1. SAINT GREGORY, BISHOP OF NYSSA
Gregory was the brother of Basil the Great. At first, he was only a presbyter since he was married; but when his wife Blessed Theosevia died, Gregory was chosen and consecrated as bishop of Nyssa. He was distinguished by his great secular learning and spiritual experience. He participated at the Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople, 381 A.D). It is thought that he composed the second half of the Symbol of Faith [The Creed]. He was a great orator, an exegete of Holy Scripture and a theologian. Because of their defeat, the Arians especially attacked him as their worst enemy, so that, during the reign of Emperor Valens, their ally of the same mind, succeeded in ousting Gregory from the episcopal throne and banished him into exile. This Holy Father spent eight years in exile, patiently enduring all miseries and all humiliations. He finally died in old age toward the end of the fourth century and was translated into the Kingdom of God remaining on earth throughout the ages as a great beacon of the Church.
2. THE VENERABLE AMMON, EPYPTIAN ASCETIC
For fourteen years, Ammon prayed to God and struggled to conquer anger within himself. He attained such perfection of goodness, that he was not even conscious that evil existed in the world. He was particularly knowledgeable in Holy Scripture. He died at the beginning of the fifth century.
3. SAINT MARCIAN
Marcian was born in Rome. As a presbyter, he lived the remainder of his life in Constantinople during the greater part of the reign of Emperor Marcian and Empress Plucheria. Inheriting enormous wealth from his parents, Marcian generally spent it on two goals: either on building or restoring churches or on charity for the poor. He built two new churches in Constantinople, St. Anastasia and St. Irene, both famous for their beauty and sacredness. When he was asked, "Why do you spend so much on churches?" He replied, "If I had a daughter and wanted to marry her to a nobleman, would I not spend much gold in order to adorn her as a worthy bride? And, here I am adorning the Church, the Bride of Christ." As much as this wonderful man was generous toward the churches and the indigent; so much was he austere, very austere toward himself following the apostolic exhortation: "If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that" (I Timothy 6:8). It is written about him: "He was totally in God and God in him, and presented himself to God in fullness of years and good works," in the year 471 A.D.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT GREGORY - SAINT MARCIAN
The Spirit possesses the gifts, the Spirit imparts the gifts,
To some, blessed mercy; to some, bold understanding,
To some, a special virgin's purity,
To some, a living love or a correct mind.
According to the strength of one's faith, a new gift, the Spirit adds:
If the faith grows, which moves mountains,
The treasury of the Spirit, then opened is
And, gift upon gift, as rain, descends upon the faithful one.
St. Gregory, because of his great faith,
To spiritual heights, like an eagle soared.
St. Marcian, because of his great faith,
With heavenly mercy was illuminated.
The light of theology, to Gregory was imparted.
To Marcian was given grace; the chrism of praising.
O Heavenly Spirit, Lord and King,
Your wondrous gifts, from us, do not withhold,
But through the prayers of Your chosen vessels
In the day of the Dreadful Judgment, from condemnation, save us.
Vanity because of clothing occupies special momentum in our time. He who has nothing else of which to be proud becomes proud of his attire. He who would have something more costly than clothes of which to be proud, does he not become proud? Just as gold, which does not come out from the surface of the earth, so it is that neither the spiritual values of a man not show outwardly. It is said, that a certain distinguished philosopher saw a young man who displayed pride in his clothing. He approached the young man and whispered in his ear: "The same fleece was previously worn by a ram, but, nevertheless, he was still a ram!" To be a Christian and to display pride in clothing is more insane than to be an emperor and to be proud of the dust under his feet. While St. Arsenius wore cloth of gold in the royal court, no one called him great. He was called Great only then when he unselfishly gave himself over completely to God and dressed in rags.
To contemplate the lowliness of the Lord Jesus:
1. The lowliness of the King Who was born in a cave;
2. The lowliness of the most wealthy One, Who hungered and thirsted;
3. The lowliness of the Almighty in relationship with the lowly on earth.
About contentment with that which is most necessary to us
"If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that" (I Timothy 6:8).
The apostles of God taught others that which they themselves fulfilled in their own lives. When they had food and clothing they were content. Even when it occurred that they had neither food nor clothing they were content. For their contentment did not emanate from the outside but emanated from within. Their contentment was not so cheap as the contentment of an animal, but costly, more costly and more rare. Internal contentment, the contentment of peace and love of God in the heart, that is the contentment of greater men, that was the apostolic contentment. In great battles, generals are dressed and fed as ordinary soldiers and they do not seek contentment in food nor in clothes but in victory. Victory is the primary principle of contentment of those who battle. Brethren, Christians are constantly in battle, in battle for the victory of the spirit over the material, in battle for conquest of the higher over the lower, man over beast. Is it not, therefore, absurd to engage in battle and not to worry about victory but to concern oneself with external decorations and ornaments? Is it not foolish to give to one's enemies the marks of identification? Our invisible enemy [Satan] rejoices at our vanity and supports us in every vain thought. The invisible enemy occupies us with every possible unreasonable pettiness and idleness only to impose upon our minds the heavy forgetfulness relative to that for which we are here on earth. The invisible enemy [Satan] presents to us the worthless as important, the irrelevant as essential and that which is detrimental as beneficial only in order to achieve victory and to destroy us forever.
O Lord, Holy, Mighty and Immortal, Who created us from the mud and breathed a living soul into mud, do not allow, O Lord, that the mud overwhelms! Help our spirit that it always be stronger than the earth.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.