The Saint of the Day Podcast briefly tells the story of one of the venerable Saints commemorated in the Orthodox Calendar for that day. Our reader is a professional actor and an ordained Deacon in the Orthodox Church, Dn. Jerome Atherholt. Our source is www.abbamoses.com. - brought to you by Ancient Faith Radio
Our Righteous Father John of Damascus (760)
This divinely-enlightened Harp of the Spirit was at the same time one of the Church's greatest hymnographers and one of Her greatest theologians and defenders of the Faith. The city of Damascus in Syria fell to the Muslims in 635. At the time of the Caliph Abdul-Malik, responsibility for government of the Christian population was given to Sergius Mansur, a prominent Christian of the city. This Sergius strove to govern in a godly way under the many disabilities imposed by the Caliph, and devoted his wealth to almsgiving and to ransoming Christian prisoners. His son John was born in 675, and along with his adoptive brother Cosmas (October 14) was brought up to love and serve Christ. John, whose exceptional education included a perfect knowledge of both Greek and Arabic, entered the civil administration and eventually succeeded to his father's position under the Caliph. When the Emperor Leo the Isaurian began to attack the holy icons, Saint John undertook a spirited defense of the Faith through letters to correspondents throughout the Empire. Normally the Emperor would have killed or exiled the Saint directly, but since he lived in Muslim lands the Emperor could not touch him (an interesting example of Islam unwittingly contributing to the defense of the Christian faith). So the wicked Emperor circulated a forged letter which made it appear that John was plotting against the Caliph. When this letter fell (as planned) into the Caliph's hands, he was furious, and ordered that the Saint's right hand be cut off. That evening John placed his severed hand before the icon of the Mother of God and prayed with tears that it might be restored. On awaking he found that his hand had been miraculously restored to him. The miracle convinced the Caliph of his counselor's innocence, and John was restored to favor; but now John wanted nothing more of worldly honor and wished only to be a monk. Giving up his position, he distributed his fortune among the poor and left for Jerusalem to become a monk at the Monastery of St Sabas. The Abbot of the monastery put John under an Elder who ordered him to have nothing to do with philosophy, science, poetry, chanting or reading, but to give himself uncomplainingly to menial tasks so as to advance in humility. This the Saint did. Some time later, however, a monk grieving over his brother's death persuaded John to write a funeral hymn for his consolation. Out of compassion, John wrote the hymn which is used to this day in the Funeral Service. For his disobedience, John was given the job of cleaning all the latrines of the monastery by hand, which, again, he did without complaint. A few days later the Theotokos appeared to the Elder and told him to allow John to compose hymns and poems, which, she told, him, would surpass the Psalms of David in beauty and grace. Thus the monk John began to write the large body of inspired hymns which grace the Church's services. Among these are the Canon chanted at the Pascha Service, as well as most of the Resurrectional hymns of the Octoechos. Saint John's poetical gifts were matched by his gifts for expressing the Church's theology: he composed a powerful defense of the icons (in print under the title On the Holy Images), a complete exposition of the Orthodox Faith (On the Orthodox Faith), and the first written refutation of Islam, which he had come to understand well while serving in the Caliph's court. In old age, John was ordained a priest by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. He reposed in peace in 760 at the age of eighty-four.
Our Venerable Father John the Silent, Bishop of Colonia (558)
He was born into a Christian family at Nikopolis in Armenia. When he was eighteen his parents died, and with twelve other young men he established a small monastery. After a few years, much against his will he was made Bishop of Colonia, but he continued to live the ascetic life of a monk. After nine years of service as bishop, discouraged by the worldliness and intrigue around him, he secretly left for Jerusalem to live as a monk. He was divinely guided to the monastery of St Sabas, who received him and, knowing nothing of his rank, assigned him a lowly place among the new monks. Saint John cheerfully undertook whatever task was given to him and served the other monks in humility and silence. After completing his novitiate he was given a cell where he lived in total silence, fasting five days a week. On Saturdays and Sundays he joined the brethren for prayer, Communion and meals; but even at these times the other monks were edified by his silence and unceasing compunction. Saint Sabas desired to make him a priest and took him to be ordained by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Saint John asked the Patriarch for a private meeting and explained that he could not be ordained because he was already a bishop. The Patriarch returned St John to St Sabas, telling him only that it was impossible for him to ordain John, who should be allowed to live in silence and solitude. Saint Sabas was perplexed (thinking that some sin prevented the monk from being ordained), but soon received a revelation of John's true rank. After many years of reclusion, St John withdrew further to a cave in the desert for nine years. He became known as a divinely-enlightened counselor and a wonderworker, and cheerfully received all who came to him for guidance or prayer. In 509 he returned to the monastery, where he lived as an anchorite in his cell, communicating with the world only through one of his disciples. For many years he lived only on thin porridge, into which he would mix ashes. One day a disciple saw him pouring ashes into his food, and John abandoned the practice, not wanting to be known for the practice of any virtue. Once he asked God for a sign revealing whether he would be granted to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Taking a fig-seed, he placed it on a bare rock outside his cell. Without soil or water, the seed brought forth a plant, put forth leaves and flowers, and produced three figs, which St John shared with his disciples. The Saint then made ready for death. He reposed in peace, at the age of 104.
Holy Prophet Habbakuk (Abbacum) (7th c. BC).
He prophesied in the time of Joachim, just before the Jewish people were taken into captivity in Babylon. He himself escaped captivity, and after Jerusalem was destroyed, returned to his homeland. Once he was taking some food to his harvesters when an Angel transported him to Babylon to feed the Prophet Daniel in the lions' den, then bore him back to Judea (this is told in the full version of the book of Daniel, ch. 6 LXX). The third chapter of his prophecy is used as the Fourth Ode of the Matins Canon(the Ode is usually sung in full only in monasteries during Lent, but the eirmos of the Fourth Ode, sung in many parishes, usually refers to the Prophet). His holy relics were found through a revelation in Palestine during the reign of Theodosius the Great, and a chapel built there. His name means "Father of the Resurrection."
Holy Prophet Nahum (7th c. BC)
He was a Galilean of the tribe of Simeon. The Old Testament book that bears his name foretells the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, by the Medes, and the restoration of the Kingdom of Judah; all of this came to pass. Nahum is counted as the seventh of the Minor Prophets. He reposed in peace. His name means 'consolation' or 'repose.' Five of the Prophets (Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Daniel) are commemorated in December. At one time a Feast of the Twelve Prophets was celebrated on December 4 at the Church of the Resurrection, but this feast is no longer on the calendar. The days leading up to Christ's Nativity contain many commemorations of the faithful remnant of Israel, all of whose hopes were fulfilled in the birth of the Messiah.
Our Venerable Father Frumentius, first Bishop of Ethiopia (4th c.)
During the reign of St Constantine the Great, an explorer named Meropus set out to explore lands along the Red Sea, previously unknown to the Roman world. The expedition's ship was attacked by pirates and all the company killed except two young men named Frumentius and Edesius. They were sold into slavery in the court of the Ethiopian King of Axum, where they distinguished themselves so well that they became palace stewards and were able to obtain freedom of Christian worship for merchants trading in the Kingdom. Eventually the young men returned to Roman territory, and Frumentius went to St Athanasius the Great of Alexandria to tell him of his travels and of the great thirst of the Ethiopian people for the Gospel of Christ. Saint Athanasius consecrated Frumentius as first Bishop of Abyssinia and sent him back to Axum to establish the Church in that kingdom. Through his apostolic zeal, tireless travels, and miracles and healings, the holy Bishop was able convert many pagans and establish many churches in Ethiopia, though the Kingdom did not become officially Christian until the sixth century. Saint Frumentius reposed in peace in his adopted country, and his relics worked many miracles. The Church of Ethiopia traces its origin to the apostolic work of the Ethiopian eunuch baptized by the Apostle Philip in the Book of Acts, who "went on his way rejoicing" to Ethiopia and first proclaimed the Gospel there. Thus, it seems there was already a Christian presence in the country when Frumentius arrived: this may be the source of the statement in his biography that he found the Ethiopian people thirsty for the Good News.
Holy Martyr Paramon and his 370 Companions (~250)
"Akylinus, the Governor of Bithynia in the reign of the Emperor Decius (249-51), was leaving for the hot springs at Bisaltia, when he decided to make 370 Christians from Nicomedia, who had been imprisoned on his orders, worship in the temple of Isis. On their refusal to do so, they were all beheaded. Seeing this massacre, the righteous Paramon cried out: 'What a wicked deed to slaughter so many righteous men, and strangers moreover, as if they were animals.' The Governor heard these words and had Paramon seized and taken with him under guard. On the road he was mistreated in various ways by the soldiers. Some of them struck him with their spears, others excised his tongue and other members, and he was finally put to death in the presence of the Governor." (Synaxarion) Note: of the various persecutions launched by the pagan Emperors before St Constantine, the persecution under Decius was probably the fiercest and bloodiest.