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Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Saints’

1It has been some time since I have posted on my blog.  I have been trying to respond faithfully to the changes life has brought upon me.  In doing to I have had to prioritize and make decisions about what is really important.  So I have taken an absence to my blog.  I am currently working on some content, and should be posting on a more regularly basis.  Until then please enjoy this reflection from St. Clement of Alexandria

The perfect person does not only try to avoid evil.


Nor does he do good for fear of punishment, still less in order to qualify for the hope of a promised reward.

The perfect person does good through love.

His actions are not motivated by desire for personal benefit, so he does not have personal advantage as his aim. 

But as soon as he has realized the beauty of doing good, he does it with all his energies and in all that he does.

He is not interested in fame, or a good reputation, or a human or divine reward.

The rule of life for a perfect person is to be in the image and likeness of God.

St. Clement of Alexandria

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It’s been a few weeks since I have blogged on Thoughts after twilight.  I have been working on a new blog.  In that blog I am writing about life and my faith journey.  In many Eastern Orthodox churches they just celebrated the feat of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers.

I decided to read up on this feast.  I have to say it opened my eyes to how God interacts with his natural creation.  More thoughts on that later.  As I am still meditating on what I read.

Added to this blog post is something the Orthodox Church of America wrote up on this feast.  I found it interesting, and thought I would share it with you all.

Pax

Br. John-Paul

 

Synaxis (Feast)  of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers

Commemorated on November 8

The Synaxis of the Chief of the Heavenly Hosts, Archangel Michael and the Other Heavenly Bodiless Powers: Archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selaphiel, Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Jeremiel was established at the beginning of the fourth century at the Council of Laodicea, which met several years before the First Ecumenical Council. The 35th Canon of the Council of Laodicea condemned and denounced as heretical the worship of angels as gods and rulers of the world, but affirmed their proper veneration.

A Feastday was established in November, the ninth month after March (with which the year began in ancient times) since there are Nine Ranks of Angels. The eighth day of the month was chosen for the Synaxis of all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven since the Day of the Dread Last Judgment is called the Eighth Day by the holy Fathers. After the end of this age (characterized by its seven days of Creation) will come the Eighth Day, and then “the Son of Man shall come in His Glory and all the holy Angels with Him” (Mt. 25:31).

The Angelic Ranks are divided into three Hierarchies: highest, middle, and lowest.

The Highest Hierarchy includes: the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.

The six-winged SERAPHIM (Flaming, Fiery) (Is 6:12) stand closest of all to the Most Holy Trinity. They blaze with love for God and kindle such love in others.

The many-eyed CHERUBIM (outpouring of wisdom, enlightenment) (Gen 3:24) stand before the Lord after the Seraphim. They are radiant with the light of knowledge of God, and knowledge of the mysteries of God. Through them wisdom is poured forth, and people’s minds are enlightened so they may know God and behold His glory.

The THRONES (Col 1:16) stand after the Cherubim, mysteriously and incomprehensibly bearing God through the grace given them for their service. They are ministers of God’s justice, giving to tribunals, kings, etc. the capacity for righteous judgment.

The Middle Angelic Hierarchy consists of three Ranks: Dominions, Powers, and Authorities:

DOMINIONS (Col 1:16) hold dominion over the angels subject to them. They instruct the earthly authorities, established by God, to rule wisely, and to govern their lands well. The Dominions teach us to subdue sinful impulses, to subject the flesh to the spirit, to master our will, and to conquer temptation.

POWERS (1 Pet 3:22) fulfill the will of God without hesitation. They work great miracles and give the grace of wonderworking and clairvoyance to saints pleasing to God. The Powers assist people in fulfilling obediences. They also encourage them to be patient, and give them spiritual strength and fortitude.

AUTHORITIES (1 Pet 3:22, Col 1:16) have authority over the devil. They protect people from demonic temptations, and prevent demons from harming people as they would wish. They also uphold ascetics and guard them, helping people in the struggle with evil thoughts.

The Lowest Hierarchy includes the three Ranks: Principalities, Archangels, and Angels:

PRINIPALITIES (Col 1:16) have command over the lower angels, instructing them in the fulfilling of God’s commands. They watch over the world and protect lands, nations and peoples. Principalities instruct people to render proper honor to those in authority, as befits their station. They teach those in authority to use their position, not for personal glory and gain, but to honor God, and to spread word of Him, for the benefit of those under them.

ARCHANGELS (1 Thess 4:16) are messengers of great and wondrous tidings. They reveal prophecies and the mysteries of the faith. They enlighten people to know and understand the will of God, they spread faith in God among the people, illuminating their minds with the light of the Holy Gospel.

ANGELS (1 Pet 3:22) are in the lowest rank of the heavenly hierarchy, and closest to people. They reveal the lesser mysteries of God and His intentions, guiding people to virtuous and holy life. They support those who remain steadfast, and they raise up the fallen. They never abandon us and they are always prepared to help us, if we desire it.

All the Ranks of the Heavenly Powers are called angels, although each has its own name and position by virtue of their service. The Lord reveals His will to the highest ranks of the angels, and they in turn inform the others.

Over all the Nine Ranks, the Lord appointed the Holy Archangel Michael (his name in Hebrew means “who is like unto God”), the faithful servitor of God, as Chief Commander. He cast down from Heaven the arrogantly proud Lucifer and the other fallen spirits when they rebelled against God. Michael summoned the ranks of angels and cried out, “Let us attend! Let us stand aright before our Creator and do not consider doing what is displeasing unto God!”

According to Church Tradition, and in the church services to the Archangel Michael, he participated in many other Old Testament events.

During the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt he went before them in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Through him the power of the Lord was made manifest, annihilating the Egyptians and Pharaoh who were in pursuit of the Israelites. The Archangel Michael defended Israel in all its misfortunes.

He appeared to Joshua Son of Navi and revealed the will of the Lord at the taking of Jericho (Josh 5:13-16). The power of the great Chief Commander of God was manifest in the annihilation of the 185 thousand soldiers of the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib (4/2 Kings 19:35); also in the smiting of the impious leader Heliodorus (2 Macc. 3: 24-26); and in the protection of the Three Holy Youths: Ananias, Azarias and Misail, thrown into the fiery furnace for their refusal to worship an idol (Dan 3:22-25).

Through the will of God, the Chief Commander Michael transported the Prophet Habbakuk (December 2) from Judea to Babylon, to give food to Daniel in the lions’ den (Dan. 14:33-37).

The Archangel Michael disputed with the devil over the body of the holy Prophet Moses (Jude 1:9).

The holy Archangel Michael showed his power when he miraculously saved a young man, cast into the sea by robbers with a stone about his neck on the shores of Mt Athos. This story is found in the Athonite Paterikon, and in the Life of St Neophytus of Docheiariou (November 9).

From ancient times the Archangel Michael was famed for his miracles in Rus. In the Volokolamsk Paterikon is a narrative of St Paphnutius of Borov with an account of Tatar tax-gatherers concerning the miraculous saving of Novgorod the Great: “Therefore Great Novgorod was never taken by the Hagarenes… when… for our sins the godless Hagarene emperor Batu devoured and set the Russian land aflame and came to Novgorod, and God and the Most Holy Theotokos shielded it with an appearance of Michael the Archangel, who forbade him to enter into it. He [Batu] was come to the Lithuanian city and came toward Kiev and saw the stone church, over the doors of which the great Archangel Michael had written and spoken to the prince his allotted fate, ‘By this we have forbidden you entry into Great Novgorod’.”

Intercession for Russian cities by the Most Holy Queen of Heaven always involved Her appearances with the Heavenly Hosts, under the leadership of the Archangel Michael. Grateful Rus acclaimed the Most Pure Mother of God and the Archangel Michael in church hymns. Many monasteries, cathedrals, court and merchant churches are dedicated to the Chief Commander Michael.

In old Kiev at the time of the accepting of Christianity, a cathedral of the Archangel was built, and a monastery also was named for him. Archangel cathedrals are found at Smolensk, Nizhni Novgorod, Staritsa, at Great Ustiug (beginning of the thirteenth century), and a cathedral at Sviyazhsk. In Rus there was not a city, where there was not a church or chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael.

One of the chief temples of the city of Moscow, the burial church in the Kremlin, is dedicated to him. Numerous and beautiful icons of the Chief Commander of the Heavenly Hosts are also in his Cathedral. One of these, the Icon “Blessed Soldiery,” was painted in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. The saintly soldiers, Russian princes, are depicted under the leadership of the Archangel Michael.

We invoke St Michael for protection from invasion by enemies and from civil war, and for the defeat of adversaries on the field of battle. He conquers all spiritual enemies.

Holy Scripture and Tradition give us the names of the Archangels:

Gabriel: strength (power) of God, herald and servitor of Divine omnipotence (Dan 8:16, Luke 1:26). He announces the mysteries of God.

Raphael: the healing of God, the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16, 12:15)

Uriel: the fire or light of God, enlightener (3 Ezdras 5:20). We pray for him to enlighten those with darkened minds.

Selaphiel: the prayer of God, impelling to prayer (3 Ezdras 5:16). He prays to God for mankind.

Jehudiel: the glorifying of God, encouraging exertion for the glory of the Lord and interceding for the reward of efforts.

Barachiel: distributor of the blessings of God for good deeds, entreats the mercy of God for people.

Jeremiel: the raising up to God (3 Ezdras 4:36)

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Michael tramples the devil underfoot, and in his left hand holds a green date-tree branch, and in his right hand a spear with a white banner (or sometimes a fiery sword), on which is outlined a scarlet cross.

Gabriel with a branch from Paradise, presented by him to the Most Holy Virgin, or with a shining lantern in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper in his left.

Raphael holds a vessel with healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias, carrying a fish for healing (Tobit 5-8).

Uriel in his raised right hand holds a naked sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand “a fiery flame.”

Selaphiel in a prayerful posture, gazing downwards, hands folded on the chest.

Jehudiel holds a golden crown in his right hand, in his left, a whip of three red (or black) thongs.

Barachiel is shown with a white rose on his breast.

Jeremiel holds balance-scales in his hand.

Each person has a guardian angel, and every nation also receives its own guardian angel from God (Dan. 10:13). When a church is consecrated, it also receives a guardian angel (Palladius, Dial. Ch. 10).

The Archangel Gabriel whose name means “the strength (power) of God,” is the herald and servitor of Divine omnipotence (Dan 8:16, Luke 1:26). He announces the mysteries of God.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Gabriel appears with a branch from Paradise, presented by him to the Most Holy Virgin, or with a shining lantern in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper in his left.

The Archangel Raphael, whose name means “the healing of God,” is the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16, 12:15)

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Raphael holds a vessel with healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias, carrying a fish for healing (Tobit 5-8).

The Archangel Uriel, whose name means” the fire or light of God” (2 Ezdras 4:1, 5:20, 10:28). We pray for him to enlighten those with darkened minds.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Uriel in his raised right hand holds a naked sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand “a fiery flame.”

The Archangel Selaphiel, whose name means “the prayer of God, impelling to prayer” (3 Ezdras 5:16). He prays to God for mankind.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Selaphiel in a prayerful posture, gazing downwards, hands folded on the chest.

 

The Archangel Jehudiel, whose name means “one who glorifies God,” encourages us to strive for the glory of the Lord, and intercedes for our efforts to be rewarded.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Jehudiel holds a golden crown in his right hand, in his left, a whip of three red (or black) thongs.

 

The Archangel Barachiel, whose name means “the blessing of God,” entreats the mercy of God for people.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Barachiel is shown with a white rose on his breast.

 

 

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Today we celebrate the feast of the assumption of Mary. This has long been a significant day within Christ’s church. Sometime in the fifth century Byzantine Emperor Mauricius Flavius ordered this holy day to be celebrated on the 15th of August. He also had a basilica built over her tomb. This church was at some point destroyed, and then rebuilt by the crusaders in the 11th century.

What we know about the Blessed Mothers death has been handed down to us from tradition. Officially the Roman Catholic church has never said if Mary died or not. This in itself really has no effect on the celebration or belief of the assumption. It is note worthy that most in the western church do believe she died. Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus (1950), defined that Mary, “after the completion of her earthly life was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven.”

More so it is the understanding that like Enoch and Elijah, that Mary was taken up into heaven. It is important to know that the church never in history or now believed that she did this by her own power. She did not ascend like Jesus into heaven, but assumed by the power of God.

This feast like many feasts of Mary do not point to her holiness. Which she was holy. Mary’s assumption is a reminder of the promises of Jesus. That we the faithful will live in Christ forever. That death cannot hold us. We are again pointed to the cross, and to Jesus who payed the price for our sins. By his death and resurrection we are not only freed from sin, but from death.

So today is a day of celebration. A reminder of the great honor given to our Blessed Mother. A hope for us of what is to come.

It is my prayer that you all will find yourself a bit closer today to our mother Mary, and to her most precious son our Savior Jesus.

For those who are interested here is some scripture that talks about the possibility of a bodily assumption before the Second Coming. It is suggested by Matthew 27:52–53: “[T]he tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Did all these Old Testament saints die and have to be buried all over again? There is no record of that, but it is recorded by early Church writers that they were assumed into heaven, or at least into that temporary state of rest and happiness often called “paradise,” where the righteous people from the Old Testament era waited until Christ’s resurrection (cf. Luke 16:22, 23:43; Heb. 11:1–40; 1 Pet. 4:6), after which they were brought into the eternal bliss of heaven.

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The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos (Mother of God) and Ever Virgin Mary

Today is the day the church celibates the birth of Mary the mother of Jesus. Much debate surrounds the time and origins of this feast day. Some of the most early of writings come from the 6th century by St.Romanus, the great ecclesiastical lyrist of the Greek Church. Later in time was this feast adopted into the Roman Churches calendar. Some debate still exists on the origins of choosing Sept. 8th as the actual date of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s birth.

In my humble opinion it really does not matter what date is chosen. What is important is for us to take time to stop and reflect. For by the birth of Blessed Mary was the start of a series of events that would change the world forever. In her birth God began to move in, among, and around his people. I have added the traditional teachings for this great and holy feast day.

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary: The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born at a time when people had reached such a degree of moral decay that it seemed altogether impossible to restore them. People often said that God must come into the world to restore faith and not permit the ruin of mankind.

The Son of God chose to take on human nature for the salvation of mankind, and chose as His Mother the All-Pure Virgin Mary, who alone was worthy to give birth to the Source of purity and holiness.

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary is celebrated by the Church as a day of universal joy. Within the context of the Old and the New Testaments, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was born on this radiant day, having been chosen before the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. She is revealed as the Mother of the Savior of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born in the small city of Galilee, Nazareth. Her parents were Righteous Joachim of the tribe of the Prophet-King David, and Anna from the tribe of the First Priest Aaron. The couple was without child, since St Anna was barren.

Having reached old age, Joachim and Anna did not lose hope in God’s mercy. They had strong faith that for God everything is possible, and that He would be able to overcome the barrenness of Anna even in her old age, as He had once overcame the barrenness of Sarah, spouse of the Patriarch Abraham. Sts Joachim and Anna vowed to dedicate the child which the Lord might give them, to the service of God in the Temple.

Childlessness was considered among the Hebrew nation as a Divine punishment for sin, and therefore the righteous Sts Joachim and Anna had to endure abuse from their own countrymen. On one of the feastdays at the Temple in Jerusalem the elderly Joachim brought his sacrifice to offer to God, but the High Priest would not accept it, considering him to be unworthy since he was childless.

St Joachim in deep grief went into the wilderness, and there he prayed with tears to the Lord for a child. St Anna wept bitterly when she learned what had happened at the Jerusalem Temple. Never once did she complain against the Lord, but rather she prayed to ask God’s mercy on her family.

The Lord fulfilled her petitions when the pious couple had attained to extreme old age and prepared themselves by virtuous life for a sublime calling: to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the future Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Archangel Gabriel brought Joachim and Anna the joyous message that their prayers were heard by God, and of them would be born a most blessed daughter Mary, through Whom would come the Salvation of all the World.

The Most Holy Virgin Mary surpassed in purity and virtue not only all mankind, but also the angels. She was manifest as the living Temple of God, so the Church sings in its festal hymns: “the East Gate… bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls” (2nd Stikhera on “Lord, I Have Cried”, Tone 6).

The Nativity of the Theotokos marks the change of the times when the great and comforting promises of God for the salvation of the human race from slavery to the devil are about to be fulfilled. This event has brought to earth the grace of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Truth, piety, virtue and everlasting life. The Theotokos is revealed to all of us by grace as a merciful Intercessor and Mother, to Whom we have recourse with filial devotion.

Prayer
Father of mercy, give your people help and strength from heaven. The birth of the Virgin Mary’s Son was the dawn of our salvation. May this celebration of her birthday
bring us closer to lasting peace. Grant this though our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Troparion (Tone 4) –

Your Nativity, O Virgin,
Has proclaimed joy to the whole universe!
The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God,
Has shone from You, O Theotokos!
By annulling the curse,
He bestowed a blessing.
By destroying death, He has granted us eternal Life.

Kontakion (Tone 4) –

By Your Nativity, O Most Pure Virgin,
Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness;
Adam and Eve, from the corruption of death.
And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you:
The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our life!

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Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the last of the Great prophets. John the Baptist is a symbol of new life and spirit to the people of God. For it was 400 years since they had seen a prophet. John the Baptist was the bridge pointing to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Who would take away the sins of the world, and be the great messiah.

The narrative of John’s life is beautifully laid out in the gospels. We find a man who is separated from society. Feasting on locust and honey. dressing oddly, and could be found at a river proclaiming the coming of the messiah. Calling people to repentance.

According to Josephus (who wrote after 70 AD), “John the Baptist was a Jewish preacher in the time of Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36). He called the people to repentance and to a renewal of their covenant relation with God. He was imprisoned and eventually put to death by Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great, who was king when Jesus was born) for denouncing Herod’s marriage to Herodias, the wife of his still-living brother Philip. In order to marry Herodias, Herod divorced his first wife, the daughter of King Aretas of Damascus, who subsequently made war on Herod, a war which, Josephus tells us, was regarded by devout Jews as a punishment for Herod’s murder of the prophet John.”

John the Baptists words are timeless. The relevance of repentance and making a way for the coming (or returning in our case) of the Lord has never been greater. We are a wicked generation. For many God is a concept for the weak, uneducated, and archaic. Those who still call upon his name are misguided by new age theology, moral relativism, and apathy.

How many Christians first thing in the morning instead of prayer they reach for their iPhone or Black Berry? Before their feet hit the floor they are already scheduling their day. I know I am guilty. Many days prayer for me is scheduled 3 or 4 hours after I am up and at work. How often do we let God in? I know many who God is the subject of life for 1 day a week. They get their obligation in, and they are good to go.

We have grown stagnant with life. Complacent with the status quo. Seeking after worldly riches all the while Christ is their wanting in. Let us not take for granted the words of John the Baptist. “Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:7-8)”

“I baptize you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out. (Matthew 3:11-12/Luke 3:16-17)”

Let us repent of our wicked ways. Go to confession if you must. Move forward with a fire and passion for the one who has saved us from death and the fires of hell. Let us like John the Baptist proclaim the coming of the Lord.

Prayer

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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At Lyons and Vienne, in Gaul, there were missionary houses. Many Christians from Asia and Greece came to these places. As time progressed Persecution began sometime in 177.

The Gauls were not fond of these new Christians. In the beginning Christians were excluded from public places. They could not go to public baths, markets, and basically any form of public life. It was common for them to be attacked in public. At some time during all of this the government involved themselves in the matter of dealing with these Christians.

They began taking Christians into custody and questioning them. Many slaves and servants of Christian houses were tortured for information. The government got the these slaves to confess that the Christians were cannibals, and frequently partook in incestuous relations.

Word of such behavior turned the whole city against the Christians. Particularly against St. Pothinus Bishop of Lyons, St. Sanctus a Deacon, St Attalus, St. Maturus, and St Blandina a slave. Bishop Pothinus who was old in age was beaten and then released. Days later he obtained martyrdom from his blessed wounds and gained a red crown. Deacon Sanctus was beaten severely, but kept alive so he could be tormented with red-hot irons. Saint Blandina was tortured all day long. In spite of the fierce pain she would exclaim nothing except, “I am a Christian, and nothing vile is done among us.” Both of them triumphantly accepted their red crowns of martyrdom. At some time later many Christians were put to death in the public arena.

Letters and accounts from those who were martyred, and witnesses.

The Letter of the Churchs of Vienna and Lyons to the Churches of Asia and Phrygia
Letter from the Martyrs of Lyons

Prayer

Grant, O Lord, we pray, that we who keep the feast of the holy martyrs Blandina and her companions may be rooted and grounded in love of you, and may endure the sufferings of this life for the glory that shall be revealed in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Matrona of Thessalonica. was the maid of a Jewish woman, Pantilla by name, who was the wife of a certain general at the city of Thessalonica. Whenever her lady went to the Jewish synagogue, Matrona followed her as well but she would not enter the synagogue. Instead, she turned away and went to the Church of the Christians. Because this was made known to her lady, Saint Matrona was badly beaten and she was locked in prison. After she had spent a lot of days in prison, she commended her soul to the hands of God.

Prayer

O Almighty God, by whose grace and power was given to your servant Matrona, who triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember her with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with her the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen +

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