RIGHTEOUS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT
Righteous Euthymius the Great, John the Hieromartyr, Zacharias the New Martyr of Patra
ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 4:6-15
Brethren, it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness, " who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke, " we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
At that time, Jesus stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.”
Saint Euthymius the Great came from the city of Melitene in Armenia, near the River Euphrates. His parents, Paul and Dionysia, were pious Christians of noble birth. After many years of marriage they remained childless, and in their sorrow they entreated God to give them offspring. Finally, they had a vision and heard a voice saying, “Be of good cheer! God will grant you a son, who will bring joy to the churches.” The child was named Euthymius (“good cheer”).
Saint Euthymius’ father died soon after this, and his mother, fulfilling her vow to dedicate her son to God, gave him to her brother, the priest Eudoxius, to be educated. He presented the child to Bishop Eutroius of Melitene, who accepted him with love. Seeing his good conduct, the bishop soon made him a Reader.
Saint Euthymius later became a monk and was ordained to the holy priesthood. At the same time, he was entrusted with the supervision of all the city monasteries. Saint Euthymius often visited the monastery of Saint Polyeuctus, and during Great Lent he withdrew into the wilderness. His responsibility for the monasteries weighed heavily upon the ascetic, and conflicted with his desire for stillness, so he secretly left the city and headed to Jerusalem. After venerating the holy shrines, he visited the Fathers in the desert.
Since there was a solitary cell in the Tharan lavra, he settled into it, earning his living by weaving baskets. Nearby, his neighbor Saint Theoctistus (September 3) also lived in asceticism. They shared the same zeal for God and for spiritual struggles, and each strove to attain what the other desired. They had such love for one another that they seemed to share one soul and one will.
Every year, after the Feast of Theophany, they withdrew into the desert of Coutila (not far from Jericho). One day, they entered a steep and terrifying gorge with a stream running through it. They saw a cave upon a cliff, and settled there. The Lord, however, soon revealed their solitary place for the benefit of many people. Shepherds driving their flocks came upon the cave and saw the monks. They went back to the village and told people about the ascetics living there.
People seeking spiritual benefit began to visit the hermits and brought them food. Gradually, a monastic community grew up around them. Several monks came from the Tharan monastery, among them Marinus and Luke. Saint Euthymius entrusted the supervision of the growing monastery to his friend Theoctistus.
Saint Euthymius exhorted the brethren to guard their thoughts. “Whoever desires to lead the monastic life should not follow his own will. He should be obedient and humble, and be mindful of the hour of death. He should fear the judgment and eternal fire, and seek the heavenly Kingdom.”
The saint taught young monks to fix their thoughts on God while engaging in physical labor. “If laymen work in order to feed themselves and their families, and to give alms and offer sacrifice to God, then are not we as monks obliged to work to sustain ourselves and to avoid idleness? We should not depend on strangers.”
The saint demanded that the monks keep silence in church during services and at meals. When he saw young monks fasting more than others, he told them to cut off their own will, and to follow the appointed rule and times for fasting. He urged them not to attract attention to their fasting, but to eat in moderation.
In these years Saint Euthymius converted and baptized many Arabs. Among them were the Saracen leaders Aspebet and his son Terebon, both of whom Saint Euthymius healed of sickness. Aspebet received the name Peter in Baptism and afterwards he was a bishop among the Arabs.
Word of the miracles performed by Saint Euthymius spread quickly. People came from everywhere to be healed of their ailments, and he cured them. Unable to bear human fame and glory, the monk secretly left the monastery, taking only his closest disciple Dometian with him. He withdrew into the Rouba desert and settled on Mt. Marda, near the Dead Sea.
In his quest for solitude, the saint explored the wilderness of Ziph and settled in the cave where David once hid from King Saul. Saint Euthymius founded a monastery beside David’s cave, and built a church. During this time Saint Euthymius converted many monks from the Manichean heresy, he also healed the sick and cast out devils.
Visitors disturbed the tranquillity of the wilderness. Since he loved silence, the saint decided to return to the monastery of Saint Theoctistus. Along the way they found a quiet level place on a hill, and he remained there. This would become the site of Saint Euthymius’ lavra, and a little cave served as his cell, and then as his grave.
Saint Theoctistus went with his brethren to Saint Euthymius and requested him to return to the monastery, but the monk did not agree to this. However, he did promise to attend Sunday services at the monastery.
Saint Euthymius did not wish to have anyone nearby, nor to organize a cenobium or a lavra. The Lord commanded him in a vision not to drive away those who came to him for the salvation of their souls. After some time brethren again gathered around him, and he organized a lavra, on the pattern of the Tharan Lavra. In the year 429, when Saint Euthymius was fifty-two years old, Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem consecrated the lavra church and supplied it with presbyters and deacons.
The lavra was poor at first, but the saint believed that God would provide for His servants. Once, about 400 Armenians on their way to the Jordan came to the lavra. Seeing this, Saint Euthymius called the steward and ordered him to feed the pilgrims. The steward said that there was not enough food in the monastery. Saint Euthymius, however, insisted. Going to the storeroom where the bread was kept, the steward found a large quantity of bread, and the wine casks and oil jars were also filled. The pilgrims ate their fill, and for three months afterwards the door of the storeroom could not be shut because of the abundace of bread. The food remained undiminished, just like the widow of Zarephath’s barrel of meal and cruse of oil (1/3 Kings 17:8-16).
Once, the monk Auxentius refused to carry out his assigned obedience. Despite the fact that Saint Euthymius summoned him and urged him to comply, he remained obstinate. The saint then shouted loudly, “You will be rewarded for your insubordination.” A demon seized Auxentius and threw him to the ground. The brethren asked Abba Euthymius to help him, and then the saint healed the unfortunate one, who came to himself, asked forgiveness and promised to correct himself. “Obedience,” said Saint Euthymius, “is a great virtue. The Lord loves obedience more than sacrifice, but disobedience leads to death.”
Two of the brethren became overwhelmed by the austere life in the monastery of Saint Euthymius, and they resolved to flee. Saint Euthymius saw in a vision that they would be ensnared by the devil. He summoned them and admonished them to abandon their destructive intention. He said, “We must never admit evil thoughts that fill us with sorrow and hatred for the place in which we live, and suggest that we go somewhere else. If someone tries to do something good in the place where he lives but fails to complete it, he should not think that he will accomplish it elsewhere. It is not the place that produces success, but faith and a firm will. A tree which is often transplanted does not bear fruit.”
In the year 431, the Third Ecumenical Council was convened in Ephesus to combat the Nestorian heresy. Saint Euthymius rejoiced over the affirmation of Orthodoxy, but was grieved about Archbishop John of Antioch who defended Nestorius.
In the year 451 the Fourth Ecumenical Council met in Chalcedon to condemn the heresy of Dioscorus who, in contrast to Nestorius, asserted that in the Lord Jesus Christ there is only one nature, the divine (thus the heresy was called Monophysite). He taught that in the Incarnation, Christ’s human nature is swallowed up by the divine nature.
Saint Euthymius accepted the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon and he acknowledged it as Orthodox. News of this spread quickly among the monks and hermits. Many of them, who had previously believed wrongly, accepted the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon because of the example of Saint Euthymius.
Because of his ascetic life and firm confession of the Orthodox Faith, Saint Euthymius is called “the Great.” Wearied by contact with the world, the holy abba went for a time into the inner desert. After his return to the lavra some of the brethren saw that when he celebrated the Divine Liturgy, fire descended from Heaven and encircled the saint. Saint Euthymius himself revealed to several of the monks that often he saw an angel celebrating the Holy Liturgy with him. The saint had the gift of clairvoyance, and he could discern a person’s thoughts and spiritual state from his outward appearance. When the monks received the Holy Mysteries, the saint knew who approached worthily, and who received unworthily.
When Saint Euthymius was 82 years old, the young Savva (the future Saint Savva the Sanctified, December 5), came to his lavra. The Elder received him with love and sent him to the monastery of Saint Theoctistus. He foretold that Saint Savva would outshine all his other disciples in virtue.
When the saint was ninety years of age, his companion and fellow monk Theoctistus became grievously ill. Saint Euthymius went to visit his friend and remained at the monastery for several days. He took leave of him and was present at his end. After burying his body in a grave, he returned to the lavra.
God revealed to Saint Euthymius the time of his death. On the eve of the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great (January 17) Saint Euthymius gave the blessing to serve the all-night Vigil. When the service ended, he took the priests aside and told them that he would never serve another Vigil with them, because the Lord was calling him from this earthly life.
All were filled with great sadness, but the saint asked the brethren to meet him in church in the morning. He began to instruct them, “If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15). Love is the highest virtue, and the bond of perfectness (Col. 3:14). Every virtue is made secure by love and humility. The Lord humbled Himself because of His Love for us and became man. Therefore, we ought to praise Him unceasingly, especially since we monks have escaped worldly distractions and concerns.”
“Look to yourselves, and preserve your souls and bodies in purity. Do not fail to attend the church services, and keep the traditions and rules of our community. If one of the brethren struggles with unclean thoughts, correct, console, and instruct him, so that he does not fall into the devil’s snares. Never refuse hospitality to visitors. Offer a bed to every stranger. Give whatever you can to help the poor in their misfortune.”
Afterwards, having given instructions for the guidance of the brethren, the saint promised always to remain in spirit with them and with those who followed them in his monastery. Saint Euthymius then dismissed everyone but his disciple Dometian. He remained in the altar for three days, then died on January 20, 473 at the age of ninety-seven.
A multitude of monks from all the monasteries and from the desert came to the lavra for the holy abba’s burial, among whom was Saint Gerasimus. The Patriarch Anastasius also came with his clergy, as well as the Nitrian monks Martyrius and Elias, who later became Patriarchs of Jerusalem, as Saint Euthymius had foretold.
Dometian remained by the grave of his Elder for six days. On the seventh day, he saw the holy abba in glory, beckoning to his disciple. “Come, my child, the Lord Jesus Christ wants you to be with me.”
After telling the brethren about the vision, Dometian went to church and joyfully surrendered his soul to God. He was buried beside Saint Euthymius. The relics of Saint Euthymius remained at his monastery in Palestine, and the Russian pilgrim Igumen Daniel saw them in the twelfth century.
The Schemamonk Euthymius of the Kiev Caves imposed upon himself a vow of silence, opening his mouth only for church services and for prayer. The silent schemamonk ate only herbs. He was buried in the Far Caves of Saint Theodosius at the Kiev Caves monastery. His memory is also celebrated on August 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Disdaining the vain glory of this world, Saint Laurence lived in a cave and conquered the passions through prayer and fasting. His incorrupt relics lie in the Far Caves of the Kiev Caves Lavra.
Saint Euthymius of Syanzhemsk and Vologda was born in Vologda, and received monastic tonsure at the Savior-Stone monastery at Lake Kuben. For some time he lived in a solitary cell on the River Kuben, and then gave up the place to Saint Alexander of Kushta (June 9) and moved to Syanzhem, where he founded the Ascension monastery and became its igumen.
Saint Euthymius died around the year 1465, after appointing Saint Chariton (September 28) as his successor. The story of the appearance of his relics was recorded in the sixteenth century by Bishop Ioasaph of Vologda, a noted hagiographer of his time.
The Holy Martyrs Inna, Pinna and Rimma were Slavs from northern Scythia (modern Bulgaria), and they were disciples of the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called. They preached the Gospel of Christ and they baptized many barbarians who converted to the true Faith. They were seized by the local chieftain, but they would not deny Christ, nor would they offer sacrifice to idols.
It was wintertime, and the rivers were so frozen that not only people, but also horses with carts could travel on the ice. The chieftain had the saints tied to logs on the ice, and gradually lowered them into the freezing water. When the ice reached their necks, they surrendered their blessed souls to the Lord.
The holy Martyrs Bassos, Eusebios, Eutychios and Basileides lived during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305), and suffered martyrdom in 303. They were wealthy and members of the Senate. They came to believe in Christ and were baptized after witnessing the martyrdom of Bishop Theopemptos of Nicomedia (January 5), who endured with spiritual bravery the horrible tortures to which the pagans had had subjected him.
The idolaters denounced these men as Christians and brought them before the emperor because they refused to worship the gods of the pagans. The Saints showed no fear whatsoever, but boldly proclaimed their faith in Christ and their eagerness to follow the path which would lead to martyrdom.
In the Synaxarion it is stated that the martyrs removed their belts, the symbols of their rank, and then each of them submitted to severe tortures.
Saint Bassos was buried in the ground up to his waist, and his upper body was cut to pieces. Saint Eusebios was suspended head downwards, and his limbs were cut off with axes. Saint Eutychios was tied to four poles by his hands and feet, and he was pulled apart. Saint Basileides was stabbed in the stomach with a knife.
No information available at this time.
The Holy New Martyr Zachariah was from the Peloponnesos in Greece. He renounced Christ to become a Moslem, then went to ancient Patras and worked there as a furrier. He had a book, The Salvation of Sinners, which he often read. The book moved him to repentance, and he wept bitterly for the great evil he had done.
Saint Zachariah met a certain Elder and told him of his sin. After praying and fasting for twenty days, he returned to the Elder and confessed all the sins he had committed during his life. When he asked the Elder’s blessing to seek martyrdom, the holy man tried to discourage him. He warned that he might not be killed swiftly, but only after much torture. He also pointed out the danger that Zachariah would betray Christ a second time under the torments he would endure. The saint, aflame with zeal for martyrdom, said he was prepared to suffer myriad punishments for the sake of Christ.
The Elder read the prayers of absolution and chrismated the saint (as is done when apostates from the Faith are received back into the Church), then administered the Holy Mysteries to him. Then he blessed Zachariah to go back to the Moslems and declare his faith in Christ. On his way, the saint asked forgiveness from each Christian he met.
The holy martyr went to the judge’s house and said that he had been deceived when he accepted their religion, but now he had come to his senses and returned to Christ. Saint Zachariah was thrown into prison, where he was beaten three times a day.
Finally, the saint died by being stretched out on a rack. Christians asked for his body so they might bury it, but the Moslems refused. They said, “He is neither one of you, nor one of us, for he denied both religions. Therefore, he is unworthy of burial.” His body was dragged through the streets and thrown into a dry well, landing on its knees in an upright position. Christians saw a radiant light over the well the next night, and hastened to venerate the saint. The Turks filled the well with dirt and debris to prevent such gatherings in the future.
By shedding his blood, the holy New Martyr Zachariah washed away the sin of his denial of Christ and received an unfading crown of glory in the year 1782.
Abbot Euthymius Kereselidze was born in 1865 in the village of Sadmeli (Racha region) to the pious Solomon and Marta Kereselidze. At birth he was given the name Evstate. After completing his studies at the local parish school, fifteen-year-old Evstate traveled first to Kutaisi, then Tbilisi, in search of work. With the help of other pious young men Evstate founded a kind of theological “book club” in Tbilisi. The objectives of the organization were to strengthen the Orthodox Faith among the Georgian people, to better understand the ancient school of Georgian chant, and to spread knowledge of this venerable musical tradition among the general public.
In the 1890s the organization purchased a print shop with the help of Saint Ilia the Righteous. In the twenty-five years that followed, these young men zealously published theological texts and distributed them to the public free of charge. After some time Evstate resolved to take upon himself the heavy yoke of monasticism, for which he had been preparing from an early age. His spiritual father, the venerable Saint Alexi (Shushania), supported his decision. In 1912, with the blessing of Bishop Giorgi (Aladashvili) of Imereti, Evstate began to labor as a novice at Gelati Monastery. On December 23, 1912, he was tonsured a monk by a certain Antimos, the abbot of the monastery. He was given the name Ekvtime in honor of Saint Ekvtime of Mt. Athos. In May of 1913 he was ordained a hierodeacon.
In 1917 Fr. Ekvtime was ordained to the priesthood by the same Bishop Giorgi. In the terrible year of 1921, immediately after the Communists seized power in Kutaisi, the authorities deemed Fr. Ekvtime untrustworthy and arrested him. But, according to God’s will, he was released due to the lack of evidence against him. In this ungodly era, the clergy and monks of Gelati Monastery came to expect abuses and persecutions each day. But the faithful hieromonk Ekvtime persevered in his work, gathering hundreds of ancient Georgian hymns for eventual publication according to Western notation.
In 1924 the Communists destroyed the Cathedral of King Davit the Restorer in Kutaisi. Later that year they shot and killed Metropolitan Nazar of Kutaisi-Gaenati and the clergy who served under him. The hysteria had reached its peak. Fr. Ekvtime planned to leave Gelati Monastery and to move the ancient manuscripts with which he had been working to a more secure location. At that time thousands of travelers were killed on the road between Kutaisi and Tbilisi, but Fr. Ekvtime safely transported himself and his cartload of manuscripts from Kutaisi to Mtskheta, a short distance from Tbilisi.
Fr. Ekvtime brought the manuscripts to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral for safekeeping, and he was soon appointed dean of this parish. Even in 1925, when Catholicos-Patriarch Ambrosi was imprisoned at Metekhi and threats to the Georgian clergy increased significantly, Fr. Ekvtime continued to guard the ancient manuscripts faithfully. He transcribed the music from the medieval neume system of notation to the European-style staff system. At the same time, Fr. Ekvtime served as spiritual father to the nuns of Samtavro Convent, located a short distance from Svetitskhoveli.
In 1929 Fr. Ekvtime was relocated to Zedazeni Monastery outside of Mtskheta. He brought the ancient music manuscripts with him to his new home, concealed them in metal vessels, and buried them beneath the earth. Six years later, in November of 1935, he turned over thirty-four volumes of music containing 5,532 chants and several theological manuscripts to the State Museum of Georgia.
During World War II conditions in the Georgian monasteries grew ever more bleak. The abbot of Zedazeni Monastery, Archimandrite Mikael (Mandaria), was taking food to the monks of Saguramo when the Communists shot and killed him for violating the curfew they had imposed.
The young monk Parten (Aptsiauri) was falsely accused and arrested. After the repose of the elder Saba (Pulariani), Fr. Ekvtime was the only monk remaining at Zedazeni. Fr. Ekvtime’s spiritual children, the nuns of Samtavro Convent, cared for him as he grew older. In the winter of 1944 the nun Zoile (Dvalishvili) and several others went to visit him at Zedazeni and found him lying enfeebled in bed.
After a short time Fr. Ekvtime peacefully gave up his soul to the Lord. Fr. Ekvtime was buried in the yard of Zedazeni Monastery, near the church sanctuary.
Part of his rich library was moved to Samtavro. To this day several of the original manuscripts of hymns he transcribed to European-style notation are preserved there.
The ancient school of Georgian chant is preserved up to this day primarily as a result of Abbot Ekvtime’s fearless labors. Saint Ekvtime (Kereselidze), like Saint Ekvtime of Mt. Athos for whom he was named, dedicated his life to the enrichment of his mother Church. Like Saint Ekvtime Taqaishvili, the “Man of God”, he gave his talents and energies to the preservation of Georgia’s unique spiritual heritage. He was a monk-ascetic and a scholar who prayed fervently. (Several of his theological treatises are preserved at Samtavro.) From his youth Saint Ekvtime was for others an example of virginity, humility and patience.
On September 18, 2003, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church declared Ekvtime (Kereselidze) worthy of being numbered among the saints. The Synod called him “Ekvtime the Confessor,” thereby recognizing his confession of the Faith and his vital role in the preservation of the rich tradition of national liturgical song.