13TH SUNDAY OF LUKE
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, DAIRY, EGGS
13th Sunday of Luke, Stephen the New, Irenarchos & his Companion Martyrs at Sebaste, Auxentius, 16 Martyrs of Tiberioupolis
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 2:4-10
Brethren, God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God: not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
At that time, a ruler came to Jesus and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said, “All these I have observed from my youth.” And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. Jesus looking at him said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.
The Monk Martyr and Confessor Stephen the New was born in 715 at Constantinople into a pious Christian family. His parents, having two daughters, prayed the Lord for a son. The mother of the new-born Stephen took him to the Blachernae church of the Most Holy Theotokos and dedicated him to God.
During the reign of the emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741) there was a persecution against the holy icons and against those venerating them. With the support of the emperor, the adherents of the Iconoclast heresy seized control of the supreme positions of authority in the Empire and in the Church. Persecuted by the powers of this world, Orthodoxy was preserved in monasteries far from the capital, in solitary cells, and in the brave and faithful hearts of its followers.
The Orthodox parents of Saint Stephen, grieved by the prevailing impiety, fled from Constantinople to Bithynia, and they gave over their sixteen-year-old son in obedience to the monk John, who labored in asceticism in a solitary place on the Mount of Saint Auxentius. Saint Stephen dwelt with the venerable monk John for more than fifteen years, devoting himself totally to this spirit-bearing Elder, and learning monastic activity from him. Here Stephen received the news that his father was dead, and his mother and sisters had been tonsured as nuns.
After a certain time his teacher John also died. With deep sorrow Saint Stephen buried his venerable body, and continued with monastic effort in his cave by himself. Soon monks began to come to the ascetic, desiring to learn from him the virtuous and salvific life, and a monastery was established, with Saint Stephen as the igumen. At forty-two years of age Stephen left the monastery he founded, and he went to another mountain, on whose summit he dwelt in deep seclusion in a solitary cell. But here also a community of monks soon gathered, seeking the spiritual guidance of Saint Stephen.
Leo the Isaurian was succeeded by Constantine Copronymos (741-775), a fiercer persecutor of the Orthodox, and an even more zealous iconoclast. The emperor convened an Iconoclast Council, attended by 358 bishops from the Eastern provinces. However, except for Constantine, the Archbishop of Constantinople, illegitimately raised to the patriarchal throne by the power of Copronymos, not one of the other patriarchs participated in the wicked doings of this Council, thus making it less likely to style itself as “ecumenical.” This council of heretics, at the instigation of the emperor and the archbishop, described icons as idols, and pronounced an anathema on all who venerated icons in the Orthodox manner, and it described icon veneration as heresy.
Meanwhile, the monastery of Mount Auxentius and its igumen became known in the capital. They told the emperor about the ascetic life of the monks, about their Orthodox piety, about the igumen Stephen’s gift of wonderworking, and of how Saint Stephen’s fame had spread far beyond the region of the monastery, and that the name of its head was accorded universal respect and love. The saint’s open encouragement of icon veneration and the implied rebuff to the persecutors of Orthodoxy within the monastery of Mount Auxentius especially angered the emperor. Archbishop Constantine realized that in the person of Saint Stephen he had a strong and implacable opponent of his iconoclastic intentions, and he plotted how he might draw him over to his side or else destroy him.
They tried to lure Saint Stephen into the Iconoclast camp, at first with flattery and bribery, then by threats, but in vain. Then they slandered the saint, accusing him of falling into sin with the nun Anna. But his guilt was not proven, since the nun courageously denied any guilt and died under torture and beatings. Finally, the emperor gave orders to lock up the saint in prison, and to destroy his monastery. Iconoclast bishops were sent to Saint Stephen in prison, trying to persuade him of the dogmatic correctness of the Iconoclast position. But the saint easily refuted all the arguments of the heretics and he remained true to Orthodoxy.
Then the emperor ordered that the saint be exiled on one of the islands in the Sea of Marmora. Saint Stephen settled into a cave, and there also his disciples soon gathered. After a certain while the saint left the brethren and took upon himself the exploit of living atop a pillar. News of the stylite Stephen, and the miracles worked by his prayers, spread throughout all the Empire and strengthened the faith and spirit of Orthodoxy in the people.
The emperor gave orders to transfer Saint Stephen to prison on the island of Pharos, and then to bring him to trial. At the trial, the saint refuted the arguments of the heretics sitting in judgment upon him. He explained the dogmatic essence of icon veneration, and he denounced the Iconoclasts because in blaspheming icons, they blasphemed Christ and the Mother of God. As proof, the saint pointed to a golden coin inscribed with the image of the emperor. He asked the judges what would happen to a man who threw the coin to the ground , and then trampled the emperor’s image under his feet. They replied that such a man would certainly be punished for dishonoring the image of the emperor. The saint said that an even greater punishment awaited anyone who would dishonor the image of the King of Heaven and His Saints, and with that he spat on the coin, threw it to the ground, and began to trample it underfoot.
The emperor gave orders to take the saint to prison, where already there were languishing 342 Elders, condemned for the veneration of icons. In this prison Saint Stephen spent eleven months, consoling the imprisoned. The prison became like a monastery, where the usual prayers and hymns were chanted according to the Typikon. The people came to the prison in crowds and asked Saint Stephen to pray for them.
When the emperor learned that the saint had organized a monastery in prison, where they prayed and venerated holy icons, he sent two of his own servants, twin-brothers, to beat the saint to death. When these brothers went to the prison and beheld the face of the monk shining with a divine light, they fell down on their knees before him, asking his forgiveness and prayers, then they told the emperor that his command had been carried out. But the emperor learned the truth and he resorted to yet another lie. Informing his soldiers that the saint was plotting to remove him from the throne, he sent them to the prison. The holy confessor himself came out to the furious soldiers, who seized him and dragged him through the streets of the city. They then threw the lacerated body of the martyr into a pit, where they were wont to bury criminals.
On the following morning a fiery cloud appeared over Mount Auxentius, and then a heavy darkness descended upon the capital, accompanied by hail, which killed many people.
The Holy Martyrs Stephen, Basil, Gregory, another Gregory, John, Andrew, Peter, and many others suffered for the veneration of holy icons with the Monk Martyr Stephen the New, with whom they languished together in prison. After his martyric death, they were executed.
Saint Anna was a noblewoman who sold all her possessions and gave the money to the poor. She received the monastic tonsure from Saint Stephen the New while he was living on Mount Auxentius in Bithynia. He sent her to live in the women’s monastery called Trichinarion (Community of hairshirt-wearers).
When the iconoclasts tried to turn Saint Stephen from venerating the holy icons, they tried flattery, bribery, and threats, but all their efforts were in vain. Then they accused him of visiting the Trichinarion Monastery at night and falling into sin with the nun Anna. Although her own maidservant testified against her (she was promised her freedom and marriage to a nobleman if she did), Saint Anna denied any guilt.
The emperor’s soldiers came to the monastery and seized Saint Anna and brought her before him, but she refused to lie about Saint Stephen. Therefore Emperor Constantine threw her into a dungeon in Constantinople.
The next morning the emperor sat in a public building with an assembled crowd, and had Saint Anna brought to his presence. Since she insisted that both she and Saint Stephen were innocent, the emperor had her stripped naked in the sight of all. During her interrogation, she remained silent. Meanwhile, her maidservant falsely swore that Saint Stephen had sinned with her mistress.
Angered by her refusal to speak, the emperor had Saint Anna stretched out on the ground, where soldiers beat her with rods. During this torment, she said, “I have never sinned with Stephen. Lord, have mercy.” The soldiers continued to beat her until she was almost dead.
The emperor returned to his palace, leaving orders that Saint Anna be imprisoned in one of the city’s abandoned monasteries. There she departed to the Lord, receiving from Him the twin crowns of virginity and martyrdom.
The Holy Martyr Irenarchus was from Sebaste, Armenia, and lived during the reign of Diocletian (284-305). When he was young, he would minister to the martyrs in prison after they were tortured.
He once saw seven women being tortured for Christ, who bravely endured their torments. Saint Irenarchus marveled at this because they showed great courage in standing up to the tyrant, even though they were weak by nature.
Illumined by divine grace, Saint Irenarchus confessed Christ. First he endured trials by fire and water, then he was beheaded with the seven holy women in the year 303.
Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Rostov, in the world John, was the son of Stephen (brother of Saint Sergius of Radonezh), who occupied an important post under Prince Andrew of Radonezh. Left a widower, Stephen became a monk, and together with his twelve-year-old son, he went to the monastery to Saint Sergius, who foreseeing the ascetic life of the child John, tonsured him with the name Theodore on the Feast of Saint Theodore the Hair-Shirt Wearer (April 20).
After Theodore attained an appropriate age, he was given a blessing to be ordained to the priesthood. With the blessing of Saint Sergius, Saint Theodore built a church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and founded a monastery on the banks of the River Moskva, at the place called Simonovo. Soon the monastery began to attract a throng of people. Saint Theodore built a cell five versts from the Moscow Kremlin, and pursued new ascetical labors, and here disciples gathered around him. Saint Sergius, visiting this place, blessed the founding of a monastery, and Metropolitan Alexis blessed the construction of a church in the name of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos at Novoe Simonovo, which also had its foundations laid in 1379. The old Simonov monastery remained the burial place of monks.
Because of his virtuous life and strict asceticism, Saint Theodore became known in Moscow. The Metropolitan Saint Alexis elevated him to the rank of igumen, and Great Prince Demetrius of the Don chose him as his father confessor. Saint Theodore journeyed to Constantinople several times on church matters for the Russian Metropolitan. On his first journey in 1384, Patriarch Nilus made him an archimandrite. The Simonov monastery was put directly under the Patriarch, thus becoming stavropegial. In 1387, he was consecrated archbishop and occupied the See of Rostov.
Being the igumen, and then the archimandrite of the Simonov monastery, and despite being occupied with churchly matters, Saint Theodore stalwartly guided those in the monastic life and counted many great and famous ascetics among his disciples. Saints Cyril (June 9) and Therapon (May 27), the future founders of two famous White Lake monasteries, were tonsured at the Simonov monastery. Saint Theodore occupied himself with iconography, and he adorned with icons of his own painting both the Simonov monastery, and many Moscow churches.
At Rostov, Archbishop Theodore founded the Nativity of the Virgin monastery.
The blessed death of the saint occurred on November 28, 1394. His relics are in the Rostov Dormition cathedral.
Saint Theodore is also commemorated on May 23.
Saint Timothy was a bishop who was imprisoned by Julian the Apostate (331-363) together with his fellow bishop Theodore; the priests Timothy, Peter, John, Sergius, Theodore, Nikēphóros; the deacons Basil and Thomas; the monks Hierotheus, Daniel, Chariton, Socrates, Comasius; and Etymasius. They all suffered martyrdom in Tiberiopolis in 361.
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