6TH THURSDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Aristarchus, Pudens, Trophimus the Apostles of the 70, Thomais the Martyr of Alexandria, Ardalion the Actor and Martyr, Demetrios the New-Martyr of Arcadia
Thus says the LORD: “As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it, ‘ so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there. Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me. But you who forsake the LORD, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny; I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter; because, when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes, and chose what I did not delight in.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, my servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame; behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you shall cry out for pain of heart, and shall wail for anguish of spirit. You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse, and the Lord GOD will slay you; but his servants he will call by a different name. So that he who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth, and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hid from my eyes.
So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here am I.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” Then Jacob set out from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their cattle and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.
My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My soul will rejoice when your lips speak what is right. Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your mind in the way. Be not among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. Hearken to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad, let her who bore you rejoice. My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. For a harlot is a deep pit; an adventuress is a narrow well. She lies in wait like a robber and increases the faithless among men. Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine, those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. "They struck me, " you will say, "but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink." Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; for their minds devise violence, and their lips talk of mischief. By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. A wise man is mightier than a strong man, and a man of knowledge than he who has strength.
Saint Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome
Saint Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome, was a native of the Tuscany region of Italy. He received a fine education and entered into the clergy of the Roman Church. After the death of Pope Theodore I (642-649), Martin was chosen to succeed him.
At this time the peace of the Church was disturbed by the Monothelite heresy (the false doctrine that in Christ there is only one will, whereas in fact He has a divine, and a human will). The endless disputes of the Monothelites with the Orthodox took place in all levels of the population. Even the emperor Constans (641-668) and Patriarch Paul of Constantinople (641-654) were adherents of the Monothelite heresy. The emperor Constans II published the heretical “Pattern of Faith” (Typos), obligatory for all the population. In it all further disputes were forbidden.
The heretical “Pattern of Faith” was received at Rome in the year 649. Saint Martin, a firm supporter of Orthodoxy, convened the Lateran Council at Rome to condemn the Monothelite heresy. At the same time Saint Martin sent a letter to Patriarch Paul, persuading him to return to the Orthodox confession of faith. The enraged emperor ordered the military commander Olympius to bring Saint Martin to trial. But Olympius feared the clergy and the people of Rome who had descended upon the Council, and he sent a soldier to murder the holy hierarch. When the assassin approached Saint Martin, he was blinded. The terrified Olympius fled to Sicily and was soon killed in battle.
In 654 the emperor sent another military commander, Theodore, to Rome. He accused Saint Martin of being in secret correspondence with the enemies of the Empire, the Saracens, and of blaspheming the Most Holy Theotokos, and of uncanonically assuming the papal throne.
Despite the proofs offered by the Roman clergy and laity of Saint Martin’s innocence, the military commander Theodore with a detachment of soldiers seized Saint Martin by night and took him to Naxos, one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. Saint Martin spent an entire year on this almost unpopulated island, suffering deprivation and abuse from the guards. Then they sent the exhausted confessor to Constantinople for trial.
They carried the sick man on a stretcher, but the judges callously ordered him to stand up and answer their questions. The soldiers propped up the saint, who was weakened by illness. False witnesses came forward slandering the saint and accusing him of treasonous relations with the Saracens. The biased judges did not even bother to hear the saint’s defense. In sorrow he said, “The Lord knows what a great kindness you would show me if you would deliver me quickly over to death.”
After such a trial they brought the saint out in tattered clothes to a jeering crowd. They shouted, “Anathema to Pope Martin!” But those who knew the holy Pope was suffering unjustly, withdrew in tears. Finally the sentence was announced: Saint Martin was to be deposed from his rank and executed. They bound the half-naked saint with chains and dragged him to prison, where they locked him up with thieves. These were more merciful to the saint than the heretics.
In the midst of all this the emperor went to the dying Patriarch Paul and told him of the trial of Saint Martin. He turned away from the emperor and said, “Woe is me! This is another reason for my judgment.” He asked that Saint Martin’s torments be stopped. The emperor again sent a notary and other persons to the saint in prison to interrogate him. The saint answered, “Even if they cripple me, I will not have relations with the Church of Constantinople while it remains in its evil doctrines.” The torturers were astonished at the confessor’s boldness, and they commuted his death sentence to exile at Cherson in the Crimea.
Saint Martin departed to the Lord, exhausted by sickness, hunger and deprivations on September 16, 655. Two other bishops, who were banished to Cherson, also died after many hardships. The Saint was buried just outside the city of Cherson, in the Blachernae church of the Most Holy Theotokos. Great crowds of people visited his tomb because of the many miracles which took place there. Later, his relics were transferred to Rome, and placed in a church dedicated to Martin of Tours (November 11). The transfer of his relics is commemorated on November 12.
The Monothelite heresy was condemned at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680.
In Greek usage, the holy Confessor Martin is commemorated on April 13 and on September 20, while the Slavic churches commemorate him on April 14.
Martyrs Anthony, John, and Eustathius of Vilnius
The Holy Martyrs Anthony, John, and Eustathius (Kumetis, Nizilas, and Krulis) were brothers who suffered for Christ under the Lithuanian Great Prince Algirdas (1345-1377). The prince was married to the Orthodox princess Maria Yaroslavna (+ 1346). He was baptized and during his wife’s lifetime he allowed the preaching of Christianity. Two brothers, Nizilas and Kumetis (Nezhilo and Kumets), received holy Baptism from the priest Nestor, and they received the names Anthony and John. And at the request of Maria Yaroslavna an Orthodox church was built at Vilnius (Vilna).
After the death of his spouse, Prince Algirdas began to support the pagan priests of the fire-worshippers, who started a persecution against Christians. Saints John and Anthony endeavored not to flaunt their Christianity, but they did not observe pagan customs. They did not cut their hair as the pagans did, and on fast days they did not eat forbidden foods.
The prince soon became suspicious of the brothers, so he interrogated them and they confessed themselves Christians. Then he demanded that they eat meat (it was a fast day). The holy brothers refused, and the prince locked them up in prison. The brothers spent an entire year behind bars. John took fright at the impending tortures and declared that he would obey all the demands of the Great Prince. The delighted Algirdas released the brothers and brought them to himself.
But Anthony did not betray Christ. When he refused to eat meat on a fast day, the prince again locked him up in prison and subjected him to brutal tortures. The other brother remained free, but both Christians and pagans regarded him as a traitor and would not associate with him.
Repenting of his sin, John went to the priest Nestor and entreated him to ask his brother to forgive him. “When he openly confesses Christ, we will be reconciled,” Anthony replied. Once, while serving the prince at the bath, Saint John spoke privately with him about his reconciliation with the Church. Algirdas did not display any anger and said that he could believe in Christ, but must conduct himself like all the pagans. Then Saint John confessed himself a Christian in the presence of numerous courtiers. They beat him fiercely with rods and sent him to his brother in prison. The martyrs met with joy, and received the Holy Mysteries that same day.
Many people went to the prison to see the new confessor. The brothers converted many to Christ by their preaching. The prison was transformed into a Christian school. The frightened pagan priests demanded the execution of the brothers, but they did not fear death.
On the morning of April 14, 1347 the Martyr Anthony was hanged on a tree after receiving the Holy Mysteries. This oak, which the pagans considered sacred, became truly sacred for Orthodox Christians.
The pagan priests who hoped that Christian preaching would stop with the death of Saint Anthony, were disappointed. A multitude of the people gathered before the walls of the prison where Saint John was being held. On April 24, 1347 they strangled him and hanged his dead body upon the same oak. The venerable bodies of both martyrs were buried by Christians in the church of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.
A third sufferer for Christ was their relative Krulis (Kruglets). At Baptism the priest Nestor named him Eustathius. Krulis stood out because of his comeliness, valor and bravery, but even more because of his mind and virtue of soul. A favorite of Algirdas, he could count on a very promising future. However, he also refused to eat meat at the festal table. Saint Eustathius openly declared that he was a Christian and would not eat meat because of the Nativity Fast.
They began to beat him with iron rods, but the youth did not make a sound. The prince tried refining the torture. Algirdas gave orders to strip the martyr naked, take him out on the street and to pour icy water in his mouth. But this did not break his spirit. Then they broke his ankle bones, and ripped the hair and skin from his head, and cut off his ears and nose. Saint Eustathius endured the torments with such gladness and courage, that the very torturers themselves were astounded by the divine power which strengthened him. The martyr Eustathius was sentenced to death and hanged on the same oak where Saints John and Anthony received a martyr’s death (December 13, 1347).
For three days no one was permitted to take down the body of the martyr, and a column of cloud protected it from birds and beasts of prey. A church was later built on the hill where the holy martyrs suffered. The trinity of venerable passion bearers glorified the true God worshiped in the Holy Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The church was dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. The altar table was built on the stump of the sacred oak on which the martyrs died.
Soon their relics were found to be incorrupt. In 1364 Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople (1354-1355, 1364-1376) sent a cross with the relics of the holy martyrs to Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25). The Church established the celebration of all three martyrs on April 14.
The holy martyrs were of immense significance for all the Western frontier. Vilnius’s monastery of the Holy Trinity, where the holy relics are kept, became a stronghold of Orthodoxy on this frontier. In 1915 during the invasion of the Germans, these relics were taken to Moscow.
The relics of the holy passion-bearers were returned to the Vilnius Holy Spirit monastery in 1946. The commemoration of their return (July 13) is solemnly observed at the monastery each year.
Martyr Ardalion the Actor
The Holy Martyr Ardalion suffered for Christ under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). Saint Ardalion was a talented actor.
Once, he played the role of a Christian. In the play, the actor at first refused to offer sacrifice to idols, but then consented to renounce Christ. Suddenly the saint ordered everyone to be quiet and declared that he actually was a Christian.
Saint Ardalion continued to confess his faith in Christ. Then the governor ordered the martyr to be thrown onto a red-hot iron grill. So Saint Ardalion attained a martyr’s crown.
Martyr Azades the Eunuch and 1,000 Martyrs of Persia
Saint Azades (Azat) was a wealthy man who served in the household of King Shapur II of Persia, and enjoyed his confidence. He was arrested for professing Christianity, and then suffered martyrdom with 1000 other Christians. After this, the king repented and ordered an end to the persecution of Christians.
Icon of the Mother of God of Vilnius
The Vilnius (Vilna) Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the holy Evangelist Luke. For a long time it was in the family of the Greek emperors at Constantinople. In 1472 Sophia Paleologina, wife of the Moscow Great Prince Ivan III (1462-1505), transferred the icon to Moscow.
In 1495, the Great Prince blessed his daughter Elena with this icon before giving her in marriage to the Lithuanian king Alexander. The Church celebrates the transfer of this icon to Vilnius on February 15.
Later, the holy icon was placed in the church of Saint John the Forerunner, in which Princess Elena was buried. Afterwards, they transferred the icon to Vilnius’s Holy Trinity Monastery.
The Vilnius icon is also commemorated on February 15.