Contemporary theology

Polycarp the Holy Martyr & Bishop of Smyrna

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This apostolic and prophetic man, and model of faith and truth, was a disciple of John the Evangelist, successor of Bucolus (Feb. 6), and teacher of Irenaeus (Aug. 23). He was an old man and full of days when the fifth persecution was raised against the Christians under Marcus Aurelius. When his pursuers, sent by the ruler, found Polycarp, he commanded that they be given something to eat and drink, then asked them to give him an hour to pray; he stood and prayed, full of grace, for two hours, so that his captors repented that they had come against so venerable a man. He was brought by the Proconsul of Smyrna into the stadium and was commanded, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, 'Away with the atheists.'" By atheists, the Proconsul meant the Christians. But Polycarp, gazing at the heathen in the stadium, waved his hand towards them and said, "Away with the atheists." When the Proconsul urged him to blaspheme against Christ, he said: "I have been serving Christ for eighty-six years, and He has wronged me in nothing; how can I blaspheme my King Who has saved me?" But the tyrant became enraged at these words and commanded that he be cast into the fire, and thus he gloriously expired about the year 163. As Eusebius says, "Polycarp everywhere taught what he had also learned from the Apostles, which also the Church has handed down; and this alone is true" (Eccl. Hist., Book IV, ch. 14,15).

Why are the dead commemorated on Saturdays?

The Saturdays of commemorations of the dead are called ancestral Saturdays (the first universal commemoration on Meat Fare Saturday, the second, third, and fourth Saturdays of Great Lent, Trinity Saturday, and St. Demetrius Saturday). Why do these take place specifically on Saturdays? What are the historical roots of this tradition? They were not all instituted at the same time.

God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he ceased from all His works which God began to do (Gen. 2:3). Saturday (Sabbath) for the Jews was a day of festive rest. Christ’s resurrection placed the beginning of the new Israel: a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:9). The resurrection day of the Savior of the World became the seventh, festive day that completes the week. Sunday [in Russian, voskresenie, meaning “resurrection”) is a day of prayer in church at Divine Liturgy and pious rest. From a day of earthly rest, Saturday became a symbol of joyous rest in the Kingdom of Heaven: There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his (Heb. 4:9–10). This is where the custom, fixed by the Church typicon, came from of having special services on Saturday for the commemoration of the dead.

Jakov, Serbian Archbishop

Jakov (Serbian: Јаков) was the Serbian Archbishop from 1286 to 1292. Information on Jakov is scarce; it is known that he renovated and founded churches and that he likely transferred the episcopal see from Žiča to the Peć metochion. He had special love for the Studenica monastery, to which he provided liturgical books and church accessories. He had special care for Serbian ascetics. He received his aureola with his saintly purity and Christian love, he was gentle, humble and charitable. The Serbian Orthodox Church venerates him as Saint Jakov on February 3, in the Church calendar, while February 16, on the Gregorian calendar.

Translation of the relics of St John Chrysostom the Archbishop of Constantinople

Saint John Chrysostom This great ecumenical teacher and hierarch died in the city of Comana in the year 407 on his way to a place of exile. He had been condemned by the intrigues of the empress Eudoxia because of his daring denunciation of the vices of those ruling over Constantinople. The transfer of his venerable relics was made in the year 438, thirty years after the death of the saint during the reign of Eudoxia’s son emperor Theodosius II (408-450).

Saint John Chrysostom had the warm love and deep respect of the people, and grief over his untimely death lived on in the hearts of Christians. Saint John’s disciple, Saint Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople (434-447), during services in the Church of Hagia Sophia, preached a sermon praising Saint John. He said, “O John, your life was filled with sorrow, but your death was glorious. Your grave is blessed and reward is great, by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ O graced one, having conquered the bounds of time and place! Love has conquered space, unforgetting memory has annihilated the limits, and place does not hinder the miracles of the saint.”

St. Gregory the Theologian the Archbishop of Constantinople

Saint Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople, a great Father and teacher of the Church, was born into a Christian family of eminent lineage in the year 329, at Arianzos (not far from the city of Cappadocian Nazianzos). His father, also named Gregory (January 1), was Bishop of Nazianzus. The son is the Saint Gregory Nazianzus encountered in Patristic theology. His pious mother, Saint Nonna (August 5), prayed to God for a son, vowing to dedicate him to the Lord. Her prayer was answered, and she named her child Gregory.

The sacrifice of a missionary

In remembrance of archimandrite Kosmas (Aslanidis), the apostle of the Republic of Zaire

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Mt. 28:19–20). Such was the final commandment our Savior gave to His apostles. Every true Christian is a missionary that testifies that the Kingdom of God has come into the world and spreads the good news about it to other people.

Hieromonk Kosmas Grigoriatis (Ioannis Aslanidis in the world; 1942-1989) is one of the most well-known Orthodox missionaries of our time, through whom the light of Christ has illumined the souls of many of our African brothers and sisters in Christ. This year we commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of his reposal.

We would like to offer our readers a few words of reminiscence in honor of Fr. Kosmas, which were said by the abbot of the Grigoriat monastery of Mt. Athos—geronda George (Kapsanis) of blessed memory.    

After sunset on Friday, January 7, 1989, the zealous preacher of the Gospel to our African brothers, hieromonk Kosmas, faded away from this life in order to arise in the ever-shining light of the Kingdom of God. On his way from Lubumbashi to Kolwezi, he suddenly finished his earthly journey, and stepped upon the path leading to eternity, to the everlasting City, to the longed-for Homeland.

Venerable and God-bearing Father Anthony the Great

Saint Anthony the Great is known as the Father of monasticism, and the long ascetical sermon in The Life of Saint Anthony by Saint Athanasius (Sections 16-34), could be called the first monastic Rule.

He was born in Egypt in the village of Coma, near the desert of the Thebaid, in the year 251. His parents were pious Christians of illustrious lineage. Anthony was a serious child and was respectful and obedient to his parents. He loved to attend church services, and he listened to the Holy Scripture so attentively, that he remembered what he heard all his life.

When Saint Anthony was about twenty years old, he lost his parents, but he was responsible for the care of his younger sister. Going to church about six months later, the youth reflected on how the faithful,in the Acts of the Apostles (4:35), sold their possessions and gave the proceeds to the Apostles for the needy.