Life & Faith

Holy Prophet Zacharias and the Righteous Elisabeth

Father of St John the Forerunner, he was the son of Barachias, of the tribe of Aaron, a high priest in descent from Abia, and held the eighth degree of service in the Temple in Jerusalem. His wife Elisabeth was sister to St Anna, the mother of the holy Mother of God. In the reign of King Herod, the child-slayer, Zacharias was serving one day in his turn in the Temple in Jerusalem. An angel of God appeared to him in the altar, and Zacharias was afraid. But the angel said to him: "Fear not, Zacharias" (Luke 1), and informed him that his wife Elisabeth would bear a son in answer to their prayers, for Zacharias and Elisabeth were both old. When Zacharias doubted the words of the heavenly messenger, the angel told him: "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God", and Zacharias was made dumb from that moment, and did not speak until his son was born and he had written on a tablet: "His name is John." Then his mouth was opened, and he glorified God. Later, when the Lord Christ was born and Herod began killing the children in Bethlehem, he sent men to find Zacharias"s son and kill him, for he had heard of all that had happened to Zacharias and how John was born. Seeing the soldiers, Elisabeth took John in her arms - he was eighteen months old at that time - and fled from the house with him to a rocky and desert region. When she saw where the soldiers had driven them, she cried out to the mountain: "O mountain of God, receive a mother with her child!", and the rock opened and hid the mother and child inside itself. Herod, furious that John had not been killed, ordered that Zacharias be cut down before the altar. Zacharias"s blood spilled over the marble and became as hard as stone, remaining thus as a witness to Herod"s wickedness.

The Holy Martyr Christina and Venerable Polycarp

July 24 / August 6

The Holy Martyr Christina

Christina was born in the city of Tyre. She was the daughter of Urban the imperial deputy, an idol-worshiper. The reason her parents gave her the name of Christina is unknown, but it contained within itself the mystery of her future following of Christ. Until the age of eleven she knew nothing of Christ. When she reached that age, her father made her live in the top of a high tower, in order to protect her from the world, because of her extraordinary beauty. He planned to have her live there until she reached full maturity. All the comforts of life were afforded her—slaves to serve her, and gold and silver idols that she might offer sacrifices to them daily. However, the soul of young Christina was saddened in this isolated, idolatrous environment. Looking out the window each day at the sun and all the beauty of the world, and again at night at the wondrous constellations of shining stars, Christina came to a firm belief in the One Living God through her own natural understanding. The merciful God, seeing her longing for the truth, sent His angel to trace the sign of the Cross upon Christina. The angel called her the bride of Christ, and instructed her fully in the knowledge of divine things. Then Christina smashed all the idols in her quarters, thus provoking wild fury in her father. He brought her to trial, and had her tortured. Then he had her thrown into prison, intending to have her beheaded the next day. That night Urban, who had been in full health, spewed forth his soul and went to the grave before his daughter. After this, two imperial deputies, Dion and Julian, continued to torture this holy virgin. Christina’s courageous endurance and the miracles she worked by the power of God converted many pagans of Tyre to Christianity. During the torturing of Christina, Dion suddenly fell dead in the midst of the people. Dion’s successor, Julian, severed Christina’s breasts and tongue. The martyr threw her severed tongue into Julian’s face, and he was instantly blinded. Finally, her suffering for Christ ended beneath the sharp sword, but her life continues in the Immortal Kingdom of the angels. St. Christina suffered honorably in the third century. 

The Venerable Polycarp, Abbot of the Monastery of the Kiev Caves

Polycarp possessed “love toward God and neighbor, joy from an untainted conscience, peace from victory over all the passions, patience in time of temptation and misfortune, goodness in submission to all, benevolence toward the poor, undoubting faith in fulfilling the commandments, truth in fulfilling his vows, meekness in freedom from anger, abstinence and so forth.” So well did he govern the Kiev Caves Lavra that, after his death, a worthy successor among the monks could not be found (for those who were worthy did not want to accept the rank of abbot out of humility), so that the brethren were compelled to take Basil, a secular priest, as their abbot. St. Polycarp reposed in the Lord in the year 1182. 
 

SAINT NIKOLAI VELIMIROVIC

Holy, Glorious Prophet Elijah

The Holy Prophet Elijah is one of the greatest of the prophets and the first dedicated to virginity in the Old Testament. He was born in Tishba of Gilead into the Levite tribe 900 years before the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus gives the following account about the birth of the Prophet Elijah: “When Elijah was born, his father Sobach saw in a vision angels of God around him. They swaddled him with fire and fed him with flames.” The name Elijah (the Lord’s strength) given to the infant defined his whole life. From the years of his youth he dedicated himself to the One God, settled in the wilderness and spent his whole life in strict fasting, meditation and prayer. Called to prophetic service, which put him in conflict with the Israelite king Ahab, the prophet became a fiery zealot of true faith and piety.

Bishop Mardarije (Uskokovic)

The First Serbian Bishop of America and Canada

Bishop Mardarije was born in Podgorica on December 22, 1889, his father, Pero, being a tribal captain and mother Jela, nee Bozovic. He finished elementary school in Cetinje where he started high school, continuing in Belgrade. Leaving high school in his fifth year, he went to Studenica Monastery. In 1906, with the blessing of Bishop Sava (Barac) of Zica, he took monastic vows and was ordained a deacon. He graduated from the Seminary in Kisenjev where a collection of his sermons was published. From here he went to St. Petersburg, graduating from the Theological Academy in 1916.

Is the Apostle’s Fast “Easier”?

The Apostle’s asceticism and the “vacation season”

The Apostles’ fast goes back to the earliest times of the Christian Church. As we know, it was established when in both Constantinople and Rome, churches were built in honor of the chief apostles Peter and Paul. The sanctification of the Constantinople church was performed on the feast day of these apostles, June 29 (according to the old calendar; that is, July 12 according to the new), and from that time on this day has become particularly solemn in both the East and West. This is the day that the fast ends. It’s beginning is moveable, depending upon the celebration of Pascha; therefore the length of the fast varies from six weeks to a week and a day [if observed according to the Julian Church calendar.—Ed.].

Life Of Our Father Justin Archimandrite of Chelije

Troparion, Tone 4

As Orthodox sweetness and divine nectar, Venerable Father* thou dost flow into the hearts of believers as a wealth:* by thy life and teachings thou didst reveal thyself to be a living book of the Spirit, most wise Justin;* therefore pray to Christ the Word* that the Word may dwell in those who honor thee. 

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:  Holy love has a way of consuming some. This is what is meant by one who said "Thou hast ravished our hearts, ravished them" (Song of Songs 4:9). And it make others bright and overjoyed. In this regard it has been said "My heart hath hope in Him, and I am helped and my flesh hath flourish again" (Ps. 27:7). "For when the heart is cheerful, the face beams" (cf.Prov.15:13), and "a person flooded with the love of God reveals in his body, as if in a mirror, the splendor of his soul, a glory like of Moses when he came face to face with God" (cf. Ex. 34:29-35) - St. John Climacus.