3RD WEDNESDAY AFTER PASCHA
3rd Wednesday after Pascha, Renewal of Constantinople, Methodius & Cyril, Equal-to-the Apostles Illuminators of the Slavs, Hieromartyr Mocius, Theopemptos the Martyr & his Companions, Dioscoros the New Martyr, Argyrios the New-Martyr of Epanomi
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 8:18-25
In those days, when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, "Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." But Peter said to him, "Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." And Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.
Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
The Lord said to the Jews who believed in him: "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day.
Commemoration of the Founding of Constantinople
In 324 the holy Emperor Constantine (May 21) decided that the imperial capital had to be closer to the Eastern provinces, and yet have direct communication with the West. The city of Byzantium fulfilled these requirements, and on November 8, 324 the site of the new capital was consecrated.
Tradition tells us that the Emperor was tracing the boundaries of the city with a spear, when his courtiers became astonished by the magnitude of the new dimensions of the capital. “Lord,” they asked, “how long will you keep going?”
Constantine replied, “I shall keep going until the one who walks ahead of me stops.”
Then they understood that the emperor was being guided by some divine power. There is an iconographic sketch by Rallis Kopsides showing an angel of the Lord going before Saint Constantine as he traces the new boundaries of the city.
Construction of the main buildings was begun in 325, and pagan monuments from Rome, Athens, and other cities were used to beautify the new capital. The need for the new city is partially explained by the changing requirements of government, the Germanic invasion of the West, and commercial benefits, but the new city was also to be a Christian capital. For this, a new foundation was required.
In 330, the work had progressed to the point where it was possible for Constantine to dedicate the new capital. The dedication took place on May 11, followed by forty days of joyous celebration. Christian Constantinople was placed under the protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, and overshadowed pagan Byzantium. Saint Constantine was the first Emperor to submit voluntarily to Christ, and Constantinople became the symbol of a Christian Empire which lasted for a thousand years.
Hieromartyr Mocius the Presbyter of Amphipolis in Macedonia
Saint Mocius was a presbyter in Macedonia in the city of Amphipolis. During a persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Mocius exhorted the pagans who had assembled for the pagan festival of Dionysus (Bacchus), to abandon iniquity and the vile customs which accompanied this celebration. He urged them to repent and be converted to the Lord Jesus Christ, and be cleansed through holy Baptism.
The saint was brought to trial before the governor of Laodicea. When threatened with torture, he replied, “My death for Christ is a great accomplishment for me.” Saint Mocius was subjected to torture, which he bore with marvelous endurance, and did not cease to denounce the idol-worshippers.
Taken to the pagan temple of Dionysus, the saint shattered the idols when he called upon Jesus Christ. After this he was put into a red-hot oven, where he remained unharmed, but the flames coming out of the oven scorched the governor.
Again the commander subjected Saint Mocius to fierce torture, which he endured with the help of God. He was given to wild beasts to be eaten, but they did not touch him. The lions lay down at his feet. The people, seeing such miracles, urged that the saint be set free. The governor ordered the saint to be sent to the city of Perinth, and from there to Byzantium, where Saint Mocius was executed.
Before his death he gave thanks to the Lord for giving him the strength to persevere to the very end. His last words were, “Lord, receive my spirit in peace.” Then he was beheaded. Saint Mocius died about the year 295. Later, the emperor Constantine built a church in honor of the hieromartyr Mocius and transferred his holy passion-bearing relics into it.
Equals of the Apostles and Teachers of the Slavs, Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius, Equals of the Apostles, and Enlighteners of the Slavs came from an illustrious and pious family living in the Greek city of Thessalonica. Saint Methodius was the oldest of seven brothers, Saint Constantine [Cyril was his monastic name] was the youngest. At first Saint Methodius was in the military and was governor in one of the Slavic principalities dependent on the Byzantine Empire, probably Bulgaria, which made it possible for him to learn the Slavic language. After living there for about ten years, Saint Methodius later received monastic tonsure at one of the monasteries on Mount Olympus (Asia Minor).
Saint Constantine distinguished himself by his great aptitude, and he studied with the emperor Michael under the finest teachers in Constantinople, including Saint Photius, the future Patriarch of Constantinople (February 6).
Saint Constantine studied all the sciences of his time, and also knew several languages. He also studied the works of Saint Gregory the Theologian. Because of his keen mind and penetrating intellect, Saint Constantine was called “Philosopher” (wise). Upon the completion of his education, Saint Constantine was ordained to the holy priesthood and was appointed curator of the patriarchal library at the church of Hagia Sophia. He soon left the capital and went secretly to a monastery.
Discovered there, he returned to Constantinople, where he was appointed as instructor in philosophy. The young Constantine’s wisdom and faith were so great that he won a debate with Ananias, the leader of the heretical iconclasts. After this victory Constantine was sent by the emperor to discuss the Holy Trinity with the Saracens, and again he gained the victory. When he returned, Saint Constantine went to his brother Saint Methodius on Olympus, spending his time in unceasing prayer and reading the works of the holy Fathers.
The emperor soon summoned both of the holy brothers from the monastery and sent them to preach the Gospel to the Khazars. Along the way they stayed in the city of Korsun, making preparations for their missionary activity. There the holy brothers miraculously discovered the relics of the hieromartyr Clement, Pope of Rome (November 25).
There in Korsun Saint Constantine found a Gospel and Psalter written in Russian letters [i.e. Slavonic], and a man speaking the Slavic tongue, and he learned from this man how to read and speak this language. After this, the holy brothers went to the Khazars, where they won a debate with Jews and Moslems by preaching the Gospel. On the way home, the brothers again visited Korsun and, taking up the relics of Saint Clement, they returned to Constantinople. Saint Constantine remained in the capital, but Saint Methodius was made igumen of the small Polychronion monastery near Mount Olympus, where he lived a life of asceticism as before.
Soon messengers came to the emperor from the Moravian prince Rostislav, who was under pressure from German bishops, with a request to send teachers to Moravia who would be able to preach in the Slavic tongue. The emperor summoned Saint Constantine and said to him, “You must go there, but it would be better if no one knows about this.”
Saint Constantine prepared for the new task with fasting and prayer. With the help of his brother Saint Methodius and the disciples Gorazd, Clement, Savva, Naum and Angelyar, he devised a Slavonic alphabet and translated the books which were necessary for the celebration of the divine services: the Gospel, Epistles, Psalter, and collected services, into the Slavic tongue. This occurred in the year 863.
After completing the translation, the holy brothers went to Moravia, where they were received with great honor, and they began to teach the services in the Slavic language. This aroused the malice of the German bishops, who celebrated divine services in the Moravian churches in Latin. They rose up against the holy brothers, convinced that divine services must be done in one of three languages: Hebrew, Greek or Latin.
Saint Constantine said, “You only recognize three languages in which God may be glorified. But David sang, ‘Praise the Lord, all nations, praise the Lord all peoples (Ps 116/117:1).’ And the Gospel of Saint Matthew (28:18) says, ‘Go and teach all nations….’” The German bishops were humiliated, but they became bitter and complained to Rome.
The holy brothers were summoned to Rome for a decision on this matter. Taking with them the relics of Saint Clement, Saints Constantine and Methodius set off to Rome. Knowing that the holy brothers were bringing these relics with them, Pope Adrian met them along the way with his clergy. The holy brothers were greeted with honor, the Pope gave permission to have divine services in the Slavonic language, and he ordered the books translated by the brothers to be placed in the Latin churches, and to serve the Liturgy in the Slavonic language.
At Rome Saint Constantine fell ill, and the Lord revealed to him his approaching death. He was tonsured into the monastic schema with the name of Cyril. On February 14, 869, fifty days after receiving the schema, Saint Cyril died at the age of forty-two.
Saint Cyril commanded his brother Saint Methodius to continue with their task of enlightening the Slavic peoples with the light of the true Faith. Saint Methodius entreated the Pope to send the body of his brother for burial in their native land, but the Pope ordered the relics of Saint Cyril to be placed in the church of Saint Clement, where miracles began to occur from them.
After the death of Saint Cyril, the Pope sent Saint Methodius to Pannonia, after consecrating him as Archbishop of Moravia and Pannonia, on the ancient throne of Saint Andronicus (July 30). In Pannonia Saint Methodius and his disciples continued to distribute services books written in the Slavonic language. This again aroused the wrath of the German bishops. They arrested and tried Saint Methodius, who was sent in chains to Swabia, where he endured many sufferings for two and a half years.
After being set free by order of Pope John VIII of Rome, and restored to his archdiocese, Saint Methodius continued to preach the Gospel among the Slavs. He baptized the Czech prince Borivoi and his wife Ludmilla (September 16), and also one of the Polish princes. The German bishops began to persecute the saint for a third time, because he did not accept the erroneous teaching about the procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son. Saint Methodius was summoned to Rome, but he justified himself before the Pope, and preserved the Orthodox teaching in its purity, and was sent again to the capital of Moravia, Velehrad.
Here in the remaining years of his life Saint Methodius, assisted by two of his former pupils, translated the entire Old Testament into Slavonic, except for the Book of Maccabbees, and even the Nomocanon (Rule of the Holy Fathers) and Paterikon (book of the Holy Fathers).
Sensing the nearness of death, Saint Methodius designated one of his students, Gorazd, as a worthy successor to himself. The holy bishop predicted the day of his death and died on April 6, 885 when he was about sixty years old. The saint’s burial service was chanted in three languages, Slavonic, Greek, and Latin. He was buried in the cathedral church of Velehrad.
Venerable Sophronius the Recluse of the Kiev Far Caves
The Relics of Saint Sophronius were buried in the Far Caves of the Kiev Caves monastery. In the Canon to the monks of the Far Caves the saint’s solitary ascetical struggles are mentioned. He was deemed worthy to hear angels singing. The memory of Saint Sophronius is also celebrated on March 11.
Saint Joseph, Metropolitan of Astrakhan
The Hieromartyr Joseph, First Metropolitan of Astrakhan, was born at Astrakhan in 1579. After becoming a monk, Saint Joseph was made Archimandrite of the Astrakhan Trinity monastery at the age of fifty-two.
In 1656 he was at Moscow, after which he was chosen to be Metropolitan of Astrakhan. On May 11,1672, during an uprising of the townspeople, Saint Joseph suffered martyrdom at Astrakhan. This sad event was recorded in detail by two eyewitnesses, priests of the Astrakhan cathedral, Cyril and Peter.
The priests took the body of the martyr, dressed it in bishop’s vestments, and placed it in a prepared grave. On the following day, after serving a Panikhida, the saint’s body was taken to a chapel, and it remained unburied for nine days. The relics of the holy hierarch were placed into the grave, and were soon glorified by miracles.
Saint Joseph was glorified at the Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in April 1918.
Saint Νikόdēmos, Archbishop of Serbia
Saint Νikόdēmos, Archbishop of Serbia, was Igumen of the Hilandar monastery on Mount Athos, and was consecrated bishop in the year 1316. In 1319 he translated the Typikon< of Saint Savva the Sanctified of Jerusalem into the Slavonic language, and ordered it to be used in Serbia.
Saint Νikόdēmos died in the year 1325.
Saint Rostislav, Prince of Great Moravia
Saint Rostislav (Rastislav) the Prince of Great Moravia, and Equal of the Apostles, became Prince in 846, following the death of his uncle Mojmir I. At that time, missionaries from Greece, the Balkans, and Germany were already preaching in the territory of Great Moravia. Prince Rostislav was among those who received Holy Baptism, and soon afterward he decided to enlighten the entire country with the light of the Christian Faith.
Wary of the German missionaries, who were subject to Louis the German, the King of East Francia, Prince Rostislav understood that for the preaching of the Gospel to be successful, it must be proclaimed in the language of the people.
At first, Rostislav asked the Roman Pope Nicholas I to send him some missionaries who knew the Slavic language. When his request was refused, he turned to the Byzantine Emperor Michael III. On the advice of Patriarch Photios of Constantinople (February 6), Michael sent Prince Rostislav two brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodios, who translated the Bible, the Divine Liturgy, and other books into Slavonic. Icons and other items which were required for the Church Services were also provided, and Christian schools were established. Christianity spread rapidly throughout Great Moravia with the full support of Prince Rostislav.
In 870, Prince Rostislav's nephew Svatopluk betrayed him to Carloman, the son of King Louis, after acknowledging him as his overlord. In return, Carloman promised that Svatopluk would rule in Great Moravia. Prince Rostislav was blinded and confined in a castle at Regensburg in the State of Bavaria, where he reposed that same year.
Saint Rostislav was glorified by the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia at Prešov in October of 1994.
New Martyr Dioscorus
No information available at this time.
New Martyr Argyrus
No information available at this time.
Blessed Christopher, called Christesia
Blessed Christesia’s family was from Egrisi in western Georgia. From his youth Christesia longed for the divine services and the solitary life, but he was forced by his master to marry, and by this marriage he begot a son. Later, when both his wife and son had died, his master insisted that he marry again, but the pious Christesia would not heed his master’s order.
Instead he related the order to his spiritual father, who advised him to depart from the world and journey to the Davit-Gareji Wilderness. Deeply inspired by his spiritual father’s counsel, Christesia abandoned his possessions and his life in the world and withdrew to the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in the Davit-Gareji Wilderness.
The holy father spent many years in humble service to the Lord. He was assigned to gather firewood and bring water for the monastery, and he performed these tasks obediently and in perfect meekness. Every day he walked over four miles to fill a pitcher with water and then carried it to a small hut nearby. He hung the pitcher at the entrance to make it visible from a distance, and travelers who passed by would come to quench their thirst.
He also kept a small vegetable garden to feed the passers-by. Every Saturday he prepared kolio (a dish of wheat and honey traditionally offered to commemorate the departed) and divided it in three parts: one part commemorated the family and loved ones of those who had donated the wheat and honey; the second, the deceased fathers of the monastery; and the last, all departed Orthodox Christians.
It always disturbed Saint Christesia to see his brothers and sisters at odds with one another, so when he heard that two people were quarreling, he would go and reconcile them. “My children!” he would say, “If you do not heed my words, I will leave in sorrow, and the devil, who is always resistant to peace, will rejoice and send more tribulations upon you. I came to you hungry, and I will depart hungry!” His words warmed the hearts of those whom he counseled and helped them to be reconciled with one another.
One hot evening after Vespers, Saint Christesia set off on foot for a certain village. He left during twilight, and when night fell the sky was without a moon and extraordinarily dark. Before long it became difficult to walk any farther, so Saint Christesia stopped to pray, and a bright light appeared before him to light the way. The divine light guided him all through the night, until he reached the village of Sartichala.
Saint Christesia’s cell was poor and cramped. He slept on a bed of wooden planks that he covered in sheepskin, and instead of a pillow he rested his head on a stone. The pious ascetic wore a sheepskin coat and sandals made of bark. Whatever he received he gave to the poor. Having placed complete trust in God, he would not permit himself to worry about the morrow, nor did he bother to store up food or supplies for the harsh winter months.
Father Christesia was already advanced in age when he was tonsured a monk and given the new name Christopher. He reposed peacefully in 1771, at the age of eighty.
Holy Monastic Martyrs Olympia and Euphrosynē
Saint Olympia (Ολυμπία) was born to devout parents who were from Constantinople. Her father was a priest, and her mother was the daughter of a priest. They fled Constantinople for some unknown reason and went to the Peloponnesos. At the age of ten, Saint Olympia lost her parents, and her relatives sent her to Karyes Monastery at Therme on the island of Lesbos, where her aunt Dorothy was the Igoumeness. Originally this was a womens' monastery, but today it is Saint Raphael's Monastery.
At the age of nineteen, Saint Olympia was tonsured as a nun. When she was twenty-five, she succeeded her aunt as Igoumeness. About ten years later, on May 11, 1235, pirates arrived on Lesbos and went to the monastery where there were thirty nuns. Some of them were raped by the pirates, but others fled to the mountains.
Igoumeness Olympia and Eldress Euphrosynē (Ευφροσύνη) were subjected to frightful torments. Saint Euphrosynē was hanged from a tree and was burnt. Saint Olympia was burnt all over her body with torches, and after that they took a red-hot iron rod and passed it from one ear and out through the other. Finally, her tortured body was nailed to a board with twenty nails, and this board was buried with her. Then the pirates went away.
The account of the lives and martyrdom of these two holy women became known in 1959 when, by divine revelation, the relics of these saints were found at Therme. Twenty nails were found in Saint Olympia's tomb. Sometimes she has appeared together with Saint Raphael.
Saint Olympia and Saint Euphrosynē are commemorated on May 11 and also on Bright Tuesday with Saints Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene.