Holy Martyr Theophilos the New
On this day we celebrate the memory of holy martyr Theophilos the new.
St. Theophilos lived during the reign of orthodox king Constantine and queen Irene in 785. He was born and brought up in Constantinople. When he had become a general, he was sent to a place called Kivyrraea together with the Roman fleet against the Saracenes (i.e. the Arab pirates). He had two other generals with him to be his assistants but they envied him. So, when the Saracenes approached them, he and his two generals came out with the fleet to fight them. St. Theophilos rushed at them first and reached the middle of the Saracenes' fleet. He fought courageously and subdued them with his machines and techniques. But the two generals, who envied him, left him and sailed away.
So, because the Saracenes had more ships than he did, they encircled him and arrested him alive. They took him to their country where they kept him imprisoned for four years. Then they let him out and, while they were making sacrifices, they were exhorting the saint to sacrifice and deny Christ using both flatteries and threats. But, because the martyr of Christ was not convinced neither by their flatteries nor by their threats, he was beheaded and, thus, blessed Theophilos received the unfading crown of martyrdom.
Departure of the Blessed Mary
On this day, the Church commemorates the departure of the the Blessed Mary.
As she was praying in the Holy Sepulchre, the Holy Spirit informed her that she was about to depart from this world. When the time of her departure drew near, the virgins of the Mount of Olives came to her, together with the Apostles who were alive at that time. The Lord Jesus Christ came to comfort her and told her about the eternal joy that was prepared for her. With Him, there were a host of thousands and thousands of angels.
The Apostles and the virgins asked her blessing. She stretched her hand, blessed them all, and then gave up her pure spirit in the hand of her Son and God, Who took it to the heavenly mansions.
The Apostles prepared the body in a fitting manner and carried it to Gethsemane. On their way, some of the Jews tried to disturb the procession; one of them seized the coffin with his hands and his hands were instantly separated from his body and remained attached to the coffin. He was horrified, lamented his evil deed and wept bitterly. Through the supplications of the saintly Apostles, his hands rejoined his body, and he believed in the Lord Jesus. When the body was being buried, the Lord concealed it and hid it from the Apostles.
St. Thomas the Apostle was not present. He wanted to go to Jerusalem and a cloud carried him there. On his way, he saw her pure body carried by the angels and ascending with it to heaven. One of the angels told him to make haste and kiss the pure body and he did.
When St. Thomas arrived where the disciples were, they told him about St. Mary's departure. He said, "You know how I doubted the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. I shall not believe unless I see her body." They went with him to the tomb but they did not find the body, and were surprised. St. Thomas told them how he saw the angels ascending with the holy body. At this moment, they heard the Holy Spirit saying to them, "The Lord did not want to leave her body on earth." The Lord promised to let them see her in the flesh once more. They waited for a promise, which was fulfilled, on Misra 16 (Coptic month), when they saw her.
Mary was sixty years when she died. She was twelve years old when she left the temple. She then spent thirty-four years in Joseph's house, until the Ascension of the Lord and fourteen years with St. John the Evangelist, according a the commandment of the Lord at the cross, "Behold, this is your son," and to St, John, "Behold. this is your mother".
Departure of St. Hilaria, Daughter of Emperor Zeno
On this day also, we commemorate the departure of St. Hilaria, the daughter of Emperor Zeno. The Emperor was an Orthodox believer who loved the church. He had two daughters, Hilaria and Thaopesta. He taught both of them the principles of the Orthodox faith.
Hilaria loved the solitary life and wanted to become a nun. When she was eighteen years old she left the court of her father and went to Egypt disguised in men's clothing. She went to the wilderness of St. Macarius where she met St. Pemwah. She expressed her desire to become a monk and was ordained under the name of Hilary.
Three years later, St. Pemwah found out that she was Hilaria, the daughter of Emperor Zeno. He kept that secret. He placed her in a cave and visited her from time to time. She stayed there for fifteen years and had no beard. The monks thought that she was a eunuch and called her "Hilary the eunuch".
Meanwhile, her sister Thaopesta became possessed with an unclean spirit and her father spent a huge amount of money to cure her, but in vain. A man in the court advised the Emperor to send her to the elders of Sheheat (Scetis), for the fame of their holiness.
The Emperor sent her with one of his important men accompanied by many soldiers and several servants. He wrote a letter to the elders of the Wilderness telling them about his pain and suffering. He stated that God had given them two daughters; one of them left him and he did not know where she was, and the other became possessed with the devil who inflicted pain upon her. He asked them to pray that the Lord might heal her, so that she would be a comfort to him instead of his disappeared daughter.
When the sister arrived to the wilderness of Sheheat (Scetis) and the elders read the Emperor's letter, they prayed for her for many days, but she was not healed. At the end, the fathers decided that Hilary the eunuch should take her and pray for her healing. St. Hilary knew that she was her sister but her sister did not recognise her. She refused at the beginning to take her, but the elders insisted.
St. Hilaria kissed her sister, embraced her and wept, but Thaopesta did not know that she was her sister. A few days later, Thaopesta was healed, and St. Hilaria took her to the elders and said to them, "Through your prayers God has granted her healing." The elders sent Thaopesta back to her father in peace.
When she arrived, her father and all those who were in the Emperor's palace rejoiced for her safe return and offered many thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ. Her father asked her about her stay in Sheheat (Scetis), and she said God healed her by the prayers of St. Hilary the eunuch who embraced and kissed her.
When the Emperor heard this, he had some reservations about this monk and he sent to the elders asking them to bring to him St. Hilary who healed his daughter, in order to get his blessings.
When the elders asked St. Hilaria to go and meet the Emperor, she wept bitterly, pleading with them to spare her from the trip. They responded that the Emperor was a righteous man who loved the church and that it was proper not to disobey him according to the Holy Scriptures. After a great effort St. Hilaria went to the Emperor who greeted her, then he had a private meeting with her together with the Empress. They asked, "How could you, a "monk" embrace and kiss the Princess?" Then Hilaria asked them to bring the Bible and to make a solemn oath not to hinder her from going back to the wilderness after telling them her story, and they did.
She told them, "I am your daughter Hilaria," and she told then what had happened to her since she left the palace and went to the Wilderness. Her parents wept with a loud voice and all the people in the palace were in confusion.
She stayed three months, then she wanted to return, and when her parents refused, she reminded them of their oath. Then the Emperor wrote to the Governor of Egypt asking him to send to the monks of the Wilderness a 100 bushels of wheat, 600 measures of oil and all the monks needed in the Wilderness, on a yearly basis. The Emperor also saw to it that many cells were built for the monks. He also built a beautiful palace in the Monastery of St Macarius. As a result, from that time on, the number of monks increased in the Wilderness.
After her return to the Wilderness, St. Hilaria stayed five more years and departed in peace. No one knew that she was a woman until after her death.
Departure of St. Gregory of Nyssa, Brother of St. Basil the Great
Also on this day, in the year 396 A.D., St. Gregory of Nyssa, the brother of St. Basil the Great, departed.
This great father of the church was virtuous, like all his brothers. He was very well versed in the art of discourse and in the Greek language, and he had a great zeal for Orthodox faith.
When these good characters were known about him, he was chosen against his will, a bishop over the city of Nyssa. He shepherded the flock of Christ that was entrusted to him, very well. He illumined the souls with his sermons and discourses. He interpreted many books of the Holy Bible. He was exiled at the time of Emperor Valens, but returned to Nyssa by the order of Emperor Theodosius the Great, in 378 A.D.
One hundred and fifty fathers gathered in the second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, in 381 A.D. That was to condemn Macedonius for his heresy. Emperor Theodosius requested that St. Gregory the Archbishop of the city, to be one of the fathers present. He silenced Sabilius, Macedonius and Apolinarus, exposing the fallacies of their heresies.
It was said about him, that while he was celebrating the Divine Liturgy, he used to see the Cherubim on the altar.
After 33 years as Bishop of Nyssa, his brother St. Basil came to visit him, for St. Gregory was sick because of his austere ascetic life. St. Gregory received his brother with joy. One day when St. Gregory was about to start the holy Liturgy, he fell into a trance and the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and said to him, "Today, you will be with us." He departed the same day, and St. Basil, his brother, prayed over him, and he was buried with great honour.
Glory be to God forever. Amen.