Scripture Readings (KJV)
Hebrews 11.17-23, 27-31 (Epistle)
17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
21By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
22By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
23By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
27By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
28Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
29By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
31By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
Mark 8.11-21 (Gospel)
11And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.
12And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.
13And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.
14Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.
15And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
16And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.
17And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?
18Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?
19When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.
20And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.
21And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?
Holy Martyr Polyeuctus (ca. 250)
Polyeuctus and Nearchus were fellow-officers and close friends, serving in the Roman army at Miletene in Armenia. Nearchus was a Christian. Polyeuctus, though abundant in virtues, was still imprisoned in idol- worship. When the Emperor Decius’ persecution broke out (239-251), an edict was issued requiring all soldiers to show their loyalty by making public sacrifice to the gods. Nearchus sadly told Polyeuctus that because of the decree they would soon be parted. But Polyeuctus, who had learned about the Christian faith from his friend, answered that Christ had appeared to him in a vision, exchanging his military uniform for a shining garment and giving him a winged horse. Polyeuctus took the vision as a sign that he was to embrace the Faith, and that he, with Nearchus, would soon be lifted up to heaven. Almost immediately, he first tore down the Emperor’s edict in front of a startled crowd, then smashed the idols being carried in a pagan procession. He was quickly arrested and subjected to beating and scourging for sacrilege, but he only proclaimed more forcefully that he was a Christian. When the persecutors saw that Polyeuctus’ patient endurance was bringing other idolaters to the faith, they condemned him to death.
Polyeuctus walked to the place of execution with the expression of a slave walking toward freedom, calling encouragement to the Christians who accompanied him. Fearlessly extending his neck to receive the sword, he received baptism in his own blood and received the martyr’s crown.
Saint Peter II, Bishop of Sebaste (4th c.)
He was the tenth and youngest child of a family of saints, the brother of St Basil the Great, St Macrina and St Gregory of Nyssa. His father died shortly after his birth in 319, and he was reared mostly by his sister St Macrina. He was ordained to the priesthood by his brother St Basil in 370, and consecrated Bishop of Sebaste at the opening of the Second Ecumenical Council (381). Saint Peter took an active part in the Council, oversaw his flock wisely, and reposed in peace.
Venerable Eustratius the Wonderworker (9th c.)
He was born to pious parents in Tarsia in Bithynia. At the age of twenty he entered monastic life at the Monastery of Agaures near his home. There he became a model of prayer, ascesis and zeal for holiness — he possessed nothing but the cloak he wore, and did not even have his own cell, choosing instead to sleep on the bare ground. When he slept he would not lie on his back or his left side, but always on his right side. In church, he stood repeating ‘Lord, have mercy!’ to himself throughout the services. He was ordained to the priesthood, and in time was made abbot of the community. But just at that time, Leo the Armenian became Emperor and revived the iconoclast heresy. The monks of Agaures, who held to the Orthodox Faith, scattered to caves and forests to escape persecution. Eustratius himself was imprisoned for a time, and was only able to re-gather the community and resume its direction when Leo died and Orthodoxy was restored in 842.
As abbot, Eustratius continued to live as the humblest of the brethren, spending the day sharing in their manual labor, and most of the night in prayer and prostrations. He often traveled among the dependencies of his large monastery to offer counsel and encouragement to the brethren. While traveling he would often give his coat or even his horse to anyone in need whom he met on the way. Once he gave the monastery’s only ox to a peasant who had lost his own. Once, on a visit to Constantinople, he was given a large sum of money by the Emperor for the monastery; on the way back he distributed all of it to the poor. Once, on the road, he met a man who had despaired because of his sins and was about to hang himself. The Saint took the man’s hand and said ‘My child, may the weight of your sins lie on me from now on. On the day of Judgment, I will answer for them instead of you. Only throw away this rope and hope in God.’
During his own life, Saint Eustratius performed countless miracles by his prayers: healing the sick, quenching fires, raising the dead. He reposed in peace in Constantinople at the age of ninety-five, having spent seventy-five years in monastic life.
Saint Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow (1569)
He was born in 1507 to a noble family, and served briefly in the royal court. At the age of thirteen he entered the Solovki Monastery on the White Sea, within the Arctic circle. Here he lived in great austerity and eventually became Abbot. Through his labors and prayers the monastery soon became a center of spirituality and culture throughout the region. His fame reached the attention of Tsar Ivan IV (“the Terrible”), who in 1566 made him Metropolitan of Moscow, much against the Abbot’s desire.
Tsar Ivan revered Philip (“even as Herod had revered Saint John the Baptist,” says the Great Horologion), and had been a generous benefactor of Solovki Monastery.
But no sooner was Metropolitan Philip installed than he began to reprimand the Tsar for the brutal reign that he had imposed upon the people. Despite many warnings and threats from the Tsar, the holy bishop refused to be silent in the face of massive injustice, telling Ivan that he had never sought to be Metropolitan, that he had desired only to live quietly in Solovki, but now that he was shepherd of his flock, he was unable to remain silent. “I cannot obey your command rather than God’s. I stand for what is true and right and shall continue to do so, even though I be deprived of my office and suffer the worst of torments; otherwise our faith would be vain, and in vain too would be the apostolic office.”
Finally the Tsar gathered various false witnesses against the Metropolitan, and called a council against him in 1568. Saint Philip was condemned and imprisoned in Moscow, but soon the Tsar, fearful of the people’s love for their bishop, sent him to a monastery in Tver, where he lived confined and in great hardship.
“On December 23, 1569, a royal messenger came, asking the Metropolitan’s blessing for the Tsar’s expedition to Novgorod. Saint Philip told him to do that which he came to do, then raised his hands in prayer to God. The Tsar’s messenger fell upon him and suffocated the holy hierarch with a pillow. In 1591 his relics were transferred to Solovki, and in 1652 to the Dormition Cathedral in Moscow; many miracles were wrought through his holy relics.” (Great Horologion)