The holy great martyr George the Victory-bearer was a native of Cappadocia (a district in Asia Minor), and he grew up in a deeply believing Christian family. When he became a man, St. George entered into the service of the Roman army. He was handsome, brave and valiant in battle, and came to be noticed by the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and joined the imperial guard with the rank of comites, or military commander. Following the advice of the Senate at Nicodemedia, Diocletian gave all his governors full freedom in their court proceedings against Christians, and he promised them his full support. St. George, when he heard the decision of the emperor, distributed all his wealth to the poor, freed his servants, and then appeared in the Senate. The brave soldier of Christ spoke out openly against the emperor’s designs. He confessed himself a Christian, and appealed to all to acknowledge Christ: “I am a servant of Christ, my God, and trusting Him, I have come among you voluntarily, to bear witness concerning the Truth.” After many tortures and miraculous reprieves, St. George was finally beheaded after revealing the Truth of Christ to many, including the Empress Alexandra, who was martyred with him in the year 303.
You fought the good fight with faith, O George, a martyr of Christ. You exposed the perversion of the persecutors and offered an acceptable sacrifice to God. Therefore, you also received a crown of victory and through your prayers, O holy one, obtained the forgiveness of sins for all.
Reared by God, you were a noble sower of piety, harvesting sheaves of virtue. You sowed in tears but reaped in joy; and having honorably fought and given your blood, you were received by Christ. Through your prayers, O holy one, obtain the forgiveness of sins for all.
Acts 12: 1-11
In those days King Herod started to harass some of the members of the church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased certain Jews, he took Peter into custody too. During the Feast of Unleavened Bread he had Peter arrested and thrown into prison with four squads of soldiers to guard him. Herod intended to bring him before the people after the Passover. Peter was thus detained in prison, while the church prayed fervently to God on his behalf. During the night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened in double chains, while guards kept watch at the door. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood nearby and light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. “Hurry, get up!” the angel said. With that, the chains dropped from Peter’s wrists. The angel said, “Put on your belt and your sandals!” This Peter did. Then the angel told him, “Now put on your cloak and follow me.”
Peter followed the angel out, but with no clear realization that this was taking place through the angel’s help. The whole thing seemed to him a mirage. They passed the first guard, then the second, and finally came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them of itself. They emerged and made their way down a narrow alley, when suddenly the angel left him. Peter had recovered his senses by this time, and said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel to rescue me from Herod’s clutches and from all the Jews hoped for.”
John 15: 17-27, 16: 1-2
The Lord said to his disciples: “The command I give you is this, that you love one another. If you find that the world hates you, know that it has hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own; the reason it hates you is that you do not belong to the world. But I chose you out of the world. Remember what I told you: no slave is greater than his master. They will harry you as they harried me. They will respect your words as much as they respected mine. All this they will do to you because of my name, for they know nothing of him who sent me. If I had not come to them and spoken to them, they would no be guilty of sin; now, however, their sin cannot be excused.
“To hate me is to hate my Father. Had I not performed such works among them as no one has ever done before, they would not be guilty of sin; but as it is, they have seen, and they go on hating me and my Father. However, this only fulfills the text of their law: ‘They hated me without cause.’ When the Paraclete comes, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father – and whom I myself will send from the Father– he will bear witness on my behalf. You must bear witness as well, for you have been with me from the beginning.
“I have told all this to keep your faith from being shaken. Not only will they expel you from synagogues; a time will come when anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God!”
Acts 6: 1-7
In those days, as the number of disciples grew, the ones who spoke Greek complained that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food, as compared with the widows of those who spoke Hebrew. The Twelve assembled the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Look around among your own number, brothers, for seven men acknowledged to be deeply spiritual and prudent, and we shall appoint them to this task. This will permit us to concentrate on prayer and the ministry of the word.” The proposal was unanimously accepted by the community. Following this they selected Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit; Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, who had been a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who first prayed over them and then imposed hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread, while at the same time the number of disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased. There were many priests among those who embraced the faith.
Mark 15: 43-47, 16: 1-8
At that time, Joseph from Arimathea arrived — a distinguished member of the Sanhedrin. He was another who looked forward to the reign of God. He was bold enough to seek an audience with Pilate and urgently requested the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised that Jesus should have died so soon. He summoned the centurion and inquired whether Jesus was already dead. Learning from the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate released the corpse to Joseph. Then, having bought a linen shroud, Joseph took Jesus down, wrapped him in the linen, and placed him in a tomb which had been cut out of rock. Finally he rolled a stone across the entrance of the tomb. Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where Jesus had been entombed.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought perfumed oils with which they intended to go and anoint Jesus. Very early, just after sunrise, on the first day of the week they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” When they looked, they found that the stone had been rolled back (it was a huge one). On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting at the right, dressed in a white robe. This frightened them thoroughly, but he reassured them: “You need not be amazed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, the one who was crucified. He has been raised up; he is not here. See the place where they buried him. Go now and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee, where you will see him just as he told you.’” They made their way out and fled from the tomb bewildered and trembling; and because of their great fear, they said nothing to anyone.
Icon courtesy of Jack Figel, Eastern Christian Publications – ecpubs.com
Saturday, April 22 –