The Divine Light

Sts. Julitta and Cerycus

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

PSALM 86 [87]

His foundation is the Holy mountains. More than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God! I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to those who know Me; Behold, O Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia: This one was born there. And of Zion it will be said, This one and that one were born in her; And the Most High Himself shall establish her. The Lord will record, When He registers the peoples: This one was born there. Both the singers and the players on instruments say, All my springs are in you.


On July 15th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates and honors the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyrs Julitta and Cerycus; Saint Vladimir, Great Prince of Kiev; Saint Abudimos of the isle of Tenedos; Finding the head (holy relics) of Saint Matrona of Chios.

HOLY MARTYRS CERYCUS AND JULITTA. Holy Julitta was of noble birth. She was widowed young, and left with a newborn child, Cerycus. She lived in Iconium, a city of Lycaonia, and was a very devout Christian. She had her son baptized immediately after his birth and, when he was three years old, instructed him in the Faith and taught him to pray insofar as a child of that age is capable of learning. When the pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian launched a persecution of Christians, much innocent blood was shed in the city of Iconium. St. Julitta took her son and hid from the wrath of the pagans in the town of Seleucid, but things were no better there. Saint Julitta was arrested as a Christian and brought to trial. Seeing Julitta so courageously proclaim her faith in the Lord Jesus, the governor, to distress her and make her waver, took the child in his arms and began to kiss it. But St. Cerycus shouted: "I am a Christian; let me go to my mother!", and he began to kick and strike the governor, turning his face away from him. The governor was furious and threw the three-year old child to the ground and kicked him, and the child rolled down the stone steps and gave his holy and innocent soul to God. Seeing how St. Cerycus suffered before her, Saint Julitta was filled with joy and gave thanks to God that her son had been counted worthy of the wreath of martyrdom. After harsh torture, Saint Julitta was beheaded, in the year of Our Lord 304 AD. The holy relics of Saints Cerycus and Julitta have wonderworking power to this day. A part of the holy relics of these Saints and Holy Martyrs is to be found in Ochrid, in the church of the Holy Mother of God, the Healer.

SAINT VLADIMIR, GREAT PRINCE OF RUSSIA AND EQUAL-TO-THE APOSTLES. Saint Vladimir was the son of Prince Svytoslav, and grandson of Igor and Olga, and was at first completely pagan in faith and life. Learning of the existence of various faiths, he began to examine them, to decide which was best. He therefore sent envoys to Constantinople. When they returned, they told the Prince that they had been at a service in the Orthodox Church of Sophia (Orthodox Cathedral dedicated to the Wisdom of God), and that they had been "out of ourselves, not knowing if we were on earth or in Heaven." This inspired Saint Vladimir to be baptized, receiving the name Vasilios, and to baptize his people. The chief idol, Perun, was dragged off the hill of Kiev and thrown into the Dnieper. Embracing the Christian faith, St. Vladimir utterly changed his way of life and devoted all his labor to the perfect fulfilling of the demands of his faith. He decreed that churches be built throughout the land on the places where the idols had been pulled down, and himself built a beautiful church in Kiev to the Most Holy Mother of God. This church was built on the self-same spot where Saint Theodore and his son John suffered martyrdom for Christ. With the same irresistible force with which St. Vladimir earlier upheld idolatry, he now spread Christianity. He entered into rest in the Lord in 1015 AD.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen


Holy Epistle Lesson: Saint Titus 3:8-15
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 5:14-19


"Above all things: forget not the poor, but support them to the extent of your means. Give to the orphan, protect the widow, and permit the mighty to destroy no man. Take not the life of the just or the unjust, nor permit him to be killed. Destroy no Christian soul, even though he be guilty of murder" [Saint Vladimir of Kiev].

by Vladimir Lossky [source: Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church]

Union with God is a mystery which is worked out in human persons.

The personal character of a human being who has entered on the way of union is never impaired, even though he renounces his own will and his natural inclinations. It is just by this free renunciation of all which by nature belongs to it that the human personality comes to its full realization in grace. What is not free and definitely conscious has no personal value. Deprivation and suffering cannot become a way toward union unless they are freely accepted. One who has reached perfection is fully conscious of his acts of will; he is freed from all constraint and from all natural necessity. The further a person advances in the way of union, the greater is his growth in consciousness. This awareness in the ways of spiritual life is called knowledge (γνώσις) by Eastern ascetical writers. (In the higher stages of the mystical way, it is fully revealed as perfect knowledge of the Holy Trinity). That is why Evagrius Ponticus identifies the Kingdom of God with knowledge of the Holy Trinity--awareness of the object of union. On the other hand, lack of awareness (άγνοια), pushed to its furthest limits, would be nothing other than hell, the final destruction of the person. Spiritual life--the growth of the human person in grace--always has this quality of awareness; the absence of this quality is a mark of sin, "the sleep of the soul." The soul must therefore be constantly on guard, we must "walk as children of life", in the words of Saint Paul: "Awake, thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." (Ephesians 5:8 and 14).

The Holy Bible is full of expressions relating to light, to the divine illumination, to God Who is called light. In the mystical theology of the Eastern Church, these expressions are not used as metaphors or as figures of speech, but as expressions for a real aspect of the Godhead. If God is called Light, it is because he cannot remain foreign to our experience. Gnosis, the highest stage of awareness of the divine, is an experience of uncreated light, the experience itself of being light: "In Thy light, we shall see light." It is both that which one perceives, and that by which one perceives in mystical experience. For Saint Symeon the New Theologian, the experience of light, which is conscious spiritual life, or gnosis, reveals the presence of the grace which a person has acquired. "We do not speak of things of which we are ignorant", he says, "but we bear witness to that which we know. For the light already shines in the darkness, in the night and in the day, in our hearts and never extinguished enlightens us; it speaks, it acts, it lives and gives life, it transforms into light those whom it illumines. God is light, and those Whom He makes worthy to see Him, see Him as light; those who receive Him, receive Him as light. For the light of His glory goes before His face, and it is impossible that He should appear otherwise than as light. Those who have not seen this light, have not seen God: for God is light. Those who have not received this light, have not yet received grace, for in receiving grace, one receives the divine light, and God Himself…those who have not yet participated in this light, find themselves always under the yoke of the law, in the region of shadows and fantasies; they are still the children of the bondwoman. Kings or patriarchs, bishops or priests, princes or servants, seculars or monks, all are equally in the shadows and walk in darkness, unless they are willing to repent as they ought to do. For repentance is the gate which leads from the realm of darkness into that of light. Those therefore who are not yet in the light, have not truly crossed the threshold of repentance…The servants of sin hate the light, fearing that it will reveal their hidden works." Whereas the life of sin is sometimes willfully unconscious (we shut our eyes in order not to see God), the life of grace is an increasing progress in knowledge, a growing experience of the divine light.

According to Saint Macarius of Egypt, the fire of grace kindled in the hearts of Christians by the Holy Spirit makes them shine like tapers before the Son of God, Sometimes this divine fire, bestowed in proportion to the response of the human will, burns brightly and with an increasing light; sometimes it decreases and shines no more in a heart troubled by passions. "The immaterial and divine fire enlightens and tests souls. This fire descended on the Apostles in the form of fiery tongues; this fire shone upon Saint Paul, it spoke to him, it enlightened his mind, and at the same time it blinded his eyes, for flesh cannot bear the brightness of this light. This fire Moses saw in the burning bush; this fire in the form of a chariot caught up Elijah from the earth…Angels and spirits in the service of God participate in the brightness of this fire…This fire expels demons and destroys sin. It is the power of the resurrection, the reality of eternal life, the enlightenment of holy souls, the strengthening of the rational powers. "

These are the divine energies, the "rays of divinity' of which Saint Dionysius the Areopagite speaks: the creative powers which penetrate throughout the universe, and make themselves known, not through any created being, as the Unapproachable Light wherein the Holy Trinity dwells. The energies, bestowed upon Christians by the Holy Spirit, no longer appear as exterior causes, but as grace, an interior light, which transform nature in deifying it. "God is light," says Saint Gregory Palamas, "not with reference to His essence, but to His energy." In as far as God reveals Himself, communicates Himself and is able to be known, He is the light. The divine light is not an allegorical or abstract thing; it is given in mystical experience.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George