Philip was born in Bethsaida beside the Sea of Galilee, as were Peter and Andrew. Instructed in Holy Scripture from his youth, Philip immediately responded to the call of the Lord Jesus and followed Him (John 1:43). After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Philip zealously preached the Gospel throughout many regions in Asia and Greece. In Greece, the Jews wanted to kill him, but the Lord saved him by His mighty miracles. Thus, a Jewish high priest that rushed at Philip to beat him was suddenly blinded and turned completely black. Then there was a great earthquake, and the earth opened up and swallowed Philip's wicked persecutor. Many other miracles were manifested, especially the healing of the sick, by which many pagans believed in Christ. In the Phrygian town of Hierapolis, St. Philip found himself in common evangelical work with his sister Mariamna, St. John the Theologian, and the Apostle Bartholomew. In this town there was a dangerous snake that the pagans diligently fed and worshiped as a god. God's apostle killed the snake through prayer as though with a spear, but he also incurred the wrath of the unenlightened people. The wicked pagans seized Philip and crucified him upside-down on a tree, and then crucified Bartholomew as well. At that, the earth opened up and swallowed the judge and many other pagans with him. In great fear, the people rushed to rescue the crucified apostles, but only Bartholomew was still alive; Philip had already breathed his last. Bartholomew ordained Stachys as bishop for those whom he and Philip had baptized. Stachys had been blind for forty years, and Bartholomew and Philip had healed and baptized him. The relics of St. Philip were later translated to Rome. This wonderful apostle suffered in the year 86 in the time of Emperor Dometian.
Gregory's father was an eminent official at the court of Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus. The gifted Gregory, completing his secular studies, did not want to enter the service of the imperial court, but withdrew to the Holy Mountain and was tonsured a monk. He lived a life of asceticism in the Monastery of Vatopedi and the Great Lavra. He led the struggle against the heretic Barlaam and finally defeated him. He was consecrated as Metropolitan of Thessalonica in the year 1347. He is glorified as an ascetic, a theologian, a hierarch and a miracle-worker. The Most-holy Theotokos, St. John the Theologian, St. Demetrius, St. Anthony the Great, St. John Chrysostom and angels of God appeared to him at different times. He governed the Church in Thessalonica for thirteen years, of which he spent one year in slavery under the Saracens in Asia. He entered peacefully into rest in the year 1360, and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ. His relics repose in Thessalonica, where a beautiful church is dedicated to him.
Justinian was a Slav by birth, probably a Serb from the region of Skoplje. His Slavic name was Upravda, meaning ``truth, justice.'' He succeeded to the throne of his uncle Justin in 527. The greatness of this emperor is inseparably bound to his profound faith in Orthodoxy; he believed, and lived according to his faith. During Great Lent, he neither ate bread nor drank wine but ate only vegetables and drank water, and that, just every other day. He waged war against the barbarians of the Danube because they castrated their captives. This reveals his elevated feeling of love for his fellow man. Justinian was fortunate and successful both in wars and in his works. He built many great and beautiful churches, the most beautiful of which was Hagia Sophia [the Church of the Divine Wisdom] in Constantinople. He collected [and revised] and published the Laws of Rome and also personally issued many strict laws against immorality and licentiousness. He composed the Church hymn ``Only-begotten Son and Word of God,'' which has been sung during the Divine Liturgy since the year 536. He convened the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553). He died peacefully at the age of eighty, and took up his abode in the Kingdom of the Heavenly King.
Saint Justinian, Emperor of Byzantium
Justinian, great and glorious,
Knight of the Cross and Orthodox emperor,
Raised a church to the Wisdom of God,
A church to endure to the threshold of eternity:
Another sun to shine on earth,
To warm the generations;
A church in which to worship the Incarnate Word,
And in which to come to know the beauty of Christ,
And the measureless height of the Kingdom of God,
And as in height, measureless depth,
And as in depth, measureless width,
And as in width, measueless length.
Like the sun on a summer's day,
Shone the crown of Emperor Justinian-
Shone the crown of the servant of God-
In his wisdom, the wisest,
In his might, the most powerful,
And in his faith, the most faithful.
O great Orthodox Emperor,
Your churches never grow old,
Your faith still shines upon the world
With the brilliance of the Orthodox Christ.
O holy Emperor, pray to Christ
That this Faith withstand time.
St. Gregory Palamas learned much through heavenly revelations. After he had spent three years in stillness in a cell of the Great Lavra, it was necessary for him to go out among men and benefit them with his accumulated knowledge and experience. God revealed this necessity to him through an extraordinary vision: One day, as though in a light sleep, Gregory saw himself holding a vessel in his hand full to overflowing with milk. Gradually, the milk turned into wine which likewise spilled over the rim, and drenched his hands and garments. Then a radiant youth appeared and said: ``Why would you not give others of this wonderful drink that you are wasting so carelessly, or are you not aware that this is the gift of God's grace?'' To this Gregory replied: ``But if there is no one in our time who feels the need for such a drink, to whom shall I give it?'' Then the youth said: ``Whether there are some or whether there are none thirsty for such a drink, you are obligated to fulfill your debt and not neglect the gift of God.'' Gregory interpreted the milk as the common knowledge (of the masses) of moral life and conduct, and the wine as dogmatic teaching.
The second time Gregory secluded himself in a monastery he was writing his Principles of Orthodoxy. On the eve of the Feast of St. Anthony the Great, the monks summoned him to the all-night vigil service, but he remained at his work in the cell while all the brethren went to church. St. Anthony suddenly appeared to him and said: ``Perfect stillness is good, but sometimes it is necessary to be with the brethren.'' Convinced by this revelation, Gregory immediately went into church to the joy of all the monks.
Contemplate the wondrous creation of light (Genesis 1):
1. How there was darkness everywhere over the formless earth;
2. How God said, Let there be light: and there was light;
3. How God separated the light from the darkness, and there was day and there was night.
on Paul, the prisoner
… I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1).
Brethren, this apostle of Christ calls himself the ``prisoner of Christ.'' How is it that an apostle can be a prisoner? Is not a prisoner bound? Yes, and the Apostle is bound-bound by love to the Lord Jesus so strongly that he feels that no comparable bond exists on earth. The Apostle is bound in his mind to the Lord Jesus so strongly that he cannot think of anything except Jesus Christ the Lord. The Apostle is so firmly bound by his will to the Lord Jesus that, in essence, he does not have a will of his own but has submitted his will completely to the Lord Jesus. And so, he loves that which Christ loves, thinks that which Christ thinks, and does that which Christ wills. Is this not imprisonment? O blessed imprisonment, which is not unto shame but glory, and is not unto destruction but salvation! Thus, Christ is the complete Lord of the Apostle's life, both outwardly and inwardly. For outwardly and inwardly, Christ permits him to be tempted; outwardly and inwardly, He reveals to him the wonders of His providence; outwardly and inwardly, He guides him to perfect good for the sake of his salvation, and for the sake of the salvation of many others.
Brethren, let us also commit ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ as did His Apostle, and then we will be in the most secure hands and on the most secure path.
O Lord Jesus Christ, great and wonderful Lord, bind us to Thee, imprison us in Thee forever and ever in both worlds.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.