First and second finding of the Honorable Head of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist of the Lord, John

After the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John (August 29), his body was buried by disciples in the Samarian city of Sebaste, and his venerable head was hidden by Herodias in an unclean place. Saint Joanna (June 27), the wife of King Herod’s steward Chuza (Luke 8:3), secretly took the holy head and placed it into a vessel and buried it on the Mount of Olives in one of Herod’s properties.

After many years, this property passed into the possession of a government official who became a monk with the name of Innocent. He built a church and a cell there. When they started to dig the foundation, the vessel with the venerable head of John the Baptist was uncovered. Innocent recognized its great holiness from the signs of grace emanating from it. Thus occurred the First Finding of the Head. Innocent preserved it with great piety, but fearful that the holy relic might be abused by unbelievers, before his own death he again hid it in that same place, where it was found. Upon his death the church fell into ruin and was destroyed.

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).

Sunday of Meatfare of the Last Judgment

Today’s Gospel reading is Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the Last Judgment. It reminds us that while trusting in Christ’s love and mercy, we must not forget His righteous judgment when He comes again in glory. If our hearts remain hardened and unrepentant, we should not expect the Lord to overlook our transgressions simply because He is a good and loving God. Although He does not desire the death of a sinner, He also expects us to turn from our wickedness and live (Ezek. 33:11). This same idea is expressed in the prayer read by the priest after the penitent has confessed his or her sins (Slavic practice).

Saint Leo the Great, Pope of Rome

Saint Leo I the Great, Pope of Rome (440-461), received a fine and diverse education, which opened for him the possibility of an excellent worldly career. He yearned for the spiritual life, however, and so he chose the path of becoming an archdeacon under holy Pope Sixtus III (432-440), after whose death Saint Leo was chosen as Bishop of Rome in September 440.

These were difficult times for the Church, when heretics assaulted Orthodoxy with their false teachings. Saint Leo combined pastoral solicitude and goodness with an unshakable firmness in the confession of the Faith. He was in particular one of the basic defenders of Orthodoxy against the heresies of Eutyches and Dioscorus, who taught that there was only one nature in the Lord Jesus Christ. He was also a defender against the heresy of Nestorius.

Saint Flavian the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople

Saint Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 449) | MYSTAGOGY RESOURCE  CENTERSaint Flavian the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople, occupied the patriarchal throne of Constantinople under the holy Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450) and his sister the holy Empress Pulcheria (September 10).

At first he was a presbyter and caretaker of church-vessels in the cathedral. He became Patriarch after the death of holy Patriarch Proclus (November 20). During this time, various disturbances and heresies threatened church unity.