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1. SAINT PORPHYRIUS, BISHOP OF GAZA
This great Arch-shepherd was born of wealthy parents in Thessalonica. From his youth, until age twenty-five, Porphyrius remained in Thessalonica, the town of his birth. After that, he took leave of his parents and worldly life and withdrew to the wilderness of Egypt. Under the guidance of an experienced spiritual father, the young Porphyrius was tonsured a monk and remained there for five years. He then visited the Holy Land in the company of the monk Mark, his faithful companion. In the proximity of Jerusalem, he lived an ascetical life in a cave, again for five years. But then the legs of Porphyrius became weak and he was unable to walk. Nevertheless, crawling on his knees, he continually attended the Divine Services of God. One night, our Lord appeared to him of a vision and cured him of the infirmity in his legs and he became completely whole. When he was elected Bishop of Gaza, Porphyrius accepted this obligation with a heavy heart. In Gaza, he found only two-hundred eighty Christians. All other inhabitants were very fanatical idolaters. Only by his great faith and patience did Porphyrius succeed to convert the inhabitants of Gaza to the Faith of Christ. He personally traveled to Constantinople to see Emperor Arcadius and Patriarch John Chrysostom to seek their support in this unequal struggle with the idolaters. He received the desired support. The idolatrous temples were closed and the idols destroyed and he built a beautiful church with thirty marble columns. Empress Eudoxia especially assisted in the building of this church. Porphyrius lived long enough to see the entire town of Gaza converted to the Christian Faith, but only after his many efforts, sufferings and prayerful tears to god. He died peacefully in the year 421 A.D. He was a miracle-worker both during his life and after his death. Even today, his relics repose in Gaza.
2. THE HOLY MARTYR JOHN, THE BUILDER [KALPHA]
This saint was born in Galata in Constantinople. By occupation he was an architect, a builder [Kalpha: builder in Greek]. Because of his ardent confession of the Christian Faith, John offended the Turks and they began to pressure him to become a Muslim. "I will not deny my Sweet Jesus Christ," John bravely replied. "In Him I believe; Him I serve; Him, I confess." Following grave tortures, the Turks beheaded him on February 26, 1575 A.D. in Constantinople. He suffered honorably for his beloved Christ and took up habitation in the mansions of the Lord.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT PORPHYRIUS THE PARALYTIC
The monk Mark asks Porphyrius:
You were paralytic, holy father,
On your knees, to church you crawled,
My hand in yours, you held
Yesterday thus and today otherwise!
At night you were ill, behold healthy you dawned
So suddenly, who healed you?
Of the rare physician, tell me the name-
To Mark, Porphyrius replied:
My Healer, my Creator is,
Last night on Golgotha, I fell asleep
By severe pain, completely overpowered,
As though in person, I saw clearly in a dream
On the Cross, my Lord hanging,
And on the other cross, the thief.
As I saw, so I cried out!
O God and Lord, remember me,
In Your kingdom, remember me!
The Good Lord, to the thief said:
Go down and his body heal,
As your soul, I healed.
Quickly the thief, the cross descended,
Embraced me, kissed me, and raised me up:
Saying: To our Savior, draw near!
At that moment, the Lord also descended the Cross,
Lifted the Cross and, on me He placed it.
Receive the holy wood, He said,
And for the sake of eternal salvation, carry it.
As soon as I, with my hands, grabbed the Cross,
Immediately stood and was immediately made whole.
To God my Creator, glory be,
To Christ my Savior, glory be!
St. John Chrysostom writes thusly against those who, in church create a disturbance in church and who depart from church before the completion of the Divine Liturgical Service of God. "Some do not approach Holy Communion with trembling but with commotion, shoving one another, burning with anger, hollering, scolding, pushing their neighbor, full of disturbance. About this, I have often spoken and will not cease to speak about this. Do you not see the order of behavior at the pagan Olympic games when the Arranger passes through the arena with a wreath on his head, dressed in a lengthy garment, holding a staff in his hand and the Crier declares that there be silence and order? Is it not obscene that there, where the devil reigns there is such silence, and here where Christ invites us to Himself there is such an uproar. At the arena, silence: and in church, uproar! On the sea, calm and in the harbor, tempest! When you are invited to a meal, you must not leave before the others, even though you are satisfied before the others, and here while the awesome mystery of Christ is being celebrated, while the priestly functions are still continuing, you leave in the middle of it and exit? How can this be forgiven? How can this be justified? Judas, after receiving Communion at the Last Supper [Mystical Supper] that final night, departed quickly while the others remained at the table. Behold, whose example do they follow who hurry to depart before the final thanksgiving? (Homily on the Feast of the Epiphany).
To contemplate the Lord Jesus in the boat with His disciples: "And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves. But He was asleep" (St. Matthew 8:24).
1. How a tempest arose while the Lord slept;
2. How the frightened disciples awakened Him and sought His help;
3. How the Lord rebuked the disciples because of little faith and calmed the sea and the winds;
4. How I need not be afraid of any tempest in life if I keep the Lord in my heart as on the stern of the boat. (the body - the boat - the heart - the stern).
About internal charity
"But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you" (St. Luke 11:41).
External cleanliness becomes a man. But that is a lesser cleanliness. Internal cleanliness is incomparably more important than external cleanliness. That is greater cleanliness. A dish can serve more usefully only if it is washed and clean on the inside even though the outside is dark and ashy. If a glass is dirty on the inside, its external cleanliness will never attract anyone to drink from it. If a bowl is dark and ashy on the outside who will dare to eat from it? There are many more teachers in the world and many examples of external rather than internal cleanliness. For it is easier to teach and show by example external cleanliness rather than internal cleanliness.
Behold brethren, how the Teacher and Model of great cleanliness, places this great cleanliness on the dependence of internal alms-giving. Alms-giving, which is performed from the heart, purifies the soul of man. Alms-giving, which is performed from the heart, cleanses the heart of man. Alms-giving, which is performed from the soul, cleanses a man's soul. Alms-giving, which is performed from his entire mind, cleanses the mind of a man. In a word, internal alms-giving cleanses the entire man. If alms-giving is only from a hand, it does not cleanse the hand much less the heart, soul and mind. Alms-giving from the hand is indispensable but it cleanses the giver only then, when the heart moves the hand to alms-giving. Besides alms-giving from the hand, there exist other types of alms-giving. Prayer for people is internal alms-giving and, likewise, sorrow for human pains, and joy in the joy of others. That is alms-giving, which proceeds from the heart and creates cleanliness in the heart, the soul and the mind.
O, All-Pure Lord, help us that, with true alms-giving we acquire great cleanliness.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.