1. SAINT LEO, BISHOP OF CATANIA
Beneath the volcanic Mount Etna in the town of Catania lived Leo the saint, a good shepherd and compassionate teacher of the people. He had great concern for the sick and the poor. His zeal for the Faith was as great as his charity toward the less fortunate. Appearing in Catania was a magician named Heliodorus who deluded the people with various illusions and greatly demoralized the youth. At one time during the Divine Services, Heliodorus entered the church of God and began his obscenities. St. Leo approached him, tied him to one end of his pallium and led him to the market place of the city. Here, Leo ordered that a large fire be built and when the fire was burning, he stood in the middle of the fire and pulled Heliodorus into the fire. Heliodorus was completely consumed and Leo remained alive and unscathed. All who were bewitched by Heliodorus, and who looked upon him as someone divine, were ashamed. The compassionate and the zealous Leo was proclaimed throughout the entire kingdom as a great miracle-worker who, by his shining miracles, helps men. When Leo ended his course, he took up habitation with the Lord and from his relics flowed healing myrrh [Chrism]. He died in the eighth century.
2. THE HOLY PRIESTLY-MARTYR SADOK
Sadok was a bishop in Persia, following St. Simeon. At one time, St. Simeon appeared to him in a dream and said: "Yesterday, I - today, you!" Sadok interpreted these words to his flock as meaning: Last year I [St. Simeon] suffered, this year you [Sadok] will suffer. Indeed that year the Emperor Sapor arrested him with many of the clergy and people and brought them to trial. Sapor first ordered them to worship fire and sun as divinity. Sadok replied: "We are eagerly prepared to die for our God, but we cannot worship the sun nor fire." After that, they were tortured and sentenced to death by beheading. Before being beheaded, Sadok uplifted a prayer to God: "Wash us, O Lord, from our sins in our blood!" Sadok, with his priests and faithful gloriously gave up their bodies to death and their souls to the immortal God. They suffered in the year 342 A.D. or 344 A.D.
HYMN OF PRAISE
What is the sun? the eye that does not see.
What is fire? a servant without reason.
Emperor Sapor, to Sadok speaks:
Worship the sun and the flame,
The gods which rule the world,
According to the teaching of Zoroaster the wise.
Sadok to the Emperor, gently replied:
To you O Emperor, be health and joy,
But where does the sensible before the senseless, bow down?
Where does the corporeal, the incorporeal glorify?
The sun - beautiful as a thing of God,
The flame - wonderful as a servant of men;
But, can the created, the Creator replace?
Can the dead, a replacement for the living be?
Than the artist, is a painting better?
Than the plower, is the plow more costly?
In the heavens O Emperor, there is only one God,
Omnipotent, Intelligent, Beautiful, and Good,
Of the visible and invisible world, the Creator,
Of everything created, the Designer,
Of all good gifts, He is the giver,
A lover of mankind and Almighty,
Him, the Only-begotten Son revealed.
From the Persian errors, He saved us,
On top of nature, He taught us to stand
And toward the Creator, to turn our face,
To uplift to heaven, our entire soul
There, where our homeland is,
Of angels and men; the homeland -
Sadok spoke - and Sapor beheaded him.
Water is finer than earth; fire is finer than water; air is finer than fire; electricity is finer than air. Nevertheless, air is a dense element in comparison to the spiritual world and electricity is a dense element in comparison to the spiritual world. Electricity is very fine but the voice is finer than electricity; the thought finer than the voice; the spirit finer than thoughts. The air is fine and it carries the voice over a great distance. Electricity is fine and it carries light over a great distance. Nevertheless, how much more is every deed, every word and every thought of yours carried to all ends of the spiritual world. O how awesome it is to commit sinful deeds and to speak sinful words and to think insane thoughts! To what immeasurable distances are amassed from that on the waves of the spiritual sea! But do not go into the details of the unknown world. The main thing is that you know and that you measure how all of your deeds, words and thoughts unavoidably create an impression on all four sides: On God and the spiritual world, on nature, on men and on your soul. If you train yourself in this knowledge, you will attain a higher level of saving vigilance.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus in conversation with Nicodemus (St. John, Chapter 3):
1. How Nicodemus, even though a teacher in Israel, did not perfectly comprehend spiritual things;
2. How our Lord intentionally begins the conversation with the question of spiritual birth - a question most inaccessible to the mind of Nicodemus - that by this to bring Nicodemus to meekness and after that to further cultivate him as a good field;
3. How in the beginning, Nicodemus with hesitation and shyness approached Christ (as even today most of our scholars do) and afterwards more boldly.
About judgment and condemnation
"Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned" (St. John 3:18).
He who believes in Christ the Lord is not condemned for he alone judges himself and directs his footsteps toward the light, which goes before him. As a man in profound darkness who adjusts his footsteps according to the candle in his hand, thus, is the one who believes in Christ, i.e., who has embarked after Christ as after a light in the darkness of life.
He who does not believe "has already been condemned." That is, he who does not have a guide on the unknown path just as soon as he took the first step, lost his way and strayed. Who does not believe in Christ is condemned to ignorance, to weakness, to anger, to staggering along the crooked and winding road and intertwining roads, to vice, to despair, and perhaps even to suicide. He is condemned in two worlds: in this world to a senseless physical and deceiving existence and in the other world, to eternal damnation! O how dark is the path of the children of unbelief and how deep is the abyss between their every first and third steps!
O Lord, All-Merciful, in truth we have no one in whom and in what to believe outside of You. You are our Savior from darkness, sin and death.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.