23rd SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST — Tone 6. St. John the Merciful, Patriarch of Constantinople (612-20). Ven. Nilus the Faster, of Sinai (5th c.). Saint Varnava (Nastic) (1964).
Tone 6 Troparion (Resurrection)
The Angelic Powers were at Your tomb; the guards became as dead men.Mary stood by Your grave, seeking Your most pure body. You captured hell, not being tempted by it. You came to the Virgin, granting life. O Lord, Who rose from the dead,// glory to You.
Tone 4 Troparion (St. Nicholas)
The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock as a rule of faith, an image of meekness and a teacher of self-control; your humility exalted you; your poverty enriched you.// O Father Bishop Nicholas, pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved.
Tone 8 Troparion (St. John)
By endurance you gained your reward, venerable Father; you persevered in prayer unceasingly; you loved the poor and provided for them in all things.// Blessed John the Merciful, intercede with Christ God that our souls may be saved!
Tone 8 Troparion (Ven. Nilus)
By a flood of tears you made the desert fertile, and your longing for God brought forth fruits in abundance. By the radiance of miracles you illumined the whole universe.// Our holy Father Nilus, pray to Christ our God to save our souls!
Tone 6 Kontakion (Resurrection)
When Christ God, the Giver of Life, raised all of the dead from the valleys of misery with His mighty hand, He bestowed resurrection on the human race.// He is the Savior of all, the Resurrection, the Life, and the God of all.
Tone 3 Kontakion (St. Nicholas)
You proved yourself to be be a holy priest, O Nicholas. You served God in Myra and lived the gospel of Christ. You offered your life for your people, And rescued the innocent from death. Therefore God has glorified you as a trustworthy guide of things divine.
Tone 2 Kontakion (St. John)
You distributed your wealth to the poor and in return obtained wealth from heaven, O John the Merciful. Therefore, we honor you and celebrate your memory,// O namesake of mercy.
Tone 8 Kontakion (Ven. Nilus)
By your vigilant prayer you cut away the undergrowth of the body’s insurgent passions. As you have boldness before the Lord, free me from every danger so that I may cry to you:// “Rejoice, universal father Nilus!”
Tone 6 Kontakion (Steadfast Protectress)
Steadfast Protectress of Christians, Constant Advocate before the Creator; despise not the cry of us sinners, but in your goodness come speedily to help us who call on you in faith. Hasten to hear our petition and to intercede for us, O Theotokos, for you always protect those who honor you!
Tone 6 Prokeimenon (Resurrection)
O Lord, save Your people, / and bless Your inheritance! (Ps. 27:9a)
V. To You, O Lord, will I call. O my God, be not silent to me! (Ps. 27:1a)
Ephesians 24-10 (Epistle)
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the heavenly God. (Ps. 90:1)
V. He will say to the Lord: “My Protector and my Refuge; my God, in Whom I trust.”(Ps. 90:2)
Luke 10:25-37 (Gospel)
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Their time of death and the necessity of preparation for it was revealed beforehand to many holy men and women. This is a great gift from heaven, but as we do not expect this gift, we unworthy ones need daily repentance to prepare for our departure. One can flee from men, but never from God.
When St. John the Merciful fled Egypt from the Persians, a gloriously radiant man with a golden sceptre in his hand appeared to him on the boat and said: “The King of kings is calling you to Himself.” John understood these words and began to prepare for his repose, which came soon.
The holy King Stefan of Dečani’s beloved St. Nicholas often appeared to him, and did so before Stefan’s repose, saying: “Stefan, prepare for your departure, for soon you will appear before the Lord.” Both saints were very similar in their compassion.
Despite the immeasurable wealth that St. John had at his disposal as Patriarch of Alexandria, he personally had only one-third of a dinar at his repose, and he willed even that to the poor.
When St. Stefan of Dečani was in the Monastery of the Pantocrator in Constantinople, a generous Serbian nobleman secretly sent him a substantial sum of money. “I give thanks to the good gentleman for his love,” replied Stefan to the bearer, “but he would give me greater joy if he would distribute this money, intended for me, to the poor.”
Velimirovic, Saint Nikolai. The Prologue of Ohrid. Sebastian Press Publishing House.
About St. Iakovos of Evia (1920-1991): The Garden of the Holy Spirit.
Concerning his spiritual experiences in church during the Divine Liturgy, they were wondrous. Many times, while commemorating names, he perceived the spiritual condition of the deceased he was commemorating. One time he was seen through the half closed door of the sanctuary standing before the altar without touching the ground. On that occasion, he had forgotten to commemorate his mother, and she appeared to him complaining, “My Iakovaki, everyone got his gift today from you, except me.” The same happened to him with Bishop Makarios of Cyprus. After he finished the offertory and turned to move towards the Holy Altar, he saw him standing to the right, with his palms cupped, as when a priest is about to receive the Lord’s Body.
… He conducted everything simply and orderly. Many times during the Cherubic Hymn, the blessed liturgist was not alone in the altar. Angels were present, glorifying God, gladdening the atmosphere and helping the priest. He felt their wings touching him and could see their youthful faces. One time when he went out for the Great Entrance, a nun saw him moving in the air when he re-entered the Sanctuary, without touching the ground…. Once, when he was explaining the deacon’s duties to a new deacon, to make him careful in his duties, he spoke to him about his experiences and visions with deep devoutness: “Ah, Father, if you could see what is going on during the Cherubic Hymn when the priest reads the prayer, you would all run away. Angels go up and down invisibly, and many times I feel their wings hitting my shoulders!” Blessed Iakovos served God with absolute devotion. He served Him fervently, in the highest form of service, as a priest. There is nothing higher, nothing holier, nothing sweeter, and at the same time, nothing more dreadful than the Divine Liturgy!
Be a Christian in heart; that is, be always sincere in prayer, in your conversation with your neighbor, always believing, trusting, meek, gentle, wishing well to everybody, just, generous, compassionate, merciful, abstinent, chaste, patient, obedient, courageous.
When you are in church, remember that you are in the living presence of the Lord God, that you stand before His face, before His eyes, in the living presence of the Mother of God, the holy angels, and the first-born of the Church—our forefathers, the prophets, apostles, hierarchs, martyrs, Holy Fathers, and all the saints. Always be aware of this when you are in church and stand with devotion, taking part willingly, with your whole heart, in the divine service.
Sergiev, Ivan Ilyich (St. John of Kronstadt). My Life in Christ: The Spiritual Journals of St John of Kronstadt. Holy Trinity Publications.