Sunday Articles

St. Onesimus, Bishop of Ephesus
St. Onesimus, Bishop of Ephesus

On today’s Church Bulletin, we see the image of a man who experienced a tremendous SPIRITUAL and SOCIAL transformation. ONESIMUS was a personal slave of a distinguished citizen of Colossae named Philemon in the days of the early Church. After stealing from his master’s treasury, it is said the Onesimus fled to Rome. It was in this ancient capital of the Empire that his life would be changed forever!

While in Rome, Onesimus first heard about Jesus through the preaching of the Apostle Paul, who was imprisoned there. Soon he was baptized into Christianity and became a companion of the famous “Apostle of the Gentiles.”

Knowing of Onesimus’ background, Paul was faced with a moral dilemma. He himself preached that “…in Christ, there is neither slave nor free man.” (Gal. 3:28) According to Roman law, however, Onesimus still belonged to Philemon! Scriptures tell us that St. Paul sent Onesimus back to Colossae with a special letter to Philemon, which would later become a part of the canonical books of the New Testament. In his Epistle, Paul urged Philemon to receive Onesimus with forgiveness as a brother of the Lord. “Perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose,” Paul writes, “that you might receive Him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave – A beloved brother.” Deeply moved by Paul’s words, Philemon gave freedom to his former slave.

According to Church tradition, Onesimus later became Bishop of Ephesus. He suffered martyrdom in Rome, like his mentor St. Paul, in 109 A.D.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Priest Martyr Blaise
Priest-Martyr Blaise

Much of what we know about many of the saints of the early Church has been handed down to us in the form of oral tradition. Because little, if anything, was set down in writing concerning their spiritual accomplishments, it is not surprising that many legends and folklore developed through the ages concerning certain saints.

Such is the case with Priest-Martyr Blaise. Early Christian writers hardly make mention of him. Still, he remains a popular saint due to some fascinating stories that have somehow been connected with his life.

We do know that Blaise was the Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia in the 4th century. When the persecution of Christians became great in his city, Blaise fled to the protection of a cave in the nearby mountains. Tradition tells us that Blaise was actually a physician prior to becoming a hierarch of the Church. It is said that wild beasts would come to his cave to be treated for their various wounds and injuries. Blaise’s love for animals, however, led to his ultimate martyrdom. Agricolaus, the Roman governor of the region, had sent his hunters into the hills to find game for him. It was then that they discovered the hiding place of the saintly bishop and brought him back to Sebaste, where he was tortured and imprisoned. Another legend has it that on the way back to Sebaste, Blaise helped a young boy who had a bone stuck in his throat. Because of this, he is looked upon by the Western Church as the “Patron Saint of sore throats.” After enduring terrible beatings, Blaise was put to death by beheading in 316 A.D.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Meeting of Our Lord In The Temple
Meeting of Our Lord In The Temple

The Law of Moses was fulfilled when the Ever-Virgin Mary and Joseph presented our Lord in the Temple. Let us reflect on what St. Sophronius wrote about this event:

​“The true light has come, the light that enlightens everyone who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet an to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in His splendor.

​Through Simeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which He prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.

​By faith we too embraced Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as He came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen Him present among us and have mentally received Him into our arms, we are called the new Israel.”

​The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Saint Gregory the Theologian
Saint Gregory the Theologian

This great saint and teacher of the Church was born about the year 330 in Cappadocia, Asia Minor. His father, Gregory, was a follower of a strange sect but was converted by his Christian wife, Nonna. The father was later ordained a priest and consecrated as bishop of Nazianzus.

The child Gregory was consecrated to God even at birth. Nonna took her newborn to the Christian temple of the father and consecrated his tiny hands by laying them on the Gospel. He was given a thorough education in the finest schools of the time, and it was here that he became close a close friend of St. Basil the Great.

Gregory became a presbyter, and then, urged by Basil, he accepted consecration as a bishop. He took up residence with his father. But it wasn’t long before he was called to be Patriarch of Constantinople. The Church in the imperial city had been devastated by heresies and difficulties, and Bishop Gregory was to restore the faith. At its start, his congregation was so small they they could comfortably gather in a house. Through his saintly example, his sermons and his leadership, Gregory built the Church into a great place of prominence. Here he delivered his discourses on the Nicene faith which earned for him the title of “Theologian.”

At a Church Council in 381, Patriarch Gregory delivered his celebrated farewell to the Church. He retired, but never ceased to struggle for the Church. He fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 60 about the year 390. He is honored as one of the “Three Great Hierarchs.”

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

St. Peter Freed From Prison
St. Peter Freed From Prison

The Acts of the Apostles tell the amazing story of the growth of the Church in its earliest years. The Christian Faith spread from country to country, and from people to people. But in those years, there was persecution, suffering and death, too. The rulers of the Roman Empire, along with the enemies of Christ, made life difficult for those involved in the spread of the Gospel.

Wicked King Herod had the Apostle James, brother of St. John, killed by the sword. And then he had St. Peter arrested and put into prison. However, the Christian faithful did not abandon those who were persecuted. They gathered, even at night, at the home of Mary, mother of John Mark, to pray to the Lord for aid. As for Peter, he was guarded by four squads of Roman Soldiers. In fact, he slept at night between two of them, bound with chains, and with sentries at the doors.

It was then that a brilliant light pierced the prison cell, and an Angel of the Lord appeared, woke Peter up and the chains fell of his hands. They hurried out past the guards, out of the prison and into freedom. At first Peter thought it was all a dream, but soon came to realize that the miraculous event was real. He went to the home where Christians met for prayer, and there amazed them with his presence. It is this event that is commemorated by the “Chains of Peter” in the Church Calendar.

The icon vividly depicts the scene as the Angel of God takes St. Peter by the hand and leads him out of the prison, even as the chains fall to the ground and the guards slumber on. Of course, Peter went on spreading the Gospel and the Faith until his death for Christ.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

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