courtesy of oca.org
The Armenian city of Melitene was drenched with the blood of Christians as was the entire country of Armenia. The first blood shed for Christ in this city was that of Saint Polyeuctus in the year 259 A.D. during the reign of Valerian. In this city [Melitene] were two friends: both Nearchus and Polyeuctus were officers, Nearchus baptized and Polyeuctus unbaptized. When the command of the emperor was sent out concerning the persecution of the Christians, Nearchus prepared for death; but he was in great sorrow because he had not succeeded in converting his friend Polyeuctus to the True Faith. When Polyeuctus learned of the reason for Nearchus' sorrow, he promised to embrace the Faith. The following day Polyeuctus related his dream to Nearchus: the Lord Himself appeared to him in light, removed Polyeuctus' old clothes from him and dressed him in radiant new clothes and sat him in the saddle of a winged horse. After this, Polyeuctus went to town, shredded the emperor's decree concerning the torturing of Christians, and destroyed many statues of the idols. He was tortured and was condemned to death. When he was brought to the place of execution, he looked at Nearchus in the throng of people and joyfully cried out to him: "Save yourself my dear friend! Remember the vow of love confirmed between the two of us!" Later, Saint Nearchus died as a martyr for Christ by fire. The commemoration of the feast of St. Nearchus is April 22.
Eustratius was a native of Tarsus. He was a great ascetic and a man of prayer. During the seventy-five years he spent in the monastery, Eustratius never laid down to sleep on his left side but always on his right side. Throughout the Divine Services, from the beginning to the end, he repeated to himself: "Lord have mercy!" He died in his ninety-fifth year.
Philip was born February 11, 1507 A.D. Once, while standing in church as a young boy, he heard the priest read from the Gospel: "No one can serve two masters" (St. Matthew 6:24). He became very frightened by these words, as though these words were exclusively spoken to him and at that same time became enlightened by them. He then withdrew to the Solovetsk Monastery where he, after a long and difficult period of probation [Novitiate], was tonsured a monk. In time, Philip became the abbot and shone as the sun and the whole of Russia heard of him. Hence, Emperor Ivan the Terrible summoned Philip to fill the vacant Metropolitan See of Moscow in the year 1566 A.D. However, this holy man could not endure with indifference the awful atrocities of the terrible tsar and, therefore, counseled him and rebuked him without fear. The tsar found some false witnesses against Philip, ousted him from office, and ordered that he be dressed in a simple and tattered monastic cassock and imprisoned him in Tver on December 23, 1569 A.D. Malyuta Skuratov, one of the tsar's confidants, came to Philip's cell and suffocated him with a pillow. Shortly afterwards, all those who were opposed to Philip died evil deaths. After several years, the body of the saint discovered whole, incorrupt, and fragrant, was translated to the Monastery of Solovetsk.
SAINTS NEARCHUS AND POLYEUCTUS
Nearchus and Polyeuctus, soldiers of Caesar,
Became soldiers of the Heavenly King,
One baptized with water, the other by his blood,
The second surpassed the other and became the first.
Oh, blessed be this competition,
This heroic rushing to Christ's' kingdom!
Polyeuctus rejected all by which the earth spoils
Everything, as a wind that comes; as the wind, passes,
And for these urgent sufferings, purchased the everlasting kingdom;
This trade, for him, turned out radiant:
For eternal life, let the grass be mowed!
For transitory suffering, eternal glory!
Pray for us, O soldier of Christ,
That, not one of your souls perish!
The Orthodox Church by teaching men about perfect love, at the same time, also teaches them perfect obedience from which emanates order and harmony among the faithful. Bishops owe their obedience to the Lord. Priests owe their obedience to the bishops. The faithful owe their obedience to both [bishops and priests]. St. Ignatius writes about this: "You are required to obey without hypocrisy; he who would deceive his visible bishop would also scorn the Invisible [Christ]. I pray you, endeavor to fulfill everything in godly unanimity under the presidency of the bishops who occupy the place of Christ and the presbyters who constitute the assembly of the apostles, not thinking that whatever you do alone and apart would be correct."
To contemplate all the virtues in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ:
About the concern for the salvation of our neighbors
"No one should seek his own advantage, but that of his neighbor" (I Corinthians 10:24).
This is the principle of the saints of God, both now, at one time, always and forever. This is the principle on which society is built. Upon this principle can be established the most perfect, the most God-pleasing and the most prosperous human society. This is the saving principle for every type of difficulty with which contemporary men struggle, struggle without victory and without hope. The holy soul is concerned with where the homeless will spend the night, how the hungry will be fed, how the naked will be clothed. The soul is concerned and prays to God that their neighbors be saved; that their hearts be filled with love toward God; that their minds be directed toward God; that the wicked turn from the path of wickedness; that those wavering in the Faith be strengthened; that those who are strengthened be sustained; that those who have died see the Face of God; that the living be written in the Book of Life in the Kingdom of Light.
Therefore, be careful brethren, how even in like manner, word for word, can sound the destructive and antisocial principle of the devil. This principle of the devil says: no one should look at their own body to preserve it in purity from sin, but rather everyone should look at the bodies of others in order to ruin and to destroy them. That no one should look at his own soul, how to save it, rather everyone should look at the soul of someone else in order to blacken it, to curse it, to impoverish it and to destroy it. Let no one look at his house, in order to build it, and renew it rather let everyone look at the home of another in order to burn it and demolish it. No one should look at his granaries in order to fill them, rather, one should look at the granaries of others in order to steal from them and to empty them. See, brethren, how this principle can be either a principle of good or a principle of evil; a sharp two-edged sword; an angel or Satan. See how this principle in the satanic spirit and form has taken momentum on all sides today!
O Lord, Holy Spirit, Who has released these holy words in the world through the tongue of the apostle of God as bright rays of the sun to illuminate and not to burn us, help us now to fulfill them in the proper heavenly sense to the glory of the Triune God and for the salvation of our souls.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.