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October 22

1. SAINT ABERCIUS, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES

During the reigns of Emperor Antoninus and his son, Marcus Aurelius, St. Abercius was the bishop of the city of Hierapolis in Phrygia. The great majority in this city were pagans, and St. Abercius governed his sparse flock, sorrowing in his heart because of the great number of pagans and idolaters, and diligently praying to God that He would bring them to the light of truth. During a boisterous idolatrous festival, Abercius became inflamed with God's zeal and entered the idolatrous temple, smashing all the idols. When the enraged pagans sought to kill him, three young madmen, foaming at the mouth and howling, fell down before this man of God, and he drove the demons from them. The young men became sane and calm. This turned the pagans' anger into amazement at the wonderworker of Christ, and five hundred of them immediately desired baptism. Little by little, all of Hierapolis came to believe in Christ and were baptized. The proconsul of the province, Publius, had a mother who was blind. Abercius restored her sight by prayer, and Publius, his mother and many others believed in Christ. In old age, Abercius was summoned to Rome, where he healed the emperor's daughter of insanity. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared several times to His faithful follower. People from near and far came to him for miraculous help when they suffered from incurable illnesses. The demons not only feared him, but also served him at his command. At the guidance of the Lord Himself, Abercius preached the Gospel throughout Syria and Mesopotamia. In great old age, St. Abercius presented himself to his beloved Lord in Hierapolis, at the end of the second century.

2. THE VENERABLE LOT

Lot was a great Egyptian ascetic and a contemporary of St. Arsenius the Great and St. Agathon. He lived a life of asceticism in his monastery near a lake at the town of Arsinoe, and directed many brethren on the path to salvation. His close friend and advisor was Abba Joseph. Lot once said to Joseph: "Abba, I fast as much as I can, hold fast to prayer, keep silence and contemplate, and also, through abstinence, guard myself from impure thoughts. Therefore, what else can I do?'' The elder stood up, raised his hands to heaven, and his ten fingers shone like ten flaming candles. He then replied: "If you desire, you can be all aflame!'' Having pleased God and set many on the path to salvation, St. Lot entered peacefully into rest in the fifth century.

3. COMMEMORATION OF THE MIRACULOUS DELIVERANCE OF MOSCOW FROM THE LITHUANIANS WITH THE HELP OF THE MOST-HOLY THEOTOKOS

During the reign of Prince Basil Ivanovich, the Lithuanians occupied Moscow and the Russians were in great despair. Then St. Sergius of Radonezh appeared in a vision to the captured Bishop Arsenius, and promised him that Moscow would be cleansed of the Lithuanians the very next day, by the power and prayer of the Holy Most-pure One. Indeed, the Lithuanians fled the city, and the Russian army re-entered Moscow. The entire populace glorified God and the Most-holy Theotokos with tears of joy.

HYMN OF PRAISE

SAINT ABERCIUS, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES

St. Abercius, a model of meekness,

Is a most beautiful example of Christian zeal.

He zealously toppled the dumb idols

And joyfully exposed himself to death.

But God protects the servant who strives for Him,

And shields him from evil with His right hand.

Against the saint, demons and men rose up,

But became shamefully silent before the power of the Cross.

What the saint desired, the Lord granted,

And though he was in much sorrow, he gladdened many.

St. Abercius was as a fiery pillar,

A light and an enlightener of men.

He preached Christ to many peoples-

From powerful emperors to the poor-

And witnessed Christ through many miracles.

He poured miracles out like living water;

By the life-creating word he assuaged the thirsty,

And with the teaching of Christ he fed the hungry.

St. Abercius, a model of meekness,

Gave himself to God in honorable old age,

And was crowned with eternal youth in Paradise,

Surrounded by the joy and glory of heaven.

O wonderful holy one, strive yet a little more:

Protect the remaining flock on earth,

Implore Christ's mercy on us through prayer,

That the Church will boast in you to the end.

REFLECTION

As much as the strictness of holy men toward themselves is a cause for amazement, so also is their compassion toward others. They have disinterest for themselves, and concern for others. St. Hilarion the Great, unable to pay his fare to Sicily, offered the owner of the ship his Gospel (which he, in his youth, had copied with his own hands). When he had cured a certain prince of an unclean spirit, the prince wanted to present him with ten liters of gold. The saint would not accept the gold, but showed him barley bread and said: "Those who feed on this kind of bread look upon gold as mud!'' When men begged him to pray to God for rain, or to save them from floods or poisonous snakes, St. Hilarion helped them by his prayer. This is how St. Abercius acted as well. Seeing many people in pain and sickness, he knelt in a certain place and prayed to God that He would open up a spring of warm, healing water there, that the infirm might be healed and glorify God. God then opened a spring of warm water on that spot. When Abercius healed the emperor's daughter of insanity, the emperor offered him gold, silver and other gifts, but St. Abercius said: "Riches are not needed for one who considers bread and water a royal meal.'' Not seeking anything for himself, Abercius nevertheless begged the emperor to do two favors for his flock in Hierapolis: to build a bath over those healing waters, and to give sufficient wheat each year to the poor of Hierapolis. The emperor agreed and did according to the saint's request.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate the miraculous healing of Aeneas of Lydda (Acts 9):

1. How Aeneas had lain paralyzed for eight years;

2. How the Apostle Peter healed him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ;

3. How Aeneas arose healthy.

HOMILY

on the beauty of Christ above all other beauty

Thou art fairer than the sons of men (Psalm 45:2).

Holy Scripture does not ascribe any particular value to physical beauty, and in general to anything transient. That is why everyone who reads Holy Scripture should take care to be sufficiently attentive and wise to transfer the praise of physical beauty to the soul and to spiritual values. Without a doubt, spiritual beauty gives a wondrous attractiveness to the most unattractive body, just as an ugly soul makes even the most attractive body repulsive. The Prophet David, pouring forth good words (Psalm 45:1), says to his King, the Lord Jesus Christ: Thou art fairer than the sons of men. The Lord Himself created His bodily cloak as He wanted. Had He wanted to appear in the world as the physically fairest of men, He could have done so. But there is nothing in the Gospel to indicate that He drew followers to Himself or influenced men by His appearance. He Himself said: the flesh profiteth nothing (John 6:63). Therefore, it is clear that David was not speaking of the physical beauty of Christ, but of His spiritual, divine beauty. This is clearly seen in the following words of the Psalmist: Grace is poured forth upon thy lips (Psalm 45:2). So it is that the unsurpassed beauty of the Son of God is not in the form and shape of His lips, but rather in the stream of grace that flows from His mouth. Again, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of Christ: He had no form or comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him (Isaiah 53:2-3). Do Isaiah and David agree? Perfectly well. David speaks of Christ's inward beauty, and Isaiah speaks of Christ's external abasement. Isaiah said that He would not be seen as a king or a rich man, but as a servant and sufferer.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou art fairer to us than all men and angels: glory to Thine immortal and unending beauty. O gracious Lord, correct the ugliness of our souls, which are disfigured by sin, we pray Thee.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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