My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
SUNDAY OF THE PUBLICAN AND PHARISEE
The Logos/Word humbled Himself even to the form of a servant, showed that humility is the best path to exaltation. Every man, then, who humbles himself according to the Lord's example, is exalted on high.
The Pharisee was exalted in his righteousness, and so he fell. The Publican was abased, defiled by many sins; yet he was exalted and, against all expectation, he was justified.
Though he was rich in virtues, foolish pride brought the Pharisee to poverty; but in the extremity of his need the Publican was justified through humility. Let us also gain humility.
O Master and Savior, Thou hast warned us that Thou dost resist the proud but givest Thy grace to the humble. Send now Thy grace upon us, for we have humbled ourselves.
The Savior and Master, ever leading us to divine exaltation, in His actions revealed to us the humility that raises us on high. For with His own hands He washed the feet of the disciples.
O Virgin, who hast borne the Light that no man can approach, with thy light-giving radiance disperse the darkness of my soul: take me by the hand and guide my life into the paths of salvation.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On February 26th our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and of every righteous soul made perfect in our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Our Righteous Father Porphyrios, Bishop of Gaza; Holy Martyrs Photine the Samaritan Woman, with whom Christ spoke at the well. We also commemorate those with her: her sisters Photo, Photis, Paraskeve, Kyriake, and Anatole; her sons Joses and Photinus, Sebastian the Duke; and Theocletos the former sorcerer; all of whom were beheaded, except for Saint Photis, who was bound to two trees and rent asunder; Holy Martyr Christodulos was perfected in martyrdom by the sword; Holy New Martyr John the Craftsman was beheaded in Constantinople in the year 1575; our Righteous Father Sabastian of Poshekhonye.
+By the Holy Intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Confessors, Holy Righteous, Holy Ascetics, Holy Apostles, Holy Bishops, Holy Monks, Holy Unmercenaries, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and saves. Amen.
SAINT PHOTINI, THE SAMARITAN WOMAN (Commemorated February 26th). The New Testament describes the familiar account of the "woman at the well" (St. John 4:5-42), who was a Samaritan. Up to that point she had led a sinful life, one which resulted in a rebuke from Jesus Christ. However, she responded to Christ's stern admonition with genuine repentance, was forgiven her sinful ways, and became a convert to the Christian Faith - taking the name 'Photini' at Baptism, which literally means "the enlightened one".
A significant figure in the Johannine community, the Samaritan Woman, like many other women, contributed to the spread of Christianity. She therefore occupies a place of honor among the Apostles. In Greek sermons from the 4th to the 14th centuries she is called "Apostle" and "Evangelist". In these sermons the Samaritan Woman is often compared to the male disciples and Apostles.
Later, Byzantine hagiographers developed the story of the Samaritan Woman, beginning where Saint John left off. At Pentecost Saint Photini received baptism, along with her five sisters, Anatole, Photo, Photis, Paraskeve, Kyriake, and her two sons, Photeinos and Joseph. She then began a missionary work, traveling far and wide, preaching the good news of the Messiah's coming, His death and Resurrection. When the pagan Roman Emperor Nero, began to persecute Christians, Photini and her son Joseph were in Carthage, in Africa, where she was preaching the Christian gospel. After Jesus appeared to St. Photini in a dream, she sailed to Rome. Her son and many Christians from Africa accompanied her. St. Photini's arrival and activity aroused curiosity in the capital city. Everyone talked her, "Who is this woman?" they asked. "She came here with a crowd of followers and she preaches Christ with great boldness."
Soldiers were ordered to bring her to the Emperor, but Saint Photini anticipated them. Before they could arrest her, St. Photini, with her son Joseph and her Christian friends, went to Nero. When the emperor saw them, he asked why they had come. Saint Photini answered, "We have come to teach you to believe in Christ." The half-mad ruler of the Roman Empire did not frighten her. She wanted to convert him! Nero asked the Saints there names. Again St. Photini anwered. By name she introduced herself, her five sisters and younger son. The emperor then demanded to know whether they had all agreed to die for the Nazarene. Saint Photini spoke for them. "Yes, for the love of Him we rejoice and in His Name we'll gladly die." Hearing their defiant words, Nero ordered their hands beaten with iron rods for three hours. At the end of each hour another persecutor took up the beating. The Saints, however, felt no pain. Nothing happened to their hands. Saint Photini joyfully quoted words of a psalm by David: "God is my help. No matter what anyone does to me, I shall not be afraid." Perplexed by the Christian's endurance and confidence, Nero ordered the men thrown into jail. Saint Photini and her five sisters were brought to the golden reception hall in the imperial palace. There, the six women were seated on golden thrones, in front of them stood a large golden table coveted with gold coins, jewels and dresses. Nero hoped to tempt the women by this display of wealth and luxury. Nero then ordered his daughter Domnina, with her slave girls, to go speak with the Christian women. Women, he thought, would succeed in persuading their Christian sisters to deny their God.
Domnina greeted St. Photini graciously, mentioning the name of Christ. On hearing the princess' greeting, the Saint thanked God. She then embraced and kissed Domnina. The women talked. But the outcome of the women's talk was not what Nero wished.
Saint Photini catechized Domnina and her hundred slave girls and baptized them all. She gave the name Anthousa to Nero's daughter. After her baptism, Anthousa immediately ordered all the gold and jewels on the golden table distributed to the poor of Rome.
When the emperor heard that his own daughter had been converted to Christianity, he condemned St. Photini and all her companions to death by fire. For seven days the furnace burned, but when the door of the furnace was opened, it was seen that the fire had not harmed the Saints. Next the emperor tried to destroy the Saints with poison, St. Photini offered to be the first to drink it. "O king," she said, "I will drink the poison first so that you might see the power of my Christ and God." All the Saints then drank the poison after her. None suffered any ill effects from it. In vain Nero subjected St. Photini, her sisters, sons and friends to every known torture. The Saints survived unscathed to taunt and ridicule their persecutor. For three years they were held in a Roman prison. Saint Photini transformed it into a "house of God." Many Romans came to the prison, were converted and baptized. Finally, the enraged tyrant had all the Saints, except for St. Photini, beheaded. She was thrown first into a deep, dry well and then into prison again. Saint Photini now grieved that she was alone, that she had not received the crown of martyrdom together with her five sisters, Anatole, Photo, Photis, Paraskeve, and Kyriake and her two sons, Photeinos and Joseph. Night and day she prayed for release from this life. One night, Christ appeared to her, made the sign of the Cross over her three times. The vision filled her with joy. Many days later, while she hymned and blessed God, Saint Photini gave her soul into God's hands. She drank of the "Living Water" and gained everlasting life and glory. For generation after generation, Orthodox Christians have addressed this prayer to the woman exalted by the Messiah when He sat by the well in Samaria and talked with her:
"Illuminated by the Holy Spirit, All-Gracious One, from Christ the Savior you drank the water of salvation. With open hand you give it to those who thirst. Great-Martyr Photini, Equal-to-the-Apostles, pray to Christ for the salvation of our souls."
(Source: Adapted from Saints and Sisterhood: The Lives of Forty-eight Holy Women by
Eva Catafygiotu Topping)
THE LENTEN TRIODION (Part V)
THE MEANING OF THE GREAT FASTS: INNER UNITY OF THE TRIODION
(Source: The Lenten Triodion. Translated from the original Greek by Mother Mary and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware)
d) The Second Sunday. Since 1368 this Sunday has been dedicated to the memory of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, Greece (1296-1359). This commemoration forms a continuation of the feast celebrated on the previous Sunday: Saint Gregory's victory over Barlaam, Akindynos and the other heretics of his time is seen as a renewed Triumph of Orthodoxy. In the earlier period there was on this day a commemoration of the Great Martyr Polycarp of Smyrna (+ 155 AD), transferred from the fixed calendar (23 February). This commemoration, like that of Saint Theodore, underlined the connection between Lenten asceticism and the martyr's vocation. The second Sunday also take up the theme of the Prodigal Son as a model of repentance, with the first of the two Canons at Matins being devoted to this parable.
e) The Third Sunday (the Sunday of the Cross). On this day the service of Matins concludes with the solemn veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross; the ceremonies are closely parallel to those at the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (14th September) and the Procession of the Cross (1st August). The veneration of the Cross on this Third Sunday in Lent prepares us for the commemoration of the Crucifixion of Christ which is soon to follow in Holy and Great Week, and at the same time it reminds us that the whole of Lent is a period when we are crucified with Christ: as the Synaxarion at Matins says, 'Through the forty-day Fast, we too are in a way crucified, dying to the passions'. The dominant note on this Sunday, as on the two Sundays preceding, is one of joy and triumph. In the Canon at Matins, the irmoi are the same as at Pascha midnight, 'This is the day of Resurrection...', and the troparia hymns are in part a paraphrase of the Paschal Canon by Saint John of Damascus. No separation is made between Christ's death and His Resurrection, but the Cross is regarded as an emblem of victory and Calvary is seen in the light of the empty tomb.
f) The Fourth Sunday. On this day is commemorated Saint John Climacus, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Sinai (sixth-seventh century), who is assigned a special Sunday in Lent because, by virtue of his writings and his own life, he forms a pattern of the true Christian ascetic. Saint John is the author of The Ladder of Paradise, one of the spiritual texts appointed to be read in church during Lent. His memorial, like that of Saint Theodore, has been transferred to the movable from the fixed calendar, where he is remembered on 30th March. The first Canon at Matins on this Sunday is based on the parable of the Good Samaritan (St. Luke 10:30-5): the repentant Christians is likened to the man who fell among thieves.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God