1. THE HOLY PROPHET ISAIAH
This great prophet was of royal lineage. Isaiah was born in Jerusalem of Amoz his father who was the brother of Amaziah, the king of Judah. By the great grace of God that was in him, Isaiah was made worthy to see the Lord Sabaoth on the throne in heaven surrounded by six-winged Seraphims who continuously sing: "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts [Sabaoth]" (Isaiah 6:3). Isaiah prophesied many things to individual men as well as to the people. On one occasion, he walked naked around the streets of Jerusalem for three days prophesying the imminent fall of Jerusalem by the Assyrian King Sennacherib, reminding the king and the leaders of the people not to hope in assistance from the Egyptians or Ethiopians for they, also, will be subjugated by the same Sennacherib, but rather to trust in help from God the Most High. This prophesy, as well as other prophecies, were literally fulfilled. Isaiah's most important prophecies are the ones concerning the Incarnation of God, the conception of the All-Holy Virgin, John the Forerunner and about many other events of the life of Christ. ["Therefore, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). "The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord and make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3).] This discerning man, because of the purity of his heart and because of his zealousness toward God, also received the gift of working miracles. Thus, when the besieged Jerusalem suffered from drought, Isaiah prayed to God and water flowed from beneath Mount Zion. This water was called Siloam which means: "sent." Later, the Lord directed the man, blind from birth to bathe in this water in order for him to see. During the reign of King Manasses, when Isaiah thundered against the pagan customs of the king and the leaders comparing that generation with Sodom and Gomorrah, the anger of the leaders and the people rose up against this great prophet. He was captured, led out of Jerusalem and was sawed in half. Isaiah lived and prophesied about seven-hundred years before Christ.
2. THE TRANSLATION OF THE RELICS OF SAINT NICHOLAS THE WONDER-WORKER OF MYRA IN LYCIA.
During the reign of Emperor Alexius Commenus and Patriarch Nicholas Grammaticus, the body of this saint was translated from Myra in Lycia to the town of Bari in Italy in 1007 A.D. This occurred because of the assault of the Muslims on Lycia. The saint appeared in a dream to an honorable priest in Bari and ordered that his relics be translated to this town. At that time, Bari was Orthodox and under the Orthodox Patriarch. During the translation of the relics of this saint many miracles occurred either by touching the relics or from the myrrh [oil] which abundantly flowed from his relics. "Also on this day, is commemorated the miracle of St. Nicholas to the Serbian King, Stephan of Decani: how St. Nicholas restored the sight to the blinded King Stephan.
3. THE HOLY MARTYR CHRISTOPHER
Christopher was a great miracle-worker. He is especially venerated in Spain. The people pray to him primarily for protection from contagious diseases and great pestilence. He suffered for Christ and was glorified by Christ in the year 249 A.D.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT STEVEN OF DECANI
And in a dream, endures misfortune without peace.
His body shivering, his eyes bloody,
Than such a life, death is surely better,
At that moment, in a dream a man appeared to him,
In heavenly glow, in heavenly glory.
Nicholas I am, of Myra in Lycia, said he,
And, one of those whom God chooses, you are.
Into my right hand, O Stephan, look,
Behold are your eyes, preserved in it!
Without eyes you are, the eyes are with me,
To you I will give them, when the Lord wants.
Five years passed and Stephan in darkness
A strong hope has, a strong faith has:
To me, Nicholas will come once more,
With God's help; help me, he will.
Thus did Stephan, once thought in the church,
And to the beloved saint, with tears, he prayed.
And while in the chair stood, in a dream, he fell,
But behold, St. Nicholas again to him came!
Two eyes of the king in his right palm:
Behold, said he, to you, O king the day dawned!
In the name of the Lord Who, to the blind, gives sight
Look and cry out: To God be glory!
And the blind eyes, the saint touched
And darkness from the eyes as a curtain is drawn.
Every Christian can accept for himself martyrdom for the Faith, in time of persecution as well as in time of peace. Abba Athanasius says: "Be tortured by your conscience, die to sin, subdue earthly organs and you will be a martyr according to your wishes. They [the persecuted and the martyrs] fought with emperors and princes; you also have the king of sins - the devil and demonic princes. Before, there were idols, pagan temples and those who offer sacrifice to the idols. And now, they exist as thoughts in the soul. He who is a slave to debauchery worships the idol of Aphrodite. He who becomes angry and enraged worships the idol of Ares. He who is avaricious and closed to the pain and misery of his neighbor worships the idol Hermes. If you refrain from all of this and preserve yourself from passions, you have overcome idols, you have rejected an evil belief and have become a martyr for the True Faith." Therefore, a man need not especially yearn for persecution and martyrdom. Everyone can and at all times endure martyrdom for the sake of Christ and His Gospel.
To contemplate the Descent of God the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:
1. How all the men wonder and marvel listening to the apostles speak in different tongues;
2. How some mocked them saying: "They have had too much new wine" (Acts of the Apostles 2:13).
About the curse of man who trusts in man
"Thus says the Lord: cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord" (Jeremiah 17:5).
When man alienates himself from God in his heart he usually trusts in men and in himself, for in who else can he otherwise trust when he untied his rowboat from God's boat? Since he has already untied his rowboat from God's boat, nothing else remains for him except to trust in his rowboat or in the rowboat of his neighbors. Weak trust, but there is no other for him! Weeping trust above the abyss of destruction, but there is no other!
But, O heaven and earth, why did man untie his rowboat from God's boat? What happened to man that he flees from his security? What kind of calculation did he calculate when he discovered it would be better for him alone on the tempestuous waves than in the household of God and near the hem of God! With whom did he make an alliance when he breached the alliance with God? Is it with someone stronger than God? Foolishness, foolishness, foolishness!
"Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings." This, God spoke once and men have repeated this thousands of times. Being disappointed in their trust in men, men have cursed thousands of times those who have trusted in man. God has said only that which men experienced only too well and confirmed by their experience, i.e., how, indeed, cursed is the man who trusts in man!
Brethren, that is why we should have trust in God Who is the stable boat on the tempest and Who does not betray. Let us have trust only in Him for all other trust is a devilish illusion. In You do we trust, O Lord, our fortress and refuge. Tie us along side You and do not allow us to untie ourselves, if we, by our foolishness and cursedness, attempt to untie ourselves from You.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.