Friday, November 13, 2009

Commemoration of the Apostle Philip, St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonika and St. Justinian, Roman Emperor

Today, November 14, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates the Apostle Philip, who told Nathaniel (aka Bartholomew) that He had found Christ whom Moses and the Propets proclaimed (John 1:45) as well as St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonika who combatted the Latin heretics successfully by teaching correctly that God can only be experienced through His energies and through contemplative prayer known as "hesychasm" and finally the Roman Emperor, Justinian I "The Great" who built the great cathedral of Hagia Sophia, convened the fifth oecumenical council and composed the Hymn "Only-Begotten Son and Word of God" which is chanted after the second antiphon at the Divine Liturgy.

Through their intercessions, O Lord Jesus Christ, our True God, have mercy upon us and save us.

St. Philip, from the Prologue of Ohrid:

Philip was born in Bethsaida beside the Sea of Galilee, as were Peter and Andrew. Instructed in Holy Scripture from his youth, Philip immediately responded to the call of the Lord Jesus and followed Him (John 1:43). After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Philip zealously preached the Gospel throughout many regions in Asia and Greece. In Greece, the Jews wanted to kill him, but the Lord saved him by His mighty miracles. Thus, a Jewish high priest that rushed at Philip to beat him was suddenly blinded and turned completely black. Then there was a great earthquake, and the earth opened up and swallowed Philip's wicked persecutor. Many other miracles were manifested, especially the healing of the sick, by which many pagans believed in Christ. In the Phrygian town of Hierapolis, St. Philip found himself in common evangelical work with his sister Mariamna, St. John the Theologian, and the Apostle Bartholomew. In this town there was a dangerous snake that the pagans diligently fed and worshiped as a god. God's apostle killed the snake through prayer as though with a spear, but he also incurred the wrath of the unenlightened people. The wicked pagans seized Philip and crucified him upside-down on a tree, and then crucified Bartholomew as well. At that, the earth opened up and swallowed the judge and many other pagans with him. In great fear, the people rushed to rescue the crucified apostles, but only Bartholomew was still alive; Philip had already breathed his last. Bartholomew ordained Stachys as bishop for those whom he and Philip had baptized. Stachys had been blind for forty years, and Bartholomew and Philip had healed and baptized him. The relics of St. Philip were later translated to Rome. This wonderful apostle suffered in the year 86 in the time of Emperor Domitian.

Troparion to St. Philip (tone 3):

O Holy Apostle Philip, interecede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.

St. Gregory Palamas, from the Prologue of Ohrid

Gregory's father was an eminent official at the court of Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus. The gifted Gregory, completing his secular studies, did not want to enter the service of the imperial court, but withdrew to the Holy Mountain and was tonsured a monk. He lived a life of asceticism in the Monastery of Vatopedi and the Great Lavra. He led the struggle against the heretic Barlaam and finally defeated him. He was consecrated as Metropolitan of Thessalonica in the year 1347. He is glorified as an ascetic, a theologian, a hierarch and a miracle-worker. The Most-holy Theotokos, St. John the Theologian, St. Demetrius, St. Anthony the Great, St. John Chrysostom and angels of God appeared to him at different times. He governed the Church in Thessalonica for thirteen years, of which he spent one year in slavery under the Saracens in Asia. He entered peacefully into rest in the year 1360, and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ. His relics repose in Thessalonica, where a beautiful church is dedicated to him.

Troparion to St. Gregory (tone 8):

Light of Orthodoxy, pillar and teacher of the Church, adornment of monastics, invicible champion of thelogians, O Gregory, thou Wonderworker, boast of Thessalonica, herald of grace; ever pray that our souls be saved.

St. Justinian the Great, from the Prologue of Ohrid

Justinian was a Slav by birth, probably a Serb from the region of Skoplje. His Slavic name was Upravda, meaning ``truth, justice.'' He succeeded to the throne of his uncle Justin in 527. The greatness of this emperor is inseparably bound to his profound faith in Orthodoxy; he believed, and lived according to his faith. During Great Lent, he neither ate bread nor drank wine but ate only vegetables and drank water, and that, just every other day. He waged war against the barbarians of the Danube because they castrated their captives. This reveals his elevated feeling of love for his fellow man. Justinian was fortunate and successful both in wars and in his works. He built many great and beautiful churches, the most beautiful of which was Hagia Sophia [the Church of the Divine Wisdom] in Constantinople. He collected [and revised] and published the Laws of Rome and also personally issued many strict laws against immorality and licentiousness. He composed the Church hymn ``Only-begotten Son and Word of God,'' which has been sung during the Divine Liturgy since the year 536. He convened the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553). He died peacefully at the age of eighty, and took up his abode in the Kingdom of the Heavenly King.

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