3RD THURSDAY AFTER PASCHA
3rd Thursday after Pascha, Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, Germanos, Patriarch of Constantinople, Removal of the Sacred Relics of Saint Joachim “Papoulakis” of Vatopaidi, Theodorus the Righteous of Cythera
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 8:26-39
In those days, an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert road. And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this: “As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
The Lord said to the Jews who believed in him: “This is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Saint Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, “a last relic of ancient piety,” as Saint Jerome calls him, lived during the fourth century in Phoenicia. The Roman empress Honoria was his sister. He was of Jewish descent, and in his youth he received a fine education. He was converted to Christianity after seeing how a certain monk named Lucian gave away his clothing to a poor person. Struck by the monk’s compassion, Epiphanius asked to be instructed in Christianity.
He was baptized and became a disciple of Saint Hilarion the Great (October 21). Entering the monastery, he progressed in the monastic life under the guidance of the experienced Elder Hilarion, and he occupied himself with copying Greek books.
Because of his ascetic struggles and virtues, Saint Epiphanius was granted the gift of wonderworking. In order to avoid human glory, he left the monastery and went into the Spanidrion desert. Robbers caught him there and held him captive for three months. By speaking of repentance, the saint brought one of the robbers to faith in the true God. When they released the holy ascetic, the robber also went with him. Saint Epiphanius took him to his monastery and baptized him with the name John. From that time, he became a faithful disciple of Saint Epiphanius, and he carefully documented the life and miracles of his instructor.
Reports of the righteous life of Saint Epiphanius spread far beyond the monastery. The saint went a second time into the desert with his disciple John. Even in the wilderness disciples started to come to him, so he established a new monastery for them.
After a certain time, Saint Epiphanius made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to venerate its holy shrines, and then returned to the Spanidrion monastery. The people of Lycia sent the monk Polybios to Saint Epiphanius asking him to take the place of their dead archpastor. When he learned of this intention, the clairvoyant ascetic secretly went into the Pathysian desert to the great ascetic Saint Hilarion (October 21), under whose guidance he had learned asceticism in his youth.
The saints spent two months in prayer, and then Hilarion sent Saint Epiphanius to Salamis. Bishops were gathered there to choose a new archpastor to replace one who recently died. The Lord revealed to the eldest of them, Bishop Papius, that Saint Epiphanius should be chosen bishop. When Epiphanius arrived, Saint Papius led him into the church, where in obedience to the will of the participants of the Council, Epiphanius agreed to be their bishop. Saint Epiphanius was consecrated as Bishop of Salamis in 367.
Saint Epiphanius won renown because of his great zeal for the Faith, his love and charity toward the poor, and his simplicity of character. He suffered much from the slander and enmity of some of his clergy. Because of the purity of his life, Saint Epiphanius was permitted to see the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Gifts at Divine Liturgy. Once, when the saint was celebrating the Mystery, he did not see this vision. He then suspected this was caused by the spiritual state of one of the clergy and quietly said to him, “Depart, my son, for you are unworthy to participate in the celebration of the Mystery today.”
At this point, the writings of his disciple John break off, because he became sick and died. The further record of the life of Saint Epiphanius was continued by another of his disciples, Polybios (afterwards bishop of city of Rinocyreia).
Through the intrigues of the empress Eudoxia and the Patriarch Theophilos of Alexandria, towards the end of his life Saint Epiphanius was summoned to Constantinople to participate in the Synod of the Oak, which was convened to judge the great saint, John Chrysostom (September 14 and November 13). Once he realized that he was being manipulated by Chrysostom’s enemies, Saint Epiphanius left Constantinople, unwilling to take part in an unlawful council.
As he was sailing home on a ship, the saint sensed the approach of death, and he gave his disciples final instructions: to keep the commandments of God, and to preserve the mind from impure thoughts. He died two days later. The people of Salamis met the body of their archpastor with carriages, and on May 12, 403 they buried him in a new church which he himself had built.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council named Saint Epiphanius as a Father and Teacher of the Church. In the writings of Saint Epiphanius, the PANARIUM and the ANCHORATUS are refutations of Arianism and other heresies. In his other works are found valuable church traditions, and directives for the Greek translation of the Bible.
In his zeal to preserve the purity of the Orthodox Faith, Saint Epiphanius could sometimes be rash and tactless. In spite of any impetuous mistakes he may have made, we must admire Saint Epiphanius for his dedication in defending Orthodoxy against false teachings. After all, one of the bishop’s primary responsibilities is to protect his flock from those who might lead them astray.
We also honor Saint Epiphanius for his deep spirituality, and for his almsgiving. No one surpassed him in his tenderness and charity to the poor, and he gave vast sums of money to those in need.
Saint Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, was born at Constantinople in the seventh century. His father, a prominent senator, was killed by order of the emperor Constantine Pogonatos (668-685). The young Germanus was emasculated and sent to a monastery, where he studied Holy Scripture.
Because of the sanctity of his life, Germanus was made bishop in the city of Cyzicus. Saint Germanus rose up in defense of the Orthodox Faith against the iconoclast heretics. He was later made Patriarch of Constantinople. Saint Germanus continued to stand up against the iconoclasts and to their spokesman, the heretical emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717-741), but the contest was unequal. He was forced to put his omophorion upon the altar table in the sanctuary, and to resign the archpastoral throne. Then the enraged emperor, who accused the Patriarch of heresy the day before, sent soldiers, who beat the saint and threw him out of the patriarchal residence. Saint Germanus was Patriarch for fourteen years and five months.
He went to a monastery, where he spent the remaining days of his life. The holy Patriarch Germanus died in the year 740, at age ninety-five, and was buried in the Chora monastery in Constantinople. Afterwards, his relics were transferred to France.
At the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787), the name of Patriarch Germanus was included in the diptychs of the saints. He wrote a “Meditation on Church Matters or Commentary on the Liturgy;” also an explanation of the difficult passages of Holy Scripture, and another work on the rewards of the righteous after death.
His important work on the various heresies that had arisen since apostolic times, and on the church councils that took place during the reign of the emperor Leo the Iconoclast, provides a wealth of historical information. There are also three letters from the Patriarch about the veneration of icons, which were read at the Seventh Ecumenical Council.
His other works include hymns in praise of the saints, discourses on the Feasts of the Entry into the Temple, the Annunciation and the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, and on the restoration of the church in honor of the Placing of the Venerable Zone of the Most Holy Theotokos.
The Hieromartyr Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus, was glorified on May 12, 1913.
The memory of Patriarch Hermogenes as a holy martyr was passed on from generation to generation for three centuries, and people increasingly regarded him as an intercessor and supplicant for the Russian land before the Throne of the Almighty.
During terrible years of national hardship, the nation turned to the memory of the heroic Patriarch. The Russian people came to his tomb with their personal tribulations, sicknesses and infirmities, reverently asking the help of Saint Hermogenes, and the All-Merciful Lord rewarded their faith.
Believers from all ends of Russia began to flock to Moscow for the glorification of the hieromartyr Hermogenes 300 years after his death. Pilgrims hastened to venerate the relics of the holy Patriarch, in the Dormition Cathedral of the Kremlin, where panikhidas were served almost without interruption.
On the eve of the glorification there was a procession with an icon of Saint Hermogenes, and after it a grave cover, on which the saint was depicted full-length in mantiya and holding a staff. Beside the icon of the Patriarch they carried an icon of Saint Dionysius of Radonezh, his fellow-struggler in spiritual and patriotic deeds for the liberation of the Russian land from Polish-Lithuanian usurpers.
On the bell tower of Ivan the Great hung a tremendous banner, “Rejoice, Hieromartyr Hermogenes, Great Intercessor of the Russian land.” A hundred thousand candles blazed in the hands of believers. At the end of the procession, they began to chant the Paschal Canon and a Canon to Saint Hermogenes, at the shrine where the relics of the Patriarch rested.
The all-night Vigil took place under the open skies at all the Kremlin squares. On this night a number of healings occurred through the prayers of Saint Hermogenes. For example, a certain sick person came to the Dormition Cathedral on crutches, and was healed as he approached the shrine with the relics of the saint. Another sick person was healed, who had suffered from terrible crippling disease. They brought him to the reliquary of the hieromartyr Hermogenes on a stretcher, where he was completely cured. These and other similar healings, witnessed by a multitude of the faithful, were remarkable proofs of the holiness of the new Russian wonderworker.
On Sunday May 12, Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Dormition Cathedral. Presiding at the celebration of the solemn glorification of the new saint was His Beatitude Gregorios, Patriarch of Antioch. At the finish of Liturgy in all the churches of Moscow, Moliebens were served to Saint Hermogenes and a procession made to the Moscow Kremlin, in which more than twenty hierarchs took part. They accompanied the procession singing, “O Holy Hierarch Father Hermogenes, pray unto God for us.” From this day the liturgical veneration of Saint Hermogenes began. Thus, the wish of the faithful Russian people was fulfilled. Through their prayers the Russian Orthodox Church received a heavenly patron.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Church established the commemoration of the hieromartyr Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus for February 17, the day of his repose (his life and works are found under this day), and May 12, the day of his glorification.
Great is the national significance of Saint Hermogenes, a tireless struggler for the purity of Orthodoxy and the unity of the Russian land. His ecclesial and civil activity during several centuries serves as an outstanding example of his ardent faith and love for the Russian people.
The ecclesial activity of the archpastor is characterized by an attentive and strict regard for church services. Under him were published a GOSPEL, a MENAION for September (1607), October (1609), November (1610), and for the first twelve days of December. The “Great Primary Rule” was printed in 1610. Saint Hermogenes did not merely give his blessing for this book, but carefully oversaw the accuracy of the text. With the blessing of Saint Hermogenes the Service to the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called (November 30) also was translated from Greek into the Russian language, and his Feast began to be celebrated in the Dormition Cathedral.
Under the supervision of the Archpastor, new presses were made for printing service books, and a new print shop was built. This was damaged during the 1611 conflagration, when Moscow was burned by the Poles. Concerned about the order of divine services, Saint Hermogenes compiled a “Letter to all the People, Especially Priests and Deacons, on the Improvement of Church Singing.” The “Letter” chastizes the clergy for performing Church services not according to the Typikon, for unnecessary talking, and lay people for their irreverent attitude toward the divine services.
The literary activity of the first hierarch of the Russian Church is widely known. He wrote “An Account of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God and the Service to this Icon (1594);” “A Letter to Patriarch Job, Containing an Account of the Kazan Martyrs” (1591), a collection of articles in which questions about divine services (1598) are examined; there are patriotic documents and appeals, directed to the Russian nation (1606-1613), and other works.
His contemporaries speak of Patriarch Hermogenes as a man of outstanding intellect and erudition, “a Master of great reason and thought,” “very remarkable,” “very accomplished in wisdom and refined in learning,” “ever concerning himself about divine literature, and all the books about the Old Law and the New Grace, and pursuing to the end various Church rules and principles of law.” Saint Hermogenes spent a lot of time in monastery libraries, especially in the library of the Moscow Chudov monastery, where he copied precious historical accounts from ancient manuscripts.
In the seventeenth century they called the Chronicle by His Holiness Patriarch Hermogenes the “Resurrection Chronicle.” In the collected works of the saint and his archpastoral documents there are many quotations from Holy Scripture, and examples taken from history, which testify to his profound knowledge of the Word of God and his familiarity with the Church literature of his time.
Patriarch Hermogenes incorporated his research in his preaching and teaching. The saint’s contemporaries regard the Archpastor as “a man of reverence,” “purity of life,” “a true shepherd of the flock of Christ,” and “a sincere upholder of the Christian faith”.
These qualities of Saint Hermogenes were quite especially apparent during the Time of Troubles, when the Russian land was overwhelmed by internal chaos, and worsened by Polish-Lithuanian intrigue. During this dark period, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church selflessly protected the Russian realm, by word and by deed defending the Orthodox Faith from Latinism, and also national unity from internal and external enemies. In saving his native land, Saint Hermogenes won the crown of a martyrdom, becoming a heavenly intercessor for Russia before the Throne of the Holy Trinity.
Saint Dionysius of Radonezh, in the world David Zobninovsky, was born about 1570 in the city of Rzhev. A novice, and then head of the Staritsky Dormition monastery, during the Time of Troubles he was the foremost helper of Saint Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow.
From 1611, Saint Dionysius was archimandrite of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra. Under his administration, a house and hospice for the injured and those left homeless during the Polish-Lithuanian incursion was opened near the monastery. During a famine, he told the brethren of the Lavra to eat oat bread and water, leaving the wheat and the rye bread for the sick. In 1611-1612, he and the steward of the Trinity-Sergiev monastery, the monk Abraham Palitsyn (+ 1625), wrote letters asking the people of Nizhni-Novgorod and other cities to send fighting men and money to liberate Moscow from the Poles. He also wrote to Prince Demetrius Pozharsky and to all the military people, urging them to hasten the campaign for Moscow.
His monastic training helped Saint Dionysius to maintain his own inner light undiminished during the terrible years of this evil time. The saint achieved a high degree of spiritual pefection through unceasing prayer, which gave him the gift of working miracles. He carefully concealed his spiritual life from other people, who might suffer harm from a superficial knowledge of it.
“Do not ask a monk about things concerning his monastic life,” said Saint Dionysius, “since for us monks, it is a great misfortune to reveal such secrets to laymen. It is written that what is done in secret should not be known, even by your own left hand. We must hide ourselves, so that what we do remains unknown, lest the devil lead us into all manner of negligence and indolence.”
We can only measure his spiritual development, and the knowledge of God which he attained, by those things which became apparent when circumstances compelled Saint Dionysius to take an active part in the life of the world around him.
One such circumstance was his involvement in the revision of the service books. In 1616 Saint Dionysius spoke of work on correction of the Book of Needs by comparing it with the ancient Slavonic manuscripts and various Greek editions.
During their work, investigators discovered discrepancies in other books edited in the period between patriarchs (1612-1619). People did not understand what the editors were doing, so they accused Saint Dionysius and the others of heresy at a Council of 1618.
Deposed from his priestly rank and excommunicated from the Church, he was imprisoned in the Novospassky (New Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior) monastery, where they wanted to kill him by starvation. The intervention of Patriarch Philaretos of Moscow and Patriarch Theophanes of Jerusalem (1619-1633) won his release in 1619, and he was cleared of the charges against him.
Saint Dionysius was known for his strict observance of the monastery Rule, for sharing in monastery tasks and in the rebuilding of the monastery after the siege of the Lavra. The Life and Canon to the saint was composed by the Trinity-Sergiev monastery steward Simon Azaryn and augmented by the priest John Nasedka, a coworker of Saint Dionysius when he was correcting the service books.
Saint Dionysius reposed on May 12, 1633 and was buried in the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra.
Saint Sabinus, Bishop of Cyprus, was born in the Phoenician city of Lycia. Hearing of the renowned ascetic, Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus, Sabinus went to him and received monastic tonsure. For five years he lived in asceticism with Saint Epiphanius in the wilderness. Afterwards, he wrote about the life and deeds of Saint Epiphanius.
When Saint Epiphanius was elevated to the See of Cyprus, he ordained Saint Sabinus to the holy priesthood. After the death of his bishop and spiritual guide, Saint Sabinus became his successor. The wise archpastor zealously defended the Church from heretics. He died in the mid-fifth century.
Saint Polybius was a disciple of Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus. He accompanied him on all his journeys and he wrote about the life and miracles of his teacher.
Saint Polybius accompanied Saint Epiphanius when he was returning from Constantinople, unwilling to take part in the council condemning Saint John Chrysostom. As he was dying, Saint Epiphanius told Saint Polybius, “Go to Egypt, and after my death I shall concern myself about you.” Saint Polybius obeyed his teacher’s order with humility and, not waiting for the burial of the body, he went to Egypt, where he was made bishop of the city of Rinocyria.
For his virtuous ascetic life, Saint Polybius was granted the gift of wonderworking. Once, through his prayer, the Lord sent rain during a drought and provided an abundant harvest in the fields. Saint Polybius reposed in the fifth century at an advanced age.
The Holy New Martyr John of Vlachia was born in 1644 in Oltenia. He received a good upbringing from his parents, who raised him in the fear of God, the love of country, and in their ancestral faith. At that time the Ţara Românească (the former name for Vlahia) was ruled by princes called Voevods, who were subject to the Sultan. The Voevod of Vlahia, Mihnea Voda, revolted against the Turks because he was unable to pay the exorbitant tribute which they demanded. He entered the Turkish territory, burning, killing, or jailing many Turks. Sultan Mehmet IV sent an army of Turks and Tatars against him, and he was forced to retreat. In retaliation, the Turks and Tatars ravaged Vlachia, killing many Christians, or throwing them into prison. Saint John, who came from a noble and wealthy family, was one of those who was jailed.
After crossing the Danube River, a Turkish army captain noticed how handsome he was, and so he bought him for his own evil purposes. When he tried to seduce him, John resisted, so he was tied to a tree until the Hagarene could find an opportunity to fulfill his desires. John was afraid that he might be raped, so when he had the chance, he killed the Turk. When the other soldiers learned what had happened, they bound the young man and took him to Constantinople and turned him over to the man's widow. She brought him to the Vizier, who questioned him, and John admitted what he had done. The Vizier gave him to the widow to do whatever she wished with him. At first, she made him one of her slaves. Then, seeing how handsome he was, she offered to spare his life if he would marry her and become a Moslem. Saint John made the Sign of the Cross and prayed that Christ would always preserve him steadfast in the Orthodox Faith. The woman continued her efforts for two and a half years. Finally, he told her that he would prefer to die for Christ rather than become a Moslem and marry her. The woman then turned him over to the prefect, who put him in jail. The Turks subjected him to frightful torments for several days. Meanwhile, the vile woman never ceased her attempts to flatter John, or to seduce him, or persuade him to reject Christ. The young man remained firm in both faith and virtue. Strengthened by the Lord Jesus Christ, he turned his back on the woman and on her religion.
Seeing that their efforts were in vain, the Turks asked the Vizier to condemn the martyr to death. This was done, and so the prefect was ordered to carry out the sentence. The executioners brought him to Parmak Kapi (“Gate of the Pillar”) near the covered bazaar, and hanged him there on May 12, 1662. He had not yet reached the age of eighteen. His holy relics were either thrown into the waters of the Bosphorus, or buried by Christians in an unknown place. Thus, the New Martyr John received an unfading crown from God.
Saint John was first glorified by the Greek Orthodox Church, which listed him among the New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke. Beginning in 1801, his veneration also began to spread in what is now Romania. In 1950, the Holy Synod of Romania decided that Saint John ought to be honored in the country of his birth. Saint John of Vlahia was glorified by the Romanian Orthodox Church in October of 1950, and his name was added to their Church Calendar. His Feast Day is observed on May 12, the day of his martyrdom.
The Holy Martyr Pancratius was a native of Phrygia, but lived in Rome with his uncle Dionysius after his parents died. They heard Bishop Cornelius preach, and were later baptized.
The fourteen-year-old youth suffered martyrdom at Rome during the persecution under Diocletian (284-305). He was buried on the Via Aurelia, and a church was built over his grave. The Aurelian gate is known today as the Porta Saint Pancrazio.
Saint Gregory Dialogus (March 12) venerated Saint Pancratius, who was beheaded near the site of his monastery, and had a silver reliquary made for the martyr’s head. After Saint Gregory became bishop, the reliquary was placed in his cathedral on the Lateran hill. The reliquary was returned to the church of Saint Pancratius in the twentieth century.
When Saint Augustine of Canterbury (May 26) arrived in Britain, he transformed a pagan temple into a Christian church, dedicating it to Saint Pancratius. Saint Augustine built another church in honor of Saint Pancratius outside London. This church, which contains an old altar stone, is now called “Old Saint Pancras.”
The holy martyr Pancratius is especially venerated by the Western Church, where he is known as Saint Pancras.