“Though you do not believe me, believe the works” (John 10:27-38)

-The_good_Shepherd-_mosaic_-_Mausoleum_of_Galla_Placidia
Mosaic in Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy, 5th century

John 10:27-38 (RSV)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

This sermon takes place following Jesus’ healing the man who was blind from birth (John 9:1-41) and the discussion during the Feast of Purification (John 10:22-42).

John 10:27-28

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”

Christ had previously told the Jews, You are not of my sheep (verse 26), but He now encourages them to become His sheep.  He describes the reward His followers will receive:  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.1

John 10:29-30

“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

They shall never perish means, “No man is able to snatch them out of my hand.  My hand and My Father’s hand are one and the same, for I and My Father are one” in authority and in power, of which the hand is a symbol.

And so, “I and the Father are one in nature, in essence, and in power.”  When the Jews understood from this that Christ considered Himself to be the Son of God and in one essence with God, they prepared to stone Him.

It should be noted perhaps that in the Greek text behind I and the Father are one, the word “one” is given in the neuter gender (ἕν) and not the masculine (εἷς) – signifying that Christ is speaking of unity of essence, not merely of power and will.

One might ask, “How can the Lord say, no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand, when we see that many have perished?  The answer is that non one can pluck a believer from the hand of the Father, but there are many who can use evil influence to deceive.  No one can snatch a believer from God by brute force, but every day we are tripped up by deception.  Bede writes:

Wicked persecutors strove to snatch Christ’s holy confessors from His hand when torturing them to deny the faith in order to estrange their souls from Christ.  If they died victorious, then they cast their lifeless bodies into water to be dissolved or into the fire to be burned, in order to take from Christ, so to speak, the possibility of raising them up.  But no one will snatch them out of His hand.2

And again, how can the Lord say that My sheep … follow me … and shall never perish, when we know that Judas perished?  He perished because He chose not to follow the Lord and remain His sheep until the end.  When the Lord says, They shall never perish, He is speaking of those who are intent on following Him as His sheep.  But if a sheep wanders off from the flock and does not follow the shepherd, it is lost at once and will indeed perish.

The Manichees – a 2nd century heretical sect – believed that good and evil exist as permanent conditions of our nature.  But this is not true.  Judas, for example, at first was holy, and one of God’s sheep.  He fell away by his own choice.  Good and evil do not exist as permanent conditions, but are manifested when we exercise our free will.

John 10:31-32

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?”

Jesus had just stated, “I and the Father are one in authority and power.”  The Jews regarded this as blasphemy – a man claiming to be equal to God – and prepared to stone Him.

The Lord rebukes the Jews, showing that their rage is senseless.  He reminds them of the miracles He had performed:  I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?

 

John 10:33

The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

They answer, for blasphemy, because you … make yourself God.

John 10:34-36

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”

Jesus does not deny that He is God, equal to the Father; rather, He confirms His divinity by referring to the law (Christ considers the Psalms of David and all Scripture to be law).

“If you approve men who have been deified by grace and are called gods (Psalm 82:6), why do you condemn Me, Who am God by nature, the One whom the father has consecrated (or sanctified; Greek ἁγιάζω – hagiazō, “make holy”), meaning set apart to be slain for the world?  Whatever God has set apart is holy.  Because the Father has sanctified Me and set Me apart for the salvation of the world, I am not to be simply equated with the men whom Scripture called “gods”.  I am true God.  A man who has been made Godlike by grace cannot save; God alone can save.  Now they are called gods, to whom the Word of God came, but the name Word of God refers to Me.  I dwelt in those called gods and graciously adopted them as sons; therefore I am justly called God, more than any of them.  I am God by nature, and I bestow divinity upon others.”

This refutes those who reject the divinity of Christ – Arians and Nestorians in antiquity, sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses today.  Christ is the Son of God, not a creature, and is God by essence and nature.  Being the Word of God by nature, He is not made divine by grace but bestows divinity upon men.  Christ clearly distinguishes Himself from men who have been made Godlike by grace.  He explains that He is the author of their theosis (i.e. becoming god-like), since He is the Word of God dwelling in them.

 

To whom the Word of God came means those with whom Christ was present and in whom He dwelt.  “How do I blaspheme by calling Myself the Son of God?  I indeed bear flesh and am of the seed of David, but you cannot understand this mystery.”  Carnal human nature would have remained forever incapable of conversing and communing with God had not the Word conversed with men through the veil of the flesh.

John 10:37-38

“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

The Lord is saying here, “Do you wish to understand My equality with the Father? You cannot fathom this equality in essence because it is impossible to know the essence of God.  But the exact identity of Our works proves that Our power is identical and demonstrates My divinity.  From this, know and believe that I am what the Father is.  I have the same essence as the Father while remaining the Son; I differ from Him only in hypostasis (i.e. “person”).  Likewise, the Father ever remains the Father and differs from Me only in hypostasis.  He is identical to Me in essence and nature.  Though we differ in hypostasis, Our hypostases are undivided and inseparable: the Father and the Son united without confusion.”

It is not so with men.  A human father exists separately form his son, although they are one in nature.  But the divine hypostases are intermingled without confusion.  We speak of “three men”, for every human person is a separate entity.  But the Holy Trinity is one God, not three, because of the unconfused interpenetration of the three hypostases without confusion, and their unity of counsel and  will.

The 19th century Russian monk, Theophan the Recluse comments here:

The works of the Lord were obvious to all, and He could point to them openly.  They are the healing of various diseases, the driving out of demons, power over nature, knowledge of the thoughts of the heart, prophesying of the future, power in one’s word, and dominion over souls.  All of these clearly proved that Jesus Christ was from God, and that His word was the truth.  Other works were added to these for us: His glorious death, Resurrection and Ascension, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the foundation of the Church, the marvelous spiritual gifts in believers, the triumph over pagans, and the grace-filled power which to this day has not ceased to act in the Church of God.  All of these are the works of the Lord.  To any unbeliever one can say: If you do not believe the word, believe these works, which loudly witness to the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ; and having come to belief, accept His entire truth.  But how did those Jews answer the Lord at that time?  They sought again to take Him (John 10:39).  What do today’s unbelievers do? They sit and weave lie onto lie, not in order to “take” the Lord – for that is not according to their strength – but to “take” those who are simple in faith and cannot unravel their sly weavings.3


1 Unless otherwise noted, explanations are taken from The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to John of Theophylact of Ohrid; translated from the Greek by Christopher Stade (Chrysostom Press, 2007).
2 Homilies on the Gospels
3 Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, translated from the Russian, St. Herman of Alaska Press, 2010, pp.108-9

“For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39-10:9)

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Woe_unto_You,_Scribes_and_Pharisees_(Malheur_à_vous,_scribes_et_pharisiens)_-_James_Tissot

John 9:39-10:9 (RSV)

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

This discourse takes place during the course of Jesus’ healing the man who was blind from birth (John 9:1-41), leading into His sermon regarding the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21).

John 9:39 

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”

The Lord saw that the Pharisees had harmed themselves by rejecting the benefit of the miracle they had just witnessed (i.e. the healing of the man who was blind from birth, verse 1ff.), thus deserving even greater condemnation for their disbelief.  Appraising events by their outcome, He declares,“For judgment I came,” meaning, “for the greater condemnation and punishment of My enemies,  “that those who do not see may see, and that those who see,” such as the Pharisees, “may become blind in the eyes of their soul.”1

It is important to observe a nuance of the Greek text for the above, which reads:

εἰς κρῖμα ἐγὼ εἰς τὸν κόσμον τοῦτον ἦλθον – For judgment I came into this world

ἵνα οἱ μὴ βλέποντες βλέπωσι –  that those who do not see may see

καὶ οἱ βλέποντες τυφλοὶ γένωνται – and that those who see may become blind

The conjunction ἵνα, translated as “that” in almost English translation, does not necessarily mean “in order that”.  Theophylact (a Byzantine Greek commentator) explains:

Now, understand this as well, every student of Divine Scripture: the conjunctions ἵνα and ὅπως are often used to express the outcome, but not the intended result, of the action stated in the main clause.  Thus David says, Against Thee only have I sinned, … that Thou mightest be justified in Thy words [σοὶ μόνῳ ἥμαρτον … ὅπως ἂν δικαιωθῇς ἐν τοῖς λόγοις; Psalm 50:4 LXX].  The word that introduces a result unintended by David.  When David sinned, he did not do so with the purpose in mind of justifying God; but his sinning did result in God being justified.2

John 9:40

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?”

The man blind from birth sees both spiritually and physically, but those who think they see are blind spiritually.  Here the Lord speaks of two kinds of vision and two kinds of blindness, but the Pharisees, who are always fixated on the material world, think He means only a material affliction.

Are we also blind? they ask, fearing a physical blindness.

John 9:41

Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

The Lord desires to show them that it is better to be blind physically than to lack faith, saying, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt [Literally “sin” – ἁμαρτία].  If blindess were your natural condition, you would have some excuse for being ill with unbelief.  But you insist that you can see; furthermore, you are eyewitnesses of the miraculous healing of the blind man.  Because you suffer from self-inflicted unbelief, you deserve no forgiveness.  Your sin remains unabsolved, and you will undergo greater punishment, because you refuse to acknowledge the truth even after seeing such wonders.”

The words If you were blind, you would have no guilt may also be understood as follows: “You seem afraid only of physical blindness, but I warn you of spiritual blindness.  If you were blind, that is, ignorant of the Scriptures, you would have no guilt; that is, you would be sinning in ignorance.  But since you say that you see, and consider yourselves wise and learned in the law, you condemn yourselves and have the greater sin, because you sin deliberately, with knowledge.”

Of these verses, the Russian monk Theophan the Recluse wrote,

They who could not see where the simple people who believed in the Lord in simplicity of heart, while they who saw were the scribes and learned men of that time, who due to their pride of mind did not believe and held back the people.3

Writing in the late 19th century, his observations might well also apply today:

Our clever ones think they see, and this is why they are alienated from faith in the Lord which those who are simple in heart and mind firmly hold to.  Therefore, according to the truth of the Lord, they are blind, whereas the people see.  They are exactly like those birds which can see at night, but not during the day.  The truth of Christ is dark for them, whereas what is contrary to this truth – falsehood – to them seems clear: here they are in their element.  This is so obvious, but nevertheless, they are ready to ask, Are we blind also? There is nothing to hide – you are blind.  But since it is your own fault that you are blind, the sin of blindness and the inability to see the light lies upon you.  You can see, but you do not want to, because you have come to love a deceptive, yet seductive lie.4

Having just rebuked the Pharisees for their unbelief, which was caused by spiritual blindness, the Lord anticipates their response:  “We are not blind: we reject you because you are a deceiver.”  The Lord now speaks at length about the passion of stubborn unbelief, taking examples from everyday life – e.g. the deeds of a true shepherd and a wolf:

John 10:1

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber”

He begins with the wolf – the thief and the destroyer.  The thief does not enter by the door – meaning by the Scriptures – for neither the Scriptures nor the prophets support his actions.  The Scriptures are indeed a door leading to God: they deny entry to wolves and heretics; they keep us safe; they communicate whatever good thing we may desire to learn.  The thief, barred from entering by the door of the Scriptures, climbs in by another irregular and illicit way.

Theudas and Judas were such thieves.  Appearing shortly before Christ, they first deceived and destroyed the people, and then were themselves destroyed (Acts 5:36-37).  At the end of time the chief of evil men will come – the Antichrist.

The Lord is also rebuking the scribes here, who disregarded the law God gave Moses and replaced it with man-made ordinances and traditions.  Rightly does Christ say, “climbs up”, because thieves sneak in by climbing over walls [the Greek – ἀναβαίνω – literally means to “come up”, “ascend”, or “go up”].

John 10:2-3

“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The shepherd enters [in] by the door of the Scriptures, and to him the gatekeeper opens.  The gatekeeper refers to Moses, to whom God entrusted His divine commandments.  Moses opened the door for the Lord by prophesying about Him.  Christ Himself declares, If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me (John 5:46).

The gatekeeper also refers to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, Who likewise opens the doors of Scripture to reveal Christ our Shepherd.  Fulfilling the prophesies of the Old Testament, the Lord enters the sheepfold and assumes care of us; and the sheep hear His voice.

The scribes and the Pharisees repeatedly called Jesus a deceiver, justifying the accusation by their own unbelief: Have any of the rulers of the Pharisees believed in Him? (John 7:48)  But in fact their unbelief proves not that Jesus is a murderer and destroyer, but that the scribes and Pharisees have been cast out from the flock, and are no longer His sheep.  “I have entered by the door,” He says, “thus proving that I am the true Shepherd.  As for you, by refusing to follow Me, you have proven that you are no sheep.”

The Lord leads out His sheep from the midst of the unbelievers, just as He led the blind man out from the midst of the Jews, once the blind man heard and recognized His voice.

John 10:4

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

He goes before the sheep, though shepherds usually do the opposite and walk behind.  He goes before, because He is leading the disciples to the truth, even while sending them out as sheep among wolves (cf. Matt 10:16).  Truly Christ’s pastoral service is unprecedented!

John 10:5

“A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Again the Savior alludes to Theudas and Judas, whom the sheep refused to follow.  Even the few who were deceived rejected them after the scoundrels were executed.  But the whole world is gone after Christ (John 12:16), both while He lived on earth, and even more so after His death.

Jesus is also alluding to the Antichrist, who will deceive some, but will lose all his followers after he has perished.

The words will not follow mean that no one will take notice of the deceivers once they have died.  And so the Lord leads His followers through the door of the Scriptures to pasture (verse 9).  What does pasture mean? It is the delight and rest of the age to come.

Do not be perplexed when you hear Jesus in the following verses refer to Himself as the door.  To emphasize His care for us, he calls Himself shepherd; to show that He leads to the Father, he calls Himself door.  Similarly, by a different analogy, Christ is both shepherd and sheep (Acts 8:32).  The words of the divine Scriptures are a door.  But the Lord Himself is the Word, and therefore also the Door.

John 10:6

“This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”

This figure [literally, “parable” – παροιμία] Jesus spoke unto them,  catching their attention by enigmatic sayings.

John 10:7

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”

Although He first spoke in parables, now He speaks clearly:   I am the door.

John 10:8

“All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them.”

This statement applies again to Theudas and Judas, and other troublemakers (though the heretical Manichean sect proposed the above verse as a “proof text” to show that the Old Testament was heretical and not from God).  The Lord makes this clear when He says, the sheep did not heed them.  The sheep ignored the seditionists, but responded to every word of the prophets; they believed in Christ because of the prophets’ testimony.  Furthermore, the Lord is pleased that the sheep did not heed them.  If this referred to the prophets (as the Manichees suggested), it would be the only instance where Christ applauded those who refused to listen to His messengers.  Everywhere else, He strongly rebukes those who do so.  Take note of how He states precisely All who came.  He does not say, “All that ever were sent.”  The prophets were sent by God, but false prophets and seditionists came on their own initiative to deceive and destroy.  God Himself affirms, I sent not them, yet they ran (Jeremiah 23:21).

John 10:9

“I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

The Lord is saying, “He who enters in by Me, the door which leads to the Father, will become His sheep and be safe.”  Moreover, such a man will go in and out, that is, remain completely without fear in all his doings, as did the apostles, who went in boldly before the tyrants and went out rejoicing, and unconquered (e.g. Acts 5:41).

And he shall find pasture, meaning abundant spiritual nourishment.  But there is a deeper meaning here.  Because man’s nature is twofold – inner and outer (as Paul says) – a man “goes in” when he cares for the inner man:

Romans 7:22

For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self

2 Corinthians 4:16

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.

He “goes out” when he mortifies his members which are upon the earth (Colossians 3:5)5 and in Christ puts to death the sinful actions of the body:

Romans 8:13

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.

Such a man shall find pasture in the age to come, according to the words of the Psalm, The Lord is my Shepherd, and I shall not want.  In a place of green pasture, there hath He made me to dwell (Psalm 22:1 LXX).

Gregory the Great wrote of this verse:

He shall go in to faith.  He shall go out from faith to vision, from belief to contemplation.  He shall find pasture in everlasting refreshment.  His sheep shall find pasture because whoever follows Him with a guileless heart is nourished with a food of everlasting freshness.  What are the pastures of these sheep but the everlasting joys of an ever green paradise?  The pasture of the elect is the countenance of God in person.  When we see Him perfectly our hearts are endlessly satisfied with the food of life.  Those who have evaded the traps of temporary pleasures rejoice in those pastures with the fullness of eternity.  There are choirs of angels singing hymns, there the company of heavenly citizens.6

 


1 Unless otherwise noted, explanations are taken from The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to John of Theophylact of Ohrid; translated from the Greek by Christopher Stade (Chrysostom Press, 2007).
2 Thoughts for Each Day of the Year; translated from the Russian by St. Herman of Alaska Press, 2010, p.107
3 Ibid.
4 Commentary on John 9:3-5
5 KJV quoted, which is closer to the literal Greek
6 Forty Gospel Homilies, Homily XV; translated from the Latin by Dom David Hurst, Cistercian Publications, 1990.

How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat? The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes (John 6:5-14)

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James Tissot, La multiplicité des pains (1886-1896)

John 6:5–14 (RSV)

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!”

See also:  Matt 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:12-17

This miracle takes place just after the beheading of John the Baptist (Matt 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9) and just before the miracle of the Lord walking on water (Matt 14:23-27; Mark 6:47-50; John 6:16-21).

John 6:5 

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”

Why does Jesus lift up his eyes?  To show that the Lord had not been looking about idly?1

Bede observes, “That Jesus lifted up His eyes and beheld the multitude coming toward Him is an indication of the divine benevolence, for He is wont to come by the grace of heavenly mercy to meet all those seeking to come to Him” (Homilies on the Gospels).

Then, lifting up His eyes, He asked how they would feed the multitude, directing His question to Philip, who especially needed instruction, as revealed by this later conversation: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip?” (John 14:8-9) Therefore, the Lord begins early on to instruct him.

By first questioning him, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” the Lord prompts Philip to acknowledge the shortage of provisions, so that later they would not forget how astounding the miracle that was about to take place would be.

John 6:6

This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

By the above question, the Lord also tests Philip (Greek πειράζω – peirazō), that is, to make him recognize the weakness of his faith.  The Lord does not ask the question because  He was ignorant of Philip’s character; He asks in order to show it to others. For He already knew what He would do.

John 6:7–9

Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?”

After testing Philip’s faith and finding it limited by earthly reasoning, He shows the same to be true of Andrew.  But Andrew had a slightly better notion of the Lord’s power than did Philip.  While Philip declared, “Two hundred denarii2 would not buy enough bread,” Andrew points out an even smaller quantity: five barley loaves and two fish.  Perhaps Andrew recalled the miracles of the prophets of old – how Elisha multiplied loaves when Samaria was devastated by famine:

Then a man came from Baal-Shalisha and brought to the man of God the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley bread and fruit cake. And he said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” But his servant said, “Why shall I set this before one hundred men?” Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for Thus says the Lord: ‘They shall eat and will leave some behind.’ ” So they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.3

Nonetheless, Andrew, like Philip, fails to grasp the enormity of the Lord’s power: “but what are they among so many?”  Andrew thought that the Lord could perhaps multiply the loaves, as did Elisha, but Elisha had twenty loaves plus fig cakes on hand for one hundred men, whereas in this situation there were only five loaves plus two paltry fish for five thousand.

Bede suggests that the boy represents the Jewish people; that the five loaves represent the five books of Moses; and that the two fish represent the Psalms and the Prophets (Ibid.):

The boy represents the Jewish people, who were childlike in their understanding of the literal sense, keeping the words of the Scriptures shut up within themselves.  Nevertheless, our Lord, having appeared in the flesh, took the loaves and fish and showed what usefulness and sweetness they had.

The five loaves are the five books of Moses.  If they are opened up by spiritual understanding, and then multiplied by penetration of their deeper meaning, they daily refresh the hearts of the believers who hear them.  They are reported to have been made of barley, because of the stricter ordinances of the law, and the thicker outer husks of its literal interpretation which, as it were, cover the inner pith of its spiritual sense.

The two fish signify the writings of the psalmists and prophets.  One of these by chanting, and the other by talking to those who listen, tell of the future sacramental mysteries of Christ and the Church.  It is also appropriate that it was aquatic creatures that prefigured the heralds of the age in which faithful people could in no way live without the water of Baptism.

This miracle of the loaves is the same described by Matthew in 14:15-21.  In Matthew’s account, the disciples tell the Lord to dismiss the people, but here in John’s account Jesus asks the disciples how the crowd will be fed.  There is no discrepancy here:  taken together, the accounts tell us that the disciples first urged the Lord to dismiss the crowd, then the Lord asked Philip how they would be fed.

John 6:10

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

Christ commanded the men to sit down at once, as if the meal were already prepared.  The disciples had lacked faith, but now they quickly seated the people.  There was much grass because it was springtime (Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand – John 6:4).

Bede interprets the grass to also represent “bodily concupiscence, which everyone who desires to be satisfied with spiritual nourishment ought to tread underfoot and repress” (Ibid.).

Only the men were counted according to the custom of the law.  When Moses took a census of the people, he counted the men who were twenty years and older, not counting the women (Numbers 26:1-2).  (Theophylact comments, “From this we learn that God approves and honors only a vigorous and manly disposition.”)

“These five thousand,” writes Bede, “suggest the perfection of those who are refreshed with the word of life”:

The number one thousand ordinarily indicates the fulness of things which are being treated.  By the number five, the well-known senses of our body are represented.  These five thousand attempt to act manfully and take courage by living soberly, righteously, and piously, so that they may be deserved to be renewed by the sweetness of heavenly wisdom .. by this mystical banquet (Ibid.)

John 6:11

Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

In the majority of Greek manuscripts, verse 11 reads:

Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to the disciples (διέδωκε τοῖς μαθηταῖς), and the disciples to those that were seated (οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ τοῖς ἀνακειμένοις)

“Although they mystery of salvation received its start by being declared by our Lord,” writes Bede, “it was confirmed by those who heard it from Him”:

Thus it is appropriate that the Lord administered the loaves and fish to His disciples, and the disciples administered them to the crowd.  He broke up the five loaves and two fish, and distributed them to His disciples, when He opened their minds to understand everything that had been written about Him in the law of Moses and in the prophets and the psalms (Ibid.)

Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks publicly for two reasons: to demonstrate that we must give thanks to God before we eat; and to convince all the people present that He had come by the will of God and offers all things to the Father.  This shows that He could not have been God’s adversary, as the Pharisees claimed.

Note that the Lord never prayed to the Father before working miracles when no crowds were present:  for example, when He walked water or when he raised the dead.  Only when He performed a miracle in the presence of a multitude did He first raise His eyes to God.  The fact that He performs miracles solely by His own divine power and authority proves that He did not pray out of weakness, but rather by economia4.

Some say that the Lord gave thanks in order to evade the notice of the prince of this world until the time of His passion.  Christ did not permit Satan to suspect that He was God until He had caught the devil by the hook of His death on the cross.

John 6:12

And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.”

The Lord creates so much food that there is a large quantity left over.  He does not do this to flaunt his power, but rather as indisputable proof that the people had indeed eaten their fill and were not merely tricked into feeling sated.  He commands that the remnants be gathered up for the same reason: so that all would understand and remember more clearly the miracle that had just taken place before their eyes.

John 6:13

So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.

We should wonder not only at the abundance of fragments left over, but also at the number of baskets filled – exactly equal to the number of disciples.  Each of the twelve carried a basket – even Judas, who held in his hands proof that His Teacher was God.  But this blessing turned into his own condemnation when he yielded to malice and betrayed his Master.

Christ had a specific purpose in commanding each of the apostles to carry a basketful of leftovers: to fix the miracle in their memory, so that later when they became teachers of the whole world they would always remember it – unlike the foolish multitude who quickly forgot.

We too may learn from this miracle never to hesitate to provide hospitality, nor to become fainthearted if we are poor.  If we are left with a single loaf, let us remember that He Who multiplied the loaves so bountifully that there were twelve basketfuls of leftovers can also increase our one loaf.

John 6:14

When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!”

When Jesus performed other miracles, the people did not marvel.  Now, however, because he gave them food, they cry “This is indeed the prophet!”  No longer do they accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath, or violating the law.  For the sake of bread (in their gluttony) they honor Him so highly as to proclaim Him a prophet … and even want to make him king (verse 15).


1 Unless otherwise noted, explanations are taken from The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to John of Theophylact of Ohrid, translated from the Greek by Christopher Stade (Chrysostom Press, 2007).
2 The denarius was the usual wage for a day’s work
3 4 Kings 4:42-44 LXX/2 Kings 4:42-44 in the Masoretic Text. Orthodox Study Bible Septuagint translation.
4 οἰκονομία – a Greek word meaning “dispensation”: the deliberate veiling of Christ’s divinity in order to draw men to Himself. It is closely related to the other great aspect of Christ’s activity in the world, συγκατάβασις (sygkatabasis) – “condescension”: God’s humbling Himself to the level of man’s limited understanding in order to draw man up to God.

I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness

John 8:12–20 (RSV)

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The Pharisees then said to him, “You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going. You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true;I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me.”They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also.”These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Writing in the late 19th century, the Russian elder Theophan the Recluse spoke of this verse, “He who turns away from the Lord turns away from the light and is headed into darkness, and therefore he is a true obscurantist.”1 During Theophan’s time many “progressive” groups in Russia accused Orthodox Christians of “obscuring” the enlightenment of others.2

You know what the teaching of Christ demands.  As soon as someone puts forth thoughts contrary to this teaching, do not fear calling him an obscurantist, for this is his real name.

The Lord teaches:  enter in at the narrow gate of a strict life of self-denial; this is the only path to the light.  Whoever is traveling the broad path of pleasing himself is headed into darkness, and is an obscurantist.  The Lord teaches:  remember the last things: judgment, hell, and heaven.  There is a light that illuminates our future.  Whoever teaches that death is the end of all casts darkness over our fate, and thus is an obscurantist.  Lovers of the light!  Learn by this to distinguish where the darkness is, and depart from it.

 


1 Thoughts for Each Day of the Year (tr. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2010), p.102

2 Ibid.

It is finished (John 19:25-37)

Parallel passages (Eusebian Canon):  Matthew 27:34,50; Mark:15:23,37;Luke 23:46

25[At that time there stood by the Cross of Jesus were his mother], and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

26When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”

27Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

28After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.”

29A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.

30When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him;

33but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

34But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

35He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth—that you also may believe.

36For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of him shall be broken.”

37And again another scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced.”

 


 

Interpretation by the Church Fathers

John Chrysostom

Homily LXXXVII on the Gospel According to Matthew

And they gave Him gall to drink, and this to insult Him, but He would not. But another saith, that having tasted it, He said, “It is finished.” And what meaneth, “It is finished?” The prophecy was fulfilled concerning Him. “For they gave me,” it is said, “gall for my meat, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” But neither doth that evangelist indicate that He drank, for merely to taste differs not from not drinking, but hath one and the same signification.4

2 Matt. 27:31. [ἥγαγον for ἀπήγαγον.]

3 John 19:30.

4 Ps. 69:21.

John Chrysostom. (1888). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. In P. Schaff (Ed.), G. Prevost & M. B. Riddle (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew (Vol. 10, p. 516). New York: Christian Literature Company.


Cyril of Jerusalem

Catechetical Lecture XIII

Of this garden I sang of old to My spouse in the Canticles, and spoke to her thus. I am come into My garden, My sister, My spouse5; (now in the place where He was crucified was a garden6;) and what takest Thou thence? I have gathered My myrrh; having drunk wine mingled with myrrh, and vinegar, after receiving which, He said, It is finished7. For the mystery has been fulfilled; the things that are written have been accomplished; sins are forgiven. For Christ being come an High-Priest of the good things to came, by the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, entered in once far all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption; for if the bland of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the defiled, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more the blood of Christs8? And again, Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh9. And because His flesh, this veil, was dishonoured, therefore the typical veil of the temple was rent asunder, as it is written, And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom10; for not a particle of it was left; for since the Master said, Behold, your house is left unto you desolate11, the house brake all in pieces.

5 Cant. 4:1.

6 John 19:41.

7 Ib. 30.

8 Heb. 9:11.

9 Ib. 10:19.

10 Matt. 27:51.

11 Ib. 23:38.

Cyril of Jerusalem. (1894). The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), R. W. Church & E. H. Gifford (Trans.), S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen (Vol. 7, p. 91). New York: Christian Literature Company.


Augustine

Harmony of the Gospels, Book III, Chapter XVIII

Matthew proceeds as follows: “And Jesus, crying again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.”11 In like manner, Mark says, “And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.”12 Luke, again, has told us what He said when that loud voice was uttered. For his version is thus: “And Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit: and saying this, He gave up the ghost.”13 John, on the other hand, as he has left unnoticed the first voice, which Matthew and Mark have reported—namely, “Eli, Eli”—has also passed over in silence the one which has been recited only by Luke, while the other two have referred to it under the designation of the “loud voice.” I allude to the cry, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” Luke has also attested the fact that this exclamation was uttered with a loud voice; and hence we may understand this particular cry to be identified with the loud voice which Matthew and Mark have specified. But John has stated a fact which is noticed by none of the other three, namely, that He said “It is finished,” after He had received the vinegar. This cry we take to have been uttered previous to the loud voice referred to. For these are John’s words: “When Jesus, therefore, had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished; and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.”14 In the interval elapsing between this cry, “It is finished,” and what is referred to in the subsequent sentence, “and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost,” the voice was uttered which John himself has passed over without record, but which the other three have noticed. For the precise succession appears to be this, namely, that He said first “It is finished,” when what had been prophesied regarding Him was fulfilled in Him, and that thereafter—as if He had been waiting for this, like one, indeed, who died when He willed it to be so—He commended His spirit [to His Father], and resigned it.1 But, whatever the order may be in which a person may consider it likely that these words were spoken, he ought above all things to guard against entertaining the notion that any one of the evangelists is in antagonism with another, when one leaves unmentioned something which another has repeated, or particularizes something which another has passed by in silence.

11 Matt. 27:50.

12 Mark 15:37.

13 Luke 23:46.

14 John 19:30.

1 [This view of the order is altogether the more probable one. See commentaries.—R.]

Augustine of Hippo. (1888). The Harmony of the Gospels. In P. Schaff (Ed.), S. D. F. Salmond (Trans.), Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels (Vol. 6, pp. 205–206). New York: Christian Literature Company.


Ephraim the Syrian

Homily on Our Lord

And if thou shouldst say; “What necessity was there that He should speak humbly? Could He not have convinced him also through the greatness of the light?” Know, thou that questionest, that this rejoinder may be returned to thee; that because it was necessary that He should speak humbly, He therefore spoke humbly. For by Him Who is wise in all things, there was done there nothing that was not meet to be done. For He Who has given knowledge to artificers to do each thing severally with the instrument meet for it, does He not Himself know that which He gives others the power of knowing? Therefore whatsoever has been wrought or is being wrought by the Godhead, that very thing that is wrought by Him at that time, is for the furtherance of [God’s] working at that time, even though to the blind the Divine orderings seem contrariwise. But that we may not restrain by constraint of words a wise enquirer, one that wishes to grow by true persuasion as the seed by the rain-drops; know, O enquirer, that because Saul was a persecutor, but our Lord was endeavouring to make him persecuted instead of persecutor, therefore He of His wisdom made haste to cry—Saul, why persecutest thou Me?—in order that, when Saul who was being made a disciple, heard Him Who was making him a disciple, saying, Why persecutest thou Me? he might know that the Master Whose servant he was becoming, was a persecuted Master, and so might quickly cast away the persecution of his former masters, and might clothe himself in the persecuted state of his persecuted Master. Now any master who wishes to teach a man anything, teaches him either by deeds or by words. But if he teach him neither by words nor by deeds, the man cannot be instructed in his craft. So that, even though our Lord did not teach Paul humility by deeds, yet by voice He taught him endurance of persecution which the could not teach him by deed. For before our Lord was crucified, He taught His disciples humble endurance of persecution by deed. But after He had finished His persecution by crucifixion, as He said, Lo! all things are finished.1 He could not vainly return and begin again anything which once for all had been wisely finished. Or why again do ye seek for the crucifixion and shame of the Son of God?

1 John 19:30.

Ephrem the Syrian. (1898). Three Homilies. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), A. E. Johnston (Trans.), Gregory the Great (Part II), Ephraim Syrus, Aphrahat (Vol. 13, pp. 320–321). New York: Christian Literature Company.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons (Matthew 10:1, 5-8)

Parallel passages: Mark 3:13-16, 6:7-9; Luke 9:1-4

1And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.

5These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans,

6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

7And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.

The lives which follow are those of Saints for whom the above Scripture is appointed for reading in the Eastern Orthodox Church on their feast days, arranged roughly in chronological order according to when they lived.

Gregory, Bishop of Neocaesarea, the Wonderworker

Also known as Gregory Thaumaturgus, Commemorated November 17

This man of God and powerful wonderworker was called a second Moses. Gregory was born of pagan, but eminent and wealthy, parents. He studied Hellenic and Egyptian philosophy and became aware of the meagerness and insufficiency of pagan philosophy. He then turned to Christian teachers, particularly Origen of Alexandria, with whom he studied for several years and from whom he received baptism. Pure in 1117gregorywonderworkerbody and soul, he wanted to dedicate himself solely to Christ God, for which reason he withdrew to the wilderness, where he spent much time in rigorous asceticism. His fame spread everywhere. Bishop Phaedimus of Amasea wanted to consecrate him Bishop of Neocaesarea. The clairvoyant Gregory perceived Phaedimus’s intention and hid from the bishop’s emissaries in the wilderness. Finally, Phaedimus consecrated him in a strange way, and Gregory had to accept the office of bishop. The Most-holy Theotokos and St. John the Theologian appeared to him in a vision, and St. John, at the command of the Theotokos, gave him the Symbol of Faith that is known by Gregory’s name. Who can enumerate all the miracles of this second Moses? He had power over evil spirits, and over mountains and waters, healed every pain and infirmity, could become invisible to his persecutors, and clairvoyantly perceived distant events and men’s thoughts. He ended his earthly life in the year 270, in great old age. When he arrived in Neocaesarea as bishop, he found only seventeen Christians in that pagan city. When he departed this life, he left the city Christian, with only seventeen pagans, and received the wreath of glory from his Lord in the Heavenly Kingdom.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Holy and Unmercenaries Cyros and John of Alexandria

Commemorated January 31

These charitable and glorious saints were not blood brothers but were brothers in the spirit. At first, Cyrus lived in Alexandria, and as a physician he healed people by the power of Christ and by his knowledge of medicine. Learning that sickness mostly befalls man because of sin, Cyrus always directed the sick to purify their souls from sin through repentance and prayer and, thereby restore health to the body. When Diocletion’s persecution against Christians began, Cyrus withdrew to Arabia where he received the monastic tonsure. He became as famous in Arabia as he was in Alexandria, so that people there also resorted to him for assistance. ee55f5e0584f649bc56c6a6f76be6520Hearing about Cyrus, John, then a Roman officer in Edessa, came to Arabia to see him. Upon meeting, they loved one another as a brother loves a brother and remained together to live a life of asceticism. At that time, a certain Christian woman named Anastasia, together with her three daughters, was tortured by the persecutors in the town of Canopus. Hearing of this, Cyrus and John came to Canopus to encourage the mother and her daughters not to abandon the Faith. And truly, thanks to the counsel of these saints, Anastasia endured all tortures and, with her daughters, was martyred for Christ. The daughters of Anastasia were named: St. Theoctista, age 15; St. Theodota, age 13; and St. Eudocia, age 11. The tormentors then captured Cyrus and John, who, after imprisonment and torture were beheaded in the year 311 A.D. Numerous miracles were wrought by these martyrs, both during their lives and after their deaths. Their relics were translated to Rome during the reign of Emperor Arcadius. These saints are invoked for assistance during the Blessing of Water, in the Sacrament of Holy Unction and especially by those suffering from insomnia.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Holy Hieromartyr Vlasios (Blaise), Bishop of Sebaste

Commemorated February 11

Blaise was born in the Province of Cappadocia. From his early childhood, he was God-fearing and meek. Because of his great virtues, he was chosen as bishop of the city of Sebastea [in Armenia]. Blaise was a great spiritual and moral beacon in this pagan city. At the time of a grave persecution of Christians, St. Blaise encouraged his flock and visited the martyrs of Christ in prison, especially among them was the eminent and glorious Eustratius. When the city of Sebastea was completely depleted of 0211blaise03Christians – some were slain, and others fled – the Elder Blaise withdrew to Mt. Argeos and settled there in a cave. Wild beasts recognized the holy man, gathered around him and he tenderly caressed them. But the persecutors found the saint in this remote place and brought him to trial. Along the way, Blaise cured a young boy who had a bone caught in his throat. To the plea of the poor widow whose pig had been snatched by a wolf, the saint, by the power of his prayer, commanded the wolf to return it. The sinister judges tortured Blaise severely: flogging him and scrapping him with an iron comb. By his steadfastness in the Faith of Christ, Blaise converted many pagans to the Faith. Seven women and two children languished in prison with him. The women were beheaded first and, after that, the wonderful Blaise with these two children was beheaded. He suffered and was glorified in the year 316 A.D. People pray to St. Blaise for the well being of their domestic livestock and for protection against wild beasts. However, in the west, he is also invoked for diseases of the throat.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Holy Hieromartyr Cosmas of Aetolia

Commemorated August 24

The New Hieromartyr Cosmas, Equal of the Apostles, in the world Constas, was a native of Aitolia. He studied at first under the guidance of the archdeacon Ananias Dervisanos, and afterwards continued his education on Mount Athos, at the Vatopedi school renowned for teachers such as Nicholas Tzartzoulios (from Metsovo) and Eugenius Voulgaris (afterwards in the years 1775-1779 the archbishop of Ekaterinoslav and the Chersonessus).

Remaining on Athos at the Philotheou monastery to devote himself to spiritual 0824cosmosaitolianlabors, he was tonsured a monk with the name Cosmas, and later was ordained hieromonk. The desire to benefit his fellow Christians, to guide them upon the way of salvation and strengthen their faith, impelled Saint Cosmas to seek the blessing of his spiritual fathers and go to Constantinople. There he mastered the art of rhetoric and, having received a written permit of Patriarch Seraphim II (and later from his successor Sophronius) to preach the Holy Gospel.

So the saint began to proclaim the Gospel at first in the churches of Constantinople and the surrounding villages, then in the Danube regions, in Thessalonica, in Verroia, in Macedonia, Chimaera, Akarnania, Aitolia, on the islands of Saint Maura, Kephalonia and other places.

His preaching, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, was simple, calm, and gentle. It brought Christians great spiritual benefit. The Lord Himself assisted him and confirmed his words with signs and miracles, just as He had confirmed the preaching of the Apostles.

Preaching in the remote areas of Albania, where Christian piety had almost disappeared among the rough and coarse people entrenched in sin, Saint Cosmas led them to sincere repentance and improvement with the Word of God.

Under his guidance, church schools were opened in the towns and villages. The rich offered their money for the betterment of the churches, for the purchase of Holy Books (which the saint distributed to the literate), veils (which he gave women, admonishing them to come to church with covered heads),for prayer ropes and crosses (which he distributed to the common folk), and for baptismal fonts so that children could be baptized in the proper manner.

Since the churches could not accommodate everyone wanting to hear the wise preacher, Saint Cosmas with forty or fifty priests served the Vigil in the fields, and in city squares, where thousands of people prayed for the living and for the dead, and were edified by his preaching. Everywhere that Saint Cosmas halted and preached, the grateful listeners set up a large wooden cross, which remained thereafter in memory of this.

The apostolic service of Saint Cosmas was brought to a close by his martyric death in the year 1779. At 65 years of age, he was seized by the Turks and strangled. His body was thrown into a river, and after three days, was found by the priest Mark and buried near the village of Kolikontasi at the monastery of the Entrance into the Temple of the Most Holy Theotokos. Afterwards, part of his relics were transferred to various places as a blessing.

Orthodox Church in America

John of Shanghai and San Francisco

Commemorated June 19 or July 2

The future Saint John was born on June 4, 1896, in the village of Adamovka in Kharkiv province to pious aristocrats, Boris and Glafira Maximovitch. He was given the baptismal name of Michael, after the Holy Archangel Michael. In his youth, Michael was sickly and had a poor appetite, but he displayed an intense religious interest. He was educated at the Poltava Military School (1907-14); Kharkiv Imperial University, from which he received a law degree (in 1918); and the University of Belgrade (where he completed his theological education in 1925).

He and his family fled their country as the Bolshevik revolutionaries descended on the country, emigrating to Yugoslavia. There, he enrolled in the Department of Theology 0702john-sanfranciscoof the University of Belgrade. He was tonsured a monk in 1926 by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kharkov (later the first primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia). Metropolitan Anthony later in 1926 ordained him hierodeacon. Bishop Gabriel of Chelyabinsk ordained him hieromonk on November 21, 1926. Subsequent to his ordination he began an active life of teaching in a Serbian high school and serving, at the request of local Greeks and Macedonians, in the Greek language. With the growth of his popularity, the bishops of the Russian Church Aboard resolved to elevate him to the episcopate.

Hieromonk John was consecrated bishop on May 28, 1934, with Metropolitan Anthony serving as principal consecrator, after which he was assigned to the Diocese of Shanghai. Twelve years later he was named Archbishop of China. Upon his arrival in Shanghai, Bishop John began working to restore unity among the various Orthodox nationalities. In time, he worked to build a large cathedral church that was dedicated to Surety of Sinners Icon to the Mother of God, with a bell tower and large parish house. Additionally, he inspired many activities: building of churches, hospitals, and orphanages among the Orthodox and Russians of Shanghai. He was intensely active, constantly praying and serving the daily cycle of services, while also visiting the sick with the Holy Gifts. He often would walk barefooted even in the coldest days. Yet to avoid the appearance of secular glory, he would pretend to act the fool.

With the end of World War II and the coming to power of the communists in China, Bishop John led the exodus of his community from Shanghai in 1949. Initially, he helped some 5,000 refugees to a camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines, while he travelled successfully to Washington, D.C., to lobby to amend the law to allow these refugees to enter the United States. It was while on this trip that Bishop John took time to establish a parish in Washington dedicated to Saint John the Forerunner.

In 1951, Archbishop John was assigned to the Archdiocese of Western Europe with his cathedra in Paris. During his time there, he also served as archpastor of the Orthodox Church of France, whose restored Gallican liturgy he studied and then celebrated. He was the principal consecrator of the Orthodox Church of France’s first modern bishop, Jean-Nectaire (Kovalevsky) of Saint-Denis, and ordained to the priesthood the man who would become its second bishop, Germain (Bertrand-Hardy) of Saint-Denis.

In 1962, Archbishop John was assigned to the Diocese of San Francisco, succeeding his long time friend Archbishop Tikhon. Archbishop John’s days in San Francisco were to prove sorrowful as he attempted to heal the great disunity in his community. He was able to bring peace such that the new cathedral, dedicated to the Joy of all Who Sorrow Icon of the Mother of God, was completed.

Deeply revering Saint John of Kronstadt, Archbishop John played an active role in preparation of his canonization.

He reposed during a visit to Seattle on July 2, 1966, while accompanying a tour of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. He was laid to rest in a crypt chapel under the main altar of the new cathedral.

Monastery of St. John of San Francisco

They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you (Luke 21:12-19)

12But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.

13And it shall turn to you for a testimony.

14Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:

15For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

16And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.

17And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.

18But there shall not an hair of your head perish.

19In your patience possess ye your souls.

The lives which follow are those of Saints for whom the above Scripture is appointed for reading in the Eastern Orthodox Church on their feast days, arranged roughly in chronological order according to when they lived.

The Holy and Great Martyr Eustatius of Rome and Family

Commemorated September 20

Eustathius was a great Roman general during the reigns of Emperors Titus and Trajan. Though he was a pagan, Placidas (for that was his pagan name) was a just and merciful man, similar to Cornelius the Centurion, who was baptized by the Apostle Peter (Acts 10). Out hunting one day, he pursued a stag. By God’s providence, a cross appeared between the antlers of the stag and the voice of the Lord came to Placidas, directing him to go to a Christian priest and become baptized. Placidas was 0920-eustacebaptized, along with his wife and two sons. At baptism, he received the name Eustathius; his wife, Theopiste (“faithful to God”); and his sons, Agapitus and Theopistus. After his baptism, he returned to the place where he had experienced the revelation of the stag and, kneeling, gave thanks to God that He had brought him to the truth. Just then, the voice of the Lord again manifested itself to him, foretold that he would suffer for His name, and strengthened him. Then Eustathius secretly left Rome with his family, intending to hide among the simple people and serve God in humble and unknown surroundings. Arriving in Egypt, he was immediately beset by trials. An evil barbarian abducted his wife, and both of his sons were seized by wild beasts and carried away. However, the barbarian soon lost his life, and the children were saved from the wild beasts by shepherds. Eustathius settled in the Egyptian village of Vadisis and lived there for fifteen years as a hired laborer. Then barbarians attacked the Roman Empire, and Emperor Trajan grieved that he did not have the brave General Placidas, who had carried the victory whenever he fought. The emperor sent two of his officers to seek the great commander throughout the empire. By God’s providence, these officers (who were once companions of Eustathius), came to the village of Vadisis, found Eustathius and brought him back to the emperor. Eustathius amassed an army and defeated the barbarians. On the way back to Rome, Eustathius found his wife and both sons. Meanwhile, Emperor Trajan had died [117] and Emperor Hadrian was on the throne. When Hadrian summoned General Eustathius to offer sacrifices to the gods, Eustathius declined, declaring himself a Christian. The emperor subjected him and his wife and sons to torture. They were thrown to the wild beasts, but this did them no harm. Then they were cast into a red-hot metal ox. On the third day their dead bodies were removed, but they were unharmed by the fire. Thus, this glorious commander rendered unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s (Luke 20:25), and took up his habitation in the Eternal Kingdom of Christ our God.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Holy Martyr Nicephoros of Antioch

Commemorated February 9

The biography of this martyr Nicephorus clearly demonstrates how God rejects pride and crowns humility and love with glory. There lived in Antioch two close friends, the learned priest Sapricius and the simple ordinary citizen Nicephorus. Somehow, their friendship turned into a terrible hatred for each other. The God-fearing Nicephorus attempted on many occasions to make peace with the priest. However, at no time did Sapricius desire to be reconciled. When the persecution of Christians began, the presbyter Sapricius was condemned to death and brought to the place of execution. The sorrowful Nicephorus followed after Sapricius beseeching him along the way to, at least, forgive him before his death that they might depart in peace.

0209nicephorusantioch“I beseech you, O martyr of Christ,” said Nicephorus, “forgive me if I have sinned against you!” Sapricius did not even want to look at his opponent but quietly and arrogantly walked toward his death. Upon seeing the hardness of the priest’s heart, God did not want to accept the sacrifice of his martyrdom and to crown him with a wreath but He mysteriously withheld His grace. At the last moment, Sapricius denied Christ and declared before the executioners that he would bow down before the idols. So it is with blind hatred! Nicephorus implored Sapricius not to deny Christ saying: “O my beloved brother, do not do that; do not deny our Lord Jesus Christ; do not forfeit the heavenly wreath!” But, all was in vain. Sapricius remained adamant. Then, Nicephorus cried out to the executioners: “I, also, am a Christian; behead me in place of Sapricius!” The executioners informed the judge of this and he ordered the release of Sapricius and, in his place, beheaded Nicephorus. Nicephorus joyfully lowered his head on the block and was beheaded. Thus, he was made worthy of the kingdom and was crowned with the immortal wreath of glory. This occurred in the year 260 A.D. during the reign of Gallienus.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Holy Great Martyr Demetrios the Myrrh-Gusher

Commemorated October 26

This glorious and wonderworking saint was born in Thessalonica of noble and devout parents. Implored of God by childless parents, Demetrius was their only son, and so was raised and educated with great care. Demetrius’s father was a commander in Thessalonica. When his father died, Emperor Maximian appointed Demetrius as commander in his place. As he appointed him, Maximian, an opponent of Christ, particularly recommended that he persecute and exterminate the Christians in Thessalonica. Demetrius not only disobeyed the emperor but openly confessed and preached the Lord Jesus Christ in the city of Thessalonica. When the emperor heard of this he became furious with Demetrius. Then, when he was returning from battle against the Sarmatians [c. 285], Maximian stopped at Thessalonica 1026demetrios-greatmartyrto investigate the matter. The emperor summoned Demetrius and questioned him about his faith. Demetrius openly acknowledged his Christian Faith to the emperor and also denounced the emperor’s idolatry. Maximian cast Demetrius into prison. Knowing what was awaiting him, Demetrius gave all his goods to his faithful servant Lupus to distribute to the poor, and joyfully awaited his imminent suffering for Christ the Lord. An angel of God appeared to him in prison, saying: “Peace be to you, O sufferer of Christ; be brave and be strong!” After several days, the emperor sent soldiers to the prison to kill Demetrius. The soldiers found the saint of God at prayer and ran him through with lances. Christians secretly took his body and honorably buried it. Healing myrrh flowed from the body of the martyr of Christ, curing many of the sick. Soon, a small church was built over his relics.

An Illyrian nobleman, Leontius, was afflicted with an incurable illness. He hastened, with prayer, to the relics of St. Demetrius and was completely healed. In thanksgiving, Leontius erected a much larger church on the site of the old church. The saint appeared to him on two occasions. When Emperor Justinian wanted to translate the relics of the saint from Thessalonica to Constantinople, flaming sparks sprang from the tomb and a voice was heard: “Stop, and do not touch!” And thus, the relics of St. Demetrius have remained for all time in Thessalonica. As the protector of Thessalonica, St. Demetrius has appeared many times, and on many occasions has saved Thessalonica from great calamity. His miracles are without number. The Russians considered St. Demetrius to be the protector of Siberia, which was conquered and annexed to Russia on October 26, 1581.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Holy Martyrs Probus, Tarachos, and Adronicos of Tarsus

Commemorated October 12

Tarachus was born in Syrian Claudiopolis, Probus was from Perga of Pamphylia, and Andronicus was the son of an eminent citizen of Ephesus. All three were martyred together by the Proconsul Numerian Maximus, in Emperor Diocletian’s time [reigned from 284 to 305]. Tarachus was sixty-five years old when he was tortured. The proconsul asked him for his name, and he answered: “I am a Christian.” The proconsul asked thrice, and received the same answer each time. These martyrs were beaten with rods, then were cast into prison bloodied and wounded. After this, they were brought out again for torture. When the 10_12_andronicus_tarachus_probusproconsul advised Probus to deny Christ, promising him imperial honors and his own friendship, holy Probus replied: “Neither the emperor’s honors do I desire, nor your friendship do I wish.” When Andronicus was threatened with even greater bodily tortures, the young martyr of Christ replied: “My body is before you, do with it what you will.” After prolonged tortures in various locales, the three holy martyrs were thrown into an arena with wild beasts. Other prisoners in the same arena were torn apart by the beasts, but they would not harm the saints; a bear and a ferocious lioness fawned around them. Seeing this, many believed in Christ the Lord and cried out against the proconsul. Crazed with anger, and more furious than the beasts, the proconsul ordered his soldiers to enter the arena and chop the soldiers of Christ into pieces with their swords. Their bodies were mingled with the dead bodies of other prisoners. Three Christians, Macarius, Felix and Berius, who were present at the slaying of the holy martyrs, came that night to remove their bodies. But as the bodies were heaped in confusion, and the night was very dark, they prayed to God to help them find the saints; and suddenly three candles were manifested over the bodies of the martyrs. Thus, they were able to remove the saints’ bodies and honorably bury them.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Holy Great Martyr George the Trophy Bearer

Commemorated April 23

This glorious and victorious saint was born in Cappadocia the son of wealthy and virtuous parents. His father suffered for Christ and his mother then moved to Palestine. When George grew up, he entered the military, where in his twentieth year, attained the rank of a Tribune and as such was in the service of the Emperor Diocletian. When Diocletian began the terrible persecution against Christians, George came before him and courageously confessed that he is a Christian. The emperor had him thrown into prison and ordered that his feet be placed in a stockade of wooden hobbles and that a heavy stone be placed on his chest. After that, the emperor commanded that George be tied to a 0423bgeorgewheel under which was a board with large nails and he was to be rotated until his entire body became as one bloody wound. After that, they buried him in a pit with only his head showing above the ground and there they left him for three days and three nights. Then George was given a deadly poison to drink by some magician. But, through all of these sufferings, George continuously prayed to God and God healed him instantly and saved him from death to the great astonishment of the people. When he resurrected a dead man through his prayer, many then accepted the Faith of Christ. Among these also was Alexandra, the wife of the Emperor Athanasius, the chief pagan priest and the farmers: Glycerius, Valerius, Donatus and Therinus. Finally the emperor ordered George and his wife Alexandra beheaded. Blessed Alexandra died on the scaffold before being beheaded. St. George was beheaded in the year 303 A.D. The miracles which have occurred over the grave of St. George are without number. Numerous are his appearances, either in dreams or openly, to those who have invoked him and implored his help from that time until today. Enflamed with love for Christ the Lord, it was not difficult for this saintly George to leave all for the sake of this love: rank, wealth, imperial honor, his friends and the entire world. For this love, the Lord rewarded him with the wealth of unfading glory in heaven and on earth and eternal life in His kingdom. In addition, the Lord bestowed upon him the power and authority to assist all those in miseries and difficulties who honor him and call upon his name.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Holy and Great Martyr Panteleimon

Commemorated July 27

Pantaleon [Panteleimon] was born in Nicomedia of a Christian mother and a pagan father. His mother was called Eubula and his father Eustorgius. As a young man he studied the science of medicine. The priest, Hermolaus, invited Pantaleon to be with him and taught him the Faith of Christ and baptized him. Pantaleon miraculously cured a blind man whom the other doctors treated in vain; he cured him by the power of Christ and baptized him. Out of envy the doctors accused Pantaleon of being a Christian and he went before the Emperor Maximian to stand trial. “He stood before the earthly king in body but in thought he stood before the heavenly King.” Before the emperor, he freely declared that he was a Christian and, before the eyes of the emperor, he healed a paralytic of a long-standing illness. This miracle drew many pagans to the Faith of Christ. The emperor subjected him 0727panteleimon05to torture but the Lord appeared to him on several occasions and delivered him whole and unharmed. Saint Hermolaus with Hermippas and Thermocrates were then martyred. Sentenced to death, Saint Pantaleon knelt for prayer. At that moment the executioner struck him on the neck with a sword and the sword broke as though it were made of wax. The executioner was unable to execute him until the saint completed his prayer and until Pantaleon told him to behead him. His relics possessed the ability to heal. Pantaleon was executed under an olive tree which, after that, became all adorned with fruit. PANTA LEON means, “all merciful” “all compassionate.” The All-merciful God received his righteous soul and glorified him among His great saints. This wonderful martyr suffered honorably for Christ in his youth, on July 27, 304 A.D. Saint Pantaleon is invoked in prayers at the time of the “Blessing of Waters” and in the blessing of the holy oils used in the “The Sacrament of Holy Unction,” together with Saint Hermolaus and the other unmercenary saints and wonder-workers. A most beautiful church dedicated to this saint is located on Holy Mount Athos.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Life of the Holy Martyr Sozon of Pompeiopolis

Commemorated September 7

Sozon was born in Lyconia. He was a shepherd and kept all of God’s laws, instructing his peers a0907sozonnd friends in his pious Faith. In a vision he was shown that he would suffer martyrdom for Christ. This was in the time of Maximian, magistrate of Cilicia, who perpetrated a terrible persecution of Christians in the nearby city of Pompeiopolis. In that city there was a certain golden idol which the pagans worshiped. Sozon left his flock, went to the city, entered the pagan temple and broke the arm off the golden idol. He crumbled it into bits and distributed it to the poor. There was a great uproar because of this, and the pagans sought out the guilty one. So that no one else would suffer for his deed, Sozon went to the magistrate and declared himself to be a Christian and the perpetrator of that act. His torturers first beat him, then suspended him from a tree and scraped his body with iron combs. When he was nearly dead, they cast him into a fire, where St. Sozon gave up his holy soul to God. He suffered in about the year 304. St. Sozon’s relics were miracle-working, and a church in his name was built over them.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste

Commemorated March 9

All of them were soldiers in the Roman army and steadfastly believed in the Lord Jesus. When the persecution of Christians began during the reign of Licinius, they were brought to trial before the commander. When he threatened to strip them of their honor as soldiers, one of them, St. Candidus, responded, “Not only the honor of being a soldier, but take away our bodies, for nothing is more dear or honorable, to us than Christ our God.” After that, the commander ordered his servants to stone the holy martyrs. While the servants were hurling stones at the Christians, the stones turned and fell back on the servants, severely striking them. One of the stones struck 0309fortymartyrs10the commander’s face and knocked out his teeth. The torturers, angry as wild beasts, bound all of the holy martyrs and tossed them into the lake and stationed a guard around it so as to prevent any of them from escaping. There was a terrible frost and the lake froze around the bodies of the martyrs. So that their pain and suffering would be worsened, and in order to persuade one of them to deny Christ and acknowledge the idols of Rome, the torturers heated a bath by the side of the lake in sight of the frozen martyrs. Indeed, one of them was persuaded. He came out of the water and entered the bath. And behold, an extraordinary light appeared from heaven which warmed the water in the lake and the bodies of the martyrs. With that light, thirty-nine wreaths descended from heaven over their heads. Upon seeing this, a guard on the shore removed all his clothes, confessed the Name of the Lord Jesus and entered the lake so that he could become worthy of the fortieth wreath in place of the betrayer. Indeed, the last wreath descended upon him. The next day the entire town was astonished when they saw that the martyrs were still alive. Then, the wicked judges ordered that the lower part of their legs be broken and their bodies thrown into the water so Christians could not recover them. On the third day the martyrs appeared to Peter, the local bishop, and summoned him to gather their relics and remove them from the water The bishop with his clergy went out into the dark of night and beheld the relics of the martyrs shining brightly in the water. Every bone which was separated from their bodies floated to the top and glowed like a candle. Bishop Peter gathered and honorably buried them. The souls of these martyrs, who suffered for all of us, went to the Lord Jesus, resurrected with glory. They suffered honorably and were crowned with unfading glory in the year 320 A.D.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The Holy Martyrs Akyndinos, Pegasios, Aphthonios, Elpidephoros, and Anempodistos of Persia

Commemorated November 2

They were all Christians from Persia and suffered during the reign of King Sapor in the year 355. The first three were servants at the court of this same king but secretly served Christ their Lord. When they were accused and brought to trial before the king, he asked them where they came from. To this they replied: “Our fatherland and our life is the Most-holy Trinity, one in Essence and undivided, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God.” The king subjected them to cruel tortures but they endured all 2_nov_sts_elpidiphorus_aphthonius_pegasius_anempodistus_acindynusheroically, with psalmody and prayer on their lips. During the time of their torture and imprisonment angels of God appeared to them many times, and one time the Lord Christ Himself appeared to them as a man “with a face radiant as the sun.” When one of the torturers, Aphthonius, beheld a miracle, when boiling lead did no harm to the martyrs, he believed in Christ and cried out: “Great is the Christian God!” For this, he was immediately beheaded, and many others saw and believed. Then the king ordered that Acyndinus, Pegasius and Anempodistus be sewn into animal skins and cast into the sea. But St. Aphthonius appeared from the other world with three shining angels, and led the holy martyrs to dry land and set them free. Elpidephorus was one of the king’s nobles. When he revealed that he was a Christian and denounced the king for his slaughter of innocent Christians, the king condemned him to death and Elpidephorus was beheaded along with seven thousand other Christians. Then those first three martyrs [Acyndinus, Pegasius and Anempodistus] were finally thrown into a burning furnace along with twenty-eight soldiers and the king’s mother, since they also believed in Christ-and thus, in the flames, they gave up their righteous souls into the hands of the Lord.

From The Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovic