Gurias and Samonas were prominent citizens of Edessa. During one of the persecutions of Christians, they hid outside the city and lived in fasting and prayer, encouraging true believers who came to them for counsel. However, they were captured and brought before the judge, who threatened them with death if they did not submit to the imperial decree demanding idol worship. These holy martyrs of Christ answered him: "If we submit to the imperial decree, we will perish, even if you don't kill us." After cruel torture, they were thrown into prison, where they remained from August 1 to November 10, enduring hunger, darkness and pain. They were then led out and again tortured, but since they remained unwavering in the Christian Faith, they were condemned to death and beheaded in the year 322, during the reign of the wicked Emperor Licinius. Later Abibus, a deacon in Edessa, suffered tortures for Christ his Lord and gave his spirit to God while in the flames. His mother took his body, miraculously intact, from the fire and buried it in a grave with the relics of St. Gurias and St. Samonas. When the persecution ceased, Christians built a church in honor of the three martyrs, Gurias, Samonas and Abibus, and placed their miracle-working relics in a common reliquary. Of the numerous miracles of these wonderful saints of God, the following is especially outstanding: A widow in Edessa had a young daughter who was to marry a Gothic soldier serving in the Greek army. As the mother feared for her daughter's safety if she were to live far away, the Goth swore on the grave of the holy three martyrs that he would do no evil to the maiden, but would take her as his lawful wife, as he had already sworn that he was not already married. In reality, he did have a wife, and when he took the young maiden to his country he kept her, not as his wife but as a slave, until his lawful wife died. He then agreed with his kinsmen to bury his living slave with his dead wife. The girl tearfully prayed to the three holy martyrs to save her, and they appeared to her in the grave, and took her in an instant from the land of the Goths to Edessa, to their church. The following day when the church was opened, they found the young maiden by the tomb of the saints of God, and learned of her miraculous deliverance.
They suffered for Christ at the time of Julian the Apostate. Elpidius was a senator. Witnessing the torture and miracles of Elpidius, six thousand pagans came to believe in Christ the Lord.
This icon first appeared to a maiden named Anna in the village of Kupyatich, in the province of Minsk, in the year 1182. Tending her flock, Anna saw a light in the forest. When she approached this light she beheld a medium-size cross on a tree, bearing the image of the Most-holy Theotokos. Anna brought this cross home, then returned to her flock. However, to her great amazement, she saw the same cross on the tree in the same place. She took it, placed it in her bosom and brought it home. When she tried to show her father the cross, she reached into her bosom, but the cross was not there. She related everything to her father and went out with him, saw the cross in the forest, and took it home. The next day, the cross was not in the house. They alerted the whole village, and all the villagers went and beheld the cross and venerated it. The people soon built a church there, and numerous miracles were manifested by this cross bearing the image of the Theotokos. This icon is now to be found in the Church of Holy Wisdom in Kiev.
O Most-holy Mother of God, Bride of God,
Thou wast the Bodily Throne of Christ God,
Thou didst bear the King of Glory in thy body,
Thou gavest birth to Him Who gavest life to a dead world.
By His Blood, His holy Blood, He redeemed the world,
Gloriously glorifying Himself and thee, O Virgin.
But thy true glory shines in heaven,
Where thou sittest on the right hand of Christ Himself.
And the rays of thy glory descend to earth,
And shine at night on the path of the sojourners.
Glory to thee, Mother of God, throughout the ages,
The first Temple, the wonderful Temple of the glory of Christ!
God most often gives victory in battle to the peacemakers. One example of this is the great Emperor Justinian, and another example is the holy King Stefan of Deè< face="AGaramond">ani. Following the death of his father King Milutin, Stefan removed the bandage from his eyes and was joyfully proclaimed as king both by the nobles and by the people. However, Constantine-son of Simonida and Stefan's younger brother on his father's side-raised up an army against Stefan. Stefan then wrote him in the following manner: "You have heard what has happened to me (that is, how I received my sight) by God's providence, that works in all for the good. Shown mercy by God, I have inherited the throne of my parents, to rule over the people in the fear of God and with justice, according to the example of my forefathers. Abandon your undertaking, and come, let us meet with one another; assume the second place in the kingdom as the second son, and do not rise up with foreigners against your fatherland. Our spacious land is sufficient for both you and me. I am not Cain, the slayer of his brother, but a friend of Joseph, the lover of his brethren. In the words of the latter, I say to you: You intended evil against me but God intended it for good (Genesis 50:20)." Thus wrote the holy king, but Constantine did not take heed and was defeated in battle by Stefan. Defeated also was Vladislav, Dragutin's son, another pretender to the Serbian throne. However, Michael Shishman, the Bulgarian king, fared worst of all. Stefan wrote to him: "Reflect on the meaning of Christian love, calm your wrath, let there be love between us as there was between our parents. Cease to shed Christian blood. Turn your weapons against the enemies of the name of Christ and not on Christians. Remind yourself of how hard it will be to answer for innocent blood. Know this also, that he who takes what belongs to others loses what is his." Michael scoffed at this letter from the holy king and was utterly defeated at Velbuzd in 1330. "God is with the righteous, not with the mighty."
Contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 1):
on the revelation of the wisdom of God to the heavenly powers
… To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10).
Brethren, are the angels all-knowing? They are not; for if they were all-knowing, they would be gods. God is one, brethren, and the angels are God's beautiful servants. The mystery of the Incarnation was not known to the angels before it took place. And all the other mysteries connected with the mystery of the Incarnation were also unknown to the angels until they saw them revealed in the Church. Therefore the Church is a new revelation, even for the holy angels. The Church is a new revelation of the wisdom and power of God and of His love for man. On the other hand, it is also a new revelation of man's love for God, and man's struggle. Even the angels themselves did not foresee how much God would humble Himself or how much man would be uplifted. This was shown in the Church, and through the Church it was proclaimed to the angels. The Apostle speaks of this to the Ephesians in the words quoted above: the principalities and powers-in other words, not even to the chiefs of the angels was everything known beforehand. The manifold wisdom of God is that wisdom that was not revealed earlier, and was unknown to the angels and now, in the Church, is shown in countless forms, situations and circumstances.
O my brethren, the two greatest works of God that have been revealed up to now are the creation of the world and the creation of the Church. In both works, brethren, man is the main object of God's love. Let us be thankful with our every breath to the Most-gracious God.
O Gracious God, O Compassionate God, to Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.