MACARIUS THE GREAT OF EGYPT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Macarius the Great of Egypt, Makarios of Alexandria, Mark, Bishop of Ephesus, Makarios, Hierodeacon of Kalogera, Patmos, Arsenius of Corfu, Removal of the Honorable Relics of Saint Gregory the Theologian, Branwallader, Bishop of Jersey
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 5:22-26; 6:1-2
Brethren, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The Lord said this parable, “There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?'”
Saint Macarius the Great of Egypt was born in the early fourth century in the village of Ptinapor in Egypt. At the wish of his parents he entered into marriage, but was soon widowed. After he buried his wife, Macarius told himself, “Take heed, Macarius, and have care for your soul. It is fitting that you forsake worldly life.”
The Lord rewarded the saint with a long life, but from that time the memory of death was constantly with him, impelling him to ascetic deeds of prayer and penitence. He began to visit the church of God more frequently and to be more deeply absorbed in Holy Scripture, but he did not leave his aged parents, thus fulfilling the commandment to honor one’s parents.
Until his parents died, Saint Macarius used his remaining substance to help them and he began to pray fervently that the Lord might show him a guide on the way to salvation. The Lord sent him an experienced Elder, who lived in the desert not far from the village. The Elder accepted the youth with love, guided him in the spiritual science of watchfulness, fasting and prayer, and taught him the handicraft of weaving baskets. After building a separate cell not far from his own, the Elder settled his disciple in it.
The local bishop arrived one day at Ptinapor and, knowing of the saint’s virtuous life, ordained him against his will. Saint Macarius was overwhelmed by this disturbance of his silence, and so he went secretly to another place. The Enemy of our salvation began a tenacious struggle with the ascetic, trying to terrify him, shaking his cell and suggesting sinful thoughts. Saint Macarius repelled the attacks of the devil, defending himself with prayer and the Sign of the Cross.
Evil people slandered the saint, accusing him of seducing a woman from a nearby village. They dragged him out of his cell and jeered at him. Saint Macarius endured the temptation with great humility. Without a murmur, he sent the money that he got for his baskets for the support of the pregnant woman.
The innocence of Saint Macarius was manifested when the woman, who suffered torment for many days, was not able to give birth. She confessed that she had slandered the hermit, and revealed the name of the real father. When her parents found out the truth, they were astonished and intended to go to the saint to ask forgiveness. Though Saint Macarius willingly accepted dishonor, he shunned the praise of men. He fled from that place by night and settled on Mt. Nitria in the Pharan desert.
Thus human wickedness contributed to the prospering of the righteous. Having dwelt in the desert for three years, he went to Saint Anthony the Great, the Father of Egyptian monasticism, for he had heard that he was still alive in the world, and he longed to see him. Abba Anthony received him with love, and Macarius became his devoted disciple and follower. Saint Macarius lived with him for a long time and then, on the advice of the saintly abba, he went off to the Skete monastery (in the northwest part of Egypt). He so shone forth in asceticism that he came to be called “a young Elder,” because he had distinguished himself as an experienced and mature monk, even though he was not quite thirty years old.
Saint Macarius survived many demonic attacks against him. Once, he was carrying palm branches for weaving baskets, and a devil met him on the way and wanted to strike him with a sickle, but he was not able to do this. He said, “Macarius, I suffer great anguish from you because I am unable to vanquish you. I do everything that you do. You fast, and I eat nothing at all. You keep vigil, and I never sleep. You surpass me only in one thing: humility.”
When the saint reached the age of forty, he was ordained to the priesthood and made the head of the monks living in the desert of Skete. During these years, Saint Macarius often visited with Saint Anthony the Great, receiving guidance from him in spiritual conversations. Abba Macarius was deemed worthy to be present at the death of Saint Anthony and he received his staff. He also received a double portion of the Anthony’s spiritual power, just as the prophet Elisha once received a double portion of the grace of the prophet Elias, along with the mantle that he dropped from the fiery chariot.
Saint Macarius worked many healings. People thronged to him from various places for help and for advice, asking his holy prayers. All this unsettled the quietude of the saint. He therefore dug out a deep cave under his cell, and hid there for prayer and meditation.
Saint Macarius attained such boldness before God that, through his prayers, the Lord raised the dead. Despite attaining such heights of holiness, he continued to preserve his unusual humility. One time the holy abba caught a thief loadng his things on a donkey standing near the cell. Without revealing that he was the owner of these things, the monk began to help tie up the load. Having removed himself from the world, the monk told himself, “We bring nothing at all into this world; clearly, it is not possible to take anything out from it. Blessed be the Lord for all things!”
Once, Saint Macarius was walking and saw a skull lying upon the ground. He asked, “Who are you?” The skull answered, “I was a chief priest of the pagans. When you, Abba, pray for those in hell, we receive some mitigation.”
The monk asked, “What are these torments?” “We are sitting in a great fire,” replied the skull, “and we do not see one another. When you pray, we begin to see each other somewhat, and this affords us some comfort.” Having heard such words, the saint began to weep and asked, “Are there still more fiercesome torments?” The skull answered, “Down below us are those who knew the Name of God, but spurned Him and did not keep His commandments. They endure even more grievous torments.”
Once, while he was praying, Saint Macarius heard a voice: “Macarius, you have not yet attained such perfection in virtue as two women who live in the city.” The humble ascetic went to the city, found the house where the women lived, and knocked. The women received him with joy, and he said, “I have come from the desert seeking you in order to learn of your good deeds. Tell me about them, and conceal nothing.”
The women answered with surprise, “We live with our husbands, and we have not such virtues.” But the saint continued to insist, and the women then told him, “We married two brothers. After living together in one house for fifteen years, we have not uttered a single malicious nor shameful word, and we never quarrel among ourselves. We asked our husbands to allow us to enter a women’s monastery, but they would not agree. We vowed not to utter a single worldly word until our death.”
Saint Macarius glorified God and said, “In truth, the Lord seeks neither virgins nor married women, and neither monks nor laymen, but values a person’s free intent, accepting it as the deed itself. He grants to everyone’s free will the grace of the Holy Spirit, which operates in an individual and directs the life of all who yearn to be saved.”
During the years of the reign of the Arian emperor Valens (364-378), Saint Macarius the Great and Saint Macarius of Alexandria was subjected to persecution by the followers of the Arian bishop Lucius. They seized both Elders and put them on a ship, sending them to an island where only pagans lived. By the prayers of the saints, the daughter of a pagan priest was delivered from an evil spirit. After this, the pagan priest and all the inhabitants of the island were baptized. When he heard what had happened, the Arian bishop feared an uprising and permitted the Elders to return to their monasteries.
The meekness and humility of the monk transformed human souls. “A harmful word,” said Abba Macarius, “makes good things bad, but a good word makes bad things good.” When the monks asked him how to pray properly, he answered, “Prayer does not require many words. It is needful to say only, “Lord, as Thou wilt and as Thou knowest, have mercy on me.” If an enemy should fall upon you, you need only say, “Lord, have mercy!” The Lord knows that which is useful for us, and grants us mercy.”
When the brethren asked how a monk ought to comport himself, the saint replied, “Forgive me, I am not yet a monk, but I have seen monks. I asked them what I must do to be a monk. They answered, ‘If a man does not withdraw himself from everything which is in the world, it is not possible to be a monk.’ Then I said, ‘I am weak and cannot be as you are.’ The monks responded, ‘If you cannot renounce the world as we have, then go to your cell and weep for your sins.’”
Saint Macarius gave advice to a young man who wished to become a monk: “Flee from people and you shall be saved.” That one asked: “What does it mean to flee from people?” The monk answered: “Sit in your cell and repent of your sins.”
Saint Macarius sent him to a cemetery to rebuke and then to praise the dead. Then he asked him what they said to him. The young man replied, “They were silent to both praise and reproach.” “If you wish to be saved, be as one dead. Do not become angry when insulted, nor puffed up when praised.” And further: “If slander is like praise for you, poverty like riches, insufficiency like abundance, then you shall not perish.”
The prayer of Saint Macarius saved many in perilous circumstances of life, and preserved them from harm and temptation. His benevolence was so great that they said of him: “Just as God sees the whole world, but does not chastize sinners, so also does Abba Macarius cover his neighbor’s weaknesses, which he seemed to see without seeing, and heard without hearing.”
The monk lived until the age of ninety. Shortly before his death, Saints Anthony and Pachomius appeared to him, bringing the joyful message of his departure to eternal life in nine days. After instructing his disciples to preserve the monastic Rule and the traditions of the Fathers, he blessed them and began to prepare for death. Saint Macarius departed to the Lord saying, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”
Abba Macarius spent sixty years in the wilderness, being dead to the world. He spent most of his time in conversation with God, often in a state of spiritual rapture. But he never ceased to weep, to repent and to work. The saint’s profound theological writings are based on his own personal experience. Fifty Spiritual Homilies and seven Ascetic Treatises survive as the precious legacy of his spiritual wisdom. Several prayers composed by Saint Macarius the Great are still used by the Church in the Prayers Before Sleep and also in the Morning Prayers.
Man’s highest goal and purpose, the union of the soul with God, is a primary principle in the works of Saint Macarius. Describing the methods for attaining mystical communion, the saint relies upon the experience of the great teachers of Egyptian monasticism and on his own experience. The way to God and the experience of the holy ascetics of union with God is revealed to each believer’s heart.
Earthly life, according to Saint Macarius, has only a relative significance: to prepare the soul, to make it capable of perceiving the heavenly Kingdom, and to establish in the soul an affinity with the heavenly homeland.
“For those truly believing in Christ, it is necessary to change and transform the soul from its present degraded nature into another, divine nature, and to be fashioned anew by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
This is possible, if we truly believe and we truly love God and have observed all His holy commandments. If one betrothed to Christ at Baptism does not seek and receive the divine light of the Holy Spirit in the present life, “then when he departs from the body, he is separated into the regions of darkness on the left side. He does not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but has his end in hell with the devil and his angels” (Homily 30:6).
In the teaching of Saint Macarius, the inner action of the Christian determines the extent of his perception of divine truth and love. Each of us acquires salvation through grace and the divine gift of the Holy Spirit, but to attain a perfect measure of virtue, which is necessary for the soul’s assimilation of this divine gift, is possible only “by faith and by love with the strengthening of free will.” Thus, the Christian inherits eternal life “as much by grace, as by truth.”
Salvation is a divine-human action, and we attain complete spiritual success “not only by divine power and grace, but also by the accomplishing of the proper labors.” On the other hand, it is not just within “the measure of freedom and purity” that we arrive at the proper solicitude, it is not without “the cooperation of the hand of God above.” The participation of man determines the actual condition of his soul, thus inclining him to good or evil. “If a soul still in the world does not possess in itself the sanctity of the Spirit for great faith and for prayer, and does not strive for the oneness of divine communion, then it is unfit for the heavenly kingdom.”
The miracles and visions of Blessed Macarius are recorded in a book by the presbyter Rufinus, and his Life was compiled by Saint Serapion, bishop of Tmuntis (Lower Egypt), one of the renowned workers of the Church in the fourth century. His holy relics are in the city of Amalfi, Italy.
Saint Macarius of Alexandria was a contemporary and friend of Saint Macarius of Egypt (January 19). He was born in the year 295, and until the age of forty he was occupied in trade. Later, he was baptized and withdrew into the desert, where he spent more than sixty years.
After several years of ascetic life he was ordained to the holy priesthood and made head of the monastery the Cells in the desert between Nitria and Skete, where hermits silently lived in asceticism, each separately in his own cell. There were three deserts in northern Egypt: the first was the Cells (the inner desert), so designated because of the many cells carved into the rocks. The second was called Skete (utter desert). The third was the Nitrian desert which reached the western bank of the Nile.
Saint Macarius of Alexandria, like Macarius of Egypt, was a great ascetic and monastic head, and he worked many miracles. Learning about some monk’s ascetic feat, he attempted to imitate it. Thus, when he heard that someone ate only one pound of bread a day, he would eat only that much or even less. Wishing to shorten his sleep, he stayed for twenty whole days under the open sky, enduring heat by day and cold by night.
Saint Macarius once received a bunch of newly-picked grapes. He very much wanted to eat them, but he conquered this desire in himself and gave the grapes to another monk who was sick. That monk, wanting to preserve his abstinence, gave the grapes to another, and he gave them to a third and so forth. In the end the bunch of grapes returned to Saint Macarius. The ascetic was astonished at the abstinence of his disciples and gave thanks to God.
Once, a proud thought came to the saint to go to Rome and heal the sick. Struggling with the temptation, the saint filled up a sack of sand, loaded it on himself and walked into the desert until he exhausted his body. The proud thought then left him.
By his ascetic life, fasting, and renunciation of earthly things, Saint Macarius acquired the gifts of wonderworking and of discerning the inner thoughts of people, and he also saw many visions. He once saw how one of the ascetics of the holy monastery, Saint Mark, received the Holy Mysteries from the hands of angels, and how during Communion the careless brethren received burning coals from the demons instead of the Body of Christ.
Saint Macarius was glorified by many miracles of healing the sick and casting out devils. Saint Macarius of Alexandria died in about 394-395 at age of one hundred. He wrote a Discourse on the Origin of the Soul included in the text of the Annotated Psalter.
Saint Mark Eugenikos, Archbishop of Ephesus, was a stalwart defender of Orthodoxy at the Council of Florence. He would not agree to a union with Rome which was based on theological compromise and political expediency (the Byzantine Emperor was seeking military assistance from the West against the Moslems who were drawing ever closer to Constantinople). Saint Mark countered the arguments of his opponents, drawing from the well of pure theology, and the teachings of the holy Fathers. When the members of his own delegation tried to pressure him into accepting the Union he replied, “There can be no compromise in matters of the Orthodox Faith.”
Although the members of the Orthodox delegation signed the Tomos of Union, Saint Mark was the only one who refused to do so. When he returned from Florence, Saint Mark urged the inhabitants of Constantinople to repudiate the dishonorable document of union. He died in 1457 at the age of fifty-two, admired and honored by all.
Saint Macarius the Faster of the Near Caves of Kiev was a deacon. He is commemorated on January 19 because of his namesake, Saint Macarius of Egypt.
Saint Macarius of the Near Caves (twelfth century) is also commemorated on September 28. There is a general commemoration of all the wonderworkers of the Kiev Caves on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Saint Macarius the Deacon lived in the Far Caves of Kiev, and is commemorated on January 19 because of his namesake, Saint Macarius of Egypt. Saint Macarius lived during the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries, and was distinguished by his lack of covetousness. He possessed great fervor for the temple of God and he continuously labored in reading Holy Scripture and in fasting.
According to Tradition, he was frequently ill as a child, and his parents vowed that they would offer their son to the Monastery of the Caves if he were made healthy. By his mildness and humility he earned the love of the brethren, who taught him to read and to write. Because of his piety of life he was ordained as a deacon. The Lord also granted him the gift of wonderworking.
Saint Macarius of the Far Caves is also commemorated on August 28. There is a general commemoration of all the wonderworkers of the Kiev Caves on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Blessed Theodore of Novgorod was the son of pious parents, wealthy citizens of Novgorod. Having been raised in strict Christian piety, and having reached the age of maturity, he took on himself the ascetic deed of foolishness for Christ’s sake. He gave all his possessions to the poor, and he lived in great poverty until the end of his life, not even having a roof over his head, nor warm clothes on cold days.
When he discovered a mutual enmity between the Novgorod citizens of the Torgov quarter and the inhabitants of the Sophia quarter, Blessed Theodore pretended to be feuding with Blessed Nicholas Kochanov (July 27) who lived in asceticism on the opposite Sophia side. When Blessed Theodore happened to cross over the Volkhov Bridge to the Sophia side, then Blessed Nicholas pushed him over to the Torgov side. Theodore did the same thing when Nicholas chanced upon on the Torgov side. The blessed ones, spiritually in agreement with each other, by their unusual behavior reminded the people of Novgorod of their own internecine strife, which often ended in bloody skirmishes.
The blessed one possessed the gift of clairvoyance. By warning people to see to their bread, he was actually predicting an impending famine. Another time he said, “This will be bare, it will be fine for sowing turnips.” This was his prediction of a fire that devastated the streets of the Torgov quarter. Blessed Theodore foresaw his own end and said to the Novgorod people, “Farewell, I’m going far away.”
During his life, the citizens of Novgorod saw him as a saint pleasing to God, and had a high regard for him. After his death in the year 1392, the holy fool was buried, at his request, in the Torgov quarter, at Lubyanitsa in the church of the holy Great Martyr George, at the porch where the saint usually loved to spend his time in unceasing prayer. A chapel was built over his holy relics.
Today we commemorate opening of the incorrupt relics of Saint Savva of Storozhev and Zvenigorod on January 19, 1652.
Saint Savva is also also commemorated on December 3, as determined by the Moscow Council of 1547.
Saint Macarius the Roman was born at the end of the fifteenth century into a wealthy family of Rome. His parents raised him in piety and gave him an excellent education. He might have expected a successful career in public service, but he did not desire honors or earthly glory. Instead, he focused on how to save his soul.
He lived in an age when the Christian West was shaken by the Protestant Reformation. While others around him were pursuing luxury and lascivious pleasures, he studied the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers. Saint Macarius was grieved to see so many darkened by sin and worldly vanity, and was disturbed by the rebellions and conflicts within the Western Church. With tears, he asked God to show him the path of salvation, and his prayer did not go unanswered. He came to realize that he would find the safe harbor of salvation in the Orthodox Church.
Saint Macarius left Rome secretly, and set out for Russia without money, and wearing an old garment. After many sufferings on his journey, he arrived in Novgorod, where he rejoiced to see so many churches and monasteries. One of these monasteries had been founded three centuries before by his fellow countryman, Saint Anthony the Roman (August 3).
Saint Macarius came to the banks of the River Svir, where Saint Alexander of Svir (April 17 and August 30) had founded the monastery of the Holy Trinity. Saint Alexander received Macarius into the Orthodox Church and tonsured him as a monk. Macarius, however longed for the solitary life. He moved to an island on the River Lezna, forty-five miles from Novgorod, where he engaged in ascetical struggles and unceasing prayer.
The winters were very cold, and the summers were hot and humid. The marshy area was also a breeding ground for mosquitos, which tormented the saint. Saint Macarius survived on berries, roots, and herbs. Sometimes bears would come to him for food, and they allowed him to pet them.
Such a great lamp of the spiritual life could not remain hidden for long. One rainy night someone knocked on his door and asked him to open it. Several people, who seemed to be hunters, entered his cell. Astonished by his appearance, and the divine light shining from his face, the men asked for his blessing. They told him they had come to the forest to hunt, and only by the prayers of the saint did God permit them to find him.
“It is not my sinful prayers,” he told them, “but the grace of God which led you here.”
After feeding them, he spoke and prayed with them, then showed them the way out of the marsh. Saint Macarius was concerned that his peace would be disturbed, now that his dwelling place was known. His fears were justified, because many people sought him out to ask for his advice and prayers.
The holy ascetic decided to move even farther into the wilderness, choosing an elevated place on the left bank of the Lezna. Even here, however, he was not able to conceal himself for very long. Sometimes a pillar of fire would rise up into the sky at night above his place of refuge. During the day, the grace of God was made manifest by a fragrant cloud of smoke. Drawn by these signs, the local inhabitants of the region were able to find him once more.
Some of his visitors begged Saint Macarius to permit them to live near him and to be guided by his counsels. Seeing that this was the Lord’s will, he did not refuse them. He blessed them to build cells, and this was the foundation of his monastery.
In 1540, they built a wooden church dedicated to the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. Saint Macarius was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop Macarius of Novgorod, who later became Metropolitan of All Russia. The hierarch also appointed Saint Macarius as igumen of the monastery.
Saint Macarius was an example to the others, and was given the gifts of clairvoyance and wonderworking from God. He wore himself out with his labors and vigils, encouraging others not to become faint-hearted in their own struggles.
After several years, he entrusted the monastery to one of his disciples, and returned to the island where he had first lived. There he fell asleep in the Lord on August 15, 1550. His disciples buried him outside on the left side of the Dormition church which he had founded.
The Hermitage of Saint Macarius was never a prosperous monastery with many monks, but it was distinguished by the high level of spiritual life. In the seventeenth century, many of the monasteries near Novgorod were plundered by Swedish invaders. The Hermitage of Saint Macarius was also burned in 1615, and some of the monks were put to the sword.
By the eighteenth century, the monastery had become a dependency of the Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra in Saint Petersburg. The Empress Catherine closed it in 1764, just as she had closed other monasteries, and it was designated as a parish church. Although pilgrims still came to venerate the saint’s relics and to celebrate his Feast Day, the buildings soon fell into ruin.
In the mid-nineteenth century, some benefactors restored the two churches and the miraculous healing spring which the saint himself had dug. About this time an old priest was living there, and he celebrated the church services until his death. In 1894, the monastery began to function once more under the noted missionary Hieromonk Arsenius, who introduced the Athonite Typikon. The monastery was destroyed by the Soviets in 1932.
Saint Macarius the Roman is commemorated on August 15 (the date of his repose), and also on January 19 (his nameday).
The Holy Virgin Martyr Euphrasia was born at Nicomedia into an illustrious family. She was a Christian, and was noted for her beauty. During the persecution of Christians by Maximian, the pagans tried to compel Euphrasia to offer sacrifice to idols. When she refused, she was beaten, and then given to a certain barbarian to be violated.
The saint prayed tearfully to the Lord that He would preserve her virginity, and God heard her prayer. Saint Euphrasia suggested to the barbarian that if he would not defile her, she would give him a special herb which would protect him from enemy weapons and death. But this herb, she explained, held its power only when received from a virgin and not from a woman.
The soldier believed Saint Euphrasia and went with her into the garden. The holy virgin picked the herb, then offered to demonstrate its power. She placed the herb on her neck and told the man to strike her with his sword. With a mighty blow, he cut off her head. Thus her prayer was answered, and the wise virgin offered her soul to God in 303, safeguarding her bodily purity.
Saint Arsenius, Archbishop of Kerkyra (Corfu), was a native of Palestine and lived in the ninth century. He led a strict ascetic life, and was a highly educated man and renowned spiritual writer. He was glorified by wisdom, and by the constantly defended his flock from the wrath of the emperor Constantine (979-1028).
Because of his great virtue, Saint Arsenius was consecrated as Archbishop of Kerkyra. He became a defender of widows, a father to orphans, and a comfort for the sorrowful, and so God rewarded him with the gift of miracles.
He fell asleep in the Lord toward the end of the ninth century. His relics were placed in the cathedral at Kerkyra, and many miracles and healings took place at his tomb.
Saint Arsenius composed the Canon chanted during the Sanctification of Oil, a Panegyric on the Apostle Andrew, and a Discourse on the Suffering of the Great Martyr Barbara. Several of his letters to Saint Photius (February 6) still survive.
Our holy father Anton of Martqopi arrived in Georgia in the 6th century with the rest of the Thirteen Syrian Fathers and settled in Kakheti to preach the Gospel of Christ. He always carried with him an icon of the Savior “Not-Made-By-Hands.” Anton made his home in the wilderness, and deer visited him every evening to nourish him with their milk.
One day the deer arrived earlier than expected, and they were followed by a wounded fawn. Clearly something had frightened them.
When Anton retraced the animals’ path, he discovered a nobleman, the head of a nearby village, hunting in the fields. Astonished to see the old monk with his icon, standing amidst a gathering of deer, the nobleman, being a pagan, became convinced that he was dangerous and ordered his servants to take him to a smith and chop off his hands.
Anton was led at once to the smith, but when the craftsman heated his sword and drew it above the monk’s hands in preparation, he fell down suddenly and his arms became like wood.
The daunted smith fell mute, but blessed Anton made the sign of the Cross over him and he was immediately healed.
Having heard about this miracle, the nobleman perceived that Abba Anton was truly holy, and he began to hold him in reverence. “Tell me what you need, and I will provide it for you,” he told Elder Anton. The monk requested a single piece of salt, and they brought him two large blocks. He broke off a small piece and placed it near his cell for the deer.
After the incident at the smith’s, many people began to visit Anton, and the holy father constructed a monastery for the faithful.
But before long their attention became burdensome, and Elder Anton fled from the world to the peak of a mountain. There he began to preach from the top of a pillar, where he would remain the last fifteen years of his life.
When God revealed to Fr. Anton the day of his repose, the monk-stylite gathered his pupils, imparted to them a few last words of wisdom, blessed them, and died on his knees in front of his beloved icon.
St. Anton’s body was taken down from the pillar and buried in the monastery that he had founded, before the icon of the Theotokos.
Today the Church remembers a great miracle in Nicaea, when Saint Basil the Great, by his prayers, opened the
doors of the Cathedral Church.
During a visit to Nicaea, Emperor Valens, at the request of some prominent Arians, took the Cathedral away from the Orthodox by force and allowed the Arians to occupy it. The Orthodox were grief stricken by this terrible calamity. Later, when Saint Basil happened to arrive in Nicaea, the faithful wept and told him what the Emperor had done. The saint went to Constantinople and criticized Valens for his unjust action. The Emperor was furious, but knew that he had been wrong in giving the Cathedral to the heretics. He said, “Return to Nicaea and judge between the parties, but do not show any favoritism to your side.”
Saint Basil went back to Nicaea with an imperial decree and called the Arians together. He said, “The Emperor has given me authority to decide whether you or the Orthodox should have the church.”
They replied, “Very well, but judge the way that the Emperor would judge if he were here.”
Saint Basil ordered the Arians and the Orthodox to lock the doors of the church, affix their seals, and appoint some men to guard it. Then he told the Arians to go and pray for three days and nights, and then return. If the doors opened because of their prayers, they would be allowed to retain possession of the church. He said, “If the doors do not open for you, then we shall pray for just one night, and then return. If the doors open for us, then we shall own the building again. If they do not open for us, then it will be yours.”
The Arians accepted this proposal, but the Orthodox thought that Saint Basil was giving an unfair advantage to the heretics because he feared the Emperor. However, the church was locked and sealed, and guards were stationed there. After three days and nights, the Arians’ prayers had achieved nothing, so they continued praying until noon of the fourth day. When the doors still failed to open, they hung their heads in shame and went away.
Saint Basil led the Orthodox to the church of Saint Diomedes outside the city, and served an All-Night Vigil. The next morning, the hierarch led a procession back to the Cathedral as the people chanted “Holy God.” Halting before the doors of the church, he ordered them to lift their hands to Heaven and to cry, “Lord, have mercy.” Then they prayed, and Saint Basil made the Sign of the Cross over the doors three times and shouted, “Blessed is the God of the Christians, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.”
Suddenly there was an earthquake which broke the locks, threw the bars on the floor, and split the seals, and then the doors flew open. Saint Basil entered the building with all the Orthodox. After celebrating the divine service, he dismissed the faithful.
Many Arians who came to see what would happen renounced their heresy and became Orthodox. As for Valens, he was amazed when he heard of this great miracle, but he did not convert to Orthodoxy. Later, he was wounded in a battle and he hid in a barn which was filled with straw. His enemies surrounded the barn and set it on fire. The evil tyrant perished in the flames and his soul departed to the everlasting fire.
According to some researchers, the uncovering of the relics of Saint Gregory the Theologian (Jan. 25) occurred at Nazianzus during the reign of Emperor Arkadios (395-408), that of Theodosios II (408-450), and that of Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos (911 – 959) when they were enshrined in the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople. His honorable head is reverently kept in Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos.
Until the year 1204, when the Western Crusaders captured Constantinople, portions of Saint Gregory’s relics were kept in the church of Hagia Sophia, in the church of the Holy Apostles, and in the church of the Holy Resurrection.