1. SAINT NICEPHORUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE
Nicephorus governed the Holy Church wisely and zealously as one of the greatest Arch-pastors of Constantinople. When Leo the Armenian rose up against icons, Nicephorus alone defied the emperor. He first counseled the emperor and then later unmasked him. That is why the depraved emperor banished him to the island of Prokenesis. On this island there was a monastery which Nicephorous had built in honor of Saint Theodore. This confessor of the Orthodox Faith remained in this monastery for thirteen years and afterwards presented himself to the Lord in the year 827 A.D. Since all the iconoclastic emperors had perished, and Michael, with his mother Theodora, sat on the Imperial Throne, Patriarch Methodius then was restored to the Patriarchal Throne. The relics of St. Nicephorous were translated from Prokenesis to Constantinople in 846 A.D. and were reposed, first in the Church of the Divine Wisdom of God [St. Sophia], from which he was banished during his life, and later reposed in the Church of the Twelve Apostles. The principal feast of this great hierarch is commemorated on June 2 and again on March 13 when the discovery and translation of his incorruptible relics is commemorated. On March 13, St. Nicephorous was banished from Constantinople and then, again, on March 13, nineteen years later, his relics were returned to the Capitol.
2. SAINT CHRISTINA THE PERSIAN
For her unwavering confession of faith in Christ, she was cruelly tortured in Persia in the fourth century. So much did they torture her, flogging her with a whip, that she became weak and died. Her soul then departed from her tortured body and entered into the joy of Christ, the King and Lord.
3. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR, PUBLIUS
This priestly-martyr was successor to the episcopal throne of the glorious Dionysius the Areopagite in Athens. As a bishop, he was tortured by the pagans and beheaded in the second century. After a brief period of torture, he inherited life eternal.
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE CITY OF CONSTANTINOPLE
Constantinople, wondrous city near the Bosphorus blue,
With your glory, whose glory can be measured?
You were an awesome battleground of spiritual warriors,
Blasphemous heretics and saints of God.
As through a sieve you sifted throughout the centuries long
And declared apostates and servants of God.
By many sins you are soiled, and by filth of sinners,
You are consecrated with the abundance of the blood of martyrs.
Who could enumerate the spiritual heroes,
And all heavenly visions and your mysteries, all?
The angels of God often swooped down upon you,
And men, as angels, to heaven were raised.
The Mother of God, many times, within you appeared,
To deliver those in danger, the sick to heal.
The flock of wonderful saints, over you, hover
And the prayers of your children, to the Most High, bear.
O, how many saints were your children!
As many as there are lilies next to lilies and saints next to saints!
History and calendar, in red, you wrote,
By your effort even the great Symbol [The Creed] was written.
And about you, in such a way, this could be said:
Among the many cities, a red letter you are.
With Holy Faith, you enlightened the universe
From paganism and heresies, the world you healed.
Tortured much, but not slain, you have not yet passed.
That is why we all celebrate you! Confessor, that you are!
Throughout the earth and in the heavens, your glory echoes;
Everyone baptized, a great gratitude owes you.
Great are those Christians who have a great love for Christ. O, in truth, how great were those Christians; those God-bearing fathers and martyrs! For so many in our time, this is impossible even to imagine. This is what one of them, St. Simeon, the New Theologian, confessed before all the monks in his monastery: Speaking from his own personal experience about how the words of the Lord, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (St. Matthew 11:29), were realized in him. Simeon said, "Believe me, when I fled to God, my Savior, I did not encounter anything sorrowful, difficult or unbearable. The only great and unbearable sorrow I had was that I could not find enough satisfactory reasons to die for the sake of the love for Christ." Are not such souls as a burning flame enclosed in eathern vessels? Burning flames are always upright, directed toward heaven. Only remove the covering and the flame will shoot upward.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus at the judgment before Herod:
1. How Herod at first was very kind because he saw Jesus not out of any spiritual need, but out of curiosity;
2. How Herod had hoped to see a miracle from Jesus, but he was fooled for the Lord remained silent to all of his questions;
3. How Herod ridiculed the Lord and how he clothed Him in a white garment.
About the reconciliation of the wicked for the sake of evil
"Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly" (St. Luke 23:13).
In His shame and humiliation, the Just Man does good to His enemies. He reconciles them. It is true, in this case, that their reconciliation did not imply mutual cooperation for some good deed but mutual persecution of the Just One. At least the flame of hatred between them was extinguished and died out. That was the reward of the Just One. Pilate and Herod were enemies. On that day, when the Savior was brought for judgment, before the one and the other, they [Pilate and Herod]were reconciled. The Prince of Peace brought peace between the quarreling parties; peace which helped to hew out a cross for Him. But He also comes to be a willing sacrifice for the sins of many.
Even today common enemies make peace among themselves when they find it necessary to attack and condemn the Lord. There are many who kill one another until you mention the Name of the Lord to them. As soon as they hear that Name, they gradually make peace among themselves for the sake of attacking that Holy Name. It is easier for the unjust to tolerate the unjust than it is for them to tolerate the just. It is easier for the unjust to come to an understanding and reconciliation with the unjust than with the just.
Even in some countries, the most quarrelsome parties seek reconciliation among themselves when it is deemed necessary to decide what place should be given to the Lord Jesus Christ in the State, either to render Him the first place, which is befitting to Him, or the last place? To these questions sworn enemies reconcile among themselves in order that our Lord will be given the last place only. So, also, it was with the quarreling parties of Pharisees and Saducees who were reconciled and entered into a partnership against Christ.
Why is it that the Most Pure and the Most Needed had to be awarded the last place? Because, according to their thinking, the first place would then be reserved for them. The same incentive was there between sworn enemies, the Pharisees and Saducees, when it was deemed necessary to seek to put Christ to death. The same incentive was the occasion that caused the reconciliation between Pilate and Herod when it was deemed necessary to judge that Christ had to be put to death.
O my brethren, let us not ever seek peace with injustice against justice. Rather, let us always seek peace with God, and that with a clear conscience.
O God, help us so that we may always possess such a peace.