Hebrews 9:8-10, 15-23 Mark 8:22-26
Genesis 26; Psalm 27; Proverbs 5:15·19; Matthew 17
Xenophon was a wealthy senator in Constantinople during the reign of Justinian. He and his wife Mary had two sons, Arcadius and John, to whom they gave every advantage of education. When they were of age, Xenophon sent them both to study law in Berytus (Beirut). But the ship on which they set out was wrecked in a storm, and the two brothers were cast ashore, alive but separated, neither knowing whether the other had survived. Both brothers gave thanks to God for their salvation and, newly conscious of the vanity of earthly things, both became monks: John in Tyre and Arcadius in Jerusalem. Two years later, having heard no news from his sons, Xenophon made inquiries and found that they had never arrived at Beirut, and that they had seemingly perished in a shipwreck. Giving thanks to God, who gives and takes away, both Xenophon and his wife Mary put on coarse garments and went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, they met the spiritual father of Arcadius, who told them that both their sons were alive and that they would soon see them. By God's providence, John and Arcadius met one another at Golgotha and, joyfully reunited, spent some time serving Arcadius' holy Elder. Two days later Xenophon and Mary, visiting the Elder, spent time with their two sons but did not recognize them until the Elder revealed their identity. The parents wept for joy and decided immediately to take up the monastic life themselves. Giving away their considerable wealth, the two entered monasteries in the Holy Land. Both parents and sons went far in the life of prayer, being granted the power to work miracles and foreknow future events.
Genesis 25; Psalm 26; Proverbs 5:7·14; Matthew 16
Hebrews 8:7-13 Mark 8:11-21
This light of the Church is one of only three holy Fathers whom the Church has honored with the name "the Theologian" (the others are St John the Evangelist and Theologian, and St Symeon the New Theologian). He was born in 329 in Arianzus in Cappadocia to a pious and holy family: both his father Gregory, mother Nonna, brother Caesarius and sister Gorgonia are all counted among the Saints of the Church. His father later became Bishop of Nazianzus. He studied in Palestine, then in Alexandria, then in Athens. On the way to Athens, his ship was almost sunk in a violent storm; Gregory, who had not yet been baptized, prayed to the Lord to preserve him, and promised that henceforth he would dedicate his entire life to God. Immediately the storm ceased. In Athens, Gregory's fellow students included St Basil the Great and the future Emperor Julian the Apostate. The friendship between Gregory and Basil blossomed into a true spiritual friendship; they were loving brothers in Christ for the rest of their lives. After completing their studies, Sts Gregory and Basil lived together as monks in hermitage at Pontus. Much against St Gregory's will, his father ordained him a priest, and St Basil consecrated him Bishop of Sasima (in the Archdiocese of Caesarea, over which St Basil was Archbishop). In 381 the Second Ecumenical Council condemned Macedonius, Archbishop of Constantinople, and appointed St Gregory in his place. When he arrived in the City, he found that the Arians controlled all the churches, and he was forced to "rule" from a small house chapel. From there he preached his five great sermons on the Trinity, the Triadika; these were so powerfully influential that when he left Constantinople two years later, every church in the City had been restored to the Orthodox. St Gregory was always a theologian and a contemplative, not an administrator, and the duties of Archbishop were agonizing to him. In 382 he received permission from a council of his fellow-bishops and the Emperor to retire from the see of Constantinople. He returned to Nazianzus (for which reason he is sometimes called St Gregory of Nazianzus). There he reposed in peace in 391 at the age of sixty-two. His writings show a theological depth and a sublimity of expression perhaps unsurpassed in the Church. His teaching on the Holy Trinity is a great bastion of Orthodox Faith; in almost every one of his published homilies he preaches the Trinity undivided and of one essence.
Genesis 24; Psalm 25; Proverbs 5:1·6; Matthew 15:21·39
She was born about 1730, and as a young woman married an army colonel named Andrei, a handsome and dashing man fond of worldly living. When she was twenty-six years old, her husband died suddenly after drinking with his friends, leaving Xenia a childless widow. Soon afterward, she gave away all her possessions and disappeared from St Petersburg for eight years; it is believed that she spent the time in a hermitage, or even a monastery, learning the ways of the spiritual life. When she returned to St Petersburg, she appeared to have lost her reason: she dressed in her husband's army overcoat, and would only answer to his name. She lived without a home, wandering the streets of the city, mocked and abused by many. She accepted alms from charitable people, but immediately gave them away to the poor: her only food came from meals that she sometimes accepted from those she knew. At night she withdrew to a field outside the city where she knelt in prayer until morning. Slowly, the people of the city noticed signs of a holiness that underlay her seemingly deranged life: she showed a gift of prophecy, and her very presence almost always proved to be a blessing. The Synaxarion says "The blessing of God seemed to accompany her wherever she went: when she entered a shop the day's takings would be noticeably greater; when a cabman gave her a lift he would get plenty of custom; when she embraced a sick child it would soon get better. So compassion, before long, gave way to veneration, and people generally came to regard her as the true guardian angel of the city." Forty-five years after her husband's death, St Xenia reposed in peace at the age of seventy-one, sometime around 1800. Her tomb immediately became a place of pilgrimage: so many people took soil from the gravesite as a blessing that new soil had to be supplied regularly; finally a stone slab was placed over the grave, but this too was gradually chipped away by the faithful. Miracles, healings and appearances of St Xenia occur to this day, to those who visit her tomb or who simply ask her intercessions. Her prayers are invoked especially for help in finding employment, a home, or a spouse (all of which she renounced in her own life). A pious custom is to offer a Panachida / Trisagion Service for the repose of her husband Andrei, for whom she prayed fervently throughout her life. Saint Xenia was first officially glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia in 1978; then by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1988.
Genesis 23; Psalm 24:12·22; Proverbs 4:24·28; Matthew 15:1·20