THURSDAY OF THE 11TH WEEK
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
Habakkuk the Prophet, Our Righteous Father Cyril of Phileus, Myrope the Martyr of Chios, Joannicos the Monk of Devich, Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia, Theophilos the Hermit
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS 4:18-5:10
Brethren, comfort one another with these words. But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, “There is peace and security, ” then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him.
The Lord said this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, that they should give him some of the fruit of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant; him also they beat and treated shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will respect him.' But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.' And they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants, and give the vineyard to others." When they heard this, they said, "God forbid!" But he looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner'? Every one who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on any one it will crush him.
The Holy Prophet Habakkuk, the eighth of the Twelve Minor Prophets, was descended from the Tribe of Simeon, and he prophesied around 650 B.C.
The Prophet Habakkuk foresaw the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the Babylonian Captivity and the later return of the captives to their native land. During the war with the Babylonians the prophet withdrew to Arabia, where the following miracle occurred. When he was bringing dinner to the reapers, he met an angel of the Lord, and instantly by the strength of his spirit he was transported to Babylon, where at the time the Prophet Daniel was languishing in prison. The food intended for the reapers assuaged the hunger of the exhausted Prophet Daniel (Dan. 14:33-37).
After the end of the war with the Babylonians, the Prophet Habakkuk returned to his homeland and died at a great old age. His relics were found at the time of Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450), together with the relics of the Prophet Micah (August 14).
The Fourth Ode of the Psalter (“O Lord, I have heard thy report, and was afraid…”) is based on Habakkuk 3:2-19.
Saint Athanasius, hermit of the Near Caves of Kiev, was a contemporary of the archimandrite Saint Polycarp (July 24) of the Kiev Caves. Saint Athanasius was grievously ill for a long time. When he died, the brethren prepared him for burial, and on the third day the igumen came to bury him. However, they all saw the dead man alive. He was sitting up and weeping. To all their questions he replied only: “Seek salvation, obey the igumen in everything, repent each hour and pray to our Lord Jesus Christ, to His All-Pure Mother and to Saints Anthony and Theodosius, to allow you to end your life here. Do not ask me anything else, for I must pray” (There is a similar story of Saint Hesychius [October 3] in THE LADDER of Saint John Climacus, Step 6).
After this he lived for twelve years more in solitude in a cave. During that time he spoke not a word to anyone. He wept day and night, and partook of a little bread and water only every other day. Just before his death, he assembled the brethren, and repeated his earlier words to them, and then he peacefully departed unto the Lord (in about the year 1176).
The monk Babylas, who had suffered illness and an infirmity of the legs for many years, was healed at his relics. “As I lay there,” he told the brethren, “I cried out in pain. Suddenly, Saint Athanasius appeared to me and said, ‘Come to me, and I shall heal you.’ I wanted to ask him how and when he had returned here, but he became invisible. I believed his words and asked to be taken to his relics. And indeed, I have been healed.” Saint Athanasius was buried in the Antoniev Cave. His memory is celebrated also on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Saint Athanasius, Recluse of the Far Caves of Kiev is mentioned in the Fourth Ode of the general Canon of the Monastic Fathers of the Far Caves. The “Sayings and Lives of the Saints Who Repose in the Cave of Saint Theodosius” says that Saint Athanasius had no need of candles in the cave, since a heavenly light shone for him. He grants healing to all who approach him with faith.
The memory of Saint Athanasius is celebrated also on August 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
The Holy Martyr Myrope was born in the city of Ephesus at the beginning of the third century. She lost her father at an early age, and her mother raised her in the Christian Faith. Saint Myrope frequently visited the grave of the Martyr Hermione (September 4), daughter of the holy Apostle Philip, took myrrh from her relics, and healed the sick with it.
During the persecution by Decius (249-251), Myrope went with her mother to the island of Chios, where they spent their time in fasting and prayer. Once, by order of the cruel governor of the island, the soldier Isidore (May 14), a man of deep faith and great piety, was martyred. Saint Myrope secretly removed the body of the martyr and buried it. The soldiers, who had been ordered not to allow the Christians to take Isidore’s body, were sentenced to death.
Saint Myrope took pity on the condemned, and she told the soldiers and then the governor what she had done. At the trial she confessed herself a Christian. For this they gave her a fierce beating and then threw her in prison. At midnight, while she was praying, a light shone in the prison. Saint Isidore appeared surrounded by angels, and Saint Myrope surrendered her soul to God. The prison was immediately filled with a sweet fragrance. The pagan guard, trembling at the vision, told this to a priest. Later, he accepted Baptism and a martyric death for his confession of Christ.
Saints John, Heraclemon, Andrew, and Theophilus lived in Egypt in the fourth century, and are mentioned in the life of Saint Onuphrius.
After he had buried Saint Onuphrius, Saint Paphnutius came upon an oasis which impressed him with its beauty and abundance of fruit-bearing trees. Four youths inhabiting this place came to him from out of the wilderness. The youths told Abba Paphnutius that in their childhood they had lived in the city of Oxyrhynchus (Upper Thebaid) and they had studied together. They had burned with the desire to devote their lives to God. Making their plans to go off into the desert, the young men left the city and after several days’ journey, they reached this place. A man radiant with heavenly glory had met them and led them to a desert Elder. “We have lived here six years already,” said the youths. “Our Elder dwelt here one year and then he died. Now we live here alone, we eat the fruit of the trees, and we have water from a spring.” The youths gave him their names, they were Saints John, Andrew, Heraclemon and Theophilus (Dec. 2).
The youths struggled separately the whole week long, but on Saturday and Sunday they gathered at the oasis and offered up common prayer. On these days an angel would appear and commune them with the Holy Mysteries. This time however, for Abba Paphnutius’ sake, they did not go off into the desert, but spent the whole week together at prayer. On the following Saturday and Sunday Saint Paphnutius together with the youths was granted to receive the Holy Mysteries from the hands of the angel and to hear these words, “Receive the Imperishable Food, unending bliss and life eternal, the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, our God.”
Saint Paphnutius made bold to ask the angel for permission to remain in the desert to the end of his days. The angel replied that God had decreed another path for him. He was to return to Egypt and tell the Christians of the life of the desert-dwellers.
Having bid farewell to the youths, Saint Paphnutius reached the edge of the wilderness after a three day journey. Here he found a small skete, and the brethren received him with love. Abba Paphnutius related everything that he had learned about the holy Fathers whom he had encountered in the desert. The brethren wrote a detailed account of what Saint Paphnutius said, and deposited it in the church, where all who wished to do so could read it. Saint Paphnutius gave thanks to God, Who had granted him to learn about the exalted lives of the hermits of the Thebaid, and he returned to his own monastery.
Saints John, Heraclemon, Andrew, and Theophilus are also commemorated on June 12 with Saint Onuphrius.
Saint Jesse of Tsilkani arrived in Georgia in the 6th century with the other Syrian fathers and companions of Saint John of Zedazeni.
At the recommendation of Saint John of Zedazeni, Catholicos Evlavios of Kartli consecrated Saint Jesse as bishop of Tsilkani. The holy father traveled throughout his diocese preaching the Holy Gospel. Passing from city to city, from valley to mountain and back, the kind shepherd worked wonders, healed the infirm, cleansed lepers, cast out demons and raised those who were confined to their beds.
Once, with the blessing of his teacher Saint John of Zedazeni, Saint Jesse performed a miracle to strengthen the people in their Faith. He descended to the bank of the Ksani River, followed by Saint John and a multitude of people. He made the sign of the Cross over the river, touched his staff to the water and commanded: “In the name of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, I command you, river: follow me!” Immediately the river reversed its current and began to flow backwards, following in Saint Jesse’s footsteps right up to Tsilkani Church.
Those living near Mtskheta and Tsilkani who witnessed this miracle glorified the Lord Jesus Christ for bestowing upon one of His children the gift of wonderworking.
When the Lord made known to the saint the day of his repose, he gathered his disciples and church servitors, bade them farewell, blessed them, partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, and reposed in peace. His last words were “Lord, into Thy hands I commit my spirit!”
Saint Jesse of Tsilkani is buried in the Tsilkani Church of the Most Holy Theotokos.
Saint Stephen Urosh, King of Serbia, was son of King Dushan Nemany, and was born in the year 1337. In 1346 he was crowned king. Dushan sought the daughter of the French king for his son, but the Roman Pope insisted that the princess not change from the Latin confession. Dushan did not want to see a Catholic in his family, and because of this Saint Stephen Urosh entered into marriage with the daughter of Vlad, Prince of Walachia.
Upon the death of his father (+ 1355), Saint Stephen Urosh became the independent and actual ruler of Serbia. He was faithful to the Lord; like a father he provided for widows and orphans, he pacified quarrels and maintained peace, he was charitable to the poor, and he defended the downtrodden.
In the interests of peace in Serbia and indeed for the preservation of his own life, Saint Stephen was obliged to flee to his kinsman, Prince Lazar. Saint Stephen’s uncle, Vulkashin, immediately seized the throne, but his fear of rivals gave him no peace. Through his sister, Saint Stephen’s mother, he invited his nephew to come to the city of Skopje, on the pretext of a reconciliation. Greeting him with honor, as Tsar, he invited him to go hunting. When Saint Stephen, weary from the hunt, went off with his horse to a well and bent over to take a sip of water, Vulkashin struck him a mortal blow on the head with a mace.
Saint Ioannikios (Janićije) was a Serb from Zeta, near the Adriatic Sea. He was the son of pious and God-fearing parents, and he lived during the reign of the last medieval Serbian ruler, Prince George Branković (1427-1458). From his youth, Saint Ioannikios loved solitude, and as an adolescent he left his parents and made his way to eastern Serbia, where he settled in a wooded area called Chrna Reka (Black River), a few miles from the Ibar River. He found a narrow cave where, according to Tradition, Saint Peter of Koriša (June 5) had struggled during the XIII century.
Saint Ioannikios built a cell and lived there for many years in solitude, fasting, and unceasing prayer. In time, people began coming to him from all over Serbia in order to hear his words, and to receive his blessing. Others were drawn to him because they wanted him to guide them in the monastic life. A community grew around him, and they built a church near his cell. However, when people heard about the holiness of his life, he fled to Drnica and hid himself in the thick forest of Devič. Once again, the Saint lived in solitude, weeping, fasting, struggling with demons, and devoting himself to the unceasing Prayer of the Heart.
One day Prince George brought his terminally ill daughter to him, and the Saint healed her. The Prince wanted to know what he could do to express his gratitude. Saint Ioannikios asked him to built a monastery at Devič and dedicate it to the Entrance of the a Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (November 21). After a holy and God-pleasing life, Saint Ioannikios reposed on December 2, 1430, when he was almost one hundred years old. His grace-filled and wonderworking relics are kept at the monastery. After his death, many miracles have taken place there, and those who entreat him with faith are healed of their sicknesses and afflictions.
In this monastery there once lived a renowned and godly nun, Sister Euphemia, who is better known in the Kossovo region as Blessed Stoina. She built an Ispostnica (House of Silence) in honor of St. Ioannikios. She fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1895.
Saint Ioannikios still performs miracles, just as he did in his lifetime, five hundred years ago. A certain man from Hercegovina, whose name was Miloš wanted to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to venerate the holy places. Just as he was about to embark on his journey, Saint Ioannikios appeared to him in a dream and told him not to go to Jerusalem. "It would be better," the Saint explained, "if you went to Devič and cleaned my church, and put it in order, instead of going to Jerusalem."
Miloš followed the Saint's advice and went to the neglected Devič monastery, cleaned it up, restored it, and gave it new life. He became a monk and remained there until the end of his life.
During the First World War and the Austrian occupation, a Hungarian officer arrived at Devič with some soldiers. He made Igoumen Damaskene take him to the tomb of Saint Ioannikios, and asked him what was under the slab. "It is a holy place," the Igoumen replied.
"What sort of holy place?" the officer asked. "You have some valuables hidden under there, don't you?"
The officer ordered the soldiers to break the slab with pick axes. As they were completing their task, the officer was stricken with pain in the middle of his body. He lay down on a bed and died before that evening. The terrified soldiers abandoned their work and fled from the monastery.
Saint Ioannikios is also commemorated on April 26, the uncovering of his holy relics.
The December 2 Feast Day of the Gerontissa Icon of the Mother of God commemorates a miracle which occurred on the night of December 1, 1948 when the Theotokos saved the Pantokrator Monastery on Mount Athos from a fire. Because of this event, the Icon also came to be known as the “Pyrosoteira” (“Rescuer from fire”).
The Gerontissa Icon is also commemorated on April 4.