ABSTAIN FROM MEAT
Hesychius the Martyr, Our Holy Father Nicholas Planas, Joachim of Vatopedi who was given the name Papoulakis, Andronikos & Athanasia the Martyrs, Theodotos the Holy Martyr, Bishop of Cyrenia, Euthalia the Virgin-Martyr of Sicily, Chad, Bishop of Lichfield
Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehosh'aphat; for there I will sit to judge all the nations round about.
Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.
Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.
And the Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.
So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwell in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy and strangers shall never again pass through it.
And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the valley of Shittim.
Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall be inhabited for ever, and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, and I will not clear the guilty, for the Lord dwells in Zion."
Yet even now, " says the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil. Who knows whether he will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, a cereal offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.
Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, "Spare thy people, O Lord, and make not thy heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'
Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people. The Lord answered and said to his people, "Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.
I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his front into the eastern sea, and his rear into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things.
Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield.
Be glad, O sons of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord, your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.
The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
Hieromartyr Theodotus, Bishop of Cyrenia
The Hieromartyr Theodotus, a native of Galatia in Asia Minor, was Bishop of Cyrenia in Cyprus. During a time of persecution against Christians under the impious emperor Licinius (311-324), Saint Theodotus openly preached Christ, calling on the pagans to abandon idolatry and turn to the true God. Sabinus, the governor of Cyprus, ordered that Bishop Theodotus be arrested and brought to trial.
When he heard about this order, the saint did not wait for the soldiers to be sent after him, but immediately went to the governor saying, “I, whom you seek, am here. I have shown myself in order to preach Christ my God.”
The governor ordered that the saint be beaten without mercy, suspended from a tree, raked with sharp implements, and then be taken to prison. Five days later Saint Theodotus was brought to the governor, who presumed that after his tortures the bishop would prefer to renounce Christ, rather than endure new sufferings.
However, Saint Theodotus did not cease to preach about Christ. At first they put the saint on an iron grate, under which they lit a fire, and then hammered nails into his feet and let him go. Many witnessed the sufferings of the martyr. Astonished at the saint’s endurance and his divinely-inspired speech, they came to believe in Christ. Learning of this, Sabinus gave orders to stop the torture and throw the saint into prison.
During the reign of Saint Constantine the Great (May 21), the freedom to confess their faith was given to all Christians, and among those set free from prison was Saint Theodotus. The saint returned to Cyrenia and after two years serving as bishop he peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in about the year 326.
Saint Arsenius, Bishop of Tver
Saint Arsenius, Bishop of Tver, was born at Tver, and in his early years received monastic tonsure in the Kiev Caves monastery. Even among the monks of this ancient monastery, distinguished for their piety, Arsenius was noted for his saintly life as well as for his strictness in keeping his monastic vows, his knowledge of the Church typikon, his study of Holy Scripture, and his love for work.
Under Metropolitan Cyprian of Kiev (1380-1382) he served as archdeacon, and when the Metropolitan was absent, he governed the administration of the Kiev metropolitanate. On July 3, 1390 he went with Metropolitan Cyprian to Tver, where at the request of Prince Micjae of Tver, a Council of Russian and Greek hierarchs had been convened to pass judgment upon Bishop Euthymius of Tver.
The prince and the bishop were involved in a lengthy dispute, and many of the people of Tver made serious accusations against the bishop. After unsuccessful attempts to restore peace to the Tver church, Metropolitan Cyprian deposed Euthymius as bishop and sent him off to Moscow to the Chudov monastery.
Saint Arsenius was appointed to the Tver cathedra, but he was both troubled and afraid to accept this position, in view of the great enmity and spite in that place. Upon the return of Metropolitan Cyprian and archdeacon Arsenius to Moscow, the Prince sent his nobles to the Metropolitan with a petition to consecrate Arsenius as Bishop of Tver. This time Arsenius also refused. In the words of the chronicle for the year 1390 “even at the Metropolitan’s entreaty, Archdeacon Arsenius would not go to Tver.”
After threatening Arsenius with suspension, the Metropolitan and the Prince finally got him to agree to accept episcopal consecration, which took place on August 15, 1390. Among the bishops taking part in the laying on of hands was Saint Stephen, Bishop of Perm (April 26).
Bishop Arsenius, as a man of great prayer and peacemaker, was able to end much of the discord in the Tver principality. During his episcopacy, from 1390 to 1409, cathedrals were built and consecrated in honor of the Archangel Michael at Staritsa and Mikulina, and the Savior-Transfiguration cathedral was restored with the construction of a cathedral belltower. The saint founded the Zheltikov monastery on the river Tmaka near Tver, where a church was built in honor of Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves (1394), and a stone Dormition cathedral.
Desiring that the monks of this new monastery would always be edified by the asceticism of the Fathers of the Caves, Saint Arsenius gave orders to compile a list from the Kiev Caves Paterikon, using the most ancient manuscripts of this precious memorial of Russian literature. This compilation was known as the Arseniev Redaction.
The saint died on March 2, 1409, and was buried in the Zheltikov monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, which he founded. In 1483 his relics were found incorrupt and were placed in the monastery cathedral. In the same year hieromonk Theodosius composed a Life and a Canon in honor of the holy bishop.
At a Council of 1547 Saint Arsenius’ commemoration was established throughout all the Church.
Virgin Martyr Euthalia of Sicily
The Holy Martyr Euthalia lived with her mother and brother in Leontina on the island of Sicily. Euthalia’s mother, a pagan, suffered for a long while with an issue of blood. Once, the Martyrs Alphaeus, Philadelphus and Cyprian (May 10) appeared to her in a dream and told her she would be healed only if she believed in Christ and was baptized.
After being baptized with her daughter, she was healed of her infirmity. When Euthalia’s pagan brother Sirmianus learned of the baptism, went into a violent rage. The mother succeeded in fleeing, but Saint Euthalia confessed herself a Christian and suffered martyrdom. After fierce tortures, the saint was beheaded with a sword.
Martyr Troadius of Neocaesarea
The Holy Martyr Troadius suffered for Christ in Neocaesarea, Pontus under the emperor Decius (249-251), enduring horrible tortures. Saint Gregory of Neocaesarea (November 17) foretold his martyrdom and witnessed his sufferings in a vision. He also saw the soul of Saint Troadius departing from his body and hastening joyfully to Heaven.
Venerable Agathon of Egypt
Saint Agathon of Egypt, a contemporary of Saint Macarius the Great (January 19) and a disciple of Saint Lot (October 22), he lived in asceticism in a skete in Egypt. He was distinguished by exceptional meekness, accounting himself the most sinful of men.
Once, monks who had heard of his discernment came to Saint Agathon to see if they could make him lose his temper. They asked him, “Are you Abba Agathon, a fornicator and a proud man?”
“Yes, that is true,” the monk replied.
“Are you the Agathon who is always talking nonsense?” the monks inquired.
“I am,” the saint agreed.
“Are you Agathon the heretic?” the monks persisted.
Saint Agathon said, “I am not a heretic.”
They asked the saint why he agreed with them when they accused him of vices, but then denied this last charge. Agathon replied, “I accepted the first accusations, since that was beneficial for my soul. But heresy is separation from God, and I do not wish to be separated from God.”
Astonished at his discernment, they returned to their monastery, edified.
When asked which was more important for salvation, bodily asceticism or interior vigilance, Saint Agathon said, “Man is like a tree. Bodily asceticism is the foliage, but interior vigilance is the fruit. Holy Scripture says that ‘every tree which does not bring forth good fruit shall be cut down and thrown into the fire’ (Mt.3:10). Therefore, we should focus our attention on the fruit. But a tree also needs the protection of its foliage, which is bodily asceticism.”
Saint Agathon died in about the year 435. For three days before his repose the monk sat in silence and concentration, as though disturbed about something. When the monks questioned him, he answered that he saw himself before the Judgment Seat of God. “How is it possible that you, Father, should fear judgment?” they asked him.
“I have done my best to keep the commandments of the Lord, but I am a man. How can I be certain that my deeds have been pleasing to God?”
“Do you not trust that all the good deeds which you have accomplished are pleasing to God?” asked the monks.
“I have no such hope until I see God. His judgment is not man’s judgment.” Having said this, the saint departed to the Lord.
Saint Agathon is commemorated on January 8 on the Greek calendar.
400 Martyrs slain by the Lombards in Sicily
400 Martyrs Slain by the Lombards in Sicily refused to participate in idol worship and were massacred by the Lombards (a Germanic tribe) in the year 579. Among those who perished, the names of the presbyter Sanctulus and the hermit Hospicius have been preserved.
St Gregory Dialogus (March 12) has written of them.
Saint Sabbatius of Tver
Saint Sabbatius of Tver pursued asceticism with the blessing of Saint Arsenius, Bishop of Tver, at a distance 15 versts from Tver. Saint Sabbatius established a monastery there, known for the strictness and holiness of its rule. Such ascetics as Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk (September 9) and Saint Cornelius of Komel (May 19) went there to be instructed in monasticism. The chains found in the cave where Saint Sabbatius practiced silence testify to his ascetic deeds. He died no later than the year 1434.
“Reigning” Icon of the Mother of God
The “Reigning” Icon of the Mother of God appeared on March 2, 1917, the day of Tsar Nicholas’s abdication, in the village of Kolomskoye near Moscow.
In February 1917, an elderly woman named Eudokia saw the Mother of God in a dream telling her to go to Kolomskoye to find a large blackened icon in a church. After the vision was repeated three times, she went to Kolomskoye to search for the icon with the priest Nicholas.
In the basement of the church they found the icon and started wiping off the accumulated dust. Then they were able to see the Most Holy Theotokos wearing a crown and sitting on a throne. Immediately, Father Nicholas celebrated a service of Thanksgiving and an Akathist.
News of the icon’s discovery spread throughout Russia, and there were several miracles of healing from physical and mental infirmities. As time went by, the icon renewed itself and became brighter and brighter. Particularly striking was the blood-red robe of the Virgin.
Since the icon was revealed just as the Tsar abdicated, many people believed that the Queen of Heaven had assumed royal authority over the Russian land, and so the icon became known as the “Reigning” icon. It was discovered that the icon had come from the Ascension convent in Moscow. In 1812, before Napoleon’s invasion, this icon and others were sent to Kolomskoye’s Ascension church for safekeeping. Apparently forgotten, the icons were never returned to Moscow.
A Service and Akathist to the “Reigning” Icon were composed with the assistance of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon (+ 1925). Many copies of the icon were venerated throughout Russia, but these were confiscated by the Soviets. The Service and Akathist to the icon were also forbidden to be served.
The original icon is said to be in the Novodevichii Museum in Moscow, and there is a copy in the Church of the Kazan Mother of God in Kolomskoye.
The “Reigning” Icon, which belongs to the Panachranta type, shows the Theotokos seated on a throne with Her Son.