Scripture Readings (KJV)
Hebrews 7.1-6 (Epistle)
1For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
2To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
3Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
4Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
5And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
6But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
Luke 21.28-33 (Gospel)
28And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
29And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
30When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.
31So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
32Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
33Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
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)