22 February 2021 (MIA)
Macedonian Orthodox Church Calendar
The Holy Martyr Nicephorus
The life of this holy martyr demonstrates clearly how God casts down pride and crowns humility and brotherly love with glory. There lived in Antioch two intimate friends, the learned priest Sapricius and the ordinary, simple townsman Nicephorus. Their friendship somehow turned to a terrible mutual hatred. Nicephorus, who feared God, tried many times to establish peace with the priest, but the latter would not respond. When a persecution of Christians broke out, the priest Sapricius was condemned to death and brought to the place of execution. Nicephorus stood in great distress in the path Sapricius was to take, begging him to for-give him before dying, and to part in peace. `I pray thee, thou martyr of Christ’, said Nicephorus, `forgive me if I have in any way sin-ned against thee.’ Sapricius would not turn to his adversary, but calmly and proudly moved on to death. But, seeing the hardness of the priest’s heart, God would not have him receive the gift of martyrdom and the crowning with the wreath, and secretly withdrew His blessing. At the last moment, Sapricius denied Christ before the executioner and declared that he would worship idols. Hatred had blinded him to such an extent! Nicephorus entreated Sapricius not to deny Christ: `Oh, my beloved brother, do not do this! Do not deny our Lord Jesus Christ and lose the heavenly crown!’ But all in vain; Sapricius was unmoved. Then Nicephorus cried out to the executioners: `I too am a Christian; kill me in Sapricius’s place!’ The executioners reported this to the judge, who ordered them to let Sapricius go and kill Nicephorus in his place. Nicephorus joyfully laid his head on the block and was beheaded. And thus he was made worthy of the Kingdom and crowned with the eternal wreath of glory. This came to pass in 260, in the reign of the Emperor Gallienus.
Simon Peter or Cephas, the first pope
Simon Peter or Cephas, the first pope, Prince of the Apostles, and founder, with St. Paul, of the see of Rome. Peter was a native of Bethsaida, near Lake Tiberias, the son of John, and worked, like his brother St. Andrew, as a fisherman on Lake Genesareth. Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus, and Christ called Peter to become a disciple. In Luke is recounted the story that Peter caught so large an amount of fish that he fell down before the feet of Jesus and was told by the Lord, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men”. Jesus also gave Simon a new name: Cephas, or the rock. Becoming a disciple of Jesus, Peter acknowledged him as “… the Messiah, the son of the living God”. Christ responded by saying: “… you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church…. He added: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. Peter was always listed as the first of the Apostles in all of the New Testament accounts and was a member of the inner circle of Jesus, with James and John.