Holy Prophet Nahum (7th c. BC)
He was a Galilean of the tribe of Simeon. The Old Testament book that bears his name foretells the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, by the Medes, and the restoration of the Kingdom of Judah; all of this came to pass. Nahum is counted as the seventh of the Minor Prophets. He reposed in peace. His name means ‘consolation’ or ‘repose.’
Five of the Prophets (Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Daniel) are commemorated in December. At one time a Feast of the Twelve Prophets was celebrated on December 4 at the Church of the Resurrection, but this feast is no longer on the calendar. The days leading up to Christ’s Nativity contain many commemorations of the faithful remnant of Israel, all of whose hopes were fulfilled in the birth of the Messiah.
Saint Philaret the Merciful of Constantinople (762)
He was a wealthy landed gentleman who lived in the countryside near Constantinople during the reign of the Empress Irene. God had given him great wealth and a large family with which to enjoy his later years in contentment. A true lover of God, he gave without hesitation to all the poor and needy who came to him, and freely offered hospitality to every traveler passing through his lands.
But his fortunes changed dramatically, and after a series of disasters he was reduced to poverty, with only a small piece of land, a pair of oxen, a donkey, a horse, a cow and a calf and a few beehives to sustain himself and his family. Without complaint, he took up the life of a simple farmer, laboring to support his family with his few means.
His reduced fortunes in no way changed his open-handed character; and when he met a peasant lamenting the death of his two oxen, he immediately gave him his own, leaving himself no way to till his field. When his wife and children expressed their dismay, he answered with Christ’s words, ‘Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink… but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.’ He asked his wife and children to be patient, for soon they would see a treasure that he was keeping hidden.
Continuing in every way as generous as he had been when wealthy, he had soon given away his horse, then his cow and calf, then his donkey (with a load of grain it was carrying at the time), to the few people he met who were poorer than himself. Without any means of feeding himself or his family, he received a generous gift of provisions from a wealthy friend; he divided the gift among his family members, then gave his own portion to the poor. He then gave away his beehives, and finally the coat from his back to a beggar who asked him for food. Thus he was left completely stripped of possessions, depending only on God to care for himself and his family.
At that time, emissaries from the Court of Constantinople passed through the neighborhood, sent out to seek a fair maiden of good family to be considered as a bride for the young Emperor Constantine VI. Philaret received them in his once-splendid house and, impressed by his virtues and those of his family, they asked two of his grand-daughters to return to the Court with them. There, the two ladies’ physical and spiritual beauty shone so brightly that one of them was wed to the Emperor, the other to one of his chief courtiers. The Emperor summoned Philaret and the rest of his family to the Palace, where he appointed Philaret Consul and gave him greater riches than he had possessed in former days. The Saint, restored to prosperity, continued in generosity as before: His first act was to give a lavish feast to which he invited the poor, old and disabled of the City. He then spent his days walking the streets of the City, distributing alms to the poor, giving to all who asked with no consideration of the merits of their case. (He brought with him a servant who carried three bags of coins: one of gold, one of silver, and one of copper. When he met a needy person, the Saint reached at random into a bag and gave him a handful of coins, thus letting God decide the size of the gift).
When the Saint drew near to death, he gathered his family and urged them to distribute all the remainder of his wealth to the needy. ‘My children, do not forget hospitality; visit those who are sick or in prison, watch over widows and orphans; see to the burial of those who die in poverty; do not covet the goods of others; speak no ill of anyone, and do not be glad of misfortunes that befall your enemies; always do as you have seen me do in my life, so that God will keep you under His protection.’ Then, his face shining with joy, he gave up his soul to God.
Our Venerable Father Eligius (Eloi), Bishop of Noyon (660)
He was born to a Christian family near Limoges in Gaul (modern-day France) in 588. He became a goldsmith, worked for the royal mint, and in time became a trusted counselor of King Chlothar II. Despite (or because of) the honors and riches that surrounded him, Eligius came to despise all of them and gave away all his property but what he considered essential for everyday life. He devoted all his income to almsgiving and to ransoming prisoners of all nationalities from the slave markets. Many of these became his attendants and disciples in gratitude. Eligius’ compassion became so well-known that when visitors asked for directions to his house, they would be told, ‘Look for the house surrounded by a crowd of beggars. That is where Lord Eligius lives.’ The Saint washed the feet of the poor who came to him, served them at his own table and fed himself on what they left. If he ran out of money, he would give away furniture or even his clothing.
When King Chlothar died in 629, Eligius became the counselor of his successor King Dagobert I. He founded monasteries for men at Solignac and for women in Paris, telling the King, ‘These are the ladders by which we will both be able to climb up to the Kingdom of Heaven.’ As a royal counselor he helped to re-establish peace between France and Brittany, and improved the law of the kingdom to make it more just.
When Dagobert died in 639, Eligius devoted himself entirely to the service of God as Bishop of Noyon in Flanders. His diocese was still mostly pagan, and Eligius traveled untiringly to preach the Gospel of Christ, often at risk of his life. Having foreseen his approaching death, Saint Eligius reposed in peace in 660. When his tomb was opened a year later, his body was found incorrupt and gave forth a fragrant scent.