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1. The Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Children: Ananias, Azarias and Misael.

All four of them were of the royal tribe of Judah. When Nebuchadnezzar destroyed and plundered Jerusalem, Daniel, as a boy, was taken off into slavery together with Jehoiachin, King of Judah, and many other Israelites. The account of his life, sufferings and prophecies can be found in detail in his book. Utterly given to God, Daniel from his early youth received from God the gift of great discernment. His fame among the Jews in Babylon began when he denounced two lecherous and unrighteous elders, and saved the chaste Susannah from an unjust death. But his fame among the Babylonians stemmed from the day when he solved and interpreted the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. For this, the king made him a prince at his court. When the king made a golden idol in the Plain of Dura, the Three Children refused to worship it, for which they were cast into the burning fiery furnace. But an angel of God appeared in the furnace and soothed the flames, so that the Children walked in the furnace untouched by the fire, and sang: 'Blessed art Thou, Lord God of our fathers!' The king saw this marvel, and was amazed. He then brought the Children out of the furnace and did them great honour.

In the time of King Belshazzar, when the king was eating and drinking with his guests at a feast out of consecrated vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem, an invisible hand wrote these three words on the wall: 'Mene, Tekel, Upharsin'. No-one could interpret these words but Daniel. That night, King Belshazzar was killed. Daniel was thrice thrown into a den of lions for his faith in the one, living God, and both times God preserved him alive. Daniel saw God on His throne with the angelic powers, often saw angels, had insight into the future of certain people, of kingdoms and of the whole human race, and prophesied the time of the coming of the Saviour on earth. According to St Cyril of Alexandria, Daniel and the Three Children lived to great old age in Babylon, and were beheaded with the sword for the true Faith. When Ananias was beheaded, Azarias held out his robe and caught his head, then Misael caught Azarias's head and Daniel Misael's. An angel of God carried their bodies to Judea, to Mount Gebal, and placed them under a rock. According to tradition, these four men arose at the time of the death of the Lord Jesus and appeared to many, then fell asleep again. Daniel is counted as one of the four Great Prophets (with Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel). He lived and prophesied halfway through the thousand years before Christ.

2. Our Holy Father Daniel.

He was a nobleman, and governor of the island of Niberta, near Cadiz in Spain. Being acquainted with all the vanity of this world, he forsook its glory and riches and went to Rome, where he became a monk. After this, he went to Constantinople, where he spoke with the Emperors Constantine and Romanus Porphyrogenitus, then continued on to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, he received the Great Habit at the hands of Patriarch Christodoulos, who gave him the name Stephen. Abused by the Saracens, who put pressure on him to shave off his beard, he went to Egypt, where he suffered greatly and died for the name of Christ. He entered into the Kingdom of Christ in the tenth century.

3. Our Holy Fathers, the New Martyrs Paisius and Habakkuk (Avakum).

Paisius was abbot of the monastery of Trnava near Cacak in Serbia, and Habakkuk his companion and deacon. Both of them were, as Christians, impaled on stakes by the Turks on Kalemegdan in Belgrade, on December 17th, 1814. Dragging his spike through the streets of Belgrade, the courageous Habakkuk sang. When his mother begged him with tears to save his life by accepting Islam, this wonderful solder of Christ replied to her, thanking her for her motherhood and not for her advice, and quoting the great figures of the Old Testament who suffered for , and glorified, God, and looking to the end of his own martyrdom in the immortal Kingdom of Christ.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK