In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. My beloved, we remember Saint Prokopios the Great Martyr, and the Appearance of the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of Kazan today.
Saint Prokopios, first known as Neanias, was born of a pious father Christopher and an idolater mother Theodosia. His mother presented him to Roman Emperor Diocletian, who made him a Duke and sent him to punish the Christians in Alexandria. On the way there, our Lord spoke to him, just as our Lord spoke to Saul, and turned his heart around. He preached Christ, but was betrayed by his own mother and was arrested and tormented in prison. In prison, our Lord appeared to him again and gave him the name Prokopios (Greek meaning progress). Prokopios was led out of prison to worship idols, but the idols fell in his presence and many believed in Christ then. Saint Prokopios was beheaded in 290 AD, martyred together with many soldiers, twelve female senators, and his own mother. Saint Prokopios, from Duke to Martyr, pray for us.
Let us also remember our blessed Theotokos, as we remember the Appearance of the Icon of her in Kazan. The legend started in 1579, when a 10 year old girl named Matryona had a vision which led her to the missing icon which was buried in ashes from a fire near Kazan in Russia. This icon has the reputation of restoring sight to the blind, who out of their gratitude, decorated the frame of the Kazan icon with exquisite emeralds. From the icon, you can see our Theotokos holding our Christ the Incarnation close to her chest, signifying our yearning for God and His Word. And we see Christ standing, holding His right hand in the oratorial gesture, and not the blessing gesture, signifying that He came to us, to teach us to return to God.
St Demetrius of Rostov preached one July 8: “The Mother of God delivered from misfortune and woe not only the righteous, but also sinners, but which sinners? Those who turn themselves to God like the Prodigal Son, beating their chests with great lamentation, like the Publican, they weep at the feet of Christ, like the Sinful Woman washing His feet with her tears, and they offer confession to Christ, like the Thief upon the Cross. It is such sinners whom our beloved Theotokos heeds and hastens to aid, delivering them from great misfortunes and woe.” Beloved Most Holy Theotokos, pray for us, sinners all.
As we read from Isaiah 40:28-31, let us reflect on our Lord’s will prevails over all things, and His mercy for those who wait for Him. But what is “waiting”? It is NOT vain posturing. It is NOT lazy and greedy expectation of material wants and desires. Rather, waiting for our Lord is a positive and decisive trust in His mysteries of will and grace, and trusting Him to ALWAYS deliver us, His precious children, from all affliction, evil, and pain. Remember Jeremiah 33:6, “Behold, I will bring you health and cure, and I will reveal unto you the abundance of peace and truth.” That is the nature of our Lord, who will keep us in the best way His love decides, and His greatest gift for us is an abundant peace, and truth.
We see the same truth again, in Psalm 40:1-5, where our Lord calls us to care for the poor and needy, and He will give us a blessed life, and even upon the bed of affliction, He will deliver us to wholeness. But let us keep foremost, verse 5, which draws us to remember the prayer of the heart, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
As we hear in these contemporary times, many who rejoice in works and miracles, rather than turning to God and embracing the Way of our Christ. As we read from Luke 6, 9 and 10, our Lord called us to NOT to rejoice in spiritual works, but that our names are written in Heaven. Likewise, God hides the truth from those who hearts bleed vain intellect, but gives abundant truth to the innocents. As we contemplate quietly in our daily walk of life, every minute, every breath of it, are we looking to God and weeping at the tremendous blessing we don’t deserve, or are we yearning for individual greatness?
And as Saint Paul wrote to Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus, in 1 Timothy 4, Saint Paul taught us the importance of living our lives in love, in faith, and in purity, rather than simply be broadcasters of the Word. In 1 Timothy, let us also remember the 2 pillars of faith, Orthodoxy, that is having the right belief, and Orthopraxy, that is having the right actions.
Let me tell you a true story to reflect on our belief and actions.
A lady was diagnosed with cancer, and the doctor told her she had 6 months left. The lady asked Fr Zacharias for counsel and he gave an usual reply, “Wonderful! You have 6 months to prepare for the most important event of your life!” The lady took that and prayed unceasingly, even in the midst of receiving frequent medical care while lying on the bed. When Fr Zacharias visited the lady for the third and last time, he saw the dying body set against a glowing radiance of her face. The lady was weeping, and Fr Zacharias asked her, “What’s wrong?” She said, “Father, I do not feel I am worthy of the Grace of having this illness!” After her death, Fr Zacharias was himself weeping, and fellow monk Fr Symeon asked him why. Fr Zacharias told Fr Symeon, that he only experienced it twice in his life, when a voice kept saying to his heart, “She is saved. She is saved.”
Let us close with a 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 40:1-5 (Greek LXX)
St Luke 6:17-19, 9:1-2, 10:16-22
1 Timothy 4:9-15