1. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR PANCRATIUS [PANCRAS] THE BISHOP OF TAORMINA
This saint was born in Antioch during the time when the Lord Jesus Christ walked as a man among men on earth. Hearing about the miracles of Christ, the parents of Pancratius desired to see the Lord, the miracle-worker. Together with Pancratius, they traveled to Jerusalem where they saw Jesus, heard His words and witnessed His miracles. It was in Jerusalem that Pancratius became acquainted with the Apostle Peter. After the Ascension of the Lord, both parents and Pancratius were baptized in Antioch. Pancratius withdrew to a cave in Pontus where the Apostle Peter found him and in agreement with the Apostle Paul he was appointed as the Bishop of Taormina in Sicily. In Taormina, St. Pancratius worked many miracles, destroyed the idols, baptized the unbaptized, strengthened the baptized and governed well the Church of God. A heathen commander by the name of Aquilinus heard that the entire city of Taormina became Christian and set out with an entire army against this city in order to destroy it. St. Pancratius encouraged the faithful not to be afraid and he, alone, with the clergy went outside the city carrying in his hands the invincible weapon, the Honorable Cross. When the army approached the city, darkness befell them and the soldiers were overcome with great fear. A great confusion then began among them and the attackers turned against one another and pierced and slaughtered each other with their swords. Thus Pancratius, the chosen one of God, saved the city and his flock by the power of his prayer before the Lord. In the end, Pancratius was stoned to death by envious and evil heathens and found rest in the Lord. His holy relics repose in Rome.
2. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR CYRIL, BISHOP OF GORTINA IN CRETE
As an eighty-four year old man, Cyril suffered for Christ during the reign of Decius. He was thrown into fire but was saved by the Providence of God. Then the judge issued the following sentence: "Cyril, who was delivered from the fire, just judgment cannot tolerate him among the living, therefore, I am ordering him to be slain by the sword." With joy did the holy elder place his head under the sword and was beheaded to live eternally in the Kingdom of Christ.
3. THE VENERABLE MARTYRS PATERMUTHIUS AND COPRES
Emperor Julian the Apostate tortured Patermuthius and Copres. Patermuthius was seventy-five years old and Copres was forty-five years old. The emperor succeeded in turning Copres away from the Faith of Christ and persuaded him to embrace the idols. The apostate Copres cried out: "I am Julian's, not Christ's." But when the aged Patermuthius rebuked him and reminded him of eternal torments, Copres came to his senses and cried out before the emperor: "I am Christ's and not Julian's." Both were beheaded. Also beheaded with them was Alexander, one of the emperor's soldiers who, witnessing their bravery in suffering, became a Christian. They honorably suffered for Christ and to Christ they went in the year 361 A.D.
4. THE VENERABLES PATERMUTHIUS AND COPRES
Even though they bear the same names, they are different then those mentioned above. At first, Patermuthius was the leader of a band of robbers but after a miraculous vision converted to the True Faith and was tonsured a monk. Namely, he had climbed upon the roof of the home of a godly woman in order to enter the house and pillage it. However, sleep overcame him and, in a dream, he saw someone who warned him not to commit evil and to repent. Not only was Patermuthius baptized but he was also tonsured a monk. Both Patermuthius and Copres were great miracle-workers. By the grace of God, they healed people from all pain and affliction, guided sinners on the true path and discerned the future. A sinner, laying on his deathbed, implored Patermuthius that his life be prolonged in order that he may repent. Following the prayer, the saint said to him that God had prolonged his life for three years. The sinner repented and he died exactly three years later. Patermuthius and Copres rested in the Lord toward the end of the fourth century at a very old age.
5. SAINT THEODORE, BISHOP OF EDESSA AND OTHERS WITH HIM
At age twenty, Theodore was tonsured a monk and spent thirty-six years as a monk. During the reign of Emperor Michael and Empress Theodora, Theodore was elected as bishop of Edessa. He died in the year 848 A.D. Along with him is also mentioned his teacher, St. Theodosius the Syrian Stylite, his brother St. John the Hermit and St. Ader, a wealthy nobleman who left his wife and was tonsured a monk.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT PANCRATIUS [PANCRAS]
Pancratius holy, during his childhood,
Warmed himself in the sun of the face of Christ,
And summer after summer flies and flew away
But, in his mind, that face remained,
Day and night, magnificently before him to glow,
Therefore, everything that darkens that image, he rejected:
And the home of his parents and property, he left,
And left every deceptive desire,
And the pleasures of the world that pleases men,
In solitude he departed into a certain wilderness
That to the last day of his earthly course
Becomes intoxicated with the sweetness of the Divine Countenance.
Pancratius in such a way and the Lord otherwise
A glowing beacon does not easily conceal.
Sicily, a pagan land was,
To her [Sicily], the light of St. Pancratius was needed,
To her [Sicily], a witness of Christ's face was needed,
To her [Sicily], the blood of the martyr was needed,
All that she [Sicily] required, Pancratius gave,
As a martyr fell and immortal remained
And above Sicily, remained a light
The light of that face to forever warm it [Sicily].
Many ask themselves, why God takes young men, young girls and children from this life and why does He not permit them to grow old and then take them through death to the other world? That is God's plan of Dispensation and that is the holy will of His Providence. However, there are some examples in the enormous experience of the Church that sometimes God does so according to the wishes and prayers of his chosen ones in the other world or of relatives. St. Ader (in monasticism Athanasius) appeared to his wife, whom he had suddenly left with three children and entered a monastery where he died. When the wife reached a state of despair first, because of her concern for the helpless children and second, because of her concern for her husband for she did not know where he was, her husband then appeared to her from the other world in a dream with a glowing face and in a radiant white garment and said to her: "Cease to cry and to cry out against me. Behold, I will take two of the children from you to myself and you, if you want, to concern yourself with the salvation of your soul." At the same time and in the same manner, he also appeared to St. Theodosius the Stylite and said to him: "In three days an old hermitess who lives near the monastery will go to the Lord and in that cell put my wife so that she may live an ascetical life as a nun. Let the youngest child remain with her until he grows up. He will walk in my footsteps and will be the successor to the apostolic throne in Jerusalem." And in truth, all this occurred as was foretold. On the third day the old hermitess died and so also did Ader's two older children and his wife assumed the cell of the old hermitess along with the youngest son who, when he grew up, became the patriarch of Jerusalem.
To contemplate the miraculous victory over the Amalekites (Exodus 17):
1. How the people defeated the Amalekites as long as Moses prayed to God with upraised hands;
2. How Moses, with upraised hands in prayer prefigures the victorious crucifixion of Christ;
3. How through the power of the Cross and prayer, even I can conquer the darkened passions, which Amalek represents.
About the judgment of God over the righteous
"For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that do not obey the Gospel of the Son of God?" (1 Peter 4:17).
When the judgment of God comes upon the house of the righteous, let not the unrighteous maliciously rejoice, but let the unrighteous tremble with fear. If the righteous and the unrighteous are neighbors and the hand of God falls on the righteous, it has fallen on them both: the first to temper and the second to warn. When bitter suffering befalls the righteous, it does not befall him without the will of God. Let not the unrighteous rejoice for this suffering is more for his sake than for the sake of the righteous, that is to say, that he may see the wrath of God and hasten to change his spirit and to correct his works. Let him also ask himself: if there is such a great wrath of God on the righteous, how much more will there be on me?
Therefore, brethren know that justice is strength and injustice is weakness. Who can endure more and not break under the strain: might or weakness? Without a doubt, might. It is for this reason that a heavy yoke (burden) is placed upon the righteous. Let not the unrighteous ridicule when he sees the righteous under a heavy yoke and let him not say: my injustice is better than his justice! Let him look upon the yoke of the righteous with horror and trembling and let him sincerely say to himself: that is my yoke but I am entirely too weak to bear it, that is why it was thrown on his back, on the back of the righteous one, so that I may see and repent of my ways and through repentance become strengthened for the burden that awaits me. "Judgment must begin at the house of God," that is, the immeasurable mercy of God toward sinners, toward the weak ones who have become weakened by sin. Let them open their eyes and read the written wrath of God. "Judgment must begin at the house of God" for the house of God is strong and the house of God is a righteous man in which the Spirit of God abides. When the wind rocks the stony tower, then let the hut dwellers strengthen their huts.
O my brethren, how fateful and awesome are those apostolic words for sinners!
O Lord Jesus, Just and Merciful, Merciful and Just have mercy on us and save us.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.