Beginning of Church Year; Ven. Dionysius Exiguus (the Humble); St. Simeon Stylites, the Elder (Service of Thanksgiving)

1. Venerable Dionysius was born about the year 460, to righteous parents, in Scythia Minor, today’s Dobrudja. He received a spiritual education ever since he was young, in the schools and monasteries of Dobrudja, having as supervisors the wise Scythian monks and the famous bishop Peter, who pastorally cared for Tomis (today’s Constanţa).

In order to learn the monastic endeavours and teachings he travelled to the East, where he did not stay long because of the turmoil caused by the monophysite heresy. After living in the imperial city of Constantinople for a while, around the year 496, pope Gelasius called him to Rome, because he needed translators from Greek into Latin.

He spent a big part of his life there, diligently translating many works of the Eastern Holy Fathers into Latin, the canons of the first four Ecumenical Councils and of the local ones, in this sense having been considered the father of the church law. He has also translated the lives of some great Saints of the Church and wrote numerous theological books.

Having a good knowledge of astronomy, he proposed to calculate the years since the Nativity of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, not since the foundation of Rome or since the time of the persecutor emperor Diocletian, as usually done until his time. This is why he is rightly considered the father of the Christian era.

Saint Dionysius taught dialectics at the Academy of Vivarium, Calabria, where he came to know very well Cassiodorus – the highest official of king Theodoric – who described him so nicely, showing his wisdom and holy life. After dedicating his life to preaching the Gospel of Christ by word and deed, Holy Venerable Dionysius Exiguous passed away in 545, in a monastery of Calabria.

On 9 July 2008, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church placed him among the saints, being celebrated on 1 September.

Through his holy prayers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us. Amen.

Troparion, tone 1, ProsomiaWhen the stone had been sealed…

 As a luminous gleam shining upon the entire world you showed yourself, oh, Holy Venerable Dionysius, you who have measured the passage of the time of salvation after Christ’s Birth and have made known the ordinances of the Holy Fathers to all parts of Christianity. Therefore, we joyfully sing: Glory to Him that gave you wisdom! Glory to Him that blessed you! Glory to Him that grants salvation to our souls!

2. Saint Simeon the Stylite was born in the Cappadocian village of Sisan of Christian parents, Sisotian and Martha. At thirteen years of age he began to tend his father’s flock of sheep. He devoted himself attentively and with love to this, his first obedience.

Once, after he heard the Beatitudes in church, he was struck by their profundity. Not trusting to his own immature judgment, he turned therefore with his questions to an experienced Elder. The Elder readily explained to the boy the meaning of what he had heard. The seed fell on good soil, and it strengthened his resolve to serve God.

When Simeon was eighteen, he received monastic tonsure and devoted himself to feats of the strictest abstinence and unceasing prayer. His zeal, beyond the strength of the other monastic brethren, so alarmed the igumen that he told Simeon that to either moderate his ascetic deeds or leave the monastery.

Saint Simeon then withdrew from the monastery and lived in an empty well in the nearby mountains, where he was able to carry out his austere struggles unhindered. After some time, angels appeared in a dream to the igumen, who commanded him to bring back Simeon to the monastery.

The monk, however, did not long remain at the monastery. After a short while he settled into a stony cave, situated not far from the village of Galanissa, and he dwelt there for three years, all the while perfecting himself in monastic feats. Once, he decided to spent the entire forty days of Great Lent without food or drink.

With the help of God, the monk endured this strict fast. From that time he abstained from food completely during the entire period of the Great Lent, even from bread and water. For twenty days he prayed while standing, and for twenty days while sitting, so as not to permit the corporeal powers to relax.

A whole crowd of people began to throng to the place of his efforts, wanting to receive healing from sickness and to hear a word of Christian edification. Shunning worldly glory and striving again to find his lost solitude, the monk chose a previously unknown mode of asceticism. He went up a pillar six to eight feet high, and settled upon it in a little cell, devoting himself to intense prayer and fasting.

Reports of Saint Simeon reached the highest church hierarchy and the imperial court. Patriarch Domninos II (441-448) of Antioch visited the monk, celebrated Divine Liturgy on the pillar and communed the ascetic with the Holy Mysteries.

Elders living in the desert heard about Saint Simeon, who had chosen a new and strange form of ascetic striving. Wanting to test the new ascetic and determine whether his extreme ascetic feats were pleasing to God, they sent messengers to him, who in the name of these desert fathers were to bid Saint Simeon to come down from the pillar.

In the case of disobedience they were to forcibly drag him to the ground. But if he was willing to submit, they were to leave him on his pillar. Saint Simeon displayed complete obedience and deep Christian humility. The monks told him to stay where he was, asking God to be his helper.

Saint Simeon endured many temptations, and he invariably gained the victory over them. He relied not on his own weak powers, but on the Lord Himself, Who always came to help him. The monk gradually increased the height of the pillar on which he stood.

His final pillar was 80 feet in height. Around him a double wall was raised, which hindered the unruly crowd of people from coming too close and disturbing his prayerful concentration.

Women, in general, were not permitted beyond the wall. The saint did not make an exception even for his own mother, who after long and unsuccessful searches finally succeeded in finding her lost son. He would not see her, saying, “If we are worthy, we shall see one another in the life to come.”

Saint Martha submitted to this, remaining at the foot of the pillar in silence and prayer, where she finally died. Saint Simeon asked that her coffin be brought to him. He reverently bid farewell to his dead mother, and a joyful smile appeared on her face.

Saint Simeon spent 80 years in arduous monastic feats, 47 years of which he stood upon the pillar. God granted him to accomplish in such unusual conditions an indeed apostolic service. Many pagans accepted Baptism, struck by the moral staunchness and bodily strength which the Lord bestowed upon His servant.

The first one to learn of the death of the saint was his close disciple Anthony. Concerned that his teacher had not appeared to the people for three days, he went up on the pillar and found the dead body stooped over at prayer. Patriarch Martyrius of Antioch performed the funeral before a huge throng of clergy and people. They buried him near his pillar. At the place of his ascetic deeds, Anthony established a monastery, upon which rested the special blessing of Saint Simeon.

We pray to Saint Simeon for the return to the Church of those who have forsaken Her, or have been separated from Her.

3. The 40 Holy Virgins and Saint Ammoun the Deacon, were from Adrianopolis in Macedonia. Deacon Ammoun was their guide in Christian Faith. They were captured by Baudos the governor, and were tortured because they would not offer sacrifice to idols.

The holy martyrs endured many cruel torments, which were intended to force them to renounce Christ and worship idols. Later, they were sent to Heraclea in Thrace to appear before the tyrant Licinius. The valiant martyrs remained unshakeable, however.

St Ammoun and eight of the virgins were beheaded, ten virgins were burned, six of them died after heated metal balls were put into their mouths, six were stabbed with knives, and the rest were struck in the mouth and stabbed in the heart with swords.

4. The first day of the Church New Year is also called the beginning of the Indiction. The term Indiction comes from a Latin word meaning, “to impose.” It was originally applied to the imposition of taxes in Egypt. The first worldwide Indiction was in 312 when the Emperor Constantine (May 21) saw a miraculous vision of the Cross in the sky. Before the introduction of the Julian calendar, Rome began the New Year on September 1.

According to Holy Tradition, Christ entered the synagogue on September 1 to announce His mission to mankind (Luke 4:16-22).

Quoting Isaiah 61:1-2), the Savior proclaimed, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…” This scene is depicted in a Vatican manuscript (Vatican, Biblioteca. Cod. Gr. 1613, p.1).

Tradition says that the Hebrews entered the Promised Land in September.

Tr by oca.org

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