Scripture Readings (KJV)
1 Timothy 5.11-21 (Epistle)
11But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;
12Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.
13And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
14I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
15For some are already turned aside after Satan.
16If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.
17Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
18For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
21I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.
Luke 17.26-37 (Gospel)
26And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
27They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
28Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
29But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
30Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
31In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
32Remember Lot’s wife.
33Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
34I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
35Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
36Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
37And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
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.