Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we arrive at the beginning of this New Year, we continue to rejoice in the bright
and joyous feast of the Nativity of Christ. And, indeed, we at Saints Peter and
Paul Church were blessed with a beautiful, bright, and joyous celebration! Allow
me to extend my deep gratitude to all who prepared for this celebration, (all those
“behind-the-scene” preparations- and they were many), to all those who contributed
in any way to the celebration, and to all who participated and were present to pray
and celebrate with us. It is such a blessing for each one of us, as individuals,
and for all of us together to come together as a loving community, to give thanks
to God for His many blessings, and to commemorate the great moments in the history
of our salvation.
We now continue forward in the festal cycle of the Nativity-Theophany. We will gather
again in solemn and joyous prayer on January 5 & 6 to celebrate the Feast of the
Theophany, commemorating the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan and the revelation
of the Most Holy Trinity—the revelation of God Himself.
Saint John, Archbishop of San Francisco, the Wonderworker, preaching about the Feast
of the Theophany, writes, “When celebrating the Theophany, we call to remembrance
both that God was made known to people as Trinity and that Jesus was revealed to
people as Christ. Where was Christ revealed? Where was His work begun? Did He go
to a great city to be revealed there in His Glory? Did He ascend a high mountain,
with a crowd of many thousands standing below and looking up at Him like a wonder?
No! Christ went into the desert, to the River Jordan, where John was baptizing the
people. John preached repentance, calling upon sinners to be baptized in the Jordan
as a sign of repentance. Christ, Who has no sin, now comes and asks for baptism as
a sinner. John was fearful: “You should baptize me!” Jesus replies: “Let it be so
now: for this is how we should fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-15).
As we remember this revelation, this THEOPHANY, and the moment of the Lord’s Baptism
by John, we are invited to also recall our own Baptism and its significance in our
lives. Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco comments on this, “By His immersion
in the Jordan, Christ sanctified not only the waters of the Jordan, but the whole
nature of the waters, as the Church cries out in its hymns: “Christ hath appeared
in the Jordan to sanctify the waters” (troparion of the forefeast); “Today the nature
of the waters is sanctified” (troparion at the Blessing of the Waters). Since there
is water everywhere, by sanctifying the waters, Christ thereby sanctified all of
creation and the entire universe. Christ prepared nature that it, too, might experience
the beneficial consequences of the sacrifice that He came to offer. But this was
not yet everything. He gave the waters the power to cleanse human sin. The baptism
of John was only a sign of repentance. Christian Baptism is a new birth and the forgiveness
of all sins. God punished the sin of the first world with water, destroying it in
a flood of waters. Now God saves people with water in the Mystery of Baptism.”
Saint John reminds us here not only of the great revelation that took place on the
banks of the River Jordan but that, in celebrating the feast, we also recall our
own Baptism and what it means for us. Indeed, he calls us to remember that in Baptism
we have been given a new birth, a new life. And that we have been saved through
the Mystery of Baptism—for through it we have been given a share in the very life
of Christ Himself.
As we gather for the celebration of the Feast, let us take the opportunity to reflect
upon the meaning of our Baptism- what Baptism means in our own lives. And, since
this feast comes at the beginning of a New (Civil) Year and many are involved in
making resolutions about how to live the next twelve months, let us place at the
top of our list of resolutions the resolution to recommit ourselves to living the
baptismal life- a life of fidelity to Him who was baptized in the Jordan “for us
and for our salvation,” to grow in holiness, and to increase our personal participation
in the life of the Church and the life and activities of our parish community.
Be assured of my continued prayers for you and for all your loved ones. As we enter
yet another New Year, let us continue to pray and work together for the building
up of Christ’s Kingdom.
With love in the Lord,
Apostle Timothy of the Seventy
Commemorated on January 22
The Holy Apostle Timothy was from the Lycaonian city of Lystra in Asia Minor. Saint
Timothy was converted to Christ in the year 52 by the holy Apostle Paul (June 29).
When the Apostles Paul and Barnabas first visited the cities of Lycaonia, Saint Paul
healed one crippled from birth. Many of the inhabitants of Lystra then believed in
Christ, and among them was the future Saint Timothy, his mother Eunice and grandmother
Loida (Lois) (Acts 14:6-12; 2 Tim. 1:5).
The seed of faith, planted in Saint Timothy’s soul by the Apostle Paul, brought forth
abundant fruit. He became Saint Paul’s disciple, and later his constant companion
and co-worker in the preaching of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul loved Saint Timothy
and in his Epistles called him his beloved son, remembering his devotion and fidelity
He wrote to Timothy: “You have followed my teaching, way of life, purpose, faith,
longsuffering, love, and patience” (2 Tim. 3:10-11). The Apostle Paul appointed Saint
Timothy as Bishop of Ephesus, where the saint remained for fifteen years. Finally,
when Saint Paul was in prison and awaiting martyrdom, he summoned his faithful friend,
Saint Timothy, for a last farewell (2 Tim. 4:9).
Saint Timothy ended his life as a martyr. The pagans of Ephesus celebrated a festival
in honor of their idols, and used to carry them through the city, accompanied by
impious ceremonies and songs. Saint Timothy, zealous for the glory of God, attempted
to halt the procession and reason with the spiritually blind idol-worshipping people,
by preaching the true faith in Christ.
The pagans angrily fell upon the holy apostle, they beat him, dragged him along the
ground, and finally, they stoned him. Saint Timothy’s martyrdom occurred in the year
In the fourth century the holy relics of Saint Timothy were transferred to Constantinople
and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles near the tombs of Saint Andrew (November
30) and Saint Luke (October 18). The Church honors Saint Timothy as one of the Apostles
of the Seventy.
In Russian practice, the back of a priest’s cross is often inscribed with Saint Paul’s
words to Saint Timothy: “Be an example to the believers in speech and conduct, in
love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).
Monkmartyr Anastasius the Persian
Commemorated on January 22
The Monk Martyr Anastasius the Persian was the son of a Persian sorcerer named Bavi.
As a pagan, he had the name Magundates and served in the armies of the Persian emperor
Chozroes II, who in 614 ravaged the city of Jerusalem and carried away the Life-Creating
Cross of the Lord to Persia.
Great miracles occurred from the Cross of the Lord, and the Persians were astonished.
The heart of young Magundates was inflamed with the desire to learn more about this
sacred object. Asking everyone about the Holy Cross, the youth learned that upon
it the Lord Himself was crucified for the salvation of mankind. He became acquainted
with the truths of the Christian Faith in the city of Chalcedon, where the army of
Chozroes was for a certain while. He was baptized with the name Anastasius, and then
became a monk and spent seven years in one of the Jerusalem monasteries, living an
Reading the Lives of the holy martyrs, Saint Anastasius was inspired with the desire
to imitate them. A mysterious dream, which he had on Great and Holy Saturday, the
day before the Resurrection of Christ, urged him to do this.
Having fallen asleep after his daily tasks, he beheld a radiant man giving him a
golden chalice filled with wine, who said to him, “Take this and drink.” Draining
the chalice, he felt an ineffable delight. Saint Anastasius then realized that this
vision was his call to martyrdom.
He went secretly from the monastery to Palestinian Caesarea. There he was arrested
for being a Christian, and was brought to trial. The governor tried in every way
to force Saint Anastasius to renounce Christ, threatening him with tortures and death,
and promising him earthly honors and blessings. The saint, however, remained unyielding.
Then they subjected him to torture: they beat him with rods, they lacerated his knees,
they hung him up by the hands and tied a heavy stone to his feet, they exhausted
him with confinement, and then wore him down with heavy work in the stone quarry
with other prisoners.
Finally, the governor summoned Saint Anastasius and promised him his freedom if he
would only say, “I am not a Christian.” The holy martyr replied, “I will never deny
my Lord before you or anyone else, neither openly nor even while asleep. No one can
compel me to do this while I am in my right mind.” Then by order of the emperor Chozroes,
Saint Anastasius was strangled, then beheaded. After the death of Chozroes, the relics
of the Monk Martyr Anastasius were transferred to Palestine, to the Anastasius monastery.