SUNDAY OF ST. JOHN CLIMACUS
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
Sunday of St. John Climacus, Nicetas, Abbot of the Monastery of Medicium, Joseph the Hymnographer, Theodosia and Irene the Martyrs
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 6:13-20
BRETHREN, when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore to himself, saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you." And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Men indeed swear by a greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
At that time, a man came to Jesus kneeling and saying: "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able." And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me." And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, "How long has he had this?" And he said, "From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us." And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!" And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again." And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" And he said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting." They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus), the author of the work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt.10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against … the rulers of the present darkness … the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places …” (Eph 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt.24:13).
Saint Nikḗtas the Confessor was born in Bithynian Caesarea (northwest Asia Minor) of a pious family. His mother died eight days after his birth, and his father Philaretos became a monk. The child remained in the care of his grandmother, who raised him in a true Christian spirit. From his youth Saint Nikḗtas attended church and was a disciple of the hermit Stephanos. With his blessing, Saint Nikḗtas set off to the Mydicia monastery, where Saint Nikēphóros (March 13) was the igumen.
After seven years of virtuous life at the monastery, famed for its strict monastic rule, Saint Nikḗtas was ordained presbyter. Saint Nikēphóros, knowing the holy life of the young monk, entrusted to him the guidance of the monastery when he himself became ill.
Not wanting power, Saint Nikḗtas devoted himself to the enlightenment and welfare of the monastery. He guided the brethren by his own example. Soon the fame of the lofty life of its inhabitants of the monastery attracted many seeking salvation. After several years, the number of monks had increased to one hundred.
When Saint Nikēphóros departed to the Lord in his old age, the brethren unanimously chose Saint Nikḗtas as igumen.
The Lord granted Saint Nikḗtas the gift of wonderworking. Through his prayer a deaf-mute child received the gift of speech; two demon-possessed women were healed; he restored reason to one who had lost his mind, and many of the sick were healed of their infirmities.
During these years under the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820), the Iconoclast heresy resurfaced and oppression increased. Orthodox bishops were deposed and banished. At Constantinople a council of heretics was convened in 815, at which they deposed the holy Patriarch Nikēphóros (806-815), and in his place they chose the heretical layman Theodotus. They also installed heretics in place of exiled and imprisoned Orthodox bishops.
The emperor summoned all the heads of the monasteries and tried to bring them over to the Iconoclast heresy. Among those summoned was Saint Nikḗtas, who stood firmly for the Orthodox confession. Following his example, all the igumens remained faithful to the veneration of holy icons. Therefore, they threw him into prison. Saint Nikḗtas bravely underwent all the tribulations and encouraged firmness of spirit in the other prisoners.
Then the emperor and the false patriarch Theodotus attempted to trick those who remained faithful to Orthodox teaching. They promised that the emperor would give them their freedom and permit the veneration of the icons on one condition: that they take Communion from the pseudo-patriarch Theodotus.
For a long time the saint had doubts about entering into communion with a heretic, but other prisoners begged him to go along with them. Acceding to their entreaties, Saint Nikḗtas went into the church, where icons were put out to deceive the confessors, and he accepted Communion.
But when he returned to his monastery and saw that the persecution against icons was continuing, he then repented of his deed, returned to Constantinople and fearlessly denounced the Iconoclast heresy. He ignored all the emperor’s threats.
Saint Nikḗtas was again locked up in prison for six years until the death of the emperor Leo the Armenian. Enduring hunger and travail, Saint Nikḗtas worked miracles by the power of his prayers: through his prayer the Phrygian ruler released two captives without ransom; three shipwrecked men for whom Saint Nikḗtas prayed, were thrown up on shore by the waves.
Saint Nikḗtas reposed in the Lord in 824. The saint’s body was buried at the monastery with reverence. Later, his relics became a source of healing for those coming to venerate the holy confessor.
Once, during a persecution against Christians, which had already lasted for five years, the seventeen-year-old Saint Theodosia visited condemned Christian prisoners in the Praetorium in Caesarea, Palestine. It was the day of Holy Pascha, and the martyrs spoke about the Kingdom of God. Saint Theodosia asked them to remember her before the Lord, when they should come to stand before Him.
Soldiers seized her and led her before the governor Urban after seeing the maiden bow to the prisoners. The governor advised her to offer sacrifice to the idols but she refused, confessing her faith in Christ. Then they subjected the saint to cruel tortures, raking her body with iron claws until her bones were exposed.
The martyr was silent and endured the sufferings with a happy face, and when the governor told her again to offer sacrifice to the idols she answered, “You fool, I have been granted to join the martyrs!” They threw the maiden with a stone about her neck into the sea, but angels rescued her. Then they threw the martyr to the wild beasts to be eaten by them. Seeing that the beasts would not touch her, they cut off her head.
By night Saint Theodosia appeared to her parents, who had tried to talk their daughter out of her intention to suffer for Christ. She was in bright garb with a crown upon her head and a luminous gold cross in her hand, and she said, “Behold the great glory of which you wanted to deprive me!”
The Holy Martyr Theodosia of Tyre suffered in the year 307. She is also commemorated on May 29 (the transfer of her relics to Constantinople, and later to Venice).
No information available at this time.
Saint Illyricus the Wonderworker devoted himself to ascetic struggles on Mount Myrsinon in the Peloponnesus. The dates of his birth and death are unknown.
The Holy Martyrs Elpidephorus, Dius, Bithonius, and Galycus suffered for their faith in Jesus Christ. They cut off the head of Saint Elpidephorus with a sword, Saint Dius was executed by stoning, Saint Bithonius was drowned in the sea, and Saint Galycus was condemned to be eaten by wild beasts.
The "Unfading Flower" Icon depicts the Theotokos holding her Divine Son on her right arm, and in her left hand is a bouquet of white lilies. The lilies symbolize the unfading flower of virginity and purity of the Mother of God, to whom the Church sings: “You are the root of virginity and the Unfading Flower of purity.”
In Moscow there are two churches with Icons with this name: the church of the Dormition at Mogil'tsy (December 31), and the Alexeyev Monastery. Other icons of this name are in Kungur (Perm Gubernia); in the former town of Kadome of Tambov Province, namely, in the Merciful Theotokos womens' monastery; and in the Nativity of the Theotokos church of Voronezh.
There is a similar Icon in the church of Saint Nicholas in the village of Budishch (Poltava Gubernia). It resembles a number of very old icons which are also revered in that place. Every year on April 3, many people gather in the village of Budishch to venerate this Icon, along with a copy of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. Several miraculous healings of the sick have occurred before this Icon.