The holy innocents killed for Christ by Herod in Bethlehem of Judea: the impious king did this in the expectation that, with them, the infant Jesus would perish. They have been honored as martyrs from the first ages of the Church, the first-fruits of all who would pour out their blood for God and the Lamb.
Our venerable father Marcellus, hegumen of the Akimetes (the “non-sleeping ones”) fell asleep in the Lord on the Bosporus in Constantinople in 486. Day and night, without any interruption ever, he carried out the singing of psalms.
O Lord who loves mankind, accept the sufferings which Your saints endured for You. As we pray, heal all our pains.
In you, O father, the divine image was strictly preserved; taking up your cross, you followed Christ. You taught us by example how to spurn the flesh, for it passes away, and how to care for the soul, which is immortal. Therefore, O venerable Marcellus, your soul rejoices with the angels.
When the King was born in Bethlehem, wise men from Persia came bringing gifts. They were led by the brilliant star. But Herod became exceedingly agitated, and had the infants harvested like lamenting wheat, for he sees his power suddenly coming to an end.
You rose in the East shining like a radiant star, O all-blessed Marcellus, and you edified with good deeds. You were a teacher to many monks, O venerable one. Therefore, you were a light to the imperial city. For this we sing to you: rejoice, O all-blessed father.
Hebrews 10:35 – 11:7
Brothers and sisters: Do not, then, surrender your confidence; it will have great reward. You need patience to do God’s will and receive what he has promised.
For just a brief moment, and he who is to come will come; he will not delay. My just man will live by faith and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him. We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and live.
Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see. Because of faith the men of old were approved by God. Through faith we perceive that the worlds were created by the word of God, and that what is visible came into being through the invisible. By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s. Because of this he was attested to be just, God himself having borne witness to him on account of his gifts; therefore, although Abel is dead, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away without dying, and “he was seen no more because God took him.” Scripture testifies that, before he was taken up, he was pleasing to God – but without faith, it is impossible to please him. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned about things not yet seen, revered God and built an ark that his household might be saved. He thereby condemned the world and inherited the justice which comes through faith.
Mark 10: 17-27
At that time as Jesus was sitting out on a journey a man came running up, knelt down before him and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to share an everlasting life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the Commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” The man replied, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my childhood.” Then Jesus looked at him with love and told him, “There is one thing more you must do. Go on sale what you have and give it to the poor; you will then have treasure in heaven. After that, come and follow me.” At these words the man’s face fell. He went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples could only marvel at his words. So Jesus repeated what he had said: “My sons, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were completely overwhelmed at this, and exclaimed to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus fixed his gaze on them and said, “For man it is impossible but not for God. With God all things are possible.”
Icon courtesy of Jack Figel, Eastern Christian Publications – ecpubs.com
Wednesday, December 28 –