Our Ascended Lord: The Saving Swallow Who Opened the Way to the Eternal Spring.
by the Blessed Bishop Nikolai (Velimirovich) (†1956)
"When swallows run short of food and the cold weather is coming, they set off to warm climes, where there is plenty of sun and food. One swallow flies ahead, testing the air and showing the way, while the rest of the flock follows after.
When our souls run short of food in the material world, and when the cold of death draws near—ah, is there a swallow like that one, to take us to a warm place, where there is plenty of spiritual warmth and food? Is there such a place? Is there, oh, is there such a swallow?
The Feast of the Annunciation is one of the earliest Christian feasts, and was already being celebrated in the fourth century. There is a painting of the Annunciation in the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome dating from the second century. The Council of Toledo in 656 mentions the Feast, and the Council in Trullo in 692 says that the Annunciation was celebrated during Great Lent.
The Greek and Slavonic names for the Feast may be translated as "good tidings." This, of course, refers to the Incarnation of the Son of God and the salvation He brings. The background of the Annunciation is found in the Gospel of St Luke (1:26-38). The troparion describes this as the "beginning of our salvation, and the revelation of the eternal mystery," for on this day the Son of God became the Son of Man.
There are two main components to the Annunciation: the message itself, and the response of the Virgin. The message fulfills God's promise to send a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15): "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel." The Fathers of the Church understand "her seed" to refer to Christ. The prophets hinted at His coming, which they saw dimly, but the Archangel Gabriel now proclaims that the promise is about to be fulfilled.
On February 26th (February 13th according to Julian calendar) we commemorate: The Venerable Simeon (Myrrh-Gusher), from whose relics flowed myrrh – Chrism
Stefan Nemanja, the great ruler (Great Zupan) of the Serbian people, the consolidator of Serbian lands, creator of the independent Serbian state, defender of Orthodoxy and exterminator of heresy. At first, he was baptized in the Latin Church but later left this Church and embraced the Orthodox Church.
Rastko Nemanjić the third son of Zupan Stefan Nemanjić and his wife Ana. Rastko was tonsured a monk in 1192 and was given the name of Sava at the monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mount Athos. Soon after he went to the monastery of Vatopedi.
In 1196 Zupan Stefan Nemanja left his kingdom of Raska and became a monk and took the name Simeon where he was tonsured at the monastery of Studenica which he had endowed some years earlier.
Basil was born during the reign of Emperor Constantine. While still unbaptized, Basil spent fifteen years in Athens where he studied philosophy, rhetoric, astronomy and all other secular sciences of that time. His colleagues at that time were Gregory the Theologian and Julian, later the apostate emperor. In his mature years he was baptized in the Jordan River along with Ebulios his former teacher. He was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia for almost ten years and completed his earthly life fifty years after his birth.
He was a great defender of Orthodoxy, a great light of moral purity, a religious zealot, a great theological mind, and a great builder and pillar of the Church of God. Basil fully deserved the title "Great." In liturgical services he is referred to as the "bee of the Church of Christ, which brings honey to the faithful and with its stinger pricks the heretics." Numerous works of this Father of the Church are preserved; they include theological, apologetical, ascetical and canonical writings as well as the Holy and Divine Liturgy named after him. This Divine Liturgy is celebrated ten times during the year: on the first of January, his feast day; on the eve of the Nativity of our Lord; on the eve of theTheophany of our Lord; all Sundays of Great Lent, except Palm Sunday; on Great and Holy Thursday and on Great and Holy Saturday. St. Basilreposed peacefully on January 1, 379, and was translated into the Kingdom of Christ.
This glorious saint, celebrated even today throughout the entire world, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of the city of Patara in Lycia. Since he was the only son bestowed on them by God, the parents returned the gift to God by dedicating their son to Him.
St. Nicholas learned of the spiritual life from his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara, and was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of New Zion founded by his uncle. Following the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all his inherited goods to the poor, not keeping anything for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charity, even though he carefully concealed his charitable works, fulfilling the words of the Lord: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3).When he gave himself over to solitude and silence, thinking to live that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: ``Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people, if thou desirest to be crowned by Me.'' Immediately after that, by God's wondrous providence, he was chosen archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock.