Friday, February 12, 2021

Strict Fast

Feasts and Saints celebrated today:

  • Meletius, Archbishop of Antioch
  • Antonius, Archbishop of Constantinople
  • Christos the New Martyr
  • Meletios of Ypseni

Readings for today:

  • St. Peter's First Universal Letter 1:1-25; 2:1-10
  • Mark 12:1-12

Meletius, Archbishop of Antioch

Reading from the Synaxarion:

This holy Father, who was from Melitene of Armenia, was a blameless man, just, reverent, sincere, and most gentle. Consecrated Bishop of Sebastia in 357, he was later banished from his throne and departed for Beroea of Syria (this is the present-day Aleppo). After the Arian bishop of Antioch had been deposed, the Orthodox and the Arians each strove to have a man of like mind with themselves become the next Bishop of Antioch. Meletius was highly esteemed by all, and since the Arians believed him to share their own opinion, they had him raised to the throne of Antioch. As soon as he had taken the helm of the Church of Antioch, however, he began preaching the Son's consubstantiality with the Father. At this, the archdeacon, an Arian, put his hand over the bishop's mouth; Meletius then extended three fingers towards the people, closed them, and extended one only, showing by signs the equality and unity of the Trinity. The embarrassed archdeacon then seized his hand, but released his mouth, and Meletius spoke out even more forcibly in defense of the Council of Nicaea. Shortly after, he was banished by the Arian Emperor Constantius, son of Saint Constantine the Great. After the passage of time, he was recalled to his throne, but was banished again the third time by Valens. It was Saint Meletius who ordained Saint John Chrysostom reader and deacon in Antioch (see Nov. 13). He lived until the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 (which was convoked against Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople, the enemy of the Holy Spirit), over which he presided, being held in great honor as a zealot of the Faith and a venerable elder hierarch.

Some time before, when the Emperor Gratian had made the Spanish General Theodosius commander-in-chief of his armies in the war against the barbarians, Theodosius had a dream in which he saw Meletius, whom he had never met, putting upon him the imperial robe and crown. Because of Theodosius's victories, Gratian made him Emperor of the East in Valens' stead in 379. When, as Emperor, Saint Theodosius the Great convoked the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople two years later, he forbade that anyone should tell him who Meletius was; and as soon as he saw him, he recognized him, ran to him with joy, embraced him before all the other bishops, and told him of his dream.

While at the Council, Saint Meletius fell ill and reposed a short while after. Saint Gregory of Nyssa, among others, gave a moving oration at his funeral; bewailing the loss of him whom all loved as a father, he said, "Where is that sweet serenity of his eyes? Where that bright smile upon his lips? Where that kind right hand, with fingers outstretched to accompany the benediction of the mouth?" (PG 46:8-6). And he lamented, "Our Elias has been caught up, and no Elisseus is left behind in his place." (ibid., 860). The holy relics of Saint Meletius were returned to Antioch and were buried beside Saint Babylas the Martyr (see Sept. 4), in the Church dedicated to the Martyr which Meletius, in his zeal for the Martyr's glory, had helped build with his own hands.

Apolytikion of Meletius, Abp. Of Antioch in the Fourth Tone

A model of faith and the image of gentleness, the example of your life has shown you forth to your sheep-fold to be a master of temperance. You obtained thus through being lowly, gifts from on high, and riches through poverty. Meletios, our father and priest of priests, intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.

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  Reading (c) Holy Transfiguration Monastery - Brookline, MA

  Apolytikion of Meletius, Abp. Of Antioch (c) Narthex Press

Prayer Before Reading Scripture

Shine within our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that having conquered all sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things that are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory together with Your Father who is without beginning and Your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Epistle Reading

The Reading is from St. Peter's First Universal Letter 1:1-25; 2:1-10

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontos, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having known him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.

The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake. Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever." That word is the good news which was preached to you.

So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander. Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,” and “A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall”; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.

Gospel Reading

The Reading is from the Gospel According to Mark 12:1-12

The Lord said this parable, "A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read th is scripture: 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?" And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away.

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