The Holy Apostle and Martyr, Andrew, the First-Called


Troparion of St Andrew Tone 4
Andrew, first-called of the Apostles / and brother of the foremost disciple, / entreat the Master of all / to grant peace to the world / and to our souls great mercy.

Kontakion of St Andrew Tone 2
Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God, / the namesake of courage, / the first-called of the Savior’s disciples / and the brother of Peter. / As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us: / “Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!”

From the Prolog:

Andrew, the son of Jonah and brother of Peter, was born in Bethsaida and was a fisherman by trade. At first he was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, but when St. John pointed to the Lord Jesus, saying, Behold the Lamb of God! (John 1:36), Andrew left his first teacher and followed Christ. Then, Andrew brought his brother Peter to the Lord. Following the descent of the Holy Spirit, it fell by lot to the first apostle of Christ, St. Andrew, to preach the Gospel in Byzantium and Thrace, then in the lands along the Danube and in Russia around the Black Sea, and finally in Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, where he suffered. In Byzantium, he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop; in Kiev, he planted a Cross on a high place and prophesied a bright Christian future for the Russian people; throughout Thrace, Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, he converted multitudes of people to the Faith and ordained bishops and priests for them. In the city of Patras, he performed many miracles in the name of Christ, and won many over to the Lord. Among the new faithful were the brother and wife of the Proconsul Aegeates. Angered at this, Aegeates subjected St. Andrew to torture and then crucified him. While the apostle of Christ was still alive on the cross, he gave beneficial instructions to the Christians who had gathered around. The people wanted to take him down from the cross but he refused to let them. Then the apostle prayed to God and an extraordinary light encompassed him. This brilliant illumination lasted for half an hour, and when it disappeared, the apostle gave up his holy soul to God. Thus, the First-called Apostle, the first of the Twelve Great Apostles to know the Lord and follow Him, finished his earthly course. St. Andrew suffered for his Lord in the year 62. His relics were taken to Constantinople; his head was later taken to Rome, and one hand was taken to Moscow.

From the OCA website:

The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called was the first of the Apostles to follow Christ, and he later brought his own brother, the holy Apostle Peter, to Christ (John 1:35-42). The future apostle was from Bethsaida, and from his youth he turned with all his soul to God. He did not enter into marriage, and he worked with his brother as a fisherman. When the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John began to preach, St Andrew became his closest disciple. St John the Baptist himself sent to Christ his own two disciples, the future Apostles Andrew and John the Theologian, declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God.

After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, St Andrew went to the Eastern lands preaching the Word of God. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he reached the River Danube, went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, the Black Sea region and along the River Dniepr he climbed to the place where the city of Kiev now stands.

He stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those disciples that were with him: “See these hills? Upon these hills shall shine forth the beneficence of God, and there will be a great city here, and God shall raise up many churches.” The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land of the Varangians towards Rome for preaching, and again he returned to Thrace, where in the small village of Byzantium, the future Constantinople, he founded the Church of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew links the mother, the Church of Constantinople, with her daughter, the Russian Church.

On his journeys the First-Called Apostle endured many sufferings and torments from pagans: they cast him out of their cities and they beat him. In Sinope they pelted him with stones, but remaining unharmed, the persistant disciple of Christ continued to preach to people about the Savior. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the Lord worked miracles. By the labors of the holy Apostle Andrew, Christian Churches were established, for which he provided bishops and clergy. The final city to which the Apostle came was the city of Patra, where he was destined to suffer martyrdom.

The Lord worked many miracles through His disciple in Patra. The infirm were made whole, and the blind received their sight. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the illustrious citizen Sosios recovered from serious illness; he healed Maximilla, wife of the governor of Patra, and his brother Stratokles. The miracles accomplished by the Apostle and his fiery speech enlightened almost all the citizens of the city of Patra with the true Faith.

Few pagans remained at Patra, but among them was the prefect of the city, Aegeatos. The Apostle Andrew repeatedly turned to him with the words of the Gospel. But even the miracles of the Apostle did not convince Aegeatos. The holy Apostle with love and humility appealed to his soul, striving to reveal to him the Christian mystery of life eternal, through the wonderworking power of the Holy Cross of the Lord. The angry Aegeatos gave orders to crucify the apostle. The pagan thought he might undo St Andrew’s preaching if he were to put him to death on the cross.

St Andrew the First-Called accepted the decision of the prefect with joy and with prayer to the Lord, and went willingly to the place of execution. In order to prolong the suffering of the saint, Aegeatos gave orders not to nail the saint’s hands and feet, but to tie them to the cross. For two days the apostle taught the citizens who gathered about. The people, in listening to him, with all their souls pitied him and tried to take St Andrew down from the cross. Fearing a riot of the people, Aegeatos gave orders to stop the execution. But the holy apostle began to pray that the Lord would grant him death on the cross. Just as the soldiers tried to take hold of the Apostle Andrew, they lost control of their hands. The crucified apostle, having given glory to God, said: “Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit.” Then a blazing ray of divine light illumined the cross and the martyr crucified upon it. When the light faded, the holy Apostle Andrew had already given up his holy soul to the Lord. Maximilla, the wife of the prefect, had the body of the saint taken down from the cross, and buried him with honor.

A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles beside the relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and St Paul’s disciple St Timothy.


St Stephen the New, Monkmartyr and Confessor


Troparion Tone 4
Trained in asceticism on the mountain, / with the weapon of the Cross you destroyed the spiritual assaults of the hostile powers, all-blessed one; / Again you bravely prepared for combat / and slew Copronymus with the sword of faith; / for both struggles you have been crowned by God, monk-martyr Stephen of eternal memory.

Kontakion Tone 8
Lovers of the feasts, from the heart with hymns let us praise in faith godlike Stephen the lover of the Trinity, / for he honored the fair icon icon of the Master and of His Mother. / Now let us rejoice together and cry out to him with love:
“Rejoice, ever glorious Father.”

From the Prolog:

As at one time Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed to God to give her a son, so did Anna, the mother of Stephen. Praying thus in the Church of Blachernae before the icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, a light sleep overcame her, and she saw the Most-holy Virgin as radiant as the sun, and heard a voice from the icon: “Woman, depart in peace. In accordance with your prayer, you have a son in your womb.” Anna indeed conceived and gave birth to a son, the holy Stephen. At sixteen, Stephen received the monastic tonsure on Mount Auxentius near Constantinople, from the elder John who also taught him divine wisdom and asceticism. When John entered into rest in the Lord, Stephen remained on the mountain in a life of strict asceticism, taking upon himself labor upon labor. His holiness attracted many disciples to him. When Emperor Constantine Copronymus was persecuting icons more ferociously than his foul father, Leo the Isaurian, Stephen showed himself a zealous defender of the veneration of holy icons. The demented emperor accepted various obscene slanders against Stephen and personally plotted intrigues to break Stephen and get him out of the way. Stephen was banished to the island of Proconnesus, then taken to Constantinople, chained and cast into prison, where he was met by 342 monks, brought from all over and imprisoned for their veneration of the icons. There, in prison, they carried out the whole church typicon as in a monastery. Then the wicked emperor condemned Stephen to death. The saint foresaw his death forty days in advance, and asked forgiveness of the brethren. The emperor’s servants dragged him from prison and, beating and pulling him, dragged him through the streets of Constantinople calling upon all those loyal to the emperor to stone this “enemy of the emperor.” One of the heretics struck the saint on the head with a piece of wood, and the saint gave up his soul. As St. Stephen the Protomartyr suffered at the hands of the Jews, so this Stephen suffered at the hands of the iconoclastic heretics. This glorious soldier of Christ suffered in the year 767 at the age of fifty-three, and was crowned with unfading glory.

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St James of Persia


Troparion of Great Martyr James of Persia Tone 4
James the Martyr and scion of Persia/ drowned the dragon in his blood by his contest:/ he was dismembered for the Faith/ and became the Saviour’s trophy-bearer./ He intercedes unceasingly for our souls.

Kontakion of Great Martyr James of Persia Tone 2
Thou didst listen to thy wife and consider the judgment/ O courageous James./ Thou didst spurn the threats and commands of the Persians/ and thy body was pruned like a vine./ We praise thee; O noble Martyr.

From the Prolog:

James was born of Christian parents in the Persian city of Elapa (or Vilat), brought up in the Christian Faith and married to a Christian woman. The Persian King Yezdegeherd took a liking to James for his talents and skillfulness, and made him a noble at his court. Flattered by the king, James was deluded and began offering sacrifices to the idols that the king worshiped. His mother and wife learned of this, and wrote him a letter of reproach in which they grieved over him as an apostate and one who was spiritually dead. Yet, at the end of the letter, they begged him to repent and return to Christ. Moved by this letter, James repented bitterly, and courageously confessed his faith in Christ the Lord to the king. Angered, the king condemned him to death by a special torture: his entire body was to be cut up, piece by piece, until he breathed his last. The executioners fulfilled this command of the wicked king to the letter, and cut off James’s fingers, then his toes, his legs and arms, his shoulders, and finally his head. During every cutting, the repentant martyr gave thanks to God. A sweet-smelling fragrance, as of a cypress, emanated from the wounds. Thus, this wonderful man repented of his sin and presented his soul to Christ his God in the Kingdom of Heaven. James suffered in about the year 400. His head is to be found in Rome and a part of his relics in Portugal, where he is commemorated on May 22.

And this from the OCA website:

The Holy Great Martyr James the Persian (the Sawn-Asunder) was born in the fourth century into a pious Christian family, both wealthy and illustrious. His wife was also a Christian, and the couple raised their children in piety, inspiring in them a love for prayer and the Holy Scriptures. James occupied a high position at the court of the Persian emperor Izdegerd (399-420) and his successor Barakhranes (420-438). But on one of the military campaigns James, seduced by the emperor’s beneficence, was afraid to acknowledge himself a Christian, and so he offered sacrifice to idols with the emperor.

Learning of this, James’ mother and wife wrote him a letter, in which they rebuked him and urged him to repent. Receiving the letter, James realized the gravity of his sin. Faced with the horror of being cut off not only from his family, but also from God Himself, he began to weep loudly, imploring the Lord for forgiveness.

His fellow-soldiers, hearing him pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, reported this to the emperor. Under interrogation, St James bravely confessed his faith in the one True God. No amount of urging by the emperor could make him renounce Christ. The emperor then ordered the saint to be put to death.

They began to cut off his fingers and his toes one by one, then his hands and his feet, and then his arms and legs. During the prolonged torture St James offered prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord, Who had granted him the possibility of redemption from his sins by enduring these terrible torments. Finally, the martyr was beheaded. Christians gathered up the pieces of his body and buried them with great reverence.

In Contemplation of Thanksgiving: The Transfiguration of Suffering

The sad songs are often the sweetest. The richest joys are often the ones seasoned with the saline of our tears. There is something about the human condition which makes pain and sorrow inevitable. Tears are the grace and mercy of the loving God, who himself became a man acquainted with sorrow, who poured out his own tears before his Father in heaven, and who sings for joy over his creation. These are the truths we must front before we can go further.

This post is not going to be anything like a Christian theodicy. For one thing, to write about theodicy is to take a living existential reality and pin it dead and lifeless to a board. For another, the discussion of theodicy is often engaged within technical philosophical boundaries, which are derived from convictions Christians cannot share (e.g., the framing of the question within dialectical oppositions, resulting in a “god of the philosophers” as distinct from the Trinitarian God of Christianity). What it will be, however, is a very simple contemplation about the transfiguration of suffering, and the role of thanksgiving in that transfiguration.

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The First Christian

And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28 NKJV)

While these verses have been a favorite of those who would see some sort of need to “put Mary in her place,” these verses are best juxtaposed with those earlier in Luke:

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)

If there is anyone who can be said to have heard the word of God and kept it, it is that young girl from Nazareth, the Virgin Mary, in whom God himself lived bodily for nine months, from whom God himself took his flesh and bone, knit wondrously together in her womb. If there is anyone who can be said to have heard the word of God and kept it, it is this mother, our mother, approaching her Son and God, and ours, at the wedding and who, from her long communion with him, could with boldness tell the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” If there is anyone who can be said to have heard the word of God and kept it, it is this bereaved woman standing before the Cross, accompanied only by the Apostle John, to whom the Lord entrusts his Mother, and having given his Mother to John, he has given it to that Church of two there at Calvary, and through that Church to us.

What paltry things are the words we use to tell of this amazing grace embodied in this marvelous young woman, this Virgin Mother, the first to invite Christ into her life, body and soul. How can one begin to tell of the mystery that God himself nestled tight against her heart. What holiness transfigured every part of her body and soul as the presence of God himself within her communicated his blazing glory to all her being. All she is, she is because of her Son. We call her Mother of God because God was in her womb. We call her Queen, because God her Son is King. The flesh and bones of his resurrected and ascended body are those received from Mary and transfigured by his rising from the dead.

We implore her prayers, because the Christian God Incarnate is her Son, and her communion with him is both like and far beyond that which we know. She is, more than any of us, one who knows unceasing prayer, whose body and soul are united to Christ’s body and soul through grace and communion with him. She receives all she asks of her Son, because all she asks is one with his will. She has heard the word of God and kept it like no other on earth or in heaven. Because she is Christ’s Mother, and he is our God and hers, we honor and respect Mary like no other woman. And she always ever points us to her Son, “Hear him. Do whatever he tells you.”

There is an inexplicable sweetness about God’s Mother. She knows what it is to suffer. She knows what it is to weep with soul-deep sorrow. She has been tempered by this, is strong and invincible in her Son. But she knows too the wonder and joy of the Resurrection. Hers is the sweetness of God’s mercy and tenderness. She is, after all, a mother. She is God’s Mother. And because we are his sons and daughters she is our Mother too.

Panagie Theotoke soson emas.

The Presentation of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary in the Temple

Troparion of the Mother of God Tone 4
Today is the prelude of God’s goodwill/ and the prophecy of the salvation of men./ The Virgin appears openly in the temple of God/ and foretells Christ to all./ So let us cry to her with loud voices:/ Rejoice, thou who art the fulfillment/ of the Creator’s providence.

Kontakion of the Mother of God Tone 4
The most pure Temple of the Saviour,/ the most precious bridal chamber and Virgin,/ the sacred treasury of the glories of God,/ today enters into the house of the Lord,/ bringing with her the grace that is the Divine Spirit./ And the Angels of God sing of her:/ This is the heavenly tabernacle.

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The Promise of Grace

For as we advance in the religious life [conversationis] and in faith, our hearts expand [dilatato corde] and we run in the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love [inenarrabili dilectionis dulcedine]. The Rule of St Benedict Prologue 49

This of course is written for the monks under the Rule of our holy father, St Benedict. It is a precious enticement for that seeker after the monastic life as he waits those days in the guesthouse, his vocation tested by a wise and godly elder and by the reading of the whole of this Rule. For this manner of life is not an easy one, there is the discipline of struggle, fasting, prayer, godly reading, physical labor, obedience, poverty. But look at what is promised from this life: unspeakable sweetness of love and the expansion of our hearts.

We of course, at least most of us engaging this post, are not monastics, and yet we are not devoid of this promise. We must, of course, temper our lives by disciplines such as these, but always with an eye to the specific vocation we have here and now. As we labor at our work, as we build our home, as we live chastely and faithfully with our spouses, as we parent our children in mercy. We too have our vocations and our disciplines. We, too, though not with St Benedict in the monastic enclosure, have in our days all the fastings, and obediences, and prayers, and poverties that his monks had, though shaped to the forms and norms of our ways of living.

And all these disciplines, onerous though they may be to us in our passions and weaknesses, heavy though they feel at times, yield to us far greater return for that which we give them. Any man who has witnessed the birth of his daughters, who marvels with tears how he can so wildly love this red and squirming, dear, precious person whom he has just met, this sort of man has perhaps only the very slightest of hints of the sweetness of love, of the phenomenon of the expanding heart. But however thin this apprehension, even this is a sweet and warming fire in the heart.

May God give us all this enlargement of the heart from the overflowing grace and sweetness of his love.

Christian Philosophy? VI

In my previous post, I put forth the notion that the intellect expresses itself in many differentiated activities that are nonetheless the same in kind. One kind of intellect evaluates and selects among competing choices in actions. Another kind grasps first principles as wholes. Another kind informs productive activity. Yet another kind organizes and systematizes various empirical data into coherent related thoughts. And so on. Yet all these intellective energies are one in kind in that they are intellect.

Reason, at least in modernist contentions, is generally much narrower than the ancient understanding. As noted earlier, reason in modernist paradigms is generally that intellective activity that ancients called discursive reason or dianoia. It is the activity of the intellect that proceeds from one thought to another via established principles of reason toward a valid conclusion.

I highlight these distinctions, because all understandings of the intellect (and reason) ultimately deal with the concept of truth, and objects of thought as being true or false. What counts for one as reason (or intellect) will similarly determine what counts for a thing as being true. If one sees reason as only (or primarily) discursive, then one’s concept of truth will follow. One will not, for example, understand moral truth as the same thing as logical truth, if indeed there is such a thing as moral truth.

These considerations are further embedded in much larger metaphysical and anthropological considerations. These of course will take us far outside the much more humble constraints of these posts, but we do well to note them so as to properly limit our own reflections. But while we need not here present cogent examinations of what counts as ultimate reality or what capacities a human person has relative to our considerations, we cannot escape such questions, however superficially we deal with them. Are truths simple objects of thought reflective of the reality they direct us to? Are truths the actual items of reality which we encounter? Are truths those things that are empirically derived? Are truths those things which are only derived from intellective activity? Do humans possess the capacities to actually engage with or discover truth? What capacities are necessary for such engagement or discovery?

But sidestepping these legitimate concerns, we can at least acknowledge that whatever truth is, it provides us with objects of thought by which we evaluate the content and method of our intellective processes. If we label something as true, and its thought content as truth, then it stands for us as both an object of our thinking activity and a standard by which to evaluate that thinking activity as proper. And what sort of intellective activity is suited to discovering and evaluating such truths will be determined by what we think of truth.

It is, admittedly, slightly self-referential. More on that when we discuss the concept of faith. For now, then, let us simply note that the sort of thinking (reason, intellect) that is embedded in a way of life will yield a different truth content than the sort of thinking embedded in a life of the mind. Why this is the case, is hopefully obvious from previous comments.

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Our Father Among the Saints, Gregory the Wonderworker


Troparion of St Gregory Tone 8
You became worthy of your name through your way of life: / through your vigilance in prayer and your constant constant works of mercy. / Therefore, O Father Gregory, beseech Christ God to enlighten our minds, / that we may not sleep in sin, which leads to death!

Kontakion of St Gregory Tone 2
You received the power to perform miracles, / frightening the devils and healing the sick through your wonderworking. All-wise Father Gregory, / your deeds truly entitle you to be called “Wonderworker”!

St. Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of St. Gregory the Wonderworker
The Writings of Saint Gregory the Wonderworker (ANF)

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Christian Philosophy? V

I have been commenting that philosophy and Christianity may be compatible terms if both are seen as ways of living. Philosophy as a way of life is unquestionably (in my view) the ancient understanding of philosophy. A similar way of understanding can be seen among the earliest writings of Christianity, including its own Scriptures. Whether these two ways of living are compatible will remain to be seen.

I have previously been commenting that philosophy is best understood as a way of life over against the conception of philosophy as a life of the mind. That is to say, philosophy as understood within modernist paradigms is that of rational engagement with objects of thought in an attempt to somehow accurately describe reality. There are, of course, innumerable variations on this theme, not the least of which is the locus of those objects of thought, what counts as engagement with them, and so on. I will not, of course, here settle the variation to be preferred, but I do hope to tease out some implications by examining some of the varieties of definition for reason and what counts as rational activity.

It will not be surprising to note that the ancients had a robust understanding of reason as differentiated if related and united activities of the intellect. In the Ethics, by way of example, Aristotle distinguishes among the various “excellencies” (or virtues) of thinking activity, among them, wisdom (sophia), scientific knowledge (episteme), productive knowledge (techne, also often translated as “craft” or “art”), practical judgment (phronesis), etc. Not all ancient epistemologies categorized the energies of thought along these Aristotelian categories, of course, and even among these differentiations, one form of intellectual activity which was emphasized broadly was that which Aristotle calls “discursive reason” (dianoia), etymologically, “thinking things through,” or the sort of reason that moves from premise to premise along established principles of right thinking toward a conclusion.

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