Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I trust and pray you are well. Hopefully you’ll find the Bulletin waiting for you as you get up and get ready for Church. Please forgive the tardiness of this message. Today was a very busy day getting ready for our big day next week, when we begin worshipping in the new sanctuary.
But before we turn our sights ahead, let’s take a moment to celebrate our past. Friday, February 2nd, the Feast of our Lord’s Presentation in the Temple was our Fourth Anniversary of moving into our building. Those of you who were here, remember a spectacular day filled with excitement and anticipation. The morning began with Orthros at our former location on the campus of St. Thomas More Catholic Church, then we, the faithful and clergy traveled in procession to our newly acquired space, where His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver awaited our arrival, then began the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. It was also the day that His Eminence elevated my priesthood to that of Protopresbyter. So many blessings on that day. I feel as if it were just yesterday. God bless all of you who participated in that significant milestone in our parish history.
Now, looking ahead more immediately, we will have two Liturgies this week, following tomorrow’s services, which will be the final Sunday in our present, temporary worship space. On Thursday, February 8th, we will celebrate the Feast of St. Theodore the Commander. Orthros is at 9:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 am. Thank you to Theo Huff and his Mommy and Daddy for donating a lovely icon of Ss. Theodore the Tyre and Theodore the Commander to the parish. The icon will be on display for veneration on this day.
Then, the final service to be celebrated in our current worship space will be Saturday, February 10th for the Commemoration of the Priest Martyr Haralambos. Service times are the same.
THEN, AS SCHEDULED AND ANNOUNCED, THE FIRST DIVINE LITURGY IN OUR PERMANENT SANCTUARY WILL BE HELD NEXT SUNDAY, ON FEBRUARY 11th.
So you can further enjoy the services this coming week, here is some information about Ss. Theodore and Haralambos:
The Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates came from the city of Euchaita in Asia Minor. He was endowed with many talents, and was handsome in appearance. For his charity God enlightened him with the knowledge of Christian truth. The bravery of the saintly soldier was revealed after he, with the help of God, killed a giant serpent living on a precipice in the outskirts of Euchaita. The serpent had devoured many people and animals, terrorizing the countryside. Saint Theodore armed himself with a sword and vanquished it, glorifying the name of Christ among the people.
For his bravery Saint Theodore was appointed military commander in Greek, “stratelatos” in the city of Heraclea, where he combined his military service with preaching the Gospel among the pagans subject to him. His gift of persuasion, reinforced by his personal example of Christian life, turned many from their false gods. Soon, nearly all of Heraclea had accepted Christianity.
During this time the emperor Licinius (311-324) began a fierce persecution against Christians. In an effort to stamp out the new faith, he persecuted the enlightened adherents of Christianity, who were perceived as a threat to paganism. Among these was Saint Theodore. Licinius tried to force Saint Theodore to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. The saint invited Licinius to come to him with his idols so both of them could offer sacrifice before the people.
Blinded by his hatred for Christianity, Licinius trusted the words of the saint, but he was disappointed. Saint Theodore smashed the gold and silver statues into pieces, which he then distributed to the poor. Thus he demonstrated the vain faith in soulless idols, and also displayed Christian charity.
Saint Theodore was arrested and subjected to fierce and refined torture. He was dragged on the ground, beaten with iron rods, had his body pierced with sharp spikes, was burned with fire, and his eyes were plucked out. Finally, he was crucified. Varus, the servant of Saint Theodore, barely had the strength to write down the incredible torments of his master.
God, however, in His great mercy, willed that the death of Saint Theodore should be as fruitful for those near him as his life was. An angel healed the saint’s wounded body and took him down from the cross. In the morning, the imperial soldiers found him alive and unharmed. Seeing with their own eyes the infinite might of the Christian God, they were baptized not far from the place of the unsuccessful execution.
Thus, Saint Theodore became “like a day of splendor” for those pagans dwelling in the darkness of idolatry, and he enlightened their souls “with the bright rays of his suffering.” Unwilling to escape martyrdom for Christ, Saint Theodore voluntarily surrendered himself to Licinius, and discouraged the Christians from rising up against the torturer, saying, “Beloved, halt! My Lord Jesus Christ, hanging upon the Cross, restrained the angels and did not permit them to take revenge on the race of man.”
Going to execution, the holy martyr opened up the prison doors with just a word and freed the prisoners from their bonds. People who touched his robe were healed instantly from sicknesses, and freed from demonic possession. By order of the emperor, Saint Theodore was beheaded by the sword. Before his death he told Varus, “ Do not fail to record the day of my death, and bury my body in Euchaita.” He also asked to be remembered each year on this date. Then he bent his neck beneath the sword, and received the crown of martyrdom which he had sought. This occurred on February 8, 319, on a Saturday, at the third hour of the day.
St. Haralambos, a priest of Magnesia in Asia Minor, suffered in the year 202.
Saint Haralambos successfully spread faith in Christ the Savior, guiding people on the way to salvation. News of his preaching reached Lucian, the governor of the district, and the military commander Lucius. The saint was arrested and brought to trial, where he confessed his faith in Christ and refused to offer sacrifice to idols.
Despite the priest’s advanced age (he was 113 years old), he was subjected to monstrous tortures. They lacerated his body with iron hooks, and scraped all the skin from his body. During this the saint turned to his tormentors, “I thank you, brethren, that you have restored my spirit, which longs to pass over to a new and everlasting life!”
Seeing the Elder’s endurance and his complete lack of malice, two soldiers (Porphyrius and Baptus) openly confessed Christ, for which they were immediately beheaded with a sword. Three women who were watching the sufferings of Saint Haralambos also began to glorify Christ, and were quickly martyred.
The enraged Lucius seized the instruments of torture and began to torture the holy martyr, but suddenly his forearms were cut off as if by a sword. The governor then spat in the face of the saint, and immediately his head was turned around so that he faced backwards.
Then Lucius entreated the saint to show mercy on him, and both torturers were healed through the prayers of Saint Haralampus. During this a multitude of witnesses came to believe in Christ. Among them also was Lucius, who fell at the feet of the holy bishop, asking to be baptized.
Lucian reported these events to the emperor Septimus Severus (193-211), who was then at Pisidian Antioch (western Asia Minor). The emperor ordered Saint Haralambos
to be brought to him in Antioch. Soldiers twisted the saint’s beard into a rope, wound it around his neck, and used it to drag him along. They also drove an iron nail into his body. The emperor then ordered them to torture the priest more intensely, and they began to burn him with fire, a little at a time. But God protected the saint, and he remained unharmed.
Many miracles were worked through his prayer: he raised a dead youth, and healed a man tormented by devils for thirty-five years, so that many people began to believe in Christ the Savior. Even Galina, the daughter of the emperor, began to believe in Christ, and twice smashed the idols in a pagan temple. On the orders of the emperor they beat the saint about the mouth with stones. They also wanted to set his beard on fire, but the flames burned the torturer.
Full of wickedness, Septimus Severus and an official named Crispus hurled blasphemy at the Lord, mockingly summoning Him to come down to the earth, and boasting of their own power and might. The Lord sent an earthquake, and great fear fell upon all, the impious ones were both suspended in mid-air held by invisible bonds, and only by the prayer of the saint were they put down. The dazed emperor was shaken in his former impiety, but again quickly fell into error and gave orders to torture the saint.
And finally, the emperor sentenced Saint Haralambos to beheading with a sword. During Saint Haralambos’ final prayer, the heavens opened, and the saint saw the Savior and a multitude of angels. The holy martyr asked Him to grant that the place where his relics would repose would never suffer famine or disease. He also begged that there would be peace, prosperity, and an abundance of fruit, grain, and wine in that place, and that the souls of these people would be saved. The Lord promised to fulfill his request and ascended to heaven, and the soul of the priest martyr.
Haralambos followed after Him. By the mercy of God, the saint died before he could be executed. Galina buried the martyr’s body with great honor.
With Much Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas