REMOVAL OF THE RELICS OF ST. ATHANASIUS THE GREAT
Removal of the Relics of St. Athanasius the Great, Hesperos & Zoe the Righteous, Boris, King & Enlightener of Bulgaria (Michael in Baptism), Jordan the Wonderworker
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 13:7-16
Brethren, remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their lives, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
The Lord said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
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Saint Athanasius the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria, was a great Father of the Church and a pillar of Orthodoxy. He was born around the year 297 in the city of Alexandria into a family of pious Christians. He received a fine secular education, but he acquired more knowledge by diligent study of the Holy Scripture. In his childhood, the future hierarch Athanasius became known to Saint Alexander the Patriarch of Alexandria (May 29). A group of children, which included Athanasius, were playing at the seashore. The Christian children decided to baptize their pagan playmates.
The young Athanasius, whom the children designated as “bishop”, performed the Baptism, precisely repeating the words he heard in church during this sacrament. Patriarch Alexander observed all this from a window. He then commanded that the children and their parents be brought to him. He conversed with them for a long while, and determined that the Baptism performed by the children was done according to the Church order. He acknowledged the Baptism as real and sealed it with the sacrament of Chrismation. From this moment, the Patriarch looked after the spiritual upbringing of Athanasius and in time brought him into the clergy, at first as a reader, and then he ordained him as a deacon.
It was as a deacon that Saint Athanasius accompanied Patriarch Alexander to the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in the year 325. At the Council, Saint Athanasius refuted of the heresy of Arius. His speech met with the approval of the Orthodox Fathers of the Council, but the Arians, those openly and those secretly so, came to hate Athanasius and persecuted him for the rest of his life.
After the death of holy Patriarch Alexander, Saint Athanasius was unanimously chosen as his successor in the See of Alexandria. He refused, accounting himself unworthy, but at the insistence of all the Orthodox populace that it was in agreement, he was consecrated bishop when he was twenty-eight, and installed as the archpastor of the Alexandrian Church. Saint Athanasius guided the Church for forty-seven years, and during this time he endured persecution and grief from his antagonists. Several times he was expelled from Alexandria and hid himself from the Arians in desolate places, since they repeatedly tried to kill him. Saint Athanasius spent more than twenty years in exile, returned to his flock, and then was banished again.
There was a time when he remained as the only Orthodox bishop in the area, a moment when all the other bishops had fallen into heresy. At the false councils of Arian bishops he was deposed as bishop. Despite being persecuted for many years, the saint continued to defend the purity of the Orthodox Faith, and he wrote countless letters and tracts against the Arian heresy.
When Julian the Apostate (361-363) began a persecution against Christians, his wrath first fell upon Saint Athanasius, whom he considered a great pillar of Orthodoxy. Julian intended to kill the saint in order to strike Christianity a grievous blow, but he soon perished himself. Mortally wounded by an arrow during a battle, he cried out with despair: “You have conquered, O Galilean.” After Julian’s death, Saint Athanasius guided the Alexandrian Church for seven years and died in 373, at the age of seventy-six.
Numerous works of Saint Athanasius have been preserved; four Orations against the Arian heresy; also an Epistle to Epictetus, bishop of the Church of Corinth, on the divine and human natures in Jesus Christ; four Epistles to Serapion, Bishop of Thmuis, about the Holy Spirit and His equality with the Father and the Son, directed against the heresy of Macedonius.
Other apologetic works of the Saint in defense of Orthodoxy have been preserved, among which is the Letter to the Emperor Constantius. Saint Athanasius wrote commentaries on Holy Scripture, and books of a moral and didactic character, as well as a biography of Saint Anthony the Great (January 17), with whom Saint Athanasius was very close. Saint John Chrysostom advised every Orthodox Christian to read this Life.
The memory of Saint Athanasius is celebrated also on January 18 with Saint Cyril of Alexandria.
The Transfer of the Relics of the Holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb. Saint Boris (July 24) was a brother of the Great Prince of Kiev Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054), and was baptized with the name Roman. The murdered Prince Boris was buried at the church of Saint Basil the Great at Vyshgorod near Kiev.
Metropolitan John I of Kiev (1008-1035) and his clergy solemnly met the incorrupt relics of the holy passion-bearer Gleb and placed them in the church where the relics of Saint Boris rested. Soon the burial place was glorified by miracles. Then the relics of the holy brothers Boris and Gleb were removed from the ground and placed in a specially constructed chapel. On July 24, 1026 a church of five cupolas built by Yaroslav the Wise was consecrated in honor of the holy martyrs.
In later years, the Vyshgorod Saints Boris and Gleb church containing the relics of the holy Passion-Bearers became the family church of the Yaroslavichi, their sanctuary of brotherly love and service to the nation. The symbol of their unity was the celebration of the Transfer of the Relics of Boris and Gleb, observed on May 2. The history of the establishing of this Feast is bound up with the preceding events of Russian history. On May 2, 1069 the Great Prince Izyaslav, who had been expelled from the princedom for seven months (i.e. from September 1068) because of an uprising of the Kievan people, entered into Kiev. In gratitude for God’s help in establishing peace in the Russian land, the prince built a new church to replace an older structure. Two Metropolitans, George of Kiev and Neophytus of Chernigov, participated in its consecration with other bishops, igumens, and clergy. The transfer of the relics, in which all three of the Yaroslavichi (Izyaslav, Svyatoslav, Vsevolod) participated, was set for May 2, and it was designated as an annual celebration.
Svyatoslav Yaroslavich, Prince of Kiev during 1073-1076, made an effort to transform the Saints Boris and Gleb temple into a stone church, but he was able to build the walls only eight cubits high. Later Vsevolod (+ 1093) finished the church construction, but it collapsed by night.
The veneration of Saints Boris and Gleb developed during the time of Yaroslav’s grandsons, often producing a peculiar pious competition among them. Izyaslav’s son Svyatopolk (+ 1113), built silver reliquaries for the saints. In 1102 Vsevolod’s son Vladimir Monomakh (+ 1125), sent master craftsmen by night and secretly adorned the silver reliquaries with gold leaf. Svyatoslav’s son Oleg (+ 1115) outdid them. He was called “Gorislavich”, and was mentioned in the “Tale of Igor’s Campaign.” He “intended to raise up the collapsed stone (church) and hired some builders.” He provided everything that was necessary.
The church was ready in the year 1111, and Oleg “pressured and besought Svyatopolk to transfer the holy relics into it.” Svyatopolk did not want to do this, “because he did not build this church.”
The death of Svyatopolk Izyaslavich (+ 1113) brought a new insurrection to Kiev, which nearly killed Vladimir Monomakh, who had become Great Prince of that city. He decided to cultivate friendship with the Svyatoslavichi through the solemn transfer of the relics into the Oleg church. “Vladimir gathered his sons, and David and Oleg with their sons. They all arrived at Vyshgorod. All the hierarchs, igumens, monks and priests came, filling all the town and there was no space left for the citizenry along the walls.”
On the morning of May 2, 1115, the Sunday of the Myrhhbearing Women, they began to sing Matins at both churches, old and new, and the transfer of relics began. The three were separated. “First they brought Saint Boris in a cart, and with him went Metropolitan Vladimir and his clergy.” On other carts went Saint Gleb “and David with bishops and clergy.” (Oleg waited for them in the church).
This separation was adhered to in future generations. Saint Boris was considered a heavenly protector of the Monomashichi; Saint Gleb, of the Ol’govichi and the Davidovichi. When Vladimir Monomakh speaks about Boris in his “Testament”, he does not mention Gleb. In the Ol’govichi line, none of the princes received the name Boris.
In general the names Boris and Gleb, and so also Roman and David, were esteemed by many generations of Russian princes. The brothers of Oleg Gorislavich were named Roman (+ 1079), Gleb (+ 1078), David (+ 1123), and one of his sons was named Gleb (+ 1138).
From Monomakh were the sons Roman and Gleb; from Yuri Dolgoruky, Boris and Gleb; of Saint Rostislav of Smolensk, Boris and Gleb; of Saint Andrew Bogoliubsky, Saint Gleb (+ 1174); of Vsevolod Big Nest, Boris and Gleb. Among the sons of Vseslav of Polotsk (+ 1101) was the full range of “Saints Boris and Gleb” names: Roman, Gleb, David, Boris.
The Vyshgorod sanctuaries were not the only centers for the liturgical veneration of Saints Boris and Gleb. It was spread throughout the Russian land. First of all, there were churches and monasteries in specific places connected with the martyrdom of the saints, and their miraculous help for people; the temple of Boris and Gleb at Dorogozhich on the road to Vyshgorod, where Saint Boris died; the Saints Boris and Gleb monastery at Tmo near Tver where Gleb’s horse injured its leg; a monastery of the same name at Smyadyno at the place of Gleb’s murder; and at the River Tvertsa near Torzhok (founded in 1030), where the head of Saint George the Hungarian was preserved [trans. note: the beloved servant of Saint Boris was beheaded in order to steal the gold medallion given him by Saint Boris]. Churches dedicated to Saints Boris and Gleb were built at the Alta in memory of the victory of Yaroslav the Wise over Svyatopolk the Accursed on July 24, 1019; and also at Gzena near Novgorod where Gleb Svyatoslavich defeated a sorcerer.
The Ol’govichi and the Monomashichi vied with each other in building churches dedicated to the holy martyrs. Oleg himself, in addition to the Vyshgorod church, built the Saints Boris and Gleb cathedral in Old Ryazan in 1115 (therefore, the diocese was later called Saints Boris and Gleb). His brother David also built at Chernigov (in 1120). In the year 1132 Yuri Dolgoruky built a church of Boris and Gleb at Kideksh at the River Nerla, “where the encampment of Saint Boris had been.” In 1145, Saint Rostislav of Smolensk “put a stone church at Smyadyno,” at Smolensk. In the following year the first (wooden) Saints Boris and Gleb church was built in Novgorod. In 1167 a stone foundation replaced the wood, and it was completed and consecrated in the year 1173. The Novgorod Chronicles name the legendary Sotko Sytinich as the builder of the church.
The holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb were the first Russian saints glorified by the Russian and Byzantine Churches. A service to them was composed soon after their death, and its author was Saint John I, Metropolitan of Kiev (1008-1035), which a MENAION of the twelfth century corroborates. The innumerable copies of their Life, the accounts of the relics, the miracles and eulogies in the manuscripts and printed books of the twelfth-fourteenth centuries bear witness to the special veneration of the holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb in Russia.
[trans. note: Neither this account nor those of the individual feastdays give the details of their martyrdom. Perhaps it is assumed that the reader is familiar with the story, or perhaps it is too painful to recount. The saints chose not to take up arms to defend themselves, or flee to safety. In their final prayers, they refer to the Lord’s voluntary suffering and death, as recorded by the chroniclers. Since they meekly accepted an unjust death for the sake of Christ, they are known as “Passion-Bearers.”]
Saint Athanasius III Patelarios, Patriarch of Constantinople, Wonderworker of Lubensk, in the world Alexis, was born in 1560 on the island of Crete, into the pious Greek family Patelarios. Despite his education and position in society, Alexis was attracted by the life of Christian ascetics. After his father’s death, he became a novice in one of the monasteries of Thessalonica with the name Ananias. From there, he later went to the monastery of Esphigmenou on Mt. Athos, where he fulfilled his obedience in the trapeza (dining area).
From Athos he journeyed to the Palestinian monasteries, and he was tonsured with the name Athanasius. Upon his return to Thessalonica he was ordained presbyter and spread the Gospel of Christ among the Vlachs and the Moldovians, for whom he translated the PSALTER from the Greek. Sometimes, the saint went to Mt. Athos for solitude, and to ask God’s blessing on his pastoral work. The holiness of his life attracted many Christians who wished to see a true preacher of the Orthodox Faith.
By his remarkable abilities and spiritual gifts he attracted the attention of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril I (Lukaris) (1621-1623). Summoning the ascetic, Patriarch Cyril appointed him a preacher of the Patriarchal throne. Soon Saint Athanasius was consecrated bishop and became Metropolitan of Thessalonica.
At this time Patriarch Cyril was slandered before the sultan and imprisoned on the island of Tenedos. Saint Athanasius assumed the Patriarchal throne on March 25, 1634, on the day of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos.
Patriarch Athanasius led an incessant struggle against heretics, Jesuits, and Moslems. After only forty days on the Patriarchal throne, he was deposed through the intrigues of the enemies of Orthodoxy, and Cyril I was returned.
The saint went to Athos, where for a certain time he pursued asceticism in solitude. Then he became Patriarch again, but was deposed after a year. After this, he returned to Thessalonica and renewed his connections with the Holy Mountain. In view of the intolerable persecution of Christians by the Moslems, Saint Athanasius was repeatedly (from 1633 to 1643) obliged to send petitions to the Russian tsar Michael (1613-1645) seeking alms for the hapless Church of Constantinople.
When living at Thessalonica became impossible for the saint, he was forced to journey to Moldavia under the protection of its sovereign, Basil Lukulos, and he settled there in the monastery of Saint Nicholas near Galats, but he longed for Mount Athos. He visited it often and hoped to finish his life there, but God ordained something else for him.
In 1652 after the death of Patriarch Cyril I, Saint Athanasius was returned to the patriarchal throne. He remained only fifteen days, since he was not acceptable to the Moslems and Catholics. During his final Patriarchal service he preached a sermon in which he denounced papal pretensions to universal jurisdiction over the whole Church.
Persecuted by the Moslems and Jesuits, physically weakened, he transferred the administration of the Church of Constantinople to Metropolitan Paisius of Laureia, and he withdrew to Moldavia, where he was appointed administrator of the monastery of Saint Nicholas at Galats.
Knowing the deep faith and responsiveness of the Russian nation, Saint Athanasius undertook a journey to Russia. In April 1653 he was met with great honor in Moscow by Patriarch Nikon (1652-1658) and Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich. Having received generous alms for the needs of the monastery, Patriarch Athanasius left for Galats in December 1653. On the way he fell ill and stayed at the Transfiguration Mgarsk monastery in the city of Lubno in February 1654.
Sensing his impending death, the saint wrote his last will, and he fell asleep in the Lord on April 5. Igumen Petronios and the brethren of the monastery buried the Patriarch. By Greek custom the saint was buried in a sitting position. On February 1, 1662 Saint Athanasius was glorified as a saint and his Feastday was designated as May 2, the Feast of Saint Athanasius the Great.
The relics of holy Patriarch Athansios, glorified by numerous miracles and signs, rest in the city of Kharkov, in the Annunciation cathedral church.
The Holy Martyrs Hesperus, his wife Zoe, and their children Cyriacus and Theodulus suffered for their faith in Christ in the second century, during the persecution under Hadrian (117-138). They had been Christians since their childhood, and they also raised their children in piety. They were all slaves of an illustrious Roman named Catullus, living in Attalia, Asia Minor. While serving their earthly master, the saints never defiled themselves with food offered to idols, which pagans were obliged to use.
Once, Catullus sent Hesperus on business to Tritonia. Saints Cyriacus and Theodulus decided to run away, unable to endure constant contact with pagans. Saint Zoe, however, did not bless her sons to do this. Then they asked their mother’s blessing to confess their faith in Christ openly, and they received it.
When the brothers explained to Catullus that they were Christian, he was surprised, but he did not deliver them for torture. Instead, he sent them with their mother to Saint Hesperus at Tritonia, hoping that the parents would persuade their children to deny Christ. At Tritonia, the saints lived in tranquility for a while, preparing for martyrdom.
All the slaves returned to Attalia for the birthday of Catullus’ son, and a feast was prepared at the house in honor of the pagan goddess Fortuna. Food was sent to the slaves from the master’s table, and this included meat and wine that had been sacrificed to idols. The saints would not eat the food. Zoe poured the wine upon the ground and threw the meat to the dogs. When he learned of this, Catullus gave orders to torture Zoe’s sons, Saints Cyriacus and Theodulus.
The brothers were stripped, suspended from a tree, and raked with iron implements before the eyes of their parents, who counselled their children to persevere to the end.
Then the parents, Saints Hesperus and Zoe, were subjected to terrible tortures. Finally, they threw all four martyrs into a red-hot furnace, where they surrendered their souls to the Lord. Their bodies were preserved in the fire unharmed, and angelic singing was heard, glorifying the confessors of the Lord.
The Holy Equal of the Apostles Tsar Boris, in Holy Baptism Michael: His apostolic deeds were foretold by an uncle, Saint Boyan. The first years of the reign of Tsar Boris were marked by misfortune. The Bulgarians were frequently at war with surrounding nations, famine and plague beset the land, and in the year 860 Bulgaria found itself in dire straits. Tsar Boris saw the salvation of his land, which was darkened by paganism, in its enlightenment by the faith in Christ.
During one of the battles of the Bulgarians with the Greeks he captured the illustrious courtier Theodore Kuphares, who had become a monk. He was the first man to plant the seed of the Gospel in the soul of the Bulgarian tsar. In one of the campaigns with the Greeks the young sister of Tsar Boris was taken captive, and was raised in the Orthodox Faith at the court of the Byzantine Emperor.
When the emperor Theophilus died, Tsar Boris decided to take advantage of this circumstance to take revenge upon the Greeks for his former defeats. But the widow of the emperor, Theodora, showed courage and sent a messenger to the Bulgarian tsar saying that she was prepared to defend the Empire and humiliate its opponents. Tsar Boris agreed to a peace alliance, and Theodore Kuphares was exchanged for the Bulgarian princess, who influenced her brother toward Christianity. A while later Saint Methodius was sent into Bulgaria. He and his brother Saint Cyril were enlightening the Slavic peoples with the light of Christ. Saint Methodius baptized Tsar Boris, his family and many of the nobles.
When the pagan Bulgarians learned of this, they wanted to kill Tsar Boris, but their plot was frustrated by the tsar. Deprived of their rebellious leaders, the Bulgarian people voluntarily accepted Baptism. A peace was concluded between Byzantium and Bulgaria, based on their unity in faith, which was not broken until the end of the reign of the noble tsar. The Patriarch Photius (February 6) took great interest in the spiritual growth of the Bulgarian nation. In 867, preachers from Rome were sent into Bulgaria. This led to three years of discord between the Greek and Roman Churches in Bulgaria.
A Council at Constantinople in 869 put an end to the quarrel, and on March 3, 870 Bulgaria was joined to the Eastern Church and Orthodoxy was firmly established there. Bulgaria’s holy ascetics: Saints Gorazd (July 27) and Clement of Ochrid (July 27) were glorified as saints. Tsar Boris adorned the land with churches and furthered the spread of piety. Later, a Patriarchal See was established in Bulgaria. In his declining years, Tsar Boris entered a monastery, leaving the throne to his sons Vladimir and Simeon.
While in the monastery the saint learned that Vladimir, who succeeded him, had renounced Christianity. Distressed by this, Saint Boris again donned his military garb, punished his disobedient son and threw him in prison. After giving the throne to his younger son Simeon, Saint Boris returned to the monastery. He left it once more to repel a Hungarian invasion. Saint Boris, who was named Michael in holy Baptism, reposed on May 2, 907.
The Putivil Icon depicts the Mother of God holding Christ on her left arm, and with a ladder behind her right hand. Christ is holding an orb in His left hand, and bestows a blessing with His right.
The Putivil Icon is thought to be a copy of the Abul Icon from Mt Abul in Serbia.