Venerable Simeon the New Theologian

Saint Simeon the New Theologian was born in the year 949 in the city of Galatea (Paphlagonia), and he was educated at Constantinople. His father prepared him for a career at court, and for a certain while the youth occupied a high position at the imperial court. When he was fourteen, he met the renowned Elder Simeon the Pious at the Studion Monastery, who would be a major influence in his spiritual development. He remained in the world for several years preparing himself for the monastic life under the Elder’s guidance, and finally entered the monastery at the age of twenty-seven.

Saint Simeon the Pious recommended to the young man the writings of Saint Mark the Ascetic (March 5) and other spiritual writers. He read these books attentively and tried to put into practice what he read. Three points made by Saint Mark in his work “On the Spiritual Law” (see Vol. I of the English PHILOKALIA) particularly impressed him. First, you should listen to your conscience and do what it tells you if you wish your soul to be healed (PHILOKALIA, p. 115). Second, only by fulfilling the commandments can one obtain the activity of the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, one who prays only with the body and without spiritual knowledge is like the blind man who cried out, “Son of David, have mercy upon me” (Luke 18:38) (PHILOKALIA, p. 111). When the blind man received his sight, however, he called Christ the Son of God (John 9:38).

Second Sunday of Great Lent. St. Gregory Palamas. God is Light

Our Holy Father, St. Gregory Palamas
Commemorated November 14/27, and on the Second Sunday of Great Lent

Icon of St. Gregory Palamas St. Gregory Palamas, one of the pillars of Orthodoxy, was born in 1296, probably to a noble Anatolian family in Constantinople. He and his brother went to Mount Athos in around 1318, and lived in Vatopedi and Esphigmenou Monasteries. Gregory also successfully persuaded his widowed mother, brothers and sisters to become take up the monastic life. With the encroachment of the Turks, he was forced to flee to Thessalonica, being ordained a priest there in 1326. Afterward, he took up the eremetic life at a mountain near Beroea, and eventually returned to Athos in 1331.

St. Gregory lived in very difficult times, for many heresies were creeping into the Church, and the Ottoman Empire was ever expanding, taking over Byzantine lands. In the early 1300’s he wrote on the nature of the Holy Spirit, showing the errors of the Latin view while living at the hermitage of Saint Savvas on Mount Athos. He became known as a preeminent theologian early in life, due to his many writings and for his beliefs on hesychasm.

40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste

In the year 313 Saint Constantine the Great issued an edict granting Christians religious freedom, and officially recognizing Christianity as equal with paganism under the law. But his co-ruler Licinius was a pagan, and he decided to stamp out Christianity in his part of the Empire. As Licinius prepared his army to fight Constantine, he decided to remove Christians from his army, fearing mutiny.

One of the military commanders of that time in the Armenian city of Sebaste was Agricola, a zealous champion of idolatry. Under his command was a company of forty Cappadocians, brave soldiers who had distinguished themselves in many battles. When these Christian soldiers refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, Agricola locked them up in prison. The soldiers occupied themselves with prayer and psalmody, and during the night they heard a voice saying, “Persevere until the end, then you shall be saved.”

Apostle Timothy of the Seventy

The Holy Apostle Timothy was from the Lycaonian city of Lystra in Asia Minor. Saint Timothy was converted to Christ in the year 52 by the holy Apostle Paul (June 29). When the Apostles Paul and Barnabas first visited the cities of Lycaonia, Saint Paul healed one crippled from birth. Many of the inhabitants of Lystra then believed in Christ, and among them was the future Saint Timothy, his mother Eunice and grandmother Loida (Lois) (Acts 14:6-12; 2 Tim. 1:5).

The seed of faith, planted in Saint Timothy’s soul by the Apostle Paul, brought forth abundant fruit. He became Saint Paul’s disciple, and later his constant companion and co-worker in the preaching of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul loved Saint Timothy and in his Epistles called him his beloved son, remembering his devotion and fidelity with gratitude.

Questions and Answers about the Great Lent

Great Lent and Pascha are the brightest and most instructive times in the Orthodox Calendar. That season begins with Forgiveness Sunday (March 10), when we mutually ask and receive forgiveness of one another. It is a season filled with prayer, services, spiritual and physical struggles, a time that culminates in the celebration of Pascha, Christ’s Resurrection (which this year falls on April 28).