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21st November: Entrance into the Temple of our Most Holy Lady,
the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

            The origin of the feast is found in an account in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of Saint James. According to this document, after Saint Ann's miraculous birth-giving, the Most Holy Virgin having completed her second year, Joachim said to his wife: "Let us lead her to the Lord's Temple, as we promised Him." Ann said: "Let us yet wait until her third year, so that the child will not clamor for her father or mother, thus she will not walk straight before the Lord." When the child was three years old, Joachim said: "Let us call from among the daughters of the Hebrews those who are undefiled, and let them each take a lamp and let these lamps be lit, that the child not turn to look backward and her heart be not held captive outside the Lord's Temple." They did thusly. Zachary the priest received her and said to her: "May the Lord crown your name with glory!", and he set her down on the altar step. There, Mary was nourished by an angel until she was twelve years old. When the time came for her to marry, Joseph received her from the priests' hands, and took her from the Lord's Temple.

            Whatever the foundations of this gracious legend may be, the Church invites us above all to meditate on the mystery of the internal preparation of Mary for her vocation as Theotokos. This preparation is a total self-commitment, in the "immaculate victim," "as a most holy vessel" which must receive the body of the Word incarnate, "a living temple and throne of the King, elected to be his Mother," "the spiritual ark enclosing the incomprehensible Word." The miracle of her subsistance by the hand of the Archangel is the symbol of her spiritual life entirely nourished by the will of God.

            Historically, this feast had its origin in the dedication of the Church of Saint Mary the New in Jerusalem (November, 543). It was spread throughout the whole East in the Seventh century. Pope Gregory XI introduced it at Avignon at the end of the Fourteenth century. Then it was generalized in the Roman Church in 1585 by Sixtus V. (Source: rongolini.com)

Apolytikion: Σήμερον τῆς εὐδοκίας Θεοῦ τὸ προοίμιον, καὶ τῆς τῶν ἀνθρώπων σωτηρίας ἡ προκήρυξις ἐν Ναῷ τοῦ Θεοῦ, τρανῶς ἡ Παρθένος δείκνυται, καὶ τὸν Χριστὸν τοῖς πᾶσι προκαταγγέλλεται. Αὐτῇ καὶ ἡμεῖς μεγαλοφώνως βοήσωμεν, Χαῖρε τῆς οἰκονομίας τοῦ Κτίστου ἡ ἐκπλήρωσις.

Απολυτίκιο Εισοδίων της Θεοτόκου - 21 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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17th November: Memory of our Father among the Saints Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop of Neocaesarea (+during the reign of Aurelian, 270-275)

Saint Gregory, a pagan's son, was born about 213 in Neocaesarea, in Pontus Plemoniacus. He studied for five years, from 233 to 238, in Caesarea in Palestine, under the direction of Origen, who taught him the Christian faith.

He was ordained bishop of his birth-place by Phaidimos of Amasia. When newly appointed he found seventeen Christians there, and when dying, there was about that many pagans left. During Decius' persecution (250-251), he advised the faithful to flea and he himself hid. He was present, with his brother Athenagoras, at the synod held in Antioch, Syria, in 264-265 against the author of heresy, Paul of Samosata. He died in peace under Emperor Aurelian, 270-275, leaving various theological and canonical treatises to the Church. Etymologically his name-Gregory-signifies in Greek "he who watches." (Source: rongolini.com)
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15th November: Memory of the holy Martyrs and Confessors Gourias, Samonas, and Abibos (beginning of the Fourth century).

            The holy martyrs Gourias and Samonas suffered martyrdom under Emperor Diocletian and Duke Antoninus. Both of them were priests brought up in Edessa. Gourias was a native of a small market-town named Sarkigeitnas and Samonas was a native of Ganades. Accused of bringing assistance to imprisoned Christians, they were summoned to appear before Duke Antoninus. Because they refused to sacrifice to idols, they were both suspended by one hand for five hours. Taken down, they persisted in confessing their faith and were suspended by the feet. They were thrown into a very dark pit and ended their martyrdom by the sword. As for Saint Abibos, a deacon, he was martyred in the time of Emperor Licinius on the charge of traveling through the villages reading the Holy Scriptures to the faithful to confirm them in the faith. Upon the Emperor's order, he was thrown into a red-hot furnace and thus obtained the palm of martyrdom.

Apolytikion: Tριάδος ἰσάριθμοι τῆς Ὑπερθέου, σαφῶς Γουρίας καὶ Ἄβιβος καὶ Σαμωνᾶς ὁ κλεινός, ἔνθεοι ὑπάρχοντες ταύτην τοῖς ἀσεβέσιν ὡμολόγησαν ἅμα ἄθλων τὴν τρικυμίαν ἀβλαβῶς διελθόντες, καὶ νῦν ἡμᾶς κυβερνῶσιν ὅρμον πρὸς ἄκλυστον.

Απολυτίκιο Άγ. Γουρία, Σαμωνά και Αβίβου - 15 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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13th November: Memory of our Father among the Saints, John Chrystostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (ca. 345-407).

            This Saint's feast was transferred to this day instead of being celebrated on the anniversary day of his death because this day falls in occurrence with the feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-giving Cross (September 14).

            Saint John Chrysostom was born about 344-347 in Antioch, Syria. His father, Secundus, was an army general, and his mother, Anthusa, was an admirable woman of faith and piety. He rapidly ran through the whole cycle of Christian and profane literature. Baptized in 369 in Meletios, the Archbishop of Antioch, for his piety, he merited to receive minor orders from him also. About 374-375, he withdrew to the wilderness in the vicinity of Antioch. He was ordained a deacon in 381 by Meletios, and a priest in 386 by Flavian. He exhorted the people by his discourses, and commented the entire Holy Scriptures before them. In 397, upon the unexpected death of Nectarius, the Archbishop of Constantinople, he was transferred from Antioch to Constantinople by vote of the bishops and by order of Emperor Arcadius, and was consecrated Archbishop of the Imperial City in 398. In his fight against greed, he attacked Empress Eudoxia. He was unjustly exiled in 403 by order of Arcadius and Eudoxia, but recalled to his see almost immediately. Exiled a second time in 404, he suffered much during his three year exile, transferring unceasingly from one place to another. He died during one of these transfers, in Comana, on September 14, 407. His eloquence brought him the title of Chrysostom (Golden-mouthed). (Source: rongolini.com)

Apolytikion: Ἡ τοῦ στόματός σου καθάπερ πυρσός ἐκλάμψασα χάρις, τὴν οἰκουμένην ἐφώτισεν, ἀφιλαργυρίας τῷ κόσμῳ θησαυροὺς ἐναπέθετο, τὸ ὕψος ἡμῖν τῆς ταπεινοφροσύνης ὑπέδειξεν. Ἀλλὰ σοῖς λόγοις παιδεύων, Πάτερ, Ἰωάννη Χρυσόστομε, πρέσβευε τῷ Λόγῳ Χριστῷ τῷ Θεῷ, σωθῆναι τὰς ψυχὰς ἡμῶν.

Απολυτίκιο Άγ. Ιωάννου του Χρυσοστόμου - 13 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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8th November: The Apostle Paul says that Angels are: spirits in the service of God, sent as servants for the good of those who must receive the heritage of salvation." God has established them as protectors and guides of every nation and people. He charged them to guard those who hope in Him so that nothing harms them and no evil comes near their dwelling. In heaven, they continually see the face of God, sing the Thrice-holy Hymn, intercede for us, and rejoice over a single sinner who is converted. In a word, in serving God, the angels have rendered us so many services that the pages of Holy Scripture are filled with them.

            This is why the Church, honoring these divine ministers, our intercessors and guardians, today celebrates this synaxis (a coming together to celebrate a feast). The Church recalls in particular the names of Saints Michael and Gabriel because they are related to us by Holy Scripture. The word "Michael" signifies "Who is like God?", and the word "Gabriel," "God is powerful." According to Holy Scripture, the number of angels is infinite, as Daniel saw "thousands upon thousands serve God, and myriads upon myriads stand before Him" (Daniel 7:10). They are divided into nine choirs which are: the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. (Source: rongolini.com)

Apolytikion: Τῶν οὐρανίωv στρατιῶν Ἀρχιστράτηγοι, δυσωποῦμεv ὑμᾶς ἡμεῖς οἱ ἀνάξιοι, ἵvα ταῖς ὑμῶv δεήσεσι, τειχίσητε ἡμᾶς, σκέπῃ τῶν πτερύγωv, τῆς ἀΰλου ὑμῶν δόξης, φρουροῦvτες ἡμᾶς προσπίπτοντας, ἐκτεvῶς καὶ βοῶντας, Ἐκ τῶν κινδύνων λυτρώσασθε ἡμᾶς, ὡς Ταξιάρχαι τῶν ἄνω Δυνάμεων.

Απολυτίκιο Σύναξης των Παμμεγίστων Ταξιαρχών Μιχαήλ και Γαβριήλ - 8 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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6th November: Memory of our Father among the Saints, Paul the Confessor, Bishop of Constantinople (+351)

A native of Thessalonica, Saint Paul was the secretary of Alexander, the Bishop of Constantinople. After the latter's death, the Orthodox elected him Bishop of Constantinople in 337 while Emperor Constantius was in Antioch. Having returned from Antioch, Constantius expelled him from his see in 339. The Saint arrived in Rome at the same time that Saint Athanasius, the Archbishop of Alexandria, was himself expelled from his see. Supplied with letters from Pope Saint Julius I, Saint Paul resumed possession of his Church in 340 but was expelled from it again after a short time in 342 by the intrigues of the Arians. After the Council of Sardica (343-344), by the intervention of Constans, the brother of Constantius, he re-ascended his throne in 346. When Constans died in Rome in 350, he was again persecuted (351) and exiled to Cucusus in Armenia, where he was strangled by order of the Arians. (Source: rongolini.com)

Apolytikion: Θείας πίστεως ὁμολογία, ἄλλον Παῦλόν σε τῇ Ἐκκλησίᾳ, ζηλωτὴν ἐν ἱερεῦσιν ἀνέδειξε, συνεκβοᾷ σοι καὶ Ἄβελ πρὸς Κύριον, καὶ Ζαχαρίου τὸ αἷμα τὸ δίκαιον. Πάτερ Ὅσιε, Χριστὸν τὸν Θεὸν ἱκέτευε, δωρήσασθαι ἡμῖν τὸ μέγα ἔλεος.

Απολυτίκιον Αγ. Παύλου Αρχιεπισκόπου Κωνσταντινουπόλεως - 6 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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4th November: Memory of our venerable Father Joannikios the Great of Olympus (754-846)

The holy Hieromartyrs Nicander, Bishop of Myra, and
Hermeus the Priest (Second century)

Our holy Father Joannikios the Great was born in 754 in Marycata in Bithynia, near the pool of Apolloniada. His parents charged him in his youth with feeding a herd of pigs. His occupation made him enroll in the army. He showed himself to be a valliant soldier in all the campaigns against the Bulgarians. Affiliated with his parents in the Iconoclast heresy, he abjured the impious doctrine which he had professed for a while in ignorance, thanks to the exhortations of an old man. One day, seeing several of his companions fall in the course of a battle and upset by this spectacle, he deserted the army and withdrew to Mount Olympus in 795. Recognized by one of his old army companions, he fled and took refuge on a mountain of Lycia where, after a revelation, he became a monk at the monastery of Eristea in 806. He withdrew successively to several mountains and died in 846, at an old age, under the patriarchate of Saint Methodius whose elevation to the patriarchal see he had predicted. (Source: rongolini.com)

Apolytikion: Tὴν ἐπίγειον δόξαν, πάτερ, κατέλειπες καταυγασθεὶς τῇ ἐλλάμψει τῆς ἐπινοίας Θεοῦ, ὅθεν ἔφανας ἐν γῇ ὡς ἄστρον ἄδυτον, θείας φωνῆς γὰρ ὡς Μωσῆς μυστικῶς ἀξιωθείς, ἰσάγγελος ἀνεδείχθης καὶ δωρημάτων ταμεῖον, Ἰωαννίκιε μακάριε.

Απολυτίκιον Αγ. Ιωννικίου - 4 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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20th November: Pre-festive Day of the Entrance into the Temple of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

Memory of our Father among the Saints, Gregory the Decapolite (+842) and Proclos, Archbishop of Constantinople (+446)

            Saint Gregory was born in one of the towns of the Decapolis of Isauria, named Irenopolis. From the age of eight, he applied himself to the study of Holy Scripture and, being thoroughly impregnated in it, consecrated himself to the service of the Churches. When he became an adult, his parents thought to find a wife for him, but the Saint secretly fled. He began traveling through the provinces to visit Saints dispersed by the Iconoclastic storm. He went to Asia and even to Byzantium around the year 840 in the secret hope of finding there the occasion to confess his faith. He was the spiritual father of the holy hymnographers John and Joseph. In harmony with the Orthodox, he sent the latter, to Rome to inform Pope Gregory IV of Emperor Theophilos' persecution. He died in Constantinople on November 20, 842, just before the reestablishment of Orthodoxy, which took place on the first Sunday of Great Lent in the year 843.

            A disciple of Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Proclos was raised to the archiepiscopal see of Constantinople in 434 under Theodosius II the Younger. He directed dogmatic works concerning the Orthodox faith to the Armenians against Nestorius and his supporters. He triumphally received the body of his holy master when it was transferred to Constantinople on January 27, 438, and he died in peace in 446. (Source: rongolini.com)

Apolytikion: Λυχνία ὡς δίπυρσος τῶν θεϊκῶν δωρεῶν, ἀκτῖσι τῆς χάριτος φωταγωγοῦσιν ἡμᾶς πατέρες οἱ ἔνθεοι, Πρόκλος τοῦ Βυζαντίου, ὁ σοφὸς ποιμενάρχης, Γρηγόριος ὁ θεόφρων, Δεκαπόλεως γόνος, διὸ μετὰ προθυμίας τούτοις προσέλθωμεν.

Απολυτίκιο Άγ. Πρόκλου και Γρηγορίου - 20 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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14th November: Memory of the Holy and Most Illustrious Apostle Philip (First century)

            Saint Philip was a native of Bethsaida and a compatriot of Andrew and Peter. Christ, having met him in Galilee, after His baptism, invited him to follow Him. Holy Scripture has preserved several other details concerning him for us. According to a very old tradition related by Eusebius (III:31), Polycratus, the Bishop of Rome, concerning him: "He lies buried in Hierapolis of Phrygia, just as two of his daughters, who grew very old in virginity. His third daughter, after having lived in the Holy Spirit, buried at Ephesus." (Source: rongolini.com)

Apolytikion: Ἀπόστολε Ἅγιε Φίλιππε, πρέσβευε τῷ ἐλεήμονι Θεῷ ἵνα πταισμάτων ἄφεσιν, παράσχῃ ταῖς ψυχαῖς ἡμῶν.

Απολυτίκιο Άγ. Αποστόλου Φιλίππου - 14 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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11th November: Memory of the holy Martyrs Menas, Victor
(+under Antoninus, 138-161), and Vincent (beginning of the Fourth century); the holy Martyr Stephanida (+under Antoninus, 136-161); Our venerable Father Theodore the Studite, the Confessor (759-826)

As for Saints Victor and Stephanida, it is said that they were martyred in Egypt under Emperor Antoninus (138-161). Saint Vincent, the archdeacon of Valerius, the Bishop of Caesaraugusta in Spain, was put to death at the beginning of the Fourth century, in Caesaraugusta, under Emperor Maximian.

Saint Theodore was born in Constantinople in 759. After very complete studies, he withdrew in 781, at the age of twenty-two, to the Monastery of Sakkoudion in Bithynia, under the direction of his uncle Plato. He was ordained a priest by Patriarch Tarasios. In 794, he became hegumen of Sakkoudion. Exiled in 797 to Thessalonica for having protested against the adultery of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, he was recalled by Empress Irene. The Arab incursions (798-799) forced him to abandon Sakkoudion and take refuge inside the Capital, in the Monastery of Studion, also called by the name of the Roman consul Studius who founded it in 463. This fact merits for the Saint the name of Studite. Exiled a second time in 809, by Emperor Nicephoros I Logothetus in the matter of the Imperial adultery, he was recalled again in 811 by Michael I Rangabe. He suffered exile a third time for his defense of the Holy Icons, under the Iconoclast Emperor Leo the Armenian (815-821). He died in 826, after having worthily suffered and fought for the true faith, leaving a monastic constitution, some catechetics, and numerous hymnographic compositions full of compunction. His holy body was transferred to the monastery of Studion in 844.

Apolytikion: Tρισάριθμον σύνταγμα τῶν ἀθλητῶν τοῦ Χριστοῦ συμφώνως τιμήσωμεν ὡς καθαιρέτας ἐχθροῦ, Μηνᾶν τὸν ἀοίδημον, Βίκτωρα τὸν γενναῖον καὶ Βικέντιον ἅμα, τούτοις συνευφημοῦντες στεφανίδα τὴν θείαν. Αὐτῶν, Χριστέ, ἱκεσίαις πάντας ἐλέησον.

Απολυτίκιο Άγ. Μηνά, Βίκτωρος και Βικεντίου - 11 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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7th November: Memory of our Father among the Saints, Paul the Confessor, Bishop of Constantinople (+351)

A native of Thessalonica, Saint Paul was the secretary of Alexander, the Bishop of Constantinople. After the latter's death, the Orthodox elected him Bishop of Constantinople in 337 while Emperor Constantius was in Antioch. Having returned from Antioch, Constantius expelled him from his see in 339. The Saint arrived in Rome at the same time that Saint Athanasius, the Archbishop of Alexandria, was himself expelled from his see. Supplied with letters from Pope Saint Julius I, Saint Paul resumed possession of his Church in 340 but was expelled from it again after a short time in 342 by the intrigues of the Arians. After the Council of Sardica (343-344), by the intervention of Constans, the brother of Constantius, he re-ascended his throne in 346. When Constans died in Rome in 350, he was again persecuted (351) and exiled to Cucusus in Armenia, where he was strangled by order of the Arians. (Source: rongolini.com)

Apolytikion: Θείας πίστεως ὁμολογία, ἄλλον Παῦλόν σε τῇ Ἐκκλησίᾳ, ζηλωτὴν ἐν ἱερεῦσιν ἀνέδειξε, συνεκβοᾷ σοι καὶ Ἄβελ πρὸς Κύριον, καὶ Ζαχαρίου τὸ αἷμα τὸ δίκαιον. Πάτερ Ὅσιε, Χριστὸν τὸν Θεὸν ἱκέτευε, δωρήσασθαι ἡμῖν τὸ μέγα ἔλεος.

Απολυτίκιον Αγ. Παύλου Αρχιεπισκόπου Κωνσταντινουπόλεως - 6 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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5th November: Memory of the holy Martyrs Glaktion and Episteme, his wife
(beginning of the Fourth century).

            These holy martyrs lived under Emperor Decius and President Secundus. Galaktion was born of pious parents, Keitophon and Leucippa, who were converted to the Christian faith by a Christian named Onuphrius and received holy Baptism. Saint Episteme, also born of pagan parents, was married to Saint Galaktion and baptized by him. These two holy spouses, having integrally conserved their virginity, embraced the monastic life and endured all the austerities and privations which go with it. Seized by Governor Ursus and interrogated on their faith, they suffered multiple tortures. They were cruelly beaten, sharp-pointed reeds were driven under their fingernails, and then their martyrdom by the sword. Saint Galaktion was thirty years old, and Saint Episteme was sixteen years old.

Apolytikion: ὸν θεῖον Γαλακτίωνα πιστοί, ὁμοῦ σὺν Ἐπιστήμῃ τῇ σεμνῇ. Δι” ἀσκήσεως γὰρ πόνων ἀθλητικὴν ἐξήνθησαν φαιδρότητα. Δόξα τῷ ἐνισχύσαντι ὑμᾶς, δόξα τῷ στεφανώσαντι, δόξα τῷ ἐνεργοῦντι δι” ὑμῶν πᾶσιν ἰάματα.

Απολυτίκιον Αγ. Γαλακτίωνος και Επιστήμης - 5 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΟΥ
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Creek Catholic Church of Our Lady of Damascus in Malta offers a unique heritage characterized by the Byzantine Divine Liturgy and a fine selection of icons