5TH THURSDAY AFTER PASCHA
5th Thursday after Pascha, Carpos and Alphaeus, Apostles of the 70, Alexandros the New Martyr of Thessaloniki, George the New of Sofia, Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 4:9-16
Brethren, God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, "Are we also blind?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see, ' your guilt remains.
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
Saint Carpus was one of the Seventy Apostles chosen and sent forth to preach by Christ (Luke 10:1). He was bishop of Verria in Macedonia.
The Holy Apostle Alphaeus of the Seventy came from the Galilean city of Capernaum and was the father of the Apostles James and Matthew.
The Holy Martyr George the New was born into an illustrious Bulgarian family, living in the capital city of Bulgaria, Sredets (now the city of Sofia). Saint George’s childless parents, John and Mary, in their declining years entreated the Lord to send them a child. Their prayer was answered, and they baptized the infant with the name of the holy Great Martyr George (April 23).
Young George received a fine upbringing, he attentively studied the Holy Scriptures, and he was pious and chaste. His parents died when George was twenty-five. At that time Bulgaria found itself under the rule of the Turks, who forcibly converted Christians to Islam.
Once, several Moslems tried to convert George. They put a fez on the saint’s head. This is a red circular hat which Moslems wear to enter their house of prayer. But George threw the fez on the ground. The Turks brought the martyr to their governor with beatings and abuse.
The governor was impressed with Saint George’s appearance and bearing, and he urged him to accept Islam, promising honors and wealth from Sultan Selim (1512-1520). The saint boldly and steadfastly confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and reproached the errors of Islam. The governor in a rage gave orders to beat Saint George with rods, but the saint persevered in his confession of faith in Christ.
The governor ordered the tortures to be increased. The passion-bearer bore all his sufferings, calling on the Lord Jesus Christ for help. Then they led the martyr through the city to the beat of a drum and shouts: “Do not insult Mohammed nor abase the Moslem faith”.
Finally, a large fire was lit in the city, to burn Saint George. Weakened by his wounds, the saint fell to the ground. They threw him into the fire still alive, and they threw corpses of dogs on top of him so that Christians would not be able to find the relics of the martyr.
Suddenly, a heavy rain fell and extinguished the fire. With the onset of darkness, the place where the body of the martyr was thrown was illumined with a bright light. They gave permission to a certain Christian priest to take the venerable relics of the martyr for burial. Informed about the occurrence, Metropolitan Jeremiah and his clergy went to the place of execution. In the ashes of the fire they located the body of the holy Martyr George and carried it to the church of Saint George the Great Martyr in the city of Sredets.
On May 26, 1515 the holy relics of Saint George were removed from the grave, placed in a coffin, and then brought into the church, where they have remained ever since. The Church honors Saint George twice during the year: on February 11, the day of his martyrdom, and on May 26, the uncovering of his holy relics.
The Uncovering of the Relics of Saint Macarius of Kalyazin occurred on May 26, 1521. A merchant from the city of Dmitrov, Michael Voronkov, offered the means for the construction of a stone church to replace the decaying wooden one at the Kalyazin monastery.
The igumen of the monastery, Joasaph, set up a cross at the spot designated for the altar, and gave a blessing to dig the trench for the foundation. During the work a grave was discovered, exuding an ineffable fragrance. Igumen Joasaph immediately recognized the grave of the monastery’s founder, Saint Macarius, who reposed in the year 1483.
The brethren of the monastery and a crowd of people sang a Panikhida during the transfer of the coffin to the church. From that day the incorrupt relics of the saint began to work healings. A report about this was made to Metropolitan Daniel of Moscow (1522-1539), who convened a Council at Moscow. After examining testimony about the sanctity of Macarius, he established a Feast day for the newly-appeared saint. The relics were solemnly transferred to the church of the Holy Trinity.
Theodosius of Tver composed the service for the Uncovering of the Relics. Until 1547, Saint Macarius was venerated only at this monastery. During the Moscow Council of 1547 under Metropolitan Macarius (1543-1564), Saint Macarius of Kalyazin was numbered among the saints, and his name added to the calendar of other Russian saints to be celebrated throughout all of Russia.
The Life of Saint Macarius of Kalyazin is found under March 17, the day of his blessed repose.
According to Tradition, the Holy Martyrs Abercius and Helen were children of the holy Apostle Alphaeus. For confessing his faith in Christ, Saint Abercius was tied naked to a beehive and died from the bees’ sting. For confessing her faith in Christ, Saint Helen was pelted with stones.
Saint John Psichaita the Confessor lived during the end of the eighth or the beginning of the ninth century. In his youth he left the secular world and became a monk in the Psichaita Lavra (in the suburbs of Constantinople).
Because of his holy life and deeds, he received from God the gift to cast out demons and to heal the sick. During this time the heresy of the iconoclasts was raging, and those venerating holy icons were subjected to persecution.
Saint John was led away for interrogation, and they tried to force him to sign a document renouncing the veneration of holy icons. Instead of renouncing the holy icons, the saint denounced his persecutors, calling the emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741) a heretic. Therefore, they sent Saint John into exile. He died, having suffered much from the iconoclasts.
Saint Augustine was from Italy, and a disciple of Saint Felix, Bishop of Messana. Saint Gregory Dialogus (March 12) chose him to lead a mission of forty monks to evangelize the people of Britain. They arrived at Ebbsfleet (on the isle of Thanet) in Kent in 597.
King Ethelbert, whose Frankish wife Bertha was a Christian, welcomed them. They were allowed to base their mission at the ancient church of Saint Martin in Canterbury, which was restored for their use. This church had been built during the Roman occupation of Britain, and the queen often went there to pray. At first, the king was reluctant to give up his pagan beliefs, but he promised not to harm them, and to supply them with whatever they needed. He also promised that he would not prevent them from preaching Christianity. Saint Augustine later converted the king to Christianity, along with thousands of his subjects. The holy right-believing King Ethelbert is commemorated on February 25.
Bede says that Saint Augustine was consecrated as Archbishop of Britain by Archbishop Etherius of Arles (others say that it was his successor Saint Virgilius of Arles [March 5] who consecrated Saint Augustine). Returning to Britain, he threw himself into the work of evangelizing the country with renewed zeal. Saint Augustine built Christ Church, predecessor of the present cathedral at Canterbury, and consecrated it on June 9, 603 (according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). He also founded the monastery of Saints Peter and Paul east of the city. Here Saint Augustine, the Archbishops of Canterbury, and the Kings of Kent were buried. The monastery, now in ruins, was later known as Saint Augustine’s Monastery.
The saint was instrumental in founding the dioceses of Rochester and London. In 604 he consecrated Saint Justus (November 10) and Saint Mellitus (April 24) as bishops for those Sees. Saint Augustine also helped the king draft the earliest Anglo-Saxon laws, and founded a school in Canterbury.
Saint Augustine was not completely successful in all his efforts, however. He was not able to achieve unity with the already existing Christian communities who followed Celtic practices. He met with some of their bishops to urge them to abandon their Celtic traditions and to accept the Roman practices. He invited them to cooperate with him in evangelizing the country, but they refused to give up their ancient traditions. Before meeting with Saint Augustine in 603, the Celtic bishops asked a holy hermit whether or not to accept Augustine as their leader. The hermit replied, “If he rises to greet you, then accept him. If he remains seated, then he is arrogant and unfit to be your leader, and you should reject him.” Unfortunately, Saint Augustine did not rise to greet them. Perhaps Saint Augustine was, to some degree, a bit tactless and too insistent on conformity to Roman customs. On the other hand, Celtic resentment against Roman authority also contributed to the stormy relationship.
Known in his lifetime as a wonderworker, Saint Augustine fell asleep in the Lord on May 26, 604. He was laid to rest at the entrance of the unfinished church of Saints Peter and Paul. When the church was dedicated in 613, his holy relics were placed inside. An epitaph was composed for his tomb. In part, it reads: “Here lies the Lord Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, sent here by blessed Gregory, bishop of the city of Rome, who with the help of God, and aided by miracles, guided King Ethelbert and his people from the worship of idols to the Faith of Christ.”
Saint Bede (May 27) gives detailed information about Saint Augustine’s mission to Britain in his History of the English Church and People (Book I, 23-33. Book II, 1-3).