THE THIRD MONTH
IN THE NAME
OF THE FATHER AND THE SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT,
On this day is commemorated the festival of the Four and Twenty
Priests of heaven, who are round about the throne of God, who are priests
indeed, and who are beings of the spirit and have no bodies.
They are exalted above all the saints and the spiritual hosts.
They are saints with God and they make intercession on behalf of
the race of men, and they bring unto Him the prayers of the saints like
incense in the censers, which they have, in their hands. And alms and
oblations cannot ascend to God except through them even as Saint John the
evangelist says in the Vision of the Apocalypse, “I saw the place of
Four and Twenty elders round about Him, and they were sitting on four and
twenty thrones; and on their heads were four and twenty crowns, and in
their hands were four and twenty censers containing sweet-smelling
incense, which is the prayers of the saints who dwell upon earth, and
which they make to rise up before God, the Sustainer of the Universe.”
And he also says, “And I heard Four Beasts praising and saying,
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord [God] of Hosts, the heavens and the earth are
filled full of the holiness of Thy glory.
And straightway the four and twenty priests of heaven fell down
with their faces to the ground, and they took off their crowns, and they
said unto Him, Glory, and honor, and thanks are fitting for Thee.
And when a command went forth from God they fell down again with
their faces to the ground, saying, Glory, and power, and judgment, and
righteousness belong to our God” (Rev. iv and v).
And because the doctors of the Church have found statements about
these Four and Twenty Priests of heaven in the Holy Scriptures, and have
seen stories told of them by the Apostles and in their Canon, saying that
they are nigh unto God, they have ordered and ruled, saying, “The name
of him that celebrates their commemoration shall be revealed upon earth.
And they shall entreat God on his behalf to forgive him all his
sins.” Therefore the
doctors of the Church tell the people to honor the festival of the
commemoration of the Four and Twenty Priests of heaven.
Salutation to you, O priests of the Law.
And on this day Azkir, the priest of Nagran, and eight and thirty
men who were with him became martyrs in the days of the kingdom of
Sarabhel, the King of Hamir. And
he commanded his soldiers to bring ‘Azkir to him, and they brought him
into the prison house and shut the door on him, and he commanded the
keepers of the prison that no man was to be taken to him.
And when Saint ‘Azkir had prayed, the doors of the prison house
were opened, and fifty men came in, and he made a cistern of water there,
and he baptized them therein in the Name of the Father and the Son and the
Holy Ghost. When Sarabhel the
king heard this he commanded his soldiers to bring ‘Azkir out of the
prison house and to take him to another place; and the holy man met a man
whose name was Cyriacus, who said unto him, “Good news for thee, O
‘Azkir; they are taking thee to martyrdom.”
When the king’s guards heard this they bound Cyriacus with
‘Azkir in fetters. And on
the road they met two men, and they said unto him, “Baptize us for
Christ’s sake”; and ‘Azkir prayed to God, and water sprang up in the
desert, and he baptized the two men and Cyriacus.
When they reached the desert the guards and their beasts lacked
water, and they besought Saint ‘Azkir to entreat God on their behalf
because they were short of water. And
‘Azkir prayed to God and straightway a cloud came and poured down rain
into the waterholes to the depth of the hand, and seven hundred men and
their beasts drank of that water and were satisfied. And they brought ‘Azkir to the King of Hamir, and he said
unto him, “What is this new doctrine which thou hast brought into my
country?” And Saint
‘Azkir said unto him, “It is not a new doctrine, but one which the
prophets have preached in the Book of the Law, and it hath been heard that
the King of the Jews was crucified in the Christian Faith.”
And one of the Rabbanat rose up and said unto the king, “O my
lord, command [thy soldiers] to take him into the city, and let them hang
him upon a tree, and burn him alive”; and the king commanded according
to his words. And when they
had brought ‘Azkir to the city of Nagran they hung him upon a tree and
lighted a fire [under him]. And
when Saint ‘Azkir had prayed, his fetters were loosed and he went forth
alive from the fire. And the
Jews said also, “Come, let us stone him”; and the greater number of
the Jews killed him by stoning, and the rest took swords and cut off his
head. Thus Saint ‘Azkir
finished his martyrdom and departed to everlasting life.
Salutation to ‘Azkir.
And on this day also are commemorated Claudius, and Gayyos, and
Artyo, and Dioscurus the martyr, who died on this day.
And on this day also died Abba Yosef (Joseph) of the city of Sana.
The parents of this holy man were rich in faith, and they had no
son except Yosef (Joseph); and they brought him up very carefully and
piously, and they taught him the Books of the Church. Now his form and
appearance resembled those of Joseph, the son of Jacob.
When he had grown up there entered into his heart the remembrance
of death and the transitoriness of the world, and he went into a monastery
and became a monk, and a fighter in the spirit; he devoted himself to
fasting and to prayer, and he shut himself in his cell, and never went out
except on the day of the Sabbath, at the time of the Offering.
And the report of him was noised abroad, and the men of Adyam came
to him to receive his blessing. And his father and his mother had no news of him, and they
continued to make supplication to God that He would enable them to find
him; and when they heard the report of him they went to him so that he
might pray for the discovery of their son.
When they came to him he knew them, but they did not know him, and
after the men had removed themselves he made himself known unto them, and
commanded them to tell no man; and he comforted them and sent them away in
peace. And God bestowed upon
him the power to work signs and wonders, and at length Satan was envious
of him. And he went to the
governor of the city and told him that this holy man had much money, and
the governor sent soldiers who bound the holy man in fetters and brought
him to the prison house. On
the following day when they looked for him they found the fetters thrown
about on the ground; and the governor was terrified and bowed down at his
feet and did reverence to him and sent him into his own house.
After much strenuous fighting he died in peace, and signs and
wonders, which were innumerable, appeared at his grave.
be to God Who is glorified in His Saints.