The holy priest-martyr Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who was “fruitful in every good work” (Col. 1:10), was born in the first century, and lived in Smyrna in Asia Minor. He was orphaned at an early age, but at the direction of an angel, he was raised by the pious widow Kallista. After the death of his adoptive mother, Polycarp gave away his possessions and began to lead a chaste life, caring for the sick and infirm. He was very fond of and close to St. Bucolus, Bishop of Smyra (who we celebrate Feb. 6). He ordained Polycarp as deacon, entrusting him to preach the Word of God in church. He also ordained him to the holy priesthood. Under the emperors Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, at about the age of 90, St. Polycarp was given over to the flames in the amphitheater at Smyrna. Before the proconsul and the whole people, he gave thanks to God the Father because he had deemed worthy to be numbered among martyrs and to receive a portion from the cup of Christ.
O holy priest-martyr Polycarp, you lent yourself to the apostles’ way of life and succeeded them on their throne. Inspired by God, you found the way to contemplation through the practice of virtue. Therefore, you became a perfect teacher of truth, fighting for the faith unto the shedding of your blood. Intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.
O wise priest-martyr Polycarp, you offered spiritual fruits to God and became worthy of Him because of your virtues. Therefore, we who have been enlightened by your teachings, honor your memory and glorify the Lord.
This the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation. When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens– there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the Lord God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the ground, but a stream was welling up out of the earth watering all the surface of the ground– then the Lord God formed the man out of dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A river rises in Eden to water the garden; beyond there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that winds through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is google bdellium and lapis lazuli are also there. The name of the second river is the Gihon; it is the one that winds all through the land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it is the one that flows east of Asshur. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. The Lord God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.
The Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. So the Lord God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever he called each living creature was then its name.
My son, do not forget my teaching, take to heart my commands;
For many days, and years of life, and peace, will they bring you.
Do not let love and fidelity forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them in the tablet of your heart.
Then will you win favor and esteem before God and human beings.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely;
In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil;
This will mean health for your flesh and vigor for your bones.
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce;
Then will your barns be filled with plenty, with new wine your vats will overflow.
The discipline of the Lord, my son, do not spurn; do not disdain his reproof;
For whom the Lord loves he reproves, as a father, the son he favors.
Happy the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding!
Her profit is better than profit in silver, and better than gold is her revenue;
She is more precious than corals, and no treasure of yours can compare to her.
Long life is her right hand, in her left are riches and honor;
Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace;
She is a tree of life to those who grasp her, and those who hold her fast are happy.
Icon courtesy of Jack Figel, Eastern Christian Publications – ecpubs.com
Wednesday, February 22 –