Today we celebrate the memory of one of the greatest saints of the Church of Christ, our holy father Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra the Miracle-Worker, who as no one else has been revered by all at all times and peoples of the world, not only Christians, but even Muslims and pagans.
“I see, brethren, a new sun rising above the earth and bringing sweet consolation to the sorrowful and suffering,” said the Bishop of Patara as he ordained Nicholas to the priesthood. “Joyous is the flock which will be under his ministry; he will strengthen them in faith in the Lord, he will guide them in goodness and piety, he will be an earnest helper to all those in need.”
St Nicholas’ entire life was a brilliant fulfillment of these prophetic words of the visionary bishop. St Nicholas burned with a passionate faith in God since his youth, being a strict, unbending zealot for the purity of Orthodox Christianity; he was a severe ascetic, in constant vigil, fasting and prayer; forgetting himself, he generously helped the needy, consoled the suffering, defended the innocently condemned; strengthening and guiding those who faltered in the faith; he never tired of performing all sorts of Christian acts of love and mercy to others.
Andrew bears crucifixion inverted,
Appearing truly and not as a shadow with feet upwards.
On the thirtieth Andrew the First-Called endured the cross.
Andrew was from the city of Bethsaida, the son of Jonah, and brother of Peter the Apostle. He was the first disciple of John the great Forerunner and Baptist. Later, when he heard his Teacher say, while pointing to Jesus Christ, "Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world," he left the Forerunner and followed Christ. And to his brother the Pre-eminent Peter he said, "We have found the Messiah." With these words he drew Peter towards spiritual eros for Christ. And there are many other things that are found in the divinely-inspired Scriptures regarding this Apostle.
The Holy Church now celebrates one of her great feasts -- a radiant and joyous event in the life of the Church. This is the entry into the temple of the Most-Blessed Virgin Mary, when her holy and righteous parents brought her into the holy temple when -Vie was still quite a three-year-old little Maid, in order to dedicate Her there to God according to the promise that they had given. Many, of course, know in what the essence of this feast consists.
I will point out some details, which are perhaps not known to all: First, when they brought Her into the temple, there also went with her maidens, little girls, with candles, accompanying Her with the chanting of Psalms, so that there went through the streets of Jerusalem a ceremonial procession, to which doubtless also other people joined. Finally, when they came to the temple of God, the Chief Priest, Zacharias, himself went out to meet them, knowing about the promise of the righteous parents. But here all were struck by the fact that -- while he was still at the top of the steps of the temple, and the steps were many, and they were tall -- the holy and pure Child, without any support, all on her own, climbed up all the steps. And then, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, the chief priest Zacharias did that which at [any] other time he never would have done: he brought the maiden Mary into the Holy of Holies. Now one must bear in mind that a person could not approach the Holy of Holies. Even the priests could not enter therein. And only one day a year, on the so-called day of atonement, did the chief priest enter with sacrificial blood, as though offering sacrifice on behalf of the whole people. But this was not the day of atonement; on this day the Chief Priest could not go into the Holy of Holies, but, illumined by the Holy Spirit, he went in -- and he brought therein the Maiden Mary, and She, as tradition says, remaining in the temple continually, stayed in the Holy of Holies and there an Angel brought Her food and conversed with Her. Therefore the holy fathers said that when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Her -- an already nearly grown young woman -- in Nazareth with the word of the annunciation, not the very appearance of an angel frightened or disturbed her. She was used to converting with angels -- otherwise it was an unusual greeting with which the heavenly Messenger addressed her.
Today, dear brethren, we celebrate the glorious feast of the lightning-like Archangel Michael and all the heavenly bodiless powers. On this day let us talk of the boundless world of the angels; of their nature, of their hierarchy, and of the infinite mercy of God which has added us, Orthodox Christians, to this angelic host and has a formed a single Church made of angels and men; and subsequently of our responsibility to venerate them in a worthy manner and try to emulate them as our future compatriots in the celestial homeland; for which we earnestly pray to God, our common Creator.
St. Cyril of Alexandria says: If our earth, which serves as a focal point between two worlds, carries upon itself such a countless multitude of people and various other creatures, then how many times greater is the number of denizens inhabiting the immaterial heaven, which is so immense and incomprehensible to the mind?
In the days of one’s earthly wandering, a person often has need of heavenly aid. Just as a traveler who has lost his way during a stormy winter night eagerly looks around him to see whether there’s a glimmer of light anywhere, so we, too, in difficult moments of our life, when it seems to us that there is no way out, - unconsciously look upward, towards the Giver of all bounties, the Lord God.
A vivid example of such a situation is presented in the event which gave rise to today’s holiday.
This took place more than a thousand years ago, when Asian hordes of savage Saracens invaded Byzantium, our sister in faith, pillaging everything in their path with fire and sword. The Greeks shut themselves up in Constantinople and fearfully awaited inevitable death, since the enemy had already reached the walls of the city. They could not expect help from anywhere, while their own military forces were insignificant. However, the Christians felt that not everything was lost yet, since the impossible for man is quite possible for God.
In the Prophet Ezekiel (9:6), it is said that when the Angel of the Lord was sent to punish and destroy the sinning people, it was told him not to strike those on whom the "mark" had been made. In the original text this mark is called "tau," the Hebrew letter corresponding to the letter "T," which is how in ancient times the cross was made, which then was an instrument of punishment.
So, even then, it was foretold the power of the Cross, which preserves those who venerate it. Likewise, by many other events in the Old Testament the power of the Cross was indicated. Moses, who held his arms raised in the form of a cross during the battle, gave victory to the Israelites over the Amalekites. He also, dividing the Red Sea by a blow of his rod and by a transverse blow uniting the waters again, saved Israel from Pharaoh, who drowned in the water, while Israel crossed over on the dry bottom (Exodus, ch. 14, 17).
Through the laying on of his hands in the form of a cross on his grandsons, Jacob gave a blessing to his descendents, foretelling at the same time their future until the coming of the "expectation of the nations" (Genesis, ch. 48).
The 14st anniversary of the repose of His Eminence, Metropolitan Vitaly, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Vladyka reposed on the feast day of the Apodosis of the Nativity of the Theotokos, September 25, 2006. Memory eternal to Vladyka Vitaly. - Edit.
Our pastors and their flocks currently live under unique conditions, which, without the slightest exaggeration or mystical passion, can be referred to as pre-apocalyptic. Already, throughout the world, there is not a single leader or government that leads its people with any reference to God's mercy or the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Anointed of God has been taken from the world, the epoch of Constantine, of government by God's grace, has come to an end. The last book of Scriptures has opened, that of St. John the Theologian. The power of Orthodox Russia, the heiress of the Byzantine empire, no longer exists. Two forces have divided the world between them: on one side the militant, godless communist, on the other, the so-called democratic, western world, in which the flame of freedom continues to flicker. The latter, for the casual observer, is divided into countless Christian and non-Christian religions and sects, which inwardly are cemented together by an anti-Christian spirit.
When people fervently await a certain day, the appearance of the dawn of that day is a great joy. Just as the dawn precedes the bright sun of the day, people were elated at the birth of the Most-Holy Virgin Mary, which preceded the birth of Christ, the Savior of the World.
Of course, by no means did all people await Christ. Of those who did, only a very few saw in the birth of the Most-Holy Virgin the heralding of the coming of Christ.
The overwhelming majority of mankind was accustomed to indifference in this regard. Christ, the Savior and Deliverer from the burdens of earthly life, was actually anticipated by many: tens or hundreds of thousands, or maybe even millions of people not only in Israel but among some of the pagans awaited salvation.
The First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325] decreed that the Church year should begin on September 1. The month of September was, for the Hebrews, the beginning of the civil year (Exodus 23:16), the month of gathering the harvest and of the offering of thanks to God. It was on this feast that the Lord Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21), opened the book of the Prophet Isaiah and read the words: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2). The month of September is also important in the history of Christianity, because Emperor Constantine the Great was victorious over Maxentius, the enemy of the Christian Faith, in September. Following this victory, Constantine granted freedom of confession to the Christian Faith throughout the Roman Empire. For a long time, the civil year in the Christian world followed the Church year, with its beginning on September 1. The civil year was later changed, and its beginning transferred to January 1. This occurred first in Western Europe, and later in Russia, under Peter the Great.
St. Nikolai Velimirovic, Prologue of Ohrid.
Troparion — Tone 2
O Creator of the universe, / Thou didst appoint times by Thy power; / bless the crown of this year with Thy goodness, O Lord. / Preserve in safety Thy rulers and cities: / and through the intercessions of the Theotokos, save us!
Kontakion — Tone 4
O Creator and Master of time and the ages, / Triune and Merciful God of all: / grant blessings for the course of this year, / and in Thy boundless mercy save those who worship Thee and cry out in fear: / “O Savior, grant blessings to all mankind!”
Dear brother in Christ:
Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ! Thank you for your letter. I appreciate the seriousness of what you have written, and I will reply with the same seriousness.
I must tell you first of all that, to the best of our knowledge, there are no startsi today – that is, truly God-bearing elders (in the spirit of the Optina elders) who could guide you not by their own wisdom and understanding of the Holy Fathers, but by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. This kind of guidance is not given to our times – and frankly, we in our weakness and corruption and sins do not deserve it.