CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE!
St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church of Johnstown, PA invites you to join us for Divine Liturgy each Sunday. Check the upcoming services section or our weekly bulletins for services times and dates.
St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church has been a part of the Johnstown community since the original church was built in the Cambria City section of the city in 1906. Our church moved to its current site in October of 1964.
St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church celebrated its Centennial Anniversary in 2006 and continues to serve people of the Greater Johnstown region.
1. THE HOLY MARTYRS MANUEL, SABEL AND ISHMAEL
Manuel, Sabel and Ishmael were brothers born in Persia of a pagan father and a Christian mother. They were educated in the spirit of Christianity and were baptized. As Christians they were high-ranking officials at the court of King Alamundar. They were sent to Emperor Julian the Apostate to conduct negotiations and to confirm peace between the Persian and Graeco-Roman empires. The apostate emperor arranged some sort of blasphemous celebration in honor of the idols in Chalcedon. At this celebration, the emperor, with his noblemen, offered sacrifices to the idols. The Persian emissaries absented themselves from this celebration. The emperor summoned them and ordered that they also take part in the celebration and to offer sacrifices to the gods. They declared that they were foreign citizens and that they came as emissaries of the Persian king for the sake of establishing peace between the two empires and not for anything else; that they are Christians and that they consider it unworthy to worship dead idols and to offer them sacrifices. The emperor became enraged and cast them into prison. The next day, he brought them out and again began to dispute with them about faith, but the holy brothers were adamant and unwavering. They were then bound naked to trees, beaten and scraped with an iron brush. During the entire time of torturing they prayed to God with thanksgiving for their tortures: "O sweet Jesus these torments are sweet for the sake of Your love!" An angel of God appeared to them, comforted them and removed every pain from them. Contrary to all international relations, the wicked Emperor Julian finally pronounced judgment that the three brothers be beheaded. When they were beheaded, there was a great earthquake; the earth split and received the bodies of the holy martyrs so that the pagans could not burn their bodies as ordered by the emperor. After that the earth gave up the bodies of these martyrs so that Christians could find them and honorably bury them. Many miracles occurred over their relics which, when many pagans saw, they converted to the Christian Faith. When the Persian king, upon hearing how Julian inhumanely gave his emissaries over to death, he prepared an army against him. Convinced of victory, Julian set out against the Persian Empire but he was overwhelmingly defeated and perished in shame to the joy and ridicule of the entire world.
2. THE VENERABLE PIOR
Pior was a hermit [Silentary] in Nitria. Inflamed with love for God, Pior, at an early age, renounced the world and withdrew to the Egyptian wilderness where he heroically lived a life of asceticism. It is said that he never sat at the table to eat but that he always ate standing and working. When he was asked why he does this, St. Pior replied: "I do not want to be occupied with eating as an occupation but rather as something marginal." When they called him in council to judge a brother who had committed a sin, Pior arrived carrying a sack of sand on his back and on his chest a small bag of sand. Asked what does that mean, the saint replied: "The sack of sand on my back are my sins which I do not see and the bag of sand on my chest are the sins of my brother which I have to judge." All the brethren were then ashamed and cried out: "This is the path of salvation!" Pior lived to be a hundred years old and reposed in the Lord in the fourth century.
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE HOLY MARTYRS MANUEL, SABEL AND ISHMAEL
Of a Christian mother and a pagan father
Three blood brothers, wonderful peacemakers:
Manuel, Sabel and young Ishmael
Dead for Christ's sake, to earthly delight
To serve peace, voluntarily set out,
To unite in peace, the Persian and Greeks.
But Julian the cursed, servant of the devil,
Began to dispute with the three brothers about the Faith,
And offered the brothers, in Christ baptized,
To embrace his faith impure.
To the crowned beast, the brothers then replied:
To change our faith, for that reason we did not come,
But, peace to make, O emperor of the Greeks,
In the Son of God, we have faith.
The worse for the better can still be given
But better for worse, only the insane one can exchange.
The enraged emperor, in him, Hades burns,
In bitter torments, the three brothers slew.
But God the All-seeing, Who, the value of all knows
Against the evil emperor turned with anger;
Julian, the evil one, weak before God,
A shameful death died, everyone laughed,
Everyone laughed, who knew his pride
And through him, the weakness of injustice acknowledged.
The adversaries of Christ, through their efforts against Christ, always achieved the opposite results. Instead of stopping the river of Christianity, they have widened it, deepened it and made it louder. Instead of drying Christianity up they have, so to speak, caused a flood throughout the entire world. Where one martyr fell, a company of Christians was created; where shame was committed, glory sprouted; where it was said the end of Christianity, there was the beginning of luxuriant crops. In spite of all international considerations and customs, Julian the Apostate, because of his insane idolatrous fanaticism, killed the Persian emissaries for peace; Manuel, Sabel and Ishmael. What did Julian accomplish by this? He multiplied the number of Christians, increased the number of martyrs and hastened his own end and the end of paganism. Directly and unwillingly, the apostate helped in the spreading and deepening of Christianity, not only by his evil persecution but also by his inadvertent statements. Thus in discussions with Christians, Julian stated: "Christ did nothing in His life that would merit glory, except if that is counted as a great deed, that He healed the lame, the blind and expelled demons!" O wretched Julian! As if the opening of the eyes of only one blind man by the powerful word alone was not a greater deed, than the subjugation of ten kingdoms! How valuable is it, that Julian, as the greatest traitor of Christ after Judas, recognized the miracles of Christ.
To contemplate the miraculous Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus: "And after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother and brought them: up into a high mountain apart. And was transfigured before them" (St. Matthew 17:1-2):
1. How the face of the transfigured Lord shone as the sun;
2. How, even I, darkened by sin, can shine by Christ's power and grace with the original radiance of sinless man.
About the punishment of those who bear false witness
"The false witness will not go unpunished and he who utters lies will perish" (Proverbs 19:9).
God and all the hosts of heaven see everything that happens in the world. Therefore, how can man conceal the truth from so many witnesses of the truth? And, not only do the heavenly hosts see the truth, but they also are zealous for the truth. Therefore, how can a mortal man go against the truth, which means, to go against the myriads of heavenly zealots for the truth? In truth, darkened in the mind is the one who thinks that he can conceal the truth and proclaim a lie instead of truth. When millions of discerning angels know the truth, can a man conceal the truth? Can someone rise up against the truth and not be punished? O my brethren, there is nothing more false than falsehood! Nothing more unsuccessful! Nothing more arrogant! Nothing more insane!
God and all the Hosts of heaven see that which occurs inside man. Especially the Guardian Angel of man sees that. And this Guardian Angel does not tolerate that man brings out from himself and about himself that which is not in him. If a man remains persistent in his lie, his Angel will abandon him and will turn him over completely to the spirits of lies. Then, woe to that man! Of what benefit is it to witness falsely against the entire world if his Angel would witness truthfully against him before God and the hosts of heaven! If would be better for that man if he had not been born. For, whoever lies, lies to the Spirit of God and the Spirit of God abandons the liar in darkness and death.
O Lord of Truth, sustain us by the power of Your Holy Spirit that we never witness falsely. Sweeten to us Your Holy Truth and turn away a false word from our tongue.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.