1. The Holy Apostles Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon and Parmenas.
All four were of the number of the seven deacons and the seventy apostles. The other three deacons were Stephen, Philip and Nicolas. Stephen, the first martyr, is commemorated on December 27th, and Philip on October 11th. Nicolas was not included in the ranks of the saints because of heresy. These first four have no separate commemoration, and are commemorated together on this day. Prochorus was consecrated by the Apostle Peter as Bishop of Nicomedia. He served for a time with St John the Evangelist and, on the island of Patmos, wrote down the Revelation that he heard from St John's lips. After that, he returned to Nicomedia, where he made great efforts to bring the people to the Faith. He died a martyr in Antioch, where he was murdered by unbelievers. Holy Nicanor suffered in Jerusalem on the same day as St Stephen the Archdeacon, quickly followed by two hundred others, killed by the wicked Jews. Timon was bishop in Arabia, and was crucified for Christ. Parmenas died before the eyes of the apostles, and was mourned and buried by them.
2. The Holy Martyr Julian.
In the time of the Emperor Antoninus (138-161), St Julian went from Dalmatia to Campania in Italy. He was a handsome young man, utterly consecrated to God in his soul. On the way, he met a group of imperial soldiers, who were on their way to round up Christians. 'Peace be to you, my brethren!', said Julian to them. By such a greeting and by the meekness of the young man's face, the soldiers deduced that he was a Christian. To their query, Julian replied: 'I am a Christian, born in Dalmatia.' He openly admitted to them that he was travelling with the aim of turning idol-worshippers to the one, living God. The soldiers beat him mercilessly and then cast him into a pit, where he spent seven days with no earthly food. An angel of God appeared to him, nourishing him with heavenly food. Brought to trial, Julian remained firm as diamond in the Faith. Seeing his courage and steadfastness in the Faith, thirty men turned to Christ the Lord. Condemned to death, St Julian knelt and raised his prayer to God, thanking Him for the gift of martyrdom and praying Him to have mercy on all who would keep his memory. He was beheaded with an axe, and gave his soul to God.
3. Our Holy Father Paul of Xeropotamou.
The son of the Emperor Michael Cyropalates, he was endowed with profound learning and a rare wisdom, conjoined with meekness. Procopius, as he was called at first, was, in his early years, a marvel to the whole of Constantinople. The Emperor Romanus the Elder called him 'the greatest of the philosophers'. But, fearful lest his soul be made proud and fall through the praise of men, this glorious youth clad himself in the garb of a poor man and went off to the Holy Mountain, where he received the monastic habit from the famous hierarch Cosmas. After a long period of solitary asceticism, he re-founded the monastery of Xeropotamou and, shortly after that, built the new monastery of St Paul, where he died in old age. When this monastery was consecrated, Emperor Romanus sent as a gift a large piece of the Precious Cross, which is kept there to this day. It is said of this saint that he preached the Gospel in Macedonia and Serbia. He endured much torment from the wicked Emperor Leo the Armenian, the iconoclast, and entered into rest in 820. At the time of his death, St Paul said to the brethren: 'Lo, the hour has come that my soul has always desired, and which my body has always dreaded.'
4. The Holy Martyr Eustathius (Eustace).
This martyr of Christ was a soldier in Ancyra. Taken for trial, he feared no torture but freely glorified the name of the Lord Christ. The commander, Cornelius, ordered that his feet be drilled through and threaded with rope. After doing this, they dragged the man of God to a river and threw him in. Saved by the power of God and healed of his wounds, he showed himself alive and well to the commander. When the commander saw him alive, he was so filled with fear that he drew his sword and killed himself. Eustathius lived some time longer, and entered into rest in the Lord in 316.
Concerning kindness, St. Nilus of Mt. Sinai writes: "My son, always strive to be simple and kind. Do not have one thing in your heart and another thing on your tongue for this is a ruse and a lie. Be truthful and not false for falsehood is of the evil one. Do not return evil for evil but if someone does you evil, forgive him so that God may also forgive you. If you are tormented by the remembrance of evil thoughts, pray to God for that brother [the evil doer] with your entire soul and the remembrance of evil thoughts will flee from you." It is told how a young man decided to serve a very eccentric old man so that God would forgive him of his sins. He endured twelve years in this most difficult service and presented himself to God. A great spiritual man saw the soul of the young man in Paradise as he was praying to God for the evil old man: "Lord, as You had mercy on me because of him, have mercy on him according to Your great goodness and because of me Your servant." After forty days this eccentric old man died and, again, that spiritual man saw the soul of that old man reposing in the Kingdom of Heaven. What a most beautiful and miraculous kindness of this patient youth in truth, miraculous!
To contemplate the miraculous burning of the sacrifice on the stone (Judges 6):
How an angel appeared to Gideon and Gideon ran to bring bread and meat to offer hospitality to the angel;
How the angel touched the bread and meat with the top of the staff and a fire arose and burned the sacrifice.
About the irrational questions of the irrational ones
"Where is the promise of his coming?" (2 Peter 3:4).
Thus ask the scoffers of the holy things of God. They who scoff at the words and works of God scoff at the promises of God. We the faithful say that the Lord will come and they scoff and say when will He come since He has not yet come? We say that the Lord promised to come and they scoff and say: "Where is the promise of His coming?" They say our fathers lived and died waiting for His coming and He did not come. Will we then still wait for Him, they say? Yes brethren, we wait for Him and we will wait for Him. He promised to come and He will come. The Holy apostle confirms the promise of the Lord; behold, he heard it from the lips of the Lord Himself, from the lips from which only truth proceeds. "With the Lord, a thousand years is as one day" (2 Peter 3:8). With these words the apostle seals the mouths of the scoffers and teaches us patience. Soon it will be two thousand years since the Son of God gave His promise that He will return again "in Power and in Glory" to save the faithful and to punish the unfaithful but He still has not yet come, so speak the scoffers. O ignorant scoffers, is two thousand years as long for God as it is for you? For do you not think that for Him two thousand years are as two days? Does He have to fulfill all of His promises in the course of two days? He, the Immortal One, is not in a hurry as you mortal ones are in a hurry. You are in a hurry for you will shortly die but He is Immortal and is not afraid of death. When He comes, He will find you in your graves. The trump of the angels will awaken you and you will rise, only to see that He is truthful and you will then be lowered into the dark kingdom of the slanderers, for you slander the Lord of Truth and drove Him into a lie. Brethren, the Lord does not want that we be inquisitive with regard to the day and the hour when He will come; He only wants that we believe that He will come. When He comes, be we dead or alive, we will see His coming. Is this not enough?
O Lord God, Our Savior, teach us patience and strengthen us in the Faith. You will come, we know.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.