November 27 2020 - November 14 2020
Apostle Philip (I).
Monk Philip of Irapsk (+ 1527). Right-believing Emperor Justinian (+ 565) and Empress Theodora (+ 548). Sainted Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonka (+ c. 1360). Martyr Constantine (+ 1800). Martyr Panteleimon (XIX).
The Holy Apostle Philip, was a native of the city of Bethsaida (or Bethesda, in Galilee). He had a profound depth of knowledge of the Holy Scripture, and rightly discerning the meaning of the Old Testament prophecies, he awaited the coming of the Messiah. Through the summoning of the Saviour (Jn. 1: 43), Philip followed Him. The Apostle Philip is spoken about several times in the Holy Gospel: he brought to Christ the Apostle Nathanael (i.e. Bartholomew, Comm. 22 April, 11 and 30 June, 25 August; Vide Jn. 1: 46); the Lord asks him how much money would be needful to buy bread for five thousand men (Jn. 6: 5-7); he brought certain of the Hellenised Jews wanting to see Jesus (Jn. 12: 21-22); and finally, at the time of the Last Supper he asked Christ about God the Father (Jn. 14: 8).
After the Ascension of the Lord, the Apostle Philip preached the Word of God in Galilee, accompanying his preaching with miracles. Thus, he restored to life a dead infant, in the arms of its mother. From Galilee he set off to Greece, and preached amongst the Jews that had settled there. Certain of them reported in Jerusalem about the preaching of the apostle, in response to which there arrived in Hellas (Greece) from Jerusalem, scribes with the Jewish high-priest at their head, for a persecution against the Apostle Philip. The Apostle Philip exposed the lie of the high-priest, who said that the disciples of Christ had stolen away and hidden the body of Christ, telling instead how the Pharisees had bribed the soldiers on watch, to deliberately spread this rumour. When the Jewish high-priest and his companions began to insult the Lord and lunged at the Apostle Philip, they suddenly were struck blind. By prayer the apostle restored everyone to sight, and in beholding this miracle, many believed in Christ. The Apostle Philip established a bishop for them, by the name of Narcissos (listed within the rank of the Seventy Disciples, – Comm. 4 January).
From Hellas the Apostle Philip set out to Parthia, and then to the city of Azota, where he healed an eye affliction of the daughter of a local resident named Nikoclides, who had received him into his home, and then baptised with all his whole family.
From Azota the Apostle Philip set out to Syrian Hieropolis where, stirred up by the Pharisees, the Jews burned the house of Heros, who had taken in the Apostle Philip, and they wanted to kill the apostle. But in witnessing miracles wrought by the apostle –the healing of the hand of the city official Aristarchos, withered in attempting to strike the apostle, and also a dead lad restored to life – they repented and many accepted holy Baptism. Having made Heros bishop at Hieropolis, the Apostle Philip went on to Syria, Asia Minor, Lydia, Emessa, and everywhere preaching the Gospel and undergoing sufferings. Both he and his sister Mariamna accompanying him were pelted with stones, locked up in prison, and thrown out of villages.
Then the Apostle Philip arrived in Phrygia, in the city of Phrygian Hieropolis, where there were many pagan temples, among which was a pagan temple devoted to snake-worship, having within it an enormous serpent. The Apostle Philip by the power of prayer killed the serpent and healed many bitten by the snakes. Among those healed was the wife of the city governor Amphypatos. Having learned that his wife had accepted Christianity, the governor Amphypatos gave orders to arrest Saint Philip, his sister, and the Apostle Bartholomew travelling with them. At the urging of the pagan priests of the temple of the serpent, Amphypatos gave orders to crucify the holy Apostles Philip and Bartholomew. At this time there began an earthquake, and it knocked down to the ground all those present at the judgement-place. Hanging upon the cross at the pagan temple of the serpent, the Apostle Philip prayed for the salvation of those that had crucified him, to save them from the ravages of the earthquake. Seeing this happen, the people believed in Christ and began to demand that the apostles be taken down from the crosses. The Apostle Bartholomew, in being taken down from the cross was still alive, and he baptised all those believing and established a bishop for them.
But the Apostle Philip, through whose prayers everyone remained alive, except for Amphypatos and the pagan priests, – died on the cross.
Mariamna his sister buried his body, and together with the Apostle Bartholomew she set out preaching to Armenia, where the Apostle Bartholomew was crucified (Comm. 11 June); Mariamna herself then preached until her own death at Likaoneia (Comm. 17 February).
The Monk Philip, in the world Theophil, was the founder of the Irapsk wilderness-monastery. As an orphan not remembering his parents and going around, the 12 year old Theophil settled near the Komel’sk monastery and lived on charity. The Monk Kornilii (Comm. 19 May) accepted the pious youth into the monastery and after three years tonsured him a monk with the name Philip. Meek, humble and hard-working, at the request of the brethren he was deigned the priesthood. His striving for greater efforts led him to withdraw to the Belozersk outskirts. Here, having the patronage of prince Andrei Sheleshpansky – who had allotted him land near the River Irapa, 45 versts from Cherepovets – the monk built a chapel in the Name of the MostHoly Trinity and made for himself a cell. News about the holy wilderness-dweller spread throughout all the surroundings, and monks began to flock to him. Soon at the place of the chapel was built a church in the Name of the Holy Life-Originating Trinity. The Monk Philip dwelt in the wilderness for 15 years and died at age 45. His relics were placed beneathe a crypt in the Trinity temple. Over his grave was an icon, written through a vision by the monk Theodosii. Soon after the death of Saint Philip, at the place of his efforts arose the Krasnoborsk Philippov monastery.
The celebration of the Monk Philip was established at the end of the XVI Century. The manuscript service to him is dated from the end XVI Century.
The Holy Right-Believing Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora: Saint Justinian, a major figure in the history of the Byzantine state, was also a great champion of Orthodoxy, a builder of churches and a Church writer, and he was of Slavic descent – born in Bulgaria. During his reign (527-565) Byzantium won glory with military victories in Persia, Africa, Italy, – as a result of which paganism was decisively rooted amongst the Germanic Vandal and West-Goth tribes. By command of the emperor Justinian the pagan schools in Athens were closed. With the aim of spreading Christianity through the regions of Asia Minor, Justinian sent there the bishop of Ephesus John, who baptised more than 70 thousand pagans. The emperor gave orders to build 90 churches for the newly‑converted, and he generously supported church construction within the empire. His finest structures of the time are considered to be the monastery at Sinai, and the church of Saint Sophia at Constantinople. Under Saint Justinian many a church was built in the name of our MostHoly Lady Mother of God. Being a man of quite diverse an education, Saint Justinian assiduously concerned himself over the education of clergy and monks, ordering them to be instructed in rhetorics, in philosophy and in theology.
The tight-believing sovereign devoted much attention and effort into the struggle with the Origenists of his time, who then were reviving the Nestorian heresy. Against their heretical speculations was composed the Church-hymn “Only-Begotten Son and Immortal Word of God, Who for our salvation…”, and he commanded its singing as obligatory in the churches. From that time through the present day this hymn is sung in the Divine Liturgy before the Small Entrance [i.e. 2nd Antiphon]. At the command of the sovereign, in the year 553 was convened the Fifth OEcumenical Council, censuring the teachings of Origen and affirming the definitions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon. The holy Emperor Justinian about orderly rule and law within the realm. Under his guidance and supervision was compiled a complete compendium of Roman laws, which has come down to us as a codex of law known as “the Justinian Codex”. The “Novellae” (i.e. “Church-laws”) of Justinian find inclusion in all the variants of the Russian Church-law NomoKanon Books.
In his personal life, Saint Justinian was strictly pious, and he zealously fasted quite often. The holy Emperor Justinian died in the year 565.
Together with the emperor was enumerated to the ranks of the Saints his like‑minded spouse, the Empress Theodora, who died in the year 548. She was at first a notorious sinner, and an adherent to the Monophysite heresy, but then she repented and led a virtuous life, keeping purity of both soul and body.
Sainted Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonika, was born in the year 1296 in Asia Minor. During the time of a Turkish incursion the family fled to Constantinople and found refuge at the court of Andronikos II Paleologos (1282-1328). The father of Saint Gregory became a prominent dignitiary under the emperor, but he soon died, and Andronikos himself took part in the raising and education of the orphaned boy. Endowed with fine abilities and great diligence, Gregory without difficulty mastered all the subjects which then comprised the full course of medieval higher education. The emperor hoped that the youth would devote himself to government work. But Gregory, just barely age 20, withdrew to Holy Mount Athos in the year 1316 (per other sources, 1318) and became a novice in the Batopedeia monastery under the guidance of the monastic-elder, the Monk Nikodemos of Batopedeia (Comm. 11 July), and there he accepted tonsure and began on the path of asceticism. A year later, the holy Evangelist John the Theologian appeared to him in a vision and promised him his spiritual protection. Gregory’s mother and sisters likewise became monastics.
After the demise of the monastic-elder Nikodemos, the Monk Gregory spent 8 years of prayerful effort under the guidance of the monastic-elder Nicephoros, and after the death of this latter elder Gregory transferred to the Laura-monastery of the Monk Athanasias. Here he served in the refectory, and then became a church singer. But after three years, striving for a greater degree of spiritual perfection, he re-settled in the small hermit-life monastery of Glossia. The head of this monastery began to teach the youth the manner of concentrated spiritual prayer – the mental activity, which by degrees gradually was appropriated and cultivated by monastics, beginning with the great wilderness ascetics of the IV Century – Euagrios (Lat. Evagrius), Pontikos and the Monk Makarios of Egypt (Comm. 19 January). Later on, in the XI Century in the works of Simeon the New Theologian (Comm. 12 March), those praying in outward manner received detailed elucidation on adapting the mental doing, and it was implemented by the Athos ascetics. An experienced useage of mental activity, requiring solitude and quiet, received the name “Hesychiasm” (from the Greek “hesukhia” meaning calm, silence), and those practising it were called “hesychiasts”. During the time of his stay at Glossia the future hierarch Gregory became fully embued with the spirit of hesychiasm and adapted it as fundamental to his life. In the year 1326, because of the threat of Turkish invasions, he together with the brethren retreated back to Soluneia (Thessalonika), where he was then ordained to the dignity of priest.
Saint Gregory combined his priestly duties with the life of an hermit: five days of the week he spent in silence and prayer, and only on Saturday and Sunday did the pastor emerge to his people – he celebrated Divine-services and preached sermons. For those present in church, his teaching often evoked both tenderness and tears. Sometimes he visited theological gatherings of the city’s educated youth, headed by the future patriarch, Isidor. Having returned from being a certain while at Constantinople, he found near Soluneia the locale of Bereia, a place suitable for solitary life. Soon he gathered here a small community of hermit-monks and guided it over the course of 5 years. In 1331 the saint withdrew to Athos and lived in solitude at the skete-monastery of Saint Savva, near the Laura-monastery of the Monk Athanasias. In 1333 he was appointed hegumen of the Esthygmena monastery in the northern part of the Holy Mountain. In 1336 the saint returned to the skete-monastery of Saint Savva, where he concerned himself with theological works, continuing on with it until the end of his life.
But amidst all this, in the 1330’s culminated events in the life of the Eastern Church which put Saint Gregory amongst the most significant universal apologists of Orthodoxy, and brought him reknown as the teacher of hesychiasm.
In about the year 1330 the learned monk Varlaam had arrived in Constantinople from Calabria (in Italy).He was the author of tractates on logic and astronomy, a skilled and sharp-witted orator, and he received an university-chair in the capital city and began to expound on the works of Saint Dionysios the Areopagite (Comm. 3 October), whose “apophatic” (“negative”, “via negativa”, as contrast to “kataphatic” or “postive”) theology was acclaimed in equal measure in both the Eastern and the Western Churches. Soon Varlaam journeyed to Athos, where he became acquainted with the modality of spiritual life of the hesychiasts, and on the basis of the dogma about the incomprehensibility of the essence of God, he declared the mental doing an heretical error. Journeying from Athos to Soluneia (Thessalonika), and from there to Constantinople and later again to Soluneia, Varlaam entered into disputes with the monks and attempted to demonstrate the created creatureliness of the light of Tabor (i.e. at the Transfiguration); in this he reduced to the point of a joke the sayings of the monks about the modes of prayer and about the spiritual light.
Saint Gregory, at the request of the Athonite monks, countered at first with spoken admonitions. But seeing the futility of such efforts, he put in writing his theological argument. Thus appeared the “Triades in Defense of the Holy Hesychiasts” (1338). Towards the year 1340 the Athonite ascetics with the assist of the saint compiled a general reply to the attacks of Varlaam – the so-called “Svyatogorsk tomos”. At the Constantinople Council of 1341 in the church of Saint Sophia there occurred a debate of Saint Gregory Palamas with Varlaam, centering upon the nature of the light on Mount Tabor. On 27 May 1341 the Council accepted the position of Saint Gregory Palamas – that God, inapproachable in His Essence, reveals Himself in energies, which are directed towards the world and are able to be perceived, like the Tabor light, but which are neither material nor created. The teachings of Varlaam were condemned as heresy, and he himself, anathemised, withdrew to Calabria.
But the dispute between the Palamites and the Varlaamites was far from finished. To these latter belonged a student of Varlaam, the Bulgarian monk Akyndinos, and also the patriarch John XIV Kalekos (1341-1347); to them inclined also the emperor Andronikos III Paleologos (1328-1341). Akyndinos came out with a series of tracts, in which he declared Saint Gregory and the Athonite monks guilty of church disorders. The saint in turn wrote a detailed refutation of Akyndinos' conjectures. The patriarch thereupon excommunicated the saint from the Church (1344) and had him locked up in prison, which lasted for three years. In 1347, when John XIV was succeeded on the patriarchal throne by Isidor (1347-1349), Saint Gregory Palamas was set free and elevated to the dignity of archbishop of Soluneia (Thessalonika). In 1351 the Blakhernae Council solemnly witnessed to the Orthodoxy of his teachings. But the people of Soluneia did not immediately accept Saint Gregory, and he was compelled to live in various places. In one of his travels to Constantinople the Byzantine galley-ship fell into the hands of the Turks. They offered to sell Saint Gregory in various cities as a captive during the course of a year, but he then also incessantly continued to preach the Christian faith.
Only but three years before his death did he return to Soluneia. On the eve of his repose, Saint John Chrysostom appeared to him in a vision. With the words “To Heaven! To Heaven!”, – Saint Gregory Palamas reposed peacefully to God on 14 November 1359. In 1368 he was canonised at a Constantinople Council under Patriarch Philotheos (1354‑1355, 1362-1376), who compiled the Life and Services to the saint.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos