Feast of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

31 July 10

Commemorated on August 1

The Procession of the Venerable Wood of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: In the Greek Horologion of 1897 the derivation of this Feast is explained: “Because of the illnesses that occur in August, it was customary, in former times, to carry the Venerable Wood of the Cross through the streets and squares of Constantinople for the sanctification of the city, and for relief from sickness. On the eve (July 31), it was taken out of the imperial treasury, and laid upon the altar of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia (the Wisdom of God). From this Feast until the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, they carried the Cross throughout the city in procession, offering it to the people to venerate. This also is the Procession of the Venerable Cross.”

In the Russian Church this Feast is combined also with the remembrance of the Baptism of Rus, on August 1, 988. In the “Account of the Order of Services in the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Great Church of the Dormition,” compiled in 1627 by order of Patriarch Philaret of Moscow and All Rus, there is the following explanation of the Feast: “On the day of the Procession of the Venerable Cross there is a church procession for the sanctification of water and for the enlightenment of the people, throughout all the towns and places.”

Knowledge of the day of the actual Baptism of Rus was preserved in the Chronicles of the sixteenth century: “The Baptism of the Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev and all Rus was on August 1.”

In the present practice of the Russian Church, the Lesser Sanctification of Water on August 1 is done either before or after Liturgy. Because of the Blessing of Water, this first Feast of the Savior in August is sometimes called ‘Savior of the Water.” There may also be a Blessing of New Honey today, which is why the Feast is also called “Savior of the Honey.” From this day the newly gathered honey is blessed and tasted.

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The Holy Female Martyr Julita

30 July 10

Saint Julita was from Caesarea in Cappadocia. She had a dispute with her neighbor over some property. The neighbor went to the judge and reported that Julita was a Christian which, at that time, meant the same thing as being outside the protection of the state.

St. Julita gladly denied her property rather than her faith. But even after that, the evil pagans did not leave her in peace but tortured her and finally burned her alive in the year 303 A.D.

Thus, this follower of Christ sacrificed her estate and her body for the sake of the eternal salvation of her soul.

So much can be said about the strength of this saint for so many reasons. I might write more on this topic at a later time.


My Wife’s Birthday #2

28 July 10

In my wife’s family, there is a tradition of having a birthday month. Instead of celebrating the day and then getting on with life, they celebrate for the whole month and it is actually a lot of fun. Well, tonight we had a celebration for her birthday because her parents were not here for the first celebration and they are here now, luckily for the second.

We went to Village Inn and invited a family we are very close to and Rach invited a friend of hers, Jeff. We had a lot of fun and the conversation went in so many directions, I kind of got lost inside the swirling and twirling of topic changes.

I love my wife,she is awesome. More tomorrow. Now, bedtime.


The Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon

27 July 10
He was born in the city of Nicomedia into the family of the illustrious pagan Eustorgios, and he was named Pantoleon. His mother St. Eubula (March 30) was a Christian. She wanted to raise her son in the Christian Faith, but she died when the future martyr was just a young child. His father sent Pantoleon to a pagan school, after which the young man studied medicine at Nicomedia under the reknowned physician Euphrosynos. Pantoleon came to the attention of the emperor Maximian (284-305), who wished to appoint him as royal physician when he finished his schooling.
The hieromartyrs Hermolaos, Hermippos and Hermokrates, survivors of the massacre of 20,000 Christians in 303 (December 28), were living secretly in Nicomedia at that time. St. Hermolaos saw Pantoleon time and again when he came to the house where they were hiding. Once, the priest invited the youth to the house and spoke about the Christian Faith. After this Pantoleon visited St. Hermolaos every day.
One day the saint found a dead child on the street. He had been bitten by a great snake, which was still beside the child’s body. Pantoleon began to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ to revive the dead child and to destroy the venomous reptile. He firmly resolved that if his prayer were fulfilled, he would become a follower of Christ and receive Baptism. The child rose up alive, and the snake died before Pantoleon’s eyes. After this miracle, Pantoleon was baptized by St. Hermolaos with the name Panteleimon (meaning “all-merciful”). Speaking with Eustorgios, St. Panteleimon prepared him to accept Christianity. When the father saw how his son healed a blind man by invoking Jesus Christ, he then believed in Christ and was baptized by St. Hermolaos together with the man whose sight was restored.
After the death of his father, St. Panteleimon dedicated his life to the suffering, the sick, the unfortunate and the needy. He treated all those who turned to him without charge, healing them in the name of Jesus Christ. He visited those held captive in prison. These were usually Christians, and he healed them of their wounds. In a short time, reports of the charitable physician spread throughout the city. Forsaking the other doctors, the inhabitants began to turn only to St. Panteleimon.
The envious doctors told the emperor that St. Panteleimon was healing Christian prisoners. Maximian urged the saint to refute the charge by offering sacrifice to idols. St. Panteleimon confessed himself a Christian, and suggested that a sick person, for whom the doctors held out no hope, should be brought before the emperor. Then the doctors could invoke their gods, and Panteleimon would pray to his God to heal the man. A man paralyzed for many years was brought in, and pagan priests who knew the art of medicine invoked their gods without success. Then, before the very eyes of the emperor, the saint healed the paralytic by calling on the name of Jesus Christ. The ferocious Maximian executed the healed man, and gave St. Panteleimon over to fierce torture.
The Lord appeared to the saint and strengthened him before his sufferings. They suspended the Great Martyr Panteleimon from a tree and scraped him with iron hooks, burned him with fire and then stretched him on the rack, threw him into a cauldron of boiling tar, and cast him into the sea with a stone around his neck. Throughout these tortures the martyr remained unhurt, and denounced the emperor. At this time the priests Hermolaos, Hermippos and Hermokrates were brought before the court of the pagans. All three confessed their faith in the Savior and were beheaded (July 26).
By order of the emperor they brought the Great Martyr Panteleimon to the circus to be devoured by wild beasts. The animals, however, came up to him and licked his feet. The spectators began to shout, “Great is the God of the Christians!” The enraged Maximian ordered the soldiers to stab with the sword anyone who glorified Christ, and to cut off the head of the Great Martyr Panteleimon. They led the saint to the place of execution and tied him to an olive tree. While the martyr prayed, one of the soldiers struck him with a sword, but the sword became soft like wax and inflicted no wound. The saint completed his prayer, and a Voice was heard from Heaven, calling the passion-bearer by his new name and summoning him to the heavenly Kingdom.
Hearing the Voice, the soldiers fell down on their knees before the holy martyr and begged forgiveness. They refused to continue with the execution, but St. Panteleimon told them to fulfill the emperor’s command, because otherwise they would have no share with him in the future life. The soldiers tearfully took their leave of the saint with a kiss.
When the saint was beheaded, the olive tree to which the saint was tied became covered with fruit. Many who were present at the execution believed in Christ. The saint’s body was thrown into a fire, but remained unharmed, and was buried by Christians . St. Panteleimon’s servants Lawrence, Bassos and Probus witnessed his execution and heard the Voice from Heaven. They recorded the life, the sufferings and death of the saint.
Portions of the holy relics of the Great Martyr Panteleimon were distributed throughout all the Christian world. His venerable head is now located at the Russian monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mt. Athos.
St. Panteleimon is venerated in the Orthodox Church as a mighty saint, and the protector of soldiers. This aspect of his veneration is derived from his first name Pantoleon, which means “a lion in everything”. His second name, Panteleimon, given him at Baptism, which means “all-merciful”, is manifest in the veneration of the martyr as a healer. The connection between these two aspects of the saint is readily apparent in that soldiers, receiving wounds more frequently than others, are more in need of a physician-healer. Christians waging spiritual warfare also have recourse to this saint, asking him to heal their spiritual wounds. The holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon is invoked in the Mystery of Anointing the Sick, at the Blessing of Water, and in the Prayers for the Sick.

The Feast of Saint Paraskevi

26 July 10

The blessed holy martyr Saint Paraskevi was born in Rome (circa 130A.D.) during the reign of the pagan Emperor Adrian. Her parents, Agathon and Politia, were devout Christians even though belief in Christ was a crime against the state punishable by death. Agathon and Politia, who were of nobility, likewise ignored the disdain of their peers by championing the cause of the down trodden. In spite of their devotion to Christ and His teachings, Agathon and Politia secretly and painfully bore the cross of a childless marriage. Trusting in the great mercy and love of God, this Christian

Holy Saint Paraskevi, pray unto God for us!

couple did not despair, nor did they cease praying for a child, which they vowed to rear in a God fearing manner. Lo the miracle! Late in life Agathon and Politia were blessed with a daughter. Because the child was born on Friday (Paraskevi in Greek), they named her Paraskevi.

Keeping their promise to God, Agathon and Politia were vigilant in exposing Paraskevi to the fullness of Christianity. The task was made considerably easier because the young girl had a natural penchant for learning. With the help of private tutors, Paraskevi became an ardent student of both Holy Scriptures and secular learning. However, the greatest influence in her life, according to her own testimony, was the Christ-like example of her parents.

Young Paraskevi developed into a cultured, sensitive and beautiful woman. It wasn’t long before some of the noblemen began to take notice of her, and to seek her hand in marriage. Paraskevi always managed, however, to find some excuse to politely refuse. Because inwardly she was convinced that she was destined for a more sublime mission in life.

Paraskevi was orphaned of both parents when she was twenty years old. At this point in her life, that inner feeling, that she was destined for a higher calling, had crystallized into love and zeal for Christ. Her greatest desire was to become an apostle for Christ. To achieve her goal, Paraskevi distributed all her inheritance among the poor of Rome; entered a convent and was tonsured a nun. At the convent, Paraskevi distinguished herself in humility, love and spiritual fortitude. When she finally became proficient in prayer and sacrifice, the Abbess granted her leave so that she could fulfill her life’s ambition; to preach the love of God to all men. This was truly a precarious mission, because the pagan Roman Empire was extremely hostile toward Christianity. Even the most courageous of Christians were reluctant to openly admit that they were followers of Christ. Nevertheless, this did not daunt Paraskevi, nor did it dampen her zeal. As a matter of fact, she began her preaching mission right in Rome! The fervor of her kerygma, and the example of her commitment were such an inspiration, that great multitudes were converted on their very first encounter with the Saint. In spite of her great fame and legacy, Paraskevi managed to elude the authorities. Heartened by this, she decided to extend her ministry to Turkey.

It was in Turkey where Paraskevi experienced her first encounter with the law. One day, as she was preaching just beyond present day Istanbul, in the village of Therapia, the soldiers of Emperor Antonius Pius arrested her. The charge against the young missionary was that the blasphemous words which she uttered were the cause of all the ills that had recently befallen the empire. At her trial, the Emperor, infatuated by her beauty, begged Paraskevi to renounce Christ and worship the idols of Rome. To entice her further, Antonius Pius offered to take her as his wife, and to give her half of his empire. Paraskevi’s reply was quick and resolute: “I have made my choice; no amount of wealth or deprivation can separate me from my love for Christ.” Rebuffed and infuriated, Antonius Pius ordered that Paraskevi be imprisoned and beaten mercilessly until she died. The soldiers were astounded to discover that no matter what punishment and torture she received one day, the next morning she would be as refreshed and carefree as if nothing had happened. Fearing the wrath of the Emperor, the soldiers decided to report this strange phenomenon to him. Castigating the ineptness of his soldiers, Antonius Pius shouted another form of execution. This time he ordered the soldiers to take Paraskevi out to the spot where she was arrested and to prepare a cauldron of boiling water, tar and oil. He further stated that it would be his pleasure to personally supervise the scalding of that “blasphemous Paraskevi”.

When Paraskevi was finally thrown into the boiling cauldron, she reacted as if the water were delightfully lukewarm. In utter disbelief, Antonius again began castigating the soldiers. Softly and with a loving smile, Paraskevi reassured the Emperor that his soldiers had executed his command faithfully. She also stated, “My Lord and Master wills that I continue His work”. Utterly enraged and oblivious of her words, Antonius yelled, “Sprinkle me with the oil and tar. I don’t believe what I see!” Obligingly, Paraskevi scooped some of the boiling mixture in her hands, and splashed it on the Emperor’s face.

Antonius squealed with pain and began yelling, “I’m blind! I can’t see!” Instinctively, he began imploring the Saint to have mercy and pity on him. “Restore my eyesight, and I shall believe”, he begged. “Your God is surely the true God!” Accepting his latter statement as a confession of faith, Paraskevi jumped out of the cauldron; rushed to a spring of water that was nearby, and scooped up fresh cool water onto Antonius’ face, invoked the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and sealed his eyes with the sign of the Precious and Life-saving Cross and the Emperor’s eyesight was restored immediately! The miracle had such a profound effect on Antonius that he not only freed Paraskevi and ordered that all persecutions against Christians be stopped, but he himself was baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. Thus, Paraskevi resumed her apostolic mission with greater zeal and faith. The calm, however, did not last long. Marcus Aurelius, Antonius’ successor, renewed the persecutions against the Christian Church. Paraskevi was beheaded in Rome on the 26th of July, in the year 180 A.D.

Portions of the preceding text are from “The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church” by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, and translated from the French by Christopher Hookway


Experience and Purpose

25 July 10

This post is the text of a letter I have written to some friends today regarding my visit to Saint Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ. I won’t say much up here, the chunks below will cover anything else I could say.

Geetings!

All of you attached to this message have mentioned an interest in my trip to St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ today after Liturgy.

Today at Trapeza, (the meal after Liturgy that we do after Liturgy each Sunday) Father asked if anyone received an email that he had sent out during the week. Pretty much noone in the parish had gotten it so Father told us of is contents.

There is an icon from Russia that was in the U.S. for only the 2nd time. This icon is called the Myrrh-Streaming, Wonder-working. Icon of the Theotokos “The Softener of Evil Hearts.”

This icon gushes myrrh at random times and has also literally bled. Scientists have tested the blood and it has been shown to be type “O”. If you are further interested in this icon I can forward you the info that Father Damian gave to us when we arived at the monastery.

This icon made its way to Saint Antohny’s and so we made a pilgrimage to the monastery an hour away. This was my first time seeing this monastery, although I had seen pictures (and can share a link with a photo album of pictures) of the monastery prior to this visit and since then have always wanted to go. We were going to go for the Feast of the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos in August, but I have a camping trip that weekend so I was sad to not be able to go then and really happy for this opportunity.

The grounds of the monastery look like an oasis in the desert. Trees, plants, fruit-bearing and otherwise, all over the property. The property sits on a natural aquifer so it is really fresh. The grounds are immaculately maintained. The buildings are different styles, mainly Greek and Russian looking. There are 6 or 7 churches on the property all named for different saints or Feasts.

The entire place is beautiful beyond words. We arrived at the monastery in time for Vespers. Usually in a parish Vespers lasts about 45 mins to an hour. In a monastery the Vespers service lasted for about 2 hrs. Although the entire service was in Greek and I did not understand a lot of it there were parts of it that I could follow. It gave me a lot of time to pray for my family and friends and the things in life that need intercession. My own mountain of sins not withstanding.

I have two small paper icons that I received at the monastery. The things I have written are just a small peice of the feelings I experienced today. To be in a place that was so quiet and serene with others from all over the country and world. There were Russians, Greeks, Egyptians, as well as many many English speaking people as well. It was so cleansing to experience the renewal that can be found a monastery.

I hope to return to St. Anthonys soon with Rachel and Talia since they had a baby shower to attend today with 2 other women that are pregnant and a part of a mom’s group that she is a part of.

I hope that is feeble attempt has given you a tiny picture of the joys I have ezprienced this day.

My love and prayers to you all,
Joseph-Juvenaly


Repose of St. Anna, the Mother of the Theotokos

24 July 10

Today we celebrate (amongst other commemorations) the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of Saint Anna, the mother of the most pure Virgin Theotokos Mother of God. Saint Anna also has a feast with her husband, Saint Joachim, on 9 Sept.

For today’s posting I am going to repost a “Hymn of Praise” written by Saint Nikolai Velimirovic. There is an entire book of these hymns written for various saints and feasts. The following hymn is written for the Feast of Sts. Joachim and Anna.

A Hymn of Praise
Saints Joachim and Anna

Be glad, O barren one;
Be glad, O aged Anna.
You will conceive and give birth
To a wondrous child, a chosen one-

As once did the aged Sarah
And the mother of Samson
And the mother of Samuel
And the mother of John-

Yet you will be more glorious than all,
For you will give birth from the womb
To the wonderful Virgin, the only
Wonderful Mother of the Most-high King.

Be glad, O Joachim,
Father of the unprecedented mother
Of whom the Creator desires
To be clothed with glory.

The Law loses its power
When God wills,
and where He wills
Who can gainsay God?

Can there be any dispute with God?
Not by disputation, but by love
Does God change His laws
Before love, all laws

Are as if nonexistent.
When men hunger, the Lord
Makes the dry field fertile
And because of the spiritual hunger of the world

He makes the barren one fertile
For the salvation of men, the Lord
Arranges all for the best
That is why all the Church of the saints
Cries out to Him: Glory! Glory