Stephanie (Mary Catherine) Hamrick, Choir Director
Danielle (Phoebe) Kerr, Organist
Littie (Lydia) Hamrick
Stephanie (Mary Catherine) Hamrick, Choir Director
Danielle (Phoebe) Kerr, Organist
Littie (Lydia) Hamrick
|7:00pm||- Deacon's Mass/Silent Prayer|
Reprinted from The Prologue from Ochrid by Bishop (St.) Nikolai Velimirovic
Antony was an Egyptian, born about 250 in a village called Quemen-el-Arons near Heracleopolis. After the death of his rich and noble parents, he shared his inherited possessions with his sister, who was still in her minority, made sure that she was cared for, gave away his half of the inheritance to the poor and, at the age of twenty, consecrated himself to the life of asceticism that he had desired from childhood. At first he lived near his own village but then, in order to escape the disturbance of men, went off into the desert, on the shores of the Red Sea, where he spent twenty years as a hermit in company with no one but God, in unceasing prayer, pondering and contemplation, patiently undergoing inexpressible demonic temptations.
His fame spread through the whole world and around him gathered many disciples whom he, by word and example, placed on the path of salvation. In eighty-five years of ascetic life, he went only twice to Alexandria: the first time to seek martyrdom during a time of persecution of the Church, and the second at the invitation of St. Athanasius, to refute the Arians’ slanderous allegations that he too was a follower of the Arian heresy. He departed this life at the age of 105, leaving behind a whole army of disciples and followers.
And, although Antony was unlettered he was, as a counselor and teacher, one of the most learned men of his age, as also was St. Athanasius the Great. When some Hellenic philosophers tried to test him with literary learning, Antony shamed them with the questions: “Which is older, the understanding or the book? And which of these is the source of the other?” The shamed philosophers dispersed, for they saw that they had only book-learning without understanding, while Antony had understanding.
Here was a man who had attained perfection insofar as man is able on earth. Here was an educator of educators and teacher of teachers, who for a whole eighty-five years perfected himself, and only thus was able to perfect many others. Full of years and great works, Antony entered into rest in the Lord in the year 356.
The two sons in a Roman senatorial family living in northern Gaul led a typical life, receiving a good education and enjoying the privileges of society to which they were entitled by their class. But when, at age 18, Honoratus converted to Christianity, followed soon by his brother, Venantius, the ‘good life’ no longer had the same appeal.
The brothers decided to embark on a pilgrimage to Palestine to visit the holy places associated with events in the life of our Lord. Their doting father, who had not become a Christian, did everything he could to discourage such a dangerous and foolish journey, but his sons were determined. Taking with them an older Christian named Caprasius, who was to act as their guide, they soon left home for the Holy Land.
The planned itinerary also included places in Egypt, perhaps associated with St. Anthony, who 100 years earlier had begun the movement known as monasticism. Leading a life of silence and 3 prayer in a desert or wilderness was very appealing to the brothers and they determined to find a place where they might do the same.
But all their plans were abandoned when the young men became ill in the province of Achaia (in Greece) and Venantius died. Honoratus and Caprasius returned home, stopping briefly in Rome. Honoratus was now more determined than ever to pursue the solitary life. With the encouragement of a bishop in Provence, he went to the island of Lerins, which was very much a wilderness, to begin this life of prayer and spiritual struggle.
As so often happened in the early days of monasticism, word soon spread that a hermit was living a life of prayer on the island and Honoratus was joined by others seeking the same sort of life. Thus, the Monastery of Lerins – which would become one of the most famous in the Western world – was founded. Many of those whose names fill the lists of saints of the Church (including St. Vincent of Lerins, St. Caesarius of Arles, and perhaps St. Patrick) received their spiritual formation in this monastery. The Rule of Life in the monastery was patterned after that of St. Pachomius.
In 426, the bishop of Arles was assassinated and Abbot Honoratus was elected to take his place. The abbot reluctantly accepted this responsibility while managing to continue oversight of the monastery. The Arian and Manichaean heresies had become a threat to the Church in Arles, but Bishop Honoratus was able to re-establish Orthodoxy.
St. Honoratus fell asleep in the Lord in the year 429, having devoted his life to prayer, to the spiritual nourishing of his monks and the protection of the true faith in his diocese. His writings, which are attested to by others of his time, have not survived but the monastery which he founded continued to thrive and produce saints through centuries.
However, in 732, a Saracen attack resulted in the massacre of the abbot and many of the monks. Attacks in later centuries by the Spanish and Genoese who were fighting for ownership of the island resulted in the expulsion of the monks until the French retook the island. The French Revolution, which saw the dissolution of the monastery and the sale of the property to a famous actress, might have been the end of St. Honoratus’ legacy, but the property was bought in 1859, by the Bishop of Frejus who founded a community of Cistercian monks which remains there today.
May we, like St. Honoratus, seek God in silence and prayer; may we answer God’s call to service; and may we persevere in our concern for preserving Orthodox Christianity against the influences of the world. Holy Honoratus, pray for us.
The ways of the world have drifted far from the ways of God. In the world, power and riches and prominent positions are important. But Holy Scripture reminds us that God’s way is the opposite. We are told that even great and powerful people must be “born again” and become like little children. The rich who have made idols of their worldly possessions are to “give all they have to the poor” and follow him. In the Magnificat, we sing of how God will “put down the mighty from their seat and exalt the humble and meek.”
The most important sign God gave us of his ways was to send his beloved Son to us in the form of a tiny, helpless infant. God also uses his saints to show us the way of humility. St. Nina of Georgia is one who, through humility and despite her lowly position, brought the Christian faith to an entire nation.
Raised as a Christian in her native land, Nina was captured as a young girl and forced into slavery in the country of Georgia. Without bitterness for this alteration of her life, Nina went about her duties of cleaning and caring for her captors with self-effacing kindness.
The Georgian people were pagans who worshiped as their primary god, Amazi, a sword-wielding vengeful spirit, whose copper image could bring death to anyone who touched it, but Nina unselfconsciously continued to pray to our Lord Jesus Christ as she had done all her life. When those she worked with or for asked her about her God, she did not hesitate to tell them of the wonderful works of God.
One day, a distraught mother, whose child was ill and could not be cured by the doctors, came to the household where Nina worked and asked for help from anyone who could give it. Explaining that she had no medical skills or knowledge, Nina said that all she had to offer was prayer to God for the healing of the child. The mother, in her desperation, agreed to let the foreign slave appeal to her foreign God. Our heavenly Father chose this moment to show the Georgian people his mercy and kindness. The child miraculously recovered from his sickness and his mother gratefully promised to worship the God of the slave girl who had brought about this miracle.
Nina satisfied the curiosity of other villagers about God and many of them, too, came to believe in the saving grace of Christ. Others with infirmities were brought to Nina for prayers for healing. Eventually even the queen came to this slave girl for help because of a painful disability she had suffered for many years. When Nina’s prayers resulted in the Queen’s complete recovery, that great lady asked for instruction in the Christian faith and she, too, became a follower of Christ.
Although overjoyed at his wife’s restored health, King Miriam was not pleased with the idea of abandoning the traditional Georgian gods. He feared their retribution and became so angry at the queen’s urging that he decided to ban this religion from the land.
Our all-powerful God used another miracle to change the king’s mind. When he went hunting one day and rode to the top of the highest hill, where there was usually a magnificent view of the countryside, the entire area was suddenly covered with a thick fog – so thick that the king could not even see his companions. Out of fear of some strange calamity, King Miriam remembered the miracle of his wife’s cure and the foreign God who had brought it about. He decided to pray to this God and immediately the air cleared and the view of the hills and the valley below became as it had always been. The king knew that this was a heavenly sign that the Christian God was the true God, and he vowed to worship him and to build a church on this hill to his honor.
King Miriam and many others in his court began to receive instruction in the faith from the humble slave girl, Nina, in preparation for baptism. But there were more lessons for the king to learn. When the Emperor Constantine sent bishops and priests and relics to the Georgian people, the king was insulted that he was not the first to receive them. Nina had to instruct him in the virtue of humility. When some Georgian tribesmen refused to accept Christianity, King Miriam wanted to force them at the point of the sword, so Nina had to instruct him in the way of peace and the virtue of patience. When the king wanted to reward the slave girl by giving her freedom and wealth and position, she refused all these earthly pleasures to further demonstrate Christian humility.
St. Nina, beloved by all the Georgians who had come to know her and to accept the faith she had taught them, fell asleep in the Lord in the year 338 and was buried in the village where she had been brought as a slave. A church was built here and it became a place of pilgrimage for Christians to honor the one who had showed them the way to Heaven.
May we also learn from St. Nina how to show others the Christian faith through humility and kindness. Holy Nina, pray for us.