St. Xene and her two maids
Xene came from the glorious city of Rome and descended from an honourable and praiseworthy family. When her parents wanted to give her in marriage and had already made the necessary preparations for the wedding, Xene took her two maids with her and left the bridal chamber. She boarded a ship and departed.
She went to the isle of Kos where she met the monk and priest Paul who led her to the life in Christ. Eventually, she settled in the city of Mylassa (which is a stronghold commonly called Messi, lying in Karia-in-Asia and having an honourable bishopric under the bishop of Stauroupolis, i.e. Stavropol). In Mylassa, she built a small church dedicated to St. Stephen the Protomartyr.
When she died, in the middle of the day, while the sun was shining, there appeared in the sky amid stars the shape of the cross, and the star-like cross was surrounded by a group of seven stars. The cross and that group of stars appeared as if they were following the saint's coffin.
The holy life of Xene was made known by one of her maids. She also told them how the saint was called Eusebia (Piety) by her parents but then she called herself Xene (Stranger) wishing to hide herself from people due to her humility.
Martyrdom of St. Philotheus
On this day, the Church commemorates the martyrdom of St. Philotheus, whose name means "lover of God".
He was born in the City of Antioch, the only son of pagan parents who worshipped a bull. They used to feed it cakes made of fine flour and sesame seed oil mixed with honey. They also used to anoint the bull with perfumed oil three times a day. They assigned two places for the bull, one for the summer and the other for the winter. They put around its neck a collar of gold and golden rings on its legs.
When Philotheus was 10 years old, his father asked him to worship the bull, but he refused. His father did not punish him for that.
Because Philotheus knew nothing about the Living God, he thought that the sun was god. He once stood towards the sun and said, I beseech you , O sun, if you are god, tell me." He heard a voice coming from heaven saying, I am not God, but I am a servant and a slave to God Whom you will know and for His name's sake you will shed your blood".
The Lord sent His angel to inform Philotheus about the creation of the world and the Incarnation of Christ for the salvation of mankind. Philotheus was pleased and rejoiced in his heart. From that moment on he fasted and gave alms to the poor and to those who were in distress.
One year later, his parents made a great banquet for their friends and asked their son to worship the bull before they serve the food. The boy stood in front of the bull and said, "Are you God who should be worshipped?" A voice came out of the bull saying, "I am not that God, but the devil has taken hold of me and I deceive men." Then the bull jumped and attacked his parents and killed them instantly. The saint ordered his servants to kill the bull, burn its body and scatter its ashes.
The saint prayed for his parents and the Lord raised them up. He was then baptized with his parents. God gave him the gift of healing the sick, and his renown reached Emperor Diocletian.
Diocletian had him brought before him and ordered him to offer incense to the idols, but he refused. The Emperor tortured him, but the saint never swayed in his determination. The Emperor came hack to persuade him by deception and flattery and the saint promised him to worship Apollo. The Emperor was pleased to hear this, and he brought Apollo with seventy pagan priests and a herald went to call upon the public.
Great multitudes came to watch the saint worshipping Apollo. As they were coming, the saint prayed to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the priests and the idol. There was a great disturbance, and many of the multitude believed and confessed Christ as their Savior. The Emperor was furious and ordered their heads to be cut off. St. Philotheus was beheaded with them. They all were granted the crowns of martyrdom.
Departure of Anba John IV, the 48th Pope of Alexandria
On this day also, the Church commemorates the departure of Anba John IV , the 48th Pope of Alexandria, in the year 792 A.D.
He was a monk in St. Macarius' monastery and he persevered in worship and was reputed for his ascetic life. He was chosen by Pope Michael, the 46th Pope of Alexandria and ordained a priest for the Church of St. Mina. He gave him a free hand to manage the church and to direct all its property and offerings. He performed his duties very well.
When Abba Mina, the 47th Pope of Alexandria, departed, the bishops, the priests, and the laity of the City of Alexandria gathered together and they nominated several monks. They wrote the name of everyone on a piece of paper, and the name of Father John was among them. The bishops continued to pray and performed masses for three days. On the third day, they brought a child to draw one of the names, it was Father John's. They returned the paper, and brought another child, and he drew the same paper. This war repeated a third time. They were sure that the Lord had chosen him to become the next Pope. They ordained him Pope of Alexandria in the year 768 A.D. He shepherded his flock very well. He was always preaching to his people to abide in the Orthodox faith. He was also merciful to the poor and the needy.
In his days, there was a famine and one bushel of grain was sold for two dinari. Many poor people from different denominations
gathered every day at his door. He gave the authority to his disciple Mark to use the money of the churches to feed the poor and satisfy their needs. He helped everyone without distinction of faith until God lifted up this famine.
This Pope built many churches. When the time had come for his departure, he called on the priests and said to them, "I was born on the 16th of Tubah and was also ordained Pope on the same day, and on this day also I will leave this world." When the bishops and the priests heard that, they wept and asked him to chose his follower. He replied, "The Lord Jesus has chosen my disciple Mark to this order." When he finished 23 years and several months as a Pope, he departed in peace.
Glory be to God forever. Amen.