Brigid was born to a slave woman. Her father was a noble. Brigid had compassion on the poor from an early age. She would give away her father’s expensive things to help people.
Her father tried to sell her to the king but when he asked to see her, she was trying to give away her father’s sword, a present from the king. The king sent them away, he thought she would be trouble.
Brigid went to a monastery where she lived happily helping the poor. There are many stories of her miraculous. One day, she healed the eyes of a blind nun. The nun said that it made it more difficult to see the glory of God. So Brigid closed her eyes.
A Brigid cross is made of reeds (rushes)
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple
Commemorated February 2nd
Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the Holy Temple when he was forty days old for a blessing. They met an old man there. God had told this man, named Simeon, that he would meet His Son. Simeon had been waiting many years to meet the Savior, Jesus Christ. After waiting for years and years, he was so happy to meet the baby Jesus.
Saint Simeon was a very educated man, he was working in a group of 70 scholars to prepare the Holy Books of the Old Testament (the parts of the Bible from before Jesus). While he translated the Book of Isaiah he came across something that didn’t make sense to him. The sentence said that a virgin would give birth to the Christ (Isaiah 7:14). Virgins can’t have babies so he was about to change it from “virgin” to “young women” when an angel appeared to sttop him. The angel said this word is correct, don’t change it; and you will see this baby with your own eyes. So Simeon waited, he visited the Holy Temple and waited until he was a very old man.
Anna the Prophetess had lived inthe Holy Temple since her husband died as a young woman. She never left and spent her days praying and fasting. She was now in her eighties. When she came up to pray, she met little Jesus. The Apostle Luke tells us that she told everyone about The Redeemer, Jesus (Luke 2:36-38).
The Venerable Barsanuphius the Great and John
The Venerable Barsanuphius is from Egypt but he traveled to Palastine to become a monk. He built a cell (a tiny house) away from the monastary and lived quietly in prayer for years. Another monk named John became his disciple. He stayed with “the Prophet” the rest of his life. He was called the “Prophet” because God gave St Barsanuphius the ability to see things in a special way. He used the gift of clairvoyence to help people who visited him.
The wife of Emperor Theophilos during the wars over icons (Iconoclast). She privately venerated icons and when he died and she had the power she made it legal to pray with icons. We remember this on the Sunday of Orthodoxy! She is the woman who ended the war over using icons. She continued to rule until her son was old enough, then she retired to a monastery.
St Raphael of Brooklyn
St. Raphael was born in Syria. He was a smart boy and got scholarships throughout his schooling. He taught Arabic and Turkish before going to semenary at The School of Theology at Halki and then graduate work at the Theological Academy of Kiev.
Eventually he became a missionary to the United States, to support the immigrants struggling here. Only two weeks after arriving, he started setting up the Chapel dedicated to St Nicholas in Manhattan. He traveled around the country visiting Arab-Christians from New York to San Francisco. While he visited with these communities, he encouraged them to continue the Orthodox faith at home when there was no priest nearby. He told them to pray and read the hours. Saint Raphael published an Arabic language book to help them, The Book of True Consolation in the Divine Prayers. He also worked to find priests and recommend local men for seminary. Saint Raphael build the Antiochian Cathedral of St Nicholas in Brooklyn as a permanent home for the Arab Orthodox community.
Saint Raphael’s work as a misisonary helped to grow and organize the Orthodox communities to the point that the new Bishop Tikhon couldn’t visit them all. He needed help. In 1904 Father Raphael became the fist priest to be concecrated as Bishop in the USA!
As Bishop, he had less time to travel to all the communities across the US, so he started a magazine to share news and teach about the faith.
Bishop Raphael noticed that the kids in New York who couldn’t speak Arabic were not in Church. In his short time in the US he learned English and he knew that children are the future of the church, so he created evening schools and started promoting English in worship. He found an English service book to recommend in parishes.
When Bishop Rapheal fell asleep in the Lord in 1927, the Syro-Arab Mission to the US had 30 parishes with 25,000 faithful.