ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, DAIRY, EGGS
Palm Sunday, Symeon the Holy Martyr, Bishop of Persepolis, and those with him, Makarios, Bishop of Corinth, Agapetos of Rome, Hadrian the New-Martyr, Donnan, Abbot of Eigg, and the Monk-Martyrs with him
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS 4:4-9
BRETHREN, rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.
Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazaros was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazaros was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. Jesus said, "Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."
When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazaros, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazaros also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" And Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it; as it is written, "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!" His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazaros out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.
Entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)
Palm Sunday is the celebration of the triumphant entrance of Christ into the royal city of Jerusalem. He rode on a colt for which He Himself had sent, and He permitted the people to hail Him publicly as a king. A large crowd met Him in a manner befitting royalty, waving palm branches and placing their garments in His path. They greeted Him with these words: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! (John 12:13).
This day together with the raising of Lazarus are signs pointing beyond themselves to the mighty deeds and events which consummate Christ’s earthly ministry. The time of fulfillment was at hand. Christ’s raising of Lazarus points to the destruction of death and the joy of resurrection which will be accessible to all through His own death and resurrection. His entrance into Jerusalem is a fulfillment of the messianic prophecies about the king who will enter his holy city to establish a final kingdom. “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass” (Zech 9:9).
Finally, the events of these triumphant two days are but the passage to Holy Week: the “hour” of suffering and death for which Christ came. Thus the triumph in a earthly sense is extremely short-lived. Jesus enters openly into the midst of His enemies, publicly saying and doing those things which mostly enrage them. The people themselves will soon reject Him. They misread His brief earthly triumph as a sign of something else: His emergence as a political messiah who will lead them to the glories of an earthly kingdom.
The liturgy of the Church is more than meditation or praise concerning past events. It communicates to us the eternal presence and power of the events being celebrated and makes us participants in those events. Thus the services of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday bring us to our own moment of life and death and entrance into the Kingdom of God: a Kingdom not of this world, a Kingdom accessible in the Church through repentance and baptism.
On Palm Sunday palm and willow branches are blessed in the Church. We take them in order to raise them up and greet the King and Ruler of our life: Jesus Christ. We take them in order to reaffirm our baptismal pledges. As the One who raised Lazarus and entered Jerusalem to go to His voluntary Passion stands in our midst, we are faced with the same question addressed to us at baptism: “Do you accept Christ?” We give our answer by daring to take the branch and raise it up: “I accept Him as King and God!”
Thus, on the eve of Christ’s Passion, in the celebration of the joyful cycle of the triumphant days of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, we reunite ourselves to Christ, affirm His Lordship over the totality of our life, and express our readiness to follow Him to His Kingdom:
… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11).
Very Rev. Paul Lazor
Hieromartyr Simeon, Bishop in Persia, and those with him
The Hieromartyr Simeon, Bishop of Persia, suffered during a persecution against Christians under the Persian emperor Sapor II (310-381). They accused the saint of collaborating with the Roman Empire and of subversive activities against the Persian emperor.
In the year 344, the emperor issued an edict which imposed a heavy tax upon Christians. When some of them refused to pay it, this was regarded as an act of rebellion, so the emperor began a fierce persecution against Christians.
Saint Simeon was brought to trial in iron fetters as a supposed enemy of the Persian realm, together with the two hieromartyrs Habdelai and Ananias. The holy bishop would not even bow to the emperor, who asked why he would not show him the proper respect. The saint answered, “Formerly, I bowed because of your rank, but now, when you ask me to renounce my God and abandon my faith, it is not proper for me to bow to you.”
The emperor urged him to worship the sun, and he threatened to eradicate Christianity in his land if he refused. But neither urgings nor threats could shake the steadfast saint, and they led him off to prison. Along the way the eunuch Usphazanes, a counsellor of the emperor, saw the saint. He stood up and bowed to the bishop, but the saint turned away from him because he, a former Christian, out of fear of the emperor, now worshipped the sun.
The eunuch repented with all his heart, he exchanged his fine attire for coarse garb, and sitting at the doors of the court, he cried out bitterly, “Woe to me, when I stand before my God, from Whom I am cut off. Here was Simeon, and he has turned his back on me!”
The emperor Sapor learned about the grief of his beloved tutor and asked him what had happened. He told the emperor that he bitterly regretted his apostasy and would no more worship the sun, but only the one true God. The emperor was surprised at the old man’s sudden decision, and he urged him not to abjure the gods whom their fathers had reverenced. But Usphazanes was unyielding, and they condemned him to death. Saint Usphazanes asked that the city heralds report that he died not for crimes against the emperor, but for being a Christian. The emperor granted his request.
Saint Simeon also learned about the death of Usphazanes, and he gave thanks to the Lord. When they brought him before the emperor a second time, Saint Simeon again refused to worship the pagan gods and confessed his faith in Christ. The enraged emperor gave orders to behead all the Christians in the prison before the saint’s eyes.
Without fear the Christians went to execution, blessed by the holy hierarch, and they bent their heads beneath the sword. Saint Simeon’s companion, the Priest Habdelai, was also beheaded. When they came to the Priest Ananias, he suddenly trembled. Then one of the dignitaries, Saint Phusicus (Pusicius), a secret Christian, was afraid that Ananias would renounce Christ, and he cried out, “Do not fear the sword, Elder, and you will see the divine light of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Saint Phusicus betrayed himself by this outburst. The emperor gave orders to pluck out his tongue and to flay the skin off him. Along with Saint Phusicus, his daughter Askitrea was also martyred. Saint Simeon was the last to go before the executioner, and he placed his head on the chopping-block (April 13, 344). Executions continued all during Bright Week until April 23.
Saint Azates the Eunuch, a close official to the emperor, also received the crown of martyrdom, along with Saints Abdechalas, Usthazanes, and Azades. The sources indicate that 1,150 Martyrs perished because they refused to accept the Persian religion.
Saint Acacius, Bishop of Melitene
Saint Acacius, Bishop of Melitene, was born into a pious family in the Armenian city of Melitene. His parents had been childless for a long time. They had prayed for a son, and vowed to dedicate him to God. Therefore, Acacius was given to Bishop Ostrychius of Melitene (November 7) to serve the Church. Saint Ostrychius was a firm supporter of Orthodoxy. When the heresy of Macedonius arose, it was Saint Ostrychius who set forth the Orthodox teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Holy Trinity One in Essence and Undivided at the Second Ecumenical Council (381).
The holy hierarch raised Acacius with love, made him a reader, and then ordained him a deacon and then to the holy priesthood. Saint Acacius devoutly served the Church. He instructed both adults and children in the Holy Scripture, and in the Orthodox Confession of faith.
Among his disciples was Saint Euthymius the Great (January 20).
After the death of Saint Ostrychius, Saint Acacius was elevated to the bishop’s throne of Melitene by general acclamation. He wisely governed his diocese. By his firm faith, humility and deeds, the saint acquired the gift of wonderworking. Once, during a dry summer, the saint celebrated Liturgy in an open field, suddenly the wine in the Holy Chalice was mixed by the falling rain, which fell throughout the land.
He prayed during a flood, and the advancing river turned away and did not rise higher than the stone which he had placed at the riverbank. On one of the islands of the River Azar, despite the opposition of the pagans, the saint built a temple in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos. The builders of the church either through carelessness or through malice, were not careful in building the dome. During the Liturgy the dome was ready to collapse. The people rushed out of the church in terror. But the saint halted their flight saying, “The Lord is the defender of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 26/27:1). The dome remained suspended in the air. Only when the services were ended, and the saint was the last one to emerge from the church, did the dome collapse, causing harm to no one. After this, the church was rebuilt.
Saint Acacius participated in the Third Ecumenical Council (431) and he defended the Orthodox teaching of the Two Natures (Divine and Human) of the Savior, and of His seedless Birth from the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God.
Saint Acacius peacefully fell asleep in the Lord around the year 435. He should not be confused with Saint Acacius the Confessor (March 31), who was also a bishop of Melitene.
Venerable Zosimas, Abbot of Solovki
Saint Zosimas, the Igumen of Solovki and great luminary of the Russian North, was the founder of cenobitic monasticism on Solovki Island. He was born in the Novgorod diocese, in the village of Tolvui near Lake Onega. From his early years he was raised in piety, and after the death of his parents Gabriel and Barbara, he gave away his possessions and received the monastic tonsure.
In search of a solitary place, he journeyed to the shores of the White Sea, and at the mouth of the Suma he met Saint Herman (July 30), who told him of a desolate sea island, where he had spent six years with Saint Sabbatius (September 27).
About the year 1436, the ascetics crossed the sea and, providentially, they arrived at the Solovki islands. There Saint Zosimas beheld a vision of a beautiful church in the sky. With their own hands the monks built cells and an enclosure, and they began to cultivate the land and to plant seeds.
Once, in late autumn, Saint Herman had to go to the mainland for provisions. Because of the autumn weather he was unable to return. Saint Zosimas remained alone on the island all winter, enduring many temptations in his struggles with the demons. Death by starvation threatened him, but miraculously two strangers appeared and left him a supply of bread, flour and oil. In the spring Saint Herman returned to Solovki with a fisherman named Mark, and he brought supplies of food and some materials to make fishing nets.
When several hermits had gathered on the island, Saint Zosimas built a small wooden church in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and a trapeza. At Saint Zosimas's request, an Igoumen was sent from Novgorod to the newly-formed monastery with an antimension for the church. Thus the renowned Solovki Monastery had its beginning. In the severe conditions of the remote island the monks knew how to economize. But the Igoumens who were sent from Novgorod to Solovki could not endure life under such harsh conditions, and so the brethren chose Saint Zosimas as their Igoumen.
Saint Zosimas occupied himself with building up the inner life of the monastery, and he introduced a strict cenobitic Rule. In 1465 he transferred the relics of Saint Sabbatius to Solovki from the River Vyg. The monastery suffered from the nobles of Novgorod, who confiscated the fish caught by the monks. The saint was obliged to go to Novgorod in order to seek the Archbishop's protection.
Following the Archbishop's advice, he visited the homes of the nobles and asked them not to allow the monastery to suffer harm. The influential and wealthy Martha Boretskaya impiously ordered Saint Zosimas to be thrown out, but then she repented and invited him to a meal. At this meal he suddenly saw that six of the illustrious nobles sat there without their heads. Saint Zosimas told his disciple Daniel about this vision, and predicted the impending death of the nobles. His prediction came to pass in the year 1478, when the six boyars were executed during the capture of Novgorod by Ivan III (1462-1505).
Shortly before his repose, the Saint prepared his own grave, in which he was buried beyond the altar of the Transfiguration church (+ April 17, 1478). Later on, a chapel was built over his relics. His relics and those of Saint Sabbatius were moved to the chapel which was dedicated to them at the Transfiguration cathedral on August 8, 1566.
Many miracles took place when Saint Zosimas and Saint Sabbatius appeared to fishermen who were perishing in the depths of the sea. Saint Zosimas is also considered a patron of bee-keeping and a guardian of beehives; and he is even known as "The Bee-keeper.” Those who are sick often hasten to Saint Zosimas, asking to be healed. The many hospital churches dedicated to him attest to the great healing power of his prayers to God.
Saint Zosimas is also commemorated on August 8, and on the First (1566) and Second (1992) transfers of the relics of Saints Zosimas and Sabbatius.
Uncovering of the relics of Venerable Alexander, Abbot of Svir
Saint Alexander of Svir died on August 30, 1533. His incorrupt relics were uncovered in 1641 during the reconstruction of the Transfiguration cathedral.
On April 17, 1641, the relics of Saint Alexander of Svir were found and examined. The discovery was accompanied by special signs; on April 15 and 16 there was extraordinary thunder and lightning, which ran along the ground above the grave of the holy founder of the monastery. Then during the Divine Liturgy on April 17 (the Saturday of the Righteous Lazarus) the workers were digging a hole for the walls of the new stone church of the Transfiguration of the Lord; and in the altar of the old church they found the Saint's coffin. The ground above it was in the shape of a cave, with nothing to support it.
All the monks came down to see the decayed coffin (only the lower board was well preserved). When Igoumen Abraham removed the top board, a strong fragrance was noticed. The Saint's body was intact, and was clothed in a mantya and the schema. His face was covered, and beneath the schema, part of his beard could be seen; both legs lay as if he were recently deceased, with the right foot upward, and the left foot facing to the side, both feet were in sandals.
From his body emanated a fragrance like myrrh, or flowers. Metropolitan Aphthonios of Novgorod was present at the uncovering of the relics. With reverence and joy, the relics were placed in a new coffin and were taken to the temple of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker in that same Hermitage.
The monks, who had seen the incorrupt flesh of their heavenly patron, were amazed, and they made a detailed description of the shrine. Particularly surprising was the face, which was so life-like that the Saint seemed asleep. The face matched the icons which had been painted by his contemporaries. The authors of the description also noted the unusual position of the Saint's hands and feet and the amber-yellow color of his skin. Soon the relics were placed in a silver reliquary donated by Tsar Michael, and were moved to the newly rebuilt Transfiguration Cathedral.
At the same time, the commemoration of Saint Alexander was appointed on two dates: August 30, the day of his blessed repose, and April 17, the day of the uncovering of his relics.
The incorrupt relics of the saint were removed from the Svir Monastery by the Bolsheviks on December 20, 1918 after several unsuccessful attempts to confiscate them. There was an infamous campaign to liquidate the relics of the saints which continued from 1919 to 1922. Many relics of Russsian saints were stolen and subjected to “scientific examination” or displayed in antireligious museums. Some were completely destroyed.
Hoping to prove that the relics were fakes, the Soviets conducted many tests. However, the tests only confirmed that the relics were genuine. Finally, the holy relics were sent to Petrograd’s Military Medical Academy. There they remained for nearly eighty years.
A second uncovering of Saint Alexander’s relics took place in December 1997.
The relics were found to be incorrupt, just as they were when they were confiscated. The saint’s appearance matched the description in the records from 1641. Once it was determined that these were in fact the relics of Saint Alexander, Metropolitan Vladimir of Saint Petersburg permitted them to be taken to the church of Saint Sophia and her three daughters Faith, Hope, and Love (September 17) for four months before their return to the Svir Monastery. As people venerated Saint Alexander’s relics they noticed a fragrant myrrh flowing from them.
The holy relics were taken to the Saint Alexander of Svir Monastery in November 1998, and miraculous healings continue to take place before them.
See August 30 for the Life of Saint Alexander.
Martyr Adrian of Corinth
The Holy Martyr Adrian suffered during the time of the reign of the emperor Decius (249-251). Like many other Christians at that time, Saint Adrian was locked up in prison. During a pagan festival they brought out all the Christian prisoners to offer sacrifice to the idols. They ordered Saint Adrian to throw some incense on the coals, but the holy martyr scattered the fire and wrecked the sacrifice. The pagans fell upon him in a rage, beating him with sticks and iron rods, and striking him with stones. Finally, they threw him into a fire, and he won the crown of martyrdom.
Saint Agapitus, Pope of Rome
Saint Agapitus, Bishop of Rome, was a zealous adherent of Orthodoxy. By his pious life he won the general esteem and was elevated to the See of Rome in the year 535.
The Gothic king Theodoric the Great sent Agapitus to Constantinople for peace negotiations. Along the way, Saint Agapitus encountered a man who was lame and mute. He healed him of his lameness, and after receiving the Holy Mysteries the mute one spoke. After arriving in Constantinople, the saint healed a blind beggar.
At that time, a local Council was convened in Constantinople. Saint Agapitus participated in it and zealously defended the Orthodox teaching against the heretic Severus, who taught that the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ was subject to decay similar to every man’s body.
Saint Agapitus died at Constantinople in the year 536.
Venerable Makarius of Corinth
Saint Makarios was born in Trikala, of Corinth in 1731, to devout parents who were descended from the famous Notaras family of Constantinople. His father’s name was George and his mother’s was Anastasia. In Baptism he received the name Michael. His teacher in Kephalonia was named Eustathios. Young Michael was very zealous for the solitary life, and so he left his parents’ house in secret, and went to the Great Cave (Μέγα Σπήλαιον) Monastery. The Monastery was so named because it is the largest monastery of the Peloponnesos, and it was built in front of a cave. His father discovered where he was, however, and had Michael sent back home, where he spent much of his time studying the Divine Scriptures and other edifying books.
Since Corinth had lacked a teacher for a long time, Michael taught the young people for six years without payment. Even when he was very young, it was apparent that he did not care for the material things of this world, but only for spiritual treasures. When his father appointed him as the supervisor of an area where he could become very wealthy, he gave his money to the poor, and his father scolded him.
He excelled as a teacher, and the Corinthians loved him for his exemplary way of life. After the death of His godfather Archbishop Parthenios of Corinth in 1764, they suggested to Patriarch Samuel of Constantinople that he appoint Michael, who was then a layman, as his successor. Thus, he passed through the various degrees of ordination and was consecrated as Archbishop of Corinth by Patriarch Samuel.
The blessed one did not seek the hierarchal office for power, or as a means of acquiring wealth, but out of his paternal concern for the security and the salvation of his flock, for which he would have to render an account to the Lord and God of all. He rid the Church of corrupt and ineffectual priests and replaced them with priests who were virtuous and qualified. Those who were not qualified were sent to monasteries to be educated and trained how to serve.
When the Russo-Turkish War began in 1768, Archbishop Makarios was forced to flee to Zakynthos with his family, and from there to Hydra, where he lived in a monastery. When things settled down, the Holy Synod of Constantinople chose a new Archbishop of Corinth, perhaps because Archbishop Makarios had abandoned his See.1
He visited Hydra and from there he went to Chios. From Chios he went to Mount Athos, fulfilling his persistent and praiseworthy desire to visit the Holy Mountain and to experience its way of life. When the divine Makarios arrived on Mount Athos in 1777, he settled in the kelli2 of Saint Anthony, which belonged to his compatriot Elder David. There he met Saint Νikόdēmos the Hagiorite once again. At that time, the Athonite community was divided by quarrels and controversies over Memorial Services and kollyva. The reason for the dispute was a disagreement about when the departed ought to be commemorated in church.
The Church’s Tradition is to have services for the departed on Saturdays, and that Memorial Services are not permitted on Sundays or Feast Days. Hence, disputes arose out of the intense quarrels and contradictions which also extended to other areas of Church life. The situation there saddened the hierarch. Because of the riots and disturbances on the Holy Mountain, he feared for his own life, and so he returned to Chios. After remaining there for a brief time, he departed for Patmos.
During his stay in Patmos, the Saint sought a permanent residence, and since he was attracted by the location, he founded the Sacred Kathisma3 of All Saints (Ιερό Κάθισμα των Αγίων Πάντων) in 1782.
After the Saint’s father reposed, his two brothers wanted him to act as executor of his will. Saint Makarios gave everything to his brothers without keeping anything for himself. Then he returned to Chios to obtain some letters of recommendation, and went to Smyrna to meet with Prince John Maurogordatos of Moldovo-Vlakhia.4 The Prince knew Saint Makarios by reputation, and therefore he received him with reverence and respect for him as a man of God. Not only was he happy to show him hospitality in his home, but Maurogordatos also contributed money for the publication of The Philokalia, and for the publication of the Holy Catechism of Metropolitan Platon of Moscow.
From Smyrna the Saint returned to Chios. He chose his place of residence at the church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in the north-northwestern edges of Vrontados at the foot of Aippus. He found spiritual peace with Saint Athanasios Parios (who wrote his Life), Saints Nikephoros and Niphon of Chios, Gregory of Nisyros, and Athanasios of Armenia, all of whom had left the Holy Mountain several years earlier, because of the disturbances and scandals over Memorial Services.
Saint Makarios remained in his hermitage on Chios for the rest of his life (1790-1805), engaging in severe ascetical struggles, practicing interior prayer, writing books, confessing and counseling people, instructing them in the Faith, inspiring them to virtue, and helping those in need.
He also prepared several individuals who had denied Christ to go back to the place where they had done this, and confess that they only worshiped Christ, the true God. Of course, the Turks put these New Martyrs to death when they heard such talk, so he encouraged the martyrs by his words, and strengthened them by prayer and fasting, so that they would not lose their courage and deny Christ again.
Saint Makarios departed to the Lord on April 17, 1805. His honorable body was buried in the courtyard of the church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on the south side. The recovery of his relics took place in 1808.
1 It has been suggested that Saint Makarios was replaced because the Turks thought that he encouraged the Greeks in their desire to revolt. In any case, the Saint retained his rank and was permitted to serve unhindered anywhere he wished.
2 A Kelli is a monk’s cell, or a monastic establishment consisting of a building with a chapel in it, and some surrounding land. Usually it is occupied by three monks.
3 In an Orthodox context, a Kathisma refers to a division of the Psalter, a chair or seat, or a monastic establishment, perhaps a type of hermitage.
4 This region is now part of modern Romania.