MONDAY OF PRODIGAL SON
Holy Father Auxentius of the Mountain, Cyril, Equal-to-the-Apostles & Teacher of the Slavs, Nicholas the New Martyr of Corinth, Abraham, Bishop of Carrhes in Mesopotamia
ST. PETER’S SECOND UNIVERSAL LETTER 1:20-21; 2:1-9
Beloved, first of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep.
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven other persons, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example to those who were to be ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.
The Lord said to his disciples, "Take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Saint Auxentius, by origin a Syrian, served at the court of the emperor Theodosius the Younger (418-450). He was known as a virtuous, learned and wise man, and he was, moreover, a friend of many of the pious men of his era.
Distressed by worldly vanity, Saint Auxentius was ordained to the holy priesthood, and then received monastic tonsure. After this he went to Bithynia and found a solitary place on Mount Oxia, not far from Chalcedon, and there he began the life of a hermit (This mountain was afterwards called Mt. Auxentius). The place of the saint’s efforts was discovered by shepherds seeking their lost sheep. They told others about him, and people began to come to him for healing. Saint Auxentius healed many of the sick and the infirm in the name of the Lord.
In the year 451 Saint Auxentius was invited to the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon, where he denounced the Eutychian and Nestorian heresies. Familiar with Holy Scripture and learned in theology, Saint Auxentius easily bested those opponents who disputed with him. After the end of the Council, Saint Auxentius returned to his solitary cell on the mountain. With his spiritual sight he saw the repose of Saint Simeon the Stylite (459) from a great distance.
Saint Auxentius died about the year 470, leaving behind him disciples and many monasteries in the region of Bithynia. He was buried in the Monastery of Saint Hypatius at Rufiananas, Syria.
Saint Cyril Equal of the Apostles, Teacher of the Slavs (Constantine in the schema), and his older brother Methodius (April 6), were Slavs, born in Macedonia in the city of Thessalonica.
Saint Cyril received the finest of educations, and from the age of fourteen he was raised with the son of the emperor. Later, he was ordained as a priest. Upon his return to Constantinople, he worked as a librarian of the cathedral church, and as a professor of philosophy. Saint Cyril successfully held debates with iconoclast heretics and with Moslems.
Yearning for solitude, he went to Mount Olympos to his older brother Methodius, but his solitude lasted only a short while. Both brothers were sent by the emperor Michael on a missionary journey to preach Christianity to the Khazars in the year 857. Along the way they stopped at Cherson and discovered the relics of the Hieromartyr Clement of Rome (November 25).
Arriving at the territory of the Khazars, the holy brothers spoke with them about the Christian Faith. Persuaded by the preaching of Saint Cyril, the Khazar prince together with all his people accepted Christianity. The grateful prince wanted to reward the preachers with rich presents, but they refused this and instead asked the prince to free and send home with them all the Greek captives. Saint Cyril returned to Constantinople together with 200 such captives set free.
In the year 862 began the chief exploit of the holy brothers. At the request of Prince Rostislav, the emperor sent them to Moravia to preach Christianity in the Slavic language. Saints Cyril and Methodius by a revelation from God compiled a Slavonic alphabet and translated the Gospel, Epistles, the Psalter and many Service books into the Slavonic language. They introduced divine services in Slavonic.
The holy brothers were then summoned to Rome at the invitation of the Roman Pope. Pope Adrian received them with great honor, since they brought with them the relics of the Hieromartyr Clement. Sickly by nature and in poor health, Saint Cyril soon fell ill from his many labors, and after taking the schema, he died in the year 869 at the age of forty-two. Before his death, he expressed his wish for his brother to continue the Christian enlightenment of the Slavs. Saint Cyril was buried in the Roman church of Saint Clement, whose own relics also rest there, brought to Italy from Cherson by the Enlighteners of the Slavs.
Saint Isaac was the first person in northern lands to live as a fool for Christ. His name in the world was Chern. Before becoming a monk, he was a rich merchant in the city of Toropets in the Pskov lands. Having distributed all his substance to the poor, he went to Kiev and received the monastic tonsure from Saint Anthony (July 10).
He led a very strict life of reclusion, eating only a single prosphora and a little water at the end of the day. After seven years as a hermit, he was subjected to a fierce temptation by the devil. Having mistaken the Evil One for Christ, he worshipped him, after which he fell down terribly crippled. Saints Anthony and Theodosius took care of him and nursed him. Only after three years did he begin to walk and to speak. He did not wish to attend church, but he was brought there by force.
Upon his return to health he took upon himself the exploit of holy foolishness, enduring beatings, nakedness and cold. Before his death he went into seclusion, where again he was subjected to an onslaught of demons, from which he was delivered by the Sign of the Cross and by prayer.
After his healing he spent about twenty years in asceticism. He died in the year 1090. His relics rest in the Caves of Saint Anthony, and part of them were transferred to Toropets by the igumen of the Kudin monastery in the year 1711. The Life of the Blessed Isaac was recorded by Saint Nestor in the Chronicles (under the year 1074). The account in the Kiev Caves Paterikon differs somewhat from that of Saint Nestor. In the Great Reading Menaion under April 27 is the “Account of Saint Isaac and his Deception by the Devil.”
The Kiev Caves Icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos (May 3) is one of the most ancient icons in the Russian Orthodox Church. The Mother of God entrusted it to four Byzantine architects, who in 1073 brought the icon to Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves. The architects arrived at the monks’ cave and asked, “Where do you want to build the church?” The saints answered, “Go, the Lord will point out the place.”
“How is it that you, who are about to die, have still not designated the place?” the architects wondered. “And they gave us much gold.”
Then the monks summoned all the brethren and they began to question the Greeks, saying, “Tell us the truth. Who sent you, and how did you end up here?”
The architects answered, “One day, when each of us was asleep in his own home, handsome youths came to us at sunrise, and said, ‘The Queen summons you to Blachernae.’ We all arrived at the same time and, questioning one another we learned that each of us had heard this command of the Queen, and that the youths had come to each of us. Finally, we beheld the Queen of Heaven with a multitude of warriors. We bowed down to Her, and She said, ‘I want to build Myself a Church in Rus, at Kiev, and so I ask you to do this. Take enough gold for three years.’”
“We bowed down and asked, ‘Lady Queen! You are sending us to a foreign land. To whom are we sent?’ She answered, ‘I send you to the monks Anthony and Theodosius.’”
“We wondered, ‘Why then, Lady, do You give us gold for three years? Tell us that which concerns us, what we shall eat and what we shall drink, and tell us also what You know about it.’”
“The Queen replied, ‘Anthony will merely give the blessing, then depart from this world to eternal repose. The other one, Theodosius, will follow him after two years. Therefore, take enough gold. Moreover, no one can do what I shall do to honor you. I shall give you what eye has not seen, what ear has not heard, and what has not entered into the heart of man (1 Cor.2:9). I, Myself, shall come to look upon the church and I shall dwell within it.’”
“She also gave us relics of the holy martyrs Menignus, Polyeuctus, Leontius, Acacius, Arethas, James, and Theodore, saying, ‘Place these within the foundation.’ We took more than enough gold, and She said, ‘Come out and see the resplendent church.’ We went out and saw a church in the air. Coming inside again, we bowed down and said, ‘Lady Queen, what will be the name of the church?’”
“She answered, ‘I wish to call it by My own name.’ We did not dare to ask what Her name was, but She said again, ‘It will be the church of the Mother of God.’ After giving us this icon, She said, ‘This will be placed within.’ We bowed down to Her and went to our own homes, taking with us the icon we received from the hands of the Queen.”
After hearing this account, everyone glorified God, and Saint Anthony said, “My children, we never left this place. Those handsome youths summoning you were holy angels, and the Queen in Blachernae was the Most Holy Theotokos. As for those who appeared to be us, and the gold they gave you, the Lord only knows how He deigned to do this with His servants. Blessed be your arrival! You are in good company: the venerable icon of the Lady.” For three days Saint Anthony prayed that the Lord would show him the place for the church.
After the first night there was a dew throughout all the land, but it was dry on the holy spot. On the second morning throughout all the land it was dry, but on the holy spot it was wet with dew. On the third morning, they prayed and blessed the place, and measured the width and length of the church with a golden sash. (This sash had been brought long ago by the Varangian Shimon, who had a vision about the building of a church.) A bolt of lightning, falling from heaven by the prayer of Saint Anthony, indicated that this spot was pleasing to God. So the foundation of the church was laid.
The icon of the Mother of God was glorified by numerous miracles.
On February 14, 1572, at the wish of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich the Terrible, and with the blessing of Metropolitan Anthony, the relics of the holy martyrs Michael and his councilor Theodore were transferred to Moscow, to the temple dedicated to them. From there in 1770 they were transferred to the Visitation cathedral, and on November 21, 1774 to the Archangel cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. See September 20 for their Life.
Saint Maron was born in the fourth century near the city of Cyrrhus in Syria. He spent almost all his time beneath the open sky in prayer, vigil, ascetical works and strict fasting. He obtained from God the gift of healing the sick and casting out demons. He counselled those who turned to him for advice to be temperate, to be concerned for their salvation, and to guard against avarice and anger.
Saint Maron, a friend of Saint John Chrysostom, died before 423 at an advanced age.
Some of Saint Maron’s disciples were James the Hermit (November 26), Limnius (February 23), and Domnina (March 1). Saint Maron founded many monasteries around Cyrrhus, and converted a pagan temple near Antioch into a Christian church.
Saint Abraham, Bishop of Charres, lived during the mid-fourth and early fifth centuries, and was born in the city of Cyrrhus. In his youth he entered a monastery. Later he became a hermit in Lebanon, a place where many pagans lived.
Saint Abraham suffered much vexation from the pagans, who wanted to expel him from their area. He once saw tax-collectors beating those who were unable to pay. Moved to pity, he paid the taxes for them, and those people later accepted Christ.
The Christian inhabitants of this village built a church and they fervently besought Saint Abraham to accept the priesthood and become their pastor. The monk fulfilled their wish. Having encouraged his flock in the faith, he left them in place of himself another priest, and he again retired to a monastery.
For his deep piety he was made bishop of Charres; his pastors the saint constantly taught by his God-pleasing life. From the time of his accepting of the priesthood, he never used cooked food. The emperor Theodosius the Younger wanted to meet the bishop and made him an invitation. After he arrived in Constantinople, Saint Abraham soon died. His remains were solemnly transferred to the city of Charres and there given over to burial.
Holy Hiero-schema monk Hilarion the Georgian (Ise Qanchaveli in the world) was born in 1776 in the village of Losiantkhevi, in the Shorapani district of Kutaisi. His parents, Khakhuli and Mariam Qanchaveli, were pious and God-fearing nobles.
According to God’s will, Ise’s uncle, the hermit Hierodeacon Stepane, took his six-year-old nephew into his care. When Stepane reposed, Ise moved to Tabakini Monastery, but learning that a seminary had opened in Tbilisi, he set off for it. On his way he visited a certain Bishop Athanasios of Nikozi to receive his blessing, but the bishop, delighted by the youth’s fervent prayers, advised him to return home to his family: “My son, you will learn much more in the wilderness than you ever could in the classroom. Return home, and the Lord, having instructed you in prayer, will lead you on a path that will serve your people and the Church.”
Ise returned to the bosom of his family, and his father took him to Kutaisi to be raised in the court of the Imeretian king. King Solomon II (1789-1815) soon recognized that the young Ise stood above all the other courtiers in piety, and he appointed him to be his personal spiritual adviser and instructor. At the king’s suggestion, Ise married the Princess Mariam. Soon after his marriage, the humble nobleman was ordained to the priesthood and appointed confessor of the court church. Only two years later Princess Mariam reposed, leaving Fr. Ise a widower.
After the Russian annexation of Kartli-Kakheti, the imperial court of the tsar increased diplomatic correspondence with the court of King Solomon II. The king was urged likewise to unite the Imeretian Kingdom to Russia. Solomon summoned a council of noblemen, and it was decided that Imereti would remain independent, while maintaining friendly relations with Russia until the king’s death. However, it was agreed that since King Solomon had no heir, after his repose the court of the imperial tsar would acquire jurisdiction over the region.
But the political climate in Georgia became increasingly tense, and the ability of the Imeretian court to govern was severely undermined.
The court was suddenly besieged with cases of envy and treason, and it became necessary for the king to flee to Turkey. Protopresbyter Ise Qanchaveli accompanied King Solomon II to his place of exile and remained with him to the end of the king’s life.
After the king’s death in 1815, Fr. Ise received an amnesty from Tsar Alexander I (1801-1825) on behalf of the king and his court. Ise himself planned to go into reclusion in the village where he was born, but King Solomon’s widow, Queen Mariam, summoned him to Moscow where she was being held in “honorable captivity.” Fr. Ise brought to her a piece of the Life-giving Cross of our Lord, which had belonged to King Solomon, and the queen preserved her husband’s treasure in the court church.
But life at the imperial court was tiresome for the God-fearing Fr. Ise, so he exchanged his clothing for beggars’ rags and set off for Mt. Athos in the year 1819.
Fr. Ise appeared before the holy fathers of Mt. Athos as an unknown pilgrim, who had come to venerate the holy places. He first visited Ivḗron Monastery and from there crossed over the peninsula to Dionysiou Monastery.
In 1821 Ise was tonsured a monk and given the name Hilarion. He was presented with new monastic garments for the tonsure service, but asked permission to remain dressed in his own rags.
Fr. Hilarion fulfilled his every obedience with love. He was dispirited only by his ignorance of the Greek language, which prevented him from hearing and understanding the Word of God during the divine services. Finally he received permission from the abbot of Dionysiou to borrow some of the Georgian books from the large collection of sacred manuscripts at Ivḗron Monastery.
Upon arriving at the monastery, Fr. Hilarion went to venerate the Ivḗron Icon of the Mother of God. While praying on his knees before the icon, a Greek archimandrite whom he knew from Moscow saw and recognized him. He bowed before him, kissed his hands and cried out: “Fr. Ise! Holy Shepherd! Confessor of the king!”
Soon the news spread through all the monasteries of Mt. Athos that the spiritual father of the king had concealed himself as a beggar.
Everywhere the monks greeted him with great reverence. But Fr. Hilarion, ashamed of the attention, withdrew to the wilderness not far from the monastery.
At that time, in retaliation for the Greek Insurrection of 1821, the Turks were pillaging Greece and slaughtering the Christians. In 1822 a certain Abdul Robut-Pasha surrounded the Holy Mountain with an enormous army and commanded the abbots of all the monasteries to submit to his authority. Representatives of all the monasteries, including Fr. Hilarion and two others from Dionysiou were sent to Chromitsa to petition the pasha. Fr. Hilarion stood boldly before the pasha, burning with a desire to be martyred at the hands of an unbeliever.
Having learned that Fr. Hilarion was a Georgian, Robut-Pasha was overjoyed: he himself was also Georgian by descent but had been kidnapped by the Turks in his early adolescence.
The pasha proposed that Saint Hilarion leave the monastery and move to his palace in Thessalonica, promising him every kind of material wealth. But Fr. Hilarion refused and condemned the ruler’s unbelief. The furious pasha began to curse the Orthodox believers and all the Christian saints, among them the Most Holy Theotokos. The holy father was allowed no opportunity to reply to the pasha’s blasphemous remarks; instead they released him and took the other monks captive.
Having returned to the monastery, Fr. Hilarion regretted that he had not properly rebuffed the blasphemous pasha. His suffering was aggravated when the unbeliever continued to martyr and massacre other Christians. Finally he asked the abbot for his blessing and set off for the Turkish court in Thessalonica. There he stood before the pasha and fearlessly trampled upon his false teachings: “You sought to deny the virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God,” he charged. “Even your prophet Muhammad admits that Jesus was born without seed of a Virgin and that the mystery of the birth of God is necessarily beyond human comprehension. He is the True God, Who took on flesh for the salvation of mankind, to rescue fallen man from the curse of sin and death!”
The pasha began to argue, but Saint Hilarion told him, “You, the son of Christian parents, are on such a brutal rampage that you have deadened the pangs of conscience calling you back to the true Faith!”
The pasha laughed and answered that he was glad to have been delivered from the “ridiculous” Christian Faith. “I am indebted to the man who kidnapped me from my parents and sold me to the Turks,” he said, “and I have since rewarded him generously for his deed. If your Faith is indeed true, why have you fallen into the hands of the invaders? Why has your beloved God punished you so?”
“You misunderstand everything, Pasha,” answered Saint Hilarion.
“Does not a loving father take up the rod when his beloved son runs wild? Truly he does this not out of hatred but out of love, desiring to save the ignorant from grave misfortune. When the father sees that his child has corrected his behavior, he casts the rod into the fire. The Lord has permitted these sorrows to befall us because of our sins. You are a staff in the hands of the Lord: when He sees that we have mended our ways, He will cast you into the fire as well!”
For three consecutive days Saint Hilarion confronted the pasha in his palace, desiring to infuriate him to the point that he would order his execution. On the fourth day Saint Hilarion arrived at the palace and began to speak about the falseness of Muhammad and the Islamic faith.
Then the pasha provoked him even further, demanding, “What do you think—where will we go after death?”
Standing amidst believers of divers faiths, Saint Hilarion boldly answered that only those who truly believe in God, who are found in the bosom of the Orthodox Faith of Christ, will be saved. The enraged bystanders demanded that the insolent monk be executed, and Abdul Robut-Pasha finally ordered his death. Saint Hilarion prepared to meet death with joy, but a pair of the pasha’s servants, Georgians by descent, requested that the pasha repeal his death sentence, since it would be shameful for them to murder their fellow countryman.
They intended to send him in secret to Mt. Athos, but instead Saint Hilarion began to minister to the sick prisoners held in Thessalonica, and he selflessly dedicated himself to their service for six months. Then, according to God’s will, he set off again for Mt. Athos. Having returned to his monastery, Fr. Hilarion labored for three years as a hermit and afterwards withdrew to the tower of New Skete (a dependency of the Monastery of Saint Paul) to lead a life of strict asceticism.
On Fridays he kept a strict fast, and on other days he ate only tiny pieces of dried bread. These he would place in a narrow-mouthed jar and eat only what he was able to draw out with his hand. He drank just one glass of water a day. Throughout the period of his reclusion in the tower, demons tempted Saint Hilarion with terrible visions.
Once a group of faithful Christians desired to visit the hermit. As the elder received no one, they were not admitted. The pilgrims therefore decided to form a human ladder, standing one on top of the other in order to reach the small window of his cell. Fearing for their lives but not wanting to break his vow of reclusion, Saint Hilarion temporarily abandoned his cell and fled to the forest.
After some time, Saint Hilarion became physically weak from his strict ascetic labors and was forced to leave behind the solitary life. With the help of his faithful friend Benedict the Georgian, he gradually regained some of his strength and moved to the Ivḗron Monastery.
At the Ivḗron Monastery he took charge of the Georgian library, organized a catalog, and compiled twelve volumes of Lives of the Saints, which he entitled The Flower Garden. He presented the twelve volumes to the abbot of Zographou Monastery before the latter departed for Russia. In Russia the abbot published the twelve volumes in the Georgian language—without mention of the name of their compiler.
Saint Hilarion reposed at Saint Panteleimon Monastery, known as the Russikon, in a cell named for Great-martyr George, on February 14, 1864. Though he was desperately ill, Saint Hilarion continued to thank the Lord sincerely until his last day. “Glory to God!” he would say. “I desired martyrdom, but God did not grant it to me. Instead He sent me an illness which will be equal in merit to martyrdom if I am able to bear it!”
Prior to his death he asked his disciple, Father Savva, to bury his body in secret, but circumstances later required that his burial place be revealed. In 1867, during the vigil for the feast of the Ascension of our Lord, a group of monks opened Saint Hilarion’s burial vault and immediately sensed a sweet fragrance issuing forth from his body. At that moment one of the hermits saw a brilliant sphere of light shining like the sun over Fr. Hilarion’s cell.
The Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church canonized Hieroschemamonk Hilarion (Qanchaveli) on October 17, 2002, and to differentiate him from Saint Hilarion the Georgian (commemorated November 19), called him “Hilarion Kartveli, Akhali” or “Hilarion the Georgian, the New.”