1. SAINT THEOPHYLACTUS, BISHOP OF NICOMEDIA
When the emperor's advisor Tarasius, as a layman, was elected Patriarch ofConstantinople, then with him and from him, many of his friends, admirers, and others of the laity received the monastic tonsure. Among them was Theophylactus. Tarasius appointed him Bishop of Nicomedia. As a bishop, Theophylactus was a good shepherd to his entrusted flock and proved to be exceptionally filled with compassion toward the less fortunate and indigent. After the death of St. Tarasius, the Patriarchal Throne was occupied by Nicephorus and shortly after that, the Imperial Throne was occupied by Leo the Armenian, who was an Iconoclast and, as such, raised up a absolute storm in the Church of Christ. Even though Iconoclasm had been anathematized by the Seventh Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 783 A.D.], nevertheless, Emperor Leo re-instated it and by this wanted to supplant Orthodoxy. Saint Theophylactus opposed the emperor to his face and, when the emperor would not yield, Theophylactus said to him, "O emperor, violent injury will unexpectedly befall you, and you will not find anyone who will save you from it." Because of these words and by the order of the emperor, Theophylactus was ousted from his position and banished into exile, where he spent thirty years undergoing many hardships and insults and, where, in the end, he rendered his soul to the Lord about the year 845 A.D.
2. THE HOLY PRIEST-MARTYR THEODORETUS
The Emperor Constantine built a cathedral church of special beauty in Antioch. The people called this church "the golden church" because of the gold-plated exterior and interior and because of the many appointments of gold and silver housed in it. The emperor donated a great deal of land to this church for the upkeep of the clergy whose number was significant. The custodian of these appointments and all other precious items in the church was the presbyter Theodoretus,(*) and rare devotion. When Julian the Apostate began his reign, he denied Christ and, even though he was baptized, stirred up a persecution against Christians. Julian, his uncle of the same name, came to Antioch and began to plunder the "golden church." He summoned Theodoretus, the custodian of the treasury, to court and counseled him to deny Christ. Not only did Theodoretus refuse to deny Christ, but he also insulted the Emperor Julian because of his apostasy from the True Faith and his return to idolatry, as a dog returning to his own vomit. When the wicked judge, out of rage, urinated in the "golden church," St. Theodoretus prophesied a horrible death for him, which shortly happened. Theodoretus was beheaded by an axe for his faith in Christ. From the time that Judge Julian had urinated in the church, he felt pains in the lower part of his body. The entire lower half of his body was eaten away by worms, so that he vomited up his apostate soul in the most horrible pains. Also, according to the prophecy of Theodoretus, Felix, Julian's assistant, diedof a hemorrhage from the mouth immediately after the beheading of this righteous man. St. Theodoretus was beheaded in the year 362 A.D. and was translated to the All-glorious kingdom of Christ the King.]
(*) In the Greek Synaxarion, St. Theodoretus is commemorated on March 3.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Outside the empty Paradise, Adam folds his hands,
Banished and alienated he throbbed from pain;
The angels of heaven, until then his companions,
As beautiful dreams, flew hurriedly away,
Before the banished one, before the cursed one,
Until yesterday, the mighty proprietor of Paradise!
And Adam sobbed on the cold boulder:
Woe to my descendants! Woe to me a sinner!
For one moment, my Creator I despised
To be despised by all that was created
Throughout the days and nights, throughout the centuries long,
Instead of God, a serpent to have for a companion!
Instead of me, over all created things to rule,
Over me, now, everything will rule:
The winds and the heat, the elements of nature,
The beasts and scorpions, repulsive things and serpents.
Instead of freedom, behold, fear grips me,
And confuses my thoughts and chills me to the bone.
There is only One Who is able to help:
The One that I offended--Have mercy O God!
Be more trusting in the Lord than in your own mother. Confess all to Him. He will not betray you. Embrace all of His commandments as beneficial. They will not deceive you. In as much as you trust in God, so also be vigilant toward your enemies, toward your body, the world and demons. All of this was expressed much better by the glorious saint of God, Ephrem the Syrian, saying, "In embracing the commandments of God, have simplicity, and in warding off hostile intrigues, have the cunning (the dove and the serpent)."
To contemplate the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane:
1. How He repeatedly commands the disciples to watch and pray to God;
2. How He rises three times from His sweat-inducing prayer, goes over to the disciples and finds that they are asleep;
3. How they were all overcome by temptation because they forsook their teacher and fled for they were not prepared to overcome the fear of men;
4. How we, too, become lazy and are not vigilant and do not pray to God, for when temptation comes, we forsake the Lord Christ.
About the vision of the eyes and the vision of the soul
"Coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance"(Philippians 2:7).
This, the Apostle Paul says, that same apostle who said about the Lord Jesus: "He is in the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation" (Colossians 1:15), and "In Him dwells the whole fullness of the Deity bodily" (Colossians 2:9). This is the Lord according to His essence and according to His internal nature but "found human in appearance." Men, whose hearts are hardened as stone and whose minds are darkened, recognize objects around themselves only through their eyes. Such men, in those days, looked with their eyes and saw Jesus as a man. It was not given to them to know anymore about Him except what their physical eyes saw. Physical man saw in Jesus and beheld only the body but did not see in that body neither God nor a perfect and sinless man.
Even today, whosoever judges only by that which he sees denies to Jesus all that he cannot see in other men. No one can speak the truth about the Lord who judges Him only with their eyes. That which the eyes can see of Him is but a small veil behind which is hidden the eternal mysteries of heaven and the greatestmysteries of time and of earth. In order to see that which is hidden in Him, behind the physical veil, one must have spiritual vision, which is the Spirit of God in one's heart, the Spirit Who draws back the veil and reveals the mysteries.
O, Lord, Mystery Most Sweet, make us worthy of the visit of Your Holy Spirit.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
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