December 31 (old calendar) / January 13 (new)
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December 31 (old calendar) / January 13 (new)

33rd Sunday after Pentecost. Tone 8
Leavetaking of the Nativity
.
Sunday after the Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, holy ancestors.
Ven. Melania the Younger of Rome (439). Ven. Chiriacos (Kyriakis) of Bisericani (Romanian—160). Ven. Chiriacos (Kyriakis) of Tazlau (Romanian—1660).

SAINT MELANIA

31 décembre

Saint Melania was born in Rome into a devout Christian family. Her parents, people of property and wealth, hoped that their daughter would marry and have children who would inherit their wealth.

At fourteen years of age Melania was married to the illustrious youth Apinianus. From the very beginning of their married life, Saint Melania asked her husband to live with her in chastity or else release her from the marriage. Apinianus answered, “I cannot agree to this right now. When we have two children to inherit the property, then we shall both renounce the world.”

Soon Melania gave birth to a daughter, whom the young parents dedicated to God. Continuing to live together in marriage, Melania secretly wore a hairshirt and spent her nights in prayer. The second child, a boy, was premature and had severe complications. They baptized him, and he departed to the Lord.

Seeing the suffering of his wife, Apinianus asked the Lord to preserve Saint Melania’s life, and he vowed to spend the rest of their life together in chastity. Recovering, Saint Melania stopped wearing her beautiful clothing and jewelry. Soon their daughter also died. The parents of Saint Melania did not support the young couple’s desire to devote themselves to God. It was only when Saint Melania’s father became deathly ill, that he asked their forgiveness and permitted them to follow their chosen path, asking them to pray for him.

The saints then left the city of Rome, and began a new life completely dedicated to the service of God. Apinianus at this time was twenty-four years of age, and Melania twenty. They began to visit the sick, to take in wanderers, and to help the indigent. They visited those who were exiled, and mine-convicts, and the destitute, there in debtor’s prison. After selling their estates in Italy and Spain, they generously helped monasteries, hospitals, widows and orphans in Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, Phoenicia, and Palestine.

Many churches and hospitals were built with their assistance. Churches of both West and East benefited from them. Leaving their native land, they set sail for Africa, and a strong storm arose while they were at sea. The sailors said that this was because of the wrath of God, but Saint Melania said that it was not God’s will that they should go directly to their destination.

The waves carried the ship to an island on which barbarians had landed. The besiegers demanded a ransom from the inhabitants, or else they threatened to lay waste the city. The saints supplied the necessary ransom, and thus saved the city and its people from destruction.

Resuming their voyage, they landed in Africa and helped all the needy there. With the blessing of the local bishops, they made offerings to churches and monasteries. During this time Saint Melania continued to humble her flesh by strict fasting, and she fortified her soul by constantly reading the Word of God, making copies of the sacred books and distributing them to those who lacked them. She sewed a hairshirt for herself, put it on, and continued to wear it.

The saints spent seven years in Carthage, and then decided to visit Jerusalem. At Alexandria, they were welcomed by the bishop, Saint Cyril, and they met in church with the holy Elder Nestorius, who was possessed of the gift of prophecy and healing. The Elder turned to them and told them to have courage and patience in expectation of the Glory of Heaven.

At Jerusalem, the saints distributed their remaining gold to the destitute and then spent their days in poverty and prayer. After a short visit to Egypt, where the saints visited many of the desert Fathers, Saint Melania secluded herself in a cell on the Mount of Olives. Only occasionally did she see Saint Apinianus.

Later, she founded a monastery, where eventually ninety virgins lived in obedience to Saint Melania. Out of humility, she would not consent to be abbess, and lived and prayed in solitude as before. In her instructions, Saint Melania urged the sisters to be vigilant and to pray, to disdain their own opinions and cultivate first of all love for God and for one another, to keep the holy Orthodox Faith, and to guard their purity of soul and of body.

In particular, she exhorted them to be obedient to the will of God. Calling to mind the words of the Apostle Paul, she counselled them to keep the fasts “not with wailing, nor from compulsion, but in virtuous disposition with love for God”. By her efforts an oratory and altar were built in the monastery, where they enshrined the relics of saints: the Prophet Zachariah, the holy Protomartyr Stephen, and the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. About this time Saint Apinianus fell asleep in the Lord. Saint Melania buried his relics and there spent another four years in fasting and unceasing prayer.

Saint Melania wanted to build a men’s monastery on the Mount of the Ascension of the Lord. The Lord blessed her intent by sending a benefactor who provided the means for the monastery. Joyfully accepting it, Saint Melania finished the great work in a single year. In this monastery, saintly men began to lift up unceasing prayer in the church of the Ascension of Christ.

Having completed her tasks, the saint left Jerusalem for Constantinople, hoping to save the soul of her pagan uncle Volusianus who had traveled there from Rome. Along the way she prayed at the relics of Saint Laurence (August 10), at the place of his martyrdom, and received auspicious signs. Arriving in Constantinople, the saint found her uncle had fallen ill. Her demeanor and her inspired discourses had a profound influence on the sick man. He gave up pagan impiety and died a Christian.

During this time many inhabitants of the capital were deceived by the heretical teaching of Nestorius. Saint Melania accepted anyone who turned to her for proper explanation, converting many of them to Orthodoxy. Many miracles were worked through the prayers of the saint.

Returning to her own monastery, the saint sensed the approach of death, and told this to the priest and the sisters. They listened to her final instructions with deep sorrow and with tears. Having asked their prayers and commanding them to preserve themselves in purity, she received the Holy Mysteries with joy. Saint Melania peacefully gave up her soul to the Lord in the year 439.

TROPARIA AND KONTAKIA 

Troparion of the Sunday, Tone 8
Thou didst descend from on high, O Merciful One! Thou didst accept the three-day burial to free us from our sufferings! O Lord, our Life and Resurrection: glory to Thee!

Troparion of the Nativity, tone 4

Your Nativity, O Christ our God, Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom! For by it, those who worshiped the stars, Were taught by a Star to adore You, The Sun of Righteousness, And to know You, the Orient from on High. O Lord, glory to You!

Troparion of the saint, tone 8

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Mother, for you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away; but to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. Therefore your spirit, O holy Mother Melania, rejoices with the angels.

Kontakion of the saint, tone 3

As a two-fold lamp you illumine the Church of Christ with truly mystical radiance. You brought forth a hundred-fold fruit through your contest, O Anysia; and you shone forth in asceticism, O Melania. You were both found worthy of the incorruptible life of the righteous.

Kontakion of the Nativity, tone 3

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels with shepherds glorify Him! The wise men journey with a star! Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!

Kontakion of the Sunday, Tone 8
By rising from the tomb, Thou didst raise the dead and resurrect Adam. / Eve exults in Thy Resurrection, / and the world celebrates Thy rising from the dead, O greatly Merciful One!

Galatians 1:11-19 (Epistle, Sunday After)

11

But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.

12

For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

13

For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.

14

And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

15

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace,

16

to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood,

17

nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.

19

But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

Matthew 2:13-23 (Gospel, Sunday After)

13

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

14

When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,

15

and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

16

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had

17

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:

18

A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”

19

Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

20

saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”

21

Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.

23

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

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About the Author

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne was born and raised in France. She taught English before entering the Cistercian Order. She translated and published articles relevant to her interest in Cistercian spirituality, the Middle Ages, and Orthodoxy. She moved to the United States in 2001, converted to Orthodoxy in 2008, and married. Her husband is an Orthodox priest. She continued to publish articles, a Cistercian texts anthology, then finally launched her career in literary translation, while teaching French. If you are interested in having your book translated into French, she can be contacted here https://wordsandpeace.com/contact-me/

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