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.
ON THE 17th OF FEBRUARY, WE CELEBRATE THE MEMORY OF THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR THEODORE TYRON (CONSCRIPT)
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Second Mode
Great are the achievements of faith! In the fountain of flame, as by the water of rest, the holy Martyr Theodore rejoiced; for having been made a whole-burnt offering in the fire, he was offered as sweet bread unto the Trinity. By his prayers, O Christ God, save our souls.
Kontakion. Plagal Fourth Mode
Having received the Faith of Christ in thy Faith of Christ in thy heart as a breastplate, thou didst trample upon the enemy hosts, O much-suffering champion; and thou hast been crowned eternally with a heavenly crown, since thou art invincible.
This holy, glorious Martyr of Christ came from Amasia in Pontus and was a Roman legionary at the time of the pagan Roman emperor Maximian's great persecution (303 A.D.). He has been a Christian since childhood but kept his faith secret, not out of cowardice but because he has not yet received a sign from God to present himself for martyrdom. While his cohort was stationed near the town of Euchaita (Helenopontus), he learned that the people of the district went in terror of a dreadful dragon, which lurked in the surrounding forest. He realized that here was the quest in which God would show him whether the time had come to offer himself for martyrdom. Going deep into the woods, he came upon an abandoned village whose only remaining occupant, a Christian princess named Efsevia (Eusebia), told him where the monster had it lair. He set off to find it, arming himself with the sign of the Cross, and when he confronted the roaring, fire-spitting beast, he thrust his spear through its head and killed it.
Convinced that now, by God's Grace, he would be able to vanquish the spiritual dragon, the Devil, just as he had felled the visible fiend, Saint Theodore returned to the camp, ready to confess his faith. When the commander of his cohort ordered a sacrifice to the gods of the Empire, Theodore remained in his tent. 'I am a Christian,' he told the squad who came to look for him. 'I adore only Christ. He is the King Whom I serve, and to Him only am I willing to offer sacrifice!' After plying him with crafty questions, they left him in order to interrogate other Christian soldiers. Inflamed with divine zeal, Theodore encouraged his fellow Christians to show themselves worthy of Christ, Who had chosen them to be soldiers in His army on high. That night he went to the pagan temple and reduced the altar dedicated to the goddess Rhea, the mother of the gods, to ashes. He was caught in the act by a verger, and brought unresisting to the governor Publius. There was uproar in Euchaita when the deed was known; but Theodore replied calmly to the governor's questions, showing the absurdity of regarding as a deity a lifeless piece of wood which had been reduced to ashes in a few moments. Threatened with dire torments, the Saint responded, 'Your threats don't frighten me because, amid torments, the power of Christ will be joy and gladness to me.' Grinding his teeth in rage, the governor had him thrown into a gloomy dungeon. That night, Christ appeared to His valiant servant and promised that His grace would be at once his food and drink, his joy and shield. Thus comforted, Theodore spent his time chanting hymns with the Angels, so that even though his cell was bolted and barred, the jailers thought that other Christians must have joined him there.
When offered bread and water, Saint Theodore refused it, saying that Christ had promised him food from heaven. On coming before Publius for the second time, he was offered the post of high priest of the idols, at which he laughed, and assured the governor that he was ready to be cut in pieces for love of Christ. He was then hung by his heels while his body was lacerated with iron claws. But faced with the Saint's indomitable resolution, the tormentors labored in vain, and the governor, fearing lest his example encourage other Christians, decided to be done with him; and he condemned him to be burnt to death.
When they reached the stake, the holy Martyr took off his clothing and sent up a fervent prayer that God would strengthen the other confessors. He walked freely into the flames, which surrounded him but left him untouched as though wanting to do him obeisance. In the midst of this triumphal circlet, Saint Theodore gave back his soul to God with thanksgiving. The pious Efsevia ransomed his body (holy relics), which she took to Euchaita. A church was built there in honor of the holy Martyr, who obtained healing of soul and body for the many pilgrims who came to seek his intercession.
In 361 A.D. Julian the Apostate was doing his utmost to restore pagan customs. Knowing that the Christians were accustomed to sanctify the first week of Lent by fasting and prayer, the wily (evil) tyrant told the Prefect of Constantinople to have all the foodstuffs set out for sale in the markets sprinkled with blood of animals sacrificed to the gods, so that no one in the City would escape the contagion of idolatry. However, the Lord did not abandon His chosen people (Christians), but sent his servant St. Theodore to outwit the pagan tyrant. Appearing in a vision to Patriarch Evdoxius (360-364 A.D,), the holy Martyr informed him of what was afoot from the markets but instead to instruct the Christians not to buy food from the markets but instead to eat kolyva made grains of boiled wheat. Thus, thanks to the intervention of the holy Martyr Theodore, the Christian people were preserved from the stain of idolatry. The Church has commemorated this miracle ever since on the first Saturday of Holy and Great Lent, in order to remind the faithful that fasting and temperance have the power to cleanse all the stains of sin. The commemoration of the appearance of Saint Theodore and the miracle of the kolyva is celebrated with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and a memorial Service.
[Please note: Kolyva, mixed with dried fruit and other sweet things, are now blessed and distributed in honor of the Saints or in memory of the departed. As the bare grain to which sown in the earth, God will give a body (cf. 2 Corinthians 15:37). Kolyva symbolizes the promise of the Resurrection, while its sweetness signifies enjoyment of the delights of Paradise.]
"Immense is the benefit of the Divine Liturgy, of commemorations for the departed, etc., of course, they are only full of benefit for those who repented, who had some signs of virtues, but did not have the time to knead the bread of virtues due to negligence, indolence and procrastination. For those people, the prayers of the Holy Church and personal prayers, alms, philanthropic deeds, etc., fill up their deficiencies, through the abundance of God's mercy" (Saint Mark the Ascetic).
Saint Theodore Tyron wrought many other miracles for those who had recourse to him with faith, and who persevered in prayer in his church. One day, shining in glory on his white horse, he appeared to a poor widow and restored her only son who has been captured by Saracens. He often brought the tempest-tossed to safety, thieves to light and runaway back to their masters. In all his miracles (wonders), this Roman legionary showed that he had become the heavenly protector of the Christian people. (Source: The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church).
We pray to Saint Theodore for the recovery of stolen articles.
Attention please: It is the holy Orthodox Tradition of Our Church that all Orthodox Christian faithful bring the names of their loved ones, those, who have fallen asleep in the Lord, so that we pray for the salvation of their souls on all four (the three of Holy and Great Lent, on the Saturday before Pentecost) Saturday of Souls. Make sure that their names are the Orthodox (baptismal) Christian names and not secular names.
We always remember the souls of the dead on the Sabbath, for the Sabbath (Saturday or ΣΑΒΒΑΤΟΝ) is the day of rest. In Hebrew, Sabbath literally means "rest." As the Jews have this day for their repose and paused from every work and professional dealing, we Christians have it to remember the repose of all who preceded us. On the day, we hold memorial services and have kolyva blessed in the church, gives alms, and perform various works of mercy (Gk. ελεημοσύνη). The Greek word έλεος (eleos) means mercy. All these practices are of great benefit to the departed souls. Since the Orthodox Church does not celebrate the Divine Liturgies on weekdays during Holy and Great Lent where the dead are commemorated, the three Saturdays of the Fast are designated as Soul Saturdays.
There are many proofs that the souls of the departed can be greatly benefited by what is done in their behalf. Saint Makarios the Egyptian once saw the dry skull of a pagan by the road on his way, and asked, saying, "Do you ever have any kind of consolation in Hades?" And the skull answered, "Yes, Father, especially when you pray for the sake of the dead; abundant is the comfort which we then enjoy." The great man became very happy, because he always prayed for the dead and wished to be assured of the results of his intercessions.
In his funeral oration to his brother Caesarios, Saint Gregory the Theologian recommends alms on behalf of the reposed as being good. And the great Saint John Chrysostom in his commentary on Philippians says, "Let us think of ways to benefit the departed. Let us give them what help we can, namely almsgiving and offerings. For truly this brings them great advantage and very much gain and benefit. The tradition of the priest commemorating those reposed in faith over the awesome Mysteries (Sacraments) has not been without purpose nor arbitrarily ordained and delivered to God's Church by His all-wise Disciples." Again, "In making arrangements when you dispose of your property, together with your children and relatives, let your will also include the name of your Judge as a joint heir, and let not the mention of the poor be absent..."
Saint Athanasius the Great also says that even if one has died and dissolved into the air, do not decline to provide oil and candles at the grave and to plead with Christ our God, for they are acceptable to God and bring great recompense: if the deceased was a sinner, that you may lose his sins; if righteous, that it may add to his reward. If one is a stranger without means, having no one to take care of these matters, God, being righteous and compassionate, will proportionately measure out to him His mercy, as He knows best. Moreover, he who offers such services to the dead also partakes of the reward, because he has shown love and concern for the salvation of his neighbor. It is as when one anoints a friend with perfumes, he receives the sweet aroma first. As for those who do not fulfill the wills and testaments of the deceased concerning these matters, they will positively be condemned."
Until Christ's Second Coming, whatever is done for the souls of the dead is beneficial, as the Holy Fathers say, particularly to those who had done some small good deeds when they were among the living.
Saint Athanasios the Great also says in his homily on the dead that until the time of the Universal Resurrection it has been granted to the saints to recognize each other and revel together, while the sinners, on the other hand, have been deprived even of this. Regarding the holy Martyrs, they are capable of observing our actions and even of visiting us. Then all shall know one another when the hidden secrets of every man shall be revealed." (From the Synaxarion (Explanation) in the Triodion of The Saturday of the Dead (Soul Saturday.)
Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
Place of Worship: Saint Andrew
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and to 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