1. On this day, Our Lady, the all pure, Virgin St. Mary, the Mother of God, departed. As she was always praying in the holy sepulchre, the Holy Spirit informed her that she was about to depart from this temporal world. When the time of her departure arrived, the virgins of the Mount of Olives came to her, with the apostles, who were still alive, and they surrounded her bed. The Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is the glory, with a host of thousands and thousands of angels came to her and comforted her and told her about the eternal joy that was prepared for her, and she rejoiced. The apostles and the virgins asked her to bless them. She stretched her hand and blessed them all, and she gave up her pure spirit in the hand of her Son and God, and He took her spirit to the heavenly mansions.
The apostles prepared the body in a fitting manner and carried it to Gethsemane. Some of the Jews blocked their way to prevent them from burying the body. One of the Jews seized the coffin with his hands, which were separated instantly from his body and they remained attached to the coffin. He regretted his evil deed and wept bitterly. Through the supplications of the saintly apostles, his hands were reattached to his body, and he believed in the Lord Christ. When they placed the body in the tomb, the Lord hid it from them.
St. Thomas the Apostle was not present at the time of St. Mary's departure. He wanted to go to Jerusalem and a cloud carried him there. On his way, he saw the pure body of St. Mary carried by the angels and ascended to heaven with it. One of the angels told him, "Make haste and kiss the pure body of St. Mary," and he did.
When St. Thomas arrived where the disciples were, they told him about St. Mary's departure and he said to them, "You know how I conducted myself at the resurrection of the Lord Christ, and I will not believe unless I see her body." They went with him to the tomb, and uncovered the place of the body but they did not find it, and everyone was perplexed and surprised. St. Thomas told them how he saw the holy body and the angels that were ascending with it. They heard the Holy Spirit saying to them, "The Lord did not will to leave her body on earth." The Lord had promised his pure apostles to let them see her in the flesh once again. They were waiting for this promise to be fulfilled, until the 16th day of the month of Misra, when the promise was fulfilled and they saw her.
The years of her life on earth were 60 years. She was 12 years old when she left the temple. She spent 34 years in Joseph's house, until the Ascension of the Lord, and 14 years with St. John the Evangelist, according to the commandment of the Lord which he told her at the cross, "Behold, this is your son," and to St. John, "Behold, this is your mother."
Her intercession and blessings be with us. Amen.
2. On this day also, St. Hilaria, daughter of Emperor Zeno, departed. Emperor Zeno was an Orthodox believer, who loved the church. He had only two daughters, Hilaria and her sister, Thaopesta.
Their father brought them up and taught them the fundamentals of the Orthodox faith. Hilaria, since her young age, loved to live a solitary life, and she thought about the monastic life. When she was 18 years old, she left the court of her father and travelled to Egypt, disguised in men's clothing.
She went to the wilderness of St. Macarius, where she met a holy man by the name of Anba Pemwah. She told him about her desire to become a monk and she was ordained a monk under the name of Hilary. Three years later, Anba Pemwah found out that she was Hilaria, the daughter of Emperor Zeno. He kept her secret, and placed her in a cave, and visited her from time to time. She stayed there for fifteen years. When she did not grow a beard, the monks thought that she was an eunuch, and they called her "Hilary, the eunuch".
Meanwhile, her sister Thaopesta became possessed with an unclean spirit, and her father spent on her a great deal of money in vain. The men of his court advised the Emperor to send her to the elders of Sheheat (Scetis), for the fame of their holiness had spread to all the Roman districts. The Emperor sent her with one of the noble men in the empire, accompanied by many soldiers and several servants. He sent a letter with the nobleman to the elders of the wilderness telling them about his pain and grief. The Emperor told them that God had given him two daughters: one departed and did not return and he did not know where she was, and the other became possessed with an evil spirit who tormented her often. He asked them to pray for her, so that the Lord might heal her from what was ailing her, so that she would be a comfort to him in place of his disappeared daughter.
When the princess arrived at the wilderness of Sheheat (Scetis) with her entourage, and the elders read the emperor's letter, they prayed for her for many days, but she was not healed. At the end, the fathers decided that St. Hilary the eunuch (Hilaria, her sister) should take her and pray for her healing. St. Hilary refused, but the elders obliged her to take her. St. Hilary knew that she was her sister but her sister did not recognize her.
St. Hilaria embraced and kissed her sister often then left to weep outside. A few days later, Thaopesta, her sister, was healed from her illness, and St. Hilaria took her to the elders and said to them, "Through your prayers, God has granted her healing." The elders sent Thaopesta back to her father in peace.
When Thaopesta arrived to her father, he and all those who were in the palace rejoiced for her safe return, and offered many thanks to the Lord Christ. Her father asked her about her stay in Sheheat (Scetis), and she said that St. Hilary, the eunuch who healed her by his prayers, embraced her and kissed her often. When the Emperor heard this, he had some doubts about this monk. He sent to the elders asking them to send St. Hilary, who healed his daughter, in order to receive his blessings. When the elders ordered "him" to go to the Emperor, "he" wept bitterly before the elders, pleading with them to spare "him" from the trip. They told "him" that the emperor was a righteous man who loved the holy church and that it was only proper not to disobey him according to the Holy Scriptures.
After a great effort, St. Hilaria went to the Emperor, who saluted "him" and all those who were with "him". Then, he had a private meeting with Hilaria together with the Empress. They asked "him", "How did you "the holy man" embrace and kiss the princess?" Then Hilaria asked them to bring the Bible and to pledge to "him" not to prevent "him" from going back to the wilderness after answering their inquiry. They brought the Bible and pledged to "him" as he wished. Then "he" made "himself" known to them saying, "I am your daughter Hilaria," and she told them all that had happened to her. Her parents wept with a loud voice and all the people in the palace were in confusion.
She remained three months, then she wanted to return, and when her parents refused, she reminded them of their oath. Then the Emperor wrote to the Governor of Egypt, demanding him to send a hundred bushels of wheat every year and six hundred measures of oil and all that the monks needed in the wilderness, on a yearly basis. The Emperor saw to it also that many cells were built for the monks. He also built a beautiful palace in the monastery of St. Macarius. From that time on, the number of monks increased in the wilderness.
St. Hilaria stayed five years after her return to the wilderness, then departed in peace. No one knew that she was a woman until after her death.
Her prayers be with us. Amen.
3. On this day also, of the year 396 A.D., St. Gregory of Nyssa, the brother of St. Basil the Great, departed. This great father of the church was virtuous and so were his brothers. He was very well versed in the art of discourse and in the Greek language. He was also strongly zealous in his Orthodox faith.
When these good characteristics were known about him, he was chosen bishop against his will, and was ordained over the city of Nyssa. He shepherded the flock of Christ, that was entrusted to him, very well. He illumined the souls with his sermons and discourses. He interpreted many books of the Holy Bible. He was exiled at the time of Emperor Valens, but returned to Nyssa by the order of Emperor Theodosius the Great, in 378 A.D.
When the one hundred and fifty fathers gathered together in the second Universal Council in Constantinople, in 381 A.D., because of the heresy of Macedonius, the archbishop of the city, at the order of Emperor Theodosius, St. Gregory, was one of the fathers present. He silenced Sabilius, Macedonius, and Apolinarus, arguing their heretic opinions and exposing the fallacies of their heresies.
It was said about him, that while he was celebrating the divine liturgy, he saw the cherubim on the altar.
After thirty-three years as the bishop of Nyssa, his brother St. Basil came to visit him, for St. Gregory was sick as a result of his austere ascetic life. St. Gregory received his brother with joy. Once, when St. Gregory was about to start the holy mass, he fell into a trance, and the Virgin St. Mary appeared to him and said, "Today, you will come to us." He departed the same day, and St. Basil, his brother, prayed over him, and he was buried with great honors.
His prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
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