As thou didst desire the freedom on high, O glorious one, thou wast delivered from the yoke of slavery, having emulating the honoured sufferings of Him Who in His tender compassion became a servant.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Shown to be above carnal understandings by divine favour, O martyr Boniface, rejoicing, thou didst suddenly endure every assault of evils.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Thou didst deny thyself, and didst go forth to struggles and contests against the enemy, armed with the Cross as a weapon; and having become a victor, thou hast been glorified, O martyr Boniface.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The transcendent God poured Himself forth into thy womb without leaving the bosom of the Father, O all-immaculate one, and became thy Son, saving mankind.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Sessional Hymn, in Tone IV: Spec. Mel.: “Having been lifted up …”: Sent to the company of martyrs, thou didst become a true martyr, suffering most mightily for Christ, O all-praised one; and thou didst give thyself to her who sent thee forth with faith, O blessed Boniface, earnestly pray that we all may receive perfect forgiveness.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion, in Tone IV: As one who loveth sin, I beseech thee who hast given birth to the sinless God Who taketh away the sins of the world: O most pure one, have compassion on my greatly sinful soul and cleanse me of my many sins; for thou art the cleansing, salvation and aid of the faithful.

Ode IV, Irmos: For the sake of love for Thine image, * O compassionate One, * Thou didst ascend the cross * and the nations melted away. * For Thou, O Lover of mankind, * art my strength and my praise.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Blessing the endurance of those who suffer, O most noetically rich and divinely wise martyr, thou didst liken thyself to them, emulating their honoured sufferings.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Going forth with faith to the divine company of the martyrs, O blessed one, thou didst give thyself to her who desired a right wondrous burden, O divinely wise one.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Purified like gold in the crucible of wounds, O martyr, thou wast revealed to be most pure, bearing the image of the sufferings of the Creator.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Realizing that thy virginity was sealed in thy birthgiving, O Maiden, with faith thou didst magnify the Word Who was ineffably born from thy womb.

Ode V, Irmos: Do Thou O Lord send down upon us * Thine enlightenment, and free us * from the gloom of transgression, O Good One, * granting us Thy peace.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Like a radiant star thou didst rise above the western lands and didst set in the endurance of sufferings, O martyr; and thou didst straightway shine upon the lands of the West, illumining the ends thereof.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

As a martyr thou didst suffer the rending away of thy fingernails, and beatings with sharp reeds, O martyr, thereby breaking the sting of the evil one by faith and grace.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Thou didst weaken the machinations of the enemy directed against thee, O divinely wise one, for, constantly directing thy gaze toward God, thou didst endure the wounding of thy flesh as though one incorporeal.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

I cry to thee: Wash my soul clean of all defilement, O pure Virgin who hast given birth on earth to God, our true Saviour.

Ode VI, Irmos: Prefiguring Thy three-day burial * the Prophet Jonah praying in the belly of the sea-monster cried aloud: * Deliver me from corruption * O Jesus Thou King of hosts.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Beaten, thou didst inflict fleshly wounds upon the ungodly who were incurably afflicted with ignorance, and hast been revealed to be a physician of the sick, O spiritual athlete Boniface.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Exalted unto God by thy contest of struggles, O blessed passion-bearer, thou didst cut down the invisible foe and become an ally of the down-trodden.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Dragged across the ground, O spiritual athlete, like a precious stone thou didst cast down the foundation of falsehood, and with faith hast made yet more steadfast the hearts of the faithful.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Of old, the bush, which burned yet was not consumed, prefigured thee, O all-immaculate Virgin; for, like it, thou wast not consumed when thou didst surrender thy flesh to God.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Kontakion, in Tone IV: Spec. Mel.: “Thou hast appeared …”: Of thine own will thou didst bring thyself * as an unblemished sacred offering to Him * Who was born of the Virgin for thy sake, * O most wise Boniface, ** holy crown-bearer.

Ode VII, Irmos: Of old the Children of Abraham in Babylon * trampled down the flame of the furnace, * crying aloud with hymns: * O God of our Fathers, blessed art Thou.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Refusing to bend thy knee before graven images, thou wast truly cast into a furnace for an even greater trial; and bedewed therein; thou dost give thanks to Christ throughout the ages.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Seeking to destroy the might of thy confession, the deluded one pitilessly caused molten lead to be poured into thy bowels; yet was he was manifestly put to shame.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

In earnestly enduring the severing of thy precious head, thou didst cut off the most wily head of the deceitful enemy with the sword of thy courage, O divinely wise martyr of Christ.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Let me hymn thee with fitting melodies, O Maiden. By thy supplications deliver me from sufferings, misfortunes and tribulations, and from evil men who seek to oppress me.

Ode VIII, Irmos: O almighty Redeemer of all, * having descended and bedewed the children * in the midst of the flame, * Thou didst teach them to sing: * All ye works bless and hymn the Lord.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Devising profitable salvation for thee who sought the relics of the right-victorious martyrs, O Boniface, Christ strengthened thee, that thou thyself might become a martyr through faith.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Thou wast given as a blessed treasure to thy blessed mistress, O blessed one; and having been enriched thereby, she chanted with gladness of heart: All ye works bless and hymn the Lord!

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Having erected a most sacred temple with zeal, the glorious woman enshrined thee therein, who art the temple of the divine Trinity, O Boniface, passion-bearer of Christ.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Having died for love of the Creator Who slayeth the corrupting passions, by thy supplication clearly bestow life upon those who cry: All ye works bless and hymn the Lord!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The supremely divine One, descending upon thee, the pure one, became incarnate, as He alone knew how O Virgin, delivering mankind who chanteth unto thee: All ye works bless and hymn the Lord!

Ode IX, Irmos: Eve dwelt under the curse of sin * because of the infirmity of disobedience; * but thou, O Virgin Theotokos, * hast through the Offspring of thy pregnancy * blossomed forth blessing upon the world. * Wherefore, we all magnify thee.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Beholding thee as a sacred burden, the ever-memorable handmaid rejoiced, crying: “I sent thee forth, O blessed one, but I accept thee as my true master, delivering me from slavery to evils by thy right acceptable entreaties!”

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Thou hast blossomed like a lily in the noetic valleys of the martyrs, O Boniface; like a palm tree hast thou grown tall; like a cedar thou hast been recognized as sweetly fragrant; and thou hast been shown to be like a choice cypress, perfuming our souls.

Holy martyr, Boniface, pray God for us.

Today the day of thy commemoration hath shone forth like the sun with the radiance of divine gifts, O passion-bearer, illumining the souls of those who hymn thee and dispelling the gloom of the passions, O divinely wise and all-blessed martyr.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Thou didst shine forth from the West like the sun, and didst attain unto a city of the East, where, having suffered and set in death, thou didst hasten to life and reach splendid Rome, which thou dost now protect by thy prayers.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

With thy light illumine me who am stuck fast in the darkness of sin, O Theotokos; and grant that I may walk in the daylight of the divine precepts, O Bride of God, that I may hymn thee, the all-hymned one.

The Advent Journey With the Saints: the Holy Martyr Sebastian and His Company

Friday 18/31 December: Commemoration of the Holy Martyr Sebastian and His Company

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, insightful in advice, 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, and 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.

Sts 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.

The canon of the martyrs, with 4 Troparia, the acrostic whereof is: “I wisely render divine honour to thee, O martyr,” the composition of Joseph, in Tone I:

Ode I, Irmos: Thy victorious right arm, * in a manner befitting God, * hath been glorified in strength, O Immortal One; * for in its infinite strength it shattered the enemy, * fashioning anew a path for the Israelites through the deep.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Illumined by the divine rays of the adored Trinity, O ever-memorable one, do thou by thy supplications, show forth as partakers of the light those who with faith honour thy luminous and sacred feast.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Possessed of a mind radiant and, replete with honourable effulgence, as one sensible and wise, O martyred spiritual athlete, thine only desire was He Who Is, and through faith thou didst receive Him.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

With divine beads of sweat thou didst truly blot out the reasoning of thy flesh, and with the blood of thy suffering thou didst dry up the turgid streams of polytheism, O most noetically rich and divinely wise martyr.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

By thy divine teachings thou didst lead to the master a regiment of spiritual athletes, casting down all the impiety of the tyrants by the grace of the Holy Spirit; and with them thou prayest that we be saved.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thou hast given birth to a little Babe – Him Who hath been with the Father from before the beginning of time; and thou hast renewed the laws of nature, O pure, most pure Virgin Mother, by thy supra-natural, honoured and divine
birthgiving.

Ode III, Irmos: Thou alone knowest the weakness of human nature * and in compassion hast assumed its form; * do Thou gird me with power from on high, * that I may cry unto Thee: * Holy is the animate temple of Thine ineffable glory, O Lover of mankind!

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

O invincible martyr, who led forth an honourable army, arrayed in the divine armor of the Faith, ye have cast down the legions of the foe and all the wiles of the tyrants by the power of the Spirit.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Having established the ascents of thy heart upon the noetic rock with pious wisdom, O much-suffering martyr, thou didst not fall prey to the wiles of the deceitful serpent; but hast been a foundation of piety for all in spirit.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Bound and suspended on a tree, thou didst endure the cruel piercing of your members, O martyr; yet by the divine power of God thou wast straightway shown to be whole and unharmed, O glorious one, putting the wiles of the enemy to shame.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O all-immaculate one, thou hast been revealed to be the noetic sanctuary and pure abode of Him Who sanctifieth all things; for from thee hath God appeared incarnate, known to the world in two natures, but in a single Hypostasis, O Bride of God.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Sessional Hymn, in Tone IV: Spec. Mel.: “Having been lifted up …”: With the staining of thy blood thou didst dye a robe of martyrdom, and thou didst array thyself therein as with a costly robe of purple, O Sebastian. Wherefore, thou hast made thine abode with Christ in the endless kingdom on high, and with those who suffered with thee hast received a cross. Joining chorus with them, O wise one, be thou ever mindful of us.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion: He that sitteth upon the throne of the cherubim * and abideth in the bosom of the Father * sat in thy womb as upon a throne, O Lady; * for, being truly God incarnate, * He reigneth over all nations, * and with understanding we now chant to Him. *
Him do thou also entreat, ** that thy servants be saved.

Stavrotheotokion: She who in the latter days * gave birth in the flesh unto Thee O Christ, * Who wast begotten of the beginningless Father, * upon seeing Thee hanging upon the Cross, cried aloud: * “Woe is me, O Jesus, most beloved Christ! * How is it that Thou Who art glorified as God by the angels * dost now consent to be crucified by iniquitous men O my Son? ** I hymn Thee, O Thou Long-suffering One!”

ODE IV, Irmos: Perceiving thee with prophetic eyes * as the mountain overshadowed by the grace of God, * Habbakuk proclaimed that the Holy One of Israel * would come forth from thee, * for our salvation and restoration.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

O Tiburtius, the Lord gave thee power to vanquish the enemy in thy weak flesh; for when the fire was kindled, thou didst enter therein like the youths, O most mighty martyr, and didst receive the dew of heaven.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Thou hast joined the heavenly ministers, O Tiburtius, for, serving Christ, thou didst offer up pure sacrifices in spirit, O sacred minister, thou glory and boast of the martyrs; wherefore, we joyfully honour thee.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Suspended upright, lacerated with sharp blades, pierced with the grievous wounds of arrows, and buried in a pit, wherein he received his divine end, Castulus of valiant mind rejoiced.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Performing healings by the Holy Spirit, O blessed Sebastian, thou didst magnificently proclaim salvation to the people who piously looked for enlightenment, and didst finish the race of martyrdom.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The transcendent God chose thee alone from among all generations, O all-immaculate Lady, Birthgiver of God, and, becoming a man, the Creator of human nature assumed the essence of mankind.

Ode V, Irmos: O Hou hast shone upon us with the radiance * of Thy coming O Christ, * and illumined the ends of the world with Thy Cross, * enlighten with the light of thine understanding * the hearts of those who with right worship hymn Thee.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Thy paths and ways, which lead to the Lord alone, tripped the aimless steps of the enemy and were for many a straight and firm path, O most honoured martyr of Christ.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Before the tribunal the most wise Marcellinus and Mark spake with eloquence of the saving advent of Christ, and, bound together, they were pierced with sharp blades, receiving the adornment of martyrdom.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Marcellinus and Mark, mightily emulating the suffering of Him Who slew our passions, were pierced with spears, and, crowned, have joined the choirs of passion-bearers.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O all-immaculate one, thou most radiant cloud of the Sun, by thy supplications dispel the clouds from my soul and illumine my mind, which hath become darkened by negligence, that I may hymn thee, O all-hymned one.

Ode VI, Irmos: The deepest abyss hath surrounded us, * and there is none to deliver us, * yea we have been counted as sheep for the slaughter; * save Thy people O our God, * for thou art the strength and restoration of the weak.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

By steadfastness of mind thou wast most honourably shown to be tireless when thou wast pitilessly beaten with staves and pierced by many arrows. Wherefore O martyr, thou hast passed, rejoicing, over to the never-waning light.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Christ imparted life to thee, who struggled and fought the demons, sustained grievous wounds, and looked to Him with the eyes of thy heart, O invincible martyr Sebastian.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

With the hard staves of thy most wise words thou didst smash delusion, demolish the sanctuaries of the enemy, destroy their idolatrous temples and raise thyself up as a temple of the divine Spirit.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thou hast restored our nature, which had become corrupt through disobedience, having given birth to Him Who reneweth all things by His divine will, O divine joyous one, who alone among women art blessed.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Kontakion, in Tone 4: Excelling in godly zeal, / thou didst gather a band of martyrs from which thou didst shine as a star. / The arrows that wounded thy body, O Sebastian, / pierced the hearts of the enemy. / Therefore, Christ has glorified thee!

Ode VII, Irmos: We the faithful perceive thee, O Theotokos, * to be a noetic furnace; * for as He, the supremely exalted One, * saved the three children, * so hath He wholly refashioned fallen humanity, in thy womb, * O Thou praised and supremely glorified God of our fathers.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Strengthened by Thy mighty power, O Christ, Thy passion-bearers vanquished the foe, trampling delusion underfoot, and giving their bodies over to wounding, as they chanted: Praised and supremely glorious is the God of our fathers!

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Having struggled well, Marcellinus and the glorious Mark, Tiburtius and the allwise Castulus, the divinely radiant passion-bearers and martyrs, have passed over to heaven, hymning our praised and supremely glorious God.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

As a youth thou didst noetically tread upon the flame, O spiritual athlete Tiburtius, like the children of old, receiving the dew of the Spirit from on high, and chanting earnestly: Praised and supremely glorious is the God of our fathers!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Suspended aloft like a lamb, O glorious martyr Zoe, thou didst choke the enemy with the cords of thy patiently-endured pangs, and thou livest even after death, O all-praised one, chanting: Praised and supremely glorious is the God of our fathers!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O pure one, we call thee the golden jar, the all-holy table of the divine Bread of life, the place of sanctity, the throne most high, whereon God hath rested: the praised and supremely glorious God of our fathers.

Ode VIII, Irmos: In the furnace as in a fiery smelter * the Israelite children shone more brightly than gold * with the beauty of godliness, * as they exclaimed: Bless the Lord all ye works of the Lord, * hymn and supremely exalt Him throughout all ages.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Desiring to die to the world and all things in the world, O all-honoured one, thou wast deemed worthy of life, crying out most earnestly: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord; hymn and supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

The iniquitous ones cruelly placed thee in an exceedingly deep pit, and, filling it in, slew thee, O ever-memorable Castulus, who chanted fervently: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord; hymn and supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

As the namesake of life, O Zoe, thou hast obtained blessed life; for thou didst leave this life of corruption by violent strangulation, chanting: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord; hymn and supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

In giving birth to the comely God and Master Who adorneth the human race with divine beauties, O pure one, thou thyself wast adorned. To Him do we chant: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord; hymn and supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Ode IX, Irmos: The Bush, which burnt without being consumed, * prefigured thy pure birthgiving, O Theotokos. * Wherefore we now entreat Thee: * quench the raging furnace of temptations that beset us, * that we may unceasingly magnify Thee.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

That thou mightest be counted worthy of divine splendour, everlasting glory and beauty, O all-blessed Sebastian, thou didst manfully endure torment, pain and death; wherefore, we all magnify thee.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Thou wast revealed to be like the sun amid stars, with those who suffered with thee, O martyr; and now, through your sacred sufferings, ye illumine with pure splendours the divine foundation of the Church, dispelling all the boastfulness of the demons.

Holy martyrs, pray to God for us.

Tiburtius, Marcellinus and Mark, Zoe and Castulus, loving Christ, and suffering together with the divinely wise Sebastian, their instructor, they equally received crowns of victory, ever interceding on our behalf.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

The divine choir of the martyrs, having been taken up and granted to dwell in the radiant mansions, go about the heavens rejoicing, ever entreating Him Who is the Lover of mankind, on behalf of us who bless them forever.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The noetic armies are filled with awe, beholding the divine Effulgence of the Father ineffably held in thine arms and assuming our form, that He might deify mortals, O all-immaculate Virgin Mother.

Troparion, in Tone IV: In their sufferings, Thy martyrs O Lord, * received imperishable crowns from Thee, our God; * for, possessed of Thy might, * they set at naught the tyrants and crushed the feeble audacity of the demons. ** By their supplications save Thou our souls.

A Prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian, For Those Who Despair

Do not lose heart, O soul, do not grieve. Pronounce not over yourself a final judgement for the multitude of your sins. Do not commit yourself to fire. Do not say the Lord has cast me from His face. Such words are not pleasing to God. Can it be that one who is fallen cannot get up? Can it be that he who is turned away cannot turn back again? Do you not hear how kind the father is to a prodigal? Do not be ashamed to turn back and say boldly, “I will arise and go to my father.” Arise, and go!   He will accept you and not reproach you but rather rejoice at your return. He awaits you, just do not be ashamed and do not hide from the face of God as Adam did.

It was for your sake that Christ was crucified. So, will he cast you aside? He knows who oppresses us. He knows that we have no other help but him alone. Christ knows that man is miserable. Do not give yourself up in despair and apathy assuming that you have been prepared for the fire. Christ derives no consolation from thrusting us into the fire. He gains nothing if He sends us into the abyss to be tormented. Imitate the prodigal son – leave the city that starves you. Come and beseech Him and you shall behold the glory of God. Your face shall be enlightened and you will rejoice in the sweetness of Paradise. Glory to the Lord and lover of mankind who saves us!   Amen.

The Advent Journey With the Saints: the Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths

Thursday December 17/30: the Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths – Ananias, Azarias and Misael.

Among those who foretold the Birth of the promised Messiah was the holy Prophet Daniel. He was of royal lineage from the tribe of Judah. As a youth he was taken captive by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (607-562 BC). And as he was handsome and of a good family, he was chosen together with several others to be trained for service in the palace. They were taught the Chaldean language as well as various sciences. The king ensured that they were well provided for and given food from his own table.

Among the chosen youths Daniel had three friends: Ananias, Azarias and Misail. All four steadfastly preserved their faith in the one true God and together refused to eat the king’s food for fear breaking one of Moses’ laws. They asked their overseer to give them only bread and vegetables, but the overseer was afraid that they would become thin and he would be made to suffer the king’s wrath. Daniel persuaded him to make a test and allow them to observe this regimen for ten days. At the end of this period all could see that not only had Daniel and his friends not lost weight—they had grown still healthier and more handsome than before. And so they were permitted to eat as they pleased. The Lord God rewarded them for their faithfulness, granting them various talents and success in their studies. And to Daniel was given the special gift of interpreting dreams and visions.

Now in the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar saw an unusual dream which troubled his spirit; when he awoke, however, he couldn’t recall the content of the dream. He summoned together all the wise men, astrologers, magicians and soothsayers of the land, and demanded an explanation of his dream. But they were astonished at such a task. Who, they asked, could begin to interpret a dream which the king himself could not remember! Nebuchadnezzar grew angry and ordered all these sages to be put to death. Daniel heard of their dilemma and requested some time to think it over. That night he prayed fervently to God, and in his sleep the Lord revealed to him the king’s dream and its significance. All this Daniel explained to the king—how he had been thinking of the future and beheld in a dream a terrible statue whose head was of fine gold, “his breast and his arms were of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron and part of clay. Then from a mountain a stone was cut out without hands and struck the image, breaking it to pieces; and the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”

 In explaining this dream Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that as a king of kings to whom God had given a kingdom, power, strength and glory, he was this head of gold, and after him would arise another kingdom, less powerful, and then a third; and finally these would all be consumed by an everlasting, kingdom of the God of heaven, which kingdom would spread over the entire earth unto the ages of ages.

Nebuchadnezzar arose and, bowing down before Daniel, said: “Truly, your God is the God of gods and King of kings!” In reward for his interpretation Daniel was given authority over all the wise men of Babylon, and his three friends—Ananias, Azarius and Misail—were made rulers of the land.

Nebuchadnezzar, however, did not remain steadfast in confessing the God of Daniel to be God of gods and King of kings. In the 18th year of the Babylonian captivity, Nebuehadnezzar had an enormous golden idol erected in a field. All the wise men and the learned members of Babylon gathered to witness its unveiling. It was announced that at the sound of the trumpets and the musical instruments everyone was to bow down before the idol. Anyone who failed to observe the king’s decree would be thrown into the furnace.

At the given moment, all bowed down–with the exception of Ananias, Azarias and Misail. Hearing of their refusal, the king flew into a rage and commanded that the flames be increased seven-fold and that the three obstinate young Israelites be bound and thrown into the furnace. It was made so hot that the soldiers who threw the victims into the fire themselves fell dead, and even those Chaldeans standing nearby were scorched. The three godly youths, however, remained unharmed. The Lord had sent His angel to guard them from the flames, and they stood in the midst of the furnace singing praises to God, Nebuchadnezzar, who was seated on a high throne facing the furnace, turned to his counselors: “Were there not three youths bound and thrown into the furnace? How is it that I see four, freely walking, unharmed, amidst the flames; and the fourth has the appearance of the Son of God.” Approaching the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar called the youths out. When they came forth it could be seen that the flames had not touched them: neither their clothing nor their hair was even singed. Seeing this Nebuchadnezzar said: Blessed is your God Who sent His angel and preserved Ills servants who trusted in Him. And he forbade his subjects, on penalty of death, to mock the God of the Israelites.

After Nebuchadnezzar’ s death, the throne passed through his son and his son-in-law to his grandson Belshezzar, And all these years Daniel continued to interpret dream s and himself to have dreams which were significant in foreshadowing future events. He foretold to Belshezzar that because he had forgotten the example of his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar and had scorned the true God, he would be killed and his kingdom would be divided. That very night the prophecy was fulfilled and the Babylonian empire was taken over by the Medes and Persians.

The Median king Darius looked with favor upon Daniel and raised him up to be one of the three kings under his sovereignty. Daniel’s popularity roused the envy of the Chaldean wise men who plotted to have him killed. They knew that three times a day Daniel prayed before a window opened towards Jerusalem. They proposed the king make a decree that for 30 days no one petition any god or man, save the king, for any reason whatsoever. Breaking this decree would cause the offended to be thrown to the lions. King Darius agreed.

The holy prophet Daniel continued as before to pray to God and ask His mercy. When his enemies denounced Daniel, the king realized it was all a ruse, but he could not annul his decree and was forced to have Daniel thrown into the lions’ den.

Early the next morning, Darius hurried to the den, “Daniel, servant of the living God,” he shouted, “has your God been able to save you from the lions?” …. “King,” answered Daniel, “my God sent His angel to close the jaws of the lions, for I have been found pure in His sight, and before you, O king, I have not transgressed.”

The king was overjoyed and ordered Daniel released from the lions’ den and his accusers to take his place. These men had scarcely entered the den when they were attacked by the lions and torn to pieces.

Then Darius wrote the following to be spread abroad: “I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God… and His dominion shall be even unto the end.”

And so the Prophet Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Among his prophecies, he foretold the year of Christ’s Birth, and that the Messiah would be given over to death; this would be followed by the destruction of the temple and all Jerusalem, and the Old Testament sacrifices would cease. And so it came to pass.

The Holy Youth Ananias (“God is gracious”) was a companion of the Holy Prophet Daniel. He was chosen to serve in the king’s palace with Daniel, Azarias, and Mishael (Daniel 1:6), who were all from the tribe of Judah. They gave Ananias the Chaldean name Shadrach (“royal”). They were thrown into a fiery furnace when they refused to worship the golden idol set up by King Nebuchadnezzar, but the angel of the Lord preserved them (Daniel 3:25).

The Holy Youth Azarias (“whom God helps”) was a companion of the Holy Prophet Daniel. He was chosen to serve in the king’s palace with Daniel, Ananias, and Mishael (Daniel 1:6), who were all from the tribe of Judah. They gave Azarias the Chaldean name Abednego (“servant of Nego”). They were thrown into a fiery furnace when they refused to worship the golden idol set up by King Nebuchadnezzar, but the angel of the Lord preserved them (Daniel 3:25).

The Holy Youth Misael (“Who is what God is?”) was a companion of the Holy Prophet Daniel. He was chosen to serve in the king’s palace with Daniel, Azarias, and Ananias (Daniel 1:6), who were all from the tribe of Judah. They gave Misael the Chaldean name Meshach (“guest”). They were thrown into a fiery furnace when they refused to worship the golden idol set up by King Nebuchadnezzar, but the angel of the Lord preserved them (Daniel 3:25).

Canon of the prophet, the acrostic whereof is: “With hymns I will crown the wise Daniel”, the composition of Theophanes, in Tone VIII:

Irmos: Let us, O ye people, send up a hymn * unto our wondrous God * Who hath freed Israel from bondage, * chanting a hymn of victory * and crying aloud: * We sing unto Thee, O only Master.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

O Saviour and Benefactor, Cause of every good thing, Who lovest mankind: with thy radiant effulgence illumine my mind, that I may praise the glorious memory of Thy prophet.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Thou didst shine forth in chastity like the dawn and didst save the chaste Susanna who was in danger; for God, Who knoweth all secrets, raised thee up to condemn the cruel elders.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

The descendants of Abraham, strengthened by the fear of God, valiantly spurned the most iniquitous food; and, nurtured by desire for piety, have been taken up into the greatest glory.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

O most sacred Daniel, thou didst perceive the only Ever-virgin, the most pure Maiden, as the noetic mountain from whence was cut the Chief Cornerstone Who hath crushed all delusion.

Canon of the three holy youths, the acrostic whereof is: “I hymn the three youths and the great Daniel”, the composition of Theophanes, in Tone VIII:

Irmos: Having passed through the water as upon dry land, * and having escaped the malice of the Egyptians, * the Israelites cried aloud: * Unto our God and Redeemer let us sing.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Let us glorify the beginningless Word Who was divinely begotten of the Father before time began, and Whose likeness was seen by the youths in the furnace.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Firmly reviling the words of the impious tyrant, the noble youths did not wish to defile themselves with vile foods like the all-iniquitous Chaldeans.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Ye fed yourselves spiritually with the word of God and bodily with foods ye grew yourselves, and showed yourselves to the king as more comely of appearance than those who ate gross foods.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O Maiden who sprang forth from David and hast given birth to the Redeemer, thou healest the venom which the serpent poured bitterly into the ears of Eve.

Ode III, Canon of the Prophet, Irmos: O Lord, thou art the confirmation of those who flee to Thee, * Thou art the Light of those in darkness, * and my spirit doth hymn Thee.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Receiving understanding and wisdom from God, thou didst interpret obscure dreams for the kings.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Receiving understanding and wisdom from God, thou didst interpret obscure dreams for the kings.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Scattering the food-offerings, O glorious one, thou didst slay the material serpent; for thou didst first vanquish the immaterial demons.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Illumined with radiance, O glorious one, thou didst behold the mountain manifestly blessed by God, the adornment of mankind.

Canon of the Youths, Irmos: O Lord, thou art the confirmation of those who flee to Thee, * Thou art Light of those in darkness, * and my spirit doth hymn Thee.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

The youths of David, having acquired an understanding taught by God, O Master, kept the laws of their fathers with godly wisdom.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Fire did not consume the most pure bodies of the pious ones, for they had already been consumed by the fasting which nourisheth the soul.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Wondrously bedewed in the midst of the furnace, the three youths sing universal and most laudable praise.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

That thou mightest show forth Thy birthgiving from the body of the Virgin, O Master, Thou didst save the bodies of the virginal youths in the furnace.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. 

Kontakion of the prophet, in Tone III: Spec. Mel.: “Today the Virgin …”: Enlightened by the Spirit, * thy pure heart became the receptacle of the most splendid prophecy: * for beholding far-off things as though they were present, * and, cast into the pit, thou didst tame the lions. ** Wherefore, we honour thee, O blessed and glorious Prophet Daniel.

Ikos: Jesus Christ, our true God, Whose divine advent thou didst manifestly proclaim, do thou entreat without ceasing for those who with gladness celebrate this thy divine memorial and honour thee with love, that we be saved from all temptations, sins and evil circumstances, for thou hast boldness before Him, O divinely wise one; and grant that I may open my lips to hymn thine excellent discourse.

Sessional Hymn of the youths, in Tone VIII: Spec. Mel.: “Of the Wisdom …”: In the flame the youths prophetically inscribed the image of the Trinity with the pen of faith in immaterial ink; and they mystically beheld the Word’s extreme descent to the earth proclaiming it to all. Wherefore, having received the dew of the Spirit from heaven, they pour forth gifts upon the faithful who cry out to Thee together: O Christ God, as Thou art compassionate grant remission of transgressions unto those who with love celebrate their holy memory!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Sessional Hymn of the prophet, in Tone VIII &same melody: Enriched by the grace of prophecy, thou didst describe the birth giving of the Virgin in shadowy images, but didst clearly interpret the dreams of the king. And, cast into the pit as a martyr, thou didst most gloriously teach the lions to fast, O blessed one. Wherefore, thou hast destroyed the worship of the ungodly, O right wondrous Daniel. Entreat Christ God, that He grant remission of sins unto those who with love celebrate thy holy memory.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion in Tone VIII: Rejoice, O fiery throne of God! Rejoice, O Maiden, thou royal seat and bower all-adorned with divers colours, thou bridal-chamber hung with gold and purple, cloak of scarlet hue, decorated temple, sword of lightning, lamp of great radiance! Rejoice, O Theotokos, thou twelve-walled city, gate of beaten gold, tabernacle adorned by God! Rejoice, O glorious Bride who hast let the Sun fall like rain! Rejoice, thou only goodly wonder of my soul!

Ode IV, Canon of the Prophet, Irmos: From the overshadowed mountain, * from the only Theotokos, * the Prophet in divine vision * foresaw Thy coming in the flesh, O Word, * and with fear he glorified Thy power.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Preserving the law in piety, O prophet, thou didst truly come to know the Bestower of wisdom Who teacheth men profound mysteries, illumining them in darkness.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Living a sacred life, O thou who wast revealed by God, thou wast called a man of divine desires; for, having manfully trampled the passions underfoot, thou hast been translated to the life which ageth not.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

The grace of the Comforter which dwelt within thee, O Daniel, showed thee to be the radiant victor over tyrants and kings, and the abode of wisdom.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

The Prophet Daniel beheld Thee, O Word, as the Stone cut, not by human hands, from the mountain of the Virgin Theotokos; and he cried out and hymned Thy divinity.

Canon of the Youths, Irmos: O Lord, I have heard the mystery of Thy dispensation; * I have considered Thy works, * and I have glorified Thy Divinity.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

By divine grace the most wise Daniel, divinely illumined in mind, interpreted the dreams of the kings.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

The suffering of the youths in the furnace shone with miracles; for they prevailed upon the tyrant to acknowledge Thee, O Almighty One.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

The melodies of the instruments and the harmonious playing of music did not lead the valiant ones astray, and they did not worship the golden image.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

With hymns the children in Babylon honoured thy supremely divine Son, Whom they recognized in the furnace, O all-hymned one.

Ode V, Canon of the Prophet, Irmos: Thou hast enlightened * with the knowledge of God * the ends of the universe * that lay in the night of ignorance, * do Thou also, O Lord, illumine me * with the dawning of Thy love for mankind.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Illumining thy struggles of suffering with the proclamation of prophecy, thou art resplendent in both, full of divine inspiration.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Illumining thy struggles of suffering with the proclamation of prophecy, thou art resplendent in both, full of divine inspiration.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

By splendours of wisdom which pass understanding thou hast been shown to be most wise, O blessed and divinely eloquent Daniel who art most great, enlightening all things.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

O pure one, the glorious Prophet Daniel with images described the mystery of the ineffable incarnation of the Most High Who came forth from thee.

Canon of the Youths, Irmos: O Light never-waning, * why hast Thou turned Thy face from me * and why hath the alien darkness surrounded me, * wretched though I be? * But do Thou guide my steps I implore Thee * and turn me back towards the light of Thy commandments.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Having studied the law, O Saviour, Thy favoured ones, the great Daniel and the three godly-minded youths, did not deny Thee; but, receiving strength from Thee, our Benefactor, they manfully vanquished the tyrant.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Daniel studied Thy mysteries noetically, O Lover of mankind; for in purity of mind he beheld Thee as the Son of man coming upon a cloud, as the Judge and King of all the nations.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Shining like a golden beam, O children, your company shone with splendour greater than that of a sapphire; and set afire with zeal for piety, ye entered the furnace joyfully and formed yourselves into a universal chorus.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O Virgin, the divine Daniel clearly prefigured thee as a mountain; and the three youths, beholding the flame bearing dew, with hymns praise thy divine birth giving as that of the Saviour, Creator and Lord.

Ode VI, Canon of the Prophet, Irmos: As Thou didst deliver the prophet from the depths * of the abyss, O Christ God, * so deliver me also from my sins, * O Lover of mankind, * and guide my life, I pray Thee.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Beholding the angelic choirs in most radiant light, thou hast become their most excellent emulator, delighting in the splendours of the King of all.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Beholding the angelic choirs in most radiant light, thou hast become their most excellent emulator, delighting in the splendours of the King of all.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Proclaiming the salvific coming of the Word, thou didst also foretell the destruction of the temple, the fulfilment of the law, and gifts of grace which pass all understanding.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Behold! the Virgin whose image the glorious Daniel beheld, shall manifestly conceive Christ God within her womb, illumined by the Spirit.

Canon of the Youths, Irmos: The abyss of my sins and the storm of my transgressions * disquieten me and thrust me down * into the depths of despondency; * but do Thou stretch forth Thy mighty arm, * unto me as Thou didst to Peter, * and save me, O my Guide.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Having gained control over natural passions through the power of the Word, ye became rulers of the land of the Chaldean peoples, O ye wise descendants of David; for virtue knoweth how to render honour to those who have acquired her.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Having gained control over natural passions through the power of the Word, ye became rulers of the land of the Chaldean peoples, O ye wise descendants of David; for virtue knoweth how to render honour to those who have acquired her.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Daniel, having arrayed himself of old in life-bearing mortality, and with food slew the evil serpent which the Chaldeans impiously considered to be a god; and he wisely slew the ungodly priests.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O Virgin Mother and Theotokos, by thy supplications entreat the merciful Judge, thy Son, that He deliver me from cruel punishment on the day of judgment; for in thee alone do I set my hope.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Kontakion of the youths, in Tone VI: O thrice-blessed ones, who did not honour an image wrought by hands, * but were defended by the indescribable Essence, * ye were glorified in your ordeal by fire; * and standing in the midst of unbearable flame, ye called upon God, saying: * Speed Thou and make haste to our aid, O Compassionate One, ** in that Thou art merciful; for what Thou willest, Thou canst do!

Ikos: Stretch forth Thy hand whereby of old the warring Egyptians and the embattled Hebrews were tested. Forsake us not, that death, which thirsteth after us, not swallow us up; and spare our souls, as Thou once didst spare Thy three children in Babylon, who glorified Thee unceasingly and were cast for Thy sake into a furnace, from whence they cried out to Thee: Speed Thou and make haste to our aid, O Compassionate One, in that Thou art merciful; for what Thou willest, Thou canst do!

Ode VII, Canon of the Prophet, Irmos: The Hebrew children in the furnace * boldly trampled upon the flames, * changing the fire into dew, they cried aloud: * ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, throughout the ages’.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Protected by the law, O prophet, thou didst not allow thyself to be iniquitously defiled, and, divinely illumined with understanding, thou didst cry aloud: Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, throughout the ages!

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Thy miracle filled all with awe; for, caught up, the Prophet Habbakuk appeared before thee, a prophet, bearing food to thee and crying aloud: Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, throughout the ages!

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Imprisoned in a pit and offered as food to the lions, O blessed one, thou wast saved, God protecting thee, and didst cry aloud: O God of our fathers, Blessed art Thou!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Thou pourest forth in abundance a stream of healings, O Virgin Mother of God; for Daniel clearly perceived thee as the mountain from whence the Saviour shone forth, the God of our fathers.

Canon of the Youths, Irmos: In Babylon, the pious youths did not worship the golden image, * but,
bedewed in the midst of the fiery furnace, * they chanted a hymn, saying: * O supremely exalted God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

God-loving voices sang to the Almighty out of the midst of the fire; for, forming a divine choir, Azarias chanted a hymn, saying: Blessed is the God of our fathers!

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

The harp of the youths theologized concerning the Almighty, the God of all Who manifestly appeared to them in the furnace as they chanted a hymn, saying: Blessed is the God of our fathers!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Having watched as the three youths were cast into the furnace, the king beheld a fourth appear, Whom He called the Son of God; and he cried out to all: Blessed is the God of our fathers!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Possessed of a mind illumined with divine radiance, O Daniel blessed of God, thou didst manifestly foresee the birth giving of the Virgin prefigured in mystical images, and didst cry aloud: Blessed is the God of our fathers!

Ode VIII, Canon of the Prophet, Irmos: Treading down the fiery flame in the furnace, * the divinely eloquent children sang: * ‘Bless the Lord, ye works of the Lord’.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Through active vision thou wast shown to be clearly sacred, O prophet, and didst chant with the incorporeal ones: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Through active vision thou wast shown to be clearly sacred, O prophet, and didst chant with the incorporeal ones: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

We all praise thee, O all-blessed one, and rejoicing on thine honoured festival, we cry aloud: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

O divinely eloquent one, perceiving the most wondrous Maiden in symbolic images, thou didst cry aloud: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!

Canon of the Youths, Irmos: In his wrath the Chaldean Tyrant made the furnace blaze, * with heat fanned sevenfold for the servants of God; * but when he perceived that they had been saved by a greater power * he cried aloud to the Creator and Redeemer; * ‘ye children bless, ye priests praise, * ye people, supremely exalt Him throughout all ages’.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Striving to preserve the nobility of Abraham, O venerable ones, ye acquired his own foundational faith and hope, his patience and endurance of temptations, crying aloud: Ye priests bless ye the Master! Ye people supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Shining forth like beacons and making the earth like heaven, rendered luminous by the enlightenment of piety, and having formed a universal choir, the youths chant to the Master Who saved them from perils: Ye children bless; ye priests hymn; ye people supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

The descendants of Abraham, extinguishing the burning furnace and binding the jaws of the lions in their youth, rejoicing, hymn Thee now, the King and Benefactor of all: Ye children bless; ye priests hymn; ye people supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The most wise Daniel teacheth the mysteries, and the three divinely wise youths prefigure thy birthgiving, O most pure one, beholding in images Him Who ineffably issued forth from thy womb, Whom the children bless, the priests hymn and the people supremely exalt throughout all ages.

Ode IX, Canon of the Prophet, Irmos: Saved by thee, O pure Virgin, * we confess thee to be truly the Theotokos, * and together with the choirs of the bodiless hosts * thee do we magnify.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Thou didst reap the harvest of thy pangs, ever dancing in the heavens with the prophets about the most exalted throne of the Almighty.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

Thou didst reap the harvest of thy pangs, ever dancing in the heavens with the prophets about the most exalted throne of the Almighty.

Holy prophet Daniel, pray to God for us.

In the light of the threefold Sun thou dost now stand, crowned, before thine ultimate Desire, rejoicing with the incorporeal choirs.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Beautiful is the glory which thou dost now delight in! For thou, O honoured prophet, hast been deemed worthy to proclaim unto all, in images, the all-hymned Maiden.

Canon of the Youths, Irmos: Saved by thee, O pure Virgin, * we confess thee to be truly the Theotokos, * and together with the choirs of the bodiless hosts * thee do we magnify.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Ye have attained your desired end and stand before your ultimate Desire in the mansions of heaven, O ye most noetically rich youths.

Holy Ananias, Azarias and Misael, pray to God for us.

Having produced the grain of incorruption with tears, rejoicing, ye have received the sheaves of your goodly labour.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Splendour hath now shone forth upon you as is meet, and gladness of heart hath blossomed forth; for grief hath fled away from whence ye have made your abode.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thou hast departed from the fields of death, O Virgin, having given birth to the Lord, the Bestower of life, Who Bestoweth life upon those who magnify thee with faith.

Troparion, in Tone II: Great are the accomplishments of faith! * In the fountain of flame, as in refreshing water, * the three holy children rejoiced; * and the Prophet Daniel was shown to be a shepherd of lions, as of sheep. ** By their prayers, O Christ God, save Thou our souls.

Forthcoming Services

Dear brothers and sisters,

We find ourselves in a quiet time between new calendar Christmas and the civil New year, when family obligations, limited public transport and various other factors inhibit parish-life.

Additionally, we have parishioners in Russia and Ukraine, and our students away for the university holiday.

This was reflected in Sunday’s Liturgy, with only twenty, or so, adults, but though simpler than it usually would be with a larger kliros, the Liturgy was prayerful and peaceful. We expect that next Sunday’s Liturgy will be much the same.

We will have confessions in Deacon Mark’s office this Thursday, though I may hear some confessions during home visits. May I ask that those requiring confessions email me promptly, so that I can organise confessions as soon as possible. Email otetzmark@hotmail.com by tomorrow evening, please. I know that this allows little time, but your swift attention will be very much appreciated.

Next Sunday will see the Hours and Liturgy at the usual time of 11:00, and I need to remind you that the covid-risk assessment of the diocese of Llandaff has escalated, so that the wearing of masks and two-metre distancing is mandatory.

Looking forward to the Nativity… Like last year, we will celebrate the feast during the night.

The vigil will start later than last year, as St John’s will be in use during the evening. We will celebrate the vigil at 21:30 (with confessions heard from 21:00, and during compline/ pavechernitsa and matins/utrenya) and the Liturgy will be celebrated at midnight.

We will be celebrating the Sunday of the Fathers this weekend, and will be only days away from the Nativity. Whilst some parishioners have health issues affecting fasting, as a general rule those who are to commune should be fasting NOW.

Those confessing will be asked whether they have been fasting, and the clergy remind you that receiving Holy Communion is subject to a blessing. Absolution at confession is NOT a blessing to receive the Holy Gifts.

The morning services of the Eve of the Nativity will be celebrated in Llanelli, and we will advertise these services separately. The diminutive size of the chapel will severely limit attendance.

Fr Luke and his parishioners will be with us for the Vigil and midnight Liturgy.

The Sunday of the Holy Fathers: 02/01/22

Confessions: 10:15

Hours and Liturgy: 11:00

 

The Eve of the Nativity: Wednesday 06/01/22

Confessions 21:00

Christmas Vigil 21:30 (Confessions during the service)

Christmas Liturgy: 00:00 Midnight

 

Sunday after the Nativity: 09/01/22

Confessions: 10:15

Hours and Liturgy: 11:00

 

May God bless you.

In Christ – Fr Mark

 

 

The Advent Journey With the Saints: the Prophet Haggai

Wednesday December 16/29: the Holy Prophet Haggai.

The Holy Prophet Haggai was the tenth of the Twelve Minor Prophets. He was of the Tribe of Levi and he prophesied during the times of the Persian emperor Darius Hystaspis (prior to 500 B.C.). Upon the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity, he persuaded the people to build the Second Temple at Jerusalem, and he proclaimed that the Messiah would appear in this Temple in the last times.

 

The Canon of the prophet, the acrostic whereof is: “We sing the divinely given words of Haggai”, a composition of Theophanes, in Tone VII:

Ode I, Irmos: Unto our Immutable God, * Who brought Israel out from the Red Sea, * let us chant a hymn of victory * for He hath been glorified.

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

Standing before God as a true prophet with divine sight, O blessed one, be thou mindful of those who hymn thine honoured memory.

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

Having set thyself firmly upon the steadfast foundation of the virtues, O divinely blessed one, thou didst build thyself up as an animate temple.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Thy most pure mind which ever gazed at God as far as it was able, O blessed one, was illumined with the gifts of heaven shining from afar.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Having in her womb conceived Thee in the flesh, the Word of God Who wast begotten without mother before time, the Virgin gave birth to Thee, her Son, without a father.

Ode III, Irmos: The Church of Christ hath been confirmed by faith; * wherefore she crieth out unceasingly in hymns, chanting: * Holy art Thou, O Lord! * and my spirit doth hymn Thee!

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

Having released us from a cruel captivity to the demons by Thy divine power, O Saviour, show us forth as Thine honored temples, who cry aloud: Holy art Thou, Who savest our souls!

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

O prophet, who abidest in the highest and fillest the whole world with sanctity, the temple showeth thee crying aloud: Holy art Thou, Who savest our souls!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

The divine Spirit Who sendeth down grace upon all, dwelt in thy heart and taught thee to cry aloud: Holy art Thou, O Lord, Who savest our souls!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

He Who is the Lover of mankind, Who wisely fashioned all creation by His word, fashioned Himself into our form through thee, O Theotokos, becoming a man in His loving-kindness.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. 

Sessional Hymn, in Tone III: Spec. Mel.: “Of the divine Faith …”: Possessed of a mind illumined by the divine Spirit, O all-blessed Prophet Haggai, thou didst foretell the mysteries of God, disclosing the revelation of things to come, and speaking of the fulfilment of things. Entreat Christ God, that He grant us great mercy.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Stavrotheotokion: Thy pure Mother who hath not known wedlock, O Christ, * upon seeing Thee hanging dead upon the Cross, * said, weeping maternally: * How hath the iniquitous and ungrateful synagogue of the Jews repaid Thee, * which hath enjoyed Thy many and great wonders, ** O my Son?

Ode IV, Irmos: I have heard report of Thee, O Lord, * that Thou hast appeared on earth to save us. * Wherefore, we cry aloud: * Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

To Thy prophet, O Christ, Thou didst reveal the Virgin – the animate temple, pleasing to Thee, from whence Thou didst come. And with him we cry aloud: Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

Thou hast gathered to Thee all the rejected ones, O Lord, freeing us from slavery to the enemy, as the God-pleasing prophet hath said.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

The salvation of the nations which would come afterwards didst Thou reveal to Thy prophet, O Christ, who crieth out to Thee: Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thou didst turn the curse of Adam into a blessing, O Lady, giving birth to Christ for our sake. To Him do we cry: Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Ode V, Irmos: I rise at dawn to Thee, * and I cry unto Thee O compassionate Lord: * do Thou illumine my soul, darkened by sins, * with the light of Thy commandments, and guide it!

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

Grant, O blessed one, that those who celebrate thy radiant memory may become temples of the living God, establishing them on the rock of the dogmas by thy supplications.

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

In that thou art our Benefactor, O Lord, grant us Thy peace, the peace which edifieth the soul, of which the godly Haggai foretold in the divine Spirit.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Truly great will be the glory of the Church of the incarnate Word Who hath shared human nature, surpassing that of the assembly of Israel of old.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O blessed and exceedingly glorious Mother who knew not a man, impart life to my soul, which hath been slain by sins and buried by mine unrestrained passions.

Ode VI, Irmos: Jonah cried out from the belly of Hades: * Lead my life up from corruption! * And we cry aloud unto Thee: * O almighty Saviour, have mercy on us!

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

Teaching piety to the youth, O blessed one, thou didst erect a sanctified temple to the Master of all, promising an abundance of good things.

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

O Saviour, Thou didst lead us up from far captivity and the uttermost depths, bringing us up to the city on high, in that Thou lovest mankind.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Rejoicing, O prophet, through the illumination of the Spirit thou didst utter beforehand words of action, teaching us piety through justification.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Having of his own will fallen, Adam was expelled from paradise; but the Word Who was incarnate from the Virgin, calleth him back and leadeth him up to delight on high.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Kontakion, in Tone 4: Spec. Mel.: “Today You have shown forth…”: Enlightened by the Spirit, thy pure heart became the dwelling place of most splendid prophecy; / for thou didst see things far off as if they were near. / Therefore, we honour thee, blessed and glorious Prophet Haggai.

Ode VII, Irmos: Cast into the fiery furnace, * the venerable children transformed the fire
into dew, * crying aloud thus in hymnody: * Blessed art Thou O Lord, the God of our fathers!

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

Having purified thy mind, thou didst manifestly receive the effulgence of the Spirit, O prophet, prophesying splendidly and crying aloud: Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of our fathers!

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

Having purified thy mind, thou didst manifestly receive the effulgence of the Spirit, O prophet, prophesying splendidly and crying aloud: Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of our fathers!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Beholding thee passing through a most sacred life, God appointed thee the prophet of His coming, wherefore thou didst cry aloud unto all: Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of our fathers!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

He Who saved the three children in the fiery furnace, having made His abode within thy womb, O Virgin, doth save those who trust in Him and cry aloud: Blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, O all-pure one!

Ode VIII, Irmos: The King of glory, who is alone without beginning, * Before Whom all the powers of heaven stand in awe * and the hosts of angels tremble: * O ye priests praise, and ye people * supremely exalt Him throughout the ages.

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

We hymn Thee, the Master of all, Whom Haggai, the prophet of divine vision, hath taught us to worship and praise, singing: O ye priests praise! and Ye people supremely exalt Him throughout the ages!

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

We hymn Thee, the Master of all, Whom Haggai, the prophet of divine vision, hath taught us to worship and praise, singing: O ye priests praise! and Ye people supremely exalt Him throughout the ages!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

When the unoriginate Word appeared in latter times, O prophet of vision divine, thou didst manifestly proclaim Him, crying: O ye priests praise! and Ye people supremely exalt Him throughout the ages!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

He Who before was invisible and infinite in essence became finite and visible in thy womb, O all-pure one. To Him do we cry aloud with faith: O ye priests praise! and Ye people supremely exalt Him throughout the ages!

Ode IX, Irmos: O all-hymned one, * who art higher in eminence than the heavens: * having seedlessly conceived the unoriginate Word * thou hast given birth to the incarnate God for all mankind. * Wherefore, we all magnify thee.

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

Having tasted divine vision which transcendeth description, thou didst put away earthly cares, O prophet, and worthily standest before our supremely glorious God. Wherefore, all of us, the faithful, call thee blessed.

Holy prophet, Haggai, pray to God for us.

Thy godly and wondrous life hath shown thee to be an intercessor before God, O blessed and divinely wise one; and thou dwellest eternally with the incorporeal choirs. Wherefore, we all ever call thee blessed.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

It was fitting for thee, as a teacher of piety, to be with God and to mingle in His light, O blessed one: Entreat Him now, that He deliver our souls from temptation.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Truly didst thou supra-naturally become the dwelling-place and golden ark of the King of all, having Christ, the only incarnate Bestower of the law, within thee, O Birthgiver of God.

Troparion, in Tone 2: We celebrate the memory of Thy prophet Haggai, O Lord; through him we beseech Thee: save our souls.

The Advent Journey With the Saints: The Hieromartyr Eleutherius

Tuesday 15/28 December: Hieromartyr Eleutherius, Bishop of Illyria, his mother, Martyr Evanthia, and Caribus the Eparch.

Saint Eleutherius, the son of an illustrious Roman citizen, was raised in Christian piety by his mother. His virtue was such that at the age twenty, he had been elevated to bishop of Illyria. In the reign of the emperor Hadrian, Saint Eleutherius was tortured for his bold preaching about Christ, then was beheaded at Rome with his mother Evanthia. The Eparch Caribus, who had tortured Saint Eleutherius, also came to believe in Christ and was executed.

Canon of the hieromartyr, the acrostic whereof is: “Show me to be free of the passions, O all-blessed one”, the composition of Joseph, in Tone I.

Ode I, Irmos: Let us all chant a triumphant hymn unto God * Who wrought wondrous miracles * with His upraised arm, * and saved Israel, * for He hath been glorified.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

By thy radiant supplications, O martyr Eleutherius, free me, who am held captive by the darkness of the passions, that I may hymn thee, the servant of Christ, with divine hymns.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

Thou didst shine forth with the most pure rays of suffering, O most sacred one, with thy blood didst thou dye thy priestly raiment, and become radiant through the Spirit.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Cleaving unto God from thy youth with a most pure mind, thou didst drive carnal understanding away from thy soul and became enriched with the abundant grace of miracles.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Like a throne of fire thou didst bear the Creator, and like an animate bridal-chamber and a beautiful palace thou didst contain the King Who became as we are, apart from change and mingling of natures.

Ode III, Irmos: Let my heart be established in Thy will O Christ God, * Who hath established a second heaven over the waters, * and founded the earth upon the waters, * O all-powerful One.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

O wise one who didst will to suffer for Christ, thou didst endure the wounding of thy body, finding delight in thy pangs and afflictions; wherefore, thou hast now received a life without pain.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

Holding fast with the fervent desire for the Creator, O divinely wise spiritual athlete Eleutherius, bedewed by the fire of the Spirit thou didst submit thyself to fiery testing.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Shown forth as most sacred among priests and a martyr most steadfast among the martyrs, O blessed one, thou hast received a twofold crown, continually beholding the face of God.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thou didst bud forth the Staff of strength whereby we are made steadfast; for the staff of Aaron, which once put forth branches, prefigured thee, O land untouched by the plough, O pure turtle-dove, O Ever-virgin!

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Sessional Hymn of the hieromartyr, in Tone I: Spec. Mel.: “Thy tomb, O Saviour …”: Having acquired a mind free of the passions, thou wast a most dutiful servant of God, and didst free from delusion those who hearkened well unto thee; and having suffered as priest and martyr, O Eleutherius, thou hast received a twofold crown. Pray thou, that we be saved.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Theotokion in Tone VIII: Having fallen into the temptations of great cunning laid for me by enemies visible and invisible, caught in the tempest of my countless offenses, I make haste to the haven of thy goodness, O pure one, as to my fervent assistance and protection. Wherefore, O most pure one, pray thou earnestly to Him Who becameth incarnate of thee without seed on behalf of all thy servants who unceasingly entreat thee, O most pure one, ever beseeching Him to grant remission of sins unto those who hymn thy glory as is meet.

Stavrotheotokion: The Virgin and Mother of the Redeemer, standing before the Cross and lamenting with tears of anguish, cried out maternally: What strange and most glorious thing is this that I behold, O my Son? Thou that pourest forth dispassion upon all men art crucified upon a Cross between two condemned thieves, Thy side pierced, and Thou art given gall to drink by hands which Thou Thyself hast made! But arise and grant remission of sins unto those who hymn Thy divine Passion with faith.

ODE IV, Irmos: Foreseeing in the Spirit O Prophet Habbakuk, * the incarnation of the Word, * thou didst proclaim, crying aloud: * When the years draw nigh, Thou shalt be known; * when the season cometh, Thou shalt be shown forth! * Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

Neither the gaping mouths of the lions, nor the raging of the fire, nor cruel threats were able to weaken the endurance of thy strength, O initiate of the sacred mysteries; but, as firm as adamant, thou didst delight in tortures, aflame with divine zeal.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

Full of life-bearing waters, thy mouth poured forth rivers of divine doctrines, O hieromartyr, engulfing the mockery of the iniquitous and watering the hearts of those who acknowledge Christ as God.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Glorifying thee greatly, thy Creator, for Whom thou wast zealous to suffer, O spiritual athlete, sent a dove bearing angelic food to thee who didst become angelic through the most radiant splendours of suffering.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The angelic armies were in awe, beholding how He Who is invisible became visible, through thee assuming a guise like unto us, O Virgin Birthgiver of God. Him do thou beseech, that He grant salvation unto all who glorify thee with faith.

Ode V, Irmos: Grant us Thy peace, O Son of God, * for we know no other God than Thee, * and we call upon Thy Name, * for Thou art the God of the living and the dead.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

The most wicked enemy, plotting to lead thee astray through deceitful words, O martyr, was shown to be put to scorn, the most crafty sage of malice being outwitted by thy wisdom.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

Mounting the chariot of the divine virtues, O glorious one, thou didst reach the summit of martyrdom and didst cast down the vaunted pride of the wicked demons.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Desiring to behold the beauty of Jesus, O venerable one, thou didst adorn thyself with the beauty of martyrdom, and departed to Him, crowned with a wreath of splendour.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Every mind marvels at the wonder of thee, O pure one; for thou hast given birth to God in the flesh and fed the Nurturer with milk, without having experienced the temptation of a man, as thou thyself knowest.

Ode VI, Irmos: Emulating the Prophet Jonah, I cry aloud: * Free Thou my life from corruption, O Good One; * and save me who crieth out: * O Saviour of the world, Glory be to Thee!

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

The excellent shepherd of the flock of Christ, the most eloquent pastor, the path of struggles, is glorified, having glorified God with his members.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

Given life through visions of God, thou didst steadfastly render lifeless the greatly crafty foe, O ever-memorable wise one, glory of the martyrs and rule of the priesthood.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Enduring wounds, entering the fire of thine own will, thou didst put down the onslaughts of the savage beasts, possessing constant love for the Creator.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Revealed as a tabernacle of sanctity, O Mary, sanctify my wretched soul, which hath been defiled by the pleasures, and make it a receptacle of divine glory.

Kontakion of the hieromartyr, in Tone II: Spec. Mel.: “The steadfast …”: We all praise thee as the adornment of priests * and the proclamation of passion-bearers, * O venerable hieromartyr Eleutherius, * and we entreat thee: * From multifarious misfortunes free those * who celebrate thy memory with love, ** praying unceasingly for us all.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Ikos: As Thou alone art the compassionate God Who is the Lover of mankind, O loving Bestower of life, look Thou upon the darkness of my soul, and with Thine omnipotent right hand free me from the oppression of the passions, O Word, that I may hymn Thy hierarch Eleutherius; for, truly acknowledging Thee from his mother’s womb, he became sanctified, and like Samuel was offered by his sacred mother to Thee, the Creator, unceasingly praying for us all.

Ode VII, Irmos: Thy children who were in the furnace O Saviour, * were neither touched nor troubled by the fire. * Whereupon the three sang, as with a single mouth * Thy praises and blessed Thee, saying: * ‘O God of our fathers, Blessed art Thou.’

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

Shattered, O wise one, thou didst cry out: “May Christ now be magnified in my flesh! I fear neither the boiling of the cauldron, nor am I daunted by death or the assaults of wild beasts, for the sake of life!”

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

“Seeking the beauty of the one God, I desire to receive His glory alone! Let my whole body be broken and burned!” didst thou cry aloud, O glorious one; “I seek the freedom which doth enslave me to Christ!”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Looking toward the life to come, O blessed one, thou didst truly die to the world, and, burned with the wounds of torture, thou didst shine forth like gold and hast been laid up in the treasuries of the mansions of heaven.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The most pure Word, of God, Who was born of thy womb, found thee alone to be most pure, O all-immaculate Bride of God, purifying us the faithful of the defilements which have come upon us through the passions and lack of restraint.

Ode VIII, Irmos: Him of whom the angels and all the hosts of heaven are in awe * as their Lord and Creator, * ye priests hymn, ye children praise, * ye peoples bless and supremely exalt * throughout all ages.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

Blossoming, thou didst put forth a garden beauteous in the splendours of martyrdom, O adornment of the martyrs. Ye have now shown yourselves to be flowers of paradise, emitting a divine fragrance in a most godly manner.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

Thy mother mingleth her own blood with the outpouring of the blood of thee who wast born from her; for, embracing thy body, O wise one, she was slain by the sword and liveth forevermore.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Thy shrine poureth forth the waters of healings and rivers of miracles upon those in need, who wash away the defilements of soul-destroying passions, O martyred hierarch, throughout all ages.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Like rain Christ, the only Benefactor, descended upon thy womb, O Virgin, truly watering all creation, and drying up the turbid rivers of the madness of idolatry.

ODE IX, Irmos: The ever-flowing wellspring of life, * light-bearing candlestick of grace, * the animate temple, and most pure cloud, * wider than the heavens and the earth, * the Theotokos do we the faithful magnify.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

As the mouth of God, rescuing vain-minded people from the mouth of the alien, thou didst show them to be heirs of grace; and suffering mightily, thou livest with priests and passion-bearers, O Eleutherius.

Holy hieromartyr, Eleutherios, pray to God for us.

Let Eleutherius be faithfully praised: the pure phial of the Spirit, the beautiful abode of the virtues, the innocent lamb, the ever-burning lamp, the foundation of hierarchs and martyrs.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Truly thou dost live in never-waning light, having become the most radiant light of the Sun; wherefore, by thy supplications to God, O Eleutherius deliver from the darkness of the passions those who celebrate thy radiant memory today.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Spare us who hymn Thee, O Lord, Thou ineffable Offspring of the Virgin, in that Thou alone art our Benefactor Who lovest mankind, delivering Thy servants from perils, passions and tribulations.

Troparion of the hieromartyr, in Tone IV: As thou didst share in the ways of the apostles * and didst occupy their throne, * thou didst find thine activity to be a passage to divine vision, * O divinely inspired one. * Wherefore, ordering the word of truth, * thou didst suffer for the Faith even to the shedding of thy blood, ** O Hieromartyr Eleutherius, entreat Christ God, that our souls be saved.