Life & Faith

Sts Joachim and Anna, parents of Blessed Mary (Theotokos)

So much attention is paid by Christians to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, sanctified in every conceivable way, that there is a tendency to overlook her parents. Commemorated the day after the commemoration of their daughter, who is remembered on other days as well, Joachim and Anna were the parents of a flesh-and-blood human being they called Mary and, therefore, the grandparents of a flesh-and-blood human being, in form at least, who died to save the world.

Considered in this light, this couple is appreciated most by the grandfathers and grandmothers of the world.

The spiritual beauty of St Anna is expressed in the Bible, equalled by that of her devoted husband, the too lightly regarded Joachim. Since there is no greater part of the divine plan of the universe than motherhood, it follows that St. Anna is given individual honour with an observance of a feast day in her name on July 26. This in no way diminishes the image of her husband St Joachim.

Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God

The holy Virgin Mary was born of her aged parents, Joachim and Anna. Her father was of the tribe of David and her mother of the tribe of Aaron, and so she was of royal blood from her father and priestly blood from her mother. By this, she foreshadowed Him who would be born of her as King and High Priest. Her parents were already old and had no children, and, because of this, were ashamed before men and humble before God. In their humility, they prayed with tears that God would bring joy to their old age with the gift of a child, as He had once given joy to the aged Abraham and Sarah, giving them their son Isaac. God, almighty and all-seeing, gave them a joy far exceeding all their expectations and their wildest dreams, for He gave them not just a daughter, but the Mother of God; He illumined them not only with temporal joy but with eternal. God gave them just one daughter, who later gave them just one grandson - but what a daughter and what a grandson! Mary full of grace, blessed among women, the temple of the Holy Spirit, altar of the living God, table of living bread, ark of God"s holy things, tree of the most delicious fruits, glory of the human race, praise of womanhood, fount of virginity and purity - this was the daughter given by God to Joachim and Anna. Born in Nazareth, she was after three years taken to the Temple in Jerusalem, whence she returned again to Nazareth and shortly afterwards heard the tidings of the holy Archangel Gabriel concerning the birth of the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, from her most pure and virginal body.

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.