Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer the Bishop of Antioch

The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, as was also Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (February 23). Saint Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch, and successor to Bishop Euodius, Apostle of the Seventy (September 7).

Tradition suggests that when Saint Ignatius was a little boy, the Savior hugged him and said: “Unless you turn and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 18:3). The saint was called “God-Bearer” (Theophoros), because he bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him. He also had this name because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.

The Holy Hierarch Nicholas

St. Nicholas

“All who love Nicholas the holy,
All who serve Nicholas the holy,
They will Nicholas receive and give help in time of need,
Holy Father Nicholas!”

--Orthodox children’s song

St. Nicholas of Myra, along with St. Patrick of Ireland, has the rare distinction of being one of the only saints in our Orthodox Church to be recognized and honored in the West. Although he was once portrayed in popular culture as the venerable staff bearing Father Christmas, whose kindly visage bore a resemblance to the bishop of old, today his true image has all but been obliterated, thanks to Madison Avenue. Courtesy of the marketing folks at Coke who first dreamed up the current version, he is a vacuous, cherry-cheeked flying Santa who can be all over the world at once on Christmas Eve and whose sole purpose in life is to satisfy children’s materialistic cravings.

Greatmartyr Barbara at Heliopolis, in Syria

The Holy Great Martyr Barbara lived and suffered during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-311). Her father, the pagan Dioscorus, was a rich and illustrious man in the Syrian city of Heliopolis. After the death of his wife, he devoted himself to his only daughter.

Seeing Barbara’s extraordinary beauty, Dioscorus decided to hide her from the eyes of strangers. Therefore, he built a tower for Barbara, where only her pagan teachers were allowed to see her. From the tower there was a view of hills stretching into the distance. By day she was able to gaze upon the wooded hills, the swiftly flowing rivers, and the meadows covered with a mottled blanket of flowers; by night the harmonious and majestic vault of the heavens twinkled and provided a spectacle of inexpressible beauty. Soon the virgin began to ask herself questions about the First Cause and Creator of so harmonious and splendid a world.

Prophet Habakkuk

The Holy Prophet Habakkuk, the eighth of the Twelve Minor Prophets, was descended from the Tribe of Simeon, and he prophesied around 650 B.C.

The Prophet Habakkuk foresaw the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the Babylonian Captivity and the later return of the captives to their native land. During the war with the Babylonians the prophet withdrew to Arabia, where the following miracle occurred. When he was bringing dinner to the reapers, he met an angel of the Lord, and instantly by the strength of his spirit he was transported to Babylon, where at the time the Prophet Daniel was languishing in prison. The food intended for the reapers assuaged the hunger of the exhausted Prophet Daniel (Dan. 14:33-37).

After the end of the war with the Babylonians, the Prophet Habakkuk returned to his homeland and died at a great old age. His relics were found at the time of Emperor Theodosius he Younger (408-450), together with the relics of the Prophet Micah (August 14).

Homily on the Day of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple

Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear; and forget thine own people and thy father’s house. And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty,1 for He Himself is thy Lord, and thou shalt worship Him.

Ps. XLIV: 9-10

God is wondrous in His ways, for in order to make blessed the being that comes from Him with a most exalted and incomprehensible blessedness, He from the ages deigned to unite His own nature with the nature of man, in the Person of His Only-Begotten Son—thus through Him to extend this union also to the fullness of the Church, which, according to the law of incarnation, is His body, and in this manner dissolving and as if mutually leveling all divinity with all lowly things, That in the dispensation of the fullness of times (Eph. 1:10), as the apostle says, When all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). This great resolution of the eternal counsel, or, according to the Apostle, this mystery, although it hath been hid from ages and from generations, is now made manifest also to his saints (Col. 1:26); and the Holy Spirit nevertheless revealed even this very revelation, which bears seven seals, to His mystics, and through them to all humankind to the extent of its gradually growing understanding obligating it to match up to and facilitate its fulfillment. Thus did one of the Prophets, who saw mankind in the past days of its infancy and under the guardianship of the law growing to the fullness of its years, when it was obligated to become capable of its task of being betrothed to Divinity and giving birth to a timeless Child, portrays the Son of God as the King approaching the wedding. And taking upon himself the role of the bringer of the bride, or friend of the bridegroom, the Prophet as if impatiently convinces human nature not to further postpone this blessed union by betrayal and insubordination, but to commit itself to it through sincerity and faithfulness. Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear; and forget thine own people and thy father’s house. And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty

Long did this Divine voice call in the Church as in the desert, and apparently did not find a hearkening ear. Humankind did not have the boldness to triumphantly go forth to meet the Divinity. What would have happened to us had the heart of the blessed Virgin Mary not opened to the incomprehensible word of the incarnation, had her boundless dedication to God’s will not responded to the heavenly messenger,2 Behold the handmaiden of the Lord: be it unto me according to Thy will (Lk. 1:38)? She entrusted herself to the King’s desire without holding anything back—and the betrothal of the Divinity with the human race was fulfilled forever.