Orthodox Calendar

Dec. 31, 2023
30th Sunday after Pentecost

Nativity Fast — Fish, Wine and Oil are Allowed

Feasts

  • Sunday before Nativity

Commemorations

  • Martyr Sebastian and Companions at Rome
  • Holy Hieromartyr Modestus I, Archbishop of Jerusalem (634)

Scripture Readings (KJV)

Genesis 14.14-20 (Vespers)

14And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. 15And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. 16And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

17And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. 18And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 19And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

Deuteronomy 1.8-11, 15-17 (Vespers)

8Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.

9And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone: 10The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. 11(The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!) 15So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes. 16And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. 17Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.

Deuteronomy 10.14-21 (Vespers)

14Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. 15Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. 16Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. 17For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. 19Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name. 21He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.

John 20.11-18 (8th Matins Gospel)

11But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 12And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. 18Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Hebrews 11.9-10, 17-23, 32-40 (Epistle, Sunday before Nativity)

9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 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. 32And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Matthew 1.1-25 (Gospel, Sunday before Nativity)

1The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; 3And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; 4And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; 5And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; 7And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; 8And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; 9And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; 11And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: 12And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; 13And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; 15And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. 17So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Commemorations (abbamoses.com)

Holy Martyr Sebastian and those with him (287)

He grew up in Milan and became an army officer, where he distinguished himself so well that the Emperor Diocletian made him captain of the Praetorian Guard not suspecting that Sebastian was a Christian. In Rome, while fulfilling the duties of a courtier, he used his position to comfort and encourage his imprisoned fellow-Christians. By his labors and example he brought many to faith in Christ, including Chromatius, the Prefect in charge of persecuting the Roman Christians.

Sebastian had upheld two brothers, Mark and Marcellinus, who were awaiting execution for their faith. When the day of execution came, their father Tranquillinus, who had been a pagan but through Sebastian’s example had converted, presented himself to Chromatius and announced that he too was a Christian. His testimony was so powerful that the hard heart of the Prefect was melted, and he himself resolved to become a Christian.

Caius, Bishop of Rome, gathered the new brethren (both men and women — not all of Sebastian’s converts have been mentioned here) to embrace them and baptize them, but also to warn them of their coming Martyrdom. He instructed some to flee the city and others, headed by Sebastian, to remain in Rome, devoting their days to fasting, prayer and thanksgiving as they awaited their death. As the “company of Martyrs” did this, many came to them and were healed of ailments, and many joined them in confessing Christ.

When the time of martyrdom came, each member of the company was subjected to imaginatively cruel tortures before his execution. Sebastian himself was made to witness the deaths of all his companions, then to endure his own trial. He serenely confessed his unshaken faith before Diocletian himself before being taken to the place of execution. There he was tied to a post and made the target of a band of archers until his body bristled with arrows like the quills of a porcupine. He was left for dead, but when Irene, widow of St Castulus, came to bury him, she found him alive and tended his wounds. Amazingly, he recovered, and presented himself once again to the Emperor. Astonished and outraged, the tyrant ordered that Sebastian be beaten to death with clubs and thrown into the city’s sewer. That evening, a pious Christian woman was told in a vision to retrieve his body and bury it in the catacombs. After St Constantine brought peace to the Church, Pope Damasus built a church over the site in the Saint’s honor. For hundreds of years, many miracles were worked there through St Sebastian’s intercessions.

Holy Hieromartyr Modestus I, Archbishop of Jerusalem (634)

His parents were pious Christians from Sebaste in Asia Minor, who died in prison while Modestus was still an infant. The child was raised by pagans, but when he learned that his parents had died for Christ, he secretly became a Christian also. When his adoptive parents died, he traveled to Athens, where he was taken in by a Christian goldsmith and his wife, and became a Christian at the age of thirteen. Modestus’ almsgiving and love for the poor soon earned him renown, but aroused the envy of the goldsmith’s sons, who sold Modestus into slavery during a trip to Egypt. But Modestus was able to bring his new master to faith in Christ and regain his freedom.

Some time later he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre opened at his prayers, and the people, taking this as a sign from God, chose Modestus as Archbishop of Jerusalem. (Accounts of his life do not mention his having been anything but a layman before this.) He served his flock tenderly and zealously, encouraging all to abound in spiritual gifts, and working many miracles. His prayers were effective not only in healing the faithful, but even in curing the ailments of their cattle and other animals. For this reason, it is still customary on this day to sprinkle animals pens and stables, and even houses in which pets dwell, with holy water, asking the Saint’s protection.

Saint Modestus served his flock faithfully into old age. According to some accounts he reposed in peace. According to others, in his old age he was delivered up to the pagans by his enemies, and beheaded by them after many torments.