In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, we celebrate the feast day of Hieromartyr and Bishop Saint Neophytus, who converted from fire-worship and became a holy elder who truly loved his flock. Saint Neophytus, pray for us.
Saint Neophytus was a military commander in the 7th century, named Omar, and came from a Persian fire-worshipping background. Omar came across a monastery, the Shio-Mgvime Monastery, and when he drew near, saw angels of God descending from the heavens surrounding a holy elder full of glorious light. Omar found out the holy elder was the abbot Saint Shio, and told the abbot that one day he would be baptized a Christian and then join the monastery as a monk.
Omar soon left all his worldly belongings and achievements as a military commander behind, and was baptized a Christian, and became a monk at the Shio-Mgvime Monastery. Eventually, the saint was consecrated the Bishop of Urbnisi, where he lovingly took great pastoral care of his flock, with wisdom and holiness. He was a wonderworker who helped the weak, healed the sick, exorcised the possessed.
Saint Neophytus was soon punished by the fire-worshipping pagans who caught him. The saint did not hate those who tortured him, but prayed for their salvation out of pastoral love. The pagans stoned the saint to death and the last words of the saint were of faith, “Lord Jesus Christ, receive my soul!”
As we reflect on Saint Neophytus and his love for all, whether believers or pagans alike, let us think of the journey of faith as a journey of not only prayer unto God, but praise unto God.
In Jeremiah 33:11 and Psalm 113 (LXX 112), we see the journey of faith as one of trusting in the eternal mercy of God, and we praise God for His infinite mercy. When we walk through life, we see life as a complex tapestry of many events. There will be obviously joyous times. There will also be seemingly difficult and painful times. However, we know that God’s infinite mercy is sometimes beyond our feeble understanding, and God is not merely a giver of material wealth and perishables, but He does everything to strengthen us and empower us so that we can grow in eternal life towards Him.
Prayer is a conversation with God, not of a spoilt child asking his parent for toys and more toys, but a conversation to grow towards God regardless of the worldly events and possessions that transition around us. In Colossians 4:2-9, we reflect that we are to pray always, and to praise God for His mercy always as well. We pray, and praise God, not just for His mercy that sometimes do deliver reprieve from our worldly worries and situations, but especially when God shows us His closeness with us, through the Word. That is a gift like no other, for it binds us ever closer to an eternal life that we yearn as Christians.
Let us always remember that no matter how life unfolds in front of us, we try to keep our sights on the great price – the journey towards God, and thanking Him for His mercy in a great many things in our lives, however the situation may seem. Just as God is abundantly generous with His mercy and love for us, let us in as much of the same spirit, be appreciative of our God. Call on the Holy Name of Christ our Lord, “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.
Psalm 113 (LXX 112)
St Luke 11:14-23