4TH MONDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Hilarion the New, Herodion the Apostle of the 70, Stephen the Wonderworker
The LORD of hosts has sworn: "As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains trample him under foot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder." This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? In the year that King Ahaz died came this oracle: "Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod which smote you is broken, for from the serpent's root will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying serpent. And the first-born of the poor will feed, and the needy lie down in safety; but I will kill your root with famine, and your remnant I will slay. Wail, O gate; cry, O city; melt in fear, O Philistia, all of you! For smoke comes out of the north, and there is no straggler in his ranks." What will one answer the messengers of the nation? "The LORD has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.
And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.
He who is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die. Men of perverse mind are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight. Be assured, an evil man will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will be delivered. Like a gold ring in a swine's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion. The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath. One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it. He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it. He who trusts in his riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. He who troubles his household will inherit wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but lawlessness takes away lives. If the righteous is requited on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner! Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. A good man obtains favor from the LORD, but a man of evil devices he condemns. A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved. A good wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are treacherous. The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers men.
Saint Hilarion the New, Igumen of Pelekete Monastery, from his youth devoted himself to the service of God and spent many years as a hermit. Because of his holy and blameless life he was ordained to the holy priesthood, and later he was made igumen of the Pelekete monastery (near the Dardanelles). Saint Hilarion was granted gifts of clairvoyance and wonderworking by the Lord.
Through prayer he brought down rain during a drought, and like the Prophet Elisha he separated the waters of a river, he drove harmful beasts from the fields, he filled the nets of fishermen when they had no success in fishing, and he did many other miracles. In addition to these things, he was able to heal the sick and cast out demons.
Saint Hilarion suffered on Great and Holy Thursday in the year 754, when the military commander Lakhanodrakon suddenly descended upon the Pelekete monastery in pursuit of icon-venerators, boldly forcing his way into the church, disrupting the service and throwing the Holy Gifts upon the ground. Forty-two monks were arrested, slapped into chains, sent to the Edessa district and murdered. The remaining monks were horribly mutilated: they beat them, they burned their beards with fire, they smeared their faces with tar and cut off the noses of some of the confessors. Saint Hilarion died for the veneration of icons during this persecution.
Saint Hilarion left behind spiritual works containing moral directives for spiritual effort. Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk (September 9 and October 18) was well acquainted with the work of Saint Hilarion, and he also wrote about the significance of monastic struggles in his own theological works.
Saint Stephen the Confessor, Igumen of Triglia Monastery, suffered under the iconoclast emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820). From a young age, the holy ascetic dedicated his life to God and received monastic tonsure. He later became head of the Triglia monastery near Constantinople.
When persecution again began against holy icons, the saintly igumen was summoned for questioning, and they tried to force him to sign a document rejecting the veneration of icons. Saint Stephen steadfastly refused to betray Orthodoxy and he boldly denounced the emperor for his impiety. They subjected the saint to cruel torments, after which they sent him to prison in the year 815. Weakened and sick, the holy Confessor Stephen soon died in prison from his sufferings.
Martyr Eustratius of the Caves was born in the eleventh century at Kiev into a wealthy family. As an adult, he received monastic tonsure at the Kiev Caves monastery, after giving away all his possesions to the poor. Saint Eustratius humbly underwent obediences at the monastery, strictly fulfilling the rule of prayer and passing his days in fasting and vigilance.
In 1096 the Polovetsians captured Kiev and ravaged the monastery of the Caves, doing away with many of the monks. Saint Eustratius was taken into captivity, and was sold into slavery with thirty monastic laborers and twenty inhabitants of Kiev to a certain Jew living in Korsun.
The impious Jew tried to make the captives deny Christ, threatening to kill those who refused by starving them. Saint Eustratius encouraged and exhorted his brother Christians, “Brothers! Let none of us who are baptized and believe in Christ betray the vows made at Baptism. Christ has regenerated us through water and the Spirit. He has freed us from the curse of the Law by His Blood, and He has made us heirs of His Kingdom. If we live, we shall live for the Lord. If we die, we shall die in the Lord and inherit eternal life.”
Inspired by the saint’s words, the captives resolved to die of starvation, rather than renounce Christ, Who is the food and drink of Eternal Life. Exhausted by hunger and thirst, some captives perished after three days, some after four days, and some after seven days. Saint Eustratius remained alive for fourteen days, since he was accustomed to fasting from his youth. Suffering from hunger, he still did not touch food nor water. The impious Jew, seeing that he had lost the money he had paid for the captives, decided to take revenge on the holy monk.
The radiant Feast of the Resurrection of Christ drew near, and the Jewish slave owner was celebrating the Jewish Passover with his companions. He decided to crucify Saint Eustratius. The cruel tormentors mocked the saint, offering to let him share their Passover meal. The Martyr replied, “The Lord has now bestown a great grace upon me. He has permitted me to suffer on a cross for His Name just as He suffered.” The saint also predicted a horrible death for the Jew.
Hearing this, the enraged Jew grabbed a spear and stabbed Saint Eustratius on the cross. The martyr’s body was taken down from the cross and thrown into the sea. Christian believers long searched for the holy relics of the martyr, but were not able to find them. But through the Providence of God the incorrupt relics were found in a cave and worked many miracles. Later, they were transferred to the Near Caves of the Kiev Caves monastery.
The prediction of the holy Martyr Eustratius that his blood would be avenged was fulfilled soon after his death. The Byzantine Emperor issued a decree expelling all Jews from Korsun, depriving them of their property, and putting their elders to death for torturing Christians. The Jew who crucified Saint Eustratius was hanged on a tree, receiving just punishment for his wickedness.
Saint Hilarion of Gdov and Pskov Lake, was a disciple of Saint Euphrosynus of Pskov (May 15). In 1460 on the banks of the River Zhelcha, not far from Gdov, he founded the Ozersk [Lake] Monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God. The monastery bordered the territory of the Livonian Knights, and the monks constantly suffered the incursions of that military order. Despite harsh conditions and insufficient means, Saint Hilarion maintained a high level of pious and ascetic life at the monastery, and made great efforts to adorn and build up the monastery.
Saint Hilarion reposed on March 28, 1476 and was buried in the church of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos in the monastery he founded. Afterwards, a church was built at the monastery in honor of the Nativity of Christ. The left chapel was dedicated to the founder of the Gdov monastery. Saint Hilarion of Gdov is also commemorated on October 21, on the Feast of his heavenly patron and namesake.
Saint Barachisius was the brother of Saint Jonah. They were Christians who lived in the village of Yasa in Persia during the time of the emperor Sapor (310-331), a fierce persecutor of Christians.
Learning that Christians were being tortured in the city of Baravokh, they went there to the prison where Saints Zanithas, Lazarus, Maruthas, Narses, Elias, Marinus, Habib, Sembeeth (Sivsithina), and Savva were being held.
They encouraged them to adhere to the Christian Faith until the very end. The holy brothers were arrested and brought to trial before the Persian princes Masdrath, Siroth and Marmis, who urged them to worship the sun, fire, and water. The holy martyrs firmly confessed their faith in Christ and would not agree to the demands of the pagans. Therefore, they were subjected to fierce torments and death.
Saint Jonah suffered first. They tied the holy martyr to a tree and beat him for a long time, then they dragged him across the ice of a frozen lake. They also cut off his fingers and toes, and cut out his tongue. Then they peeled the skin from his head, and finally sawed his body in half and threw it in a ditch.
They placed red-hot shackles on the wrists of Saint Barachisius, poured molten tin in his nose, ears and mouth, and they raked him with sharp instruments, after they tied him to a turning wheel. The holy martyr surrendered his soul to God after they poured boiling tar in his mouth.
The bodies of the holy martyrs Jonah, Barachisius and the other martyrs were buried by a pious Christian named Habdisotes.
The Holy Martyr Boyan, Prince of Bulgaria, suffered for Christ around the year 830. When his pagan brother Malomir [Vladimir] ascended the Bulgarian throne, Prince Boyan asked him to free the learned Christian Kinamon, who had been in prison for a long time for refusing to participate in pagan sacrifices under Prince Obrit (Krutogon), Prince Malomir’s predecessor.
Malomir consented and gave Kinamon to Prince Boyan as a slave. Kinamon spoke to Boyan about Christianity, telling him of the errors of paganism and that belief in Christ is necessary for salvation. At the end of their conversation he told the prince, “Without Jesus Christ there is no light for the mind, no life for the soul. He alone is the Teacher of mankind and our Savior. By His death, He has reconciled fallen mankind with God. If you do not wish to perish, believe in the Lord Jesus.” Prince Boyan recognized the truth of his words, and was inspired to ask for Baptism.
The newly-converted prince was filled with a love of prayer, fasting and contemplation of God. Malomir, learning about the conversion of his brother to Christianity, demanded that he renounce the Christian Faith and return to paganism. Instead, the holy Prince Boyan answered, “I despise the pagan idols and I revere Christ, the true God. No one shall separate me from the love of Christ.” Malomir, hearing his brother’s reply, sentenced him to death.
Before his martyric death, the holy martyr-prince declared: “The faith for which I now die will spread throughout the Bulgarian land. You vainly imagine that you will stop it by killing me. Temples to the true God will be built, and priests will offer Him true worship. The idols and their foul sacrifices, however, will vanish.” Then he said to his brother Malomir, “You will gain nothing from your cruelty, and death will soon overtake you.”
The holy martyr was killed by the sword, and his predictions to his brother were the first to be fulfilled. Malomir soon died, and since he had no heir, his elder brother Presian (836-852) succeeded to the throne. Prince Presian’s son, the holy Prince Boris, in holy Baptism Michael (May 2) later Christianized the Bulgarian nation. Thus the prophecy of the holy Martyr Prince Boyan was fulfilled.
Saint John (Saakadze) of Manglisi was born in 1668 and spiritually nurtured in the Davit-Gareji Wilderness. Outstanding in virtue, John was quickly ordained a hieromonk, and soon after consecrated bishop of Manglisi.
In 1724 Saint John left Davit-Gareji for Derbend, Dagestan, where he constructed a wooden church and began to preach Christianity among the local people. He labored there with eleven other pious believers. Saint John’s humble life and the miracles he performed attracted the attention of the Muslim Dagestanis, and even the government took notice of his tireless evangelical activity.
At that time the Georgian King Vakhtang VI (1703-1724) and Tsar Peter the Great of Russia were corresponding regularly about the evangelization of the Caspian seacoast. Both kings recognized the importance of Saint John’s activity in regard to this matter, and they generously contributed to his efforts. With their help, Saint John built one church in honor of the Nativity of the Theotokos and another in honor of Great-martyr Catherine.
In 1737 John left his disciples in Dagestan and journeyed to Astrakhan, near the place where the Volga flows into the Caspian Sea. There he constructed a church in honor of Saint John the Evangelist, which was converted into a monastery in 1746. Archimandrite Herman, one of Saint John’s disciples, was elevated as abbot of this monastery.
While in Astrakhan, Saint John discovered that many ethnic Georgians were passing through the city of Kizliar in Ossetia, but they did not have a church in which to celebrate the divine services. So he traveled to Kizliar and, with help from his kinsmen, built a church and opened a preparatory school for clergy nearby.
On March 28, 1751, Saint John reposed in Kizliar at the age of eighty. He was buried in the church that he himself had constructed.
Later, by order of King Teimuraz II (1744-1761), the myrrh-streaming relics of Saint John were translated to Tbilisi and buried in Sioni Cathedral, in front of the Manglisi Icon of the Mother of God.