Scripture Readings (KJV)
2 Thessalonians 2.1-12 (Epistle)
1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
6And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
8And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Luke 18.15-17, 26-30 (Gospel)
15And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
16But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
17Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
26And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?
27And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
28Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.
29And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,
30Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.
Holy Apostle Philemon and Sts Apphia, Archippus and Onesimus
Philemon is addressed in the Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul that bears his name. He was a nobleman from Colossae; Apphia was his wife. Archippus was Bishop of Colossae. All three were disciples of the Apostle Paul. Onesimus was a pagan slave of Philemon, who stole from his master and fled to Rome. There St Paul led him to faith in Christ, and wrote the Epistle to Philemon, urging Onesimus’ master to forgive him and take him back as a brother in Christ. This Philemon did, and Onesimus later became a bishop. In Greece he is venerated as the patron Saint of the imprisoned. All of these holy followers of Christ died as martyrs, stoned to death by pagans.
Holy Martyrs Cecilia, Valerian, Tiburtius and Maximus, at Rome (3rd c.)
Saint Cecilia was born to a prominent pagan family in Rome. In her youth she secretly became a disciple of Christ. When her parents betrothed her to a young man named Valerian, she brought him to faith in Christ and persuaded him that they should live in virginity. Valerian was baptised by Pope Urban, and in his turn went on to bring his brother Tiburtius to the Faith. At the time, Christians in Rome were being violently persecuted, many to the point of martyrdom; Cecilia, her husband, and his brother made it their work to go out by night and secretly give pious burial to the martyrs and give charitable help to their families. Eventually, this was discovered, and the two brothers were in their own turn arrested and condemned as Christians. At the moment of their beheading, the Roman officer Maximus saw heaven open and angels come to receive their souls; he, along with several other onlookers, confessed Christ, and in his turn died under torture. Finally, Cecilia herself was arrested and, after faithfully enduring various tortures, was beheaded. Because St Cecilia is described in her first biography as a lover of music, she is honored as patroness of church music in the West, and is often shown playing the organ.
Holy Prince and Passion-Bearer Peter Yaropolk (1086)
“Saint Peter Yaropolk, the son of Grand Prince Iziaslav Yaroslavovich, took part in all his father’s campaigns as an obedient son, and went with him into exile. The meek and humble Prince had much to suffer from the members of his family, but he always forgave them. Every day he earnestly prayed to be counted worthy of holy death, like Saints Boris and Gleb (24 July), in order to be cleansed of his many sins by the shedding of his blood and to be freed from the vanity of this world. He was assasinated on 21 November 1086.” (Synaxarion)
The term ‘Passion-bearer’ is used in the Russian Church for Saints who, though they were not killed for their faith and are thus not strictly Martyrs, suffered death with resignation and in the spirit of the Gospel. Saints Boris and Gleb are the first and model Passion-bearers.
Holy Grand Prince and Martyr Michael of Tver (1318)
He was born in Tver in 1272 to Prince Yaroslav Yaroslavovich, who was the brother of St Alexander Nevsky (November 23). Michael was brought up in the faith by his mother, who later became a nun. Such was his fervor that from childhood he was certain that he must end his life either as a monk or a martyr. He succeeded his brother as Prince of Tver in 1285, and later became Grand Prince of Vladimir, the Russian capital during the Mongol conquest.
When Prince Michael lost the throne of Vladimir through the plotting of his kinsman Prince George, his advisers urged him to go to war against George; but he preferred to lose power rather than to subject his people to bloodshed. When George attacked Tver itself, Michael took up arms to defend it, and was victorious. One of his prisoners was Princess Agatha, George’s wife and the sister of the Tatar Khan. When she died in captivity, the full wrath of both George and the Tatars was aroused against Michael. The Prince knew that the only way to avert catastrophe for his people was to go to the Golden Horde to be judged at the Khan’s court. Michael’s kinsmen and advisors knew that such a course would surely lead to his death, but none were able to dissuade him from going to save his people.
Michael was kept prisoner with a wooden yoke around his neck, and subjected to many humiliations by the Tatars. But as he awaited his sentence he remained calm, spending his days in chanting the Church services and the Psalms. On the night of 21-22 November he had a revelation of his impending death. He attended the Liturgy, took Communion, and embraced his family. Then, opening the Psalter, he read the words Cast thy burden on the Lord, and He will sustain thee: He will never permit the righteous to be moved (Ps 54). He then calmly greeted his kinsman George and his minions, who pounced on the Prince and ran him through with swords. Prince Michael’s relics were returned to Moscow, then translated to Tver in 1320. When the city was besieged in 1549, St Michael appeared to the inhabitants in the form of a mounted knight, armed for battle.