St Aristobulus of Britain sqIn the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the Holy Martyrs and Apostles of the Seventy, and Holy Martyr Epimakhos of Egypt, may the holy apostles and martyrs pray for us.

St Epimakhos of Egypt lived on Mount Peleusis for a long time. During the time when Christians were persecuted, the saint came down from the mountains and professed his faith in Christ, and destroyed pagan idols. For his faith, he was arrested and tortured. A lady with diseased eyes was observing the saint being tortured. A drop of blood from the saint healed the lady of her eye disease. And after much torture, the saint was beheaded.

There are many wonders of God that came to us through the apostles and the saints. God shows His Mercy through these wonders, even as these apostles and saints would immediately attribute all miracles to God. We must always remember that God’s miracles are real and salvific. It is also important to discern just what kind of miracles are before us. When miracles are from God, the persons before us are often saints who would ascribe any miracles to God and His Mercy, and never boasting that such miracles are from themselves, or from any other entity other than God.

In the age of false prophets and false teachings, there will be many delusions and illusions that would threaten our faith in Christ. We must always discern just what kind of miracles we see, what kind of persons are before us, and especially if such miracles are truly from God. Even the elect may be deceived in these days (St Matthew 24:24), and our humility, our prayers, and our complete trust in God will keep us rooted. Never be too quick to fall for delusions or illusions from the evil one, and never allow our pride and passions to blind us from seeing the truth.

We must remember, as we reflect on 1 Thessalonians 2:9-14, that we Christians are called to be witnesses of the faith in Christ our Lord. We are called to be witnesses to what life may mean in Christ, and what we ought to truly seek. Our God is not the lottery, or a deity to grant infinite material wishes for our comfort. Our God seeks our eternal salvation and life in Him, that we may be perfect as He intended (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect”, St Matthew 5:48). That should be our aim and pilgrimage. The road will be difficult, for Christ did not promise us an easy journey, for often our own passions get in the way. We are to strive, repent, pray, and soldier on.

The Holy Apostles of the Seventy, St Stakhios, St Amplias, St Urban, St Narcissos, and St Apellias, were all bishops who fearlessly preached the Gospel and defended their faith unto martyrdom. St Aristobulous, brother of the Apostle Barnabas, went to Britain as the first bishop, and reposed peacefully there.

What these holy Apostles showed us, was that the journey of Christians is difficult. Many were martyred for their faith in Christ, and wore their badges of death proudly, while converting many in their lives and even at their deaths to believe in Christ. Some were not killed, but reposed peacefully, but went to far-flung lands to preach the Gospel, to bring people to believe in Christ. Whether living, or in death, these saints were martyrs of Christ, just as they are shining examples to us to live and die in Christ. Their examples are that of Christian stewardship and leadership, and are examples for us to also live as living martyrs for our faith for the sake of others who may follow (St Luke 11:47-12:1, Genesis 1:26-28, Proverbs 16:9-12).

Whether we are members of the clergy, or laity, our role as Christians remain the same. We are to seek God at all costs, journey towards Him to disregard the lures of the world, just as Christ commanded us to seek Him and leave the world behind. We are to lead the world in the Grace and Mercy of our Lord, and trust Him despite difficulties, however insurmountable and frightening these difficulties may seem. Whether we live, or die, we remember Christ in our hearts, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Readings
Genesis 1:26-28
Proverbs 16:9-12
St Luke 11:47-12:1
1 Thessalonians 2:9-14