1. VENERABLE THEOPHANES THE CONFESSOR
Theophanes is called the Sygrian [Sigrian] because of Sygriana [Sigriana], the place of his birth. He was a kinsman of the Emperor Leo Isaurian and his son Copronymos. He possessed great wealth and splendor. But all of this lost its worth for Theophanes when the Lord Christ began to reign in his soul. He resisted his own marriage and, when he was compelled to marry, succeeded in counseling his bride to live together in chastity, as brother and sister. As soon as his parents died, his wife entered a convent and he, a monastery. His monastery was located in the Sygrian Mountains in the Province of Cyzicus. The one-time glorious and wealthy Theophanes lived in this monastery as the least of the poor. All were amazed at the change in him. Having become renown because of his strong faith, abstinence, and wisdom, he was summoned to the Seventh Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 783 A.D.]where the veneration of icons was confirmed. Because of his purity and chastity, God bestowed upon him the gift of performing miracles, by which he cured all diseases, especially maniacal disorders and insanity. He prayed to God for all the sick and the unfortunate and, through his prayers, helped them. Only when he became ill and his illness lingered for a while, did he refuse to pray to God for the restoration of his own health but endured his illness with gratitude. When the Iconoclastic persecution resumed again under the wicked Leo the Armenian, Theophanes was brought to Constantinople and cast into prison, where he languished for two years in hardships, pain and humiliation. Then the emperor banished him into exile to the island of Samothrace, which he had earlier foreseen in his spirit and had mentioned it to his jailers. After he arrived at Samothrace, he lived for twenty-three days and appeared before His Lord and Creator to receive his merited wreath of glory.
2. VENERABLE SIMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN
This God-bearing and great Father of the Church was born in Galatia, Paphlagonia. Simeon was educated in Constantinople and was assigned as a courtier in attendance to the Emperors Basil and Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Simeon left all for the sake of Christ and retreated to a monastery. He lived a life of asceticism under the direction of the Elder Simeon, after which he became the abbot of the Monastery of St. Mamas and in the end became a recluse. He is the greatest theologian after St. Gregory the Theologian. Simeon felt God's Grace in his heart. His words are true spiritual and theological revelations. He died in 1032 A.D. His relics are miracle-performing.
3. SAINT GREGORY DIALOGUES, THE POPE OF ROME
The son of Senator Gordianus and afterwards, himself, a senator and mayor of the city of Rome. As soon as his father died, Gregory surrendered himself to the spiritual life. From his wealth he built six monasteries in Sicily and the seventh in the city of Rome, in honor of St. Andrew the Apostle, in which he was tonsured a monk. Sylvia, his mother, entered a convent and was tonsured a nun. After the death of Pope Pelagius II, Gregory was chosen Pope. He fled from this honor and authority hiding himself in the mountains and ravines, but the Lord revealed him to those who were seeking him in the following manner: a fiery column appeared from the ground to heaven over the place where Gregory hid himself. He was exceptionally charitable. All of his income was used for building shelters and hospices for the needy. Often he invited less fortunate men and served them around the table. He spent his time writing beneficial [inspirational] books. He is also called Dialogues because he wrote a book under that name in which he extolled the miracles of the Italian saints. He also composed the "Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts," which is celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays of the Great Lenten Season. His Arch-deacon Peter saw a dove flying above Gregory's head as he was seated and writing. He presented himself before the Lord in the year 604 A.D.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Leo the Armenian offers Theophanes,
Offers riches as much as he wants,
Only his name to sign
On the evil roster of iconoclasts.
From the dungeon, Theophanes to him, writes:
O, emperor, to please you I cannot,
Neither, can I to God and to you be true.
While I was young and agreeable to the world
Immense wealth, I had,
Left all and turned to God,
Distributed all, and to the wilderness retreated,
Yet in the wilderness I did not have hunger,
By Himself, God feeds and sweetens me.
In my old age, what do you offer me?
Dust that I despised in early youth!
Nothing, O emperor, to me can you give
That the Lord does not give me a hundred-fold,
Except tortures, for which I waited so long,
From the world, tortures will separate me
And unite me with the All-Precious Lord.
O, emperor, why do you against icons, wage war?
Was not Christ Himself as an icon,
As an icon of the Eternal Hypostases,
As an icon of the Trinity Almighty,
As an icon of the unseen God,
Unseen and unapproachable.
Both you and me, will He judge,
Rule, O emperor, hope in your replacement.
The world passes, only God remains,
Whoever is with God, does not fear the world.
No one, not even the Lord Himself, can easily instruct the proud. No one wants to give instructions to him who cries out that he knows everything. "For great is the power of God; by the humble, He is glorified" says the wise Sirach. (The Book of Ecclesiasticus - Sirach 3:19), David also speaks about God saying, "He guides the humble to justice, He teaches the humble His way" (Psalm 25:9). The proud person is he who wants to teach everyone and himself does not want to be taught anything by anyone. The humble is he who does not wish to teach anyone but continually desires to be taught regardless by whom. An empty spike [ear] of grain raises its head above the entire field and the full spike [ear] of grain hangs down with bowed head. O proud man, if only your Guardian Angel would somehow remove the veil from your eyes and show you the endless open sea of all that you do not know, you would kneel before every man before whom you have exhibited pride and kneel before every man whom you have belittled. You would cry out lamenting, "Forgive me, forgive me! I do not know anything!" Often times, to the humble and pius the time when they are about to die is revealed, but the death of the proud comes unexpectedly and without warning. St. Gregory Dialogues speaks of a bishop, Carpus, who daily celebrated the Divine Liturgy and how suddenly someone appeared from the other world and said, "Continue to do what you are doing in serving me and may your legs never grow tired or your hands weakened. On the feast day of the Dormition of the Mother of God [The Assumption], you will come to Me and I will give you your reward in My Heavenly Kingdom, together with all of those for whom you have prayed at the Divine Services." After a year, on the feast of the Dormition, Bishop Carpus celebrated the Divine Liturgy of God, sought forgiveness from his priests, and gave up his soul to God. His face glowed like the sun.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus before Pilate:
1. How the Jews accused Him before Pilate and how He does not say anything;
2. How He does not reply, even to Pilate's questions;
3. How our Lord speaks when it is necessary to defend men from the devil, from sin, from disease and death but is silent when it is asked that He, the Defender of Men, protect Himself from man.
Again, about the second coming of Christ
"And all the nations will be assembled before Him" (St. Matthew 25:32).
All the nations will be assembled before the Lord Jesus when He appears in His glory surrounded by Holy Angels sitting on a throne as the judge of all the living and the dead. "All nations will be assembled," all, without exception. Not only the Jews who tormented Him, not only the Christians who glorified Him but also the heathen who knew Him not, nor acknowledged Him. For if He did not appear to all nations, He sent to all nations someone or He gave something for the sake of knowing God's will and for the sake of salvation. That is why all nations must appear before Him for judgment. O what an awesome and majestic spectacle when all the nations and all the tribes on earth are assembled before the Lord, Who is brighter than many suns. What joy for the holy martyrs and confessors when they see how, in this countless mass of nations, there is not one tongue left at all to deny the divinity of the Lord Jesus! But, it will not be of any value to anyone in that hour and in that place to recognize and to confess the divinity of our great Lord, if they denied Him on earth. There and then accounts will settled, not gain nor loss. He who appears before the Lord with whatsoever, with that he will be either condemned or justified.
Now is the time to acknowledge the divinity of the Lord Jesus, now, when many deny Him and when His divinity is doubted by many. They who love the Lord and who have trust in all of His words will easily acknowledge this. For when He says this, about what do they who love Him have to worry, to doubt, or to hesitate.
O Lord, Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us!
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.