Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
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October 111. The Holy Apostle Philip
Philip was born in Palestinian Caesarea. He was married and had four daughters. All four were endowed by God with the gift of prophecy, and all four were vowed virgins for the sake of Christ. When the holy apostles chose deacons, Philip was chosen with Stephen and the others. He served the needy and widows with great diligence. When the persecution of Christians began in Jerusalem, Apostle Philip found refuge in Samaria, and there preached the Gospel and gave witness by many miracles: driving out demons, healing the sick, and so forth. Seeing the miracles of the holy apostle, Simon the Magician was baptized. St. Philip also baptized the eunuch of Queen Candace. After that, an angel of God suddenly and invisibly translated him to Azotus, where he taught, preached and converted many to Christ. Philip was appointed Bishop of Tralles. He reposed peacefully in deep old age, and took up his habitation in the joy of his Lord.
2. The Commemoration of the Seventh Ecumenical Council
The Seventh Ecumenical Council was held in 787 at Nicaea during the reign of the devout Empress Irene and her son, Constantine, in the time of Patriarch Tarasius. This Council finally confirmed the veneration of icons, justifying it by Holy Scripture, by the witness of the Holy Fathers, and by the undeniable example of miracles manifested through the holy icons. Adding to examples of miracles previously cited, Bishop Constantine of Cyprus recounted this: One day, a certain shepherd from the town of Constantia drove his flock to pasture, and there saw an icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, all decorated with flowers by the faithful. ``Why render so much honor to a rock?'' said the shepherd, who had obviously been brought up in iconoclasm. He struck the icon with his iron shepherd's cane, and damaged the right eye of the image of the Mother of God. As soon as he turned away, he stumbled over that same cane and gouged out his own right eye. Thus injured, he returned to the city, crying out tearfully that the punishment of the Theotokos had befallen him. This Council also decreed that the holy relics of a martyr be placed, without fail, in the Antimension. Three hundred and sixty-seven Fathers participated in this Council. May the Lord also have mercy on us and save us by their prayers.
3. The Venerable Theophanes the Branded
Theophanes was a confessor and writer of canons. He was born in Arabia of wealthy and pious parents. With his brother Theodore (December 27), he was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified. As they were very educated monks, Patriarch Thomas of Jerusalem sent them to Emperor Leo the Armenian, to justify and defend the veneration of icons. The iniquitous emperor harshly tortured these holy brothers and cast them into prison. Later, the iconoclastic Emperor Theophilus resumed their torture and commanded that words of mockery be branded on their faces, to expose them to the ridicule of the world. When the iconoclastic controversy was resolved, Theophanes was freed, and shortly thereafter was consecrated a bishop. He died peacefully in the year 847, having suffered for the holy icons for a total of twenty-five years. He wrote 145 Canons. He entered into the eternal joy of his Lord.
4. Saint Nectarius, Patriarch of Constantinople
As a layman and a high-ranking court official, Nectarius was unanimously chosen as patriarch in 381, succeeding St. Gregory the Theologian. He was distinguished by profound understanding, tact and zeal for the Church. He reposed peacefully in the year 397.
5. The Holy Martyrs Zinaida and Philonilla
Zinaida and Philonilla were sisters by birth, and were born in Tarsus. They are called the kinswomen of St. Paul the Apostle. Remaining virgins, they renounced the world for the sake of Christ, and, withdrawing to a cave, lived the ascetic life. They were knowledgeable in medicine and healed many of the sick. Because of her great fasting, Philonilla especially was vouchsafed the gift of miracle-working. Certain unbelievers attacked them one night and stoned them to death.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Theophanes of St. Sava's, a great ascetic,
Just as, by God's providence, the power of miraculous healing is given to blessed water or sanctified oil, so this same power is also given to icons. St. Athanasius the Great cites one wonderful example of the miraculous power of holy icons: In the town of Beirut, there lived a Christian in a rented house. In moving out of the house, he forgot an icon of the Savior. Then a Jew moved into that house. There were many Jews in that town who were particularly embittered against the Christian Faith. Consequently, when the icon was found in the house, the Jews carried it to their gathering place and mocked it, as their ancestors had once mocked the living Savior. The Jews also did to the icon what their ancestors had done to the Savior: they pierced the hands and feet with nails, wiped vinegar on the lips of the image on the icon, and mocked the image of the Savior in every way possible. Finally, one of them took a spear and struck the divine image under the rib. But oh, the wonder-blood and water flowed from the image's wound as they had from the living body of the crucified Lord. The Jews' terror cannot be described. However, they brought a vessel to catch the blood, and brought many of the sick, blind, deaf, lame and insane to the icon. As soon as the Jews anointed the ailing with this blood, they were healed. The whole town gathered to see this miracle and all glorified Jesus Christ, the true God; and all the Jews in that town came to believe in the living and life-giving Lord Jesus Christ.
Contemplate the numerous unrighteous acts of the people of Israel, and the numerous punishments that God visited upon them (II Kings 24):
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters (Psalm 29:3).
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