Scripture Readings (KJV)
1 Corinthians 9.13-18 (Epistle)
13Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
15But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
16For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
17For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
18What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
Matthew 16.1-6 (Gospel)
1The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
2He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
4A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
5And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.
6Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Commemoration of the Miracle (451) of Great-martyr Euphemia the All-praised, of Chalcedon (304)
St Euphemia is commemorated on September 16; today we commemorate the miracle wrought by her relics during the Fourth Ecumenical Council. After much debate and no progress among the defenders of Orthodoxy and the proponents of the Monophysite heresy, the two parties agreed each to write their different definitions of the Faith in two separate books, and to ask God to show them the truth. They placed the two books in the case containing St Euphemia’s relics, sealed the case, and departed. After three days of constant vigil and supplication, they opened the reliquary in the presence of the Emperor, and found the Monophysite book under the feet of the Saint, and the Orthodox book in her right hand.
Blessed Equal-to-the-Apostles Olga, princess of Russia, in holy baptism called Helen (969).
“Saint Olga, renowned for her wisdom and sobriety, in her youth became the wife of Igor, Great Prince of Kiev, who ruled during the tenth century. After her husband’s death, she herself ruled capably, and was finally moved to accept the Faith of Christ. She travelled to Constantinople to receive Holy Baptism. The Emperor, seeing her outward beauty and inward greatness, asked her to marry him. She said she could not do this before she was baptized; she furthermore asked him to be her Godfather at the font, which he agreed to do. After she was baptized (receiving the name of Helen), the Emperor repeated his proposal of marriage. She answered that now he was her father, through Holy Baptism, and that not even among the heathen was it heard of a man marrying his daughter. Gracefully accepting to be outwitted by her, he sent her back to her land with priests and sacred texts and holy icons. Although her son Svyatoslav remained a pagan, she planted the seed of faith in her grandson Vladimir (see July 15). She reposed in peace in 969.” (Great Horologion)
New Martyrs Nikodemos (1722) and Nektarios (1820)
These two martyrs were unrelated, but their stories are similar. Both were Christians who embraced Islam at an early age under the Turks. Both later repented and, after doing penance, resolved to return to the place of their apostasy and accept martyrdom. Both presented themselves to the Turks, proclaimed their Christian faith, and were beheaded according to Islamic law.
Saint Nikodemos not only embraced Islam, but forced his family to do the same. One of his sons fled to the Holy Mountain and became a monk. The father pursued him there, but was moved to repentance by the holiness of the place and became a monk himself. After three years of penance, he resolved to return home to Albania and embrace his martyrdom.
Saint Nektarios converted to Islam (the Prologue says under duress) at the age of seventeen. When his mother saw him dressed as a Turk, she cried “Get away from me! I do not know you. I bore you as a Christian, not a Turk!” Repenting of his deed he went to the Holy Mountain and became a monk. Like St Nikodemos, he determined after a few years to return home and accept martyrdom for Christ.
St Sophrony of Essex (1993) (June 28 OC)
He was born in Russia in 1896. As a young man, he lived an artist’s life, trying to succeed as a painter while engaging in a wide-ranging spiritual search which included study of the Eastern religions. He fled to Paris during the Russian Revolution. There he rediscovered the Orthodoxy of his childhood and gave his life wholly to repentance and prayer, often spending hours at a time prostrated and weeping on the floor of his Paris apartment. In 1925 he moved to Mt Athos, where he lived as a monk for more than twenty years. On the Holy Mountain he became the spiritual child of the holy elder Silouan. After St Silouan’s repose, his own health badly damaged by living in a damp cave, he was granted permission by his monastery to leave the Holy Mountain and write a life of St Silouan. This is St Silouan of Mt Athos, a great spiritual treasure which includes the writings of the Saint as well as Fr Sophrony’s profound reflections on his life. (It was largely through Fr Sophrony’s work that St Silouan, who lived an almost completely hidden life, was glorified by the Church).
In 1959 Fr Sophrony founded the Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex, England, where he lived until his repose. He was a spiritual father to Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpakthos, one of present-day Orthodoxy’s most profound spiritual writers, who has said this about him: “I ascertained from almost the first meeting… that Father Sophrony was a Theologian of our Church, a God-seer. I realized, that is, that the Elder had seen the Uncreated Light… I had discerned that he was truly a God-seer, because otherwise his whole life, his whole demeanor, the words he said, the counsels, and in any case his whole personality, could not be justified. He was literally altered by the uncreated Grace of God.” At Essex, he was known as spiritual father to many and (little publicized) as a wonderworker and intercessor. He reposed in peace in 1993. In 2019 He was formally glorified as a Saint of the Church by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Any who wish to drink from the deep well of his teaching can read (in addition to St Silouan) his books On Prayer and We Shall See Him As He Is.
“Any and every dogmatic error will inevitably reflect on one’s spiritual life.” — Elder Sophrony