14th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST — Tone 5. Afterfeast of the Nativity of the Theotokos. Sunday before Elevation. Martyrs Menodora, Metrodora, and Nymphodora, at Nicomedia (305-311).
Tone 5 Troparion (Resurrection)
Let us, the faithful, praise and worship the Word, co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, born for our salvation from the Virgin; for He willed to be lifted up on the Cross in the flesh, to endure death, and to raise the dead// by His glorious Resurrection.
Tone 4 Troparion (Feast)
Your nativity, O Virgin, has proclaimed joy to the whole universe! The Sun of righteousness, Christ our God, has shone from you, O Theotokos. By annulling the curse, He bestowed a blessing.// By destroying death, He has granted us eternal life.
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; y0our poverty enriched you.// O Father Bishop Nicholas, pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved.
Tone 1 Troparion (Martyrs)
Let all who rejoice at their triumph honor those three virgin martyrs, who are united to God as sisters and who pour forth fair streams of grace: Menodora, Metrodora, and Nymphodora, who were in all things courageous;// they ever pray to the Trinity for us.
Tone 5 Kontakion (Resurrection)
You descended into hell, O my Savior, shattering its gates as Almighty, resurrecting the dead as Creator, and destroying the sting of death. You have delivered Adam from the curse, O Lover of man,// and we cry to You: “O Lord, save us!”
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 4 Kontakion (Martyrs)
Invincible in your struggles for the Holy Trinity, and through your love for each other as sisters, you defeated the foe of the spiritual life, and with the five virgins, entered victoriously into the heavenly mansions // where you ever rejoice with the angels in the presence of the King of all!
Tone 6 Kontakion (Feast)
By your nativity, O most pure Virgin, Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness, Adam and Eve — from the corruption of death. And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you:// “The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our Life.”
Tone 6 Prokeimenon (Sunday before)
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)
Tone 3 Prokeimenon (Song of the Theotokos)
My soul magnifies the Lord, / and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. (Lk. 1:46-47)
Galatians 6:11-18 (Epistle, Sunday Before)
See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand! As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
2 Corinthians 1:21-2:4 (Epistle)
Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand. But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow. For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me? And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. I have exalted one chosen out of My people. (Ps. 88:18b)
V. For My hand shall defend him and My arm shall strengthen him. (Ps. 88:20)
V. Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline your ear! (Ps. 44:9a)
John 3:13-17 (Gospel, Sunday Before)
No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Matthew 22:1-14 (Gospel)
And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The Holy Virgins Menodora, Nymphodora, and Metrodora (305-311), were sisters from Bithynia (Asia Minor). Distinguished for their special piety, they wanted to preserve their virginity and avoid worldly associations. They chose a solitary place for themselves in the wilderness and spent their lives in deeds of fasting and prayer.
Reports of the holy life of the virgins soon spread, since healings of the sick began to occur through their prayers. The Bithynia region was governed at that time by a man named Frontonus, who ordered that the sisters be arrested and brought before him.
At first he tried to persuade them to renounce Christ, promising great honors and rewards. But the holy sisters steadfastly confessed their faith before him, rejecting all his suggestions. They told him that they did not value the temporal things of this world, and that they were prepared to die for their Heavenly Bridegroom, for death would be their gateway to eternal life.
Flying into a rage, the governor took out his wrath on Saint Menodora, the eldest sister. She was stripped of her clothes and beaten by four men, while a herald urged her to offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint bravely endured the torments and cried out, “Sacrifice? Can’t you see that I am offering myself as a sacrifice to my God?” Then they renewed their torments with even greater severity. Then the martyr cried out, “ Lord Jesus Christ, joy of my heart, my hope, receive my soul in peace.” With these words she gave up her soul to God, and went to her Heavenly Bridegroom.
Four days later, they brought the two younger sisters Metrodora and Nymphodora to the court. They showed them the battered body of their older sister to frighten them. The virgins wept over her, but remained steadfast.
Then Saint Metrodora was tortured. She died, crying out to her beloved Lord Jesus Christ with her last breath. Then they turned to the third sister, Nymphodora. Before her lay the bruised bodies of her sisters. Frontonus hoped that this sight would intimidate the young virgin.
Pretending that he was charmed by her youth and beauty, he urged her to worship the pagan gods, promising great rewards and honors. Saint Nymphodora scoffed at his words, and shared the fate of her older sisters. She was tortured and beaten to death with iron rods.
The bodies of the holy martyrs were to be burned in a fire, but a heavy rain extinguished the blazing fire, and lightning struck down Frontonus and his servant. Christians took up the bodies of the holy sisters and reverently buried them at the so-called Warm Springs at Pythias (Bithynia).
Part of the relics of the holy martyrs are preserved on Mt. Athos in the Protection cathedral of the Saint Panteleimon Russian monastery, and the hand of Saint Metrodora is on the Holy Mountain in the monastery of the Pantocrator.
No matter how times change politically, culturally, or socially, people remain essentially the same, with the image of God indelible and untarnished. Since the fall of the first-created, sin and the passions of wickedness (whatever they may be: hedonism, fornication, self-centeredness, pride, hatred, resentment, anger, rage, condemnation, avarice, greed or hypocrisy) have waged war against people or held sway over them. The result depends on whether we’re aware of this warfare and strive to defeat them or whether we’re stricken by fear and encourage and nourish them. But never at any time can there have been such social acceptance and legitimization of sin as there is today.
— Elder Efraim Vatopaidinos