Scripture Readings (KJV)
1 Thessalonians 5.9-13, 24-28 (Epistle)
9For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
10Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
11Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
12And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
13And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
24Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
25Brethren, pray for us.
26Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.
27I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.
28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
Luke 16.15-18, 17.1-4 (Gospel)
15And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
16The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
17And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
18Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
1Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
2It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
3Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
4And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
Our Venerable Father Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop of Neocaesarea (ca. 275)
He was born to a prominent pagan family in Neocaesarea, where Christianity was at the time almost unknown. Nonetheless, Gregory found and embraced the faith of Christ at an early age. His parents educated him at the finest schools of the day in Athens, Alexandria, and Beirut; he and his brother spent five years studying under the great Origen, though, the Synaxarion is quick to note, “They possessed enough discernment, however, to avoid certain errors into which Origen was led by the excessive boldness of his speculations about the mysteries of God.”
Refusing many tempting offers of worldly position, Gregory withdrew to the wilderness to live in ascesis. However, the Archbishop of Amesia, familiar with his holiness and ability, consecrated him Bishop of Neocaesarea against his will, and Gregory in obedience took up his see at about the age of thirty.
When he entered the city as bishop, it contained only seventeen Christians. Through the Saint’s tireless and grace-filled preaching, and through the steady stream of miracles that he wrought there, he brought so many to the faith that when he died, only seventeen of the city’s inhabitants were still pagans.
Bishop Gregory’s countless miracles were so famed that he became known to all as the Wonderworker. Once, the Most Holy Mother of God appeared to him with Saint John the Theologian and revealed divine mysteries to him directly, a grace granted to very few. Even his detractors called him a second Moses. He reposed in peace in 275.
Our Holy Father Longinus (4th or 5th c.)
“Our holy Father Longinus lived in the Egyptian deserts during the fourth or fifth century. Among other sayings of his, are the following: A dead man judges no one, and it is just the same with the man who is humble. To someone who wanted to go to live in exile, he replied: Unless you guard your tongue, you will not be able to live in exile wherever you go. To someone else who wanted to live in solitude, he said: If you do not exercise the virtues in the midst of men, still less will you be able to do so in solitude. By his life and his words he taught love of humility as superior to all the works of ascesis, saying: Fasting humbles the body, vigil purifies the intellect and stillness leads to the affliction that baptizes man anew and cleanses him of all sin.
We also owe to him the famous saying: Shed your blood and receive the Spirit.” (Synaxarion)
Our Holy Mother Hilda, Abbess of Whitby (680)
A noble kinswoman of St Edwin, king of Northumbria (commemorated October 12), Hilda was baptized at a young age through the preaching of St Paulinus, one of the first missionaries sent from Rome to British Isles. At the age of thirty-three she renounced the world and entered monastic life. At first, she sought to enter a monastery near Paris in Gaul, but she was called back to her homeland by St Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne (August 31), who, discerning her already-apparent spiritual gifts, set her as Abbess of a small monastery. As her gifts of discernment and spiritual guidance became more widely-known, she led larger monasteries, finally establishing the Monastery of Whitby in 657. The Saint spent the next thirty-three years directing the Monastery, which became a beacon of Christian life throughout the British Isles and beyond. The Monastery was unusual by modern standards in that it comprised both a women’s and a men’s monastic house, with Mother Hilda as spiritual head of both. The community became a training-ground for priests and bishops who went on to spread the Gospel of Christ throughout Britain.
Commoners, kings and Bishop Aidan himself came regularly to her for spiritual counsel, and she was in her own lifetime regarded as the Mother of her country. For the last six years of her life she was afflicted with an unremitting burning fever, but she continued her holy work undeterred until her repose in 680. At the moment of her death, Saint Begu, in a different monastery, was awakened by a vision of Hilda’s soul being borne up to heaven by a company of angels.
The Synaxarion concludes, “Saint Hilda, like her contemporaries Saint Etheldreda (23 June) and Saint Ebba (25 Aug.), belongs to that monastic company of women of royal birth who exercised a formative influence in the English Church of the seventh century, but she is also a rare example of a spiritual Mother, who received from God the gift of directing not only nuns but monks and bishops as well; for in the Lord Jesus there is neither male nor female, but a new creation (Gal. 3:28).”
Our Holy Father Nikon of Radonezh (1426)
He was born in 1350 in the town of Yuriev-in-the-fields, between Rostov and Radonezh. At a very young age he sought out St Sergius of Radonezh, seeking to be his disciple; but the Saint placed him in another monastery, where he soon became known as the ‘lover of obedience’ for his humility and selflessness. At last, when he was about thirty and had been ordained to the priesthood, he was able to go to Radonezh, where St Sergius, discerning his advanced spiritual state, made Nikon his cell-attendant. At the death of St Sergius, the brethren unanimously elected Nikon as their Abbot. In 1408, St Nikon was warned in an apparition that the monastery would be sacked by Tatars, so he and his monks fled with the monastery’s books and sacred vessels. When they returned they found that the monastery had been burned to the ground. Setting to work immediately, they built a new monastery over the next few years. In 1422 the relics of St Sergius, which had been miraculously preserved in the Tatar attack, were installed in the new monastery church.
The Synaxarion concludes: “Full of years and already transported in spirit to the Kingdom of Heaven, Saint Nikon said to his disciples, ‘Take me from here to the bright church prepared for me by the prayers of my spiritual father. I do not want to stay any longer here below!’ When he had communicated in the holy Mysteries and blessed his brethren one by one, he cried out, ‘O my soul, draw near with joy to the place that has been prepared for thy rest. Draw near with joy because Christ is calling thee!’ Then he fell asleep in peace. He was laid to rest opposite the tomb of Saint Sergius. Since then he has often appeared with Saint Sergius in order to heal the sick or to protect the Holy Trinity Lavra in times of danger.”