On this day the mercy, miracle and wisdom of God are celebrated: mercy toward the devout and righteous parents of St. John, the aged Zacharias and the aged Elizabeth, who all their lives had wished and begged a child from God; the miraculous conception of John in the over-aged womb of Elizabeth; and wisdom in the dispensation of man's salvation. For John, God had special great intentions, namely, that he be the Prophet and Forerunner of Christ the Lord, the Savior of the world. Through His angels, God announced the birth of Isaac to the childless Sarah, Samson to the childless Manoah and his wife and of John the Precursor [Forerunner] to the childless Zacharias and Elizabeth. Through His angels, God announced the birth of those, for whom He had special intentions. How could children be born of aged parents? If someone is curious to know this, let him not inquire about this, neither of men, for men do not know, nor of natural laws, for this is beyond natural laws but rather let him turn his gaze on the power of the Almighty God, Who, out of nothing, created the whole world and Who for the creation of the first man, Adam, did not need any parents, neither old nor young. Instead of curiosity let us give thanks to God Who often reveals His power, mercy and wisdom to us outside natural laws in which we, shackled, without special miracles of God, would fall into despair and forgetfulness of God.
In some places Irais is called Rais or Raida. She was a maiden from the town of Batan in Egypt, therefore probably an Egyptian. Once Irais went out to draw water from a well near the sea and saw a ship laden with bound Christians: priests, deacons, monks, women and maidens. Inquiring, she learned that all of these people were being led away by the pagan persecutors to torture and death for the name of Christ the Lord. In the heart of the young Irais, the desire flared up that she also suffer for the Lord. Leaving her pots by the well, she entered the ship and confessed that she, also, was a Christian. They immediately bound her with the others and took her to the Egyptian city of Antinopolis. After various tortures, Irais was the first to be beheaded and, after her the others. She honorably suffered and was glorified at the beginning of the fourth century.
As a young man, Nicholas suffered for the Faith of Christ at the hands of the Turks in Constantinople in 1672 A.D. His father had settled in Constantinople from Thessaly and since his father owned a variety shop he was called Pantapoles [Pantopol]. After much pressure to become a Muslim and after much torturing because he refused to become a Muslim, Nicholas was beheaded and took up habitation in the Kingdom of God. His relics repose in the monastery Xeropotamou on the Holy Mountain [Athos].
John was born in a place called Konitsa in Albania. He was born a Muslim of Muslim parents. Later, witnessing the miraculous power of the Christian faith in various places and in various incidents, he became baptized. For this he was accused and brought before the Turkish court. Tortured for the Faith of Christ by the Turks in Aetolia, he was beheaded in the year 1814 A.D. Before his death, John cried out: "Remember me, O Lord, in Your kingdom".
THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYR IRAIDA
Iraida, virtuous virgin, water went to fetch
To her mother, did not return anymore – went to the Lord.
Willingly, Iraida, tortures sought,
For to her, Christ the Lord was more precious than her mother.
A boat, full of martyrs, about ready to depart,
"Receive me also!" Iraida quickly said:
"I, too, am a servant of Christ, for me Christ is everything,
And, a musical string of His hymn, I desire to be,
A hymn of torturing and suffering, for the sake of truth,
O receive Iraida, let her perish."
And, for her God, Iraida perished,
And, of life eternal, an inheritor she became.
By her prayers, now also saves us,
Holy Iraida, thanks be to you and to God be glory!
He who gives to the poor, gives to Christ. This is the meaning of the evangelical teaching, which was confirmed in the experience of the saints. Peter the Merciful, after he repented, began to give alms to the poor wherever the opportunity presented itself. On one occasion, a shipwrecked man who had barely saved his naked body from the wreck, met Peter and begged him for some clothing. Peter removed his costly dolman and clothed the naked man with it. Shortly afterward, Peter saw his dolman in the shop of a merchant who had displayed it for sale. Peter was very saddened that this shipwrecked man sold his dolman instead of using it for himself. Peter said to himself: "I am not worthy; the Lord does not accept my alms." But the Lord appeared to him in a dream in the form of a nobleman, brighter than the sun with a cross on his head wearing Peter's dolman. "Peter, why are you sad?" asked the Lord. "My Lord, why would I not be sad when I see that which I gave to the poor is sold at the market?" Then the Lord asked him: "Do you recognize this garment on Me?" Peter replied: "I recognize it, Lord, that is my garment with which I clothed the naked one." Then the Lord spoke to him again: "Therefore do not be sad, you gave it to the poor man and I received it and I praise your deed."
To contemplate the sins of King Jehoram and God's punishment (2 Chronicles 21):
About God the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father
"But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceeds from the Father, He will testify [witness] of Me" (St. John 15:26).
Brethren, unfathomable are the depths of the being of God. But God has neither hidden all from us nor did He reveal all to us. As much as our weakness can bear, that much has been revealed to us; as much as is necessary for our salvation, that much has He revealed to us. Concerning the Holy Spirit, it has been revealed to us that He "proceeds from the Father" and is sent by the Son. Let no one seek more so as not to fall into error. Since He "proceeds from the Father", that means that He is of one being [essence] with the Father; since He is being sent by the Son to continue the work of the Son, that means that He is equal to the Son. The Lord said earlier: "The Father...bears witness of Me" (St. John 8:18) and now He says about the Spirit of Truth: "He will testify [witness]of Me." Both these witnesses are the same, that is why the Lord cites at one time the one and another time, the other. And the One who witnessed and the One who will witness are equal in being [essence] for the Lord would not have the witness for the future to be less than the witness from the past. Thus, we speak humanly in terms of time, in reality the Three witness eternally in heaven and according to the words of the Evangelist: "For there are three that bear witness in heaven: The Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit; and these Three are One" (1 St. John 5:7).
There are men who assert that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who revealed this to them and when? We know that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, for that was revealed to us by the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why we reject those additions to our Orthodox Faith, which do not agree with the words of the Lord Himself. But, in order that the words of the Most Pure Lord could be received, great purity of heart is needed. Therefore, we must make more of an effort to cleanse our heart from passions rather than curiously sail our mind into the endless depths of God's being with an unclean heart, for he who did that fell into heresy and lost his soul.
O, Lord God, great and mighty, we thank You that You appeared to us through our Savior Jesus Christ and that we know that we are not the children of darkness but rather the sons of light.
With prayers in loving memory of
Roger Andreve (+2004)
on the Feast of the Holy Neo-Martyr John
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.