1. THE HOLY PROPHET ELISHA
Elisha lived nine hundred years before Christ. When the Lord willed to take the aged Prophet Elijah to Himself, He revealed to him that He had designated Elisha, the son of Shaphat of the tribe of Reuben from the town of Abel-Meholah, as his successor in the prophetic service. Elijah informed Elisha of God's will and draped him with his mantle and implored from God the two-fold grace of prophecy for him. Elisha immediately departed his home and family and followed Elijah. When the Lord took Elijah in a fiery chariot, Elisha remained to continue the prophetic service with yet a greater power than Elijah.
By his purity and zeal, Elisha was equal to the greatest prophets and, by the miraculous power that was given to him by God, Elisha exceeded them all. He parted the waters of the Jordan as Moses once parted the Red Sea; the bitter waters in Jericho he made drinkable; he brought forth water into the excavated trenches during the war with the Moabites; he multiplied the oil in the pots of the poor widow; he resurrected the dead son of the Shunammite woman; he fed a hundred people with twenty small loaves of bread; he healed Commander Naaman of leprosy; he invoked leprosy upon his servant Gehazi because of his greed; he blinded the entire Syrian army and also forced another army to flee; he foretold many events to the people as well as to individuals. Elisha died at a very old age.
2. SAINT METHODIUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE
Methodius was born in the town of Syracuse in Sicily. After the completion of his secular studies, he was tonsured a monk and began to live a life of asceticism in a monastery. Patriarch Nicephorus took him into his service. During the reign of the iconoclastic emperors, he became widely known as a superb defender of the veneration of icons. For this, the wicked Emperor Theophilus exiled him to an island with two common criminals where he languished in a damp prison for seven years without light and without sufficient food as though in a grave. During the time of the pious Empress Theodora and her son Michael, Methodius was freed and was chosen as patriarch (according to an earlier prophecy of St. Joannicius the Great). The first week of the Great Fast [Lenten Season] Methodius solemnly carried the icons into the church and wrote a Canon in honor of icons. Unable to outwit him, the vile heretics hired a woman who declared that the patriarch had an impure relationship with her. The whole of Constantinople was horrified at this slander. Nevertheless, not knowing how he could otherwise prove his innocence, the patriarch overcame his embarrassment, removed his clothes and stood naked before the court which he himself had requested, and showed his withered body, debilitated from fasting. The court was clearly convinced that the patriarch had been slandered. Hearing of this, the people rejoiced and the heretics were shamed. Then, the woman admitted that she was persuaded and paid to bring this slander against the saint of God. Thus, those who thought to bring shame upon Methodius unintentionally increased his fame. This great confessor of the Faith died peacefully in the year 846 A.D. and took up habitation in the Kingdom of God.
3. SAINT JOHN, METROPOLITAN OF EUCHAITA
John was surnamed Mavron "The Black." He was a very educated man and, at the same time, a spiritual man. At the time of Emperor Alexius Comnenis, John in his old age, became the metropolitan of Euchaita. He is especially famous in that St. Basil, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chyrsostom (January 30) appeared and explained to him how all three of them are equally glorified in heaven. After this vision the dispute among the people concerning who of the three saints was greater and who was lesser was quieted down. St. John also wrote the famous Canon to the Most Sweet Jesus and a Canon to the Guardian angel and, in addition to this, other beneficial writings. He died peacefully in the year 1100 A.D.
4. VENERABLE NIPHON
Niphon was born in the region of Argyrokastron in the village of Lukov. He was the son of a priest. From his youth he was attracted to solitude and prayer. That desire finally led him to Mt. Athos where he lived a life of asceticism, at first in the cave of St. Peter the Athonite and, after that, in the wilderness of St. Anne. He did not even want to eat bread but fed on vegetation and roots. Some envious ones accused him of loathing bread and from this accusation he easily and quickly justified himself. Finally, he became associated with St. Maximus of Kapsokalyvia. Because of his sincere love for God, Niphon was endowed with the gift of miracle-working and discernment. He healed the sick by his prayer and by anointing with oil and discerned events which had occurred and which will take place. About himself he prophesied that he would die during the Fast of Saint Peter [This fast precedes the feast of Saints Peter and Paul]. When the day of his death dawned, he said to the brethren assembled around him: "Do not weep, rather rejoice, for in me you will have an intercessor before God for your salvation." Finally, he said: "It is time for me to depart" and he gave up his holy soul to God on June 14, 1330 A.D.
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE PROPHET ELISHA AND COMMANDER NAAMAN (2 KINGS 5)
What do riches and this beautiful world help,
What all authority and power, when a man is leprous?
But the commander Naaman covered with leprosy,
From leprosy, completely white as though molded from pus.
But the commander, to the man of God hurries,
Only from him, just hoping for a cure,
With his entire caravan of clothes and gold,
This, for the man of God, let it be a reward!
Elisha said to him: to the Jordan go,
And in the water, seven times to bathe.
In his misfortune Naaman became angry:
A river more clear and larger, do we not have?
And quickly to his home, wanted to return,
But from that, his wise servant dissuaded him.
O Master he said: do not give up quickly,
Behold, Jordan is nearby; go and bathe!
Naaman hearkened to him and hastened toward Jordan
And in the river, seven times immersed.
Naaman became whole and the leprosy disappeared,
Naaman became whole and pure as a child,
God is One, the God of Israel, he cried out,
He performs glorious miracles in abundance!
The all-wise St. John Chrysostom said: "A place will not save us if we do not carry out the will of God." It is told of a monk who lived in a monastery where five brethren loved him and one brother offended him. Because of this one brother who offended him, he moved to another monastery. However, in this monastery eight of the brethren loved him and two of the brethren offended him. He then fled to a third monastery. But here, seven of the brethren loved him and five of the brethren offended him. He set out for a fourth monastery but along the way he thought: "How long will I flee from place to place? I will never find peace in the whole world. It would be better for me to become patient." He pulled out a piece of paper and wrote in bold letters: "I will endure all for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." When he entered the fourth monastery here also some love him and others offended him. But he patiently began to endure the offenses. As soon as someone offended him, he would take out that piece of paper and read: "I will endure all for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." So with patience he succeeded and all loved him and he remained in that monastery until his death.
To contemplate the Lord's miraculous walking on the water as though on dry land: "But in the fourth watch of the night Jesus came to them walking upon the sea" (St. Matthew 14:25):
1. How the Lord walking alone on top of the water called Peter also: "And He said, Come!" (St. Matthew 14:29). Peter sets out but because of little faith began to sink;
2. How the Lord also calls me to walk over the passionate dampness and tempest and how I set out but sink because of my little faith.
About humility as a precursor of glory [honor]
" And humility goes before honors [glory]" (Proverbs 15:33).
Here, the word is about true glory and not false glory; about glory that is eternal and not about glory that dies. Glory that is of man is glory that dies, and glory that is of God is eternal. Those whom men glorified are not glorified and those whom God glorifies are glorified. Our Lord said to the Jewish scribes: "How can you believe who receive glory [honor] from one another and do not seek the glory [honor] which is from the only God?" (St. John 5:44). See how our Lord makes a distinction between the glory from men and the glory from God. And about Himself, He said: "I do not receive glory from men" (St John 5:41). He who seeks glory from men travels the path of pride and he who seeks glory from God travels the path of humility. No one is glorified by God without humility. The saints of God were the most humble servants of God. The Most Holy Birth-giver of God [Theotokos] was adorned with overwhelming humility. To her great humility, she ascribed her being chosen as the Mother of God: "Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid" (St. Luke 1:48). But the humblest of the most humble, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, was the founder of asceticism. During His earthly life, humility always preceded glory.
Brethren, it must also be that way in our life if we desire true glory. For if humility does not precede glory, glory will never come.
O Lord Jesus, Model and Teacher of humility, our only glory and the Glorifier of all the humble and meek, inspire us with Your inexpressible humility.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.